Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski, Kowalski/Vecchio, Fraser/Kowalski/Vecchio
Thanks: Many thanks and kittens to sprat for her dazzling beta skillz. I am deeply indebted.
Notes: I wrote this after pearl_o suggested "strange and uncomfortable threesomes!" and I said, "I don't yet have any interest at all in threesomes." Apparently my brain is a petri dish.

Canoes and Taxidermy

by china_shop


Couple of times a year for the first two years, Ray visited Fraser in Canada and they fucked, hungry and impatient, once or twice a day for the duration of the visit. Ray learned Fraser's new scars, saw the toll the seasons had taken. "You seeing anyone?" he always asked when he arrived. "I don't want to fuck that up."

Fraser never was.

"You know I see other people, right?" Ray said every time, wanting to keep everything aboveboard. You can lie to a Mountie, but it tends to keep you up at nights.

He didn't say that the "people" he saw in Chicago was Vecchio, though. He'd sort of like to have told Fraser—gotten his opinion—but Ray and Vecchio weren't telling anyone, so Ray figured he should check with Vecchio first, and he never did.

After a week or so, Ray staggered onto the little 16-seater plane, his balls sore, his heart pumping an achy mix of regret and relief, and he went home.


: : :


Fraser and Ray had first fucked on the quest. It had been rough and wild, not at all what Ray'd been dreaming about. Afterward Ray figured that they'd spent too much time with the dogs, and had gone semi-feral themselves.

It all started when Ray went crazy one evening, in the tiny pitch-black tent. He'd yelled, "How could you bring me here, Fraser? Are you out of your mind? I'm not—"

"Ray—"

"I'm going koo-koo jibber-jabber crazy, here. I've got claustrophobia so I can't breathe, and that makes no fucking sense because we got nothing but space. Nothing and nothing and nothing—" He was shouting so loud he had to stop for breath between each word.

"And each other," said Fraser quietly.

Ray turned toward his voice. "I don't—"

Fraser wrapped his arms tight around Ray. "Standard procedure," he said, calmly. "Human touch is very important, psychologically speaking." Which was damned funny coming from him, but Ray didn't feel like laughing.

Ray struggled briefly, then sat stock still, churning with strange reactions. He'd thought he was cool with the whole deal—the adventure, Fraser. He'd decided to endure it, sweat his way through it, doing whatever needed to be done to survive, as though it was a Technicolor surround-sound nightmare. But now—

He pushed his hips, his dick, forward. "How about this? Is this standard procedure? Is it?"

Fraser made a choked sound. "As a matter of fact—"

Ray pushed him down onto the sleeping bags before he could finish, and they rolled around, wrestling to see who'd get dominance. It was Fraser, of course, and Ray was down with that, the first time. He rolled over, easy as you please. He'd been wanting to.

The next night, Fraser assumed, but Ray fought back. He pulled some dirty tricks and took the upper hand. Sighed as he buried his hands in Fraser's hair and kissed him, as his cock pushed sleekly against Fraser's, against his hip, and then, soon after, into the furnace heat of him.

All Ray really remembered about that was the heat. Outside it was so cold it could freeze you solid in minutes. Inside, there was heat that could melt you to the core. Sex with Fraser was a mindfuck of the first order.


: : :


They'd only talked once about Ray staying. "What would you do?" Fraser had asked.

Ray'd flinched like Fraser had slapped a plane ticket across his face, but after thinking about it for a couple of hours, he'd known Fraser was right. Ray was a cop. Too good a cop to quit and do nothing. He said, "I love you. I fucking love you." Just saying it made him tired.

"But?" asked Fraser, and his eyes left Ray's face and slid to the horizon, to the edge of the ice, where the sun was pretending it was really going to set this time. Liar.

"But you're right." Ray shook his head. "I gotta go home." He knew better than to ask Fraser to come too. The words burned on his tongue, but he swallowed them down like medicine.

Once upon a time Ray would've stayed. Fraser was his. But the ice fields had stretched Ray wide-open. He'd lost the edges of himself as well as the edges of everyone else. When he left he said, "I'll visit." He said, "For god's sake, find someone else. Be happy. You been alone too long."

