Loving Fraser, Loving Ray

by

Bast

Finished 15 April 2004

This work is not to be archived or shared in any way
without the express written permission of the author. Thank you.


RAY:

You spurn my natural emotions
You make me feel like dirt
And I'm hurt.

Buzzcocks - Ever Fall In Love

"I'm... sorry, Ray," Fraser says softly, reaching out to touch my knee. I stare down at his hand, wondering how he could just touch me like that, how he could act like I didn't say nothing important to him, how he could not love me like I loved him. "I'm truly sorry."

I have to get away from him before I lose it, have to say something fast...

"It's okay, Fraser." I shrug and get up from where we sit around the fire. "I'm... um..." I gesture towards the woods like I have to take a leak and he nods.

I slog through the snow, trying to ignore the pain in my heart - God! Why does love have to hurt so fucking bad? I lean against a tree, taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.

Dunno what the fuck I'm gonna do now. Thought I was gonna stay here in Canada with Fraser. Guess not. Sucks not being wanted. Guess I should be used to it by now. Shake my head, angry with myself for feeling sorry for myself. "Get a grip, idiot. So he doesn't love you. You'll get over it." The words ring hollow and I know them for what they are - a lie.

Seven Months Later - Chicago Illinois

Baby, well I still miss someone
And I never got over those blue eyes
I see them...everywhere...

Stevie Nicks - I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)

I knock back the glass of whiskey, looking at the bottle blurrily. Reaching for my cigarette, I get a burn on my knuckle. "Fuck." I suck on my finger for a sec, then let my hand drop. "Fuck it." I take a long drag off of my cigarette and shakily pour another glass of liquor.

Been a long time since I seen Fraser. He wrote me a few times, but it's been a while since I've heard from him. I wrote him back every time, even though it damn near killed me.

I'm not a coward. I told him, didn't I? Told him that I loved him, really loved him and wanted forever with him. But he didn't want me. Not like that. Right before I left, he talked about 'friends always', 'honoured to be your partner', 'dearest friend', and all this other stuff that really hurt. So I came back to Chicago, and quit the P.D., and I stay in my apartment all the time unless I gotta go out. The store at the corner, they deliver, and so does the liquor store three streets over.

If that makes me a coward, then so be it. Looking at the glass of whiskey, I sigh.

Thing is, it just hurts to live. You know? Like a cut that never heals, it hurts. Part of me wonders if he hurts too. Hurts because he can't love me. Maybe. Maybe not. He probably doesn't care. I mean, I'm a guy, for Christssakes. Why'd I think I had a chance?

Maybe because he would touch me? Talk to me like a real person? Spend time with me? He never made fun of me when I couldn't get the words out.

Yeah, I get the picture, I'm just fucking pitiful and don't I know it.

Someone pounds on my door and I light another cigarette before ambling over to the door. I just pull it open, don't ask who it is, don't care anymore... and I stare, the cigarette dangling from my mouth as Benton Fraser stands there looking unflappable.

++++++

BEN:

Stutter shook and uptight
Pull me out from inside
I am ready
I am ready
I am ready
I am fine
I am covered in skin
No one gets to come in.

Counting Crows - Colorblind

Ray opens the door without a word, and I stare at him. He's smoking. His cigarette hangs from his mouth and he looks shocked to see me. I cast my eyes over him, and he's rail thin, dishevelled. I feel my mouth tighten in worry, but I don't say anything.

He finally chokes out, "Come in. Where's Dief?"

"In Canada, Ray." I step inside, hanging up my hat before turning to him. "How are you?"

He looks away and shrugs. Then, "So what brings you to Chicago, Fraser?"

You, I want to say. I was wrong, I want to tell him. Instead, I watch in silence as he walks over to the couch, sits down and picks up a tumbler of liquor. He downs it in one gulp and pours himself another. "Ray? Are you all right?"

"Just peachy," he mutters, lighting a fresh cigarette as he finishes the other one. His voice is rough, unused.

"Ray, if you'll forgive me -" He looks at me then, and the naked pain in his eyes almost brings me to my knees. But I forge on. "If you'll forgive me for saying so, you look like hell." He shrugs again. I move to sit next to him and he draws away from me like a wild animal might. "Ray," I murmur. "I've hurt you a great deal, I see that now. And I'm terribly sorry."

"Don't matter," he denies. I take the glass from his hand and put it on the dirty table in front of us.

"It matters, Ray," I insist. "I never meant -"

"Fraser," he interrupts, "why are you here?"

"To see you. I came to see you."

"Why?" he looks up at me, and the circles under his eyes are as dark as bruises.

"You are my -"

Ray frowns. "Yeah, I know. Your dearest friend."

I nod. "Yes."

