Learning Patience

by Alison

Author's notes: WARNING: It's a death story!! If you don't like 'em, don't read it, okay?

Thanks as ever to the usual suspects - I know more about verb clauses now than I would have ever thought possible.

Hope you like it (if that's what I mean). Please let me know.


"It is beautiful there, Ray. I know that if you leave the city you come down with a skin condition, or so you claim, but I would like you to see my home, even if it's only once."

Groaning theatrically, Ray closed his eyes and burrowed his face into the crook of Fraser's neck. He hooked one leg over both of Fraser's and then pulled up the blankets until they were cocooned in darkness and heat.

"But it'll be cold," Ray whined, knowing how that particular tone of voice annoyed Fraser. "Why can't we stay here? It's warm here."

"Ray," Ray shivered as he felt Fraser's breath on his cheek and neck. "You can't keep claiming you're unable to handle the cold. You make your life in Chicago; it's cold here."

"But there's heating here, and blankets and ... ohhh," Fraser's tongue traced a broad path up Ray's neck and cheek and all coherence fled.

"And what?" asked Fraser, lifting his head slightly so that his breath dried the moisture on Ray's neck. "What else is here?"

"Erm, dunno really," answered Ray, sliding closer to Fraser. "Can we talk about it later?"

"What would you like to do in the meantime?" asked Fraser

"Well, let me think about that," said Ray as casually as he could. He had his eyes closed against the darkness and his head tilted back while Fraser continued to lick and kiss his throat. His leg, which had been resting casually across Fraser's thighs, tightened, pulling the two men still closer together. His whole body was reacting to Fraser's touch, just as it always did.

"How much time do you need to think?" asked Fraser, one hand sliding down Ray's chest to his flat belly, pressing slightly, making Ray move against the touch almost involuntarily.

"Well?" Fraser nipped Ray's throat, smiling at the groan it elicited. This responsiveness was something Fraser loved, something he could never tire of; in the short time they had been together like this, Fraser had learned that once Ray shed his streetwise attitude, a creature of pure hedonism was revealed; a creature who revelled in touching and being touched. And it had struck a chord buried deep inside Fraser; a chord he hadn't realised existed.

"Come on," muttered Ray, pushing against the hand resting against his belly. "Come * on *." He slid his own hand down Fraser's back, letting it rest at the base of his spine, moving his hips so that his hardening cock pressed against Fraser's belly.

"Patience is a virtue, Ray," said Fraser, moving his head so that their lips were just brushing. "You could do with learning about virtue."

"I think it's too late for that," said Ray. "I don't wanna be virtuous; that's your thing."

He reached up and pulled the blankets down so that he could see Fraser's face, but to his surprise Fraser pulled them back over their heads so that they were in the dark once more.

"No," said Fraser softly. "I like it in the dark like this; it feels I don't know; it just feels right."

"Sure Frase," answered Ray. "Dark's good, I don't care."

Ray's leg tightened around Fraser even more, and the hand which had been resting on Fraser's back began to move slowly in circles, working its way lower, and Fraser groaned, pushing back against it.

Ray laughed softly in the dark and pulled Fraser down for a deep, soft kiss.

"Like that?" he said when they broke apart, and laughed again when Fraser didn't answer, simply pushed against the hand again. His other hand was tangled in Fraser's dark hair, giving him the leverage necessary to push the Mountie over onto his back.

Fraser's found himself pressed down into the mattress by Ray's weight, and he revelled in the feel and smell of him. This was what he wanted, what he needed; just this. Just Ray.

Slowly, Ray began to move against Fraser's body, his cock rubbing against Fraser's belly. At the same time Ray reached between them and wrapped those long, clever fingers around Fraser's erection, holding tightly, just on the safe side of pain.

"Like it, don'tcha?" Ray breathed, his lips brushing Fraser's. "Like it when I do this to you." He punctuated each word with a thrust of his hips, his tongue tracing the fine line of Fraser's lips. "Didn't think you'd ever want this. I showed you, though. I showed you."

Fraser put his hand on Ray's back, pulling him closer, moving his own hips in perfect counterpoint to Ray. They fit together in a way which startled them both sometimes. It was as if they had been simply marking time until they met.

It was warm under the blankets, warm and dark. And silent, except for the harsh breathing of the two men and the occasional gasped word of command or need.

When Ray suddenly let go of Fraser's hard cock and moved away, Fraser reached out blindly, holding Ray hard by the arm.

"It's okay, I'm not going anywhere," Ray murmured. "I'm here." He pulled his arm free, and traced a delicate line down Fraser's body with his tongue. Fraser arched into the touch, almost crying out when Ray's mouth closed over him. Reaching down, Fraser tangled his hands in Ray's hair, holding him tightly as he thrust once, twice, deep into that willing mouth, his orgasm rushing up from the tips of his toes.

"God, Ray -," he said, when he was able to speak again.

"Don't speak," said Ray. "Just for a minute, okay?"

