Half a Chance

by brooklinegirl




Summary: Ray found that, over time, he had developed deep and meaningful feelings for Canada. Not just because of the blowjobs, but that was definitely part of it.

Deep and sincere thanks to ms. Lynn and ms. Queue for their impeccable beta work.

For Estrella.

It was okay, at first, Fraser being up in Canada while Ray was down in Chicago. They couldn't either of them give up their lives, so they made the best of it, and the best wasn't too bad at all. Better than Ray had had in a long time. So he wasn't complaining, uh-uh. Sure, there was a part of Ray - the selfish, childish part that used to drive Stella up the fucking wall - that wanted to demand why couldn't Fraser move down here? He'd done it before, and survived just fine. Liked it, even. Sometimes even loved it. Ray could tell.

Only, when that voice in his head started up, Ray just thought about the look Fraser got in his eyes when he was home. Home. It wasn't much - the government had, after all, kicked him out once already, he had no family, and even the other Mounties thought he was a weirdo - but to Fraser, Canada was home. It was where he came from. It was what he fought for, what he lived for. It was where his mother had died, where his father had died, and when Ray looked at Fraser's eyes, fierce and happy, he knew that it was where Fraser wanted to die - well, live for a while yet, hopefully, first, but eventually, yeah, die there, too.

And Ray got that okay, Ray got that just fine.

He wasn't complaining. Ray was the last person to ask or expect anyone to change for him. No way, no how, not after Stella pulled that number on him. Fraser was who he was, and Ray loved who Fraser was, every freaky, risky, uptight part of him.

When they went up to Canada after Muldoon, they were partners, and they were - you know. Doing it. They were - jesus, "dating" sounded stupid, and a "couple" sounded lame. They were together, was all. The thing was, Fraser being home like that, Fraser being where he wanted to be, and being allowed to stay there? That was big. That was huge. That scared Ray out of his mind for a while there, because what did it mean if Fraser loved Canada more than he loved Ray? What if - and this was freaky, but this was Fraser Ray was talking about - what if being back home sort of took the place of Ray? What if it was everything Fraser needed or wanted, and Ray was just left behind?

Ray didn't want to be left behind. Didn’t want to be baggage either, though.

The night before the whole confrontation with Bolt, and the Russian sub, and the parachuting Mountie fiasco, Ray sat by the fire and pretended not to be watching Fraser and Thatcher (Thatcher trying so hard, one last time, to get Fraser). It was almost funny - people saw what they wanted to see, Ray guessed, and nothing beyond that. Ray could tell from here exactly how bad Fraser didn't want what Thatcher had on offer, and that made him feel better enough that he turned back to throwing bits of stick into the fire. Because okay. If Ray - freaked out and freezing his nuts off and possibly still a little hypothermiated - could look across a frozen campsite and size Fraser up by the way he was standing, then maybe he was good enough at reading Fraser to not have to worry about maybe accidentally tagging along as baggage and not even knowing.

And so when Fraser came back - and he looked tired, he looked fucking exhausted, he looked like Ray felt - all Ray did was help him bank the fire, and then squeezed his hand and crawled into the tent. The tent they were sharing. A situation that raised no eyebrows whatsoever.

Like Ray said, people saw what they wanted to see.

Fraser came into the tent after one last check on the dogs. Ray had the RCMP-issue bedrolls set up, zipped together, and he was already in bed. But it wasn't until Fraser changed, blew out the tiny lamp, and climbed in beside him that there was the slightest bit of warmth. Ray sighed gratefully, and shoved up as close to Fraser as he could. They were both in red long-johns, and Ray thought they must look like total dorks - but they were warm, and with Fraser there, getting warmer.

Fraser put his arm around Ray as they lay there together, and Ray turned over so he was half on top of Fraser, resting on his chest and looking at the darkness where he knew Fraser's face was. "Hey," he said softly.

"Hey," replied Fraser, running his hand through Ray's hair. "You should get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day."

"Yeah." Ray gnawed on his chapped lower lip for a second. "Listen, after tomorrow…"

"How about we get through it first?" Fraser sounded weary. "No use making plans we can't count upon."

Yeah, that was sort of what Ray was worried about. He wanted plans to count on. "Okay, but listen. I want to stay. After - whatever. I want to stay here. With you." Fraser's hand had gone very tight where it held Ray's shoulder. Ray just breathed for a second in the chilled darkness. "Just for a while. You know? Till we figure out - " He shook his head and leaned forward, pressing his lips against Fraser's in a quick, hard kiss. "Till we figure things out. Okay?"

"Okay, Ray," Fraser murmured, and then he rolled, and Ray was on his back, covered by the heavy warmth of Fraser. "Yes," Fraser said against his lips.

And just like that, they were something else than what they'd been before.

So. That worked out okay. Ray stayed, which turned out to be a good thing, what with Fraser, sure, gaining Canada, but losing pretty much everything else. Funny, what Ray would have said was that, what with Fraser fulfilling his purpose, his reason for being (which didn't need exploring at this juncture), without that search for his dad's killers, Fraser was a man without a country. Only, what Fraser was was a man with a whole big country that was finally his again, and not a whole lot else.

Except Ray. And Ray was pretty okay with being there for Fraser, being his sort of anchor - in the good, steadying way, sure, and also in the "oh my god, Ray, will you stop almost freezing to death" way, too, for longer than Ray was strictly comfortable with. But that was okay, both ways gave Fraser something to think about, something to do, and man, it was good between them up there, it was so fucking good.

There was the adventure, and the wilderness, and the death-around-every-corner, and the not enough sleep, no showers at all, cold all the time, what are we fucking doing. And that was an experience, sure.

But then there was this one night when they were drinking hot tea under the stars and it was freezing cold, but Ray's body seemed to have gotten used to it, a little, and it didn't feel like death anymore, it just felt like fucking cold. And, god, they were a serious number of miles from any other person ever. It was just Ray and Fraser and Dief and the dogs and a tiny tent behind them and the fire in front of them and the stars up above them, and that was it, that was fucking it. That could freak a guy out if he thought on it too much.

Fraser was talking quietly, telling some story about a bird who lived in a whale or something. Ray wasn't really listening, but just sort of gliding along on top of Fraser's words, till Fraser stopped, and watched the fire for a minute, and said, "What would you think about helping me build a cabin, Ray?"

Ray looked up, startled. "What, now? Here?"

Fraser smiled a little. "No, back where my father's cabin was. We're really not that far from it. Relatively speaking." He paused, and looked down at his tea, then back up at Ray. "Would you stay to do that?"

