Author: The Moo
Warning: non-explicit sex
Pairing: Fraser/Ma Vecchio
Description: The right setting can bring the most unlikely people together – and drive other people apart.
It was noon on Tuesday. At noon on Tuesday, as the nearby clocktower struck, Fraser was supposed to relax from his sentry position and climb, in a single seamless movement, into Ray's waiting Riv for their regular Tuesday lunch.
It was noon on Tuesday and there was no sign of Ray. Fraser suspected why. Of course, he could be wrong. Ray could be delayed, sick, hurt, dead. Fraser figured he could face any of these more easily than face the reason he suspected.
He took a bus to the 27th. He went through the doorway and towards the familiar door of the squadroom. The desk sergeant came out from behind her counter and blocked his way.
"Don't go in there, Fraser." Nervous and frightened, she placed her hands against his chest, as if she were capable of stopping him.
"What did he say?"
The desk sergeant looked embarrassed, glancing at the squadroom door, then back at Fraser.
"I'm not supposed to let you in. He says he'll kill me if I let you in."
"Did he say why?"
"No, but he's really mad, Fraser. Please, don't go in there."
Fraser moved her aside, gently but firmly, and went through the door. Ray looked up from his desk in the corner as he approached. His phone was at his ear. Fraser heard him say, "I'll call you back," and watched him put his phone down on his desk, very slowly and deliberately, glaring at Fraser the whole time.
Fraser pushed on across the squadroom, through the almost-physical waves of hatred, and came and stood in front of Ray's desk.
"You have one minute to get your ass out of here."
"Ray, please let's talk about
"Forty-five seconds, you son-of-a-bitch, and then you die."
"Ray, can't we talk about it?"
"Thirty seconds. You've been warned."
"Ray . . . "
"Fifteen seconds." Ray stood up from his chair. His hand strayed towards his holster.
Fraser wanted to think the gesture was only bravado, but he couldn't really be sure, so he turned and left. The two piercings in his back as he went out felt like they could have been two bullets, but in fact they were only Ray's eyes.
Fraser took another bus to her house. He went around and peered in through the window that formed the upper half of the back door. She was there at the place where she spent most of her time – in the kitchen. He rapped on the glass.
She saw him, and let him in. They kissed briefly, there at the door, then went into the living-room. They sat down on the couch and embraced for a little longer, but not too much longer. Fraser broke it off.
"How did Ray find out?"
"I told him. Last night."
Of all the explanations, this was perhaps the only one that he could never have predicted.
"You TOLD him?"
"And Francesca and Maria and Tony. I told all of them."
"After all our care, all our caution, you just told them."
"I couldn't stand it this way anymore, Benito, keeping secrets from my children."
"And you didn't consult me first?"
"It wouldn't have changed anything. I couldn't stand it anymore. Please understand."
Fraser did nothing but sit for many minutes. He didn't know what to do next. Finally he swallowed hard and found his voice again.
"What happens now?"
She snuggled against him. "Now we go on, but out in the open. Hiding was wrong, Benito. It was the easier way, but it was wrong. We really don't have any reason to be ashamed."
"He's ready to kill me."
"It will pass. Caro, we really have done nothing wrong. You're a single man; I'm a widow."
Fraser disengaged her from him and stood up. He took a few steps away and stood looking at her. She was right, of course. When was she ever wrong about anything?
"Gwen, the way to make this right is for you to agree to marry me."
"That would only make it worse. Do you want him calling you 'Father' and you calling him 'Son'? And won't you resent having to give up a future with children of your own?" She put her arms around his waist and leaned against him. He let her draw such strength from him as she could derive. It was all he could do to remain calm, he wasn't capable of more right now.
"Some day I'll give you up and let you go find a woman your own age. To keep you all to myself for many, many years – that would be wrong."
Fraser had a theory about age which he had first encountered in the novel, "Catch 22". It had made sense to him at the time he read it and he incorporated it into his personal view of life. Age, went the theory, was better measured by nearness to death than by distance from birth. A young man fighting a war, soon to killed, was older than an old man staying safely behind at home. The old man had many more years to live, thus he was younger by far than the young man facing an imminent end. So went the theory.
