When the Lights Go Down in the City
"Seven months. Look at me. Iím a whale."
"So Iím a beautiful whale."
"Sara." Sara giggled, as she looked at her self in the mirror.
"Thank you. Youíre very sweet." Ben walked up behind Sara and put his arms around her waist. Resting his hands on her growing stomach, he trailed kisses down her neck.
"You smell wonderful."
"Youíre gonna make me late for work."
"Iím sure you have plenty of time."
"Uh-uh. Not today. My replacement is coming in today. Iíve got to go over the case files with her."
"I see. Will you be available for lunch?"
"Iím not sure. I may be in custody for murder."
"What are you talking about?" Ben grinned at Sara while she walked to the closet for a pair of shoes.
"I think she thinks Iím stupid."
"Why would you say that?"
"For one, the way I talk. She must think because Iím from the South that I bought my law degree at K-mart. She says things that are meant to show how smart she is. It really pisses me off."
"What else does she do?"
"Sheís mentioned on more than one occasion about how she didnít want children because they would interfere with her career. She looks at me like a dufus for being pregnant. I just want to slap that blonde hair right off her head."
"Now Sara, I really wish you wouldnít talk like that."
"You donít have to work with Ms. Stella Kowalski."
"It will only be for a few more days."
"I know. Hey, is Ren coming by tonight? Heís supposed to help me paint."
"Iím sure if he said he would be here, heíll be here."
"I should have had the nursery painted a long time ago. Iíve just been so busy."
"Would you like me to ask Ray to stop by and help?"
"No thatís okay. Iím sure me, you and Ren can handle it." Ben sighed at Saraís refusal of Rayís help. He had been in their lives a month now and Sara still refused to embrace him truly as a friend. Ben liked the man very much. He was odd, but the two of them got along very well. Ben cast a look at Dief and he whined his reply and left the room. He had to do something to get Sara to realize that Ray was a good person. Ben knew that Sara liked Ray but in her own way she couldnít allow herself to get to close to him. She still shut him out. Whenever he would come to the apartment, Sara would excuse herself to do other things. If they were at the precinct, she would only exchange pleasantries with him. Ben could see that it really hurt Rayís feelings, but he didnít know what more he could do. He had talked until he was blue in the face. That was one of the drawbacks of being married to a headstrong woman.
The two of them finished dressing and Ben kissed Sara off for work. He waited downstairs for Ray to pick him up.
"Itís a car Fraser."
"I can see that. Whoís is it?"
"Itís mine. My Dad brought it in from Arizona last night. This is a 1967 GTO."
"Yes, Iím familiar with the model. Very nice."
"Nice?! Nice?! Itís a thing of beauty. I love this car."
"Sara! Iím home."
"Weíre in the nursery!" Ben walked to the door of the nursery to see his wife and fellow officer, Renfield Turnbull vigorously painting. He chuckled slightly at Sara when she turned around.
"Youíve got paint in your hair."
"I do? Where?" Sara pointed her head to Ren as he inspected her head.
"Ah, yes you do. It appears to be in along the top." Sara looked at Ben and smiled.
"Oh, well. I donít know how I did that. Are you gonna help?"
"Sure, let me change. Iíll be right with you." Before he could turn and leave the room, he saw Sara dip her roller in the tray and start to paint the bottom portion of the wall. As she leaned down to get closer to the baseboard, the top of her head brushed against the wall she was facing. Laughing, he drew her attention.
"Nothing, dear. Iíll be back in a few minutes." Turnbull started whistling as he rolled the upper portion of the walls.
"This color is wonderful. It really is fascinating how it appears to be white until another color is placed next to it. I love the pale blue color."
"I do too. I hope the baby will like it."
"Iím sure he will."
"Youíre as bad as Ben."
"How so?" Turnbull stopped painting and concentrated on Sara.
"He keeps saying Ďheí too."
"Ah. Well, any child is a blessing. Iím most happy for you both."
"Do you have and nieces or nephews?"
"No maíam. Iím an only child."
"So youíll have to get used to being called Uncle Ren?" Sara
thought she actually heard a popping sound when she turned to face Turnbull.
"You better be around to give our baby love and guidance. My family is small. Just Daddy and Jacky and a few aunts. And Benís family is all gone, so our friends are our family. You donít mind being an uncle, do you?" Sara grinned to herself as she turned toward the paint tray again. She laughed out loud when she felt Turnbullís large frame engulfing her in a hug. Ben stood at the door and started to laugh along with her.
"I see you informed Constable Turnbull of his position in the family." Muffled through Turnbullís hug, Sara replied through her laughter.
"Iím not sure if he accepted or not?" Pushing Sara to arms length, He radiated a huge smile.
"Iím so thrilled. It is truly an honor. IÖ.IÖ." Sara rubbed her hands down his arms as he held her gently by the shoulders. Ben could tell where this conversation was heading, he stood by Turnbullís side as he started to babble on about family and love and started to cry.
~~~~Maria pinned the delicate corsage on Saraís dress, while Mrs. Vecchio hurried to get the refreshments ready for the guests. Francesca walked out of the kitchen and beamed at Sara.
"I love baby showers! Donít you?"
"Iíve never had one, so Iím not sure. Who allís coming?"
"Whoís everyone?" Sara shifted nervously on the couch in the
Vecchio den while Maria and Mrs. Vecchio buzzed around her.
"Well, normally baby showers are for women only, but we knew that, well, frankly you donít have a lot of female friends. So we invited everyone."
"Whenís Ben getting back with that film?!" Francesca didnít wait for a reply. She quickly busied herself with the decorations. Sara felt like a hunk of clay on display faking as a work of art. She never really liked being the center of attention. Some people found that hard to believe coming from a trial lawyer, but in her eyes, that was different.
She looked impatiently out the window for Ben to return. She always felt calmer when he was with her. The doorbell rang and Maria practically hurled herself toward the door.
"Hi, come on in!" Sara took a deep breath and plastered a smile on her face. This was going to be fun. If she repeated it enough times, hopefully she would believe it. Lt. Welsh and Rita the desk clerk were the first to arrive.
"Sara, you look beautiful." Sara leaned up and kissed Lt. Welsh on the cheek and then greeted Rita. Before they could put their gifts on the table the doorbell rang again.
"Hi, John. Itís about time you got here." John smiled wearily at Maria and went to greet Sara.
"Sara love, youíre gorgeous as always."
"Yeah, thanks. I feel like something at the zoo."
"Donít worry, love. Youíll be fine. Youíre a trooper. Besides, this is all Francesca has talked about for a week." John scurried off to find Francesca while Maria ushered more people into the den. Sara stood enthusiastically and greeted her next guest.
"Meg! Iím so glad you came."
"I wouldnít miss it. Look at you. I havenít seen you in two weeks and you look like youíre about to have this baby tomorrow." Meg smiled and placed her hand on Saraís stomach.
"I know. I feel like Iíve been pregnant forever. Two more months. Two!"
"Well, you look great. Youíre feeling satisfactory I hope."
"If feeling like Orka the Whale is satisfactory, then yeah, Iím golden." The room quickly filled with Ben and Saraís dearest friends and coworkers. Sara heaved a large sigh of relief as Ben politely pushed his way through the crowd. Francesca met him with a frenzied expression.
"Itís about time! We need pictures of all this."
"Iím terribly sorry, Francesca. I tried to save them as quickly as I could."
"Well, it seems that a discarded cigarette had ignited the boxes, leaving them trapped and Ö.."
"Oh, Dear Lord! Forget it, Fraser. Go sit with your wife."
"Itís about time."
"Well, as I was telling FrancescaÖ.."
"I heard. Leave it to you to find adventure on the way to the Circle K." Ben kissed Sara on the temple as she giggled at him. The two of them stood to greet more guests. Sara whispered to Ben after hugging Craig and his wife.
"Did Maria invite all of Chicago!?"
"It would appear so." Then Saraís eyes met the manís coming in the door. Ray walked timidly in the den and walked over to Sara and Ben.
"Itís good of you to come, Ray."
"Thanks, Frase. Franny chewed my head for a week about this shindig. Um, Sara, I got this for you and the baby." Ray lowered his eyes as he handed Sara the gift. Ben looked expectantly at Sara and held his breath for her reaction.
"Thanks, Ray. Is it all right if I open I now?" Ray shrugged his
shoulders and met her eyes once again.
"I donít know the rules at one of these things, but seeiní how youíre the guest of honor, you can probably get away with it." Sara nodded and took a seat with his gift on her lap. Sara never was one to delicately pull each piece of tape off a package, so she tore into the wrappings rather quickly. She popped the tape on the side of the box with her fingernail and lifted the lid. She stared down at the cover for a while as Ben and Ray waited for a reaction. Ray could feel the knot is his stomach twisting as he watched her silently looking at his gift. * I knew she would hate it. I knew it. Ray, you are one big schmuck. A real loser. * Then Sara lifted her eyes to meet Rayís. He flinched slightly at the sight of the tears pooling in her eyes.
"If you donít like it you can exchange it for something else." Sara rubbed her hand along the raised letters. The white rabbits and tiny yellow ducks were the exact same as the one on her own baby book she had as a child. She hadnít even thought to buy one yet, much less one exactly like the one she had. She didnít even think they still made them like this. She took the book from the box and slowly flipped through the pages. A tear escaped from its perch and rolled down her cheek. Ray shifted anxiously from foot to foot as Ben stared at her.
"Sara, why are you crying?" At the sound of Benís voice, Sara came back from her thoughts. She lifted her head to meet the uncomfortable face of the blond detective she had purposely ignored for the past month.
"Itís just like the one I had. Itís the same one my mother bought for me and then for Jacky when we were babies. I havenít even thought of buying one yet." Ray looked around and rubbed his hand through his unruly hair. Before he had a chance to speak, Sara stood and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Thank you." Ray tentatively put his arms around Saraís shoulders. She tightened her hug and he responded in kind. Maybe she could like him after all.
~~~~Ben looked around the room at all the people. He never dreamed that one day so many people would be gathered to celebrate the up coming birth of his child. Huey was by the refreshments talking with Turnbull. Ray was being scolded by Ma for not eating enough. Maria and Tony were refilling the punch bowl and Francesca and John laughed at something Craig had just told them. Sara sat on the couch chatting with Inspector Thatcher while the children slipped Dief some snacks. Welsh and Rita and a few of the other officers from the precinct carried on a conversation near the kitchen as he stood near the entrance to the hallway. All their friends and family were here. All but one. Ben took a deep breath and tried to push the emotions back into the pit of his stomach. He startled when a hand rested on his shoulder.
"Why do you look so sad, Caro?"
"Iím sorry, Ma. Iím fine really."
"Donít lie to me Benton. I can tell that you have something on your mind. Are you worried about Sara?"
"No maíam." Ben lowered his eyes and Mrs. Vecchio placed her hand on his cheek.
"I miss him too. Everyday. We have to pray for his safety and put him in Godís hands." Ben nodded; he knew that if he tried to speak his voice would betray him. She softly kissed him on the cheek and motioned for him to step out of the hall.
"Go be with your wife. This is a happy time. We celebrate, today."
Ben took a seat next to Sara in time to greet Helen the receptionist at Saraís office and a woman he had never met before.
"Ben, you know Helen and this is Stella Kowalski."
"Itís a pleasure to meet you Ms. Kowalski." Ben stood and shook her hand as Helen went to speak with Craig.
"Iím glad you could come. Iíd like you to meet my partnerÖ.." Ben gestured for Ray as Stella turned to greet him.
"Ray." Her smile quickly faded and Ben and Sara could feel the tension between them.
"Hiya Stella. What are you doiní here?"
"Iím Saraís replacement. I didnít know youíd be here."
"Apparently you two know each other."
"Uh, yeah, Fraser, you could say that. Benton Fraser, meet my ex-wife Stella Kowalski." Sara felt Benís grip tighten on her hand. He must have felt the urge for her to blurt out something horrible at that very moment.
"Youíre Rayís ex-wife?"
"Yep. Iím the former Mrs. Stanley Raymond Kowalski." Sara rubbed a thumb along her eyebrow as Ben pulled at his collar.
"Stanley Kowalski?" Ben gave Sara a warning look that she quickly dismissed.
"Um, yeah. Can we talk about this later? Donítcha need to open gifts or somethiní?"
"Yes, Sara. Thatís a lovely idea. Why donít we start opening gifts." Ray started to retreat back to the safety of the kitchen when Sara grabbed him by the arm.
"You realize this isnít the end of this conversation." Sara cocked a grin at him while he lowered his head and slumped his shoulders.
"Yeah, I know."
~~~~Sara happily started opening gifts when the doorbell rang again. Maria winked at Ben and led the new arrivals to the den. Ben waved slightly and waited to see the reaction when Sara saw who had just entered the house. Sara opened the cute little jumper set that the Duck boys had gotten them and turned to thank them. The thank you left her lips and she noticed that they werenít really paying her any attention. She looked at the goofy grins on their faces and followed their gaze to what they were looking at. Sara jumped to her feet and the room exploded with laughter. Sara had finally noticed her new guests.
"Daddy! Oh my God! What are you all doing here?!" Mr. Montgomery wrapped his arms around his daughter and hugged her tightly. Ben stood and shook Jackyís hand and leaned down to kiss Debi on the cheek.
"Gee, Sara. Youíre huge." Sara turned a disgusted look toward Jacky as Ben pulled at his collar.
"I love you too, butthead." Jacky grinned and Sara wrapped her arms around his neck. Ben looked around and nodded to the other guests.
"Perhaps those of you with sensitive hearing should seek shelter." The Vecchioís laughed at Benís joke while the others looked at each other confused. Then it happened. Sara greeted Debi.
"OH MY GOD!!! What are you doing here?"
"I couldnít miss my very best-friends baby shower!" The two women hugged and squealed and made the incoherent sounds Ben had grown accustomed to when Sara and Debi first got together. Sara looped her arms around her Daddyís waist and introduced her family to the room.
"Most you know, for the few you donít. This is my Father, Jack Montgomery. My brother Jacky and my best friend Deb-I." Mrs. Vecchio rushed from the kitchen and hugged the new arrivals.
"You made it! Iím so happy you made it."
"Ma, did you do this?" Sara beamed at Mrs. Vecchio as she smiled an innocent smile.
"I merely informed your family of the shower."
"I love you!" Sara wrapped her arms around Mrs. Vecchio and squeezed.
"Youíre going to break me, Cara. But, you are welcome! This is a time for family." Mr. Montgomery turned to Jacky and nudged him in the side. Jacky disappeared outside and returned carrying several packages.
"Daddy, what is all this? Surely you didnít buy all this?"
"No, babygirl. These arenít from us. These are from the women back home. They heard about the shower and since you couldnít come to them, they sent to you. Jackyís still got to bring in some more." Ben and Ray stood to help Jacky carry in the other gifts. Ben couldnít believe how many packages they had brought with them from South Carolina. Jacky stopped at the back of the van they had rented and turned to face Ray.
"You must be Ray." Ray tucked his head sheepishly and extended his hand.
"Nice to meet ya."
"Saraís told us all about you. I think itís real nice what youíre doiní. It must be hell filliní another manís shoes."
"Yeah, Ďspecially when youíre half the man who wore Ďem." Jacky grinned. Sara was right. He did look like a beaten puppy. He knew she hadnít made things any easier on him.
"Hey, donít you worry Ďbout it. From what Benís told me youíre a nice enough guy." Jacky slapped Ray on the shoulder nearly knocking his much smaller frame to the ground.
