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Black, White, and Red All Over

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Ray curled his fingers around the stone in his palm, but didn't throw it. It was the wrong shape, anyways, would only sink, and the way his day was going it'd only hit something, as if this wasn't ridiculous enough already.

"So," Ray said, just to say something that didn't start with a swear word, and then lowered himself to the ground, glad that at least he was wearing his jacket. It was cold, even for April. He looked over at Fraser, who had to be the only person who could make sitting on a rock in jeans and a leather jacket look like parade rest.

"So," Fraser said in return, and Ray almost went for him, but kept sitting. It wasn't worth it. He tried again.

"Fraser."

"Yes, Ray?" God, he sounded so oblivious.

"Let me just, run through this again. In the pursuit of some idiot—"

"Alexander Caldecott, Ray."

"Yeah, the idiot. We ran after him all over, into the zoo, of all places, and in the thrilling chase of Alex the idiot I slipped, you slipped, and we ended up… here."

Fraser looked around as if he hadn't noticed.

"Yes, Ray, that seems an accurate assessment of the situation."

"In a tank. Surrounded by penguins. With a zoo director out of town until…?"

"…Tomorrow morning. I heard two of the attendants talking about it as they walked by. Letting visitors out. Missing us, naturally."

Ray marveled at how anyone could sound so calm. Especially when there were penguins.

"Fraser, my phone's soaking in a puddle of penguin spit or something, so I can't call in. No one even knows we're here, and the zoo's closed until…"

"…tomorrow morning, Ray." Fraser said again, still calm like he was having tea with the Queen. Which, knowing Canada, probably happened frequently.

" 'N there's penguins." Ray edged a glance at a small group of them (Ray was sure they were planning, plotting something) near the edge of the rocky ledge they were all sharing. It had been conveniently, if painfully, positioned directly below the railing that Ray-then-Fraser had tumbled over.

Ray gazed up the wall—smooth, no handholds, probably cement—to the railing. Too far to climb back up, but short enough that at least they hadn't broken anything, more's the miracle.

Except, of course, Ray's cellphone. If the penguin spit hadn't done it, the fall definitely had.

"Twelve and a half feet," Fraser murmured, which would have seemed weird except Ray had been thinking about how tall they were standing on each other's shoulders, and maybe… so he grinned.

"Yeah, shit out of luck, aren't we, Frase?"

"It appears," said Fraser, and Ray grinned again, happy that Fraser hadn't gotten on his case about his language. Still, he'd be happier without the penguins.

"At least it's April," he said, and damn if Fraser didn't grin a little, more than just his polite Mountie smile, but a smirk like he knew was Ray had been thinking. They were good that way.

"Yes, Ray, all in all, we're fairly lucky."

Nope, clearly he and the freak were never on the same page, because Fraser had just totally missed the point.

"Fraser," he spoke slowly, 'cause clearly Fraser Did Not Get It. "We're in a tank. Surrounded. By penguins.

"Yes, Ray," said Fraser, and at least he had enough edge to his voice to show that he was a little pissed that Ray was acting like he was crazy.

"I don't do penguins, Fraser." Ray almost wanted to clutch his elbows and huddle, but he wasn't a kid; for Pete's sake, he was a Chicago detective! Shit, one of 'em moved. Ray settled on folding his arms, which was perfectly normal. Heck, it was cold out here.

"Well, Ray, I believe it's customary to at least buy them a drink first."

Ray's mouth dropped open. When he'd finally recovered, he managed, "not funny, Fraser."

"Understood."

Ray was impressed, as usual, how much meaning Fraser could pack into one word. This time, it had a definite hint of pretty damn funny, if I do say so myself. Bastard.

He was definitely ignoring Fraser from now on. And the penguins. Sneaky, all of 'em.

**
four hours later…

 

"Fraser, if I'm still alive in the morning, remind me to beat you to death with a rotten fish."

Ray had abandoned sitting sometime in the middle of hour three and was now half-lying propped against a relatively clean and dry rock near the edge of the tank. Fraser was sitting opposite against a conventient tree trunk, but he'd removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. Damn, he looked like he belonged here. Ray glared, because for all he knew Fraser had lived with penguins up there in Moosetongue, and this was all some kind of karmic payback for giving Dief too many donuts, and now the stupid wolf was off sleeping at the consulate and Ray was about to kill his partner. And then be eaten by penguins.

Fraser sat up a little straighter, a hint of starch in his tone.

"FDA code 37-dash-L explicitly states that murder by decaying food product violates at least eight separate kinds of—"

Leave it to Fraser to know the weirdest shit.

"Fraser, you wanna talk about violating? I'm feeling pretty damn violated right now and… Fraser. Fraser, the penguin is staring at me."

"Which one, Ray?"

"Shit, the black and white one, you think I named him? That one, over there."

