Ray perches on the corner of Fraser’s desk in the holding cell Fraser calls his office, trying to make sideways sense of the papers spread over the desk. Somewhere in this pile of administrative bullshit there might or might not be a clue to their suspect’s assumed identity, but trying to pick useful information out of this mess is making Ray go cross-eyed.
Fraser, sitting in his office chair, looks like he’s prepared to wade through immigration application forms all night.
“Ray,” he says, eyes still glued to the pages. “Do we have any information as to the whereabouts of—“
The lights cut out, leaving them in pitch blackness. Ray jumps and swears.
“Don’t be alarmed,” says Fraser, irritatingly unflappable. “As I’m sure you’re aware, this area of the city has been experiencing rolling blackouts lately, due to increased demand for electricity and the aging infrastructure of the power grid.” The desk chair scrapes the floor; Ray feels Fraser rise and move past him, still talking.
“Fortunately, the Consulate is well-equipped for most emergencies. If you’ll just wait here a moment, I’ll fetch an alternative light source.”
Fraser’s out of the room. Ray doesn’t feel like twiddling his thumbs in the dark, so he gets up and makes his way after Fraser, shuffling carefully forward so as not to break his neck. The main hall is no improvement in the being-able-to-see department: apparently those itty-bitty stained glass windows are absolutely useless at night.
“Hey, Fraser,” he calls out. “What do they use for alternative light sources in Canada, huh? Flint and tinder? Walrus blubber?”
“Now, Ray, don’t be silly,” Fraser’s voice answers from the kitchen. “Flint and tinder are a fine tool for starting a fire, and I wouldn’t be without them in the wilderness, but a spark is hardly much use as a light source.” There are some noises of cupboard doors and objects being moved around. “As for walrus blubber, though it burns brightly, it is not readily available at this latitude, nor does it ship or store well. No, ordinary candles are quite sufficient to the present. . .”
Ray waits for the punchline, not because he cares what Fraser’s saying, but because it’s queer for Fraser to just stop in the middle of one of his mile-long sentences like that. What he hears instead is a clattering noise and a series of little thumps and rattling: something—a bunch of smallish somethings—bouncing off the countertop and rolling over the floor.
“You okay in there, Fraser?” he calls. “Didn’t drop anything on your head, did you?”
No answer. No sound of movement, just the rolling whatevers. And that ain’t right at all.
Ray feels his way along the wall left-handed, his right hand on his gun, trying to hurry and move silently at the same time. Because normally the kind of trouble a person can get into in a pitch-black kitchen is the call-an-ambulance kind, not the guns-blazing kind, but this is Fraser, and Fraser doesn’t drop kitchen knives on his foot, what Fraser does is get taken hostage by psychopaths hiding under the sink.
The kitchen is completely silent. No, not quite, Ray realizes, because when he holds his breath, he can hear Fraser breathing. Deep, jagged, shuddering breaths, and Jesus, Ray’s too late, Fraser’s been shot, Fraser’s been stabbed, Fraser’s bleeding his guts out in here in the dark.
No answer. And fuck the wall, fuck the gun, fuck whoever might be waiting silently in the dark to cap him. Ray moves towards that awful breathing. He tangles with a chair, knocking it over, barely keeping from falling on his ass. His feet connect with a couple of hard things that roll when he kicks them. A couple more steps and he’s got to be close. He reaches out a hand, which connects with a warm, solid, wool-covered shoulder. Grips it hard. Fraser’s still on his feet, at least, that’s a good sign.
“Fraser? You hurt? What happened?”
“I—“ Fraser sounds like he’s choking. “It’s just—The candles—I can’t—“
If Fraser can’t even make words come out, he’s got to be hurt bad. Ray tries to tug Fraser over to where he thinks the chairs are, but Fraser doesn’t budge.
“You bleeding, Fraser?“ Taking deep, slow breaths to try to calm his shaking, Ray ghosts a hand over the front of Fraser’s torso, trying to feel for injuries without actually poking him. “Where did they get you?”
“The heart,” whispers Fraser.
Fuck, no, no no no, please—but Ray’s hands are on Fraser’s chest and there’s nothing there, not a tear in the fabric, no damp stickiness of spreading blood.
“C’mon, we got to get out of here, get you some help.”
“It’s years too late.”
“It can’t be too late, you’re still alive.” Ray doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because he doesn’t know what Fraser’s talking about, except he’s pretty sure that it’s something other than actual bodily harm. Which should be a relief, but Ray just feels sick and scared.
