Rating: Slash, G. (Ray doesn't even swear here.)
Archived at: due Slash, soon. Personal site. Everywhere else, please ask first.
Disclaimer: They aren't mine, though I promise to love them as if they were my own. And I did always have "works well with others" checked on my report cards.
Author's Notes: Thank yous are due to: SORT, for the words of encouragement. Anne, for hours of DS talk and analysis. Barbara, for more than I can mention, hyper-caffeinated freaks like me are blessed with a friend like you. And Pam, for the major handholding, encouragement, and kind words that make me blush.
Story Notes: A weekend in the country can be just what's needed.
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I'm sitting here, driving along a particularly dead stretch of I-90 on the way to Pierce Lake all because he's feeling the overwhelming pressure of civilization.
Ben's good most of the time, taking to the city park for a little camp and cookout when the sheer city-ness of Chicago decides to sit on his chest like an elephant. But I could see it in his eyes recently, he needed real wilderness, real forest and a lake that wasn't man-made and doesn't have the permanent night-light of the Sears Tower to stave off the stars. Now, me? Give me the hustle and bustle of Wacker and Michigan Avenue, the insanity of Chicago drivers, and I'm good to go. But partners means sharing, and I love the guy, so when I saw that sad glint in his eye, I pulled out my map and my Bic Pen and plotted a little adventure for us.
When we were in Fraser country, we took off on a dogsled across basically uncharted territory looking for the Hand of Franklin, and Ben was as happy as I had ever seen him up to that point. But since we're down here in the Land of Lincoln, it's my GTO and I-90 on a well-traveled path to the campground I haven't been to since the summer of 1977 when Stella and me went and saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind on it's opening weekend, and the Kowalski clan took its last family vacation.
"Come on, we're blowing this hot dog stand. Let's get packed." I said before he was even in the door to the apartment. Without a question as to where or why we were going, Ben followed me into our bedroom and began packing. Two hours later, it's me, him and Dief on the road heading west across Northern Illinois, away from the Windy City and her 'burbs and towards trees and fields and fresh air.
This whole drive, he's been attempting to look calm, nearly 20 years as a Mountie, he's got the stoic thing going in spades -- but I know him like no one else, and he ain't fooling me. In the past 15 minutes he's looked out the window a total of 26 times, breaking his attention from the John Steinbeck book he's been reading. He's like a child, waiting to be told he can be excited. I've been mum about where we were headed, and I can tell he's just dying to know. How do I know? He's licked his bottom lip so many times I'd bet - if I were a betting man - that it's chapped.
"Don't worry, Ben, we'll be there soon." I turn and smile, and after a moment in which I know he's got to swallow his urge to ask where "there" is, he smiles back, and life's greatness.
Maybe you'd consider me a bit mean for keeping him in the dark -- especially as I am well aware that he's just dying to ask -- about our final destination. But if you had seen the smile that broke across his face when we stood in that ice field up there in the Northwest Territories, you'd understand why I want this to be a surprise. Benton Fraser of the RCMP hasn't had enough people who have just done something nice for him, and so that smile that spreads across his face when they do makes almost freezing my skinny ass off in the Canadian wilds and sleeping tonight on the hard ground, all more than worth it. And when I am the reason for the smile, not only do I reap the rewards, but also it makes one Stanley Raymond Kowalski feel like the best thing since sliced bread. After Benton Fraser that is.
We've been on the road for an hour and a half, and right when I can see him fidgeting, smoothing that flannel that's just the right texture, washed soft and making him look all the more perfect, we pull into the campsite. Pierce Lake, with acres upon acres of forest to get lost in, and I know just at the edge of the grounds we can rent some horses tomorrow. Yeah, watching those blues eyes grow, you'd think he was in a Tex Avery cartoon, and the totally un-Mountie and all-Ben kiss that follows, I know this was the perfect choice.
We set up camp in the most remote of the campsites. It's middle of the week in April, so there aren't too many campers to begin with, but still -- I want to give him as much solitude as possible. As I'm grabbing the box with an Uno's Pizza -- we may be roughing it, but you have not had pizza until you've had Uno's pizza -- I hear the striking of a match, and a moment late our campsite is illuminated by a kerosene lamp.
"Would you like some coffee, Ray?" Ben asks, his voice has that calm that comes when he is at last relaxed, and the great outdoors is one thing that'll get him every time, handing me a mug.
"Thanks." Setting the pizza on the roof of the car - Dief is too much wolf to be trusted - I take a sip and find my nice stick-a-spoon-straight-up coffee has a new flavor. Atop the usual chocolate is a hint of mint. "Whatcha do to my coffee here, Mountie?"
"Well." He clears his throat and plays with the collar of his flannel, he's nervous and I think he's afraid I'm mad at him. "Unfortunately, I am afraid to admit that I forgot to grab the bag of Smarties beside the coffee maker. Upon a quick inspection of your car, I found a box of Junior Mints and used those as a substitute, so that you would at least have chocolate in your coffee. I'm terribly sorry."
Leave it to Ben to take on a major guilt trip for not only forgetting something that wasn't even his duty to remember, but then to top that by feeling bad for attempting to find a quick replacement. At times like this, words, which he's great at, just don't cut it and the only way I'm gonna get him to shut up and realize I'm not mad is, well, is for me to loop my fingers in his belt loops and draw him into a kiss. Which I do. And when his tongue starts its inventory of my mouth, I, for the millionth time since our first kiss, make a promise to never again make a crack about his habit of tasting everything.
"Ben, you, as always, amended the problem superfluously." I begin. And when that eyebrow of his raised at my $20 word, I just laugh and kiss that oft-licked bottom lip of his, and answer the unasked question. "Word-of-the-day e-mails are greatness."
"There is an element of verisimilitude in that statement."
And before we can engage in a conversation of ripe with $20 words thrown back and forth - one of the little things we do - his tongue's tasting my neck, and suddenly words that go beyond the second syllable are too much for me to think about. All I can think is that smile, baring those slightly imperfect and totally lickable incisors, was because of me, and that civilization can press on him more often.