There is no screech of tires; the car doesn't even attempt to swerve, just a dull thump as it hits Fraser. Time freezes and Ray's heart seems to stop beating. Everything recedes. He hears nothing; feels nothing; smells nothing. The only sense still functioning is sight but he can't bring himself to watch and squeezes his eyes shut. As his partner hits the sidewalk, time seems to speed up again. Ray forces himself to watch Fraser roll, over and over, then come to an abrupt stop on the grass verge. He lies still, deadly still, for a few moments, looking like a broken toy soldier. It's the longest few moments in Ray Kowalski's life....
Ray scrubs the heel of his hands over tired, red-rimed eyes and stands up abruptly. He looks around for something to take his mind off this, because the next part he doesn't want to remember. Right now, he's too scared and worried to analyse what he'd been feeling in those hideous moments after the hit and run. He scans a poster about breast-feeding for first time mothers, without taking in a single word. Same with the emergency fire procedures, the list of important telephone numbers, the bulletin board calling for volunteers to work in the children's cancer ward and the copy of National Geographic he finds under a chair and flicks through.
But it's no good. His mind keeps replaying that slow-motion horror film and the only way he can blank it out is to let his mind move past the actual accident, to what came after.
There's shock, naturally, and anger.
He remembered thinking that it's a stupid thing to die for. Who the hell throws themselves into the path of an oncoming vehicle, because they suspect that the driver had neglected to pay the parking toll? That's just nuts, right? No-one is that crazy, right?
Wrong! Benton Fraser is that crazy.
He'd come around in the ambulance while the paramedics where still looking him over and all he could think about was the damned wolf. 'Ray, is Diefenbaker alright?' 'You didn't let him chase the car did you?' 'Someone should take him back to the consulate...' A guy gets knocked half way back to Canada, his first question ought to be 'what happened?', or 'am I gonna make it?' or maybe 'did you get the licence plate, Ray...'
But then again, this isn't just any guy. This is Supermountie.
"Mutt's fine, Frase," he'd assured his partner. "I put him in back of my car and called Welsh. He's sending someone to pick him up." Fraser had nodded and then promptly passed out again.
Which was when Ray's head had taken him on a magical mystery tour of the fucked-up inner workings of his mind. If Fraser died, Ray would never get the chance to tell him how great being his partner had been, how much he appreciated the unlikely friendship, how much Fraser had come to mean to Ray and how he couldn't imagine what life would be like without him....
Ray had begun to fear where his thoughts were taking him, and decided to get angry instead. Anger was one emotion he was totally familiar with and could really get behind. It worked as a delaying tactic in the ambulance, and it works just as well right now.
So, the longer he sits here thinking about how fucking crazy the Mountie is, the angrier he gets. The job they do is dangerous. No getting around that. But Fraser takes danger to a whole new level. The man has no fear and that's just plain wrong. Fear is there to stop people doing crazy life-endangering shit. Ray 'gets' that Fraser takes his duty seriously. He 'gets' that the Mountie lives by some arcane code of honor. What he doesn't get, is why Fraser has so little sense of self preservation. Why does he put everyone before himself?
One of these days, a doctor is gonna come out here and say, 'Detective, I'm sorry we were unable to save you partner but rest assured he died bravely trying to hang-glide off the Sears Tower using a builders' tarpaulin while in pursuit of an armed and dangerous stuntman... or something equally stupid.
And then what will Ray do, huh? The damned Mountie never stops to consider how Ray might feel about having a suicidal partner, does he? Never stops to wonder what Ray would do without him? Because if he has to hump this job without Fraser beside him, if he has to find another reason to get up every morning...
His mind is taking him there again, and sooner or later, he's going to have to take the journey, but right now, he's just barely keeping it together. He's not ready for this yet. He wipes the cold sweat from his forehead and focuses on the waiting room door, as if the sheer force of his will is enough bring Fraser through it.
His eyes bug out in surprise when the door actually does swing open, held by a pretty blonde nurse, whose eyes sparkle up at Fraser as he edges past her. Ray gets to his feet, scanning the familiar face for damage. Apart from a few scrapes, and some bruising, Fraser seems to have walked away from the hit and run in one piece. This time.
