At nine o'clock, Ray dropped Fraser off at the airport.
There was some kind of high level conference going on in Toronto for which they needed a guy who could speak both Chinese and Inuit and who also had security clearance and hey, what do you know--turns out there is only one Canadian guy matching that description.
"I can just as easily walk to the airport, Ray," Fraser had said. But you stopped hearing stuff like that once you'd hung out with the Mountie for long enough; it turned into background noise, like static. He'd waved away Fraser's objections, and then the huffy sigh that came after them, and he got Fraser to the airport an hour before his plane was supposed to leave. Greatness.
But right after that, things started going downhill. He got stuck in traffic on the way back from the airport, which was no freakin' picnic in heat like this, and which meant he got to the planning meeting for the Holden case fifteen minutes after everybody else did. And that meant they'd already handed out assignments by the time he got there, which was how he ended in the second interrogation room with Frannie and a heap of goodwill clothes, getting all costumed up for his role as a homeless guy.
"Here," Frannie said, holding out a shirt that smelled like an old person.
Ray made a face. "Uh uh," he said. "No way."
"Oh come on. It'll look so nice on you. Look--it's your colour and everything." She winked at him. "Brings out your eyes."
Ray scowled. "Yeah? Well I ain't wearing it, so give it up. In fact, I don't want to wear any of that stuff. It stinks."
Frannie threw her hands in the air. "Suit yourself," she said. "Blow the whole mission. See if I care."
Ray grabbed the shirt out of her hands. "Case," he said. "Case--not mission. Jesus. What do you think this is, the army?"
And then he had to spend the whole afternoon on a bench in Danford Park, which wouldn't have been so bad, except it was really damn hot and nothing was happening, and plus...something else, something he couldn't put his finger on that wove in and out of this whole stupid day, making everything feel wrong.
Finally, when the sun was going down and the crowds in the park were thinning out, the little radio in his ear crackled.
"It's a bust," Dewey said. "Holden's still in Pennsylvania--his plane was delayed."
So. There was a whole day of his life he wasn't going to get back again. Ray stopped at the station long enough to get Dief, and then the two of them went straight home.
Friday should have been better. Ray was back in the stinky clothes for a second try at the Holden meet, but at least this time it actually happened. He got some good audio recorded, too, bent over the garbage can closest to the bench where Holden and Osling were sitting, pretending to rummage around for empty cans. From there it was just a matter of standing up and giving Dewey the nod, and then it was finally time to kick some heads. Or, you know--arrest them, anyways.
And then, while him and Dewey were standing around with the handcuffed bad guys, waiting for the patrol car to get there, Ray just happened to spot a guy in a trench coat doing something suspicious in some bushes. So he left Dewey with the perps and snuck across the green and that was how he managed to catch the infamous Danford Park Flasher red handed--so to speak. Ha ha.
And all of that was good, sure. Holden and Osling were a sweet catch on their own, and the flasher was like the cherry on top. He'd been out there for weeks, grossing out the female population and embarrassing the CPD, so catching him definitely looked good. But even back at the station, when people were slapping him on the back and congratulating him on a job well done, Ray just felt kind of...twitchy. Weird. Unsettled.
Dief had the idea of stopping at Tony's for pizza on the way home, and that helped some. By eight o'clock they were both full of cheesy goodness and Ray was drinking a beer, and Gomez was getting beat by Sugar Mosley on TV.
"Fuuuuck," he told Gomez. "You're killing me, here." But Gomez didn't listen, of course. TV people, they hardly ever did. Ray drank a long sip of beer. He propped his bare feet on the coffee table and tapped out the bass line for "Too Drunk To Fuck" on his sweatpants-covered thighs. "Went to a party," he sang, real quiet. "Drank sixteen beers."
Fraser would hate this song. He'd be doing that thing, that thing where he sighed, and shifted position on the couch, and didn't say anything, and then Ray would have to lean closer to him and sing louder so that Fraser would feel free to ask him to stop. "Do you mind, Ray," Fraser would say. And then Ray would finish the verse (just so Fraser would know he wasn't, like, the man around here) and then they'd both go back to watching the match.
