A Rare and Genuine Gratitude, Part Two
Author's Note: This is a kind of mental leftover from the DS_Flashfiction "Mute Fraser" challenge; it's a sequel of sorts to my challenge entry, "A Rare And Genuine Gratitude," (8k) though I don't think you need to have read that story to get this one. It's more of a PWP than anything else, but it's the shoe that needed to drop for to be finished with it. Never mind. Anyway, thanks to Mia and Resonant and Merry for casting their expert eyes over this.
Fraser: I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better.
Ray: You want to make me feel better?
—Mountie and Soul
Fraser trailed after Ray through the bullpen. "But—"
Ray didn't even look up from the file he was reading. "No."
"It costs nothing," Fraser argued.
"Manpower only. A scant few hours of our—"
"No." Ray pulled a pen out of his pocket, signed the bottom of the last page with a name that wasn't his own, then flipped the pages back to the front and handed them to Francesca. "Here. File that."
"We simply put him under observation. A routine stakeout." The plan had taken shape in his mind, fully formed and beautiful. "Scrutiny tends to unnerve the criminal mind, Ray. Just ask Jeremy Bentham—"
This seemed to get Ray's attention. "Did he have a criminal mind?"
Fraser just stared at him. "Well, no, actually; he—"
"So let him do the stakeout."
"This Bentham guy."
"Jeremy Bentham is dead, Ray," but Ray was on the move again, and Fraser had to hurry after him to catch up.
Ray yanked the day's duty roster off its hook and gave it a quick once-over. "Sorry to hear it. Bentham, we barely knew you."
"For some time, actually," Fraser insisted, determined to believe that this conversation would resolve itself into something sensible if he kept at it long enough. "Being as he elucidated his theory of the panopticon in 1791—"
Ray slammed the clipboard back onto its hook and turned to meet him head-on. "So pretty useless for stakeouts, you're saying."
"Er, yes." Fraser was taken aback, but quickly regained his composure. "Whereas you and I, on the other hand—"
Ray groaned and did a graceful, almost balletic turn, and headed for his desk. "No, Fraser, no, no, no; a thousand times no. I am not doing a stakeout with you, unpaid, against direct orders—"
Fraser coughed softly into his fist, and murmured, "They weren't so very direct. In fact, I might interpret them as—
"—on a guy who'll we'll never convict in a thousand years because what he's doing isn't technically illegal!"
Fraser took a deep breath and said it. "But it's wrong, Ray," and the words felt stale coming out of his mouth; they'd been having this conversation not just for hours, but for days.
The last time he'd said it—"But it's wrong, Ray,"—Ray had done a quite startling little dance, knees bent, arms flailing in the air like he was trying to beat giant birds away from his head. Fraser braced himself for something equally unexpected, but Ray just stared at him for what seemed like a really long time, and Fraser wondered if he'd finally won, if he'd finally worn Ray down.
Ray said, slowly: "You can't let go of this, can you." It wasn't really a question, and Fraser didn't answer it.
Ray stared at him for another long moment, wearing a particularly vacant expression that meant he was thinking hard. Suddenly he jerked back to vibrancy with an almost audible snap. "All right," Ray said, grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair and heading for the bullpen's exit. "Come with me."
He had hoped that they were going to Michael Dompsey's house to begin the stakeout, and was bitterly disappointed when Ray turned the car toward the Canadian Consulate. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and told himself that Ray couldn't hold out against the right forever.
He could try again tomorrow. Dompsey would still be destroying neighborhoods tomorrow. He wasn't going to run out of chances.
Ray parked the car in the quite-clearly-marked 'No Parking' zone in front of the Consulate and got out of the car. Fraser followed, reflexively heading for the consular gates before realizing that Ray wasn't following; Ray was standing, arms crossed, near the GTO's grille. When Fraser looked, Ray shook his head no, then jerked a thumb in an unexpected direction. A moment later, Fraser was following him, bemusedly, down the sidewalk.