“Am I?” asks Fraser.
“What kind of a stupid question is that? Of course you’re alive. Here.” Ray fishes for Fraser’s hand, puts his other hand on Fraser’s neck and finds his pulse—warm, jumping, yes, not dead, of course not dead. He brings Fraser’s fingers up to replace his own on Fraser’s neck, covering Fraser’s hand with his own to keep it there. “See?”
Fraser makes a sound like a dying animal and his other hand closes over Ray’s.
“Fraser, what’s the matter? C’mon, talk to me. You’re freaking me out, here.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t. . .”
“Can’t what? You can’t talk to me? Whatever this is, it’s so bad you can’t even tell me about it?”
“Apparently,” Fraser breathes; Ray can’t tell whether that’s self-mockery or bitterness in his voice.
“Can’t be. There’s nothing that bad. C’mon, you can tell me.”
There’s a long silence, which Ray bites his tongue to keep from filling with more words. Maybe if the silence gets big enough, there will be space for whatever Fraser’s got corked up inside him.
And finally, Fraser does whisper into that quiet darkness:
“I lit the candles. But she didn’t come. She’ll never come again. And I can never. . .”
Ray doesn’t know what to say to that. He knows how miserable it feels to be left and lonely; he sure as hell knows how much never again hurts. He also knows that words don’t help. His right hand is still sandwiched between Fraser's, so he kneads Fraser’s shoulder with his left.
“It sucks, I know,” Ray says. “And I’m not the guy to tell you you’ll wake up one day and stop hurting. But at least. . .I guess I’m trying to say, you don’t gotta go through it alone.”
Fraser’s bark of laughter has got to be the least humorous sound Ray’s heard in his life.
“Look," Ray says, "I’m not saying I know how you feel, just. . .you’re not alone, okay?”
He gives Fraser’s shoulder a little shake, comforting-like, but Fraser jerks out of his hands so hard he smacks against the counter.
“I’ve never been anything else,” says Fraser, deadly-soft.
“That the way you like it?” asks Ray, just as quiet, standing a few inches behind Fraser in the dark, not touching him. Scared to hear the answer. Scared of what’ll happen if Fraser doesn’t answer.
He stands there for a long time.
“Ray.” Fraser says Ray’s name, like, a million times a day, but never like a little boy scared of the dark.
“Right here, Fraser.”
Even fainter, Fraser says, “Help me?”
Ray puts out his hands, finds Fraser’s shoulders. “You got it. Anything you need.”
Fraser shudders under Ray’s hands.
And Fraser’s knees buckle, but Ray catches him before he can fall, taking Fraser’s weight with his whole body.
“Hey, easy, easy, it’s okay.” Ray lowers the both of them to the floor, cradling Fraser against his chest. He wraps his arms tight around Fraser’s shaking body and hangs on. “It’s okay, I got you.”
Fraser clutches Ray’s arms; his fingers dig into Ray’s biceps. Ray’s head is the only part of him free to move, now, so he puts his chin on Fraser’s shoulder, rubs the side of his face up against Fraser’s. Which is not a thing he’d normally do, but they’re sitting in the dark and Fraser is having some kind of breakdown and nothing about this is business as usual.
“What do you need, Fraser?” he murmurs. “Can you tell me?”
“If I say it. . .” Fraser draws a long, ragged breath. “The words might break me.”
“You won’t break.” Ray squeezes Fraser hard. “You’re strong, and I’ve got you.”
Fraser shakes harder than ever, so hard Ray wonders if he’s wrong and Fraser’s going to break into pieces, maybe even literally. But Fraser forces the words out:
“I need. . . . Touch. Touch me.”
“You got it,” Ray murmurs in his ear. He’s already touching Fraser with basically his whole body, so he starts swaying just a little, moving their two bodies gently together, like rocking a baby, like slow dancing.
“L-love” Fraser stammers. “I need love.”
“You got mine. I love you.” The words slip out without Ray even thinking about them. If they could see each other, maybe he’d have to say it in a way that’s casual or jokey or defended somehow, but somehow in the blackness there’s a whole different set of rules. In the darkness it’s totally natural to be rocking Fraser in his arms and saying soft but firm in his ear, “I love you, Fraser. To the ends of the earth, to the end of time.”
