Here's fic. It's finished, but I had to chop it into three bits due to size issues. Me and my size issues, I swear.
Author: Aristide and Mairead Triste
Fandom: Due South, F/K
Warnings: Mild angst, mild h/c, a bit of schmoop
Summary: Post-COTW. Ray K. and Fraser hang out a lot. Smut ensues.
Disclaimer: Just poaching.
Author's notes: My tremendous thanks to Pretty Pretty Pares for giving me a heaping helping of beta, along with big side dishes of patience and encouragement. This story is dedicated to all the writers I envy and admire; the ones who make me want so desperately to be better, and whose stories I take refuge in to assuage the pain of my continual failure. To: Julad, Te, Eliade, Bone, Pares, Punk, Spike, Crysothemis, Aukestrel, Cesperanza, Resonant, Torch, Basingstoke, Shalott, Kat Allison, Nonie Rider, and Pearl O, just to name a few. If y'all weren't on the planet, I'd be even grumpier and surlier than I already am. Also: this is for Inigo, Beloved, who deserved better.
By Aristide and Mairead Triste
"There's a storm on the way," Fraser said, "but I won't be long. Diefenbaker and I will be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail. With dinner, if our luck holds out."
"Two shakes of a lamb's tail," Ray mumbled to himself, digging in the canvas bag for tent pegs. "Who the hell says that? Who sits around with a friggin' stopwatch and stares at lamb's tails? Probably someone Canadian, that's who." He found the last peg and stood up, yelling at Fraser's back: "If you see a wild pizza, shoot it!"
The wind had started to rise, and Fraser's voice floated back to him, half-audible. "...endangered species up here, Ray."
"Ha. That's not even funny." But Fraser was only a speck in the distance by that time, so he said it to the rest of the dogs. They didn't say anything back.
For Ray, it all happened very fast. He took one wild and unsuccessful look around in an attempt to get his bearings, then stepped into a pile of snow that gave way under him with a sickening and silent lurch. There was a long, lolloping slide from utter whiteness to utter blackness, crashing into and through and over, falling until he had to wonder if maybe he'd found the edge of the planet and sailed right on over it, falling until he slammed to a stop with a sharp flash of pain in his leg and a crack to his head that made him see colors on the insides of his eyelids.
"Jeez," that was dumb, he meant to say, but he was wedged in tight, too tight to talk, flat on his back in the total darkness with a big, icy weight pressing down on his chest. Stuck like a cork in a bottle. A frozen bottle.
Oh yeah, that was dumb all right. Probably dumb enough to kill him. Ray sucked in what air he could get, closed his eyes against the dark, and tried to remember what exactly he'd thought was so wonderful about this whole adventure thing.
Some time later, Ray realized that he had a problem with cold, dark, and alone. The cold he could handle: he'd been cold since he faceplanted into a snowfield with Fraser. And cold and dark made up a big chunk of every day out here, but that was cold and dark with a fire and a tent and some dogs and Fraser in it, which was sometimes annoying and sometimes peaceful and often kinda cool.
But this, this cold and dark and alone and half-crushed and no noise except for his own gasps for air and an occasional dim shriek that he knew was the storm somewhere up there, up where the world was and where Fraser was and where he couldn't get to--this sucked.
"This sucks, Fraser," he whispered, but there was no answer except for that far-off howl, which sounded like it was laughing at him. "Yeah, you suck too," he managed, and closed his eyes again.
The thing was, he'd been doing so good--better, anyways, enough to not feel so much like a big piece of whiny luggage that Fraser was hauling across the ice with him. True, he didn't do much during the day, because he'd tried driving the dogs but mostly that led to a lot of puzzled doggy looks and sarcastic whuffs from Dief, and not a lot in the way of actual forward movement. But whenever they stopped for the day he made up for it, or tried to. He lashed down the supplies and pitched the tent while Fraser did... all the stuff he did, and sooner or later Fraser would show up in the tent and there'd be food (Ray supposed it technically counted as food, since he put it in his mouth and swallowed it), and maybe some dumb stories or speculation about the weather or how far they'd make it the next day, and then sleep, his back pressed up against Fraser's, the warmest he ever got.
It was good, he was good, doing that acclimating thing that was what he thought of as his real job, and it was so stupid that that's what he'd been thinking about when he set up the tent, that he was doing a pretty good job of his real job, when all of a sudden the wind kicked up into a howl and the snow started piling on in sheets, and when a square canvas tarp flapped by him he realized he'd kind of forgotten to do the lashing-down-of-supplies part of his job, and now their stuff--the stuff they needed, the stuff that kept them alive--was blowing away.
