Disclaimer: I own only the thoughts in my head and the metaphorical paper I write on. Sue me, go on I dare you.
Author's Notes: I guess this will be the start of something. Maybe not more than a pair or trilogy, but I can't stop it there. It would be too cruel.
Story Notes: My thanks to *my* Dominic for laughing at me and calling me sappy. I needed it. I love you.
Susanna is an angel as always.
I don't know what I'm doing here. It's freezing cold and I'm walking around in circles around the city, my feet matching the working of my mind. My breath spirals up against the sky and sometimes I raise my head to watch it go, melting away into the air, coming back to where it belongs. I think that's why I'm walking. I don't have anywhere to belong tonight. Nowhere to melt into, and be surrounded by myself.
I kid myself that there's a neo-classical sort of romanticism to my wanderings, and I try to kid myself that these deep thoughts will somehow justify my being here at four in the morning. They don't. When it comes right down to it I'm just lost. Like the child that I am sometimes. I find myself watching the moon with the vaguest of interest, wondering if he ever watches it. And if he does, does he see the same thing? The cold grey orb that hangs, lifeless in the sky. Does his vivid imagination work its magic on it? Intuition bringing him an image of a face, giving it life, expression or vivacity? I sigh. Probably not. But it's hard to think of his eyes resting on anything and not bringing it warmth simply from his notice. That's the effect he has on me at any rate. It's difficult for me to believe that I might be the sole recipient of his warmth. That I might be blessed with receiving something from him that others do not. In recent weeks I had come to think so. I've seen the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he sees me. He smiles a lot - just quick, lightning fast glimpses sometimes - for it comes more easily to him than it does to myself. It's rare for the smile to reach his eyes, and rarer still for it to become fully fledged and warm. That customarily occurs only with me, and I've come to guard it jealously, resentful when the blessing is bestowed upon others. I know it's selfish but there are few enough things in this world I can call my own. There's another clue to the reason I'm still walking. I have no home to speak of. Even I can't call that ... that place my home. Not right now when I'm feeling so low. Tomorrow I'll smile with relief when I enter its walls, glad to be free of the world. But right now I can't return because there's nothing there for me to go home to. Or nobody.
The streetlights glow down on me and I'm certain they're more insipid and watery than usual. Perhaps it's just my mood making them appear so. I'm glad I haven't yet reached the stage of solemnity whereby I feel the faded light is mocking me. Perhaps on my next circuit. I do smile dryly when I realise my walk has brought me to his apartment again. I would never go in, of course, wouldn't dream of intruding so uncivilly. But it's calming to look up there and know he's there, and if I truly needed him I could call and he would come. Running, even. That's just the kind of relationship we have, and I'm grateful for it. Even if I'm not welcome there now. Well ... my happy train of thought had lasted almost four minutes, before that last thought intruded. A record for tonight perhaps. Now everything is tinted to shades of black again. I'm not welcome there, after hours, to see him when he's warm and unwound and his defences are low. I must content myself with daytime, when he is alive and moving - always moving - and weatherproofed against the world, like myself. Oh well.
I smile again, sadly, just because there's no other expression for me to make, and my face hurts from being expressionless for so long. I hadn't realised I'd stopped walking but I turn to go now, walking slower if possible than before. There's nobody to complain about a cold that I can't seem to feel, or the lateness that I can't seem to mind. I think sometimes I live in a different world from the rest of you. Where time passing is just that - time. There's no use for it, and I don't regret it as I lose it, even though I know it will never return. I don't hurry anywhere because in the end I have nothing to hurry to, or hurry from. He has plenty to hurry from, and I wish I could give him someplace to go. Instead of staring up at him through layers of brick and plaster. Alone....
"Fraser." Uh oh.
The square of pavement I'd been watching suddenly loses its interest and my head snaps up to his face. The only thing stopping me from cardiac arrest is disbelief. I blink ... and he's still there. Once again just to check. No ... he's real. Even my imagination wouldn't have had him looking so dishevelled and tired and radiating warmth from his unlaced boots to his gloriously ruffled hair. He's truly unimaginably beautiful. And here. "R..." Clear my throat. "Ray." I say it as though he's the last person on my mind, and it's merely a pleasant surprise to see him here. My heart isn't going at forty five thousand beats per minute ... honestly it isn't. He grins a knowing, quicksilver grin and shakes his head, rubbing his arms against the cold. "Don't try and pull that shit with me. Like there's not a reason you're stood on the street outside my building at ..." He glances at his watch, "... ten to five in the morning." Since when did my thoughts become so transparent, and why was I not informed so I could correct the defect? He smiles again and I realize he never let on he could read me like a book because he wants to keep on being able to. He doesn't want to be shut out again. So I smile back at him and I nod. There is a reason, and I should probably tell him what it is. Only my mind can form the words but my mouth can't. He nods back like he understands. "Come inside." And I realise for the first time that he's shivering and rubbing his arms against the cold. Oops. If there is one thing I've learned from experience, it's that getting close to people is almost always easier if they're not dead. I try not to laugh at the fact the last sentence needed an `almost', and instead I nod weakly. "As you wish."