Ray feels that anger bubbling up again and tries to stomp it down. "So, no overnight stay at the Ritz for you, huh Fraser?" he jokes, knowing that it sounds strained, even to his own ears. Fraser shakes his head, reaching for the red serge tunic Ray holds out to him. Their fingers touch momentarily and Ray jerks his hand away. "He need to get a 'script filled or anything?" Ray asks the nurse, who manages to drag her eyes away from Fraser's lips long enough to shrug in Ray's general direction.
"Nope, he should just take some Advil if he gets uncomfortable. Doctor said he should try to get a good night's sleep." The nurse, whose name badge identifies her as Donna, sees Fraser struggling to get his stiff arms into the tunic and immediately begins fussing.
Ray sighs and brushes her aside. "He's fine...he's good. Just needs to get the hell out of here and get some rest."
With that, he guides Fraser backwards out of the waiting room and down the deserted corridor. "Thank you kindly, Donna," Fraser smiles over his shoulder at the pretty nurse as Ray drags him off. Doesn't he understand that the 'Mr Manners' routine is what gets him into so much trouble with the ladies? They love all that. They hear, 'thank you kindly' and translate it into, 'marry me and have my babies'. Guy is so clueless, it's almost painful. Ray knows that eventually, some busty, blonde bimbo is gonna get her hooks into him and... and... Fuck, fuck, fuck! Ray hurries them out of the building as if the imaginary blonde is hot on their heels. The nervous energy that had him pacing the tiny room is leaving Ray punchy and irritated. It takes two attempts and a raft of profanities to get the GTO open and Fraser inside, but then he's peeling out of the lot and onto the highway.
"Ray, may I draw your attention to the posted speed limit of..."
"No you may not," Ray snaps, slowing down anyway. "Now you listen up, no arguments, Fraser. You're sleeping at my place tonight. My bed has got to be more comfortable than that cot thing you sleep on at the Consulate."
Fraser tries to turn stiffly in his seat to look Ray in the face. "I couldn't possibly impose on you..."
"Shut up! No arguments. My place. Period."
Surprisingly, Fraser shuts up. Ray is now officially worried. Fraser never backs down this easy. Damn, he must be feeling like shit. He hasn't even enquired about the wolf again, who is probably feasting on leftover pasta at the Vecchio house, right now. Ray decides to call Frannie once he gets Fraser settled in to put his mind at rest.
By the time they arrive at Ray's apartment block, the journey has clearly taken its toll on Fraser. He's pale, sweating and his breathing is kinda laboured. He's obviously in pain.
"C'mon, buddy. Let's get you inside," Ray murmurs as he helps Fraser out of the GTO. "Go ahead and lean on me if you need to."
"Thank you kindly, Ray. I'd appreciate that."
It seems to take forever to get Fraser into the apartment. He takes Ray's offer of support seriously and leans heavily on him all the way up the stairs. While Ray unlocks the door, Fraser braces himself on the wall with one hand, and wipes sweat out of his eyes with the other.
Ray gets him settled on the couch, brings him a fistful of painkillers and a large glass of warm milk and perches silently on the arm of the chair, watching Fraser swallow the meds and drain the glass. His eyes fix on the milk moustache gracing Fraser's upper lip and thinks it has to be the cutest thing he's ever seen.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Not ready to go there! Ray casts about in the warm waters of denial for a passing log to keep him afloat. He spies one marked 'stress' and grabs it pathetically.
Stress! That explains it! The stress must really be getting to him if he thinks Fraser is in any way cute! Fraser is not cute. Fraser is annoying... and irritating... and sometimes arrogant... and... and... okay he's cute. When he's hurting and needy and looking up at Ray with those big blue eyes, he's cute.
But the warm fuzzies soon fizzle out however. Fraser's near miss this evening has been just one of many such incidents. More often than not, Ray shares those experiences. 'Reckless endangerment' seems to be a Canadian pastime.
