The Distances Between
With many thanks to Brooklinegirl for yet another excellent beta. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, mine.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch, But love is not a victory march, It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.
~ Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
Ray hadn't expected to be right, and definitely not about this. But he was right, and now he didn't really know how he felt about it. He was probably going to be late for his flight. That sucked. That sucked on the same level as missing the school bus had sucked when he was a kid. He was supposed to catch this bus, and it would take him to that street, and he would enter through those doors, and call it "going to school." He didn't want to catch the bus, or see that street, or open those doors, but missing the bus had always sucked worse. Whenever he missed it, he had to run for the public bus, then jog for twenty minutes to get to the school, and then get told off by his math teacher for being late again.
Today, his flight would take him to Edmonton, and then from there, another flight would bring him back home to Chicago, where he'd catch a cab, and unlock the door to his apartment, and call it "leaving Canada". He didn't want to catch his flight, and he didn't want to make the Edmonton connection. He didn't want to sit in a cramped seat for hours, listening to others hacking and coughing and snoring, drinking crappy airline coffee from a tiny cup with a plastic stirrer, and pretending like he had anything to come back to. He didn't want to find an ATM machine, get out crisp green twenties, and tell the cabbie to take him to his place. He didn't want to use his keys, and he didn't want to walk through his door. He didn't want to leave Canada.
But "Canada" was currently not wanting him, with Mr. All-Canadian sitting to his left, gritting his teeth, and probably trying to phrase "Ray, you were right, and I was wrong, and this is all my fault" in a way that sounded completely the opposite.
Ray had been jittery and on edge and messed up all morning. He'd woken up at four, found Fraser all the way on the other side of the bed. He didn't know whether or not he had expected Fraser to cuddle all night long, but he'd figured, anything was possible. Maybe he had hoped. Not because he particularly wanted a sweating Fraser plastered against him underneath the quilts all night, but because it might have meant that Fraser wanted him to stay. Maybe he was worth it, after all. Maybe- fuck it. Ray knew he wasn't worth it, not for Fraser. Maybe Ray was the one who thought that if you loved a guy like only a best friend could, and also had great sex with him, it meant something. Fraser didn't appear to believe that. Fraser didn't need anybody else, it seemed, Fraser did just fine on his own. Stella'd done just fine on her own. It was Ray who was a needy, dumb bastard.
Stupid, that's what he was.
So, he'd rolled off the bed, washed his face in the sink, changed his clothes. He had made coffee by the range, whispering to Dief, while Fraser slept, almost hanging off the bed. Ray had thought about turning him around, maybe, making him more comfortable, since there was no danger of bumping dicks with Ray anymore, but then changed his mind. He'd probably spook him even worse. He didn't want Fraser waking up, thinking Ray was about to kiss him goodbye, or something embarrassing like that. Ray had learned his lesson. From now on, it was him, the turtle, and the job. Married to it, he'd heard somewhere. Yeah, he could do that.
So, he'd packed his bags, unpacked them again, watched Fraser wake up and go through the motions of his morning routine. While Ray was repacking, he was watching for signs that Fraser even remembered the last few nights - all Ray had to do was close his eyes, and bam, there they were, naked, sweating, fucking each other's brains out - but Fraser had barely said "good morning."
Ray knew Fraser remembered. Remembered, and probably tried his level best to forget. Ray'd always know that sex had meant too much to him, but he was just that kind of guy. He didn't have the right words for anything, couldn't word his feelings the way others could, but he could touch and kiss and show, and yeah, it had always meant way more than just fucking.
Fraser- he didn't know much about Fraser and sex. Only limited hands-on experience, but what had Fraser done before Ray? He wasn't a blushing virgin, that much was for sure, but beyond that, he hadn't shared, and Ray hadn't asked. What did it matter now, anyway, since he was about to become part of the entire history. Something in the past. A good friend, and a good lay, now living in Chicago, let's have some more bark tea.