He pulled himself up until he was lying full length on top of Fraser and the two men lay there silently.

After a moment, Ray pushed his hips against Fraser's.

"Help," he whispered, and Fraser smiled, reaching down between their bodies and taking hold of Ray's cock.

Ray groaned and Fraser tightened his grip. Ray thrust into Fraser's fist, his face buried in the crook of Fraser's neck.

"Oh Jesus!" he gasped, his whole body tensing as he came. "Jesus!"

He collapsed against Fraser, the air between them hot and sweet.

Reaching up, Fraser stroked his hand through Ray's sweat soaked hair.

"Okay," said Ray, when he could finally speak. "Okay. If you promise to keep me warm, and if you *really* promise to do that to me every day, twice a day, then we're there. I will make the tundra my home for a few weeks."

Fraser dropped a kiss on the top of Ray's head, but didn't speak.

"Oh, this is very -," Ray paused and studied the cabin, searching for the right word. "Primitive," he announced triumphantly.

"Basic, perhaps," corrected Fraser. "Maybe even rustic. Primitive would be no heat or running ah."

"'No running ah'," echoed Ray. "Fraser, do we have running water?"

"Sometimes," answered Fraser, walking over to stand next to Ray.

"Why sometimes?" asked Ray.

"Well in the spring the snow melts, you see, and -,"

"Okay, stop there." Ray held up a hand to stop Fraser before he went off on one of his highly amusing tales. "Come on," he said. "I'm freezing here; could we at least get out of this cold?"

He opened the cabin door, glanced around, and backed out, closing the door gently behind him.

"Fraser," he said calmly, "it's cold in there. It's colder in there than it is out here. Why would that be?"

"Because we haven't lit the fire yet," said Fraser reasonably.

"Of course," Ray nodded. "So we're still at primitive, heading for basic? Would you go light the fire, Frase? I'll unpack the supplies."

"Well I really need to see to the dogs first," said Fraser, gesturing at the sled.

"I'll see to the dogs," said Ray, glaring at Fraser when he looked set to argue. "No, don't say it. If you don't go light the fire then I'll freeze where I stand and then you'll have some explaining to do."

"Ray - "

"Fraser!" Ray's tenuous grip on his temper finally slipped. "I come with you because you want me to see where you live, right? Fine, I'm happy to be here, happy to see where you're from. But don't expect me to stay in a cabin with no fucking heat!"

"Well, * you * could always light the fire," soothed Fraser.

"No, I couldn't," said Ray. "I wasn't a Boy Scout. Go light the fire. Please?" He looked at Fraser, his most pathetic expression firmly in place. Fraser sighed and did as he was told, leaving Ray gazing at the mountain of supplies and at the hungry dogs with an expression somewhere between victory and confusion.

Knowing that Ray hardly knew one end of the dog sled from the other, and certainly didn't know how to unfasten the harness, Fraser got the fire going as quickly as he could. The kindling was already in place, along with enough wood to start a good blaze. They could collect more from the shed later so that Ray could be as warm as he wanted. Once the wood looked to be catching, Fraser went back outside, leaving the dampers wide open to get as much air as possible to the blaze.

Ray had started to unload the supplies, dumping them in the snow for later transportation into the cabin. He glanced up as Fraser came to join him, but didn't speak, and between the two of them they quickly emptied the sled. Ray didn't comment as Fraser took charge of the dogs, leaving him with the supplies.

Picking up the first box, Ray made his way into the cabin, sighing in relief as he realised that the air was already growing warm. The fire was blazing high, so he put the box on the floor and went and closed the dampers slightly, hoping to reduce the inferno to something a little more stable. Then he looked around.

"Nice," he muttered. It was essentially one huge room with the fire as its focal point. There was no stove; the fire would be used to cook as well as to heat and light the room.

A chair was placed either side of the fire and Ray grinned at a sudden mental image of he and Fraser sitting in them, feet extended towards the flames, discussing their day.

The bed was narrow and plain, but it was piled high with quilts and blankets, and looked comfortable and cosy.

"Spartan," he said. "That's the word. Definitely spartan."

By the time he had moved most of the supplies inside the cabin, he was sweating inside his heavy coat, so he stopped to strip off some of the layers and dumped two sweaters onto the bed; then he put his coat back on and went to finish what he was doing.

He had just picked up the final box when Fraser appeared around the corner, carrying an armful of wood.

"Hey," said Ray, preceding him into the cabin.

"Hey yourself," answered Fraser. "What do you think?"

"Well, I'm still not sure about the water, and you didn't think to tell me that there's no electricity, did you?" Ray grumbled as he dropped the box on the floor, watching as Fraser carefully stacked the wood beside the fire.

"I'm sorry," said Fraser. "I didn't even think about the electricity, truly. It's not something...."

"It don't matter," said Ray, covering the ground between them in two long strides. "I've got my electric blanket right here, and that's all I want."

