Thanks: Grateful thanks to Miriam and pearl_o for beta
Notes: For the Necking challenge on ds_flashfiction
If I was gay, Ray thinks, I'd want to fuck Fraser. The idea kind of takes him by surprise, coming as it does during a lecture from the Ice Queen on proper maintenance of the Consulate refrigerator. Fraser's standing at attention, listening respectfully, and Ray's leaning on Thatcher's desk, arms folded, watching the two of them, waiting for Fraser to get off duty.
What he had been thinking, before that, was whether Thatcher'd be any good in the sack—whether she'd unbend or soften any if you got her naked. But then his eyes—and his speculation—wandered over to Fraser and sort of stuck there. Huh.
After a second, Ray realizes that everyone wants to fuck Fraser, so in theory it's not that big a surprise that he does, too. And besides, he's not gay, so it's purely hypothetical. He decides to forget about it.
Only problem is, it won't stay forgotten. It creeps up on him at stupid times, like when Fraser's talking to Frannie about the third stage in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, when Ray's patiently explaining to Fraser the difference between driving and whatever the hell Fraser thinks he's doing to the GTO, when Welsh is telling them both off for breaking public property (letterbox, street sign, park bench, fountain; "I can't help feeling that there must be a way to apprehend a sixty-two year old accountant for embezzlement that doesn't involve large-scale destruction, Detective." "Yes, sir.") and on stakeouts.
Stakeouts are the worst because there's no distractions. Plus on top of that, they've gotten into this habit of playing word association, supposedly as practice for Fraser's next psych evaluation, but really just to pass the time. ("Magnets." "New Brunswick." "Fraser, that's stupid. What kind of a link've you got from magnets to New Brunswick, huh? What, we don't have magnets in the US of A? You got a problem with our magnets? Maybe they're not up to your exacting Canadian standards. Maybe we got the poles around the wrong way or something, huh?" "Actually, Ray, I was thinking of Magnetic Hill, just outside Moncton, New Brunswick, a place where cars reputedly roll uphill under their own steam." "No shit." "Shall we proceed?" "Yeah, okay." "New Brunswick." "Oh, jeez. I got no associations with New Brunswick." "Well?" "[sigh] Canada." "You know, Ray, you seem to have a remarkable number of associations with Canada, for someone who's never been there." "Bite me.")
But now that Ray's thinking about Fraser naked, he's lost his groove. "Piston," says Fraser, and Ray knows he's being set up—if not by Fraser, then by life in general. He says, "You want juice? I need coffee." And he's out of the car and striding away before Fraser has time to reply.
There's a 24-hour place around the corner, and Ray buys bad coffee and juice (in case Fraser said yes), and he stands under the nasty fluorescents staring at the stands of candy and magazines, knowing that he's fucking up. Gotta get a grip, he tells himself, but his traitorous brain double entendres that, too, with a mental picture so vivid that Ray wants to punch himself in the head.
He can't go back to the car. He has to go back to the car. Sometime in the next two hours, Tony Marconi—a guy whose business cards, if he had any, would say Violent Fuck—is gonna come out of the apartment building with a gun in his pocket on his way to a meeting with Jimmy Bruscetta and Gino diPollo.
Ray can't leave Fraser there unprotected. He shouldn't even be gone this long. He paces the aisle, up and down, once, twice, and then grabs a porn mag, adds it to his purchases, and heads back to the car.
When he turns the corner, the car is empty. No hat. No Mountie. No Fraser. Ray's stride stutters as this information sinks in, and then he breaks into a cold sweat, sudden horrible trickles down the spine. He flings the coffee, the juice, the magazine to the ground. They smash and splatter, but Ray's already gone by the time the sound catches him. He's pounding along the sidewalk, reaching for his gun and his glasses, and looking around wildly for signs of where Fraser's gone, for any hint of what happened.
He can't slow down. He's shaking and his legs won't listen to his brain. He slams loudly into the car with his hip, his hands, his knee, and he slides along the paint about a foot. If he was bleeding, he'd have left a smear. The car rocks like a boat in a storm, and pain billows through Ray's body. He hardly notices, though, because Fraser's—
Fraser's lying across the driver's seat, looking up at him wide-eyed.
He sucks air into his vacuum-packed lungs and stares at Fraser through the glass, hoping like hell Fraser can see how freaked out he is, because Ray's coming apart but he's never gonna be able to say it, and he knows he won't be able to let it go until Fraser understands.
Fraser does understand, though. Fraser meets Ray's glare and his eyes widen, and he nods just slightly. More like he's lowering his chin than actually nodding. And then—because Fraser is a guy who's never off-duty, even when he's giving his partner a fucking heart attack—Fraser jerks his head over towards Marconi's place.
