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he was so cold. so cold. there had been nothing but darkness for so long. no hope and his strength was gone.
Ray needed him and it was that which drove Fraser out of a murky, cold darkness and goaded him until the familiar outlines of the 27 bullpen developed out of the silence like a photograph in a developer. Once there, though, Fraser stood motionless and silent next to the scuffed door to the men's room.
Something was terribly wrong. Fraser patted his face then slid a hand over his close cropped hair, worried. He couldn't feel any bandages, or suspicious swellings but he seemed . . . colorblind. The familiar landscape; hallways, the busy clutter and noise of beat cops, suspects, victims and detectives was drawn from a muted palette of grays, dull browns, dark shadows and harsh whites. The wall beside him should be a particularly unappealing shade of olive green, instead it was an equally unappealing medium gray. Perhaps it had been repainted but, if so, there should have been the harsh smell of chemicals. In fact, he could smell nothing at all. Not to mention the people walking briskly by without so much as an excuse me as they bulled into his personal space were equally colorless and bland; gray skin, gray hair. They looked like extras from a black and white movie, nearly silent, without distinction and oblivious to him. Then, a young woman in a pair of handcuffs walked right through him with no more than a shudder.
"Oh, dear," Fraser said clutching his hat and staggering. "Oh, dear.
Dad?" He called hopefully, after taking refuge in the men's room. Two officers chatted over the urinals and--Fraser turned resolutely away from them--there was no sign of a mountie in dress reds in the huge, smudged mirror over the sinks, let along two. In a few moments, he door swung shut, and he was alone. "Dad?"
There was no answer and Fraser scratched his eyebrow irritably, "Of course not," he muttered. He couldn't think of a more urgent need for his father's advice than now and there was no sign of Fraser Sr. Though the world around him seemed muted; sounds dull, scents absent--he licked the wall curiously--tastes dull, he remained in brilliant Technicolor. Red as blood, white as snow, black as coal; a fairy tale prince--or, now, the ghost of one.
"I wonder what happened," Fraser murmured to himself, staring at the reflection of the empty bathroom in the mirror. He couldn't remember dying.
That galvanized him and he headed back to the bullpen, only temporarily halted by the disturbing necessity of walking through the restroom door because, as a ghost, he couldn't open it. If he was dead, where was Ray? Was he all right? Alive? Dead and as confused as he?
Ray had no experience with the afterlife, if he were dead, Fraser needed to find him so he wouldn't think he was alone.
Walking through people was a disturbing experience; Fraser bumped into--into--Huey and got a brief jolt of painful color and sound before Huey jumped away with a shudder, rubbing his arms. A sense of tired sorrow and irritation washed through Fraser in an overwhelming flood, then faded quickly away along with the colors and sounds of life. Fraser edged his way through the familiar crowd, murmuring unheard apologies and excuse me's as he went. He managed to avoid contact with anyone else, though he felt like he was trying to dance to one of Ray's CDs in the process.
Finally, there was Ray's desk with his head bent low in the pool of harsh white light from his tiny desk lamp. Fraser stumbled to a halt. Ray's hair was rumpled, lying haphazard and flat and the color of pale ashes. His skin was drawn in shades of gray and white and the bracelet on his arm glinted like trapped stars. A startling spot of crimson on his desk turned out to be a toy - a doll dressed in red serge - packated neatly in a clear plastic tube and all of it carefully sealed in an evidence bag.
"Ray?" Fraser breathed, hoping, longing for his partner to look up. To see him. Ray was alive. "Ray?"
Ray didn't look up.
"Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray--" Fraser's voice rose, increasingly desperate as Ray sat unmoving.
Ray jumped, Fraser jumped--though it sounded like Welsh was bellowing from the bottom of a distant well--and Welsh leaned against the door to his office, scowling. "In my office, please, detective."
"Yes, sir," Ray answered in a reedy voice and shoved his chair back, standing motionless for a moment with his fingers resting against the stained edge of his desk.
"Oh, Ray," Fraser reached out but flinched back as Ray nearly walked through his hand. Ray looked, even to Fraser's dead eyes, terrible. No doubt the stark black shadows under his eyes were exaggerated by Fraser's new state but the heavy stubble, the exhausted features and the stricken look in Ray's face were unmistakable. Around the bullpen, even the handcuffed suspects avoided looking at his grief-ruined face. "I'm so sorry, Ray," Fraser whispered. "Im so sorry."
Ray walked into Welsh's office, shoulders slumped and without any of his maddening, joyous energy. He looked deader than Fraser felt.
With almost no complaints from his conscience about eavesdropping, Fraser walked through the lieutenant's glass door to stand his usual corner and listen. He needed to stay by Ray.
"Ray, siddown," Welsh was saying once Fraser shivered his way through the door. Ray shook his head and folded his hands behind his back, where--out of sight--they began to tremble. "Ray--"
"Don't take me off the case, sir," Ray pleaded hoarsely. "Don't."
"You know I have to, Kowalski," Welsh sank onto the corner of his desk, in arms reach of Ray and Fraser was startled to see the honest grief on the man's face. "It's procedure--"
"Fuck procedure!" Ray shouted, loud enough to rattle the blinds and disturb the rhythm in the bullpen beyond the glass walls. Fuck that, sir! What the hell am I supposed to do, huh? Sit staring at the damn walls? What else do I got to do? I can't just stand by and do nothing!"
"It's procedure," Welsh's voice rose, riding over Ray's broken ranting. "And you're too close to the case and exhausted and in no shape to help the case or Constable Fraser!"
Ray was whipping his head back and forth, protests and pleas stumbling from his mouth so quickly that Fraser didn't think even Welsh could understand them. The lieutenant gripped Ray's arms and shook him gently; Ray's body knotted up instantly, ready to fly apart and Fraser longed to put a hand on his shoulder, do something to settle him.
"Listen to yourself, Ray, listen--" Welsh said quietly. "Think. You know it--you need to step back and let us help. The whole division, half the people in the city, are tearing up the streets to solve this case. No one's going to get away, we'll find him."
"Fraser's . . . my partner," Ray said desolately. "He's--he's my partner. I--I can't--oh, god."
Welsh pushed him gently back into a chair as Ray seemed to collapse into himself, knees buckling. Fraser discovered that the dead weren't immune to tears as he watched Ray suddenly begin to weep hoarsely, wrapping his arms around his head like a child afraid of the dark. Welsh kept an iron grip on Ray's shoulder, tissue-box in one hand, and waited.
