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Fic: Saying No

Fandom: due South

Pairing: Stella/Ray K

Summary: An epilogue to "Strange Bedfellows". Stella looks back on her marriage.

Rating: Teen for mild language and sexual situations.

Thanks to: My beta reader, misspamela.

Disclaimers: The concepts and characters herein are the property of Alliance. No money is changing hands.

Stella closed the door, leaving Ray outside.

She leaned her head against the door. Ray and his Mountie partner were talking. Ray said that she would be fine by herself. And she would be.

Having all Ray's attention and love focused on her made Stella feel she was at the bright center of the universe. Always had. Even before she found out that Frank was on the take, Stella knew he would never be able to do that for her. It didn't matter. She would leave that door closed and let Ray walk away.

It was so hard, sometimes, saying no to him. But that was her job. Ray was the eternal yes. Someone had to be sane, be safe, set boundaries. It was all about self-control.

No, I can't ride bikes today. No, this paper's due tomorrow. No, we might get caught. No, my pants stay on. No, not without protection.

No, not until I graduate. No, we can't afford that ring. No, you look exhausted. No, we're due at the Patterson's in 40 minutes. No, we'd be terrible parents. No, I don't want to be married to you anymore.

No, you can't come in.

Why did she always have to be the adult?

Finally, finally she could hear the two of them walking away down the hall.

Stella turned her back on the door. She was tired, but too keyed up to sleep. Her fingers brushed the end table where Ray had placed his gun. For years, the sound of Ray's gun hitting the dresser in the bedroom was her special lullaby. It meant Ray was home safe.

Stella stepped out to the balcony. For a moment she let herself feel Ray's hand at the small of her back, danced a few steps as if he were there with her. She looked up at the night sky where the bomb had exploded in a frightening, beautiful burst of light.

Stella moved into the kitchen to make herself some herbal tea. She had to be in court in seven hours. Just pre-trial motions, but she needed at least five hours of sleep to be at the top of her game.

The teakettle had been a wedding present from Ma Kowalski. It was a classic, from Marshall Field's department store. She'd never thrown it out. Oddly enough, it seemed to fit in fine among the sleek steel of her Braun kitchen. It had been like that, at first, with Ray.

When they were first married, Stella was in law school and Ray had just graduated from the Police Academy. He'd get home, and she'd be trying to cook dinner and complete the night's reading all at the same time. Ray would take over the food, and she would sit down at the kitchen table. They would tell each other everything, as if the events that occurred when they were apart weren't real until they'd been spoken aloud.

After a few years Ray was switched to the back shift, 2pm – 11pm. She was usually in bed by the time he got home, since she had to be at work by 8am. They made up for it on his days off, spending every minute possible together.

One night she woke up with Ray kissing her, urgently. She glanced at the clock and it was 2am. She tried to ask Ray what was going on, but he just slid between her thighs and started licking and stroking. He spent hours worshiping her body until she couldn't think, couldn't speak; she was nothing but a warm drowsy puddle of moans and twitches. Then he lay down next to her and went to sleep.

She stumbled into work the next morning and pulled Ray's reports for the day before. Ray and his partner had gotten a domestic call and arrived to find the woman bleeding out on the kitchen floor while her husband yelled at her to stop fucking around and finish making dinner. That was bad. The worse part was that it was their second visit to that address. A few days earlier they'd gone out there and found the man and woman arguing. The woman didn't want to press charges, so they'd let the guy off with a warning.

That night Stella had stayed up so that she could talk to Ray about it when he got home.

"Huh?" he said, when she brought up the woman's death. "Oh, it was no big deal, Stella. Not worth chewing over, now that I'm home." He wouldn't talk about it. He wouldn't talk about any of it. He wanted to protect her from all the nasty, sordid details of the job. Like she was some delicate flower. Like she wasn't the one prosecuting the worst of the human trash he spent his days arresting.