"Okay." Ray stands a bit unsteadily and sways a moment. I'm afraid he's going to fall over when he somehow straightens up. "You've seen me. Door's over there," he gestures in the general direction of where the door is, indeed, located. He weaves into the kitchen and gets another glass and pulls a bottle out of one of the boxes on the countertop. With a quick, vicious twist, he opens it, pours himself a drink and drinks it down. He pours himself another.

"How long have you been drinking?" I ask quietly. Ray used to drink an occasional beer, but it was rare indeed.

"What month is this?" Ray asks, putting the glass down and regarding me.

"This is June."

+++++

RAY:

So please hand me the bottle, I think I'm lonely now
and please give me direction, I think the hurt set in.

Matchbox Twenty - Kody

"Oh, around seven months," I tell him, lighting another cigarette. My hands are shaking so bad I can barely light it. I never thought seeing him again would hurt this fucking bad. I missed him so much it felt like I left my heart behind in Canada. Guess I did, huh?

"Good Lord, Ray!" Fraser exclaims. "It's a wonder you haven't drunk yourself into an early grave."

I shrug. I feel like my insides are gonna crawl out of me and I shiver. I take another long drink, and it burns, it burns going down, and I sort of feel a vicious thrill at the sadness on his face. Let him be sad. I'm tired of being sad. I'm tired of wishing it was just all over. I'm tired of wishing I didn't love him.

He stands and walks over to where I'm leaning against the counter. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"

I stare at him, take another draw on my cigarette, and then say evenly, "Yes." He recoils, and I grin at him. The words just spill out, overflowing, filling the air between us, thicker than the smoke from my cigarette. "Then you'll be rid of your disgusting, faggot friend, Fraser. Won't that be fucking great?"

"Ray." He swallows hard, looks down, rubs his eyebrow and then looks back up at me. "Ray. I never meant for you to feel like this."

"I know you didn't, Fraser." Gentle. My voice lowers, and I realise with surprise this is the most I've talked to another human being face to face for quite a while. "I know you didn't." I shrug, reach for the bottle and he stops me, putting his hand over mine. I look at him, waiting, the touch of his hand making something in my stomach quiver.

"Don't. Please." His voice is low and quiet.

"Don't what?" I laugh then. It's brittle, dry. "Don't drink? Don't smoke? Don't love you?"

"Don't do this to yourself," he whispers. "Please. I'm not worth it."

I just stare at him. How can he say that? "You are worth it. You've always been worth it, Fraser. Worth taking a bullet for, worth going through a skylight for, worth -"

"I'm not," Fraser insists, his voice hard. "I am not worth this."

"Let me decide. You decided, let me decide!" I almost shout at him, jerking my hand away. "Just... go. Go, Fraser. Leave me alone."

"No. No, I won't." I see that glint in his eyes, I know when he's determined.

"Fine. Sit down, shut up, and let me drink." I pour another drink and watch him defiantly as I drink it down. He stares back at me for one long moment, then backhands the glass out of my hand.

"What the fuck?" I snarl, rage, rage and love all twisting up inside me.

+++++

BEN:

And I was in love with things I tried to make you believe I was
And I wouldn't be the one to kneel before the dreams I wanted
And all the dark and all the lies were all the empty things disguised as me.

Goo Goo Dolls - Sympathy

"I won't let you do this to yourself, Ray," I tell him, my voice harder than before, my heart beating a fast tattoo in my chest, adrenaline flowing though my veins. Ray can be a very dangerous man. But instead of striking out at me like the Ray I knew would, he just deflates, almost folding in on himself.

"You can't stop me," he says, but the words ring hollow.

Regarding him, I say evenly, "I shall try. I am not worth it. I'm flawed, Ray. I make mistakes. I don't mean to, but I do. And I've hurt you."

Ray stares at me, a wild look in his eyes. "I loved you. And you didn't love me back."

"I know," I soothe him, pulling him into my arms, grimacing at how thin he is. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." And I am. I don't know if I can ever fix this.

He leans against me, and I sigh, rubbing his back.

"It wasn't your fault," I say, my voice quiet. I can hear the sadness in my voice. Can he? "It was all my fault, Ray."

"Doesn't matter," he mumbles as he shifts in my arms, shivering.

"It does matter," I insist. "It matters to me."

"It didn't."

"It did matter, Ray. I just didn't know."

Instantly, he pulls away from me and turns away from me, facing the wall. "Yeah, well, now you know. Too bad I haven't drank myself to death, huh? Shame it hasn't worked, huh?" His voice is angry and he's speaking fast.

Aghast, I exclaim, "No! Dear Lord, Ray. How could you ever think I'd want you dead?" I can do nothing but stare at his back, willing him to understand that is not true.

++++

RAY:

Now I will tell you what I've done for you,
50 thousand tears I've cried.
Screaming, deceiving, and bleeding for you
And you still won't hear me.

