|Running to Glacier Point
Author: julesmonster PM
After being injured in the line of duty, RayK heads to Canada to get away from the pity of his friends and family and to find something more with Fraser. Post-CotW. Slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Benton F. & Ray K. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 19,458 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 05-14-12 - Published: 05-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8100727
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When Fraser and Vecchio returned, they found Ray and Stella laughing as Ray attempted to teach her how to make sugar cookies. They were both wore flour in their hair and on their clothes, but it looked like they had settled their differences, which made everyone less tense. The two men had filled four pails with berries.
"I guess I'm canning t-today," Ray said easily.
"I recognize the blackberries and raspberries, but what are the others?" Stella asked.
"Lingonberries," Ray said. "And those are bush cherries."
"They're a lot smaller than the cherries we get at home," Vecchio said.
"They will be a little less sweet this time of the year, as well," Fraser said. "But we'll harvest again later and get sweeter berries then. These are good for drying. Their sweetness will increase through the process. The later crop will be better for eating fresh or canning."
"What about the lingonberries?" Stella asked. "I've only ever had them once and they were pretty tart."
"They are similar in flavor to cranberries," Fraser said.
"Little sugar in th-the canning p-process and th-they'll be great," Ray said. "Dried, th-they taste p-pretty good t-too."
The berries were cleaned and sorted. Once the cherries were pitted, Ray began putting trays of the fruit to be dried into the oven once the cookies came out. A few hours on a very low setting would get them dried out. Once that was done, Ray got started boiling the lingonberries, raspberries and blackberries in separate pots, mixing in sugar and pectin. With Fraser's help, he put the hot jams into mason jars and then boiled them to seal them. The cherries, once dried, were cooled and placed into glass jars as well.
It took most of the day, but by four that afternoon, they had a dozen of each jam ready to be stored. Fraser took Vecchio down through the trap door in the floor and Ray and Stella handed them the finished fruit.
"Jeez," Vecchio said when he saw the root cellar. "There's a lot of stuff down here."
"Canned tomatoes, six varieties of jam, an assortment canned vegetables," Fraser said as he placed the new jars onto the shelf. "Would you kindly hand me that marker on the shelf by your shoulder?"
"Sure," Ray said. "What's this for?"
Fraser took the marker and began marking the date on each of the jars. "It is very important to know how old something is before consuming it. Most of these items are good for a couple years, but after that, it could be detrimental to consume the contents. We mark the contents and the dates so we know which jars to consume first."
"Makes sense," Vecchio said. "You weren't kidding when you said you have a lot of potatoes."
"Mmm," Fraser nodded. "This is less than half of what we harvested. And there will be more before the summer is out. We will use most of the potatoes in the coming year, but some will be set aside for seed potatoes next year."
"You never did this when you were living in Inuvik," Vecchio said. "At least, not that you told me."
"Our summers were too short for most common garden plants," Fraser said. "And as I lived alone, I did not have the time to garden. But my grandmother always had a garden and I spent many afternoons helping her weed or can the fruits of her labor. Now I do the same for Ray."
"So he's like your housewife or something?" Vecchio asked with a frown. Fraser knew he was trying to understand, so he wasn't too upset by the question.
"He is not," Fraser said. "We are partners. It happens that he cannot work his chosen career because of his injuries, which leaves him with more time to do things around the cabin, but that does not emasculate him in any way. Gender roles are not perceived the same up here. People take on tasks and chores based upon necessity, not because of societal expectations. We do the jobs for which we have the skills, and learn new skills based on what we need. Would you believe that I am the wife because I regularly do the laundry?"
"No, I guess not," Vecchio said with a shrug. He picked up one of the apples Fraser had already harvested and took a bite. "Oh… that is..."
"Not meant for eating fresh," Fraser stated. "These are Heyer apples, and they taste much better when cooked. The red apples I pointed out in the orchard earlier are Frostbite apples. They are much better if you want to eat them fresh. They do not ripen until later in the season, however. The Cabot pears will be ready in September."
"You said there are plums, too?" Vecchio asked. "I didn't see them."
"That's because this variety of plum tree is actually more like a bush," Fraser said. "You would not recognize the fruit, either, as it is not the purple or red with which you are familiar. These plums are actually green. They don't ripen until late August and will only keep for a few days, so they must be canned right away. Of course, the pears don't keep long either."
