Fanfiction: Due South

Shell Game 3: The Reveal


Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski
Rating: NC-17 for sex and stuff.
Spoilers/Warnings: Deals with events in "Good for the Soul" and "Dead Men Don't Throw Rice". You might be a wee bit confuzzled if you haven't read the earlier Shell Game universe stories ("The Switcheroo", "Misdirection", "Distraction".)
Notes: This is the last one in the series. Pieces of what eventually turned into this story have been sitting on my hard drive for 3 years now. I figured maybe it was finally time to let them out. Beth H. and Ardent are kind souls and good friends, and I thank them both mightily for reading, and for telling me not to give up when that was long my inclination.



Look, you know what you are? You're selfish. You're selfish, you get a thing stuck in your head and you won't let it go, no matter how hard it is on anybody else.

The words, my words, echo in my head as we get under a street lamp down the block from Warfield's club and I finally see the extent of the damage. Oh, God. What have I done? What has he done? What do we do now?

Can hardly recognize his face with the swelling setting in already and blood turning dark, thick, clotting into his hair. I have to shift under his weight, sagging heavy against my side. His body is bent under the stiffness and pain, uniform stained with blood and grease, smelling like rotten garbage from the alley. And... damn it, he always carries himself so proudly and now he can't. He can't, they've beaten it out of him and I'd give anything to have his arrogant, stubborn rightness back.

I don't know what to say. What can I say? I left him there.

How partners works is: you back up your partner. Even when you think he's being a bonehead. Even if it means sometimes going against orders. You just back him up, period.

And I left him there.

I don't know if it was letting our personal relationship get mixed up in it somehow, or what, but I was as guilty as Fraser was of doing the wrong thing to make a point. And my point wasn't even one worth making.

So, I don't say anything. There's nothing in the air except our uncomfortable breathing and groans from him when he can't keep it in, and uneven dragging shuffle sounds as we make our way slowly toward the car.

"Look, come on, at least let me call you a bus," I manage finally, hating how thin, hollow, my voice sounds.

"No," he says in a grunt, shaking his head. "Please don't. I've already ascertained..." and he pauses to suck in a breath. "Not necessary, and I'd rather..."

Not shine a big honking spotlight on the fact that you just got your ass kicked. Gotcha. I let out a sigh and look him over again as we reach the car. Guess Fraser should be able to tell as good as anyone if he doesn't have any of his insides busted up.

"All right, let's at least get you back downtown. Frannie took some kinda first aid class Welsh signed her up for. She can't do much worse to you than those goons in the alley." All the unsaid stuff feels crazy, like I might just have to scream or something if both of us keep saying nothing. But I can't organize my thoughts into words.

No matter how hard it is on anybody else.

It's never harder on anybody than it is on him though, huh? Having to walk that walk. He never asks anybody to shoulder something that he wouldn't, that he doesn't, carry himself. But most of us can't be you, buddy. Most of us can't be you.

Shit. Damn it. Fucking hell, Fraser! Even you can't be you half the time, so why won't you give it a rest sometimes, huh?

Ah. Might as well ask the sun to quit rising.


By the time the Christmas party is actually underway, I think things are as okay as they possibly can be, all things considered. Getting a guy as big as Warfield behind bars was a pretty major feather for the 2-7, and the way we all came together in that raid on the club seemed to bleed off a lot of the tension and weirdness and... yeah, guilt that'd been swirling around the place since Fraser first made his citizen's arrest. Hell, none of us—Jack, Dewey, Welsh—not one, would've become police if we didn't give a damn underneath it all. Just gets to be that after a while, you can't even see your compromises anymore.

Wish I'd gotten some alone time with Fraser between the raid and now. If he's actually been avoiding me though, he's done a pretty good job of hiding it. I do know Thatcher was keeping him pretty busy with Consular bullshit. Hard to guess if that was a reminder she's still his actual boss, or a sneaky way of forcing him to sit still long enough to heal a little. Maybe both. Never can figure that woman out.

