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Disclaimer: This story is written for the private entertainment of fans. The author makes no claims to the series' characters by the creation of this story. Fraser, Vecchio, Francesca et. al. belong to Alliance, Paul Haggis and all the creative genius who made this show so special. No infringement of any copyrights held by CBS, Alliance, CTV, TNT or any other copyright holders of due SOUTH is intended. 'Dracula' is a play based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. No money being made here.

Spoilers: Slight references to Victoria's Secret, and Pizza and Promises. It's set a little before 'Burning Down the House'. Praise, comments, questions and otters are all equally welcome--'though I do hope you'll enjoy! The muse needed a break from my Red Serge series. It's a silly little piece but I had fun with it! 'Thank you kindly!'

due SOUTH:
Frannie's Little Love Bites

By: Janice R. Sager
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"Where is he!!!" Frannie whispered desperately as she smoothed the line of her Victorian costume. The crowd on the other side of the curtain was getting restless. It was fifteen minutes past curtain time and the lead actor hadn't shown up!

Meg Thatcher paused in her pacing to listen to her headset. She had volunteered to act as stage manager for the Police Benefit Play of 'Dracula' as it was to benefit a local halfway house for runaways. As such, she was tied into the sound and lighting booth at the front of the auditorium. "Oh dear," she sighed. "All right, I'll tell them. No, we'll have to make an announcement and give them back their money."

"Give them back their money!" Frannie exclaimed, over hearing the conversation. "What's going on? What do you mean, 'give them back their money'. We can't give them back their money! This is for charity! Where the hell is that hot shot actor anyway?"

"I'm afraid Mr. Gregory is at the hospital having his arm set. He took a nasty fall about an hour ago and broke it."

"Broke it!" Frannie cried in an hysterical whisper, spinning around in a circle with her hands in the air as she struggled to find some impossible solution to the dilemma. The rest of the cast and crew were drawn to her in concern and now learned the enormity of their little disaster. "Dracula broke his arm?! We can't have Dracula in a cast for Pete's Sake!"

"Exactly," Thatcher replied matter-of-factly. "And as this was to run only three nights, and it wasn't felt an understudy was needed, we have no Dracula. Therefore, no show. We have to apologize to the audience and give them their money back."

"Oh God," Ray groaned and bowed his head in defeat. "There goes the halfway house." He lifted his head to meet the concerned eyes of his fellow officers and volunteers. They all knew that the halfway house was under the gun. The city had given them three months to make necessary repairs or they would condemn the building. Volunteers and other organizations had helped with the plumbing, electricity and interior walls --but the building needed a new roof and that didn't come cheap. This charity play staring John Gregory, a Tony Award winning Broadway actor, was supposed to help pay a large percentage of replacing it. And now there was only two weeks left to the court order. Not enough time to throw something else together.

"What a minute!" Frannie cried and turned to smile ecstatically at Fraser. "You can do it!"

Fraser blinked in surprise as he suddenly found himself the center of attention.

"Do what?" Ray wanted to know, eyeing his sister suspiciously. Fraser might be superman in disguise when it came to police work but Ray couldn't see how he was going to--Oh God! She couldn't mean--

"Play Dracula!" she confirmed the crazy thought. "He was the Assistant Director. He's gotta know the part! You do, don't you Benny?"

"Ah, well, yes," he admitted reluctantly, "but--"

"Leftenant Welsh was the director," Turnbull offered helpfully, only to be awarded several matching sets of frowns. He immediately dropped into his mediative stance and started intoning, "Think yellow, think yellow."

"I can't see Welsh playing Dracula, Constable," Meg voiced everyone's reaction and turned to frown at Fraser again.

"And you think Benny can?" Ray asked in quiet disbelief. He could picture Fraser doing a lot of things but --He suddenly remembered him as Billy Bob Fraser, used car salesman extraordinaire. The man couldn't even tell a lie to sell a car! "He couldn't act his way out of a paper sack!"

Fraser frowned sharply at Ray in surprise.

Francesca threw Ray a look that said in no uncertain terms, 'Drop dead, bro.' She turned pleading eyes once again to Fraser and placed her trembling hands on her bosom. Fraser watched her every gesture with a riveted stare --until Inspector Thatcher thumped him firmly on the back.

"He's a Mountie," his superior defended him before he could respond. "He can do anything. Right Fraser?"

Oh dear... "Yes, but--"

"No buts Fraser!" Frannie said firmly. "This is for the kids! You can't let them down." Her eyes pleaded with him again and her bottom lip quivered just the tiniest bit.