Ray sighed. It was getting late, and obviously nothing good was going to happen in that boxing ring. He stood and stretched and switched off the TV. Outside, a dog barked and an ambulance was wailing. Dief twitched in his sleep.
"Night," Ray said, to nobody in particular. And then he just went to bed.
On Saturday, it was Saturday, which automatically added a hundred goodness points. Ray got up late and drank a couple (or six) cups of coffee. Then he had the car to wax and the gym to get beat up at, and then he met Albert for a game of chess. But all that time the twitchiness stuck around, until Ray felt like he might go mental.
So he went home, and Dief got across that they should order pizza again, which turned out to be just as good an idea the second time around. The Cubs were even playing, which Ray thought was pretty obliging of them--even though it turned out that they were sucking.
He watched for a while, until he'd had his fill of pizza. And then he got up to get himself another beer. Sunlight was still streaming through the windows, heating things up, so he closed the blinds and turned on the fan. Then he dropped into the couch again, squirmed around until he was settled. He bet it was cooler up in Toronto right now, plus he bet Fraser's hotel had air conditioning, too. The phone was right there, anyway. He picked it up.
"Is it hot as hell up there?" Ray said, when Fraser answered the telephone.
Fraser cleared his throat. "Well...yes, it is, actually. Hello, Ray. Is everything all right?"
"Sure," Ray said.
"Ah," said Fraser. "Good."
There was a pause. "Are you watching this ballgame they're supposedly playing?" Ray sat up a little straighter, propped the phone between his shoulder and his ear. "Because Christ, you would think these guys were all drunk or something. It's a massacre out there."
There was a rustling noise, then Ray heard Fraser's TV come on. "Hmm," said Fraser, after a moment. "I see what you mean. Shameful."
"Right," said Ray. They watched for a while. Tapani failed to strike another guy out, so Ray was forced to swear at him.
"Ray," said Fraser reprovingly.
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, guess what? I collared the Danford Park guy yesterday."
"Good for you, Ray!"
Ray grinned. He pulled one leg up to his chest so he could poke at a hole in the knee of his sweatpants. "It wasn't the guy we thought, either--it was some suit from Silver Heights." Ray shook his head. "Sick fu--fella."
Fraser smiled--Ray could hear him do it. "Indeed," he said.
On the television, Renteria hit a home run. Ray groaned. "These guys are killing me, Fraser. Hey, do you remember what I did with that blue jacket I was wearing the other day? I had it when we stopped for lunch, but then I don't know."
"Did you look in your trunk?"
"No. Why the hell would I put my jacket in the trunk?"
"It was when we were looking for the bolt-cutters," Fraser said.
"Oh," said Ray.
"And you got hot."
"Yeah, yeah. Freak. I knew you'd remember."
Fraser smiled again, and maybe it was weird that Ray could tell that kind of thing over the phone, but who cared, really, when it came right down to it. A lot of things were weird. They watched the game some more.
"So, hey," said Ray. "How's the conference?"
Fraser cleared his throat. "Oh, well. I can't say much about the conference itself, of course. National security, you know."
"Mmm," said Ray.
"Right. But I suppose it doesn't compromise anything if I say that my room is quite comfortable and the work they've assigned for me is enjoyable." He paused.
Ray shifted, frowned, sat up a little straighter. "What? What's going on? Somebody giving you a hard time up there, Fraser?"
Fraser sighed. "No," he said. "Nothing like that."
"So, spit it out. Come on, Fraser. What's wrong?"
On the TV, there was a sudden roar as the crowd cheered. Ray glanced up and then away, stuck his palm over his spare ear.
"I suppose that's the problem, really," said Fraser, finally. "Nothing's wrong. But I find myself feeling oddly...unsettled, nonetheless."
Ray leaned back against the couch cushions. "Huh," he said. He swallowed. "Unsettled. Is that like, uh, twitchy, kind of? Like something-sucks-but-you-don't-know-what? Or is it more like you ate something bad?"