Whole station is on an up when the Canadians arrive. Welsh is actually smiling, still riding high from that commendation he scored off the Chief. Dewey manages to inhale like half the tray of Frannie's pasta salad. Even Jack seems less buttoned up than usual, stretched out long in his chair while some cute rookie chats him up about his part in the bust.

When Fraser walks in, he looks a lot better already. Physically, anyway. I force myself to play it cool, give him some space. Tell myself, at least I managed to say he was right about the justice stuff, that I was proud of him for sticking to his guns. I think we're okay. I hope so, anyway. He acts normal enough when I ask him about swapping Welsh for Frannie in the Secret Santa pool, so I try to relax and just enjoy the looseness in the bullpen.

Frannie starts handing out the Secret Santa presents. I hang back with Dewey, but keep one eye on Fraser the whole time. He seems all right joking with Frannie about nude art. Nude art? Boy, have they come a long way. Looks a little flustered when Thatcher gives him that sword, but..come on.

Welsh loves the Cubans. Knew he would, especially with the mood he's in tonight. Gotta remember to slip Sandor a little something extra next time I see him for hooking me up with those. Turnbull runs around like a maniac with the extra blaster I gave him, Assassin Santa. Everybody's mellow.

Welsh comes around pouring drinks. Harding Welsh playing host. Wow. Offers a glass to Fraser, even, which of course he turns down.

"Hey, who wants to make the toast?" asks Frannie.

"I got a toast. Bottoms up!" booms Welsh.

Frannie is most definitely not satisfied with that. She turns to Fraser.

"How about you Frase, you wanna make the toast?"

Fraser looks reluctant at first, but everyone's eyes are on him and he steps up to do the honors. Starts off a little rambly about the meaning of Christmas and all, but then he pauses for a moment, and takes off in a whole different direction.

"My own Christmases I remember with a great fondness, and, uh, a certain sense of horror. We always had arctic tern instead of Christmas turkey, a buckthorn bush instead of an evergreen, search and rescue flares instead of Christmas lights. And, well, I've... I've learned to forgive all of that."

Look at him closely and manage to catch his eye for a moment. I doubt anyone else sees it, doubt anyone knows him well enough, but there's an edge there. Just not sure how to read it.

"Most of all, Christmas is about forgiveness. Merry Christmas, everyone," Fraser finishes, and the whole room toasts 'Merry Christmas'.

The mood remains warm all around me, even more so now that everybody's got a drink in them. I figure that's my moment to finally get Fraser alone. I'm just making my way over to him, when I hear Frannie's voice.

"Hey, what's this?" She goes back over to the tree, picks up a small, flat, rectangular package and reads the tag. Looking up, she says, "Fraser, it's for you."

"For me?" Fraser looks surprised.

"Yeah," Frannie says, handing the package over.

He's got it unwrapped by the time I reach him. Some kind of picture frame, looks like, and Fraser's staring at it with the oddest expression on his face.

"What is it?" I ask, leaning in to see the grainy old black and white print. Mostly white. Fraser's turf, I'm guessing. Three bundled people, a man, a woman, and a small boy, all grinning happily out into the snow.

"It's my family," Fraser says softly.

Wow. Oh, wow. That must be Fraser's mom. God, she looks so young. And his dad... Then I realize Fraser might want a little privacy with this. I glance up, and see Frannie's thinking the same thing. We both step back to give him a minute. But I can't help wondering where the photo came from. Who could have dug that up? Weird.

A few minutes later, I see Fraser setting the frame down on my desk, next to the ceremonial sword. Then he glances up, and I know he's looking for me.


I cross the room and grab Fraser's arm, dragging him off down the hall before any one else gets the chance to step in.

"In here," I say, opening the door to the can and looking around quickly to make sure we're alone. Coast clear, I pull him in behind me.

"What's the—"


Check for feet under the stalls. No one. I step into Fraser's space, backing him up nearly to the wall.