Sitting as close as he is, he can't help but let his eyes catalogue the scrapes and bruises on that normally flawless face. He wants to yell. He wants to grab a handful of Fraser's shirt and shake him until he promises never to do this again. He wants Fraser to say he is sorry. But sorry for what, Ray isn't sure. Okay, that's not true. If he's honest here, he wants Fraser to say he's sorry for constantly putting himself in harms way. Of course when he admits that much, he's has to continue to be honest, and ask himself why he cares so much about that.
And that question is also an answer. He's got to this point emotionally, because he cares. Too. Damned. Much! In sheer panic, he lets the shock of that revelation mutate into anger.
It must be showing on his face, because Fraser gets to his feet and starts to walk backwards towards the bathroom. "Well, it's been an eventful day, Ray," he says with blatantly forced cheer. It doesn't take a genius to see that the Mountie is being evasive. " If you don't mind, I believe I shall retire for the night."
Part of Ray desperately wants to let him do just that. Another part, the part of Ray that needs him to take his journey of self-discovery forces him to his feet.
"Damn it Fraser! You have no fucking idea how scared I was, do you?"
It's out of his mouth and hanging in the air between them before he can think it through. He shouldn't be doing this. He should let Fraser sleep. But he's so fucking angry. He advances on Fraser threateningly. He doesn't know what he's saying, what he's doing. He just wants to make Fraser understand, make him listen to reason. Make him... make him take better fucking care of himself.
But it isn't going to happen, is it? He knows that Fraser doesn't care about his own safety. Sometimes it's like the guy has a death-wish or something. Like his time on the planet is measured by how much good he can do before he gets himself killed in a bizarrely improbable way.
Fraser's just standing there, looking all defiant and totally unrepentant and it pisses Ray off like nothing else could. God, he's never wanted to punch the guy in the head so much as he does right now. Maybe a bit of personal violence would shake some sense into him?
"Really, Ray you must learn to curb your..."
And his hands are thumping against Fraser's chest, palms spread wide, with such force that Fraser staggers backwards and it feels good! It feels fucking great! So he does it again, and this time, Fraser hits the wall and makes a little 'oof' noise, but Ray doesn't give a shit. He'll regret this later. He'll feel like a bastard later. But right now, he needs to make Fraser shut up and listen.
Surging forward, he slaps his palms against the wall on either side of Fraser's face, noting the way he winces, but too angry to care. "You think you can just throw yourself in front of every crazed gunman, escaped murderer or lunatic bank robber in Chicago and I'll be cool with that, Fraser? Hmm? You think I don't give a shit if you live or die? That it?" Fraser is breathing hard, eyes wide with astonishment and fear.
No wait. Not fear, not fear at all, but Ray is way too angry to stop and give it a name. When Fraser's hands come up between them, trying to push him away, Ray just slams him back against the wall with the full weight of his body. His lips are curled back from his teeth. "I don't wanna watch you get yourself killed, you clueless bastard. Get it?"
Fraser nods and Ray pulls back a little. Fraser looks so lost, leaning back against the wall, head tilted back, exposing his throat in mute surrender. Ray's anger is changing now, mutating into something different. Something unfamiliar. Something he isn't sure he knows how to control. His eyes fall to Fraser's lips, slightly parted, harsh panting breaths escaping them.
Oh God, he should pull back; he should pull back right....fucking....now.
But it's already too late. Fraser's hesitant fingers brush Ray's hips, and slide tentatively around to rest at the small of his back. Pressure, barely there at all, propels him closer to Fraser's heat, and now he's doing a fair amount of panting himself. A slow blink, watching Fraser's tongue wet his lips. There is no physical force holding him here. And yet, here he is, caught like an asteroid orbiting 'Fraserworld'.
And he's about to crash and burn.
He drags his eyes upward, knowing that he must look scared out of his mind, 'cuz, shit, its how he feels. He's terrified. Rigid with fear. But Fraser's eyes are squeezed tightly shut, a frown creasing his sweat-beaded forehead. As though he's afraid to look at Ray. Afraid of what he might see.
