Right, This Time
Written for the Rayk97s challenge. With huge, huge thanks to Brooklinegirl for whipping this baby into shape.
Do you want to mess around,
Do you want to spend the night,
I've known both kinds of love,
And I want to get it right this time.
- "Buick City Complex", Old 97s
When Ray was a kid, his mother used to have these slippers. Beige, leathery, with a raised platform. She had them as long as he could remember, and then when he was seven, she went out and bought new ones. They were beige, too, but the design was different, there was no platform, and they had an open toe. The old ones were caving in where the toes were, wrinkles criss-crossing the surface. They sat in the closet for years, just thrown there, between boxes, empty bags nearly covering them up. They were there, but nobody needed them, and his mother only kept them because she hated throwing things away.
He looked in the mirror. Wrinkles were beginning to line the skin around his eyes. They looked a bit like the creases in the toes of his mother's old slippers. It was the end of February, exactly two years since Stella gathered up his shit and showed him what the other side of the door looked like. Just like that, done, quits, they were over.
He rubbed his face and turned away from the men's room mirror. Didn't see anything there he hadn't seen before, anyway. Eyes still tired, lines maybe a little more pronounced around his eyes and mouth. The two-day stubble wasn't so much `hip' anymore, as graying slightly, and making him look kind of haggard. Stella used to tell him he had good bone structure; guess he still had that going for him. It was everything else that had lost its gloss. He was just fucking tired.
He couldn't remember why he had come to this bar now. Some abstract call for alcohol, vague desire to get off, maybe. He was too old for that shit. Even two years ago, it'd been easier. Mostly propelled by alcohol, but getting off in a bathroom had almost felt like a release of some kind back then. Physical, even mental. He'd felt less jittery, less like he was going to take the next perp to come along and beat him to a bloody pulp because he had nothing else left to do with his life. He could barely remember her face now, but she'd had a pretty nice mouth - full, red, curved. The opposite of Stella's. He'd always loved Stella's mouth, the slight kink to it, even how it would sneer at him sometimes; he still loved all of it. Loved how soft it had been against his lips, against his chest, over his cock. Yeah, hadn't felt that for a good long time.
Tonight, two years on, it'd been an even stranger mouth. A tougher mouth, framed by stubble. Harder, firmer, more eager. A man's mouth. Right before the guy had descended on his dick, Ray almost considered asking himself how the fuck he got there, but no amount of alcohol was going to force introspection on him at a moment like that. He just let go, grabbed the dark head, and had at it. It'd been all right. Not the best blow job of his life, but then he was drunk and pissed off. Just wanted some contact, wanted somebody to look at him like he still mattered, like he still had something going for him, and the kid had liked him well enough. Kid- he was probably in his mid-twenties, but Ray had felt like he was fifty at his thirty-seven. Yeah, the kid had wanted him, and after he came, Ray jerked him off while shoving his hand over the wet mouth, and in a moment of dumb tenderness, had kissed his temple as the kid came all over Ray's hand.
The kid high-tailed it out of there like his pants were on fire, and Ray was left listening to the drip of the faucets, one, two, two three, one, two, two three, one, two -
He looked down at his crotch, made sure his fly was done up, and walked out. Stella had always hated dripping faucets.
"Is anything the matter?"
Yeah. He was falling apart here, in front of his partner, falling apart like he couldn't grab hold of some core part of himself that took things as they came and made everything okay. No, things kept coming - work, shootings, perps, victims, tears, drugs, guns - and it was like he couldn't deal anymore. He didn't know what the hell was the matter with him. He hadn't humped the job long enough to burn out. Not yet, dammit, but he just couldn't take it anymore. Couldn't grab onto anything, not anything, because there was nothing to hold him. No Stella - just A.S.A. Kowalski who occasionally asked him how he was doing, and occasionally told him to drop dead. And no friends - just Fraser, who just...who just wouldn't understand. Because he had his shit together. He always had his shit together, he was fucking near perfect, and Ray- well, that was part of the problem.
"No. Everything's just fine."
He saw Fraser slump back into the passenger's seat out of the corner of his eye, still watching him. Yeah, he knew he was acting weird, but he didn't know how to stop. He was just exhausted. In a few minutes, he'd drop Fraser off at the Consulate and then go home and pass out. Maybe have a beer first, maybe watch some porn. He just didn't want to think anymore.
"The reason I'm asking is that you've been unusually quiet. I simply- well, I simply wondered if anything had happened that was out of ordinary, or --"
"No, Frase, everything's fine. Really. Don't worry about it, it's- it's good." God, he wished he could convince himself. But, hell, it was enough that he convinced Fraser. He probably hadn't; Fraser had some kind of sixth sense about these things. But he couldn't take sympathy right now, or any sort of consolation. He didn't even know what he'd need consolation for.
"All right, Ray."
Ray nodded, and relaxed a bit. Good. Let's all pretend that everything's just dandy and forget about it.