It was on their ledge, most of the rest of them had lost interest but this one, oh, Ray could see it staring and its eyes were creepy and oh God, please, help…

"Ah," said Fraser. Helpfully.

"Ah?" Ray snapped. "I'm getting the eye from a penguin, don't you 'ah' at me!"

"Well, Ray, if it makes you feel better, the penguin in question happens to be male."

"First off, I'm not sure I want to know how you know that, and second, why would I be happier that I'm getting hit on by a gay penguin?"

Seriously, it was edging closer, but Ray's attention was caught instead by the look on Fraser's face, which was close enough to the one he had at the beginning of a 'useful' Inuit story that meant it was probably a lecture.

"Now, Ray, there has been substantial evidence that male penguin couples can bond for long periods of time, and even successfully hatch an abandoned egg."

"You suggestin' somethin' here, Frase?" Ray teased.

"Well, I always thought you'd be a good father, Ray," Fraser said back, but there was enough weight to it beneath the humor that Ray knew he was serious.

"… Thanks, Fraser," he mumbled. No one, not even his mom, had ever said that in so many words. Hell of it was Fraser probably knew that, some weird telepathic link or whatever. They were too alike, sometimes.

Fraser half-sighed, like Ray had answered or like he was thinking too hard, and shifted a little on the ground. All signs that he wanted to say something else. Ray almost smiled at how funny it was that while sometimes, Fraser made absolutely no sense, others he could read some of his weird little gestures like a fucking book.

"I always meant to ask, Ray…" Fraser said, and woah, he almost stammered. Ray, even though he was starting to get nervous, took pity on him.

"No time like the present, Fraser. Shoot."

"Why did you and Stella never have children? You appear to like them, judging from the good times you have with Maria and Tony's children at the Vecchio's."

Sometimes, it scared the shit out of Ray that Fraser could always ask the hard questions, especially when it came to crap about Stella. But the pauses in the question said Fraser knew exactly how heavy this was, so Ray took a deep breath and answered, trying like hell to keep his voice light.

"Heck, Fraser, I'm just a big kid, you know that. We think alike, me and the little guys. Stell and I had talked about it a lot when we first got together, sure, but first there was law school taking all her time, then the bar and getting set up, and then being an A.D.A. I'd thought maybe when I hit detective, a desk and a raise, she'd think about it again. But…" Ray trailed off, because there was more he could say and it still wouldn't be enough. So he shrugged a little, stopped.

"I'm sorry, Ray," Fraser said, and that was the best part, the absolute high point of being with Fraser, because he did sound sorry, so deeply and completely there with regret and compassion that for a minute, Ray couldn't breath.

But it was too much, too freakin' deep, so he stuttered another breath and spoke.

"Eh, ancient history now. What about you? Any visions of little Mounties dancing through your head?" Ray tried to force a laugh through it, bring it back to the jokes from before, but Fraser ducked his head a little, twisted his lips like he wanted to smile but… couldn't quite. It gutted him to see Fraser smile like that.

"Not… as such, no. I have a great fondness for children, but in the relationships I have had in the past, that has never been… feasible."

Huh? Ray tried to break down the grammar in that puppy, but couldn't quite. Fraser always did load on the phrases when he was uncomfortable. What'd he mean, feasible?

"Oh come on," Ray laughed, because he could, it's what partners did, bring up all the stupid shit you'd gone through to make you feel better, "that Scarpa chick, 'n Janet Morse and her passel of hell raisers? Get somethin' like that to stick and you could have a whole army of kids."

'Cause Fraser deserved kids, Ray thought. Needed to have someone he could look after, cart around and tell his weird stories to. From what little Fraser had said about growing up, it hadn't been much fun for him, and kids were just crammed full of fun, fun that Fraser deserved to share in.

Fraser laughed, but it wasn't a nice sound.

"True. But, most of my life, my relationships have on the whole been slightly… less than traditional."

Dammit, why did Fraser sound like a dictionary all the time? Being with a bounty hunter wasn't exactly white picket fences, but Ray wouldn't call it less than…. oh. The tentative slowness behind Fraser's words, like he hadn't want to share, collided with a half dozen short conversations and thoughts and words and… oh. Ray felt like his heart would damn near explode, it was beating so fast. He swallowed, the clench of his dry mouth sounding really loud to his ears.

"…you mean like the penguins?" Ray asked, trying to toe the line between serious and funny, show Fraser that there were on the same damn page, and that it wasn't too deep for him, not here.

Fraser looked up, and his smile was real, relief and amusement, and something else that prickled along Ray's spine, made his skin feel tight.

"As you say," he said quietly. "Like the penguins."

**

And it was weird, like space stretched so that they were too far apart and too damn near close together because Ray had too long been thinking (even when he'd tried not to) and wondering about this, about how to come to this, and he didn't really want to do it in a damn penguin tank.

