thanks to: lyra, pearl_o and estrella
Summary: “I want to stay,” Ray didn’t say.
“Please stay,” Fraser didn’t ask him.
When Fraser dropped him off at the airport, it was just starting to snow. Ray reached up to brush some off Fraser’s shoulder, but there really wasn’t any point so he let his hand drop back down.
“Yeah, so, you know, you be careful, okay?” Ray said, fiddling with the strap of his duffle bag, watching Fraser from the corner of his eyes.
Fraser smiled at him, impersonal and polite, and said good bye.
And then Ray walked up the ladder, and put on his seatbelt, and closed his eyes as the pilot took off.
He woke up in the mornings, and took a shower. Then he got dressed, drank a cup of coffee and went to work. He sat at his desk and filled out paperwork and sometimes he picked up the phone or went out on cases. Then he came home, and took off his pants, and stared at the television until he fell asleep, and then he woke up and did the same thing over again.
He didn’t call Fraser after he got back to Chicago. There wasn’t any point.
Anyway, Fraser didn’t call him either.
It was summer, and he was out of beer, and even the supermarket was hot and it smelled like bad meat. Ray was tired, but Ray was always tired, so it wasn’t like it was anything different. He stood in front of the beer cooler, plucking at the front of his dingy white t-shirt, trying to decide if he wanted to be cheap and drunk or buy beer that was worth tasting and actually watch the Cubs game on TV. The Cubs weren’t going to win, they never won, and if they did it was a surprise, and Ray wasn’t really sure he liked surprises anymore, and he thought, “Hey, why don’t I kill myself?” and when he realized he kind of meant it, the red plastic basket he was holding in his hand fell to the ground from his nerveless fingers.
He just stood there staring at the beer, thinking, “God, I have to get out of Chicago, I have to find Fraser, I have to –”
A hand touched his shoulder, and a woman said, “Detective Kowalski? Is that you? Are you all right?”
Ray turned, and Beth Botrelle was holding out his basket in one of her hands, worried.
“You okay?” she asked him again, squeezing his shoulder a little, and Ray said, “God, no.”
They left the groceries in the store, and she took him home with her. He sat in her car and didn’t say anything, just stared out the window. When they walked into her house, Ray could still see it as a crime scene, with the tape and the blood. She told him to sit down on her couch, and gave him a glass of Scotch.
“Tell me,” she said, and Ray nodded, and said, “Okay.”
Ray was leaving in two days, and Fraser was sleeping next to him. Fraser was breathing against his neck, and Fraser was warm, and Ray kissed his soft, sleeping mouth. He whispered into Fraser’s hair for hours, talked himself hoarse. The sun was coming up when Fraser woke. Fraser’s big hands touched Ray’s face gently in the dark. Fraser kissed him. Fraser straddled Ray and licked down his chest.
“I want to stay,” Ray didn’t say.
“Please stay,” Fraser didn’t ask him.
“I’ll visit you,” Ray didn’t say.
“Promise you’ll come back,” Fraser didn’t ask him.
Instead, that afternoon, Fraser handed Ray his tickets, and told him not to lose them. He said, “I hope you enjoyed Canada, Ray. I know I enjoyed being your partner.”
Ray folded the corner of the ticket down with his thumb. “Yeah,” he said, “yeah. Me, uh, me too.”
That night Ray got drunk and passed out in the rocking chair next to the window in the living room, and the next day, he left.
After he said it all, Beth poured him another glass, and asked him if he wanted some pasta. He shrugged, and kept staring at the carpet under his feet. There used to be blood there, once, he wanted to tell her, but she already knew.
“I’m sorry,” he started to say when she sat down across from him, watching him with her dark eyes. “You, you probably have things to do. I shouldn’t be – I’m sorry.”
Beth cocked her head to the side and said, “Have you told anyone else all of this?”
Ray barked out a laugh. “Who would I tell?”
