Oh, The Places You'll Go

A Passing State Of Mind

Notes: This is the fifth story I wrote in the Lost and Found 'verse. It takes place almost two years after Restoration: What's Lost is Found. nos4a2no9 provided beta and incredible insight. She rules.


Vecchio kicks the rental car into gear and Ray watches the three receding figures in the mirror waving madly until they are out of sight. Neither of them speak. Ray stares out of the window, shoulders hunched. He'd be lost in thought if only he could figure out which thought to have first. He doesn't have to see the worried glance Vecchio is sending his way; he's been feeling that look for days — since Inuvik began to emerge at the end of the long road from Dawson City. Course, then he was too busy with his own white knuckles to spare much thought for Vecchio's.

"You alright, K?" asks Vecchio. His voice is high with that fake cheeriness he puts on with the families of victims hovering between life and death. Ray doesn't know whether to cuff him or hug him. He does neither. Instead he slumps down in his seat, sticks his feet on the dash and says,

"Yeah."

"Knock it off, Kowalski," says Vecchio, the affectionate aggravation in his tone making Ray smile in recognition. "You wouldn't let anyone do that in the Goat so don't be spreading your dirt over what's not yours."

Ray takes his feet down and makes a great show of dusting off the dash.

"Got a cloth?" he asks. "Maybe some French polish? I could do your halo while I'm at it."

Vecchio flicks him a look and Ray sends one right back. They both start to laugh. Ray feels his bubbling up from somewhere deep inside, it washes through him and leaves him limp with relief. Vecchio reaches out and pushes him on the shoulder.

"Idiot."

The push turns into a caress and Ray leans into it. He's chosen a thought — this man is his. And he sticks with that thought and all the little baby thoughts that follow — like what he's going to do to V when they get home (if he was, you know, still up after all that traveling), or can they get out of Sunday dinner with Ma Vecchio because if they have to go back to work the next day then he'd like their world to be reduced to a twenty foot radius around the bed, or was Vecchio supposed to go for his medical Tuesday or Wednesday and how the hell was Ray supposed to get him there? — all the way to Inuvik airport.

Flying up, Ray'd taken the aisle seats because his restless energy meant his legs had to have room or he'd be kicking the seat in front like some bored kid. There'd been a near-accident with a stewardess and a coffee jug but hey, small price to pay for being able to breathe. Now he sits in the window seat, not looking out, not looking back, but looking at Vecchio scrunched up beside him in the narrow seats. Vecchio was a little older now, a little worn. Lines crept out from the corner of his eyes and he was sporting salt and pepper stubble in place of hair. All of his hard lines weren't quite so hard. Ray smiles and pats the pot belly V may or may not have started developing.

"Maatu-also-known-as-Naomi's a great cook," he says conversationally.

Vecchio grins briefly at the Fraser impression and removes Ray's hand, dropping it on the chair arm.

"You insinuating I'm getting fat?"

"Not insinuating. Saying."

"Watch it," says Vecchio, tired smile not quite reaching his eyes. Doesn't seem like he's going to say anything else. Usually Ray's good with silence, but that's only when the silence is good. He searches for something to say.

"So, Fraser behind a desk, huh? Weird."

"It's a little strange, yeah. But, you know, wife, kid, responsibilities. Don't blame him for wanting to stick a little closer to home. Who wouldn't want to snuggle up to that at night instead of some smelly sled dog?"

Ray doesn't deliver the lecture on how you don't sleep with sled dogs or you lose the respect of the pack because Vecchio's voice is tight and now is really not the time.

"They make a good family," he says, because it's true.

Vecchio slumps a little, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hands. He doesn't look at Ray, mumbles something he can't catch.

"Once more with volume?"

This time Vecchio looks up and Ray can see the strain on his face, feels his hand twitch to smooth it away but stops himself, gives V room.

"The whole time," Vecchio starts, then pauses, his Adam's apple working. He tries again. "I was scared. The whole time, I was scared. I didn't know-" He drifts off, green eyes searching Ray's face. Ray grimaces, rueful.

"I know," he replies. "I was freaked out too."

"No shit!" Vecchio flashes a brief grin. "Eight hours of jittery leg flying time and God knows how many hours of bed-fidgeting might have clued me in to that little secret."

Ray grins back.

"So I was edgy. I am edgy. I have edge. Edge is my middle name. And if I say that word once more it's gonna lose all meaning." Vecchio is still smiling at him but there's a question behind it. Ray's known this was coming but it doesn't make it any easier. He hates this shit, he doesn't trust his words, never has, they never seem to mean what he thinks they should mean. Either that or everyone else in the world is very, very dumb. He goes for simple.

