(Please imagine fanfare right about now.)
I wrote Ways + Means for tyk. It's Fraser/Kowalski, and rating wise...errr... let's say pg-13. Those Canadian terrorists are pretty terrifying. I'm posting it here so all future replies will be localized. Thanks go to aerye, for running such a cool secret santa challenge. It was a lot of fun!
Ray had no idea where Fraser was going with this, so he just kept listening. It sounded like some peculiar kind of Canadian torture; tie ‘em down and ask them to talk about their feelings.
Ray shoved through the squeaky-clean glass doors of the hospital, and had to look around the waiting room a couple times before locating Fraser. It was harder to pick the guy out of a crowd when he wasn’t in his red serge; instead Fraser was wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans. Fraser looked like shit, all groggy and pale, but otherwise intact.
Fraser looked up and saw him, and smiled tiredly. “Ray,” he said. “Thank you for coming, I –“
“What is with you, Fraser!” Ray burst angrily. All the worry had left him and now he was just really, really pissed off. “If you’re going to get kidnapped by Canadian terrorists, do it with back-up!”
“Ah,” Fraser winced. “Well, Ray, had I received advance notice of their kidnapping plans, I would have requested your assistance. I’ll keep it in mind for the future.”
“Yeah, you do that next time,” said Ray. “What happened? You all right?” He walked closer to Fraser and touched his shoulder.
Ray had gotten the call at about half-past midnight and driven to the hospital in the manner of someone he’d ordinarily be inclined to arrest. Still, Ray figured stop signs were meant as more of a suggestion. Fraser hadn’t told Ray how bad he was hurt, but since Fraser’d called him for a ride home, and not his toothpaste for an overnight stay, Ray figured it wasn’t too bad. He’d been worried as hell anyway, but he was sure it wasn’t too bad. Now Ray was wishing he had asked more questions.
“I’m fine, Ray,” said Fraser. “And I would prefer to get out of this place before sharing the details of the afternoon with you... do you mind?” He cocked his head toward the doors and Ray’s GTO left patiently running outside.
“Oh,” said Ray. “Right.”
Fraser stood, and Ray had to grasp him by the elbow to support him for a few seconds. The terrorists had really done a number on him, whatever it was. After a moment Fraser seemed to make a point of not leaning on Ray, but Ray stuck by his side anyway.
It wasn’t until Ray’d gotten Fraser loaded into the car and was out on the road that Fraser started to explain. Some renegade group of Canadian terrorists (“As opposed to the non-renegade kind of terrorists?” “Oh – actually, Ray, that was their name. Renegade Group of Canadian Terrorists, or more simply known as the R.G.C.T.”) had a grudge against Fraser because of some cousin or two of theirs that he’d put in jail. They ambushed Fraser as he was heading to pick up some dry cleaning, and spent the rest of the afternoon interrogating him in an abandoned warehouse. Eventually Thatcher noticed that she didn’t have her favorite little black dress to wear to the opera, and the personnel of the Canadian Consulate managed to track down the terrorists and spring Fraser without getting the Chicago P.D. involved at all.
“Huh,” said Ray.
“They really are astoundingly capable at times,” said Fraser. “Inspector Thatcher perhaps more so than – others. Hypothetically.”
“Uh-huh,” said Ray, who wasn’t listening because he was busy thinking. It was bugging him that Fraser had gotten in trouble and he hadn’t known about it.
“And yes, by ‘others’ I mean Turnbull,” said Fraser. “I was deeply surprised by his competence in helping with my rescue. The man is insufferable. I only trust that Diefenbaker has been adequately looked after in my absence.” He took a breath. “But regardless - that’s why you didn’t hear about my kidnapping earlier. The terrorists were also advocates of anti-firearms laws, and so they were at a disadvantage and relatively easy to overpower. It was a matter that was quickly resolved.”
Ray shook his head and stopped at a light. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Fraser.”
“I – what do you mean?” Fraser was sounding even more tired. Definitely something wasn’t right.