And as he shuts the door behind us I realise it really was cold out there. I had nothing to compare it to, but with the warmth that envelops me here I realize my skin is chapped and half frozen, and my back aches. He's shown me a lot of things by contrast. Like how lonely I have been.
"Why are you awake?"
"I could ask the same thing." He replies, slumping down on the couch and patting the seat beside him which I think is an invitation. One I'm too tired not to accept. "You could." I concur, "But since I asked first it would be common practice for you to respond first." He shakes his head again, and then shrugs eloquently in the way that only he can. "I guess I'm feelin' it too." That can't possibly mean what my twisted brain wants it to mean, so I ask. "Feeling what, Ray?"
"Bells and warning lights. That say my life isn't going the way I want it to be going. I wanna say loneliness but it's not. It's just ... you know how sometimes you start feelin' sorry for yaself and it's so fuckin' hard just to be?" They wouldn't have been my words but they're true so I accept them instantly. "Yes, I know." He nods wisely. It seems so mismatched with the rebellious hair and his sometimes ridiculously youthful face and it might be funny if I didn't know that in his own way he is wise. He knows himself, and he knows other people. If that isn't wisdom, I don't know what is. "Figured ya would." He says, "Figured that's why you were here. I was sittin on ma bed looking out at the world and wonderin' where you were, then you're here. Scared the hell outta me, thought I was goin' crazed. Wouldn't surprise me much." I look at him again, he's stopped shivering and he's perfectly still, all his attention on my face. "You doubt your mental stability then?" I ask him, aiming for light-hearted. He laughs out loud. "Never used ta" He looks thoughtful. "Till I met you that was. Now I figure I'm crazy as a fruit loop, and you are too, and that's a great way ta be." I stare at him in disbelief, and he shrugs again. "Don't worry if ya marchin to the beat of ya own little symphony orchestra. If the sound's pretty and ya marchin the right way and ya got someone to march with ya then ya doin fine." I don't understand half of what he says on a good day, but somehow the words are slowly falling into place in my brain. I think I must be getting better, as it's getting easier to translate this bizarre metaphorical, unintelligible language he has into some semblance of English. Perhaps I simply only understand him when it's important. That would be a true gift. "And you're with me?" I ask, trying to be sure I deciphered it right. "Sure. Long as you'll have me. So tell me something ..." He puts a hand on my arm and leans forward in a way that makes me sure I'd sell my soul to him for nothing more than one more touch. I'm so pathetic sometimes, but there it is. The fact of life. "What Ray?"
"Why you wanderin' round this city, that I know you don't wanna be in, when you could be sittin in some nice little warm cabin somewhere with your cute little two-point-four children and some gorgeous wife. Coz ya know all that's outta my league now, divorced and not much ta look at and all the charm of a mothball, but not fer you. You got no leagues buddy, you could have whatever you wanted. Just for askin'." And there, I look at him in stunned silence as I realize that's what tonight's little pity fest revolves around. It's all self-induced. I could have these things, I could have some approximation of the dreams every man is supposed to have. But I don't want it. I don't want log fires and nice warm cabins in the middle of the snow somewhere if he wasn't there to `march' with me. That's what it boils down to. He's right. I am crazy.
"I'm guessing we hit a ... rev ... revelation somewhere, due ta lack of breathing and movement. So spill ... what's the Mountie unearthed?"
"Nothing of significance, Ray." The lie sits blatantly between us, and the worst thing is, I know he knows I'm lying. Not evading or equivocating ... Lying. It hurts that he looks so stung.
"It must be big." He says. The opposite of my own assertion, but he knows me too well to listen only to my words. It's quite disturbing. "Fine. Don't tell me. Just figured you wouldn't be here if you couldn't tell me stuff. My mistake." He stands, "You wanna drink?"
I shake my head and watch his back as he leaves. All the tension that was invisible in his muscles before is now back in full force. Definitely my mistake.
"I'm sorry, Ray." I tell him and he stops moving.
"No problem. Your life."
So this is what we've come to. I turn him away and he doesn't even try to turn back. I realize how unfair it is to expect him to. I give him nothing ... how could I ask him to give me anything more?