"Easy there, country boy. Wouldnít want to damage the understudy."
"Right." Jacky winked and handed him several boxes to carry inside.
Sara was so excited she could barely sit still. Then Ben felt a wave of panic rush over him. Sara was introducing Ray to Debi. He hoped that Debi would be nicer than Sara was on her first meeting of Ray. He quickly made his way from the gift table and stood beside Ray. To his delight, Debi was very polite even though the sadness was evident in her eyes. She missed Ray, too. Sara started opening gifts again and everyone talked and ate and had a wonderful time at the baby shower. Ben settled next to Sara again on the couch and helped her open gifts.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" Sara looked at Ben with joy on her face.
"Of course. Did you know Daddy and Ďem were cominí?" Ben chuckled at the change in her accent.
"Yes, I did."
"I canít believe you kept a secret from me."
"Not a secret, a surprise."
"I see. Well, I really loved the surprise. How long are they stayiní?"
"Where are they gonna stay? The extra bedroom is a nursery."
"Theyíre staying at the Drake Hotel."
"Have I told you I love you today?"
"Yes, but not lately."
"I love you, Ben Fraser."
"And I love you." Ben nuzzled her neck.
"Okay, break it up. This ainít no loverís lane. Thatís what gotcha in this shape to begin with."
"Shut up, Jacky." Sara punched Jacky in the arm while he sat down beside her.
"So, you okay?" Ben noticed the expression and tone change between the siblings.
"Iím fine. Everythingís okay."
"And the baby?"
"Ben, tell her. We want a boy."
"Iím sorry, Jacky. Iím neutral on that subject."
"Aw, címon, I need a boy to help me aní Daddy on the farm during the summers."
"Hey, a girl can help too, you know. I did more than you did for a long time."
"Thatís cause you were older. Who does more now, huh?"
"Thatís because you still live there, butt-wipe."
"Bite me." Ben shook his head and laughed. He would never get used to how brotherís and sisterís interact.
"I donít know how weíre going to get all this stuff home." Sara hugged Mrs. Vecchio as she and Ben left the porch.
"Well, Iíve got the larger items loaded in the Jeep and your father has loaded quite a few things in the rental van, but Iím afraid there isnít room for two of us to ride home. Iíd prefer to drive. Ray will follow with you in his car."
"Sounds good." Ben looked at her with a look of suspicion.
"That was too easy. What are you up to?"
"Nothing." Sara offered Ben a sweet smile as she waddled down the sidewalk to Rayís car. Ray looked at her and shook his head. * Shit. Iím a goner. * He opened the door for her and made sure she was safely buckled in. Once behind the wheel and headed to her apartment, Ray could feel her grinning at him.
"Stanley Raymond Kowalski."
"Parents were Brando nuts, huh?"
"Dad actually, so what?" Ray concentrated on the road as Sara grinned at him like the cat that ate the canary.
"What about her?"
"Ex-wife, huh?" *Jesus, look at her. Sheís gonna pick ya clean, Kowalski. *
"Yeah. I didnít know you two were friends."
"I wouldnít go that far. Personally, I think she thinks Iím an idiot."
"Well, then weíve got something in common."
"Not really. Iím not actually an idiot." Ray looked over at Sara. Then a smile spread across his face. She was actually teasing him. * Well, this is a hellova lot better than the cold-shoulder. *
"So, what? You donít hate my guts now?"
"I never hated your guts."
"You didnít like me." Sara sighed and lowered her head.
"Itís just thatÖ..Ray, and Ben and I have been through a lot together. Ray and I are very close. Then you show up and Rayís gone."
"But, I didnít have nothing to do withÖ.."
"I know. But, youíre not him. Does that make sense?"
"So whatís the skinny on you and Stella?" Ray chuckled.
"Whatís your point?"
"She and I just didnít see eye to eye on a lot of things."
"I know the feeling."
"Fraser know youíre grilliní me?"
"And he let you get away with crap like that?"
"Let me?! No wonder youíre divorced."
"Thatís not buddies."
"Weíre not buddies. Iím just nosy remember." Sara grinned slightly as Ray pulled in to the parking garage.
"Home again, Home again."
"Jiggity-Jig." The two of them looked at each other. Ray gave her a weak smile and Sara offered a tentative one of her own. She hated to admit it to herself but as strange as he may look and act, he was a pretty nice guy.
"Deb-I, why donít you stay in the guest room?"
"No way. Your Daddy already told me I had to stay in the hotel. He thinks that if I stay at your place weíll be up all night talking."
"Iíll call you tomorrow. Weíll all get together for lunch"
"Sounds great. Love Sara."
"Love Deb-I" Debi hugged Sara goodnight and she walked to the
elevator with Jacky and Mr. Montgomery. The baby gifts had been unloaded and
stacked in a large pile in the nursery. Mr. Montgomery caught Sara yawning and
rushed everyone toward the door. He wasnít going to let Sara get too tired.
Ray and Ben sat in the floor of the den making an attempt to put together the
new stroller the ladies in the DAís office had given them.
"Canít that wait until tomorrow?"
"Weíll have it assembled in no time, I assure you."
"Hey, thatís still not buddies. We can put this thing together, canít we Fraser?"
"Of course, Ray. If we first follow the five PísÖÖ"
"Huh, what didcha say, I just woke up from my coma. Just read the instructions."
"Iím going to bed. Donít wake me if you need any help."
"Good night dear. Sleep well."
"Yeah, nighty night, there. Donít let the bed bugs bite."
"Hmmm, thanks. Thatís a comfort. Night Ben. Love you."
"I love you." Sara rolled her eyes as the two men held pieces of metal and fabric in their hands and pondered over a sheet of paper the size of a road map. * God help them.*
Sara woke to find and empty space beside her. Ben hadnít come to bed all night. Startled, she quickly pulled on a pair of sweatpants and went into the living room. She stood at the edge of the couch and rubbed a hand along the handle of the stroller. The navy metal and matching fabric looked so new and shiny. The big white wheels reminded Sara of a play stroller she had as a little girl. Then she looked on the couch. Ben was sprawled out sound asleep. And in the recliner was his partner. The blond detective had managed to take his boots off, but still had on his jacket as he slept in the chair. Sara shook her head and made her way to the kitchen to start breakfast. She knew Ray liked coffee so she started a pot for when he woke up. It took twenty minutes for the smell of bacon and coffee to rouse them awake. Ben was the first to enter the kitchen.
"Morning. Whereís your partner in crime?" Ray scratched his stomach as he walked in his sock feet to the door of the kitchen.
"Hey, um, I didnít mean to, uh, crash out here last night. Sorry about that, Sara."
"No problem. Take your jacket off and Iíll fix you a plate. Thereís coffee in the pot if you want it." Ben walked to the cabinet and opened the cupboard containing the snack food Sara kept for Maria and Tonyís children. Ben smiled when he found what he was looking for. Ben knew that she had never bought them before for the kids, and he wasnít going to mention them being here now. He knew why Sara had bought them, but he knew she would never admit it.
"Here Ray. I believe this will help."
"Hey, Smarties. Greatness!" Sara glanced at Ben and then quickly turned her head in an effort to hide her smile.
"So, I see you finished the stroller. How long did it take you?" Ben and Ray looked at each other and then back down at their plates.
"How longís not long?"
"Uh, what would ya say Fraser, couple hours?"
"Ben, you donít lie."
"Three and a half hours." Ray shook his head while Sara sat her plate down on the table to join them.
"I see. A little trouble with the directions?"
"Well, you see, it seems that they included several extra parts. And once we got through inventorying the piecesÖ."
"Spare me. Is it usable?"
"Will it safely get our child from point A to point B."
"Thatís all I want to know."
"Thatís all it takes to shut him up? Iíve been listeniní to you babble on and on about igloos and moose and crap like that and thatís all it takes to shut ya up."
"Sara, youíre my hero."
"Yeah, get in line." Ben chuckled as Ray shoveled another spoonful of eggs in his mouth. He squeezed Saraís hand and kissed her on the cheek. Finally, things were starting to get better between them.
~~~~Ben and Ray cleared the breakfast dishes out of the way while Sara showered and dressed. She returned to the den to find Ben and Ray in a deep discussion.
"Aw, címon, Fraser! Youíre telliní me you wouldnít want a son?"
"Of course I want a son, Ray. But, I also want a daughter."
"But, daughterís are hard. I wouldnít want a daughter."
"Why is that, Ray?"
"Cause you gotta worry about daughterís datiní guys likeÖ.likeÖ."
"Hardy, har har, Sara." Sara gave him a slight grin as she walked through the den and into the nursery. She sat near the door and started to sort out all the baby gifts.
"Itís like this Fraser, you gotta make sure girls know what to look out for and junk like that."
"Like what, Ray?"
"Well, like girls should never go out with a guy named after an animal."
"You know. If a guy comes to your door lookiní for you kid and he tells ya his name is Snake or Weasel or some crazy shit like that, lock her in her room."
"Ray, I donít think that willÖ.."
"And never let her date a guy that drives a van."
"Whatís wrong with a van?"
"I dated a guy with a van." Sara leaned out the nursery door and gave Ray a matter of fact look.
"Oh yeah? What did he have in the back of that van?" Sara cocked
her head and then looked sternly at Ben.
"Our daughter is never dating a guy with a van."
"Sara, I donít think that itís right to hold such prejudices against someone because of their form of transportation."
"You ever know how a teenage guy decorates a van?"
"No, vans are not something Iíve had the privilege of riding in during myÖ.."
"They come equipped with a full size bed and a tape deck." Sara raised an eyebrow and waited for her point to sink in.
"I really donít understaandÖ."
"Use your imagination. Better yet, use Rayís."
"Understood." Ray laughed at the color rising in his friendís cheeks.
"Iím telliní ya, Fraser. If you have a girl, itís the end of your life as you know it."
"That seems awfullyÖ.."
"You gotta worry about all those female things, the mood swings, the clothes and crap like that. Now a boy, a boy is easy. Boys are very low maintenance."
"Sure, now with a boy, you donít have to worry about none oí that stuff. Take my old man, just a few words of wisdom and youíre golden."
"Yeah, see guys only need a few rules to live by and everything else takes care of itself."
"I remember my old man sitting me down and telling me how things were. He said to me Raymond, thereís two things you never do; never loan your car or your woman. Both could come back with a rod thrown in Ďem."
"Ray! Sara, Iím so sorry you had to hear such vulgarity." Sara leaned out the nursery door with a stuffed rabbit in her arms. She couldnít help but laugh at the look of shock on Benís face.
"Itís nothing Iíve never heard before. Daddy told Jacky that when he was thirteen. He had to ask me what it meant."
"See Fraser?! See guys are easy. As long as they know some of the simple rules theyíll be fine."
"Sure, geez, Fraser! Didnít they teach you anything up there in the Areas?"
"Yes, I was taught quite a number of things actually."
"Yeah, right. Itís a miracle you every survived. I bet you donít even know the rules to social events."
"I assure you I am completely aware of all forms of etiquette in any given social situation."
"I bet Sara knows what Iím talkiní about. Huh, Sara!?" Sara stood in the door of the nursery again with a dry look on her face.
"I wish youíd leave me out of this conversation."
"Tell him." Sara shoulders dropped slightly as she sighed.
"Fine. The rules to all teenage social situations areÖ.Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, youíre in the clear. And brown liquor never did anybody any good."
Ben sat in the recliner with his mouth opened slightly and a pale expression on his face.
Ray allowed a large grin to part his lips as he leaned over and punched Ben in the arm.
"See, she knows. Me and you might be friends after all, Sare."
"Itís Sara and I doubt it."
"I donít see what any of this has to do with raising children." Ben looked at his blond friend with bewilderment.
"Well, you gotta tell Ďem the important things in life."
"Iíll not condone drinking of any kind with our children."
"With a daughter, of course not. Now your son, thatís a different story. Sonís are supposed to go out and raise a little hell."
"Youíre a moron." Sara threw a pillow from the couch and hit Ray in the side of the head.
"Youíre scariní the crap out of him!"
"Iím telliní him how things are. He has no clue being in the frozen North and all that. Letís just ask your old man when he gets here."
"Speaking of which, do you two plan on bathing anytime soon?"
"See Fraser, girls are moody."
"Moron." Sara turned and went back to the nursery. Ben sat for a few minutes trying to process the conversation that had just taken place. Ray stood and walked to the front door.
"Are you coming back for lunch?" Ray looked at Ben and then in the direction of the nursery.
"Um, are you askiní?"
"Yes. Be back here at noon. Weíre all going to Carmineís for lunch."
"Greatness. See ya in a few." Ray entered the elevator feeling like a million bucks. He and Sara were finally being more than civil and now he was going to get to spend some time with her family, of which he had heard so much about.
~~~~"What are we waitiní on?" Jacky sat anxiously on the couch while Sara put on a pair of shoes. Debi and Mr. Montgomery were in the nursery with Ben looking over all the gifts.
"Pipe down! Youíre not gonna starve to death."
"Well, Iím hungry. Letís go."
"Weíre waiting on Ray."
"Ray better get a move on."
"Poor thing. You can practically see a rib."
"No chance that happening on you!"
"Kiss my Ö."
"Yes, Daddy?" Mr. Montgomery didnít bother with a reply. All that was required to convey his feelings toward Jackyís part of the conversation was a look. Sara started to giggle until she was silenced by a look of her own.
"You two still act like squabbliní hens when you get together. You both gonna get a wuppiní if you donít straighten up." Sara lowered her head and looked through her lashes at her father.
"You wouldnít wup a pregnant woman, would you Daddy?" Mr. Montgomery sat down on the couch next to Sara and put his arm around her.
"Just because youíre haviní a baby, donít mean you still ainít my baby. Got it?"
"Yeísir." Ben grinned slightly at Sara and the little girl look she had on her face. The doorbell rang and Jacky leapt to his feet.
"That better be Ray. Iím starviní" Jacky swung open the door to a brightly smiling Constable Turnbull.
"Good afternoon, Jacky. Iím sorry to stop by unannounced, but I wanted to offer my assistance to Sara and Constable Fraser. Iím sure there were quite a few gifts that need assembling and I will be proud to offer my services." Sara stood and motioned Turnbull to come in.
"Have you had lunch?" Turnbullís face reddened slightly when he realized he must have interrupted something.
"Um, I can come back at another time, Iím sorryÖ.."
"Did you eat yet?" Sara pulled on the sleeve of his sweatshirt as he walked into the den.
"Uh, no I havenít eaten lunch, yet."
"Good. Youíre cominí with us."
"I really couldnítÖ.."
"Donít argue. Youíre going." Ben laughed, as Sara didnít even blink an eye at ordering Turnbull to lunch.
"Thank you kindly. I would love to join you for lunch."
"Ben, whereís your friend?" Sara had now grown impatient waiting on Ray.
"He should be hereÖ.." Ben was interrupted by the doorbell. This time Sara answered the door. She swung the door open and glared at Ray.
"Itís about time. Whatja do? Lose track of time while you fixed your hair?"
"Yeah, sorry. Trafficís murder, okay."
"Can we go now. Iíll probably pass out from malnutrition."
"Jacky, the day you pass out from malnutrition is the day Ben cusses out a little old lady for holdiní up traffic."
"I would never think ofÖ.."
"Oh good Lord, letís just go. We can all ride in the rental van." They all headed toward the door and made their way to the elevator. Sara looped her arm in Benís as they walked to the parking garage. Sara nudged Ben in the ribs at the sight of Turnbull holding the door open for Debi.