"Fraser!" he yelled, but that was dumb too. He didn't know how many lamb's tails it had been, but for now he was on his own. At first that was a good thing, because it gave him a chance to get everything back where it belonged and strapped down tight without Fraser ever having to know what a dumbass he'd been, but then it turned out to be not so good, because Ray ran off into the wind and grabbed what items he could get hold of, and all the time the snow was coming down faster and harder, and the first time he fell he lost his grip on everything he'd managed to find so far, and the second time he fell he wound up here, in the cold, in the dark, and alone, which really was the suckiest thing that ever sucked.
"S.O.S.," Ray managed, but he couldn't remember the rest of the words. He had no idea how long he'd been stuck here, but it was long enough for almost all of him to go numb. For the parts of him that hurt, that was a pretty good deal, but the rest of him wasn't exactly jumping for joy. Or jumping at all. Or moving, much.
"Fuck," he tried instead, but his half-breathed whisper sounded gray and lost--and whoa, that was weird, that something *sounded* gray, but it really did. Which meant it had probably been a longer time than he'd thought.
Ray pushed, his gloved hands slipping off everything he touched. He kept pushing, but he had limited air and that made it hard, too hard, and the dark around him was starting to seriously creep him out, swirls at the edges of his vision that could be anything at all.
He decided then and there that if he was gonna lay here and freeze to death and have hallucinations, they were at least gonna be good ones.
The cold and snow was outside, a hard winter storm blizzarding away out there, but inside it was warm, almost hot, and Ray sat on his couch with a hockey game on the tube and a box of pizza on the coffee table, his toasty feet shoved under Dief's sleeping belly and Fraser's shoulder braced against his, good to lean on.
"I'm glad you found me," Ray said. He thought it would sound weird and lame, but it didn't.
Fraser's shoulder nudged him a little, a soft jostle that rocked him just a bit in his warm, comfortable skin. "Of course, Ray. You needn't have worried--"
"I wasn't worried, Fraser," Ray said, jostling Fraser back, "just cold. I couldn't even sing."
"You can sing now, Ray, if you like."
"Nope. Hockey's on. We're having pizza. And later I'm gonna build a fort out of pillows."
"Hm. Has it occurred to you that there are certain structural difficulties--"
"Shut up, Fraser, or I won't let you in the fort."
Ray slouched down into the couch cushions, and leaned his head on Fraser's arm. "Pizza."
"Certainly, Ray." That wasn't what he meant, but Fraser was right there with it anyway, holding out a big, hot, dripping slice. "Here you are."
And Ray was so happy to be safe and warm and eating real food and not freezing to death alone in the dark that he only hummed happily when Fraser fed it to him, one blissful bite at a time.
Ray opened one eye. "Stella's not here."
"It's my hallucination, right? I get to write the script. But Stella's not here. Weird."
"Perhaps she was busy, Ray."
"She's always busy, Fraser. Doesn't mean she can't be here with me, since I'm dying and all."
"You are not dying, Ray."
"No. I won't have it. There's simply too much--"
"Hey, maybe I found the hand." He lifted his head. It had gotten dark in here. When had that happened? Who won the hockey game?
"I--I'm lost, I, I dunno where I am. Maybe I'm buried two feet away from the Erebus and the Error--"
"That thing. Maybe I'm there."
"You're not lost, Ray."
The certainty in Fraser's voice made Ray open his eyes all the way. Yeah, dark. "Where are we?"
"Inside the Inukshuk."
Ray squinted. "The big pile of rocks?"
There was just enough light for him to see Fraser shrug. "No rocks, Ray. I had to build one out of pillows."
"Oh. Good idea." He closed his eyes again. He was sleepy. So sleepy.
"Rest," Fraser said, close to his ear, but where? Ray couldn't feel him anywhere. He couldn't feel anything.
He was okay with that.
"Oh, God. Oh my God, Ray--"
Ray didn't listen. He couldn't--his ears were too numb. And he didn't want to listen to that anyway--Fraser sounded horrible, hoarse and panicked, and Fraser never panicked, and that meant something was wrong, really wrong, and whatever it was, he didn't want to know about it.
He heard the wind as he drifted away, screaming like fury. It sounded bigger than the whole world.
The next time Ray opened his eyes, his eyelids hurt. That wasn't exactly an improvement, but since he wasn't numb anymore, maybe it was. The fact that it wasn't pitch-black when he opened them definitely was.
"Ow," he said experimentally, and his lips were coated with something greasy and goopy but he could feel them cracking and stinging anyway, and ow. "Ow."