She nodded like she got it, and it was weird but Ray thought maybe she did. Maybe she got it better than anyone else would have, and it didn’t feel strange to say it to her, all of it. Here he was, sitting in her living room, and she could have been dead because of him, and her husband died right here, and it wasn’t like they were friends, it wasn’t like they knew each other, but they did, too.
Beth Botrelle wasn’t a great person, neither was he; they were both fuck ups, mainly. Angry, sad, lonely fuck ups, and maybe neither one of them was sane, and it made sense to be sitting here in her living room. It made sense to just spin it all out, all of this shit with him and Fraser that felt like a dream and maybe he’d made it all up after all, while she watched him, still and strange across the room.
“Would you like another drink?” she asked him, sipping slowly at her own.
“Yeah,” he said, sitting back further against the cushions. “Yeah.”
In the middle of dinner, Beth said, “I almost died in prison.”
Ray choked on his pasta, put down his fork and stared at his plate until his eyes watered. “I know.”
“No, I mean – I was almost killed by one of the other inmates. Before that, I thought it wouldn’t matter particularly much when the time came, but when I woke up in the infirmary, I wanted to live.” She dabbed a napkin at her mouth, and looked up at him. “Thank you for saving my life.”
She reached over and took his hand, and Ray remembered that the last time he’d seen her, she’d kissed him, and after Fraser had rubbed warm circles onto his back.
They sat in the living room and didn’t say anything. Ray kicked at the carpet, and she sat across from him, not moving. Not speaking. Just watching him, still, and when she put down her glass and walked over to where he was sitting, and put her mouth on his, Ray wasn’t surprised.
They slept together, and Ray touched her breasts because they were nice breasts and Beth deserved to be touched. When she came, she clutched her fingers into his hair so hard it hurt. When Ray came, he gritted his teeth against her shoulder. Afterward, she ran her small fingers over his back again and again, and said, “It’s okay” and Ray’s shoulders shook and his cheeks got wet, and she pretended not to notice that he was crying.
In the morning, she was gone and Ray was glad. She left a mug out in the kitchen for him, a hot pot of coffee next to it. Ray drank it, and scrubbed at the dishes, and got a cab to O’Hare.
The airport was busy, and the one way he bought to Toronto was pretty expensive, but Ray didn’t give a damn. He showed up in Canada with seven toothpicks, two pennies, a credit card, his car keys in his pocket and a sports coat on over his t-shirt.
He got a room in the bed and breakfast in Inuvik. The wallpaper was covered in purple flowers and the bed spread looked like a doily, and the woman who ran the place had huge thick glasses and badly dyed hair. The whole place smelled like baby powder and old people, but there wasn’t anywhere else.
Fraser’s cabin was twenty minutes outside the town, but the Canadian police station or whatever the hell it was called was right next to the post office. Ray got up early and got a cup of coffee at the diner across the way, and watched the front door.
It was a quarter to seven when Fraser pulled up in a shiny green Jeep. Dief jumped out and barked at the front door, his paws making muddy prints on the glass when he jumped up onto it. Ray could see the tilt of Fraser’s head, Fraser’s pursed lips as he lectured Dief, and Ray’s hands itched.
Fraser fished in his pocket for the keys, and when he pulled them out, they caught the light. Ray watched him unlock the door, and walk through it, ducking through the low lintel of the front door frame.
“You’ve got to go over there,” he muttered to himself, but instead he sat there for a long time. He sat there until the coffee in his hands got cold, and the waitress behind the counter stopped offering to refill it. Then he paid, took a deep breath, and walked out the door.
When he walked through the door, a bell chimed, and Fraser called out from the back, “I’ll be with you in a moment,” and Ray nearly turned around and left. His hands were cold in his pockets, and he couldn’t draw a breath.
Fraser stopped in the door of his office, holding a file with a blank expression on his face, and Ray said, “Heya, Frase.”
It was so quiet inside the station that Ray could hear Dief whuffing in his sleep, and then Fraser put down the file carefully on the chair beside him.
