Thanks: Many grateful thanks to Miriam and Mergatrude for beta
Notes: For Stormy Stormheller, as part of Due South Seekrit Santa 2004
Ray's fingers were starting to cramp, and he was sweating like a pig. Don't look down, he told himself, but then Crack! a bullet hit the windowsill just a couple of inches to the left of his left hand so that he felt the impact almost more than he heard it. The old cracked wood exploded into splinters. Ray tasted gunpowder, or thought he did.
He yelled and let go, and if he'd had anything under his feet he would've leaped sideways. As it was, his boots hit the wall and he ended up dangling by one hand like a rag doll, six storeys above a dirty south side alley. He looked down.
Six fucking storeys. This is it, he thought. Check out time. There was another gunshot, wider this time, which smashed the pane of glass to Ray's right. The shards tinkled like lethal Christmas bells as they fell. Ray clung to the wall trying to be Spiderman, trying not to get his face sliced off.
He scrabbled his feet against the bricks and swung up using his whole bodyweight, somehow managing to hitch an arm over the sill. The asshole was still there, pointing his Glock at Ray. He was smiling through the gap in his teeth.
"Kowalski, Chicago PD," Ray told him, breathlessly. "You're under arrest for the, uh, for the murder of—"
Crack! Ray ducked instinctively, and his arm slipped so he was back to hanging on by his nails. Fraser, he thought. If only— But Fraser wasn't gonna save him this time. No, Fraser was a billion miles away in the frozen north being a Mountie, had been for over a year and a half. Fraser was in Canada, and Ray was going to die.
Of course, he had a new partner. Janice. Nice kid, not too experienced but brainy, and it was in no way her fault that at this exact moment she was in a dingy bar half a block away, tied up to a mechanical bull.
Ray leaned his forehead against the rough brick. His fingers burned. How many more shots did that creep have, anyway? Ray had counted five so far, and with the Glock semi—
Ray heard a scuffle. Pepazzi yelled. Janice must've escaped and called for backup somehow, or else a neighbor had heard the shots and called it in. Thank god. Ray slumped, as well as he could, and waited for someone to help him up.
"Hello Ray." The face that peered down at him wasn't Janice. For starters, it was wearing a hat.
Ray wondered whether maybe he was dead. Maybe he'd died and in heaven all the angels were dressed like Mounties.
"I've disarmed Mr Pepazzi," said the Mountie. "Janice is reading him his rights."
"Hey, Fraser," said Ray weakly. "What're you doing here?"
Fraser stared down at him, seriously. "I'm looking for you, Ray."
"Yeah, right. Well, good to see you." Ray lowered his head again and rested his cheek against the wall. He hurt too much to be dead.
Fraser reached down and offered his hand, and Ray looked at it, then squinted up at Fraser's face. He didn't look like an angel. Not the afterlife sort, anyway. Ray shrugged—internally, because his shoulders were almost falling out of their sockets—and took a crap shoot on the fact that Fraser was really here, not just a hallucination brought on by nearly dying. "Okay," he said. He loosened his grip on the crumbling wooden sill and grabbed Fraser's big warm hand.
Fraser clutched Ray's arm, then the back of his jeans, and hauled him over the windowsill and onto the dusty wooden floor, where Peppazzi lay tied up with a lanyard, swearing into a pile of scummy old blankets.
Ray rolled over onto his back, sprawling and exhausted. "Why are you here, Fraser?"
Ray should've gone with Janice and booked Pepazzi himself, but his shoulder was killing him and, besides, his guardian Mountie angel was here. Ray was a little afraid that if he turned his back for more than a second, poof! Fraser would vanish as suddenly as he'd come.
So Janice gave Fraser back his lanyard, shook his hand, and left with Pepazzi and the black and whites, and then there was just Ray and Fraser, standing on this crappy street corner. Fraser held his hat nervously, and licked his lip. He kept looking down and around, glancing at Ray and then glancing back across the street.
Ray rubbed his aching shoulder and watched him. There was turmoil going on under the thick red uniform of Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP. That much was obvious. Ray wasn't sure yet what it was about. He just knew that after twenty minutes back in Ray's life, Fraser had made everything lighter. All those worries about getting older, about dying, about being alone. They didn't matter anymore.
Ray started to smile. "You on vacation? God, it's good to see you."
Fraser caught his gaze and held it. "I'm, ah, here on business, actually. I uncovered a counterfeiting ring dealing in forged Royal Family memorabilia that—it's not important."