Ray suddenly crossed the street diagonally, and quite illegally, and then turned the corner. A moment later, Fraser saw Ray's destination—the playground—although he didn't quite understand it. The playground was nearly deserted in the late afternoon sunlight; Fraser knew from observation that mothers tended to bring their children there during the day, and the local youths usually waited until the evening to congregate with their radios and their paper-bagged bottles of beer. Right now, there were only two teenaged boys dispiritedly playing basketball and an old man sitting on a bench. Ray crossed toward the children's part of the playground—slide, swings, see-saw, monkey bars, and some kind of spinning disk of rusting iron. To Fraser's surprise, Ray shucked off his coat and folded it over one of the spinning disk's handles.
"What are you doing?" Fraser asked.
Ray pushed the sleeves of his pale gray sweatshirt up his arms. "Take your coat off."
"I don't see why I—" Fraser began, and then Ray raised his fists. It was perhaps unkind, but he couldn't suppress a derisive laugh. "Oh, you're joking."
Ray slowly shook his head. "Not kidding, Fraser. C'mon, take your coat off. Maybe the red thing, too."
Fraser sighed and put on what he hoped was a reasonable, adult expression. "Is it worth inquiring as to what's piqued your adolescent rage this time?"
"M'not mad," Ray said, and in fact, he didn't look angry.
Fraser sighed in exasperation. "So what's this about then?"
"It's about you," Ray replied from behind his fists. "You're gonna be mad. At least, I hope you're going to be mad."
"I'm going to be mad," Fraser repeated skeptically.
"Yeah. So take your coat off and come fight with me."
This was a ridiculous conversation. "I don't think so, Ray. First of all, you're wrong: I'm not angry. Second of all, even if I were angry—"
Ray shuffled closer, fists up to protect his face. "We're not going after Dompsey."
"—I wouldn't try, wouldn't try to—" He stopped, momentarily forgetting what he was going to say. How could they not go after Dompsey? He was a police officer's dream: the linchpin of a much larger criminal organization. Remove him and you crippled the entire machine. He blinked and took a different tack: "I don't believe that fighting solves problems."
Ray cracked his neck. "It doesn't. No one said it did. Your coat's gonna get ruined, Fraser, and we can't go after Dompsey—"
He tried to focus on the concrete details of the conversation. "My coat will not get dirty, since I have no intention of—"
Ray was circling around him warily now, fists still raised, feet moving nimbly over the black rubber playground mats. "We can't go after him, Fraser. He doesn't commit crimes himself. He creates an atmosphere where crime happens. He induces. He suggests. He suborns—"
Fraser's vision swam before his eyes; all he could see was Dompsey grinning at him. "He suborns, yes," Fraser heard himself say. "And that itself—"
"—is a crime? No, it isn't, Fraser," and Ray's voice was calm, implacable—utterly infuriating. "Legally—"
"Legally! Are you lecturing me about legalities?"
"Legally," Ray repeated, overriding him, "Dompsey doesn't suborn, because he doesn't induce; he rewards. Legally, that makes him almost impossible to convict, because he didn't offer those kids anything before they did what they did, and afterwards, he can claim he's just trying to help. Get them back on the straight and narrow. As if—"
"As if," Fraser repeated slowly, and in his mind he could see the smirking face of 14-year-old Carlos Santiera, who'd been arrested for beating and robbing a local businessman whom Dompsey wanted intimidated, and who'd been given an expensive mobile telephone, music player, and lawyer after the fact, not to mention a wardrobe, "because we want the young man to look his best at trial, Constable, don't we?" And Dompsey had patted Fraser's arm in a highly patronizing manner before following the boy into the courtroom—and there had to be something wrong with a system that put the boy on trial and let the man escape.
"But it's a good scam, Fraser, and he's going to get away with it. You hear me? He's going to get away with it, because he never told those kids what to do. He's got them anticipating his needs, and it's despicable and wrong but it's not—"
"It's evil," Fraser said tightly.
"—illegal," Ray finished, and his voice was flat as the judgment of God. "It's not illegal, Fraser, you hear me? He is going to get away with it. You are going to have to deal with—"
He hadn't planned to hit Ray, but his arm had shot out and his fist had connected solidly with Ray's jaw. Ray reeled, stumbling back, but managed to regain his balance quickly. He shook his head once, then opened and closed his mouth as if checking that his jaw still worked. Apparently, it did.