With his reckless ways, he reasoned that he was older at 34 than Gwen was at 52. As long as he didn't have to justify it to Ray's face, the reasoning was good enough.
It had been Ray's idea for him to come
along to Italy with Ray and the rest of his family.
"We all go together whenever I can scrape together enough money," he explained it, "We go visit the relatives, stop by the old church. My folks were married there. I was baptised there too. A pilgrimage, like."
"No Ray, I'd be out of place," Fraser had protested, "And I couldn't afford to pay you back the plane fare."
"As if I'd let you. I always pay for the whole family. Aren't you my brother now?"
"See Naples and die," mused Fraser.
Ray had never heard that expression. "Actually, Fraser, it's more like see Naples, buy cheap leather goods and eat pizza. You take things way too seriously."
Fraser had chuckled. "It's an ancient expression, Ray. It means the coastline around Naples is so beautiful that once you have seen it, your life is complete."
Scenery wasn't one of Ray's areas of abiding interest. "Yeah, I guess it's pretty around there. Ma always likes to go to Capri. You could take her so I won't have to go. It's an awful tourist trap. See, you'll earn your passage."
Fraser wanted very much to see Capri, an island that had indeed been a tourist haven for more than two thousand years. No one else wanted to go, so he and Ma took the ferry over one day while the rest of the Vecchios were busy with other Neapolitan pursuits.
The two of them stood in the prow watching the tourist town come into view. As the boat docked, Fraser was clearly distressed to see how development had interfered with the beauty of the place. The same sharp hills, the same restful shoreline as had greeted Roman emperors on their vacations were there, but crawling with camera-toting tourists, moving from café to café.
"Here, it's not so nice, Benito. But there's a path that leads around to the back of the island. Hardly anyone ever goes there. The scenery – it will take your breath away."
Until that moment, the expression 'take your breath away' had been only an expression for Fraser. He stood at the top of the cliff, looking down through the trees at the many levels of jagged rock that led down to the sea. Every ledge down the cliff had its own tiny world of trees. The water was a colour of deep blue that he had never imagined water might wear. It all didn't seem of this earth. He felt a tightness in his throat and chest and for a moment no breath could come. Then came the tears. There was rugged beauty in the scenery of the far north, but never before had he stood like this, transfixed by Mother Earth.
She watched his face as he looked down the cliff. Years ago, as a young woman in Naples, she used to submit her suitors, and there many, to a certain test. She would bring them to this very spot of impossible beauty and watch their reaction. The man who could appreciate it best won her heart. Thirty years of trial came after, but for all his violence, he was man she had chosen at Capri. As the years went on, she remembered it less and less often. The last time had been years ago, how many years - she didn't even remember.
It all came back to her as she watched her son's friend. Poor Benito. So many women chasing after him. She laughed to herself at her own foolishness. Imagine his reaction if he knew 'Ma' was thinking about him this way.
Fraser moved closer to the cliff edge. He seemed so zombie-like that for a wild moment he almost looked as if he would stumble over the edge. She grabbed him and pulled him back. "Benito! Be careful!"
He shook his head to clear it. "I . . . I wasn't even here. I was just . . . being part of it all." He blushed and rubbed his hand over his hair. "I'm sorry I scared you, Ma."
What impulse pushed her? It felt right and she went with it. "You must not call me 'Ma', Benito. I'm not your mother. You must call me by my name, 'Guenevere'."
The unusual name diverted him from the scenery. "Guenevere. That's amazing. What a romantic name." He paused and realized that sounded insulting. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that your having a romantic name was . . . I mean of course there's no reason . . . " He exhaled a deep breath and a tiny, rueful smile came over his face. "Well, this is awkward. Do you know any graceful way out of this, Guenevere?"
She matched his smile. "They used to call me 'Gwen'. You can call me that. As for getting out of this . . . " she could neither understand nor resist the urge to say what she said next, " . . . say something romantic, Benito. To prove how appropriate the name is."