"The, ah." Fraser coughed. "The first one, I think."
Ray nodded, even though Fraser couldn't see him. "Huh," he said again. "Yeah. I get that. I been feeling like that, too."
He heard Fraser take a breath, but then he didn't use it for anything; just sat there silent on the other end of the line. And Ray got this sudden thought that maybe something was happening, here. Maybe Fraser was trying to say something, make a confession. Maybe this was finally it.
But then he shook his head at himself, closed his eyes. Fraser was Fraser. If he ever confessed anything to anybody, it wouldn't be a guy. And even if it was a guy, it wouldn't be Ray--the two of them worked together. There was probably a rule about that someplace. And anyways, it wasn't like Fraser hadn't had plenty of chances to say something in the year and half they'd been working together already. Ray was just deluded.
The game had cut to a commercial: some lady seeming really happy about the sparkling condition of her bathroom tiles. Dief rolled over in his cheese-induced coma and whuffled softly. Fraser didn't say anything at all.
"So, you figure there's a problem or something?" Ray said.
Fraser took a breath, paused. "Well, how do you mean?"
"I mean, like, a problem," Ray said. "You know, like some kind of crazed Danish bear-trainer who has a grudge against Mounties is stalking you, and we both got an instinct about it, and now you need back up before she tries to blow you up. Something like that."
There was a pause. "Really, Ray," Fraser said, eventually. "That's just silly."
Ray huffed out a laugh. "Right, because stuff like that never happens in real life."
"Well. What on Earth could I have possibly done to irk a Danish bear-trainer?"
Ray put a hand over his eyes. "Just...never mind. Forget I said anything."
"I have nothing but the highest regard for the people of Denmark, Ray," Fraser said. "And those employed in the field of animal husbandry, in fact. Regardless of their area of specialization."
Ray lifted the hand a little. "Are you done?"
Fraser smiled. "I suppose I could be done, yes."
"Good," Ray said. "Because otherwise I was going to have to shoot myself in the head." He was grinning, though, and he was pretty sure Fraser was too. For a little while, they just sat there and didn't say anything. Ray shifted around, sat forward again, bracing his elbows on his knees. "So, uh. When are you coming back?" he said.
Fraser cleared his throat. "Possibly tomorrow evening. There's a six o'clock flight; if the conference ends early enough, I might be able to catch that."
Ray swallowed. For no good reason, hearing that made his stomach feel queer. "Yeah? Well that's cool. That is cool. Me and Dief, we'll meet you there."
Fraser didn't even argue with him. "Thank you kindly," was all he said. "I'll look forward to it."
There was another pause. Ray sighed. "Okay, well. Good night, then."
"Good night, Ray," Fraser said. "Sleep well."
Ray did stuff. He folded laundry and he got food from the Lucky Buck and he put it away on his kitchen shelves. He called his mom to get advice on how to cook real chicken legs, and then he listened to half an hour of stories about Chicken Dinners Of The Past and how he used to be such a picky little eater and did he remember his cousin Darlene? But all that time, his head was someplace else completely; when he hung up from his mom, he could hardly remember what they'd said.
By the time seven o'clock rolled around, he felt like he might actually puke in the car on the way to the airport.
"This is dumb," he told Dief. "Nothing's going to happen. Right?" But Dief was busy trying to bend himself in half so he could lick his own ass, and he didn't answer. And that was really for the best, Ray figured, because Dief was a goddamn wolf after all, so talking to him about personal relationships? Probably a sign that you were losing your freakin' mind. He grabbed his keys from the hook on the wall, pulled on his boots. "Let's get rolling," he said.
There wasn't much traffic. Fraser's plane was on time. He came down the escalator with his bag slung over his shoulder and his hat in his hand, and when he spotted Ray, he grinned like the sun coming out, and Ray couldn't help but grin back.
For a moment they just stood there. "Well," said Fraser finally.
"Right. Yeah. Okay, I'm in the parkade, right up there. You, uh. You need a hand with your bag?"
