Oh, The Places You'll Go

Ketchup

Notes: I won't tell a lie. I'd been watching a lot of the Mountie. And thinking about him and his Rays. And talking about them. And reading the fic. So when I woke up with the image of the Mountie as a ketchup bottle on my brain, I shouldn't have been surprised. I was. I wrote it anyway, partly to get the image to leave me alone and partly for lordessrenegade who was fed up. It takes place in the NewRay years, jumping ship from canon somewhere before Call of The Wild.


There was a time that you'd have been swaggering down these dirty streets, daring the low-life and scumbags to take you on. Yeah, you had a mouth on you, and sometimes even a fist, but whatever got the job done, right? You're not swaggering now. It's been a long time since the thick Chicago air invaded your not insubstantial nose and the strange mix of odors - fumes, pizza slices, humanity - makes you appreciate how he must have felt when he landed up here. You don't own these streets anymore, most of the time you think you don't even own yourself. So maybe that's what you're doing here. Looking to find someone you think you belong to. Hope you still belong to. It's been a real long time.

You turn the corner and there's the precinct, grimy as ever, those paint-peeled doors hiding non-stop activity. Non-stop craziness. The wheels of Justice still turning. You snort and make to cross the street. But you can't. You stop on the edge of the sidewalk, almost over-balancing, tipping back on your heels. You can't go in there. You may have doubts about who you are but the people in there; they know who you are not. You are not Ray Vecchio. That's some other guy. Some other guy with your name, your car, your home, your family, your... You don't think you can face explanations and questions. Not today. The FBI had you for three days straight and by the time they had finished with you, you would have sworn that black was white if it would just get them the hell off your back. And the second they let you go you were on the first plane back to Chicago. It wasn't even a conscious thought; you were in the air before you even thought of how this was gonna play. So now here you are, stuck on the sidewalk. Can't go forward, can't go back.

The door to the precinct swings open and you feel your heart thunk in your chest. What the fuck? It's just a uniform, no one special. You breathe out and close your eyes briefly to recover what shreds of self-composure are left. As you open them again the door swings for a second time and a wiry, kinda blonde, kinda red-headed guy walks, no, that's wrong, dances? out. He turns back to the door, which has stayed open, hopping from foot to foot as several people walk past him. You recognise a couple of them, a lawyer, a pimp, and the others? You were a cop in this city for too long, it's easy to pick out the victims, the perps. And all the while this guy is twitching, face scrunched in an exasperated expression. You know that look. You've worn it like a thousand times. He's opening his mouth and with complete certainty you know what's gonna come out of it. Your heart is racing and dry-mouthed you whisper "Say it," because then you'll get what you came for.

"Fraser! Will you cut it out with the courteous, you freak! Come on!" Either your hearing is Batman sharp or this guy doesn't care if the whole of Chicago knows his business. You're gonna play the percentages and go with the latter. And then you're holding your breath again 'cos from out of the shadows steps the Mountie. Your Mountie. Blazing in red. Benny. You mouth his name and you think that maybe you can move now but you're transfixed by the sun on his perfect skin, by the tilt of his head that exposes that beautiful neck, by the eyes you are too far away to see but remember vividly as open blue oceans. You swallow hard and you feel your hand begin to rise in greeting. You snatch it back. Not ready. Not yet.

The other you has lowered his voice now and you can't catch what they're saying. Benny, your Benny, is leaning into him, face serious, nodding. They're working some case, you figure. Nothing changes. Only it does. Everything changes. Other Ray leans in closer, touches Benny's arm. You decide that ripping new-you's arm off at the socket would not be considered an appropriate introduction. He's saying something, a grin on his face. Polite smile, Benny, you think. Give him the standard response, let's move it along here. But then you get the shock of your life, worse than that time Ma caught you fooling around with Lisa Fantucci, because the Mountie, your Mountie, the straight-laced Benton Fraser is laughing. His whole face is lit up with it. Eyes crinkled, perfect white teeth all displayed, head thrown back, body shaking with goddamned laughter. And it's so fucking beautiful you can't tear your eyes away. And it's so fucking appalling that you want to gouge them out. Now would be a good time for that plastic spoon. Because here's the thing. In all the time you were together as partners, as friends, as whatever-the-fuck-it-was-that-you-were-but-you-weren't, you never. Never. Saw him laugh like that. So now you don't just want to rip off new-you's arm, you want to shove it down his stupid throat so he can never say anything to make Benny laugh that way again.

And now Benny's saying something in response and it's the other guy's turn to laugh. "So the Mountie's finally unbuttoned?" you want to snarl at the new-you. "You think you did that? You think that all it took to loosen him up was your skinny ass? Well think again. Big Red? Benny? He's like a stubborn bottle of ketchup and I done my fair share to get it open. I banged it on the table, held it under hot water, wrenched my wrist. I loosened the top. I did that. All you did was finish the job." You're breathing hard, heavy and your eyes are suddenly unable to focus. You take a step back wondering if coming here was the right thing to do. He's happy without you. Guy needs a Vecchio - what does it matter which one? You make up your mind, you're gonna go. Where? Who the fuck knows? But outta here. Away from that smile, that reminder of what you used to have.

You take another step back and your watch catches the sunlight, a tiny beacon flaring. And his head swivels round, sharp, chin lifting. You know what he's doing. He's smelling. His eyes widen, his whole body shifts and you know you're sprung. Because he was smelling you. Then his eyes catch yours and it doesn't matter that he's across the street you can see them light up and the smile, the same one that had been trained on new-you is directed on you full beam. You feel your face respond, every last hair on your head, even fewer these days, is smiling back at the Mountie. Your Mountie. Benny. And his mouth is opening and he's calling your name and he begins to run towards you. Your guts are doing cartwheels and backflips and god-knows-what else and you know you've got a goofy grin plastered across your face and you don't care. You spread your arms out wide to receive him.

"Yeah," you think as his beautiful face bears down on yours, alive with joy, relief and...love? "Yeah, I loosened the top alright."


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