Fraser had assured him that if they left at nine, they'd have plenty of time for Ray to catch his flight to Edmonton, but Ray had heard Dan Willington over at the shop talking about a stray storm heading their way, and told Fraser as much. Fraser had scoffed that Dan Willington, while certainly a competent mechanic and a kind man, had never checked weather patterns before in his life, and Ray was, therefore, in no danger of a storm getting between him and his plane. Ray should have found that reassuring, probably, but all he had felt was hollow and empty.
Still felt that way, now that they were sitting in a snowed-in Humvee, fifty miles from the airport, with nary a patch of sky to see. He shivered, knowing that it wasn't quite cold yet in the car, but it would be soon, and after that, he didn't know what they would do. They hadn't brought a blanket with them, hadn't brought anything but Ray's duffel bag. Maybe he should have felt good about having been right for a chance, but of course, the one time that Fraser was wrong, it was a shittier feeling than ever.
Ray looked over at Fraser, and waited for him to say something. Fraser was refusing to look at him. Ray felt himself snapping out of the hollow feeling, felt himself welling up with some good, old-fashioned anger. What the hell was wrong with Fraser, anyway? They were stuck in a storm, and he wouldn't even look Ray in the eye. They had kissed and they'd fucked, and what, Ray couldn't get a word out of him? Was that how his every friendship would end now? He felt his anger spilling out into words. "Fraser, what the hell are you doing?"
Ray watched as Fraser's head snapped up, and he finally looked at him. Ray had expected him to look angry, or maybe just irritated, but instead, he looked kind of lost. Ray's anger hit a wall and shattered.
"I- I'm not sure what you mean, Ray." His tone was almost as formal as it'd been this morning, only less sure, somehow. Ray felt his way through it, tried to grab hold of Fraser losing that cast-iron control, and take some back for himself.
"I mean, we're clearly stuck here, and you're not saying a word. You always have some kind of plan, right? So - " Ray faltered, and covered it up by gesturing to the windows. "So, what's our plan?"
Fraser followed his movement, looked back out the windows of the Hummer. Not like you could see anything out there, not with the way the snow was covering every inch of air, but maybe Fraser could tell something by the wind patterns, or the way the flakes were sticking to the car. He was silent for a moment longer, while Ray watched and waited and then turned off the ignition. Without turning to look at Ray, Fraser said, "We will suffocate if we keep the car running. The snow drifts have piled high enough that they could --"
"Clog up the exhaust, yeah, I gotcha." Ray sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He felt himself shivering harder, felt the wind getting through the small cracks of the doors, could almost feel the stinging of snow on his face and hands. His throat was dry, and he swallowed around the dull pain.
"Ray, I- I'm sorry."
Even though he'd been half-waiting for an apology, as soon as it came, Ray wished it hadn't. He suddenly wished that Fraser was still in control, somehow, that maybe their situation - the entire, stupid, dumb, fucked-up situation - wasn't nearly as bad as Ray was making it out to be.
After all, the storm could be a short one. Sure, the car was stuck, but they had flares. Somebody would find them, dig them up, Ray'd catch the next flight out.
And it wasn't like Fraser hadn't given him enough reasons for making Ray catch the flight in the first place. He had. Ray had certain obligations in Chicago, he had his family, his job, his pet. He wasn't cut out for life in the Northwest Territories, wasn't meant to live there the way Fraser was. Ray knew all of that. Had known it for a while, for a good long while, ever since they landed in thirty feet of snow in the middle of the snowy tundra. He knew Fraser belonged up here. Ray had just hoped that maybe he could, too.
"Don't apologize, Fraser. You got... You got nothing to apologize for." Ray's throat was still dry, the words cutting a path through his mouth, and he didn't want to talk anymore. He was cold, and he couldn't find his gloves. It wasn't supposed to be snowing in the middle of April, anyway. This was stupid. He didn't belong up here.
But Fraser wasn't done talking, apparently. No, suddenly, just as Ray was sure he had had enough words, Fraser was talking.
"I do, Ray. You had warned me about this, and I was arrogant. I didn't check the sources, I was callous, and now we're stuck in a storm with no provisions, for an indefinite amount of time." He clenched his hands around the wheel as he talked, looking somewhere in the vicinity of the glove compartment. Almost at Ray, but not at all. "This was a gross miscalculation on my part. An unforgivable mistake, in fact. I- I'm sorry."