The kids. Yes. Francesca was right. One thought of what it would mean if the halfway house were closed was enough to straighten Ben's back and have him give Inspector Thatcher a determined nod. He could do this, despite Ray's thoughts otherwise. He lifted a hand to smooth the flannel shirt across his chest. He would do this. He was a Mountie!

"Take off the coat," Thatcher ordered and frowned sharply as Fraser obediently shrugged out of the leather jacket. "There's no way you're going to fit into Mr. Gregory's costume. We'll just have to do without."

"Dracula in blue jeans?" Ray echoed incredulously.

"Should we all go modern?" Dewy asked from where he stood dressed for the part of Harker, Lucy Seward's fiancee.

"No time," Thatcher decided firmly as the sounds of the crowd beyond the curtain grew steadily louder. "Places everyone. Turnbull get me Dracula's cape. Lighting," she depressed a control for her headset, "lower the house lights. Curtain in three minutes. With me Fraser, now!"

Fraser was caught up in the necessity of a more than quick make-up job even as he heard the curtain go up and the first lines of the play being spoken. The cape was swept about his shoulders and tied in place.

"Concentrate on the part Fraser," Thatcher was telling him. "Forget you're a Mountie. You are the Prince of Vampires, Count Vladimir Dracula, un-dead king for more than four hundred years. Mortals are mere play things for your amusement and sustenance."

Fraser regarded Meg with a slightly impatient frown. She was quoting words that he had said himself when helping Mr. Gregory get into character. He was quite familiar with the part. It was the audience that was sending his stomach into a roller coaster ride.

"Believe it Fraser," Meg told him firmly. "If you believe it, the audience will too --no matter what you look like."

Fraser swallowed hard and shoved the image of himself in blue jeans, plaid flannel shirt and classic opera cape from his mind. Or tried to. He was going to look ridiculous!

Thatcher latched onto his arm and dragged him out of the dressing area to his entrance mark. A quick listen told him exactly where they were in the play. Oh dear...

Thatcher took one look at his slightly panicked expression and shook her head. "The kids Fraser!" she whispered firmly.

The kids. Yes. Remember the kids. Forget the audience. Remember the kids. And there was his cue.

Frannie screamed.

It was a good blood curdling scream that rang in the rafters of the old playhouse and shook the cobwebs, startling the audience with its intensity. She actually heard a few gasps as she carefully 'fell' to the couch behind her. She swallowed the desire to smile and forced her fluttering hands to lie still as she feigned a good old fashioned faint.

Ray, playing VanHelsing, and Cooper, as Dr. Seward her father, rushed to her side, holding their wooden crosses before them as they checked her pulse and had their little chat about her. 'Hurry it up bro!' Frannie fumed, dying to get onto the next scene. She hadn't even contemplated this one when she volunteered Fraser for the part. Now--

Her stomach did a wonderful little butterfly dance as she thought of what was to come. Mr. Gregory had been good but Fraser-- She'd done a crazy little dance backstage when she had remembered the scene and realized what it meant.

He had to kiss her!

And not a little peck either. A real kiss. Then she would faint again, he would bend her back over his arm and bite her throat. Oh YEAH! She was ready for this. And she was going to enjoy every soul tingling moment of it!

Ben stood behind the flat, listening to the discussion between VanHelsing, Seward and Harker, and actually felt his palms pop a sweat. He had to consciously deepen and slow his breathing, concentrating on the character. He was not Benton Fraser. He was Count Vladimir Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Vampires. He was toying with these mortals, seducing the lovely Lucy Seward, using her to monitor that fool VanHelsing, using her to satisfy his base carnal--

Oh, this wasn't working!

He swallowed around a dry throat. His T-shirt seemed to have suddenly shrunk and he gave the collar a little tug.

Okay, let's try it again, he told himself as he took a deep steady breath. He was a vampire. He was hungry--

Great Scot! The images that conjured were even worse!

Huey was suddenly beside him with a sharp and impatient gesture. Oh dear. He'd missed his cue. Fortunately the scene was such that the momentary delay would only add to the drama rather than detract.

He stepped to his mark in the shadows and Huey signaled the lighting booth. Lights flashed behind him, seeming to backlight his cloaked figure in lightening before he stepped into the room -- and into the story.

Yes. That was the key.

This was a story. And he was a storyteller. He told stories all the time. He could do this.

Frannie watched a small sliver of the set through barely opened eyes. 'Come on, Frase,' she thought furiously, 'don't get cold feet on me now!'