“You’re leaving out why you were in the hospital,” Ray said. “These guys – the S.G. whatevers - interrogated you? How? Are you hurt bad? Damnit, Fraser, talk to me -”
“The hospitalization was mainly a precaution,” Fraser said, speaking over top of him. “The terrorists interrogated me using sodium penthanol, but it has mostly worn off. I am suffering some slight aftereffects, but just fatigue and reduced reflexes, nothing else of import.” Fraser gave him a serious look. “Really, Ray, I’m fine.”
Ray glanced at Fraser in alarm, then turned away to stare out the window at the red glow of the traffic light. He scratched at the back of his neck. “So they gave you – that’s truth serum, right?” Ray looked at Fraser again, with a mix between worry and speculation on his face. “You said it’s worn off?”
Fraser nodded yes and added in his best informative tone, “Actually, it was never that effective to begin with. It’s a misnomer that sodium penthanol causes the affected individuals to only tell the truth. That’s a myth perpetrated by many movies and other popular cultural influences.”
“Those influences,” said Ray knowingly.
Fraser nodded. “Yes. All sodium penthanol does is lower inhibitions and encourage the affected to be more... forthcoming. Actually, the effects are very similar to that of alcohol-induced inebriation. Knowing that gave me an advantage, and I was able to withhold information from them with little difficulty.”
What this called for was a good vacation, Ray decided. He and Fraser had been working long hours lately, breaking up drug rings and gambling operations and murder cases; it was definitely time for a vacation. And Ray figured it wasn’t every day that terrorists kidnapped your Mountie partner and dosed him with truth serum. Every other day, maybe.
Fraser seemed to be waiting for a response, and Ray nodded slowly. “So basically, Fraser, you’re telling me you just need to get some sleep. You’re not going to turn into a big Mountie-shaped magic eight-ball on me.”
Fraser’s brow wrinkled. “I’m afraid I don’t understand your analogy.”
“You know,” said Ray. He mimed shaking an eight-ball in Fraser’s direction, which got him a slightly alarmed look for his trouble. “A magic eight-ball. The toy. Which you’re not. So if I shake you, you won’t start telling me a bunch of deep dark secrets about your pet gerbil.”
“I’ve never had a pet gerbil, Ray,” said Fraser, who was obviously just trying to be difficult. But when Ray glared across the car at him, he could see that Fraser was smiling a little.
“Good,” said Ray. “See, that would be you under the effects of truth serum. In your normal Mountie state I’d shake you around a bit, and instead of an eight-ball-style answer like ‘Outlook hazy,’ I’d get the full Fraser-treatment; like, ‘Ah, Ray, the last time I saw something like this was when the seal hunting season left old Bartholomew out in the cold. Cabbages!’ Or something.” Ray had the suspicious feeling that he hadn’t made any sense whatsoever.
“Seal hunting season?” said Fraser incredulously, “Cabbages?” and Fraser was still looking more exhausted by the minute but at least Ray had him laughing now.
Ray grinned at him. “Hey, man, cabbages are – “
“Wait,” said Fraser suddenly, so Ray shut up. Fraser shook his head like he was trying to shake water out of his ears.
“I’m fine, Ray,” said Fraser. He sounded more tired than Ray had ever heard him sound before. Fraser definitely needed to crash on a real bed for a bit, not the cot he had in his office. The guy was running on fumes.
“I just - I have to say this to you now, before I reconsider,” said Fraser. His eyes were serious, like something was burning behind them. “You see – my interrogators soon grew bored of asking me questions about the Consulate, and decided to target me specifically – which I’m sure was their original intention.”
“They had a big grudge, huh?”
“Yes. They asked me...” Fraser sighed deeply before continuing, “about my family. Friends. Lovers. My childhood. Any invasive question they could think of, any deeply personal questions that sprang to mind. They grew frustrated with my evasiveness and their questions grew more and more ridiculous as the evening wore on.”
Ray had no idea where Fraser was going with this, so he just kept listening. It sounded like some peculiar kind of Canadian torture; tie ‘em down and ask them to talk about their feelings.
“And I realized...” Fraser gave a pained chuckle. “Well, I realized several things, the first being exactly how inept at kidnapping these terrorists were. Their questions didn’t bother me – it was the answers which bothered me.”