"Thing is..." And all of a sudden, like a dam breaking, he was spilling his guts, for no good reason at all, just talking, not taking his eyes off the road. "Thing is, I'm getting old, Frase, you know? I'm getting old, and what have I got to show for it, except a job that I'm getting sick of, this car, and a turtle with no name. I got an ex-wife who can barely bring herself to look at me, I got no friends, `cause I'm working undercover as a guy who's got no friends, and even if I wasn't working the Vecchio gig, I'd still have no friends, because Stella got `em all in the divorce. I can't get anyone to go out with me, to even fucking look at me twice, except for some out-of-college punk in a bar, and only then `cause he's drunk and looking for a quick--"
His brain caught up with his mouth and he choked on the words. The silence was so abrupt that his ears began to buzz with it. He gripped the wheel tighter as he felt his hands slipping, sweaty on the leather. He waited for the other shoe to drop, but the silence continued as he drove on, nearly missing a stop sign, and then forgetting that it wasn't a red light, and that he had to move. He wanted to look at Fraser, watch for any kind of reaction but his neck felt frozen in place, so he looked straight ahead, with seconds extending into minutes, then hours, then fucking years. He wanted Fraser to say something, or to just move a little, or just fucking-
"Say something." He heard the words ringing in his ears, which meant he had actually said them out loud. Fuck. Fuck, couldn't he just keep his mouth fucking shut for even a minute?
Ray whipped his head around this time, needing to see what Fraser looked like, where he was facing. He looked normal enough, and he was facing the windshield. Fraser was sitting very upright, like he couldn't bend his back without breaking it or something.
"Yeah?" Ray turned his gaze back to the road, where it belonged. He waited.
"I- I understand how you feel, Ray." Fraser's voice sounded weird, like he had a cough, or something, or couldn't breathe right. It was weird. It sounded deeper than it usually was.
"You- how could you possibly understand, Frase? I mean, no offense, but you're not exactly hard to spot or --" He shut up just in time, before the slip. Yeah, Fraser wasn't hard to find attractive. The man was like a Mountie Calendar Pin-Up, Mr. March, decked out in red serge, comes with his own Sam Browne and incredible table manners. Only ten dollars American, $12.50CAD. "I mean, you're not exactly a nobody that people don't bother looking at twice, you know?"
"Ray," and now Fraser was sounding less constipated, and more like bordering on pissy, which surprised the hell out of Ray. "I had gathered from your speech that it wasn't merely about looks, and that your sense of- loneliness extended out of various other circumstances."
Well...yeah. They were at the Consulate now, and Ray automatically reached behind the passenger's seat with his arm, looking back through the rear window and lining the GTO up with a van parked in front of the gate. He could see Fraser out of the corner of his eye, fidgeting with his Stetson.
"Yeah, okay. And?" He turned his head back around and backed up slowly, checking his rearview mirror. He'd always been good at parallel parking. It was all about lining the cars up right, with just the right distance between them, and once you had that part down, the rest was a walk in the park, a breeze.
He pulled into the spot flawlessly, put the stick into park, and slid his hands off the wheel. He didn't turn off the engine, just scratched the back of his neck, feeling the short hairs bristling under his palm, and waited for Fraser to talk again.
"Ray, you are aware of the fact that I am not exactly R.C.M.P.'s idea of an exemplary Mountie?"
Ray's hand slid away from his neck and he turned to look at Fraser, now watching him back.
"What are you talking about, Fraser? You're, like, the perfect Mountie. If they had Mountie dolls, you'd be the model."
Fraser lowered his eyes and pursed his lips before answering, and Ray felt irrationally irritated. What the hell was Fraser talking about? He was like fucking Superman.
"Ray, I fill out forms and pick up the Inspector's dry-cleaning. I'm not even allowed back into my own country."
Something small caught in the back of Ray's throat, and it was an effort not to cough. "They won't let you back in?" He shut off the engine and let his fingers tangle in his multiple keys and keychains.
"No. They won't. I'm rather like a Decembrist, only with the opposite climate." Fraser was looking at his own lap now, while Dief whined in the back, thumping his tail against the seat.
"You're like a what?"
"A Decembrist. In 1825, certain members of the Russian nobility and military led an uprising against Tsar Nicholas the First, on December 14th. They were exiled to Siberia for life. Decembrists."
"Huh. Did they die there?"
"Most, yes. They labored, then they died. However, most of them also had incredibly loyal wives who followed them into exile. A few ended up leading almost productive lives, raising families... Nevertheless, they were not allowed to return to their native land. Not ever." Fraser's voice sounded gruff and kind of hoarse, and Ray felt an urge to touch him, just to reassure him that he wasn't being sent to a frozen wasteland, at least. Then he remembered that the frozen wasteland is where Fraser wanted to be, and jerked his arm back. He didn't know what to say. At least they weren't talking about the big queer elephant in the driver's seat. For a long moment, all he could hear was Dief panting in the back.
Ray wracked his brain for something, to say anything useful, because so far, he seemed to be making Fraser even more miserable, and he still didn't know what he was miserable about, apart from not being able to return to Canada. But that couldn't just be it, it just - it had to be something else.
"Fraser, I'm sorry. But- I don't understand, don't they see what a great fucking cop you are?"
Fraser huffed a small laugh, but didn't lift his head. "That may be part of the problem, Ray. I honestly don't know. But it does make one feel quite- lonely. Not to be wanted by one's own people." Fraser lifted his head, looked straight ahead of him. Ray thought he knew now what people meant when they said a person was miles away. He groped for the right words, but it was like searching for his glasses in the dark.
"Well, not every Canadian out there hates you, Frase," he attempted. "Look at Turnbull - he worships the ground you walk on. Though --"
"That's hardly a compliment?" A small grin crinkled Fraser's cheek.
Ray couldn't help laughing. "Yeah. Sorry. Thatcher seems to appreciate you. Sometimes."
"Yes, sometimes, it does appear so. However --" Here Fraser did his thing of pulling back his collar and silently cracking his neck, "that doesn't stop her from giving me the sort of duties I never had to do even as a cadet." Or trying to jump his bones at every other opportunity, Ray thought to himself, but decided against saying that part out loud.
"Yeah," he agreed instead. "But we do stuff, I mean- we work cases, you solve `em, I book `em --"
"Don't --" Fraser finally lifted his head and looked Ray in the eye. "Don't sell yourself short, Ray. You are an extremely capable policeman. And what we do, our liaison, our work, well, it... It's the reason I can --" And then he stopped, just as he was getting to the really good part. Ray suddenly really wanted to hear it. He needed to hear it, so fucking bad, he wanted to know that he might just be the reason that Fraser even fucking got up in the morning, him, and not Thatcher, and not the fucking Queen of England, not anybody, but him, Ray, even if he was subbing for another Ray altogether. He willed Fraser to speak, begged him in his head. But Fraser remained silent. Ray felt his heart hammering in his chest. The silence hummed in the GTO, like an alternative engine, keeping it steady but immobile.
Ray twisted his head away, looked out the windshield. It was starting to get sort of dark, and his stomach was feeling empty. It would probably start growling soon. He thought he was relieved that Fraser at least hadn't mentioned his big goof. Maybe it was all right. After all, Fraser was a freak, too. Now there were two of them in this duet.
"Yeah?" He didn't turn his head, just kept one hand hanging over the wheel, the other drumming a beat on his thigh, looking out at the street.
"Would you- would you like to get dinner with me?" Fraser was quiet, almost shy. Ray's heart sped up again, and instead of answering, he just put the key back into the ignition and gunned the engine.
Yeah. Okay. Dinner. Dinner was good.
He pulled out of his spot and the wheels spun with a screech as they sped off.
The diner they'd gone to was kind of gritty, all sorts of greasy, and had your typical diner waitresses with big wigs, small uniforms, and pots full of crappy coffee. Ray used to go to diners like this on the South Side when he was a kid. Fifteen, sixteen, a bit doped out, they'd all walk to the nearest dive and order hamburgers by the pound, laughing the entire time. If he closed his eyes now and breathed in - all grease smelled the same - he could almost pretend that the giggling coming from two tables over was Stella's or Mark's, and that he had just left them to take a piss and was coming right back, to laugh with them at whatever fart joke Mark'd just told.
But he didn't close his eyes or pretend, he just sank into the booth and pulled a menu toward himself. Fraser sat down across from him, set his hat on the table next to the ketchup and salt, and busied himself with his own menu. Dief whined, so Ray threw a third menu at him, earning himself a dubious look from one of the waitresses. Huge tits, curly black hair. He grinned back half-heartedly and turned away.
They didn't talk much while waiting for their food, and Ray wasn't sure if he wanted them to talk at all, so he just kept quiet. He didn't know what to say, anyway.
The entire way to the diner, he kept going over Fraser Facts in his head. Like, he'd always just assumed that Fraser was happy. The guy never complained. He always had some kind word to offer to perfect strangers, almost never snapped at anybody, and was all around the sort of guy Ray would never own to wanting to be like. He just never thought that Fraser was hiding much behind the happy Mountie routine.
On the other hand, there were the other Fraser Facts, like the guy not having any family left. Ray didn't know what happened to Fraser's mother, he'd never asked, but he knew damn well what happened to his father. Fraser's place burned down the day they met, and since then he'd made very little visible effort to actually find another apartment. So, Fraser lived in his office, which Ray could never get, but again - he'd just assumed all was fine and dandy. Fraser was a freak, a certifiable freak, so why wouldn't he be happy living in his Canadian office? Maybe it was his way of getting closer to his country.
But that didn't fit, either, did it? The tiny cramped office was nothing like the great empty white north Fraser'd grown up in, and it didn't matter that Fraser never really complained about not being back there, Ray knew that part well enough. Fraser hated Chicago. He was exiled here. He didn't belong here, he belonged in Fraser-land, where the people were too busy surviving to be rude to others.
So, okay, Ray had to wrap his head around the fact that Fraser was unhappy. Or, maybe not unhappy. Maybe just...not happy. There was a difference. Now, Ray? Ray was unhappy, and that sucked. He knew "not happy," too, and that sucked in its own way. He thought about asking Fraser what would make him happy, but then bit it back. He wasn't sure he'd like the answer all that much.
That left him wondering one other thing.
"Frase, are you lonely?"
He clamped his mouth shut and swore at himself. What the hell kind of question was that? None of his business, that's the kind. He made himself concentrate on the torn napkin in front of him. He'd been sticking his fork into its folds while they were waiting for food, and its shreds now clung to the metal prongs.
"I- Yes, Ray. I am," Fraser said quietly.
Ray wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but an answer - and an honest answer, at that - wasn't it. He looked up sharply and blurted out:
"Very much so." Fraser was pinker than normal, his ears especially, and he wasn't quite avoiding Ray's gaze, but he was also not in any hurry to look him in the eye. He gave a cough and looked at Dief, still poking his nose into the plastic menu on the floor.
"Yeah... Yeah, me too." Ray attempted a smile in Fraser's direction, hoping Fraser'd catch it out of the corner of his eye. "But, uh...I, uh- I guess I'd already mentioned that part." Now his own ears felt warm. Fraser looked at him now, and smiled back. A genuine smile, not the polite Fraser smile that said he was smiling at you and thinking about something totally different. Ray liked this smile a whole lot better.
"I suppose our situations are similar, then." Fraser said, and then cracked a different smile, the kind that didn't let anyone in on the joke.
"What's so funny?" Ray nodded in his direction.
"Nothing, it's just- well." Fraser stopped and cleared his throat. His eyelashes fluttered like he wanted to look up, but changed his mind. "I had a somewhat similar conversation not so long ago, and yet, the circumstances seem quite different now."
Ray's stomach jumped a bit. Maybe Fraser wasn't as lonely as he'd led Ray to believe, after all. He had found somebody else to talk about this with, while Ray - well, Ray still had no one. He wondered who it had been. He wondered what they'd looked like. He didn't say anything after that, and left it up to Fraser to pick up the pieces of their conversation.
From under his lashes, Ray could see Fraser looking puzzled. Probably wondering if he'd said anything wrong. Which he had. Only, not really.
"Yeah, still here."
"What I meant was, when I had this conversation with- with that other person, it was merely to draw them out. I never --"
Was Fraser trying to tell him something here? Ray had an urge to reach out across the table, to get closer; so close, Fraser wouldn't have to speak up at all, and Ray'd hear him just fine.
"Yeah?" His own voice had gone hoarse. A shadow was approaching them from his right.
"I never fully trusted that person to understand." Fraser said this quickly, because the shadow turned out to be their waitress with a full tray. Their burgers were still steaming, and their fries looked soggy. Ray's hollow stomach recoiled from the smell, which was weird, because normally he could eat pretty much anything and want more afterwards. He waited until the waitress left, then put his fries down on the floor, where Dief dug into them right away, making a quick side trip with his tongue for Ray's fingers, slobbering all over his hand.
"Ugh, Dief, thanks a lot. How am I supposed to eat now?" Ray complained as he wiped his hand on his jeans. He definitely wasn't hungry anymore.
"Diefenbaker, your manners are appalling." Fraser forced Dief to look at him while he chewed him out, and Ray felt kind of bad now. The dog, at least, didn't have to suffer from their crankiness.
"It's all right, Frase. He's a dog. I mean, I know he's your dog, but he's still a dog."
"Well, a half--"
"Wolf, yeah, I know. Even better." Ray dropped his gaze back to the now whimpering Dief, and nudged him with his foot. "It's ok, mutt, you're forgiven. Wasn't that hungry, anyway." He took his burger off the plate and lowered it to the floor, ignoring Fraser's scandalized look. "Here, have this, too. Gotta be better than those fries." Dief proceeded to lick his hand all over again, and this time, Ray wiped it and left it at that.
"Ah, well." He smiled at Fraser, and saw that he was cutting his burger in half, offering one half to Ray. "Oh, no, forget it. It's all right. I'm okay, I swear."
"Ray, you have to eat, you've only had a bagel and coffee today." Fraser had that look on his face, that "Mountie out to save the world" look, and damn if Ray still wasn't a sucker for it. He reached over, took half the burger from Fraser's hand and plopped it onto his empty plate, scattering some lettuce.
They ate in silence, and it was good, really, a nice dinner, until Fraser swallowed his last bite, wiped his mouth with a napkin, cleared his throat, and said:
"You know, I'm bisexual, as well, Ray."
Ray choked on a piece of lettuce and dinner was officially over.
He didn't know what to say, or do, or even feel, really. He had half hoped that Fraser had missed his spontaneous coming out, and half hoped that he hadn't. He certainly hadn't expected Fraser coming out, as well. He couldn't allow himself to think or, hell, hope further than that, because what good would that have done? Ray wasn't sure. Now, he supposed, was his chance to find out. He shifted in his seat, feeling sudden prickling of sweat all around his skin, like stabs of anticipation. Why had Fraser told him?
For Fraser's part, Ray watched as his entire face grew shades pinker, and his eyelashes dropped lower and lower. Maybe he was waiting for Ray to say something. He probably should have been saying something, but he knew his voice wouldn't quite get with the program. He felt tongue-tied, like he was thirteen again, staring at the most beautiful person he had ever seen, with or without his glasses.
Fraser was beautiful. The second beautiful person in Ray's life. There was beautiful, and there was beautiful, and Fraser was the kind of beautiful Stella had been, and maybe still was, for somebody else.
Ray let the silence stretch out, even as they got up at the same time and dropped some bills onto the table, nudged Diefenbaker away from his unfinished dinner, and walked out the door into the cold night. Yeah, the nights hadn't gone warm yet like the days, but they still felt fresher than winter ones.
Fraser was silent at his side as they walked to the GTO, and then got in. He was silent as Ray revved the engine and pulled out of his spot. He didn't say a fucking word as Ray drove them all to his place, partly because it was automatic, partly because he didn't want this to end. He didn't even know what this was, but his insides felt like they were melting, and he wouldn't admit to it, except he'd learned a while back that lying to yourself was dumb, because you always knew what you were lying about, anyway. So, yeah, he could admit that he was anticipating...something. Anything. He didn't know what. But he knew that if he didn't take this chance, he'd let Fraser go and forget about this, or just clam up about it, and he didn't want either of those things. He really did not want to do that. He was tired of letting things pass him by. He didn't want to spend another night drunk by himself, didn't want to go out to a bar and get blown by some fresh-out-of-college kid who wouldn't look at him twice when sober. He wanted to fucking take a chance.
So, he pulled up to the curb across from his building, killed the engine, and finally trusted his voice enough to ask: "So, you wanna come up? I've got, uh, milk. I think." Yeah, Fraser drank milk, right? Ray left his bark tea in his other pants.
"You did drive us here, Ray." Fraser gave him with an unreadable look, and it made Ray squirm. A simple `yes' would have done just fine. "I think I'd like some milk." Fraser turned away from him and opened the door. Ray climbed out and led them to his place, knowing Fraser would follow, but wouldn't walk alongside him. It was kind of a relief.
Because, yeah, he'd get the milk, check the expiration date, and get Fraser a glass. And then what? They hadn't said a word on the way here, what would they say once they got in his apartment?
But of course, on the way here it had been just that: the way here. So maybe if Fraser did have anything to say at all, he would say it here. Maybe he was biding his time, maybe he was going to explain himself once they got to the other side of Ray's door. Maybe Ray would understand something, anything, and he sure as hell hoped that Fraser had a lot to say, because Ray was fresh out of coherent sentences. He was buzzing with anticipation, clamming up with it, his skin tingling, his pulse loud in his ears.
He uncramped his fingers from around his keys and opened the door, his hand a bit shaky. He felt Fraser's heat behind him, and his neck felt like it was on fire. Ray wasn't sure when the shock had become anticipation, and anticipation turned ragged, but his apartment now felt like an unfamiliar skin, uncomfortable, exciting, and a bit frightening.
He stepped into his hallway, flipped on the light. It would be better with the light on, right? He'd be able to see Fraser more clearly. And, in any case, they were here to talk. Maybe. Probably. He wasn't even sure anymore. He was definitely here to give Fraser some milk, and Fraser was here to accept it.
So, his brain largely on autopilot, Ray dropped his jacket and veered off into the kitchen to look for some milk, watching the inside of his fridge for a long time, trying to remember what milk even looked like. When Fraser came up behind him and put one hand over the freezer door, Ray jumped, bumped his knee against the frame, and winced.
"I'm sorry, Ray, I didn't intend to startle you."
"I'm fine. I'm--I'm okay."
Fraser was really close. If it weren't for the foot of courtesy space he had allowed Ray, he would have been practically wrapped halfway around Ray, with his arm propped up against the freezer door like that. Ray could see some beginning wrinkles around his eyes. Fraser's skin was really smooth, smoother than Ray's. Maybe he had some kind of ointment for that, made out of something unsavory, like musk ox bladder insides. Maybe it was just because he was Fraser. Life didn't seem to stomp all over him like it did with everybody else. Life had stomped all over Ray, and it was even beginning to do that even with Stella, with her tired eyes and sad mouth, but not Fraser. Fraser never seemed to give up. Not even tonight, when he was the most tired Ray had ever seen him.
"Are you out of milk?"
"I--what? Oh. Milk. Right." He couldn't remember if he had anything at all in his fridge. "Yeah, I'm out. I'm sorry. Guess it was dumb to offer." He scraped his nails against the fridge door, trying to get some kind of hold on it, but it was frustratingly smooth. He found the handle and clutched that instead.
"Well, an offer is never wasted. I'll take some water, if you have any."
Fraser didn't move, and Ray didn't want to, but Fraser had asked for water, and Ray already felt like enough of an idiot about the milk. Why had he even offered milk? Why, in God's name, had Fraser accepted?
Ray jerked away from the fridge and sidestepped Fraser, feeling the heat recede. It was a lot cooler in this kitchen than he'd thought. He could breathe now, at least. He knew that if only he could concentrate on small goals, like getting a clean glass, then filling it up with water, he could get through the night somehow. Maybe he wouldn't embarrass himself. Maybe he wouldn't force Fraser to run the hell away in the opposite direction. Maybe he could do something right for a change. He faced the cabinets unseeing.
"Ray --" Fraser's voice was low again, how did he do that? Why? "Ray, I'm sorry about--I apologize about my earlier outburst."
Ray felt like his heart had just done a freefall without a cord. It was pounding all through his body - first in his chest, then his stomach, his legs, his fucking feet. Fraser was sorry. He was sorry he ever told Ray, probably because Ray hadn't reacted in the right way, and now he was going to drink his water and say his goodbyes, because Ray sucked. Ray cleared his throat, knowing he had to at least say something.
"You --" Dammit. He cleared his throat again. "You don't have to apologize, Frase. It's not--jeez, it isn't a problem." He ran a hand through his hair. His scalp was prickling. "I mean, it would be pretty stupid of me to, you know... Think it's a bad thing." Out of the corner of his eye he saw Fraser move closer and quickly looked away.
"I didn't think you would have a problem with that particular aspect of my life," Fraser said, sounding as if he was measuring every word carefully, spooning them out like sugar.
"So why'd you just apologize, then?" His throat was tight. This was a total disaster. He felt like he was on the verge of screaming, or crying, or hitting something, or throwing Fraser up against the fridge and letting go already.
"Because it wasn't--it wasn't the right time, after all."
Ray couldn't help but snort. He finally made himself look at Fraser. They were eye to eye now, but it felt like they were in totally different countries.
"What do you mean, not the right time? Is there ever a right time to- to admit to that?" Ray felt like he was running a fever, only without the deep bone ache. He was wired, and he was tense, and he was really fucking tired of lying. He knew that one more step, maybe two, and they'd be on the same page. He just didn't know quite which steps to take.
"You had asked me if I was lonely." Fraser rested his hand on top of the counter, and looked away, breaking the connection. Ray heard Dief's fingernails scratching the floor of his living room. Fraser's gaze seemed to be following his movements. Ray, in turn, was watching Fraser's pulse beat in his neck. He'd never noticed that vein before. "I-- I..."
"You said you were. Lonely, I mean."
"Yes." Fraser let out a small breath. He was still looking anywhere but at Ray. "I suppose I had thought --"
A small part of Ray's brain that was still functioning on a somewhat higher plane thrummed to the rhythm of this is it, this is it, this has to be it, and he breathed in and out, and again, and made himself listen.
"--well, honestly, I don't know quite what I thought, it just seemed like the right thing to say at the time, because, well." Fraser's thumb went to his eyebrow. "You had been honest with me, and it was a way to return that favor--except it hadn't been a favor. I cannot actually know whether or not what you had said had anything at all to do with me --"
Ray was taking deep breaths, just to ensure that enough oxygen was getting to his system.
"--but honesty is always the best policy, and I suppose that on a certain level, I was simply tired of avoiding certain questions, or perhaps it was because I had been honest with another human being for the first time in a while, and had wanted to continue being so, but, in either case, when you had asked me if I was lonely, I quickly concluded that you had, to an extent, meant `lonely' in a physical sense, and, Ray --"
"You said yes."
Fraser's torrent of words came to an abrupt end, and he finally looked at Ray, and Ray finally looked at him. Fraser's eyes were darker now, black pupils, huge, surrounded by a ring of blue. He licked his lower lip. Ray's hand inched toward Fraser's on the counter.
"I said yes."
"Do you want this?"
There. The same country. Definitely the same page. Ray's heart thudded against his ribcage. He didn't know how long he could keep it inside anymore. Fraser's answer felt long in coming.
"Very much." Fraser lowered his gaze. "I want- this- very much."
Ray's fingers parted Fraser's, threaded against them. The counter was slippery under their hands, now one space where two separate ones had been. He closed his eyes and squeezed his hand around Fraser's, feeling Fraser squeezing back. He wanted to close the remaining space between them, wanted to finally find out what Fraser tasted like, how he would feel against him, but couldn't move a single inch. In the end, it was Fraser who stepped closer, slid his free hand through Ray's hair, and brought their mouths together. It wasn't quite thunder, but Ray thought that he felt something breaking.
The feel of Fraser's mouth on his broke the spell. Now that Fraser's lips were smooth and cool on his, his tongue making its way inside Ray's mouth, making him shake, Ray couldn't seem to stop moving. He licked his way inside Fraser's mouth, touched their tongues together, almost stopped breathing. He squeezed Fraser's hand harder, let go, and pulled Fraser to him by the tunic, the wool dry against his hands. Fraser moaned, and the sound seemed to travel all through Ray. He breathed in deeply, inhaling the smell of their kiss. Fraser's hands were now roaming all over Ray's back, squeezing his t-shirt. Ray was hard, and when he took the final step to close the space between them, he felt Fraser's cock hard against his hip.
Jesus Christ, he couldn't wait anymore. He had Fraser, against his mouth, against his chest, all around him, and he didn't even know where to start. Kissing seemed like a good way to go, though. It was a great way, in fact. Fraser turned out to be a fantastic kisser, all heart and soul, nothing mechanical about it. Only one other person Ray had kissed had been like that, and after a few years of soulful kisses, the mechanics had taken over, and that's when he knew he and Stella were in trouble. But not right now, and not with Fraser. Fraser didn't seem to want to just kiss - he seemed to want to kiss Ray, and as deeply and heartfelt as possible. Ray was all about that, because there was nothing else he would rather have been doing at the moment, nothing at all, except maybe stripping Fraser and getting to some skin, because if Fraser felt this warm and good in his damn tunic, Ray couldn't wait to find out what he felt like naked.
Naked, fuck, naked. He moaned at the thought and slid his fingers over to where Fraser's tunic buttoned.
"Frase, take it off, take-- " Fraser shut him up with his tongue again, and Ray forgot what he was going to say. His fingers seemed to remember, however, and Fraser caught on. Together they unbuttoned the tunic and Fraser threw it down on the ground, where it puddled against their feet. Ray would have spared some time for shock, had Fraser's hands not gone to his shoulders and pulled him in. It still wasn't skin, but Fraser's mouth was addictive and Ray decided they had time. He hoped they had time.