Evanesence - Going Under

I shrug. I dunno. It's all jumbling up in my head. I'm broken and tired and tired of being broken. I told Fraser once upon a time I was damaged, but now I think I'm beyond repair. We stand there in silence for a few minutes, me staring at the wall, and then I say, keeping my voice low, "All I ever wanted was for you to love me. And you didn't." Fraser starts to interrupt, but I go on, talking louder, ignoring him. "I understand why, Fraser. God. I'm not such a fuck-up that I can't get that."

"What are you talking about?" He sounds confused, so I turn and look at him.

"You don't... you're not gay. You can't change that. I mean, liking women, not men." I shrug. Then I admit, "I never thought about any guy but you." I sigh, and head over to the loveseat, leaning against the corner of the ratty old thing. "Hell, if you did like men, it wouldn't be someone like me." I look at him again, standing there, looking for all the world like he's frozen in place, his face still and set. I pluck at a stain on my jeans. "It'd be someone like you. Someone good looking and smart, and well-dressed."

"Ray -"

I wave my hand at him, trying to head off his guilt trip. "Nah, don't worry about it Fraser. I'm sorry I made a big deal about it, I'm sorry I... I dunno, I'm just sorry. You can ask Stella, she'll tell you I suck." I try to smile at him, but I don't think it succeeds because he looks even sadder and I feel even worse. I do love him, I've loved him since I met him, and now it's all fallen apart.

"I have never thought you 'sucked', as you say," Fraser says, coming to sit in the brown chair near where I'm standing. "I have always been proud to be your friend. I truly had no idea that you felt so strongly for me - so strongly that you would do this to yourself. You look as if you've not eaten in days, and not only are you neglecting yourself, you're also neglecting your home." He stares at me and I shrug. What do I care?

"What happened?" Fraser gestures towards the wall. I glance over and roll my eyes. The paint is mottled and peeling there.

"I threw bottles at it. One night I was really pissed so I took it out on the wall." I look at my feet and mumble, "Who cares. So they don't give me back my security deposit."

"Ray..." Fraser just sounds sad now and I glance at him.

"What?" He doesn't answer, and I didn't expect him to. "So why're you here?"

"To see you," Fraser answers patiently, and I roll my eyes and sit down.

"Okay, yeah, I got that the first time. For what?"

+++++

BEN:

Coming around you may wake up to find
Questions deep within your eyes,
Things you've never realized,
So when you sense a change
Nothing feels the same.

Van Halen - Love Walks In

"I told you, I was wrong." I press my lips together and watch as he sways slightly and leans back, steadying himself. "You need to eat, Ray. You look poorly."

Ray shakes his head and looks at me with a terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart aches. I put that look there. I have broken him. And it's tearing my heart out. Getting up, I move to kneel at his knee. For a few seconds, I stare down at his dirty blue jeans and marshal my thoughts. Then I take his hand in mine. "Ray."

"Yeah?" he looks at me muzzily, and I see exhaustion etched on his face.

"I do love you. As much as I've ever loved anyone." I pause and look down at our joined hands. He flexes his fingers and I look back up at him. "These months apart have all but killed me, Ray. I thought I knew loneliness but I didn't. Until you left." I shake my head as he starts to speak and he subsides and I continue. "Then I truly knew loneliness."

He just looks at me, and I continue talking. "I am less of a person without you. After V-Victoria," I stumble over her name, "I decided I would live without love. I would not let my emotions rule my life."

"Yeah," Ray says, his voice raspy, "I can get that. Love hurts, doesn't it?" He sounds melancholy, and he tightens his hand on mine.

I squeeze his hand in return and realise he's talking about the love he has for me, the love he had for Stella - it has hurt him. It shames me, that I was the cause of some of that hurt. "But then you told me you loved me. And I didn't know what to do, how to explain. Then you left." He just stares at me. "And night after night, I turned to say something to you and you weren't there. I was alone, and I had no one but myself to blame. It hurt worse and worse as time went on. Finally, I could admit to myself that I was in love with you."

Ray blinks at me and licks his dry lips. "You love me?"

I nod my affirmative. "I love you."

+++++

RAY:

Spend all your time waiting for that second chance
For the break that will make it okay...
There's always some reason to feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day.

Sarah McLachlan - Angel

"I'm tired," is all I can say to him telling me he loves me. It's too much to take in.

"Of course, Ray. Why don't you go to bed and I'll make dinner when you wake up?" Fraser asks, squeezing my hand once more.

"Yeah, okay." I let go of his hand and when I stand up, I sway. "Jesus." I'm tired. And drunk. And Fraser says he loves me.

I can't wrap my mind around it.

He slides his arm around me and takes me into my bedroom. I start to climb into bed and he shakes his head no and helps me get undressed. There's nothing sexual to it, but I still shiver when his fingertips brush my skin.

I'm in bed finally, and he pulls the covers over me. Then Fraser turns and pushes the button for my air conditioner so that it comes on. I remember I told him a long time ago that I had to sleep with it on or I couldn't sleep real well. I've shared things with him I never have with anyone else. I blink hard, not wanting to cry, and somehow manage to swallow it down. He looks down at me, brushes his fingertips across my cheek and says real quiet-like, "Sleep, Ray."