"Youíve already told us that about a million times, little brother."
"Shut up, Sara."
"Children." Jacky and Sara burst into laughter. Ben and Ray exchanged a confused look.
"Whatís so funny?"
"Jacky and I know weíre about to get in trouble. Weíve reached stage two in the ĎWarnings of Daddyí."
"Stage two?" Sara nodded at Ben while she took a sip of her water.
"Jacky you tell it." Jacky swallowed a mouthful of food and leaned in to begin his story.
"See Daddyís got three warning levels. The first is Ďthe lookí. We saw that earlier today, right Daddy?" Mr. Montgomery smiled and shook his head as his children laughed at his expense.
"The second level is when he refers to us as Ďchildrení. Now thatís still in the safety zone. But if he gets to level three; look out." Turnbull leaned closer to Sara and asked,
"Whatís level three?" Sara looked over at her father and smiled.
"Level three is when somebodyís either gonna get grounded or their butt smacked."
"How can you tell when heís reached level three?" Jacky nudged Sara and the two of them said in unison.
"Full names." Ben cocked his head.
"I beg your pardon?"
"My old man skipped one and two and went straight to three most of da time." Ray grinned at Sara as he spooned a helping of lunch in his mouth.
"Full names, Ben. You know. If I ever heard ĎSara Hastings Montgomery get yourself down these stairs this minute.í I knew I was a goner."
"I see." Jacky laughed and elbowed his father.
"Sara heard her full name more than I heard mine, right Daddy?"
"Thatís not true!" Sara looked indignant as the table started to chuckle.
"Sara, baby, I just hope your child doesnít take after his mommaís sense of adventure." Saraís look softened and then turned to understanding. Ben saw the color leave her face slightly.
"Oh God. I hope your right." Debi nearly choked on her water as she began to laugh.
"What are you laughiní at. You were right there with her." Debi cast a look at Jacky and then back down at her plate.
"Jack, I think you should share some of these adventures with us." Ben looked over at Sara and grinned while she and Debi shook their heads no in the direction of her father.
"Go ahead, Daddy. Tell Ben what kinda woman he married." Mr. Montgomery leaned back in his chair and smiled over at his daughter. By the way he was sitting, Sara could tell that this was going to be a very embarrassing lunch.
"Well, there was the time I caught her and Deb-I sneakiní in the back door after curfew." Sara hung her head, while Ray looked unimpressed.
"I used to sneak in after curfew all the time."
"Yes, but these girls were caught covered in mud and hay, smelliní of hard liquor and only had one shoe between the two of them." Ray snorted with laughter as Sara and Debi shared a slight smile.
"What happened?" Ben looked from Mr. Montgomery to Sara.
"Never did get a straight story out of these two. Something about a
birthday party and bet and running from a bull." The two women erupted with
laughter as everyone else looked on in amazement.
"So come clean, Sara. What were you doiní that night?"
"Letís just put it this way, bulls donít like boat rides." Sara and Debi exploded in a fit of laughter. Mr. Montgomery chuckled and shook his head while Ben shrugged. Through Debiís laughter she managed to squeak out, "It was worth the month restriction. We won the bet."
Turnbull laughed and Debi continued to be completely overwhelmed with giggles. Saraís eyes grew wide as Debi put a hand on Turnbullís arm and he placed his hand over hers.
*Whatís this?! Whatís this?! Oooo Deb-I! Lookís like youíre getting cozy.* Ben saw the look on Saraís face and squeezed her knee under the table. He leaned over and nonchalantly whispered in her ear.
"I saw that. Donít even think about it, Sara Hastings Montgomery Fraser."
"Oh, youíre a riot."
"I mean it."
"Oh, gosh, Iím stuffed. I canít believe I ate that whole salad. It was huge."
"Well, youíre eating for two remember?"
"Right, Deb-I. So thatís my excuse for being a total porker?"
"Youíre not a porker. You look great. Youíre not even close to the size Mary Helen Leach got when she got pregnant. She gained sixty-two pounds. How much have you gained?"
"Like Iíd ever utter the words!" Ben smiled and rubbed his hand along Saraís back as she and Debi spoke. Ben looked around the table and a warm feeling washed over him. This was his family. Part of it, anyway. Even Ray and Turnbull had become very good friends to him. Turnbull was closer to Sara then Ray, but Ben couldnít expect a miracle. Mr. Montgomery noticed the contented smile that played at Benís lips.
"Ben, you look like a man with the world at his feet. Whatís on your mind, son?" Ben tucked his head slightly embarrassed. He hooked a finger in his collar and licked his bottom lip.
"I was just thinking about family." Sara smiled and leaned in closer to Ben. Jacky grinned at Sara.
"Well, youíre stuck with us now." Ben chuckled slightly while Sara squeezed his hand.
"I couldnít be happier."
"So, Constable Fraser, are you ready to be father?" Turnbull grinned and looked from Ben to Sara.
"Well, according to Ray, Iím completely clueless in the task of raising a child."
"God help ya if ya have a girl. Right, Mr. M?" Mr. Montgomery looked at Ray and nodded his head.
"Girls have a way of makiní you worry. You just have to trust that you raised them right."
"Thatís the hard part." Mr. Montgomery gave been a sympathetic look.
"Youíll be find Ben. Youíll be fine."
"Daddy, what are you all gonna do tomorrow, while Iím at the office?"
"Jacky and I were gonna tackle that high chair and changing table we bought you. Deb-I, you oughta go to some of those shows or shopping or something."
"Yeah, but itís no fun going by yourself."
"Iím not working tomorrow. I would be happy to escort you around town." Sara looked at Ben with a smug smile on her face as Turnbull offered to spend the day with Debi.
"Thatís sound wonderful, Turnbull. Iíve only been to Chicago one other time and I only saw the waiting room of Chicago General. I was hoping this trip would have a little more sightseeing."
"Please, call me Ren." Debi smiled at Turnbull as a slight shade of pink stained his cheeks. Sara and Ben exchanged another look while Mr. Montgomery winked at Jacky. Ray looked around the table and smiled. * That Vecchio was one lucky guy.*
Debi answered the knock at her door with a smile on her face.
"Good morning Ren. Iím almost ready."
"Oh, please, take your time. I thought you might like to have some breakfast before we went shopping."
"Thatís sounds great! Iíll be just a minute." Debi disappeared in the bedroom while Turnbull stood rigid and nervous by the front door. He didnít know what came over him last night. Before he knew it he had made plans for the day.
Debi quickly sprayed some perfume on her neck. *What am I doing? God, heís gorgeous. I canít believe he offered to spend the day with me. He only danced with me once at Saraís wedding. Look at him. Heís huge. God, I love tall men. Maybe heís just being polite. Maybe heís just doing this as a favor for Sara. Ah, hell, who cares!? Iím gonna have fun today if it kills me.* Debi exited the bedroom and grabbed her purse from the living room she shared with Jacky and Mr. Montgomery. She was grateful they decided to get an early start this morning. The last thing she needed was Jacky acting like an idiot.
"I think Iím ready." Debi smiled up at him as he helped her on with her light sweater.
"Iíve taken the liberty of securing us tickets to a play this evening. I hope thatís satisfactory."
"A play! Thatís sounds wonderful. I better look for a dress while weíre out shopping." The two of them laughed comfortably and set out to spend the day together.
Ray and Fraser stood outside the office of Lou Falcone. Fraser rubbed his thumb across his eyebrow.
"We really have no evidence to substantiate your claim, Ray."
"Donít talk to me about evidence Fraser. Vinnyís dead. Now he may be a two-bit flunky working for the mob, but heís still dead. And I know and you know Falcone had something to do with it."
"That very well may be true, but we donít have enough justification to warrant an arrest."
"Who said anything about arrest? I just want to talk to him down at the station."
"I donít think heís going to appreciate your invitation."
"You gonna kick in that door?"
"Why donít we just knock?"
"Well, sure if you want to do this the hard way."
Lou Falcone sat in interrogation room one. Ray strutted and gestured around the room in his normal animated fashion. Fraser sat calmly by the wall.
"Whyíd you whack Vinny?"
"I donít know what youíre talking about."
"Tell me why you whacked Vinny, or Iím gonna kick ya in the head."
"Shut up, Fraser!"
"You think youíre smart, donít you Vecchio? You donít have anything on me. I could sue you for false arrest, harassment, maybe Iíll throw in false imprisonment just for kicks."
"Thatís it, Iím gonna kick ya in the head."
"Ray!" Fraser stood to block Rayís path. The door to the interrogation room swung open and Lieutenant Welsh bellowed at Ray.
"Thatís it detective! Mr. Falcone has lawyered-up. Letís step outside." Ray brushed past Fraser and left the interrogation room seething with anger. He rounded the corner and was met face to face with Sara.
"So you gonna press charges against that slime?" Sara looked hard at the blond detective as he rubbed his hands through his unruly hair.
"What the hell were you thinking?!" Ray stopped in his tracks and looked at Fraser and then back to Sara.
"What are you talking about, Sara?"
"Iím talking about you! Itís gonna be a miracle if you donít end up the one with charges brought against you."
"How can you say that?! We all know he shot Vinny. He had motive and plenty of opportunity." Fraser stepped in between his wife and friend. He looked from one angry face to the other.
"Motive isnít enough in this case Ray and you know that. Half of Chicago wanted to see Vinny Sarduce dead. You gonna go out and haul them in too? Maybe we should just start calliní people out of the phonebook!" Saraís accent had gotten noticeably thicker as the conversation progressed. Ben knew this was a true indicator of how angry she was becoming. Ray paced in the small hallway as Sara screamed. He retaliated with screaming of his own.
"So what are ya telliní me here, Sara?! Youíre just gonna let this guy walk?!"
"You havenít given me a weapon. You havenít given me any evidence that places him directly at the scene. His lawyers would have any charges dismissed by lunchtime. Give me something I can use and Iíll give you charges!"
"You know he did it, Sara! Youíre just being unreasonable. I canít believe you wonít do this for me!"
"For you! I donít do my job for you! I do my job for the Commonwealth and the people of Chicago. You need to get that straight right now. If you canít operate within the confines of the legal system then perhaps you need to rethink your career choice."
"Hey, donít talk to me about career choice. If this were anybody elseÖ."
"Ray!" Fraser stepped froward slightly but was quickly pushed back by Saraís hand on his arm.
"You just wait right there. What are you implying?" Saraís voice lowered to a whisper and she stood toe to toe with Ray. "If youíre insinuating that I would make allowance for the real Ray Vecchio then youíre just a moron. If you're gonna take the guys life the least you can do is act like you have a little respect for what he stands for. You may say you're him, but you're just a pitiful excuse."
"Sara!" Ben could only stand and watch as the two of them verbally sparred. Unfortunately, he knew this had been building for quite sometime.
"Well, Iíll never be good enough as the real Ray Vecchio. Youíve made that perfectly clear. I could be dipped in gold and have diamonds up my ass and that still wouldnít make me him, wound it Sara?"
"No. You could never be him. He had integrity and respect for the job and our friendship. He would never ask me to compromise my job for some personal vendetta."
"Letís talk about personal vendettaís shall we?"
"Shut up, Ray."
"Yeah, bite me." The two of them stomped off in opposite directions leaving Ben standing alone in the middle of the hallway.
~~~~Sara was still fuming when she got home from work. She prayed Ben would have the good sense not to bring Ray home with him tonight. The last thing she wanted to see was his face. Mr. Montgomery and Jacky sat in Saraís den, when Sara came storming through the front door.
"Slow down there baby-girl! Whatís go you so upset?" Sara threw her briefcase down against the side of the couch and flopped down beside Jacky.
"Easy there! Youíre gonna throw me off here slamminí all that weight down so fast!" Jacky offered Sara a goofy smile in order to make her laugh but she only glared at him.
"Sara, what happened?"
"Why did he ever have to come here?"
"That poor excuse for a cop."
"I see." Mr. Montgomery shook his head and sighed.
"Youíre not willing to give him a chance."
"Why should I?"
"Because he deserves one."
"How do you figure that?!"
"Sara, youíve got to open your eyes and get past the fact that heís not Ďyour Rayí. He will never be Ďyour Rayí and he canít live up to the friendship you and Ďyour Rayí had."
"I know he can never be my Ray. Heís not even close."
"But, thatís not the problem. You wonít give him a chance to be Ray. His Ray. You donít like him for who he isnít and you wonít try to like him for who he is."
Sara stared at her father for a few minutes until she regained her voice.
"Why should I?" Mr. Montgomery leaned forward and took Saraís hand.
"Because heís here. Heís Benís friend and heís a nice guy once you take the time to see that."
"I donít have that much time."
"Youíre being childish."
"I donít really care."
"Well, I can see thereís no talking to you right now. Youíre acting just like your mother. Once she made her mind up, it took an act of God to change it."
"Then donít act so surprised, then."
"Now, you watch that smart mouth with me young lady. You maybe married and have a baby of your own on the way, but Iím still your Daddy."
"Why donít we meet Ben for supper."
"Whereís Deb-I?" Jacky leaned over and rested his head on Saraís shoulder.
"Sheís on a date."
"She and Ren are still out?!"
"Theyíre going to a play. We talked to her a little while ago. She bought a new dress and everything. She said she and Ren were going to dinner and then to the theatre."
"Who would have thought?"
"Not me. Heís seems kindaÖ.I donít knowÖ.like maybe he ainít the brightest bulb in the marquee."
"Nah, heís pretty smart really. Heís justÖ.well, heís just Ren. They donít make many like him. Heíd bend over backwards for you though. Heís a really good friend."
"I wonder if heíll bend over backwards for Deb-I?"
"You were thinkiní it."
"Yeah, so. At least I didnít say it out loud."
~~~~Ben came home to find Sara in the bedroom changing clothes. Jacky and Mr. Montgomery had gone back to the hotel to change before dinner.
"We need to talk." Sara sighed and looked at a very upset Ben.
"Not you too! Iíve already gotten the lecture from Daddy. I donít need one from you."
"Apparently you do. I donít understand the animosity you still harbor towards Ray."
"I really donít want to talk about this right now. Iím hungry and we need to feed me."
"Youíre being unreasonable."
"So Iíve been told."
"Daddy, Jacky, Deb-I, Franny and John. Iím well aware of how I feel and I canít help that. Iím sorry if thatís not what you want to hear. But thatís the best I can offer right now." Ben walked over and stood in front of Sara.
"Could you at least try to be nice to him. Youíre not betraying Ray if youíre nice to him."
"I miss him so much" Sara lowered her eyes and seemed to shrink in on herself.
"I do to."
"Why did it have to be like this?" Ben walked over to Sara and put his arms around her.
"I donít know. But, youíve got to try and make things work." Sara sighed and hung her head.
"Iíll try. I promise. Itís just hard."
"I know. But, you will try for me, wonít you?"
"Yes. Iím sorry Iíve been such a pain." Ben kissed her on the top of the head and rubbed his hands down to the small of her back.
"Do you feel better now?"
"Get changed. Weíre meeting Daddy and Jacky for supper. I called John and Franny, too."
"Iíll call Ray."
"Fine. Call him. Do you honestly think heíll come?"
"Yes, I do."
Dinner was pleasant but strained as far as Ray and Sara were concerned. Everyone was painfully aware of the silence between them and the avoidance of eye contact with one another. Ben sat between the two of them and did his best to preserve the peace. Mr. Montgomery shared a look with his daughter that she quickly disregarded and ignored. She had always been labeled as stubborn, so she wasn't about to change now. Ben prayed things would get better between them.
