It's not been a good week for Fraser. I don't know what the hell is up with him, but man, is he taking a beating lately. Usually Fraser is the type of guy who can chase a criminal through a swamp and come out looking pretty as a picture on the other side. Dirt sort of avoids him. I don't know how he does it but when I'm limping in, bruised and beaten, he looks like he just got dry-cleaned and, oh look, even found time to spit-shine his boots.
I mean, that's how it works. But somehow, not this week.
This week, we were heading out of the Chinese food place with dinner, no big deal, right? Only he runs off to stop a fistfight going on down the street. He steps in between the two guys (kids, really - couldn’t have been more than teenagers) to break it up, and one of 'em doesn’t pull his punch quick enough when this vision in red shows up. He catches Fraser right in the nose, and I bet that surprised the hell out of him (punches seem to avoid him just like dirt does). But it doesn't stop him from twisting the kid's arm up behind his back, even while blood's pouring down his face. Doesn’t do it any harder than necessary either, the way I might've done, and refuses to let me take the kid in for striking an officer, just gives him a good talking-to on the virtues of non-violent conflict resolution. I knew Fraser wouldn't have pressed charges, but I still think it would have done the kid good to put a little fear of God - or Mounties - into him.
The kid did look pretty contrite - pretty damn scared, actually. They were just blowing off steam, like kids do, and probably wouldn't have hurt each other very much even if Fraser hadn't gotten in the way. That was just a wrong place, wrong time situation for Fraser, and I'll tell you, even that's weird.
Our dinner gets cold while I make him sit right down on the curb and tilt his head back, while I quickly strip off my sweatshirt and press it to his face. "Here, hold this," I order, grabbing his hand and pushing it gently against the shirt. "Keep your head back." I shiver a little, chilly in just the t-shirt.
He sort of watches me out of the corner of his eye, peeking around the wadded-up sweatshirt, and mutters something garbled.
He lowers the sweatshirt. "I'm ruining your shirt," he says, sounding real congested, blood still running down his face.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Put that back," I order, bringing the shirt back to his face. I put my hand on his forehead, encouraging him to tilt back a little more. "It's fine. It's just a shirt." I look down at his uniform, which now has blood all over the front. Nosebleeds are messy; the blood doesn't show up so much against the serge, but it coats those gold buttons, and the lanyard is red with it. That uniform is a goner. "Man, you're a mess."
He starts to look down and I push his head back again. "Keep it back, or you're never gonna stop bleeding."
He tries a put-out sigh, but that doesn't work so well when you're on a curb with a bloody shirt pressed to your face, and he finally just cooperates and sits there till the bleeding stops.
I made him come home with me that night, because sending him to Thatcher covered in blood like that? She'd make out it was the ruined uniform that got her so upset, but something told me she'd see it as a real good opportunity to get him out of that uniform (all very proper, all in the line of duty, I'm sure), and I didn't think Fraser had it in him to fight her off that night.
Like I said: this stuff isn't usual for him. Me, shit like this happens all the time, and half the time it's me who started the fight. Him, it's a little different. Besides, it's not like I mind having him around and this way, I can take care of him a little. It's weird - the guy is very reasonable and capable of taking care of other people, but not so good at taking care of himself.
Though if he could tell me his secret of waking up without two black eyes the next morning, I'd be pretty damn interested. He looked okay - the nose was a little red, a little swollen, but I tell you, the guy is so damn good-looking, he could pull even that off. No one said a damn word to him about it.
Next time, it was worse. A couple days later, we're heading down to bring in a suspect on an armed robbery charge. The guy bolts the second he opens the door and sees us; heads through the apartment and out the back. I charge after him while Fraser runs the other way, covering all the exits. Thing is, the guy has a car out behind the building and I skid out the back door in time to see Fraser turn the corner up ahead.
Just as the car races out of the alley.
Fraser's a superman, but he ain't unbreakable - he sort of careens off the corner of the car and slams into the wall.
Loses his hat, even.
We get the guy - I have my glasses on and I manage to shoot out a tire (and that is tougher than it looks, let me tell you), and tackle the guy as he tries to scramble out of the car. I have him on the cement with my knee in his back, reading him his rights, as Fraser comes limping over to us, arm pressed to his side, his cheek scraped up where it had hit the wall.
"You okay?" I peer up at him as I snap the cuffs into place (tighter than they technically needed to be. Told you, I'm not as forgiving as Fraser). The suspect whimpers and I press my knee more firmly into his back. "Shut the fuck up," I tell him. Then I look at Fraser, who stands there sort of tilted, looking more dazed than in pain right now. "You, um, slowed him down," I offer. "That helped."
