How has this moment come so quickly when it feels like just yesterday that they were having that awkward conversation around the campfire? The one that launched them on this quest thing to begin with.
They are sitting next to each other, this time inside in the warmth at least, but also frozen, both of them still awkward and uncertain about what’s happening next here.
Nothing has changed for Ray. All these months later and he still doesn’t want to leave, not now, not ever. Ray wants to be partners forever and not just in the buddies meaning of the word. But Fraser, he’s still a mystery. Ray knows him so well that he can pretty much predict what he’ll say to anything except of course to that one question, “Will you have me or not Frase?”
What is wrong with him that he can’t read Fraser on this? They have so much chemistry, the good kind and the explosive kind, but chemistry all the same. Ray feels drunk on all that chemistry going on right there between them all the time. It makes him crazy enough to want to scream or grab Fraser and kiss him good right on that oh-so-clever mouth of his or all sorts of other things that could mess up this friendship big time if he’s got it all wrong (or make it even better if he’s got it right, the little imp on his shoulder says).
But Fraser, except for all those little blushes and the flustered mumbles, somehow still manages to stay more or less locked down even with all that chemistry boiling over between them (and, boy, would Ray love to see him not locked down, be the guy with the one and only key to the not locked down Fraser in fact).
And mostly Ray feels like Fraser is an open book to him. He’s pretty dang fluent in “Fraserese” by now. Hell, he can usually predict Fraser’s exact words in most situations before he even says them. But he’s still missing too many clues as to whether Fraser does or doesn’t feel the same way he does that he’s way too freaked out to put his heart out there on the table and give Fraser a chance to say, “I’m sorry, Ray if I’ve been giving you the wrong impression, nothing could have been further from my intentions,” or some other stupidly polite way of rejecting him, and wouldn’t that just suck.
Is it his own stuff getting in the way? Is that what’s making Ray miss the clues that must be there so that he can know if Fraser likes him the way Ray likes Fraser. Could it just be all that left-over Stella crap that he can’t seem to shake about never being good enough, being tossed in the dumpster after years of loving her so much and putting everything he had into trying to be the person she could love back?
The thing is, he doesn’t feel like he has to be anything more than himself for Fraser. It’s enough that Fraser gives him that smile that he doesn’t really give to anyone else. That smile makes Ray feel full up and all that gushy stuff he can’t put words to. Fraser’s the one with all the poetry in his head after all not him.
It shouldn’t be this hard for him to peg Fraser. It’s not like there haven’t been any clues here. Ray’s just not sure there’s a preponderance of evidence yet. Well not before this week, there wasn’t. But maybe there is now.
It’s been quite a ride, especially the last few days. They stopped at an RCMP outpost not seven days ago. They were coming in from weeks out in the wilderness together, questing or whatever. Ray didn’t care if they found the hand of Franklin or not. He didn’t even care that they were freezing their nuts off, which is saying something right there. All Ray cared about was that he was with Fraser somewhere and not on a plane back to Chicago without him.
And it seems like the Canadian government has no qualms about bringing Ray the American on board for a little undercover work after the whole nuclear sub thing. They just needed the two of them to pose as honeymooners in a fancy wilderness couples retreat that’s got a shady something or other going on that they can’t quite finger from the outside. Because of course everyone who meets them assumes they are a couple. Everyone except Fraser that is.
And yeah, maybe they’ve been sharing sleeping bags “for warmth” for weeks. But that room at the couples resort was plenty warm and the bed was big and wide but Ray woke up spooned up behind Fraser as if they were still wrapped up together like mummies in those sub-zero bags. Christ he’s even got his hand tucked just inside the buttons of Fraser’s long johns seeking the warmth of Fraser’s belly skin.
Because Ray’s sleeping brain is clearly not as conflicted as his waking brain or at least complete crap at keeping his feelings under wraps. This could have been bad and Fraser could have reacted so many ways (always polite ways, of course), but all he did was hum. And did Ray detect him snuggling a little closer? Fraser is subtle after all, but Ray’s thinking just maybe it really was Fraser snuggling back. Greatness!
