by Carmen Kildare
Disclaimer: Not mine, not making a profit. No point in suing.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Beth H. for the beta -- the Brit/Can spellings remain, because I'd bleed out my ears if I tried to change that. Don't blame her. This is for Beth, Livia, JiM and Dawn, who always inspire me.
Story Notes: This has spoilers for "The Bounty Hunter" and an oblique reference to "Victoria's Secret". PG is for the bit o'swearing.
by Carmen Kildare
I knew she was going to be trouble right from the get-go. Blue flu epidemic just, y'know, sweeping through the station, and she's getting pissy with three hell-hound rug-rats hanging off've her by their teeth, and Fraser's got this poleaxed look like somebody just let off the Mountie Mating Call in the middle of the bull pen, only, heh, it's gotta be in a frequency only, y'know, moose and Fraser can hear, 'cause I sure as hell wasn't getting anything off the Morse broad except maybe hives. All that rugged individualist crap, all strong and sturdy and about a jillion other words that translate to "can skin a buffalo with my teeth, thank-you!" Eh. Not.
Fraser, on the other hand, he seemed to appreciate that in a woman. In that woman, anyway. He even seemed to like the kids. Freak. He also licks things he finds in the street, which seems to me like it should give us all a big old heads-up right there that his taste ain't all it should be, even if he can tell which way a perp was walking by the flavour of his shoes.
And my guts were right: Morse lied to him, if only by not coming completely straight from the beginning, no: "Hey there, I'm homeless and helpless and can I sleep in your Consulate, and oh, I didn't mention I had a husband?" She just sat on that little gem. And all while he's wrangling her brats and chasing her bad guy and jumping on cars and spending his funny money for her, acting like Galawhosits, her very own knight in shiny serge, even after it all comes out. Maybe she's through with the artist formally known as Hubby, maybe she's not, but it seems to be enough to drown out the Mountie Mating Call, enough that he lets her just freaking leave and he's standing in the middle of the hall looking like Dief when the doughnuts are all gone.
Looking like somebody took a mighty big piece of him away with them when they went. For a guy who acts so tight and in control, his eyes give the whole game away, almost every time.
And I know that look. It's the one I wake up to in the mirror most mornings, ever since Stella left and took a piece of me with her, the piece of me that used to be us. Poor bastard. And no, I don't know which one of us I'm talking about.
He's walking wounded, and don't I just know what that feels like? When I put my arm across his back he goes all stiff, like that's gonna do any damn good, like he can pull away from everything until nothing touches him anymore, nothing hurts him anymore. I tell him it'll be all right, just like I've been telling myself the last year or so. He doesn't say anything for a minute or two, then suddenly he just sorta relaxes into me as we round the corner, and he says, voice all choked and eyes on the floor like he's trying not to trip over his own feet, "Dinner would be nice, Ray."
In the car he's all stiff and quiet again, and Dief, for once, is making a deal over him, complete with worried snuffling, snout-in-ear and Fraser's just sorta letting him. The wolf keeps shooting me these looks, like I'm supposed to do something, and you know, Dief, buddy, I'm trying. I pull out my cell phone, toss it to Fraser before I pull out of my parking spot.
He stares at it like he's forgotten what the damned thing's for. "Dinner, Fraser. Chinese. Dragon Gate, and you order. Mr. Li always gives us extras when you order. We can pick it up on the fly-by."
"I'm really not that hungry, Ray," and I can see he's backing away, thinking about running off into the Northern Areas inside himself; next he's gonna want me to drop him at the Consulate, but Dief barks sharp-like in his ear and Fraser turns, scowls at the wolf, opens his mouth to snark off at him, but Dief just yaps at him again. I start to laugh.
"You, Benton-buddy, have just been outvoted. Order. You can always take a little wolfie-bag home if you can't finish up." I reach out, flip it open and hit the speed dial and about thirty seconds later he's going on in Cantonese at the order taker and I'm taking a detour into Super Video. When guys suck, girls break out the ice cream and the leg wax. With most guys, when chicks suck, it's a bottle or three and maybe a nudie bar. Somehow I don't think either will work for Fraser, so I'm hoping Jackie Chan (subtitles, natch) and some jiffy-pop will do the trick.
