In The Water
Author's Notes: Thanks to Sprat for making me do it, and for beta.
In The Water
He's been sitting here in the dark for ten minutes now with his hands draped over the wheel, head down against his crossed wrists. Time to go in, do this thing, or to go home, get another hour in bed. He takes a deep breath and sits up; slaps the wheel once, twice, and grabs his duffel.
This water is warm and clear, lapping at his waist. No boots dragging, no clothes weighing him down. He could do this in the dark, the low thrum of the engines all around him, so he can do it here with the bright lights and the voices echoing off the tiles. Bloom, close, kick 'em in the head. Nothing to it.
He thought about signing up for classes, or maybe some one-on-one lessons. Thought about asking Fraser. But he's had classes before, and Fraser'd just be so fucking understanding and supportive. Fraser doesn't even know he's here. Because what could he say, "Hey, Frase, want to hold my hand at the pool? Might need to do that buddy breathing thing again." He's been going under for a while now, and he's got to save himself.
He grabs the board, pushes forward. He doesn't drown.
It's been a couple of months -- two, maybe three times a week -- and it's not something he has to do anymore. He's never going to win any prizes, but he's past the almost-sinking, past the frantic paddling. Now it's head down, stroke, stroke, turn and breathe, kicking smoothly all the time.
He's surprised how much like dancing it is. You get the rhythm going and everything flows, smooth and easy. His body moves, and his head shuts down, and it all just fits. Course, that only lasts a couple of lengths, and then he turns wrong, or forgets to breathe, and he's the skinny jittery guy with only a turtle at home again, but still. He feels more like himself than he has in a long time.
He thinks about telling Fraser, thinks about saying "Remember on the boat?" And maybe he will, soon, but for now this is his, something new, something he can do. Something no-one expected from him.
One more lap and he's done. Some of the other regulars have been giving him a few tips, helping him with his technique. He grins at that: he has technique now.
Roll, kick off, glide. He's streamlined now, the water flowing smoothly past. Arms extended, hands together, head not too high, not too low. It's like he's flying underwater, and he grins again.
He'll go over after he showers.
He knocks and then waits, bag in arms. Fraser'll be up, but he could have gone for a run with Dief or something. No problem. Ray's kept it quiet this long, another hour or so won't kill him. But then the door opens and Fraser's there, not surprised to see him, because who else would it be?
"Bagels, tea for you, coffee for me, and a doughnut for the wolf," he says, handing the bag over.
"And a good morning to you too, Ray." Fraser's tone is a bit snippy, but the creases at the corners of his eyes tell their own story.
"I know, I know, it only takes an extra second..." Ray follows him into the kitchen, pulls out a chair and slouches at the table. "But it's a slippery slope, Frase, a slippery slope. Start with 'good morning', and next thing, you'd be expecting 'thank you kindly' and door-holding and plates." He waves at the table to make his point. "Who knows where it'd all end."
Fraser just shakes his head fondly at him, and hands him his coffee. It's quiet while they eat, just the rustle of paper, the soft thunk of cups on the table. Eventually, Ray leans back, cup in his hands.
"Listen, Frase, there's a couple of things I got to say. And maybe I should have told you before, but ..." He shrugs. He still hasn't figured out how to do this, but it's time. So he starts with "Remember a few months back, that boat, the Henry Adams?"
Fraser starts to say something, but stays quiet, nods instead.
"Made me think, decide to change a few things. So I've been going to the pool, learning to swim. Getting pretty good, too."
That gets him a smile, all proud and happy, like he's done something special. "Congratulations, Ray! I must confess I had my suspicions, having noticed the scent of chlorine on several occasions."
Ray nods, not really surprised. He'd suspected Fraser suspected. Not much gets past that nose.
"Yeah, thought you might. And thanks for leaving it be, letting me tell you when I was ready. But that's not the only thing." Now for the hard one, the one that'll change things. He thinks he knows, he hopes he knows, that Fraser'll be cool with it. Maybe more than cool, but that's not really the issue.
"I've thought a lot about, y'know, about the partnership stuff, the trust stuff, instinct and logic. The way I feel." Fraser's watching him now, waiting for him. He draws a breath, lets it out. "And the thing is, the thing is, it's more than that. For me anyway."
He can't sit still anymore, has to get up. Has to move, to pace. The calm from the pool has gone, but he's come this far, he's not quitting now.
He stops beside Fraser, reaches for his chin, tilts his head. Fraser's got his polite little smile on, the one that says "Ray, my friend, I have no idea what you're doing." But he sits there, waits for Ray to clue him in.
Ray cups his jaw. "Let me know if this isn't ok, ok?" And he bends down, brushes his mouth against Fraser's. He wants to dive in, wants to stroke and glide and drown, but he pulls back instead. Tries to remember to breathe. Waits.
There's no smile on Fraser's face now, no expression at all. Ray drops his hand, starts to back off , but Fraser grabs his wrist. He reaches for Ray's face, rubs his thumb across his lips. And then he's standing, one big hand on Ray's hip, pulling him close, gathering him in. He grips Ray's hair and tugs, dragging his head back. His teeth are sharp on Ray's throat and jaw, his tongue is wet. Another tug, and his hungry mouth opens on Ray's.
Ray goes under.
End In The Water by gurrier
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