Thanks: Thanks to woolly socks for beta
Notes: For Sage
By the time Ray had cuffed and Mirandaized Billy and Donny Coltrane, and Fraser had strapped up Donny's ankle with his undershirt, the light was fading and the air was cooling, and Ray realized that not only didn't they have cellphone coverage but it was uphill all the way back to the car.
"Hey, on your feet," Ray told the Coltranes, nudging Billy with his boot. "It's three miles out of here, at least, so if you want to spend the night somewhere with heating and a flush toilet and no bears, we got to get going now."
"Yes," said Fraser, heartily. "You might as well jump into it."
Ray squinted at him for a moment, then shook his head sharply once he'd figured it out. "Hop to it, Fraser. Hop to it."
"Ah." Fraser ducked his head. "Right you are. Hop to it, gentlemen."
"Oww," groaned Donny. "There's no way, man. I can't put any weight on my foot."
"You should've thought of that before you tried to get away down that rockslide," Ray told him severely. "I ain't carrying you. Maybe your brother will."
"You kidding me?" Billy was half his brother's substantial size, and he had weak, sloping shoulders. "I write obituaries for a living. What makes you think I got the strength to carry this deadbeat?"
"Hey, shuddup," said Donny. "The whole stupid thing was your idea in the first place."
"You getting this, Fraser?" Ray made a scribbling gesture to indicate Fraser should write it down. The dumbfucks had been Mirandaized — if they were going to incriminate themselves, he was sure as hell taking that as a confession.
But Fraser looked distracted and far away. "I'll carry you," he said to the tub of lard called Donny. "It's probably karma."
"What?" Ray held up his hands. "No way, Fraser. They can walk. I bet he's just putting it on."
"I want a helicopter," whined Donny. "There ain't nothing in the Constitution about walking three miles on a broken ankle after you been arrested."
"You think I don't want a chopper?" said Ray. "If you hadn't led us this merry dance out to the middle of nowhere, you'd be riding high in a blue and white by now and I'd be sitting in a diner somewhere drinking a coffee and chowing down on a burger. And you probably wouldn't have broke your ankle, either. You brought us out here, so shut up and thank whatever God you pray to that we were here to stop your stupid brother from taking a nosedive over that cliff."
Fraser ignored Ray's rant and did his earnest head-tilting thing at Donny. "Now, son, there's no call for exaggeration. It's only a sprain and I've already said I'll carry you."
Ray grabbed Fraser's sleeve and pulled him aside. "Why would you do that? I thought you said it was karma — what goes around, comes around."
"Well, yes, Ray, but karma generally works in the wider scheme of things." Fraser glanced back at the Coltranes. "It just so happens that you yourself carried me through a very similar woodland for two days in pursuit of a desperate criminal."
"I did?" Ray would've remembered something like that. "When?"
"Two and a half years ago," said Fraser. "So, you see, it's clearly my chance to return the favor."
Oh, okay. It was Vecchio did the carrying. Didn't sound like his cup of tea — Ray had the impression Vecchio was about as keen on the outdoors as Ray himself was — but with Fraser around, these things could swoop down and ambush you from out of the blue. "Okay, great, but don't that mean you should be hauling my sorry ass around, not Donny Coltrane's?" He slanted Fraser a quick smile to show he'd got it.
Fraser smiled back with just his eyes. "Generally speaking, it doesn't matter how the debt is repaid, or to whom, so long as the receipts and outgoings balance out in the end, so to speak." He headed over to Donny and slung him over his shoulder in a fireman's lift, making him oof. "Besides, we really should get going, Ray. I think the weather's going to turn."
He started back up the trail toward the car. Ray sighed, pushed Billy ahead of him and brought up the rear, wishing he'd brought his raincoat. And a thermos of coffee.
From the horizon came the low rumble of an approaching thunderstorm.
* * *
They left the Coltranes at Processing — streaming so much water that even Linda, that hardass, went to get them towels and a change of clothing from Lost Property — and headed to Ray's place to dry off and clean up. Once they were showered and changed, Ray started poking around in his fridge looking for something to feed them. There was Chinese takeout from the night before, a frozen head of lettuce at the bottom of the crisper, and mac and cheese from Wednesday. He put the dish with the mac and cheese into the microwave and dialed it up. "So, Vecchio carried you across the wilds of Illinois, huh? What happened, someone chop your legs off?"