She couldn't see the point where Fraser made his entrance, but she saw his shadow cast across the stage as the 'lightening' flashed. A moment later, the sound booth triggered a soft roll of thunder and the lighting shifted to a red wash, signifying Dracula's presence. She pictured him in her mind easily, standing with silent authority and menace just within the room.

The audience fell even more silent than before. There were none of the murmurs that had greeted his first entrance. They'd forgotten his lack of costume long ago. She listened for him to come forward but he moved with such graceful quiet that the gentle touch of his hand on her hair was a surprise. A shiver of anticipation rippled through her body. She could only hope that no one noticed; or, it they did, that they attributed it to her acting ability and not an unconscious reaction to his touch.

He moved to her left, walking slowly behind the couch, trailing his hand downward in a seductive path over her shoulder, down her arm, hip, thigh, and knee.... Mr. Gregory had wanted this Dracula to be as sexy as Hell. The blocking in this scene was designed to mesmerize the audience into the same seductive spell Dracula held over Lucy.

Fraser moved beyond the foot of the couch and paused about ten feet away, drawing out the moment to its full dramatic potential. He then turned slowly and Frannie could see his face for the first time.

Oh God--

If only he would look at her like that for real! Well, this was real, but it was Dracula, not Fraser. But then again, an actor was merely someone who was skilled at exposing different parts of their inner self, so by that argument what Frannie was seeing was--

Oh God!

It was Dracula, not Ben, who turned to look at Frances-- Lucy Seward. Dracula wanted this woman as his bride, to stand beside him through eternity. He would have her -- and damn anyone who got in his way! It was Dracula who flung his arm toward her and mentally commanded her to rise--

But it was Ben who watched that boneless motion as first her chest lifted, small perfect breasts straining against the low cut black Victorian gown, her head and arms falling back as though she were being drawn upward by an invisible string, her neck arching backward in a seductive curve as her slender torso came upright. Only then did her head lift, slowly, and her eyes open to meet his own.

Oh God--

Ben felt his heart rate increase, felt a tremor shake his fingers and his breath catch in his throat. He had faced down criminals intent on killing him, even tasted death itself, but he had never seen such naked, unadulterated --

hunger --

Oh God!

Ben shoved his instinctive panic aside and concentrated on the kids, on the story, on the character-- It was Dracula who turned his hand over, palm up, and drew her toward him with his fingers. She stood, slowly. Ben wasn't surprised by the stab of desire the graceful movement awoke within him. He had often fought such inappropriate feelings in regard to Francesca. Only now he realized, they weren't inappropriate. They were perfectly in character for Dracula. As Dracula, he was free to explore and enjoy those feelings he'd always sought to deny. As Dracula, he was free to cast aside the veneer of gentlemanly politeness and acknowledge that there was a very real part of him that wanted to revel in those feelings. As Dracula, he could take Francesca Vecchio in his arms and admit that he very much wanted to kiss her.

Frannie kept her gaze locked with Ben's as she moved forward, slow step by slow step, ignoring the riotous fluttering of her heart. This was it. Oh God, at long last Benton Fraser, Mr. Perfect Mountie and Gentleman was finally going to kiss her! She had dreamt of this moment, planned for it, prayed for it. She didn't care that it was only a part in a play, that it was only an act of duty on his part, that all he really wanted was to save the halfway house--

Her breath caught in her throat as she slowly closed the distance between them and she saw the pulse point in his neck -- racing.

Her eyes searched his. Ben? Nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Prince of the un-dead stood before her, eyes enthralling, mesmerizing. He beckoned with his outstretched hand, the fingers shaking as he threaded them through her hair and drew her against him, pliant reed meeting flaming steel. A flush of anticipation flashed through her, swelling her breasts, tautening her nipples and settling with a searing warmth in the pit of her belly. He spoke her name with his eyes and it resounded in her depths. The warmth exploded into bubbling mercury. Hot. Heavy.

Those eyes!

Senses shut down, yet became selectively acute. She heard his hissing intake of breath and reason melted in a flame of passion. White heat cauterized her flesh as one hand drifted downward to touch her throat. Impossible to feel more she thought -- and then his lips brushed hers.

