And it is pleasant. We watch a re-run of Men In Black II and laugh our asses off. Okay, okay, I laugh. He mostly just sits there with a confused expression on his face until I offer to run him back to the Consulate.
Now here's where that curve-ball comes in. I'm trying to get the car unlocked and keep the rain from streaming down my neck when he takes off running down the sidewalk. He's seen a purse-snatch happening two blocks away. Who the fuck notices something like that in weather like this? Benton Fraser does, that's who, and he takes off after the perp. I kid you not.
The victim is fine. She's a bit shaken, but not physically hurt. And man, I didn’t know language like that could come out of the mouth of a woman old enough to be my grandmother.
By the time I get to the small strip of green that calls itself a park, Fraser is already on his way back, minus the perp! Looks like he took a nose dive in the grass which is more like a swamp after such heavy rain. He's caked in mud from head to foot. Can't see an inch of red serge anywhere on him. But he *is* clutching the old lady’s purse.
"I'm afraid he managed to evade me, Ray. I lost my footing on the wet grass."
"No shit, Sherlock?" I take his elbow gingerly between finger and thumb. "Jeez Fraser, you ever think things through before you go off half cocked?"
"Not when it comes to my duty as an officer of the law." Yeah, this much I learned about him on day one.
Fraser insists on seeing grandma safely to her door. It's still raining, bouncing of the sidewalk, and he's shaking visibly from the cold.
There's no way he's getting into my car in this state. "C'mon, Superman," I guide him back toward my apartment. "I gotta get you into a hot shower before you freeze to death."
He stops and turns to look at me with the oddest expression on his face. Like I said, just when I think I have him neatly boxed and filed away, he turns those eyes on me, and wham! I'm not so sure anymore. Right now, I could choose to interpret that look as one of hope, but I won't. 'Cos there's no way right? I mean, if he wanted that, I would know wouldn’t I?
Outside my apartment, I make him strip off the boots and socks ‘cos I don't need my floor boards warping from all that water. Then I look him over and decide that the tunic and pants had better come off too. You know what? He doesn’t even argue, just reaches for the complicated buckles and buttons. I'm standing here wondering if I should offer to help strip my best friend out of his clothes in my hallway. I'm living in the God damned Twilight Zone.
He's filthy, which is definitely a new look for Fraser. Not even when we were working in the engine room of the Henry Allen did he look this messed up. I got smeared in engine oil in two minutes flat, but he stayed unnaturally clean. Now he's like... like the swamp monster or something.
Two blue eyes shining out from a face that's plastered with mud. Hair, which is always so pristine, lying flat against his skull, apart from one wayward tuft that's sticking out at right angles to the rest. I want to reach out and try to flatten it down. I want to wipe the mud from his face. I want to sink my hands into his messy, muddy, squelchy hair and...
Whoa! Back to the present, Ray. Focus!
Okay... he's got the belt off, and the tunic more or less unbuttoned but he's fumbling with the top one. His fingers are blue with cold. I can hear his teeth chattering so I take a step closer and reach for the button. His eyes meet mine and there it is again, that moment where I question what I know about him. I question if I ever knew him. The tunic makes a slurping noise as I peel it off his shoulders.
Wow, wide, wide shoulders. I don't think any of my stuff is gonna fit him, and the thought of him sitting naked on my couch is... really messing with my head.
Kicking off my shoes and coat, I leave him working on removing his braces and pants while I fetch a trash bag for his stuff. I'm back before the neighbors have time to file an indecency complaint. I don’t think even Chicago's best dry cleaners are gonna be able to help, but you live in hope right?
So now Fraser is standing in the middle of my living room, wearing white boxers and his Henley, and shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. This is a version of Fraser I've never seen before. A’ human' Fraser. A vulnerable Fraser. The man beneath the Uniform. I find I like this Benton Fraser.
"You... you mmmentioned a hhhhhot shower, Rrray?"
Yes I did.
He's dying of hypothermia and I'm gawping at him like a pervert. I go switch on the shower and fiddle with the settings until its nice and hot, but when I turn round, he's right there behind me, standing close enough to touch and... God, he's naked. His skin is pale and clean everywhere his clothing protected it. Only his face and hands are dirty.
"Shit! Fraser, you scared the crap out of me." I step aside, to let him pass but he doesn’t move. He stays where he is staring at me, staring right into my eyes.
Okay this time, I'm positive. His body may be cold but his eyes... his eyes are hot.
"You got soaked too, Ray." he says quietly. I did, he's right I did get soaked. It's a big shower. Room enough for two, if only I dare suggest it.
He's waiting for an answer, and I think he's been waiting for a very long time. Months maybe. Some detective I am, huh? I don’t have the words. I don’t know how to say them. So instead I reach for his hand and pull him into the shower with me.
"Ray?" he smiles shoving me back against the tiles. Relief washes over me like the hot water from the shower. He wants me. He wants me as much as I want him.
"What?" I mumble against his neck, running my hands up his back and into that filthy mass of hair.
"Something you forgot to do?" he grins.
Oh yeah, there's plenty I forgot to do. Didn't lock my door, or take the phone off the hook, didn't feed my turtle, and I didn’t kiss my best buddy, all of these things I intend to remedy very shortly, but not necessarily in that order.
"You're a freak," I tell him affectionately.
"Understood... but Ray?" he pulls back and casts his eyes over me from head to foot, "I'm not the one taking a shower with all my clothes on."