Ray thought for a minute maybe Fraser wouldn’t say anything, because Fraser just kept opening his mouth and closing it, staring at Ray like he was seeing through Ray to something else. Ray fidgeted with the change in his pocket, staring right back at Fraser, trying to meet his eyes, trying to think of what to say.
Then Fraser stumbled out of the doorway, like his legs had been locked. “I don’t understand,” he said. “How did –”
Ray waved a hand in a circle beside his head. “There were some planes, trains, automobiles, that kind of thing,” he said, nervous. “Well, no train. Just some planes. And a couple of cabs.”
Fraser blinked at him and took another step closer, and then another, and Ray thought about just grabbing his face and kissing him, but instead Fraser wrapped his thick arms around Ray and clapped a strong hand against his back, and pressed his hot face against Ray’s shoulder.
“It’s – very good to see you, Ray,” Fraser said into his jacket.
Ray rubbed Fraser’s neck a little and his mouth stretched into a slow, unpracticed smile. “Hey, it’s good to see you, too.”
He checked out from the bed and breakfast that afternoon while Fraser worked, and made two phone calls to Chicago. One to Welsh, another to Stella, and that was it, his life in the States was dealt with just like that.
Fraser picked him up outside the grocery store, frowned at the cigarette between his fingers, but didn’t say anything as Ray stubbed it out against the wall and dropped the butt into the garbage.
“How long do you think you’ll be staying?” Fraser asked as he drove toward the cabin, and Ray shrugged, watching Fraser’s profile.
“Depends,” he said, and Fraser didn’t ask anything more.
After dinner, Ray smoked another cigarette outside, watching through the kitchen window as Fraser argued tersely with Dief and dunked the dishes in soapy water.
He came back inside, and kicked his boots off by the front door. “I’m tired, you tired?” he asked, and Fraser nodded once.
“Cool, then I’m going to just –” Ray tilted his head toward the bedroom. Fraser nodded again, but didn’t follow as Ray stripped off his jeans, his shirt, his jacket – everything but his boxers – and climbed into Fraser’s narrow bed.
Fraser stood in the kitchen, folding and unfolding the same dishtowel a few times before tossing it onto the counter top and turning off the light.
“Frase?” Ray called, but there was only the rustle and zip of Fraser undressing to answer him.
Ray sat up, and he could see the straight line of Fraser’s naked back silhouetted against the closet. “Frase?” he called again.
“You smell like perfume,” Fraser said quietly. “You smell like a woman’s perfume, and sex.”
Ray blinked at Fraser’s back, and then rolled away to face the wall, and bunched up the pillow beneath his head. “Yeah. I guess so.”
The bed creaked as Fraser climbed onto it beside him, lying down so that his thighs touched Ray’s. He pulled up the covers, and asked, “Why are you here?”
“Because I have to be,” Ray said after a while, and Fraser didn’t respond.
Fraser’s legs were thrown over Ray’s when Ray woke up, and Fraser was mouthing circles onto his back. Fraser’s hand cupped his hip, and pulled him back against Fraser, who was hard and ready and pushing against him.
Ray tried to roll over, but Fraser held him in place, hand drifting from Ray’s hip to his cock, squeezing him through his boxers.
“Fraser,” he started to say, but Fraser bit his arm, hard, so he just closed his eyes and rolled his hips back against Fraser and forward into Fraser’s hand over and over until Fraser groaned against the back of his neck and moved his hand faster on Ray’s dick and they both came.
Fraser panted, mouth open against Ray’s skin, arms and legs still tight around him. Ray reached a hand down to where Fraser’s was, and slipped his fingers between Fraser’s.
He swallowed hard and said, “I thought about you,” and he wasn’t sure if he meant when he was with Beth or just every day, but both were true.
“I’m sure Stella was thrilled,” Fraser murmured, pulling his hand away from Ray’s and standing up.
“What the hell does Stell --” Ray started to ask, sitting up as Fraser stalked into the bathroom.