"And you said that there's more berries coming," Vecchio said with a low whistle. "That's a lot of fruit."
"We will trade some of it for other things," Fraser said as he finished labeling the jars and placing them on their proper shelves. "But most we will use throughout the year. It is worth the effort to have the fruits and vegetables available in the dead of winter."
Ray Vecchio took one last look around. "You and him… you like this life? You like… sharing it with him?"
Fraser paused at the bottom of the ladder to look at his friend. "Ray has made my life infinitely better since his arrival, and not only in ways that can be seen in this cellar or in the cabin above. Intangible things."
"He makes you happy," Vecchio translated.
"Indeed he does," Fraser said with a smile.
Vecchio looked at Fraser for a long minute and then shook his head. "I don't get it, but then again, I don't get why you love playin' in the snow up here, either. But if he makes you happy, then I'm happy for the two of you.
"Thank you kindly, Ray," Fraser said sincerely. "As I have been happy for you and Mrs. Vecchio."
Vecchio snorted. "Don't think she's too happy these days."
Fraser pulled up a crate and sat down. "Why do you say that?"
Vecchio played with the apple he'd taken earlier and shrugged. "Just… she's been obsessing over Kowalski for months now. And every time I go to work she gives me this look… like I've betrayed her or something."
"Ah," Fraser said.
"Ah? What ah, Benny?" Vecchio asked impatiently. "She dragged us all the way up here, acts all crazy and now she seems happier than a clam since she talked to Kowalski. What is that?"
Fraser looked intently at Vecchio. "I do not believe that her happiness is based upon anything Ray has offered her, other than a listening ear. I do not believe she is interested in renewing their relationship, if that is what you fear."
"Then what the hell is going on?" Vecchio asked as he slumped down onto the bottom rung of the ladder. "Why are we here?"
"Presumably to visit your friends," Fraser said a little stiffly.
"Ah, Benny, you know I didn't mean it that way," Vecchio sighed.
"I know," Fraser said, and the tension eased from his shoulders. "I can only make a supposition, here, but I believe that Mrs. Vecchio has been experiencing some fear since Ray's injury and your return to police work."
"She's scared?" Vecchio asked... with a little bit of skepticism.
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow absently. "As I said, it is only a supposition. You must discuss your wife's reasoning directly with her if you wish to truly understand her mindset."
"Right, talk," Vecchio said with a nod. "You're right. Stella and me need to talk."
"Come," Fraser said as he took to his feet once again. "I am sure that Ray has begun preparing dinner. It should be almost finished by now. And then we'll go into town for a bit. The teens from the community center have been preparing to present Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream."
The two couples ate dinner and then dressed for an evening at the community center. The play was interesting, though the language flew over Ray's head a lot of the time. What was most interesting about the night, at least for the two Vecchios, was the way Ray and Fraser interacted with the parents and friends who had shown up for the event. In point of fact, it seemed like most of the town had shown up for the event. The auditorium, which seated four hundred people, was packed and there were people standing in the back.
Fraser was polite to everyone who approached him. He knew their names and the names of their children. He asked about how business was going or about their latest project. That wasn't surprising. Fraser was painstakingly polite in all situations. The surprising part was how at ease he was. He smiled and laughed easily with almost everyone who came over to speak with them. It was a far cry from the distant and removed person Vecchio had known in Chicago.
And Ray Kowalski was another surprise. He laughed as easily as Fraser. While he had always been more laidback than Fraser in some ways, he was not given to friendly chatter and was not a cheerful person in general. He was more likely to threaten people than laugh with them. Only his closest friends usually saw that side of him. Yet, there he was, smiling and laughing with each and every group that approached.
Ray still stuttered, but not one person grimaced or sneered when they heard it. In fact, more than one person complimented him on the progress he'd made. And Ray didn't seem to be self-conscious about his impairment. In fact, he didn't look to be self-conscious about anything as he kept a possessive hand on Fraser's shoulder most of the time.
