Realization doesn't dawn, as much as hit, Ray over the head with a mother-fucker of a 2x4.
It's late in the evening and the streets are almost empty of traffic. It's been pouring for hours and they're right by the front door of Ray's apartment building. Carrying take-out as a prize for a job well done. They're laughing at nothing and everything as the rain soaks them.
Ray looks up from trying to find the right key and he really needs to get rid of some of the old shit... He looks up...
Ray looks up and right into Fraser's laughing face. Water is running down from his dark hair, down over his forehead, his cheeks, as they seek what little shelter the doorway offers.
At first Ray grins right back, right until aforementioned 2x4 hits him. Right between the eyes.
It gets hard to breathe and Ray wonders for a moment who sucked all the oxygen out of the air. He can feel the cool water running down the back of his neck, making him more sensitive to the chill night air.
He stops struggling with the keys and he feels the smile go stiff, then falter. Not that he has to feel it. He can see it in Fraser's expression.
'No...' Ray thinks. 'No...' Then he slowly shakes his head. His fingers lose their grip on the keys and Ray takes another step back, out into the pouring rain.
"Ray?" Fraser's smile is nearly gone and the worry line between his eyes, the one that Ray knows so well, deepens.
Ray shakes his head, but he can't reply. His throat feels like someone's ripped out his vocal cords.
Ray doesn't stop to hear what Fraser wants to say. He turns around and for a split second his shoes slip on the wet pavement... then he catches his balance and he's off.
He's got no destination, nowhere to go. All his mind is telling his body is 'Run, do not walk, do not stop, do not collect $200 when passing GO.'
Fear drives him. Fear is a beast that has him by the throat, fangs sharp and pointy. It will ruin everything good he's got going these days.
Sure, Stella left him and he took some pretty shitty undercover jobs but... ever since he took the gig as Vecchio, it's been good. Better than good. Greatness.
Fuck, Ray should have known it was too good to be true, that he'd find some way to screw it all up. He just can't leave a good thing be. Has to want more, has to...
But he hasn't, has he? Not yet... Ray's steps falter for a moment.
The rain is still pouring rope-thick down around him, over him. He's soaked to the skin but he doesn't really feel the cold.
Ray shakes his head and a strangled noise escapes his throat. It's no good, because even if Fraser acts clueless around most people, Ray knows how razor sharp his attention is when it comes to him. Fraser can smell when Ray's upset in any way.
And he's like a damned dog with a bone in those cases. Won't let up till Ray tells him what's bugging him.
He can't. He can't face Fraser and let him see what Ray's just now realized.
Ray's off again. Running through nearly empty Chicago streets, he loses any sense of time and space. When he finally stops, it's quite possible that he's been running for ten minutes... ten hours or... or maybe he's been running for much longer.
Fuck that, he's no good with metaphors. That's Fraser's department.
Ray's legs are trembling under him as he leans against a tree. He's in a park, somewhere. Blinking the water out of his eyes, Ray frowns. He knows this place, doesn't he? Sinking to his knees, Ray can feel the icy wetness from the grass soaking through the knees of his jeans.
He's out of breath in more ways than one. He can't run anymore because it won't do him any good. If Fraser comes for him, what can he do? The guy is a tracker unlike anything Ray's ever seen on TV.
Ray's fingers dig into the rough bark of the tree and he buries his face in the other hand. He's screwed in so many ways he can't count 'em.
Eyes burning, he looks up for a moment. There's a sound... Nah. For a second there it had almost sounded like a howl. Ray blinks water out of his eyes. He knows this park.
This is where he and Fraser tends to take Dief whenever they're at Ray's place...
Dief, who is back at the apartment, waiting for him and Fraser to bring home prey in the disguise of take-out.
Ray feels sick to his stomach. He can't forget the happiness on Fraser's face. He knows why Fraser's happy. See, Fraser's got this friend that he considers his best. A man he thinks he can trust in any and every way.
But he can't. Ray realizes that he's put this smile on Fraser's face and it's a lie. He knows that Fraser likes him because he's open with him, knows that Fraser appreciates honesty, he inspires Ray to honesty as well.
Which sucks, because that means Ray has to choose. Does he lie to himself and Fraser? That way, at least for a little longer, he can be Fraser's friend.
Or does he tell Fraser the truth, the way Fraser would expect of him?
Fraser isn't homophobic, but there's a huge fucking difference 'tween accepting it in others and learning that your closest friend wants you in every way that counts. Especially in the carnal sense.
Ray can't let Fraser know that. He can't let Fraser know that it's way beyond lust. Hell, it bypassed lust and went directly to lo...
Ray's hand slides from his eyes down to cover his mouth as his eyes widen in horror. No. No matter how tolerant Fraser is, it will change their friendship.
Bowing his head again, Ray closes his eyes. He can hear the rain hitting the leaves above him and he is way beyond caring about the water pouring down inside his clothes. Can't be any dry spots left.
Something pushes against his arm, making whining noises in his ear, breath hot against his neck.
Ray's hand slips from the tree trunk and he buries his fingers in Dief's wet fur. Looks like he's run out of time. Because where Dief is, Fraser is bound to not be far behind.
He expects Dief to howl or something. Anything to bring Fraser to them. Oddly enough, Dief just crouches close to him, pressing against Ray as if he's worried Ray'll run off again.
Or fall apart. Who knows what the fur face picks up on.
"'s okay," Ray slurs. He's beginning to feel the cold. It's not good. He's a fucking idiot for running around in October, after dark, in the rain, less than dressed for the occasion.
Dief whines again and Ray thinks he can almost understand it. "Yeah, I'm an idiot, I know."
