Reflections in Minor

By Lopaka Tanu

Fandom: Due South

Rating: Nc-17 for adult situations.

Category: AU, m/m Slash

Warnings: Depression, Angst, Abuse, Rape, Violence, Language, and Character Death.

Beta: None, so be warned.

Status: Complete.

Series/Sequel: None planned.

Couples: Ray K/Renfield Turnbull and Ray K/Benton Fraser

Challenge: 11. Runaways - Was your character a runaway teen once upon a time? If so, what were they running from, or to? Or perhaps your character's soft heart leads them to take in a runaway they find wandering the streets? Now what? Do they convince the runaway to go home? Or find another solution? What's the story?

Archive: Yes, just say where and I will love you forever. Really, I am not a stalker, I just like to visit the kids every once and a while.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Due South, but the story premise is mine. May be some OCs too, but not much else. All rights are reserved by those who own them, and all that good stuff. Ya want some of the ideas, feel free to take them. I love to inspire people, I am a muse too. Now feel special and love me.

FeedBack: Send to

Summary: Stanley Raymond Kowalski has not had it easy growing up in the slums of Chicago, but he is a realist, knows there are things that could be a lot worse. His friends are proof of this. As things get worse, he makes a decision and hopes he might be better for it. When he comes home, he finds things are different, and that they were worse than he ever imagined.

Author's Note: Are we all blind to the world? Do we see what we want, if so, what happens if things are worse than we thought?

Lyrics: "Runaway" by Real McCoy.

"Run Away, Run Away, Run Away to Save Your Life."

Smoke fled over the horizon partially obscuring the setting sun. A cool breeze blew through the parking lot from the great lake causing him to shift the black coat closer. Looking out over the scrawling city as the buildings stood like so many towers attempting to touch the face of god, he wondered if the builders fancied themselves gods. In their own right they might have been, for there was no structure like them on all the Earth.

Gazing out on them, he felt like god himself. Sitting here in judgment of their creations, deeming them worthy or not of his divine light. For a moment he could picture himself the pharaoh over Egypt, the yellow parking block his throne, and the parking lot his palace. All the peoples of this city of glass and concrete his loyal subjects building the mighty monuments to his greatness.

Snorting derisively, he blew the smoke through his nostrils as he stamped out the existence of the flame on his cigarette. "I smite thee mortal in the name of my lord Ra." Chuckling, he put the book he had sitting in his lap back in his bag. The myths of the ancient world could only take him away for so long before reality came back.

Gone was the many worshipers and their offerings, in their place was a cold city alive with traffic and pollution; the god of death now merely a boy in black. People who didn't give a damn populated the once glorious streets of his home. She had once seemed magical, like anything could happen. Then he learned that her magic was very much real and anything did happen. Chicago was not named the windy city for nothing, for nothing could remain static in the great gales.

His life had started out complicated and had only gotten worse from there. She had been his world, she gave him everything. On his seventh birthday she had given him the world. A thick book on the myths of the world; the hopes, dreams, and wishes of all of humanity for untold millennia; or as she called it, the world. "The answers of life are inside this book," she had told him, "if you ever have a question, simply read the book and you will find an answer."

She had died on his seventh birthday, struck down by a car in front of him. They had taken him to live with his father, a man here to so far unknown to him. Through tears, he had read the book from cover to cover. There was no answer, she had lied. Yet, still he kept the book. A hope that she had not, that there was an answer. That and the fact it was all he had left of her.

Something was off with her that day. She had looked different. After ten years, he still did not know what was so different about her that day. An inscription in the book done in eyeliner was his only clue. Something she had quickly written down when he had asked her what changed.


One must look with-in, to see the changes with-out. Objects of affection are often hidden with-in plain sight. A hero must learn true wisdom if he is ever to posses the stars of a goddess. Remember, a promise is a promise.

Mine always,

- M.

No matter what he had tried, there was no answer to this riddle.

Shortly after he was brought to live with Daimon Kowalski, he learned that life was never going to be the same. The old bastard, as he was soon dubbed by Ray, never wanted a son and he made sure Ray knew this at every occasion. South side of Chicago was the low rent slums and the catholic neighborhoods. This was their home for the next ten years, a run down building with bad pipes.

Over the next decade, he had formed friendships and relationships with a small group of people. These six kids would be his new world, the pantheon of his gods. Now it was all he had.

On the first day of school in his new home, he learned of the four castes. Nothing was written, but it was an unspoken law among them which was which. There was first those that knew everything and owned everything. They were the rich or middle class kids. Next were the jocks, all little league was a cult to him. Basketball, baseball, and Football were important to these people. The third caste was the general group, those that were the hangers on of the first two or those jealous of them.

The final grouping was made up of six people, those no body wanted. Having attended the same church before school, they had banded together in defense against the others. It was one of these that had first spoken to Ray, and befriended him when the others would not.


A quiet, cold morning in November found him crying on the play ground as the other kids sat in class. Ray rubbed a hand under his nose as the other wiped the tears away from his eyes. His snaut covered hand was quickly rubbed on his jeans.


Turning to glare at the speaker, he was shocked to see a girl from his class. "What do you want? Come ta gloat over tha loser some more?"

With a dark smirk, she sat down beside him, spreading her dress out on the cold grass. "I guess so. You know, if you had some manners, and stopped some of them nasty habits... like rubbing your boogers off on your pants, which, by the way, EW, I might be inclined to treat you like at least a dog. Because everybody knows boys aren't mature enough to be treated as human."

"Yeah, then why don't I just bite ya on tha ass and chase you around the school and growl at ya?" He looked her up and down, his eyes still partially blurry. "Nah, you'd probably enjoy it!"

She sighed as she pulled a plastic bag from her pocket. "What a shame, I thought you might at least to be trained." Pulling out a gummy worm from the bag, she sighed again. "Oh well." Then stuck it in her mouth, sucking it in like noodle. "You know, these gummies aren't quite as tasty as the real thing."

"What would you know about eating worms?"

"Are you kiddin? I have an older brother, and sister. Both of them got their heads shoved so far up their asses, they can't see the sun shine."

This made Ray laugh as she joined him. After a moment, she offered him a worm.

"Like I said, not as good as the real thing, but you gotta start some where."

Ray watched her eat anther worm after offering him one. There was something familiar about her, like he knew her all his life. "You gotta name?"

"Of course."

After a minute, it became apparent that was all she was going to say unless prompted further. So he stuck out his hand. "Name's Ray Kowalski."

She looked at it disdainfully, and then took hold of his wrist. While he watched in shock, she spit on his palm, and used her dress to clean off his hand. When she was sure of her work, she clasped his in hers. "Frannie Vecchio, call me Fraciesca, and I'll kick your balls in your throat."

"Fair enough, don't call me Stanley, and you got yourself a deal." They shook on it, and started to giggle. When he sobered, he looked back at the school, the windows easily lit up from inside in the dim day light. "Why aint you in there with those freaks?"

"What, and miss this stimulating intellectual company out here?"


"I don't belong with none of them ass kissers. If it aint to one of the adults it is another older kid they are debasing themselves for. Makes me sick just thinking about them." Her eyes were facing the school, but were focused on a distant memor. "Nope, better out here in the cold, skipping being taunted into submission by my brother and sister's flunkies."

"They can't be that bad..."

"You have no idea. Do you have any of your own?"

"None. Mum wouldn't let the old bastard touch her after the first time. She had found out she was pregnant with me, and he got pissed. So she left him. Now I am back with the same son of bitch. I won't let him treat me like that, I wont!"

She placed a calming hand on his leg. "Whoa there silver, don't make me get the club and hit ya like Yosemite Sam."

Looking a bit chargrined, he tried to smile for her. "Sorry, got carried away. Not yer problem."

"You aint the only one with that kinda problem," Frannie mumbled as she looked away.

"'Kay, I get. Now what do we do?"

After looking around, she found what it was she was seeking, and stood. "Now I throw this bag away, and then we blow this popcicle stand."

Ray stood up and hurried to follow her. "Where are we going?"

For a while there was no reply other than giggling. "Tell me more about yourself, Stanley Raymond Kowalski."

"There isn't much to tell, Franciesca Vecchio." He shrugged, hand in his pockets as they walked on. "Seven years old, live with the old bastard for a month cause the city orphanage is too full. He don't want me, but they pay him just enough to make it worth his while. I aint got no other relations. Had a brother, but he got lucky and got a scholarship early. In one of them nice private schools on the other side of the city near the lake. Mum was proud of him, and said so every time he got brought up, and believe me, it happened a lot."

Frannie noted the resentment in his voice. "You aint the only one who got this shit goin on with'em. Don't you think I hear all the 'oh look at how good your sister is on that cheer leading squad, you don't think they let just anybody on that squad, do you? Nope, no sir, you have to be the best, and my girl is the best.' She goes on like she is the best thing since sliced bread. That is when she isn't goin on about her little Raymondo.