Deb-I and Turnbull exited the theatre hand in hand. Turnbull helped her into the car and started to drive into the traffic.
"Would you like to get a cup of coffee?"
"Sure, that sounds nice. Itís still early. Why donít we go back to the hotel and order dessert from room service?"
"That sounds very nice." Turnbull turned into traffic and headed off to Debiís hotel. Neither could believe they were having such a good time with the other.
Turnbull and Debi sat extremely close on the couch in the living room of the hotel suite. Two half empty cups of coffee sat ignored on the coffee table along with the remnants of a slice of cheesecake as the scenes from an old black and white movie flickered across their faces in the darkness. Debi yawned slightly and Turnbull turned his attentions to the woman sitting beside him.
"Iím sorry. Iíve stayed too long. Iíll let you get your rest." Before he could stand Debi grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back down to the couch.
"Stop that. Iím sorry. Itís just been a long day. You have not overstayed your welcome." Turnbull smiled and then became aware of how close he was now sitting to Debi. Their faces were only inches apart and Debiís gaze never left his.
"If youíre sure itís not too late."
"Iím sure. I really had a nice time today."
"So did I."
"I had no idea you had such good taste in clothes."
"Not many people do. I wear my uniform most of the time."
"You look very handsome in your uniform." Turnbull tucked his head slightly as the blush crept up his cheeks. Debi giggled slightly and placed her hand on his cheeks.
"Look at you. Youíre embarrassed." Turnbull looked up slightly and stared into her dark blue eyes. Before he thought about what he was doing he leaned forward and pressed his lips softly against hers. Debiís stomach flipped as Turnbull slipped an arm around her waist. She responded to his touch by placing a hand on his chest and deepening the kiss. Realizing his position, Turnbull pulled away and began apologizing.
"Iím terribly sorry. I shouldnít haveÖ.." Debi smiled sweetly and slid her hand to the back of his neck, before he could continue he found himself locked into another more passionate kiss.
Turnbull trailed his hands along her back, as Debi lightly rubbed her hands along his cheeks. Turnbull felt the lick of her tongue on his bottom lip. Accepting her invitation he parted his lips and probed her mouth with his tongue. He immediately felt a wave of heat rush through his body and focus its energy in his groin. Debi leaned back slightly on the couch and Turnbull responded by positioning himself on top of her. Debi laced her legs with his as the two of them captured each otherís mouths with such desire that both were gasping for breath. Turnbull slid his hand along her thigh as she pulled at his shirt. She released his shirt from the confines of his waistband and slid her hand along his bare chest. Her touch was like flames licking at his skin. Shifting above her, he pulled her to him and with an ease of motion she had never experienced before, Turnbull had rolled her on top of him. She broke away from his lips and smiled down into his pale eyes. He smiled and reached up to push her short blond hair from her eyes. She leaned down to capture his mouth again when she heard a familiar voice in the hallway.
"Shit, quick lean up." Turnbull once again displayed a quickness that must be a prerequisite for all Mounties. Before Debi could think about where she was and how she would move, Turnbull was in the seated position on the couch with an arm around Debi. To the casual observer they had been enjoying a movie on television the entire evening.
"Hey, did you children have a good time today?"
"Yes sir, Daddy Jack. The play was wonderful." Turnbull squeezed Debiís shoulder and grinned.
"Thatís nice. Iím glad you two had a good time. What are your plans for tomorrow?"
Debi looked at Turnbull with a wicked grin on her face. Turnbull cleared his throat and smiled.
"I have to work tomorrow, but I would love to escort Debi to dinner tomorrow night."
"Well, have fun while you can children. We have to leave day after tomorrow." Jacky walked through the living room and noticed the look on Debiís face. He grinned and nodded his head. He waited for his father to enter his bedroom before he leaned over the back of the couch and whispered in Debiís ear.
"Yeah, Deb-I, have fun while you can." Turnbull turned three shades darker red than before and Debi only giggled. Satisfied with the reaction, Jacky went off to bed.
~~~Ben, Sara and Turnbull stood near the terminal gate. Turnbull had Debi by the hand and looked like a lost puppy as they called her flight.
"Well, Daddy. I guess Iíll see you in a couple weeks."
"You call us as soon as you go into labor and weíll be here."
"Deb-I, are you gonna be able to take off work?"
"Sara, I own half the place remember? Iím gonna be here when my best friend has a baby."
"Yeah, thatís not the only reason." Sara grinned at Turnbull who immediately blushed at the remark. Mr. Montgomery walked over to Ben and engulfed him in a large hug.
"See you in a few weeks. Youíll be fine, son. Call me if you need me. We love you."
"Thank you, sir." Sara leaned up and wrapped her arms around her fatherís neck.
"Bye, Daddy. I love you. See you soon."
"You remember what we talked about. I meant what I said. Quit being so stubborn. I love you too."
"I remember. Iím not promising anythiní."
"Stubborn, like your mother." Sara released her father and looked at Jacky.
"You take care of our old man."
"Donít worry. You take care of you."
"Will do. Love you."
"Love you. See you when you drop the bundle."
"Youíre so eloquent."
"I know." Sara hugged him and then turned to Debi.
"Now, say goodbye to that big strapping Mountie attached to your arm." Sara hugged Debi and winked at Turnbull. Debi knew that Sara loved every minute of this.
Turnbull looked mournfully at the ground as Debi held his hand.
"Iíll see you in a couple of weeks."
"Iíll miss you."
"Iíll miss you. Iíll call you tomorrow, okay?"
"I canít wait." The two of them smiled and Debi leaned up and kissed him on the lips. Ben looked away and nudged for Sara to do the same. She ignored him and smiled brightly at the two of them.
"Well, we better go so we can get back here sooner."
"Yep, my thoughts exactly."
~~~~"What do you think?"
"Oh, Sara itís beautiful!"
"Yes, I love it. When you mentioned the colors I was a little concerned, but itís wonderful." Meg stood in the middle of the completed nursery. The walls were painted a blue so pale it looked white. The curtains were made up of four long pieces of fabric. The red, blue, green and yellow lengths had been braided to make one large swag above the windowsill. The furniture was the colors of the swag. The crib was painted bright yellow and the changing table was green. The tiny dresser was blue and yellow and the child size rocking chair in the corner was painted red. The stuffed characters from Winnie the Pooh matched the color scheme perfectly. The ceiling fan had even been purchased to match the colors of the room. Each blade was the color of a piece of material in the swag. Sara looked around with her hands resting on her very pregnant stomach.
"Well, only two weeks to go. I think we finished just in time."
"Is there anything else you need?"
"Not that I can think of. With all the baby gifts, we have everything from clothes to toys, diapers to car seats."
"Car seats? You have more than one?"
"Yeah, one for my car. One for Maís and one as a spare. Ma insisted on having so many. That way we wonít have to keep taking one out of the car all the time."
"I see sheís embraced the role of grandmother whole heartily."
"Yeah, Benís like her son. And now with Ray undercover, sheís really leaned on him for support."
"Are things better between you and Ray?" Sara walked around the room adjusting the stuffed animals on the shelf.
"Yeah, theyíre better."
"But, not great." Sara sighed and shook her head.
"We both said some pretty mean things. I hurt his feelings pretty bad."
"Why donít you talk to him."
"I am. Iíve just got to find the right time."
"Oh, Meg, donít you start. What is it? A Mountie thing? I didnít think you liked Ray anyway."
"I donít dislike him. Iím just not fond of him, really. Heís nice enough, itís justÖ.."
"Yeah, got it." The two of them laughed slightly and headed back into the den.
"Sheís fine, Ray. Thank you for asking." Ray concentrated on the road as the two of them drove the streets of Chicago.
"Sheís due any time now, right?"
"And sheís still workiní?! Jesus Fraser! I thought youíd make her quit all ready."
"May I remind you of whom you are speaking. You remember Sara, my wife."
"Yeah, got that. But, is that good for her?"
"Oh, sheís not harming herself or the baby. Lotís of women work right up to the due date. Some women in other culturesÖ.."
"Right, sheís fine. Thatís what youíre telliní me?"
"Sheís cooking fried chicken tonight. Would you like to come to dinner?"
"Maybe you better ask her first."
"Iím sure sheíll make enough. We always have plenty of leftovers."
"Thatís not what I meant."
"Iím inviting you to dinner, Ray."
"Fine, I accept Fraser."
"Thank you kindly."
~~~~Sara and Meg were in the kitchen preparing for dinner. Sara was showing Meg how to bread the perfect piece of fried chicken when the front door opened.
"Weíre in here!"
"Megís stayiní for dinner." Ben and Ray walked into the kitchen. Ray stood back toward the door and leaned against the counter waiting for Saraís reaction to her unexpected dinner guest.
"Great. Iíve invited Ray to join us as well. Can we help with anything?" Ben looked at Sara trying to read her face. She smiled and gave a quick look to Meg. She returned her gaze to Benís and kissed him on the cheek.
"You and Ray can set the table and make me a pitcher of Kool-aid." Ben winked at his wife and rubbed his hand down her arm.
"I donít know. Surprise me."
Dinner was comfortable. Sara and Ray exchanged a few pleasantries and each rolled their eyes when Meg and Ben engaged in a discussion on the importance of preparation during field assignments. Ben was grateful that Ray and Sara both seemed to be trying to put things behind them and make an attempt to become friends. Ray hoped Sara would give him a chance and Sara hoped Ray would forgive her. At the end of the night, Ray leaned over and kissed Sara goodnight on the cheek. She smiled at him and tried to sound as sincere as she possible could when she thanked him for coming. She hoped that he could tell she meant it.
"That was nice."
"Yeah." Ben sat with his back propped against the arm of the couch with Sara sitting between his legs.
"I tried. I really tried."
"I know and it showed. I think you just may have made a friend."
"Well, I know I didnít make an enemy, so thatís something, right?"
"Right." The two of them sat and just enjoyed the comfort of each otherís arms.
~~~~Ray looked up and smiled.
"Hey, that was fast. But you didnít have to bring it yourself."
"I needed to get out of the office for a while."
"Stella turniní ya crank?"
"You could say that. Whereís Franny?"
"Sheís takiní the day off. Her and Ma are cleaniní out somethiní"
"I see. Ahh." Sara grabbed her abdomen and grimaced.
"Whatís wrong?!" Ray leapt to his feet and put an arm on Saraís shoulder.
"Iím fine. Iím fine."
"That didnít sound fine! Maybe I should take you to the hospital? You want me to call Fraser?" Sara took one hand and braced herself on the side of his desk while the other was still holding her abdomen.
"IÖumÖ.have been having a little bitÖ.um, I meanÖ.oowwwÖ..Ray!"
The pain was evident on Saraís face. She released the desk and reached out for Rayís hand. Ray quickly grabbed her hand and started to panic.
"Whatís wrong?! Whatís wrong?!" Ray could see the look of panic flash through Saraís eyes. He knew something was wrong when she reached for his hand.
"RayÖ.I think you need to take meÖ.me to the hospital." Sara took several deep breaths and tried to focus on something other than the pain. As the contraction passed, Ray turned pale and stared at her.
"Ray, Ray. Ray!"
"Hospital!? Why?!" Sara grabbed his collar and pulled him down to her level.
"Because Iím having a baby you freakiní moron!" Ray started to back away but Sara had a firm grip on his shirt.
"I need to call Fraser!"
"No timeÖ.he can meet us there."
"But, Iím not the one that should be doing this!" Sara pulled harder on his collar and glared at him.
"Raymond Vecchio would have me in the car already. So Move!"
"Dammit! What a day for Franny to be off. Jesus!" Ray grabbed Saraís hand again and started to lead her to the parking lot. Noticing the uncomfortable look on both of their faces, Huey called after Ray.
"Ray! Whatís wrong?"
"Saraís haviní the kid!"
"Yeah, now! Somebody call Franny and have her go pick up Fraser!"
"Iím on it!" Huey rushed to the phone and dialed the Vecchio house. Welsh stood in the doorway of his office.
"Vecchio! Tell Sara Iíll call her Dad!"
"Thanks!" Sara waved an arm over her shoulder as she and Ray left the bullpen.
Ray walked Sara slowly over to the passenger side of his precious GTO.
"Yeah, Iím fine the contraction passed."
"Well, uh, buckle your seat belt and uh, letís go."
"Hurry." Ray jumped in the driverís seat and squealed a tire out of the parking lot.
~~~~~~Francesca threw the phone down and ran to the kitchen.
"Ma! Ma, Saraís in labor! Rayís taking her to the hospital! Iíve got to go get Fraser!"
"Hurry, Francesca! Iíll call her father and then go straight to the hospital. Sara will need me!" Mrs. Vecchio dusted off her dress from cleaning out the pantry and rushed for the phone. Francesca grabbed her purse and ran down the front porch steps to her car.
Within minutes she was screeching to a halt in front of the consulate. Fraser stood sentry duty on the front walk. Francesca scurried around the car and screamed his name.
"Fraser! Itís Sara! Sheís having the baby! Hurry up and get in the car!" Fraser stood motionless while Francesca waved her arms and jumped in place. The only reaction Francesca noticed was small beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
"Fraser! I know you hear me!" She thumped him hard on the arm and stomped off into the consulate mumbling to herself.
"Stupid Mountie door watcher crap! His wife is having a baby and heís playing statue in the park! Iíll fix this! Fraserís getting to that hospital no matter what!" Francesca ignored Turnbull as she stormed down the hall.
"Ah, good afternoon, Ms. Vecchio how can IÖÖ"
"Meg! Meg! Get out here!" Meg put her glasses on the desk and looked away from her laptop towards the door. Within seconds Francesca Vecchio charged through the door followed by a nervous looking Constable Turnbull.
"Meg! Youíve got to do something!"
"Ms. Vecchio, what are you screaming about?" Francesca became even more irritated at how calm the inspector addressed her.
"Saraís on the way to the hospital and Fraser is standing out there like a lawn ornament! Go free him or order him or whatever you do to make him move!" Thatcher stood quickly and rushed out of her office. Francesca and Turnbull were following hot on her heels. All three stood in front of Fraser as he stood motionless. Meg placed both hands on her hips and in her authoritative tone began to speak.
"Constable Fraser I here by release youÖ.." Before she could complete her direct order Fraser bolted past her and opened the passenger door of Francescaís car.
"Dief!" Dief leapt into the back seat as Fraser was motioning for Francesca to hurry up. Francesca fortunately had left the car running, so when she slid quickly behind the wheel she slammed it in gear and put her foot to the floor.
"Francesca, I donít mean to seem rude, but do you think that you could possibly drive any faster?" Francesca turned wide-eyed and faced the Mountie.
"You got it, Frase!" With a jerk of her head, Francesca grabbed another gear and raced through the streets of Chicago.
"Donít worry, Frase. Rayís on his way to the hospital with Sara."
"She was at the station when she went in labor."
~~~~"What?! What?! Why are you screaminí!!" Sara reached out and grabbed Ray by the shoulder.
"OOWW..OWWwÖOWOWWÖ..skin Sara! Youíre breakiní the skin! Let go! OWWW!!!"
"Ray! Iím scared!"
"So am I!" Ray ran three stop lights and nearly plowed through a hot dog stand in his effort to get Sara to the hospital. It wasnít clear who was more frightened, Sara or Ray.