So I do.

++++

I think my bladder is going to burst. I manage to get out from under the covers without killing myself and stumble to the bathroom. I pee for what seems like an eternity and then shuffle back to bed, pulling the covers over myself and closing my eyes again. I'm still tired.

The last thing I remember thinking before I fall back to sleep is, Fraser loves me.

++++

I hear the phone ring and then it stops before I can answer it. I blink the sleep out of my eyes and yawn. I'm still kinda tired. But I hear Fraser talking in the living room so I sit up and rub my face, thinking about everything he said while I'm waking up. It all kinda hurts, still, and I'm no dummy. Saying 'I love you' doesn't fix everything. I yawn again and I hear a noise at the doorway so look up and see him looking in on me.

"Hey," I say, suddenly self-conscious and embarrassed. I don't know what to say, what to do now. Then I shrug. I guess he's seen me at my worst.

"Ray," he says with a small smile. "Do you feel better?"

"Some. But I'm still tired."

+++++

BEN:

My arms will hold you,
Safe and warm...
This bond between us
can't be broken,
I will be here.

Phil Collins - You'll Be In My Heart

Worried, I look Ray over. He's thin, thinner than I have ever seen him - it's even more evident now that he's shirtless. "Perhaps you should go back to bed."

"How long did I sleep?" Ray stands, seemingly unselfconscious of his partial nudity. He crosses the room and looks through a drawer in his chest of drawers. He pulls on a clean pair of jeans and continues rummaging through the drawers.

"Ah," I glance at my watch. "Sixteen hours."

"Sixteen hours?" He stares at me, pants undone and a shirt hanging loose in his hands. "Are you shittin' me?"

"No. Would you like something to eat?" I ask, stepping aside so he can make his way to the bathroom. He heads out of the bedroom and then stops in front of me so quickly I run into him. He stumbles and I put my hands on his waist to steady him. His bare skin is intoxicating to the touch which astounds me. I have never desired any man. I never thought I would - or could - despite loving Ray. "I beg your pardon, Ray."

"What happened to my house?" Ray stares, looking astonished. I look at what he's looking at and smile.

"I merely cleaned up a bit. Would you like something to eat?" I ask again.

"Um." He looks embarrassed and I wait for an answer. "I doubt there's anything in the fridge. I haven't bought groceries in a... in a while, Fraser."

"I ascertained that earlier and went to the grocery while you were asleep."

"Um, yeah, sure. Food is okay I guess." Ray nods once then ducks into the bathroom, shutting the door between us, and I go to heat him up some soup and bread while he finishes dressing.

++++

"Thanks, Fraser," Ray says, picking up his almost full bowl of soup and taking it to the sink. He ate very little, which worries me. He rummages in the cabinet for a glass and picks up the bottle of liquor which rests on the kitchen counter. "Getting low," he murmurs, tilting the bottle and inspecting it. He starts to pour some into a glass when he glances at me. "Want some?"

"Ah, no. Thank you. I would prefer if you didn't drink either."

He pauses, the cup half-raised to his mouth. Then, with a short nod, he lowers the glass and dumps it into the sink. I rise and reach towards him. "Ray?"

"What?" he asks, staring down into the sink.

"Have you... that is, are you all right? Do you think you need help..." I trail off as he turns to me, his expression determined.

"I'm going for a walk. Dump out all the booze while I'm gone."

I nod, surprised, as he goes back in his bedroom and as I stand there and watch, he slips his feet into his boots and walks past me without a word. He leaves the apartment quietly. I turn to my appointed task, hoping that he can stop drinking as easily as it will be for me to empty all the bottles in his apartment.

+++++

RAY:

You were my best friend.
You were my lover.
You were my mentor.
You were my brother.
You were my partner.
You were my teacher.
You were my very own sympathetic character.

Alanis Morissette - Sympathetic Character

I didn't want to dump out the whiskey. But I could tell he wanted me to. And it's always been about him, hasn't it? For me it pretty much has, yeah.

And we still haven't even talked. I mean really talked, talked about us. If there is even an us.

I still kinda think I'm fucked. I mean, why now? I don't know what to think. Why does he love me now? He didn't love me seven months ago. And now, all of a sudden he wants me? It's just too hard to believe.

Does he want to make love with me? I stop walking and look down at the dirty sidewalk. I really can't imagine that. I mean, he's... him. And I'm me. And I just can't even imagine getting kissed by him. I never let myself imagine that. So where does that leave us? I don't know.

He was - is, if I'm being truthful - my everything. I mean, I'm no lightweight, but he was... I dunno. I was better with him than I am alone.

All these things are running through my head and my stomach is getting kinda upset. I gotta get my mind off this shit.

I slip on my sunglasses and keep walking.