"I don't want it to be merely my life. That's my `revelation'. I'm tired of it being my life and my decision and my future and my dreams and my happiness. I want someone to share it all with, and that's why I've been wandering in this city for over six hours and that's why I ended up here .... repeatedly. You're sharing my life more than anyone right now, and I like it being that way."
He's leaned against the door to his kitchen when I drag my eyes away from the carpet again. Smiling a lopsided smile that catches me off guard. With every nerve in my body fried, I couldn't smile now if my life depended on it.
"Repeatedly?" He asks. I nod, and he comes back over, kneeling on the floor in front of me. "You could have come up. I wouldn't kick you out in the street you know." He says sincerely. I hope he knows how much that means to me, because I know myself well enough to know that I will never be able to tell him. He leans forward. "Tell ya a secret." He holds his thumb and forefinger up, millimetres apart. "I was this close to comin' to the consulate, I swear." The absurdity of the fact catches me and a smile escapes me after all. Well what do you know - miracles do happen. I'm starting to think there's more to come. "Well see now ya smilin' and that's all good so you keep doin' that." He tells me and I nod obediently. Funny how one smile from him makes me compliant. I doubt I've ever been compliant in my life, too busy doing things my own way and flouting authority, without them ever realizing I do it mostly. That's another thing Ray has taught me. In some battles his way, the intuitive way, works infinitely better.
He sits, drink in hand, and I suddenly wish I'd had the presence of mind to accept his offer. He catches me watching him drink and hands me his cup, full of something that turns out to be hot chocolate. The foolish, starry-eyed side of me makes sure I drink from the exact space along the rim that he did, although even I'm unsure of the meaning of this action. Mentally I'm sickened by my own inanity, but inside ... inside I'm warmed to the bone. Good stuff, hot chocolate, apparently.
"You wanna stay?" He asks abruptly, and laughs out a wonderful cackle when I nearly choke. He's beside me in an instant, petting half-heartedly against my back. He knows I'll be fine - excess lung capacity and all - but he does it anyway. A gesture of apology or affection perhaps. He still shakes with silent laughter, minutes after I have recovered. It would be aggravating if it wasn't so intensely thrilling to feel the vibration where his palm still rests on my back.
"Ya okay?" He grins at me and suddenly I'm so very much more than okay. "Surviving." I reply with a small smile, but he frowns. "Can't have that." He says seriously, and the question immediately leaps to my face. "You would prefer me not to survive then?" I ask, thoroughly confused. I had assumed I annoyed him on occasion but the thought of him wanting me dead had never occurred. "Yes, well, no, yes, well of course I want you breathing and with a pulse. That's not what I meant." He says, waving his hand in frustration, as if trying to conjure an explanation from unyielding air. "Just, `surviving' isn't a good answer to give. I don't want you just surviving. I want you alive and really living. You know what I mean?"
And now I do. Thoughtful of him, perceptive too. I have an incredible friend, and once again that fact is brought to my notice. "I thank you for your concern, Ray ..." I begin, and he holds up a palm to stop me.
"Don't tell me not to worry about it, or that you don't need my concern or any of the patented mountie crap." He warns, and I am astonished that, for once, such thoughts never came into my head. Normally it would be second nature to push him away, to distance him from anything that could be called my inner workings. But somehow ... somehow he made me forget to keep him at arms length. Revelation number two approaching.
"I was just going to say I appreciated it." I tell him truthfully, and he opens his mouth, closes it again, and then nods warily. "No problem."
Smiling again, he steals the hot chocolate back from me and takes a quick swig. I find myself involuntarily watching his throat as he swallows, and almost have to kick myself to snap out of it. He gives me a strange, understanding look, and then his grin is back in full force. "So you wanna stay?"
What am I supposed to say to that? A resounding yes echoes through every part of my body, but I ignore it temporarily while I watch him for some sign of what exactly he means. "You want me to stay with you?" I prompt, and he nods again, this time certain.
"Yeah sure, I mean there's no sense in you leaving again, it's morning already. I figure the sun's gonna make an appearance soon."
"Twenty seven minutes." I say, unable to prevent myself, and he looks at me as though I'm insane, but I can see he's amused.
"Yer so not human, ya know that?" He says good-naturedly and I nod, too tired to do much else. The lateness that had been so insignificant before suddenly hits me like a ton of bricks, and I yawn, trying to ignore the aching pain that creeps along my spine. He frowns. "I take it back, yer human. Exhausted human. Just not normal human. But human enough to look like hell so ... bed. Come on."
Naturally, I stay exactly where I am.