"Oh God." Saraís tone was different from what Ray had heard before.
"Oh God What?" In an even and somewhat calmer tone, Sara turned and faced Ray.
"My water broke."
"Iíll get you something to drink when we get to the hospital. This really isnít the time to be worryiní about your drink!" Sara smacked him in the shoulder and he flinched.
"No, you idiot. MY WATER BROKE!" Ray slowly turned and looked at Saraís face and then trailed his eyes down to her lap and then the floor.
"CHRIST ON A BIKE!"
"Donít freak on me now! Look at the road! Drive, Ray!"
"Oh Gawd! All over the Goat! You had to do that in here, didnít ya?! Thatís just great. Iím gonna have to burn these seats now! Great! Just great!"
"Shut up, Ray! Iím a little stressed out here! I really donít care about your problems."
"Whyíd ya have to come see me?!"
"You asked for the paperwork and your bitch of an ex-wife pissed me off!"
"Hey, I know Stellaís a bitch, but you couldnít have sent a messenger?!"
"What the hell are you talking about?!"
"I donít know!"
"Well, shut up and drive!"
"Give me the cell."
"Did I ask you? No! I told you! Give it!" Ray reached into his pocket and tossed the cell phone over to Sara. She quickly dialed the number of the gynecologistís office and informed them of the situation.
"They said that since the contractions are still about eight minutes apart that we have a little time."
"How much is a little?"
"How the hell should I know!? Iíve never done this before!"
"Well, neither have I!"
"Will you just hurry!"
"I am hurrying!"
"Ben Fraser, you better be at that hospital!"
Ray pulled up to the emergency room door and slammed the GTO in park. He rushed to the passenger side and reached out and took Saraís hand. He pulled her slowly from the car and the two of them inched their way inside.
"I need some help here! Sheís haviní a baby!"
"Good, Ray! Iím sure they would have had a real problem diagnosing my condition."
"Can it, Sara! Nurse! Nurse!" An ER nurse rushed over to Sara and yelled for an orderly to bring a wheelchair. Ray stood pale and shaking as Sara gave her information to the nurse.
"Dr. Vickers has been paged and he should be on his way. Weíre going to take you upstairs and monitor your progress in a birthing room. Is he the father?"
"No, heís a lunatic at the moment!" The nurse offered a friendly smile at Ray as he nodded his head in agreement with Sara. The orderly started to push Sara toward the elevator. Ray stood and assumed Sara would release his hand. Pulling him forward, causing him to lunge after her, Sara refused to relinquish her grip.
"I thought I could wait here for Fraser!" Sara motioned for the orderly to stop and she pulled Ray until they were face to face.
"You listen to me. Thereís no way Iím doing this by myself. Granted youíre not my first choice, but youíre here and youíre it. So help me God, if you leave me Iíll make your life a living hell. Do I make myself perfectly clear?" Ray swallowed and nodded his head. The orderly continued toward the elevator and the three of them rode the lift in silence.
The doors to the elevator were just about to open when Ray finally spoke.
"Youíre pretty strong for a girl."
"Remember that." They both ignored the orderlyís laughter as they made there way down the corridor.
Ray stood beside Sara as Dr. Vickers started his exam.
"Well Sara. Itís gonna be a while yet. Youíre only dilated about five centimeters."
"Oh Gawd." Ray had turned an odd shade of green as he leaned on the side of Saraís bed.
"Mr. Vecchio, are you going to be okay?"
"Ray, look at me. Just breathe."
"I am breathiní. butÖ.this isÖ..oh Gawd, where the hell is Fraser?!"
Before Sara could threaten him again, another contraction hit.
"AAAAWWAAAHAAYYAAAA!!" She clamped down on Rayís hand and the blond detectiveís knees buckled slightly as he joined Sara in her screaming.
"Breathe through it Sara. Breathe." Sara glared at Dr. Vickers and then turned to look at Ray.
"Get me some drugs! They give women drugs for this all the time."
"Sara, you and Ben both took the Lamaze classes. Just remember what you learned. Breathe." Sara glared again at Dr. Vickers and then turned a steely-eyed gaze at Ray.
"Shoot him. Shoot him where he stands. Iím still the DA. Iíll clear you. Just do it and make him give me some drugs." Dr. Vickers chuckled and Ray looked at him like a man with a death wish. He walked to the head of the bed and patted Sara on the arm.
"Youíll be fine. Iím going to check back in on you in a few minutes. Itís going to be awhile yet."
"Youíve got to be dilated to ten centimeters before itís all systems go."
"Ray, give me your gun." Dr. Vickers smiled and handed Saraís chart to the nurse before he left. Ray stood uncomfortably beside Saraís bed and tried not to concentrate on the weird smells of the room and the pain in his hand. He pulled his hand away before Sara realized what he was doing.
"Iím gonna go step outside a minute." Ray felt Sara grab his arm again. This time when he looked into her eyes, he didnít see the anger of before. He saw something he had never seen in Saraís eyes. Fear. In a pleading voice, Sara whispered to him.
"Please donít leave. Please Ray. Donít leave me." Ray stood there for a moment lost in her eyes. Something had just happened between them, and he knew he had to make a decision.
Ray reached out and gently took Saraís hand. He placed his other hand on her shoulder.
"I wonít leave you. Iíll stay right here until Fraser comes." Sara felt the tears welling up in her eyes.
"Yeah, donít mention it. Thatís what friends are for."
~~~~~Before Francesca could stop the car, Fraser and Dief jumped out the passenger side and ran through the emergency room doors. Francesca parked and was only a few steps behind. An intern by the door yelled after Fraser.
"Hey! You canít bring that dog in here!" Francesca never broke stride and yelled at the intern as they were entering the elevator.
"Itís a wolf you lug nut!"
The doors closed and Fraser stood rigidly and waited for the doors to part on the maternity floor. For once, Fraser didnít step aside and allow several waiting passengers to enter the car. He and Francesca plowed through the crowd and lunged for the nurseís desk.
"Sara Fraser! Sheís having the baby! Sara Farser!" The nurse took a step back and grabbed a chart. Before she had time to look at it, Francesca started running down the hall screaming.
"Ray! Sara! Ray where are you?!"
"Oh thank God!" Ray grinned at Sara as he held open the birthing room door.
"Weíre in here! Itís about time you got here! Where the hell have you been?!" Francesca took off in a run and yelled for Fraser.
"Theyíre in here!" Fraser took off at a full run towards the sound of Rayís voice. Seeing Fraser and Francesca, Ray turned to look at Sara once again. The nurse was monitoring her blood pressure and what Ray failed to realize was that he was now in plain view of Sara. His face went white and the walls seemed to move in toward him.
The nurse reached out for Ray in time to pull him into a chair. Ben stepped into the room to see Ray sitting with his head between his knees and his wife screaming during another contraction. Francesca pushed Ben toward Sara while she grabbed Ray by the arm.
"Címon. You need some air."
"YeahÖ.airÖ..needÖ..air." Ray bolted for the door with Francesca steadying him. Ben reached out for Saraís hands and tried to help her breathe through the contraction.
Dr. Natalie OíNeillís shift just ended. Dr. Vickers had paged her to let her know her friend Sara was in labor in birthing room four. Dr. OíNeill walked quickly down the hall and saw an attractive blond man squatting down against the wall with his head tucked slightly.
"Are you okay?" Ray raised his head and gave a weak smile.
"Yeah, Sara just about killed me in there."
"Sara? Are you a friend of Sara Fraserís?"
"Yeah, Iím Ray Vecchio." Dr. OíNeill took a step back and Ray saw by the look in her face that he had just messed up. He looked down both sides of the hallway in search of Francesca. * Crap! Where is she when you need her?! * Ray swiped his hand through his hair and looked cautiously at the woman standing in front of him.
"Youíre not Ray Vecchio. I know Ray Vecchio and youíre not him."
"UmÖ.yeahÖ.you a doctor or somethiní?"
"Iím Dr. OíNeill. Who the hell are you?" Ray looked down the hall again and motioned for Francesca to hurry up and get there. Francesca gave him a strange look and quickened her step.
"Whatís the matter Ray?"
"Ray? Who are you?"
"Iím Francesca Vecchio. Hey, youíre the doctor that operated on Sara when she was shot."
"Thatís right. Iím Dr. OíNeill. Sara and I are friends. This man claims to be Ray Vecchio but thatís just not true." Francesca looked at Ray and swallowed hard.
"Doc, why donít we go grab a cup of coffee. I need to tell ya a little story."
"Iíll tell Sara and Ben youíre here, Dr. OíNeill. See ya Ray."
Mrs. Vecchio stood on one side of Saraís bed and Ben stood on the other. Ben took a cool cloth and wiped the perspiration from Saraís face. Mrs. Vecchio talked calmly to Sara and held her hand.
"Youíre doing fine, Sara. Everything is fine. Youíre family is on the way. Francesca has called John and he should be here any minute. Youíre friend Natalie is with Ray."
"Ray?!" Panic flew over Saraís face as she looked at Ben. "She doesnít know! She knows heís notÖ."
"Shhhh. Ray is explaining everything to her. You just relax and concentrate on bringing that beautiful baby into the world." Ben leaned down and kissed her on the cheek while Mrs. Vecchio stroked her hair.
~~~~~Ray threw a handful of Smarties in his coffee cup and took a tentative sip. Dr. OíNeill stared at the man in front of her.
"So, who the hell are you?" Ray grinned and set his coffee down on the table.
"I can see why you and Sara are friends."
"Answer the question."
"Iíll give ya the Readerís Digest version. Ray Vecchio has gone undercover. Iím here posing as him, so his cover doesnít get blown. So, if Rayís your friend, letís keep this between us."
"So you just took over his life?"
"And everyone acts like nothing ever happened?"
"Not really. Weíve all had to adjust."
"This is the strangest thing Iíve ever heard."
"Truth is stranger than fiction."
"Apparently so." Ray smiled at the pretty red head as she leaned back in her chair.
"Once the shock wears off, Iím a pretty okay guy, Dr. OíNeill."
"Natalie. And Iíll guess weíll have to see about that." The two exchanged smiles while Ray stood and pulled her chair out.
"Well, I better get back upstairs. Franny might need some help calling everybody."
"I need to check on Sara anyway."
Ray walked over to the pay phone where Francesca was standing and leaned against the wall.
"You need me to call anybody?"
"No thanks Ray. Iíve called Maria and the consulate. Turnbullís going to go pick up her family at the airport. They should be here in another two hours. John is on his way. Meg called Craig at the DAís and Iím calling the station right now."
"Sounds like you got it covered. Howís she doiní?"
"Contractions are two minutes apart."
"Whatís that mean?"
"She should have the baby pretty soon."
"Sheís been in there over an hour now!"
"These things take time Ray."
"Youíre doing great."
"Yeah, Iím real freakiní great." Ben wiped his fingers across Saraís forehead. He was grateful she hadnít lost her sense of humor. Dief stood sentry by the door while the nurses busied them selves in the room.
"What can I do for you, sweetheart?"
"Ben, darling, get me some drugs."
"No really. I know we talked about this and decided that natural childbirth was the best for the baby and me but I think I may have been grossly misinformed. Iíve changed my views. Drugs are really the way to go. I see that now." Ben leaned down and kissed her on the forehead as he laughed. Sara didnít realize she was making a joke. Dr. OíNeill entered the room and smiled at Ben and Sara.
"Hey, you look like youíre doing fine to me."
"Hey Natalie. Do me a favor."
"Get me some drugs. Anythingís fine. Demerol. Morphine. Just whateverís handy." Ben shook his head and kissed Saraís fingers. Natalie laughed and grabbed Saraís chart.
"You donít need drugs. Youíre tough. You can take it."
"No really. I want the drugs."
"Sorry kiddo. Youíre on the Ďau naturalí plan. Just breathe and remember your Lamaze training."
"Oh screw Lamaze."
"Oh, yeah. It looks like youíre doing just fine. Donít worry Ben, it shouldnít be long now. Dr. Vickers should be back in a few minutes."
"Has anybody called my Dad?" Sara looked weakly from Ben to Natalie. Natalie nodded her head and went toward the door.
"I heard your friend Ray say that they should be here in about two hours." Ben rubbed Saraís shoulder as another contraction hit.
"BreatheÖ.hee hee hee hee hoo hoo hooÖ.BreatheÖ" Sara started breathing along with Ben while Natalie monitored the babies heartbeat.
"Youíre doing good Sara. Itís going to pass soon. Breathe through it. Breathe." Sara bared down on Benís hand. He never realized the strength Sara had until today. He could feel the joints starting to pop.
"When are you people going to realize I need some medication!!" Benís heart ached for Sara. The tears started to roll down her face and he could tell that the pain was getting harder for her to bear.
Mrs. Vecchio sat in the waiting room with Francesca, John and Ray. Natalie had decided to go to her office and do some paperwork while everyone waited. Turnbull stood at the terminal gate and greeted Saraís family. They all were anxious and in a hurry, so they rushed through baggage claim and out to the car Meg had issued to Turnbull.
~~~~Saraís family rushed into the waiting room. Francesca noticed right away that Turnbull was holding Debiís hand.
"How is she? Can I see her?" Mrs. Vecchio stood and led Mr. Montgomery down the hall. He opened the door to see a very tired and irritated Sara and a pale Ben.
"Hey baby girl. How are you?" Mr. Montgomery leaned down and kissed Sara on the cheek.
"Hey, Daddy." Her voice was weak and he could tell she was tired.
"Sheís been in labor for the past four hours. Sheís pretty tired."
"I can see that. How about you, Ben? How are you holding up?" Ben had removed his serge and was in his shirtsleeves.
"Iím fine sir. Iím just worried about Sara. Sheís so tired."
"Sheís strong. Her momma was in labor for 18 hours."
"Oh God!" Sara turned a horrified face toward Ben and started to cry.
"Shhh. youíre going to be fine, honey. Youíre doing fine."
"I canít do this for 18 hours. I canít. Tell them just to knock me out like they used to in the old days. I could just wake up and it will all be over. I canít do this for 18 hours! Iím not strong. Iím really not. Iím a delicate flower. A real freakiní petal! I canítÖ.."
"Now, babygirl, donít go getting upset. Women do this everí day. Youíll be fine."
"Breathe Sara! Hee hee hee hoo hoo hooÖ..youíre doing great."
"Hee hee hee hoo hoo hoo AAAWWWWWWAOOOOOOO!!!"
"Oh dear." Mr. Montgomery retreated back to the waiting room and took a seat next to Ray.
"I hear you had to bring her to the hospital."
"Yeah, she ruined my car."
"Well, those things happen."
"Yeah, I guess so."
Dr. OíNeill returned to the waiting room from checking on Sara.
"Sheís still having contractions and sheís dilated to nine centimeters. It should be anytime now."
Ray smiled at the pretty doctor as she gave them an update from Dr. Vickers. "If any of you would like to go home for a while, Iíll make sure youíre notified if anything happens." All looked at Dr. OíNeill and shook their heads.
"I understand. Iím heading down to the lounge. Can I bring anyone anything?" Everyone declined her offer but Ray. He stood and rubbed his hand through his hair.
"Iíll walk with ya. I could use a cup of coffee." Natalie smiled as the two of them walked down the hall.
"Okay, Sara. This is it. Itís go time."
"Oh God." Sara rolled her eyes at her gynecologistís choice of words.
"With the next contraction, you need to push until I tell you to stop. Ben, sheís really gonna need you as cheerleader."
"Right. Sara sweetheart, I love you."
