"And what would that be, Ray?" Fraser asked curiously.

"You." Was his partner's simply reply.

"Me?" The Mountie repeated in a surprised tone.

"Yeah." Kowalski nodded. "You." After letting a few moments of silence pass he continued. "You many not have noticed this Fraser, but I don't make friends very easily. I mean I have friends but not close friends, you know like buddies. Someone who puts up with my rough ways yet knows who I really am inside. Not many people know the real me. Hell even my parents don't know me that way." He dropped his eyes as he added. "Stella knew the real me and she rejected me." He lifted his eyes shyly to look at his friend and admitted. "You're the only other person I've ever let close enough to see that side of me and ah..." He cleared his throat as his voice began to crack. "...I, ah, I don't what to loose that." He dropped his head for a moment, unable to meet his friend's eyes lest the other man saw the tears he was fighting to hold back.

Fraser moved forward and placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Ray." He called softly, trying to make the other man reestablish eye contact. "Ray." He tried again. This time he was rewarded for his patience when the blond's head came up. "My father once told me that true, open friendship was something very rare and very precious and that when you found it you did everything in your power to keep it. My father was lucky he found that type of a friend in Buck Frobisher. The two of them were as close as brothers for most of their lives. I use to envy their relationship." He paused slightly to clear his throat before continuing. "I haven't had many friends either over the years. Growing up in the wilderness you don't have a lot of people around to make friends with. And then when I came to Chicago most people considered me too odd to bother to get to know. Ray Vecchio was my only real friend here. We've had our difference and more than one argument about my habit of getting him into trouble." Ray Kowalski smiled knowingly to himself about that remark but didn't comment. "When Ray went undercover I felt abandoned. I couldn't believe that he would just leave without even telling me." He dropped his eyes guiltily as he said. "I'm afraid I wasn't overly nice to you when we first met."

Ray shrugged slightly. "I don't blame you. You came back from vacation to find your partner gone and a stranger pretending to be him and no explanation as to why. To be honest I think that you handled the whole thing better than I would have. If our situations had been reversed I woulda probably kicked you in the head to make you tell me where my partner was."

Fraser lifted his eyes to meet the dancing ones of his partner. "I wouldn't doubt that for a second." He gave his friend a knowing smile before his expression sobered again. Reaching out he put a hand on the thin blond's shoulder and said. "Despite our rather rocky start, I want you to know that I consider our friendship to be one of the rare and precious kind." Dropping his hand and his eyes he shyly continued. "As you know I'm...I'm not very good at discussing my feelings. I tend to get...tongue-tied and I start to ramble." Rubbing his eyebrow with his thumb he said. "It's not that I'm ashamed of how I feel, I just haven't had much practice expressing my feelings. I..."

"Fraser." Ray interrupted, a mildly amused look on his face. When his friend looked at him he chuckled. "You're rambling."

"So I am." The Mountie blushed slightly with embarrassment. With a small sigh he continued. "My point is I consider your friendship as a great treasure. In fact, if I may be so bold as to say, you are the closest thing I've ever had to a brother and there isn't anything in this world, not even Ray Vecchio, that would cause me to turn my back on you and that friendship."

"That straight up?" Ray asked after a few moments silence. His tone reflected his uncertainty.

Fraser smiled slightly at the expression. "That's straight up."

Ray gave him a mischievous smile as he teasingly remarked. "You're a freak."

"Understood." Fraser replied, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Standing up Ray enveloped his partner in a big hug. "Love ya, Buddy."

"I love you too, Ray." Fraser returned the embrace warmly.

As the two men released each other Ray asked, a trifle nervously. "So, what should I do about Vecchio?"

"I'd take things slowly." Fraser advised thoughtfully. "You two don't have to be best friends overnight. I'm sure in time you'll come to appreciate one another." With twinkling eyes he added. "Especially if your planning on seeing Francesca socially."

Ray chuckled slightly. "Wouldn't Vecchio really flip if his replacement became his brother-in-law."

"So you're really going to ask Francesca out?" His partner pressed, a mildly hopeful look on his face.

Ray shrugged slightly. "I don't know. Maybe. I'll see."

Benton rubbed his eyebrow nervously for a moment before suggesting. "Tell you what, if you ask Francesca..." He paused for a moment before finishing. "...I'll ask Inspector Thatcher."

Ray's eyes widened at the proposal. Noting the red flush on his friend's cheeks he gently prodded. "You really like her don't you?" After a moments hesitation his friend nodded in affirmation. "Well than for your sake I'll drop the 'Ice Queen' bit." He smiled when he noted the grateful look in his friend's eyes. "So when are you going to ask her?"

"I don't know." The Mountie shrugged evasively.

"How 'bout today." His friend suggested, then before the other man could object he continued. "How about the minute we get back to the station we ask our respective ladies to dinner this Saturday night. How does that sound?"

Fraser took a deep breath and nodded in agreement. "Alright."

"And then if all goes well, we can be each other's best man." Ray concluded, a broad smile on his face.

Fraser returned the smile and mischievously replied. "That would be...greatness."

Ray's smile broadened as he threw an arm around his partner's shoulder and urged. "Come on, Benton Buddy. Let's go catch us some bad guys."

Fraser chuckled as Ray opened the bathroom door and replied. "I'll set them up, you knock them down."

"Forever, Buddy." Ray vowed as he followed his best friend out. "Forever."

The End

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