“Fraser?” Ray prompted after a moment’s silence. Fraser slumped a little more in his seat as Ray pulled to another stop. He was catching every red light tonight.
“You see, Ray,” he continued, “The second thing I realized was that I am, by all intents and purposes, a very private person. The person who probably knows the most about me, and about my past, is my father. And how deeply sad is that?” Fraser shook his head in disgust.
“Yeah,” said Ray sympathetically. “And now he’s dead. I get it.”
“What?” Fraser gave him a confused look, then said, “Ah, yes, of course. That’s what I meant.” He looked out the window at the dark storefronts they were passing. Ray snuck a glance at the clock – 1:37am. Jeez.
“And, Ray, as they asked their questions... I realized the third thing. They didn’t deserve to know. They didn’t deserve to know me. But if anyone deserves to know these things, these details of my life - it should be the man who I consider my best friend. My partner.”
Ray’s breath caught at the sound in Fraser’s voice. It was something gentle and – and. Ray really just wanted to hear it again. Fraser looked over at Ray again, and Ray swore softly and pulled over to the curb so he could look back properly.
Fraser gave him a tired smile that was mainly just his lips pressed together. “Of course, that’s only if there’s anything he wants – you want to know. I find myself – I want to be known, Ray. And you already know,” he cleared his throat, “the better parts of me, so you might as well know the rest as well.”
After deciphering that statement, Ray felt warmed. “Well – thanks, Fraser. I’m – that means a lot.” Weird way of saying it, but as far as Ray could tell, Fraser was saying he trusted Ray. And that did mean a lot; in fact, it meant almost everything.
Fraser smiled a little more and nodded decisively, then turned to face forward again. Huh. Apparently this new resolution of Fraser’s wasn’t going to start immediately. Not that Ray blamed him, after the day he’d had.
Ray resumed driving, staring bemusedly at the road and trying to figure out what the heck was supposed to happen now.
When they finally got to Ray’s apartment, Fraser was sound asleep and slumped against the car window. Ray had to shake him hard (with only a slight chuckle remembering their earlier magic eight-ball conversation) to get him to wake up even a little.
“Up and at ’em,” said Ray with another shake, and thank god Fraser wasn’t all the way asleep, because it was hard enough to get Fraser up the stairs when he was groggy – Ray hated to think how it would have worked with him trying to carry an unconscious Fraser up them.
Fraser was more alert by the time they got in the apartment, and Ray got him to take the bed without any argument about “Ray, really I’m more comfortable on the floor.” Proving again that Fraser must be really tired. Ray almost wished that Fraser had taken the floor so that Ray could force him off it and into bed. Which sounded incredibly wrong. His mind was not going to go there tonight.
“I’ll be on the couch if you need anything,” Ray said, and got a blanket out of the closet for himself. He turned back and watched as Fraser shucked off his jeans and pulled the covers up. Ray cleared his throat. “Umm. You need anything?”
“You just asked me that,” Fraser said faintly.
“Right,” said Ray. “But the first time was a ‘if you want to ask in the future’ kind of thing, and the second was a ‘y’need anything right now?’ kind of thing.”
Fraser shook his head. “I don’t – but can you stay a second?”
“Sure,” said Ray, and came closer. “What’s up?”
“I’m sorry if my words earlier were... unwanted.”
Ray blinked. “No. No, we’re partners – I wanna know anything you want to tell me. And the same goes for me, you know. Anything you want to know, just ask. But I think you might know everything already.”
Fraser smiled faintly. “Deep dark secrets,” he said. “Did you ever have a gerbil then, Ray?”
“Yeah, I had one,” said Ray. “Its name was Chuckles. I was seven. I hated that fucking rodent.”
“Hmm,” Fraser mumbled.
“It kept biting me for shits and giggles,” said Ray. “Chuckles. Chuckles was psychotic.”
“Ray?” Fraser’s voice seemed smaller and somehow distant. His eyes were closed, and it seemed like he was on the verge of falling asleep.
“Yeah?” said Ray.
Fraser said, “I just wanted to tell you the fourth thing I realized.”
Ray snorted. “You got a list?”