He burrowed his hands under Fraser's coat and shirt, giving up when his fingers met the thick cotton of those ridiculous longjohns.

In turn, Fraser slid his arms around Ray, hand underneath the coat, and pulled him in for a tight hug.

"It'll be nice," Ray muttered. "To be away from everybody and to just be ourselves. You gonna show me how to drive the sled?"

"If you want me to, of course I will," answered Fraser, pulling back a little, surprised at Ray's request.

"I want you to show me everything," said Ray seriously. "I want to know everything about you, stuff you don't tell anybody else."

"You know just about all there is to know," said Fraser, idly rubbing his hands up and down Ray's spine.

"Well then, show me stuff you don't show other people. Show me how to drive the sled, and light a fire and ... oh, stuff. Y'know?"

"Very well. Stuff it is," said Fraser.

"Now Ray, you must remember to lean with the dogs when the sled turns. If you don't, you'll end up on your back in the snow and the dogs will head for the horizon."

"Yeah, I've got it," said Ray. "Is that really the only rule? It seems more complicated when you do it, or are you just showing off?"

"I'm just showing off," answered Fraser solemnly, then, unable to help himself, he grinned hugely at Ray, who scowled briefly before his own face lit up in a smile.

Fraser felt elated. Ray was with him, in his territory, and he was so different, so relaxed. Their first night in the cabin had been perfect; they had lain awake for hours, hardly speaking as the moon tracked its way across the sky. At one point, so deep in the night it was almost morning, Fraser had put his hand on Ray's chest, just above his heart and held himself very still.

"What?" Ray had whispered finally. "What's wrong?"

"Our hearts are beating in the same rhythm," Fraser had murmured, his lips against Ray's shoulder. "Listen."

Ray was silent for a minute, and then he rolled over until he had Fraser pressed into the mattress.

"Know something else we can do in the same rhythm," he said, pressing his knee between Fraser's thighs, making Fraser laugh and the rhythm of their hearts falter.


Fraser shook his head, returning himself to the task at hand. Ray was staring at him, half smiling.

"Know what you're thinking," he teased in a singsong voice. "More later. First I'm gonna become a master of this dog sled thing." He looked down at the runners and then back up at Fraser. "Are you sure that's all there is to it?"

"Practically," said Fraser. "Just move with the sled, be at one with it."

"Oh, god," muttered Ray, then gingerly placed his feet on the runners. Looking up at the dogs, he saw Dief give him a reassuring grin. He half smiled back, holding onto the back of the sled in what could almost be described as a death grip.

Something occurred to him and he half turned.

"Frase, what about the brakes?"

Fraser's answer was drowned in the sudden barking of the dogs, and Ray's arms were almost pulled out of their sockets as the sled jerked forward.

He hung on grimly for almost 30 seconds but then his numb fingers betrayed him and before he was fully aware of what was happening, he was flat on his back staring at the sky while the dogs headed over the horizon. The air left his lungs as he hit the ground and the only thing he could hear was Fraser's none too polite laughter.

"There are easier ways to brake, Ray," Fraser said jogging up to where Ray was lying.

"Well why didn't you mention them?" asked Ray somewhat breathlessly as Fraser pulled him to his feet.

"I had every confidence that you'd work it out in your own time," answered Fraser.

There really was no answer to that, and Ray leaned forward, hands on knees, trying to persuade his lungs that breathing was a really, really good thing to do.

He heard a disturbance ahead of him and looked up to see Diefenbaker leading the team back towards him.

"Fraser," he half panted. "Is your wolf laughing at me?"

"It's never easy to tell," answered Fraser. "The lupine sense of humour is notoriously hard to pin down."

"So I would imagine." Ray finally levered himself upright, still breathing a little gingerly and glared at the wolf, who seemed to be doing his best to appear supremely uninterested in the doings of his packmates.

"Would you like to try that again?" asked Fraser, still grinning. "Perhaps take it a little slower this time?"

"If you say one thing about proper preparation you know what'll happen, don't you?" Ray looked at the sled, then at Diefenbaker, and finally at Fraser.

"The phrase never entered my mind, Ray," Fraser said hastily, crossing his fingers.

Ray grunted in disbelief, but finally straightened up completely, hands pressed against his kidneys.

"Come on," he said. "I'm not being beaten by a bunch of dogs and a pile of wood. Just show me how the brakes work before I try again."

"Certainly," said Fraser.

As the sun began to fade from the sky, Ray finally called a halt to the lessons. He was pleased with himself; in the past couple of hours he had finally gotten the hang of using only his weight to steer, and he felt that both Diefenbaker and Fraser were looking at him with a little more pride than they had previously. The fact that he could hardly move because his muscles were screaming in agony was something neither of them needed to know.

"I think that went very well," said Fraser, bouncing a little to keep his feet warm. He had been standing patiently while Ray tried to come to grips with the sled, and he was feeling the cold.

"It was okay," agreed Ray. He paused and laughed. "No, it was great," he amended. "I had a great time."