"I was freaked, yeah. Built up a lot of stuff in my head. Didn't know how it was all going to play out. But it was all a long time ago now and what I was feeling then I'm not now. Haven't been." He smiles at Vecchio and squeezes his hand, hoping he gets the message. "Anyway," he shrugs, looking away, "wouldn't have worked out." He misses the frown that crosses Vecchio's face.

"Robert's a good kid, huh?" he says, for something to fill the silence.

Vecchio leans back into his seat.

"Yeah. Never thought I'd live to see Benny searching for imaginary bad guys behind the couch. No, strike that," Vecchio smiled. "Never thought I'd live to see Benny following someone else searching for imaginary bad guys behind the couch. Cute. You were great with him, you know." There's a pause and when Vecchio speaks again Ray gets a flash of eggshells. "You, er, you wish you had your own?"

Not this too, thinks Ray. He's almost angry at Vecchio for being so damn insecure but he gets it, he really does, so he takes a deep breath and calms down.

"Nah. We got plenty of nieces and nephews. We're the cool uncles, get to buy 'em stupid stuff and teach 'em to swear in three languages. And then we get to hand 'em back when we've had enough. Win win."

He squeezes Vecchio's hand again and hopes he's said enough. Vecchio is still but Ray knows the signs, especially the one where Vecchio's laced his fingers through Ray's and is gripping so hard that Ray reckons he's got maybe ten minutes before they start dropping off through lack of circulation. They're not done.

*

"Walk?" asked Fraser, indicating the door with his head. Ray dragged his eyes away from the rug where Kowalski was playing with the kid, like he was born to it or something. He fit right in here, in Benny's Canadian backwater life, in a way that Ray never would. It made him nervous. It shouldn't, but it did. He shrugged.

"Yeah, sure." He watched Benny cross to Maatu, who sat on the couch scribbling furiously in a notebook, long, black hair hiding her away. She raised her face as Fraser came towards her. Her eyes were opaque, unfocused as if she was somewhere else entirely. Then she blinked rapidly, coming back to herself, and smiled at her husband. There are worlds in her eyes, Ray found himself thinking and glanced over at Kowalski.

"Am I intruding?" said Fraser, drawing her hair through his fingers and kissing the lips that were upturned to his. "Ray and I intend to take a walk. We won't be long and then maybe we can take Robert to see Paulie's new pups. What do you think?"

"The stories come when they come, uiga." said Maatu, patting Benny's cheek. "Just like yours. Only mine will provide new snowmobile parts this winter and yours provide ..."

"Instant brain death."

"Trouble," interrupted both Rays simultaneously, Kowalski without shifting his attention from his game.

A smile tugged at the corner of Maatu's lips as she spread her hands in the universal 'don't look at me!' gesture.

"I was going to say 'educational opportunities,'" she deadpanned. "Ila, puppies are a wonderful idea, if everyone agrees." She looked over towards Ray, who nodded and smiled in agreement. Who was he to stand between a kid and a bunch of puppies? He almost missed the concerned look Maatu was giving her husband and the short, controlled nod he gave in return.

"Kowalski," he raised his voice a little to be heard over the squealing, "Me and Benny're heading out now, OK?"

"No problemo," said Kowalski, not taking his eyes off the kid. "We're kinda at a tricky stage in negotiations right now, there's a lot at stake. I'm thinking destruction of a whole species here. Best to keep your distance."

Ray was torn between confusion and amusement. He raised his eyebrows at Benny who widened his eyes in response before joining the two on the floor. He ruffled Robert's hair and Ray could have sworn his hand went out to do the same thing to Kowalski, but then there it was, safe and sound on his son's shoulder. Robert twisted himself nearly in two trying to look at Fraser and his treasure haul of animals at the same time.

Fraser gave Robert what Ray recognized as his mock-stern look and choked back a laugh as he saw the exact same expression mirrored on Robert's face.

"Remember, irniq, Ray is a guest here. Try not to wipe out his ecosystem in its entirety." Catching Robert's blank look he added, "Let him keep the kangaroo at least. It isn't much use to us out here."

Robert's dark eyes lit up with understanding.

"Keep the kangaroo," he said, turning to Kowalski. "But you don't get the walrus."

"Hey," said Kowalski, trying his best to look affronted, "I am the walrus, and don't you forget it."

"Yeah, and I'm the eggman. Come on, Benny, if you're coming." Ray was feeling antsy, impatient to be gone.

Fraser tugged his son's ear gently, then stood, brushing off his knees.

"I believe I am starting to creak," he offered.