Ray grinned, and waited to see what was important.
Fraser cleared his throat. "I've accepted a promotion."
"That's great. That's great. A promotion, huh?"
"Yes." Fraser nodded and fiddled with the brim of his hat.
Ray tilted his head towards the car, meaning coffee, diner, talk. Just like he had a thousand times before. "You wanna get something to eat, maybe?"
"Ray." Fraser took Ray's hand and—that was new. They'd done the shoulder thing, the hand on the back or the back of the neck. Even the hand on elbow a couple of times. But Fraser had never taken Ray's hand. Not when both of them were already on their feet and no-one was shooting at them, anyway. It sent a warm glow halfway up Ray's arm, just from the contact.
Fraser led him into the garbage alley that had nearly been painted red with Ray's guts. He pulled Ray round so that Fraser was backed up against a damp concrete wall with this green stinky slime growing down it, and Ray was facing him. Fraser didn't seem to notice the slime.
"Ray," said Fraser.
"Yeah." Ray put on his glasses—he had to wear them more these days—and gave Fraser his full attention. It had been eighteen months, and the Mountie looked older, like he'd seen too much. There were wrinkles round his eyes that hadn't been there before, and a sort of etched-in sadness that made Ray's throat hurt.
"I know this is—sudden," said Fraser, "but—" He looked at Ray earnestly, and if it'd been anyone else, Ray would've thought—would've thought that—
Ray's heart started pounding. "What is it, Fraser?" he asked, his voice coming out all husky and strange. He took his glasses off again.
Fraser didn't answer, not with words. He put a tentative hand on Ray's upper arm and leaned forward, his breath hot and sweet on Ray's face, and he hovered there, his mouth less than an inch from Ray's.
Ray's lips parted involuntarily and his eyes fell shut. He could hardly breathe. After all this time, after all this—
"I missed you," murmured Fraser, so close that Ray felt the words vibrate against his mouth.
"Yeah," said Ray, and somehow he let go of waiting and being alone. He let it all drop away. He just leaned in and took Fraser's mouth like he'd been wanting to do forever, like he'd thought was never going to happen. Not in this lifetime. Fraser's hand slid up to Ray's neck, warm and true, and Ray pulled away, leaned sideways into those strong familiar fingers. "Hey, you were the one who left."
Fraser's lips pressed against Ray's forehead, against his eyebrow, into the sensitive skin beside Ray's eye. "I know. I'm sorry." Their bodies were so close, nearly touching. Ray thought he might melt, thought he might come just from standing here with Fraser's lips hungry on his face. He wanted to grab Fraser and shove him up against the slimy wall and kiss him hard and touch him everywhere.
Instead he took a step back. "Why are you here?"
"I didn't know how else to tell you," said Fraser, his blue eyes fixed on Ray's lips, then flicking up to meet his gaze.
Ray nodded. "I get that, yeah." He'd spent many a night staring at the phone, knowing no way could he say any of the things he wanted into that stupid plastic machine. Not without seeing Fraser's face while he said them.
He reached out a finger and smoothed down Fraser's eyebrow, wanting to know the feel of it. "I would've come if you'd called." Fraser caught Ray's finger, and kissed it. "Why now?"
Fraser took a deep breath, his chest expanding, his chin coming up almost like a challenge. "I'm moving back to Chicago," he said.
"The promotion?" Ray felt a rush of hope and possibility flooding through his body like adrenalin, making him light-headed. He started grinning like a maniac.
"Yes." Fraser relaxed at last and smiled back at him, like he was relieved at Ray's response. "Inspector Thatcher's replacement, Inspector Heath, is retiring, and I've taken his position."
Ray took a moment to process that. "You moved in already? To the Consulate?"
Fraser nodded. "The job comes with an apartment. It's not large, but it's quite well-appointed."
Ray turned away, started striding towards the car, squinting into the setting sun.
"Ray?" Fraser stood uncertainly, watching him walk away.
"Come on then," said Ray, half-turning as he walked. He beckoned to Fraser to hurry up. "Come on, Fraser!"
Fraser started to follow. "Where are we going?"
"We stay here any longer, I'm gonna have to arrest us for lascivious acts." Ray stopped and looked at Fraser, trying to keep his feet on the ground. Only half an hour ago he'd been about to freefall to his death and now, god, now his whole world was in freefall, in the best possible way. "We're going to Canada."