"Ray!" Fraser was there, bending over him, and Fraser looked *terrible*--drawn and haggard and stubbly, like he hadn't shaved in a week, with big dark circles under his eyes.
"The Don Johnson look really isn't cool anymore, Fraser," he said, and took a deep breath just because he could. Right away he wished he hadn't, because it made him cough and that made him realize that he hurt, everywhere, a lot. "I'm, uh, yeah. Ow. What happened?"
"You're all right, Ray," Fraser told him, and then Ray had to wonder if this was just a more painful type of hallucination, because there was a ceiling up there above Fraser's head, not a tarp or a tent but actual wood beams, and he himself appeared to be in an actual bed. A big one.
"You're all right," Fraser repeated, firmly, like it was somehow important that he convince Ray of it. "You have some frost-nip, and your knee was dislocated--"
"My knee--" he remembered, and moved it, and ow, gross, wobbly and stretched-feeling and sore.
"Careful, Ray. I put it back in, but it will take some time to heal fully. It seemed best to fix it while you were unconscious," he explained, as if Ray was going to be pissed at him for sparing him that particular experience.
"Yeah. I get that." Ray blinked. His eyelids seemed to be goopy too, but it still hurt. Ow. "So I guess you found me after all, huh?"
Fraser pulled away from him a little, and Ray couldn't see his expression. "I... Yes, Ray. I mean, obviously, I did."
"Good. That's good. So except for the freezerburn--"
"Frost-nip. Or ice burns, if you prefer."
"That thing that happens to meat when it's too cold and not wrapped up enough, whatever; except for that and the wobbly knee, and the fact that I'm covered in slime--"
"Oh, that would be the salve. I made it myself, from lichen and elkhorn, in a base of sea-cucumber--"
"Yeah, lichen slime with cucumbers, that makes it a lot less gross, thanks. So other than that--"
"You're going to be fine, Ray." Fraser said it as if Ray had said he wasn't.
"Great. Good. Okay."
"You should eat something, however. Give me a moment--I didn't... that is, I wasn't sure when you'd wake up." Fraser wandered off, and he saw that wow, yeah, indoors, they were indoors in a really big room, obviously a cabin. There was a wood-burning stove, a butcher block table, bookshelves that were stuffed full, wide windows made up of those small square panes of glass in wood frames, framed photographs (a river, a moose, and one of a whole lot of snow) hung on the log walls, a desk, a rocking chair--and of course the bed, which Ray had already noticed.
He watched Fraser work at the woodstove, moving like it was already familiar to him, like he belonged here. "You, uh, you brought me to your cabin?"
Fraser glanced at him. "No, Ray. I'm afraid I never actually got around to rebuilding my own cabin. But I had to get you indoors, so--" it was hard to hear Fraser now that his back was turned, so Ray tilted his head a little. Ow. "--a, a matter of some urgency, so Diefenbaker helped me find this place. We are presuming on the hospitality--or trespassing on the property, if you prefer--of Dr. Martha Washington, apparently a Physics professor of some renown, and her husband, Jorge--" he pronounced it 'hor-hay', with a slight roll of the 'r'--"who, I believe, is a naturalist of some kind."
"What, you mean he runs around naked all the time?"
"Well, not that I know of, Ray. No, what I mean is that he appears to be a student of the natural world: animals, plants, the environment--although an uncredited one."
Ray sniffed. "Martha and Jorge Washington."
"Physics and tree-hugging."
"I presume so, yes."
"Huh." Ray looked around the room again, and then back at Fraser. "How long?"
"How long was I out? How long have we been here?"
Fraser bent his head over the small pot he was stirring, then straightened. "It's been... today is the fifth day, actually."
"Fifth--I was out for *five days*? From frostbite?"
"Frost-nip, Ray." Fraser came towards him with a steaming mug in his hand, watching it carefully and very much not looking at Ray at all. "Drink this, it'll help to rehydrate--"
"Five. Days." Ray didn't take the mug. "Frost-nip, frostbite, freezerburn--whatever, Fraser; you cannot tell me that that plus a bum knee knocked me out for--"
"It took me two days to get us here," Fraser said quietly, holding out the mug, and something in his voice made Ray take it right away. Fraser sat down in a wood folding chair that was set up next to the bed, and ran a hand over his hair. "You had... you were suffering from a severe case of hypothermia as well, Ray. That's why you were unconscious." Fraser looked at him then, finally, a hard, determined look that Ray hadn't seen in a long time. "But you're fine, you'll be just fine. Now drink your broth."