Stella had put aside an hour every week to skim through all of Ray's serious crime reports. Police reports had a stilted, formal language all their own, but she got good at reading between the lines. It made her a better prosecutor, knowing that a 415 was just disturbing the peace, but any officer responding to a 243 would be right on edge, wondering which cop had been assaulted and what he'd be walking into. She couldn't get the details from Ray's seven roundtables, standard CPD procedure anytime an officer fired his gun on duty. His actions were upheld each time. Nineteen excessive force complaints, above average for the department. She wasn't supposed to have access to those, but by that time she had her sources.

The three months Ray had spent with the tactical unit were a living hell. Chicago's Hostage-Barricade-Terrorism teams were known for their aggressiveness, even compared to SWAT units around the country. Stella had lain awake night after night, waiting for the phone call that Ray'd been hurt, been killed, all in the line of duty. Ray seemed happy there, and everybody seemed to think he had what it took, but she didn't. So Stella had asked Ray to get reassigned. He did it, no problem. "All you had to do was ask, Stella!"

The teakettle whistled. Stella pulled out a teacup and selected a chamomile tea bag from the glass bowl on the microwave. Honey from the cupboard. Stella didn't have a coffee pot anymore. She'd tried to give it to Ray last time he spent the night, a few months ago. He wouldn't take it, so she threw it in the trash. It had been foolish of her. Even though she didn't drink coffee, she should have kept the grinder and coffee maker, for guests. But she had needed to make a gesture, to prove to herself that Ray wasn't a part of her life anymore. Stella moved back into the living room, stepped out of her heels, and settled down on the couch with her tea.

Tactical might have gotten him killed, but it was undercover work that killed their marriage. A few days to start, then a week here and there, finally a whole month. He was good. Ray was very good at being whoever he needed to be to do the job, make the collar, bring down the bad guys.

Ray would come home to her at the end of an assignment, and someone else would be looking out of his eyes. Just for a day or so. Then he would be back with her, urgent, clingy, and desperate to please. She wasn't happy, and Ray could tell.

Ray had changed. He had always been willing to argue, push back against her. Now he just went along. They used to be fireworks in bed; sometimes tender, sometimes wild, always trying something new. This Ray was passionate but gentle, like he was afraid she might get hurt if he let go. The streets got the Southside boy with attitude that she'd married, and she was left with this … lapdog.

One day she realized she was being intentionally cruel to Ray, just to get a rise out of him. And he let her. Stella was a prosecuting attorney, with a 78% conviction rate. Words were her samurai swords, precise and deadly. She could feel this ugly urge, to dig her claws into Ray as deep as she could and rip him apart. She could do it, too. Stella knew all his weak spots, and he wouldn't fight back. Why wouldn't he stop her? What was wrong with him?

What was wrong with her?

She didn't like what she saw in the bathroom mirror that day. Once upon a time they were good for each other. But this, this was bad, and it would only get worse. If he wouldn't stop her, she had to stop herself. Stella walked out of the bathroom and told Ray she wanted a divorce.

Someone had to say no. That was her job, just like it always had been with them.

How was Ray doing now? She'd been worried when he took a long-term undercover gig, but posing as another Chicago cop shouldn't have been a problem. She'd started pulling Detective Vecchio's reports once a week. His solve rate was incredible. Ray was doing the best police work of his life with his new Mountie partner. But the two of them took insane risks.

The impression she'd formed from the reports had been reinforced over the past two days. Constable Fraser was a dangerous man. That gun-grabbing, bomb-tossing, Lake Michigan-diving maniac didn't have a "no" in him. He was going to get Ray into all kinds of trouble, and there wasn't a thing she could do about it.

Stella walked into the kitchen and washed her teacup, the long day catching up with her. Maybe, away from her, Ray would grow up a little. After all, last night she'd invited Ray in, and he'd said it wasn't a good idea. Maybe he could learn to say no. And if he didn't … at least she wouldn't be the one getting a phone call in the middle of the night.



( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 15th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC)
Oh, this is marvelous, so rich with insight. Wonderful.
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
Thank you, malnpudl!

