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Fraser's grandmother had a cross-stitch sampler that had been stitched by her own mother. It moved with them from Inuvik to Fort Dawson to Tuktoyaktuk, and it read, "The greatest wealth is to live content with little." Fraser had copied it out hundreds of times as a child, until his cursive handwriting satisfied the exacting eye of his grandmother.
Sometimes it resurfaced in his mind as he sat at his desk in the Consulate and sketched out a capital T in his grandmother's style, with three careful, curved strokes. Sometimes it even came to mind as he sat opposite Ray in the bullpen, filling in Ray's crime scene reports by hand while Ray hammered away at his typewriter in an irregular but aggressive rhythm. Fraser would look up and wonder what his grandmother might have made of Ray, with his brashness and his overflowing, unchanneled energy, his flashy car and his hidden quiet side.
"I got ketchup on my chin or what?" Ray would say, and Fraser would shake his head and hand Ray a bunch of forms as a distraction.
When it was Ray who was caught staring, though, and Fraser who was raising an eyebrow at him, Ray never tried to distract him. He just went right on staring until it was Fraser who blushed. Then he went back to whatever he'd been doing before and Fraser was left with a confused feeling of undeserved happiness.
Sometimes, in those early days, Fraser lay awake at night and wondered what it meant, to feel like something was just beyond his reach. Sometimes, he woke up hot and sweaty, and with a more persistent hard-on than usual. But all he could remember of his dreams was Ray's Pontiac GTO.
Before Fraser came to Chicago, all he knew about cars was that trucks were better. The only technical specifications he considered important were ground clearance and the number of drive wheels. That was before he met the GTO.
"So what do you think?" Ray'd said that first time, laying a hand on the sleek black hood. "Can you believe my Dad brought her all the way up from Arizona on the back of the trailer?"
"The fuel consumption must be terrible," Fraser said, but inside, he'd already fallen in love.
Ray took him for a run along Lake Shore Drive and back. Then he parked the GTO up outside the station so that he could march Fraser round the car and have him admire the detailing.
"Your father has done a beautiful job, Ray," Fraser said sincerely, once Ray had showed off the engine too.
"Like you'd know, Mr Thirty-mile-an-hour," Ray said, but he nudged Fraser's hip with his at the same time, and Fraser took it in the spirit it was intended.
Since then, Fraser had been permitted to drive the GTO a grand total of three times. He'd got his hands under the hood just once, under Ray's close supervision, one Saturday afternoon in Ray's garage.
"Don't touch that, you'll get oil on your hands," Ray said as Fraser reached for the hood prop.
Fraser was inexplicably offended by that.
"I don't see why you think that would be such a problem."
Ray shrugged. "You're the one in the bleach-white shirt."
Fraser stared at him for a long moment. He reached into the dirtiest place he could find in the engine, behind the oil cap, and then dragged his hand slowly and deliberately across the front of his shirt.
Ray's eyes went very round and shocked. Then he swallowed, and something hot flared in his eyes.
Fraser found himself frozen in place, his gaze fixed on Ray. His hand was still touching his chest, and he could feel his heart speeding up under his fingertips.
They stood there for a long moment, something thrumming between them that Fraser couldn't define.
Then Ray swallowed and looked away, back down into the engine.
"So, uh -- "
Fraser cleared his throat.
"I believe -- I was about to top up the water reservoir."
"Right, right, water can," Ray said, looking around for it.
Afterwards, they went back to Ray's apartment, a couple of blocks from his garage.
They watched the afternoon game, and Ray sat too close to Fraser on the sofa, and Fraser let him.
.. .. ..
"I'm not quite sure whether they'll sign me out a pool car at the station, though," he said, knowing perfectly well they wouldn't.
Ray groaned, and went to get his car keys.
"You just want me for my car."
Ray kept quiet while Fraser was driving, and that was so out of character that at first Fraser was afraid he wasn't feeling himself. Perhaps his wrist was causing him more pain than he'd said. But when Fraser glanced over at Ray at the next stop light, Ray was grinning at him.
"Evanston next," he said, tapping the sheet of addresses he had on his lap. "You wanna take the expressway? It'll be quicker."
He was looking at Fraser like he expected Fraser to be nervous.
"Of course," Fraser said calmly, though in fact he was nervous.
He managed to merge into the fast-moving traffic without mishap, and after a while he'd even relaxed enough to look sideways at Ray.
Ray was grinning again.
"Hey, so you do know how to live. And by live I mean drive over thirty."
"I believe you've been confusing respect for the regulations with excessive cautiousness, Ray," Fraser said primly.
"Yeah?" Ray drummed his fingers on the dashboard, apparently not knowing what to do with his hands when they weren't on the wheel. After a minute he added, "I ain't saying you got style though, mind. But at least you got something."
Fraser could feel himself getting defensive.
"I haven't had a great deal of practice in urban conditions."
"You want it?" Ray was drumming his fingers on the dashboard again. "Practice, I mean. You know, you want something, Fraser, you just gotta ask for it."