"Since pop died a few years ago, he has been actin man of the house. I do somethin wrong, and I get wacked on the ass. Even when I don't, I still get hit. Ma says I probably did somethin wrong and just don't remember or lied about it to her. I mean I know she has to work hard, an' pop's pension don' cover diddly squat, but that don't mean she has an excuse to let it go on. He can do no wrong in her eyes. I am always the trouble maker, and nine times outta ten, a god damned liar! So you aint the only one, not by a long shot."

"Sorry, guess we're in tha same boat."

"We aint the only ones." She started for the gate of the school, and watched for traffic. "Time to show you the place. It isn't much, but we will be here for you if ya need us. Just leave a note in our locker or with one of us."

"I might do that." Ray frowned as she went farther in the city then he had ever been in all his life. They walked down back allies he had never dreamed of, much less even thought existed outside of cheap films. "Tell me more about this hell you came from."

"It isn't exactly hell, but it most definetly is not heaven. In fact, home is all I got, no other family that I know of. Why are you so interested?" She grunted out as they walked through another back ally.

"Just wanting to see how much you got it worse than I do. It might make me feel better. That good enough for you?"

"Fine by me. I might actually find I got it better." Holding up a loose board in a fence across another ally, she watched him go through. "Let's see, I got my older sister, Maria, lazy skuz she is. Probably end up pregnant by the time she is fifteen. As I stated earlier, she is on the pompom squad for the sports teams in the middle school. Now there are bunch of winners or should I say, whiners! Everyone of her friends has the brain of tad pole, and the smell to match.

"Ray is another thing all together, he is on those same sports teams. He is six years older than me, but might as well be the exact opposite. He seems to believe that all things revolve around his ass because he is on the eighth grade varsity squad basket ball squad. Just because he got a growth spurt again, he is now taller than the entire team. He would be captain, except there is another guy better than him, which you will never hear him admit. I sometimes go to his games and root for Zuko just to piss him off." She laughed to herself as Ray looked confused.

"Frankie Zuko is the captain of the basketball team. He is also the team captain for most of the other sports. That which my brother doesn't beat him out of that is. This grudge started when Irene, Frankie's little sister, smiled at Ray a dance two years ago. Now they hate each other. Morons. Anyways, Frankie is a bad ass who thinks he controls the world. Just like Ray. So much for it being just great minds." This time, Ray did join her in laughing. "So what about your family?"

"My brother, lucky shit head he is, I haven't seen him since I was three. Don't know much except how great he is. Mum was the daughter of a middle class family, why she married the old bastard, I have no idea. She was all I had then she got killed while crossing the street on my last birthday. I got sent to live with the old bastard cause the city don't want another brat, and they pay him well enough to keep me around. I get by on what I can, take what I need from the rich kids who are too busy ta notice, that is the best I can hope for."

Frannie stopped in the middle of a deserted street, and grabbed his hand. "Congratulations, you have possibly the crappiest life of the group."

"Gee, thanks, next time, don't mention it." He smiled as she wrapped an arm over his shoulders.

"We are almost there, then you can be amoung those that know your pain, and can match ya."

"Greatness, a whole group of rejects and freaks, can't wait."

Ten minutes later they were on the other side of the neighborhood in an old abandoned parking lot in the middle of what used to be a high class business district seventy years before. Ray took one look at the fence row of trees and weeds blocking it from the street and smirked. "No wonder no one else comes here, they probably think it a junk yard and trash pit."

Frannie sat down on an old parking block next to one of the three brown stones blocking it in. "It was. They sealed it up when they built the brown stone behind me. This place was the parking lot for one of the old speak easies run by capone in the twenties. They let the trees grow so think it became impossible to see through them. The only way to get to this place is to crawl the way we came, that basement window of the abandoned building. City is talking about tearing this place down, but so far it has been all talk. Hopefully it will remain that way."

Ray looked around at the three story buildings and the trees that matched their height as they towered over him The wind barely touched their hiding place, only to leave a cool touch. Windows on all the buildings had been boarded up or sealed off with masonry. Closing his eyes, he spread his arms and turned around in a circle slowly.

"What are you doing?"

"Shhh." When he had completed the circle, he opened his eyes and smiled at her. "It's quiet."

Frannie nodded. "Probably the only place in the city that is."

Ray's face took on a tranquile contenance. "It is like another world, a faiery circle."

"A what? Are you on somethin?"

Frowning at her, he shook his head and pulled his book bag of his shoulder. Ray pulled out a book with a leather cover and opened it to a page marked with a strand. "A Faiery Circle, in the kingdom of the Fey, the Faieries are the guardians of nature. Their circles are said to be sacred places where no mortal can enter with-out invitation and shown the way. Each circle is created around a natural source of magic, a place of great importance and knowledge. It is believed that they create places like this in cities, a dwelling place to escape in the quiet solidtude of their ancestral homes."

"Yep, sounds like this place all right. May be those Irish people might not have been so drunk." She shrugged. "Then again, if we asked Wren or Benton, we might get a polite, but opposite answer."

"Who is Wren and Benton?" Ray looked up from the book to Frannie who was talking over his shoulder.

"Just the older two of the group." Before she could explain more, the sound of boys chatting and giggling filled the only entrance to the small sanctuary. Frannie took one look at the first boy to crawl out of the cubby and groaned. "Oh dear god. What did I do to deserve this?"

"Who is it?"

In answer to Ray's question, three boys of the same stature, and ruffly two years older than him and Frannie came walking over. "What have we here? Frannie brink a new girl to the group?" One with a big nose and almost black hair spoke to them.

Ray snorted at him. "If you are anything to judge by, a pig would be an improvement."

"Is that supposed to be some kinda joke?"

"Some kind." Ray walked boldly up to him, and looked up a little to meet his eyes. "Then again, sad truth really aint all that funny."

"Who is the brave shit, Loui?"

"How the hell shoulda I know, Dewey?"

Ray pulled back, face screwed up in a half grin. He pointed at the only black kid. "Let me guess, Huey?"

"Wanna make somethin of it, sucka?"

"Nuthin, fool. You can cut the macho crap, I know you aint Mr. T."

"You watch the A-Team?" A chorus from the boys as they looked at him in hoperful confusion.

"Yeah, wanna make something of it? Cause I can make somethin of it real quick. You got that?" His words had the three older boys doubled over with laughter.

Frannie groaned as she slapped her forehead. "Take me, god, take me now!"

Turning to look at her, Ray cocked a grin. "What was that for?"

"I am not going to be a party to any more of their bad jokes. If you are going to be the fourth member of their stooges, then I am leaving!"

"Ignore her, she is just jealous that we can be funny." Jack slapped Tom on the shoulder. "Tom here is the master of imitations. Do one for him."

Tom smirked as he hit Jack back. "Fine!" He pressed his top teeth to his lower lip and blew through them. The other two started cracking up.

"Who was that?"

"Oh god." Frannie stood up and put a hand on Ray's shoulder. "Ignore them, they are just being immature."

"But who was it?"

"Not who, but what."

"Butt's right, Frannie," Loui called out as he doubled over again.

"You mean..."

Frannie nodded at Ray's confusion. "He calls it a fart in the wind."

"That's sick! Ya bunch of nasty bastards." Suddenly they went quiet. "What'd I say?"

"The B-word, we don't use it to discribe any one." Frannie was at his shoulder again.

"Yeah, well may be you don't, but I do. The old bastard aint gonna get me to call'em dad. I wished ta hell I was a bastard. With mum gone, I might as well be."

"Wish all ya want, kid, but we already are. Aint got a single family member amoung us." This time it was Loui who spoke. His agressive stance belied his true feelings as he looked away. "My mom left me on the steps of the orphanage. Tom's and Jack's moms were teens, runnaways. Dunno who our pop's were, or who our moms were, don't care. So don't call us bastards. Them damn sisters do enough of that when we go back."

Ray walked over to stand in his line of sight. "Which one ya talkin about?"

"Sisters of Mercy, or as we call them, Twisted Sisters of Mercy, all them nuns are more than generous with their words. Be glad you aint ended up there, bucko."

"Yeah, well how nice for you." Ray smirked at Loui's glare. "What, you expect sympathy from me? Fat chance, ducky!"

"I am gonna pound you into the ground mouth!"

"So now you are threatenin to sit on me, well you are gonna have to catch me first tubby!" He tapped a hand against Gardino's slight paunch then dived out of the way of his reach as the others laughed. After a few chases around the parking lot, Loui gave up.

Frannie stood up and smacked him on the shoulder. "Serves you right, stupid. Why are you here anyways? I know the sisters hate it when you skip school."

All three went quiet for a moment, and it was Tom who broke it. "Wren, he left another note."

A hand flew to her face as Frannie gasped. "Shit, it's Wednesday, I forgot." Sitting back on her block, she paled. "He was wearing black earlier, I forgot all about it."

Ray waited for an explanation, but nothing was forthcoming. "What about it?"

"Are you screwed in the head?"

"Eat shit, Loui! I don't know what is goin on."

"He's knew, Loui." Jack held back Gardino. "It is a custom of ours, when one of us has the shit beat out of us, we wear black to signify not to be touched. Leave a note to let us know to meet the others here to get our minds off it."

"Shit, I didn't know."