Fraser just looks at me, then shakes his head, shutting his eyes for a second. He sways a little, and I get up, plant my foot instead of my elbow into the guy's back, ignoring his yelp of pain. Put my hand on Fraser's shoulder. "Listen, really, you all right there?"
"I’m fine, Ray," he says, letting his arm fall from his side, and trying to stand up straighter.
"You got hit by a car, Fraser."
"All right. Jeez." I peer at him. "Your face is bleeding. Again."
"Oh, shut up," he says.
My eyebrows fly up. Man. Touchy. "Okay, okay, sorry, just saying." I watch him dig around for his pristine white handkerchief that's usually right at hand, like magic. He doesn't find it.
"Here." I dig into my jacket pocket. "Use this." I press a fast-food napkin into his hand. "We'll get you cleaned up at home."
"I'm fine, Ray," he insist.
"I get it, Fraser, okay." I yank the suspect up off the ground. He immediately starts sputtering about mistaken identities, grounds, search warrants, not my fault. "Shut up, shut up, shut up," I chant at him as I shove him face first into the backseat of the GTO and slam the door behind him. Dief's back there already, and bares his teeth at the guy, who shrinks back and apparently decides to go along with that right to remain silent thing on the way back to the station.
Fraser doesn't argue again about letting me take him back to my place that night. Lets me clean his scraped-up face with normal old hydrogen peroxide, no secret Inuit salves. It must sting like a mother, but he doesn't even flinch, just lays his head against the back of the couch where he sits and lets me work.
"Okay, now let me see what's going on with your side."
His eyes fly open and he sits up straight real quick, then winces. "It's fine, Ray," he says, slightly breathless.
"Yeah, right, liar," I say, batting his hands away as he tries to keep me from unbuttoning his shirt. "Stop it, will you, you're acting like a date in high school."
I succeed in getting the buttons undone. I pull the shirt off his shoulder on one side, and whistle. His whole right side is bruised real dark. "Jeez, Fraser, that has to hurt like hell."
He's sitting stiffly, not looking at me. "It's not bad."
"Right," I say, frowning and running my hand over his side gently. It's not real swollen, just real bruised, and I think he would tell me if he thought he had broken ribs. "Not bad at all, for someone who got hit by a car this afternoon."
"Exactly," he says, still in that tight, breathless voice. Pain. Huh. This is the sound of Fraser in pain. He never, never lets on like that, unless he's really hurt. It makes my stomach clench, 'cause this guy's not meant to be hurt like that. Sure, like I said, he's not unbreakable, but he tries to be. He likes that front. Sometimes, I think he needs that front.
"Fraser." I narrow my eyes at him, mad suddenly. Because, fuck, the guy gets hit by a car and can't let himself bend even a little. "You don't have to - fuck, forget it." He's just sitting sort of slumped again, shirt unbuttoned and pushed to the side, his side bruised beyond belief, and he's got this tired-but-polite look on his face.
"Ray?" He's got shadows under his eyes that are practically purple.
"Forget it, Frase. Listen, c'mon, take a shower, you'll feel better. I'll leave you out a pair of my sweats; you're staying here tonight."
No argument, and that oughta tell you how bad he's feeling. He pushes himself up, hand on the back of the couch, arm pressed to his side again. Fuck. I put my hand on his shoulder. He stops, still leaning there, looks at me.
"You'd tell me if you thought you had broken ribs, right?" I ask.
"Yes, Ray," he says, solemn, looking right at me. He runs his tongue over his lower lip.
"You lying to me?" I demand.
"No, Ray," he answers in the exact same tone as before, standing up straight and heading towards the bathroom.
"All right, then," I say, to myself, apparently, because he's disappeared into the bathroom. I follow behind him, dig out some clean sweats from my bedroom, then knock on the door to the bathroom. "Here," I say when he opens it, thrusting them at him. "Get that shower real hot, okay? It's late - no one's going to be looking for hot water anytime soon."
"Okay," he says. And he must listen to me, because he's in there for a good half hour. When he comes out, he looks a lot less grungy, but a lot more tired.
"Listen," I say, crossing my arms over my chest and blocking his path to the couch defiantly. "You're taking the bed tonight. No arguments." I'd even hastily changed the sheets while Fraser was in the shower.
"Ray, I'm not taking your bed." His heart's not in that. I can tell by looking at him. At this point, he just wants to lie down, and doesn't give a fuck as to where.
"Bed. Now." I nudge him and he caves, heads tiredly towards the bedroom. I follow, lean there in the doorway as he lowers himself slowly to the bed. "And sleep, okay? Sleep a lot. Lieutenant Welsh talked to Thatcher - you don't have to be in tomorrow morning. Got it?"
"Yes." He sighs a little as he lies back on the bed.