“Yes,” said Fraser. He paused, like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue. “The fourth thing is, Ray... I’m lonely.”
Ray blinked and moved closer. “So’m I,” he said in a low tone.
“No,” said Fraser, “You don’t understand.” His eyes squeezed shut tighter. “I’m – I’m alone and I don’t know why, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, why - Ray. I can’t -”
Ray was shaking his head, but then he realized Fraser couldn’t see him. “You aren’t doing anything wrong, Fraser,” he said out loud. “Go to sleep.”
Fraser pressed his lips together tightly. His whole face looked clenched, like if he opened his mouth or his eyes something might fly out. Ray reached for him before he could think about it, and laid his hand on Fraser’s forehead. He stroked Fraser’s furrowed brow with his thumb, trying to get it to relax.
“Shh,” said Ray. “Get some rest.” After a few minutes like that, he felt Fraser’s muscles relax and his forehead smoothed out, leaving only faint lines of concentration.
Fraser’s “fourth thing” sat like a brick in Ray’s stomach. Ray gently removed his hand and headed for the couch. He didn’t look back at the sleeping Fraser, even though he wanted to. There was no reason to.
But Ray lay awake for a long time, wondering why Fraser couldn’t see that he wasn’t alone. He had Ray.
Fraser woke up with a headache and a slightly nauseated feeling. It didn’t take him long to realize he was in Ray’s bed; the “why” of it took a little bit longer, but eventually returned to him. A thick block of morning light from beneath the half-lowered blinds illuminated Fraser’s feet. He reluctantly resigned himself to venturing from under the covers.
Sitting up with a wince, he scanned the room for a pair of pants. Ray was probably in the living room, asleep on the sofa. Fraser had the day off, by Inspector Thatcher’s orders, but he felt sore and restless. It would be best to visit the facilities, wish Ray a good morning, and then take his leave of Ray’s hospitality. He’d been too much of a nuisance already.
Ah – there were his jeans. Fraser got out of bed, wincing at various aches and twinges in his still-exhausted body, and grabbed the jeans from the floor.
Just then, the door creaked open.
“Oh, hey,” said Ray. His voice was rough but warm. “Just checkin’ up on you. Good morning.”
“Good morning,” said Fraser. “Thank you for the use of your bed –“
Fraser was about to continue, but his words were forgotten as he saw Ray’s eyes dart quickly up and down his body. Just for a second, and Ray’s expression didn’t change at all, but Fraser felt himself starting to blush. He quickly pulled his jeans on the rest of the way, glad that he was already wearing his t-shirt. Surely Ray had not done it consciously.
“You look better,” said Ray. “Not great, but I see signs of improvement. Breakfast? I have pop tarts. Strawberry.”
Fraser considered for a moment, and the thought of Ray’s company was as enticing as the prospect of not having to leave the comfort of Ray’s apartment yet. “Yes, I believe a pop tart would be nice –“
“Fraser,” Ray interrupted abruptly. He stepped into the room and looked everywhere but at Fraser, like he was trying to act casual. “I’m taking you up on your offer.”
“What?” said Fraser, his mind still stuck on pop tarts and brief glances.
“I’m calling it in. Your “ask anything” card. You said if I want to know, I know. So I want to know.” He faced Fraser squarely, raising his chin slightly.
“Ah,” said Fraser, trying to figure out what could have triggered this. Perhaps it was a mixture of Ray’s curiosity and teasing nature. “Very well. What do you want to know?”
Ray just looked at him for a second. His hair was pressed flat on one side from sleeping on it, and Fraser let himself focus on that incongruent detail rather than on Ray’s worn, low-on-the-hips sweatpants.
“I want to know,” Ray said slowly, “Why you feel like you’re doing something wrong.”
“What?” said Fraser.
“Last night, you said you were lonely.”
Fraser felt something in his stomach grow cold. He was lonely, yes, but he didn’t remember telling Ray that. He supposed he had. And given Ray’s natural skills at perception, perhaps Ray had already guessed.
Ray shook his head, his mouth a pained line. “And you said you didn’t – fuck, Fraser, I just want to know how you’re feeling. And if I can help.”