There's a guy sauntering toward them. As soon as Ray sees him, Ray's on the ground, flicking off the safety, making a plan. He waits and nothing happens, so he risks another look and—hey, wait a minute! That's not Marconi. Same build, same face shape, but not him. That's fucking Sandor.
Must've been delivering to Marconi, or someone else in the building. Ray'd kill to get the inside scoop, but Ray and Sandor don't talk in public. Hell, they don't even know each other, officially speaking. So Ray stands up real casual, and avoids looking at the guy again, and Sandor, he just walks on past and gets in his car and drives off into the night.
Ray's still shaking and he doesn't want to talk to Fraser yet, so he goes back to the mess on the pavement and kicks the smushed coffee cup and the broken pieces of juice bottle into the gutter. He picks up the Penthouse, checks it's clear of glass, and then he goes back to the car.
"What was that?" he snarls, as soon as he's back behind the wheel.
"He came out of Marconi's building," said Fraser. "It seemed prudent to be discreet."
"Oh yeah? Was it prudent to scare me to death, too?" Ray hardly recognizes his own voice. He wipes the porn mag with his hand. The juice has wrinkled the cover girl's tits, but it's too late to back out now, and Ray's still whip-lashed from the bungee jump into hell. He tosses the magazine at Fraser. "I got you some reading material to pass the time." Which is stupid on so many levels, not least because they're on a stakeout. They're supposed to be watching the building, besides which, Ray can hardly turn on the car light to read.
Fraser looks at the Penthouse, then at Ray. His face is shadowy and confused. "Ray?"
Ray can't answer. He's clammy and gross, and he feels like an idiot from wildly over-reacting just now. And maybe the magazine thing is mean. All the arguments he's ever had in his life pile up on top of him and make him heavy and tired. "Forget it," he says at last.
Fraser looks at him like he's trying to decide which of a half dozen speeches to make. Will it be an Inuit story? Or a lecture on the evils of pornography? Or, because Fraser's weird and unpredictable, it could just as likely be a lecture on the health benefits of masturbation. Or some story about Fraser's dad that Ray's pretty sure he's better off not knowing.
Before Fraser can say a word, Ray blurts out, "Why don't you have a girlfriend?"
"I beg your pardon?" Fraser seems to be having trouble keeping up with the conversation.
"Wake up and smell the coffee, Frase. I'm trying to make small talk, here. Trying to keep the minutes ticking over." Ray's babbling now, he can feel it, but dark and harsh. He's not even sure which of them he's mad at.
"Ray, is everything—"
"No, Fraser. Everything is not," Ray cuts him off. He pushes his lips together to keep from saying any more.
"Is there anything I can do?" Fraser looks a little freaked out—by the magazine and by Ray—but he's keeping a lid on it. He's seen worse. He doesn't know what Ray knows, what Ray's just realized. That, yeah, maybe Ray is gay, if gay means he's in love with Fraser.
"Why don't you have a girlfriend?" Ray says again, and this time it sounds like he's pleading, like if Fraser was involved with a woman, wrapped up in a frilly perfume haze with a pretty girl, this would all somehow solve itself. Like the fact that Fraser's always around, always there for Ray—that they're everything for each other, more than anyone's been for Ray ever—has made this mess inevitable.
"Well, Ray, I don't have a lot of time for socializing," says Fraser carefully. "As you know, I have two jobs and, since I'm not always able to discharge my duties at the Consulate during normal working hours due to my role as liaison, I find my spare evenings are often required to, ah, maintain the right." He says the last bit, the Mountie motto, with more bitterness than Ray's ever heard from him.
Ray snorts in sympathy, momentarily distracted from himself. "Paperwork, huh? That sucks." They're both quiet for a moment, thinking how unfair life is: no matter how good you are at catching bad guys, how hard you work, there's always the stupid forms to fill out. Then Ray glances over at Fraser and asks, "But you want to, right? Meet someone? A girl?"
Fraser doesn't answer. He just stares at the magazine, which is sort of funny because there's tits on the cover, but Ray doesn't think Fraser's even seeing them.
Ray can't drop it. This conversation is key. He just needs to know Fraser's straight. Needs to hear it from his very own lips. Then he'll know it's hopeless, and he can move on. "Frase?"
"I'm not sure this is the best time—" Fraser murmurs.
Ray's not having any of it. "Nah, come on. I'm sorry about the porn. That was stupid." He pulls it out of Fraser's hands and tosses it into the back without looking. His pulse thrums at the base of his neck. "What's the deal?"
Fraser looks away so Ray can't see his face. "I expect that one day I'll be transferred back to Canada, Ray," Fraser says. "To the far north, I hope. It's not—it's not like here. It wouldn't be an easy adjustment for someone—for a person to make. So I've always believed it would be foolish on my part to form the kind of attachment that would necessitate a painful parting, when that time—when the transfer eventuates."
