This is a "missing scene" story that takes place during the events of Asylum, on the night before the press conference. It was inspired by Te's marvelous story "Volpe."

Disclaimer: Legally, these characters aren't mine. Legally, they all belong to Alliance. It's good to be Alliance. It's also good to share. I won't be returning Fraser or Kowalski any time soon.

A big, BIG "thank you kindly" to Te, for her generosity and her cogent insights on the importance of perspective.

Some minor M/M interaction ensues.

Feedback wanted and appreciated at:

Not In The Least
by LaT

Fraser looked at Sandor as the other man cleared his throat.

"Ah, I expect you'd like payment?," he said to the delivery man/informant, indicating the large, mostly uneaten pizza sitting on Meg Thatcher's desk. Detectives Huey and Dewey, sitting stake-out outside the Consulate, had actually ordered the pizza, but Ray refused to pay for it and then left the room before he could be convinced otherwise.

"Might be nice. And, US bills. Please." Sandor was pleasant enough about it, but it was also obvious that he was ready to leave.

Fraser was about to explain to Sandor how American bills might prove a difficulty since they were in the *Canadian* Consulate when he heard Diefenbaker's distinctive growl. Dief never growled without good reason.

"Excuse me. I'll be right back, " he said to Sandor. He stepped into the hall to find Ray in a stand-off with the willful animal. Dief was in the doorway, teeth bared, daring Ray to try to get past him. Even though he knew the opposite to be the truth, Ray called Dief a stupid dog.

Fraser understood Ray's impatience, his anxiety, and his wanting to just get *out* of the Consulate. Earlier, he had banked down his own urge to leave. Not to go anywhere specific, not to do anything on the case. To just leave. For a while. After the conversation they'd had, during which Ray finally confided that his interest in and relationship with Andreas Volpe had been more than professional, Fraser felt as though the Consulate was shrinking, that the walls were incrementally, but definitely, moving inward. Rationally, he knew this was not the case, but his intellectual understanding of the properties of physical matter meant nothing in the face of his sudden need to be in a bigger space. A more open space. A space that, for however brief a time, did not contain Ray.

He stayed because he thought Ray needed him to, then Lt. Welsh paid a visit, then he really did have to leave to work on the case. When he got back, the Consulate walls were still moving. Fraser wasn't sure if Ray's impetus for getting out was exclusively their talk, the entire situation, or something all together different, but he sympathized with the desire. He also knew he couldn't allow Ray to leave.

Ray wasn't mollified by any of the legitimate reasons Fraser gave for why he couldn't walk out the door. He became more and more agitated as they stood there, so that by the time he questioned Fraser's calm and confident assertion that he did not kill Volpe, he was practically shaking.

"How do you know?" Ray almost spat the words out. "How do you *know*? How can you be so *sure*?"

"Because I know you." Fraser kept his voice steady. Even. Certain. Warm. "You're my partner." He tilted his head slightly. "And you're my friend." As he said those words, Fraser felt an odd shift in the perspective of the hallway. The Consulate had stopped moving. He watched Ray carefully. The moment was so fragile the only thing he could do was stay still.

Ray blinked once, then again. Fraser couldn't tell if what he had said was enough to convince the other man not to leave, so he just waited.

"Was that hard to say?" Ray's voice had none of Fraser's steadiness.

"Not in the least," Fraser said, using his gaze to hold Ray's. To hold Ray.

"You gonna call off your dog?" Ray didn't look away.

"I'm afraid I can't do that." Fraser smiled. He jerked his head slightly, in the direction of Thatcher's office and the conference room. "Come on. Let's go watch some curling." He turned around and started back down the hall, letting out a soft, low breath when he heard Ray's footsteps following his own.

He convinced Ray to pay for the pizza so Sandor could be on his way, then the two of them settled into a not entirely pleasant silence at the conference table, sitting right next to one another. Fraser's eyes were on the match and he knew the score and could describe each play as it unfolded, but he was not paying attention to the game. This was the first opportunity he had to really think about what he had learned about Ray and Volpe. It bothered him for a reason he didn't want to name and on which he originally thought it was better not to dwell.