I've never found Stella a very sympathetic character, so I was pleasantly surprised when the Stella Muse agreed to tell me about her marriage.
Jan. 15th, 2007 10:03 am (UTC)
Ohh, this is beautiful! I've always had a soft spot for Stella, and this is a lovely realistic character study, you get Stella so well, and Ray amazingly too. Wonderful and insightful, thank you for this.
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Ilassah!

I like the idea that Stella's reason for throwing him out is so different from what Ray believes it to be.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the feedback, umbo!
Jan. 15th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
This was excellent. I really like Stella, and I love what you've teased out of the show and extrapolated on here.
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, sdwolfpup!

I have an idea that the contentious give-and-take of Ray's relationship with Fraser is similar to his marriage to Stella, at it's best.

Researching the Chicago Police Department was fun, too.
Jan. 15th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
That was excellent. Really enjoyed it.
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Ithidrial!

Out of curiosity, are you a due South fun, or are you crossing the fandom line because I'm writing on the other side?
(no subject) - ithildyn - Jan. 15th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful story.
Jan. 15th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it, alwaysaddled!
Jan. 15th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
This is terrific insight into a character I never thought too much about. I love that this is lonely, and yet hopeful, for both Ray and Stella.

Thanks for sharing.
Jan. 15th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you, mmapmaker!

Definitely lonely for Stella. But no real regrests - she did what she had to, to protect Ray and herself.
Jan. 15th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
Beautiful insights into how their marriage could have played out.
Jan. 15th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah - dysfunctional, but not for the reasons an outsider might think.
Jan. 15th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)
I could totally see this happening! I love how you ended it, too - a quick mention of the Mountie and his role in Ray's life, as well as Stella's feelings about it :)
Jan. 16th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
It explains why Stella can't stand "the Mountie".
Jan. 16th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
You've made Stella nearly sympathetic here, a very hard thing to do in my opinion.

I do think, despite Fraser taking crazy chances, that he'll wind up being good for Ray. Don't know why.
Jan. 16th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
*smiles* I've never been terribly fond of Stella, myself.

I agree that Fraser is good for Ray, but I don't think Stella would.

Thanks for the feedback, mickeymvt!
Jan. 16th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
Very nice. I like reading stories that humanise rather than demonize Stella. And you've given us a very realistic look inside her head.
Jan. 16th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
One of my favorite things about fanfiction is that it can help us make sense of characters who never completely clicked as real people on-screen.

Thank you for the feedback, lucifercircle!
Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
this is gorgeous. could have been exactly how it worked out between them, and it fits with how she interacts with him on the show as well. this is beautifully written. i like to think there's more to Stella than what we see in canon. thanks. :)
Jan. 22nd, 2007 08:34 am (UTC)
Thank you izzybeth! And what a lovely icon.
Slipping into the cracks canon leaves is what makes fanfiction such fun!
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this story. This makes Stella make sense to me in a way she hasn't before. This description of their marriage is one of the most believable and in line with my own vision of fanon that I've seen yet.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Vee! I'd never found Stella a sympathetic character, so I was pleasantly surprised when a Stella Muse showed up and started telling me about her marriage.
May. 5th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Birthday feedback!

I've never been able to get inside Stella's head. I don't dislike her at all--I respect her, but I just don't identify very much with her. Which is why it's interesting to read other people's takes on her and the way she feels about Ray. I especially enjoy seeing her perspective on Fraser here. It seems like she thinks F/K wouldn't work--not that she thinks of them in romantic terms here (at least as far as I can tell), but she seems to think neither of them would have any caution. Which, yes, when I think about it--in Death-Defying both of them throw their whole life to the winds and run away with someone they've just met. *g*
May. 7th, 2008 06:32 am (UTC)
Thanks, luzula! Fraser and Ray don't have the slightest HINT of moderation in their souls.

This was one of my first stories in the fandom. Stella's a tricky character, but I'm happy with how this came out.
Oct. 19th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
That was great! Very insightful. :)
Oct. 19th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks plotbunniofdoom!
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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )