"Jesus, what was in that eggnog?" Ray stumbled, thankful for Fraser's strong grip on his arm. It kept him from falling flat on his face. "It didn't seem that strong when I was drinking it."
Ray hated that. 'Ah' was Fraser's way of distancing himself from the subject being discussed. In this case, Ray and the spiked eggnog. Or maybe it was just Ray. He couldn't tell, these days. Every time he was sure he had Fraser figured out, the man took a sharp left turn and Ray was lost again. Not that Ray minded being lost. But it was time to stop the car and ask for directions. "What does that mean, Fraser?"
Ignoring the question, Fraser half dragged, half carried Ray into the lobby of his apartment building. "Does the building owner ever intend on repairing the elevator?" he asked, nodding toward the large 'Out of Order' sign that had been taped to the slightly askew doors since May. "It clearly violates several regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
"I don't think he gives a damn," Ray mumbled, trying to ignore his body's usual reaction to Fraser's nearness, which involved a painfully hard dick and a desire to peel Fraser out of his clothes and lick every part of him. Which is why he tended not to drink around him anymore. Alcohol lowered Ray's inhibitions and he didn't trust himself not to reach out and grab what he wanted.
Ray let himself be led up the stairs, putting his feet down with exaggerated care. "Hey, where's the Diefster?" He turned quickly, overbalancing and almost sending them tumbling down the stairs. Fraser grabbed the banister and jerked Ray back, pulling him tightly to his chest. "Whoa." After a moment, Fraser let him go and started back up the steps.
"He went home with the Vecchios, remember? He wanted to wish Ma Vecchio a Merry Christmas."
Fraser sounded slightly out of breath and Ray thought he'd felt a suspicious hardness in the front of Fraser's tight jeans. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Fraser had, on occasion, seemed to be flirting, but Ray had convinced himself that he was imaging things. Fraser was straight, Fraser liked women, Fraser certainly had no interest in doing indecent things to Ray's naked body.
They made it to the second floor landing without further incident. Fraser propped Ray up against the wall while fumbling with the key ring, trying to find the correct key to unlock the door. "Ray, you really need to discard the keys you no longer have a use for."
There was no mistaking the affectionate exasperation in Fraser's voice. "Nah," he said, grinning. "Where's the challenge in that?"
"There are plenty of challenges in life, Ray, without creating more," he chided gently.
Ray decided to ignore that remark and concentrate on not sliding down the wall. He tried to lock his knees but they seemed to be made out of rubber and refused to cooperate. It was much cooler on the floor and he wondered if he could convince Fraser to join him down here.
Fraser made a small sound of triumph and pushed the door open. "Come on. Let's get you inside where it's safe and warm." He grabbed Ray's arm and pulled him onto his feet, steering him carefully into the dark apartment.
"Home," Ray sighed. He let Fraser push him down onto the couch, wilting into the cushions. He was tired and it was so comfortable here. He was at the end of his sugar-and-alcohol induced high and he was crashing. It was so hard to keep his eyes open.
He could hear Fraser puttering around the apartment, rummaging in his medicine cabinet, running the water in the kitchen. A few moments later, Fraser was gently shaking his shoulder, waking him from the doze he'd slipped into. "Here, Ray. Aspirin and water. You need to hydrate before going to sleep."
"Yeah, okay." Obediently, he swallowed down the pills and finished off the glass of water before slouching back again. He didn't have the energy to get up and go to bed. Maybe if he rested his eyes for a moment...
"Huh?" There was something in Fraser's tone, something quiet and scared, that had him instantly alert. "What is it?" He started to get up but Fraser waved him back down.
"Are you sufficiently drunk, Ray?"
From across the apartment and in the dark, Ray found himself unable to decipher the expression on Fraser's face. Part fear, part...hunger? He shook his head, trying to clear the spiked-eggnog haziness. Fraser was acting really weird and it was starting to freak him out. "What? Am I sufficiently drunk for what?"
"To tell me the story of how you came to be Turtle's caretaker." There was a pause while Fraser stared into Turtle's tank. "You said you needed to be drunk to tell the story, because no one would believe you."