Ray thought about it. He felt pretty good about his cabin-making skills. Not that he had ever actually done it before. But he was good with his hands, and he felt like he'd do better at that than he'd done at this - not that he'd been terrible, not that this had been bad, but… With a cabin, there was a solid purpose. He worried sometimes that looking for an imaginary hand meant he and Fraser were grasping at imaginary straws. Doing this whole sticking-together thing in a way that seemed sort of desperate. A cabin was more than that. A cabin was a project, and Ray - he was good at projects. Especially when the project ended up having four walls, a bed, and a stove. All very good things.

He grinned at Fraser across the fire. "Yeah, Fraser," he said. "I'd stay for that."

"Good," Fraser said, and his face had that quietly pleased look that Ray knew meant he was really happy. "That's - good." He drained his mug, and set it down in the snow, then clapped his hands on his knees. He looked around and got up, bending down to scratch Dief furiously behind the ears for a second. Ray watched him, still grinning, and finally Fraser came to Ray, dropping to his knees in front of him and kissing him so enthusiastically that Ray fell backwards into the snow. He laughed, trying to struggle away, but Fraser was persistent, and kissed him till they were both soaked with snow. When Ray finally persuaded Fraser to take him into the tent, Fraser stripped him out of his wet clothes and pushed him into the sleeping bags and fucked him for a very long time.

Dief was irritated that he had to sleep with the other dogs that night.

But, okay, adventures ended and cabins got built, and they even got stoves and beds and bathrooms, and that was all good, but when a cabin was done, it was done. Even afterwards, Ray stretched out the housewarming for as long as he could, and that was good, that was great, but -

"I have to get back, Fraser."

Fraser blinked, and nodded. "When?" he said, and his voice was steady.

"Soon." Ray scrubbed his hand through his hair. "Like, soon. I gotta - look, I have my job, and Welsh is going to kick my ass as it is, and the apartment is there, and my family, and I just gotta -" He gestured helplessly in what he thought was a general southward direction.

Fraser nodded again. "We'll - okay. We'll have to get you a ticket. And do you need to get in touch with anyone before you get there? Let the lieutenant know you're returning?"

"Yeah, I should probably -" Ray looked miserably at Fraser, who was not looking at him. He had to get back. Fraser had to know that. There was only so long the two of them could pretend that a vacation was a real thing. Fraser belonged in Canada, but Ray - Ray belonged in Chicago, and they both knew it.

"We need to get your things together." Fraser looked around the cabin, picked up a pair of Ray's socks from the floor, and one of his boots. He looked down at them intently. "You'll need a bag." He turned towards the bedroom.

"Fraser," Ray said gently. "Listen." He took the socks and boot out of Fraser's hand, and set them down on the floor. Dief sniffed at them curiously before settling back down under the coffee table. "I'll - we'll be okay. We're good, right? And it's Canada, it's not Mongolia."

"Well, obviously. Mongolia's in north-central Asia," Fraser said sullenly.

"Right," said Ray. "This is my point. I can get to you. Now that I know how to find you up here," he added. "It'll be okay." He gave Fraser a quick grin. "I'll pack my snowshoes."

Fraser looked at him.

"It'll be okay," Ray said again.

Fraser was quiet for a second. "I have to go back to work again, too."

"See?" said Ray. "Otherwise, you'd be gone, and I'd be here, and - " He gestured wildly at the tiny cabin they'd put together with their bare hands, practically. "I'd die of boredom, Fraser. You'd come home, and I'd be - Christ, I don't know, I'd be whittling! Carving dirty words into the walls! Painting my toenails and making a gun out of soap, okay?"

Fraser smiled a little, and Ray put his hands on his hips and pulled him close, kissing him the best he knew how. The kiss changed from a distraction technique to something way more intense, very quickly. Fraser wrapped himself around Ray, kissing him deeply, and Ray couldn't even think anymore, just dragged him to the bed in the corner.

And god, Ray thought, if they could do this all the time, then they'd be good. It just - Christ, Ray'd wanted people before, he knew about that - but this was way more than that. "We'll be good," he said, rolling on top of Fraser. "We're always good."

They fucked for a long time, and it was sort of like goodbye sex to start out with, a little clingy and frantic. But they got into the rhythm of it and it was good, and hot, and fun. And afterwards, Ray lay sprawled on the bed with Fraser's head on his chest and said, still a little breathless, "See?" Which was enough like "I told you so," that Fraser smacked him with a pillow, and then pummeled him into the blankets and pinned him down with his whole body. He then requested - politely - that Ray say "Uncle." Which Ray did, because Fraser was heavy and Ray sort of couldn't breathe.

And that's how it went. Fraser stayed in Canada, because Fraser belonged in Canada, and Ray went back to Chicago because - well, that's where his stuff was. And he really, really couldn't live without cable TV and take-out pizza and the noise of the El and, yeah, his GTO was pretty important, too.

Which didn't mean that he thought that this stuff was more important to him than Fraser was. It was just - jeez, you couldn't hang all that on one person. All that stuff - the bar he liked because the girl bartender there knew him, and his desk at work, which was messy and piled up when he came back just the same as it was when he left, and his stupid apartment with his stupid turtle and all of that - Chicago, that was him, that was a big part of who he was. If he let all that go - just let it go, and threw his lot in with Fraser up in the great white North - then he would be that guy, who would lose everything he was if Fraser died. Fraser wasn't what he'd call a particularly careful person, so the odds were there. Or if Fraser left him, which could also happen. Ray'd had some experience with that, and he wasn't going to go through it again. He was older, now, and he could learn from his mistakes and you just - you didn't win by doing that, by letting one person be your end-all and be-all. You both ended up getting fucked, and not in the good way.

Jesus, but Ray knew about that stuff, where he'd have to be so grateful to Fraser for keeping him alive, and Fraser'd have to be so grateful to him for giving up Chicago and staying, that it would end up sucking, it would end up so they were both so careful that they couldn't even fight about it. Because hell, that was life, some things did suck, and if you couldn't say that, if you couldn't just fucking say, "Mother of god, I'm tired of fucking snow and cold and wind and why can't we get a hot tub in here, maybe?" without it meaning "I’m tired of you and I'm out of here tomorrow, good luck and say bye to the wolf for me," then - well, then, you didn't have very much of a relationship.

Ray knew from being careful. Being careful like that sucked.

He didn't even try to explain it to Fraser, which was maybe bad, but Ray knew that a) he'd trip over all his words and end up getting mad and maybe punching something and 2) he really, really hoped that after all they'd done together, Fraser sort of maybe trusted him a little, even if he didn't always understand him. But this way, Ray was trading on the fact that Fraser was important to him, seriously important, but that didn't mean that Fraser was everything to him.

Just - jesus, if that was it, if that was all that Ray was, then what was there for Fraser to even love? That didn't work.

So. Okay. 2600 miles, give or take, from Chicago to Yellowknife. Which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Fraser could always live further away. Like, um, Alaska. That was in the same country as Ray, even, and that was a lot further away. 2600 miles was doable.

