Thanks: Many thanks to the wonderful mergatrude for beta
Notes: Written in four parts: part 2 is for engenda and tx_tart, part 3 is for mergatrude, and part 4 is for qe2, chickwriter and lilac_one. :-)
He can't smell it. Hell, Chicago's a city, and even in the station, the air's full of diesel and hair spray, damp dusty mildew and disinfectant, ink and blowback, the stale lingering echoes of a thousand different takeout meals, and stinky unwashed old guy—not to mention Dewey's famous eau du fish. Plus he's had four cups of coffee since he got here, so really, that's drowning out everything else.
He can't smell it, but he knows it's there, a texture on his skin—faint, dry, rough. He's slouched in the doorway to Welsh's office, being an ass about the Fernando case, and he's suddenly aware that his index finger has slipped under his shirt, dipping below the waistband of his jeans, and is casually smoothing over it. Scraping it lightly with his fingernail.
When he realizes, he looks away quickly and stutters to a halt, blushing, which makes Welsh think he's lost his mind, so he shuts up, ducks out, and throws himself into his desk chair to hide behind a pile of half-finished reports. Idiot.
He can't keep away from that little patch of skin. Has to touch it. It's like a new tattoo, like graffiti: Fraser was here. Fraser came here. It's this point at the center of everything, warm and tingly.
If he thinks past that point—to the moment when he and Fraser are gonna come face to face, are gonna have to put words to this, and figure out what (or who) comes next, his heart starts thumping and he has to bite his tongue to stop from feeling sick. Christ, he thinks. So fucking complicated. And what if he—? What if he doesn't—? And I— It doesn't bear thinking about, so he just focuses in on that smear of dried come above his hip bone, like a magic charm, an amulet, and tries for once in his life to trust that everything will turn out okay.
Fraser spends the morning staring blindly at the R19Ka-1/Cons. Requisition Form (Stationery), and humming to himself with a growing sense of anxiety. Whenever he falls silent, the memory of Ray's harsh steady breathing sounds in his ear. Its regularity flushes Fraser hot and cold with shame.
At 9:48am Fraser picks up the phone, the words "We need to talk" filling his mouth like cotton wool. He hangs up before he's finished dialing. What on earth can he say? To have so shamelessly, so blatantly abused their friendship is inexcusable.
He lets his finger drift along the edge of his ear, across the exact spot Ray's breath heated that morning—
Fraser bites his lip and starts humming the Ride of the Valkyries, but it's too late: the memories, now roused, refuse to return to dormancy.
Ray had been kind, had grasped Fraser's shoulder hard, held him as he—had smiled—a strained smile, Fraser thinks now—and left quickly when—
Fraser smoothes his eyebrow and thanks God that Turnbull called out a greeting when he entered the Consulate that morning, rather than making his way to the back to exchange pleasantries and offer a cup of tea as he sometimes did. At least they weren't caught in flagrante delicto.
Fraser squirms inwardly. The delicto had been decidedly one-sided, the interruption occurring before Ray could—even if Ray had wanted to—
Oh God. Fraser isn't even certain Ray was aroused. He'd been too swept up in the flood of his own feelings, the frantic fumbling with clothing and fastenings, the collapse of control that led to such intoxicating intimacy.
Intoxicating. And now he's suffering the ill-effects and must face the consequences. Must face Ray.
Still, he reminds himself, trying desperately to find cause for optimism, Ray met his eye—however briefly—before he bolted. Ray held him throughout the whole fiasco (it didn't seemed ridiculous at the time, but in the harsh light of mid-morning, Fraser is certain he's humiliated himself). He did smile.
Although it seems highly unlikely that things will turn out satisfactorily, there is life and therefore, as Fraser's grandmother often assured him, hope.
Heavy Consulate door. Turnbull. Hallway. Fraser's office. They all rush past in a blur, and then he's inside, back to the scene of the—well, not crime, but—accident, maybe? (Can't've been premeditated, can it? He'll find out soon enough.) Back where they started, anyway.
Everything snaps into focus, and he stops, shocked at the sight of Fraser, still Fraser, still red-uniformed and Canadian and freakish, every hair in place. Pen poised over a form, slight frown. Still untouchable.
Nothing's changed. He'd thought it would be different, that they'd instinctively know how to close the distance and touch. Fall into each other's arms like lovers in Luanne Russell's novel. But they're feet apart, staring and tongue-tied and immobile, and Ray doesn't know how to bridge that.
The skin above his hip tingles, reminding him that Fraser started it. Right. Fraser made the move. And that means Fraser—who is not someone who could come on a guy and forget about it a couple of hours later—is definitely feeling something. Ray shoves his own confusion aside and squints at him, trying to figure out what.