"What are you—"

I cut him off again, this time with a kiss, half not believing myself that I'm doing this in the fucking men's room of the 2-7. But I just can't take the distance between us anymore. Need to close it up.

Fraser starts to respond to the kiss, but then breaks it off quickly, pulling back and banging into the paper towel dispenser mounted on the wall behind him.

"Mmm... Ow! Ray, not here, we can't," he says, rubbing the back of his head, which really has been knocked around enough lately.

"Okay, I know, I know. Sorry. I'm just... "

And in the harsh glare of the bathroom flourescents, I really see how tired Fraser seems. Bruises starting to yellow around the edges. I get a weird tightness in my chest, looking at him, and have to take a long, deep breath before it passes.

"Look, come on," I try again, less aggressive, reaching out to rub his arm where I'd grabbed it before. "What do you say, we go round up the wolf and pick up some real food, huh? Didn't you tell me Dief liked Nat King Cole? I've got his Christmas record somewhere, we could dig it out."

"He would like that," Fraser says quietly, finally nodding after a long moments' pause. "All right, let's go."



The one they call Digger finally comes to the waiting room door and waves to me.

"Mr. Vecchio, you can come in now."

I follow him into the dim, narrow, viewing room and immediately have to fight off a major case of the willies. The bright red of Fraser's uniform catches my eye.

Fraser. Laid out in this coffin like some guy version of Snow White.

Oh sheez. Oh, man. This is way too freaky. My hands start shaking, but I guess nerves oughta be pretty normal in a place like this. Digger beckons to me to come closer.

"I added some body to the hair and some color to the cheeks."

Weird. Fraser looks weird. Too...bright. But Digger's standing there, obviously waiting for me to say something, so I blurt out, "He looks good."

"Thanks." And Digger actually sounds pleased. Guess aside from the sideline in stashing murder victims double-decker with corpses, the guy actually takes pride in his work. Which... makes him even creepier than I thought he was to begin with. "Young guy. It's too bad. What is that uniform? Is he an usher?"

Oh, crap. That damned uniform causes us more problems than... "Doorman."


"One of the best," I throw in, just for authenticity or something. 'Cause if Fraser had been a doorman, he would have been one of the best.

"Yes." Digger agrees, all phony professional sympathy. "Now, this is our Northumbria casket. You said I should pick one? This is slightly more expensive than our El Camino or our Fandango models, but you can feel here, it's got the extra padding."

Like buying a used car.

"Oh yeah, got to be comfortable," I say, playing along. "He's going to be there a long time."

"Now, also, the Northumbria is absolutely airtight," Digger continues, shutting the lid over Fraser. "I thought, since we weren't embalming, it was more appropriate for--"

Airtight! Holy shit.

"Longer shelf life. I hear you, but he's..." I pause to correct myself, don't want to blow this in a panic. "Was claustrophobic. So, can we keep it open?" Hell, they gotta be used to nutty requests from grieving people, right? Please bury Harry in his favorite bowling shirt, crap like that.

"Yes, of course." Digger nods, like he's taking it all in stride, and opens the top half of the lid again.

Whew. But okay, enough yippity-yap about the coffin. (Coffin, fer chrissakes!) I've just gotta make sure we're all set up here. I fake some waterworks and ask for a minute alone, and Digger finally leaves me there with Fraser.

With Fraser's body.

I can't get over it. Just too weird. When he did the demo trance thing earlier, with Welsh and Agent Handler there, that felt... well, not normal. But in the realm of Fraser-normal, anyway. And that was freaky enough. But now, seeing him like this, in this... this box...

Lean in close to talk to him, hoping he can hear me from the bottom of the deep well down wherever he is in bouga toad-land.

"Fraser? They're going to be closing up here in a little while, so I got to go. Um, tell you the truth, I thought hospitals made me nervous, but this place, huh. Yikes!"