Fraser closed his eyes, his headache giving a painful throb through his temples. “Ray... I. Loneliness is not a new feeling for me. It’s not important. I don’t make connections easily, as you well know.”
“Well, that’s just bullshit,” said Ray. “You talk to pretty women, you talk to businessmen, you talk to stinky homeless bums. You even talk to Dewey. You make connections all the time.”
“I don’t know if I can explain it further,” said Fraser, feeling annoyed despite himself. “One generally considers a connection to be a mutual exchange of, of - well. I fail to see where simple courtesy and polite conversation constitutes a deeper – “ He couldn’t find the words. Look at you and me, he wanted to say, that’s a connection.
“Okay, okay,” Ray interrupted. “Nevermind. I was just worried. Jeez.”
Fraser felt a wave of guilt as Ray looked at him. Fraser couldn’t tell if Ray’s expression meant “you’re right, I’m an idiot,” or “you’re right, but you’re still the idiot.” He had a suspicion it was the latter. Ray’s thigh shifted under thin fabric as he adjusted his balance of weight, and Fraser had to swallow hard.
“Lay back down,” said Ray. “I’ll get you a pop tart.”
“I don’t want a pop tart,” said Fraser. He didn’t know what he wanted.
“Lay back down and I’ll go get us some donuts, then,” said Ray.
Fraser nodded for lack of anything else to say, and Ray left the doorway and began to noisily assemble the necessary items for his errand. Fraser closed his eyes, picturing the way the sweatpants had ridden down, the way Ray’s t-shirt had stretched across his shoulders.
And now for the best topic of all, Constable Fraser. Are you in love? Tell us their name.
Fraser’s answer to the belligerent member of the RGCT had been: I love my country. But his real answer was something both incredibly simple and infinitely more complex. His answer was currently whistling a jaunty tune from the kitchen, and judging from the sound of metal clanking, was gathering up his keys.
To fall in love with one’s best friend was not a revolutionary concept. It had even happened to Fraser a couple of times before, but the previous occasions had not resulted in nearly so much intensity. They had been one-sided infatuations that eventually passed. But this... Fraser was grateful for his friendship with Ray, and would not trade it for anything, but still there was a space that would not be filled. He treasured that feeling as much as he detested it.
“You might as well, son,” said his father from behind him.
Fraser was startled but he didn’t jump, long used to the ghost of Robert Fraser and his disregard for privacy and personal boundaries. “Might as well what, dad?” he asked instead.
Bob leaned around Fraser’s shoulder and raised his eyebrows. “Go after the Yank. Make your move. Instead of just sitting here moping about it.”
“You approve of this? ”
“You’re the one that’s sick of talking to ghosts, Benton. And I can’t say as I blame you. A man needs someone to share his life with. I would have preferred it be that Morse woman, but to each his own I suppose.”
Fraser laughed in disbelief. “I can’t believe that you’re giving me permission.”
“Permission?” His father chuckled. “If all you needed was my permission, you’d have been out that door already. And if you weren’t waiting for it, you would have shut up and kissed the Yank when he came in here earlier.”
Fraser swallowed, getting a vivid mental picture of what might have happened if he had. He could have gotten up and kissed Ray, yes. He could have pulled those sweatpants the rest of the way down and nudged his hand up under Ray’s shirt, could have pressed him against the wall –
He still could.
All of a sudden, Fraser found that the idle fantasy had moved from daydream to what his mind considered an actual possibility. He wasn’t sure what caused the shift in his thinking. Maybe he should. Maybe he should talk to Ray, at least give it a try.
Fraser’s father sighed, and one insubstantial hand settled on Fraser’s shoulder. “What do I have to say to you to get you moving?” said Bob exasperatedly. “The timing is more important than you think! Both of you are in the right place, you’re on the same page. If those analogies don’t work, then let me just say you’re in the same rotten canoe.”
“He’ll be back soon,” said Fraser, “I can tell him then.” His heart was beating wildly, his mind buzzing with possibilities, and he didn’t think he could move if he tried.
“Nonsense,” said his father, and squeezed Fraser’s shoulder tight. “Don’t wait, son. I know you – you’ll never do it if you think too hard. Trust me. Go.”
