Rating: G
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski
Thanks: Many thanks to lamentables for beta
Notes: For the Photo challenge on ds_flashfiction, based on the third photo here

Fireside

by china_shop


1.

The northern lights make the walls of the tent glow, and Fraser touches Ray's hair while he's sleeping. It's softer than it was in the city, not stripped by chemicals and over-washing. It smells human and male, and that's a complication Fraser doesn't dare let himself contemplate, not while they're out here alone together, mutually dependent and long miles from the luxury of separate sleeping quarters.


*


Ray keeps his breathing steady, pretending to sleep, and wonders if Fraser knows how much he's turning Ray on, and whether he'd still do that if he knew.

Fraser's hand goes still, and Ray can't keep his eyes from opening. It's dark enough that maybe Fraser won't notice, except this is Fraser and he does.

"Mmm?" There's a rustle as he moves away and settles down in his sleeping bag. He's trying for casual and Ray knows better, but they're a helluva long day's drive from an escape route and what if he's wrong?



2.

Fraser bends his head over his logbook, focusing on the gray pencil smudge of his own handwriting. When he's recorded the events of the day — the tracks in the snow, the weather conditions, what they ate — he puts down the book and takes out his knife to sharpen his pencil point again. Shavings fly into the fire and sparks whirl upwards.

Ray's quiet, hunched in on himself. Fraser can almost see the storm clouds gathering, so he picks up the logbook and records that too. Outlook uncertain. Find shelter.


*


Ray knows it's stupid to be jealous of a notebook. It's stupid and it's immature, but fuck, why did Fraser bring him all the way out here if he's just gonna ignore him? Ray tosses his tea dregs into the snow behind him and goes off to talk to Dief.

It's fucking cold, of course. Ray's used to it enough that he can feel the difference — between icy and freeze-you-solid, between biting and bitter and BAM! you're dead! Dief's staked out with his team mates, keeping an eye on things, but he's got a longer rope than the others. "Hey," says Ray. "No donuts, sorry."



3.

Talking to Dief just makes Ray miss Chicago and junkfood and solitude. Or maybe it's independence he's missing, knowing he can take care of himself. He's used to being the tough guy, the one responsible for taking care of other people, the cop. Here he's got no one to look after except one stubborn self-sufficient Canuck who can barely look at him.

What the hell is he doing?


*


The fire is louder now Ray's disappeared into the dark — no doubt to relieve himself or howl at the moon. Fraser hopes he won't set the team off, like he did last time. It took hours for them to settle, and all of them suffered for the lack of sleep.

If Fraser holds his breath, he can hear the soft stop-start of Ray having a one-sided discussion. It reminds Fraser of his father, all those oblique conversations and the last time Fraser saw him in the mineshaft. He doesn't miss him, but he notices the lack. There's no one before Fraser in his bloodline, and no one now behind. Some days that's like having no anchor.



4.

Snow crunches under Ray's boots as he makes his way back to the firelight. Fraser looks up from his notebook, a lost look in his eyes and Ray wonders if he ever writes about that. What's the logbook for, anyway? So when the rescue party finds their frozen bodies (if they do), they'll be able to piece together what happened? Or so Fraser will have something to remember Ray by, once he's gone home? Because the first doesn't matter and if it's the second, that's proof Fraser's not expecting anything from Ray, nothing beyond this crazy field trip to the back end of nowhere.


*


Ray doesn't take his seat again, he keeps walking, right over to Fraser and stands over him, bristling. "What is it?" Fraser asks, wondering what he's unwittingly done to disturb the peace this time.

Ray yanks the logbook from Fraser's hands and gestures as if to throw it on the fire, but his fingers don't release it. He doesn't let go. Instead he looks right into Fraser's eyes, pulls off his hat leaving hair askew and slightly rank, and says, "Talk to me."



5.

In exchange for giving Ray advice, Dief is untethered for the evening. He bounds through the snow, stretching his legs, enjoying liberty and leisure and solitude, and the snow speeding past beneath his paws, but it doesn't take long for the work of the day to catch up with him. He circles wide and makes for the fire, the one sooty, burning bright spot in the middle of the darkly glowing landscape.

As he nears, he sees that Ray and Ben are wrapped around each other, kissing. Ray is holding Ben's book, clutching it against Ben's back.

At last, thinks Dief, and he runs into the firelight and whuffs.

The humans break apart, both flushed and physically tense, and Ray says, "Yeah, yeah, it was good advice." He casts a quizzical sideways glance at Ben, then winks at Dief and tells him, "I owe you."


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