"Forget about it, it is okay, now you do." Jack was about to say more, when they heard a painful gasp from the entrance.

Ray's first sight of the boy was of someone who's body didn't fit, like his spirit was to small for the form. How else could he explain the klutz? Wren was dressed in solid black, from his turtle neck to his hightops. This would be the first time Ray would see the custom, but would not be the last, not by a long shot.

The silence that over took the three jokers made Ray shiver. None of them spoke as the boy limped up to them, or when he wenced as he sat on a parking block. Ray stood in the back ground as the others closed ranks around him, taking his book bag and other heavy things. Feeling like he was intruding on them, he turned to leave.

"Where ya going?" A hand settled on his shoulder causing him to turn and face one of the duck brothers, Tom.

Ray shrugged. "I was jus leavin, don' wanna bother ya."

"Aint botherin none here." Another one spoke, Gardino. "Come and sit with us, that is, unless you got better places to be." The sneer was clear in the slightly pitched voice.


"On what," Gardino was in his face.

"If that's your face, or your butt." Hewey and Duey started busted out laughing from their places on the parking blocks as Frannie soothed Loui's nerves. Ray looked to Wren, the boy had a slight smile on his face that disappeared immeadietly when he noticed Ray was looking at him. "You okay?"

"I am fine, thank you for asking, though." He would not meet Ray's eyes as he lied to him.

"Yeah, sure ya are. Who did this to ya, and how come he got away with it?" Silence desended again. "What?"

"We don't ask, Ray." Frannie tried to smile at him, but the sadness was too great. "When one of us wear's black, we don't ask, just be there for him." She tried to will Ray to understand as she put her hand on his shoulder.

Ray shrugged it off as he looked at them disbelieving. "So what, ya just ignore it and hope it goes away."

"It always does."

"Ignoring it doesn't make it right. Just because the bruises are gone doesn't mean it never happened." He tried to make them understand but they turned away, only Frannie still held on.

"No it doesn't, Ray. But we are all we got. The others don't care what happens to us, we learned that a long time ago. So when we get hurt, we simply will it away, and for the most part, it does." Her eyes were misted over as she finished, and Louis held her close to let her cry.

In shock, Ray dropped down on the parking block next to Wren. The other boy was shaking with silent sobs so he pulled him close. As Wren hugged him back, he stroked the older boy's hair. Careful of the bruises, he rubbed circles in his back.

For the next three and a half hours the group explained about themselves.

"Born Renfield Charles Turnbull the Second to former Sister Reagan Flannery and Father Renfield Charles Turnbull, he was the bastard son of a priest." Jack spoke as he bounced a ball. The rhythm keeping in with his angry words. "His mother was cast out of the order and his father was forced to take a sabatical to South America for five years. For the past three and a half years, he has been the mon senior of the same church that runs the orphanage, Our Lady of Mercy and Divine Grace. His father sees him every Wednesday before school to *teach* him his lessons about sinners and their evil ways."

"Seems how he has no other family, we adopted him. Nothing like having a real family to make you appreaciate your friends. At least you can pick and choose them to a degree." Frannie wrapped her arm around Ray's shoulders as she sat next to him and Wren. "For years I have been the youngest and the little sister. I happily pass the torch on to you."

"Yeah, especially the little sister part!" The duck brothers started to cackle and shriek with their laughs.

"Just how old are you bunch of cupcakes?"

"Well let's see, Benton, he is the oldest at thirteen." Frannie sighed, counting off on her fingers. "Then there is Wren at eleven, followed by the duck brothers. Jack is the oldest at, two months after him is Jack, and finally Loui, all nine years old. Then there is me, I turned seven back in may."

"You are younger than me." Ray smirked at her. "I turned seven in February."

"You are the new guy, so that makes you the younger one." She patted him on the head and bounded away sing it at him again to the tune of like a virgin.

Ray had one last question. "Why me? Why tell me all this? I aint nuthin special."

She gave a humoring smile as she came close again to pat his shoulder. "We know that, but we still accept you anyways."

"Yur askin for it, aint ya, Frannie."

She looked him up and down with a huff. "You couldn't harm a fly, half pint." Laughing at his death glare, she ruffled his fuzzy blonde hair and ran off when he tried to hit her.

He gave her one last glare, then waved off the issue as Wren started to whimper from the movement. Ray resumed his stroking and petting until well after Wren had settled down. They sat that way until the other members of the group started to get hungry and bored from all the lame jokes and games. At this time, they started to perk up, the last member of their group was coming.

School had let out a few minutes before, and the sounds of a bicycle with flappers in the spokes could be heard. A head of soft brown hair poking up from an overly large jacket came through the basement entrance. Pale blue eyes locked on to Ray, and never left as the boy walked over to them.

He stuck out his hand to Ray, as he knelt in front of him and Wren. "Are you well, Renfield?"

"Yes, thank you, Benton."

"Would you listen to these two, sound like bunch of old ladies." Loui started mimicing them, but stopped when Jack elbowed him in the ribs.

Benton stood up and turned to face Louis. "It is a couple elderly ladies, and manners are something that will get you farther than sarcasm, Mr. Gardino."

"Ooo, it's Mr. Gardino, now ya got him mad, Loui!" Tom snorted as Loui narrowed his eyes.

"Up yers, Tammy. Sor-ry, Benton."

Nodding, Ben turned away. "That is quite alright, just make sure you get it right next time." He knelt back down in front of Ray and Wren again checking out Wren.

"Are you fer real?"

"I beg your pardon?" Benton lifted an eyebrow.

"Greatness, a freak and a Vulcan." Snorts came from the duck brothers, but they wisely held their tongues.

"I do not believe we have had the pleasure of being introduced." He extended his hand to Ray. "I am Benton Fraser."

"Yeah, well the name fits." Accepting the hand, Ray shook it. "Name's Stanley Raymond Kowalski, call me Stan, and I'll kick ya in the head. So Ray is all ya need, not any of this Mr. Kowalski B.S., that is the old bastard."

Benton rubbed his eyebrow in confusion. "The old..."

"The Old Bastard! Yeah, my pop, the man who donated the swimmers that made me. Other than that, I have no claim over him."

"I see, well nice to meet you, Ray."

"Like wise." Ray motioned for Benton to sit down on the other side of Wren. "So what's yer story?"

"My story?"

"Yeah, why you with this group?"

"Well you see, I first came to Chicago on the trail of my father, he had left me with my..." Groans filled the parking lot as the other four turned away and started to pretend to kill themselves. Ignoring their remarks, Benton continued on unpreturbed. "grand parents. They travel a lot and he had left them with an extra burden. When my mother died, he couldn't handle seeing me as a constant reminder of what he lost, so he left. At first I was hurt that he had abandoned me, but my grand mother took care of me as her own, so for the past six years they have been searching for him on and off.

"They have a home here in Chicago so it was decided that I would be brought here to get an education. Most of the time I am home alone, but have learned self proficientcy and have adapted quite well to my enviroment."

Looks of shock were all around as Benton sat silent for five minutes. Finally Loui walked up to them in aggrivation. "Is that it? No torturing him with the details of the search, the long drawn out tales of all the places you have been, the tales you were told by those innuite?"

"No, I have learned that not everyone is interested in the entire story of my life. So I have cut it down to the bare bone facts in order to minimize the time."

Screams of rage were heard as the duck brothers imitated Yosimite Sam's tempertantrums. "Now he learns!"

"Not four years ago when we met!"

"No, that would be too humane!"

Ray watched their tirade with an expression on whether to shoot or call the men in white. "I see why ya are friends, ye're all freaks."

Frannie was suddenly at his side and smiling. "Well, Ray." She put a hand on his arm. "Confidentially, I AM A WABBIT!" After honking his nose, she hopped away.

Rolling his eyes, Ray muttered an oath under his breath. "What have I gotten myself into?"

Beside him, Wren started to shake his head and speak in a pitched voice. "Oh dear, that was the last Uranium thirty-two exploding space modulator."

Ray looked at Benton's face. Benton shrugged. "C'est L'amour, no?"

Narrowing his eyes, Ray glared at the older boy. "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin."

"But of co'rse."

"You're disss-spic-able."

Ray had gone home that day to find Daimon waiting for him. He played the message for him about the cutting of school. It was the last time Ray ever skipped class. The following day it was Ray's turn to wear black. It would not be the last time.


Sitting there in the parking lot, Ray drowned out the last of the early memories with the rock music. Needing to get out of the funk, he lit up another cigarette, inhailing the smoke with all his being. The feeling of instant relief was what it was all about. Smoking was about the only thing that helped these days. It didn't used to be that way, there was a time when just being alive was good, then he had met the reason why the group were outcasts.


Ray Vecchio was one of the hard assed thirteen yeaar olds that always had a stick up his ass over one thing or another, or so Frannie said. Turns out she was more right than wrong. Being one of the jocks, he had a lot of people who wanted to be his friend. All this attention did nothing bad to his already self inflated ego.

The first encounter between the two Rays was disastorous. It was the following week, Ray Kowalski was sitting on the swings with Frannie discussing what they were going to do when school was out.

"Do you think you can come over?"

"I can't, I have things to do."

