(thanks to YeungMaiSu for the lovely cover art!)
Disclaimer: You still need to ask? They belong to Alliance and the Pauls. Unfortunately.
Thanks to AuKestrel for the fastest beta in the West. Or East. Any quirks that remain in the story are the result of my own willfulness.
Spoilers for: BDtH, Asylum, and CotW - or something like that anyway.
More Than You Know
It felt like one of those rare, perfect fall mornings Ray Kowalski could still remember with almost perfect clarity from his childhood. Sun just rising into a cloudless sky that was already so blue and bright that it almost hurt to look at it for more than a moment. Ground lightly carpeted by the first of the red-orange-yellow leaves to fall from the surrounding maple trees. Crisp, clean air with just the faintest scent of woodsmoke beneath . . . and an even fainter scent below which hinted at the promise of snow.
Ray sat on one of the thick fallen branches that he and Fraser had hauled back to their makeshift campsite the afternoon before. He squinted into the fire he'd started earlier that morning, listening carefully for the first telltale sounds of water boiling in the tin kettle he'd hung on the metal hook that was suspended over the flames.
After five years of living on the southern edge of the Northwest Territories, Ray had come to love the land almost as much as Fraser did himself, but he still clung tenaciously to some of the familiar comforts of the urban world in which he'd spent most of his life, and starting the day off with a cup of strong, sweet coffee was one of those things he didn't think he'd ever learn - or want - to do without.
Diefenbaker, who had already made two early morning
exploratory circuits of the area - tent to campfire to woods to
lakeshore and back again - loped up the rocky incline from the
water's edge and laid his wet muzzle on Ray's jeans-clad thigh.
In reply, Diefenbaker offered only a wolfish grin and lapped his rough tongue over Ray's face.
"Eww! And that's another thing we've talked about . . . no face licking!" Ray wiped his face dry with the sleeve of his flannel shirt. "Geez, you developing that short term memory loss thing?"
Then he grinned as he watched the wholly unrepentant wolf trot back down to the lakeside.
"No harassing the turtles!" Ray called after him.
Laughing a little to himself, Ray turned his attention back to the now-bubbling kettle and began to fix two cups of coffee, even though Fraser had yet to surface for the day. As if on cue, Ray heard the sound of the tent's front flap being unzipped.
"You know, Ray," said Fraser as he crawled slowly out of the tent, "Diefenbaker is no less deaf today than he was on the day you first met him."
"So you say," Ray answered, grinning over his shoulder at his sleep-tousled partner. "Personally, I'm not at all convinced."
Fraser's answering grin was immediately erased by a jaw-splitting yawn. "God," he said, kneading his bare lower back, then lifting his arms as high above his head as they could go and stretching in an effort to begin working some of the kinks out of his body. "I have no right to still be this tired."
"Right, schmight . . . just admit I wore you out last night, and we'll be fine."
"You did not 'wear me out,' as you put it," Fraser huffed a little indignantly, then smiled over at Ray. "Perhaps I've just adopted your charming habit of wallowing in the morning."
Ray watched as his partner - jeans still unbuttoned and shirtless - continued to stretch himself awake, and he thought, not for the first time, that he could be happy just looking at this man for the rest of his life. A few more lines around his eyes, more than a few extra streaks of grey in his silky dark hair, and yet all Ray could think was how beautiful Fraser was - and how lucky they were to have found each other. God, you're a sap, Kowalski, he thought, chuckling to himself a little.
"What's so funny?" asked Fraser.
"Nothing. Just thinking. Hey, you want some coffee?" Ray asked, turning back toward the fire and taking one of the steaming mugs in his hand.
Fraser walked over to join Ray at the campfire and laid his hands on his partner's shoulders "To be truthful," said Fraser softly, leaning over and sliding his hands down Ray's chest, "All I want is you."
Ray closed his eyes and turned his head until his cheek was resting against Fraser's soft, smooth skin. Ray darted his tongue out and licked Fraser's belly, letting the tin cup slide from his fingers to the ground below.
