"Are you sure you don't have other plans tonight, Ray?" Fraser asked, standing on Ray's porch, pink-cheeked with either the cold or Ray's Ma's lasagna, it was hard to tell which. He was standing close enough that the mist from his breath billowed against Ray's cheek, faint contrast to the crisp winter air.
Ray held in a shiver. "Yeah," he said. "Cheesy Christmas movies are an American tradition. Can't have you missing out on that."
That got a smile, quick and bright. "I appreciate your dedication to my education," Fraser said.
"Sure thing, Benny," Ray replied, trying to recover from the smile, and forced himself to take deliberate steps toward the car.
They made it a few blocks after that, the car dark and Dief in the back seat adding to his already-extensive repertoire of ways to leave fur on Ray's upholstery, before Fraser leaned in again, this time dropping a large, warm hand on Ray's knee. "I really do appreciate the invitation, Ray."
"Yeah," was all Ray could manage, and he congratulated himself for getting even that much out over the intense and immediate desire to pull the car over and offer Fraser an invitation of a completely different kind.
Pretty early on, Ray had realized that being partners with Benton Fraser was entirely possibly going to be the death of him. He'd just always thought it was going to be quick.
Because, see, Ray touching Fraser was one thing. Ray's people were a tactile people; as the saying went, an Italian with his hands tied was a mute Italian, and it was natural punctuation to drop his hand on Fraser's shoulder while teasing him, or nudge his foot under the table to emphasize a point. Fraser, though, had been raised by well-meaning but clearly repressed Canadians and then had grown up and joined a whole troupe of well-meaning but clearly repressed Canadians, and went around most of the time like he had an invisible force field a couple of inches from his skin that would zap him if he got too close to anybody.
And that, in Ray's opinion, was a damn shame—nerve endings were supposed to be used for something other than just telling you if you were hurt. So maybe he… punctuated more often with Fraser than he did with other people. Maybe he leaned a little closer than he strictly needed to in order to be heard in the middle of an empty interrogation room, and maybe sometimes fingertips would've been enough instead of a lingering palm-wide press when Fraser was about to go off and do something stupid. But the way Ray figured it, there were a lot of years to make up for, and he didn't mind stepping up and taking one for the team when it came to getting up close and personal with the Mountie. Fraser was his partner, after all, and Ray was just that generous a guy.
And if Fraser didn't seem to mind Ray touching him the way he minded Frannie hanging off his arm all the time, or how every one of the approximately seven billion women in the greater Chicago area apparently couldn't resist flinging themselves bodily at the uniform, well, that was a good thing. Ray wanted Fraser to trust him with the things he didn't trust anybody else with—that was what partners were for. And that meant something, even if some of the stuff Fraser trusted Ray with tended to end in dumpsters or wild Canadian goose chases.
Trouble was, Ray wasn't feeling all that trustworthy lately. A few weeks back—months, really, but Ray couldn't think too hard about that, because those sorts of reflections tended to end in hasty jerk-off sessions that left him sweaty and frustrated—Fraser had started touching back. Nothing major, no "well, Ray, I was hoping you might grant me the pleasure of sucking your cock," though, God, the thought of that mouth, that tongue, was almost enough to send Ray off the road, but it hadn't been anything like that, just small things, small moments, like tonight, Fraser standing too close, breathing on Ray like it was nothing, like it was something they'd always done. He didn't even seem to know he was doing it. He'd just stand there with those big, innocent blue eyes and nudge and lean and murmur and smile and touch until Ray thought he was going to go completely, Mountie-grade insane. And while Fraser might've known everything about the mating habits of the wild musk ox, he didn't know squat about relationships, meaning Ray had to watch out for him, even if Ray was the guy Fraser needed to be careful about.
So Ray had bitten his tongue and sat on his hands and jerked off desperately in the station bathroom, and now he was having probably the most sinful thoughts of his life on Christmas Eve, of all times—and in vivid Technicolor, too—but he just gripped the wheel harder and assigned himself an extra ten Hail Marys the next time he went to confession. He could do this. He could do this, he could do this, he could…
He could get the hell out of the car before he did something incredibly stupid.