"Later, then," said Ray in the general direction of the others. Nobody bothered to reply. Kowalski and Robert were too busy comparing the merits of a buffalo and a blue whale and Maatu was writing again, stories pouring from her pen. Ray grabbed his jacket and preceded Fraser out of the door.

"See you still got that whole polite thing working for you, Benny."

"Of course, Ray. Politeness costs nothing. Except in certain areas of North Alaska where the going rate is, I believe, one dried fish to one act of civility." Ray glanced incredulously over at Fraser and saw his lips twitching.

"Inuit humor, now? Who are you and what have you done with Benny's boring tales of the North?"

Fraser merely smiled and strode away from the cabin. They walked in silence for a few minutes and then Fraser said,

"I missed you, Ray."

"I missed you too, Benny."

And with that they were off, reminiscing about the old days like a couple of old guys in rocking chairs, Ray gesticulating wildly and Benny giggling, all high-pitched like a girl. Ray had missed that sound. Their infrequent phone-calls hadn't got much beyond the 'how-are-you-is-the-weather-good?' platitudes. It felt good to be able to talk like this.

They reached the shingle-shored lake across the field from Fraser's cabin. The snows were gone, but the landscape was barely roused from its long sleep. A pale sun shone on water that was perfectly blue and perfectly still, so quiet that it hurt Ray's ears. He picked up a pebble, tossed it in with a dull plop and watched as the ripples spread outwards. It felt better. Fraser bent down and turned over several stones, discarding some and keeping others. He stood sideways on to the lake and, bending his knees, flung one of the pebbles out over the water. It skimmed across the surface bouncing four, five, six times before sinking.

"How d'you do that?"

"Simple, Ray. Let me show you." Fraser gave Ray a stone. "It needs to have at least one flat surface, you see? And then you need to throw the stone far enough out so that it meets the water as close to the horizontal as possible to maintain the kinetic energy required for rebound."

"English, Benny," said Ray, rolling his eyes.

"Flat stone. Throw far. Throw low," said Fraser, demonstrating with another. "Seven," he declared, satisfied.

"Okay, got it." Ray copied Fraser's stance and throw exactly. Or at least he thought he did. Two bounces suggested otherwise. "Hey! You gave me a bum stone!" he complained.

Fraser laughed, and then his face was straight, the smile washed away like ripples smoothed from the surface of the water.

"It hurt when you left, Ray," he said. And Ray wondered who exactly Fraser thought he was addressing here.

"Yeah, I know." He held Fraser's gaze for a moment and then dropped down, searching for more stones.

They must have raised the water level in the lake by at least a quarter-inch, Ray reckoned, by the time Fraser spit out what he needed to say, what Ray had been waiting for.

"Ray seems happy." His casual tone belied by the tight look on his face. Ray willed himself to stay relaxed.

"Yeah. Yeah, he is. We are. He's figured out he don't always need something to fight against. Except when it's fun. He used to be angry all the time, not just about- About everything."

Fraser nodded. Ray figured he understood well enough.

"But he let it go. He said in the end he was only gonna end up bitter and that's for lemons and bad coffee. He helped me let mine go too." Ray's eyes flashed and he barked a short laugh. "Hell, between us we chased so many demons that we'd give The Exorcist a run for its money." He watched the reference sail straight over Benny's head but he'd got the point.

"He needs-" Fraser paused. "He deserves love and stability. Loyalty."

Ray wasn't sure Benny got to say what Kowalski needed, not anymore. He shrugged.

"Well, you know me, Benny. Flighty." Dry as a Kowalski-drained Scotch bottle.

There was a whole world of words between them that he didn't say. Like, I came to Canada to help you when I barely knew you. I followed you everywhere you asked even though half the time it was down sewers and the other half was jumping off things that are meant to stay un-jumped. Like, I put my house and family on the line for you, I took bullets for you, I picked K up and put him back together. Don't tell me about loyalty.

Fraser stammered an apology, chagrined. Ray knew he'd heard those unspoken words and the anger that had flared beneath them, before it faded quickly away. This wasn't easy for any of them and he wasn't going to be the one who made it harder. He slung his arm around Fraser's shoulder and gave him a little shake.

"Yeah, you better be sorry or I'll make Kowalski cook tonight." He laughed at Fraser's look of horror. "C'mon, let's get back to the little ladies."

"Ray, I-"

"Me too, Benny, me too."

