An Ocean of Sky
Author's Notes: A (late!) birthday story for Nos4a2no9. Going on this--and subsequent things that I've written--something about Nos makes me write wing!fic.
Story Notes: F/K UST and wing!fic.
Chicago air is gritty and heavy and sometimes feels like flying through and acidified sandstorm. Chicago air is cold and ice-edged and heavy, or hot and dry and like old blankets wrapped around your head.
Chicago air is not avian air.
Ray does not realise how true this is until he and Fraser fall from the plane, land in the snow, and Ray finds himself staring up at a sky that seems to go on forever. Blue, he decides, is the colour of infinity.
The thought stays with him and, after the guns and the snowmobiles and the submarines and the parachuting Mounties, Ray finds himself asking Fraser for an adventure. Ray's colder than he's ever been in his life and all the clear air above him is making him feel almost agoraphobic, but the look on Fraser's face makes it worth it.
The adventure is the most exhausting thing that Ray's ever done. In the very back of his mind, next to all the other stupid ideas he's ever had and just in front of the remains of his feelings for Stella, are the words that Ray is thinking about saying to Fraser. If only the ice crevasse, snow storms and occasional polar bear would agree.
Somehow, without Ray even really noticing, their adventure has trickled away through his fingers, like the water now drip-drip-dripping from melting icicles as spring tentatively tightens its hold on the Northwest Territories. After being out in the ice for so long, Inuvik feels claustrophobic to Ray. It makes his skin itch all over--even after he's had the longest, hottest shower in the history of ever--and makes errant fight-or-flight impulses dance along his nerves.
Two days later Ray's sitting in the back of what may well be a toaster with an outboard motor glued to the front, flying south. His head makes a soft pthum noise as it hits the Perspex window to his left.
Back in Chicago, Ray goes through the motions for eighty one hours, fifteen minutes and twenty one seconds (he's not counting) until he finds himself standing in the middle of his cold, dark apartment with no idea of what he was doing.
"Fuck," he says loudly.
The thing is it's not exactly a subject that's easy to introduce. Also, I have wings fits into the average conversation about as well as by the way, Fraser, I think I've fallen in love with you, and it's not like Ray's managed to get that one out there.
There's also the fact that, while Ray is almost convinced that Fraser wouldn't freak out about the whole wing thing, he's even more sure that Fraser would want a demonstration, and that's the kind of embarrassment that Ray's gone through with Stella and never wants to have a part of again. The problem is that although Ray has wings, he's not so good at the actual flying. It's more like semi-controlled horizontal falling, and it's only improved slightly since that time that he fell out of the apple tree in Mrs. Wickman's back yard when he was thirteen and landed amidst a blizzard of feathers.
Ray's gotten so used to feeling like his bones are made of lead that he's learned to control the wings so that they're only there when he wants them, which isn't often. It was a skill that he only had a mild appreciation for before he met Fraser, but after it became apparent that there was no limit to the number of ways that Fraser could get them thrown, flung, or otherwise dropped from varying heights, Ray became really fucking grateful that at least he could manage to land on his ass without showering everything with lost feathers.
So: Ray feels like his feet are permanently glued to the ground and he's in love with his ex-partner, who's currently living thousands of miles away, in the ass-end of the Arctic. Fucking marvelous.
Ray isn't entirely sure how it happens. The hours kind of blend into days, which slip silently into months and then, suddenly, Welsh is forcibly making him cash in his holiday hours for the `health and wellbeing of the rest of the precinct'. Whatever that means. Sure, maybe he's been a little bit grumpy, and maybe he's been through five new partners in as many months, but it's not like it's his fault that the Chicago air feels like sewage on his skin and his so-called partners were completely useless.
Chicago air is not avian air.
And that's all the justification that Ray can come up with for that fact that he's been traveling for what seems like days and is yet again being flown over the tundra in what appears to be a souped up toaster. That and the fact that he has a half-memory about Fraser talking about the Northwest Territories in spring.
Resting his forehead against the Perspex window elicits a strange sense of dj vu and Ray finds himself squinting down at the strangely colourful land scrolling away beneath the plane. Ray's really not sure whether it's his crappy eyes, or the fact that the whole plane is vibrating--the juddering hum transferring itself through his forehead and nose to his entire body--but the tundra looks blurry and unreal. The greens and browns, all scribbled over with bright scatter shots of colour that must be flowers, looks like something out of a fairytale.
Inuvik feels different this time: wide open and huge in a way that Chicago could never be and Ray takes the time, while he's waiting for the keys to the truck he's renting from the pilot's brother, to breathe deeply.
It's a hour later--an hour filled with rutted roads, fervent wishes for actual functioning suspension and the ever-present sky--that Ray finds himself pulling up outside Fraser's cabin. It's a small building, set back from what passes for the road, in the lee of some stunted-looking bushes that look like a colour-blind Picasso has gone postal on them.
Ray kills the engine and slides out of the driver's seat. He can hear the faint crinkle-slip of the stony soil beneath his boots, the sound of someone chopping wood and, above both of those, spiraling up into the sky, some kind of bird song, wild and free and alive.
Ray takes deep breaths until the urge to run away fades, until his feet no longer feel stuck in place, until it feels like the sky is soaking into his skin and that, if he just thought about it, he could float right up off the ground, and he walks towards the sound of chopping wood.
Chicago air is not avian air, but maybe that doesn't matter anymore.
End An Ocean of Sky by etcetera-cat
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