Fraser dropped to his knees, the crumpled brim of his hat in one hand, intangible throat aching. He leaned as close as he could, as close as he dared. "Ray, Ray, Ray--" he breathed Ray's name like a prayer, hoping to bridge the horrible divide between them, if only for a moment. "Ray--it's all right. It's all right, I won't leave you, I swear I'll never leave you. Ray, Ray, Ray . . . you need to rest. Let them--let them help you. I'm here Ray, I'm here."
"Oh god, oh, fuck--" Ray groaned, voice thick. "If Frase were here . . .."
"He'd tell you what I am," Welsh said quietly, offering the Kleenex. "Let your friends--and his--help you both."
"Ray," Fraser licked his lip nervously and reached out, trying to touch Ray. His hand, normal looking in his eyes, settled on Ray's colorless skin. Light, brilliance, heat, sound, raw smells tore at him, overwhelming, too painfully much and--grief, guilt and pain laid Fraser out like an avalanche.
his hands were raw. the walls crushing against him were stealing his body heat. he was going to die here and no one would even know.
When he came back to himself, Fraser discovered he was standing just inside the doorway of Ray's apartment. The bewildering stink of foul water and cold stone overwhelmed him for a moment, then faded away. He rubbed his forehead with a shaking hand and struggled to orient himself. Gray walls, black shadows and the blinding white square of Ray's living room window. It took him a moment to pick out Ray's more subtle shades of gray where he sat slumped on the couch, staring at the floor between his boots, jacket still on.
"Ray--" he sighed, chest aching even though he surely didn't have a chest anymore. Fraser's dulled hearing gave him no warning when Diefenbaker exploded out of Ray's bedroom in a frenzy of barking.
"Jesus!" Ray was on his feet, gun in an experienced two-handed grip, eyes wild as Dief barreled towards the front door still barking loudly. "What? What?!
There's nothing--" Ray yelled at Dief, voice raw. "Dief, he isn't there!"
"Dief?" Fraser said hopefully. Perhaps Diefenbaker could see him, perhaps someone could. But the wolf barreled through his legs, sending him tumbling into the floor as the same shock of overwhelming sensations rushed through him. Smell had been the strongest and fierce conflicting needs; protection, fear, loss. Fraser scrambled out of the way, panting as he struggled to stay on the floor not in it as Dief snuffled at the door then clawed it with a wail.
"Stop it," Ray was shouting. He lunged at the wolf, roughly grabbing his muzzle and forcing him to look at his face, colorless eyes gleaming with tears. "Stop it! He's not coming back! He's not coming back!"
Dief crouched submissively in the face of Ray's wild misery. Ray threw himself back into his couch, gun dangling in his hand, expression blank. Fraser stayed huddled on the floor, against the kitchen counter and wondered if it was going to be like this forever. He couldnt even touch anyone.
The white hot light outside faded slowly. Dief crept onto the couch and curled up, watching Ray with worried eyes. Ray didn't move. Neither did Fraser.
No one could hear him. No one could see him. Fraser didn't dare touch anyone, the slightest brush overwhelmed him; filled him with something he didn't understand, couldn't endure. He watched Ray's tears slide down his face, gleaming like mercury in the light of the dead world he inhabited now. He couldn't even help Ray.
"Why am I here?" Fraser let his head thunk back against the side of the counter, which seemed solid enough now. His curiosity finally stirred, his intellect--dead or not--demanded answers. Fraser sat up, looking around at his strange, distorted, dulled world. He was sitting on the floor not in it and, reaching warily, he could press his hand against a leg of the nearest stool not through it. He distinctly recalled licking the bathroom wall earlier. Wincing a little in anticipation, he pulled back, made a fist and punched at the leg. His fist passed through it and he detected a faint tactile sensation, vague but there and he grinned in triumph.
Ray was moving around finally, pulling off his jacket, putting his gun on the coffee table while Dief followed him around, ears pricked somewhere between hope and worry. The half-wolf was hungry. Fraser scrambled to the other end of the counter, sitting on the floor between the two stools, with his legs crossed and trying to figure out what was going on and what, if anything, he could do now. The thought of being an eternal, helpless, voiceless, observer was simply intolerable. There had to be a reason why he was here not . . . elsewhere. Heaven. Hell. Valhalla. The Underworld. Nirvana. There had to be a reason.
He stroked the floor, struggling to feel the grain through his dulled senses. Was this the way it was for his father? This bland half-life? Fraser stared down at the gleaming brass buttons of his dress reds, the crimson wool the only brilliance in his world. Was he going to spend the rest of eternity in his dress uniform? "This is hell," he groaned.
Fraser discovered that it was easier, or at last less distracting, to move through objects at speed, while slow touches allowed him some vague sense of contact. Also, the longer he touched something the clearer his senses became. He rested his hand on one of the discarded take-out napkins for a few moments, the stains that were at first faint echoes regained color, scent, texture; coffee and sweet-and-sour sauce. Fraser leaned down and licked it, just to taste something, even leftover Chinese food. Fruit and sugar, salt and soy sauce; then he was slumping against the floor, overwhelmingly exhausted and watching the color bleed out of the corner of the napkin as his hand fell away from it. It took him long moments to push himself back upright and just lean against the counter, panting for air he probably didn't need.
"I'm dead," he said while Ray's boots and Dief's toenails pattered around the kitchen. "I'm dead."
Then he wondered. "How?"
Obviously, from Ray's state and from the overheard discussion at the station, his death was due to some sort of foul play. Fraser wasn't surprised, he never expected to die peacefully. And, it was an active case, therefore his murderer was still at large. Not then, a simple death from zigging when he should have zagged--he smiled slightly at the familiar phrase he'd learned from Ray. Someone had murdered him. Fraser sighed, one would think he would remember his own murder. It was rather embarrassing, actually.
water he could not reach. dank, cold air, heavy with mold. all he could do was scrape and scrape and scrape. and pray. "ray," he breathed in the cold. "ray."
The heavy clomp of Ray's boots dragged Fraser, shuddering with bitter cold, back to Ray's apartment. A bottle clattered onto the coffee table beside the gun.
"Oh, Ray," Fraser said, aching. Ray's dinner was a bottle of Luksusowa vodka.
Ray dropped with a grunt to his couch and fumbled for the remote. The television shrieked on, the piercing electronic squeal sent Fraser lurching through the counter between the kitchen and living room with a pained shout. Curled on the floor, Fraser clutched at his head as the incomprehensible scream of the television went on; while Ray flicked casually through channels, Fraser jerked on the floor, head hammering. Sounds poured out of the television, screams and voices in a hundred different languages, the maddening hiss of static scraped at Fraser's raw nerves and the light flickering in the other room was a blinding as sheet lightening.