He couldn't believe he'd said that.


: : :


And then Vecchio, and the visits north. At first it was fine. It was just the way it was. But after a while, Vecchio wasn't so keen on the arrangement anymore. Vecchio was getting possessive, wanted to settle down.

"You knew the deal," Ray shouted. "I never lied to you. Nothing's changed."

"I've changed," said Vecchio, and he had. He'd even told his family about the two of them.

"Yeah, well, I didn't ask you to," snapped Ray, even though he loved that, loved Sunday dinner with the crazy Italians, seeing Frannie and the kids, and pigging out on all Ma Vecchio's home cooking.

They glared at each other. "Okay," said Ray at last. "So come with me."

"What?" Vecchio stopped dead in his tracks, thunderstruck.

Ray leaned forward and nipped Vecchio's lip. "Come north with me. Let's go see Fraser."


: : :


For two years Ray'd been acting star-crossed, wishing he was with Fraser but knowing for sure that geography and circumstances were against them. The visits had been a compromise, had always felt like making do.

About a year ago, Vecchio had knocked on his door. Vecchio had bitched and joked and worked with him, and then fucked him, and now Vecchio was a part of Ray's Chicago life. The life he wanted. The life Fraser didn't fit anymore.

Life without Fraser, without any Fraser would be bleak and ordinary. Fraser was the magic charm he held close, the secret that made Ray different from all the other poor schmucks shuffling through their boring lives. But Vecchio—how the hell would he get through the days without Vecchio around to hold him together and understand? Vecchio always understood—when work got shitty, when Ray needed to scowl and kick things and stomp around cursing the stupidity of people, when Ray needed to fuck hard and dirty and not talk. Not talk.

And the thing was, they needed him too. Fraser was all alone up there, with the ice and the dark, and the other Mounties, who were proper and probably straight, and maybe knew a thousand words for snow but didn't know any words for Fraser except "Constable".

And Vecchio—Vecchio had been rattling around Chicago like a loose screw, before he and Ray had hooked up. He'd lost track of his friends from before Vegas, and didn't seem in any hurry to look them up again, so now he just had his family and Ray. Vecchio was gonna turn into a crazy old uncle telling stupid jokes at Christmas dinner, if Ray didn't keep him on his toes.

They all needed each other. Ray thought maybe if he got Vecchio and Fraser back together—just friends, just so they could remember how much they cared about each other—then things would be okay. Vecchio would understand how impossible the situation was. That Ray couldn't choose, that he shouldn't have to. Everyone would be happy.


: : :


Fraser was surprised to see them. Well, surprised to see Vecchio. Maybe they should've called first.

"Ray!"

"Hey, Fraser. How you been?" Vecchio smiled warmly and held out a hand, but he kept his arm slung across Ray's shoulder. "Where's the wolf?"

"Diefenbaker's visiting Maggie. He claimed he needed a vacation." Fraser pushed his hands into his pockets, and returned the polite catch-up questions—how were Welsh, the Vecchios, Huey and Dewey. He seemed distracted.

When they got out to the jeep, Ray shrugged Vecchio off and gave Fraser a quick hug, clapped him on the back. "Good to see you, man." He pulled back, and grinned, covering the awkwardness. "You, me, Vecchio. It'll be just like old times."

Neither Vecchio nor Fraser corrected him.


: : :


The drive to Fraser's cabin was like always. Once they'd left the township, it was forty minutes along a gravel road that wound up and up through the trees. Ray stared out the window through his sunglasses, and tried to recognize landmarks—boulders split by ice, and gnarled twisted trees—but he never could, and it wasn't until he saw the "Flats, Welding, Fixing Stuff" sign outside Toby Jefferson's mailbox that he knew they were nearly there.

Five minutes later they passed Holden Jones' place ("Canoes and Taxidermy"), and shortly after that they turned left into Fraser's half-mile driveway, bumping through the ruts in the track until they reached the house.

