Oh, The Places You'll Go

The Power of Grace

Notes: This was written for vecchiofest over at lj. It also fits neatly as the third part of a Ray/Ray trilogy that starts with Push and Push and Push Till It Hurts and continues with Restoration: What's Lost is Found. You can read this as a stand-alone but you may get more out of it if you read those first. Post-canon, no spoilers. Beta'd by the incomparable lordessrenegade. She rocks.


Prompt: If you break down, I'll drive out and find you
If you forget my love, I'll try to remind you
Stay by you, when it don't come easy.


Is it the crash or the violent swearing that wakes me from the disturbingly pleasant dream I'm having about a 90% off sale at Armani? I don't know. But I'm flinging the comforter off, sitting up in bed, rubbing my eyes with finger and thumb and watching him yank clothes off hangers and stuff them in a backpack. My first thought is that Welsh has called him in on some kind of job — why else would he be out of bed before me? — but then why would he need clothes? My second thought is accompanied by a clunk in my stomach as it occurs to me — undercover. There aren't any more thoughts.

"Um," I say, and my voice is croaky because I've just woken up.

He turns around but he barely sees me, and my guts clunk again because I know that thought one and thought two are way, way off the mark. Because I've seen that look on his face before. And I know who put it there. I can't think, can't work out what to do, what to say. I just stare. He does this thing where he winces and shrugs at the same time and turns back to his sorry version of packing. I realise that I'm cold. Fucking freezing to be precise. I'm naked and it's the middle of January. Not the best combination. I yank the comforter back up around me, noticing how my dick has already decided to beat a retreat from the cold. And I'm not sure I just mean the room temperature.

He pulls out the gray sweater his mom knitted him for Christmas and yanks it over his head. It's thick and soft and warm. He hasn't worn it yet — says it's not for urban spaces. I stopped arguing with him about fashion a long time ago. Then he sits on the floor, tugging on his heavy-duty boots. He looks pale and sweaty. His fingers fumble with the laces and I have to fight the urge to go over and do it for him. The shock is wearing off and words are tumbling round my brain, hundreds of them, trying to sort themselves out into the right order, the right sentence, the right way to make this all go away. But I stay dumb because I'm not. Dumb. There's nothing I can say. I know him in this mood — whatever I say will be wrong, he'll use it to pick a fight and justify his actions. And I am not absolving him of any of the guilt. Not one inch. Hey, I'm a Catholic, guilt is my birthright, why shouldn't I share?

He's on his feet now, sweeping change off the dresser and shoving it into his pocket. My keys are there too. I see him eyeing them.

"You're not taking my car. Not my fault the GTO got shot up." That comes out more growly than I intended, but I'm not gonna clear my throat and give the game away.

"Who wants that heap of shit anyway?" he mutters. He's all front. It's the only way he can get through this. There's stuff you don't say, but it don't mean it's not there. And I know — I know — but he's leaving anyway.

I want to close my eyes but I make myself watch. Watch him as he scoops up his backpack and it thuds over his shoulder. Watch as he pauses with his hand on the door, see his knuckles whiten around the handle. Watch as his head twitches but he doesn't turn. And then there's only noise, and then there's a click and then there's nothing. Nothing at all.

We had plans for today. OK, they weren't exactly well-formed, bullet-proof plans. More of the stay-in-bed-have-lots-of-sex-maybe-go-out-for-food variety. But I liked those plans. And now everything's changed and I don't know why. Nah, that's not true: I got a good idea why, or at least who. Maybe I was stupid, thinking we'd gotten past that. Maybe we can't get past it, just detour around it. Part of me wants to stay in bed, pull the comforter over my head and never come out, but the detective in me snaps into action and before I know it I'm out of bed, tying the cord on my robe, cursing the cold floors.

I go into the living room. It's still dark in here, the curtains are closed, but there's a flickering light from the TV. I ignore it — not likely to find my evidence there. I open the curtains so I can see better and the light hits me like a fist. It's dazzling in the way that in Chicago means only one thing. I look out and sure enough there's about a foot of snow out there. Everything has that weird sense of quiet about it that comes after a big snowfall. Any minute the snow plows will be along and people will start going about their business and the volume will turn up as the city gets on with it. For now there's a single track of footprints heading from this apartment building away up the street. Just at the bottom of the stoop there's a deeper pair, as if someone stood there for a moment before moving on. I flatten my hand against the cold glass and clench my teeth together. Then I've had my moment too and I'm back on the search.

