Rating: PG
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski
Thanks: Many thanks to Serial Karma for beta
Notes: Set directly after Asylum

Asylum's End

by china_shop

"Canadian Consulate. Constable Benton—"

"Hey, it's me. Game starts in forty minutes. Pick you up in ten."

"I'll be ready."

"I'm thinking Chinese. How 'bout you?"

"Sounds good."

* * *

As a rule, it takes Fraser 27 seconds to shower, and an additional 82 seconds to dry and dress. He has plenty of time.

The showerhead hisses to life. He strips and steps under the heavy spray, so that the flow is disrupted and chaotic, each individual stream rebounding at tight angles from his body. His skin constricts. Cold water is a time-honored technique for discouraging dallying.

As he soaps himself, he reviews the events of the day, allowing himself a moment's satisfaction at the success of his ploy. Cahill is out on bail already, of course, but the case is tight, and at least Ray can now return home to his apartment. Not that Fraser didn't welcome his company, but Ray was eager to leave. On top of that, Fraser is prepared to admit to himself, in the privacy of his shower, that he found Ray's restlessness at being confined to be subtly contagious.

Now, thankfully, he's soothed by the shush of water, the familiar motions of his hands, and the clean smell of soap. The tension washes away down the drain.

He squirts approximately 10 mls of shampoo into his palm, only hearing the clink after he's put the bottle back on its ledge. He bends and picks up Ray's bracelet, which has fallen to the shower floor, having presumably been knocked from a hidden position on the shelf. The beads are cold and heavy, glistening wet.

Ray must have left it here this morning. Must have taken it off during his own ablutions.

Shampoo in one hand, bracelet in the other, Fraser hesitates, then carefully fastens the bracelet around his wrist. That way he'll remember to return it to Ray, and it's in no danger of slipping down the drain. He proceeds to wash his hair.

The bracelet bangs against his wrist as he scrubs at his scalp. It moves around a little, but Fraser's arms are thicker than Ray's, so it doesn't go far. Fraser's seen how the bracelet sometimes rucks almost a third of the way up Ray's forearm, but it doesn't go more than an inch from the nub of Fraser's wrist, even when he gently tries to push it further.

He's sometimes wondered about its significance—whether it's a souvenir or a gift, or perhaps an indicator of some personal trait. There are precedents, after all, for such displays: wedding rings, bindis, and so forth. Perhaps the bracelet is a reminder of Ray's divorce. Fraser's never asked.

In the bright light of the bathroom, with the metal beads circling his arm like a promise, Fraser doesn't recognise his own hand. The rush of water is loud in his ears as he stares at the square nails, the curves of his fingers, and imagines them—different. Leaner.

He closes his eyes a minute, wrestling his baser impulses—and then throws the fight. He nudges the shower controls and the water softens into warmth, then heat.

The shower takes 4 minutes and 12 seconds.

* * *

Diefenbaker notices the bracelet, of course. He whines, and Fraser touches two fingers to the beads before shaking his head firmly. "You'd only lose it."

* * *

Ray pushes open the Consulate door in a burst of energy and leans there. "You ready?" He looks around. "I've spent enough time here in the last couple of days to last me a lifetime."

"I'll just lock up." Fraser switches off the lights in his office and the kitchen.

Ray twitches impatiently, stepping back as Fraser approaches so that Fraser can turn off the reception area light and precede him down the steps. It is a courtesy Fraser appreciates all the more for knowing it doesn't come naturally to Ray.

Fraser reaches for the hall light switch, and his shirt sleeve sags a little, revealing the bracelet still clasped around his wrist. He flicks the light off, hoping Ray hasn't noticed. There'll be opportunity to take it off unseen in the car, and then he can return it to Ray, pretending it's been in his pocket all along.

But when he turns to see if it's gone unnoticed, Ray is standing close behind him in the shadowy doorway, looking at him accusingly.

At least, Fraser presumes the look is accusatory. Caught out, he decides the only option is forthrightness. "By the way, Ray, I found your bracelet in the Consulate bathroom."

"Uh-huh," says Ray, and Fraser can't interpret the inflection. Perhaps careful neutrality?

His heart speeds up. He ignores it. "I put it on for safe-keeping. I'll just—" He starts to undo the clasp.

Ray stops him. His warm fingers brush Fraser's hand and wrist, and are gone. "Keep it."

"No, I—" Fraser wants to protest: it's yours, it's part of you, I like to see it against your skin—

Ray shakes his head, forestalling argument. "Keep it," he repeats. His voice is as shadowed as the hallway, as the planes of his face.

They stare at each other for a long moment. Fraser is aware of Ray's heat, but in the still night air he can only smell soap and the weakness of his own body. His breath dies in his throat, and he swallows hard. My partner and my friend.

He refastens the catch and lets his arms fall to his sides, the beads coming to rest against the heel of his hand.

"Okay," says Ray, as though Fraser has answered all the questions that loom silently between them. "Okay, come on. Game's gonna start."

"I'm ready," says Fraser, locking the Consulate door behind them, and walking side-by-side with Ray down to the car. His skin is tingling, his senses alive. The air is full of promise.

"Yeah," says Ray, sliding into the driver's seat and leaning over to unlock the passenger door. Fraser can just hear him over the roar of the city night. "Me too."

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