Fraser was just standing there, hands clenched and breathing fast, not sure whether to apologize or throw another punch.
Ray, surprisingly, didn't seem the slightest bit upset. "Shit, you're fast," he said—and then Ray was on him, and the punch likely would have knocked him out except that Fraser instinctively threw an arm up so that the blow skated off his chin. Still, it packed a wallop, and it took him a second to shake off the shock—and then Ray struck again, but this time Fraser ducked the punch and grabbed Ray's arm, yanking and pulling and turning him around, twisting his arm behind his back. Except Ray was no amateur fighter, and he hooked his leg around Fraser's, knocking him off balance, nearly sending them crashing to the ground. They lurched and slammed into the sharp metal diagonal of the slide. Ray took the brunt of it; Fraser heard his soft grunt of pain, and eased up a little. This turned out to be a mistake: Ray elbowed him hard in the kidney and rolled out from under him. Gasping, he managed to block Ray's next punch, and then he grabbed Ray tightly, around the chest, and pinned his arms to his sides. They staggered together, and then Fraser tightened his grip on Ray's lanky frame and threw him down onto the mat, pinning him with his bulk and weight. Beneath him, Ray continued to struggle, and so Fraser punched him twice—two quick, sharp jabs to the face—and Ray groaned and settled down, breathing harshly, bright red blood trickling down the corner of his mouth.
It was that, perhaps, that suddenly brought Fraser back to himself. "Ray," he said softly, feeling sick, but Ray surprised him by grinning up at him.
"S'okay," Ray said breathlessly. "I'm fine."
"You're not. You've been hurt." Fraser's head was suddenly pounding; the passive voice sometimes did that to him. "I hurt you—"
"I was a skinny kid with glasses, Fraser. I got plenty of practice being beat up. S'actually my secret weapon," and maybe Ray's teeth had always been that white, or maybe they just looked white next to his bruised and bleeding mouth.
"Ray, why did you...?"
Ray's smile faded, and his face grew serious. "You're really not gonna win, Fraser. Not against Dompsey. Not this time—"
"I know," and it was true, he really did know.
Ray pushed himself up on his elbows and said, "Seriously, Fraser, I mean it. Hit me again if you need to, but get it through your head that—"
"I don't need to hit you. I know," and Ray sank back against the mat, looking deeply relieved.
Ray staunched his bleeding lip with Fraser's handkerchief as they crossed the street back toward the Consulate, where Fraser had other first aid supplies. Ray also seemed to be limping a little, but he just smirked at Fraser's look of concern.
"C'mon, you feel better," Ray said, bruised lip lifting in a smile. "Admit it," and Fraser was about to deny it when he did an internal systems check and found that, actually, he did feel much better.
Still, the mirror in the Consulate's front room revealed a yellow-purple bruise near his left eye, and a nastier, darker one where Ray'd elbowed his ribs, not to mention that he'd ripped the seam of his tunic near his armpit when he'd lunged for Ray—though Ray had, in all fairness, warned him to remove his jacket. Ray's injuries were rather worse; his left eye was blackening rapidly, and the corner of his mouth was a purplish bruise crusting over with dried blood, and he had a reddish mark diagonally across his chest where he'd slammed into the slide.
"It's fine," Ray said, waving him away after the first round of ointments. "Really. Don't stress it." He yanked his coat off the hallway rack put there for guests. Fraser stood there in his henley, suspenders hanging around his hips, and watched Ray slide into his coat, wincing as he did so. "Just, are we good, you and me?" Ray asked, and his voice sounded casual enough, but his bruised body was tensed for Fraser's answer.
Fraser felt an upsurge of affection so strong it was nearly dizzying. "Yeah," he said, and raised a hand to grip the doorway's molding. That felt steadier. "We're good."