And I don't know what I expected, exactly. That he would hear me and open his eyes. Shoot me a wink? Something. I don't know. Some little signal, some clue he was in there, at least. It's so different from seeing him sleeping, even at his most knocked out. He's so still. Sleep would look like jumping jacks next to this.

Up closer I can see the makeup more, how they've dolled him up. And he does, yeah, he looks like a doll.

"That rouge makes you look like a toy soldier," I crack automatically, but my laugh sounds strange and out of place in all this silence.

All right. Deep breath. No use wigging myself out here. Fraser's gonna be all right. He's gonna be okay. He knows what he's doing with this gland secretion stuff. He's used it before, and he's always come out fine and dandy. Right?

He's always come out, but... But what if this time...

And I never even told him.

'I'm proud of you,' is about as close as I ever got, and that with Welsh, and Jack, and Dewey in the car. Jesus. What the hell is wrong with me? What is my damage, already?

But, he knows. He's gotta know. We've been fucking for weeks. We've got a thing. And it's a good thing. A nice little thing. Just because we never sat down and had a conversation...

I think about saying it to him now, but it seems like kind of a cop out to do it like this, with him lying there like—that. Oh, holy Moses. And I realize I need to get out of there before I just lean into the casket and shake him and shake him until he wakes up, because that's all I want to do.

But wouldn't that be great? Perfect. Blow the whole investigation, miss the chance to nail Van Zandt. Probably get both of us killed for real trying to sneak out of this place while I'm at it.

Just because I'm a sucky... God, what, boyfriend? And the idea of being Fraser's boyfriend is finally goofy enough to snap me out of it. I'm just being an idiot. Can hear his voice in my head, saying, 'Don't be silly, Ray.'

He knows.

I take another deep breath, momentary panic beat down.

"Um, okay. All right, I'll see you in the morning."

He's gonna be fine.

And then I realize that if he really could hear me this whole time... Well, I don't want Fraser worrying about me being worried. He's got enough to deal with, working this whole dead angle. So I lean back in to let him know I'm really okay.

"Hey, if you find the body? See if he's got my phone."

But I still can't get over the stillness. The silence. No amused little huff, no smile, no 'very well, Ray'. I wave my hand in front of his face. No response at all.



He never came right out and said anything about it, but I think Fraser was pretty surprised, pretty... touched, by the turnout at his "funeral". Fucking guy, he's just got no clue.

With all the hubbub and arrests and angry florists to deal with afterwards, I never got the chance to really talk to him about it. Being under, coming out, seeing who cared.

He was quiet in the car during the ride over here, and I wanted to try to respect that, even though it was killing me. But now, with him showered and changed, and back to looking like Fraser, without all that creepy, waxy, mortician's makeup on his face, I feel like I need to reach him.

"So, what was it really like? Being dead, and all?" I pick up a beer and tuck it carefully under my arm, scoop his mug of steeping tea up off the counter, and walk both around to the sofa.

"Well, as you know, I wasn't actually dead," he corrects, I guess, because he can't help himself. Mr. Precise. "However, I did enter a very interesting..." He trails off, watching me move in to set the tea on the coffee table in front of him, so I snag the flapped open cover of the TV Guide for a coaster before he gets sidetracked by the possibility of a ring.

I scootch in next to him on the sofa, have a slug of beer, and wait for him to continue.

"Ray, what do you think becomes of us after we die?"

Whoa. Curve ball, left field, incoming.

"Uh, geez, I don't know," I pick at the label on my beer. "I try not to think about it too much, especially with this job, right? I mean, I hope we're not just worm food, or nothing, but..."

I look back up, and he's nodding, like he gets what I said. Or, I don't know, maybe the nodding's about something else altogether.

"What?" I ask, now beginning to wonder if he'd even been listening.

"I saw my father."

Wow. Okay.

"I..." he hesitates and looks down at a spot on the floor, like what he had to say was pretty big, but he wasn't sure what, or how much, or even if.

"Frase, this is me here."