He's done by the time I get back to the car. Dief sniffs the bag when I toss it in back with him and makes this noise that says, "What, no chocolate?" before turning tail to me. "Enough outta you, Dief. It's not like you're not gonna steal half the popcorn anyway, so quit your griping." He makes another pissy little grumble and, oh lord, I'm reading stuff into what the goddamned wolf does.
Fraser grimaces, turns to Dief. "Just hush, or you'll do without. It's not like there are spring rolls in the arctic, nor is there an annual doughnut spawning. You're getting soft, Diefenbaker." Dief makes a whuff-noise that gets Fraser shaking his head. "No, I don't think I'm overstating it. And you're making a spectacle of yourself, to boot. It's a wonder Ray ever let's you come over." Dief somehow manages to worm around in the back seat so we're both getting his ass-end, a pretty clear finito to a conversation with a deaf wolf. Fraser sighs, shakes his head before turning to me, and he's got his game face going, better than before, at least. "I take it you're planning a full evening, Ray?" and he twitches his ear, smoothes his eyebrow, like he's not sure he can handle a whole evening out, but tough. I'm not leaving him to lick his wounds alone, in a lonely little Mountie cot with blankets that smell like Bounty Bitch.
That's not buddies.
"Yep. Rumble in the Bronx. Good stuff. All about this innocent sorta guy who goes to a strange country, ends up in the middle of some sorta criminal war-zone and wacky hijinks ensue as he cleans up the neighbourhood." I pause, wait a beat, wait to know he's really listening. "Hey, for some crazy reason, that plot sounds sorta familiar, doesn't it, Fraser?" and he's shooting this sidewise look at me, and yeah, there's the twitch, the little quiver in the jaw that tells me he's trying to act all proper but he gets the fucking joke, it amuses the hell outta him.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Ray," he says at last, butter-wouldn't melt in his mouth, but he loosens up in the seat. We talk about martial arts and Buster Keaton and we pick up the Chinese and head back to my place. Not once does he mention heading back to the Consulate. Score one for the Polish-Italian kid.
He really isn't that hungry, he just picks at his food, and shit, I'm gonna be eating Chinese for breakfast for a week. Mostly he just pushes his crispy noodles around with his chopsticks and pretends to watch the evening news with me. He makes pretty good conversation and he's good company, but you know, the look's still there. Eventually I give up, collect the plates, throw them in the sink, beat him with the oven mitt when he starts rolling up his sleeves to wash.
"Guest! Guest! Don't you have freaking guests up there in Canada? People who come over and sit on your furniture and eat off your dishes and don't do housework?" I grouse, herding him back over to the couch. He opens his mouth like he's gonna answer, but I wave him off. "Rhetorical, Fraser, okay? Sit, take a load off. Digest, 'cause I'm planning on lightly burning some jiffy-pop later, just like Mum used to make." I pop the tape in, dim the lights to movie-watching levels, come back over to sit by him. "This is filmed in Canada, I think." I tell him, 'cause hey, I pay attention, and sometimes, around him, I feel like showing that off.
"Vancouver," he agrees. "Hollywood North, some call it. It has a very large Asian immigrant population, as well, making it a viable place for a Hong Kong production."
"Cool," and I flip the movie on and we settle in to watch. About forty minutes in I'm watching him not watching, not really. It hits me in the gut how much I hate that sad, sad looks he gets, like he's burrowing into himself 'cause there's nobody out here who wants him. Nobody should be that alone, especially not somebody like Fraser.
A few minutes more and I just can't stand it, I just can't stand it. I stop the tape, hit the mute. "Goddamnit, Fraser. She isn't worth all this ache, you know?"
And jesus god, if doesn't answer me. "But she could have been. And the possibility makes the reality all the more difficult. Because she could be, just not for me." His voice is all dark and slow, like shadows. Like he's pulling this up from somewhere deep, and it's costing him. "Do you ever get lonely, Ray?" and he looks up at that, his eyes all shiny in the glow from the TV.