"Are you done?" Ray asked, looking squarely at Fraser, because that's what you did when you confronted a friend.
"I- yes." Finally Fraser met Ray's gaze. He looked completely miserable. Ray knew then, like he had known with Stella, after they'd just gotten married and didn't know what the hell they were doing, but were giving it their all, that a miserable Fraser was a much better thing than a closed-off Fraser. A miserable Fraser still felt, a miserable Fraser even needed a friend in a shitty situation.
Ray gritted his teeth, and went on. "Good. Because it doesn't matter whose fault any of this was. What matters is what we do about it, right?" He knew Fraser would have to agree. He was channeling him, anyway.
"Yes, Ray." His voice was hoarse. "Of course."
"Right. So. You got a flare in the back there?" Ray knew the answer.
"Certainly. Always equip your --" Fraser was about to give him one of those rote answers he always kept handy and whipped out in desperate situations. Ray held him off with an open palm.
"Ah, ah, I got it, Fraser, don't repeat that. Okay, so we got a flare."
He watched as Fraser nodded his agreement, looking totally at sea now.
"Okay. So, what else do we need? We have no food, but that's fine, we can wait it out. What's the worst that can happen?"
It seemed to take Fraser a moment to realize that Ray had actually meant the question. Ray watched as he pulled himself together, and he could tell that Fraser was trying his best to phrase it in the most honest way he could without spooking Ray.
"Well --" He rubbed his eyebrow, looked down. "The thing we must worry most about is hypothermia. Since both of us have become quite...accustomed to cold weather, even though we are lacking all the proper provisions, we should be quite safe for at least two, three hours."
"Two, three hours," Ray repeated, trying to figure out the odds of the storm going for that long.
"Yes." Fraser went on, "Of course, that's provided that we- um, take certain- certain precautions." His voice trailed off into nothing, and Ray just looked at him, wondering what the hell Fraser had meant that he couldn't even talk properly. When he remained silent, Ray prompted him.
"Precautions? Like what?"
"Well, as you have learned by now, body heat --"
Oh. Ray winced and looked away. Fraser's voice continued, a bit quieter.
"Body heat is the best way to keep warm in these- in these..." Fraser trailed off again, and Ray could see out of the corner of his eye that he was staring out of his own window, avoiding looking at him, like Ray was avoiding Fraser.
Yeah, body heat. Ray closed his eyes and saw: Fraser, unbuttoning Ray's shirt; Fraser, his tongue on Ray's skin; Fraser, flat on his back, his hips smooth and warm beneath Ray's palms.
He opened his eyes, tucked himself closer in between his seat and the car door, and stared straight ahead. He didn't need body heat. He'd be just fine on his own.
Fraser remained silent on the other end of the bench.
The silence pressed in on him from all sides. The silence of the back seat, with no mutt woofing, the silence of the seat next to his, with Fraser trying to disappear into the storm itself. The wind was still loud, but even Ray could tell it was quieting down, blanketing the car in stillness.
The cold seeped into his clothes, his skin, his bones. First, he forgot what the hottest day in Chicago felt like - forgot the insistent prickling of sweat on his forehead, on his neck, under his arms, at the backs of his knees.
Then, he forgot what water felt like when it hit you too hot, hot enough for you to jump around and yelp as you fumbled for the knob.
Then he began to miss those things, because he couldn't imagine ever feeling them again. He only noticed that he was shivering when the movement became unsteady enough for the fabric of his clothes to rub burning cold into his skin and bring on a new wave of shudders.
He only heard Fraser calling him when a weight on his shoulder startled him back to reality; Fraser's hand anchoring him in the stillness. Fraser's voice sounded frantic to Ray's ears, but kind of distant, and he turned his head as slowly as he could manage, but the pain tugged at him, unheeding.
"Ray. Ray. Ray."
"Yeah." His throat felt like sand paper. "Wh-what is it?" He wasn't looking at Fraser; he was watching the grey that had covered the entire car. And when he did look at Fraser, he looked back at him with the kind of pain Ray was feeling, and then he wasn't numb anymore. Thoughts tackled him, from all sides, arguments, morals, fables, jokes, he didn't know what he was thinking anymore.