Ben closed his eyes and bent his head forward. He'd seen Francesca searching his eyes, seen the recognition of what she found there. Knew that she knew -- and he didn't give a damn! Later, he would be embarrassed. Later, he would apologize. Later, he would convince himself that he'd merely gotten too deeply into character. Later--


The feel of Francesca's tiny, exquisite form molded to his-- The scent of Passion Flower perfume mixing with chamomile from her shampoo-- The rustling sound of her skirt as he crushed her to him-- The silence as they both held their breaths and his lips claimed hers--

Ray stared, speechless as he stood in the wings and watched his best friend and sister. Had he actually said Ben couldn't act his way out of a paper sack? Where the Hell had the Mountie learned-- Hell, that wasn't the Mountie! The Mountie should have taken one look at the smoldering gaze Frannie had sent him and disappeared down the trap door. Instead, he'd returned it -- with interest! The two of them were practically setting the stage on fire!

Unbidden, her arms lifted to wrap themselves around his neck. A deep shudder shook the rock hard form that held her as Ben's mouth opened against hers, his tongue darting out to taste her lips. Her own tongue was there to meet it.

She tasted-- She tasted-- God, there weren't words to describe how she tasted! She was like the moon's caress on a snow covered meadow, the first cry of a new born baby, the final piece in the puzzle of life-- His heartbeat thundered in his ears as their tongues dueled, frolicked and played, twisted and twined... in a choreographed dance older than time.

Meg realized her mouth was literally hanging open at about the same time her body convinced her that it was time to breathe again. Her convulsive gasp sounded like a thunderclap to her ears. Then again, a dropped pin would have sounded like a gun shot in the silence that entombed the small theater.

Some small part of Ben registered that tiny gasp, knew it wasn't Francesca's and remembered where they were. Reason returned, but didn't quench the fires that had been ignited. He wasn't finished enjoying himself yet. The scene wasn't over. He didn't have to return to reality ... yet.

Not quite yet.

Reluctantly, he ended their kiss, moving his mouth to trail across her cheek as he shifted his hold on her and bent her backward.

Frannie too had heard that gasp -- and cursed it for shattering the mindless perfection of the moment. She was literally boneless as she obeyed Ben's unspoken command and fell backward against his arm, trusting totally to his strength to hold her. In truth, she doubted she could stand. She let her arms fall as well, too shaken by the kiss to do anything else.

Only Francesca's erratic and shallow breathing told Ben that the woman in his arms had not succumbed to a true faint. He paused a moment to savor the sight of the delicate column of her neck, arched back in clear invitation, laying bare the frantic pulse that matched his own and the sex flush that had risen to stain her skin.

Frannie gasped as his teeth lightly nipped at her throat. It wasn't in the script. It wasn't something she'd rehearsed with Mr. Gregory -- but she could no more prevent it, or the soft moan that followed, than she could stop the sun from rising tomorrow.

'Now! Now!' Thatcher gestured frantically at the stagehand in the opposite wings who was suppose to be working the curtains. He was as enraptured as the rest of the audience. Ray however saw her and shook himself free of the spell Ben and his sister had woven. At least enough to frantically grab the ropes away from the dazed stagehand and give them a sharp jerk.

He realized immediately that he had pulled the wrong way and quickly tugged on the other rope -- only to discover that it wouldn't move! He tugged harder, his gaze following the line of the ropes upward, over and through the pulley -- Damn it! It had jumped the pulley. The rope was jammed!

Francesca's gasp sent a flood of primal desire searing though Ben's veins. Her gentle moan as his tongue gently caressed the tender flesh his teeth had teased was more intoxicating that any liquor. Her heartbeat fluttered against his lips as she trembled in his arms--

Thatcher glanced from where Ray was frantically snapping the curtain rope up and down in an attempt to free it and back to the center of the stage where Fraser was going after Miss Vecchio's neck as if it were the most delectable of morsels. And Frannie was clearly enjoying every incredible moment of it. Meg could practically smell the musk from here! Damn, what she wouldn't give to be in that little imp's shoes!

Frannie knew every eye in the theater was on them. Every woman wished to be her and every man wished to be Ben. Somewhere in the recesses of her blood-starved brain, she knew that the curtain should be closing, that they should be breaking apart. But she didn't care. Her every thought dwelled around and within the sensation of Ben's mouth on her throat. God she didn't care! The heat of his lips wasn't merely burning her skin, that heat branded her. She couldn't move. She didn't want to move. She wouldn't move!

Damn it!” Meg hissed into the headset and quickly retrieved her purse. It took her only a moment to fish out a large pocketknife and flip it open. A few quick strokes with the razor-sharp edge and she sliced through the control rope on her side of the stage. Grabbing the heavy material of the curtain, she shoved it before her, manually hauling the thing closed.