He looked at Fraser and grinned, and Fraser smiled back. Ray looked so alive. His eyes were bright, full of light, and his usually pale skin was flushed with cold and effort.

"I'm glad," said Fraser. "But now I have to get the team settled for the night. Would you go and start dinner while I do that?"

"Sure," said Ray. "That's the one thing this place is missing you know."

"What's that?" asked Fraser.

"Takeout," replied Ray succinctly, heading towards the cabin. Fraser looked after him and then looked up at the sky.

"Thank you," he said softly.


"Well, I think it's a kind of stew," said Ray doubtfully, prodding at his food. "I'm not even sure if it's dead, though. I think I just saw something move."

"It's fine," said Fraser. "It could have done with a little more cooking, that's all. It won't hurt you."

"It will if it wants to," said Ray. "You can never tell what stews are going to do."

"Indeed," answered Fraser tactfully.

"So what are we going to do tomorrow?" asked Ray, pushing his food to one side. He stood up and went to the small cupboard which served as a larder. He pulled out a loaf of bread and came back to the table, tearing a chunk from the loaf and handing the rest of it over to Fraser who took it gratefully.

"Don't have to pretend, Frase," said Ray. "I know disgusting food when I taste it, and that's disgusting food."

Fraser paused, searching his mind for something polite to say, but in the end, he simply shrugged and said, "Yes. Yes it is."

"Oh, well," sighed Ray. "It can only get better, I hope. So about tomorrow?"

"Well I was thinking," began Fraser. "The weather is set to hold and you seem to be getting the hang of the sled now. Would you like to go out, maybe camp somewhere for the night?"

"Out there?" Ray very nearly squeaked. "Fraser, it's freezing out there! Literally."

"I know," answered Fraser. "But I promise you that you'd be warm. It'd be fun, Ray. We'd build a fire, camp under the stars..."

"Does 'fun' mean something different in Canadian?" asked Ray. "That sounds like about as far away from fun as you can get. If you got any further away from it, you'd be on your way back towards it." He stopped. "Does that make any sense?"

"About as much as usual," said Fraser. "I understand, don't worry. It doesn't matter. Maybe we'll just go hiking."

After that, the two men sat in silence for a long while, Ray staring into the fire, head propped on his fist. Fraser watched Ray.

Finally, Ray shook himself as if he were waking up, and shot a glance at Fraser.

"So, if we were out in the tundra, you promise me that we'd be comfortable? You'd make an igloo or something?"

"Something like that," said Fraser.

"Food?" asked Ray.

"Gun," answered Fraser.


"That's Yak, Ray, and no, not here."

Ray looked at Fraser, surprised, and then burst into uninhibited laughter. When he had calmed down, he looked at Fraser again, and then nodded.

"Okay," he said. "Your vacation, we'll do exactly what you want to do. The outer tundra it is." He looked around the cabin. "Christ, I never thought I'd consider this place civilised."

"Amazing how our view of things can change, I agree," said Fraser. "For example, six months ago I would never have done this."

"Done what?" asked Ray, watching as Fraser stood up and walked towards him.

"This," repeated Fraser, reaching down to Ray and pulling him to his feet, then holding him tight in his arms.

"Oh, this," said Ray, pleased.

Fraser's hands were busy on Ray's back, untucking his shirt and gaining access to all that lean flesh which was his now, *his * - not Stella's, not anymore. It was his.

"Come to bed," Ray whispered. "Come to bed and show me."

"God, I love you," gasped Ray, hands gripping great handfuls of the sheet as Fraser pounded into him. "Don't stop. Don't ever fucking stop."

Fraser was beyond words, almost beyond thought. To have this willing, pliant body under his was all he had ever wished for. It was all he ever needed. The heat of Ray's body, the taste of his sweat, the scent of his desire. It all melded together in Fraser's mind, overwhelming all rational thought, until all that was left was the physical sensation.

"Open your eyes," Ray commanded, reaching up one hand and running his finger across Fraser's lids. Fraser did as he was told, opening his eyes so that he could watch Ray as his orgasm approached.

Ray's hips lifted further from the mattress, urging Fraser even deeper inside, craving more of that incredible feeling of completeness.

"Stop!" Fraser suddenly panted, "Ray, don't move!"

Ray froze, not sure what was wrong. Fraser leaned over him, supporting his weight on his hands.

"What's wrong?" Ray asked. "Jesus, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," Fraser hastened to assure him. "I just want ... I just want to wait a moment."

"Why?" asked Ray. "What do you want to wait for?"

Fraser shook his head, then reached down and kissed Ray hard. "I want to ... feel this for a little while longer. Feel you, feel me inside you." He shook his head. "I can't explain it. Please..."

"It's okay," Ray stroked his fingers through Fraser's hair and then down his cheek, cupping his face. "I understand what you mean. I want it too. I want this ... connection."

They lay still for a long minute, then with a tiny movement of his hips, Ray made his need clear, and Fraser smiled, moving against him in that familiar way.