So they traded off, mostly, visiting.

When Fraser came down to visit, there were places to go, people to see. Fraser had made a million friends when he was in Chicago. Fraser knew people everywhere. They had to go to the station, of course, and Ray would stand impatient and with his arms crossed in the corner as Fraser talked and talked and talked to everyone, to Welsh, to both Huey and Dewey, to the janitor who worked Tuesdays and Thursdays and who Fraser knew by name.

Then they had to go see the florist on 86th Street, who was writing a book and showing new parts to Fraser every time he came by and who Ray, frankly, thought was a little bit queer. (Not that Ray was one to judge, but - hey, Ray was one to judge, and you could be gay without being limp-wristed and lisping and hanging all over someone who was obviously there with his cop boyfriend, thanks.) And then they had to go to the bakery on the corner, because Fraser had, against his will, promised to bring back the scones there that Dief would very seriously have died for. And, of course, to visit the plump, blonde bakery chef who would blush deeply from the moment Fraser walked in the door till the moment they walked out with twice as many baked goods as Fraser had ordered. It was a wonder she didn't have heart failure from sheer excitement, Ray thought sourly.

Then to the Vecchios' house, which Ray hated (It was too much, all the talking and kids, and he worried, a little, about intruding on this family that wasn't really his), but he went. Because Ma Vecchio had kinda sorta been his mother for a while, and you didn't do that to your mom, you didn't blow her off. It made him real happy his parents had gone back to Arizona. One nutty family living in the same city was plenty. Ray had to be thankful, too - and trust him, he was really thankful - that Stella had at least fucked off to Florida with Vecchio, and not hung around here so it would be in his face all the damn time. Not that he cared. Vecchio could do what he wanted, and if what he wanted to do was Ray's wife, then -

Jesus, Ray hated going to the Vecchios'.

Frannie would be there, of course, with all the damn kids, and - okay, Ray sort of liked that part of it. Some of the kids, at least. Becca, who was two and a half, was really kind of evil in that sweet way that some toddlers had. She'd look at you with this totally innocent, round-cheeked charm at the same time she reached for a cookie she'd been told three times that she couldn't have. She'd knock the plate off the table in the process, then peer down at the broken pieces of plate and cookie with nothing more than sheer curiosity, like, "Did I do that?"

Ray slipped her a cookie from the package on the counter while Frannie was busy cleaning up the mess, and Becca quickly chomped it down. Ray got a very sharp look from Frannie at the cookie crumbs on the front of Becca's dress, but hey, the kid was young, and would learn to hide the evidence. He held up his hand to Becca, who furrowed her forehead in concentration as she gave him a high-five, and Ray looked up to see Fraser smiling at both of them with deep amusement.

Ray lifted his chin and raised his eyebrow. "If I'm not here to be a bad influence on them, these kids don't stand a chance of being cool," he said, tilting back in his chair. That one earned him a swat on the head from Frannie, and he frowned, brushing his hair carefully back into place.

Of course, all that happened after they went back to Ray's apartment from the airport ("Just to drop off the bags, Fraser," Ray would explain. He wasn't counting on Fraser buying that, pretty much ever, but Fraser didn't seem real inclined to argue.). They almost always ended up against the wall in the front hall, making out messily, Ray's hand down Fraser's pants, jerking him hard, till Fraser was gasping and clutching at him, and Ray thought that he'd come in his pants just from this, just from doing this to Fraser.

Sometimes they made it all the way to the bedroom, and those were the times they'd have to tell everyone that Fraser had promised to see that very day that Fraser's flight had been delayed - really delayed - and go see 'em all the next day. Because those times, Fraser would have Ray's clothes off before they'd even hit the bed, and then Fraser would be rough, would be wanting it so bad that he couldn't wait. He'd have Ray on the bed while Fraser was still fully dressed and be sucking him hard, sucking him like he'd been thinking about it the whole plane flight - which he maybe had - and all Ray would be able to do was lie there and shove his hips up and make so much noise that the neighbors had to know that Fraser was back again.

Fraser would suck him till he was this fucking close, then back off, sometimes entirely, sometimes moving down to kiss Ray's thigh, or nip at his fucking knee, while Ray fumbled impatiently, trying to get a hold on Fraser's shoulders, trying to draw him back to the matter at hand. "Come on, come on," Ray'd growl, stroking his own cock to show Fraser what he was referring to here.

But Fraser would push his hand away and not even look up at Ray, his concentration finally on Ray's cock (and god, that was hot, it was so fucking hot). He'd lick up it, his tongue so warm and wet that Ray thought he would die from it, or maybe die if he didn't - Christ, if he didn't just - Ray was going to die, if Fraser just kept fucking fooling around here. And just that second would be when Fraser would suck him into his mouth, just perfect, so fucking deep and hot and perfect. Ray would be, god, rocking up and up in to Fraser's mouth, just wanting to fuck the hell out of it, his whole fucking world narrowed down to his cock and the heat of Fraser's mouth as he licked, and swallowed, taking Ray deep and then backing off, jerking him in his slick fist with just the head of Ray's cock in his mouth.

Ray would be moaning incoherently at the ceiling, no rhythm to the jerks of his hips, trusting Fraser to provide that rhythm, to take Ray deeper and deeper, and oh god, oh god, that would be it, Ray'd be there, fucking howling as he came into Fraser's mouth.

Then Fraser would lift his head and take a deep breath, wiping his face off on the sheet, before putting his hands on Ray's hips and turning him over, Ray mumbling in semi-coherent ecstasy, "Yes, yeah, god, fuck me, Fraser, do it now." And Fraser would, would fuck him hard and fast and desperate, biting and licking at Ray's neck and back, threading his arms under Ray's, and pulling him close, fucking him and muttering things that Ray couldn't hear through the pounding of his heart in his ears, but knew meant, "Yes," and "I missed you," and "I love you."

And all Ray would be able to do would be to moan and say, "Yeah, yeah," very sincerely into the pillow.

That was Chicago. Chicago was noise and hot, hot summer sun, or noise and freezing cold winter with dirty slush and slippery sidewalks. Chicago was Ray's new partner, Burnham, who wasn't as good as his true partner, his best partner, but wasn't nearly as bad as getting saddled with Dewey would have been. Chicago was people and chatting and Frannie's kids and Fraser talking to everyone in the world during the day, and to no one but Ray at night. Night was when they talked, and fucked, and talked some more. They had stories to tell, because they had lives they were living, lives that had nothing to do with Ray driving both of them crazy and carving limericks into the walls of Fraser's cabin.

Ray would hear about Fraser catching the two guys who had gone snow-crazy and spray-painted the outside of the local tavern in polka dots. He'd hear about Fraser keeping the peace in general, and chopping wood for Mrs. McAver, who was elderly and sweet and made him take slices of apple pie in return. And about Fraser representing the RCMP at the funeral of a local kid caught out in the first big storm of the season.