Fraser's face is red, and he looks like he needs to cough or puke. Oh yeah. Wanting too much. Freaking out big time. At least Ray isn't the only one.
Without looking, Ray reaches back and shuts the door. "Hey. Uh—"
Fraser blinks back to life. "It isn't six o'clock."
Ray shakes his head to get with the program. "No, I left—I took off early. Wasn't getting anything done."
"Ah." Fraser looks back down at the form, like he doesn't know what else to do. "I still have a few things to—"
"Frase." Ray takes a deep breath and decides, then and there, what the hell. This is as good an opportunity as he's ever going to get. He might as well run with it. Maybe on the inside he's a bundle of nerves, heart stuttering like morse code, but he's cool. Or if not, he can fake it. He saunters over and perches on the edge of desk, sitting as close to Fraser as he dares. "This morning," he says, softly.
Fraser's hand clenches around his fountain pen, and his head bends over his desk, and fuck, this isn't good. This isn't like how it's supposed to be, all violins and flowers and shit. It's Fraser looking awkward and embarrassed, like he wants out before they've even begun.
"Yeah," he says, not looking up at Ray. "I was hoping we could—"
Ray feels a flare of hope. "Yeah?"
"That we wouldn't have to—" He looks up then, directly into Ray's eye. Despite being scarlet-cheeked, he's firming up, his jaw tightening. Being a man about it. "I'm sorry, Ray. I hope you can forgive me."
Ah, shit. "Frase—"
"It was completely inappropriate and I deeply regret any dis—"
"Hey." Ray takes Fraser's fist, pen and all, and holds it in both his hands, hoping to get him to shut up. Everything Fraser says is making this harder, and not in a good way.
It works. Fraser's mouth opens and closes, but no sound leaks out. He looks at the tangle of their hands, then plucks the pen free with his left hand and puts it carefully on the table.
"Yeah," says Ray. "Good. See, it's like this." His thumb traces the tendons on the back of Fraser's fist, and he spaces out for a minute, remembering this morning, breath and skin, their bodies moving frantically.
Fraser's hand twitches, bringing him back to the present.
"It's like, it happened too fast." And yeah, that was the key. It'd been a haze of heat and haste, and Ray wants something else now. Ray wants Fraser to touch him.
But maybe Fraser doesn't want that, because he's pulling away, standing up and moving to the window. "I know. I'm sorry. It was—well, I can't really say it was an accident, per se, because that would imply that I had no choice—" He trails off, like he's lost his train of thought, but then he turns and clasps his hands behind his back. "I know there's no excuse, Ray. I should at the very least have ensured your participation—such as it was—was voluntary."
Ray pushes off the desk and walks over to him, clasping his shoulders, trying to keep from shaking him. "Fraser, shut up! Not that!"
Fraser breaks off, then says, "I'm sorry, Ray. It's been a—difficult day."
Ray nods. "I know, I know that. Me, too. But you apologize to me one more time, I'm gonna punch you in the head. Listen to me." He pauses to make sure Fraser's paying attention. He is. There's a faint crease between his eyebrows. His blue eyes, framed with dark lashes, are intent on Ray's face. His soft mouth is serious and closed. He smells like sun-dried washing on a summer day.
Ray shuts his eyes so he can think straight, so he won't just lean forward and press kisses all over Fraser's familiar beautiful face without saying what he has to say first. "It all happened too fast," he repeats, carefully, feeling the fabric of Fraser's uniform rough against his fingers. "Like a blur. What I want is we do it again, only slower." Ray opens his eyes. Fraser's expression is lightening, opening up. It's like the first day of fucking spring, like a doctor saying He's gonna make it, like the opening bars of a favorite song that you can't help dancing to, all rolled into one. Ray's body starts to heat up. God, he wants Fraser. He's gotta be sure, though. "Is, uh, is that what you want?"
"Very much so." Wow, that's—he sounds—what's the word?—fervent. One hundred percent. Fraser leans forward and, holy shit, he's gonna kiss him, right here, right now. Which is just gonna lead to the same situation all over again.
Ray pushes him away, but keeps a firm hold on his shoulders. Got you. Not letting go. "A couple of provisos, first."
Fraser switches into Mountie mode so fast Ray gets whiplash, and that's not right, that's not what Ray meant, so he brushes his thumb across Fraser's lips and, oh, Fraser's eyes go dark and hot, and that's the ticket. That's the first class ticket to happy land.