"Ray, Ray, Ray, stop--please--stop," Fraser groaned, bootheels digging into the floor, eyes squeezed shut against the disorienting lights. Finally, Ray settled on a channel and Fraser's torment eased enough that he was able to push himself up on shaking arms. Leaning on the counter he looked into the living room where the eerie light from the television washed out detail and color like an old-fashioned, half burned, movie print. Ray was nothing more than a over exposed white, fuzzy blur. Dief glowed like a fluorescent light and light and sound from the television streamed into the room almost like a solid thing. He could still hear the odd cacophony of noise from the television, obviously, Ray was seeing and hearing something completely different.
Fraser walked warily around to the living room beginning to feel a real fear at the incomprehensible strangeness of his . . . afterlife. He'd been alone before, for much of his life, in fact. He knew how to survive without the hand of another but this was, as he stood in the shadow beyond the antic light of the television watching Ray drink, very different. Survival wasn't at stake, he was already dead. This was not the frozen logic of the tundra and he was like a child standing outside a candy store window; forever separate, trapped behind an invisible barrier from everything he wanted.
"Ray," his voice was a shaken whisper, horror swelling in him as Fraser realized him might spend forever like this. "Ray, help me."
Ray's face contracted in a sudden spasm of grief--as if he'd somehow heard Fraser's desperation--and he coughed up a mouthful of vodka, falling back against his couch with a raw sound like a sob. Dief whined and licked Ray's wet face. "Frase, god, Frase--what am I gonna do? I can't do this no more. I can't--where are you Fraser? I gotta find you. Gotta help--" Ray pulled in another mouthful of vodka, wincing. "Fuck Welsh."
"I'm sorry," Fraser said helplessly, watching as Ray sucked on the lip of the bottle, long throat working as he drank and cried.
It was some time before Fraser realized that something--someone--in the television was screaming for help. No more able to resist that dead than he had alive, Fraser tore his gaze from Ray's suffering and edged into the angle of light spreading from the television to peer into it. The light pressed against him, he could feel it like powder snow, he had to work to wade through it and when he bent over a woman's terrified face was staring from the box of the television, hands pressed to the curved glass of the screen.
"Hello?" he said cautiously, skin itching in the light of the television. The woman's half-mad eyes met his.
"Oh, god!" She wailed as Fraser automatically catalogued the cut of her blouse, the dark shoulder length hair, the Asian tilt--Korean, he suspected--of her eyes. "You--you can see me! You can hear me! Oh, god, oh, god--help me! Help me, please don't go--please--!"
"Yes," Fraser scraped his thumb across his eyebrow and set his hat on the floor beside his mirror polished boot. "Yes, ma'am, I can hear you. You're on, or rather in, my partner's television. I'm afraid I don't know the channel."
She hammered on the glass, Fraser could hear the faint tinks, she wore an engagement ring but no wedding band and had a small, distinctive birthmark on her cheek just below her left eye. "Help me, help me. I'm trapped, he won't--won't let me out! Please."
"Understood," Fraser said, gathering all the assurance he had left. He'd worry about how to help her later. "Please, can you describe where you are? And your name? Are you being held against your will?"
"Oh, thank god," her head fell to the glass--it was very much as if she were just on the other side. Perhaps--perhaps he could simply reach her, reach through the glass and pull her free. He reached out, hands going disturbingly translucent in the light of the television, shivering weakness swept Fraser but he pushed on. He was nearly there.
"Annie Kun, my fiancé--"
Fraser touched the screen, a hot shock shot through him and Annie Kun's image snapped away as the light contracted into a white dot. It swelled back into a shadowy, flickering image, very different from the one before. Fraser's arm was numb from the shoulder down and he couldnt move, muscles locked into painful stillness. Behind him, Ray gave a bewildered, drunken grunt. Fraser couldnt even turn his head to look at him.
Out of the darkness of the screen, a white blob resolved into a limp hand. Bloody, nails blackened, scraped; strong fingers, a broad palm but Fraser didn't recognize it until he saw the shine of old scar tissue across the knuckles. It was his hand. The pale, dirty edge of a Henley deeper in shadow confirmed it. Almost nothing else was recognizable except the close press of some kind of wall . . . stone, no, Fraser strained to see . . . concrete.
"Fraser!" Ray yelled and threw himself forward, blazing through Fraser's intangible body. Fraser hardly heard his yell over the burn of his life scorching through him. He threw himself back and the faint image on the screen flickered out.
he shoved his shaking fingers into the space as the brick he'd dug out of the plug tumbled down his back to splash into the water at his boots. half set mortar squished in his fingers, then he stubbed them on another layer of bricks above the first. no. no. he was too dry to weep.
Ray was still yelling his name, clutching at the television when Fraser came back to himself. He was too tired to move for long moments, lying half in the couch. Only when Ray flung himself back into the couch did Fraser have the energy to crawl aside, terrified of another touch. The couch creaked softly and Dief uneasy whines made Fraser push his way to his knees, searching worriedly for Ray.
"Ray. . . "Fraser whispered. Ray was rocking back and forth, staring with wide, horrified eyes at the staticy screen, long hands wrapped around his face below his nose. A faint keen escaped from between his fingers.
"What was that?" Ray whispered, tears welled in his eyes spilling over his hands. "What was that? I'm going nuts. Fuck, fuck, fuck, Fraser, what was that? I can't-t see that, I can't--oh, god, I--stand that. Please no, no."
"Ray, it's alright," Fraser sat on the edge of the couch, leaning as close as he dared. Ray had seen something. He'd seen and hope flared hotter than almost anything Fraser had felt since he died, despite the tremor of pained exhaustion in his limbs. "Ray, Ray, Ray--listen to me. Hear me, I'm here, Ray.'
Ray fumbled for the bottle but his hand fell on his gun instead. His fingers wrapped around the bleak metal and Fraser leaned closer, redoubling his efforts in horror.
"Ray no! Ray, I'm here, don't--"
"I can't--every time I close my eyes--Fraser--" Ray's voice was shaking as much as his hands.
"Ray, I'll never leave you."
"I'm all alone Fraser. Don't got nobody--nobody--"
"I'm here, please listen. Hear me, Ray. I'm here. You're not alone. Don't do this--"
"All I can think is I lost you, never gotta listen to an Inuit story again." Ray closed his eyes. "And never found you--you're gone, just gone and there ain't nothing in the world gonna change that."
"Ray," Fraser swayed close, closer, breathing in Ray's ear, the gun gleaming horribly in Ray's hand as he brought it to his face. Dief was moaning and had shoved his nose into the skin of Ray's neck on the other side. "Please don't make me see this. Don't make me live with this."
"Don't make me live like this, Frase," Ray whispered. He nestled the barrel of the gun against one of his closed eyes. "I can't live like this."
