Rating: PG
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski pre-slash
Thanks: Thanks to mergatrude for beta. Dialogue courtesy of Katie's No-Frills Link Page for Due South Transcripts.
Notes: A response to bohemian__storm's vignette, Calmly.

Stale

by china_shop


The city lights hold the dark at bay. Everything's held back. Ray hasn't said a word to me since the phonecall: "I socked you. You sock me, we'll be even. No apologies, no regrets. That's how this works, Fraser."

"Ray, that's just silly—" I started, but he'd already hung up. Even then I thought there was still a chance to straighten things out. I should've known better: what were the first things I learned about Ray Kowalski but his courage and his persistence. He continued to drive a burning car at my insistence; he stepped in front of Greta Garbo's gun; he staked out an adversary from decades past. He has a brave heart, a long memory, and excellent follow-through. I've been glad of those traits in the last year—they're part of what make him a good partner, a fine friend—but now, fleetingly, I wish it were different. Wish he were different.

I know it's foolish. If he were different, he wouldn't be this man I know, this passionate volatile man. I've learned many things from him, and now I'll learn how to look him in the eye and say goodbye.


* * *


He's driving more slowly than usual—careful and contained, his eyes fixed on the road ahead. If I didn't know better, I'd swear he was delaying. Perhaps— "Ray, can't we talk about this?"

"No, Fraser. No more talking. It's too late for that."

It's too late. He struck me and I refused to fight him. I made him my assailant, not my equal, and claimed the high ground by default. Only a miracle can save us now.


* * *


Ray parks the car on the dock and we get out. Suddenly I hate him for making me do this. I hate him for wanting to leave.

The lake smells of old socks and stale takeout food, and I hate it. I hate Chicago. "This is where it started, so this is where we'll end it," Ray says.

"All right. I was over there." We take our places. I hear my grandmother's voice: Benton, you must never hurt anyone without just cause. She said it at the start of each boxing lesson, reading the frontispiece from her book. A gentleman never strikes another in anger; self-control is the greatest of all the manly arts. I shake my head. "I can't do this, Ray."

He narrows his eyes. "Look, you have to."

"This is for good?"

"You put in your transfer, I'll put in mine. It's quits."

"You're sure about this?"

"Do it."


* * *


I could have pulled the punch. I intended to. I was still thinking rationally when my fist walloped him, taking us both by surprise. So this is what he's reduced us to—brawling like a pair of drunken sailors. I don't understand him—perhaps I choose not to—and worse, he makes me not understand myself. My body's reaction to his rage. He brings me alive.

"There," he says. "Done. Pleasure working with you."

I stare at him. He can't be serious.

"Come on," he adds. "I'll give you a lift."


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