On the counter in the kitchen there's two empty mugs, the kettle is still warm. There's no mail scattered on the coffee table, there's no entry in the calendar and I can't think of a Fraser-related reason to make this day different. And then I see it. The light blinking on the answering machine. Automatically I roll my eyes, he never remembers to reset the thing, drives me crazy. But I'm walking over there in a trance because I know that I'm gonna find my answer. My finger hovers over the play button for what seems like hours — I don't know if I'm ready to hear what I might hear. I figure I already thought of the worse case scenario so I should just get on with it. I press the button.

I have to rewind it three times before I'm ready to believe my own ears.

"Benny," I say aloud. "You're like a well-meaning SCUD missile."

*

Ten minutes later, I'm dressed with a hot cup of coffee, watching the ticker tape on WGN reporting the closure of O'Hare and Union over and over again, road map on my lap. It's 3500 miles from Chicago to Inuvik. He's gonna hitch-hike the whole way? Fucking crazy idiot. My guts ice over like the snow outside. I know what I gotta do.

I'm methodical, thorough. If I take it one step at a time, concentrate, I don't have to think about why I'm doing it. Chains on my tires? Check. Warm clothing? Check. Food? Check. Lots and lots of strong coffee? Check. There's only one thing that makes me stumble. When I go to pick up my car keys the St. Anthony medallion that used to be mine, that he's hardly been without in the past fifteen months, is lying next to them on the dresser. I swallow the memory down. No time. Not now.

*

It's not until I'm in my car and I hit the gritted highway that I stop to wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I got my route all mapped out: Chicago to Emerson by way of Madison and Fargo, then on to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, following the highways through Whitehorse to Dawson City. Course the ferries are closed this time of year, but I'm a betting man, hell I was the betting man, and the odds are stacked way in my favour that he hasn't thought that far ahead. I'm hoping I'll catch him before then, but he's got a couple hours on me, who knows where the fuck he's at by now. I may have superior planning abilities, not to mention wit and guile, but there's no guarantee that whichever nutjob gives him a ride will go the exact same way. I just know I can't leave him out there. It's dangerous and it's cold and what kind of man would I be if I didn't go get him?

It's slow going because of the crappy weather and I find I can scan the roadside, concentrate on keeping the car going forward and still have room left in my brain to think.

I think about names. I think about how when we met he had my name and I had someone else's. I think about how when I took my name back I somehow managed to take part of him along with it. I think about how we were Kowalski and Vecchio, even when we started. Started — dating, I suppose. But Kowalski and Vecchio belonged to the grit and the dirt of the 2-7 and it didn't seem right any more. And I think about how sometimes, just sometimes we could be Ray and Ray but somehow those names belonged to other people too, ex-wives and ... I think about how when we fight we call each other all the names under the sun, but none of them ever mean anything. I think about how it's unmanly to have cutesy nicknames like pumpkin and honey-bear. But K and V? Manly, manly names. They set us apart and link us together. No one else gets to use those names. Hell, no one else gets to hear them. Except maybe sometimes when we forget. Powerful things, names.

I think about how after I moved out Ma forgave him first. Invited his skinny ass over for dinner and spent all night listing my shortcomings as a son before sending him back home with leftovers. That was the night I let him fuck me for the first time.

I don't think about the sex. I don't think about the sex. I don't think about the sex.

It should take about ninety minutes to get to Rockford. It takes closer to three hours. I try not to think about how quickly the dark falls at this time of year and just keep scanning the roadside. I have a couple of false starts — an abandoned roll of carpet can look amazingly like a dead body — but no signs of him. I stop at every excuse for a truck stop on the way. Nothing. I don't lose hope; I wasn't really expecting to find him. But I gotta do this, so I keep going.

I'm coming up on Waukesha when way up ahead of me there's this huddled shape on the side of the road. I think maybe it's more garbage, but it leaps up and starts waving at the car in front of mine. The car don't stop. Of course not, it's a sleek, silver cock-machine and the hitch-hiker guy seems kinda wild. And before I'm close enough to get a good look, I know it's him. There's the clunk in my guts again and I'm grinding my teeth as I signal that I'm pulling over. He finishes flashing his middle finger at the guy in front (so charming, my man, isn't he? Not my — not mine?), turns round and sees the car slowing down. He drops his head, the way he does when he's relieved, but then he jerks it up again. This time he looks straight at me. I look back, not taking my eyes off him as I park, turn off the ignition. He throws up his hands and starts walking away. He gets about ten paces before he stops. I get out of the car.

"Kowalski," I say. Because names are powerful, right? "Kowalski, get in the car."

He doesn't say anything, doesn't turn around, just makes this kind of strangled sound. His backpack is sitting on the ground; I can see the dark stains where the snow has started to seep into the material. I pick it up and trudge around the car to pop the trunk.