All the way from the airport, Fraser caught them up on the local happenings. He glanced at Ray now and then like he was waiting for something. Usually by halfway home they'd have pulled off the road and parked, Ray would've asked, You seeing anyone? You know I see other people, right?, and then Ray's mouth would have been on Fraser, learning him again, scratching that itch he carried that never went away, never except when he was with Fraser.

But Vecchio was in the backseat, so it couldn't be that Fraser was waiting for. Ray didn't ask.


: : :


While Fraser was out getting more wood from the shed, Vecchio, still wearing his coat, prowling around like a cat getting its feet wet, said, "Where we gonna sleep?"

Ray turned on him. He knew Vecchio was just freaked because he was tired from the trip, but Ray was too worn out to cut him any slack. "Would you quit it?"

Vecchio's eyes narrowed. "Quit what?"

"Being all 'we' this and 'we' that. We're here to see Fraser."

Vecchio inhaled sharply. "You fucking invited—"

The door pushed open, and Fraser came in, rosy-cheeked and breathless. He dropped his load of kindling into the basket by the fire with a clatter. "There's musk ox and three-bean stew for dinner," he announced, cheerily.

Ray couldn't tell if Fraser was deliberately ignoring the tense atmosphere, or if his brain had actually frozen solid since Ray's last visit.


: : :


Dinner started off uncomfortable. Vecchio shoveled food into his mouth and ignored Ray, while Fraser was quiet and thoughtful, and watched them both. Ray tried desperately to think of a way to break the ice, and once he'd exhausted the commenting-on-the-food options—"Great stew, Frase. Did you kill it yourself?" —he hit on the idea of telling stories about Frannie's kids. That did the trick like magic. Fraser laughed at the funny bits, and Vecchio even filled in some of the details. "No, no, no. It wasn't Mikey. It was Juliette with the toy lion. Remember, 'cause she pulled the mane off and wore it like a beard for the rest of the morning."

For a while it almost was like old times. The old times they never had.


: : :


There was only the one bed. "We can easily take the floor, you know, Ray," Fraser told Vecchio. "I've done it a hundred times, and Ray's used to—"

"Hey, you won't hear any argument from me." Vecchio picked up Ray's bag and put it on the bed next to his own. "Ray and me can—"

"No way, Frase," Ray interrupted, firmly. "We're not turning you out of your bed. It's plenty big enough for all of us."

Fraser looked startled at the suggestion, and Vecchio scowled behind Fraser's back. Ray raised his hands. "No arguments. It's been a hell of a long day and I do not have the oomph to fight about this."

He figured the two of them would settle down eventually. They were all friends here, smart guys. They'd figure out a way to make this work.

Vecchio looked like he had a hundred and one snappy comebacks on the tip of his tongue, but he shrugged instead and went to brush his teeth.

Fraser was frowning. "Are you sure this is wise?" he asked Ray.

Ray took the opportunity to give him a proper kiss hello, reacquainting himself with Fraser's tongue, his mouth that still, after all this time, tasted like home. "I didn't come all this way to sleep six feet of icy air away from you, okay?"

"Why did you come, Ray?" Fraser asked in a low voice, like he really didn't know.

Vecchio chose that moment to barge in. Fraser started and tried to spring back, but Ray wouldn't let him. Gave him a soft goodnight kiss and a tight hug before he released him.

Vecchio frowned, but he didn't say anything.

"Would the two of you please chill the fuck out?" Ray said. He was aiming for teasing, but it came out kind of grouchy, so he sighed and went to get ready for bed.


: : :


Ray dreamed of marshmallows and wolves, and the pull tabs off of a hundred beer cans all strung together like Christmas tree lights over Fraser's mantelpiece. He dreamed Stella was pregnant. He dreamed Vecchio and Fraser had converted the GTO into a campervan and the three of them were driving to Saskatoon.

He woke up sandwiched between them. Fraser's head was on his arm, and he'd drooled into Ray's armpit a little. Ray rested his hand softly at the nape of Fraser's neck, then twisted to kiss the stubbly back of Vecchio's head, which shared Ray's pillow. Neither of them stirred.

