still need to ask? They belong to Alliance and the Pauls.
Many thanks to Kellie Matthews and AuKestrel for the speedy beta. This story is for Valerie K., who put the 'magic cabin' idea in my head in the first place (...oh, and the title means 'miraculous' - or so I've been led to believe <g>)
by Beth H.
(c) March 2002.
* * * * *
Late May, 1998
It couldn't possibly last.
This wholly unexpected idyll at his father's cabin would have to end sometime, and likely that ending would come sooner rather than later, but until it did, Fraser resolved not to be what his Aunt Rose would have called a "wet blanket" - and what Ray would call a 'giant pain in the ass."
To be honest, so far, Ray had exhibited no particular frustration with the cabin's admitted lack of basic amenities. The wood-burning stove was old, but it provided far more warmth than there had been at any time during their two month adventure. The groceries they'd been able to acquire from Erma's General Store were anything but exotic, yet were infinitely richer in variety than the food they had grown accustomed to eating on the trail. And if the cabin's lack of electricity or phone lines meant there was no easy way of contacting the outside world, well, Ray said he had no problem with that, either.
"Are you kidding, Fraser? It was weird enough having to tell Welsh and my folks I wasn't coming back right away because we were going off to look for the Hand of Franklin. Trust me when I say it's cool that no one can reach me for a while."
Trust him. Trust Ray. Trust him when he said that he liked it up in the north. Trust him when he said the cold wasn't a problem. Trust him when he said he wouldn't get bored with the isolation.
Or with Fraser.
He was trying, but it wasn't easy to do when he was utterly convinced that Ray didn't really know what he was committing to. He assumed it still seemed like a great adventure to Ray - 'romantic,' in the broadest sense of the word. However, sooner or later he'd wake up to reality and remember all the things he missed back home, and that would be that. He'd be gone . . . and Fraser would be alone.
Ray made a quiet snuffling sound in his sleep and curled in toward Fraser - and Fraser held on to him all through the night as if he'd never let him go.
* * *
The river had already frozen solid, which meant that the trip to and from the detachment was now a half hour less each way than it had been the week before, when the far more circuitous route to Burton's Crossing had to be taken.
Diefenbaker began to bark excitedly as the warmly lit cabin came into view, and Fraser smiled. The golden glow emanating from the windows made the cabin look almost magical - its radiance startling against the velvet darkness of the evening sky . Or perhaps it was less that the cabin itself looked so enchanting as the knowledge that Ray was inside. Fraser still wasn't altogether convinced that year's end - the next year - would find Ray as happily settled as he seemed to be at the moment, but he'd been making an effort to not 'borrow trouble' and just enjoy what he'd found with Ray for as long as he could have it.
As he reached the front porch, Ray - wearing faded jeans, an old grey t-shirt, and a pair of slightly frayed wool socks - opened the door. Diefenbaker jumped up and licked his face before darting inside and curling up by the fire, but Fraser held back, taking a moment to just look at Ray.
The corners of Ray's mouth curled just the slightest amount, but he rolled his eyes. "Heat!"
Heat. Absolutely. The slightly wicked smile on Ray's face. The patch of skin visible where his shirt didn't quite meet his jeans. Everything about Ray promised heat and . . . .
"Fraser. You're letting the heat out. Geez, even the wolf's got more sense than you tonight." He grinned, then grabbed Fraser's jacket collar in his hands and pulled him inside, shut the door behind them, then frowned as he watched Fraser, still in his outerwear, stand still in the entry. He shrugged, and started to unzip Fraser's jacket. "What's up with you? Weird day or something?"
"No, my day was actually quite uneventful," he replied, leaning into Ray to kiss him, then sighing as Ray brought his arms around him and held him, rubbing both hands firmly at the base of his spine. God. How could he ever give this up?
"What about, um, your day?" he murmured into Ray's neck, nuzzled his slightly damp hair. "Mmmm. Did you just wash your hair? It smells good."
"Yeah. Spent most of the day chopping firewood. Got kind of sweaty, so I decided to take a shower before you got home."
Fraser nodded once before confusion set in. He pulled back a little to see if perhaps Ray was making some kind of a joke. "A . . . shower?"
Ray nodded. "Man, am I glad we got that thing installed. And the extra water heater. You have no idea how much I'd been missing hot showers."