"Get in the goddamn car, Kowalski. It's gotta be 20 below out here and I have parts I would rather I did not freeze off."

He turns round and I can see his face is blue-tinged. How long has he been out here? I know he's tramped through the wide blue-fucking-yonder with the Super Mountie and can take care of himself but to me this does not look good. I need to get him someplace warm. Now.

"I can't." It's as simple as that. The cold has deepened the lines in his face and he looks older, sadder.

"C'mon," I change my tone to wheedling. "At least get in for five minutes. I have coffee and heat. Look, I'll even give you my keys, then I can't kidnap you or whatever it is you think I might do."

I open the passenger door, leave the keys on the roof then walk round to my door and get in. I fish the flask off of the back seat, pour the coffee and hold it between my hands, trying to get a bit of feeling back. Fuck, it's freezing out there! And I wait. He stands still so long I wonder if he's turned into an ice-sculpture. But eventually he starts towards the car. There's a chill blast of air as he opens the door and I feel the car sag as he sits down. I don't look over; just hold out the coffee to him. He takes it. Step one.

He sips the coffee and I may or may not hear him sigh a little.

"Don't stop me," he says.

"Gee," I say. "Great coffee, Vecchio. Thanks for this; I thought my insides had turned to icicles. You're a real life-saver." Did I tell you I can do front as good as him?

"Don't stop me," he says again.

Step two.

"Who said anything about stopping you?"

"What?"

"I'm gonna drive you to him."

"What?"

"I believe you heard."

"Why?"

I gesture outside.

"There's the weather. And then there's you. In a fight between those two things I know who'll win. And I don't want to have to tell my Ma and your Ma that your body was found frozen by the roadside with little snowflakes on your eyelids." So much front I wonder where my back went.

He says nothing.

"You good to go?" I ask, holding my hand out for the keys. I keep my eyes on the road. I swear that sometimes it's like dealing with a nervous horse. I feel him slump down in the seat and there's cold metal pressing into my hands.

"Buckle up," I say, starting the car and heading back on to the road.

*

We drive without saying anything for a little while. He's got nothing he can say and me, I got so much that I can't say that it's better to say nothing at all. He's thrown off layers of clothing as he's warmed up. The back seat looks like we're on a run to the thrift shop. The sun starts to set and I flick the lights on. I try a little light-hearted banter.

"So what happened to your ride that I picked you up in the middle of nowhere?"

"Nothing."

"Come on, Kowalski. You think I believe that? Spill."

"He, uh, he wanted payment."

"He wanted money?"

"No."

"Oh."

Another ten miles in silence. Another ten miles where I don't so much as glance in his direction. Another ten miles where I ignore how much I want to reach out and put my hand on his shoulder, tell him it's all going to be OK. Because it isn't, is it? Not for either of us. This hurts like hell. I don't think about it.

"There's some sandwiches in the glove compartment."

"Thanks."

And in another half an hour.

"You think you could unwrap one of those sandwiches and pass it to me?"

"Uh, yeah. Sure."

I chew on it. It tastes like dust. When I've choked down the final mouthful, I say, "So I thought Minneapolis would be a good place to get a few hours sleep. That is unless you wanted to take a turn at driving."

He fidgets.

"Yeah, whatever. I don't care."

"Just let me know," I say, pleasant and calm. Good cop, smooth cop.

Out of the corner of my eye I can see he's drumming his fingers on his leg, twitchy. Then he raises his hand up and touches his neck. It's just a brief moment but I see the medallion on the dresser. I remember way back in the beginning when we were lying there in his bed, fucked out, and I got up to go to the bathroom. I remember how he gripped my wrist tight, pulling me round to face him. How he looked, all coiled energy and pain and how he said "don't lose me." I remember the second of shock at how hard his words hit and how I understood they came from a very fucked-up place. I remember promising and how his hand stroked mine as he released my wrist. I remember unclasping my St. Anthony and placing it round his neck. I remember him touching it and looking at me, nodding.

I tell myself not to remember.

We drive on and on. He's tapping his foot and I ask if he wants music, he refuses. Later, he seems to be trying to fit his body into as small a place as possible. I ask if he needs more heat. We're about half an hour west of La Crosse when he says, "Pull over."

I pull over. I turn off the engine and wait, hands on the steering wheel. Nothing happens.

"Bathroom break?" I ask.

And then he's banging his head against the window. Alarmed, I turn round and look at him for the first time since he got in the car.

"Stop that!" I reach out and yank him upright by the shoulder, shaking him. He puts his head in his hands and his voice is muffled but I hear every word.

"Am I fucking insane? What am I doing?! Why don't you stop me?"