Ray stealthily straightened his rucked-up t-shirt, trying not to wake either of them. Then he lay there dozing, enjoying their warmth and the way their breathing made uneven lopsided rhythms in his head.


: : :


Fraser woke first. He sprang out of bed. "I'm late for work," he whispered, firmly, and left without breakfast. Ray frowned into the pillow. Usually when he visited, Fraser took vacation days.

Vecchio slept for another two hours. When he woke up, he called to Ray, who was sitting by the fire with a mug of coffee. "Hey," he said. "Come back to bed."

Ray glanced up from a book on native Canadian wildlife, where he was reading up on Dief's extended family. "We are not fucking in Fraser's bed."

Vecchio's expression soured. "Why the hell did you bring me here, Kowalski?"


: : :


That night, Ray and Vecchio drank four and a half bottles of wine between them, and Ray proposed several toasts to the Queen so that Fraser would have an excuse to be part of the party too.

And it did turn into something like a party. With four glasses of Merlot under his belt, Vecchio relaxed enough to reminisce, and he and Fraser told increasingly improbable tales of their cases together—cases that Ray had read about years ago when he'd been studying up for his Vecchio stint, but had never heard the details of: the Dief-pee sniffing, Fraser—Fraser!—undercover as a woman, the guy with the gourmet chickens.

Ray sat back and watched the two of them, their friendship lighting up their faces. It was good they were back together. It was right. He squashed the pang of jealousy. So what if Vecchio had known Fraser first, and Ray would always be the late-comer. He knew they loved him.

"You two never—?" he asked, waving his hand between them.

"What?" asked Fraser.

"Hell, no," said Vecchio, who knew what Ray was asking.

"Ah," said Fraser. "No." His lips curved as he regarded Vecchio. "I didn't think I was your type."

Vecchio's eyebrows went up. "And if you had?"

"You're a good friend, Ray," Fraser answered.

"What am I, Swiss cheese?" Ray asked, pretending to be insulted.

"Trouble," Vecchio fired back. "A world of pain." But he was smiling when he said it.


: : :


Ray was drunk and giddy by the time they retired to bed. Fraser mentioned the bedroll again, but Ray said, "Nuh-huh", and dragged him down onto the mattress.

Vecchio curled up behind them, his arm folded around Ray's chest, his face nuzzled into the back of Ray's neck. Fraser looked bemused at them, gave Ray a chaste goodnight kiss, and then rolled onto his back on the very edge of the bed, and lay, stiff as a board, seeming to go to sleep.

Moonlight blared in the window, keeping Ray awake. He held up a protesting hand to shield his eyes. "Fraser, turn off that fucking light," he whined.

Vecchio laughed, a throaty rumble into the back of Ray's hair, and Ray squirmed against him provocatively, knowing there was a reason he shouldn't, but too drunk to care. He was horny, dammit.

Then Vecchio was leaning over him, but was talking to Fraser. "Hey, Benny," he said, his voice smooth and dry like Merlot, with a tickle of amusement lurking in its depths. "What say we show our boy here a good time?"

Fraser made a hesitant noise, traced with longing, and Ray couldn't help himself. Pinning Vecchio's arm to his chest to keep him close, Ray rolled forward so he was half-lying on Fraser, and kissed him hard and sloppy.

One heartbeat, two, and then Fraser caved, and kissed back. Groaned and opened his mouth, licking Ray's lips, licking into his mouth, and down the side of his neck. He reached out and pressed his hungry body against Ray, his cock hard and obvious in his long johns.

Ray's breath caught deep in his throat. Oh jesus. Vecchio pressed up behind, his hands sliding under Ray's t-shirt at the side, pushing it up, baring Ray's ribs to Vecchio's mouth. "Oh fuck," breathed Ray, torn between pushing forward and back. "Yeah."

