Disclaimer: Characters belong to Alliance.
Rating: NC-17 for language and themes.
Thank you to Linda and Speranza for wonderful, generous, smart beta, and for their patience and patience and patience. Also to resonant for last-minute glitch-fixing. And to Basingstoke for lending me her car.
There was a man at the local convenience store who wore a silver bracelet wrapped twice around his wrist. Fraser walked an extra block to buy milk from a woman named Marie. That was the first step.
At night in the quiet, the bathroom tap dripped in twos and threes. Fraser gripped his cock and jerked himself off thinking of fractions. In the morning, he didn't change the washer. That was the second.
There was no momentum to it. In March he took up Classical Arabic. The study consumed most of his evenings. In June, he bought a car.
Ray went with him to buy it. It was a hot day. Sunlight knifed painfully off car paint and concrete. By the time they got to the sale yard, Ray's glasses were fogged. He scowled and removed them as the salesman approached.
"Let me." He nudged Fraser aside.
"You two gentlemen looking for anything in particular?"
"Yeah." Ray's scowl didn't waver. "Self-service. Anything you show me, I'm gonna pop the hood."
It took hours. Ray listened to the engine, sniffed the smoke. He rubbed the paint with the flat of his thumbnail. He crouched next to the dashboard and knocked the floor hard with his fist. "Looking for rust," he explained. "The gauge we can get from the dump yard, but rust is the one thing we cannot fight. The car's made of metal. Rust eats metal. End of the road."
They looked at a Lancer, an Accord, and two Honda Civics. Finally, Ray patted the second Civic. "This one," he said. He jammed the dipstick back into its slot and wiped his hands off on his jeans. "Oil's leaking, but I can fix that. Uh... brakes, alternator, battery okay. And there's 20,000 miles left on the timing chain." He looked at Fraser hard. "You sure you want a car?"
Ray had stripped down to a black tank top. He smelled of grease and sweat. There was a dark smudge across his shoulder.
"I'm sure, yes."
"Okay, well...." Ray's voice faltered for a moment. "Well, this is a good price. It's a decent buy."
That evening, Fraser's class studied declensions. The letters shifted on the page like sand, like tea leaves in a cup. Fraser imagined swirling them with his fingertips over and over until they told him something new. He held his new car key, pressed the spine of it into his palm. After a while, the words were declensions again.
Francesca was one of the first to comment. She sat on the corner of the desk while Fraser searched for a serial shoplifter at her terminal.
"You're getting weathered, Fraser - going au naturel."
Fraser was taken aback. "I'm sorry?"
"You're like a native now. Ray said you bought a car."
"Ah. Yes. A 1988 Honda Civic."
"You see." She smiled encouragingly. "You're learning our ways. We'll have you dating in no time."
In November, they raided an illegal chicken coop in a warehouse by the lake.
The owners were inside - Mike Rhodes and Henry Leighton. Ray took out Rhodes with a sharp knock to the side of his head. Fraser chased Leighton through the coop, raising clouds of panicked birds. Finally, Leighton wheeled on him, knife in hand.
Fraser stopped a few feet away. "You know this is wrong," he said, calmly. "We have your best interests at heart, I assure you. Yours and the chickens'."
Over Leighton's shoulder, Fraser could see that Rhodes was cuffed to a pipe. Ray was watching them, gun half-raised, sunlight spearing him through cracks in the roof.
Leighton got in one punch before he was on his stomach with Ray's knee grinding into his back, Ray's gun against his neck. By the time Fraser had shaken off the blow, Dief had the knife in his mouth.
"I'm sorry. I don't... I think the sun was in my eyes," Fraser said.
Ray was looking at him, his expression shuttered. "I could do the paperwork," he said. "For a gun. I don't mind."
Fraser licked the corner of his mouth and tasted blood. He shrugged. "If you think it would help."
After work, he skipped his class and went to a bar.