"You sure as hell better." Sara had given up pleasantries two hours ago. Fortunately, Mr. Montgomery and Ma had warned him about the things Sara may say during labor.
"Thatís my girl."
"Oh, shut up." Ben and Sara both chuckled and Dr. Vickers shook his head.
"Okay Sara. This is it. Push!"
"Push, Sara! You are doing wonderfully. Push sweetheart!"
"Good Sara! Good. Okay, relax. Relax. Breathe." Ben hugged his arms around Saraís shoulders and supported her while she took deep breaths. The sweat poured from her face and she was visibly exhausted.
"Iím so tired, Ben."
"I know, sweetheart. But, you can do this. I know you can."
"Sara, you need to push again. Push, Sara!" Ben held Saraís shoulders tightly as she leaned forward and gritted her teeth in an effort to stifle a scream.
"Good! Youíre doing good Sara! I can see the crown. The hard parts almost over. Push Sara! Push!"
"I can see the head Sara! Donít push! Hold on! I have to check the cord Sara!" Ben wiped the sweat from her forehead as he looked in the mirror at the foot of the bed at the head of his child.
"Okay, the cord is clear, Sara. Push! Push!"
"Almost there, baby! Youíre almost done! Youíre doing great!"
Ray pulled a chair out for Natalie and then slumped in one beside her.
"So Natalie. Tell me about yourself."
"Whatís to tell?"
"Oh, I donít know. How Ďbout how a good-lookiní girl like you ends up in a place like this?"
"That the best line you got?"
"I had my best friends wife explode baby juices all over my car. Give me a break." Natalie nearly spewed her soft drink at Ray. He started laughing and before either realized it, they were having a decent conversation.
"So you like being a doctor?"
"Sure. Itís tough sometimes. But, what isnít?"
"Yeah, but all that blood and guts stuffÖ.eww." Ray shuddered and grinned.
"You get used to it. Besides, Iím sure you see plenty of gruesome things being a detective."
"Yeah, but I donít go sticking my hands around in any of it."
"How long have you been a detective?"
"I went to the academy at 21. Thatís all I ever wanted to be was a cop. What about you? You always want to be a sawbones?"
"Yeah, I was the one kid in biology that couldnít wait to dissect the frog."
"Geez, I hated that crap."
"To each his own. We better get back and see how Saraís doing." Ray stuttered slightly and tried not to sound like a total idiot.
"UmÖyeahÖso, I was wonderiníÖ.I thought maybe after Sara has this kid and allÖ..me and you could uhÖ.grab some dinner."
"That sounds nice Detective. I would like that."
"Greatness." Ray breathed a sigh of relief and pulled the chair out for Natalie. She tucked her head and smiled to herself as she took in the sweet smile of the man before her.
~~~~Ben wiped the tears from his face as he cut through the cord. The baby was healthy and beautiful. He looked around the room as the nurses quickly cleaned his child and wrapped a blanket around their babyís small body. Sara wept at the sound of her infantís first cries. The nurse smiled and handed the small bundle to Ben. He placed a small kiss on the childís forehead before placing the baby on his wifeís chest.
"Hello, little one. Iím youíre Mommy."
"I love you."
"We love you too, Daddy." The words hit Ben like a ton of bricks. He was a father. Ben reached out and grabbed his wifeís hand and started to laugh. Bob Fraser stood in the corner of the room and joined him in his joyous laughter.
Ben pulled the scrubs the nurse had given him from his chest as he walked down the hall to the waiting room. He pushed through the doors to see all eyes turn to him.
"Well?!" Francesca nearly screamed at him. All of their family was there. Ben smiled and took a deep breath.
"Saraís fine and so is ourÖ.daughter."
~~~~~Mr. Montgomery was the first to engulf Ben in his arms. Mrs. Vecchio was close behind. Ben didnít even try to keep his emotions in check. He openly wept with happiness as his family hugged him.
"A girl! Oh, Benton thatís wonderful!"
"I know Ma. Sheís beautiful."
"Howís my baby girl?"
"Sheís very tired. I just came out to tell you all. I really need to get back to her."
"You go and be with your family. Weíll be here." Ben smiled as he brushed the tears away from his face. Mr. Montgomery walked over to the window in the waiting room. He allowed the tears to fall on his cheeks as he looked out into the late afternoon sky.
"She did it, Peggy. Our little girl has a family of her own. Youíd be real proud."
"Did you say something, Daddy?" Mr. Montgomery put his arm around his son and shook his head.
"I was praying to the good Lord, son."
"Well, youíre a grandpa." Jacky smiled and hugged his father.
"Yes, I am. I couldnít be happier." Debi hugged Turnbull and Francesca nearly choked on the juice she was sipping on. John handed her a napkin and patted her lightly on the back.
"Are you okay?"
"UhÖyeah." She smiled at Turnbull, who in turn tucked his head.
"Hey, whatís all the tears for?" Francesca stood and faced Ray.
"Youíre an uncle!" Ray looked to Natalie who immediately took off toward Saraís room.
"Boy or Girl?"
"Wow, a girl. Thatís great, Franny. Fraser been out yet?"
"Yeah, he just went back in to be with Sara."
"Howís she doiní?"
"Sheís tired but fine."
"Thatís great. Real great." Francesca hugged Ray as everyone talked and laughed about the new addition to their family.
Natalie leaned her head out the door and motioned for Mr. Montgomery.
"Sara wants to see you and Jacky." The two of them walked in the room with big smiles on their faces. Sara was visibly tired and her face was pale.
"Hey, sunshine. Youíre a Momma now." Her father placed his large hand on the head of his granddaughter as he kissed Sara on the forehead.
"Daddy, I want you to meet Caroline Stockton Fraser." Sara lifted her daughter slightly and handed her to her father. Big silent tears fell from his eyes as he placed a delicate kiss on Carolineís nose.
"Sheís beautiful. She has your nose." Sara reached a weak hand out to her brother.
"Hey, Uncle Jacky you better be nicer to this kid." Jacky swallowed hard as he fought back tears. In barely a whisper he managed to make Sara a vow he meant with all his heart.
"Iíll love her for everything Iím worth. Nobody messes with my niece." Dr. Vickers checked Sara and motioned for the nurse.
"Okay, Iím going to have to ask everyone to leave. Weíve got to get mother and daughter checked over." Mr. Montgomery handed his grandchild to the nurse and leaned down and kissed Sara. Jacky walked to the other side of her bed and leaned down to give her a hug.
"I love you creep."
"I love you too, snotbox." Ben shook his head and laughed as they left the room. He turned to Sara and gently stroked her cheek with his hand.
"We have such a beautiful daughter. Youíre going to be a wonderful mother."
"She has your eyes and hair."
"But she has her motherís smile."
"Sheís so beautiful."
"Just like her mother."
"I love you, Ben Fraser."
"I love you."
Sara sat on the couch of her apartment while her father cooed at his granddaughter. Jacky sat beside her while Ben sat in the floor with Ray attempting to assemble a mobile that had arrived in the mail from some friends of Saraís.
"It shouldnít be that hard."
"Itís not that hard. Weíre just doing the five P things, right Frase?"
"Oh, címon Sara. Give us a little credit. We put together the stroller didnít we?"
"Yes, Ray. You did put together the stroller." Sara leaned up on the sofa and started to slowly get up.
"What are you doing?"
"Ben, Iím fine."
"What do you need? Iíll get it. You donít need to wear yourself out."
"Iím just going to the bathroom. I donít think I need your help with that."
"Here, let me help you." Sara sighed as Ben jumped to his feet and helped Sara off the couch. Francesca, John, Turnbull and Debi were making everyone something to eat in the kitchen. Turnbull leaned out of the kitchen in an apron of Saraís.
"Who doesnít care for onion in their potato salad?"
"Whoís recipe are you making?" Turnbull grinned at Jacky.
"With." The others all nodded in agreement and Turnbull returned to the kitchen.
John and Francesca sat at the kitchen table making the salad as Debi and Turnbull concentrated on the main dishes.
"Whenís Ma coming back?"
"She should be back in a while. She was going to check on Maria and the kids."
Ray and Ben concentrated on the instructions to the mobile while Mr. Montgomery cradled Caroline in his arms. Sara was returning to the couch when the doorbell rang.
"Iíll get it." Sara opened the door to a large stuffed brown bear.
"Well, hi there, Ernie!"
"A delivery came for you Sara."
"Oh, how cute! I saw a bear like this in that little store on fifth. Whoís it from?"
"Thereís a card on the ribbon. The man that delivered it said it had to be given to you personally." Sara cocked her head to the side and took the bear from Ernie.
"Thanks Ernie. You want to come in?"
"No, Iíve got to get back downstairs. You give that angel a kiss for me though."
"I will." Sara pulled the note from the small ribbon as she closed the door. The handwritten note was in Italian. Ben had taught Sara enough to read and speak some Italian so she could read the note fairly easily.
----- Ovunque vada il mio amore riuscirŗ sempre a raggiungervi. Sara, per
dagli un'altra possibilitŗ. Che Dio ti accompagni, Caroline. Voglio bene a
tutti voi. Con tutto il mio affetto, Zio Ray-----
Sara felt her knees give way as the emotion clutched her throat. Ben rushed to her side as she knelt down on the floor and sobbed.
"Sara!" Ray was immediately by Benís side along with Jacky. Sara doubled over and held the stuffed bear tightly to her chest as she sobbed.
"Sara! Please tell me whatís wrong!" Worry and panic began to grip Benís chest. Everyone rushed to the foyer of the apartment and looked on in confusion as Sara cried her heart out. Ben pleaded with her to speak but the emotions were too strong. He managed to pry the note from her hands. As he knelt on the floor beside Sara he read the note to himself. Tears glistened his own eyes as he looked up at his family and smiled. He swallowed hard and choked out the words,
"Itís from Ray." Ray looked sheepishly around the room and then to Ben.
"The real Ray? How?"
"I donít know." Ray shifted nervously as he looked at Saraís small frame clutching the stuffed toy and sobbing.
"What does it say, Fraser?" Francesca wiped the tears from her eyes as she found her voice.
"Maybe I should go?" Ray stepped toward the door unsure if his presence was wanted or not. Before he could grab the doorknob, Saraís hands dropped the bear and pulled him to the floor. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and cried into his shoulder. Ben stood and read the note to the rest of the room.
"Everywhere I go my love will always reach you. Sara, please give him a chance. God be with you, Caroline. I love you all. All my love, Uncle Ray." Francesca reached for John and hugged him tightly as she cried. Ben rubbed his hand along Saraís back as she held tightly to Ray. Mr. Montgomery smiled and kissed his granddaughter.
"Looks like you just got another uncle, baby girl."
~~~~Sara clung to Ray as she sobbed into his shoulder. Ray didnít know how to react at first. Then he slowly slipped his arms around Sara and let her cry. Ben rested his hand on her shoulder as Ray held her. This is what the two of them needed. For almost four months the two of them had been in such a strained relationship. Now, with Rayís blessing, Sara opened herself up to the blond detective that was there to take his place. Sara sobbed for what seemed likes hours. She was oblivious of everyone else in the room. She began to speak softly through her tears. Ray couldnít understand her muffled words. He leaned back and put his hands on either side of her face.
"Sara, I canít understand you." She took a few ragged breaths and tried to calm her crying. She looked into his pale blue eyes and started to cry harder. She tucked her head again and leaned into his chest. In a small voice she whispered, "Iím sorry. Iím so sorry."
Ray rubbed her hair and tried to pull her to her feet. The emotion was too much for her and she could barely stand. Ray looked for Ben for help as Sara buried her head in his chest.
"Sara, honey. Come over here to the couch." Sara lifted her head and managed a nod to Ben between sniffles. Francesca and John returned to the kitchen where Turnbull and Debi had gone to check on dinner. Mr. Montgomery took a sleeping Caroline to the nursery and put her in her crib. Jacky took a seat in the recliner while Ray and Sara sat down on the couch. Ben knelt down in front of Sara while she still clung to Ray.
"Sara honey, calm down." Sara pulled Ray into a hug once again and began talking in a long string of muffled cries.
"Iím soÖsorryÖ.Iíve beenÖ..soÖ.soÖ.mean toÖ.you." Ray could feel the tears pooling in his eyes and the emotion building in his throat. He hugged Sara tightly to his chest and could only rock her slightly in his arms. Ben allowed a small smile to grace his lips. They would all truly be a family. All of them. Ben patted Rayís leg as he stood and took a seat on the couch beside Sara. Ray felt the tears roll down his cheeks as Sara clung to him.
It had only been an hour since Ernie had brought Rayís gift. It seemed like an eternity. Saraís breathing finally calmed and she pulled back from Ray slightly. They spoke softly to one another as the rest of the family went about the task of setting the table for dinner.
She pulled his face to hers and placed a small kiss on his cheek. He replied by kissing her on the forehead.
"Iím sorry, Ray. Iím so very sorry."
"It okay, Sara. Itís okay. Címon. You gotta stop cryiní all over me. You gonna snot all over my new shirt."
Sara looked up with the tears still streaming down her face. A smile parted her lips as she looked at Ray. She took a deep breath, wiped her hand across her nose and wiped it down the front of Rayís shirt. He looked down at his now damp shirt and then back at Sara.
"Thatís not buddies."
"Your shirts not new. Itís got the same stain thatís been there for the last five times youíve worn it."
"Yeah, well. Now it has a new stain."
"Thatís what friends are for."
"Yeah, I guess so. Iím hungry. Letís eat." Ray stood and reached out his hand to help Sara off the couch. She took his hand and then smiled over to Ben.
"Youíre happy arenít you." Ben grinned and winked at his wife.
"More than you will ever know."
"Címon. Letís go check on our daughter. Daddyís probably kissed the hair off her head by now." Ben chuckled as he stood and walked into the nursery. Ray left Sara and Ben and went into the kitchen with the rest of the family.
"Itís safe now. You donít have to keep hiding in the kitchen."
"Howís Sara." John looked hopefully at Ray.
"She snotted all over my shirt."
"Yeah, well, itís better than what she did to your car." Ray cringed at the thought of what had happened in his beloved GTO.
"I gotta burn those seats."
~~~~The house was finally quiet. All the guests had gone. Sara had such an emotional day that when she lay down on the couch she seemed to fall asleep immediately. Ben sat in the old rocker that Sara found in an antique shop in the nursery. His daughter cradled in his arms. Ben placed his hand near his daughterís small fingers. Carolineís small hand reached out and squeezed Benís index finger. Bob Fraser stood in the shadows of the darkened room.
"Have you properly met your grandchild?"
"Sheís one of the most beautiful babies Iíve ever seen."
"One of the most?"
"There was one other, Son. Just one." Bob gave his son an odd smile and Ben tucked his head in understanding.
"Sheís so small, so delicate."
"Yes, but if sheís anything like her mother, sheís tough as nails. Iím proud of you son. Youíve done very well for yourself." Caroline stirred slightly and gurgled while Ben rocked in the chair.
"I just hope I can be a good father."
"You will son. Just donít make the same mistakes I did."
"Oh, letís not skirt the issue. I know I wasnít there enough when you were growing up. But, I had a job to do. You have a different opportunity. You can be there for your child."
"I will be there for my child. I have to be. She and her mother are my whole life now. I canít remember what life was like without them." Ben kept his gaze on his childís face while Bob stared out the window.