His voice was strange, and Fraser wished he'd been able to see Ray's face when he'd said that. And yes, admittedly, Fraser did want something. He wanted to drive the GTO, sometimes. But it wasn't that simple, and it was all mixed up with Ray himself.
At the end of the day Fraser drove Ray back to his apartment, and stayed for dinner. Afterwards, as soon as Fraser started to talk about leaving, Ray jumped right in.
"Sure you don't wanna stay over?"
He'd often made the same offer before, on evenings after they'd been working late at Ray's place, or even sometimes when it wasn't really that late at all. But Fraser never took him up on the offer.
He heard Ray's voice in his head again. All you gotta do is ask.
He wondered what would happen if he did stay, this time. He had a feeling something would happen: something he never allowed himself to think about, even when he was lying awake on his cot at night and the world felt like a cold and empty place.
But Ray was already shrugging and saying, "Ok, I won't push you."
And perhaps that was for the best, really, since Dief still had to be walked, and Fraser had left a couple of incomplete CR9/W13 forms on his desk that afternoon.
"At least take the Goat," Ray added.
Fraser paused in the act of picking up his hat.
"But you better put her in the garage, Fraser. Even if you gotta move out some of them crappy Chryslers you got at the Consulate to make room."
Ray had several more comments to make about the dangers the GTO might be exposed to, parked out on the street all night, even in the neighborhood of the Consulate. But Fraser wasn't listening. He'd stopped listening at the point where Ray said, Take the Goat.
"Really?" he said, not sure whether to believe what he'd heard.
Ray handed him the keys and pushed him out the door.
Fraser was left overwhelmed and confused, wanting to make some sort of dramatic gesture in return. In the end, though, he simply returned to the Consulate.
.. .. ..
"You doing anything tomorrow afternoon?"
Fraser turned to consult with Dief before answering.
"I don't believe we are, no."
"'Cause the thing is, there's this swap meet out in Naperville."
That was how Fraser found himself in the middle of a hundred-acre site packed full of pre-eighties cars and vendors' trucks, and a crowd of thousands all sweltering in the heat of a midsummer sun. Ray was crouched down on his hunkers, picking over a row of carburetors laid out on the tarmac. He was completely absorbed in what he was doing, and Fraser was completely absorbed in watching him.
Ray looked up and caught his eye.
"You okay there, Frase?"
"I like to -- " I like to watch you having fun, he wanted to say. But that would have sounded ridiculous.
So he said, "I'd like to eat soon, if you don't mind."
After lunch they walked out to the showground, where every decade from the twenties to the seventies was represented in gleaming chrome and steel. Ray preferred the more recent cars, and Fraser was happy to walk along beside him, stopping every so often to examine some detail that caught his eye, or exchange a few polite words with the owner.
He looked around and found Ray grinning at him.
"You want one of your own now, Fraser?"
Fraser was caught off balance.
"Well, none of these cars would be very practical on the Dempster Highway," he said. "Your GTO, for instance -- "
Ray snorted. "Jeez, Frase, as if I'd try to take a rear-wheel drive on one of them ice roads of yours."
Fraser hmmed in his throat.
They headed back to the parking lot late in the evening. Fraser got the watercan and metal bowl out of the trunk and made sure Dief drank a large amount of water. Once they were inside the car, he did the same thing to Ray for good measure. Fraser had spent the day surveying Ray, Dief and most of the crowd for signs of heatstroke, but they seemed fine. Apart from Ray's nose, which was bright red and already starting to peel.
"Oh dear," Fraser said.
"What?" Ray noticed where he was looking, and grimaced. "Yeah, maybe you were right about the sunscreen this morning. Ouch." He put one hand to his nose, like he wanted to rub it. "Always get burnt there. My mom used to put Noxzema on it."
He put the car in gear, and started to pull out of the parking space. Then he stopped suddenly.
"You got any gooey stuff on you that might do my nose some good?"
Fraser wasn't wearing his uniform belt, but fortunately he had come prepared for any eventuality that might arise during a warm day in rural Illinois.
"I have a concoction of carib-- Yes."
"Great," said Ray, backing up again and switching off the engine.
Fraser had produced his tub of salve, manufactured by himself using ingredients kindly supplied by an old friend in the Yukon. Ray didn't reach for it, though. He just shut his eyes and pointed his face at Fraser.
Fraser hesitated for a moment, then rinsed his index finger in water, dug it into the tub of salve and began to daub the bridge of Ray's nose.
He worked carefully, trying his best to ignore the brush of Ray's eyelashes inches from his hand, the spots of pink on Ray's cheek where they'd taken the sun too, the smell of warm skin and sweat. His hand wasn't quite steady as he worked.
Ray had closed his eyes at first, but now he opened them, and looked straight into Fraser's. They were only inches apart.
Fraser's hand froze.
For one long, tense moment they stayed like that. Fraser couldn't read Ray's expression, and he had no idea what his own face showed.
Then Ray flashed him a sudden, self-deprecating smile, and pulled away.
"Didn't think this through too well, did I?"
"You didn't?" Fraser said, now thoroughly off balance.
Ray shook his head, still grinning. He didn't look like he was grinning because he was happy, though. He turned to face front and started the car up again. He still had a blob of salve on his nose.