"Come on." He repeats and holds out a hand to me, tricking me into taking hold of him before I realize this grip will be used to pull me to my feet and into his room. My starved skin had reached up to meet his so readily that thinking about it I am surprised. Not for long though, I'm too tired.
Something inside me is appalled at the way he folds me into his bed, pulling covers over me, and even more appalled at the way I don't release his hand. I had hoped I was above such levels of neediness. Apparently not.
"You want I should stay?" He makes it so simple for me to say yes. That warm, inviting tone ... "You mind?" I ask, and he shrugs. Nobody else could make that gesture so ... articulate. "Don't mind. Either way I'm good. So it comes down to you."
I may be tired but I'm not quite tired enough to miss the way his eyes never leaving mine. He's right to look so serious about this. After the half-expressed emotions we've seen tonight, keeping him here in the bed with me would certainly breach the far side of platonic. I know that, and I find it doesn't disturb me in the slightest. I smile in what I hope is a warm, reassuring sort of way, and must succeed as he smiles back, eyes gently glistening in the low light.
"I want you should stay." I tell him, and give his hand the briefest squeeze, half praying he feels it and half praying he doesn't. He squeezes back - prayers answered. "Then I stay," And true to his word he slips beneath the covers beside me, wriggling slightly in a way that makes me smile. I turn onto my side, facing him and it almost startles me how close our faces are when I realize he is facing me also. It's like something from an American teen movie, and had I been in shallower water then I might have allowed the corniness of it to spoil the moment. But this is deep water - a sink or swim situation - and I instantaneously decide to let myself sink. What the hell. It isn't the best logical decision, but certain parts of me abandoned logic a while ago. Right after it stopped giving me the things I wanted to have.
Somehow my hand found its way upward to touch his face as I lean towards him and .... he leaned back. In the words of a very wise man ... `Shit.'
"Don't Ben." He says, his honey-smooth voice rippling over me. Good god, I must be in over my head. "Don't?" I ask, confused and thoroughly beyond the point of no return. I lean forwards anyway, knowing I should hate myself for ignoring his warning, but unable to care. My lips meet his and for just a second he stills, allowing the contact. Even pushes into it a little, a simple chaste kiss, with promise of nothing more. He ever-so-gently pushes me away again, and when he speaks he's lost all authority. He sounds almost pleading. "Don't. You have no idea what you do to me." He tells me. Highly gratifying, and I push my arms around his torso, pulling him nearer to me. He cautiously does the same, but at a very noticeable distance. He feels .... restrained. I have to admit, I am getting slightly agitated, unable to see why he's not letting me give and take what I want. He wants it too, I can feel that more clearly than any other sensation. He takes a deep breath and looks into my eyes again. "Not now, not tonight. Everything's against us tonight." He says, quiet but firm. "I'm not doing this when you're low. When you're lonely. When you might not be thinking straight. When we're both tired, and when we don't have the time to get it right." He smiles sadly at me. "I want you to be a hundred percent awake and clear and sure. Otherwise it's a non starter. Sorry."
It's infuriating, but I `get it' now. He's being a good friend - the perfect partner - covering both our backs. If I fall into this while I'm vulnerable (as much as it pains me to admit I am) then tomorrow I will quite possibly kick myself all the way back to Canada. And that will hurt him, more than I could bear. Certainly more than he could.
So I back off, keeping him close to me, but not moving forwards any. Not pushing. "I am thinking straight, Ray." I tell him. "I won't be sorry." I try to convince him, even though I know he won't change his mind. He's a stubborn alright. But I don't want him to think I'd risk it if I wasn't sure.
He grins lazily back at me. "Yeah?" He sounds hopeful, and confident at the same time. "I'll believe you tomorrow." He promises, and I lay one final kiss against the vein in his neck. I said I wasn't pushing, I never said I wouldn't have any fun while I was where I am. Sleepy and lazy, I seize this half decent chance to memorize the feel of his skin, before he has the chance to stop me, and even as he swats my hands away, he's grinning like he won the lottery.
"Less groping, more sleeping." He orders me sweetly, and I comply, shutting my eyes against the faintest of glows coming through the crack of the door to the bathroom, and the streetlights outside. After all, I am trained to take orders.
I find a final resting place for my hands - one just below his hipbone, and one on his ribs - and as sleep claims me, with my cheek against his, I can her him murmuring faintly. One quarter amused, one quarter contented, one quarter adoring, one quarter already lost, and completely enveloped in warmth ... I fall asleep to the sounds of a GTO drivers' manual, being softly intoned in my ear.
Not the end, so don't start with the waterworks. I can't stand sobbing fans. Just be patient my pretties.
End The Far Side by LaAmelia: email@example.com
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