++++

Coming back in the apartment, I stop and look around. It's clean, and neat, and smells good. He's got the windows open and is asleep on the couch, in jeans and an undershirt. I don't think I've ever seen anything so good in my life. I stand there and watch him sleep for a minute, but then I feel kind of shaky and really fucking want a drink.

I start over to the kitchen to get out a bottle before I remember that Fraser dumped it all out. I stand there, feeling kinda lost when I hear Fraser sit up. "Ray?"

"Yeah?" I clench my hands into fists to stop my hands from shaking, and he comes up behind me.

"It'll be okay," he whispers, and pulls me against him. "It will be okay. I promise to help."

I just hang my head and lean back, feeling how strong and sturdy he feels behind me. Maybe if I fall, he'll catch me.

+++++

BEN:

I'm a little bit rusty, and I think my head is caving in
And I don't know if I've ever been really loved.

Matchbox Twenty - Push

He leans against me and I slide my arms around him. He's trembling and I wonder if it's from the lack of drink, or if because he's leaning against me. Or perhaps he's hungry.

"Perhaps if you ate -"

"I just want a drink," Ray says, sounding weary.

I tighten my hold on him. "It will be all right, Ray. It will."

"I'm scared," he whispers.

"I am too," I admit. I do not know what the future holds for us, and that worries me.

We stand there in the dim light, two men, two lonely, scared men, leaning on each other.

+++++

"We have to talk," Ray mutters across the kitchen table as we eat dinner. I am almost done, and Ray's barely touched his food.

Sombrely, I look at him. "I know."

"I dunno how to say this," he says, pushing his mashed potatoes around his plate. "I just... I mean..." Ray looks at me then and I see a hopelessness in his eyes that tears me to the core of my very being.

"You don't believe I love you," I say, surprising myself with how strong and even my voice sounds - nothing at all like I feel. He shrugs and I sigh. "I don't blame you, Ray. Why should you believe me? I broke your heart, let you leave me behind."

"I just don't get it, Fraser. Why now? Why not two months ago? Why not two months from now?"

"What do you want me to say, Ray?" I ask, feeling as weary as Ray sounded earlier.

"Nothing. Just forget it." Ray shakes his head and rubs his forehead. "My head hurts. God, I need a drink."

"You don't need a drink," I snap, unable to help myself. It's been a long day.

"What the fuck do you know about what I need?" Ray shouts, taking the dishes off his side of the table with one swipe of his arm.

I stand up and look at the broken dishes on the floor. I know he's frustrated and angry. "Ray..."

"Just leave me the fuck alone, Fraser," Ray snarls. "Just go back to Canada and leave me the fuck alone!"

I grab his biceps and he fights me, trying to break loose. "Ray! Ray! Ray!" He continues to fight me, and I shout, "I'm not leaving you alone!" The fight goes out of him and he just stands there, his head bowed.

++++

RAY:

And I like the way you like me best
And I like the way you're not impressed,
while you put me to the test.

Nickelback - Figured You Out

I don't want him to leave me alone. I don't, no matter what I said.

"Ray?" he asks, his voice soft.

"Huh?" I ask, looking up at him.

"I think we're both frustrated," Fraser says, making it sound like a confession. "But I do know I love you. And I know I don't want to be without you. But if that's what you want..." He lets go of me and starts to step back but I reach for him and he stops backing away.

I watch him as I touch his forearm and he stares down at my hand as if he doesn't believe I'm touching him. In that split second I realise that I can either believe him and accept what he's offering or just give up and kill myself drinking. I'm scared. Jesus I'm scared. And I don't know why. Isn't this what I wanted? What I was killing myself over? What is wrong with me? While I'm trying to figure that out, I find my voice.

"Fraser."

"Ray?" He sounds scared too and that gives me the strength I need.

"I love you too."

He hugs me close and I hug him back. Somehow we'll get through this. Somehow.

Five Weeks Later - Northwest Territories

I'm sitting on the bed in our cabin, waiting for Fraser to come home, patching a hole in my flannel shirt. Diefenbaker is lying next to me, and I reach over every so often and pet him. It's good, living here in Canada.

Fraser and I share a bed, but we've never even kissed. I think about that sometimes. I mean, kissing him. We tell each other we love each other and we hug each other. This morning, I woke up with him spooned around me, and I have to admit that it felt good. I just lay there and enjoyed it, didn't move at all because I was afraid he'd wake up real quick and let me go. But finally the alarm went off and he squeezed me tight once and then got up to get ready to go into work. I rolled over and watched him dress and while he dressed, he talked to me like he does every single morning. It feels good.

When he went into the bathroom to shave, I got up and made him some tea and toast, just like I do every single morning. It's a good routine.

He hugged me again before he left and then I crawled back in bed and pulled his pillow close before I fell back to sleep.