Fraser had just brushed a kiss on the top of Ray's head when the all-too-recognizably snippy sound of a howling wolf came from the direction of the lake.
"Perhaps Diefenbaker has started to disapprove of public displays of affection," Fraser said against Ray's hair, and laughed.
"Nah," Ray said, eyes still closed. "Wolf's just jealous. Hey, Dief!," he called. "Get your own boyfriend and quit being such a nosy parker."
Diefenbaker's answering howl . . . .
* * *
Ray woke with a start as the distant sounds of an arctic wolf chorus pierced through his dream.
"Jesus Christ! What the hell was that?"
"I'm sorry, Ray," Fraser said, kneeling down in the cramped tent and helping Ray extricate himself from the RCMP-issue double sleeping bag in which both men had spent the night. "Did my return startle you? It's rather cold this morning and the arctic winds can be . . . ."
"No . . . no . . . I'm good. I think it was Dief and his buddies that woke me. Or maybe the smell of . . . coffee? God, Fraser . . . where'd you get that?" he asked, staring at the insulated mug Fraser held in his hand.
"Ah," Fraser said with an almost-smug grin, passing the mug to his friend. "It would appear that Constable Maxwell had just purchased a small supply of coffee moments before the detachment was called out, and he has been . . . persuaded to share the wealth, as it were."
"Persuaded, huh?" Ray said. "Is that Canadian for pinned to the ground and tortured until he gave up the goods?"
"Something like that," Fraser allowed with a laugh, and sat down at the far end of the sleeping bag.
"You been up long?" asked Ray, while Fraser removed his parka and lit the small lamp that the two men had been given the previous night.
"Long enough to have contacted Ottawa," Fraser replied, the smile leaving his face.
Ray frowned as he noted the hard set of Fraser's jaw. "Everything okay? Muldoon . . . ?"
"Muldoon has been safely transferred and is in custody awaiting trial." Fraser said tersely.
Ray waited to see if his partner was going to add anything, then he said quietly, "But it's not enough, is it?"
Fraser looked away, over at the flickering shadows being cast by the lamp against the wall of the tent. "No," he said in a voice little more than a whisper. "It's not enough."
A long minute passed, then Ray sighed. "Yeah, I get that. Hey, Fraser," he said, placing the mug down beside the sleeping bag. "Turn around."
"Just turn around." Ray waited until his confused-looking partner had turned in the opposite direction, then he crawled down the length of the sleeping bag and placed his hands on Fraser's back. "Tight as a drum, man," he said. "Let's see what we can do about this."
"Just go with it, Fraser," Ray said, as he began to massage some of the knots out of his partner's shoulders. Fraser lowered his head, and within a few minutes, Ray could feel some of the tension in Fraser's back begin to disappear.
"So," Ray said slowly, pushing his fingertips hard
along the edges of Fraser's spine. "What happens now?"
"No, not that," Ray said, rubbing his thumbs up and down on the back of Fraser's neck. "What happens with us?"
"Ah. Understood. Well, I suppose we . . . ." Fraser paused and swallowed hard. "I don't know, Ray."
Ray closed his eyes, his hands stilled on Fraser's neck. "You're . . . you're not coming back to Chicago, are you?"
Fraser lifted his head slightly. "I haven't received any official word about my new assignment, but it's possible that . . . . No. Ray, I just can't. Can you understand that?" Fraser asked in a quiet, rough voice. When Ray didn't answer immediately, all the tension that had been temporarily eased by the massage tightened the muscles across Fraser's back again as he continued, "I'm so sorry, Ray. I just don't know what I can . . . ."
"Hey, Frase. It's okay. I get it. I do." Ray ran his right hand up the length of Fraser's neck and began to comb his fingers through Fraser's hair. "But . . . we've been good partners, haven't we?"
"Yes, Ray, the best. And good friends. And . . . ." Fraser stopped.
"So, you know, maybe I'm not in any hurry to get back to Chicago, either."
Fraser's head jerked up. "Where do you . . . .?"