"Come on, Frase," whispered Ray. "Fuck me."

Fraser began to move faster, pushing deeper into Ray, who had put his hands over his head, holding onto the headboard. He tightened his legs around Fraser's waist, and pushed against him until his orgasm hit, and he trembled, unable to breathe, until it was over.

The sight of Ray lost in his need brought Fraser to the very edge, and with another desperate, hard thrust, he came, buried deep inside Ray.

"Very nice, Frase," said Ray, looking around them. "Very nice. Very ... white."

"I knew you'd learn to love the snow," said Fraser. "It is beautiful, isn't it?"

Ray shook his head and looked around again. They had been travelling for most of the day, looking for a particular place Fraser had in mind. To Ray's eye it all looked the same; a solid, unbroken field of snow. How anything could survive out here was beyond him. Still, he trusted Fraser, he had always trusted Fraser, and that wasn't going to change.

"So, how many words do the Inuit have for white?"

"Do you really want to know?" asked Fraser, leaning over the sled and rummaging through the stores.

"They sure must have been bored," Ray said, before shaking his head and going over to join Fraser. "What are we doing now?" he asked.

"Well, we're very nearly at the camping place I had in mind," said Fraser. "It's inaccessible by sled though, so we're going to have to carry some of our supplies over."

"Inaccessible?" repeated Ray. "For animals trained to this kind of terrain? Fraser, what exactly did I agree to?"

Fraser looked up and grinned, making Ray's stomach tighten, and he quickly looked down at the sled. That smile had been his downfall; sometime in the future, he would tell Fraser just what that smile did to him.

"Well, it's not really that bad, Ray," Fraser assured him. "It's just a little steep in places."

"And how far would it be?" asked Ray.

"Half a mile or so," said Fraser.

Ray didn't reply and Fraser ducked his head, still smiling to himself.

As Ray began to unload the supplies, Fraser looked around, judging the best place to build a shelter for the dogs. Technically, they were hardy enough to be able to withstand one night in the open, but Fraser didn't want to contemplate what Dief would have to say if no shelter were provided for his companions. Dief, of course, would be with them.

By the time the supplies were unloaded, Fraser had made his choice and pointed towards a flat of land some 100 yards away. It was broad enough to hold all the dogs and the sled, and was protected by a slight slope. Fraser looked at the sky; there was no sign of bad weather, but proper preparation...

"Perfect," he said.

"Oh, yeah," replied Ray.

"I'll just go and check it out," said Fraser. "Are you staying here?"

"Er, no," answered Ray. "What if you get eaten by a Yuk?"

Fraser smiled and set off for the area he had in mind, Ray trailing by his side, eyes half closed against the brightness of the sun on the snow.

All this land was the same, thought Ray to himself. Oh sure, he could see that Fraser loved the open spaces, but when you came right down to it, it was snow, snow and a bit more snow. The eye had nothing to focus on; no variation. He shrugged to himself. 'City Boy,' he thought.

When he felt the snow give way beneath his feet, he automatically reached out to push Fraser to safety, but he wasn't fast enough, and both of them fell for what seemed an eternity before landing in a tangle of limbs on a cold, hard surface.

"Fraser? Jesus, Fraser, are you okay? Where are we?"

"Ray, could you be quiet just for a second?" Fraser asked. "We need to take stock of what's happened and how we're going to get out of it."

"We fell through the snow, that's what happened Fraser!" snapped Ray. "And now we have to get out. I expect you can throw something together and we can climb up and get back to the surface." He stood up, one hand resting against the ice to keep his balance. Then he noticed that Fraser hadn't moved.

"What's wrong?" he said, dropping to his knees. "Are you hurt?"

"I think my leg Ray, I heard it snap when I landed," said Fraser. He was pale, and sweat was standing out on his upper lip as he tried to subdue the pain.

Horrified, Ray reached out and then snatched his hand back again before it actually touched Fraser.

"Fuck," he said quietly. "This is gonna be harder than I thought. There's nothing here to splint it with, Frase; I don't think I've even got anything to strap your legs together. All the supplies were on the sled." He paused and looked upwards to the circle of light which marked the broken ice through which they had fallen.

"The radio?" asked Fraser quietly.

"Shit!" Ray nodded and pulled it out of his pocket. He looked at in disgust, then showed it to Fraser.

"Shattered," he said. "No use even thinking about it." He paused. "Dief'll get help, won't he? He'll find someone to help us."

"Of course he will, Ray," assured Fraser, breathing in shallow gasps as nausea threatened. "The problem is that the nearest outpost is almost 6 hours away. Nobody will be with us for at least 12 hours."

"Well, we'll have to think of something to keep ourselves warm," leered Ray and Fraser couldn't help a small snort of laughter.

Ray smiled in return, then stood up and looked around, trying to take stock of their surroundings. It was featureless. They seemed to have fallen through a hole which the snow had concealed, and had landed some twenty feet down on hard pack ice. They had no supplies and no way of keeping warm.