It was rough there for a while; I was a real asshole to Fraser. But he hung in there, never letting me drink, never listening to me when I would yell at him - he wouldn't ignore me, but he didn't let me being an ass get on his nerves. I'm pretty calm now. I haven't had a drink in five weeks. I still smoke, which he doesn't really like, but he doesn't nag me about it, so it's good.

I glance at the clock by the door and start putting away the sewing stuff. Fraser'll be home soon and I need to make dinner.

++++

BEN:

Memories are just where you laid them
drag the waters 'till the depths give up their dead.
What did you expect to find?
Was there something you left behind?

Fuel - Hemorrhage

I can't keep my mind on my work. This morning I woke up spooned around Ray and it felt so good, so right, I never wanted to release him. I found myself wanting to kiss him. Why shouldn't I kiss him? I love him. So I've never kissed a man before. I'm sure it's no different than kissing a woman.

My mind drifts off of Ray and onto Victoria. I shiver, despite the warmth of the Detachment. I still, to this day, wonder about the game she played with me. God, she had a black heart. And I wanted to love her so much. I wanted her to love me in return. She was my obsession and the passion she inspired in me frightened me. Would it be the same with Ray?

No.

I know it would not. I know he would never play any such game with me. Ray can be many things, but he is not like her nor could he ever be.

Victoria frightened me. I suppose that even though her 'love' blinded me, I still sensed her ability to twist what should be good and right into something wrong and evil. But God, I didn't want to. I wanted to be loved. And now I am.

When I moved Ray to Canada, I knew I loved him but I wasn't expecting it to feel so right. I thought there would be a period of adjustment. But there wasn't, not really. We seemed to move back into our duet easily.

Our time together has not been without strife, however. There were some very rough days when Ray craved a drink terribly but he never gave in. I admire that.

Ray takes very good care of me. Every night, Ray has dinner waiting for me. He gets up in the mornings and fixes me tea and a light breakfast. He seems content and satisfied now and I'm truly thankful for that.

Time ticks on with excruciating slowness. I want to go home to Ray.

++++

I pull up outside the cabin and stare, perplexed, at the darkened windows. Ray is not on the porch with Diefenbaker to greet me like he has been for the past five weeks. Perhaps he's in one of the outbuildings. I call his name when I exit our Jeep but get no answer. Now I'm worried. I step into the cabin and a stew simmers on the stove. "Ray?" I call again, but still, nothing. Turning off the stove, I glance out the window towards the back of the house, and see Ray lying in the snow, firewood on the ground near him. Immediately, I run out the door and around the cabin, and Dief rises from where he's been lying with Ray. His flank is bloodied but a quick inspection of Dief shows that it's Ray's blood, not Dief's. "Oh God. Ray. Ray. Ray!" My voice rises and my partner moans. I skim his body gently and find the source of the blood. He's been shot in the leg and lost quite a bit of blood. "Ray. You've been shot. I need to bind the wound."

"Fraser..." he groans. "Fuck."

"Is it just your leg? Ray! Talk to me!" Dief whines. "It's okay, Dief." God, please let it be okay. "Ray!"

"Fraser." Suddenly Ray sounds quite coherent and in a way that terrifies me. I've heard stories of men who are dying suddenly being coherent right before their death. "Fraser?" Ray starts to roll over and groans again.

"Ray, I'm here. I'm going to bind your leg. Is that the only place you've been hit?"

Ray nods once. "Help me turn over, Fraser." I help him turn over, trying to be gentle, but regardless it causes him pain and I find myself biting my lip at the low, pained groan that he gives. "It's bad, Ben."

"All I can see right now is quite a bit of blood, Ray. I'll bind it. Dief, stay." I take off around the cabin again.

++++

RAY:

I'll be standing here
for the next 100 years.
If it all should end tonight
I'll know it was worth the fight.

Bon Jovi - Next 100 Years

Am I dying? I don't think so, but my fucking leg hurts like a bitch. So does my face. I must've hit my head when I went down. Bet I look the sight.

I'm so cold. So fucking cold. I wonder if this is the end.

Fraser's here, though, so it'll be okay. I reach up and run my fingers through Dief's fur. "Thanks for staying with me, buddy." Dief whines low and licks me, and I realise I'm crying. "Thanks, Dief."
Fuck, this hurts.

Again, I wonder if I'm dying.

Then Fraser's back and he looks at me real serious-like. "This will hurt, Ray."

As he reaches for me, I reach up and grab his hand. "Fraser."

"Yes, Ray?"

"I love you, and..." I squeeze his hand tight. "And if I die, I just want you to know that. You know?"

"Ray," he says, and I see tears in his eyes. Suddenly, he's leaning over me, kissing me, and before I can really wrap my mind around that, he pulls back slightly and whispers fiercely, "You can't die, Ray. I won't let you."

"Okay," I say, sounding shaky even to myself. "I'm in shock, Fraser."

"Because I kissed you?" He smiles and I smile back.