After a minute or two or something, Ray had sort of forgotten to pay attention to unimportant things like passage of time, he realized that maybe Fraser wanted some kind of response besides… dead silence. When he looked at Fraser he saw him staring a little, with a weird kind of pinched look in his eyes.

It's like he thinks I'm gonna hit him, Ray thought, and it made him feel sick and sad in a hard rush that let the words start.

"It's okay, Frase," he started, and he almost winced at how trite and crappy that sounded. "I don't mind." Oh, yeah, he was really on a roll now. What was he, a Lifetime movie? Like it was up to him what Fraser liked, or who, or some weird thing like he was allowing him, a favor. Words, Ray decided, suck.

So he leaned over, which was a little far, but he was going for it, damn the penguin tank to hell, but then the distance grew as Fraser leaned the other way. Not much, just enough to be obvious.

Ray looked up, because in all his nervousness he'd kind of been focusing on the fact that Fraser had unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, and it was a good color, the right kind of blue to really bring out his eyes and wow, Kowalski, you've got it bad. Fraser had this weird look, less like he thought Ray'd smack him and more like… he wanted to smack Ray. Kind of horrified, and a little ashamed.

"What?" Ray asked, even though his throat wanted to close up, like he hadn't been just as obvious with his lean that he'd last used on his junior high prom date (lacking in penguins).

"Ray," Fraser said, and his throat sounded tight too, hurt in some way. "You don't have to prove to me…"

"No, Fraser, do not do that," Ray said, because if Fraser wasn't going to sit still, he was getting words, as screwed up as they were. "I'm not proving anything, except for the fact that it's driving me crazy that you think I'll hate you 'cause you like guys. Especially since."

"Especially since what?" Fraser asked, when Ray found that the words had stopped again. Dammit.

Ray sighed, then growled at a now frowning Fraser, "no, m'not pissed at you, Frase, but hold still this time," and leaned, more like fell forward, but that was okay because there was Fraser's mouth, hot and there and Ray pushed up into it, a little force and swipe of tongue speaking better than any sentences that would not, Would Not, come out of his mouth right in the world of ever, but then Fraser was pushing back, mouth open and hotter than hot, and how was it so warm now, it was only April, but then Fraser's tongue against his teeth and a slide of breath did something to Ray all the way down, like electricity.

Finally, Ray rediscovered breathing and the strain in his back from where he was collapsed half on Fraser and mostly on the ground, probably penguin spit on his jeans, but hell, there were worse things.

"We on the same page now, Fraser?" Ray asked, because he needed to ask, needed to use words, because that was their balance, the one-two punch, setting it up, knocking them down. How they worked.

"I think we are, Ray," said Fraser at not much more than a whisper, something that caught at his temple in a puff of warm breath. It held something heavier, like his name has some deeper meaning that Ray had never thought about before.

"Great. Greatness," said Ray, and somehow could tell that Fraser was smiling without even looking.

"Though," and how much was that not a word that Ray wanted to hear. "We should probably continue this conversation later."

Ray swallowed. That didn't sound so good.

"After all," and now Fraser's voice slowed, like his whisper before, and it was dark and heated against Ray's ear, and when Ray glanced up Fraser's eyes were warm, no, blistering with something that made Ray hard and have to breath shallow. "We wouldn't want to disturb the penguins any more than we already have."

Ray opened his mouth to disagree, something his dick was definitely on board with, but… Fraser had a point. So instead, "Yeah, I have to say, Frase, they're starting to grow on me, actually. Even that one. I think I'll call him Paul."

Ray would have sat up, but Fraser was warm beside him, a solid weight along his arm and shoulder.

"Should I leave you two alone?" Fraser asked, a laugh in his voice.

"Nah, he's not really my type." Ray wriggled a little until he was more comfortable, and felt Fraser relax a little, one of his hands brushing across Ray's knuckles. "I like 'em a little more… colorful."

"And hopefully not containing supraorbital glands."

Ray groaned.

"Fraser…"

"Shut up?"

Ray tilted his head up, saw laughing blue eyes, and had to kiss him, with a little nip to the lip to show that he meant business. He was probably grinning like an idiot after that, but didn't care. Who was gonna tell, the penguins?

"Well, I was gonna tell you you're a freak, but close enough." Ray slumped even more, hoping that the tree behind Fraser would hold.

They both breathed for a minute, too close to a rhythm to really be called anything else.

"Oh and Ben, when we get out of here?"

"Yes, Ray?" Ray could hear the surprise in Fraser's voice, but it was a surprise that sounded so happy that Ray damn near cried. Being called by his first name shouldn't make anyone sound that glad. He controlled himself.

"We? Are going out for breakfast whenever this damn zoo opens in the morning. And we are not getting anything even vaguely resembling fish."

He knew Fraser smiled, because the word had the smile in it, warm where the air was cold, warm like the touch of Fraser's hand over Ray's, carefully tracing each joint and muscle.

"Understood."