"I had the weirdest dream last night, Frase. Can't remember much of it, but I think you and me were on some sort of adventure. I thought maybe we were looking for the Hand of Franklin, but . . . there aren't any maple trees up where he disappeared, are there?"
"No, Ray," Fraser replied, cautiously allowing his head to rest against Ray's warm hands. "Franklin's party was well above the tree line."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Anyway, I'm thinking maybe that dream was a sign or something. Like, maybe we're meant to go off on a adventure . . . together, you know?"
"Together?" asked Fraser hesitantly.
"Yeah . . . um . . . if you'll have me."
"So," Ray said, a huge smile beginning to bloom on his face. "We good then?"
"We're good, Ray," he said, an answering smile appearing on his own face. "We're good. Better than good. In fact, I'd say we were . . . ."
"Shut up and kiss me!"
Fraser's eyes widened in shock, but only for a moment. Then Fraser laughed out loud as he scrambled to his knees, knocking over the lamp in the process . . . .
* * *
The sound of a lamp crashing to the floor jerked Ray out of his dream and almost off the edge of his bed . . . his bed? . . . no, not his bed. Where the hell was he? Why was he shaking . . . he . . . .
"Ray? Are you all right?"
Fraser's voice? What the hell was Fraser doing here . . . on the floor? Ray fumbled a little anxiously for his glasses, and when he found them, he looked over the side of his bed - no, it was not his bed . . . it was a cot. Fraser's cot?
His partner was sitting up on a bedroll and looking at him with concern. "Are you all right, Ray?"
Yeah, Fraser's cot. The Canadian Consulate. Ray slapped his palm a few times against the side of his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from his brain.
"Yeah, yeah . . . I'm good, Fraser." Okay . . . the Volpe shooting. Running to the Consulate and to . . . yeah, it was all coming back to him. "I'm good. Just a weird dream, you know? Sorry about the lamp."
"Don't worry about the lamp, Ray. It seems to have survived the fall intact."
Fraser got up from the floor, replaced the lamp on the small table, and went to pour a glass of water from the pitcher he'd left sitting on his desk before the two men had turned in for the night. He waited as Ray sat up, peeled off his sweat-drenched t-shirt, and wiped himself dry with it, then Fraser handed him the glass.
"Thanks, Frase," Ray said, his hand trembling a bit as he took the water. "Sorry I freaked out on you like that."
"Perfectly understandable, Ray. I imagine that the events of yesterday have left you rather on edge."
"Oh, yeah . . . on edge," Ray said. He took a drink. "It's just . . . I just keep hearing those gunshots, you know? Can't get them out of my head."
Fraser put the water pitcher back on the desk, then went back to Ray and sat next to him on the edge of the cot. "Is that what you were dreaming about, Ray? Gunshots?"
Ray thought for a moment. "No. And I sure as hell wasn't dreaming about Andreas Volpe. I'm not sure what I was dreaming about. Maybe Alaska. Maybe some forest somewhere. Don't know. Snow. Trees. Lots of freaky things." Ray rubbed his bare arms with his hands. "I think you were in the dream, too."
"Ah." Fraser said, raising an eyebrow. "I take it I would be one of those 'freaky things?'"
Ray stared at Fraser, his face set hard. "That was not what I meant, Fraser. I didn't mean that I thought you . . . I mean, I know I've called you a . . . ." He shrugged his shoulders. "That wasn't what I meant."
"No, I'm sorry, Ray. I know you didn't mean anything by that." Fraser turned toward Ray and sighed. "That was just a small attempt at humor on my part which was obviously misplaced."
"Very small, Fraser," said Ray sharply, still rubbing his arms.
"Understood, Ray." Fraser continued to watch his partner's face closely until finally Ray cracked a tiny smile.
"So, was that Canadian humor, Fraser?"
"Most likely, as I am Canadian," answered Fraser, smiling back at Ray.
"You are? Really?"
"So I've been informed, although I know the news must come as quite a surprise to you."
"Freak," said Ray, starting to laugh.