“Don’t,” Fraser cut him off, voice low and tight over the sound of running water. “I know very well that you and she –”
“Me and her nothing,” Ray cut him off, squinting as he turned on the bedside light. Fraser stood naked in the bathroom, face hard and pale and bleak as he glared at the towel in his hand. “You know shit.”
Fraser swung around toward him, eyebrows high. “Excuse me?”
“I said, ‘you know shit,’ Fraser,” Ray repeated, crossing his arms over his bare chest. “You think I’ve just been back in Chicago making it with Stella every night? You think I’ve been – that everything’s been fine?”
“Hasn’t it?” Fraser asked him, glare faltering.
“Oh, yeah, it’s been a bowl of fucking cherries,” Ray said, rubbing a hand over his face. “Wonderful, great, really, total greatness. Life without you in Chicago is so damn good I left the States two days ago with nothing but the clothes on my back to come here.”
Fraser stared at him, not saying anything, and Ray sighed and said, “What the hell did you think it was going to be like for me when I went back, Fraser? I got nothing there.”
“I don’t understand,” Fraser murmured, coming out of the bathroom into the bedroom to stand at the foot of the bed, intent on Ray.
“Yeah, well, I’m not like you, Frase,” Ray told him. “I don’t just have to have a place. I got to have somebody there, you know? My turtle even died while we were on our quest, so I’ve got nothing, and shit, Fraser. I just – if I’d stayed there, who knows.”
There was the sound of Dief’s nails clicking against wood coming from the kitchen, birds outside, but Fraser didn’t say anything, and Ray couldn’t even look at him. If Ray looked at Fraser, maybe he’d see it all written over Ray’s face. He’d know about Beth and the supermarket, and he’d see how unhappy Ray was, and Ray couldn’t let himself be pathetic to Fraser -- no matter how pathetic he really was. He didn’t want Fraser to pity him; he’d had enough of that with Stella. He’d had that with Beth, too, and he couldn’t take it from Fraser.
Ray stared down at his pale, skinny thighs, and picked at the hem of his boxers. “Missed you too much to stay away,” he said finally, and the bed springs whined as Fraser sat beside him. “You want me to go again, you’re going to have to tell me you don’t want me here.”
He chanced a look over at Fraser, and Fraser was twisting the towel in his hands and nodding.
“Okay, then,” Fraser said, meeting Ray’s eyes. “Okay.”
That night Ray made stew, and Fraser pinned him against the wall by the bedroom and sucked his cock, hot and hungry and frantic. Later, Fraser fucked him slow and easy in the bed and when Ray woke up, his face was pressed against Fraser’s smooth chest, and Fraser was staring down at him.
“I didn’t want you to go,” he whispered, fiercely. “But I had no right to ask you to stay.”
“I would’ve stayed,” Ray told him, and Fraser pressed his lips together.
“That’s why I couldn’t ask,” he said, and he closed his eyes, took a deep breath. “The Northwest Territories aren’t for everyone, Ray and I fear that you’ll hate it here – that you’ll hate me for keeping you here. I thought if I wrote you – if I spoke to you while you were gone, I wouldn’t have been able to – it was better that it was a clean break. Less dangerous that way. Now, when you go –”
“Hey, hey, you’re not listening, because I’m not going until you tell me to, Fraser,” Ray said, shaking Fraser’s arm. “I’m staying here, because I have to, okay? I’m staying here because it was fucking killing me not to be here, do you get that?”
Fraser opened his eyes, and they were deep and desolate in the early light through the curtains and Ray thought, Holy shit, he does get it, because in Fraser’s face there it was, there was everything. It was like looking in a mirror, like seeing himself when Beth found him standing there in the supermarket, and they were both so damned stupid, so fucking stupid.
“Stay,” Fraser said, “stay here with me, stay, stay, Ray, stay, I need you to –”
Ray kissed him and said, “Yeah, Fraser, I will.”