The first one he found was called Turtle Cove, so he kept walking until he came to another. Inside, the air was smoky. He pushed through the thick press of people, feeling uncomfortably vulnerable without his uniform. He told himself that he wasn't looking for anything in particular, that perhaps he wasn't looking at all.
He knew her when he saw her, though. She was nothing like Ray. She had dark eyes, dark hair. She was drawing circles on a glass with her fingernail.
Fraser realized as he sat down that he didn't know how this was supposed to go. It didn't seem to matter. She said her name was Michelle and that she wanted a Long Island Iced Tea. She ordered for both of them. He paid. It was simple.
"So what do you do?" she asked.
The coaster said 'Champion'. Fraser flipped it over, and it was just cardboard underneath. "It's a long story." He sipped his drink, grimaced, swallowed. Alcoholic. Definitely.
Michelle tapped her finger once against her own coaster. Her nails were a soft pink that matched her lipstick. She smelled of perfume and alcohol.
Ray drank. Fraser smelled it on him sometimes when he dropped in on Ray in the evening. Ray would open the door, work clothes creased, smelling of whiskey or scotch, sometimes cigarette smoke.
Ray had told him once that drinking helped him not to think.
"I think about what went wrong," he had said. "A lot. And I can't... I can't figure it out." They sat beside each other on Ray's sofa. Ray stared into his glass. Fraser looked at Ray's thighs, at his hands, at the curve of his throat when he swallowed.
"Like... okay." Ray dipped a finger into his glass, and touched the skin of his drink. "We go shopping and the whole time I'm watching her, remembering what she buys so I can do it right. She buys raisins, I buy raisins, she buys apples, I buy apples. So I come home next time, and I'll say 'Look - I got raisins, I got apples'. But see, it doesn't work, because now she wants popcorn. Apples rotting everywhere."
He frowned at his glass. "No," he said. "Something else. A moment I missed. You know... when she said she was leaving, I could have changed her mind. If I'd known what to say. But... I didn't. I said the wrong thing." He swallowed the rest of the drink. "There was a moment I missed, Fraser. Maybe lots of moments. Things I did do or didn't do."
Fraser had wanted to tell him that he was brave, that Fraser was awed by his ability to talk about how he felt. But he hadn't. He'd just said: "I'm sure you made the best choices you could at the time."
Ray had looked up at him finally. "Or maybe I just made the easiest ones. From the lie about the bank. Maybe we were fucked from the start because we made the easy choices. You think of that? I think of that."
"You wanna know when my mom found out about me and Stella?" Ray shrugged when Fraser didn't answer. "I started dressing good, skipping classes. Wanna know how she found out we were fucking?"
Fraser winced. "Ray-"
"Started washing my own clothes."
"Is there a point to this story?"
"There's a point to all my stories. It's the little things, Fraser. If you love someone, you should notice the little things. But God, it's not easy." He drummed his fingers against the glass. "You would tell me if anything was wrong, right?"
Fraser hadn't said anything, and Ray had looked at him, and sighed. "Or wave a little. Semaphore, Fraser. Anything."
Fraser closed his eyes for a moment. If he pretended hard enough, he could almost be in Ray's apartment now. He took another sip - deliberate. "I'm a liaison," he said. "At the Canadian Consulate. I liaise with the local police."
Michelle said that she was in marketing. She said she liked her job. She said she grew tulips. She said she wanted another drink.
It was cold, and then it was warm. Fraser was almost surprised to see Ray looming in front of him.
"Are you drunk?"
"Yes." It came out a little slurred. He stood awkwardly in the doorway. Ray's apartment blurred in and out of focus, but Ray's glaring face was perfectly clear.
"Fuck." Ray gripped his arm and tugged him inside. "Sit."
The room swirled around Fraser unpleasantly. It steadied when Ray pushed him onto the sofa. The floorboards creaked under Ray's feet. Fraser closed his eyes, and for a moment Ray was rendered perfectly in his mind's eye - sleeves rolled up, feet shifting restlessly.
"Tell me." Ray's voice was too calm. "Tell me you didn't drive the car here. Tell me you did not drive the car."