"Like what?"

"Just things, okay!"

Frannie looked away. "Bite my head off why don't ya."

"You know what, just forget it. You don't understand." With-out another word, he swung up and jumped from the swing. Running across the play ground, he slammed in to one of the older kids by accident.

"Watch where you are goin, maggot!" The older kid shoved Ray down and started off with his friends.

"Eat me, shit face."

Vecchio stopped and spun on the smaller blonde. "What did you say?"

"I said 'eat me, shit face' what part of that don't you understand?" Ray ducked out of the way of the fist and swung in to the gut of the older boy. "Try that again and I will kick ya in the head." After a quick look over the group, he turned and ran from the shocked kids as Vecchio tried to recover enough to give chase. By the time he did, it was too late, Ray was back in the school.

"Bitch! I'll get you later!"

And he did. Ray had been walking home when Ray Vecchio and three of his friends had jumped him. The fight lasted for fifteen minutes, Kowalski was down at the end of it, but not before the other four had a several damaged body parts and in one case a broken wrist. When it was over, Ray lay beaten and bloody amoung the snow. A few minutes later Benton was at his side helping him to stand. Ray shrugged his helping hands off.

"Please, Ray, let me help."

"Why, so you can go running back to your friends and tell them all 'bout broken lil Stanley Raymond Kowalski?"

"Ray, I would never..."

"Save it Frase, I saw you with them earlier on the playground when I ran in to that shit face."

"I was not with him, he and I barely know each other."

Ray looked at the honest and open face with anger. "Then why were ya with'em Frase?"

"It is a girl, a girl I like."

"One of d'em pomp pomp wanna be's?"

"Yes, Victoria is her name." Benton looked away as a blush crept up over his cheeks. "Oh dear, I think it might be best if we get out of this cold, I seem to be feeling a chill."

"Sure, that must be it." A knowing smirk crossed his lips, but he didn't say anything else. Benton had helped him walk the rest of the way home, but Ray was reluctant to have him help him get up stairs.

"I don't understand, Ray, why can't I help you?"

"It's the old bastard, I don't want him meetin ya, an I got a few things I gotta do before he gets home or I get in a lot of trouble."

Fraser tried again. "Perhaps I can help. It won't take as long if two of us are doing the work. I promise to leave before your father..."

"The old Bastard!"

"Daimon get's home."

"Fine, but don't say I didn't warn ya." Reluctantly, Ray lead him up the ramshackle stair to the third floor apartment. With a flourish, he threw open the door. "Welcome to my personal hell."

The apartment was tidy, but run down. Walls were browning from age and plaster was cracked every where. Fraser noticed the carpet was threadbare as they walked across the room. Walking to Ray's room, they picked up things like an old news paper and trash depositing them in the trash can next to his door. His bedroom was almost barren of all possesions, only a few writing impliments and some paper to do his home work on the desk was all he had.

Benton felt the sadness of the room, but kept his own council on the subject. "So, what do you need help with?"

"I need to vaccume the living room and clean the kitchen. There's nuthin else to do today." As Ray explained, he changed out of his school clothes and in to a pair of rattied jeans and tee shirt. Walking back in to the living room, he grabbed the vaccume out of the closet near the apartment door. "Which do you wanna do, the living room, or the kitchen?"

Benton took in the height of the smaller boy and the counters and made up his mind. "I'll do the kitchen, you clean up the living room."

"Suit yerself." Ray went about his business as Benton went to clean the kitchen.

As he washed the few dishes, he couldn't help but observe the careful way Ray moved. He knew the younger boy was in pain, but there was no helping him unless he wanted it. Before the last dish was dried and put away, the door to the apartment swung open and in staggered an older looking version of Ray.

"What the hell is goin on 'ere? Who da fuck are you?" Daimon pointed at Benton as the boy put away the last dish.

After drying his hands, he offered one to Daimon. "I am a friend of your son's, my name is..."

"I don't give a fuck who you are. We don' take charity so get the hell out!"

"I was merely..."

Daimon grabbed him by his shirt collar and tossed him out of the apartment, then went back inside and slammed the door shut. Benton had tried to get back in, but the door proved solid, and after a while the screaming died down.


Ray shuddered at the memory. He was glad it wasn't Frannie who had followed him home that day, who knows what might have happened. With a quiet sigh, he finished the cigarette and went back to listening to the music. More memories arose unbidden.


Fraser had been the one to keep the group together through thick and thin. He was also the only one that refused to let Ray join them. Though he never said it to him, the others would tell him things about what Fraser would casually observe. No one knew why Fraser didn't want him there, but he didn't let it get in the way of the other members of the group being his friend.

It wasn't until two months after they became friends, that Fraser started to come around. It also was the first time Ray had ever not shown up for a meeting. After school, they met in the parking lot, same as usual, but Ray wasn't there. Fraser asked, "where's Ray," out of curiosity, not care about the boy's well fare.

Frannie, "I dunno, he wasn't in class either. Teach said his dad called him in sick. I'm scared somethin worse might have happened."

"Then he will come or he won't."

"That's it? You were never this much a prick before." Loui stood up to the elder boy.

"What would you like me to do about it, Mr. Gardino?"

"Take the name and shove it, Fraser. I'm fuckin outta here." Loui stormed to the basement entrance and dove through closely followed by the other two duck brothers.

When Benton turned to Frannie, she tossed her hair and joined them in leaving. Wren shrugged and walked away. Benton sat down with a heavy sigh. "All right, I'll go."

He found the Ray sitting on the steps of his building bundled up in a over sized women's coat, tear tracks dried on his face. Not knowing what to do, Benton sat down beside him.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"What tha fuck do you want, aint like you care." Ray turned away to go but stopped when a hand was on his shoulder. "What do you want?"

"I want to help if I can. Will you let me?"

Ray looked at him for a few minutes. He took in the light blue eyes and their offer of geniune concern. "They say the eyes are the window to the soul. I think it's true, but some times they got some venusean blinds over them."

Benton smiled. "They are venetian blinds, and do you think I have some over mine?"

Narrowing his eyes, Ray piereced him with a soul searching look. "Look me in the eyes and tell me you care."

For a moment, Benton considered laughing at the boy, but realized Ray had meant every word of it. He would later confess this and everything about their encounters to him, but for now, he decided to humor the blonde. He stared back at Ray unflinchingly. "I care, Ray."

Ray had been expecting a liar, the same person who had been avoiding him unless absolutely necissary for the past two months. All he saw was another boy, someone who was as lonely as him. Someone that could care if given the chance. Nodding, Ray looked away again. "Fine. The old bastard took a book of mine. A very special book."

"What about this book makes it so special, if I may ask."

"No, you can't, but I will tell you anyways. You see my mom gave me that book the day she died. The old bastard thinks she had some money left over from her inheritence and that the riddle she left me inside it contains the answer. So now the shit has it, and won't give it back until I tells him what I know."

"Well that answers that question, now the next one is what do we do about it?"

"We nothing, I gotta come up with a way to get it back before he gets pissed and burns the damn thing."

Benton wenced as Ray spoke. "That is quite a colorful vocabulary you have there."

"Yeah, well you would to if the old bastard was your father."

"I wish I knew mine." Looking away, Benton tried to hide his feelings.

"Yeah, well if yer dad left a kid like you behind, he aint nothin but a shit. So get over it, he aint here to care about you, but I am."

Fraser looked out over the streets of the run down neighborhood as he swallowed back his emotions. "So, we have to plan a way to get the book back."

"Actually no, we don't. My plan is to wait until he passes out from the drinking, then get it and run like hell." Ray smirked as he with stood the full force of Benton's 'are you dumb or did your mother drop you on your head' glare. "Okay, so it needs work, but I have nothin in the way of smarts on these things."

"It doesn't take being smart, just common sense."

"Great, not only am I stupid, I am too stupid to be common."

"This is going to take a while. Lets start small." He rubbed a thumb over his eyebrow. "Okay, we have to make him think the book is gone. So we don't have to take it and run. We simply await his eventual intoxication to the point of unconsciousness, then we slip in, take the book, and then smuggle it some place safe. Quite simple really."

"Yeah, yer good at that."

"At what?"

"Bein simple."

"Ah, thank you kindly, Ray."

Ray glanced at the older boy who was smiling, feeling satisfied with his genious. "Yer a real freak, ya know that don't you."

Benton nodded and stood next to Ray. "Perhaps, but we freaks stick together. For you see, Ray, you must be one too, why else would we be friends."

"Cause I aint got enough sense not to be."

"That too, I suspect."

For once in his life, things had gone according to plan, thanks in part to the predictability of the old bastard. After he had passed out over the couch, Ray and Benton had snuck in and retrieved the book from the pot on the coffee table. In its stead, they had placed the ashes of an old newpaper.

Rushing down the stairs, they had nearly fallen from the giggles. They did not stop until they had reached the run down apartment building in which Benton's grand parents owned and lived. For it being over a century old, it was in good shape. Being one of the only buildings to survive the fire that nearly leveled Chicago a century before, it was also a sturdy building. His family had owned the property from the time they fought in the civil war and received it as payment.