"Yeah, that. Because you kissed me."

"It won't be the last time," Fraser says, and it sounds like a promise.

"Good," I whisper, feeling real tired all of a sudden.

"Ray, I need -" he glances down at my leg.

"Go for it," I say with a nod. He touches my leg and that's the last thing I remember until I wake up in a hospital bed.

++++

"Fraserrrrrr...." I say, my tongue feeling a foot thick. He immediately leans over me and takes my hand.

"Ray." He looks relieved and I try to smile at him. I don't think I succeed too well, because he strokes my cheek and looks worried. "It'll be okay, Ray. I think it was a hunter, not a malicious wounding, but -"

"Babblin'," I whisper, closing my eyes.

"Yes, well, I've been very worried, Ray. It was quite tricky and -"

I fall asleep.

++++

BEN:

You are my survival.
Now hear me say
I can't imagine life
without your love.
Even forever don't seem
like long enough.

Backstreet Boys - Drowning

Ray lost quite a bit of blood, and the surgery was tricky because of how the bullet damaged his leg. But he is alive, and that's all I care about.

I find myself at a loss, my hands shaking, my body weak, as I think of what could have been - he could have died if the bullet would have struck him elsewhere - hell, he could have died from blood loss if I'd not come home. For once I curse the remoteness of our home - if Dief had left Ray, in the time it would have taken him to fetch help, Ray would surely have died in the cold.

I stare at him as he sleeps, willing myself to calm down. I truly do love him; I loved him before this happened, but this has brought home how fragile this... this duet that we have is, and I must seize every moment of every day to show him how important he is to me, to show him how much I love him.

If he'd died... good Lord. I can't bear to think of it. God help the man who did this to Ray, because if I find out who hurt him...

I reach out and run my finger down Ray's arm and then gently clasp his lax hand. He will be all right. "I love you, Ray," I whisper. He will be all right.

++++

"Fraser!" Ray greets me with a smile and a wave. The nurse smiles as she finishes taking his blood pressure and I quickly cross the room to drop a kiss on his cheek. Ray smiles at me, and I set my Stetson aside.

"How was your day today, Ray?"

He hesitates before answering and then pastes a smile on his face. I doubt if anyone, save myself, would know it wasn't a real smile. "Good." He looks away as he speaks, and I restrain a sigh. He still hides himself from me at times.

"Ray..." I say softly, sitting down in the chair next to his bed.

"Okay..." he grumbles, not letting go of my hand. "PT was a bitch, this day has been a thousand years long, and I want to go home."

"I want you home," I assure him. And I do. Our cabin is so empty without him there. I watch as he shifts restlessly on the bed and squeeze his hand gently. "The cabin is... lonely without you. Going to bed at night is... hard."

"Hard how?" Ray asks, glancing at me, looking surprised.

Oh Ray. Do I show you so little of how I feel?

"Because having you by my side helps me sleep." And he does. Ray's restless in bed and I miss that. I miss the constant shifts and movements that he makes, stilling only when I put my hand on his back, his stomach, his arm, as he curls into me. I don't think he even knows he does it. The first week we slept together, I was disconcerted by the way he seemed to be drawn to me, by the way he seemed to gravitate towards me no matter what. However, I soon came to crave his warmth, the way he would lie by my side.

And now I miss it. I miss him next to me every night. And the thoughts I've had about him... I never thought I'd need him so fiercely, never thought I'd want what only he can give me. I wonder what he would look like under me as I lick the corner of his mouth as I -

"Well," he says with a small smile, interrupting my lascivious thoughts, "I miss sleeping with you too."

"Hopefully you can come home soon." His fingers tighten around mine and in silence we sit, holding each other's hand, lost in our thoughts.

++++

Ray's much improved, able to get around once again reasonably well, and now he's coming home.

I look once more around the cabin, smiling foolishly. Ray will be coming home today. Our home is spotless, the hardwood floors gleaming, the bed freshly made... the selfsame bed that I hope to lay him down in.

Dief barks and with a glance at my watch, I hurry out the door with Diefenbaker to go fetch my lover.

++++

RAY:

And these are the moments
I thank God that I'm alive
And these are the moments
I'll remember all my life
I've got all I've waited for
And I could not ask for more.

Edwin McCain - I Could Not Ask For More

God, it's good to be home. Everything looks so damn inviting. So much like... home.

Yeah, I gotta walk with a cane, but at least I can walk. I'm alive.

I'm sitting on the couch, watching Ben cook dinner and Dief is curled up next to me. I keep petting him just to remind myself that I'm here, I'm home, and everything is okay. Everything is good.

While I was lying there on my back all that time, I had too much time to think. I sorta talked myself into believing that Fraser had me here as a pity thing. When he wormed that confession out of me, I thought he was, well, gonna cry. Then he told me real quick that I was full of it. Things got better after that.