What the hell were they doing?
Why, in God's name, were they stuck in a blizzard at the intersection of Nowhere and No Time, when they could be riding out the storm in Fraser's cabin, sharing a cup of coffee and a warm fire?
Why was everything so fucking complicated?
Fraser's voice broke through, scattering the questions, leaving him empty.
"Ray, please, c-come here, this is-- you'll freeze t-to d-death, Ray -- "
Ray didn't answer, didn't even think. He simply put every effort into making his legs move, despite the bone-deep ache, and then he was sliding across the freezing seat, his jeans burning his legs with each movement, and Fraser was unzipping his parka - cold, cold, so damn cold - and enveloping Ray in a hug.
The first thing he registered was heat - slow, throbbing heat, all down the side that was pressed up against Fraser. Fraser's breath was the only cold thing he could feel, puffing against the top of his head. Silently, they adjusted their positions - Ray scooted closer to make it easier to fit his chest to Fraser's, Fraser letting his leg fall open to let Ray rest in between - and settled down. The driver's seat had less room, and the wheel was digging into Ray's side, but he ignored it.
The pain began to recede.
He remembered that he, too, could generate some heat. Or, maybe, Fraser was doing it for him, too - giving him his own warmth, like he had done with his breath, so many months ago. Maybe this changed nothing, too. If sharing an adventure in the farthest reaches of the Earth and sleeping together at the end of it didn't change things, neither would this. Despite everything they'd done, despite Ray's every effort, despite the fact that for the past month his chest had felt like somebody was building a wall on it, boulder by boulder, this partnership would end. There was not a damn thing Ray could do about it. Just like three years ago, he was losing his best friend - that's it, game over, you're moving out.
Fraser's breath was even under Ray, his heart rate the same as it had always been. Steady; controlled. It was only Ray who was crumbling to pieces, and he wished he could hide his own heartbeat, tuck it away somewhere safe, so Fraser wouldn't feel it, and wouldn't know it. But Ray could hear his pulse beating unevenly into every nerve of his body. There was no hiding that from Fraser.
Ray had felt the vibration of Fraser's voice in his skin, and closed his eyes and willed Fraser not to talk.
Well, it never worked with Stella, why should it have worked with Fraser?
He cleared his throat. "What?"
"Give me your hands, please."
"My what? Why?" He lifted his head to look at Fraser, but the collar of the parka obscured his view.
"I want to check you over for frostbite. You have no gloves --" Fraser cleared his throat. "And I hadn't- I hadn't prepared for this possibility, otherwise I would have insisted --"
"Yeah, I can think for myself, thanks," Ray answered, tucking his hands closer to his body. Of course they hurt. He very well may have frostbite by this point, but he wasn't letting Fraser anywhere near them. He didn't even really know why.
"I am very well aware of that, Ray." Now Fraser sounded irritated.
This was hell, Ray decided. They were going to die fighting, just like they'd lived. It was too horrible an end to contemplate. Ray closed his eyes and almost clicked his heels, but realized that there was no place he even called home anymore. He was going to die a homeless man that even the craziest Mountie in the world didn't want. And the crazy Mountie was still talking.
"I am also aware of the fact that if you don't give me your hands, I will be forced to --"
"To what?" Ray still couldn't see his face, and it was pretty strange to be fighting and cuddling at the same time, even for them.
"To take charge of the situation." Fraser sounded uncertain, but determined to push through the uncertainty. Ray could feel Fraser's pulse pounding harder. His worn-out sweater was getting slightly damp from where Ray was leaning on it. Was it possible that Fraser was sweating?
"How?" Ray found himself almost smiling. He could do this part. He could bicker and annoy better than most people he knew. It was like a gift. However, Fraser could also out-wit the hardest of criminals, and a freezing Ray Kowalski was the easiest game in town. Before he knew it, Ray's hands were being untucked from his body with impressive speed and, and then, Fraser's mittens were the only things separating him from biting cold. "Fraser -" It hurt. God, it hurt. He watched his red hands being turned over, inspected. He still couldn't see Fraser's face. "Frase, come on --"
"I'm sorry, Ray, I'll be done soon, I promise." Fraser actually sounded sorry for once, and somehow, that was no comfort at all, it was worse, it was much worse.