Fraser leaned back against the counter and folded his arms across Ray's two-sizes-too-big old gray CPD sweatshirt. "Actually it was the wilds of Canada," he said mildly, "and I had a head injury that had temporarily blinded me as well as paralyzing me from the waist down."
Ray blinked, trying to process that. "And he was what, trying to get you home again? How'd you get out there in the first place?"
"Our small plane crashed after we were hijacked by an escaped murderer." Fraser rubbed his eyebrow and smiled to himself. "And no, Ray wasn't trying to get me home. We were in fact pursuing said murderer across the landscape in an attempt to apprehend him."
"While you were blind and immobilized," said Ray, frowning. "You're kidding. Was he mad at you?"
"He certainly had reason to be, but no. Ray wasn't recklessly endangering my life. We were in pursuit of an escaped criminal, at my insistence." Fraser seemed pretty sure of himself, but Ray wasn't convinced.
"And Vecchio went along with that?" Maybe Vecchio had just been Mountie-whipped. Ray could see that.
"Of course. Ray Vecchio has a keen sense of justice." Fraser said it like it was just common sense to lug your head-injured, blind partner over half of Canada instead of taking him to a hospital, but Ray had met Vecchio's family — he couldn't be that much of a whackjob or he'd never have survived growing up with Frannie and Maria. It didn't figure, unless there was something else going on.
The microwave pinged into the silence between them. Ray studied Fraser for another couple of seconds, then swung into action. He grabbed a couple of plates off the shelf and a couple of forks out of the dishrack, and he spooned out the steamy cheesy goodness and handed one of the plates over to Fraser.
"You and Vecchio, you were tight." Ray sat down at the table and started to eat.
Fraser sat across from him. "We were. Yes."
Maybe Vecchio had bought the superman schtick — maybe he honestly believed Fraser was invulnerable. But Ray didn't think so. Ray had a hunch there was something way more human going on here. "And you told him you had to get your man, right?"
"Of course, Ray, although you know there's a widespread misconception that—"
"It's not your motto. I know, I know. I'm just trying to, you know—" Ray circled his hand next to his ear. "—get my head around it. I mean, it's not your ordinary behavior, and I'm undercover as the guy. I got to figure this stuff out." And that was part of it, but it wasn't the whole deal. The real, niggly truth of the matter was that Ray had a hunch about Fraser and Vecchio, but it wasn't the kind of thing you could just come right out and ask. Although, given this was Fraser — hey, maybe he could. He swallowed his mouthful of food and cleared his throat. "So, uh. You and him, did you guys ever—?" He circled his hand in the air again, horizontally this time.
Fraser raised his eyebrows. "Did we—?"
"You know." Ray couldn't be the one to say it. Friendships had ended over less. Though, again, this was Fraser. Fraser, of all people, was not going to ditch a guy for asking if he was maybe a little — flexible — in his choice of bed partners. Still, if Ray could get away without saying it— But Fraser was looking at him with that pained, confused expression like Ray wasn't even speaking words. "Did you ever get, uh, close. Like, closer-than-partners type close."
Still nothing. Either Fraser's brain just couldn't process this kind of conversation or he was stonewalling big time.
Ray suppressed a sigh. "Romantic. Were you and Vecchio ever — romantically. You know."
"Ah." A sad understanding washed across Fraser's face and he looked down at his plate and licked his lip slowly, stalling for time. And that was all the tell Ray really needed, but if there was more info coming, he was all ears. "Well. It was complicated."
"Ain't it always." Ray took another bite of mac and cheese, hoping if he took the pressure off maybe Fraser would talk. Excitement was fizzing in his feet, bubbling up his legs, but he pushed it down. It was just the excitement of discovery, of a hunch proven right. That was all.
Fraser prodded his food for a moment. "I felt — I felt Ray needed someone who he could take home, who could become a part of his family."
Ray tried to catch his eye, but Fraser wasn't looking at him. "And that wasn't you."
"No. Regretfully not."