It was his turn to realize how strangely this whole scene was proceeding. He looked at her, seeing past the difference in their ages and the fact that she was his brother's own mother. Why did every woman his own age bore and annoy him? He knew he was like a baby in Chicago, but he felt as old as these cliffs when at home in his own world. Gwen seemed to have known exactly how he would react to this natural beauty. She had been through many trials of life. And it was highly unlikely she gave any thought to his looks.
He was shocked by the stirring that came over him. Ray's mother. Sacrilege. And yet, perhaps that poetic name was somehow meant to prophesy. Which was he to be: Arthur or Lancelot?
"Which shall I be, Arthur or Lancelot?" he asked her out loud.
"She loved both of them, but she had no happy ending with either one, did she? You just be yourself, caro."
They came together very slowly and tentatively. Either could have pulled away easily, but neither did. They kissed in the most beautiful spot on earth.
"It's Tuesday. You don't have to go back to work. Stay the afternoon here with me, Benito."
"In Ray's own house? Gwen, it's out of the question."
He couldn't refuse her. She wanted to make love in her own bed – so long since she had done that, she said. But there were too many Rays in bed with them: the baby Ray suckling at her breast, the six-year-old Ray snuggling in his mama's bed, afraid of thunder, the twelve-year-old Ray proudly presenting breakfast in bed on her birthday and perched on the edge of the bed watching her force down under-done bacon and over-done toast.
She used all of the many tricks she knew to help Fraser, but it was no use. Finally, he rolled over and buried his face, humiliated, in one of her ancient, square, down-pillows from the old country. She massaged his bare back – so hairless and smooth. "Don't worry, caro. We'll just rest, and then you'll stay for dinner."
He sat up and stared at her, aghast. "Today? Are you mad? You didn't see the look on his face!"
She laughed at him. "Do you think I'm impressed with his temper tantrums? Me, of all people. I remember once . . . " She launched into a story and Fraser showed his devotion to her by remaining silent and pretending to listen. He lay back down and stared at the ceiling, waiting for the story to be over.
Ray came home wondering if he should go into the kitchen for his usual after-work snack as if nothing had happened. He didn't want to face his mother. It was easier for this all to be Fraser's fault if he didn't talk to her about it. Months ago he had declared to Fraser that he did not talk about sex with his sister. His sister? That was a laugh.
"Raymondo? Are you home?" she called him from the kitchen. "Come, have your snack."
Ray braced himself, and pushed through the kitchen door to see HIM, the monster, the destroyer, the incarnation of all filth, sitting at his own table eating coffee cake.
"He's in my house. Get him out of my house."
She sat down beside Fraser, protectively. "Your father left you the house, Raymondo, but it's still my home. Benito is welcome here."
Ray didn't see Fraser at all. He saw a burning point of white fire, where all his rage was focused.
"My sister wasn't enough for you? What about Maria? What about Maria's kids? My great aunt Rosa's in a nursing home, she'd be easy pickings for you. I've got a second cousin in Albany. She's eight."
"I should go," was Fraser's only answer, and he rose to do that. She pushed him down by the shoulders. Just seeing her touch him rocked Ray nearly to losing his balance. To know what they had done was one thing. To see his mother touch him . . .
On the table was the knife she had used to cut the coffee cake. Ray reached for it.
"Raymondo, put that down."
"I'm your mother, you will do as I say. Put that down."
This time he did.
"I want him out of here." Ray repeated, helplessly.
Fraser pushed past her restraining hands and remained standing.
"I'll go now," he said. Then, after a pause. "Gwen."
Gwen. Ray shuddered with fury.
"You won't leave before kissing me good-bye," she ordered. Both young men reeled at the thought of Fraser kissing her in front of Ray's eyes.
Ray glared first at her and then at Fraser. Fraser, for his part, looked from mother to son and back again, trying to decide what to do. He shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Gwen, I can't. Ray, I . . . "
There didn't seem to be any end to that sentence that would be helpful, so he let himself out through the back door.
She didn't bother to go after him. Let him escape this time. Maybe it was too soon to discuss it after all.
Men were such contradictions. Her first love – so sensitive and also such a brute. Now this one – braver than any, but yet so timid. Men. Who could understand them?