In the basement, Benton had discovered a hidden room in the foundation of the old house that was originally on the land. Evidence that it was a stop on the underground rail road was colored on the wall in coal etchings. The room was one of the few places Benton let himself be who he truly was, a lonely boy. It was in this room that Ray stored his book.

On the leather cover were three winged figures, each holding a black stone. The names of each were stenciled beneath them, but Ray couldn't make out what it said. So he named them; left was a warm, light brown haired god, Wren; right was the dark brown haired god, Frase; and center was the blonde god, Ray.

"That is not their real names, Ray."

"I don't care, they look like they needed new names, not some sissy names."

"I don't think Eros was a sissy. In fact, he was a god of love, and match making." After a few moments of huffing and glaring. "Sorry, Ray was the god of love and match making."

Ray narrowed his eyes but nodded his ascent. With a sigh, he wrapped the book in wax paper and replaced the lid on the wooden hope chest. Inside the chest were things from all of the kids in the group; a silver ring from Frannie's father's family, six gold arm bands the duck brothers refused to say where they *aquired* them, some coins Wren had collected also from unknown sorces, and a small set of jewelry from Benton's mother. They were the hopes and dreams of the small group, now his too.


Ray smiled at the warm feeling from that memory. There were some good ones amoung the bad, but far too many bad for happy. He needed more good ones. His current crises was just another one of so many.


About three years later, Frannie didn't show up for their daily meeting in the parking lot. At first none of them said anything about it, but after three days she still had not shown up. Ray had been the one to go and see what happened.

He had arrived at the Vecchio's and learned that Frannie didn't want to see any boys for the next twenty to sixty years, her words exactly. When he had asked her why, she slapped him, then slammed the door on his face. It was another two days before they learned she had started her period. They told her it wouldn't change their opinions of her, and for the most part it didn't.

But her view on things had changed. She saw that she was becoming a woman and decided that only Benton was adult enough for her. The others still not really showing any signs of maturing as he had grown four inches in the past year alone. She tried out for the fifth grade girl's basketball squad in hopes that he would notice her.

All her works were in vain as he had taken Victoria to the halloween dance. She suddenly decided that all guys were evil again, and refused even to talk to him. Frannie swore revenge on him then went as far to slash the tubes on his bike. When Ray caught her finishing the job he had taken her in hand and dragged her to a meeting of the group. The duck brothers were silent as Ray and Wren questioned why she turned on them.

She broke in to tears and tried to write it off as hormones, only Ray didn't buy it. He knew something else was wrong, what, he wasn't sure. "Frannie, you've been actin like a hell cat for the better part of the month. This bull shit of cuttin on Frase's tires is the last straw!"

"Leave her alone, Ray! Stop lying to us." Tom was standing in his face. "What do you know about hormones and puberty? Aint like you been through it?"

"Or you either if face hair is somethin to go by, or is there somethin you aint tellin us about, may be somethin about cramps once a month?" Ray stood in his face, but fell on his ass when Gardino pushed him.

"Shut up, migit! You aint ever gonna see puberty if you keep it up." He smirked as he stood over a foot taller than Ray.

"Yeah, Ray, quit being so jealous, you will get there."

"Shove it, Jack! There is somethin wrong and she aint tellin us, but she is sure in hell takin it out on us." He turned to Frannie and started forward. "Tell them, I aint a damn liar! You is hidin somethin and I know it!"

Frannie shook her head, fear in her watery eyes. "No."

"I am not a liar!"

"Leave her alone, Stanley!"

Ray faced the voice of the angry boy. "Oh great, if it aint the biggest fucker in the sea. How in hell'd you find this place?"

"I am here for my sister, little bitch. Stay out of my way, or you will get smeared! Come on, Franciesca, ma says time to come home." Vecchio held out a hand.

When she shook her head, tears falling, Ray tried one last time. "Tell me what is wrong, Frannie, you can..." He was silenced as Vecchio picked him up and threw him against a brick wall.

"I said shut the fuck up! Frannie get your ass over here, we are going home now!" The others watched in silence as Vecchio climbed back in the basement entrance, Frannie following him.

Fraser climbed out the former window and tried to offer a comforting smile.

"It was you! You're the fuckin traitor!" Ray coughed as he stumbled from his position on the wall. "You lead him straight to us. We have no refuge from him now."

"Who is we, shrimp? You are the only one he has a beef with."

"Shut up, Loui."

"Eat it, Wren!"

"Silence, both of you!" Fraser's angry words shocked them into silence. "Now, Ray, it was for her own good. With Maria pregnant..."

"I knew it! Fuckin call me a liar! You all can go to hell!" Ray limped over to the entrance.

"Ray, now be reasonable."

"Fuck you, Traitor!" Ray threw himself through the entrance as the other boys grew silent. He didn't sleep that night as sat up trying to think up a way to avoid them. The next morning, he was still in the clothes from the day before when Daimon told him to get up. All through morning preperations he was silent.

On the way to school, he took the long way around to avoid the others in their usual meeting spot. He kept replaying the day before's harsh words. They had believed her word over his, just because he was not like them. It was the same shit he had went through three years before. None of them had trusted his word, had even called him a liar over it.

So deep in thought, he didn't notice the others. They came up behind him and started to step on his heels as he walked. "Stop trippin, dip."

"Fuck you, Vecchio!"

"Leave my sister alone, you hear me!"

"Don't worry about it, she can keep her fuckin lying self with them so called back stabbing friends."

Vecchio started to laugh with his friends. "Did you hear it, the baby got his feelings hurt."

"I am not," Ray swung around and punched Vecchio in the balls, "a baby."

"Get him," Vecchio gasped out as Ray took off running.

Ray ran past the next group kids in his race to beat the bullies to school. Not caring who he had to hurt, he burst through another group, bowling two over in the process.

"Watch it... Kowalski?"

"Fuck off, Fraser," he called back over his shoulder as he ran out in the street through the cross walk. The school only a lane away, he raised his hands above him and started crowing in triumph. Too late he heard the horn. In a moment, time seemed to slow down, he looked to his right just as the car hit him.

He was in a coma for two days, in all that time, not once did he have a visitor. After he awoke, the doctors checked him over and released him. No insurance meant he would have to recover from the injuries, both mental and physical, on his own.


Ray gripped his left hand, he had never regained feeling in the bottom two fingers. Nor could he read with-out glasses for too long else his eyes start to cross. He would never forgive them for that day, but he did for not visiting him. It took a long time, and an enormous effort on Wren's part.


For the first month he had to stay at home and do the work that his teacher would send home with Frannie who would give to Wren who would bring to Ray. Everyday for three hours he would sit with Ray, helping him relearn how to walk and talk. After three weeks he was able to walk around on his own again, but coud not hold a pencil steady enough to write. So for the remaining week, Wren taught him muscle exercises to control both hands.

When he went back to school, the lessons did not stop. In fact, the morning of his first day, he had made Wren promise to walk him home. "I don' thin' I can make, uh... day. A whole day. That's it."

Wren smiled at him encouragingly. "You can, Ray, now I have classes I have to go to." Patiently, he had pulled Ray's hand from his own, and walked away, looking back every couple of steps.

Ray waited until Wren was out of sight before going on into the school. All the other kids in the fifth grade class were quiet as he limped his way to his seat in the back of the room. When he sat down and faced the teacher, only then did she speak.

"It is good to have you with us again, Mr. Kowalski."


"Mr. Kowalski, please raise your hand before you speak."

He narrowed his eyes at her, but did as told by raising his hand.

"What is it, Mr. Kowalksi?"

"The name is Ray."

"It is Mr. Kowalski until you are out of this class. I am not your peer or your friend, I am your teacher, and your better. You will address me with respect and I will aford you the same."

"Fine, I'll call you your Indian name, Ms. Needs-ta-get-fu..."

"To the principal's office, Mr. Kowalski, now!"

"..cked! Right away, Ms. Needs-ta-get-fucked!" He limped out to the laughter of the other students as the teacher shouted threats and curses at him. Calling him everything from monster to demon, he enjoyed her word play all the way down the hall to the principal's office. Once there, the secretary took one look at him, checked off her book and pointed him in. "Morning, Mrs. Redding."

"Morning, Ray. The usual?"

"Well it is not my fault she is so uptight." He stopped speaking when he saw her no nonsense face. "She insisted on calling me, Mr. Kowalski."

"And what did you insist on calling her, the truth, Ray."

"Ms. Needs-ta-get-fucked," he whispered as he looked down.

"Well there is no harm in the truth. Tell Mr. Ruthersford number seven."

"Not the black boards again!"

"You need to learn not to use such harsh language in front of the children and the students."

"Damn it!"

"Make that a number eight."

"Double...." a stern look, "darn!"

"Go on it, Ray."

Lunch time found Ray helping the gym teacher clean for the first of a month's long lunch period detention. He would eat when Ms. Waterson ate, and then help her the rest of the hour of his brake. Today was more interested in the older kids than he was in cleaning. More and more he found himself being distracted by their games.