God!” Ray exclaimed, hurrying forward. It became immediately obvious that the pair was too far-gone in their own world to realize that the curtain had finally closed. “Get a bucket of ice water for these two!”

Thatcher joined him a moment later and together they managed to pry the lustful pair apart as thunderous applause rose on the other side of the curtain.

“You'd think the play was over!” Ray grumbled as he dragged Benny away, surprised not to hear anyone yell for an encore as the stagehands scrambled around them to change the set. “Come on, Lover-boy, you've got another scene to do. Get your mind back on the script and off my sister. We'll talk about your Academy Award winning performance just now as soon as this is over!”

Ben blinked his dazed eyes as Ray's words finally penetrated and set off an alarm. He glanced from Francesca who was being supported none too gently by Inspector Thatcher to his friend who was dragging him off the set--

“Oh dear--”

Ray laughed but there was no mirth in it. “That doesn't even come close to it, Benny! Not even close!”

Ben's face was beginning to hurt as he stood to one side, smiling politely at one and all. He had been ordered to attend the cast party, else he would have been safely home composing some kind of apology for Francesca -- and nursing his embarrassment, rather than a watered down glass of ginger ale. Never in his life had he been more tempted to down something with a definite kick to it!

He'd been lauded and praised repeatedly. Even Mrs. Vecchio had embraced him, congratulating him on a most 'remarkable performance', while her son glared daggers at him and Francesca suppressed a giggle. Lieutenant Welsh had been more subdued but no less complimentary, expressing surprise but no hint that he suspected there was more than acting involved.

There had been talk of extending the run for another weekend, but Inspector Thatcher had cut that short by saying he needed to work, as she was going to be out of town. He hadn't been aware of those plans previously but assumed it was a last minute meeting of which she had failed to tell him. Then again-- the looks that he occasionally caught thrown his way as she mingled with the other guests said that she would like to find some emergency work with which to slap him for the remaining two nights of the play as well -- but couldn't quite bring herself to do so because of the kids. He wasn't quite sure how he had offended her, but he suspected he would be standing sentry duty for the next several weeks in any event.

He had yet to hear Ray's full reaction to his -- ahem -- 'Oscar level drooling session'. The man was quite mad at him, of that there was no doubt. Ben was certain he was in for a lecture the likes of which he hadn't received since his grandfather caught him and Silvia Thomas skinny-dipping when he was ten! He'd been far too innocent then to understand the dangers and repercussions his grandfather had tried so patiently to explain.

But Ben was no callow youth anymore, and his reactions to Francesca Vecchio had been anything but childish! He still wasn't quite sure what had come over him and he needed some time to come to grips with--

Hi, Frase.

Ben felt the air catch in his throat as something warm and inevitable coursed though his extremities. A cold knot of panic tightened in his gut as he glanced to his left to discover that Francesca had slipped free of her brother's over-protective cocoon and was smiling coyly up at him.

He also notice the colorful scarf that she'd tied about her neck, hiding the evidence of his shameful loss of control--

He should apologize, he knew, but one look in her eyes told him it would be useless. She would know how empty it was, would perhaps even be hurt if he tried. Oh God, he wasn't ready for this! He wasn't ready to accept what he'd done and--

“I -- ah -- I have to -- ah -- make sure Turnbull locked the scarf--car! Locked the car,” he corrected himself, feeling another major blush threatening. He quickly pasted a smile in place and made his escape, “Excuse me.”

Frannie smiled behind her drink as she watched Ben make a hasty retreat. He could run, but he couldn't hide. She knew the truth of what she'd seen in his eyes. She knew the reason behind the sharp little gasp he'd given when she'd come up and said his name. And she knew that the truth scared him half to death.

She knew why.

She wasn't sure that she, or any woman, could heal the scars that bitch Victoria had left on Ben's soul -- but she was going to give it one hell of a try! She didn't know the full story of what had happened, there was a lot Ray refused to tell her, but she knew enough....

She also knew, that Ben hadn't been thinking of anyone else as he kissed her tonight. She knew that she'd gotten under his skin. She had gotten a glimpse of that part of him that he liked to pretend didn't exist. He could pretend it was all an act -- but she knew better. Two more nights-- She had two more nights to help him forget pretense and embrace the truth, to help him see the beauty of what was already blossoming between them. It might frighten him but she would be there to help him every step of the way. A thrill of anticipation shot a delightful shiver down her spine.

Two more nights….. She sighed and allowed herself to imagine the slow progression of their love, of making Ben realize they were meant to be....

Oh, Drat. Now she was going to have to go to confession again!

The end

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