*

Ray loved chopping wood. There was something about the regular swing-thunk-swing-thunk that stopped his mind buzzing, and the hard work was great for getting rid of nervous energy. He'd spent a lot of time in the wood-shed before he'd headed back to Chicago that last time, left enough behind to see Fraser through half the winter at least. And here he was again, in the great Canadian outdoors, splitting logs, swing-thunk-swing-thunk, telling himself not to be jealous that V and Fraser came back from their walk all BFF, as Carmella would say.

He saw the shadow before he heard him. Time was he would have known Fraser was there without any cues at all. That time was long gone now. He still understood him well enough to know what he wanted as he stood there, awkwardly rubbing over and over his eyebrow with his thumb (Ray was surprised he hadn't gone bald there yet) and flicking his tongue over his lips, trying to think of the right thing to say. Ray's stomach squeezed. He'd been expecting this, half-wanting, half-wishing it would all just go away.

"I'm sorry."

Swing-thunk.

"Don't."

Ray picked up another log, put it on the block.

"I wasn't looking for-"

"I said don't."

Swing-thunk. Next, please.

"She ... it was a surprise, loving her."

"Fraser." Ray's voice was full of warning. He knew Fraser would ignore it. Always did.

Swing-thunk.

"It's not that I didn't — don't — love you."

Swing-thunk.

"I know, I know, I know. Let's drop it, Frase. Water under the Confederation Bridge. I got V now. You're all married. It hurt, okay." Ray dropped the chopped logs on the pile and looked Fraser in eye. "Not gonna deny that. Can't. Open me up and count the scars. But now everything's cool, everything's smooth. V and me, we're solid."

"Ah, yes. You and ... V-"

Ray interrupted.

"No."

Fraser quirked an eyebrow.

"You don't get to call him that. You never get to call him that." Mine, thought Ray, fiercely. Mine.

Fraser looked taken aback.

"As you wish, Ray. I apologize. Let me rephrase. You and Ray work well together. I always knew you would."

"You don't get to do that either, Fraser."

"What?" Fraser looked genuinely puzzled and Ray wondered how such an intelligent man could be so dumb.

"Take credit for us. I mean, sure, things been different I would've never finished up back in Chicago. No Chicago — no Vecchio. But so what? If V hadn't taken the undercover gig I'd've never met either of you. Hell, if my grandpop hadn't tripped over my grandma's feet on the boat on the way out I wouldn't even be born. Life's just like that. You choose that path, you close that door, you follow that diversion, you end up where you end up. You don't get to take the credit."

Swing-thunk.

"I wasn't trying ..."

"Yeah, well. Don't." Ray chopped another handful of logs as Fraser watched him work in silence.

"Can I say I'm happy for you, Ray?"

"Yeah." This time Ray didn't meet Fraser's eyes.

"I'm happy for you. Both."

"Thanks. Me too." And Ray looked up and smiled his first genuine smile since they'd arrived. He got a full-on Fraser special beam back and Ray felt something inside begin to untwist. He was overwhelmed by a sudden urge to grab V and fuck him until his brains bled out of his ears.

Fraser narrowed his eyes and tipped his head to the side.

"Shall I ask Ray to come out here and, er, give you a hand?" he said.

For a split second Ray didn't know if he spoken his last thought aloud, if his dirty thoughts had gone straight to his dick for all to see, if Fraser was just being nice or — and this was the real shocker — Frase had developed a dirty mind all of his own. He dropped the axe into the block and howled with laughter.

"Ray?" queried Fraser. "Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray. Are you quite all right?" He sounded concerned but this only made Ray laugh harder.

"Go get my man, Mountie," he managed to gasp.

Fraser pushed out his bottom lip in puzzlement.

"Certainly." He glanced up at the sky. "Dinner will be in about thirty minutes."

He turned on his heel and left. Ray pulled the axe out of the block.

"What's wrong with a watch?" he muttered.

*

They're in Edmonton making their connection to O'Hare when Ray decides that he can't wait any more. He veers into the nearest disabled washroom, pulling Vecchio in after him and locks the door.

"Hey!" protests Vecchio, "we're not disabled."

"My fingers may ask the jury to reconsider that. If you're lucky I might plea bargain down to temporary fucked-upness," says Ray, wiggling his mangled fingers in Vecchio's face.

Vecchio catches his wrist and brings the ends of the injured digits to his mouth. He presses warm lips on them and pulls them gently down over his lower lip, running his tongue over the very tips. He blows softly then sucks, drawing Ray's fingers further into his mouth. He attends to them with lips and tongue while Ray tries to remember what he came in here for and breathe at the same time. Vecchio pulls on Ray's wrist and returns the fingers to their rightful owner.

"Better?" he queries, voice like melted chocolate. His body is fluid lines and oozing sex and Ray wants it. Preferably now, but yesterday if that's possible. He's not picky.