It was the nineth graders turn in the gym as they played basket ball. Ray watched both teams and felt something different. One player imparticular made him feel... strange. When his bell rang, he finally broke off his rapt facsination of the player and turned to find Ms. Waterson watching him with a smile on her face. For a strange reason, he felt a blush come on.

"Who were you watching?"

"My friend."

"Ah, Wren. He is pretty good, isn't he."

"The best." Ray felt a goofy grin come to his lips as his cheeks felt hot again.

"You like him, don't you?"

"Of course, he is my friend."

"Of course." She smiled as Ray went back to watching Wren. "Ray, how old are you?"

"I'll be eleven in over a month, why?"

"Just curious. Think you wanna play sports?"

"Nah, just like watchin."

She left it at that. "Well, best be off to class with you. Don't want to be late for the excitement of Ms. Needs-to-get-fucked." Ms. Waterson gave him a conspiratory wink and took the trash can he had been carrying.

Ray didn't know what it was, but for the next month he found he was looking forward to cleaning up the gym. His after school practice and study sessions with Wren made him smile for no apparent reason. When he thought of the older boy, he felt strange inside, like there was a small animal inside trying to climb out.

For the most part, Wren also enjoyed their meetings. It was Ray's last day of cleaning the gym as punishment, and also his birthday, when he found out why. Wren was the last in the gym as the other ninenth graders had already gone to the locker room to change and shower. He saw his chance when Ms. Waterson had gone to the girl's locker room.

Ray finished putting up the equipment with a disgusted sigh. The freshmen enjoyed leaving a big mess for him. He reached down to pick up the trash can when he saw the shoes coming towards him. Turning to face Wren, he gave a tired smile. "Hey, Wren."

"Hey, Ray. How's it comin?"

"All done here, Ms. Waterson said I could leave late today 'cause of it bein my birthday." He ran a hand through his spiky hair at the sudden anixous feeling.

Wren looked at his feet his face coloring slightly. "Yeah, I know that." Starting to shift feet, he tried to speak again. "Um, I was thinking an I was wondering what you wanted for your birthday?"

"Nuthin. I don' really like to celebrate it."

"Oh yeah, sorry, forgot."

"S'okay, forget about it." A long embarrasing pause came afterwards. "Is that all ya wanted?"

"No! I mean, no, I also wanted to... give you something."

Ray looked at the older boy suspiciously, but nodded his head. When he noted that Wren hadn't seen him, he sighed. "Go ahead. What is it?"

"Just this." Wren bent forward and kissed him on his cheek. "Happy birthday, Ray," came whispered in a low voice. Coloring bright red, he ran off to the locker room.

Ray stood there in shock as he touched at his cheek. The wet mark where the lips had made contact told him the older boy had been licking his lips too much. He stood there for another full minute, just holding his cheek in shock.

"Well are you going freeze there, or are you going to skip class all together?"

Startled from his shock, Ray hurridly picked up the trash can and caried it back to behind the stands. With a shagrinned expression, he smiled at Ms. Waterson's knowing look. "Thanks, see you later."

"You are welcome, and good luck." As he ran from the gym, she called after him. "Oh, and happy birthday."

"It is."


And it was. Wren had kissed him for the first. After school they had been too embarrassed to do much studying. Ray smiled as he remembered Wren's shaking voice as he tried to read aloud the instructions on Ray's home work. It was another year before Wren had kissed him again, and then it was another one on the cheek. Now he knew what it was that had made him feel so weird. He had a crush on Wren.

But that was a long time ago.

After that, life got harder on the group. They were now all in the grades where you needed all the friends you could get. It was May by the time he was ready to speak to any of them again. Ray smiled as he remembered how Wren had finally broke him into forgiving them enough to at least hear an apology.


"I said no!" Ray started away from the ally that would take him to the group. His anger visible in the military march. Before he could reach the other end, a hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around. He was pulled up short into a bone crushing embrace.

Wren bent his head down, whispering a single word in Ray's ear as he restrained the younger boy. "Please."

Remaining rigid in the grip, Ray shook his head. "They haven't even attempted ta say one word to me since the moment they called me a liar. I won't let them..."

"I asked you nicely, don't make me get dirty, Ray. I like you too much, but even I know how to get agressive." In the next instant, Ray was screaming with laughter as Wren tickled his sides. Under arms, belly, neck, and back, all were vigorously rubbed by expert fingertips. He didn't stop until Ray was hoarse from his cries. "Do you conceed?"

"What tha hell?"

"Give up."


Wren started another round that had Ray rolling as his sides were being tickled once more. "Give up, Ray!"

"Bi..te me!"

"I can do that as well. Just listen to them." Wren stopped when Ray was on his back in the grass at the end of the alley. "Do you surrender?"

"Fine!" Wren gave him a hand up and together they walked the rest of the way. At the building, Ray noted from the bike, that Fraser was there. "Big and Freaky still is on time, as usual."

"Ray, that is not necissary."

"Yeah, well when he turns on you, then you can tell me about name callin."

"He didn't turn on you. As you remember he came late..."

"And then tried to let it pass. I was wronged, not them!"

Wren sighed as he shook his head. "We don't have time for this, Ray. Get in there, if they are willing to apologize, you should be at least willing to listen."

"One wrong word, one name, and I walk. No more talkin with them, ever. Got it." Ray stared at Wren with fierce eyes making sure his point was understood.

"Yes, Ray."

"Good. Hey..." Ray cried out in shock as Wren picked him up and hurled him into the old parking lot through the window. "What in hell was that for?"

"You were going to wait until I went in, then run away." Wren smiled as Ray glared at him. Climbing up into the window, he pushed Ray towards the waiting group.

They stood around the parking lot in various states of silent contrition. Ray didn't make their pain any more bareable by his pissed stance either. Crossing his arms, he stood aloof. "Well?"

Benton was the first to respond, dropping in front of Ray, he wrapped the younger boy in his arms. "Please forgive me, Ray. I have no right to ask, but I wish it. I must apologize for all the pain I caused you and wish only to make amends."

"What in hell is that supposed ta mean?" Ray looked at Benton with wide eyes.

"I regret my actions that day."

"Fine, ya regret it, so why are you huggin on me?"

Fraser stiffened and pulled back. "You mean you don't know?"

"Know what? Frase, this is getting on my nerves."

Instead of turning to the confused Kowalski, Benton had looked at Wren. "You haven't told him?"

Wren shook his head. "He didn't ask, I figured it was best that he did not know until you could apologize. There was already too much pain."

"Ah, I see. Then it is up to me." When Wren nodded, he looked Ray directly in the eyes. "Very well. Ray. At the time of our... falling out, Frannie's family made us promise not to say anything. It was our fault, we knew what was going on, but we had made a promise. We had swore once we knew not to tell a soul. I wanted to tell you, so badly, I wanted to tell you. Then that day, Maria gave me the go ahead because she was dropping out for the rest of the year."

"So all along it was just a sham. I wasn't yer friend, was I?"

"Now, Ray, that isn't what I meant."

"Oh! Then why didn't I know? Everybody else in this damn group did! Why not me?" Benton wouldn't look at his accusing glare. "Answer me, damn it!"

"We were afraid you wouldn't understand, that you wouldn't be able to keep it secret."

Ray turned to Frannie as she spoke. "An what did ya base this ass-sump-shun on? The fact that I was younger than most of yas? Or that I haven't known you as long? I thought we was past that shit!"

"We are..."

"No, I was, but you aint. You aint ready to accept me, until you are, I won't accept any apologies."

"I'm sorry. Please." The barely audible whisper caught Ray's attention.

Turning to face Benton, Ray nodded once. "Tomorrow."


Ray smirked as he walked towards the window. "I'll forgive you tomorrow." With that he jumped through the window.


And he did. The following day he had been the first one there, he had brought water balloons. As each came in, he pelted them until they surrendered. When Benton came, last as usual, all bombarded him until he was completely soaked. It was his apology that had made him reconsider their friendship. He knew how much it had cost the older boy to come out and say it.

It was still a sore subject, but he was willing to over look it to spare their friendship anymore pain. But it didn't matter anymore.

It was three years later that the walls of their world came down, both literally and figuratively. Benton had graduated.


"I don' understand, why can't ya just stay here?" Ray ran a hand through his spikes. At age fourteen and four feet tall, he was still the shortest member of the group, even Frannie had out grown him. "What does them Run DMC's have that could possibly make you want to be one?"

Benton smiled at Ray as the others chuckled. "RCMP, Ray. I graduated last semester, and finally turned nineteen. I have met all the requirements including reclaiming my Canadian Status. This is something I have wanted for a long time, you know that."

"But whatta about I thought you said you cared."

"Don't." Benton's voice settled on the verge of anger. "I have done everything I could for most of my life to protect you... all of you. Becoming a Mountie is one of the first things I have done for myself. If being a little selfish is what it takes to achive my dreams, then I'll do it. After all," he stared the shorter boy in the eyes, "I have earned it."

"You deserve happiness as much as the rest of us."

"Some more than others."

Ray ignored the muttered comment from Loui. "But what you don't seem to understand is what this will mean to the rest of us."

"I understand perfectly well. It means that I will be gone for a while and you will have to learn to get along with-out me for that time."