The two men sat together for a moment in the dark office, then Fraser turned to his friend and said, "You know, I think it's time that you tried to get some sleep. I'm certain this will all look better in the morning."
"Yeah, you're probably right." Ray dropped his sweaty t-shirt over the edge of the bed. However, he made no move to get back under the covers, despite the fact that he was shivering.
"You appear to be . . . well, you look rather cold. Would you like me to get you something to sleep in? One of my shirts, perhaps?
Fraser started to rise from the cot to find something warm for his friend, but was held back by the slightly shaky touch of Ray's hand on his arm. "Nah, don't bother . . . not tonight. It's not that cold. Maybe tomorrow, huh? I'll need something to wear then, if that's okay."
Ray lay back down and put his head on the pillow, not releasing his partner's arm from his grasp. A minute passed before Ray noticed he was still holding Fraser's arm. "God. Sorry, Fraser." he said, staring down at his own hand as if it were something he'd never seen before. "Guess I'd better let you go, huh?"
When another minute passed by and Ray still hadn't released his hold, Fraser said, rather hesitantly, "Ray . . . would you prefer . . . would you mind if I just stayed here with you tonight?"
Ray looked back at Fraser, searching his face for . . . something. Then he rolled over on his side, facing away from his partner and said, "Knock yourself out. It's your . . . it's your bed, Fraser."
Fraser lay down carefully and stiffly at the edge of his cot, seeming for all the world as if he was poised to flee if he were given half a chance. But before he could even consider acting on this impulse, Ray scooted backwards against his partner's warm body, and Fraser's arm moved automatically to cover his still-shivering friend.
"Frase?" said Ray softly.
"Sleep well, Ray. Pleasant dreams."
* * *
The maddeningly shrill sound of the new alarm clock shocked Detective Raymond Kowalski, a.k.a. Ray Vecchio, awake - and into a mad scramble over the pillows he'd been nestled against as he slept. "Where the hell is that thing?" Ray muttered as he fumbled for the clock and his glasses, which had disappeared along with the alarm clock sometime during the night. After two minutes of frantic crawling around on his bed, Ray finally found the clock under the blankets - down by the foot of the bed. He slapped at the top of the alarm and the piercing noise came to an immediate halt.
"God." Ray flopped back down on the bed and took a deep breath. "I hate getting up in the morning."
He finally untangled himself from the covers and stumbled to the shower, then wrapped a towel around his waist and went into the kitchen to see if the timer on the coffee maker had worked for once. Oh yeah, there it was . . . thank you, caffeine gods!
By the time Ray had dressed, fed his turtle, checked out the box scores at the back of the sports section in the Chicago Tribune, and finished his first two cups of coffee, he was beginning to feel almost normal . . . except for some lingering weirdness from the dream he'd had during the night.
"That was seriously freaky," Ray's turtle, Curtis, stared back at him, unblinking, from his rock. "Talking wolves. No, really. Jumping out of planes? A nuclear submarine? Geez, what was I smoking last night? And that guy in . . . the blue flannel shirt? . . . the red pajamas? . . . whatever. He was pretty cool . . . or hot . . . well, pretty something, anyway. Wonder where I dreamed him up from?" He shook his head and laughed at himself a little. "I don't know . . . I seem to have a more interesting life when I'm sleeping than I do when I'm awake."
Six hours later, Ray had all but forgotten his dream or that he had been wishing just that morning for a more interesting life. His new assignment, undercover at the 2-7, was . . . well, if not really interesting, at least it was keeping him busy, and that would have to be enough for the time being.
Ray sighed and leaned over Vecchio's . . . his desk and took a look at the arrest report that Elaine had just returned to him for a signature.
From somewhere behind him, he heard a voice call "Ray!" and turned around.
He couldn't stop the huge smile that he knew had just taken over his face.
It was . . . um . . . he couldn't quite remember. It was that guy from his . . . from where? Where'd he seen this guy before? Come on, Ray!
Then he remembered: it was the guy from the Vecchio file. The Mountie.