"No!" Fraser snatched for the gun, fingers passing uselessly through the barrel. Slow. He had to go slowly even as his screaming panic demanded he do something now. He shifted his attention to the small safety switch just above Ray's knuckle and rested a fingertip on it. "Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray. You're not alone. You're a good man, Ray."
"It's like half of me is gone too--all the g-good stuff."
The echo of his words, warped but there, gave Fraser a desperate flicker of hope and he kept talking as he felt the slow bloom of sensation--smooth, metal, cold--under his hand.
"I love you, Ray."
"I love you so damn, much, Frase. I can't live with nothing again." Ray's finger tightened on the trigger and . . .
... clicked against the safety switch.
Ray jerked the gun away from his face, staring wide-eyed at it, until Dief launched onto his lap in a frenzy of barks and sloppy face licks. Fraser pulled himself away from the couch barely in time, struggling to remain alert, watching Ray's pallid face, but the weakness pulled him under.
he would have collapsed, if he could, but the narrow space kept him standing. he was so tired. so cold. he'd tried, until his hands were raw, until the blackness and heavy air left him faint. he'd tried. and failed. he could feel dull hunger and knew he'd been here for days, trapped in the wet dark. he knew ray must be looking, the 27 would be looking. if they didn't find him, he'd die. having faith in someone else--anyone--was so hard.
As soon as he was aware of anything, Fraser hauled himself up, knees buckling, to search the couch. He nearly sobbed in relief, it was empty--and unbloodied--Ray's gun was lying precariously balanced on the edge of the coffee table with the empty bottle of vodka. The living room window was stark black and Fraser had to assume that meant nightfall. He made his way into Ray's bedroom, caring neither for the closed door or for Ray's privacy. He had to make sure he was all right.
Ray was curled in a painful looking knot in is bed, little visible beyond his unkempt hair. Dief was snoring at the foot of the bed, lying on Ray's restless feet. Fraser walked around to kneel beside Ray, wishing he could reach out and stroke that wild hair, try to soothe the misery visible even on Ray's sleeping face.
" never listen," Ray muttered, eyes shifting restlessly as he entered a dream state. " gonna pop you, I swear. Always gotta argue."
Fraser winced. The words were too painfully familiar and he brought a hand up to his jaw, remembering Ray's punch and the heartsick pain it had brought. He could almost smell the water again, feel it dragging heavily at his dress serge, see Ray flailing in front of him.
Bewildered, Fraser stared at Ray in front of him, dressed in soaking clothes and yelling. They were standing at the water's edge, the lake rolling nearby, and Fraser glanced over to see a smudgy sketchwork of trees, police cruisers--the back-up that arrived just as they'd leapt to almost certain death. The sky was a watercolor blue, the city a mass of running colors. Where was he now? In Ray's dream? Fraser looked at the blurry world, only Ray and himself were vivid and sharp.
"How come you always gotta be right, huh?"
"Of course, I'm not always right, Ray." Fraser heard himself snap, words he remembered far to well, leading to an ending he couldn't bear to repeat.
Ray was beside himself with rage, blue eyes--oh, so good to see them after the washed out ghost world of before--glittering, hands jerking threateningly near Fraser's chest. Ray looked wild, alive and he was yelling again.
"I'm sorry, Ray." Fraser blurted. He wasn't going to repeat history, even in a dream. Even in Ray's dream. If it was Ray's dream; with him here wasn't it his dream as well? And Fraser didn't want to dream of Ray hitting him.
Ray stared at him, mouth open. "What?"
"I said--" he cracked his neck, turning his hat in his hands. "I'm sorry. We should have waited. You were right."
"Oh," Ray blinked several times, his hands sinking, then he looked around rubbing his neck with a flush. "Okay, yeah. It's no problem, Frase. We all got bad days huh? Even Mounties."
Fraser licked his lips, beginning to realize that he could talk to Ray here. "Yes, yes, that's quite true. Perhaps, especially me."
Ray's beloved mouth quirked and he shoved his hands into his pockets. "You, huh? Especially? So, why'd ya--" Ray jerked his head back towards the building they'd jumped off of.
Fraser's fingers twitched with the urge to touch Ray, hold him but held back and offered Ray the answer he deserved, the truth Fraser should have said months ago. He stared at his hat. "I--wanted--I didn't want to--disappoint you, Ray." He stole a quick glance up to see Ray watching him closely, face open and alive here in this dream like it never was in the waking world. It eased the flood of pent up words. Ray loved him, in this dream, and Fraser could see it on his face.
"It was my idea to come in the first place," he said hurriedly. "I was sure, so sure, we could handle the situation. I got us into it, I felt responsible for getting us out."
"You always are," Ray grinned, he'd moved closer, so close that Fraser could almost smell his breath. "Always sure you can handle everything ain't ya?"
"And it's not true huh?"
"And I know it." Ray whispered, hands coming up to cup Fraser's face.
"Yes, Ray." Fraser breathed, shivering at the faint warmth of Ray's hands on his skin. "You always have."
Ray's mouth touched his in the watercolor dream of Chicago, a kiss that was endless, dream perfect, dreamily vague. There was no shock of painful color or sound, no jolt of emotions. Fraser dropped his hat to clutch at Ray's waist.
"Ray," he didn't want to stop. Fraser just wanted to live here forever in this dream. But, duty still called. Even in death, he discovered he couldn't free himself from his responsibilities. "Listen."
The soft thrum against his throat--weren't Welsh and half the Chicago PD watching?--nearly made Fraser give up on his duty on anything but wringing more pleasure from this moment. Instead he leaned back to catch Ray's drowsy blue eyes. Around them, the dream city was fading away, dissolving into gray calm. "Ray, listen, listen--it's important."
"I love you." Fraser blurted. "Never--never forget that. I love you I won't leave you. I haven't left you. Remember that. And--"
All he could see was Ray's eyes, everything else was fading into a deeper sleep that Fraser couldn't follow.
"Ray! I'm--in a narrow space, concrete, and water at my feet, bricks above--freshly mortared bricks. Remember! Water, bricks, concrete! Ray!"
"Frase? Concrete?" Ray mumbled then turned over, away from Fraser's intangible hand and sank into deeper sleep. Fraser could barely push himself into a corner where he could be sure Ray wouldn't stumble on him before he went back under again. Above his head, the dreamcatcher spun in the still air, twisting wildly back and forth until it was a blur of white net and leather wrapped wood with the eagle feather steady in the center.
he could keep struggling, knowing that the chances of success were almost impossible. or he could give up. he was tired enough, dehydrated enough, no longer hungry. no one would blame him for giving up now. he wanted to sleep, knowing that sleep meant death. he could give up or . . .