"Yeah, you will be gone! You don't know how long or if you will ever come back."

Sighing, Benton rubbed his eyebrow. "Ray, life is a constant uncertainty."

"I fucking know that, ass hole. You don't have ta be condasindin." Getting in Benton's face, Ray snarled out his comments. "What I am sayin is this feels like you are abandoning us."

"Then I guess I am!"

"Fuck you..." was all Ray got out before he hit the wall behind him. Holding his jaw, he slid to the ground. Tears welled up in his eyes as he stood and ran through the window exit.

The others stared in shock as Ray disappeared. Benton turned to face them, his own horror at his actions written on his face. "I... I..."

Wren shook his head in disgust and followed Ray out. He walked the tracks through the dust and debris to the front of one of the old buildings blocking in the old parking lot. There he found Ray sitting on the front steps, clutching a balled up paper in fist. The other hand was holding his chin. "Ray?"

Ray shook his head no and held up the ball of paper to Wren. He shook the tears from his face as they started again.

Taking the paper, Wren sat beside Ray. Unfolding it, he sighed. "Oh dear. Benton always knew when to pick the time to release the bomb shells."

"Yeah...ah!" Ray clutched at his chin as the pain bolted through it.

"Please let me see your chin." Not waiting for Ray to deny him, Wren grabbed his face. Lifting up his head, he shook his own. "There is going to be major swelling along the lower mandible. He does have a good right hook."

"Bast... ah!" Ray grimaced as his chin sent more pain.

"That is what you get for swearing." He smiled at Ray's death glare. "There is nothing I can do to ease the pain, Ray. He made his decision, and we must respect him for it. Like he said, we all knew this day was coming." Tracing a pattern over Ray's jaw, he smiled. "Nothing broken, but will be sore for a while."

Giving his best puppy dog eyes, Ray lifted his chin. "Kiss?"

"You know kissing it won't make it better."


Sighing, Wren gave the sore spot a lite peck. "That is all you are getting." He shook his head no when Ray glared again. "You got what you deserved."

Ray instantly stood and started to storm away. It took Wren a few steps to catch up with him. He refused to look at the older boy as he held him.

"I'm sorry, Ray. I wasn't thinking." Pulling Ray closer, he rested his head on top of the younger boy's. "What am I going to do with you? You are always so stubborn."

"Be'er t'an you!"

"Don't me obnoxious, Ray." When Ray smacked him on the butt, he rolled his eyes and let go. Turning away, he held up the paper. "Where did you find this?"

"Over t'ere." He pointed at the front of the old building they were standing next to.


"Wren!" Ray looked at his friend in shock.

"I am sorry, Ray, but I was emotional. This was the last thing I was expecting. It is also at the worste time. The others are not going to like it."

"Sta'e tha obvious, why don' ya."

"Bite your tongue, again." Wren smirked as Ray glared at him.


Three days later the building was torn down, their world was exposed to the public, and Benton shipped off to Canada to join the RCMP. It was the last time any of them had seen him in the three years sense.

After he left, things got real bad. Ray shuddered at Frannie's near nervous brakedown, the duck brothers being seperated, and...


Wren had been walking him home through the back alleys. The Old bastard had finally taken the night shift so that they wouldn't have to see one another. Being their first date, Ray wanted it to be perfect. It had taken Wren five years, and a major growth spurt on Ray's part before he asked him out. So on his sixteenth birthday, they had celebrated by going to a movie.

It was so cliched, Ray had a hard time believing that it was actually happening. The man had come out of the darkness from behind the building armed with a knife. Dressed in black from head too toe, they couldn't see the guy's face. Both boys froze when they realized what was happening.

"Give me your money or your life."

"What kinda fucking joke is this?"

The man sneered at Ray as he twisted his knife in the air. "Aint no joke, little bitch. You an yer boyfriend had better hand over all yer money, or I will carve you too pieces."

Ray's eyes narrowed as he spun to kick the guy in the head. The man caught his ankle and punched him in the balls. As he screeched in pain, the man let go of him and went after Wren.

Wren tried to fight by throwing a left hook, but the man slammed his fists into his gut. "You girls are gonna regret not doin it my way." He then slammed his fist in Wren's temple, knocking the older boy unconscious.

Ray was cradling his sore balls when he was suddenly kicked onto his back. The man knelt down between his legs. His attempts at trying to hit the man were met with two hard punches to the face. He was reeling as the man started on his buckle.

What part of his mind could focus realized what the man was doing to him. He had to stop him before he got any further. Already the man had his belt undone and was working on his fly. "Stop," he mumbled through his swollen lips.

"No." With that, the man growled, ripping the zipper open in his rush. He gave a short growl as he pulled them completely off. "If I can't have money, then I will simply take you, how does that sound? Am I your first, boy?"

Ray struggled against the lethargy. Panic seizzed him when he heard the sound of a zipper. "Please..."

"You don't have to beg, I knew I was. You are going to remember me for the rest of your life." The guy's harsh voice filled his ear as he leaned down. He forced Ray's legs wide as he settled down between them. "It's later, little bitch!"

Ray's eyes went wide in realization as the man slammed into him. "Get off me!"

"Ah, come on, Stanley, I thought you liked this kinda thing!" He punctuated the last word by slamming in again.

Ray screamed as he felt something inside tear. Warm liquid ran out of him down his crack. Throbbing pain filled his body as it was violated again. "Help me!" His cry was silenced as his attacker stuffed something in his mouth.

"As much as I like your screams, I can't have you alerting anybody before we are through."

Ray struggled to spit out the foul tasting gag as tears ran down his face. He couldn't believe it was happening to him. This thing didn't happen to boys. Where was Wren? Where was his boyfriend while he was being raped?

The man on top of him suddenly stopped thrusting as he was jerked off. Ray watched in shock as Wren lifted him up by his throat in rage. Glaring at the man, his lips formed a sneer. "Did you enjoy your last few moments?" Then he brough the man crashing against the building, his head spliting open from the force the impact.

Wren let the body fall to the ground, ignoring it, he turned to Ray. Bending down, he picked up the smaller boy in his arms. He leaned his forehead againt Rays. "No one takes what is mine."

"Please Wren." Ray pulled back from Wren. "Please tell me you didn't kill him."

Wren gripped Ray to him hard, a stern look on his face. "You are mine!"

"Oh god, Wren!" He started to cry as Wren watched him confused. "That was Vecchio!"

Enlightenment dawned on the older boy and he held tighter to Ray.


Ray felt his eyes well up with tears. That was the beginning of the end.


"I said get the fuck out!" Ray flew out the front door and fell down the front steps. He cried out in pain as he landed on his sore back side. In the murkiness of the tears, he saw as Maria flipped him off before slamming the front door.

Ray had come with Wren to see Frannie a few moments before. Ma Vecchio had let him in believing he could help with her. Since Ray's death two nights before, Frannie had locked in herself away. No one could get her to talk, not even her grief stricken Ma.

Ma had forgiven Wren the night of the murder, knowing he was beyond all thought at the time he did it. She said she had time to be angry later. Now all she had were tears. Ray had been holding her as she cried out her frustrations hitting on his chest. Maria had come in and seen it as his attacking her.

Next thing Ray knew he was out on his ass. Wren was at his side helping him stand while holding his shoulder. "Ray, perhaps we shouldn't have come. I know Mrs. Vecchio asked, but I don't feel right about it."

"Why should you, it was you who killed the bastard after all." Wren let go of him so fast Ray nearly fell. "Don't take it as it sounds, I am grateful, it's just so hard. I mean, he was hurting me, but he is dead now."

"Don't you think I know that! I killed him Ray! Me, not you! I did it, and nothing will undo it. I took his life, all I can see is his eyes as I slam him against the bricks. The way they widen suddenly on impact, an instant later loosing focus as the pupils expand. Death was not as I expected it to be, it was worse. No sudden explosions, no dramatic music, just calm, empty eyes." Wren made Ray look at him. "And I did it for you."

"What am I supposed to say to that?"

"Whatever you feel, Ray." When nothing came, Wren let out his breath painfully and nodded. "Very well, Ray." As he turned to go, Ray pulled him back. "What..." Ray stole his words in a soul searing kiss. One that spoke all the words his heart wanted to, releasing all his fears and pain.


Wren smiled as they pulled back a little. Their eyes met, both seeing their love reflected back. "Mi..."

A shot rang out.

Ray watched as Wren's eyes lost focus. He fell to his knees unable to breath. Wren wasn't moving. There was shouting going on as somebody wrestled on the edge of his vision. Ray ignored them, choosing to lay there next to Wren. As he looked on, the sky took on a dark red hue, the sun fading to the west.


Ray bit back the tears as he remembered the following month. Louis and Maria were brought up on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He did the crime after she manipulated him. At the time no one knew outside them that Louis and Maria were seeing each other. Especially since he was supposed to be Frannie's boyfriend.

Tom and Jack refused to speak to anyone but Frannie, and were sent to different group homes. Frannie was emotionally gone, what was left of her fragile heart was gone with Wren. At his funeral she refused to do anything but stare at the pine box. She wouldn't even talk with Ray.