"I- are they all right, I mean --" Ray tried to clamp down on the possibilities - losing a finger, two fingers, losing both his hands, Christ, what would he do with no hands, strangle himself to death with his feet?
"Yes." Fraser's voice still sounded unsteady. "There may be some slight damage, but --"
"I--I think--I think you should be - there isn't--"
How often had Ray heard Fraser stammering? Really, never. And now it sounded like Fraser'd forgotten every other word in his vocabulary, and Ray was spiraling into a panic, because if Fraser was stammering, it meant that Fraser was trying too hard, and if Fraser was trying too hard, it meant that he was lying, and that meant that - Ray's thoughts stopped abruptly when he felt warm breath on his fingers. A second later, his hands were tugged upward, and he shifted, and finally got a look at Fraser's face.
Eyes closed, eyebrows drawn together, Ray's fingers near his lips. Ray watched as Fraser's lips parted and another gust of warm-hot-warm air shivered against his skin. It prickled and stung and he felt tears tugging at his lashes, forced out by pain. Fraser didn't open his eyes as he slowly slid Ray's hand, little by little, into his mouth, and Ray could only watch as his left hand was immersed in the smoothness and heat of lips, tongue, Fraser's mouth, until four fingers were nestled inside their trap. It hurt and made him want to scream and fuck and laugh and it was just like Fraser, to drive him out of his mind when he could barely take any more.
"Fraser --" He couldn't even talk. It came out in a whisper. "Fraser, what are you doing - what -- " But Fraser only moaned in response, and Ray had to duck his head and take a deep breath, because despite the mind-numbing cold, and the blizzard, and the fact that they were most likely going to die out here, his cock had grown hard. And it was one of the most painful erections he'd ever experienced. Even the thermal underwear couldn't protect him from the frozen zipper, now flush with his cock.
This had to end, somehow, this had to stop, because there was only so much torture he could take, and he tried to tug his hand back, but Fraser held it fast with his own still mittened hands, and Ray was ready to hit him, or maybe fuck him - probably fuck him - and then he almost laughed. This was insane.
And then Fraser finally slid Ray's hand out of his mouth, opened his eyes, and looked at Ray. It was only a second, but even the whistling wind outside the car seemed to stop for it, and Ray stopped breathing.
"Kiss me," Fraser croaked, and Ray didn't answer, and he didn't think. He launched forward and caught Fraser's mouth with his, curled his fingers around the hands holding them steady, slid his tongue inside Fraser's mouth. They had fucked, and they had driven each other crazy, but his head had never swum like it was doing now, and Fraser mouth had never tasted better. Hot and biting and Ray stopped trying to figure out why this was happening at all, and what would happen afterwards, because there would be no afterwards, anyway.
Fraser tilted his head, tugged him closer, devoured Ray like he'd never done. Ray heard their breathing, and felt warmth all across his face. His back was burning from the cold, his front was nearly sweating. He ground his hips forward and hissed, because just as his cock felt the hardness of Fraser's, the frozen zipper nipped at him. They broke off the kiss. Without speaking, Fraser let go of Ray's hands and fumbled for their pants, trying to get to them from under the multitude of layers of parkas and sweaters. Ray pawed at Fraser's chest, panting, and pressed his forehead to Fraser's jacket. He watched as Fraser, having thrown off his mittens, went for Ray's zipper first, and cursed when it wouldn't give. Ray burrowed his hands under Fraser's sweater, and waited. He knew that trying to undo Fraser's pants would end in tears for him, so he closed his eyes and breathed, in, and out, and in, and out - he was still breathing when his cock was released from the zipper, and the rasp of Fraser's parka told him that soon, Fraser would be free, too.