"Frase, we're in trouble aren't we?" said Ray finally, looking back down at Fraser.

"No, not necessarily, Ray," assured Fraser hurriedly. Way too hurriedly. It suddenly struck Ray that Fraser was lying very still.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Apart from the leg, I mean. There's something else, isn't there? What have you done?"

Fraser's first impulse was to deny that there was anything wrong, but one look at Ray's face told him that it would be pointless to lie.

"I think I may have damaged my back," he admitted. "I seem to have pins and needles in my hands and arms. My guess would be that I have slipped a disc."

"Oh Frase, what the fuck are we gonna do?" Ray asked.

"Well, I think you should go and get help," said Fraser, as calmly as he could.

"How?" Ray asked simply. "How am I supposed to get you up there?"

"Not me," said Fraser. "You'll have to go alone; I don't think I can move."

"No, Frase," said Ray. "I'm not going anywhere, not without you."

"Ray, please..." began Fraser, trying to fight down a fresh wave of nausea, "the sooner you go, the sooner you'll be back."

"Fraser, I don't know up from down out there. How do you think I could survive?"

"You keep the sun on your left," said Fraser as smoothly as he could. "That'll get you safely back."

"And how long would it take me?" demanded Ray. "If it took 6 hours on the sled, then it's gonna take me at least twice that long, if I even live." He paused, then knelt again, leaning down until his forehead was resting against Fraser's cheek.

"I'm not leaving you; I'm not going out there. Do you really think I could do that?"

"Ray, if you stay with me, you'll die!" Fraser's voice was anguished. "Please, at least give yourself a chance."

"Would you listen to me?" Ray was almost shouting, trying to make Fraser understand. "Even if I somehow manage to climb up this perfectly smooth ice and get out there, I don't even know which way to turn. Fraser, don't you understand? I can't survive without you!" His voice dropped. "I need you to help me live."

"Please let me stay," he whispered. "Don't make me leave you."

With a huge effort, Fraser managed to raise his hand enough to touch Ray's face. The pain that shot through his whole body brought tears to his eyes, but he tangled his fingers in the wild hair and held on.

The silence in the crevasse was broken only by the laboured sound of Fraser's breathing and the steady drip of water.

"You're our only hope, Ray," said Fraser softly. "You have to get out of here and get help."

Ray lifted his head and stared at Fraser, his gaze disconcertingly intense.

"You wouldn't be saying that just to make me leave, would you?" he said. "Not planning to nobly sacrifice yourself?"

"Don't be silly -," began Fraser, but Ray interrupted.

"Not thinking that I'd be using so much energy just trying to stay alive out there that I might forget about you lying here? That I might not feel guilty about leaving you here to die? You wouldn't be thinking that, would you?"

"Ray, please -,"

"No!" Ray wrenched himself upright and glared at Fraser.

"No," he said again. "I'm not leaving you. Don't try and make me feel guilty about it."

"Fine!" snapped Fraser. "How about you making me feel guilty by staying here?"

"Well get up then!" said Ray. "Make a miraculous recovery and let's move. Because I tell you now, Benton Fraser, whatever we do, we do it together."

"Ray, you will * die *!" To his horror, Fraser felt tears prick at the back of his eyes.

"Then I'll die," replied Ray calmly. "Way I see it I've got two choices; I stay here with you and we both die, or I levitate out of here and freeze to death on my own, all the time thinking about you, alone down here. I'm not taking choice number two."

"Not if I can help it," said Fraser. "We'll both get out of here, and we'll both live."

He looked down at his leg, then back up at Ray, who raised his eyebrows.

"I can manage the pain in my leg," said Fraser calmly. "That's not the problem. "It's my back. If you've never had this happen, then there's no way to explain ...,"

"Fraser, shut up!" Ray said, exasperation and affection in his voice. "If you need me to, I'll carry you using my goddamned teeth! Just tell me what we have to do." He looked up. "It don't look like it's gonna be easy."

"It won't be," Fraser conceded. "But we don't have any options. Well, not technically true, of course. The other option is death."

"Let's not think about that yet," snapped Ray, beginning to shiver. "We have to do something, Frase. It's so cold."

"Ray, look carefully at the ice," began Fraser. "Can you see any fissures or cracks in it at all anything which would give you a handhold?"

Ray put a hand on the ice, then swore, shaking his head.

"There's nothing," he said. "It's like glass."

"Okay," said Fraser. "Well we can at least fire the flare so that our position will be marked for our rescuers. You've got the flare haven't you?"

Digging in yet another pocket, Ray produced the gun, and with a certain amount of fumbling his fingers feeling colder by the second he loaded the flare, and taking aim, fired it out of the crevasse.

"Now we'll just have to wait," said Fraser softly.

"That can't be it!" Ray exclaimed. "That can't be all there is for us to do!"

"I'm sorry Ray, but it is," answered Fraser. "All we can do is conserve our body heat as best we can and hope that somebody sees our flare."