The sound of Ray vomiting into the trashcan next to his bed was the next thing Fraser heard. White daylight was streaming into the window and, for the first time, Fraser found himself glad he couldn't smell anything. Dief groaned, dropped off the bed--Ray cursed weakly, then bent back over the trashcan--and fled into the living room. Eventually, Ray seemed temporarily done and lay, arms trailing on the floor, on the bed moaning to himself. He became quieter, until Ray was silent so long that Fraser assumed he'd fallen back to sleep. There really wasn't anything for Fraser to do, so he simply sat on the floor and watched.
He had to look away, blushing--though it was ridiculous to blush now--as Ray stumbled naked from his bed and staggered into the bathroom, scratching at his buttocks. Fraser didn't follow him there, neither wanting to watch Ray struggle through his personal routine nor willing to risk the close confines of the bathroom. He trailed Ray to his dresser, then to the kitchen, talking softly, hoping something was getting through.
"You have to eat, Ray," he murmured. "Ray, Ray, Ray--eat. Drink water. No--not coffee. Ray!"
If arguing with Ray was exasperating, having to stand by and do nothing was maddening. Ray drank his coffee and vomited it back up within five minutes.
"Jeez--guess it's water today," Ray muttered then stuck his whole head under the kitchen tap. Fraser watched him drink with satisfaction. Something was getting through, maybe. As much as usual, anyway. After that, Ray stood in the middle of the kitchen, Dief dancing at his feet, and stared haggardly at the coffee table where his gun lay.
"Leave it alone," Fraser begged. "Please, Ray, leave it alone."
But Ray shook himself, picked up his gun and went back to his bedroom. Fraser scrambled after, dodging Dief who seemed equally worried. Ray was locking it into his gun box, hands shaking.
"I can do it anytime I want," he was muttering. "I always got an out."
"Ray, not today, not today," Fraser whispered. "Dief needs you."
"Anytime, but not today. Dief needs to go for a walk."
Fraser shadowed Ray as he dressed in yesterday's clothes, which probably had been yesterday's clothes yesterday, grabbed a jacket and took Dief outside. The daylight was painfully brilliant, Fraser put on his hat to little effect but managed to keep Ray in sight. Ray groaned himself, fumbling his sunglasses onto his face and walked slowly towards the nearest park.
From the crowds on the street, it was sometime in the afternoon and Fraser had to dodge and dance his way around people who couldn't see him. It was tremendously awkward. He caught up with Ray in the wider spaces of the park. The leaves and grass underfoot were obsidian black, the sky was glowing white and Fraser had to keep his back to the sun it was so overwhelmingly brilliant. The people and animals were gray and white and black figures, oddly vague against the fierce life of the plants and sky and sun. Afraid he'd get lost, Fraser kept his attention firmly on Ray.
Clearly too hung-over and exhausted to walk far, Ray found the nearest bench and sank down, staring at the concrete between his sneakers. "Go on, Dief, do your thing."
The half-wolf whined and nudged his head under Ray's hand until he sighed and began to pat him. Sitting next to Ray on the bench, casting no shadow, Fraser saw some of the harsh edge ease out of Ray's mouth and looked at Dief gratefully. Dief braced a paw on the bench, reached up and slobbered all over Ray's face, panting wolf-laughs at him.
"Ugh!" Ray swiped at him with a broken laugh, pushing Dief back down. "Keep that up, Dief and I'm gonna puke on ya." Dief cocked his head, yipped and darted away. Fraser watched Dief's luminous form as he sniffed around some black leafed bushes covered in shiny white flowers. With Ray beside him the day seemed--not normal--but almost comfortable. After a few moments, Dief returned, sniffing around Fraser's boots--he drew them warily away--then sat at Ray's feet with a soft, unhappy howl.
Ray didn't seem to have the energy to rise, he sprawled on the bench and stared
across the grass. "He's gonna be stuck in that damn Serge forever, Dief. W-when
we find him it's gonna be one of those fancy assed f-fun--funerals . . . oh,
fuck, oh, fuck . . . and they're gonna put him in the Santa suit."
Dief whined, Ray breathed raggedly, and Fraser sighed. "Yes, I imagine I'll be buried in full regalia." He looked down at himself with a wry smile, his coat was as bright as blood, buttons like golden stars in his black and white world. "The Serge does seem inevitable."
Fraser wondered idly if anyone in the RCMP would feel anything other than relief at his death. They'd finally get rid of the ugly reminder of the RCMP's stained honor. The thought made his Serge seem particularly uncomfortable.
"That's not fucking fair," Ray whispered. "Frase did his time as a toy soldier." Suddenly, Ray was hunched in on himself, hands buried in Dief's fur, voice a shaking whisper. "Oh, god, I wanted to take that suit off him so bad. Peel him outta it one button at a time an' make him wear me."
Fraser's breath caught as he discovered that his ghostly body had urgent--if equally ghostly--impulses. "Ray--" he groaned, cursing his cowardice, Ray's cowardice, whatever it was that had kept either of them from speaking of this while he was alive.
"I don't wanna think of him in that red straightjacket," Ray's voice sank lower still, a faint whisper. "I--I want him to be--h-happy. W-want him to be comfortable. God, fuck, fuck . . . want him to be with me." Ray's voice broke and he buried his face in Dief's fur. The half-wolf had offered the same comfort to Fraser in the past and stood steady as Ray muffled his sobs in coarse white fur.
"Ray," Fraser said. "Ray, Ray, Ray--remember. Remember. I love you. I'm here. I won't leave you."
"I know he loved me, dammit," Ray groaned. "I want him to tell me that. But I want him to hold me. We never said. We never said nothing."
"I want to, Ray. I want to hold you," Fraser buried his face in his hands and cried. Ray exhausted himself and Fraser regained his self-control wondering if being dead somehow undermined one's dignity. Of course, he was soon to be food for bacteria and insects so dignity did seem a little much to expect.
"I wish he coulda gone home," Ray whispered, hands shoved in pockets, staring north. Dief whined, nudging at Ray's hand, and Fraser followed Ray's gaze, he would have liked to see home one more time. Though, he guessed he could now except he wasn't leaving Ray. Not like this, perhaps not ever. "I wish he could be--buried in jeans and that sweater he likes so much."
Fraser discovered he rather wished it too. Ray turned back to the entrance of the park and Fraser trailed him, running a thoughtful hand down his Serge; lanyard and high collar, false pockets and uncomfortable wool pants. Thankfully the dead didn't seem to itch. Did he really have to wear the Serge forever? Fraser wrenched suddenly at the collar, Velcro ripping, no he didn't. Ray stumbled to a halt, looking around in confusion.
