"the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea,
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage,"
- from Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers
"Sir John Franklin: Fabled Arctic ship found...One of two British explorer ships that vanished in the Arctic more than 160 years ago has been found, Canada's prime minister says."
- BBC News 9 Sept 2014
Fraser knocked snow off his boots and went through his usual routine, divesting himself of his outer layer of ice-crusted garments. He was chilled and stiff after a long day's sledding to Blackfish Lake and back - it didn't get any easier as the years passed.
"Hey, Frase!" called Ray from the living room. "That you?"
"Naturally," Fraser responded, running a hand through his damp hair as he padded through to thaw himself by the fire. "You were expecting someone else?"
"Naw," said Ray. "Just, I got news from town when I was there tuning up old man MacAdam's truck earlier. Unless someone already told you?"
"I've seen no one but the dogs all day, Ray. I fear the reports of illegal ice fishing on Blackfish Lake may have been mischievous. Told me what?"
"Hah! You ain't gonna believe this, Frase. No one in town's talkin' about anything else."
Fraser cocked an eyebrow and waited.
"Okay, so they found it!"
"Found what, Ray?"
"The Hand! Franklin's Hand! They found one of Franklin's boats!"
"I believe the correct nautical term is ships, Ray."
"Ships, boats, whatever!"
Fraser rocked on his heels, hands held out to the stove's warmth. He became aware that Ray was staring at him, brow furrowed. "Ray? Are you well?"
"You're takin' this, I dunno, weird. Weirder than Fraser-normal, anyway. Thought you'd've been be more excited."
"Well, they have been searching for some time now, Ray. With global warming having opened the Northwest passage, there's more at stake, as you know. The government-"
"Yeah, yeah, but, I mean, you dragged me up there! It was a quest! And now you're all...blowsy about it."
"I think you mean blasé, Ray. I'm sorry not to be more...demonstrative. It's an important historical find, to be sure-"
Ray leaped to his feet and paced up and down, gesticulating. "So why'd you drag me off on that goddamn trip, then? Weeks in the snow an' ice, freezin' our asses off and eatin' blubber an' jerky an' all sortsa weird shit. If it ain't a big deal, this Franklin stuff, why all that?" He glared at Fraser.
Fraser turned away, his throat tight. "I thought you quite liked our excursion," he said quietly. "I know you weren't used to the conditions, not then, but I thought you came to, well, if not enjoy it, at least-"
Ray grabbed his arm and swung him around. "Oh for Christ's sake. I just wanna know why it was such a big thing then and now you don't seem to give a damn about old Franklin and his reaching out hand - huh?" He peered into Fraser's face.
Fraser flushed. "Well. I, ah...I may have had another motive, Ray. At the time." He cleared his throat.
Ray leaned in, intent. His stubble was quite gray now, Fraser noted. He liked it; it made Ray look distinguished. "C'mon, spit it out," Ray said. Well, until he opened his mouth.
"It was, ah, an excuse, I suppose you might say. To spend time together, in...in close quarters. I wasn't ready for us to part company." Fraser made a helpless gesture. "The quest for the Hand of Franklin was...a ruse." He looked down, his face hot. "I know it's a terrible cliché, though, sharing blankets, huddling for warmth...and I feared you might see it as something of a modus operandi in my case-"
"What's opera got to do with it? Oh, you mean like a MO? What, you're bringing Victoria into this?" Ray shook his head like a dog with a tick in its ear. "So, what – you wanted to hang out with me? In a tent?"
"And on the sled, and outdoors. All of it, yes." Fraser looked at Ray, a hint of defiance in his eyes. "Anyway, it worked."
Ray stared him down, frowning, then his mouth quirked. "Huddling for warmth? You sly dog, Benton Fraser. You wanted in my pants. Well, in my sleeping bag." He pulled Fraser towards him. "You coulda just asked me."
"No, Ray, I really couldn't, trust me on that. But proximity can work wonders, and the enforced intimacy, so yes, I hoped…" Fraser waved a hand, encompassing the cabin, their bed in the next room piled high with quilts, the dogs outside, their trucks - the whole domestic nine yards.
"I'll give you proximity, Frase," growled Ray, grinding against him, his hands on Fraser's ass. The bulge in his sweats was hot against Fraser's jeans. Ray kissed him, gentle at first and then deeper, wetter, breaking off to lick and nibble at Fraser's neck. "You dragged me half-way across the damn Arctic, Frase, just so's to have your way with me, and I am for sure gonna hold it against you," Ray said with a smirk, mashing their groins together.
Fraser groaned, as much at the delicious friction as the appalling pun. "If I'd known the quality of repartee I'd be letting myself in for," he gasped as Ray sucked a hickey onto his shoulder, "I would have pushed you into a crevasse rather than taking you on a wild goose chase for Franklin's Hand."
"Naw," Ray said, dragging Fraser off to the bedroom, "You were reachin' out, Frase, I get it, I always got it. An' you know what? I was reachin' right back." He pushed Fraser down on the bed and leaned in, grinning. "But right now, I could do with a hand, and I don't mean Franklin's, get my drift?"
"Down a crevasse," panted Fraser, and obliged.
- the end -