But subtle must be lost on the bad guys because something twigs them to the fact that Ray and Fraser aren’t a couple on their honeymoon; which is how they end up stripped to their boxers and tied up on that very same bed in a way that is pretty obviously mocking them about the whole fake couple thing.
All Ray can think is, ‘hello! we’re pretty much naked here and tied together such that it makes the keeping of secret feelings, well hard, shall we say.’ And yes, Ray’s panicking, and absolutely buzzing, which is making things so much worse. Only Fraser could keep his cool under such circumstances. The guy’s somehow cool enough to focus on pulling off a delicate escape artist operation like he’s Houdini himself.
“Please try to relax, Ray. Keep still.”
Ray was a drowning man here! Thank God Fraser didn’t try that buddy breathing thing again. Because, that there would have put Ray right over the edge and there would be no hiding anything of the feelings nature after that.
But several days later, no longer tied together, thanks to Fraser’s cool head and artistry with knots, and the case resolved successfully, despite the blown cover, Ray can look back at the situation with a much clearer head. Maybe he can write off what he most definitely felt as a “natural reaction” and all that. But something in Fraser’s choice of words can’t be ignored. Not, “I’m terribly sorry, Ray, but it seems that your proximity and, well frankly, wriggling has provoked an embarrassing but perhaps unavoidable reaction.” Simply, “Oh dear,” and then silence. Maybe Fraser had some feelings to hide too that he wasn’t hiding so well at that moment either.
So yeah… cut to the chase… Ray doesn’t want to leave. Doesn’t want to lose this possible thing, if it is in fact a thing. Would stay forever if Fraser would have him. Would love him if Fraser would let him.
And here they are, once again, after surviving all that they’ve survived in a matter of months. Wherever they are, he doesn’t remember the name. It’s somewhere that passes for a town up north (Fraser would only correct him if he tried to pronounce the name of the place anyway, so why even commit it to memory). They are still sitting next to each other, on yet another motel bed, on what could very well be Ray’s last night in Canada with Fraser if one of them doesn’t think of something quick. The northern lights are blazing away outside the window behind them as if to say, “you two right there, get on with it!” Instead, they are paralyzed like two idiots on a wire, neither of them able to look at the other or complete a sentence.
“Well, Ray, I imagine you’ll be wanting to…”
“Yeah, Frase, I should uh…”
“Home of course you must miss…”
“Chicago, what’s not to…”
Screw it. Ray’s never been a coward. And if he can’t say it, he’s on a plane and out of here anyway so go for the gold baby!
Only what he really does is sort of tentatively reach out for Fraser’s jaw. He wants to gently cradle it in his hand. He imagines feeling Fraser press right back into his hand and just knowing, right then and there, that he’s it for Fraser too. But all he’s got the guts for is a soft touch with his finger.
It’s enough though. Quick as an electrical circuit connecting, some sort of energy travels between them. Their eyes meet. Ray can’t look away. And you know what, neither can Fraser. Focus, Ray, don’t let those beautiful eyes distract you from saying what’s gotta be said (and definitely can’t be unsaid; so get it right Ray).
“I could also... stay... here with you...”
Once those words fall out of his mouth, Ray is going nuts over here ‘cause it feels like time has stopped. But it hasn’t since he sees Fraser cock his head slightly and open his mouth.
Oh yeah, Fraser’s got the right idea. And he’s not upset which is good. Just, well it sounded unsure to Ray. Not in the ‘I’m unsure about wanting you to stay Ray’ way but more in the ‘I’m not sure I can believe that you are saying what I think you are saying about me Ray’ way. Inside Ray’s screaming, “Can’t you see I love you, you numbskull!”
But all that comes out of Ray’s mouth is, “Yeah Forever.”
Then something beautiful happens. Fraser’s face lights up with one of those real smiles, the ones that almost no one gets from Fraser. Ray thinks he’s gotten all of them that he’s ever seen, which was the number one clue that made him think, maybe, just maybe, it was worth the risk of saying what he said, in the first place. This is greatness. But Ray holds his breath, and waits, because Fraser always has something to say, and it’s always worth the wait.
“I’d like that very much, Ray.”