"Frase . . .?"
"Ray, I'm here," Fraser said immediately, hoping there was a moment of closeness, of communication. "Remember."
Ray shook his head and walked on, shoulders hunched around his ears. Fraser pulled the lanyard free, stuffing it into a pocket then went to work on the Sam Browne and his buttons. Fraser finally pulled free of the Serge, lightheaded, delighted and with fine disregard for the sacred uniform Fraser bundled it up in his hands and threw it as hard as he could.
"I don't have to wear it," he laughed, both Ray and Dief cocked their heads in identical gestures of listening, making Fraser laugh again. "I don't.
He glanced back only once, stirred by a faint guilt, to see the red splotch of his Serge, oddly crumpled, as if it had caught against an invisible wall. It was horribly disrespectful to leave it there, Fraser wavered and nearly turned back to fetch it. He didn't have to wear it, he could just carry it. No. He squared his shoulders and marched on, leaving it behind. He was dead and could finally be free of all the pointless, humiliating, responsibilities the dress Serge represented. He ran, smiling, to catch up to Ray and Diefenbaker.
At the apartment, Ray went back to bed after fighting his torn shades down over the bedroom window. Fraser sat in front of the blank television and struggled to recontact Annie Kun while listening for any sign that Ray was having a dream he could join him in. No matter how he struggled, how slowly or carefully he pressed the buttons on the television, he couldn't turn it on. He frowned at the empty curve of glass, seeing not so much as his own reflection, let alone someone who he could talk to, someone who he'd promised to help. Sometime in the afternoon, the phone began to ring; Welsh left increasingly insistent messages that Ray call him. Fraser was torn between trying to wake Ray, even though he clearly needed the sleep, and the hope that Welsh had some news about . . . about his murder.
Pounding on the apartment door finally dragged Ray, in T-shirt and wrinkled boxers, out of bed sometime in the late afternoon.
"Your phone seems defective today. When's the last time you ate, Detective?" Welsh shoved a to-go container into Ray's hands, without waiting for an answer. Fraser watched him catalogue the current state of the apartment; vodka bottles, trash, clothes scattered over the floor, without any sign of surprise. Ray, shoulders drawn up with tension, set the container on his cluttered counter.
"Ain't hungry, lieu," Ray muttered, face torn between hope and fear. "What'ya here for?"
"You should eat, Ray," Fraser said, shifting uncomfortably at Welsh's presence. He felt underdressed in his Henley; Ray didn't seem at all troubled at wearing nothing but his undergarments in the presence of his superior. Then again, Ray had never kissed Welsh on top of a train.
Welsh grunted, walked into Ray's kitchen, found a bowl and dumped the food into it. It was clear wonton soup and Fraser nodded in satisfaction, it was a good choice for a chancy stomach. "Sit, detective," Welsh set the bowl on the counter. "Eat."
Ray glared, Welsh crossed his thick arms and waited. Eventually, Ray sat and started to eat. Fraser was glad to see Welsh wait until Ray had about a third of the bowl under his belt before bringing up whatever had brought him here.
"We found something," Welsh said and Ray's head shot up, spoon clattering into the bowl, forgotten.
"Did ya find him?" Ray's face was agonized, clearly he knew Welsh wouldn't have waited with that kind of news for Ray to eat soup, but he couldn't stop himself from hoping. The naked desperation in Ray's face made Fraser ache and he fisted his hands at his side to keep from trying to touch him. Welsh shook his head.
"Found his coat--the Serge," he said.
Fraser blinked startled.
"Where?" Ray barked. "When, dammit, when?"
Oh, not in the park, Fraser prayed. It would do nothing but throw the investigation off if they'd somehow found his ghost Serge in the park today. He shouldn't have left it.
"This morning, Kowalski," Welsh and held up a hand when Ray jumped up, clearly intending to get dressed and go. "It's already in evidence."
"I gotta see it, lieu--sir--I gotta," Ray babbled, grabbing a pair of stained pants from the floor. "Was there--blood--what'd it look like? What's the damage? Was he--?"
"It's got a fair amount of damage," Welsh said. "But no bullet holes and not enough of Fraser's blood to prove he was dead when it was removed."
"Where?" Fraser asked.
"Where?" Ray begged, wild eyed.
"Some kids found it at the run-off outlet near 76th and Camden," Welsh folded his hands and nodded at the cooling soup. Ray grabbed his spoon and began to shovel it back as Welsh started to speak again. "They recognized it as a mountie uniform and brought it back to the Consulate, hoping for a reward."
"That means Frase's gotta be--" Ray stumbled to a halt, snapping his fingers sharply. "Uh--wait a-minute. Gotta remember--remember somethin. He's gotta be there--someplace wet and--and small."
"They need to follow the currents into the sewer system," Fraser said urgently. "The strongest ones, since the Serge is so heavy."
"Oh, oh--" Ray leaned back and jabbed Welsh with his finger. "So, all those pipes, they got currents and stuff right?"
"We're searching the system that drains into that run-off pipe," Welsh said patiently.
"Only the strongest ones are gonna carry that coat, it's fucking heavy when it's wet." Ray ate more soup with something like a real appetite. "I'm gonna be there--bring Dief, maybe he can smell something."
"No," Welsh said and Ray's head snapped up, eyes blazing with fury. "I'm keeping you updated as a courtesy Kowalski and trusting your word that you won't go running into an investigation that isn't yours."
Ray shoved the bowl aside with a black scowl.
"It's all right Ray," Fraser said soothingly. "I'm quite sure the detectives assigned to my case are perfectly competent." He might take a look down near 72nd and Camden later himself, just to satisfy his curiosity, of course.
"Ray," Welsh said soberly. "It's been nine days. Nine days since the nut-case left us his little present and told us he'd put the toy soldier away in a box." Ray flinched violently but Welsh went on inexorably. "Even if Fraser were uninjured, there's no way he could still be alive."
the serge with its shiny buckles and brilliant color was doing nothing but making him a giant target. knees weak with the effects of the drug, he struggled out of the coat and flung it into the filthy water. echoes and light in the darkness drove him on, until he staggered on an unseen obstacle and fell, splashing loudly in the dark. the hunters heard him.
Fraser was still standing, swaying slightly, next to the counter but Welsh was gone. Time had clearly passed. He looked frantically for Ray, relaxing only when he saw his taunt back over by his stereo player. The machine clicked softly and Fraser winced in anticipation of some new assault on his senses but only soft music poured out. Ray stepped back, then again, then made a graceful half-turn and Fraser realized he was dancing.