And okay, there’s a lot of complicated stuff to worry about wrapped up in that package, about what kind of love and what does that mean and what do we do about it, but this is not the time for complexity, this is the time for simple, giant, fucking bone-deep truth, and that, Ray has a handle on. That’s the words coming out of his mouth, straight from his heart, do not pass through the brain, do not collect $200.
Fraser’s head drops forward; Ray can feel it moving side to side. His stomach drops like he’s on a roller coaster: How badly did I just fuck up?
“You don’t want—?”
Fraser’s hands clench Ray’s. “Yes. Please.”
Ray breathes a little easier; he still doesn’t know where he is, quite, but at least he’s not falling to his death yet.
“But?” he asks, because there’s obviously a but.
“Not—I don’t—That’s part of it, not all of it.”
“Okay. What’s part B?”
Fraser doesn’t answer, just breathes like each breath hurts him.
“Come on, you’re halfway there. Spit it out.”
Fraser sounds like he’s suffocating. “I need. . .I need to love. Someone.”
Ray manages to keep from saying How the hell is that the hard part? out loud.
“Usually works better if you love someone in particular, Fraser,” he says. He doesn’t mean to sound pissy, but fortunately the noise Fraser makes sounds more like a laugh than anything else, even if it’s the kind of laugh you might hear out of a guy with several cracked ribs.
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Fraser replies in a soft, breathless version of that self-parodying tone he sometimes uses.
“Well. . .you want to love, uh, me, go right ahead. You got my permission. Not that you need it.”
“It’s. . .not that simple. . .”
“No, you’re wrong,” says Ray. “It’s hard to love somebody, but it ain’t complicated. All you gotta do is let it happen.”
Fraser mumbles something that sounds like, “. . .Let it kill me.”
“It’s killing you not to. Ain’t that what you said?”
More harsh breathing from Fraser.
“Listen,” says Ray, hugging him tight. “I’m here. I love you. I ain’t going nowhere. You can trust me. Don’t you? Trust me?”
“I—yes. Yes, Ray.”
“You can do anything, Fraser.”
“Love me, Fraser. Love me, because I sure as hell love you. Love me, because who else is gonna do it if you don’t? Love me, because you want to, you need to, I need you to, because that’s fucking life, you’ve gotta love someone or you die and I’m on my knees here in the dark with you and I’m not going anywhere, so come on, Fraser—“
Ray’s rocking back and forth with Fraser in his arms, babbling in Fraser’s ear, and suddenly, Fraser starts to laugh, gulping sobs of laughter that shake both their bodies. And Fraser starts chanting Ray’s name, over and over, but not the way he usually does, not calling him to attention, no, Fraser’s singing out “Ray, Ray, Ray,” like a prayer, like church bells. And Ray’s laughing too, and humming an old song sweet and low in Fraser’s ear: “Love, love, love, Love is all you need. . .”
After a while, they run out of steam, flopping limp against each other, and Ray’s knees start complaining too loud to ignore, plus the floor is pretty damn cold. Ray nuzzles Fraser’s shoulder and gives him a squeeze, then levers himself carefully to his feet.
“Fraser, I’m gonna light the candles now. Where’d you leave ‘em?”
“On the counter,” says Fraser, sounding a little ragged, but much more like his normal self. “And probably all over the floor. But—Ray, do you have to?”
“Yeah, I got to, Fraser. ‘Cause we can’t sit here in the dark for the rest of our lives. C’mon, get up and help me.”
He reaches down, finds Fraser’s hand, and hauls him upright. Fraser steps behind Ray, pressing up against his back; another step pushes Ray forward into the counter, which jabs him in the thighs as Fraser presses into his back.
Fraser’s arms reach around Ray to fumble at the counter; there’s clicking, rolling noises. Ray digs into his pocket for his lighter. The lick of flame nearly blinds him after so much time staring into the dark. He blinks a couple of times and sees, on the other side of the flame, Fraser’s hands, each holding a fat, white candle.
He touches the flame to one wick, then the other. Fraser draws breath with a hiss. Ray pockets the lighter and slides around, still closed between Fraser’s outstretched arms, until he’s leaning back with his ass on the counter, looking into Fraser’s face. He takes one candle from Fraser’s unresisting hand and holds it up between them. Fraser mirrors him, holding up the second candle next to Ray’s.
Two little flames glow between them, making a puddle of light just big enough for the two of them. The light glitters on the tears sliding down Fraser’s cheeks like icemelt.