"Because I told you before, I'm not your consolation prize. You gotta do this? You gotta do this."

"I don't gotta."

I freeze, my hand still on his shoulder. Is this step three?

"You sure?"

He looks at me. And the heat's softened the lines or something, 'cos he looks like himself again.

"I'm sorry," he says, shaking his head a little. "I don't know what I was... I don't know what..."

"It's OK," I say. He shakes his head some more.

"It's not. It's not OK. I treat you like that and you do this. That's not right, that's not buddies."

"Buddies," I say and there must be something he hears in my voice 'cos he grabs me round the neck and pulls me into him, kissing me all soft and gentle. He pulls away, but doesn't let me go, resting his forehead on mine.

"I was never any good with words," he says.

"You're getting no argument from me," I say and he laughs and his laugh slots into me like a missing piece of a jigsaw. He kneads the back of my neck, thumb sweeping back and forth. I think about how much I would've missed that touch, and then I think about how I could still and how this isn't done yet and I squeeze my eyes shut. But then all that's left is the hand on my neck and his warm breath on my face and all my body can think of is where this usually leads and I'm getting hard. Fuck it. If this is it, if this is where it ends, then I want this. If it's not it'll be something to tell the hypothetical grandkids.

I slide my hand up his shoulder until it's resting against his neck and I can feel his pulse starting to beat faster. I spread my fingers over his cheek, dragging my thumb across his skin to meet the corner of his mouth. He turns his head slightly, catching my thumb and massaging it with his lips. My other hand finds his tee, yanks it out of his jeans, slides up his side. He may have a little more padding these days but you can still feel every single rib under the stone smooth skin. Play a tune on them. Dem bones, dem bones, dem motherfucking sexy bones. OK, that's not quite how it goes but maybe it should. My thumb is making its way over his chin, down his neck, the wet coating helping it glide over the stubble. This means his mouth is free. He doesn't like this obviously because his mouth is on mine and soft and gentle is out the window.

He tries to pull me towards him, but the front seats are kinda awkward for this sort of thing and there's things sticking in places they were never made to stick in. We break apart. We been partners in both senses long enough to know what the other one's thinking and we're scrambling into the back seat, slipping on his discarded clothing. It doesn't take long for him to be lying on top of me, kissing me like he wants to climb right inside, his tongue licking the roof of my mouth, driving me fucking crazy. I push up into him; show him what I got for him. He pushes right back. I need him so bad it's not even funny. My hands are shaking but I get his belt and flies undone. I'm so practised at this you wouldn't believe, his jeans and shorts are around his ankles before you can say spit. Course then he's fucked 'cos he's got those huge boots on, but I figure I'm the one who's gonna bend, so it doesn't matter.

I wrap my hand around his dick; it's an old, old friend by now. I know every last thing about it. I know how there's a seam of skin running from his balls all the way up to the tip of his foreskin like that's where they sewed him up when they made him. I know how each ridge of vein feels under my fingers. I know how the head gets shiny and smooth and so goddamn big when he's hard. I know how he's not perfectly straight, but curves slightly upwards and I know how well that fits my ass. I know all this and still it seems like this is the first time I ever touched it. I tighten my grip and pull upwards, sliding his foreskin over the head of his dick. He buries his face in my neck. I put one hand on his back, holding him there, while I work him with the other one. His hips twitch, he can't stay still and this turns me on so bad. I push up into him again; remind him there's something out there besides whatever I'm making him feel inside.

He pulls his face away from my neck. Looks at me. Asks a question with his eyes. I nod. I'm already toeing my shoes off. I let go of his dick and let him help me out of my clothes. We do well; stake-outs have got us used to operating in cramped circumstances. I hook one leg over the back of the seat, dangle one off the front, give him plenty room. He rests his hand over my dick. It beats mindlessly against him.

"We got nothing," he says, frowning.

"I know where I been," I say. "You know where you been?"

"Yeah."

"So?"

"So. OK."

"OK."

He's curled his fingers around my dick now, and he's playing with it absently, like it's some kind of stress reliever or something. Which, thinking about it, I suppose it is.

"What about the other stuff?"

I think about this for all of a second.

"Well, you know how relaxed I get after I, er."

He grins. The first one I've seen today. Makes my guts clunk again, but in the good way this time. He slides down the seat, hunching his body over and before he takes me in his mouth he looks up at me and grins again. That's my boy, I think, and ignore the sharp little voice that tells me he might not be. And it's easy to ignore because he's got his lips wrapped around my cock and nothing else matters. He takes me down, his tongue suckling at me, bathing me. It's warm here, it's home here. I feel the pull as he hollows his cheeks, as his lips slide up and down, friction free.