Vecchio murmured agreement, and Fraser was saying something, was talking in his deep voice as he slid down Ray's body, kissing and sucking, making Ray twist wildly. Vecchio's hands on Ray's hips. Ray's boxers were gone, like magic. How had that—? Ray couldn't think. He was melting. It was like the stars were aligned, the fucking gods of the north were smiling down on them. It was like being in a tiny tent in the middle of nowhere, with frozen death outside and honest-to-god living heat right here, inside him, with him, inside him. Oh christ, fingers were pushing inside of him, slick and eager. Ray didn't know, didn't care whose.

Fraser was down there, now, was taking Ray into his mouth, his beautiful mouth. Ray whimpered. Gasped for breath. And then Vecchio's skin on Ray's back, Vecchio's cock hard against Ray's ass. And those fingers, pushing in. Hands everywhere. Oh jesus, oh jesus. It was torture. He couldn't last, and he wanted—really wanted, his whole heart pounding in his rib cage—needed this to last. To have them both, to have them all be together. Oh jesus fucking

He closed his eyes and let them, let them—Shook his head in protest when the fingers pulled out, and then lips on his ear—must be Vecchio, because Fraser was still—and hands tightening on his hips, and that blunt press, the press and squeeze and pushing in, tilting Ray's hips forward, forcing Ray's cock deeper into Fraser's throat, and Fraser took it, took it, would always take it. Fraser's hands on Ray's thighs. Those soft noises he made. Fuck. Ray couldn't—

He was floating. He was liquid and delirious with pleasure, moaning. He was the focus of all of this. Through his eyelids, the moonlight dazzled him blind as the men he loved fucked him and sucked him, and their roughened hands roamed up and down the length his body.

It was too good. He couldn't—Oh, yeah. He came hard, jizz and swearwords jerked out of him by Vecchio's thrusts, the bright tang of orgasm jolting him further awake, or maybe further into madness. It was still good after, too. The throb and push deep inside him. Ray's head spun as he drifted on a tide of low insistent pleasure.

He threaded his fingers into Fraser's thick hair and drew him up so they were face-to-face. Reached down, but Fraser's cock was already softening, and his hand, when Ray found it, was wet. Ray pulled it to his mouth and shakily sucked it clean, the taste of him as familiar as coffee or salt. Each finger, one by one, thick knuckles and scars. He bit down convulsively when Vecchio's strokes sped up, and Fraser growled and pulled free—but not away. Ray slid his tongue gratefully across the crevasses of Fraser's hand, wanting to give something to Fraser, yeah, and take something too. He shut his eyes and pushed his face into Fraser's slippery palm.

Fraser was solid and there, an anchor. Ray braced himself against him while Vecchio fucked Ray deeper and wilder, Vecchio's broken curses in Ray's ear, Ray's hands on Fraser's chest and face. Ray forced his eyes open, blinking to see through Fraser's splayed fingers, but Fraser's face was black with shadow, so Ray leaned in and kissed him, hard and breathless, until Vecchio came in Ray's ass.


: : :


They lay, panting and silent, radiating heat. The sheets were damp and twisted. Ray was too drunk and fucked out to care. "Gonna shower," he mumbled, but his legs protested when he tried to turn over, so he flopped back and waited for strength to return.

Vecchio huffed a laugh at him, and reached across to ruffle Fraser's hair.


: : :


The next morning was weirdly like the morning before. It was Friday, Ray remembered vaguely, through his hangover, as Fraser gently disentangled himself from Ray's koala hold and slid out of bed.

"Stay," Ray mumbled, but Fraser pressed a kiss to his sour lips and said, "Go back to sleep," and then he was going, going, gone. A gust of freezing air, and the door shut with a click.

Ray turned and burrowed into Vecchio's arms, and instantly fell back asleep.


: : :


When he woke again, Vecchio was jerking him off in slow steady strokes that held him breathless, and he was too boneless and happy to question it. It was just what the doctor ordered, the perfect start to the day, and he wrapped his arms around Vecchio's neck and rode it out, his breath quickening, Fraser's kiss still on his lips.

Vecchio must've still been pretty sensitive from the night before. When Ray returned the favor, Vecchio bit his lip and twisted his head away as he came, gasping like it hurt.

Afterwards, they both slept.