Fraser's voice was steady and it calmed him down a little. He hesitated for a minute, considering. If he told the story, Fraser might think he was crazy and try to get him committed. Oh, wait. Fraser was already crazy, as he'd learned on their adventure to find the Hand of Franklin. Fraser had admitted to seeing and talking with his dead father. At the end of the Muldoon case, Fraser's equally dead mom had shown up to collect her husband and lead him into the light. So, Fraser was crazy, but they were partners. He trusted Fraser, just like Fraser trusted him. A two-way street of unspoken communication. A duet.
"Go into the bedroom and bring me the lockbox from under the bed. Then pull up a chair, Frase, and I'll tell you the story." He snuggled further down into the couch, yawning, waiting for Fraser to do as he said. He was surprised when Fraser chose to sit next to him on the couch, metal box clutched firmly in his lap. He was close, close enough for their shoulders to touch. Ray risked a glance at his face, glad to see the fear was gone.
"So, once upon a time, when I was just an officer patrolling the street of Chicago, there was a report of shots fired down at the shipping district. I was just about to go off shift, but I was nearby so I answered the call. When I got there, it was a mess. A couple of dead bodies and this one older guy who had been shot several times but was still alive."
Ray cleared his throat and swallowed. "You understand, this was a long time ago. I hadn't been an officer for very long. I called for backup and an ambulance, but it wasn't looking good for the guy who was still alive." Ray looked down, still seeing the blood that coated his hands as he tried to stop the bleeding. "This guy, he was Chinese or something, kept trying to get up. He muttered a lot but I couldn't understand any of it. I tried to calm him down, tried to apply pressure, but he was pretty bad off."
He rested his head on the back of the couch, still seeing the scene clearly. It had been the first time he'd seen someone die, up close and personal. Sometimes he still had nightmares about it. He rubbed at his eyes, suddenly exhausted.
"And then?" Fraser prodded. He was focused totally on Ray. That concentration made Ray twitch and fidget a little.
"Then, the guy grabs my arm and says, 'Help me.' I'm like, 'I am helping. Hold still.' He shakes his head, reaches up and takes off his funny looking hat. Inside, there's a turtle shell. He hands me the shell and says, 'You must protect him. He will save the world.' He coughs a couple of times and stops breathing." Ray paused, lost in the memory. Even after all this time, it still hurt. " I tried CPR, but I couldn't bring him back. He'd lost too much blood."
"What did you do then?"
"I shoved the shell into my pocket and forgot about it. When backup finally got there, I helped with sealing off the crime scene and securing the area." Here, Ray hesitated and tugged at his earlobe. This is where it started to get weird. "I got home hours later and remembered that I had the stupid turtle shell in my pocket. I took it out to look at it and Turtle popped his head out. About gave me a heart attack."
He heard Fraser inhale deeply. "Ray, the crime scene..."
"Yeah, Fraser, I know. I had removed evidence from a crime scene." He laughed mirthlessly. "Trust me, I know. I decided to go back down to the station and turn the turtle over to the investigating officers. Maybe he was an important clue. Besides, what was I going to do with a turtle?" He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans. "But somehow, I forgot that I was going to take the turtle back to the station. And every time I tried, I would forget." Ray tried to make it clear with the tone of his voice that this was a different kind of forgetting. "Eventually, I stopped trying to take him back."
Fraser touched his knee and held up a finger, getting up and going into the kitchen. Ray heard running water and the clink of ice on glass. Fraser sat back down and offered him the water. Gratefully, he took the glass and drained it, suddenly aware of the dryness in his throat.
"So, that's how Turtle came to live with me. It sounds crazy, but it's the truth."
Fraser turned to look at him. "I believe you, Ray. I believe you."
Ray let out the breath he'd been holding. "Oh. Really?" He tried to keep the hopefulness out of his voice but wasn't entirely sure he'd managed it.
"Of course, Ray." He clasped Ray's shoulder and squeezed gently. "What then?"