Ray would tell Fraser stories about the purse snatchers, and the guy who knocked over the liquor store, and about the guy they finally caught, but only after he had broken into three different dorm rooms, and raped two 18-year-old girls.

And Fraser would listen, and understand, the way Ray understood him, because they were who they were, and they had each other. They made sense this way.

Yeah. That was Chicago.

When Ray flew to Canada, there was sex.

Sure, there was snow, and chopping wood, and playing with Dief and the other dogs, and tuning up Fraser's snowmobile and changing the oil in Fraser's beaten-up old truck. There was the cabin they'd built together, and that was a piece of Ray, too, up there in the cold wilds of Canada. He'd shared the work with Fraser, but that was something they'd built together. That was his sweat and blood that had gone into making something solid. There was fixing that up a little, replacing roof tiles, minor repair jobs, all that.

But mostly, there was sex. Because there was a whole world of nothing up there, and Ray was hungry for the one bright spot in it, which was Fraser.

He'd blow him in the truck, parked haphazardly on the side of the road, while Fraser hissed, "God, Ray, there could be people, stop, stop," but wove his hands in Ray's hair and held him in place as he jerked and came in Ray's mouth.

Canada made him hungry for it in a way he couldn't describe. A deep, yawning hunger, where everything turned him on, every damn thing in the world, and he couldn't stop jumping Fraser, and thank god Fraser didn't seem to mind. Every time Ray went up there, he'd figure it would even out, he'd get used to this, and it would just be normal, or even dull. But, god, that was one thing about the way it was, that with months going by without seeing each other, they'd be fucking animals by the time they finally did.

Up north, Ray could get turned on by anything. Fraser, looking happy, his eyes looking happy, as he watched Ray and sipped at a cup of coffee, would be enough for Ray to get hard. He'd sit there at the wooden chair at the kitchen table, and not do anything about it, because he'd already fucked Fraser up against the wall when they'd come in (he flushed, thinking about it: he hadn't even let Fraser get his coat off). And then they'd been headed for the bed, but Fraser had gotten hold of a new couch since Ray had been there last, and it looked soft. So they'd ended up together there with Fraser's pants around his ankles as Ray sucked him hard again, then kicked off his own pants and climbed into Fraser's lap and sank down on him slow, slow. Fraser had held onto his hips so hard that Ray had to move, slow and steady, and then fast and uneven, till he groaned, burying his head against Fraser's shoulder and coming messy all over his chest.

At which point Fraser had lifted him bodily and laid him on the couch, and fucked him hard, whispering Ray's name against his shoulder as he came.

So you know, enough should kind of be enough. For the day, maybe, at least. But Fraser was sipping coffee and looking happy, and Ray sat there, jittering his knee under the table, till Fraser's eyes crinkled, and he sighed in mock exasperation, and gave Ray a series of deep, coffee-flavored kisses before getting on his knees right there by the table and sucking on Ray's dick till Ray came again, seeing stars.

That was Canada, every damn time. Ray was developing a deep and abiding love for his neighbors to the North, or at least one in particular.

When Ray came to Canada, it was like that, mostly, but a guy needed more than four walls and sex (even Ray did, somewhere along the fourth or fifth day). So he'd drag Fraser out to the bar in town ("town" - it was hardly more than a handful of blocks, with an honest-to-god General Store and everything), where everyone knew everyone else's name (it was like Cheers, except no one was Norm, everyone was Norm), even Fraser's name, even Ray's, for Christ's sake.

And they'd greet them like they were long-lost relations, which made Ray give Fraser a sharp look, not liking it when Fraser cut himself off from everything and everybody up there when he was alone, going along dealing with crime and misdemeanors and unchopped wood, and being unfailingly polite, but never, ever friendly. Ray wondered about this side of Fraser, who had a million friends in Chicago, but very few in his home country.

But nights like that, their backs would get clapped, and Johnny Mulroney would buy them beers, and then Shani Watts would, and then Sam Aariak, and even Fraser would drink at least one or two, Ray picking up his slack. It was a full house, a roaring crowd, with the fire blazing making it warm enough that Ray would strip out of his flannel shirts, down to just his t-shirt and jeans, in order to play darts with Johnny and his brother Tim, and lose, badly, because these boys were good at what they did. And they'd laugh at him, and he would grumble, and buy them the beers they had won off of him. Fraser would stand back and watch, and smile a lot, and talk to everyone who came up to him, talk to them quiet and sincere, but talking all the same, which Ray bet was more than he did when Ray wasn't around.

These people didn't seem to blame Fraser for it; they could see that he tried when he could, and stayed away when he couldn't. And if it took an American with funny-looking hair to bring him into their crowd, well, they would take that, and with good grace.

After Ray's third or fourth visit, he heard Helen Avery ask if Fraser would be at their monthly potluck again the following Friday, and Fraser, flushed with beer and warmth and happiness, assured her that he would. Ray grinned at him, and Fraser raised an eyebrow and gave Ray an arch look, taking the darts out of his hand and throwing three bulls-eyes in a row, despite the two and a half beers that were the most he ever drank, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

They always left happy, the rush of seriously cold air feeling good on Ray's cheeks. They'd usually drive the truck into town, and Fraser would stop drinking anything but water an hour before they left, so he could cart Ray's drunk ass home. Not that Ray was drunk-drunk, he was happy-drunk, and he would sometimes jump Fraser after they got in and the truck was warming up, making out with him till the windows were steamed up and Fraser was murmuring about what would the neighbors think.

And sometimes Fraser would be walking, and whistling, and tossing the keys in his hand, and those times, when they'd get in, all Ray would have to do is slouch against the door, and look at Fraser through his eyelashes, and those times, the truck wouldn't even get warmed up, because Fraser would press Ray up against the door and kiss him and touch him and slide his hand down to press against the front of Ray's pants till Ray was gasping and coming right there in the car.

Then Fraser would have to fish the keys off the floor where they had fallen when he'd grabbed hold of Ray, and Ray would laugh weakly and make comments about how dirty and easy and hot Fraser was, and then they'd have to wait for the car to heat up and get through the drive home before Fraser could drag Ray inside, and take him to bed, and fuck him for a long, long time.

Ray found that, over time, he had developed deep and meaningful feelings for Canada. Not just because of the blowjobs, but that was definitely part of it.

The thing that worried him was how depressed he got after each visit. He'd end up lying on the couch without even the energy to flip through the channels, watching whatever stupid thing came on. He'd be pissed-off at everything, at nothing; kicking things and stomping around, being a total asshole. Till he ended up getting yelled at by Welsh - right there in the bullpen in front of God and everybody - to knock off the attitude and remember who was boss here. That sucked, that first day or two always sucked, but it was like getting your sea legs, figuring out how to go about life without Fraser right there every time he turned around.

