The Drive Home

After they get through everything they have to get through in booking, after the file is closed and stamped and sitting on Welsh's desk, Ray stands in the middle of the bullpen and just blinks for a while, honest to god not even sure what he's supposed to be doing next. Eventually he feels Fraser's hand on his back, big and warm between the straps of his harness, rubbing up and down and then up again before it moves away.

"Come on, Ray," Fraser says, near Ray's ear. "Get your jacket. It's time to go."

Time to go. God. Ray feels like maybe he's never heard anything that good in his life. He gives his head a shake, turns to give Fraser a quick smile. Fraser smiles back and his eyes are warm on Ray's face, affectionate and worried and Christ, him and Fraser have only been doing it for a few weeks, so you wouldn't think he'd be so used to it already, but it takes everything Ray's got not to just lean over and kiss him right there. "Okay," he says instead, and takes a quick breath. His jacket is draped over the back of his chair. He stops long enough to grab Fraser's big hat, too, and then they are out of there, into the dusk outside the station, Dief following click-nailed at their heels.

They've been working this case for nearly two weeks, on and off, and these past few days have been pretty much solid go go go. A few hours sleep here or there (trading off in the car during stakeouts mostly) and meals grabbed whenever they found time. And it's not like it was such a difficult case--just another routine jewel-smuggling ring. But a big bust like this is never easy to set up--you have to make sure your warrants are all in place. You have to be willing to hang out watching the same goddamn warehouse night after night until you finally get a handful of shots that place the one tall guy with a limp right where you need him to be. Then you gotta go to that guy's house and corral his wife and little kids in the kitchen while they're getting ready for a day at school, and you gotta send a bunch of guys in to rip apart their stuff while they just stand there and watch. You gotta see in the wife's eyes that she knows exactly what's going on, and you gotta hope in the back of your mind that she knows enough to keep her trap shut, even while you do your honest best to get her to open up.

Ray's no novice; he's been banging his head up against these same goddamn ethical dilemmas for coming up on sixteen years. Has a wall up that lets him function on the job, and he knows Fraser, for all his compassion, has to have one too. But in the end it gets you anyway, no matter how hard you try to pass it off. No matter how many shitty jokes you make in the locker room later on, no matter how many times you write the same fucking things in the little blank boxes on the pink and blue forms. They do good work--some of the best, Ray thinks, in private, on those days when he's being honest with himself. They save lives, every day, or at the very least make them better. They get to be heroes, good guys, to the rescue. Real good work. But the job? The job sucks.

And one of the things Ray loves about Fraser is they don't have to talk about this, about why Ray feels kicked around and sucked dry and exhausted, instead of like going out and celebrating a job well done. Fraser just knows, because he's there too. He knows how tired can stand in for so much other shit, and he knows there's no way to fix it, that you just tough it out or sleep it off, until that one day, eventually, when you can't.

That day's not today, though. Not for either of them. Today, they just cross the parking lot in the slanting sunset light, and Ray opens the passenger door, and Fraser tips the seat forward so Dief can jump in. Today, there's a breeze that smells like the lake and a warmth in the air even though the leaves are falling gold and red around them. They drive in silence as far as Lucky Palace, and Ray waits in the car with the hazards on while Fraser runs in to get the food, and Dief whines and props his chin on the back of Ray's seat, and his smelly, wolfy breath ghosts Ray's ear, and Ray's so tired he doesn't even mind.

"They didn't have any almonds left," Fraser says as he slides back into the car. He sets the paper bag on the seat between them and reaches over to take Ray's wrist. Ray opens his eyes and blinks at him, stupidly, and Fraser pours a handful of candies into Ray's palm. "It was M&M's or SweetTarts, I'm afraid. I was forced to risk a guess."

Ray curls his fingers around the candy but he leaves his wrist in Fraser's hand, watching Fraser's thumb stroke the spot where his veins are clearest, blue beneath his skin. "You did good," he says solemnly, and looks up to meet Fraser's smiling gaze. "SweetTarts aren't even food, as far as I'm concerned."

"Well, now, you see? That's exactly what I thought."

They just sit there a moment longer, grinning stupidly at each other, and then somebody honks behind them--a delivery truck looking to pull into the spot which by all rights is actually supposed to be his. Fraser takes a breath. "I guess we ought to--"

Ray nods. But then he leans over and kisses Fraser, soft and not in a rush, right on the lips, right in front of everybody in the end-of-the-day traffic, on the busy downtown street.

The truck driver leans on his horn. Traffic's backing up behind him, and there's other horns starting now, too.

"Okay," Ray says softly, against Fraser's cheek. "Don't get your panties in a twist." He pulls back and winks at Fraser. Puts the M&M's in his mouth and shifts the car into gear and they are out of there, pulling away, leaving the dirty looks and sounding horns behind them.