Come on, come on, he thought, and then said it, and Fraser answered, "Nearly th-there- there," and then he gasped. Ray thrust his hips experimentally and it was working, they could do this now, and so they did. With his hands still tucked against Fraser's t-shirt underneath the sweater, he clung to Fraser, while Fraser held his hips and began to roll them, meeting him thrust for thrust, push for pull. Ray ducked his head and hid his face in Fraser's shoulder, burrowed his nose beneath the collar of the parka. His breath came in stutters. The smell of Fraser was strong, and with his eyes closed, he kept seeing the two of them back at Fraser's place - relaxing on Fraser's couch, Ray's feet tucked underneath Fraser's legs; making coffee in the morning, wearing Fraser's shirt; feeding Dief out in the shed. Images, memories, all of them assaulting him, haunting him, even as he moved against Fraser and felt himself getting more and more euphoric. Euphoric, or stranded, or completely at sea - he couldn't tell anymore. Fraser was solid against him, solid, dependable, completely separate. And yet his voice, soft, dark, as intangible as Ray's fleeting thoughts, was grounding Ray, keeping him inside their cocoon, not letting him slip away.
Fraser's voice grew louder, his moans shorter and harsher. Ray screwed up his eyes and tried to last just another moment longer, just one - more - second, just to delay it until he could let go of Fraser completely, but the pressure built to the point where all Ray could do was hold onto Fraser as the climax ripped through him. He felt himself shaking, his legs wouldn't hold still, he was coming and coming and biting Fraser's neck just to keep from making any noise. Fraser's tongue was caressing his ear, his voice now muffled. He stilled underneath Ray and gave a single, long shudder. Then they both subsided, and quietly panted, their breaths warming the exposed skin of their faces.
Ray kept his eyes closed as Fraser finally began to move. Ray didn't think he could move, so he stayed put, bobbing a bit as Fraser reached for his handkerchief. He knew Fraser was going to clean them up, all business now, no urgency, just efficiency. Ray knew this, and to some part of his brain it mattered, but he was in a haze now, an increasingly cold haze, where Fraser's hand still holding onto his neck could mean anything, and where Fraser's mind could be anywhere. Ray's mind was slipping away from him, bit by bit, and when he fell asleep, he barely registered any surprise.
It was the flare that woke him up. He had dreamed of sunlight and clean windows and curtains moving, and then the windows rattled, and sunlight turned into white snow, and the white snow materialized behind the windshield and he was awake.
Fraser wasn't next to him. Ray swiveled in his seat, trying to get sleep out of his eyes with his frozen hand, but Fraser wasn't in the back. Reflexively, he checked his fly - done up - and then saw that the car wasn't completely buried anymore. Fraser had somehow maneuvered his door open, though how, Ray had no idea. It could have been hours, could have been days later. The only indication of time passing was the change in the light behind the snow, and his stomach, emptily growling. He slid forward, pushed the door open, and slipped out.
Snow was piled up to his knees, and white was all over. Fraser was the only dark spot, standing a few feet away, looking up at the sky. He looked like a tree or something, deeply rooted into the ground. Ray wasn't sure how Fraser could have moved that far in all the snow, but then again, he was Fraser. He could do anything, as long as snow was involved.
"Yo! Fraser!" His voice was less hoarse than it had been, but it still sounded odd to his ears. It was too quiet. The snow had taken away any noise this place might have had. It was like death, and Ray shivered. At least he knew he was still alive. His hands smarted, they were bright red, but he could feel them, and that was a good sign.
"Ray, you're awake." Fraser finally turned to him, and began making his way back. He made it look almost easy, but Ray knew it was just an act. He knew that now.
"Yeah, you send a flare?" He waited as Fraser struggled to lift his legs high enough to step over the drifts. He was retracing his earlier path.
"Yes, I did. With any luck, we should soon be spotted." Fraser was panting now, and Ray wondered what it would take for Fraser to admit that none of this was easy.
"You sure about that?"
"Absolutely. A regular patrol always comes through after a big and, uh -" Fraser stumbled against the snow and righted himself with some effort, "- unexpected storm."
Unexpected. Yeah, good one. Ray suppressed a snort. "Okay. So, how long do you figure? Will I catch any flight today?"
Fraser didn't look up as he shrugged and stepped over the last step. "We shall have to see. With any luck - yes."