And that was it. There was no one left.

It was on that day, he realized there was literally no one left. Except his father, and that bastard didn't care. For the next eleven months Ray and he were constantly fighting. It was slowly building until last night.

Ray sighed. It was time to face the pain, it wasn't his fault, for a change. He had come home early from school, he didn't know his father had quit his job. The old man started in on how he was skipping school again. Ray told him to lay off that it was a half day. Then Daimon had decked him. Waking up early this morning, he found that being unconscious hadn't stopped the beating. Grabbing what he could, he had put on his darkest clothes, grabbed his things, and high tailed it out of there.

He snuck in the basement of Benton's grand parent's building and retrieved his book and Wren's coins from where they had been all these years. He cut little slits in the leather on the inside of the cover and slid the coins in. Tomorrow would be a year since he lost Wren to Loui's bullet so he wanted these.

'Fuck it,' he decided and pulled out another cigarette. It was worth it.

There would be no one here today, or any day. Frannie was at the mental hospital last he heard, the others had graduated and moved away, or were still in jail. Now there was not even Daimon to fight with. For a moment, he considered ending it.

Wasn't like there were so many reasons to continue. But his mother had made him promise to find a reason no matter what. And a promise is a promise.

"May be tomorrow." Grumbling, he gathered up his belongings, sticking them in the bag. There was plenty of room in the old building that they had used as an entrance to the parking lot. It was boarded off, and not even the most daring of bums would sleep in it because of the instability of the structure. Or so he had told them. The top floor was completely secure and sheltered from the weather, he had made it that way.

He watched as the last of the sun faded away before heading into the building. The climb was like he always remembered it. Back when it had been him and Wren, they had pretended it was their jungle top home. It was childish, but it was their only retreat.

The top floor stair well was still looked like it did seventy years before when it was the entrance to a speak easy. Now it was more than just a imaginary home, it actually was. He smiled as a mental image, a memory, of Wren pretended to beat his chest then carry him across the threshold.

It was times like that which made him forget the rest.

Ray pushed open the heavy door to the pent house suite. Inside were hundreds of cushions and blankets they had retrieved from broken furniture and store dumpsters. It was warm, welcoming.

He dropped his bag just inside the door and pushed it shut, throwing the bolt to lock it. With a sigh, he walked over to Wren's bed of rose colored cushions and wrapped himself in the big red blanket. Wren had made a joke of the bed, a visual metaphor as he called it. It still smelled like him, that was all Ray cared about. Twenty minutes later he had cried himself to sleep.


When he woke up, the sun was rising through the clouds and shining on the plants Wren had insisted on having. Not that one lasted long around him. It seemed the only ones he could grow were those Ray had given him the seeds for. So in various coffee cans and other oddities spread around the place, there were fruit trees, mainly citrus.

Sighing, he walked about the suite with the watering canteen. Giving each a little bit from it. When it was empty he walked back to the old faucet and refilled it. Some person had left the well water connected to this place and the old pump with electricty. Probably from the speak easy.

Life was already too complicated to worry about nothing. After they were taken care of, he stripped down. Grabbing the wash cloth from the sink, he filled the basin and used the soap. He lathered all over, even his spikes and washed it all away. After a quick towel dry, he walked back naked to the bed and went to sleep.

When next he awoke, the sun was rising high above the clouds. Something had disturbed him, a sound. Carefully, he put on a pair of Wren's boxers and walked over to the window. Down in the parking lot there were police officers. They were looking around, probably for him. If they knew of his association with this place, they must have already talked with one of the others. That means Social Services had to have been called.

Absentmindedly he wondered if it was the old bastard or one of the teachers. On second thought he knew it was the teachers, they were the only ones that seemed to care about him anymore. The old bastard would have told them he thought he was in school. Or may be they learned the old bastard had quit his job and they had come to take him away. Nah, he was too close to being old enough to be declared an adult for that.

It was more likely they were out doing a routine search for vagrants and trespassers. Of which he was now both.

Pulling back from the window, he sighed. It would be only a little bit before they grew tired of it and left. His stomach was growling anyways. Walking to his bag, he grabbed it and sat down on a large couch made of cushions. He pulled out a box of crackers and some jerky then ate them in silence.

For a while he just sat there, not thinking, just watching but not seeing. There were a few things he wanted from the apartment, but he had to wait until the old bastard would be out. That would be hours away, so he decided to go back to bed.


Late afternoon found him waking from a dream of Wren. The tear tracks on his face were barely dry. Rubbing his face, he sat up. He grabbed his clothes and put them on. Time to get it over with.

He checked things over before he left, securing the suite's door. The walk down the stairs was a nice adventure in acrobatics as there were fewer stairs than the last time he had climbed them. Over in the west, the sun was setting itself up to go down again. The world seemed to always be like that now-a-days.

There were things he would have to do for money, he could always get a job in one form or another. He would worry about that after he got the last of his things. On the way through the old back alleys, he smiled at the memory of the first time he had walked them. It was Frannie who had shown him then. At Frannie's memory, he shut down all thoughts.

Focus, he needed to focus.

There was something to do, he had to get his things. Then he would go home and figure out a money solution. Things first. The ground seemed to disappear under his feet and he found himself at the old apartment building all too soon.

He checked the mail, noting the usual build up of bills. It seemed his father had been too lazy to come and get them again. Out of habit, he gathered them. Carrying them up stairs, he looked around as if for the first time. It would be the last. First floor, second floor, third. He walked down the hall to the last apartment on the level, and put a hand on the door knob and turned.

It was locked.

Not surprising, he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the spare key. Unlocking the door, he pushed it fully open. Where had been his living room was nothing but crate paper and trash. A few broken pieces of his furniture litered the room, but everything else was gone.

Shock. That was all he felt. Daimon was gone. Had left and not taken him with him. Inside, a small part he had not known existed, died. He had been abandoned by the last person he had expected. In robot motions, he walked to his old room and threw open the door. Where had been his stuff was a completely empty room. Nothing was left.

Ray sat on the floor, his knees drawn to his chest. For a while all he did was sit. A noise out in the living room broke his solitued. Quietly he walked to the door, and peered out. The person in the room shocked him.

"Who are you?"


"Who the fuck are you, I won't ask again."

Rubbing his eyebrow, the Mountie looked down and sighed. "I don't believe I have changed that much since we last parted."

"You aint the same person that left."

"Nor you the same Ray I knew."

Ray shook his head. "I only changed on the outside. You did too, but you aint Benton no more."

"Actually it is Constable Benton Fraser now."

"Constable. Fancy term for a freak in a super mountie costume."

"I assure you, this is not a costume, Ray!" Sighing again, Benton composed himself. "I see you haven't changed as much as I thought. Still prefer the spikey hair."

"The only style that holds." He walked in the room and looked at Benton closer. "Still a freak."

"Thank you, Ray." He gave a patient smile. "I grew worried when my partner at the local police station learned of your runaway status. It seems your father declared you a runaway two days ago. As according to your legal guardianship contract, you are to be turned over to Social Services."

Ray cried out his frustration as he kicked the door of the apartment. "That bastard knew it! I was fucking here two days ago, unconscious as he beat me. That son of a bitch knew I would run away. He wanted me gone!"

"I had assumed that was the case when he declared to the Social Worker for your case that he was moving. It was in his rite as you had run away. I had hoped you would be found at the old meeting spot and spared this shocking discovery."

"Yeah, well too fucking bad!" Ray stormed towards the exit.

"Where do think you will go?"

"I have a place."

"I am afraid I can't let you go out there alone."

Ray turned and glared at Benton. "You and what army, Mountie?"

"I am quite enough to prevent your departure, Ray."

"Yeah, well may be three years ago. Not today."

Benton was at his side in an instant, holding him face to face. "You are going no where unless I say so."

"I aint some scared kid anymore, Frase. Things changed, people died, you left. It don' matter. Be sides, unless you decide to pick up where you left off the last time we talked, I aint stayin."

Benton blocked his path by holding him bodily against the wall. "You are in my custody, Ray. A citizen of Canada, or will be soon."

"What are you flappin about?"

"Your social worker attended a meeting with me and a judge, you are now my responicibilty. As a represenative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, anyone legally bound to me is automatically given Canadian citizenship. To put it in terms you can understand, you are mine." Ray stopped struggling. "You are coming home with me, I don't have much to offer in the way of space, but it is home."

Ray blinked back tears and nodded. Gathering his bag from the front door, he looked at Fraser. "Just don't die on me."

"I'll keep that in mind." With a small smile, he gestured for Ray to head out first. He put on his stetson, and followed. "Ray, I hope you like wolves."

"Why is that?"

"It's a long story, perhaps it would be better explained if I showed you."



It has been six years since Ray was given to the custody of Benton. Ray accepted his new nationality as it would allow him to remain with Benton. Shortly after their moving in together, Benton was transfered back to the Northwest Teritories, taking Diefenbaker and Ray with him. For the most part, they remain happy. Though he has yet to allow any kind of physical affection, Ray is recieving help, and hopes to over come it.

The End.....


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