"Thatís the way it should be son. I hope you never have to find out what it is like to be without them." With that Bob Fraser disappeared. Ben placed his daughter in the crib and then patted Dief on the head. Dief had taken it upon himself to personally guard the little one as she slept. In his opinion the baby monitor was not enough. He slept beneath her crib and listened to every sound.
"Come get me if she needs us. Donít wake Sara. Sheís had a long day."
~~~~Ray looked up to see what all the commotion was about. He dumped the paperwork he had been sifting through into a pile on his desk and made his way to the huddle of people gathered near the door of the station.
"Whatís going on?" He saw Sara turn around carrying Caroline in her infant car seat.
"Hey, thereís your Uncle Ray." Ray dropped his head slightly and grinned. He never thought that anything would sound so good to hear. Francesca rushed over and picked Caroline up.
"Thereís my precious baby." The other officers of the precinct gathered and cooed and babbled at Caroline as Francesca bobbed up and down with her resting on her shoulder.
"You people act like youíve never seen a baby before." Francesca glared at Welsh as he stepped closer to her.
"This baby is special. Sheís my niece."
Iím aware of who she is. Thatís why you need to get back to work and hand that little baby to me." A smile spread across her lips and she handed Caroline to a grinning Lt. Welsh.
"If you want to hold her, all you have to do is ask."
"Hewwo, baby. Hey there Carowine. Howís my sweet wittle girl."
Sara started laughing and punched Ray in the side.
"Thereís nothing like a baby to make a grown man sound like an idiot."
"Yeah, thatís what I hear. So what are ya doiní down here."
"We came to visit and get your car keys."
"Give me your keys."
"Iím sorry. Youíve seemed to misunderstand. I didnít ask you. I told you. Give."
"No way. That bossy crap donít work on me. I donít give the keys to the Goat to no one."
"Fine, I guess youíll just have to burn the seats then."
"What are you talking about."
"Iíve made you an appointment at Randallís to have the entire car steam cleaned and detailed. But if you wonít give me the keys, I guess Iíll have to call and cancel."
"Randallís! Thatís expensive!"
"Itís the least I can do for you. After all, I did taint the seats a little."
"Taint ainít the word. I get the willieís every time I drive it now."
"Thatís why I thought we better get it cleaned." Ray walked over to his desk and pulled the keys out of the top drawer and tossed them to Sara. Sara grinned and looked around the station.
"Now, where did my daughter take off too?"
"Welsh has her over in booking."
"Great. Weíll be back before lunch. You want to go grab a bite?"
"Sure. Fraser on duty?"
"Yeah, but we can get him for lunch. That way you can tell me what you have planned for tonight."
"Uh-uh. Nothiní doiní."
"Oh címon, Ray. You know Iíll find out sooner or later."
"My date with Natalie is none of your business."
"Where are you taking her?"
"Donít waste your breath."
"Are you going to the movies?"
"Iím not heariní you."
"She likes the theatre. Maybe you should take in a show."
"I think I liked it better when we werenít buddies."
"No you didnít."
"True. Why donít you go find your kid."
"Fine. Iíll take good care of the Goat. Iíll see you in a bit." Sara waved her good-byes and went to booking to retrieve her child. Ray shook his head and laughed as Sara breezed out the door.
~~~~~"Where do you think heíll take her?"
"Thatís really none of our business."
"Oh, shut up." Ben laughed as he fed Caroline a bottle while Sara folded laundry in the middle of the floor.
"I canít believe Ray asked Nat out."
"Why wouldnít he. They are both adults and perhaps they felt a certain attraction for one another that warrantedÖ.."
"Youíre killiní me here." Ben nodded his head and smiled while Sara picked up a stack of folded towels.
Ray stood outside of Dr. Natalie OíNeillís apartment door. He was nervous and he didnít know why. * Címon, knock on the damn door. You canít stand out here forever. She buzzed you in for Christís sake. She knows youíre here. * Ray knocked lightly on the door and waited for Natalie to answer.
"Hey. Come on in." Ray smiled as she pushed the door back for him to enter. His nervousness disappeared when he looked into those soft green eyes. Her long red hair was pulled back and twisted into a clip. She looked great in her short black dress and high heels. Ray ran his fingers through his blond hair. He was grateful he listened to Fraser and decided to wear his suit.
"You look very nice." Natalie blushed slightly and brushed a stray hair away from her forehead.
"Thank you. So do you."
"You ready for the night of your life?" Ray gave her a goofy grin as he held out his arm for her to take.
"Thatís a pretty optimistic outlook." Natalie laughed and looped her arm in his.
"Yeah, well. My glass is half full tonight." The two of them walked arm in arm down the stairs and to the street. Once on the stoop, Natalie stopped and pointed to one of the parked cars.
"Hey, look at that Goat. Wow! Somebodyís got a really nice car."
"You know about classic cars?" Ray tried to keep his excitement in check.
"Not all of them. My dad has a 1966 GTO. He loves that car. He only letís one other person besides himself drive it."
"Oh, yeah. Who?"
"Me. He always said I showed it the proper respect. Mom always hates it when he says that!" Ray slipped his arm from hers and took her hand. He smiled as they walked down the steps.
"Sure." Then Ray walked her over to the door of his prized GTO. She stopped and gave him a confused look.
"Yes maíam." He couldnít keep the smile from his lips as he opened the door and helped her inside the car.
He trotted quickly to the driverís side and took a seat behind the wheel.
"So, you gonna let me drive this beauty sometime."
"Letís not rush into anything! We barely no each other!" Both of them laughed as Ray pulled into traffic. He knew tonight was going to be fun.
~~~~"I hope this place is all right. I didnít know what you would like." Ray smiled as he exited the car and walked around to the passenger side.
"Iíve heard about this place. Itís supposed to be really good."
"I hope so. Iíve never eaten here either. Sara recommended it." The two of them entered the restaurant and were seated by the hostess. Ray breathed a sigh of relief that the restaurant wasnít too fancy. Sara had really done well by him this time. Ray pulled Natalieís chair out and then took a seat at the table. The waitress smiled and breezed through the specials as she handed them the menus.
"What do you think?" Ray looked the menu up and down while Natalie sipped her ice water.
"I think Iíll have the chicken in white wine sauce. That sounds great. What about you?"
"Iím lookiní at the steak. Give me a big hunk of meat any day." The two of them laughed comfortably and chatted while the waitress brought their drink orders.
"What are you doing?" Sara stood with her hands on her hips as she stared down at Dief.
He looked up and appeared to be grinning at her.
"Ben, what is your wolf doing to our child?"
"Heís playing with her."
"I can see that. But do you think itís sanitary for him to licking our childís feet." Dief whined and lowered his head, obviously insulted.
"She loves it."
"She loves it huh?"
"Dief, show her." Dief perked up and vigorously licked Carolineís tiny feet. She cooed and wiggled as she lay on the couch cushion next to Ben.
"My apologies. Dief, youíre a wonder." Dief ceased his licking and lobbed his tongue out of the side of his mouth. Sara took a seat on the floor next to Dief and rubbed the head of her daughter.
"Sheís so beautiful."
"She looks like her mother."
"Maybe sheíll grow out of it." Sara giggled while leaning over to kiss Ben on the cheek.
"How was your familyís trip home?"
"Good. Debi misses Ren."
"Really? The two of them seem to be quite smitten with one another."
"Smitten? Ben, theyíve been pawing all over each other the whole time Debiís been here."
"What!? Itís the truth. Debi says Renís a realÖ.."
"Sara, this is none of our business. I really donít want to discuss it."
"Okay, but sooner or later youíre gonna ask me and Iím not going to tell you." Sara smiled smugly at him while he gave her a disgusted look.
"I most certainly will not. It is absolutely none of my business how Debi and Constable Turnbull spend their time. Why she discusses such matters with you is beyond me."
"Debi and I are best friends."
"Yes, but you donít discussÖ..Sara? You donít do you?!"
"What?! Letís put it this way. Debi knows what a lucky woman I am."
"Oh, just that Iím extremely fortunate."
"This is really good. You should taste it." Natalie held her fork out for Ray to take a bite of her chicken. Ray smiled and leaned over the table slightly and allowed her to feed him. He was shocked at how comfortable they were together.
"Would the two of you like to order dessert?" Both looked up slightly startled at the waitress. She laughed slightly at them as Ray stuttered his reply.
"Oh, umÖno thank youÖthatís unless you would like something, Natalie."
"No thank you. Iím stuffed." The waitress smiled and placed the bill next to Ray.
"So you ready for an exciting evening on the town?" Ray cast her a sly grin.
"What do you have in mind?"
"Oh I donít know. Thereís this little place I know. Do you dance?"
"Well, I attempt dancing. Does that count?"
"Itís close enough." Ray stood and paid the bill. Natalie smiled when she noticed he left the nice waitress a very generous tip. * Damn, heís cute. *
"Shall we?" Natalie reached out and took Ray by the hand. The two of them were all smiles as they left the restaurant.
~~~~"This place isÖ.different." Natalie looked around at the small bar that Ray had brought her to.
"Youíll like it. Itís a lot better than it looks on the inside."
"I hope so." Natalie giggled and squeezed Rayís hand as they walked inside. Once inside, Natalie breathed a sigh of relief. The bar was clean and shiny. There was a band playing on stage in front of a small dance floor. There were a few pool tables and a dartboard in the corner.
"Would you like a glass of wine or something?"
"No thanks, Iím not much of a drinker. I donít really handle the stuff very well."
"Iíll remember that. What about a Coke er somethiní?"
"Thanks. That would be nice." Ray walked over to the bar while Nat found them a small table near the dance floor. For a Saturday night, it wasnít very crowed. Ray returned and placed two Cokes on the table.
"You could have gotten a drink."
"Nah, Iím driviní. Besides, I dance better sober." With a sly grin he offered his hand to hers.
"But, the bands playing a fast song."
"They wonít be for long. I know these guys."
"I see." Ray escorted Natalie to the dance floor and wrapped his arm around her waist. The band finished up the song and began to play a slow ballad. Natalie noticed right away that Ray was a fantastic dancer. The music washed over them like rain as they moved. The small lights around the stage cast majestic shadows across her face. Ray smiled as he guided her across the floor.
"Youíre pretty good."
"Thanks. I try." Natalie felt Rayís embrace tighten as he spun her around the floor. He slowed his steps and the two of them clung to one another. Natalie allowed herself to sink into his form. Ray rested his head next to her forehead while he breathed in the scent of her.
"I donít know. She wonít stop crying. Iíve fed her, changed her, rocked her. I donít know what else to do."
"Could it be gas?"
"I donít know. Call Dr. Vickers." Sara held Caroline in her arms as she screamed. Ben dialed the phone quickly and waited for the answering service to pick up.
"Sheís running a fever, Ben!" Ben nodded as he held the phone to his ear. "Letís just take her to the emergency room."
"Iíll get the car. Meet me out front." Ben hung up the phone and rushed down stairs. Panic was starting to creep in as he rode the elevator down to the parking garage. Sara cradled Caroline against her chest as she tried to soothe her.
"Shh, Mommyís here. Mommyís going to take you to the hospital baby. Theyíre going to make it all better. Mommyís not going to let anything happen to my baby girl." Tears had started to pour down Saraís face as she gathered her purse and Carolineís diaper bag. Within minutes, they were on their way to the emergency room.
~~~~Ben cradled Caroline to his chest while Sara ran ahead of him through the emergency room doors.
"Please, you have to help me. My daughter hasnít stopped crying and I think she is running a fever." The nurse looked sympathetically at Sara and then past her to Ben. She saw the fear and concern on each of their faces.
"Is this your first child?"
"Yes maíam." The nurse handed Sara a form and asked her to fill out the information they would need to examine Caroline. Ben continued to gently sway back and forth with Caroline in his arms to try to ease her crying.
Sara and Ben took a seat in the waiting room. Sara chewed on one of her nails while Ben tried to talk to Caroline.
"Shhh. Daddyís here. Itís going to be okay sweetheart. Mommy and I are going to take care of you. We love you sweetheart. Shhh." Caroline seemed to cry louder than before. Sara began to cry silent tears as Ben continued to rock in the waiting room chair.
Natalie felt somewhat disappointed when the music ended and Ray pulled away from her.
"They wonít play another one for about 15 minutes. You wanna shoot pool or play darts or somethiní?" Natalie twisted her nose and laughed.
"Darts! No thanks."
"Do you even know how to play?" Ray grinned at her as he placed his hand on the small of her back. She tucked her head slightly.
"No, not really."
"Címon, Iíll teach ya."
"You know, darts is a pretty dangerous game. I had to remove a dart from a little boys arm once."
"Kid musta had a lousy teacher."
Ray handed Natalie a dart and went over the rules of play.
"Okay, throw it." Natalie released the dart with the grace of a water buffalo. Ray ducked and laughed as the dart missed the board by a foot and stuck in the wall.
"Thatís not good, huh?"
"Uh, no. Here do it like this." Ray positioned himself behind her and placed his hand over her. He guided her hand back while he talked.
"When I tell you to let go, let go. And donít throw it so hard. Itís a little dart, not a bowling ball."
Ray guided her hand back and then thrust it forward.
"Now!" The dart sailed from Natalieís hand and landed soundly on the dartboard.
"A 20! See itís not so hard." Ray then realized that he had placed his other hand on Natalieís hip. He blushed slightly and pulled back. Natalie smiled and tightened her grip on his hand.
"So, you think I could do it again."
"Give it a shot. Youíll be a pro by the end of the night."
"Is she going to be okay, Doctor?" Sara tried to keep her voice even and calm, even though she wanted to scream at the doctor for being so calm while her child was screaming her head off. The worry was evident on Benís face as the doctor examined Caroline.
"Well, it appears to be colic."
"Colic? How? We use the bottles with the liners that have less air and Iím always sure to burp her andÖ."
"These things happen. Itís nothing to panic over. Most babies grow out of it in three or four months. Some parents have found a few tricks that work. Tilt them up a little more while feeding. Place a warm water bottle on the babyís stomach to ease the abdominal pain. I knew one couple that would hold their baby in their palms or on their legs on his stomach. It seemed to help. Youíll just have to figure out what works for little Caroline here."
"But, the crying? Is she in pain?"
"Discomfort may be the better word. Itís not harmful for her to cry. As long as you two donít get frazzled."
"Thatís not a problem."
"It will work itself out. Just give it time. I do recommend that you allow a friend or relative to keep the baby for an evening every once in a while. It will do everyone a lot of good. Trust me."
"Thanks, doctor." Ben extended his hand to the doctor while Sara picked Caroline up from the examining table.
"Sheíll probably fall asleep on the ride home." Sara smiled at the doctor and then to Ben.
"I hope youíre right."
~~~~Natalie and Ray clung to each other once again on the dance floor. It was nearly two in the morning and last call had come and gone. The band had agreed to play one last ballad for Ray. He and Natalie were taking full advantage of it. The song ended and Ray opened his eyes to meet the soft green oneís of the pretty doctor in his arms. He wanted to kiss her but something Sara said slammed to the front of his brain. *Donít kiss her on the first date. It will leave her wanting more. If you have to kiss her, kiss her on the cheek at her front door. Donít be a whore on the first date. * Ray chuckled slightly and Natalie smiled.
"Youíre just so pretty." Natalie blushed slightly and tucked her head.
Ray took her hand and waved goodbye to the band. They walked out to the GTO and Ray drove her home. He held both her hands while they stood on the front stoop of her brownstone.
"I had a really nice time, Ray."
"Yeah, me two. Can I call you tomorrow?" Natalie nodded at the boyish detective.