Inside Fraser's apartment was easier; Fraser had lit candles as part of his new determination to conserve electricity, but at least there was some hope of personal space, and Ray found himself humming Christmas carols under his breath as he popped popcorn on the stove, steadying himself with the familiar routine of dozens of nights spent poking around in Fraser's kitchen.
"Can I offer you something to drink, Ray?" Fraser asked, poised in front of the refrigerator.
"No, thanks," Ray said. "I got one day left to suck down egg nog while you give me dirty looks and silent but heartfelt lectures on excessive consumption of holiday beverages with no nutritional value, so I'm saving myself for that."
Fraser raised an eyebrow. "Silent lectures?"
"Yeah, I figure it must be one of your superpowers," Ray told him, grinning, and took the popcorn—in two bowls, because he wasn't an idiot or a saint—into the living room.
Snow was drifting outside in the halo of the streetlights; Dief was snoring quietly on the rug. Fraser still didn't have a couch, but he had set a few thick blankets on the floor at the foot of his bed, and that would keep Ray's back happy at least long enough for Jimmy Stewart to figure out exactly how wonderful his life was. Ray had the movie in and had just settled down on the blankets when Fraser dropped down next to him, putting a cup of something cold and creamy into his hand.
It was Ray's turn to raise his eyebrows; he sniffed at the cup, suspecting caribou milk or something. It smelled right, though, nutmeg with a healthy dose of rum running underneath, and he steeled himself and took a hesitant sip.
"Benny," he said, when his throat was clear of the delicious, hot-cold slide of rum and cream. "Where the hell did you get egg nog?"
Fraser shrugged. "Mrs. Flanigan on the third floor had made a batch. I managed to beg a small amount from her."
Ray smiled at him, absurdly pleased. "You know this is alcoholic, right?" he asked, taking another sip. "You know you're contributing to the delinquency of an officer of the law?"
"You're off duty," Fraser pointed out.
"Yeah, sure, now, but what if you hear about some orphans that need rescuing or something?"
Fraser's mouth twitched. "Then we'll walk."
"Ah, I knew there was a catch," Ray said, shaking his head, and drank as best he could around the goofy grin plastered across his face.
He found himself hoarding the egg nog as the movie rolled forward, partially to savor it—Mrs. Flanigan made a damn good batch of egg nog—but mostly to keep the rum from catching up with him. He needed all his control, here with Fraser in the candle-lit apartment, and there was a part of him, too, that wanted his senses sharp, wanted to remember the rare, easy sprawl of Fraser's legs in front of him, the occasional rich rumble of his laugh, even the way he insisted on cataloguing all the ways George Bailey could have verified his—"admittedly highly irregular, though not entirely unheard of, Ray"—situation. Even if it wasn't for the reasons Ray couldn't seem to stop thinking about, Fraser had still chosen him out of everyone (or no one) in two countries to spend the holiday with, and if Christmas wasn't a time for counting your blessings, Ray didn't know what was.
Fraser had just finished one of his bursts of commentary and Ray was half wondering if he should ever subject a movie he liked to Fraser again and half wondering what the hell kind of soap Fraser used that made him smell so good all the time, like walking into a forest on a fall day, when Fraser suddenly yawned. And not a normal yawn, either; this was a yawn bucking for an Academy Award for best dramatic performance, a yawn big enough to have a house in the suburbs and a bunch of little baby yawns running around in the back yard. And it was accompanied by an equally insanely overblown stretch, which ended with Fraser's arm stretched along the foot of the bed, behind Ray's head, his fingers dangling down to brush the tip of Ray's shoulder.
For a long, long moment, Ray just sat there and tried to tell himself that this was not, could not possibly be, what it would appear to any sane person to be. He cleared his throat.
Fraser's eyes didn't budge from the screen, like Bailey was a perp he was tracking, waiting for him to make the wrong move. "Yes?"
"What're you doing?"
"I'm watching the movie, Ray."
Ray raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah?"
"Yes, Ray." Eyes still front, deliberately casual.
"Okay," Ray said. "So what did Clarence just say?"
A pause, then, "I have no idea, Ray."