The buzz is growing in that place I never figured out how to find, spreading out through my body, sparking in my fingers, my toes, my goddamn ears. And then his hand is on my balls and he's gently tugging the skin down as his mouth slides up and I. Love that. My eyes are rolling in my head and I can feel liquid pushing up and out of my dick in response. I open my mouth to say his name, but I clamp my lips over it before it comes out. I don't know who I would be talking to.

The thought knocks me off balance a little but his mouth come off my dick with a pop and I look up to see what he's doing. I like what I see. He's sucking his fingers, getting them good and wet. And then his mouth is back on me and his finger is pushing into my ass and I'm breathing fast and shallow because I have no self-control when he does this. When he's fucking me with his mouth and his fingers and his thumb is pressing into that little bit of skin between balls and ass. The buzz is overwhelming me now, contracting down to this pinprick of intense sensation, a star collapsing. Too much Discovery Channel for me, I think. It's the last thought for while, though because I gotta explode. Supernova. And I'm seeing stars through the window and stars in my head and stars in front of me surrounding his head as he sucks it all down.

"Oh yeah," I say.

And he says, "My turn."

I hook my dangling leg over the front seat and reach out for him.

We're getting into it, hot and heavy and I can see each vein standing out on his arms. Wait. I can see the... I shouldn't be able to see anything that clearly, it's starlight only out here. I realise that the light's getting stronger, headlights are sweeping the car. It can't look real pretty when I untangle my legs and wrap them around his back pulling him down onto me.

"Car!" I say and then the light fades a little, but I can still see his eyes glitter, wide, shocked as we hear the car pull to a stop. I grin. And he laughs. He pushes himself up an inch or two, enough to peer out the window. He manages to push himself into me at the same time. Horny little fucker.

"See anything?"

He ducks down again, sliding out of me. I bite my lip.

"Guy's taking a piss."

I laugh. "Really?"

"I could check again if you like," he says, pushing back into me and pushing up before I can say anything.

"You? Can do whatever the fuck you want. As long as it involves your dick and my ass. Right. Now."

He looks down at me, smiling.

"I'm gonna take your word on that," he says, and repositions my legs over his shoulders.

And he's fucking me slow and steady and deep, deep, deep and I don't even hear the other car leave, I just know it's dark again. This is so good. We are so good. Him and me. And I'm flying high on wings that have sprouted out of my shoulders but I'm still here in this car and I know it's not just fucking that's doing this. It's all of it. And I shut my eyes and it's like there's a music video playing in my head as he pushes in, slides out. You know, a film theme tune montage — an updated 'The Odd Couple', maybe — and it's playing scenes of us together. At work — covering each other on a bust, sweet-talking Welsh into letting us take vacation time together, at Ma's — exchanging looks as Tony starts describing how this time he really will be a millionaire, at home — me cooking, him keeping me company, leaning up against the counter, racing the turtle against the clock, watching sports with a couple of beers -bickering, fucking in the bed,in the bathroom, on the floor, fucking after a fight, fucking. God.

This. Can't. Be. It.

I think I groan. And he shifts, altering the angle, getting it just right. This time I definitely groan and he does it over and over again until all I am is Jell-O. He speeds up, fucking me fast and hard, and my head could be bashing into the car door for all I know, but I'm way, way beyond feeling pain. I open my eyes because I know he's gotta be close to the edge and I want to watch. And there's only starlight to see by, but I see him looking right at me. His mouth moves, but there's no sound; I can't tell what he's trying to say. Then, "oh god," as he buries himself in me and I see his face change in the way it always does when he comes, like he's lit from the inside. Angel. He shudders to a stop, breathing hard and heavy. He lifts one hand and touches his neck, then bends down to kiss me. It's soft and gentle, just like it started. I don't know what this means.

By the time my heartbeat's back to normal, we're untangled and he's sprawled out over me. I know we can't stay like this because the engine's off and even if we created enough heat for the Big Bang just now it's gonna get cold real quick. It's time. I take a deep breath and push my fingers into his hair. Step four.

"K." And that's all it takes for me to put myself out there.

"V," he says and strokes my cheek and that's when I know it's going to be OK. He's coming home with me. And the rest we won't talk about but that's just fine because he's made his choice.

"Probably not going to make Minneapolis," I say. "La Crosse do you?"

I feel him smile into my chest.

*

We're dressed and ready for the road again. I squirm in my seat.

"Uncomfortable?" he grins.

But I'm reaching into my pocket and my fingers close around what I'm looking for.

"Found it," I say, holding out the St. Anthony.

He puts it on.

"Yeah," he says.

I gun the engine. We head east.


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