Fraser was at the door before he knew it. He pulled it open and tumbled out in his mad dash, narrowly avoiding a collision with Ray as he came back up the steps.
“Ray,” gasped Fraser, already out of breath. He leaned against the wall, slightly dizzy from his sudden burst of motion. “What –“
“Forgot my wallet,” said Ray. He looked concerned. “What’s up, Fraser?”
“I –“ Fraser paused. He - do it now, something in him said. He reached out and caught Ray’s hand in his own. “I haven’t been entirely forthcoming, I’m afraid.”
Ray stared at him, his whole body suddenly still. Fraser could practically see him trying to fit pieces together and make sense out of Fraser’s words. He reminded Fraser of a bow pulled taut, a mountain lion startled into contemplation, and for a moment the beauty of him made Fraser’s mouth dry.
“You see,” Fraser said, and cleared his throat. “I realize that knowing everything about me would be a tedious task to undertake, not to mention somewhat boring. And really, I should prioritize the importance of some of my confessions for your benefit.”
Ray stepped closer, squeezing Fraser’s hand a little as he did so. “You telling me you actually did have a gerbil, Fraser? The mad gerbil of Inukunusomething?”
Fraser laughed. “No, Ray. But...” and his voice left him, as he realized that he had no idea if Ray returned his affection. In a friendly way, yes, but in a romantic or sexual way? There was truly no telling. Fraser could still back out; perhaps it would be best to forget his intentions and fully avoid placing their partnership in jeopardy.
But Ray still held his hand, and Fraser had given Ray his trust. He could not renege on such matters of the heart.
“I hope that this additional knowledge will not damage our friendship,” Fraser said unevenly, and silently prayed the same with his next breath. Then he gave up on words.
He leaned in and kissed Ray, softly, and let it linger. Ray didn’t kiss back at first, but then his mouth opened slightly and Fraser’s mouth slipped to fit his. The warmth of Ray was astonishing, and oh – incredible, the way they fit together. If there was no more, if this was it, if Ray hated him for this –
Fraser broke away at the thought, a tingle of dread going through him. He was wrong, because none of it was worth losing Ray. He needed to know the outcome of his brash decision.
Ray would not meet his eyes. One hand stole up to touch his lips, as if he were feeling where Fraser had been; the other hand, Fraser belatedly realized, was still held in his own. But Ray didn’t let go.
“We should get back inside,” Ray said at last. Fraser gave a start, having also forgotten that they were in the hallway in front of Ray’s door. Anyone could have come along and seen them.
Ray tugged on Fraser’s hand and led him back to the door, which was still hanging open. As soon as it was shut behind them, Ray let go and turned to face him.
”Ray,” said Fraser, but Ray cut him off.
“Fraser, you –“ Ray half-laughed and ran a hand over his head, leaving his hair even more on end. “I’m assuming the kiss was what you wanted to tell me,” he said.
“Essentially, yes,” said Fraser.
“All right. And this isn’t because of some truth serum hangover?”
“No,” said Fraser, “But that makes my intentions no less honest.”
“You just kissed me, Fraser,” said Ray. “You realize that on a scale of zero to weird, that was –“
“Insane?” Fraser supplied helpfully, his gut churning.
“Actually, Fraser, I was going to say it was a good impulse.” Ray grinned at him, and Fraser smiled back at him in relief. Ray wasn’t angry. Ray may even want him back.
“I had hoped it would be,” Fraser said.
“Umm,” said Ray, still grinning while trying desperately to look serious, “So I liked it, and you liked it. God, Fraser. What happens now?”
Fraser felt almost giddy at the unspoken acceptance. The very air between them felt loaded with promise, with more to come once they breached the space. “I don’t know,” he said, but that was okay. That was fine.
Ray’s eyes locked with his, and Fraser breathed in at what he saw there. This had been the right moment after all. Fraser added that to his mental list of realizations.
“Fraser,” said Ray, “What do you say we continue with some truth-telling?”
“All right,” Fraser said.
Then Ray took up the space between them; a newly familiar mouth meeting his, the warmth of the sun on their faces, a strong and steady embrace... and most of all, the truth coming out at last.