So, what worried him beyond that was that they were riding a wave, here. This high point of seeing each other, followed by the fucking all-time low every time one of them had to leave. This missing the fuck out of each other till they built it up and built it up and then trip after trip lived up to those expectations, because they did want each other so bad, need each other so bad.

It shouldn't work that way, should it? That they got exactly what they wanted, or better, every time? Did that mean this was the real thing, between them? That they could keep this up, that each and every time worked for them?

It pissed Ray off that he was wasting time worrying when he was getting laid on a regular basis for the first time in years, even if it meant he had to sometimes go to Canada to do it.

The visits were good, because the way they were set up, Ray and Fraser appreciated the time they had together. They knew each other well enough that it wasn't like being guests. They didn't have to behave, and could fight, and be in bad moods, and not pretend like they could form coherent sentences before two cups of coffee (that last part was maybe just Ray). Like, okay, they could know all this stuff about each other, and Fraser could get pissed off and quiet when Ray was too much of an asshole for too much of the time. And Ray would know he'd have to suck it up and figure it out and apologize. Because even though Fraser wasn't a girl - as he'd explained stiffly to Ray quite a few times - he still expected a "modicum of decency" and a "certain amount of respect for his person" and for Ray to "use his goddamn brain sometimes" and not have to wait for Fraser to tell him what was wrong. Which Ray, after the first five or six times, figured out meant that, despite Fraser being not a woman, this was still a relationship.

So Ray knew when he'd have to figure out when he owed Fraser an apology, and also he'd have to know what he was apologizing for. That last part was important, because if he didn't, then, Christ, the next day or so would be miserable, 'cause the cabin was really small. If they were in there together, and fighting, the tension would be so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Or worse: the last big fight they'd had up there, a visit or two back, Fraser got so pissed off that he left, took off and went hiking into the woods, his boots making large, gaping holes in the snow of their backyard - which wasn't actually so much of a "backyard" as it was an "endless expanse of a lot of motherfucking snow." Which left Ray alone in the middle of all that snow, and he wasn't going to run after Fraser, but it wasn't like there were too many options of what to do once Fraser was gone except kick things and knock over a kitchen chair and mutter darkly to himself about how it took two to fight like this. And Dief wasn't even doing him the courtesy of hiding from his fury; he just yawned and turned over on the couch.

And what would happen to Ray if Fraser didn't come back? If he got a sprained ankle out in the snow, or lost his way (which, okay, neither of those things seemed real likely to happen to Fraser or to slow him down if they did), or stumbled across a serial killer or an escaped convict or an angry guy with an axe (all things which seemed very likely to happen to Fraser)?

That left Ray in Canada, in a cabin, alone with a wolf, and a very long way away from the nearest town. He could get there, sure, but he wasn't going to leave Fraser in the snow with the crazy guy with the axe while he drove an hour there and an hour back to bring help.

So the time that Fraser went out walking in the snow for four hours and came back just as fine as you please, without a scratch on him, Ray was more infuriated than he'd ever been. He couldn't even remember what the original fight had been about or even whose fault it was, because his mind had been taken up with planning Fraser's funeral and trying to figure out what the fuck he'd do if they couldn't even find the body, because the snow and the landscape and the wild animals meant that there wasn't always anything to find, and -

When he heard Fraser's footsteps on the porch, and then the door pushed open, and Fraser came in, stamping the snow off his boots and looking red-cheeked and calm and alive, it took all of Ray's strength not to punch him right in the face. Instead he stuck with cursing at him as he grabbed hold of his coat and slammed him against the wall. Fraser looked at him, startled, his mouth quickly thinning into a line. "What, Ray?" he said grimly.

Ray's hands were shaking, so he held onto Fraser's thick coat tighter. "I thought you were dead," he growled.

Fraser raised an eyebrow. "I was taking a walk," he said.

Ray hated this, he fucking hated it, because he wanted to be able to fight with Fraser and if it was Chicago, it's really possible that Ray would have been the one to walk out. To walk and smoke and pound out his frustration on the pavement for a while. But that was different. Fraser would be okay in Chicago. Christ, the guy could survive anything, and if Ray got mugged or whatever, there were ten million people all around Fraser.

But here it was just Ray. In the cabin. Alone.

"Fraser," Ray grated out. "You fucking - " Abandoned me, but that sounded stupid, that sounded like a girl. He took a deep breath and tried to say it calmly. "If you got hurt out there -"

Fraser sighed. Loudly.

"If you get hurt out there," Ray continued doggedly. "What happens to me?"

Fraser blinked. "What do you mean?"

God, Ray wanted to kill him himself when he got thick like this. "If you die out there in the snow, then I have to go out there to find your stupid corpse, and then I probably die, too, and both our bodies get eaten by bears and that would suck, okay?"

"We'd probably be too frozen for bears to be interested in," Fraser muttered.

Ray rubbed his forehead. Headache. Right behind his eye. "Listen," he said wearily. "Listen to me, for one second here. I just -" He blew out a frustrated breath. "I just can't do this. I can't fucking rely on you for every damn thing here. I can't do Canada without you. If you're not here, I don't fucking fit, and I sure won't survive very long. Even without the bears," he added. "I'd go crazy. I'm going crazy."

And he really thought he might be, because now he was wondering if he could do Chicago without Fraser. Without knowing that Fraser would be there in eight weeks and three days or whatever. If he couldn't do Chicago without Fraser, that meant he couldn't live without Fraser, because Chicago was the thing he knew best, Chicago he knew like he knew his face in the mirror. Maybe better, because he didn't mind seeing all of Chicago's scars and wrinkles, that was all part of what Chicago was, that was all part of the city's history, and Ray knew that and loved that.

This was just fucking stupid, though. Of course he could do Chicago without Fraser, it was Canada that was freaking him out.

Fraser was just looking at him, and he didn't look mad anymore, he just looked really fucking tired. "Ray, I'm -" He stopped.

"You're what?" said Ray flatly. "Sorry? Yeah." He breathed some more. "Fraser," he said slowly. "I'm not a part of this place, not like you were part of Chicago. I'm just not. I'm never going to be."

"I know that," Fraser said, and he didn't even sound angry, just sort of - surprised, like he hadn't known up till now what the problem was. "I know. I suppose I just thought that - Ray, you're only ever just visiting here. I just - I didn't think you'd ever have to be part of it."

Ray glared at him. "Fraser, during the adventure, you taught me stuff, you were really tough on me. You pushed me a lot, and made sure that I at least knew what I needed to in order to stay alive."

Fraser opened his mouth, and shut it, firmly.

Ray said, "What?"

Fraser shook his head and went to the kitchen and started alphabetizing their spices.