Oh. Ray wants to say "oh", but his vocal cords are suddenly twisted up in knots. Instead he folds himself around the steering wheel and closes his eyes. He'd known Fraser held himself separate from everyone. He'd thought it was just a Fraser thing, or maybe a general Canadian thing. He hadn't known Fraser was lonely on purpose, to save himself any painful partings. Jesus, Ray can barely breathe at the thought of Fraser leaving. "That's us," he says, without thinking.
And, for a wonder, Fraser gets it. "Yes." His voice is clearer, so he must have turned back toward Ray. "I'm afraid it is."
"You're gonna go." The steering wheel curves against Ray's forehead as he pictures Fraser at O'Hare with his bags and his wolf. He can practically hear the bell of the boarding call announcement.
"One day, yes." Fraser's voice is deep and soft. Ray wants to climb into it and curl up, but he stays with the wheel, with the GTO. The GTO ain't going nowhere.
There's a warm rasp of fingers on the back of Ray's neck. A second, two, of ruffled hair, and no, see, that's wrong. That's like Fraser's reading Ray's mind, which is scary as hell.
"What are you doing?" Ray says to the steering wheel, shrugging restlessly. "Don't do that."
The warmth vanishes instantly. "Sorry."
"I already got too much to lose, here," Ray tells the GTO. "I can't do that, too."
"I understand." There's a shuffling sound and the seat tilts. Ray rolls his head sideways and opens one eye. Fraser's swiveled around and is fishing in the backseat. A second later the Penthouse lands in Ray's lap. "And you, Ray? Is there a reason why you don't have a girlfriend?"
Ray recognizes that tone. That harsh make-it-easy-for-me, be-in-love-with-someone-else tone. He thinks about the lies he's been telling himself all these months: I'm still in love with Stella, I got no luck with women, I keep trying and they keep knocking me back. It's all bullshit, and Fraser knows it too.
A couple of blocks away a car alarm starts up, then stops just as suddenly. The street outside is empty.
"It's nothing," says Ray slowly, and he's never sounded more unconvincing in his life. "Guess I just haven't met the right—" He can't even finish the sentence, it's so dumb.
Fraser's eyes don't waver. "You will," he says, and his voice is hard and gentle, tipping Ray off-balance.
"No," he says, suddenly. "I won't." He closes his eyes so he doesn't have to see Fraser's face when he says it, and before he can stop himself, he adds, "I already did."
"Ray, you need to move on," says Fraser. "Stella has made it abundantly clear she's—"
Ray's eyes fly open. "Not Stella, you freak." He swallows and looks up at Marconi's building, and lets his mouth tell the truth. "I don't want anyone else." Intense, pointed. He thinks it's pretty obvious what he means.
Fraser doesn't say anything. He rests his forearms on the dash, and props his chin on his wrist, and stares at the building in front of them in silence.
"Hey, listen," says Ray, unable to stay quiet another second. "I'm sorry, okay. Can we just forget this?"
"You don't want to—?" And there's a kaleidoscope of hope and hurt and history in the question. Fraser's offering. Ray didn't think it would ever happen, but Fraser's offering him the chance to turn gold into diamonds, or maybe the other way around.
Ray stares at the building until the second floor lights make his teeth hurt. "I dunno, Frase. I—if you're gonna leave." He rubs a sudden itch on his nose against his shirt-cuff. "I'm not so good at that part."
"True enough." And now Ray's sure that Fraser's thinking about how Ray practically stalked Stella, how he couldn't let it go. How even though it turned out okay in the end, Stella can hardly look at Ray anymore. Yeah, that episode in Ray's life is hardly a sterling advertisement for Hey, Fall In Love With Well-Adjusted Ray! In fact, as promotional gigs go, tonight's not gonna make the top five, either.
Ray sneaks a glance sideways, but he can't read Fraser's face—there's something there he doesn't recognize. Tight, tired eyes. Fraser opens his mouth like he's gonna say something else, but then he shuts it again. Ray rolls up the stupid magazine into a tube. "Talking stick," he says, and hands it to Fraser. "Use it."
Fraser takes it and his mouth turns up at the corner, but it's not a smile. He clears his throat, and says softly, "I already—" He shakes his head.
"What?" Ray wants to push this. Wants to make Fraser say something that will break through, will make Fraser look at him. But there's too much distance. They've come too far. It's like they're already saying goodbye.
Fuck, that's it. Ray sits back as the truth sucker-punches him in the gut. He grabs the magazine-talking-stick, and hurls it in the back, and he turns to Fraser. "What are we doing? What the fuck are we doing?"
Fraser's eyes never waver from the lit window of 2d. "We're staking out Tony Marconi's apartment," he says, after a pause. Like it's a trick question. Like it's too late and he's already shut up his feelings shop for the night. Or for good.
"That's not what I'm saying."