Ray looked around wildly, trying to see some way out of their predicament. Inside, part of him was already telling him to forget it; they were trapped, but he wasn't ready to accept that, not yet. Whatever happened he wasn't leaving Fraser, but he couldn't accept that there was no way out of this. It couldn't happen.

"It can't happen," he said aloud.

"What can't?" asked Fraser, shifting experimentally and freezing as his whole body went into spasms of agony.

"This," answered Ray, looking down at Fraser for a moment, before looking back up at the opening of the crevasse. "We can't die like this; it's stupid and careless. I wanted us to die in about 50 years in the middle of really fantastic sex, not in some accident."

He shook his head, and Fraser wanted to cry when he saw the fear and resignation mixed in Ray's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Ray," he said, trying to reach out but giving up as the pain reached new heights.

"Oh no," said Ray. "You've got nothing to be sorry about, nothing. Get me? I'm right in thinking you didn't do this on purpose just to make a romantic ending? No, thought not. It's just a silly accident. We were going to die sometime anyway; we may as well die together while we're both still young and gorgeous."

"Come and lie here," said Fraser. "We need to conserve our body heat as best we can."

"'Kay," answered Ray, lying carefully next to Fraser, trying not to jar his leg or any other part of him. He draped one arm carefully over Fraser's midriff and pressed himself close.

"How long?" he asked, unable to help himself. "How long will it take?"

"Not long," said Fraser. "It won't hurt, I promise you. We'll be cold for a while, but that'll go and it'll be like going to sleep. It's not a bad way to go, not really." He paused. "And by the way you'd still be gorgeous, even if you were a hundred."

"What would you have done, Frase? If you'd stayed up here in the wilds, I mean?" Ray watched idly as his breath dissipated in the sub-zero air. "What do you think you'd be doing now?"

"Oh, I suppose I would have just served my time, doing the best I could for whichever community I was posted to, trying to maintain the dignity and good name of the RCMP," answered Fraser. "I couldn't imagine there was any other path for me, at least not until my father was killed."

Ray grunted, half amused. Here they were, stuck in a crevasse, half frozen, and Fraser was still talking like a handbook.

"What about you?" Fraser asked, twisting his head so that he could see Ray. "What if you hadn't become Ray Vecchio?"

"I would have been lonely," Ray answered immediately. "I would just be another divorced, lonely Chicago cop. Taking the Vecchio gig was one of the best, no scratch that, * the * best thing I ever did." He smiled at Fraser. "I don't regret it, not for a second."

"Even though it ends like this?" asked Fraser. "If you had known that this would happen, would you still have taken the job?"

"In a heartbeat," Ray answered. "No matter what happens now, I can't regret what happened. I met you and that changed everything." He shrugged and looked away, embarrassed at letting his feelings show so openly.

"I'm glad you think that, Ray, so glad," answered Fraser, and Ray looked back, surprised. It wasn't like his Mountie to say something so open and emotional. He pushed himself to his knees and cupped Fraser's cold face.

"The day I first met you, I started to breathe again," he said. "I don't have the right words to say everything I want to say to you; I just want you to understand that you're here - ," reaching down he picked Fraser's hand up in both his own and pressed it against his heart "and because you're here everything's different. I can see sharp edges again."

"What, with your eyesight?" Fraser asked, trying to lighten the mood, and Ray snorted again, this time in pure amusement, then reached down and kissed Fraser deeply, trying to show with his actions everything he was unable to say with words.

When they broke apart, neither man spoke for a moment, simply looking at each other, beyond words.

"What do you think it's like?" Ray whispered finally. "What do you think dying's like?"

"It won't hurt," said Fraser immediately, "This is one of the best ways to go; peaceful."

"I wouldn't mind if it did hurt," said Ray. "I'm not good at waiting though. Do you think it'll be soon? Do you think we'll die at the same time?"

"No, Ray, I don't think so," said Fraser gently. "My injuries make me somewhat weaker than you; I'll probably go first..."

"No!" Ray sat bolt upright, looking almost frightened, and ignoring the pain it caused, Fraser reached out and took his hand.

"What?" he asked. "What's the matter, Ray?"

"I don't wanna be here by myself, Frase," said Ray. "I don't mind dying, but ... I don't wanna die alone."

"Then I'll stay until you've gone," said Fraser. "I won't leave you alone." He paused, then took a deep breath.

"Can't I persuade you to go while there's still a chance?" he asked, more for his own peace of mind. He knew what Ray's answer would be, but he had to feel that he had made every effort.

Ray shook his head and settled back down next to Fraser, pressing close to share what warmth their weakening bodies could generate.

"Nope," he said. "Don't have anywhere else I'd rather be right now. What would I do up there -," he gestured to the opening above them "without you? I'd still die; I'd just die alone."

"Have you ever thought about dying?" asked Fraser. "I mean, you've put yourself in danger so often in your life that surely it's crossed your mind at some point."