Ray quirked a smile at him and then ducked his head, clearly feeling embarrassed. "Okay, then. Good," he said, and strode toward the front door. "I'll see you tomorrow at the—"
"No, wait," Fraser said—and damn, he hadn't meant to say that. He bit his lip, mind racing furiously as to what to say next as Ray turned around, eyebrows raised. What on earth was he supposed to say? He didn't have the words for it. Don't go. I need you to finish what you started. I'm counting on you, you're the only one who— "Nothing, never mind," he said.
But Ray was looking at him now. "Yeah? You're sure?"
"Yes," Fraser said, and it occurred to him that he should remove his hand from the doorway and casually wave Ray away, because Ray would go away if he did that—but he couldn't let go, he couldn't even relax his fingers. And so he just stood there, staring, like an idiot. "Yes," he repeated, except that was wrong, too much; one affirmation was fine, but two, as with a double negative, meant something else.
Ray caught it too, because his body language was different—before, he'd been on the verge of leaving, but now he'd stopped and settled back into himself. Ray was looking at Fraser searchingly, and Fraser found himself thinking in wild contradictions: Please go. Don't go. He was paralyzed, because any move was the wrong one. He tried to keep his face neutral, even as his heart pounded in his chest. Please, Ray. Figure out what I can't ask for.
Ray took a few slow steps toward him and then stopped and tilted his head to the side, as if considering. Fraser swallowed, his throat seeming very dry, and then said, in the lightest voice he could manage, "Really, it's—"
The words died in his mouth as Ray closed his fingers around Fraser's wrist. It wasn't the first time Ray had touched his wrist, and it was only his wrist, after all—except then Ray slid his thumb over the edge of Fraser's hand and began to massage his palm in tight circles, and Fraser found he couldn't breathe. Ray leaned in, and for a crazy second Fraser nearly jerked away, feeling some last-ditch urge for self-preservation. But then Ray's mouth was on his, kissing him tentatively.
Fraser slid one arm around Ray's back, his other hand moving instinctively to touch Ray's hair. He stroked his hand through it, then cupped the soft back of Ray's neck, which was all short hairs and warm skin. Moaning, he pressed his mouth harder against Ray's—only to hear Ray's soft grunt of pain. With a start, Fraser pulled back, remembering Ray's bruised lip.
He had just opened his mouth to apologize when Ray kissed his cheek. For a long moment, Fraser just stood there, Ray's breath still hot upon his skin—and then he hugged Ray and began gently mouthing his face, his jaw, his ear, the amazingly soft growth of his sideburns. Ray's hands settled lightly on his hips, then began to roam over his body, exploring him with slow, sure touches.
Fraser couldn't seem to catch his breath; instead, he just tightened his grip on the arm of Ray's coat and held on, breathing in the smell of him. He trailed his nose against Ray's cheek and then buried his face into Ray's hair—and then gasped as Ray's hand suddenly slipped between them, groping him tentatively at first, and then with more enthusiasm as he clutched and stroked Fraser's erection. Fraser's hands came up to grip Ray's hair and pull their mouths together, though he kept breaking off the kiss to gasp and pant because Ray was stroking him through his wool pants, pressing hard with the heel of his hand, tracing the shape of him with his fingers. He shoved Ray back against the hallway wall, loving the way Ray's mouth opened under his, and the way Ray flung his arms around him and held him tight.
He jerked away when he tasted the sudden, sharp tang of blood, and sure enough, Ray's lip was bright red with it. But Ray just absentmindedly swiped a hand across his mouth before taking hold Fraser's arm, tugging gently as he jerked his head toward the stairs. For a moment, Fraser felt confused—and then Ray tightened his fingers and took off for the staircase, pulling Fraser behind him.
We can't, Fraser thought stupidly. Those rooms are reserved for—but of course, Ray was a Consular guest in a manner of speaking. Fraser himself had always strictly obeyed the convention that marked these second floor rooms as off-limits, partly because he hadn't wished to draw attention to his choice not to seek another place of residence, partly because his office and bedroll were sufficient to his needs, partly because he hadn't wished to make any additional work for Turnbull, who prided himself upon keeping these rooms ready even for the Queen. But now, as Ray tugged him up the elegant staircase (whose banisters were both dusted and well-oiled, portraits hung neatly; a job done with pride), Fraser found himself wondering if perhaps he had ignored the existence of the Consulate's upstairs bedrooms for another reason: because admitting their existence undermined his true motivation for living in his office. To wit: having no bed, he couldn't invite anyone to share it, thereby staving off any and all troubles of the romantic variety.