"Apparently not," Fraser said. "You haven't . . . you hadn't said anything." "Really?" Ray said, sounding surprised. "I thought I'd been whining about it pretty much non-stop. Must have just been whining in my head."
Fraser sat down on the couch and started to unlace his boots. The cabin had no shower. Or at least it hadn't had a shower when he'd gone off to work this morning. Could Ray have possibly installed an entire shower on his own in a single day? Impossible. Even if he could have managed all the work by himself, how would he have been able to make the arrangements for the delivery of the shower components? They didn't even have a . . . .
The phone rang, and Ray picked it up. "Hello. Hey, Mom. Yeah, he's here. He just got home, but I gotta tell you, he's looking a little shell-shocked. Nah. Says nothing happened at work. Yeah, okay. I'll put him on." He held the phone out. "It's my mom. She wants to talk to you."
Fraser took the telephone receiver from Ray's outstretched hand, staring at it as if he'd never seen a phone before in his life. He . . . hadn't. Not here.
"Benton. How are you, dear? I just wanted to thank you for the airline tickets. We're so looking forward to seeing the two of you. But Ray says you're not yourself tonight. Are you taking ill?"
He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it again, then replaced it and said, "No, of course not. Perhaps I'm a bit tired, but . . . ."
"You're not wishing we weren't coming right now, are you, Benton? You know, Damian and I can always reschedule our trip if this isn't a good time."
He had the presence of mind to say "No, I'd . . . we'd love to see you," before asking himself when plans had been made for Barbara and Damian Kowalski to visit them. Had this been something else Ray had organized on his own?
Fraser glanced over at Ray, who was looking at him with a slightly worried expression, then returned his attention to the conversation.
"Anyway, Benton, we just wanted to know if you'd mind our arriving on Saturday morning instead of Friday night."
"Do you anticipate bad travel conditions?"
She laughed. "No, dear, the forecast's good for the weekend. But . . .well, a little birdie told me that Friday's your six-month anniversary, and we thought the two of you might appreciate having the house to yourselves that night. I know, I know, that's what the extra bedroom is for, but . . . ."
Fraser didn't hear the rest of what Ray's mother was saying. Extra bedroom? He jerked his head around. Three doors. Three doors where that morning there had only been one.
He walked past the first two doors, phone still in his hand, and turned the knob of the third. It gave a comfortingly familiar creak as he opened it. Their bedroom. He sat down on the bed and closed his eyes, breathing in the familiar scents of their room.
"Benton? Are you still there?"
"Sorry, Mrs. Kowalski. I don't know where my mind is tonight."
"That usually means my Ray's distracting you," she said with a smile in her voice he could hear. "I'll let you go, dear. But . . .Saturday morning's good, right?."
"Certainly," he said automatically. When had they discussed the change in their relationship with Ray's parents? And when had Ray's mother become so . . . comfortable with it? Had he become completely unhinged? "It'll be wonderful seeing the two of you. Truly."
He said goodbye, but continued to sit alone in the bedroom, staring at the phone in his hands, until the ringing of the doorbell shook him out of his daze. He went out to the front room to see who was there and found Ray standing by the open door, talking to a young blond man in an orange and blue uniform, and reaching into his pockets for some bills.
"Hope you don't mind pizza tonight, Fraser," he said as he handed the money over. "It was too late when I got done with the wood to really think about cooking anything, and now that this place is open, well . . . might as well, you know?"
Fraser took the box from Ray and looked inside. Ham and pineapple. Of course. How could he have expected anything else? The fact that there wasn't a pizza delivery service within 186 miles was clearly irrelevant.
"Pizza's fine, Ray." And it was. He, too, had missed the ease of pizza deliveries after a long day of work. He took two plates out of the cabinet and brought them over to the couch, then put a slice on each plate.
Ray took his plate and leaned back against the couch cushions. "Thanks, Fraser."
They ate in silence for a while, but when they'd each taken another slice, Ray turned to him. "Is everything really okay?"
"Of course, Ray."
"I mean, you'd tell me if you were getting sick of me being here or something, wouldn't you?"