He'd seen Ray dance before, of course, most notably with Stella, his ex-wife. Now, Ray danced alone, one hand folded across his own belly, the other hovering in mid-air. His eyes were closed, face tipped slightly to one side while he moved with sleek grace. Fraser was drawn closer, stumbling to a halt at the end of the couch like a wallflower to shy to reach out to what he wanted. Ray's face was worn, exhausted, grief-stricken and so beautiful.
"Ray," Fraser breathed, caught in his hopeless longing. "Ray . . ."
The Serge was the only spot of color in the great hall, despite that--because of that--Fraser felt invisible, unnoticed. Of course, he was supposed to be invisible, he was in familiar parade rest, standing by the double doors that led . . . somewhere else. He'd been standing so forever, traces of glittering dust had gathered on his shoulders and he felt stiff and immobile. He slid his eyes sideways to see the carved wooden mannequin, chest painted red, pink rogue staining its cheeks, standing guard on the other side of the door. It was Turnbull. Did he look like that? Was he that? No matter, it was his duty and he should be proud . . . but he wasn't. He was tired. Was this another dream? And whose?
The dancers spun endlessly into and out of his vision, he was nothing to them except a pretty decoration, a symbol. Two dancers caught his eye, they always did, spinning and swaying in the center of the ballroom, lovely as two spirits made flesh. Ray danced, slim and elegant in a crisp tuxedo, with Stella in his arms like a fairy tale princess in ivory satin and pearls. The two of them certainly seemed suited, everyone said so, both were blonde and slight, with a certain elegance that even Ray's heavy framed glasses couldn't detract from. Fraser's blood pounded hot, trapped in the shell of his duty, following the line of Ray's back as he turned away and towards him again. Ray's face was so softly sad, wise to the strangling pattern of dance and duty and lies. His eyes rose, met Fraser's, blue as winter. Fraser jerked suddenly not invisible, not a statue, Ray saw him.
Galvanized by the look on Ray's face, by his compelling eyes, Fraser stepped onto the dance floor, struggling past the faceless couples keeping him from Ray's side. No matter where he turned, Ray and Stella seemed to always sweep away just before Fraser reached them. "Excuse me," he muttered, pushing past grasping hands, soft voices asking for a picture, a kiss, his honor, his life. "Pardon me, please!" He wanted to scream and finally he did.
"I'm not a toy soldier!"
The crowd fell away, the floor clear and Ray was standing there. He was dancing alone now, arms outstretched and lonely. Fraser stepped forward and discovered that by some miracle he fit perfectly into that waiting embrace. He'd never danced before, it was so easy, so easy with Ray. Ray's body lined up against his and his face turned to Fraser's with a soft smile.
"Ray," Fraser's voice shook and he spread his hands over Ray's thin back, feeling heat and the thrum of a beating heart. "Ray, do you see me?"
Ray opened his eyes. So blue, like the skies of home, discovered anew in the prison of a foreign city. "Yeah, Frase, I see ya."
"I love you." Fraser whispered. "Ray, I love you."
"Yeah, I know." Ray smiled again and gently drew off the strangling noose of the lanyard.
"What are you doing?"
Ray's smile tipped, sly and sweet. "I'm gonna take this thing offa you and you ain't gonna be wearing anything but me."
"Please," Fraser said, breath hitching, blood rushing to his skin like water rising wild under spring ice. "Please, Ray."
A gunshot crashed through the room, and Fraser jerked in Ray's arms, back knotted into sudden agony. He'd abandoned his duty. He had to run, he had to run now.
"Fraser!" Ray's voice was distant already, the ballroom gone, only dark stones and foul water to be seen. "Fraser!"
"Ray!" Fraser skidded to a halt as terrified as a rabbit in a wolf's jaws.
The curve of a concrete tunnel was cold against his back _83&C_ was spray
painted on the arch above his head. "Ray, look. Can you see me?"
"Frase, Frase--I see ya!" Ray's voice, distant but there. "Don't run away from me."
He couldn't run, he couldn't move. Above him was the scrape and clunk of brick, wet mortar fell onto his cramped shoulders. There was water at his feet but he couldn't reach it. Thank god he'd abandoned his Serge, in this tight space, he would hardly be able to breathe. "Find me Ray, god, please, find me!"
ray, ray, ray
"Oh jeezus!" Ray was yelling, flailing and staggering in the center of his apartment, Dief was barking at his feet and Fraser staggered away from him, knees weak and so terribly cold. "Jeezus--oh, god--this is crazy."
Ray scrambled to the counter, digging into the mess and dragging out a pen. Fraser barely had the strength to step out of Dief's way, never mind try to figure out what Ray was doing. "What was it? What was it?" Ray scribbled something onto a used napkin, grabbed his coat--paused, then ran back to his bedroom for his gun and a flashlight then ran out the door, Diefenbaker at his heels, still barking. "Frase, I see ya. I see ya."
It was almost impossible to stay with Ray's car. Fraser kept slipping into the seat, fading away. He was stunningly tired, his body aching with a terrifying cold that seemed to be creeping in from the ends of his fingers and from his feet, stealing closer and closer to his beating heart. His imaginary beating heart, he understood he was dead, he did. Shivering, holding carefully to the seat with numb fingers, Fraser wondered if ghosts had only a short time in the world before they faded--froze--away like this. That didn't explain his father though. "I love you, Ray," he gasped, teeth chattering. Fraser wanted Ray to hear him. He wanted those words to be the last thing on his lips, in his heart. "I love you."
"I love you, Frase, and I'm gonna find you," Ray muttered, hands slapping his steering wheel as he swung through a red light. "I ain't gonna leave you out there, even if--if you're dead. That ain't buddies."
Fraser recognized the smell before Ray even stopped the car. Foul water. They were somewhere at the edge of the city, the lake slapping quietly against a rocky shore in the darkness. Not too far off, a collection of search lights, along with a few blue-and-whites revealed where the CPD was searching. Dief jumped out of the car with a soft whuff and Ray crouched down to rub his ears. "Gotta be quiet, Dief, we ain't supposed to be here and if Welsh finds out I'm listening to a damn dream . . . ."
Ray sighed then slipped and crunched his way from the street, over an embankment--sliding down a grassy slop to where a series of enormous concrete pipes jutted out from the earth. Fraser followed silently, worried now that Ray might get injured here and there would be no one to help him. "Be careful, Ray."
Ray flicked on his flashlight, muttering about proper preparation under his breath. The concrete outlets had heavy iron grates but, clearly, they'd been partially pried up long ago. Ray slipped inside, splashing into the shallow stream at the bottom of the pipe with a curse. Fraser walked through the grate and Dief wiggled under it with a sigh. "Right," Ray scanned the roof of the pipe with his light, rather than watching his footing.