The reason for Ray's ease seemed obvious, now that the two Chicagoans took the time to look. Nobody was judging him. Nobody cared that his mouth didn't work right sometimes. No one cared that he limped or had to use a cane for balance. Everyone seemed well aware of the relationship between Fraser and Kowalski, though no one mentioned it directly. They simply accepted them as a couple, issued invitations to them as a couple. There was no judgment. No one seemed to care if they were boffing behind closed doors. And no one cared that Fraser was odd, even for a Mountie.
"Mattie," Ray was saying to one of the elderly Inuit women gathered around. "You promised t-to t-teach me th-that recipe for ginger p-plum stuffing."
"And I will," Mattie said with a smile. "As soon as you learn how to bake bread properly."
Ray groaned. "We been th-through th-this. I can't do it. Can't quick bread be good enough?"
"You are just impatient," Mattie said. "You must let the yeast do its work and then you'll have bread instead of that lump you had last time."
"The trick is to find something else to do while the dough is rising," another Inuit said. Vecchio was surprised that it was a man this time. "I like to watch hockey. Knead and set it aside before the first period. Knead it again during each period break and finish and put it in the oven after the game's over."
"Listen to Larry," Mattie advised. "He makes the best bread in town."
"Yeah, alright," Ray said and rubbed the back of his head. "I'll give it another shot."
Then Ray was off talking snowmobile engines with Larry and a young girl named Carly who apparently had aspirations to take over the service station when Larry retired. Fraser had stepped aside to talk to one of the other Mounties who had come for the program. That left the two Vecchios alone with Mattie.
"You seem shocked that your friends are so well liked," Mattie said to them.
"Um, well, we weren't expecting…" Vecchio stammered out.
Mattie narrowed her eyes at them. "City people believe the worst about each other without ever taking the time to know them. Or so I have been told by those who have spent time there. In small towns, you have time to get to know each other beyond appearances. We have prejudice, but it is rare. It is hard to maintain that sort of hatred when the person you hate is your neighbor. We all depend upon each other up here."
"I can see that," Stella said.
"Your friends are happy," Mattie told them. "You should be happy for them. Sergeant Fraser was miserable until Ray came. And when Ray arrived, he was hurt and heartsick. The first week, the sergeant was out doing his duty, but Ray didn't just sit in that cabin. He came out and met the people of this town in spite of his physical limitations. He came into my gallery and saw a painting I had done and his face lit up. He told me that it reminded him of the adventure he and the sergeant had taken. The look on his face as he told that tale spoke to me. I knew then that he was in love with the sergeant. And when I saw how happy Sergeant Fraser was to have Ray here, I knew that they belonged together. There is nothing to object to in that."
"We're happy for them," Vecchio said quietly. "We hadn't expected the change in their relationship, but we are happy for them."
"Absolutely," Stella agreed.
"Good," Mattie said and gave them both a look that said that they had better not be lying.
As Ray and Fraser lay in bed later that night, Ray thought about the things that he had talked to Stella about that day, but that wasn't what he asked when he finally broke the silence. "Where's Dief been sp-spending his days? He's been disap-pearing into the woods almost every day for months."
Fraser shrugged. "I do not know. He's been surprisingly tight lipped about his disappearances. Although I have my suspicions."
"And th-those would be?" Ray prompted.
Fraser sighed. "I have seen evidence of another wolf on the property."
"You th-think he found a girl?" Ray asked with surprise. "Huh."
"He is getting older," Fraser said. "Perhaps he has begun to feel the need to procreate, to leave a legacy behind."
"I th-thought you t-told me he had p-pups in Chicago," Ray said. "With some dog."
"He did," Fraser said. "But an animal's desire to propagate the species is a strong one. One litter may not have been satisfactory. Especially since those puppies were given away fairly quickly."
"He wants t-to increase his p-pack," Ray said.
"Possibly," Fraser said. He hesitated. "I fear that he may wish to return to the life he knew before."
"Ain't gonna happen," Ray said. "We're his p-pack."
"Yes," Fraser agreed. "I do hope you are correct."
The rest of the week went better than they had anticipated. Fraser went back to work and Vecchio tagged along, leaving Ray and Stella to explore th town. She found the shops quaint and the people very welcoming. Ray showed her around and introduced her to all of the new friends he'd made. They even spent an afternoon baking bread under Larry's watchful eye.
On the last evening before the Vecchios began their trek back to Chicago, the four were sitting down to dinner when Fraser brought up a subject that caught everyone off guard. "Ray, I signed for a packet of papers at work today."