"Um," says Ray eloquently.

"Good," snaps Vecchio, and he's all hard again and the chocolate hasn't just solidified, it's frozen. "Let's go." And he's reaching for the lock. Oh no, you don't, thinks Ray and spins V around, pressing him into the corner.

"We got time," says Ray. "And you got something to say to me. So spill."

Vecchio's face is shuttered. Ray hates that, it's like he's gone somewhere and left The Bookman in his place. Ray doesn't like The Bookman.

"Hey, if you don't want to talk there's other stuff we could be doing. Either way works for me."

He gives Vecchio five seconds and then he's on him, one hand curving around V's neck, the other yanking the shirt out of his pants as their mouths collide. It's a familiar dance but that doesn't make it any less exciting to feel V's mouth open under his, to feel V's skin under his hand, to feel V's dick hardening because of Ray, always because of Ray. He rubs himself against Vecchio's hip, showing him he's not the only one wanting. There are hands everywhere, on his ass, in his hair, sliding up his side, touching his face — some days Ray could swear that his boyfriend is some kind of weird mutant octopus hybrid thing. Not that he's complaining, of course.

They're humping each other like teenagers now, mouths wide, trying to get as far into each other as possible. Ray's hands work quickly at V's belt and fly, all injuries forgotten, and then he's on his knees, V's dick in his mouth, tasting of salt but not bitter, not bitter at all and this is home, even on the sparklingly clean floor of a toilet in a Canadian airport, this is home. He hollows his cheeks and draws out long and steady, one finger tracing the cleft of V's ass. Vecchio groans and Ray can feel the tension in his thighs, knows he's persuading himself not to come, not to fall. He's so intent on getting this right, on making V feel good, feel wanted, feel loved that he almost misses the words.

"'Wouldn't have worked out,' you said. But you'd rather — oh. God. Oh. Yes. There. — You wish it had."

It takes Ray's brain a few seconds to compute because his mouth's full and thinking during sex has never been his strong suit. But then the light comes on and suddenly he feels tired because it's this again. The fight they never have. The second best argument. The you-only-settled-for-me debate that feels as old and worn as Ray's favorite jeans. The ones where the crotch has gone, that he only keeps so's Vecchio can click his teeth in disgust, take them off him and do, well, pretty much what Ray is doing now. He takes the base of V's cock in one hand and pulls his mouth off with a pop. He looks up at Vecchio and shakes his head. Gently he taps the head of Vecchio's dick three times.

"Testing, testing, one two," he says and is rewarded with a huff.

"This public service broadcast is brought to you on behalf of oh-for-fuck's-sake enterprises."

"K." Vecchio looks slightly pained. Ray checks he's not holding on too tight. No.

"You. Are. Not. Second. Best," he says into his dick-taphone, eyes unwavering from V's. Vecchio says nothing.

"And I could say the same about Stella, right?"

There's a barely perceptible nod.

"And we've both spent way too much time thinking about this over the last few years?"

No response. Ray tugs gently on V's balls to remind him that audience participation is appreciated.

"Yeah," says Vecchio, voice dry and cracked. "Couple weeks, months maybe."

"Kinda boring, don't you think? All that energy wasted on bullshit. You know you wanna be with me, and I know I wanna be with you. So here's the deal. I'm gonna suck you off and you're gonna feel great and then we're gonna go home where if you're good I will fuck you into next week. You want to believe you're second best, do it on your own time. But you're not. Get it through your thick skull."

And before Vecchio can respond Ray's slid his mouth back over V's dick, back where it belongs, and settles in to give one hell of a blowjob. Before long Vecchio's fingers are clenching in Ray's hair and Ray can feel the tremors as they begin to work through him. Vecchio's lost in the constant stream of Italian babble that means he's right at the edge. Ray hears his name in the middle of it, knows it's V saying things that he'll never say in English, but Ray doesn't need to know the language to understand. He loves this bit. He's got his technique down, five steps to Vecchio heaven. It's never failed and it doesn't fail now. V is slamming his palms against the cold porcelain tiles and coming and coming and coming into Ray's mouth. Ray grins. He always grins.

A couple of minutes later anyone watching, in this case a disapproving cleaner, would see two shifty characters sneak out of the disabled washroom, one looking smug, the other dazed.

"Over it?" asks the smug one.

"Over it," declares the dazed one.

"Come on, I'll give you my peanuts on the plane," says the smug one.

"Why?"

"Salt replacement therapy."

"Oh."

The disapproving cleaner is confused. The dazed one is not.


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