Fraser put his plate down on the floor and turned in toward Ray, trying desperately to read the expression on his face. "How could you think such a thing?" He reached over and took Ray's hand in his own, squeezed it, then slid closer and settled his hands along Ray's hips and held him tightly. "Have I said anything . . . done anything . . . that would make you think I wanted you to leave?" He could hear a note of shrillness in his voice, but he didn't know how to stop it. How could he make this all right?
Ray reached up and ran his thumb along Fraser's eyebrow. "No. No, you haven't done anything. Calm down, okay? It's just . . . well, I got that letter from the RCMP this morning, and before we did anything permanent, I thought I'd better just make sure it was still cool with you."
What was Ray talking about? They didn't even have mail delivery out this far, and he couldn't imagine what the RCMP would want with Ray . . . unless somehow he'd outstayed the length of his visa? No, of course that couldn't be it. Canada didn't require visas for Americans, and even if a visa had been necessary for Ray, well, the RCMP wouldn't be involved - at least not yet. What was it then? "Could I . . . would you mind if I read the letter?"
"'Course not. Here you go."
Ray handed the envelope to him, and he withdrew the single sheet of letterhead paper and started to read. International cooperation . . . pilot program . . . transfer. . . posting.
"Ray? If I understand this correctly, you're being offered a transfer from the Chicago Police Department to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?"
Ray nodded. "Yeah, Fraser. We've been talking about this for three months now."
Fraser frowned. "Ray, there is no transfer option from one nation's police force to the police force of another country. Liaison arrangements, yes, of course. But transfers don't exist."
Ray shook his head. "They obviously do in your universe, Benton buddy."
"The universe where every possible objection I could have to living here has been taken care of. You know, the one where I don't get a chance to decide whether or not just being with you is worth it. That universe, Fraser."
Fraser stared after Ray as he got up from the couch and took their dishes over to the sink.
He paused. How could he ask . . . what did he want to ask?
"Is just being with me worth it?"
Another pause, this time Ray's.
"Ask me in the morning, Fraser."
* * *
Late May, 1998
When he opened his eyes in the morning, Ray was already half awake, a small smile playing on his lips.
"Good morning, Ray."
"Morning." He turned around in Fraser's arms and kissed his mouth, then wrapped his own arms around him "Little restless last night, Fraser. Bad dream?"
He paused, then said, "I honestly don't know, Ray."
Ray frowned and rubbed Fraser's shoulder comfortingly with one hand. "Yeah, huh? You remember anything about it?"
"Far too much, actually. Ray," Fraser said, trying to keep his voice steady. "Can - may I ask you something?"
"Do you . . . is just being with me worth being here?" He had tried to ask this as dispassionately as he could, but at the last moment his voice cracked, and Ray squeezed him tightly.
"Hey, hey . . . it's worth it. It's worth it. I wouldn't mind installing a shower here some day, but, apart from that, it's worth it."
"Cast your mind back to Chicago, Mountie. You know . . . clean hot water pouring down on your head, and not out of a bucket. Remember?"
Fraser smiled. "I think I recall something of the sort, Ray." He closed his eyes, then asked, "What else do you need?"
"Other than the shower?"
Ray sat up in bed. "For you to stop obsessing for once."
Fraser's eyes widened slightly, and Ray sighed. "Listen, Fraser, have you ever known me to not be able to say what I need or what I want?" Ray waited until he shook his head. "Okay, then what makes you think that all of a sudden I've become incapable of knowing what I want? Fraser, get it through your head. I want to stay here with you."
"You want to stay here with me."
It wasn't really a question, but it still required a response. "Did I just say that or do I have a head injury? Yeah. I want to stay here with you."
"And the shower, Ray?"
"Okay, are we really talking about a . . . ."
"How much would it cost?"
"Well, if we install the shower ourselves, the cost wouldn't be terribly prohibitive. However, potentially, we could see long-term damage to the surrounding eco-system unless measures were taken to . . . ."
"You're not going to risk causing long-term damage to the surrounding eco-system even for me, are you?"
"Well . . . not for a shower, Ray."
"Which is one of the many reasons I want to stay. Now, how about crawling back under the covers and seeing if you can get me all sweaty again."
Fraser smiled. Perhaps he wasn't the only one who wanted this to last.
* * *
Chit chat, Critiques, Gratuitous Praise: Beth H.
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