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“Fraser, Fraser, Fraser.” The insistent knocking was followed by equally insistent, though more slurred, repetition of: “Fraser. Fraser, Fraser. Open up, Fraser. I know you’re there. Here. You’re always there, c’mon. Fraaaaaaaaaser.”

Normally, Fraser would have already done as requested but tonight he was standing in the darkened consulate hallway, Diefenbaker at his feet, and hesitating. Ray was audibly drunk and perhaps the best thing here would be to pretend not to be in so that Ray would give up and go home and sleep it off.

“Fraser? I’ve got something to tell you. Please?”

It was the ‘please’ that did it, and the forlorn quality of Ray’s voice. And if Fraser was honest with himself, his original indecision had little to do with concern for Ray and much to do with him not wanting to spend another evening listening to Ray talk about Stella and how he would win her back. It was a selfish thing to even contemplate, not honourable in the least, and definitely not buddies.

Fraser unlocked the door, Diefenbaker pushing into the gap as soon as it was wide enough, his tail going mile a minute.

Heeey, Dief,” Ray was saying, falling in and petting the dog clumsily. “Heeey, you’re a good boy, aren’t you? You got Fraser to let me in, yeah?”

“Hello Ray,” Fraser said, reaching out a steadying hand and grabbing his partner by the elbow. “Are you alright?”

“Hi Fraser,” Ray said, leaning heavily on him until he managed to catch his balance. “I’m very alright. Or not. Depends.” He smelled of alcohol and cigarette smoke in a way that was both irritating and yet somehow not.

Diefenbaker sneezed, and Fraser’s nose itched too though he held it in, pressing his tongue against the roof of his mouth. If asked he told it was another Inuit skill he’d learned but really he’d picked up that particular trick from a Nancy Drew book.

“What does it depend on, Ray?” he asked, closing the door and leading the way through the dim corridors toward his office and less-temporary-than-ideal accommodation.

Ray muttered something that sounded a lot like ‘tonight’ but out loud he only said: “Hey. Hey, Fraser? I have to tell you something.”

“Of course, Ray,” Fraser answered, internally preparing himself for another treatise on how Stella and Ray were Meant To Be. “Come and sit down. I will make you some tea.”

“No, no, no. No tea.” Ray shook his head forcefully and then had to catch himself on the doorframe of Fraser’s office for balance. “Don’t want to sober up.”

Fraser frowned, turning to look at his partner. Even in the soft glow of the oil lanterns Ray looked pale and haggard, like he was… Like he was scared, Fraser realised with a start and jolt of genuine worry, but determined to see it through nonetheless. “Why not?”

“Because then I can’t tell you this thing.”

“What thing, Ray? You can tell me anything.”

“No.” Ray shook his head but then started nodding instead. “Yes, yes I can. And that’s the thing right there.” He pointed an unsteady finger in Fraser’s direction.

Fraser frowned. “The thing you want to tell me is that you can tell me anything?”

“Yes,” Ray said. “Well, sort of. No, see, the thing is I realised something tonight.”

“What?”

“That I can tell you anything.” Ray stared at him like he expected that to explain everything. Fraser only tilted his head, as lost with this conversations as he had been when he’d first arrived in Chicago.

Ray sighed and reached out to pat Fraser’s chest absentmindedly. “I know, buddy. I know. Took me by surprise too.” He left his hand there, warm and heavy and resting over Fraser’s heart. “Not only could I tell you anything, I realised I wanted to tell you anything. Everything!” He shook his head in disbelief and Fraser didn’t dare to move, caught by the moment, the serious expression on Ray’s face.

“You want to tell me… everything?” he asked softly.

“Yeah,” Ray said. “Yeah, I really do. I want to tell you what I had for breakfast and what I think about the captain’s fashion sense and when I know a perp is lying and why rainy days are awesome, because somehow hearing you lecture me about the importance of balanced nutrition or the evils of polyester is the fucking highlight of my day now. Because I know you’ll listen to me, really listen, when we’re on a case, and because I know you have a story about rain, something ancient and metaphorical and incomprehensible but god damn if I don’t want to hear you tell it anyway.” He was breathless now, staring at Fraser with eyes that were far too clear for a man as inebriated as Ray. “You know what I’m saying?”

Fraser nodded silently, suddenly a little breathless himself. Because he did know what Ray meant, he just hadn’t thought it was something shared, something that wasn’t just him like these things always had been before.

“And other things too,” Ray continued. “Like even the really shitty stuff that I don’t tell anyone, ever, about…” He hesitated, eyes on Fraser’s chest now, fingers curling around the flannel of his shirt, “about what I’m scared of, like really crap-my-pants afraid, about these stupid ideas I have about maybe, in ten years or so, taking the captain’s exam, the whole fucking mess of, of ‘hopes and dreams’ and, about, about things that I want…” He trailed off, silence wrapping around them like an old blanket, warm and comfortable.

They stood like that for an undefinable length of time, anywhere between a few seconds and several eons, before Fraser drew in a shuddery breath. “Tell me?” he asked, voice rough even to his own ears. “Tell me about that last thing, Ray. Tell me what you… what you want?”

Ray looked up at him, sharp and intent, and suddenly impossibly closer. “What if… What if I just showed you instead?” he asked, scared and brave and perfect, so unlike anything Fraser had ever expected and all the better for it.

“I think that would be most agreeable, Ray,” Fraser said, leaning down to meet the kiss half way.