Jesus, Ray's close enough to feel Fraser's breath against his lips. He can't seem to stop himself from moving closer still, tilting his head to one side, a millimetre at a time, until he's too close to focus, and his eyes slide shut. His nose brushes slowly across Fraser's and he stops, listening to the sharply indrawn gasp of breath, wondering if that came from him or Fraser.
Doesn't matter, doesn't matter. Too close now, to stop, too far gone. His heart thunders in his chest. Fraser's fingers dig into his back, each fingertip sending sparks of desire shooting up his spine. Hips moving languidly to some unheard beat as he closes the final hairsbreadth of space between them.
His lips part, sliding over Fraser's mouth hungrily. Fraser lets out a tiny sound; part groan, part whimper and the sound of it sends a jolt of pure lust straight to Ray's groin. He shoves Fraser against the wall, slipping his knee between Fraser's legs, feeling the hot and heavy weight of Fraser's erection against his thigh. Fraser's fingers are shaking, skimming over Ray's back almost too lightly to feel. Maddeningly gentle. It isn't what Ray wants. Isn't what he needs. He needs to feel this, in every bone, every fibre, and every cell of his body, to know its real and that it's happening.
One part of his fuzzy, lust-drunk brain is screaming at him to stop this. Can't do this. Can't do this. Can't... not do it! But this is Fraser he's kissing. His friend. His partner.
His male friend and partner.
He finally sees where this journey is taking him, and it scares the shit out of him, but dearGod it feels good. Fraser is getting into it now, widening his mouth to let Ray in deeper. And holy fuck that's Fraser's tongue pushing back into his mouth. Oh God, that's hot!
Ray's hands tighten into fists on the wall beside Fraser's face. He doesn't know what to do with them. He wants to touch. Is it okay to touch? Shit, this is too scary, too scary but way too good to stop. It shouldn't feel this good to kiss another guy. Fraser's hands are everywhere. His mouth, demanding one moment, pliant the next, shows Ray the full spectrum of what he could expect from kissing a guy... being with a guy. Ray's lips are tingling with the unfamiliar brush of stubble. So different from kissing a woman, rougher, but oh so very hot!
When Fraser pulls back so that he can bury his face in Ray's neck, Ray groans. Jesus, Fraser is actually panting against Ray's throat, fingers clutching desperately at the fabric of Ray's shirt. And he is moaning low and deep in the back of his throat.
Perhaps it's the desperation of that sound that finally makes it through the fog. Ray uncurls his fists, flattens his palms against the wall and pushes himself away from Fraser's body. He doesn't want to look at Fraser's eyes, but he has to. He has to face it.
"Frase?" he croaks.
Fraser's brow creases further and his head droops onto his chest, all the passion and need drains away like it was never there. "My fault Ray. I apologise for... for..."
"Don't," is all he can say. Don't be sorry? Don't make light of this? Don't leave? All of this and more Ray says without words. He hopes Fraser understands; needs him to understand because there's no way he can put any of this into words. Ray finally gets his hands to move. Cupping Fraser's face, he forces his partner to look at him.
Fraser takes one deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I'm sorry," he whispers.
Ray breaks into a cold sweat again, hearing those two words as the beginning of a sentence, which will end in something like... 'but I can't do this'. His eyes fix on the front of Fraser's shirt as he waits for him to speak. And it's like being back at the hospital again, in the puke-green waiting room, feeling helpless and frustrated and trapped.
"I'm sorry I scared you today, Ray," Fraser continues, his voice a little louder, more sure of himself. "Although, I'm afraid I can't promise it will never happen again. The nature of the job and all that..."
"Bullshit!" Ray can't help interrupting. "You take unnecessary risks, Frase. S'gonna get you killed one of these days."
"You could have a point," Fraser's voice seems to have dropped an octave and he's moving closer again. "But I've never had reason to care before. Is there a good reason why I should no longer endanger myself unnecessarily?"
"Yeah," Ray breathes, closing the final distance between them with a tilt of his head. "Cuz I love you.," The weight that's been pressing down on him since the hospital suddenly lifts. He looks into Fraser's eyes and gulps. It feels good to get it out there, but now he's terrified of what Fraser will say next. He's almost deafened by the thundering of his own heart. " I don't wanna lose you, Frase."