"From th-the lawyers?" Ray asked.
"Yes," Fraser said.
"What lawyers," Stella asked.
Ray and Fraser shared a glance, but it was Fraser who answered. "Following Ray's injury, the union lawyer that handled his disability pension and settlement suggested that he retain a lawyer regarding the matter of the defective fire escape."
"Mostly I wanted th-them t-to be forced t-to fix th-their mistakes," Ray shrugged.
"Yes, well, it appears that the owners of the building have settled the suit and agreed with your terms for correcting the structural problems," Fraser said.
"You made that a term for settlement?" Stella asked.
Ray shrugged again. "I agreed to accept a reduced settlement if th-they fixed it. The lawyers were p-pretty p-persuasive. Said a jury'd find a disabled cop p-pretty compelling."
"We are still waiting to hear back from the manufactures of the fire escape," Fraser said. "Though I do not believe they will settle. If they do, they have to admit to either incompetence or negligence and that leaves the door open to further lawsuits and close examination of their other projects."
"P-probably have t-to go back to t-test-ify," Ray said.
"But that may take some time," Fraser said. "As yet, they have not set a court date."
"So how much'd you get?" Vecchio asked.
"Just under a mil," Ray said.
Vecchio whistled. "That's not bad."
"It would have been significantly more if he'd taken the case to court," Stella predicted. "I've seen similar cases go as high as fifteen million."
"It was worth it t-to get th-them to fix it for the p-people who still live th-there," Ray said.
"Well, at least we know you'll come down to Chicago to visit," Stella said with a half-smile. Ray could tell that she thought he was crazy not to have taken the full settlement. But their vastly different views on money was one of the reasons they hadn't lasted.
Ray rode with Fraser to drop the Vecchios off at the airstrip the next morning. The two seemed to be working through their problems, which was a relief for Ray. He had no desire for him and Fraser to be dragged into their relationship again.
Fraser drove them back to the cabin and parked the jeep. "Look."
Ray looked over to the edge of the forest and saw Dief, but he wasn't alone. There was another wolf with him, a female, and she had four pups following along behind. They stopped at the edge of the orchard and Dief yipped. The mother wolf yipped back.
As they watched, Dief nudged two of the young pups towards the cabin and the mother nudged the other two towards the forest.
"You th-think…?" Ray asked.
"It appears that Dief has decided to raise two of the pups," Fraser said.
"Jeez, Ben, th-they'll eat us out of house and home," Ray complained.
They climbed from the jeep and met Dief at the porch. He seemed excited and proud to show off his pups. Fraser sat on the step and Ray sat beside him. In moments, they each had a wolf pup clambering into their laps. Dief danced around and yipped happily.
"I do not suppose it occurred to you to discuss the inclusion of two new pack members with us, did it?" Fraser asked Dief sternly. "What if Ray and I didn't want to have two puppies underfoot?"
Dief yipped and Ray laughed. "Guess he doesn't care what we th-think." He scratched the pup's ears and laughed when he licked Ray's face. "Yeah, yeah. I know, I t-taste good. But you gotta limit the licks to below the neck."
Dief yipped at the two pups, almost like he was scolding them, and they yipped back like they were answering him. Fraser and Ray both chuckled. Their humor was stifled a moment later when the howl of the mother wolf was heard from a distance. Dief answered back with a howl and the pups gave weak cries, half yip and half howl. The moment had sobered them all, but Dief seemed to rally and nudged the pups up the steps and into the cabin.
"I guess our p-pack just got bigger," Ray sighed. "Wolves are gonna be a bitch t-to houset-train."
"Dief will set them straight," Fraser said confidently. When he saw the mess the two pups had made in just that short time, however, his confidence wavered. "I hope."
A/N: Well, that's it for this little story. I hope you have enjoyed it. I'm not sure when or iff I'll revisit this fandom, but I do love the characters in Due South, so there's a good possibility that I'll be back again. I know that I have been awful about responding to reviews this time around. RL has been a real bitch lately. But you should know that I appreciate every review that I get.
As an FYI, I finally got a twitter account. My user name is julesmonster451. Hope to see a few of you on there. I'll probably post updates about my stories there.
Thanks again! Jules