Fraser shook his head. "It isn't heavy," he said. He cleared his throat, put his Stetson on, started toward the door. Only since Ray also started walking at the same moment, there was a weird collision.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Ray," Fraser said, grabbing Ray's shoulder to steady him.
Ray took a breath. Fraser's hand was hot on his shoulder, and Ray could feel himself blushing all the way down the back of his neck, and Jesus, this was worse than when they first started working together. He was losing it, here.
"That's okay," he said, without looking up. "You go."
In the car, things did not get much better. Fraser sat in the passenger seat and Ray could swear the guy was watching him; kept catching him at it when he turned his head quick, when they pulled up to a stoplight or when there was a break in traffic. He didn't say anything about it, though, and neither did Fraser.
"You want to come to my place?" Ray said, when they were back in the city. "We could, uh, get dinner. Watch some TV."
And Fraser blushed. He really did. "I'd like that, Ray," he said, and yeah, his voice was kind of hoarse, and deeper than it usually was, and he kept his eyes on the hat where it sat in his lap, between the fidgety fingers of his nervous hands.
Ray's mouth went dry.
"Fraser," he said.
Fraser took a deep breath. "Yes, I know."
Ray kept watching him a moment longer. Fraser kept his eyes on his hands. Eventually, Dief yipped and they both looked up, and Fraser gave a breathy laugh, because the light had changed. Ray swore and pulled into traffic and Fraser licked his lips and didn't say anything about his language, and then both of them were quiet the whole rest of the way to Ray's street. They stayed quiet while Ray parked and pulled the keys from the ignition, and while they both got out and crossed the street and climbed the stairs to Ray's apartment, and while Ray unlocked his own door.
Inside, Dief disappeared into the kitchen to root through the pizza boxes there. Ray left the lights off. He dropped the keys on the table by the door because his hands were shaking and he didn't think he could get the ring on the hook and Jesus Christ, this was happening, they were actually doing this, he was standing in the dark with Fraser, with Fraser's fingertips touching him, stroking the skin on his upper arm.
"Are you all right?" Fraser said.
And god, he was right there--Ray could feel him, the heat of him, could smell the toothpastey smell of his breath. He swallowed, shivered hard.
"Yeah," he said, and he made himself look up, meet Fraser's eyes. "But, uh. Holy shit, you know?"
Fraser exhaled. "Yeah," he said. He moved those fingers up, under the sleeve of Ray's t-shirt. Stepped closer, brushed his lips against Ray's cheek. "I know."
Ray closed his eyes. Fraser's mouth moved lower, those lips all soft and wet on his jaw. Fraser's other hand came up to hold Ray's head, too, and Fraser moved him, gently, tilted his face up so he could get his mouth on Ray's neck, and then his tongue.
"Fraser," Ray said. "God." He slid a hand up Fraser's arm and into the thick hair at the back of Fraser's bent head and Fraser moaned against Ray's skin, moved closer, kissed his way up Ray's jaw and bit his ear. Ray's chest heaved. He tightened his fingers in Fraser's hair, tugged until Fraser lifted his head. Fraser's face was flushed and close when Ray opened his eyes, and his lips were red, and he blinked at Ray, and smiled.
Ray touched his hot cheek. "Come here," he said, and pulled Fraser's mouth to his.
Fraser kissed him, leaning in. Ray wrapped his arms around Fraser's back and held him close. They kept it up for a while, until Ray was dizzy and Fraser was gasping, and then Ray pulled his mouth away, leaned his head against Fraser's.
Fraser pushed his hands up under Ray's t-shirt, making Ray shiver again, pulling him even closer. He moved his lips to Ray's ear, kissed him there, huffed a laugh. "Danish bear-trainer," he said.
"Hey, never mind. It could happen."
Fraser snorted, and Ray was thinking of arguing some more, but then Fraser licked his jaw. So Ray figured maybe arguing was a waste of time, in this particular situation--especially considering Fraser was a damn good kisser, and Ray did not believe in letting a talent like that get wasted.
So he kept his trap shut, so to speak, and he kissed Fraser some more instead.