"What, Fraser?" Ray stared grimly at Fraser's tense back, and crossed his arms tightly over his chest, because hitting Fraser at this point just meant that Fraser would hit him back. And that was fine, that was even good sometimes. There was a lot of stuff they totally resolved that way. Anyone who said nothing could be settled with your fists had never been involved in the very satisfying kinds of fights they had. Ray would sometimes mutter that to Fraser as he lay limply, his head on Fraser's chest, Fraser's fingers gently tracing the lump on Ray's head from where he'd slammed it against the wall, falling backwards from Fraser's punch. Ray, lying there, could feel his heartbeat in the soreness of his eye.

Fraser would murmur agreement, and Ray would tilt his head up, watch Fraser poke his tongue out and lick at his split lip gently. And Fraser's arm would tighten around Ray's shoulders, and when he leaned in to kiss Ray, it would be gentle, nothing like the fierce, fighting kissing earlier, but just - both kinds of kisses were part of their relationship, and it was good.

But that wasn't always that way, sometimes it was about talking. Ray kept his hands very carefully to himself and said, "Fraser. What are you afraid to tell me?"

Fraser jerked his head up. "I’m not afraid to tell you, I just - I'm choosing not to engage in a dialogue that will resolve nothing."

Ray rolled his eyes and made talking motions with his hands. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said. "Talk around it all you want, Fraser."

Ray pushed and Fraser hemmed and hawed, and it was stupid, god, sometimes the way they fought was just so fucking stupid. Till finally Ray managed to push just the right button, and afterwards, he couldn't even tell you how, but it came out that Fraser was just - it was simple, you know, which is one reason why Fraser wasn't going talk about it (the other reason being that Fraser was a really, really stubborn fuck). Simple: Ray belonged in Chicago. Fraser belonged here. So long as they kept this up, then one or the other of them was just visiting. Like a vacation from real life.

And it was stupid to work on it past that point. Because that was just playing pretend.

Fraser used bigger words, but the point was the same.

Ray had no response to that, because really, Fraser was right. Just - yeah. On the money. This halfway to happiness thing meant that they were really fucking glad to see each other every time, but never got used to each other - never got a chance to give it a real try.

It sucked.

Ray needed to go home. Cut this trip short, and get the fuck out of there. Go home. Regroup. Just fucking - figure this out.

He had to know. He had to know who he himself was. That was what this was about. If he gave that up, just comfortably relied on Fraser to be the one to tell him who he was, Fraser to be the one who had to be there in order for Ray to know, then he was screwed.

Fucking screwed.

He hadn't leaned on Fraser when Fraser lived in Chicago. When they were both in Chicago, they were partners. Partners even after they'd started fucking. It was fine. In Canada, the scales were tipped against Ray. He didn't have a foothold there, other than his position as Fraser's American friend who dragged Fraser out and made him play nice every couple of months or so.

The way it stood, halfway was the best they could do.

So Ray headed back down to the US, and they would maybe have horrified a lot of people in the parking lot at the Yellowknife airport when their goodbye kiss turned into a prolonged make-out session, but Ray figured they were pretty safe, since they got the windows steamed up fast enough that he bet no one could have seen anything even if they'd been trying. And besides, he didn't know for sure, but from what he'd seen, Canadians weren't really big on the gay-bashing. No matter how quick Ray talked, though, he couldn’t get Fraser to get in the backseat with him. Ray, taking what he could get, tugged him close and kissed him, slipping his tongue into Fraser's mouth and sliding his hands into Fraser's coat. Fraser's body warmed his cold hands, and Ray held him there, kissing him and hoping Fraser got it, that he got that Ray was going to try like hell to figure this out and make it work.

Fraser tugged himself away, regretfully, finally, and Ray took his bag, and his hard-on, and headed home. He went to the gate alone to forestall any further lapses on their part, just on the off chance that Canadians were into gay bashing.

And it was good to get home, after being up there in the wild. It made Chicago winter, with its hot coffee and central heating and snowplows and weathermen all bundled up reporting the fact that it was, indeed, cold in Chicago in February, seem - well, still pretty terrible, but Ray was used to that.

Things were normal for a while after that. The only thing was, Ray wasn't really good at sleeping alone anymore. That was weird, because he'd totally gotten used to that after the divorce, and liked sprawling out and having the whole bed. Sharing had been a tough thing to adjust back to, when he'd hooked up with Fraser. Having this warm (and big. Fraser took up a lot of space.) body in his bed with him. And when he said warm, he meant warm - Fraser put out heat like a furnace, and while that was excellent up in Canada, in a shared sleeping bag, in a tent, in a blizzard - in a bed in Chicago, it meant that Ray spent a lot of time kicking the covers away and shoving Fraser's arm off of him and once or twice there just totally giving up and moving to the couch.

Which made Fraser feel like crap the next morning, coming out of the bedroom all concerned and guilty, and making Ray a breakfast that he had to eat in order to make Fraser feel better, even though anything other than coffee in the morning made Ray feel sick for a lot of the day.

And still, when Fraser got up before Ray (which was pretty much always), Ray would roll over in his sleep and sprawl out, taking up the whole bed in the process. So, it was weird, and not fun, to suddenly be in bed and exhausted and still wide-fucking-awake at two in the morning because of rolling over and not finding a warm body taking up too much space in his bed.

That kind of sucked, in Ray's opinion.

But other than that, things were good. He talked to Fraser a few times a week on the phone, and work was going well - his solve rate was up even without Fraser as a partner, a situation which Welsh indicated astonished, yet pleased him. Fraser came down for a conference at the Consulate only six weeks later and they had a good visit.

It was right after Fraser left that time that a bunch of things happened all in a row. Frannie had her twins a month early. Elaine got promoted to detective. Ray got shot.

Not shot bad. Well, getting shot was never good, but it wasn't awful. It was stupid, more than anything. Wrong place, wrong time, and he should have noticed the ankle-holster even if his partner hadn't.

So, okay. Shot in the shoulder, but the bullet went right through, so it was really no big deal. Or, it would have been no big deal, if Ray had been able to tell Fraser himself. Which he totally would have, only he'd have done it later, shown Fraser the scar and played it down and it would have been fine. Or at least better than it was.

The way it was, was Fraser calling his desk and Dewey answering and telling Fraser he was heading to the hospital to see Frannie and Ray and the babies, which lucky thing Fraser didn't jump to conclusions about Ray and Frannie making babies, but still definitely didn't go over well at all, once Dewey explained about Ray getting shot.

Fraser'd just got back to the Territories, and he couldn't just turn around and come right back to Chicago - even if he could've gotten the time, he couldn’t afford the airfare on his own. He'd called Ray in the hospital, real calm, and checked on him, and Ray had talked to him, only, this was right after he'd been medicated, so his slurred reassurances might have freaked Fraser out more than, uh, reassured him. In any way. Fraser took to calling every night and Ray, while he pretended to be annoyed and kept insisting that Fraser was babying him, actually kind of liked feeling cared for.