Fraser's head comes up, eyes focused. Ray follows his gaze. Shit. There's Marconi, strolling out of the doorway like death on a stick. Glock .45 instead of a scythe. "Get down!" Ray hisses, but Fraser doesn't move. He freezes, blends into the shadows like a wild animal with camouflage. Ray tries to do the same, while his fingers fumble for the cellphone. Neither of them breathe.
Marconi swings onto his Indian motorbike. His eyes sweep the street, and there's no way he can miss seeing them, but he does. He fires her up and just then a thin blonde chick, barefoot in a lacy pink nightgown, runs out of his building and into the street and gets in his way. "Hey, baby," she says to Marconi in a shrill voice that carries over the engine's growl. "We're outta milk again, okay? Can you stop by the 7-11 on your way home?"
"Fuck it, Mel. I got to get to work," growls Marconi. He grabs her and kisses her, his hands sliding down her curves, and then he sighs, "Okay. Get inside. ER's gonna start any minute." He shoves her away and roars into the night.
The woman watches him turn the corner, and while the echoes bounce off buildings, Ray scrabbles for the phone, and rings Huey. "It's me. It's happening. He's on his way."
And then the blonde chick scampers inside, the street's quiet again, and all the electric tension that's buzzing through the car softens until it's just the two of them, and the shreds of their friendship. Ray's limp and tired, and he wants to go home, but first he needs for Fraser to look at him.
"Hey," he says softly, and his hand finds the nape of Fraser's neck, warm and firm above the collar of his uniform, little bumps of bone pushing out against his fingers. He mirrors Fraser's caress from earlier.
Fraser doesn't shrug him away. He closes his eyes, and somehow Ray knows that Fraser's expecting the worst, he's collecting this like a memory. Ray moves real close, rests his own head on Fraser's elbow so they're nearly cheek to cheek. "Hey," he says. "Stop it. Stop saying goodbye to me."
"I don't know that I can," says Fraser. He sounds like he's got laryngitis.
"You have to," says Ray. He leans in and presses his face into the side of Fraser's neck, and stays there, inhaling him, rubbing his nose against the skin under Fraser's ear, feeling the scratch of stubble on his jaw and the faint smell of wool and sweat. His arm slides lower, circling Fraser's waist and holding tight, and he pushes into the angle of Fraser's shoulder. "You have to, because I swear to god, we haven't even said hello yet."
Fraser pulls back, arms unfolding from the dash. "How can you say that?" His indignant fingers grip Ray's shoulders as the words tumble out. "How can you imply that our friendship doesn't count?" He stares into Ray's eyes. Yeah. "We've said hello, Ray. I've said hello to you a thousand times."
"Okay, then," says Ray, surrendering to this reasoning. Either route, the outcome's the same: playing safe doesn't make sense anymore. They're both already in this up to their necks.
"Okay?" repeats Fraser, like he's lost the thread again. "Okay what?"
"Okay. You're right. We've already said hello—" Ray rests his hands on Fraser's chest, feels his heartbeat beneath the uniform. "—so let's not rush the goodbyes, huh?" He curls his fingers up so they're threaded through the epaulettes, and he tugs Fraser gently until their lips touch. "Goodbyes suck."
Fraser licks his lip, hot tongue flicking against Ray's mouth, and then leans back, staring at Ray. "Are you sure?"
The million dollar question. Ray doesn't know if he's sure. He knows what he thinks he wants, but this could still be the stupidest thing he's ever done. "Try me," he says.
"All right." Fraser takes a deep breath and looks past Ray, out into the street. His eyes narrow. Ray braces himself. "Piston."
Whoa. Ray's brain floods with images, sweat-slick skin moving hard, kisses hot and sweet, cocks thrusting. His breath catches. He's dizzy. He opens his mouth, but he doesn't have words for this, not words he can say to Fraser. So he says what he always comes back to when he doesn't know what else to say. "Canada."
Fraser doesn't query that, thank god, just raises an eyebrow. His gaze flicks back to Ray, tense and serious. Here's the big test. "Northwest Territories."
"Adventure," says Ray, knowing this is right. Not even having to think about it. And before Fraser can answer, Ray pulls him close, feels his arms tighten around him. Their mouths meet hungrily, matching each other kiss for kiss. It's awkward at first—tangled arms, uncomfortable neck angles, clashing knees—but they shift and press together, and soon it's perfect. It's perfect. They're desperate and magnetic, defying the odds, defying gravity and goodbyes. It's like a switch has been thrown, and Fraser's gone from being Ray's gorgeous-but-buttoned-up friend and partner to being the hottest sexiest person Ray's ever known.
Ray breaks away, panting, his hand clutching Fraser's hip, his thumb stroking through the serge. I want to fuck you, he thinks, but what he says is, "We gonna do this?"
And Fraser cups Ray's neck, firm and gentle, and says, "Yeah. If you'll have me."