"Provisos." Ray has to clear his throat before he can keep talking. "A) Not here, because much as I've grown as a person over the last couple of months and learned to tolerate Turnbull in small doses, he really don't figure that big in any of my fantasies, and 2)—" Ray pauses and grins at Fraser, teasing the hell out of him, because, yeah, they're gonna do this thing, be together in new and wildly fucking sweet ways. Ray's body is already telling him in dark hungry words how good it's gonna be. "This time we both—"
It takes a split second to register, and then Fraser winces, embarrassment wiping all the happy off of his face, and Ray kicks himself for the cheap shot. "Hey," he says, back-pedaling madly, but still keeping it light. "You make it up to me, we'll call it even. How does that sound?"
Fraser licks his lip and the shame visibly eases back a couple of notches. "Even Steven, Ray?"
Ray winks at him. "Even Steven, even better. Anything you want." Ray picks up the hat and plonks it on Fraser's head, and drags him through the door, switching off the light as they leave. "Let's go."
From the sound of Ray's breathing, it's obvious he's almost asleep. Fraser inhales deeply, reveling in their closeness—Ray lying loosely against him, sated, his rear pressed into Fraser's hip, his shoulder blades like the stumps of wings; the way the light from the hallway illuminates only his rumpled hair, his thin shoulder, and the narrow line of his hip—pale against the night; the warm skin-scent and smell of sex. Fraser lets himself relax completely against the damp crumpled sheets, loving the decadence of it all, and for a long moment he's perfectly content. Then residual self-consciousness catches up with him.
He slides his hands around Ray's ribcage and pulls him, pliant and compliant, hard up against his chest. Ray's neck tastes of sweat and come. When Fraser licks into the hollows, Ray mumbles "Aren't you worn out, yet?" and, without opening his eyes, twists around to kiss his mouth, slinging his arm around Fraser's shoulder.
They are close, so very well-matched and suited. Ray slumps down, sinking sleepward again. Fraser is on the verge of giving in to joy. "Ray," he murmurs, and presses his lips to Ray's temple. "Are we even now?"
Ray's eyes scrunch tight, and a smile tugs up one corner of his mouth. "You haven't got a clue, have you?"
"About what?" says Fraser, hoping that if he plays dumb, he'll get his answer. It's an automatic reaction by now: when in doubt, feign ignorance.
"Let's get one thing straight here," says Ray, sounding more awake. His blinks open one eye with obvious effort, and focuses on Fraser's face, squinting. Then he interrupts himself. "Do we gotta do this now? I either want to kiss you, fuck you or, oh yeah, I already did that." He sounds unmistakably smug about this, but there's a faint note of pique when he adds, "Why are you still awake?"
"Ray." Fraser tries to disguise his neediness with warmth, but he can tell that even in this dark room, Ray can see right through him. Perhaps it should be unnerving, but Fraser is elated by it. To be understood like this is a rare gift.
Ray's long fingers cup the back of Fraser's head, and pull their faces together, and Ray rubs his stubbled chin against Fraser's cheek. "Okay, here's the thing. You gotta relax. Trust me."
"Yeah, you do and you don't. You gotta trust me to make my own decisions."
Fraser opens his mouth to protest, but Ray opens the other eye, now, and stares him down.
"I know what I'm doing. I could've stayed this morning, Fraser. I could've dragged you outta there, or sent Turnbull packing. I had choices, and I chose to leave, okay? That was just where I was at."
Ray snorts. "Yeah. So stop being like everything's your fault, like it's your job to make sure everything's fair and even." He shoves Fraser onto his back, and looms over him, a kinder version of his usual fierceness. "I don't want fair. I'm not keeping score here. I want us, getting what we need, making choices, taking responsibility."
Fraser nods. Responsibility is something he understands.
"If there's one thing I learned from— one thing I know" (The hesitation is quick. Fraser's fully aware of where the sentence had been heading, but he still appreciates the change of tack, the fact that Ray's trying to keep their newfound intimacy free of his former marriage.) "it's that you can't make someone else happy. They gotta do it."
Seemingly exhausted by this outburst, Ray flops down, sprawled widely across half of Fraser and most of the bed. "Okay? You good?"
"Yeah," says Fraser. It's a huge relief—not only to be able to trust that Ray has chosen this, but also to be given limits for his own liability. He knows it's not as simple as Ray has made out—there's no question that they also owe each other a duty of care—but it's enough for tonight.
"Good." Ray yawns, and buries his face in Fraser's hair. "That's your job," he summarizes drowsily. "Make you happy."
"I am." Fraser pulls back for a last kiss before sleep separates them. He nips at Ray's lower lip, and lets his hands settle on Ray's waist and shoulder, where they belong. Ray's tongue licks into his mouth, cleansing him of uncertainty and self-doubt, bringing only good things.