"I've... talked to him. My father. A lot. Since I've been in Chicago." He sneaks a glance over at me and I nod for him to go on. My heart has started to pick up and God, I just don't want him to stop. Part of me can't believe he's doing this at all, saying any of this stuff to me.

"It's helped sometimes, having him there. A little sort of Socratic dialogue when I feel at sea."

I keep nodding, even though I have no fucking idea what he's talking about.

"But this time, this was different. I felt as though I were really there with him. Someplace else. On the precipice of something."

"The precipice of what?"

He gives this weird little laugh and I can't tell what he's feeling. Relief? Regret?

"I don't know. Francesca's scream pulled me back here before I could find out."

Wow, again. I take another good chug of beer. What the hell could you say about that?

"How'd he look?" I ask after a moment.

Fraser turns to me, eyebrows raised. "My father?"

I nod. Fraser pauses to take a sip of his tea while he thinks about it.

"Exactly the way I remember him before he died. Stuffy. Preposterous." He shakes his head and looks away at the floor again.

I don't want any more beer. I set the half-full bottle down on the TV Guide, reach over and take Fraser's tea from him, and set that down as well.

"Come on." I stand up and grab his hand, give him a tug.

"Ray... I..."

"Come on," I give him a harder pull, "inside." I jerk my head in the direction of the bedroom. "You've had a rough day. Come on. Just... let's go."

That does the trick. He lets me pull him to his feet and tow him into the back. And I realize I'm best off just giving orders now, because he's all out of sorts. I push down on his shoulders to get him to sit on the bed.

"Tell me about him," I say as regularly, conversationally, as I can. I start to work on unbuttoning his flannel over shirt, which seems pretty effective as a momentary distraction.

"I..." For a moment, Fraser looks like he might stall out again. But then he sighs, resigned, and I have to hide my smile because, yeah, Frase, I can do the stubborn thing too.

"I didn't see much of Dad when I was younger, he was out on patrol so often. His territory, with Buck Frobisher, was huge, stretching thousands of kilometers across some of the most desolate regions in the Territories..."

I wait until he's well underway before getting up and moving to sit behind him. Ease the flannel off his shoulders, casually slip it down his arms.

"And it was because he was gone so much that you went to live with your grandparents after your mom died?"


"Lie down." I give him a little push, but he's with the program now, and leans back without protest. I stretch out beside him. "You were what, six?" I run my fingers slowly through his hair, willing him to relax, to keep going.

He nods, and stares up at the ceiling. "I don't remember that much about her death, except how my father reacted. Just going through the motions, with himself, with me. He really seemed for a while there as though he'd given up. Looking back on it, I think that was the most human I ever saw him. "

"I'm sure he wanted to be strong for you," I say, thinking about my own dad and how he might have been under the same circumstances.

Fraser seems to consider that a moment, then shrugs. "I'm sure that was part of it.” He makes a move like he's about to sit up. “Ray, you know, you don't have to..."

"I know that, Fraser. I want to." I act quickly to grab his shoulder and shove him back down, waiting until I'm sure the revolt is put out before continuing. "Look, I know I sound kind of impatient sometimes. I'm like that, I'm hyper, especially when I'm working. But that doesn't mean I don't want to know stuff about you. To hear about where you're from, and what you did for fun and hijinks. Eating polar bear steaks and all that good stuff."

"Polar bear steaks," he says under his breath.

"All right, moose hamhocks, whatever."

"Moose—" He lets out a little snort. "Did I ever tell you about the time I almost got caught in the middle of an amorous moose dispute when I was a boy?"

I grin and shake my head. Ah, let him change the subject if he wants to. Just so long as he keeps talking. He looks back at the ceiling and blows out a deep breath, then the corners of his mouth turn up.

"This goodness, it must have been... anyway, it was quite some time ago. Now, a rutting bull moose is no laughing matter, Ray. You see, my grandmother had sent me off to..."

And where I could never seem to keep up with whatever it was going to take this week or that week to keep Stella happy, Fraser's so easy to please sometimes it breaks my heart. I could do this forever, lying beside him, stroking my fingers through the dark silk of his hair still damp from the shower, listening to him talk out his homesickness.