"There are people all around us, and anyway you're never gonna -- "
"Never going to what, Ray?"
Ray shrugged that off.
"You hungry? It's almost nine." He twisted around to look at the back seat. "You hungry again, Dief?"
Fraser opened his mouth to protest, but Ray and Dief were already settling on pizza for dinner.
So they finished the day on Ray's sofa, in the welcome coolness of his apartment. Ray put some kind of cream on his own nose in the bathroom mirror, and then they ate.
After dinner Fraser allowed himself to relax back onto the sofa, pleasantly full and pleasantly tired after their day out of doors. He had decided not to think about their disconcerting exchange in the car for the moment, but rather to enjoy the evening. His good mood was disturbed by Diefenbaker, who had the nerve to come sniffing around after the bagels Ray had bought for his breakfast.
"I did promise him one," Ray said.
"Not this evening, though," Fraser said, getting to his feet and going to move the bag of bagels out of Dief's reach, and addressing him at the same time. "Self-denial is good for the soul, but since you don't seem to be able to practice it, I find myself obliged to do so for you."
Dief's stance turned sullen. He sat down by the window with his back to the room. Fraser put the bag of bagels in the kitchen cupboard.
To his surprise, when he returned to the sofa Ray was staring at him.
"You really think that?"
In his head, Fraser ran back over the past few minutes, until he realized what Ray was referring to.
"Well, I -- " Fraser hesitated. "Well, there's undoubtedly some truth in the saying."
"Yeah?" Ray was sprawled back on the couch, but something about his body didn't look relaxed at all. "So, what do you deny yourself, Fraser?"
Fraser swallowed. His collar felt suddenly too tight, even though he wasn't in uniform.
"I, ah -- What do you mean, Ray?"
Ray shook his head, looking suddenly annoyed. He turned away. Fraser felt like something was slipping away through his open fingers.
He watched Ray pick up the remote control, and start flipping through channels so fast he couldn't possibly be able to see anything. His shoulders were hunched.
Fraser stepped up, hesitated, and then laid a hand on Ray's shoulder.
Ray didn't move -- didn't relax or tense.
Fraser realized that this time, it was up to him. Ray was always reaching out and Fraser was always backing away. And Ray had almost had enough.
He let his hand slip off Ray's shoulder. Moving with determination, he came round to the front of the sofa.
Ray looked up at him.
He was glowering at Fraser.
"Ray, could you -- "
He gestured, and Ray rose to his feet, still scowling.
"Ray, I'd like -- "
"Say it, Fraser."
Fraser took a deep breath. If Ray could do this so could he. "I want to kiss you."
"Yeah?" Ray sounded belligerent.
"Yes. Among other things."
They stood there staring at each other. Ray still tensed up as though he were about to hit someone.
"So, ah -- " Fraser gestured between them, and Ray relaxed, and then they were kissing.
They sank back onto the sofa. Suddenly everything was easy. Fraser could feel Ray's hands on his shoulders, gripping tightly, holding him close. He slid his own arms around Ray, and breathed in Ray's scent, tasted Ray's skin, rubbed his cheek along Ray's evening stubble. Then Ray laid his hands flat on either side of Fraser's head and pulled him back into the kiss -- a long, fervent, messy maelstrom of a kiss.
Finally they broke apart, both breathing heavily. Ray was flushed, and all lit up by the smile that cracked his face in half. He still had one hand cupping Fraser's cheek, like he didn't want to let go even for a second. Fraser couldn't stop smiling back at him.
"I suggest we -- ah -- "
"Bedroom," said Ray, jumping to his feet and yanking Fraser up with him.
Less than five minutes later, they were both flat on their backs on the bed, gasping for breath.
"Wow," said Ray. "That was -- wow."
Fraser wanted to say "I quite agree," but it came out as a sort of strangled moan. His head was full of Ray's strong fingers and slick skin, of Ray's stomach muscles flexing and his breath tickling Fraser's face.
Beside him, he heard Ray chuckle.
"For the sake of my uh, reputation, I gotta say that usually I do last longer than that. It's, you know, been a while."
Fraser cleared his throat. "Same here."
"In fact yeah, you know what, it's about time. I didn't think I could possibly come on to you any stronger."
Fraser suddenly felt terribly guilty. He didn't want to spoil the atmosphere, but he forced himself to speak.
"I did notice, Ray. I mean, I did notice that you were -- ah, attempting to -- "
Ray propped himself up on one elbow, so that now Fraser could see his face.
"Yeah, I know. I knew you knew."
He didn't push, just left the words lying in the air between them, until Fraser spoke again.
"I just -- I didn't actually think I could have what I wanted."
"Didn't think you were allowed to, you mean," Ray said quietly.
Fraser was so startled he sat bolt upright. He felt Ray's hand latch onto his arm, and then slide until they were hand in hand. Ray squeezed.
"Hey, it's okay," he said. "Come'ere."
And he pulled Fraser back down into his arms, so that soon all Fraser could think of was that he couldn't remember ever having being so blissfully, unreservedly happy.