Rating: G
Pairing: Callum/Fraser
Warning: Real Person Fic (Due South)
Thanks: Big big fluffy gratitude to Serial Karma for beta and reassurance!
Notes: No offence intended. And I've done NO research except for watching the blooper reel four times, so the uh characters are probably all wrong, and the stuff about shooting/acting is probably wrong, and blah blah blah blah... And OMG, it's RPS! What am I thinking?! *hides face* :-)

Play Pretend

by china_shop

The problem with acting is you have to tell the truth. What with the lights and the lines and continuity and hitting your mark without bumping into the other actors, there's no time for pretending. You can layer other stuff on top of the truth, sure, but you can't strip away what's underneath. Besides, if you pretend, the camera knows it. If you want to do a good job, you have to be honest.

Callum wants to do a good job. That's why Ray Kowalski's a little bit in love with Fraser. Because, yeah, Callum's a little bit in love with Fraser too. He knows it's kind of stupid to have a crush on a fictional character — especially one you work with — but it's also kind of fun.

Besides, it's about a hundred times less stupid than having a crush on Paul, so most of the time Callum just goes with it.

* * *

Paul sticks his head through the doorway. "You get the final script for ep 52?"

"Uh-huh." Callum's sitting on the concrete steps outside the studio, his small dense shadow beside him. It's too hot to be outside, really, but you can't smoke around the equipment and, dear Lord, it's been a long week. Nicotine's a necessity.

"The schedule's impossible. It's gonna be a fucking nightmare." Paul leans against the doorframe, grinning like a maniac. He loves a challenge, and the show is his life. Two of the things Callum likes about him. "I mean, Tony's quit four times already. All that fucking water."

"Shit, yeah." Callum smiles wide and raises his eyebrows, silently teasing Paul for his enthusiasm. Then he sits back and watches a wardrobe girl pushing a wheeled rack of Mountie uniforms into studio two. "How do we do that, anyway?"

Paul grins. "As fast as we can."

* * *

The sets are in this huge tank, like a swimming pool. They use fire hoses to fill it. There's a paramedic on set at all times.

They shoot for three days with water lapping around their ankles, their thighs, up to their waists. Everyone's cold. Everyone's tired.

When you're worn out, it's hard to hide.

* * *

Paul is married and straight and a bigass flirt. He's foul-mouthed and funny and he's a show-off, and he likes to be at the center of things. He's Callum's friend, and he's also close enough to being Callum's boss as makes no difference.

Fraser, on the other hand, is matter-of-fact and sincere and sweet and clever and kind. Not that Paul can't be any of those things, too. But most of the time he isn't.

Callum knows he's got a crush on Fraser, not Paul. He knows the difference. And he knows Fraser isn't real.

Most of the time, he knows that.

* * *

The thing that people think is acting — that "let's pretend" thing — that's what kicks in after the director's yelled "CUT!" See, if you're going to tell the truth on camera — which you have to do because of the continuity and making it real — then you have to lie the rest of the time. Otherwise everyone knows everything about you, and that's not a pretty place to be.

Oh, Callum's got nothing against honesty. He likes to be all candid and shit in interviews. But he doesn't need the whole of Canada to know what he's feeling. Nah, that'd just be fucked up. So, given he plasters his heart all over the screen, once the camera stops rolling, he starts lying. Starts talking about "method", and how, oh sure, he likes his character, identifies with his character, but they're really two totally separate people and one of them isn't real.

But here's the kicker: Ray Kowalski's as real as anyone, realer than some. It's just that he's only part-time real, and his life, when he has one, is two dimensional. There's two and a half walls to any room he walks into. His cop badge is made of plastic. Oh yeah, and someone else writes his dialogue.

* * *

They're shooting the buddy-breathing scene. Callum's freezing, soaked all the way through to his bones, his skin wrinkled tight. In between shots they haul him out of the water, sling a blanket around him and hand him a hot water bottle. He huddles next to the lights for warmth, and listens to the crew joke about subtext.

During shots, Callum takes a deep breath, dives into cold water, and becomes Ray Kowalski. Ray Kowalski, nearly drowning, then sucking air out of Benton Fraser's lungs. It's not a bad life, even in spite of the cold water.

In fact, the cold water's probably a good thing.

There's problems with the lighting. They shoot the wide shot six times. Then they start the close ups.

* * *

Everyone thinks Callum's in love with Paul, and he hates that they're right. Except they're not right, because Paul is not Fraser. Paul will never be Fraser.

Hell, no one could be Fraser.

The only way Fraser can even exist at all is in these tiny fragments of reality that flash and glitter through Callum's life when the camera's running and everything's in the groove.

* * *

One time when everyone else has gone someplace — a crew lunch maybe? — Callum finds a copy of the script for episode 45 (Seeing is Believing) lying around the wardrobe department, next to the stack of pristine Stetsons and the spare shoulder holster, and Ray Kowalski's favorite leather jacket. Someone's annotated it, added in extra dialogue and directions. On the back of page 15 is a whole extra scene.

It's set in the supply closet. Ray and Fraser. It's pretty steamy stuff.

Callum throws the script onto the counter where he found it, and goes outside to cool off. He smokes a lot that day.

Fucking subtext.

* * *

That evening Callum stands outside a bar. His fists are tight and angry.

The seductive smells of smoke and beer drift through the open door, inviting him in. Between jukebox songs he can hear the crack of balls on a pool table.

He really wants to be weak. Just this once.

He takes a deep breath. He goes home.

* * *

Callum's never really sure whether Fraser loves Ray. Could be borderline. Could be that intense platonic kind of love. Fraser's pretty self-contained, and it's not like Callum can sit down with Paul and ask about character motivation. It's too dangerous.

The closest they ever get to it is at the wrap party for Mountie on the Bounty. Paul's barely standing from exhaustion and booze, and Callum's got a contact high, buzzing off strong coffee and everyone else's buzz.

There's this moment, just a little slice out of time, when the two of them are standing alone side-by-side, leaning on a wall. (Later he can't even remember which wall it was. None of them look right.) Paul catches his eye, and it's like the question is right there. Insistent.

"It's not you," says Callum, and the instant he says it, he regrets it. Fuck, he doesn't want to have to explain that. He doesn't want anyone to know, but especially not Paul.

But, miraculously, Paul has one of his Fraser moments. He doesn't flirt and he doesn't ask. He just looks earnest and kind, and nods like he understands exactly. And even though Callum's not sure a) whether Paul's even sober enough to know what Callum's talking about, and b) whether he believes him if he does, Callum's mostly just grateful he doesn't have to elucidate.

* * *

It's weird acting a guy who's undercover. Especially when you're living your life undercover, too. Sometimes the layers get confusing. Who he's supposed to be. Who knows what. Secrets, lies, sins of omission. But that's life, eh.

A person can have a lot of different truths. Not all of them are real.

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