Fraser got some time off about a month after that. He insisted it was to come see the twins while they were still newborns, but when he got in and Ray suggested they stop at Ma Vecchio's house, Fraser hesitated for only a second before shaking his head firmly and directing Ray to go to the apartment.

Ray grinned and slouched back in the seat - his shoulder still ached a little when he sat up straight - and drove. Quickly.

Only, when they got there, and Fraser started taking Ray's clothes off, it wasn't for sex - which is what both Ray and his dick were very enthusiastically thinking - but to just get his shirt off to see the healing wound. Which wasn't sexy. But Fraser was determined. Ray sighed, and let him, knowing he wasn't going to let it go.

Fraser was gentle, turning Ray towards the light and examining his shoulder, which was still red and sore, but nothing compared to how it had looked when it first happened. Fraser looked carefully at the entry wound, and the exit wound (the bullet had gone right through, cleanly), and insisted on getting some salve out of his bag and putting it on, claiming it would speed the healing process. Ray pointed out that the thing was practically better already, and Fraser actually rolled his eyes and kept stubbornly applying the salve, saying, "In addition to the healing, it also reduces scarring, and I know, Ray, how concerned you are with your appearance."

Ray grumbled at him, but let him put the stuff on, peering down at his shoulder as Fraser did so. It wasn't that bad, was it? Besides, it wasn't like Fraser wasn't covered with evidence of all the injuries he'd done to himself over the course of his lifetime, so really, he was no one to judge

And it was okay, because afterwards, Fraser took him to bed, and took the rest of his clothes off, and spent a long, long time apparently making sure that Ray wasn't injured anyplace else. A lot of the examining was done with his tongue. Which Ray wasn't complaining about even a little bit, even when Fraser drove him crazy, drove him absolutely crazy, running his tongue over Ray's stomach, over the insides of his elbows (which tickled a little, but also turned him on hard), over his thighs, everywhere but Ray's cock, which was really in desperate need of examination.

When Ray, wriggling and gasping, finally begged out loud for Fraser to suck him, fuck him, do something, Fraser came back up Ray's body, nibbling at his nipples on the way, before covering Ray's body with his own, effectively pinning him down. "You're still recovering, Ray," Fraser murmured against his ear, rocking up against him, god, perfectly, keeping his weight off of Ray's bad shoulder. "You need rest, not stimulation."

"Fraser," Ray panted up at the ceiling. "Trust me. I am in serious need of stimulation. Really bad need here and," he moaned out loud as Fraser bent his head and sank his teeth gently into Ray's good shoulder. "And -" Ray had lost his train of thought. "You gotta just -" Fraser had lifted his weight onto his elbows, and had his eyes closed, his cock sliding slickly against Ray as he rocked against him faster, and harder. Ray lifted his hips to meet him, god, it was good, so good, his cock pressing perfectly, perfectly, jesus, just - "Fraser, god, I'm -" Coming. Coming all over the both of them, fucking losing his mind with how good it was.

And fuck, Fraser was a better man than Ray was, because he didn't come, just held on and held on and when Ray finished, collapsing flat into a damp, sweaty mess on the bed, Fraser turned him over - carefully - and fucked him with great intensity, breathing out Ray's name into his ear as he came, shuddering, and letting himself collapse onto Ray's back.

Ray lay there, under Fraser's damp weight, his shoulder aching, and grinned happily into his pillow. Guess Fraser'd been worried.

Three trips in a row had Fraser coming down to Chicago. But it made sense; he always had good reasons. He wanted to see the twins (Fraser really liked babies. Ray, for his part, stuck with the toddler, who was getting smarter and more tricky every time he saw her), and then there was another event at the Consulate he had to go to. And then it would have been his turn again anyway and besides, Ray had lost another partner (not dead, just transferred), and wouldn't have been able to get time off anyway. So Fraser just came down. Again.

They swung by the Vecchios' to see the babies, and Ray should have know - he really should have known. Dumbass. - that Vecchio would be there.

It could have been worse. He could have brought Stella. Watching the two of them together would definitely have been worse. Just because Ray was divorced from her and being internationally queer with the Mountie didn't mean he was okay with Vecchio doing his wife.

Ray kissed both Ma Vecchio and Frannie on the cheek, nodded stiffly at Vecchio, admired the new babies, then retreated to the porch while Fraser had his hands full holding one of the twins.

He leaned against the wall out there, relatively peaceful compared to the madness inside, and wished like hell he could have a cigarette.

Vecchio stepped out the door a few minutes later. He looked at Ray all curious; Ray didn't want to lay eyes on that guy at all.

Vecchio was quiet for a few minutes, hands in his suit pants pockets as he surveyed the front yard. Then he tilted his head and looked at Ray. "You do know you're not me anymore, right? You could stop visiting my family."

Ray raised an eyebrow and lifted one foot back against the wall. "Fraser wants to." He paused. "And your mom likes me."

Vecchio narrowed his eyes, but didn't say anything, because it was true, and Ray grinned inwardly.

They were silent for a few minutes, Vecchio, all smooth and tanned, watching him. Ray was trying not to look at him, but his glance kept sliding sideways, because man, what did Stella see in this guy? Ray had style, at least. Though, okay, maybe a different sort of style than the one that turned Stella on. But just 'cause Vecchio dressed nice - if you went for the Armani and butter-soft leather shoes scene, which, yeah, Stella most definitely did - anyway, clothes did not make the man, and Vecchio was no pretty picture to look at.

Ray tried to picture him with Stella, and then stopped, immediately, because he could see it, dammit.

Vecchio tilted his head towards the house. "How's Fraser been?" He smiled. "Frannie says he's been here a lot."

Ray nodded slightly. "He has," he said shortly. "And he's good."

"Huh," said Vecchio, rocking back on his heels a little. "He doesn't miss Canada?"

"He's fine," said Ray, "Mostly because he lives there."

"Oh, I'm not saying he's not fine," Vecchio assured him. "Just - he's here so much, must be hard for him. Fraser without Canada - that's hardly even him, you know?"

Ray gave Vecchio a slow smile, deeply amused. "You moved Stella to a bowling alley."

Vecchio flushed the smallest bit, and Ray let his grin widen. This was sort of fun. Maybe he did like the Vecchios. Ray was trying to decide, but finally he just said it. "How's Florida?"

"Magnificent." Vecchio smiled at him sharp, because he fucking asked for it. "Stella said to say hi."

He just showed Vecchio his teeth. "No, she didn't."

"No." Vecchio shook his head sadly. "You're right. She didn't." He paused. "She said to say hi to Fraser, though."