I push myself off the doorway, stride over and pull the covers over him. Like he was a little kid, maybe. Don't know why I do that. But it sort of feels nice. Taking care of him just a little. Not like anyone else ever does. He's not indestructible. Am I the only one who knows that? I realize, suddenly, that I'm just standing there, looking down at him. I shove my hands into my pockets. "You gonna be okay? You need anything?"
"I'm fine," he says. Again. "Don't worry."
"Yeah, well," I say, as I watch his eyes close, like he couldn't keep 'em open if he tried. "Someone's gotta."
Still just standing here, Kowalski. I shake my head and bend to click off the bedside lamp. I head to the door and don't let myself turn around to watch Fraser's chest move as he breathes, because that's a little crazy and a lot creepy and what sort of guy am I to be sort of enjoying this? Being able to take care of him. When he has to be hurt this bad to allow it? That's not buddies.
Back in the living room I sit on the couch in the dark, with my hands behind my head, just staring up at the ceiling for a long time before I lie down to try to sleep.
A couple of hours and a weird half-waking dream later, I give up. I open my eyes and curse under my breath because, yeah, I'm pretty damn tired, but sleep is not forthcoming. Get up, take a leak. I head back to the couch, but hell, middle of the night worries - I fumble for my glasses on the coffee table, then go to peek in on Fraser. I push the door open just a little, just enough to peer in and see - well, what, I'm not sure. I think the plan is to make sure he's still sleeping. Still breathing. Still there.
I'm still trying to make him out in the dark when he says, real sleepily, "Ray," and gives me a fucking heart attack.
"Jesus, Fraser, you scared the hell out of me." I hesitate there in the doorway for a second, but then I hear him rustling on the bed. I move into the room.
"I apologize, Ray. I just wanted to let you know that I was awake."
"Yeah, well, you shouldn't be. Awake, I mean." I stand sort of uneasily near the bed. "Didn't mean to bug you, by the way," I add. "I was just checking on you."
"Really? That's nice." He says it like he means it, like it actually surprises and pleases him that his paranoid partner likes to come creeping into his bedroom in the middle of the night. Freak.
"You feeling okay? You want aspirin or something?"
"No, it's all right, Ray. I just…couldn't sleep."
"Oh." I shift a little beside the bed, still feeling pretty weird. "Yeah, me neither."
"You can sit down, you know," he offers, moving aside on the bed.
"Yeah, okay." I sit down on the edge of the bed awkwardly. "I don’t want to keep you up."
"You're not." He pushes himself up a little, carefully, leaning back against the headboard. "Why can't you sleep?" He shifts a little, then winces. "Sorry I took your bed. I imagine you're not used to the couch."
"Shut up." I nudge his leg with my foot. "That's not it."
"Then what is it?"
I shrug. Push my glasses up a little. "Worried about you. Maybe. A little." Wow. I'm more tired than I thought, for that to come out.
"Me?" He sounds surprised.
"Yeah, you. Doofus. You've been getting pretty banged up lately, you know. What happened to that magic touch?" It's probably the dim light in here, but he looks pale. Those shadows under his eyes stand out something fierce.
"There's nothing wrong, Ray."
"Okay. But - you'd tell me if there were, right?" I watch him close as he answers.
"Yes, Ray." He sounds like it's true. But he's good at that. Better than me. I end up saying stupid stuff when I'm not paying attention. Stuff like, I'm worried. Stuff like, don't get hurt anymore. Stuff like, and if you do, just let me take care of you.
"Because if you didn't tell me - didn't think you could tell me - well, that's not cool." Yeah. I'm a Kowalski. Guilt Trips R Us.
He's quiet. Watching me. I hold his gaze, steady now, because it's pretty hard to look away. "And you don't - I mean, I don't - listen, this isn't about you being here, or taking my bed, or anything stupid like that. I don't mind that. I never mind that."
"No?" he asks, looking curious.
"Of course not," I snap. "Jesus. Why the hell would I offer if I minded? Do I look like the polite type to you?"
His mouth twitches into a tiny smile as he raises an eyebrow and deliberately lets his eyes scope me out. Yeah, okay - crazy hair, dorky glasses, boxers and nothing else, sitting on his (my) bed in the middle of the night - not a whole lot polite about that. I just raise my eyebrows and shake my head a little. "Okay, I know, right? I mean, it's obvious - so where do you get off making like I'm doing this to be polite?"
"I didn't say that," he says quietly.
"No, but you were thinking it," I respond, poking at his shoulder. "I can tell. I know you, Fraser. I know you pretty damn fucking well."
"You really think I'd describe you as polite?" He's doing that tiny-grin thing again.
I glare at him to keep from grinning back. "Hell, no, you of all people know I'm anything but."