Fraser was shocked. He opened his eyes. "Of course not. Alcohol accounts for more than half the road fatalities in-"
"Of course fucking nothing." Ray was in Fraser's face suddenly, stabbing two fingers at him. "You don't get to say that, you do not get to turn up here drunk and say that, Fraser."
Fraser found himself suddenly irritated. He'd expected.... Well... technically, he hadn't expected to come here, so he hadn't expected anything. But inasmuch as he'd ever anticipated this scene - not that he had - he wouldn't have expected this.
"Shouldn't you get me a coffee or something?"
Ray rocked forward onto the balls of his feet, and then back. Finally, he nodded grimly - and kept nodding as though the movement were the only thing keeping his temper in check. "No sugar, right?"
Ray took a step towards the kitchen, then turned around. "Because the thing is." He was pointing again, and absurdly Fraser thought of his grandmother saying 'Don't point at that boy, Benton Fraser!'
"The thing is," Ray said. "You don't do this. You don't do this."
"Do not give me the dumb Mountie routine, Fraser." Ray's hand was actually shaking. "I am not in the mood for comedy." He paced into the kitchen, and started spooning coffee. "You wanna know what I do and what you do? You climb trees and rescue kittens. I get drunk and fall asleep in front of Letterman. You chase purse-snatchers fifty fucking miles on foot. I get drunk and call my ex-wife." He filled the cup from the hot tap, and stalked back to the sofa. "You see a pattern here?"
"Ray." He waited until Ray was looking at him. "I've requested a transfer," Fraser told him.
Ray went very still. "Why?" And there was a dangerous look on his face - a promise of violence. "Why? Because of today? What, you're so perfect, you don't even get to fuck up once?"
Fraser stared at the floor. He thought he was laughing for a second, but he realised he was shaking. He wrapped his arms around himself. "That isn't it. That isn't it at all."
Fraser heard Ray sit on the coffee table, heard a thunk as he set the mug down next to himself. There was a shifting noise - Ray leaning closer. His knee brushed against Fraser's.
"What, then?" Ray said quietly.
He had sweats on, Fraser saw. A little worn at the knees. He'd probably been sleeping.
"Fraser." Ray's voice had gentled. "What?"
Fraser looked up and Ray's breath was warm against his face. Ray hadn't shaved. Fraser stared at the fine stubble near his mouth and thought of his grandmother telling him not to point. He thought about the coarse fur on Dief's muzzle. He thought of the brittle tips of pine leaves. He thought of sharp stones under his feet in summer. He thought of nothing at all. He leaned up, and his mouth bumped against the hard edge of Ray's chin. Then he was kissing Ray - awkwardly. His lips scraped against the stubble on Ray's cheek. He licked Ray's mouth.
Ray made a surprised noise, and pulled back. His breath was cold against Fraser's skin after the warmth of his mouth. He licked his lips - already wet from Fraser's kiss.
Fraser's face burned. Outside, he could hear the snarl of engines, he could hear tires grinding against the road. His mouth tasted of emptiness. He wanted something to take away the taste.
Ray lifted his finger and pressed it against Fraser's bottom lip. "It's all right." He smoothed his finger back and forth, as though he couldn't help himself. Then he stood, looming over Fraser, and his hip was just above Fraser's mouth. Fraser could see that he was half-hard already.
Fraser imagined - let himself imagine - sucking at the warm material until Ray moaned and clenched his fingers in Fraser's hair. His own cock jerked painfully. His skin prickled under his clothes. He wanted Ray, he wanted Ray, he always wanted Ray.
Ray pushed him down onto the couch and Fraser swallowed and stretched out and shut his eyes tight. But Ray didn't press against him as Fraser expected. When Fraser opened his eyes, he was alone. He could hear Ray moving in another room. After a minute, Ray came back. He had a blanket and sweatpants.
At Fraser's look, he smiled wryly. "Drink your coffee," he said. "I need coffee. Maybe more than coffee - and you and me, we need to talk."