: : :


Ray spent the rest of the day feeling like his head was going to explode. It wasn't just the hangover. It was like his two worlds had crashed into each other, matter and anti-matter, and he was a cartoon character with a charred smoking crater where his head should be.

Last night had been—last night had been—He got hard just thinking about it, and the word-making part of his brain switched off. He couldn't stop sneaking his fingers under his clothes to prod his hip where Vecchio had held him so tight, so tight. It was a little sore but, oh, it had been worth it.

Let's not talk about it, he practiced. Let's pretend nothing's changed. Hey, it was greatness! Fuck, yeah, let's do it again!


: : :


Fraser's hand came up, thumb extended. From Ray's hidden vantage point in the shadows of the bathroom doorway, his view obscured by a family of carved wooden grizzly bears on the tallboy, Ray guessed Fraser was rubbing his eyebrow. "Of course not," he was saying earnestly. "I don't believe either of us expect you to. It was a freak occurrence, a lightning strike—"

Vecchio leaned forward in his chair, firelight flickering orange across his face. "No, I mean this. I can't do any of this. Not anymore."

Ray clutched his damp towel, torn between barging in and going back to the bathroom. In the end, he did neither. Just stood there and listened. Neither of them saw him.

Fraser's voice was rich with confusion. "I don't quite—"

"I can't be partners with him while you and him are doing it." Vecchio threw his hands in the air, defeated. "It's too fucked."

"I didn't realise you and Ray were working together," said Fraser slowly, the question taking shape as he spoke.

Ray held his breath as Vecchio replied. "We're not. What are you talking about?"

"Then—?"

Vecchio's voice rose. "Partners, Fraser. Partner-partners."

"Oh." Then Fraser was on his feet, moving back, away from the fire, away from Vecchio.

Ray stepped forward helplessly, arm outstretched to stop this. But Fraser and Vecchio were staring at each other.

"You didn't know," Vecchio said, incredulously. He turned to the fire, and shook his head. "He didn't know." There was a pause, and then Vecchio slumped back in his chair, his head tilted so he could see Fraser's face. "He didn't tell you."

Fraser turned toward the kitchen. His face was pale, his jaw working. "That seems to—" He clenched his fists by his sides, his eyes dark. "I'm sorry, Ray, I—I need to see to the dogs." And then he looked past Vecchio and stared straight at Ray, and Ray felt it like a blow, like the righteous fury of God.


: : :


The dogs whined and barked when Ray pushed into the shed. Fraser was standing at the window, his hands gripping the sill. In the half-light, his knuckles shone white.

Ray scowled, resenting that Fraser was pulling moral rank, that he thought he had the high ground. "I never lied to you."

Fraser's voice was quiet and flat. "And when you said you see other people?"

"People, person." Ray shrugged, and skirted the ancient broken-down biplane—picking up a pair of wire cutters as he passed—to arrive at Fraser's side. "What did you think? You think I go out to bars and get fucked by strangers? I'm pushing forty, Frase. And I didn't lie."

"I'd call it a sin of omission." Fraser turned to him. Ray put out a hand, and Fraser knocked it back, then said fiercely, "Did you honestly think I would have agreed to this arrangement if I'd known the truth?"

"Yeah," said Ray. He gripped the wire cutters tight to stop his hands from shaking, and made himself hold Fraser's gaze. "Yeah, I did."

Fraser's mouth twisted. "Then you don't know me at all."

Ray shook his head violently. "No, that is not it, Fraser. I know you. I fucking know—I love you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't—I didn't know it was okay. Vecchio was—"

Fraser's expression hardened, and Ray couldn't look anymore. Couldn't meet those eyes. He dropped his gaze, and that was it. Connection severed.

He tried one more time. "Me and Vecchio, it's not—"

"His name," Fraser interrupted, cool and softly scathing, "is Ray."


: : :


Ray had a gash along his ring finger from the wire cutters, from squeezing them too tight. He unpacked Fraser's first aid kit onto the table and stared at the little tubes of smelly ointment made from whales and seaweed and herbs, the band-aids, the tiny shiny scissors. He waited for his brain to figure out what to do, how to make the hurt stop.