"Ah," he says, and now he looks serious, but his eyes are a little shiny, and I can tell he thinks this is pretty funny. I guess it is. I got me a comedy show Mountie in my bed. A comedy show Mountie I'm just sort of staring at right now and I think I need to get my ass back to the couch before I over-think this particular issue, one that I've thought to freakin' death many times before.
"All right," I say. "Get the hell to sleep, willya, and I'll talk to you in the morning."
I start to get up, but he grabs hold of my arm. "Ray, wait."
Surprised, I sit back down and look at him, push my glasses up again. "Yeah?" I say, sort of serious, 'cause I figure this is where he tells me something bad, and I want him to know that he can trust me on this one.
"Can I just...oh, to hell with it," he says and I'm still processing that when he leans forward and kisses me. Softly, and for not a whole long time - it's kind of over before I've gotten a chance to change gears and process that either, and so I'm left sitting here on the edge of the bed, in the middle of the night, and Fraser kissed me. That is what just happened, isn't it? And for a pretty sweet and soft kiss, it gave me one hell of an erection that there just ain't no way he's not gonna notice.
"Um," I say, not real coherent here. But he's not listening to me, he's talking, low and urgent, and it takes a while for me to catch up.
"...know you think I'm crazy, and you take care of me like a child lately, and that's my fault, I know. It's not on purpose, trust me, I wouldn't get hit by a car on purpose. But that's not the point. The point is, you take care of me and I like it when you take care of me, and I apologize for handling this badly…"
And like before, he sounds like he means it. Like he feels really bad about having gone and blown my mind like this. But sort of explanatory at the same time. Along the lines of but you really were asking for it, weren't you, Ray? Was I? Had I been? Asking for it? When I was trying my damnedest not to ask for things that weren't being offered?
"Fraser." I'm trying to follow that with something, but the words won't come.
"…and you were just obviously not going to say anything, even though I've seen how you look at me. And maybe you were trying to be polite - because I know you can be polite, Ray, even though you're not very practiced at it - but it got to the point where I just had to…"
Fraser," I start to say, but then my mind interrupts. Wait. I look at him? I mean, yeah, of course I look at him, but fuck, he notices? I shake my derailed thoughts back on track and try to remember what I had started to say. "You just had to do what?"
His eyebrows go up just the tiniest little bit. "Kiss you." That urgency is gone now - he sounds tired more than anything else. Like doing it, and then explaining it, took a lot out of him. "I got tired of waiting for you to do it."
My stomach is doing flips here and I think I'm breathing kind of funny. "Why - why now?" Stupid question. All I got are stupid questions in my head, but that's the one that comes out.
He just looks at me. "It's been a very bad week, Ray."
Well. Okay. Yeah, the guy's got a point. "I wasn't being polite." I sound sort of like I'm being strangled. "But I wasn’t going to kiss you." Wasn't in my plans. Was way the fuck outside the realm of my plans.
"Why not?" He sounds honestly curious, in that damn fucking annoying way he has mastered.
"Because you're straight." Right?
He sort of smiles. "That's not entirely accurate." The unspoken "you idiot" at the end of his sentence is pretty clear.
Not entirely accurate. Master of the understatement. "Oh." He - wow, okay.
"And I figured," he looks at me. "I figured that you weren't - entirely - straight, either."
"Yeah," I say, having a hard time getting the words out for some reason. "Not so much."
Fraser - man, his mind works fast. I've been with him long enough that I can almost see it happening. He watches me, watches all of what he just told me go click-click-click. Things fall into place and this guy - this instinctive-Fraser guy - he sees it in my face. That I get it. That I get him. That I get to have him.
He brightens like sunshine and he pulls me over and he's kissing me again, and I just respond helplessly, because how can I not?
It's like he cut to the chase - sort of just pushed aside all this stuff I've been very careful about keeping track of. Fraser's my partner, my straight partner, and it's one thing to care about him, it's another thing to care about him, and all this time I've been beating myself up over this and he's just been waiting for me to work through it. Only I never would have, I don't think. I'm good at this stuff, at wanting things I don't get to have.
I thought he was good at it too. He is, I mean, obviously. But I like this side of him, this impulsive side of him that just says "fuck it" (only more polite), and kisses the hell out of me. Is kissing the hell out of me. Is pulling me forward onto the bed, tugging me close against him. He flinches a little when I press against his bruised side, but this time, hell, this time, I can pull back, place my hand real gentle against his side. Lean forward and brush my lips over the scrape on his face.
This is really easy. This is a tiny step from where we were, only I didn't know it. "How'd you know this would be okay?" I ask him.
"Because you're my partner. And my friend." He grins for real now, and pushes my glasses up onto my head. "And I know you, Ray."
Fraser's got a knack for this instinct thing. I think I like it.
Back to brooklinegirl's due South Page