"That would be nice. Iím off this weekend. But, Monday Iím back on full rotation."
"You keep hours like I do huh?"
"Pretty much. I canít believe itís three in the morning."
"Time flies when youíre having fun." Natalie looked him in the eyes and purred, "It sure does." Ray used every ounce of self-control he had to keep from wrapping his arms around her and kissing her until the sun came up.
"Well, I better let you get some sleep." *Dammit! *
"Iíll probably sleep till noon. Goodnight, Ray." Ray leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek before she turned and went into her apartment building. * Ray, my boy, sheís a real nice lady. Donít screw this up.*
Ray was on his way home when he stopped at a stop light in front of Ben and Saraís apartment. Ben and Sara pulled through the light and pulled into the parking garage.
"What are they doing out at this time of morning?" Concerned, Ray turned and followed them into the parking garage. Pulling in beside them on Saraís side, he could tell that she had been crying.
"Hey, is everything okay? What are you doing out at this hour?" Ray held Saraís door open while Ben removed a crying Caroline from her car seat.
"We just got back from the emergency room."
"Emergency room?! Whatís wrong?!"
"Everythingís fine Ray. Caroline has colic."
"Colic. Itís like an upset stomach that doesnít go away for a couple of months."
"Geez, canít you get her to stop crying?"
"Thatís one of the things that goes along with colic. Weíve got to find something that will make her comfortable and allow her to sleep."
They all rode the elevator up to the apartment. Once inside, Ray could see how upset Sara was.
"You want me to call my Mom or somethiní?"
"Itís too late for that."
"Nah, she would be pissed if I didnít. I told her all about you guys. She loves babies, anyway." Before Ben could protest, Ray picked up the phone and dialed Arizona.
"Hey, Mom. Yeah, Iím sorry to wakeÖ..No maíam Iím fine. Itís Caroline. Ben and Saraís daughterÖ..noÖ.Mom, I need to ask you a questionÖ..Yeah, mom, I willÖÖMomÖÖMom, what can you do for colic?" Ray rolled his eyes at how his mother could talk so fast about so many different things.
"Yes maíam, thatís her crying. Huh? You kiddiní? okay. Hang on." Ray held the receiver away from his ear and reached for Caroline. Ben gently handed him his screaming child.
"Ok, Mom, you sure? Okay. Iíve got her." Ray sat down on the sofa and placed Caroline very carefully on her stomach on his thigh. "Okay, sheís still screaminí Mom. What? That ainít gonna hurt her is it? OkayÖ.hang on." Ray scooted her small body toward his knee so her head was resting on his kneecap. Then he started to gently bounce his leg up and down. "Okay, mom. Iím doing it. This ainít gonna give her brain damage or anything is it?" Sara and Ben sat on either side of Ray waiting to grab their daughter in case she toppled. Within a few minutes, her crying seemed to slow a little.
"Ben, it might be working." Sara looked over at Ben with relief in her eyes.
"Yeah, Mom, you can hear herÖ..okay, Iíll do that. No maíam, Iím eatiní. Yes maíam I will. I love you too. Thanks." Ray hung up the phone and smiled.
"Mom said I had colic for four months. This is the only thing that helped me. And rub your hand on her back like this." Ray rubbed small circles on Carolineís back until she barely whimpered.
"Ray, I could kiss you."
"Donít go slobberiní on me again."
Ben laughed and settled back into the couch cushion. It had been a long night. Ray continued to gently bounce Caroline while Sara fixed him a cup of coffee.
"I guess this means I have to sleep here tonight, huh?"
"Uh, yeah. Iíll tackle you to the ground if you try to leave."
~~~~"Whoa, you look like shit."
"Thanks Ray, you look like a million bucks yourself." Sara punched Ray on the arm as she walked into the kitchen. She grinned at the t-shirt and jogging pants of Benís he wore to sleep in last night.
"Heís taking a shower. Iím still too tired to think about lifting my feet over the tub."
"At least sheís slept for a couple hours now."
"I know. Dief has been watching her like a hawk. So howíd the date go last night?"
"Uh-uh. There is no way Iím spilliní my guts to you."
"I just asked if you had a good time! Geez, touchy touchy." Sara grinned as she pulled some eggs from the refrigerator.
"You gonna cook breakfast?"
"No. I like to take my eggs for a walk in the mornings, moron."
"I see we are all in a pleasant mood this morning." Sara and Ray barely acknowledged Benís remark. Sara pulled three juice glasses from the cupboard and poured them all some juice.
Ray shot Fraser an irritated look. "Are you always this chipper in the morning?"
"Even after only four hours sleep?"
"God, how can you live with someone like this, Sara?"
"What?! And Iím not Miss Mary Sunshine? Iím pleasant."
"Yeah, like a toothache."
"Bite me. Bacon or sausage or both?"
"Both." Ben smiled at the exchange between his wife and his best friend.
"How do you want your eggs? Scrabbled, scrabbled or scrabbled. Iím too tired for variety."
"Uh, how about scrabbled."
"Good choice." Sara cooked breakfast and sat the plates on the table in front of Ray and Ben.
"She cook like this every morning?"
"Uh, yes. Now that she isnít working."
"Iím moving in."
"Donít even think about it." Sara plopped the butter dish in the middle of the table and fell into a chair.
"Thanks for calling your mother last night Ray. That really did the trick."
"No problem Fraser. I canít stand to see the nose miner crying."
"Yeah, thanks Ray." Sara yawned before she could put a spoonful of eggs in her mouth.
"Sara, why donít you finish breakfast and go back to bed."
"But, I have to wash some clothes and clean the house."
"Iíll do that. You didnít sleep but maybe two hours last night. I know you checked on Caroline four more times after we put her down."
"I thought you were asleep."
"Oh címon, Sara. You know heís got that Mountie super hero crap stuff. You didnít wake me up though. I slept like a rock until Dief decided it was time for me to get up."
"He does that sometimes." Sara yawned again. This time Ben stood and gentle walked Sara to their bedroom.
Sara only mumbled a reply as she snuggled down in to the blankets.
~~~~~"She still sleepiní?"
"Yes. She hasnít been getting a lot of sleep since the baby was born."
"What about you? You canít be getting much sleep either." Ray helped Ben load the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.
"Well, I admit, sleep has been a luxury lately. But, I do get more sleep than Sara does. Sheís up feeding Caroline about every two hours or so. I try to get up, but she goes on and on about how I have to work."
"Itís amazing how Momís can do that stuff. Itís like something kicks in after a woman has a kid that makes them like super charged, you know." Ben chuckled and was about to tell Ray about the hormonal changes a woman goes through after pregnancy when Dief started whining at the kitchen door.
"Sheís hungry, huh?" Dief lobbed his tongue out of the side of his mouth. "Well, Sara made you a breakfast plate." Ben placed a plate of bacon, eggs and sausage on the floor for Dief while Ray rolled his eyes.
"Youíre gonna ruin him."
"I believe Sara has already accomplished that." Ben walked over to the refrigerator and removed a bottle of formula. He pulled a pot from the cabinet and started to heat some water.
"Why donítcha just nuke it?"
"Sara and I tried that once and it gets the formula too hot sometimes. We like doing it this way better. Ray, would you go get Caroline, please?"
"Go get her? Like carry her around?"
"Yes, Ray. Unfortunately she canít walk in here on her own."
"Ha ha, Fraser. But, I might drop her or something."
"Ray, you balanced our child on your leg last night for over an hour."
"Yeah, but my mom told me what to do."
"So whatís the big deal about carrying her in here."
"Iíve never really carried a baby before."
"Fine. Dief, watch the stove for me." Ben motioned for Ray and the two of them walked into the nursery. Ben and Ray stood by the side of the crib.
"First you place your hands under her shoulders and then use your fingers to support her head. Go ahead."
"Nah, I might crack her or somethiní."
"Ray, what if Sara and I need you to watch Caroline one evening."
"Thatíd be bad parentiní."
"Fine Fraser. But if I damage your kid itís not my fault."
"Understood." Ray gingerly placed his hands underneath Caroline and hoisted her to his shoulder.
"Howís this? This okay?"
"Thatís great Ray. Just always remember to support her head and everything should be fine."
"Right." Ray and Ben walked from the nursery back into the kitchen. Ben checked the bottle of formula on the stove and handed the bottle to Ray.
"What do ya want me to do with that?"
"Uh-uh. No can do. Iíll take her out for a burger when sheís older."
"Youíre determined arenít you?"
"Fine. But, how do I get her from up here to where she can eat?"
"Just turn her slightly until she is resting in the crook of your arm." Ray slowly moved Caroline from his shoulder into the bend of his arm. Then looked expectantly to Ben.
"Give her the bottle."
"Sheíll finish it, then you burp her."
"You have to remove the excess gas from her stomach Ray. Sheíll be uncomfortable if you donít."
"Why donít you do that part?"
"You have to learn sometime, Ray."
"Yeah, yeah." Ray placed the bottle in Carolineís small mouth and began to feed her the bottle. Before he realized it, Ray was grinning and making faces at her while she ate. Ben tucked his head and tried not to let Ray see him laugh.
"Iím going to go check on Sara."
~~~~"How does he do that?"
"I donít know. Heís gorgeous though."
"Mary! He can hear every word you say."
"So. He can hear me, but he canít move. I wonder how they train them to do that."
"Go on Jen, touch him."
"No! Are you crazy?!"
"Here, Iíll take your picture! Go stand beside him. You and Shirley put your arms around him."
Sara strolled down the street toward the Consulate. The days were warm and made her miss home more than anything. She had planned on spending the afternoon washing sheets and stripping beds, but Ma Vecchio had a way of getting her way. Sara grinned as she recalled the phone conversation the two of them had had that morning. "You bring my newest grandchild over here as soon as you can. Then you get yourself over to the consulate and pick up your husband. You two need an afternoon to yourselves. I know he gets off at four, so you have time to get things done for yourself and then spend some quiet time with Benton." Sara took a deep breath and smiled at the afternoon sun. She decided to take a cab to the park and then walk the rest of the way to the consulate. She didnít even bring her purse. She stuffed some money and her house key in the pocket of her jeans and set out to have an afternoon of fun with Ben. She tried to leave her cell phone at home, but the mother in her wouldnít allow it. She knew she would have to call and check on Caroline in a few hours. Sara approached the Consulate and slowed her pace. She saw three women standing extremely close to Ben and wondered what they were doing. As she walked closer she heard one of them dare the other to touch him. She stifled a laugh as she approached the trio. She could tell by their accents that they were more than likely tourists from somewhere down South.
"Shirley, put your arm around him." Sara positioned herself beside the women and joined them in staring at Ben. All he could do was stand and fall subject to whatever his wife fancied. He stared straight ahead, rigid as ever. Sara grinned and pulled out her best down home accent for the ladies.
"Hey, you want me to take your picture with him?" The women turned and faced the petite brunette and smiled.
"Oh would you? Weíre just visitiní Chicago for the week and itís hard to get pictures with the three of us."
"I donít mind at all. Where you ladies from?"
"Weíre visitiní from Atlanta."
"Really. Iím from Rock Hill."
"Goodness, itís a small world, isnít it?"
"Yaíll move in real close. Closer. Donít worry, he canít move. If he does, heíll get in trouble." Sara snapped the picture and smiled at the ladies as they giggled.
"Is he like one of those guards that guard the palace in England?"
"Kinda. Heís a Mountie. This is the Canadian Consulate. This oneís a real dollbaby, huh?" Sara stood in front of Ben and looked him up and down. *Oh Dear. What is she up to?!*
"I tried to get Jen to kiss him but she wouldnít."
"Mary! Shut up! Sheís gonna think weíre a bunch a wild women on the loose."
"Why wouldnít you kiss him, Mary?! Iím Sara by the way. Itís nice to meet you ladies."
"See, Jen. Sara thinks you should kiss him too!"
"You may not get another chance to kiss a Mountie. I hear theyíre very picky when it comes to women." Sara shot a look toward Ben hoping for a glint of a reaction. * Sara! What are you doing?! Please, donít let that woman kiss me. *
"You do it Shirley! Just put your arms around him and kiss him. Iíll take your picture."
"Ah, whatís the matter Shirley? Donít be chicken. Iíd do it if I was on vacation."
*SARA!!! How could you entice them on!? * The women started to giggle and laugh when Mary poked Sara in the arm.
"Why donít you kiss him?" Sara feigned embarrassment while she checked her watch. * 3:59. One minute. Benís gonna kill me, but itíll be worth it. *
"Me? Hell, why not. Get your camera ready. Iím gonna do it!" The three women looked at Sara with disbelief as she stood in front of the Mountie.
"How are you gonna reach his lips?" Sara tried not to burst into a fit of laughter as she climbed on the bench next to where Ben was standing.
"Howís this? You ready?" Jen, Shirley and Mary stood in shock as Sara leaned over and planted a huge kiss squarely on Benís lips.
"Oh my God, she did it! Quick, Mary, take a picture!" Mary snapped away as the clock chimed four oíclock. Ben wrapped his arms around Saraís waist and deepened the kiss. Sara started to giggle and tried to break the kiss, but Ben had other plans. * Two can play at this game. * He deepened the kiss and lifted Sara off the bench. Finally breaking the kiss he hoisted her over his shoulder and turned to face the now stunned ladies.
"Good afternoon, ladies. If youíll excuse me, I have to take care of some business in the consulate." Ben proceeded up the consulate steps with Sara grinning from ear to ear over his shoulder. She waved and shrugged her shoulders at the women as Ben closed the door behind them.
"See, Jen! I told you, you should have kissed him!"
"You think youíre funny donít you?!" Ben swatted Sara on the behind as he carried her back to his office in the Consulate. Sara could only laugh. She tried to catch her breath as the tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks.
"Oh, youíll pay for that. You would have let that woman kiss me! I know you would have. Really! You are incorrigible!"
"Yeah, but you love me." Ben stopped outside his office door and set Sara on her feet. He took her head in his hands and smiled.
"True." He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips.
"Hmmm. You ready for a day of fun?"
"Whereís our daughter?"
"Maís keeping her until nine tonight. She insisted, actually. So youíre going to have to entertain me until then."
"I think I can do that." Ben leaned Sara against the door of his office and trailed kisses down her neck.
"My, my, my. In the hall of the Consulate? Constable Fraser, how could you?" Ben chuckled slightly and turned the knob to his office. Sara stepped inside while Ben wrapped his arms around her waist.
"So, what would you like to do this afternoon?" Ben smiled down at his wife with an evil grin.
"Letís go to the movies." Disappointment flashed across his face as Sara laughed.
"Is there anything in particular you would like to see?"
"I hear ĎDudley DoRightí is pretty good." Before she could flee to the other side of his desk, Ben grabbed her and began to tickle her sides.
"I donít think that would be an acceptable choice under the circumstances."
"STOP! Stop! Iím gonna wet my pants! I will!" Ben laughed at Sara as she squirmed from his grasp.
"You always say that, but I have yet to see you do it."
"Oh, shut up! Letís go see if we can find something to fill our time, shall we?" Ben took Sara by the hand and the two of them left his office.
"Can I go home and change first?"
"I donít know. Maybe I should keep you like this. Those women may still be outside waiting for their turn to kiss you." Ben swatted Sara on the behind again as he held the door open for her.
Meg appeared in the hall as they left the Consulate. She shook her head and sighed. "Sheís going to give that man a heart attack."
Continued in Part 4