And yet, here was Ray—hand slightly sweating in his, tugging him along the plushly-carpeted upstairs corridor toward one of the ornately carved doors—to show him how wrong he'd been. Ray was doggedly dragging him toward the nearest bedroom, but Fraser knew that Ray would have sex against the wall or on the floor or in the back of his car. There would be no staving him off—and maybe that was a test of a sort, too.
Ray's free hand reached for the door's ornate, brass latch, grasped it, turned—and then Ray was tugging him into the bedroom, pushing the heavy door shut, turning the antique key in the lock. The sound of the latch engaging was oddly exciting, the feeling of being locked in combining with the unfamiliarity of the room gave Fraser the feeling of having stepped into another world. The sun hadn't entirely set yet, and there was a gray light coming from the windows on the far side of the room. The heavy floor-to-celing curtains had been pulled aside with heavy gold tassles, and Fraser had just taken a step toward them with the intent of pulling them closed when Ray's hand dropped onto his shoulder, stopping him, gently turning him back—-
—and then it was as if everything was happening in slow motion, Ray leaning in to kiss him, Ray's hands drifting slowly over Fraser's body, and Fraser swayed a little before getting his bearings and beginning blindly to work Ray's coat over his shoulders, down over his arms. Dimly, he heard the soft thwap as the coat fell into a puddle on the carpeted floor, and then he was sliding his hands under Ray's gray sweatshirt, finding the smooth skin, feeling the heat of bruises, feeling muscle and the striation of ribs—feeling Ray's chest rise and fall with every desperate, excited breath. On a moan, Ray pushed his body against Fraser's, sliding his tongue into Fraser's mouth and slowly shoving him, steering him, dancing him backward toward the bed.
Turnbull had done his job efficiently—the room was immaculate and well-aired, the bed linens fresh, the furniture dusted —and yet even the freshly-cut flowers on the nightstand couldn't hide the fact that nobody lived here, that this bed didn't belong to anybody. The mattress, the pillows, the sheets...everything felt stiff and unused, devoid of the highly-individualized wear that indicated personality, possession, ownership. Even Turnbull's hand was all but invisible; evidently, he had a light touch.
Ray's touch was anything but light; he was demanding, possessive—straddling Fraser's thighs, one hand knotting in Fraser's hair, tugging his head forward for a kiss, tilting it backwards to lick at his jaw and kiss his throat. Fraser panted, propped up on arms that were outstretched behind him, and kissed back, feeling his mouth and chin grow slick with Ray's deep, messy kisses. His eyes drifted shut, and he opened them again simply in order to confirm what he felt—the nudge of Ray's soft cockhead against his abdomen, pushing rhythmically against his skin, leaving the faintest trail of pre-cum glistening. Ray's own eyes had closed, and he was loosely rocking his hips, teasing himself...or maybe him. Ray might just be teasing him—and suddenly Fraser was rearing up and shoving forward and grabbing Ray's hollow, stubbled face between his hot hands, kissing him even as he pushed Ray down onto his back and fell heavily on top of him, and then Ray was gasping, "Fuck, fuck, yeah," as Fraser held him down and stroked his dick against Ray's until they were shaking and coming, almost together.
The Consulate's second-best guest bed had now been most thoroughly slept in; the covers crumpled and smelling of sweat and semen, the pillowcase streaked with brown from Ray's bloody lip, the fine Egyptian sheets thoroughly wrinkled where they'd spent the night stuffed into Ray's armpit, or wrapped around his calf. Fraser propped himself up on his elbow and stared at Ray, asleep in the early morning sunlight but just barely so, the thin skin of his eyelids already starting to twitch with coming to consciousness, his tongue unconsciously sliding out to wet his cracked, bloody lip.