Ray suddenly wanted to put the mug down so he could lift up the blankets and take a look at himself, to see what was going on under his longjohns, except maybe he didn't want to look. "I didn't freeze anything off, did I? 'Cause I need... everything. All my component parts."
Fraser winced, but looked like he was trying not to. "Not at all. Your... component parts are all intact. You're fine. Now, sip that."
Ray sipped. Chicken broth, scalding hot and salty and just the tiniest bit greasy and really really good. All at once his mouth flooded with saliva, and it was all he could do not to chug the whole thing at once, which would probably boil the skin off his mouth. "It's good. Thanks," he mumbled, and sipped some more.
"Slowly, Ray," Fraser said, then poured a glass of water from a pitcher on the nightstand and held it out to him. "This, too. Sip slowly." When Ray took the water, feeling ridiculously like a double-fisted drinker, Fraser got to his feet. "I need to see to the dogs, Ray, excuse me--"
"The dogs--Dief--he's... everyone's okay? Where are they?"
Fraser turned as he tugged on his heavy coat. "They're all fine. They're staying in the mud room for now. It's more comfortable for them there than it would be outside, at least while the storm lasts."
Ray glanced at the windows, but there was nothing out there but a dark gray sky, above a field of lighter gray that was undoubtedly snow. "Uh, I think the storm's over, Fraser."
Fraser blinked, looked out the windows, and then looked back at him. "This is just a lull. The weather has been... quite severe, actually."
"Oh." Ray sipped, water then broth. "Good thing you found this place, then."
"Yes," Fraser said curtly, and left the room, yips and whines of welcome drifting in on a wave of icy air until he pulled the door shut.
Ray waited a whole three seconds before he put both mug and glass down on the nightstand, took a deep breath, and peeked under the covers.
Frost-nip was a serious pain in the ass. It was almost like a bad sunburn, only without the cool parts like a memory of dozing off in the hot sunshine, or the eventual tan. Ray's skin was red and sore in about a hundred places, blistered in about a dozen, and seriously itchy everywhere.
"Itchy itchy itchy," Ray said just to get his point across, digging his sore fingers into his equally sore shoulder.
"You shouldn't scratch, Ray," Fraser said mildly as he came through the door, and Ray might have told him right where he could stick that particular piece of advice except that the next moment the whole bed shook under the weight of a fast-moving wolf, and then Ray had wolf spit all over his sore ear (which at least made it stop itching for a second), and happy whines and huffs against his neck, and warm fur soft against his sensitive palms.
"Hey, Furface, it's--okay, yeah, it's good to see you too, Dief, now lay off the ear thing, okay? Jeez."
Dief left his ear alone, but whined and head-butted him gently, black-lined amber eyes wide, staring anxiously at him from beneath the furry tufts of his eyebrows. "Hey, hey, it's okay--I'm good. The Mountie says so." He ruffled the loose fur on Dief's neck. "Wow, Fraser; I think he was really worried about me, he's--hey. I must've been--"
He stopped when he looked up, seeing Fraser's stricken face. "I must've been in pretty bad shape," he finished lamely, and then he let go of Dief and wrestled his aching body up, propping himself on his elbows. "Okay. C'mon, Fraser, spill it--I was bad, right? The, uh, hypoglycemia--"
"Hypothermia," Fraser said, so quietly Ray almost didn't hear him.
"--was bad. Okay. I get that. How bad was it?"
Fraser blinked and said nothing, and Ray was about to start yelling when he noticed that Fraser was even paler than he'd been before, the hollows under his eyes the deep purple of shadowed snow, a heavy, haunted look. "Well, technically, Ray, you were dead."
"Oh." Ray's knuckles stung, and he looked down to see his hands fisted tight into the blankets. He made himself let go. "Yeah, that's, uh. That's pretty bad. That's pretty much the ultimate in badness, I guess." He took a breath. "I'm sorry, Fraser."
Fraser's gaze fixed on him, his brows lowering the way they did when he was pissed off. "Don't apologize to me, Ray," he said sharply, and that was different, way different from his usual no-apologies-necessary thing, that was something else entirely.
"Okay," Ray said. He waited, but Fraser didn't say anything more, just stared at him. Ray fidgeted, scratched, and then, because he had to say something: "I'm okay, Fraser. Not dead." He wiggled his shoulders. "Fuck. There's no way I'd be this itchy if I was dead."
Fraser stared out the window. "No, Ray, I'd imagine not. Although I understand that the afterlife is not exactly free of irritations."