"Yeah!" Ray hooted, then froze as echoes fluttered through the pipes like bats. Above his head in light blue paint _88&D_. "That's gotta be 88th and Dermont. Gotta be, gotta be and we gotta go . . . that way."
"No!" Fraser hurried after him. "Ray, Ray, Ray, that's the wrong direction! The numbers go this way. This way!"
Ray slowed, halted, shook his head then went on with Fraser chasing after, struggling to get through to him. They were going the wrong way, Ray was going to get lost in here and Fraser couldnt do a thing to correct him.
Fraser fell silent as Ray hooted--quietly this time--and turned. They traveled inland a ways, the drainage tunnel got dryer then Ray crouched down beside Dief with a sigh. "Listen, Dief--" he gripped Dief's muzzle. "You gotta find him. Look for, look for mud right? Mortar--the stuff between bricks." Dief wagged his tail hopefully. "Jeeze, listen to me talking to the wolf. There ain't no donuts down here but we gotta help Fraser."
"I'm not just lying in a tunnel," Fraser said, irritated. "I'm in something--"
"Small," Ray muttered. "Cold, water at my feet. Bricks."
"Yes, Ray, yes."
Ray shivered and stood back up, swinging the flashlight over the sides now, as well as the top and still ignoring where he put his feet. The tunnels got more complex, iron ladders bolted to the sides of walls led up to manhole covers. "Huh." Ray turned a corner and tripped with a yell, splashing chest deep into a suddenly deep channel. Fraser tried, uselessly, to grab the flashlight. It only flickered, dimming as his hand passed through it and leaving him with a painful buzzing in his hand.
"Shit!" Ray flailed, managing to catch it before it sank into the dark water. Fraser watched him fling himself at a ladder and cling to it, teeth chattering. Ray's eyes were wide and frightened as he stared at the smooth black water. He couldn't swim, Fraser remembered, and the Henry Allen hadn't given Ray any more confidence in the water. "Jeez, Frase, this sucks."
"I'm sorry, Ray," Fraser snapped. "Next time I'll be sure to die in some more accessible spot! The Hilton perhaps!" Ray burst into startling, slightly hysterical, giggles as if he'd heard Fraser.
Dief was whining and dancing on a narrow ledge along one side of the tunnel that paralleled a long, fairly deep niche in the side. Ray pulled himself back to his feet and sidled along the ledge, shushing Dief as he went. Fraser tried to follow, he tried but--he couldn't stand, he couldnt move, his body felt cramped and frozen. He slumped back against the freezing concrete that seemed to be crushing all the strength out of him. The light grew dim, Ray was leaving him . . . leaving him behind. Fraser was out of strength, he couldn't follow. "Ray--I'm sorry, Ray. I can't go any farther."
"Fraser?" Ray's voice was so far now, so far away. The light flickered, bright, dim, bright as Ray swung the flashlight around. "Where are you? What the--what the hell is that?"
Dief started barking, wild barking and Ray was yelling. Fraser was so cold breathlessly cold and the light was gone. There was water at his feet, too far to reach, his feet too numb to feel it anymore. He vaguely heard thumping, rhythmic thumping, above his head but it didn't mean anything. There was only dark, and cold.
Fraser had never had any urge to dream of hospitals before yet here he was. The lights were too bright and his body wracked by savage pins and needles, alternating with a violent chills. "Oh, dear," Fraser struggled to open his eyes, groaning at the stabbing white light.
"Ray?" Was that faint waver his voice? Fraser blinked and blinked until finally all the multi-colored blobs resolved into a shock of startled hair, stubble that had graduated to beard status and bloodshot blue eyes. It was Ray in all his beautiful disarray, breath pungent with coffee, lines of worry and exhaustion carved deep around his mouth.
Ray's eyebrows shot up hopefully. "Hey, buddy, can ya see me?"
"Yes," his voice was cracking like a bad radio, Fraser wheezed weakly, trying to clear his throat. Ray was there with a pink plastic straw and tepid water, which Fraser sucked down until Ray pulled it back, full of the tormenting memory of desperate thirst with the sound of water all around himself.
"Greatness," Ray's voice was shaking. "Ya know me, right?"
"Yes!" Ray's smile broke free, triumphant and he shook his fists in a victory roll over his head. "Score for the home team! I knew it! Knew you'd make it!"
"Ray?" Fraser rolled his heavy head to the side to keep Ray in his sight. The hospital was full of color; mint green, ice blue, the ugly pink plastic that was so uniquely medical. Beautiful. Everything was beautiful. If this was simply another dream, Fraser was still content.
"Yeah, Frase?" Ray's grin was brilliant and his eyes were as blue as home.
"I'm not dead?"
Ray's expression went serious then and he leaned next to Fraser, elbows on the mattress, so he didn't have to fight so hard to watch him. "Nah, you're good, you're good Frase. I figure you did that thing, you know, played dead."
"Hibernation," Fraser whispered. Yes, that made sense. Perhaps. He remembered the cold and the dark and trying to measure his own strength against his chances of escaping on his own--and coming up short. He also remembered a different world, dark and frightening; Ray with a gun in his hand, abandoning his uniform in a public park, promising Ray that he'd never leave. Fraser had been so sure he was dead.
"That's it," Ray smiled. "You ain't dead Frase, you're still stuck with me."
"Understood," Fraser watched Ray watch him. "What happened?"
"You got--" Ray stopped voice shaking. He had to look away, staring at the wall over Fraser's head as he poured the words out like he was rushing to get it over with. "kidnapped by some nut-job and he . . . put you in a fucking pipe a-and bricked it up and dared us to find ya."
"You did," Fraser breathed. Dief barking, he remembered that. "You did, Ray."
"Nine days, Fraser," Ray's eyes were wide, full of the memory of fear. "You were in there for nine days."
"You found me, " Fraser said, feeling himself fading away again. "Ray--"
"Remember," he breathed. His had was so heavy but he strained, lifting it, managing to brush Ray's cheek with bandaged fingers. "Remember, I'll . . . never leave you."
Ray blinked at him, startled, then caught Fraser's sagging hand in his own. Fraser slid his thumb down, stroking over Ray's mouth. "Frase?"
Everything he remembered might have been a dream, the hallucinations of a dying man. Probably were, in fact. It didn't matter if what he remembered was real, it mattered that there were words unsaid and Fraser couldn't imagine why they had to remain so.
The words he needed to say, the words he should have said months ago were easy now. So easy. "I love you, Ray."
Rays expression was luminous, like in a dream, like Fraser knew it could be, open, alive and Ray loved him. Fraser could see it, here, now, awake and alive. Ray loved him.