Ray was beautiful despite the yellow-purple discolorations down his right side, the bruised black cave of his eye. Fraser reached out and gently touched the squashed brown-blond spikes of Ray's hair—and froze as Ray opened one huge, blue eye. Fraser guiltily snatched his hand back, but Ray just smiled crookedly and pulled Fraser's hand over to his hip. The skin there was smooth and cold, and Fraser instinctively began to rub the flesh in warming circles. Ray made a soft, contented sound, closed his eyes again, and dozed off.
Fraser didn't know how Ray could sleep; he himself had fallen asleep in an warm, post-orgasmic haze the night before, but now that he was awake, he didn't want to miss another moment. It wasn't as if intimacy of this sort came his way often; he'd barely been touched in recent years, let alone handled, let alone manhandled. Mainly he'd just been let alone.
So he let his hand drift over the skin he'd been given permission to touch, daring up Ray's narrow side and down his lean but strong leg, feeling sparse, pale-brown hairs against his palm. Fraser was just about to slide his hand to Ray's semi-erect cock when Ray's eyes opened again. For a moment, Ray didn't so much look at him as through him, as if he couldn't remember where he was or what he was doing there—and then, after one or two long, slow blinks he seemed to come back to himself, and showed Fraser a small, oddly shy smile before suddenly frowning and looking down at his watch.
Events last night having transpired at a rapid pace, Ray found his watch still strapped to his wrist, though Fraser had thoughtfully removed everything else. "I—shit," Ray said, and then looked up guiltily. "I've got to—"
Fraser managed to keep his expression carefully neutral. "Yes, of course," he said, but Ray was already unwinding himself from the sheets, pushing himself up and off the bed, wincing a little as he did so.
"God, I'm stiff." Ray grunted a little as he rotated a shoulder."I feel like someone hit me with a bat. Oh wait," he added, and shot an amused glance at Fraser, "that was you, wasn't it?" Ray didn't wait for a reply, but instead asked: "Is there anywhere I could shower? I'll be fast."
This, at least, was something concrete. "Yes," Fraser said, and quickly got to his own feet; and why wasn't it strange that he was standing there naked, mere feet from a naked Ray Kowalski, in the Consulate's second-best guestroom? He nodded toward the bathroom door. "There; the closet inside is well-stocked with towels and such."
"Okay, thanks." Ray grabbed his clothes off the floor and disappeared into the bathroom; a moment later, Fraser heard the soft hiss of the shower start up. He looked around the room, feeling quite at a loss as to what to do. The bed would have to be stripped, certainly, and he'd have to arrange to have the sheets laundered himself. Some polite pretext for this would have to be found; impossible to believe that Turnbull wouldn't notice. The truth, or as near it as was possible, was always safest; he and Ray had had an argument; blows had been exchanged; afterwards, Fraser had thought it best to insist on Ray's staying the night. His hands touched the rumpled cotton sheets, but instead of pulling them off the bed, Fraser felt pulled down by them, and he sat down on the edge of the bed with the soft fabric in his hands, bending, after a moment, to take a long, deep sniff of its rich, human scent.
He was still sitting there when the bathroom door was flung open, and Ray half-hopped out, fully dressed in his jeans and t-shirt, awkwardly tugging his second boot onto his foot.
"I gotta—" Ray said, and then he seemed to get distracted by the site of his coat crumpled on the floor, and bent to snatch it up. "I promised Welsh I'd—" and only then did Ray seem really to notice him, and then Ray was standing before him, fully dressed, and kissing him hotly, one hand cupping his jaw, the other gripping his bare shoulder. Fraser just turned his face up into it, savoring the kiss, and so he was quite disoriented when Ray abruptly broke away and said, "Later, all right? Maybe my place, say after six, unless you come down to the station first." He wrestled himself into his coat. "I got my hands full right now; maybe we drop Dompsey, but I got a hundred other guys to put away just as good."
"I—yes. Yes," and Ray was grinning at him, but Fraser felt somehow too happy to smile.