The sound of his voice washes over me, and when I close my eyes I can put pictures to his words. I see the boy from that photo he got at Christmas, growing up beautiful and strange in those wild, empty spaces. I can hear the ache creep into his voice when he talks about his home, his family, and I wish there was more I could do for him than this.

Just then, Fraser turns his head to look at me, and his eyes are filled with...something, that makes me shiver and go hot. He smiles a little, softly, sadly, and he takes my other hand and brings it to his chest. He presses his own hand against mine, over his heart, like between the two of us maybe the pressure can stop the bleeding.

It's only a moment, then he picks up his story again. Or maybe it's a different one. I can't hear the words anymore, although I can feel them, vibrating in his chest, in my hand. And I don't even know how to think about the emotions that are roaring through me now, or what to call them, because they're all brand new.

"Love you," I say, interrupting him in a voice so low I'm not even sure I said it out loud.

"Ray?" He pauses mid sentence, tries to sit up a little, and I know he's not sure what I said either.

"I love you," I repeat louder, so there's no mistaking. It's not nearly enough, but it's all I have words for. Flip over onto my stomach to sprawl across his body, put my weight on his chest, drop a kiss on his lips, dry from talking.

"Ray," he starts, and I shake my head to shut him up.

"I do."

But he's still got that wrecked intensity in his eyes, and I know what that is now. I know. Thirty-seven, all beat to shit, how do you even bear to hope? And Fraser, man, he never had...

He never.

Ah, fuck. Could kick myself for not thinking about that before, for being too wrapped up in my own bullshit to notice the guy's been giving me the stiff upper lip since Christmas.

"It's all right." I stroke his hair again, smoothing back one stubborn curl that keeps falling down over his forehead. "We're all right."

I don't know why I feel so sure about that, but I do. An odd sense of peace. I lean in to kiss him again, and when he responds, it's a sudden movement.

"Ray...I love you, Ray." He lifts his head off my pillow to meet me, opening his mouth under mine. He kisses me, full, hot, open, and he doesn't stop there. He keeps coming, pushing me, mouth sealed hard against mine, rolling me onto my back. I go with him, letting him take whatever he wants. Whatever he needs. There's a rush of closeness, passion, Fraser, that I realize now I haven't felt since before the Warfield thing. Sometimes my idiocy amazes even me.

Sorry, I'm so sorry, buddy. Never, never leave you there again. Try to tell him that with my kisses, explain it with my body, but he's whispering my name between kisses, over and over, "Ray—" almost as if he's trying to reassure himself that I'm really here.

"Not going anywhere," I say, trying to sound light, but when I reach up to touch his face, his skin is hot, burning hot, and I want it, want that heat, feel it take me over. Stroke his jaw. "Come on, need you inside me."

Fraser nods wordlessly, and pulls back enough for us both to struggle out of our remaining clothes. We help each other strip down quietly, quickly, no flirting or teasing tonight. He sits up onto his knees, leaning over me to reach into the nightstand drawer, and suddenly he looks like a vision. I twist my head against the pillow to see, looking up. Unreal, sculpted beauty, almost scary, skin glowing silver in the slotted moonlight coming through the blinds. And for a weird, panicky moment, I'm the one who needs reassurance that he's really here, the guy I know, I love.

"Frase," I reach up to grab his arm, not satisfied when my hand actually wraps around flesh, needing more proof. Pull him back down to me, kiss him hard, closer, tighter, finally relaxing again when I feel the solid warmth of his weight pressing into me.

"Not going anywhere," he laughs softly, but he seems pleased by my urgency. Clutching the bottle of lube from the nightstand in one hand, he works his way slowly down my body on his hands and knees, kissing, licking, making me wiggle and squirm until I feel the soft wet heat of his lips graze the head of my cock and I arch up instinctively to thrust into his waiting mouth.