Ray waited a second, unsure he really wanted to play father confessor here, but it was too late to back out now. Couldn't dredge all this up and then leave Fraser hanging. "And what did he feel?"
Fraser looked up, startled. "I beg your pardon?"
"You felt he needed someone he could domesticate." Ray jabbed his fork at Fraser. "Right?"
Fraser nodded slowly, his eyebrows drawn together.
"What did he feel?" The excitement was coiling up Ray's spine now. He forced himself to sit still, to wait.
Fraser's gaze went unfocused like he was searching for a memory, a clue. He tilted his head. "He didn't like Canada."
"He said it kept trying to kill him."
"And did it?" Ray held up his fork. "Wait, you know what? Don't answer that."
Fraser sighed heavily. "There's an old proverb about the love affair between a fish and a bird."
Ray let that sink in, let the meaning seep into his bones. The fizz died down a little. "Nowhere for them to live," he translated.
Fraser nodded. "Ray decided we couldn't— we weren't well-matched. So we mutually agreed to put aside our attraction and enjoy our friendship while we could." He put his fork on his plate with a clink, and pushed it away from him.
Ray chewed his lip, thinking, then went with his gut. "You know what I think, Fraser? I think Vecchio loved you too much to tie you down to this stinky city."
Fraser's eyes widened in protest. "I would have—"
"I know," Ray interrupted, "and I'd bet he knew that, too. But you can't keep a Mountie happy in captivity, not in the long run. I bet Vecchio knew that."
Fraser pressed his lips together, a picture of dejection. "You — you may be right."
"Which, when you come to think of it, that's pretty damned noble and self-sacrificing." It was only fair to point that out, given Ray was about three seconds from making a move, spilling his guts all over the table, and Vecchio wasn't here to fight for his man.
"Ray is a good man." Fraser was still lost back there in the past.
"I'm getting that." Ray leaned forward over the table and added softly, "So what you should know about me is I ain't like that." He held up a hand to stop Fraser's objections. "Once I take that step, that romantic step, there's no getting rid of me, no matter how much it don't make sense."
Fraser's gaze flew to meet his, and his cheeks flushed. "I—" He nodded jerkily. "Understood."
Their gazes locked. Ray kept talking to hide the fact he was blushing too. "I stick like glue, come hell or high water. I, uh, just so you know."
"Well." Fraser got to his feet, awkwardly, like maybe he was going to excuse himself and never come back. "I'll certainly, ah, take that under advisement." His voice deepened.
Ray felt the fizz in his knees again, all the way up the back of his thighs. "You do that."
They stared at each other, and the fizz got bigger and bigger until it was all through Ray, shimmering in the air. Fraser took a step forward, and Ray scraped his chair back and stood up, and then they were crashing into each other, squeezing each other tight. Fraser put his hand on the back of Ray's neck, pulled him in even closer, and their bodies fitted together like jigsaw pieces, chest to chest, thigh to thigh. When Ray turned his head and brushed his lips against Fraser's cheek, he smelled his own soap there from the shower.
Fraser murmured something Ray couldn't hear and turned to meet his mouth, and then they were kissing, Jesus, Fraser was kissing him. At first it was a question, a tentative press of lips at odds with the fierce hold Fraser had on him, but once Ray kissed back, a silent yes, it got wild and hungry like a switch had flipped. Fraser pushed and took, and Ray let him, gave him everything, until they were both breathless, leaning on each other, chests heaving, and Ray started to laugh.
"What?" Fraser sounded dazed and uncertain.
Ray yanked him in for another hungry kiss. "You might as well jump into it," he said, quoting Fraser from earlier with the Coltranes. "That's exactly what you do, Fraser. Jump with both feet, without even looking. Freak."
Fraser pushed Ray against the wall. "Oh, I've been looking," he told Ray, in that deep, sexy voice. Ray groaned against his mouth and kissed him again, sloppy and wet, and pulled Fraser's clothes aside. Ray's skin was humming and Fraser was real and solid in his arms, and the fizzy feeling spilled everywhere, over both of them — Ray could taste it, hear it like a hum in the air.
"Jump into it," he said again, half to himself, and he led Fraser to the bedroom to do just that.