Ray was startled, for a second, that even Stella knew that Fraser was down here in Chicago so often that she assumed Vecchio would see him. He blinked. "Yeah, well," Ray patted his pockets again for cigarettes that weren't there. "He's got a way with women."

Vecchio grinned broadly. "Yeah. Stella loves him."

"Who wouldn't," Ray said.

Vecchio studied him for a few seconds, his face turning serious. "You got me on that," he said. He tugged on his suit jacket, straightening his collar and flicking an invisible piece of lint off the sleeve. "I gotta go rescue Fraser from Frannie and the babies."

"He can hold his own," Ray said.

"Yeah," said Vecchio, turning towards the door. "I know."

"Tell Stella I said hi," Ray called after him as he went in, and he heard Vecchio snort with laughter as he went down the hall.

Vecchio'd been right: Fraser was around a lot. It was sort of like old times. Fraser would sometimes come in to the precinct to work with Ray, sometimes not. He even left Dief with Ray, once, after visiting the twins, when he knew he'd be back in a month for the Consulate event. He'd asked Ray, uncomfortably, if he'd mind, since it seemed a shame to put Dief through the whole travel process again. And besides, Dief had been claiming to have missed Ray.

Ray rubbed Dief's head and looked him in the eye and informed him that he well knew that what Dief missed was Mrs. Svenson from next door and her homemade doughnuts, but he agreed to let Dief stay. And he was grinning real big inside, because Fraser leaving the wolf with him - and the wolf wanting to stay, even if only for the doughnuts - well, that was kind of big, right there, and Ray thought it was a pretty nice gesture of trust for Fraser to make.

He brought Dief with him to pick Fraser up at the airport, and Fraser rubbed behind Dief's ears and commented on how he looked like he'd gained weight, and then leaned across Dief and kissed Ray right there in the front seat, middle of the parking lot.

It was good. Fraser was here a lot, and he was happy, it looked like, and Ray was sleeping a lot better with Fraser in his bed almost all the time. Fraser, after the event, had volunteered to help out with a special project at the Consulate, he said, and Ray shrugged, and said fine. He was sort of waiting to find out when, exactly, Fraser would be heading back, and then he sort of forgot he was waiting, and then it had been a while that Fraser was there. And eventually Ray had looked up, looked around, and asked, accusingly, "Wait, are you living here?"

Fraser looked up from the book he was reading, all guilty. "I thought you knew."

And Ray was sort of vaguely outraged - some cop, huh? Some detective. But then he settled back down, grumbling, with his boxing magazine till it was time to go get the clothes out of the dryer downstairs.

Fraser came along to help fold.

So it was like - okay, hey, there they were, living in Chicago, the both of them. Fraser's conferences at the Consulate had had more to do with him getting a job there than the random things they seemed like. Welsh seemed totally relieved to have him back working with Ray.

And suddenly they were officially living together, which seemed like a huge, scary step till Ray realized they'd been doing it already and he hadn't even noticed. Just like when his dad was teaching him how to ride a bike, and had let go without telling Ray and then Ray was riding all by himself. Till he noticed and fell over right away and cut his knee so bad he still had the scar to this day, but - okay, maybe not just like that.

So, sure, they fought, but about things like Ray leaving the empty milk carton in the fridge and Fraser cooking his mucus concoctions on the stove and leaving them there to simmer, so Ray thought it was dinner and accidentally tasted it, and normal things like that. Normal for them, at least.

And Ray started walking Dief sometimes, and Fraser asked Ray to teach him to dance, stiffly letting Ray lead him around the living room to music that Ray couldn't understand how anyone couldn't find the rhythm of, but Fraser managed.

They still went up to Canada, but that was visiting. They lived in Chicago, and Fraser - well, for Fraser, it was transitioning back. Fraser did love the city - not the same way Ray did, but it was still pretty even between them, because Fraser had so much to do there, he had friends, and family, if you counted the Vecchios, which the Vecchios sure expected him to, and it wasn't forced.

Ray knew, because he'd been watching. He didn't want to owe Fraser big like that - didn't want Fraser doing something just for Ray, the same way he'd known he shouldn't do something like that just for Fraser. But Fraser - Fraser was Fraser, and Fraser was good.

Ray, when they went North, was still Fraser's weird American friend who was still more normal than Fraser was himself. And Fraser taught him loads of stuff - about hunting, and tracking, and finding your way in what looked to Ray like a totally blank landscape till Fraser taught him how to see it. How the snow had texture and curves and colors to it that Ray had never known how to look for. Ray learned, slowly, a step at a time, how to handle that foreign, risky territory.

And so when Fraser threw his back out and couldn't get up there, and he had promised to go up and help the Aariak's build the cabin for their son and his new wife, Ray went up instead. By himself. Because he could. He could build a cabin, he could help out, he could stay at the cabin he and Fraser had built while he was doing it, and he could handle it. He knew enough to be okay up there, and dammit, he had, actually, this time, experience in building a cabin. He'd be okay.

Maybe he would teach himself how to whittle, to kill time in the evenings.

Fraser insisted he take Dief along. Ray watched as Fraser talked in a low voice to the wolf, holding his head so that Dief was looking right at him, and Ray was pretty sure that Dief was being sent to look after him. That was okay. The wolf was good company.

He'd come back enormously pleased with himself, full of accomplishment. The cabin was built, he'd been welcomed up there like he was family, and he'd been totally good, totally fine. He'd missed Fraser, but not because he needed him, just because - he missed him, in a totally normal, two-thousand-miles-between-us kind of way.

Fraser picked him up at the airport, and it was nice, you know, to miss him without the desperation of it. Knowing that he was here, and Fraser was here, and it was pretty much going to stay that way till the next time they went up to Canada, the both of them. There was something good, and steady, and real about that. It was nice to be home, it was nice to walk into his apartment, strip out of his clothes, and take a shower with plenty of water pressure. And it was just - they had dinner, and they didn't even have to worry about Dief (poor guy was still in quarantine), they could just do all the good, homey things together.

When did washing dishes together start to feel like home?

They went around, and turned off the lights, and headed to bed. Being in bed with Fraser felt comfortable, and right. And when they kissed, it was hot, and good, and Ray got real hard, real fast, because he'd been away for weeks. But it didn't have that level of urgency, of grabbing onto any chance they got because who knew for sure when they'd have another, and Ray didn't miss that, he realized. He grinned and pinned Fraser down to the bed and kissed him till Fraser was breathing hard and saying please, and Ray was in love with that, with Fraser's voice, and the slide of their bodies together, and knowing just what to do to turn Fraser on.

He muttered that against Fraser's lips, "Love you, missed you, god, yeah," and Fraser moved against him. Ray gasped, and said breathlessly, "Do that again." Fraser moved again, hard and slick and right. Ray pressed his lips to the side of Fraser's neck and tried to keep breathing and thought that life? Was pretty damn good.


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