Now, alone with Ray in the Consulate, he couldn't stop himself. It was completely irrational, not to mention wholly unfair, but he felt the lick, the sting of something that could only be described as jealousy. The unseemliness of feeling envy towards a dead man made him uncomfortable, and he shifted in his chair, fighting the urge to get up and leave the room.

//Why in God's name do I think I have the right to feel *anything* about it, let alone feel this? Did I ever once actually try to let Ray know there was another choice to make? I have no right to this, no right at all. But here it is. He never would have told me if I hadn't kept pushing, if I had just left it alone. But I needed to know. No. I wanted to know. It's dishonest to pretend that my interest was anything but personal, that it had *anything* to do with finding out who actually killed Volpe. I *wanted* to know. And I hate it that I know. I hate it. 'Be careful what you wish for.' It would be better to not know this. To *not* know that he can choose this way and not

He missed the first two attempts Ray made at getting his attention. It was only when Ray said his name a third time that Fraser actually heard him. He shut off the television, turned in his chair, and for a very long moment, they simply stared at one another. When Ray finally spoke, his voice sounded so loud in the otherwise quiet room, Fraser felt himself wince.

"I...I'm curious about something." Ray wasn't actually looking at him. His gaze seemed fixed on some point slightly to the left of Fraser's head. "I mean, I...get the feeling you understand, so I'm not askin' if you think somehow I screwed up or somethin'. All I wanna know is this. Does it bother you that Volpe was a criminal or that he was a guy?" Suddenly, the blue-green eyes *were* on him.

Fraser started. He was certain, absolutely certain, that he had not acted any differently towards Ray, despite what he was feeling. If anything, he thought that he'd been quite supportive. Yet Ray had read him as surely as if he was a book. His partner continued to surprise and confound him. He considered his answer carefully before speaking.

"Your choice could have been a abiding citizen, but then, mine could have been as well." Thinking of Victoria no longer hurt, but it was never pleasant. He continued, careful to keep any hint of what he was thinking from seeping into his tone. "As for the matter of Mr. Volpe's gender...that doesn't bother me at all." //Now be quiet. He did not ask if it bothered you that he chose Volpe instead. If it bothers you that he feels as though he can't choose you.//

"Not at all?" Ray's voice was softer than it was when he first spoke. Fraser couldn't even begin to describe or understand the expression on his face.

"Not in the least." //Of course not, because it means you *could* choose me. You haven't. You won't. But you could.//

Ray shifted his chair so that he was closer to Fraser.

"So if I were to do this, it wouldn't bother you?" Quickly, but gently, he caught Fraser's face in his hands. Pressed his mouth to Benton's lips. It took several seconds, but Fraser, in spite of himself, started kissing back. Lips opening slightly, he let the tip of his tongue sneak out, then slip in. He raised one strong, solid hand and slid it up the right side of Ray's face and through his hair, bringing it to rest at the nape of his neck.

Fraser gave himself over to the kiss completely. Ray tasted vaguely of sugar and coffee, and a few other things he found himself too lightheaded to name. He could have kissed Ray like this all night, wanted to. //What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Stop. You are not being fair. To him. Or to yourself. Stop.//

He tenderly, but firmly, broke the kiss. A question had been put to him, and when Ray opened his eyes, he answered.

"Not in the least." Fraser brought his hand around to cradle Ray's chin, a little shaken by how lost his partner looked and somehow just knowing that it wasn't because of him. He suddenly remembered something he had told Ray earlier in the evening. He stood then, his hand still on Ray's face. "We have a big morning ahead of us. A decent night's sleep is in order." He paused, the tip of his thumb brushing lightly at the corner of Ray's mouth. He pulled his hand away before he spoke again. "And you...probably have some thinking to do. Good night, Ray." With that, he left the room.

In the quiet of his office, Fraser rested his forehead against the door and listened for the sound of Ray going to his room. People do strange things when they're in pain. He knew this all too well. Ray needed to think, and Fraser understood him enough to know he wouldn't do that thinking right away. He would do it though. Think about what he'd lost. Then, when the time was right, and Fraser hoped that someday it would be, Ray might just think about what he'd found.


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