Ray didn't know what to say to that, other than telling Fraser he was a freak, but the guy seemed a little sensitive just now, so he let it go.
Ray made his first trip to the outhouse (outhouse! 'Oh, no, Ray, I assure you, this is a very luxurious cabin, with every amenity'--yeah, except for actual plumbing and electricity) about an hour later, hobbling along with the help of Jorge's walking stick, which was smooth and sturdy and had the look of something that Jorge probably made himself. Ray felt weird about it for the first time, about barging into these people's cabin, sleeping in their bed, eating their food and using their things, but Fraser told hm it was some kind of unwritten rule of survival up here in emergency situations: you did what you had to, and then took responsibility for it. He showed Ray a letter he'd written to the absent owners to explain their situation, and said that he'd send it to Martha's university along with 'full compensation' once they reached somewhere where there were things like money and post offices. So that helped a little, but it still seemed weird to him.
It was also the first time Ray realized the extent to which Fraser had been taking care of him, because he doubted that Fraser had dragged his unconscious body out to the damn outhouse a couple times a day, which meant... well, he really didn't want to think about what that meant, because it was a) gross, and b) embarrassing, and on top of that, c) he just wasn't ever going to be eager to start off a conversation with 'so hey, what exactly did you do with my body while I was dead and/or unconscious?'.
His knee hurt, although Fraser wrapped it tightly before he let Ray try to walk on it. And even though the outhouse was only thirty yards from the front door, Fraser harassed him until he put on his snow pants, heavy boots, hat and parka before he went out.
"You need to maintain your core temperature, Ray. It's vital to your recovery--"
"Yeah, I know that, Fraser. I just, uh, I can't believe I gotta go through all this just to take a leak."
"Well, if you prefer, I could--"
"No. No way, Fraser. Do not finish that sentence. I'll just--I'm going. Michelin man, bound for the outhouse. Here I go."
He went, and when he came back, shuffling slowly down the deep trough that Fraser had shoveled through the snow, he knew without even looking up that Fraser would be waiting at the door for him, using his Mountie mind-powers to keep Ray from either falling down or maybe spontaneously freezing himself into a copsicle right there in the snow. "I can feel you worrying, Fraser. Cut it out. The only thing I was in danger of was pissing my longjohns, and I took care of that. I'm good."
He looked up just in time to see Fraser ducking back into the cabin, and grinned. He thumped along back to the front door, through the piles of sleepy dogs lying around in the mud room, and on into the cabin. "So," he said, leaning Jorge's stick against the wall so that he could unzip his parka. "What d'you do for fun around here, Fraser?"
The real answer to that question was a big, fat 'not much', unless you were Fraser and into reading any one of about a thousand books and articles on physics, which Ray was not. They played chess for a while, until Ray got tired of losing, then poker, until Ray ran out of air. Then Fraser tried to teach him a weird card game played with a funky-looking deck he'd found in the desk. Ray was a little wary (everything was in French), but willing (it was all about driving, Fraser said, and going as fast as you could, which he was pretty sure Fraser would suck at), but he found that it kind of took the thrill out of driving fast when there was no sound effects or steering or any actual going anywhere.
"This game sucks, Fraser," he said the third time Fraser hit him with a flat tire.
"I'm sorry you don't care for it, Ray." His face was all prim, the way it got when he had to work at being polite. "Perhaps you could tell me what you'd like to do instead?"
Ray scratched his stomach, winced, and made himself stop. "Sure. Let's play this game I just made up--it's called 'scratch that itch'. Got any sandpaper?"
Fraser actually cracked a smile at that. "Maybe a bath would help."
Ray's fingers froze in the act of clawing at his chest, then fell away. "There's a bath? Like, in a tub? Not just, uh, you know, a sponge and a bucket of snow?"
Fraser put down his cards and got to his feet. "While that certainly sounds invigorating, I don't think I'd recommend it at this point in your recovery." He moved over to the corner of the room near the woodburning stove, to an alcove Ray hadn't noticed before, not much more than a closet-sized dip in the wall. Fraser hauled out a huge copper basin, not big enough to stretch out in, but not much smaller (although it was deeper) than an actual tub. Fraser brushed his hands off against his jeans. "It'll take some time for me to heat enough water, but yes, Ray, you can have a bath, and if you reapply the salve afterwards, that should reduce the itching, I believe."
Ray put down his cards. "I love you, Fraser," he said solemnly.
Fraser's mouth twitched. "I take it that means yes?"
"Hell yeah. I am all over that. Where do I sign?"
"Oh, well, Ray, it's just a bath. It doesn't require any official notarization."
Click here for part two.