Jesus Christ, where is this all coming from? Ray isn't sure who looks more shocked by the softly spoken admission. Fraser's mouth works soundlessly, opening and closing in absolute amazement. But Ray can't take the words back. Now that they are spoken, he knows they are the truth.
"And because I love you," he says backing away, "I'm gonna let you have some time to think about everything, okay?"
Fraser looks like he might want to argue but Ray can't afford to let him. He needs to do some thinking himself. This is for the best. Tempers and emotions have been running high, and adrenaline makes you do things on impulse. He doesn't want Fraser to be an impulse. He wants Fraser to be a life choice.
"Go to bed, get some sleep. I'll be on the couch."
It takes every scrap of will power Ray possesses to turn his back and walk away, but he knows he has to do it. Even when Fraser's voice, croaking out his name freezes him to the spot, he doesn't turn back. He stands in the middle of the room, with his head tilted to the side, waiting for Fraser to find the words.
"Ray..." When they come, they're barely above a whisper. "I love you too."
Ray's eyes close briefly as a slow smile overtakes his face and he realises he's been holding his breath. He lets the smile reach his eyes and nods in approval as he turns around and walks slowly back to Fraser. "Just so you know... I don't put out on a first date."
"This was a date?" Fraser is smiling back at him. "I usually expect candlelight and soft music at the very least."
"Maybe tomorrow, Frase. Right now, you need sleep." He can't quite believe that Fraser is okay with this. Part of him is wondering if the near-death experience and the pain meds are fucking with Fraser's head, but another part knows fine well that Fraser has always loved him.
Fraser nods. "It's a date then?"
"Yeah, you freak, it's a date."
Ray leans close and kisses Fraser softly, pushing any lingering doubts and fears to the back of his mind, and just letting the amazing feeling of homecoming engulf them for a few moments.
It's Fraser that breaks the kiss. "I think I should go before I do something I might regret in the morning."
"Get outta here," Ray growls. And as he watches Fraser's retreating back heading to the bathroom, he feels a little like the victim of a hit and run himself.
Ray pauses in the doorway of his bedroom, listening to the sound of Fraser's breathing. Quietly, he slips inside, and lowers himself into the chair at the side of the bed. Fraser is lying on his back, one hand resting on his bare stomach, the other tucked up under his head. He looks so vulnerable like this. Ray gently brushes aside a whisp of hair from Fraser's brow and bends to kiss the newly exposed skin.
Fraser mumbles something that Ray can't make out and licks his lips. Ray feels things begin to stir 'down south' and squirms uncomfortably on the chair. He's been lying on the couch for the past three hours trying to make sense of all this. Once he let the truth surface, it all became surprisingly easy.
The truth goes way deeper than he could have imagined. That weight he's been struggling under? Goes back further than the hospital. Goes back further than his partnership with Fraser. Goes right back to the day fifteen years ago when he realised that he found Jamie Hudson, from the police academy, attractive.
He was married to Stella, and about to embark upon a career in one of the most homophobic professions out there, so he dived deep into denial and had carried the weight of it around with him every since. Until now.
"Ray? Ray, Ray, Ray..."
Fraser has already said his name several times before Ray hears him.
"Hey, how you doin?"
"I'm fine. Is there something wrong?" Fraser looks part worried, part scared out of his wits.
"Nah, nothing's wrong. Go back to sleep."
Ray is getting to his feet, when Fraser's hand shoots out, cobra-fast and captures his wrist. "Stay," he begs softly, lifting the covers with his free hand.
Ray feels that welcoming sense of homecoming envelop him once more. He slips into the bed and his arms are immediately full of sleep-rumpled Mountie, who squirms about until he finds a comfortable position then relaxes with a happy sigh.
"No funny business though," he whispers, pressing the words into Fraser's forehead.
"Understood, Ray," Fraser mumbles, punctuating it with a soft snore.
Ray grins and hugs him closer.
All that time he's spent waiting, feeling trapped and frustrated and helpless?
Well worth it, if it means he ends up with sleepy Fraser in his bed. This, he can definitely get behind. Anything else, can only be icing on the cake.