Now, seconds things being second, for pearl_o:
Title: Ice Crossing
There’s a little girl in the middle of the pond, waving her arms all around and laughing as her dad pulls her around the surface of the ice. She’s maybe eight, nine, and the guy’s gotta be Ray’s age, and there they are, spinning around in tight circles on a little skating rink on a Sunday morning, like normal people do. Just father and daughter, laughing it up – having a laugh, hanging out and that’s maybe what Ray should be doing. But instead he’s standing on the side, and there are all t hese words frozen in his mouth, and Fraser’s standing next to him like maybe he’s frozen, too.
It’s late January, and Ray’s fingers are cold as he holds his cigarette. He lets out the smoke in a long frosty breath, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet because he can’t stand still. It’s quiet out, and from where Ray’s standing it’s like there’s maybe three colors in the whole world, and Fraser’s one of them: this big red shape against all the white and gray.
“Thing is,” he starts, eyes watering from the wind. “Thing is, that I, uh – you’re not hearing what I’m saying, Fraser. You’re not – not *listening*, here. I’m trying to *tell* you something, ” he half shouts, and the girl and her father pirouette toward him and Fraser.
Her scarf is blue – bright, bright blue, same color as Fraser’s eyes, which almost don’t look real. They’re like these two little gems, set deep into his tight, tense face as he stands still and silent next to Ray. “I’m listening, Ray,” Fraser says, “I’m just having difficulty understanding what, exactly, it is, that you’re trying to tell me.”
“Hah, difficulty understanding, fine, fine,” Ray says, taking another deep drag before tossing his cigarette down. He turns his back to the girl and her father and kicks at the snow. “Fine, okay, listen, I’m just – I’m just going to say this one time, all right? One time only, and you know, after that it’s done. Never saying it again, it’s over, that’s it, kaput, all right? Got it, Fraser?”
“I – yes, understood, Ray,” Fraser replies, looking down at the tips of his boots, which Ray thinks look like little brown polished rocks peeking out from underneath the snow that he’s kicked onto them.
“It’s like this – ” Ray scrubs a hand over his face. “You spend your whole life, thinking this one thing, one of those, uh, those laws of nature. And you believe it, you believe it so much that your whole life is built on it. You don’t just believe it – it kind of seeps into you. You ever have something like that?”
Ray waits for Fraser to nod before nodding himself and continuing, rubbing his hands in front of his face. “All right. So, you know, you’ve got this good life going for yourself because this thing, this one thing, is true, and you’ve got that, at least. Or, maybe even your life is shitty, but it’s still…it’s still *yours*, and then, all of a sudden it isn’t any more. And you have to, ah, you have to think about things all differently because that thing – that *one* thing, that natural law or whatever, it’s this big lie and you’ve been hoodwinked. Turns out you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes and it’s like, it’s like you’ve got nothing any more.”
Ray takes a deep breath and stares down at his fingers, blinking against the wind. “And you, ah, you’ve got to…look at everything different. You’ve got to look at your life different, yourself, even, and when you do maybe you don’t like what you see so much, you know? Maybe it turns out that everything you’ve been thinking – it’s all just crap. It’s all just a whole lot of nothing.”
“Ray,” Fraser says, and Ray doesn’t look at him, but he sounds uncertain, and the wind is whipping over the park. “Ray, there’s nothing you need to be ashamed of,” he assures quietly. “The Botrelle case –“
Ray shakes his head, savagely. “That’s not even it, Fraser,” he says, and it’s a good thing that Fraser is a freak Mountie because no one else would have been able to hear him over the wind and the city. “It’s – I’m a fake, Frase. My whole life, I’ve been acting like I’m some kind of tough guy, punk, whatever. And now I…I’m a coward.”
“That is not true,” Fraser says, and his voice has bite to it and his hand is big and warm on Ray’s shoulder, pulling a little -- enough to make turn Ray around to look at him.
“How long have we known each other, Frase?” Ray asks, with a brittle half laugh.
“A year and a half,” Fraser immediately responds. “But I fail to see – “
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you fail to see, and that’s a good thing, that’s… that’s a good fuckin’ thing, “ Ray says, shaking his head. “Fraser, we’ve known each other for all that time, and you know what I’ve been thinking the whole time?”
Fraser stiffens, his chin and spine drawing up, shooting these uncomfortable, curious glances at Ray and Ray looks past him, down the long slick black line of the road, and the dirty slush of snow on either side of it.
“The whole time, I’ve been thinking – I’ve been thinking that you -- ,” Ray breaks off, shakes his head. “I haven’t laid one hand on you the whole time, not like I want to. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. Okay, maybe not all, but a lot of the time, and…I’m too scared to do it. Because before, I’d never…you’re the only…ahh, fuck it, “ he trails off, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “Listen, why don’t we go get some coffee? Forget I said any of this.”
Ray starts walking, his back to Fraser, watching his feet as they move one in front of the other on the sidewalk.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Ray,” Fraser says, clear as bell behind him, “I can’t forget any of it.”
“Yeah, I know.” Ray looks over his shoulder, and he feels like there is nothing holding him down.
Nothing holding him in *place*, like he could disappear at any moment. He clears his throat, fixes his eyes over Fraser’s shoulder. “So I guess that’s it, huh?”
Fraser shakes his head, slowly, walking forward, and he is the only thing, the *only* thing that is bright and worth looking at in Ray’s world – out here, where there isn’t anything but all this stupid damned ice and sleet and slush.
“Ray,” Fraser says hoarsely, reaching out, grabbing Ray’s arm, pulling him close, and Ray isn’t surprised, just scared – because this is what had been enough to keep him quiet; knowing that this would happen. Knowing that Fraser would look at him like *this*, that he’d feel that old wave of hope and lust all over that he used to feel whenever Stella looked at him, knowing that his breath would come out in these short little gasps as Fraser leans to kiss him.
He didn’t know, though, that Fraser would be so *warm*, and so solid, and so real – like something he could hold onto, like something he could hide behind, wrap himself up in. And he didn’t know that Fraser’d make those little sounds, all lost and triumphant at once, and most of all he didn’t know – he couldn’t have known – that kissing Fraser outside where anyone could see wouldn’t matter. That all that would matter would be *Fraser*, pressed against him, smelling clean and sweet and tasting like tea.
Fraser pulls back, leans his forehead against Ray’s, and whispers against Ray’s cheek. “I have to confess that I – well, I’m a coward, as well, I suppose,” and Ray shakes his head, smiles a little.
“Nah, Fraser, that would be un-Mountie like or something,” and maybe Ray isn’t a coward. Maybe he’s doing okay, because he slips his hand into Fraser’s and tugs him down the street. And he doesn’t let go, and neither does Fraser and Fraser isn’t frozen at all. Maybe…maybe he never had been. Maybe he’d just been waiting for Ray to thaw out a little.