"Ray --" Fraser's lips formed Ray's name against his lips, and Ray tasted it, licked it off.
"Yeah..." Couldn't stop tasting Fraser.
"Could we -mmm - could we possibly move somewhere a bit more comfortable--"
Bed. Sex. Sex in a bed. Sex in Ray's bed. Sex with Fraser in Ray's bed. Images floated to his brain, like slides, one by one, each one better than the last, and yes, they could definitely move this somewhere way more comfortable than the kitchen.
"Yeah," Ray answered, nudging Fraser back. "Want you on a bed."
"Likewise," Fraser murmured and kissed him again, and kept kissing him as they walked, stumbling into furniture and almost tripping over Dief, who thumped his tail and trotted off in the direction of the kitchen.
They stripped while toppling over onto Ray's bed, Ray cursing the R.C.M.P. for their anal-retentive efficiency when it came to uniforms and footwear, and Fraser breathlessly agreeing.
They made their slow way up Ray's bed until their heads lay on Ray's pillows and their clothes lay scattered behind them. They kissed, moving against each other, now skin to skin. Ray felt no rush, just desire, slow but dizzying, pounding all through his body. He kissed Fraser again, bringing their hips together, entangling their legs. Fraser's thighs gripped his, reminding Ray of Fraser's strength. He moaned and rolled over Fraser, wanting to give some of his own strength back.
"Yeah..." Ray only half-listened, because that vein in Fraser's neck was now pulsing underneath his tongue, making his own blood pound harder in response. He slid his tongue down, over the collar bone, down Fraser's smooth chest. Fraser gripped his hips harder.
"What do you want --"
Ray was considering his response when his tongue slid over a bump. He lifted his head and looked down at Fraser's chest. The only light in the room was coming from his living room, but even so, he could still see that what he'd felt with his tongue was a scar, and he reached out with his hand and touched it. When had Fraser gotten this? He felt confused, and realized that he hadn't expected Fraser to have any scars. After all, life wasn't supposed to leave marks on Fraser. Ray was the one with scars. He was the imperfect one. Ray's heartbeat slowed down.
"Ray? What's wrong?" Fraser wrapped a hand around Ray's fingers, still moving over the bump.
"You've got a scar." Ray looked at his face. "Where did you get it?"
"Oh. It's a long story." Fraser pulled Ray's hand away. "I was ten, there was an otter--never mind."
"You- you got any more?" Ray began feeling Fraser's skin for other imperfections, on his belly, down his sides, over his hips. He felt goose bumps rising where his fingers touched.
"Yes, but it isn't important." Fraser sounded uncomfortable, and Ray got that, he did, but he wanted to see the scars. He wanted to see all of them, to feel them, to know where Fraser'd been before he met Ray. To know what he'd felt.
"It is important. Let me see you. Come on." Ray lowered his head down to Fraser's, wheedled him with a kiss. "I want to know."
"C'mon...please," he whispered, willing Fraser to trust him.
Fraser sighed against his mouth, but reached out and fumbled for the lamp on Ray's night stand. The light flickered on, and Ray moved off Fraser and waited. After a beat, Fraser lifted his right leg, and pointed towards a small clean scar, about an inch and a half long. Fraser kept his face neutral, like even the memory couldn't touch him anymore. Stab wound, he said, and Ray lowered his head towards Fraser's thigh, licked the scar slowly. Fraser twitched a little under his touch. Then, there was a bullet hole, same leg. And then another scar, lower, and Ray touched them all, learned the feel of them with his tongue and fingers. A faded scar on Fraser's abdomen, inspected with his lips; a small white line between the knuckles of his right hand, petted with a fingertip.
"Jesus, Frase, and I thought I had it bad," Ray said when Fraser finished the tale of the last scar, panting only a little bit. "Got any more?"
"I--yes. One more." Fraser looked at him weird, like he was considering keeping that one to himself, maybe. Ray wasn't going to let that happen. Then, something clicked in his head, and yeah, he knew. He hadn't seen it, but he'd read about it. Bullet, Fraser's back, Vecchio, a jewel thief.
"Turn over, Frase." He began coaxing Fraser onto his stomach. "I need to see that one, too."
"Ray..." Fraser dug in and tried to stop Ray moving him.
"I've seen all the others. I can see this one." He pushed until Fraser relented and rolled over onto his stomach, his head pillowed on his arms, eyes closed. Ray got a full view of Fraser's back and ass and legs. He was nearly perfect from this view, as well. The only imperfection lay in the puckered scar, round, with a dot in the middle. Ray reached out and touched it, trying not to let Fraser feel his hand shaking. It was bumpy, not that big, really. Close to the spine. Ray closed his eyes and felt the space all around the scar, trying to appease himself with smooth, healthy skin.
He put a hand over Fraser's shoulder, tugged him sideways, and Fraser followed the movement through, rolling over onto his back. He looked at Ray expectantly. Ray didn't really know what to say, so he just watched Fraser, and Fraser watched him back, and then Fraser closed his eyes, breathed in and out, and Ray saw his shoulders slump a little. It seemed to Ray that it was in relief.