Ray wanted to see Fraser's eyes as he said that. He wanted to lift up his face and force Fraser to look at him. He wanted to pound Fraser's chest and demand, again and again, how can this be so damn easy for you? How could Fraser just let go like that? Didn't all this crap - this storm, the endless hours in the car, the whole damn quest - mean anything?
But Ray didn't force Fraser to look him in the eye, and he didn't pound him on the chest, and he didn't ask him. Because some things were evident, and if Fraser wanted to pretend like this was no big deal, and like Ray wasn't leaving never to come back again, then Ray would just have to let him. He had tried enough for the both of them. It was time to give up, and move on. He was stubborn, but he wasn't this stupid. It was over this time. This time, he even knew it.
It took the patrol another hour and a half to spot them - an hour and a half worth of empty silences, missed looks, and shivering cold - but at least they survived. It took them another half an hour to decide that there was no way that the car, however huge and sturdy, would make it on the road, and then the pilot offered to airlift Fraser, Ray, and Ray's bag, to the airport.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser said, and Ray looked away and grabbed his bag from the backseat. The chopper was deafening, but even so Fraser managed to make small talk with the patrolman, while the pilot steered them closer to Yellowknife. Ray looked out the window and pretended that he wasn't doing that just to avoid seeing Fraser not looking at him.
Ray wondered if any planes would even fly today, or if the Yellowknife airport had a little "Holiday Igloo" to stay in, just for lucky guys like him. He wondered if it was an accident that Fraser's hand had found its way toward Ray's side. He wondered how long he would last in Chicago.
Both the pilot - Johnny - and the patrolman - Pete - were willing to wait for Fraser while Ray got his shit together and got on whatever plane would take him. They left the chopper running. Ray ducked his head and made his way to the building, not looking to see if Fraser had followed him.
Of course, Fraser would want to do everything by the book, so he had followed Ray, and was now inquiring with the nice woman at the ticket counter when the next flight to Edmonton would be taking off.
"Oh, sir, you better hurry," she answered, cheeks dimpling. "It's taking off in fifteen minutes."
Ray didn't catch Fraser's eye when he turned to him. He didn't want to see what Fraser was thinking; he didn't want to not see what Fraser was thinking. He could barely feel his legs, and he couldn't wait to fall asleep. He wanted to be on the damn plane already, he couldn't - couldn't just stand there, while Fraser tried to say goodbye like everything was fine. But he forced himself to extend his hand and wait for Fraser to shake it. His bag was heavy. He hadn't packed it very well.
Fraser's hand touched his, held it. Ray nodded, still not looking, and snatched his hand back.
"All right, Frase. See you around. Have fun."
"Ray, I --"
Ray looked at him for a second longer, then turned around and took a step towards the gate. He had a plane to catch. It was taking off in ten minutes.
One step; two. He would make it, he would leave, he would -
"Ray. Ray. Ray!" Fraser sounded out of breath, like he'd been running for ages.
"What?" Ray forced himself to stop. His head was killing him.
A hand settled on his shoulder. "Ray, please --"
"What is it, Fraser." He wouldn't turn around. He couldn't. He had a plane to catch. Didn't Fraser know that? Didn't Fraser want that?
Fraser's hand tugged him, forced him to turn. They were face to face.
Ray looked at him and, for once, he knew exactly what Fraser was thinking. He forced his throat to open, forced his mouth to shape a word. "What."
"Stay." Fraser's voice was quiet, and hoarse, and he was looking Ray straight in the eye, and he wasn't blinking. "Please. I can- Stay."
Ray took a deep breath, exhaled. His bag made a thump as it landed on the floor.
"What about me being ill-equipped to handle it here?" He hid his hands in his pockets.
"That isn't- that isn't true." Fraser was still barely blinking through his blue gaze. "I- that isn't true, Ray. You are."
Ray inhaled, held his breath.
Five minutes. Last call for Flight 154 with service to Edmonton.
He looked down, watched the battered duffel bag sag on the floor. Saw their feet, scuffed, still wet from the snow.
Fraser's hand came around Ray's neck. He heard a grinding sound outside as the plane began to taxi down the runway.
Back to Due South