"That's what I thought." Ray hesitated, then, the words dragging themselves out of him almost against his will, "Benny… are you… did you just…" He couldn't bring himself to say it, because he had to be wrong, and if he was wrong and he said it out loud, that was going to be it, he was just going to have go commit ritual suicide with one of Fraser's kitchen knives. He shifted, uncomfortable, and his shoulder brushed the side of Fraser's chest, and even in the brief contact he could feel the rapid, hammering thud of Fraser's heart.
Ray angled his body toward Fraser's, dislodging Fraser's arm so that his hand fell on Ray's shoulder. Ray could see a tiny muscle twitching in Fraser's jaw.
"Benny," he said softly, incredulously, feeling a smile spreading on his face, "are you hitting on me?"
Fraser's cheeks were red in the uneven light from the TV. He glanced at Ray out of the corner of his eye, then looked back at the screen. "I'm certainly trying to." He paused, swallowed hard. "Is it working?"
Ray blinked. A few times. Then again. Fraser. Was hitting on him. Frankly, he would've been less surprised if Clarence had suddenly turned around inside the TV and started talking to them. But Fraser was blushing harder by the second, his arm tensing around Ray's shoulders, and Ray couldn't let him think… whatever he was obviously thinking, so he reached over with his heart in his throat and cupped a hand around Fraser's cheek, gently turning his head.
"Yeah, Benny," he said quietly. "It's working."
Fraser's eyes went wider, darkened to deep, hot blue. "I'm glad to hear that," he murmured, then slowly, slowly leaned in and pressed his mouth to Ray's.
The angle was awkward, but Fraser's lips were soft and full, and Ray couldn't help flicking out his tongue to taste. Fraser responded eagerly, opening his mouth; hot and wet and sweet, with the faint tingle from the peppermint candy he'd flat-out denied eating earlier. Ray laughed a little into the warmth between them, choked off into a moan when Fraser caressed Ray's tongue with his.
By the time they came up for air, Ray's fingers were tangled in Fraser's shirt where it was unbuttoned at the collar, and Fraser's chest was rising and falling fast against Ray's.
"You knew," Ray accused him breathlessly. "All this time, you knew exactly what you were doing to me."
Fraser smiled, half-shy, half-smug. "I had hoped," he admitted. "But then, you seemed frustratingly immune to my advances."
"Immune?!" Ray repeated. "Fraser, I've been damn near to cutting off my hands to keep from jumping you. I just…" He trailed off.
"Just what, Ray?" Fraser asked gently. His hair was tousled, his mouth slick and shiny. Ray's breath clogged in his throat.
"I just… I just never thought you'd…"
"Be attracted to men?" Fraser pulled back a little, a shadow crossing his face.
"No, no." Ray hastily dragged him closer again. "I'm not one of those self-hating types, okay? I just meant… you got half a dozen people throwing themselves at you every day, Benny."
Fraser's ears went red. "Well, I think that half a dozen is a rather generous—"
Fraser looked down for a few seconds, then back up to Ray's face with stubborn determination. "I want you, Ray."
And sure, now he was direct, now that he was saying things that Ray couldn't possibly respond to with anything more coherent than, "Oh."
Fraser cocked his head, digesting that, a small crease between his eyebrows. "'Oh?'"
"Yeah," Ray shot back, a smile creeping, "'oh.' You got a problem with that?"
"Well, I was just hoping for a bit more—"
"How 'bout this," Ray offered, and yanked him in and kissed him, long and slow and as thoroughly as he knew how.
"Ah," Fraser said when Ray was done. "Yes, I can see your position quite clearly now."
Ray grinned. "Well, I'm glad to hear that."
"Speaking of positions," Fraser went on, clearing his throat, "we do have slightly more comfortable accommodations available…" He unfolded himself carefully, pulling Ray with him, till they were both seated on the end of the bed. In the corner, Dief rolled over to face the wall with a put-upon sigh.
"The Yawn Maneuver," Ray said, clucking his tongue, his heart pounding in his chest. "I can't believe you actually used that. What are you, in high school?"
Fraser put one hand on Ray's shoulder and pushed. "It seemed effective enough."
Flat on his back, Ray laughed, reached up to tug Fraser down to him. In the background, George Bailey was shouting, Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!
Ray smiled up at his partner, joy shining in him like a star. "Merry Christmas, Benny."
"Yes," Fraser replied, smiling back, one calloused hand already trailing down Ray's chest, "I strongly suspect it will be."