Rating: PG
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski
Thanks: Sparkly grateful thanks to joandarck for beta
Notes: For the Date challenge on ds_flashfiction

By Any Other Name

by china_shop

Fraser watched as Ray prodded his dessert with his spoon. Their conversation had ranged widely as they'd sampled the delightful Turkish food at Cafe Istanbul, but now it had stumbled to a halt. Ray seemed lost in thought, and Fraser was distracted by the sight of him, his sweatshirt sleeves pushed up carelessly and unevenly, the glitter of his stubble.

Ray tapped his spoon against his plate, and then leaned forward and blinked up at him. "What is this, Fraser?"

Fraser glanced from Ray's oddly intense expression to the tip of his spoon. "It's a date, Ray."

Ray mouthed the word as though he'd never heard it before. Date. Then he dropped his spoon with a clatter and leaned back in the booth, his eyes once more fixed on his plate. "You think so, too, huh?" he asked in a low voice.

"I'm fairly certain," said Fraser, eyeing the fruit. He opened his mouth to identify the genus, and explain how dates were used to supplement camel feed in the desert, but Ray interrupted, nodding.

"Yeah, yeah. I mean, I want it to be, but— I didn't know. A date. That's like— that's like there's intent to, uh, you know, do stuff."

"Stuff," echoed Fraser faintly. He experienced a moment of dissonance, and then realized that they were not, in fact, talking about fruit. His mouth went dry. "Ah."

Ray's gaze flicked up to meet his, and then resumed examining the pudding. "Stuff," he said. "You have no idea the stuff I want to do."

Fraser tried to ignore the flush that was creeping up his neck. It wasn't as though such a possibility had never occurred to him — not only was he attracted to Ray, but he was also increasingly fond of him, protective and concerned for his welfare — but after the Stella affair, Fraser had concluded that Ray was uninterested, and done his best to divert his energies into work and friendship.

It would seem he'd been too successful, and had managed to blind himself to Ray's feelings in the process. "Perhaps we should start at the beginning," Fraser said, now, carefully.

Ray nodded. "Take it slow," he said. "Yeah, okay. Okay. But you do want to take it, right? We're—"

A question. An invitation. A doorway to a whole new world. Fraser regarded his partner, hair burnished by the lights, and his throat constricted, emotion rushing in like blood to a limb once a tourniquet had been removed. "Yes."

Ray tilted his head, and finally met his gaze head-on, and Fraser swallowed at the intensity he saw there. Blood pulsed in the base of his throat. "You sure?" Ray asked softly. "Because once we start this, I do not know if we can get the worms back in the can, Fraser."

He was right, and Fraser knew he should stop, think, evaluate, but his instincts took charge. "Ray."

The corner of Ray's mouth curved up, and he scratched his jaw with his thumbnail. Then his eyes dropped to Fraser's mouth, and he — seemingly unaware — brushed the ball of his thumb back and forth across his lower lip.

Fraser's breath caught, and he closed his eyes, folding his arms on the table in an effort to keep his hands to himself. The air between them hummed. It was a moment before Fraser could trust himself to open his eyes again.

"Jesus," breathed Ray, half-laughing. He stretched his neck out, and then rolled his shoulders, obviously trying to release tension. Fraser couldn't tear his eyes away. Ray bent his head to his dessert again, picked up his spoon. "Take it slow. Right." He prodded the fruit in his bowl, and said in a roughened voice that was clearly intended to be casual and conversational, "Jeez, what is this?"

Fraser opened his mouth, hesitated, and then said, perfectly truthfully, "I believe it's the fruit of a phoenix dactylifera."

Ray looked at him a moment, a teasing glint in his eye, then shook his head. "Yeah? And what's that when it's not wearing a toga?"

Fraser smiled and crossed his fingers under the table. Ray was no fool, and it was worth a small white lie to avoid disrupting their newfound understanding. "It's a prune, Ray."

Ray blinked, grimaced in exaggerated disgust, and shoved his plate aside. "Yuck. Those are old people food." He took a deep breath. "Come on, let's get out of here."

"As you wish." Fraser reached into his hat for an appropriate number of bills. "Though, Ray, they can be quite delicious—"

"Yeah," said Ray. "But I got better things to, uh, taste right now. You know what I mean?" He stood up, and lead the way to the door.

Fraser followed. A couple were coming in from outside, and Fraser took advantage of Ray holding the door for them to crowd discreetly up behind him, rest his hand on Ray's hip in the shadow of the door, and murmur in his ear, "I believe I do at that."

Ray leaned back against him. "Pushy guy," he said under his breath. "I like that." They walked out into the night, and Ray shook his head, sadly. "I can't believe I nearly ate prunes on our first date. That is not cool."

"It's not important," said Fraser, and pulled him into a shadowy recess between two buildings, and kissed him hungrily, pre-empting his own fears. "A prune by any other name—"

Ray smacked him on the shoulder. "Would you stop talking about prunes? Get with the, uh, program. This is a date."

"Yes, it is," said Fraser, and slid his hand into Ray's hair and kissed him again.

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