He got more affectionate with me, started talking about things we'd do together next year, year after that, ten years down the line... making me believe that he really means forever with me.

And God, the dreams I've had about him. The kinda of dreams that only come when you really, really want to be with someone. And I want to be with him. I want to touch him and make him feel good. I never thought of it before really, but now that's all I think about. I want him bad.

Something makes me look up and I realise he's saying my name. "Ray? Ray? Ray?"

"Uh, sorry Fraser, I was, uh..." I'm trying not to look at the bed, but I do and he notices. He smiles at me and licks his lower lip. I stare at him, trying not to think about his tongue, but it's a lost cause.

"We'll go to bed after dinner, Ray. You need to keep up your strength for later."

"Oh yeah? Is that a promise?" I pop off, surprising even myself, and he grins then and nods. I get up off the couch and almost tackle him. He stands there and when I hug him, he hugs me back.

"God, I'm glad you're home, Ray," he whispers in my ear as he holds me tight. His breath on my ear makes me shiver.

"Me too, Fraser. Me too."

++++

Soon it's time for bed. Fraser's bringing in more firewood and I'm unpacking the bag of things he'd brought me at the hospital. I'm putting stuff away and listening to him move around the cabin. He makes sure the stove's banked for the night and then comes up behind me and puts his arms around me. "I thought I lost you, Ray."

"Lost me?" I turn in his arms and look at him. He looks sad.

"I thought you were dead when I came home and found you outside."

"I'm okay, Fraser. A little bit of a limp, but I'm okay," I say, putting my hands on his waist. It feels good. He feels good.

Then he kisses me and all the thoughts of anything else just fly right out of my head. I'm holding on tight as he licks his way into my mouth and presses against me. He's hard.

All the blood in my body rushes to one place. Yeah, my dick.

I swivel my hips from side to side as we kiss, my hands in his hair, him fumbling with my shirt, desperate to get closer to him.

"Bed," he gasps and I nod, can't even talk. We stumble over to the bed, getting as naked as we can and when I sit down on the bed to pull my jeans off I look up and he's staring at me.

"What?" I look away from him, suddenly not sure what to do or think. What if he thinks I look... I don't know, weird or something? I mean, he didn't even like guys, and -

"Ray."

I look up and he's standing in front of me, wearing only long johns. He takes my jeans out of my hands and tosses them on the floor and kneels in front of me.

"Ray. I love you. And I want this. I want you." He takes a deep breath and takes my hand in his. "Don't you want me?"

++++

BEN:

When we make love
It's more to me than just an affair.
I want you to know how much I care
When we make love.
Oh it's such a precious time
We share our hearts, our souls and our minds...
When we make love.

Alabama - When We Make Love

He looks like he's panicking, so I ask him if he wants me. And he just stares at me. Then, his voice thin and reedy, "Are you unhinged?"

"No. Well," I amend, "no more than usual, Ray." I wait patiently for him to answer, rubbing my thumb over the back of his hand.

He reaches up and gently brushes his fingertips across my cheekbone and down to my lips. "I can't believe you're asking me that."

I kiss his fingertips and take his hand in my hand. Holding both of his hands, I vow, "You're my everything." He just looks at me, so I continue, "And even though you're the only man I've been with, what we've got together - well, there are no words, Ray."

Ray searches my face, then smiles. "Yeah."

"Yeah?" I echo and he shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, I want you. I've always wanted you." He sobers and says quietly, "I don't want us to ever end, Ben."

"We won't. I promise."

And then I kiss him. I put every ounce of love I have for him into that kiss, and before long he's pulling his hands out of mine and tugging at me. I stand up and shuck out of my long johns and set about finishing undressing him.

Then, he lays back in our bed, naked, watching me as I turn down the lights. I climb in bed and lay down next to him, very careful not to jar his leg as I pull him into my arms, kissing him as his hands slide up and down my body.

Soon we're moving against each other and I pull back a bit and coax him to his side. I curl around him and slide my penis between his legs and he gasps. Then I take ahold of him, feeling the silky glide of my hand sliding up and down his penis, my thumb rubbing the crown with each stroke, with each movement of my hips as we consummate our love.

"God Ben, God," he moans, covering my hand with his as we move in synchronicity.

"Yes Ray, together," I say, my voice thick - I've never felt such desire, such an utter, overwhelming feeling of wanting to be as one with someone as I feel right now.

"Together," he gasps as he orgasms, a thick flood of liquid running between my fingers. I slam forward and he squeezes his legs together and I follow his lead.

+++++

He's lying on his back, holding me tight and I can only thank God that he loves me as he does. Through everything we've been through, through the anger and the hurt and the tears, he still loves me, loves me more than I deserve, no doubt, and I am determined that every day of every one of my remaining years will be spent showing him the same resolute love in return.

I drift to sleep, his hand on my back, my arm thrown across him, secure in the knowledge that our love will win out in the end, no matter what curves life throws us.


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