Deep breath. "All the time, Fraser. All the time."
He swallows hard. "That's what I thought."
And what the hell do you say to that? Mountie guts, all over my floor. "Uh. Fraser. Shit," and I reach out, touch the back of his neck, and he doesn't make a sound and I don't look at him but he's grieving for something way deeper than Janet Morse and her traveling zoo. It sparks between us, from the quiver in his shoulders, along my fingers, up my arm. "When Stella first went, god, it was like somebody took my stomach out, and my heart, and hell, maybe my spleen, too," I manage at last. "I'd lay awake at night, and I'd have to pile the bed up with extra pillows and blankets to try and get rid of all the empty, y'know? And I'd wake up wrapped around her old pillow, and I'd just be aching for her, like my skin was hungry. Skin hungry all over, just wanting someone to touch me, to touch me and it didn't have anything do with missing the sex, it was the connection. Just, uh, hungry all over," and I'm talking in circles and my hand's still on his neck and my gut is sending weird messages to my brain. I slip my fingers under the edge of his plaid, under the edge of his Henley, onto his skin.
He makes this noise, shivers, but he doesn't pull away, and I let my fingers move a bit; he leans into the touch, like he's hungry, too. Like he's starving, maybe. I curl my fingers over his collarbone, pull him into me, and damn me if he doesn't come, doesn't lean in. I hug him, press my face into his hair, his honest-to-god mussed up hair. "It's okay to need a hug, Fraser," I whisper.
"And when I need one tomorrow?" he says, finally. I can feel him tensing up to pull away, so I hold on. I got the leverage, for once, and I'm using it.
"Then you get one tomorrow," I tell him. "Now shut up and take it like a man." He turns, looks up at me, and I lean in, lean down, touch my lips to his wet eyes. It's been awhile. Wasn't sure I'd ever do this again. But I understand skin-hungry, I understand this, and I know it's killing us both inside, so I drop my head the rest of the way down and hit his mouth.
He tastes sweet, like plum sauce, and a little sharp, like garlic, and salty, like sorrow. His mouth opens up and his hands reach up and tonight, maybe, tonight we ain't neither of us gonna be so alone.
Maybe not tomorrow, either.
I wake up, body happy-tired and mind a little fuzzy, wondering why the hell I'm awake until I hear voices in the bathroom. I scrabble for my glasses, and Dief makes this long-suffering noise from my side of the bed. "What the hell is he doing talking in the toilet at," I squint, focus, "two fucking a.m.?" and the wolf grumbles. Freaky wolf who lip-reads in the dark, I gotta tell you.
I get up, boxers half up my ass and three-quarters turned around. Sounds like he's got a hell of an argument going in there, all angry whispers.
"It's my life. My choices. You're dead, for God's sake. This advice might have been timely fifteen years ago, but now ... now it doesn't really mean a damned thing." He's quiet a minute, then snorting with laughter. "No, I don't expect this liaison will provide you with any grandchildren. Might I point out yet again that since you're dead, that really shouldn't have much bearing on my choices, should it?"
Hokay. My Mountie is a crazy-assed Mountie. I can go with that. Just means he can take his turn playing psycho-cop in interrogation some time. I tap the door, push in, see him leaning over the sink, head down. "Get your ass back in bed, Benton-buddy." He looks up at me, and there are all sorts of questions there, but it's not the empty he was a few hours ago, the hungry, hollowed out look. I reach out, run my fingers up his ribs, over his collarbone, up to his mouth. He shivers, closes his eyes, then opens them and looks at me so hard I can feel it on my skin. He reaches out, pulls me skin against skin, and kisses me until I can't breathe.
"C'mon back to bed," I wheeze at last, when he turns my mouth loose, gasping for air. And he does, he crawls right in behind me and wraps me up so tight that I don't know where he ends and I begin. Which is sorta like it's been with him from the start, when I think about it.
Not counting on happily ever after, but I went looking for that one with the Stella, and you know, that turned to shit. This time, I'll settle for one day at time.