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All About the Hat

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There are a lot of things to get all Christmas-cheery about--Warfield's in jail, Fraser's not dead, Fraser's not even mad anymore that Ray didn't back him up right, plus Ray's got a great toy gun and he's made Turnbull happy with the other one, which is like petting a stray puppy and watching his tail wag--but what Ray's happiest about is the fact that he's wearing Fraser's hat.

Every time he moves his head he can feel it there, so he's nodding a lot and bopping along to the carols, which nobody seems to notice. Well, he jumps around all the time anyway. The hat's a little too big--no surprise, all Fraser's Inuit stories must need serious head space--and so once in a while Ray puts his hand up just to check it's still there.

Some essence of Mountie must have rubbed into the hat over the years, because when Ray put it on, everything went kind of quiet. The station's even more like Loony Grand Central than usual, what with Turnbull and Dewey having a toy gun versus office stapler shootout, and a herd of women huddling around Frannie and her naked statue and letting out shrieks of laughter every two seconds, and a few stray perps singing "Fa la la, la la la" off key, and Welsh blowing big clouds of illegal Cuban smoke and actually almost grinning. Crazy everywhere, but Ray's in the zone, in the Zen, in the whole inner peace place.

Ray is good. Ray is dancing to the quiet inside. He talks to Dewey--Dewey, of all people--wishing him a merry Christmas and a quiet day tomorrow when the poor bastard's on duty, thanking him again for the present, and not once does Ray get the urge to pistol-whip him. He slides and shimmies and quicksteps through the party, getting a hug from Frannie and a thump on the back from Welsh, who says "Nice hat, detective" with that deadpan look that means he's yukking it up inside.

And the best thing is Fraser. Fraser's standing still while Ray wanders, because that's the kind of guy he is. He's talking to people the way he does, polite and serious, but every so often he looks at Ray out of the corner of his eye and he smiles. Fraser's hardly ever happy, not below the happiness-varnish that he puts on for good manners, so this is an event. This is something Ray wants to remember so he can figure out how to do it again.

Fraser's so happy he's not even asking for his hat back. Not when the party's winding down and Ray asks if he's ready to go, not when he puts on his coat, not even when they walk outside and snowflakes start falling in his hair. In the parking lot he turns his bruised face up to the sky and sighs, but in a good way. "Christmas snow," he says.

"Yeah." Snow dims the whole city down, sound and sight and smell, so the quiet inside Ray is matched by the outside world. He leans on the hood of the GTO and does like Fraser, feeling snowflakes dissolve in cold tingles on his eyelids. All is calm, like the song. Where Fraser grew up it was like this all the time, peaceful and still. No wonder he misses it.

"Thank you, Ray." If there's such a thing as a serious smile, that's what's on Fraser's face right now.

"For what?"

"For, well . . ." Fraser shrugs, and Ray gets that it's a general sort of thanks.

"Oh. Yeah. Well, thank you too." Ray's been waiting a year and a half to say that, even though he didn't know until now. And it feels like he just got a brand-new shipment of words, like he could start talking and tell Fraser exactly how good it is, having a friend like him. But he doesn't need to, because Fraser already knows. "So do you like my new hat?"

Fraser's smile curls just a little, from a serious smile to a laughing smile. "It's very fetching."

"Fetching, huh?" The truth is, Ray loves it when Fraser uses his weird words, and he memorizes every one. Fraser must know that too, because he keeps using them, however much shit Ray gives him about it.

"Very. But I think, in the interests of a fair exchange, which is of course one of the founding principles of civilization, that I ought to have something in return." And just like that his hand's in Ray's coat pocket and he's pulling out Ray's new glasses. He puts them on, blinks hard a few times--his whole world must be blurry and tilted now, looking through that prescription--and says, "What do you think?"

Even with his face pounded all to hell, he makes those glasses look as cool as Ray wanted them to look on himself. Fuck knows where it comes from, that ability, because if you think about it, Fraser is the biggest dork in the world. "Fetching." Ray laughs at nothing and pats Fraser on the shoulder.

"Thank you kindly."

Ray's hand is still on Fraser's shoulder, and somehow they've been edging up so that they're standing really close together, and there's a word for what you're doing when you try on somebody else's hat or glasses. That word is flirting.

Luckily Ray's still in the Zen Zone, and you can't get to Freakout Land from the Zen Zone. There are zero flights daily and the car rental joint is closed. So the knowledge that he's flirting with Fraser, that Fraser's flirting back, that he wants to kiss Fraser and he's wanted to for a long time--all that knowledge just slots into place with a click, like Ray was made for it.

He smiles and steps back just a little. There's a first kiss in store for them tonight--Ray can feel it sparkling around them like the snow--but he doesn't want to have it in the parking lot of the 27th precinct, Chicago Police Department. Squeezing Fraser's shoulder lightly, to make sure he knows that too, Ray says, "Want to come to my place? You're gonna be there tomorrow anyway, and it would suck to spend Christmas Eve alone."

Fraser's got a new smile for him then, a slow and focused smile that might as well be a military laser, because Ray can feel his bones dissolving. "I'd like that very much." He pushes Ray's glasses up to the top of his head, like sunglasses, but doesn't take them off. And he just keeps smiling.

Ray presses his new hat down a little more securely and hopes Fraser's got a spare, because there is no way he's ever getting this one back.