"Stel had gone for the weekend to visit her parents. By the time she'd gotten back, I'd found a nice tank for Turtle and he was happily living in his new home. Stella never said a word about him. No 'Ray, what is that turtle doing here?' or anything. It was like he didn't exist in her world."
Ray got up and started pacing in front of the couch, unable to hold still any longer. Adrenaline and fear had burned the alcohol out of his system and he needed to move. "And then, it really starts to get weird. Every once in a while, I'd look at the tank and Turtle wouldn't be in there. I'd blink and look again, and there he was. Sometimes things would be in the tank with him."
"Things? What kind of things?"
Fraser had the wide-eyed deer-in-the-headlights look that drove Ray crazy with lust. How could something so innocent be so sexy? He shook his head, trying to drag his thoughts away from Fraser and sex. He nodded at the metal box on Fraser's lap. "Open it. The combo's 9-25-13."
After turning on the small lamp next to the couch, Fraser opened the box. Inside was an odd assortment of objects. A silver coin, a spoon, an arrowhead, an intricately jeweled dagger, and a turtle carved out of jade. Fraser picked up the spoon and looked it over carefully, turning it to examine the back.
"I took it to an antiques dealer that I know. The spoon is from France, probably made during the pre-Revolutionary period, possibly some time between 1768 and 1770. Notice that there is no wear; the spoon looks brand new. He says that it's not worth a huge amount by itself. A set would sell for a lot, though. Five, six grand, at least." He scrubbed at his face with both hands. "The dagger dates back to the 1850's – Mongolian, he said. After that, I stopped taking things to him. How could I explain where I had gotten this stuff? A scruffy Chicago flatfoot with expensive antiques? And the coin. The coin is the worst."
With a trembling hand, Fraser picked up the coin. It was very shiny and had a carved owl on one side, a profile of a woman on the other. "Ray?" Fraser's voice was faint and shaky. "Is this what I think it is?"
"I don't know, Fraser. What do you think it is?" He waved his hands around, not really expecting an answer. He plowed on. "Thankfully, I didn't take that one in to be appraised. Instead, I bought a coin collecting book and looked it up." He took a deep breath. "It's an Athenian tetradrachm. One of the rarest and oldest coins. There are only twelve documented in the world." He pointed toward Turtle's tank. "And I found that one with the turtle. The turtle that someday is going to save the world."
Abruptly, Fraser stood up. He was pale, but Ray thought he was taking this very calmly. When he'd originally found the coin and discovered what it was, he'd spent several days gibbering nonsense to the turtle like an idiot.
Fraser walked over to where Ray was standing and slowly, deliberately reached a hand out to touch Ray's cheek. He slid his hand to the back of Ray's neck and pulled, bringing their lips together in a brief, sweet kiss. "Go look in Turtle's tank, Ray," he said hoarsely, licking at his bottom lip.
Ray wanted to moan and chase that tongue back into Fraser's mouth. He wanted more kisses. He wanted someone to pinch him so he knew he wasn't dreaming. Instead, he did as Fraser told him to and went over to the tank, looking in curiously.
Nestled between a plant and a rock was a picture. Even in the dimness of the single lamp, Ray could see that it was of Fraser and him. Kissing. He felt a blush, as well as a hardening in his pants, at the sight of that kiss. It looked sexy and dirty and hot as hell. Above their heads was a banner which proclaimed 'Happy Anniversary, Ben & Ray!' He could see a silver band on Fraser's ring finger. They looked so happy in the picture that Ray felt tears sting his eyes.
"Why didn't you tell me how you felt, Ray?" Fraser came up from behind, wrapped his arms around Ray and hugged him hard. "We've wasted so much time," he sighed, nuzzling the back of Ray's neck. "So much time..."
"Merry Christmas, Fraser," he replied, turning around in his arms, searching for one of those amazingly sexy kisses. This was everything he'd ever wanted. Given to him by a turtle that defied the laws of physics and apparently traveled through time. A turtle that someday, would save the world. He would worry about it all later. Right now, he just wanted to take his Mountie to bed.
So he did.