Vecchio found him there, and rubbed antiseptic cream into the cut, and then called him an idiot and a moron until Ray snapped back.

"That's better," said Vecchio. He made a fist in Ray's hair, and shook his head gently like he was a puppy. "You look like death."


: : :


Fraser drove them into town later that night. Ray sat in the back and watched their heads, silhouetted by the headlights and the sun that wouldn't fucking go away. They were so different, so very different.

After a while, over the sound of the engine, he heard Vecchio say, "I missed you, Benny."

"And I, you, Ray," said Fraser, glancing over at him, the edge of his face like a sliver of moon.

Ray gritted his teeth, and pressed his fingers to his forehead, and looked away.


: : :


Fraser dropped them at a bed and breakfast. He kept the engine running. Once they'd piled their bags on the pavement, Vecchio leaned in the passenger door and asked, "What will you do?"

Ray, who was half in and half out of the backseat, stopped and pretended not to listen.

"Maggie's about to—" Fraser stopped and cleared his throat. "Maggie's about to build a new home up near Great Slave Lake. She's asked me to go and help out."

Vecchio nodded, and patted his arm. "Okay. You take care, Benny."

"Yeah." Fraser revved the engine, like he was impatient to be off. Like he wasn't going to say goodbye to Ray at all.

Ray pushed in next to Vecchio. "This is stupid," he said, last ditch desperation making his voice croak. "For christ's sake, Fraser! Look at me! We can't just—"

Fraser turned then, turned and took Ray's breath away with the pain in his eyes.

"We can fix this," said Ray, the lie obvious this time, even to himself. "We can figure this out. I'm sorry."

"Goodbye, Ray," Fraser said, like an echo. Ray had yelled across the ice fields Nothing and nothing and nothing, and the sound had bounced back, small and thin.

"Bye," he said now, cold sliding into his body like a knife. "Goodbye, Fraser. I'm sorry."


: : :


They changed their flights, and left the next day. Vecchio was quiet, giving Ray too much space, too much time to think. Ray fiddled with his seatbelt and the zipper on his jacket. He stretched his legs out into the aisle, and then folded them back under his seat again, jiggling his leg impatiently until the plane took off. He tried to distract himself with practicalities. He thought about work, about the cases piling up on his desk. About Chicago and the Cubs and the crowds of people cheering together at the game. About the terrible semi-poisonous hotdogs from the stand by the fruit market, and how he kept meaning to report them to the health authorities. He leaned his head back, and reached for Vecchio's warm strong hand, and tried not to think at all, but his mind wouldn't stop racing.

"So, I don't get it," he said at last, half wondering if he was purposely trying to pick a fight.

Vecchio turned his attention from the miles of wilderness spread out below them. "What?"

Ray glanced at him, then away. "You guys were tight. Best friends. How come you didn't tell him?"

Vecchio frowned. "What're you on about, Kowalski? Tell him what?" Vecchio had shadows under his eyes. This had been a hell of a vacation for all of them.

"That you're bent." Vecchio tried to pull his hand away, but Ray held on. "I mean, I know you never told anyone, but not even Fraser?"

Vecchio tilted his chin, daring Ray to disbelieve him. "I didn't know."

Ray just looked at him. How could he not have known?

"I didn't know," Vecchio insisted. "I thought I was straight. I loved women. I didn't know."


: : :


They were coming in to land at Yellowknife Airport before either of them spoke again. Ray tapped Vecchio on the shoulder to get his attention. "So, when did you figure it out?"

Vecchio raised his eyebrows, patiently waiting for Ray to click.

Ray returned his gaze blankly. He was missing something, a clue. Something obvious. His brain had frozen solid.

Finally Vecchio snorted, and leaned close. "When do you think, dumbass?" The words were soft and scornful, but the thumb that rubbed over Ray's knuckles and brushed lightly over the band-aid was blessedly warm, and Ray finally got it—dumbass—and closed the gap between them, mouth to melting mouth.


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