Ray was silent for so long that Fraser began to worry and shifted his body in an attempt to sit up a little. Ray's hand on his stomach stopped him.

"Everybody thinks about death," said Ray softly. "But I've never been frightened of it, not really. I'm scared of dying, not death; there's a difference. For a long time, I wanted to go out like a hero; in a gunfight or saving a kid or something y'know? If I had to go, I could at least be remembered as something other than a loser. Then after Stella left I didn't really care what happened." He stopped speaking once more, and Fraser realised that neither of them were shivering any longer. It wouldn't be long now.

Ray started speaking again, more softly than before.

"Then, when I met you, I didn't wanna die at all. I wanted to live forever. But if we can't die together in bed, then I suppose this is the next best thing. I don't want either of us to be alone again, do you understand?"

"Yes Ray, I understand," Fraser whispered.

"What was it like when your father died?" asked Ray a little later as the light began to fade. "What did you feel?"

Fraser roused himself from the half doze he was in, and tried to focus on Ray's words. He had to stay awake; he had promised Ray, but it was becoming more difficult.

"How did I feel?" he mumbled. "I don't know. I didn't ... I didn't really feel anything. Does that sound terrible?"

"No," answered Ray. "Tell me why you didn't feel anything."

"My father he was never there when I was a child. I didn't even know him, not really. Oh, I knew who he was; I knew Robert Fraser the Mountie; but I didn't know Robert Fraser the man, my father. I suppose I'm very like him in some ways; a little over-zealous perhaps, a little too focused on the job."

"Did he expect too much of people?" asked Ray, looking up into the darkening sky. "You do that sometimes, you know; expect a little bit too much."

"I know," answered Fraser. "I never mean to push people; I just think that if there is potential, then they should be encouraged to achieve it."

"You've always helped people, always been there for them. And nobody has ever been there for you, have they? Not even your father."

"You've been there," answered Fraser promptly. "Ray Vecchio was there; I've been blessed with my friends, Ray, don't ever think otherwise."

"I'm glad you think that," said Ray. "I'm glad that you felt valued. It's important to feel that you're loved. And you are, you know; loved, I mean. A superhero in your red serge, but a superhero people can talk to, can ask for help. It's a good way to be remembered."

"What about you?" asked Fraser. "How do you think you'll be remembered?"

Ray paused, his eyes closing. He would go to sleep soon, he'd feel better then. He was so tired.

"Ray?" Fraser's voice jarred him awake again.

"I think I'll be remembered as the guy who got the Mountie," he said.

It was almost full dark when Ray struggled to speak again. He had to say something, just one last thing.

"I love you, Mountie," he said quietly, and felt Fraser's arms tighten their grip.

"And I you, Ray," he whispered. "I'm sorry that I led you into this."

"Hey, you didn't lead me anywhere," protested Ray. "I'm here because I want to be here." He paused. "I couldn't manage without you, do you understand me?

He tried to raise himself up on one elbow but was too weak. Instead, he reached out and tangled his fingers in Fraser's jacket, pulling himself up. "I don't want to be anywhere else," he continued. "I'm good."

Fraser reached out and cupped Ray's face in one hand, ignoring the pain it sent shooting through his body.

"To have been so lucky," he said. "To have known this, even for a little while..." he trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.

"Best time, Frase," Ray whispered huskily. "Best fuckin' time. Don't wanna go back to being alone, not after this."

The two men lay quietly together for a short while, until Ray broke the silence.

"I'm not good at waiting, Frase," he said softly.

"It won't be much longer, Ray," answered Fraser. "It'll be over soon."

"We'll still be together, won't we?" Ray sounded worried, one hand reaching up to stroke Fraser's face.

"Of course we will," soothed Fraser. "We won't be parted now. Not now."

"Good. That's what I thought," said Ray, calmed by Fraser's confidence. "Don't wanna go through this and then not be with you."

Not long after, Fraser's increasingly sluggish mind realised that Ray was lying still and quiet in his arms, as if he were asleep. Gasping at the effort it caused, Fraser reached up and pulled on Ray's hair until he could see that beloved face.

Gentle and still, pale and calm. For a personality such as Ray's, his leaving had been quiet, and now just the shell was left. The body and face Fraser had loved, but without the soul they were just that; a shell, and Fraser let his head fall back onto the ice, hot tears springing to his eyes.

"Come on, son," said Bob Fraser, his voice surprisingly gentle. "He's here, waiting for you. Come on."

"Dad?" said Fraser. "Dad, help me."

For the first time in a long time a lifetime Fraser felt his father's hand gently touch his face.

"It's not that hard, Benton. Come on, just let go."

"Frase?" Fraser felt more tears fill his eyes at the sound of that familiar, impatient tone. "Frase, get your butt over here, would you? It's really beautiful here. Please?"

Fraser had never been able to resist Ray, not when he used that tone of voice, and he obeyed without thinking.

Ray's strong arms around him told him he had come home.

The End