There's a presence next to them and Ray is too sluggish to react in anyway. The cold is really freezing him to the bone now.
Thankfully it's not a thug, out to mug a stupid ass Chicago flatfoot.
Fraser doesn't say anything. He just pulls Ray to his feet and holds him close.
Ray buries his face in the wet wool of the uniform, right next to the stiff collar. He turns his head a little and he can feel the heat of Fraser's skin. He won't touch it though. Can't touch, can't even think of touching.
It'll be bad enough when he's explained to Fraser why he ran off. And he will. He can't not tell.
Because Fraser deserves the truth, even if Ray would prefer to leave it all unsaid.
"Frase, I..." Ray begins.
Fraser puts a hand on the back of Ray's head and pushes his face closer to Fraser's bare skin. For a moment that manages to shut Ray up, but not for long.
Impatient, stubborn. Ray knows he's those things. Among others.
He's also very obviously queer. Not that he'd allowed himself to see that. He still isn't sure how to tell Fraser. He just knows he has to.
"I..." Ray clears his throat. His face is sticking to Fraser's wet neck. Fraser isn't wearing his Stetson and Ray has a flash of remembering where it is. It's on the dashboard in the GTO. They'd forgotten it in the haste of getting from the car to the door...
"Fraser, I think I might be in love with you." Ray isn't sure Fraser can hear him, because his mouth is squashed against Fraser's neck. He can taste the mixture of cold rain water and warm skin on his lips. Especially if he licks them. Which he won't.
Instead of freezing up, Fraser's body relaxes against Ray's. "I know, Ray. I've known all along." Fraser pauses for a moment. "Is that why you ran?"
"You... you... what?" Ray's fingers clench the wet wool of the serge.
Fraser sighs and Ray can hear the eyebrow rub in there. Even if both Fraser's arms are tightly around Ray. "I knew that you felt more than mere friendship toward me, but I also sensed that you would not welcome such a revelation."
Ray sags against the solid body. Why the fuck is he always the last to know? Hell, even the wolf probably knew before he did.
As if to confirm Ray's thoughts, Dief whines and presses against their legs. Ray lets go of Fraser with one hand and lets it hang down for Dief to sniff and lick.
Ray turns his head and rests his forehead against Fraser's shoulder. Then he sneezes hard. It's one of those fast and hard ones that makes his head bounce.
"Fucking ow," Ray swears.
"Language, Ray," Fraser rumbles.
Ray sniffs and a laugh escapes him. "I'm pretty stupid, huh?"
Fraser's hand comes up to push through Ray's hair, moving from his neck and up, making the hairs on Ray's arms rise. Fraser pulls his head back and Ray finally sees his face. "No, Ray," Fraser says, then frowns. "Well, your timing does, as you would say, suck. It's hardly conducive to a good health to spend all this time out in the cold rain."
Another laugh flies from Ray as he shakes his head. "You're unhinged," he says softly. Fraser's hand shifts and cups the back of Ray's head.
"As are you," Fraser says, his eyes dropping to Ray's mouth.
Ray licks his lips, tasting the metallic tang of rain water. Then he nods. "Yeah."
The taste on his lips, in his mouths is overwritten, revamped, reinvented in a heartbeat as Fraser's mouth covers him.
It's not as aggressive as Ray expects. It's not as soft, nor as innocent as it might have been. It's so very much Fraser, though. It lets Ray know that it's okay if he's feeling shaky. It's okay, because Fraser's moving on pretty thin ice as well.
Ray should have seen it. He should have known that Fraser knew. He knows this man better than anyone else. He's never known even Stella this well.
Then Fraser's tongue slides warm and alive against Ray's lips and Ray's legs really give in this time, taking them both by surprise, forcing them both knees first to the gound. Still, Fraser tightens his grip on Ray, very intent on learning every secret that Ray might hide under his own tongue.
It's the kind of kiss that makes Ray forget where he is. His body is burning in an instant, and he wonders how stupid he's been to ignore this for so long.
He might actually just push Fraser to the swampy ground and... Ray doesn't even know what to do, at least he isn't sure. He's got some vague ideas that scare the shit out of him.
Then something wet and warm slides over his cheek and into his ear. Ray is startled back to reality as Fraser puts a hand around Dief's muzzle and drags it to the side. "Dief!"
Ray feels laughter bubbling in the pit of his stomach. It loosens up the huge knot that exploded into being earlier. Throwing his head back, Ray lets it go. He lets the laughter wash over him.
And it's okay for him to let go. Fraser's hands on his shoulders ground him, just as much as the joyful howl that Dief lets fly at the sky. Ray laughs even harder. He's gonna be deaf for a few days on that ear.
The laughter finally, if slowly, dies. He's still smiling and as he lets his head drop back down, he looks up at Fraser through his wet hair and lashes.
Fraser's watching him with an amused smile. Ray realizes that it's because Fraser loves him too, that he lets Ray act as crazy as he needs to.
Ray shakes his head. Fraser's dark hair is plastered very un-Mountie like against his skull and droplets are clinging to Fraser's lashes. Ray's breath catches in his throat for a moment.
"Nah, 's okay, Frase," Ray says softly. He gets to his feet with difficulty and offers Fraser a hand up.
Ray doesn't let go of Fraser's hand as he slowly starts toward the park exit. The rain's not as heavy anymore, it's down to a light drizzle and Dief dances along the pathway ahead of them, wet fur shining in the lamp light.
Fraser doesn't say anything and nor does Ray. It's really not necessary. Ray is freezing, but the hand holding his warms him in ways that he knows no waterproof, warm coat ever will.