"I want to. I want to, Fraser - but we need to talk first."
"Please." Fraser felt his dignity slide from him like a robe. He wondered if this were finally the bottom - intoxicated on Ray's sofa in the middle of the night, begging him - or if he had further to fall. His voice sounded like a stranger's. His face felt too hot. "Ray, please. Please. I don't want to talk. I don't want to think, I don't want to think, I just don't want to-"
Ray made a small, almost pained noise, and slid two fingers into Fraser's mouth, silencing him. He brushed his thumb over the corner of Fraser's mouth. Fraser took a shaky breath around his fingers.
Ray's eyes darkened. "I love your mouth," he said. He ran his thumb against Fraser's lips, and withdrew his fingers, so he could sit down at the edge of the sofa. He leaned down, kissed Fraser's forehead, his chin. Then he ran his thumb over Fraser's lips again.
"Please," Fraser whispered again, and Ray tugged the cushions from behind him. He tossed them over the backrest. Fraser shifted, and Ray stretched out on his side next to him.
They kissed unhurriedly at first, but Fraser was soon pulling back after each one to gasp shallow breaths. Ray ran his thumbs over Fraser's neck, slid his hands down to cup his hips, then up again to his stomach. Every touch made Fraser shudder.
Ray kissed him and kissed him. Fraser pressed into Ray's hand where it was splayed over his stomach, and Ray slid it down to his thigh, his crotch, and Fraser gasped and came in his pants, muttering "Sorry, sorry."
But Ray just smiled, slow and self-satisfied as a cat. "Hmm," he said, and leaned down to kiss him again.
He rubbed his finger under Fraser's waistband, and after a while, Fraser's cock started to thicken again, and he shifted uncomfortably in his damp jeans. Ray helped him strip, and took his own clothes off. He leaned over Fraser to turn the lamp on - so he could see Fraser better, he said.
Ray's bracelet slid down his naked arm and jangled at his wrist. Fraser ran his thumb over it. He tucked two fingers under it, and stretched it taut, until Ray's hand twisted in his grip. Ray slid his hand up Fraser's arm to cup the back of his neck, held his other hand under Fraser's mouth. "Spit."
Fraser felt his pulse stutter with excitement. He complied, and his cock surged against Ray's thigh. Ray guided Fraser's hand down, and Fraser ran his thumb over Ray's cock as he had over his bracelet. Ray gasped. He pulled Fraser's hand away, kissed him again, and his cock slid hot over Fraser's stomach. He ran his wet fingers down the crease of Fraser's ass, making Fraser shudder and whisper, "Please, please, please."
And Ray kissed him and moved over him until they were both slick with sweat, and gasping and pushing against each other. He pressed his finger against Fraser's ass, slid one fingertip inside, and Fraser came again. Ray muttered "God, fuck, fuck," and came over Fraser in warm, sticky spurts.
They lay there breathing harshly, until Ray wiped them both off with his discarded sweats. Fraser fell asleep almost at once, and if Ray said anything, Fraser didn't hear him.
Fraser woke some time later. The lights were off, and the room was an ugly pre-dawn grey. As his eyes adjusted, dark, unfamiliar shadows resolved themselves into a television, a chair, a lamp. They didn't remind him of anything in particular. His head ached and his left foot felt numb. Ray's breath was warm against his neck. He turned carefully and saw that Ray was awake, watching him.
"Hey," Ray said. He looked oddly calm.
"Any, uh... any regrets?"
Fraser thought about it for a moment. "No." His relief was mixed with surprise.
Ray's expression didn't change. "I didn't know it was me. I knew it was something, didn't know it was me."
"It was you," Fraser said, and Ray smiled, finally.
Fraser took a breath. "What's going to happen now?"
Ray touched Fraser's face, lightly. "Whatever we want," he said.
I wish I were a little clearer,
I'm slipping into the slipstream.
I feel just like a fallen angel.
Don't fall for me. 'Cause I'm already down.
I'm already down.
--- Leonardo's Bride, Fall.