He sucks me hungrily, knowing by now exactly what to do, how to touch, to spin me off into space. Nobody has ever paid attention to me, studied me, the way Fraser does, focusing on my pleasure with mind-blowing intensity. One hand tangles in his hair, the other in the sheets and I nearly come up off the bed when he works a slippery finger inside me, hooking in and there, rubbing the magic spot. Stroking just right now, fingers, tongue, and finally, the blowjob/fuck-prep combo plate is more than I can bear and I let go for what feels like an endless hanging moment, orgasm coursing through me like a giant heartbeat.

By the time I return to earth, Fraser's crawled back up my body, braced on his arms straddled over me, watching intently. I know I must have the love-stupid look on my face, but Fraser doesn't seem to mind. Fraser seems... happy.

"Wipe that smug grin off your face and fuck me already," I laugh, but crazy, huge things are breaking to the surface all over inside me and I feel strange in my own skin.

Fraser leans in to kiss me, and I can smell, taste myself on him, traces mixed with his own spit on his tongue. He settles in between my legs, feel the hard heat of his dick pressing, sliding and slick, with increasing, rhythmic insistence against my groin. Break off a kiss and reach down, groping until I've got him in hand, realize he's already got lube on, I've already got lube in— and I give him a tug, pull my legs up far as I can to give him room to position right, and guide his cock inside me.

"Oh, Ray," he sighs, pressing forward, slowly, retreating, pressing again, and I concentrate against the briefly uncomfortable stretch by watching his face. Never did this with him front to front before, and it's another thing I could kick myself for, but not right now. Not right now, no, because Fraser's eyes are closed as he sinks in deeper, that little muscle in his cheek jumping with the tension of pleasure versus control and I don't think I've ever wanted anything so badly in my entire life.

Wrap my legs around him, pull him in as he begins to move, filling me. Roll my hips around to get the angle just... right, yeah, fuck, yeah. I jerk hard at the jolt of sensation and Fraser leans into me, burying his face down against my neck as he picks up the pace, gets into his groove, and then consciousness is gone. I feel like I'm all nerves, zapping and zinging, lit up like a constellation map at the planetarium. Eyes close, head dropping back as the totality of the moment, of him, us, here like this, washes over and through me. It's as good as it gets. It's all good, he's good, and this is more, so much more—happiness, sex, alive-ness than I've felt since those early days with Stella when I was too young and dumb to know it would ever be different.

"Ray—" And there's that thick little break in his voice he gets when he's close, so close to coming, and I just can't wait anymore, need to take him there, drive him there, feel him lose control.

I curl one hand around the back of his neck stroking where his sweat soaked hair meets smooth clipped skin. "Yeah, come on," a hot chant in his ear, "come on, do it, do it, let me feel you." And that does the trick, breaks him wide open. He crashes against me, harder and deeper, hips bucking forward and I swear I can feel his orgasm shoot through him, each hard muscle pulse, as he cries out and comes, grinding it out, more and more slowly until he stills, suddenly, heavy, welcome weight against my body.

I let him rest there a moment before moving slightly, helping him pull out and roll off of me. We lay silently, side by side, limbs tangled, just breathing for what feels like a long time. I feel weird, separated now, even though I've never felt closer to anyone than I feel towards Fraser right at this moment. Really almost...sad. And I get it then, Stella's word, tristesse.

Don't ever want to let go of this, but nothing lasts forever. And this close I can taste the smell of the elements in his sweat, on his skin—earth, metal, what he'll be when he's gone to dust. I shudder a little, try to push the thought out of my head. Can't cope, not now, not with that.

Fraser's here, damn it. He's here with me, and he's safe and he's strong and so, so beautiful. I wish there was some way I could capture this, capture him, what he's really, really like. The him that nobody knows but me.

There is no way, though. No way to describe, not even to myself—who he is, what he means—everything he's given me. The only thing I can think to do, is take him in, drink him down, close my eyes. And pray to remember the details.