When Fraser finally opened his eyes, he wrapped his arms around Ray's back, held him against his chest, and kissed his mouth, his cheek, licked all down his jaw. Ray felt his cock get hard again, and groped around Fraser's crotch to find Fraser hard, too.
"God, I want you," Fraser breathed against his mouth, and Ray groaned.
"Yeah. Oh, hell, yeah. What do you want?" He squeezed his hand around Fraser's dick. Fraser bucked against him. "Want this?" Ray slipped down a bit, got a better grip, and began pumping. "This good?"
Fraser opened his mouth and gasped. Ray took that as a `yes.' He watched, now mesmerized, as Fraser arched his neck, and let his head sink into the pillow. His hair was sweaty all around his face. His cheeks were flushed, and he kept opening and closing his mouth, like he couldn't get enough air. Ray tried not to lose the rhythm as he put his mouth over Fraser's collar bone, slid his lips down over his scar, licked there. He wanted to get closer, wanted to surround Fraser everywhere, maybe crawl inside his skin and feel him from the inside. When Fraser began humping his hips like he couldn't keep still anymore, Ray followed his rhythm. He wanted to make this good for him, wanted to hear Fraser moan or even scream, and he couldn't stop watching his face. Fraser's mouth was half open, his eyes glazed over, his cheeks unevenly red. When he came, gasping, Ray couldn't remember seeing anybody more perfect.
"Jesus," he breathed out, continuing to squeeze Fraser's cock until Fraser stopped trembling and his breathing got back to normal. "Jesus," he repeated and put his mouth over Fraser's open lips, cupping his face with a clean hand. Fraser's tongue met his halfway, and Ray felt a moan reverberate through them both. It might have been his, it might have been Fraser's. He couldn't really tell anymore.
"I want to see you, too," Fraser breathed in his ear as he broke the kiss. He took hold of Ray's hand and guided it to Ray's cock, pushing Ray onto his back. Ray just closed his eyes and arched his back, because fuck, this felt so damn good. He pulled his own hand away so that Fraser's hand was the only one touching him, and grabbed the sheet, instead. Fraser's rhythm never wavered. Ray's hips thrust up with every upstroke, his body shook. He couldn't grab hold of any one sensation, because he could smell Fraser so close, and he could feel him all around him, his heat, his skin, his words, as he spoke in Ray's ear, a litany of his name interwoven with "come" and "let go" and "God." All movement turned ragged and uneven, and he couldn't tell how it had happened, but he seemed to have climbed half on top of Fraser, sliding his ass against Fraser's hip, his back rubbing against Fraser's front. Fraser surrounded him completely, his hand pumping Ray's cock, his torso keeping Ray grounded, and his voice, husky, low, moaning, torturing him, telling him to let go, to come--
"Ray, come, let me see you. You're perfect, oh God, you're perfect, come on, come, want to see you--"
Ray felt the pressure build until it broke, and he felt himself breaking, pieces scattering in the freefall. He moaned, so low in his throat, it hurt, and sagged against Fraser, letting his head fall back into the warm shoulder behind him. Fraser breathed hard against his ear, and Ray got the impression that Fraser was trying to smell him. He smiled and turned towards Fraser.
"Hey." Ray's voice was hoarse. He still couldn't quite catch his breath.
"Hey," Fraser answered, his own voice ragged. Ray wondered if that was the first time he'd heard Fraser say `hey.'
It was a little while before they could force themselves to move, disentangle, clean up. Ray spotted a small tear in the sheet, right where he'd been grabbing it, and grinned. He'd never really cared about his sheets, anyway.
After he came out of the bathroom, he saw that Fraser was sitting on the side of bed like he was ready to leave. Ray felt his stomach drop out, but realized that Fraser wasn't, at least, getting dressed. Ray fought down a sudden urge to hide all of Fraser's clothes, and walked over to his side.
"Are you- you going, or--" He looked down at Fraser, watching the uneven red patches still visible on his neck and shoulders. He'd left a hickey all around Fraser's scar. "Do you want to maybe stay, or..." As always, at the crucial moment, he lost all ability to talk, and felt like an idiot, and just hoped that Fraser's smarts would extend to this. He felt his face heating up.
"Yes, Ray." Fraser looked up at him, lifted a hand and tentatively touched Ray's hip. "I'd like to- spend the night."
Ray released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "You would?"
"Yes. I'd like to- spend a second night here, as well. If you would let me."
"If- " Christ Almighty, would he. Would he ever. "Fraser, I would. I do. This is me, letting you. Spend the week here. Spend all-"
Fraser slid his hand to Ray's back, pulled him closer, and buried his face in Ray's belly.
"I'd like that, Ray. I'd like that very much."
Ray woke up once in the middle of the night. His feet were cold. He felt around for the blanket, realized it was bunched up around their calves. Fraser had him in a hug, arms wrapped around his chest, legs tangled with his own. Ray felt his warm breath against his back. He kicked the blanket down until it slid over his feet, then felt around to make sure Fraser's were covered, too. He put his head back down on the pillow and pulled the blanket up towards his chin. Completely covered now, Ray sank back against Fraser, felt himself warming up. The last thing he saw before slipping back into sleep was Dief, curled up on the floor, a white shadow against the dark door.
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