For Omphale23 by slidellra

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Title: Echo
For: Omphale23
Pairing/Characters: Fraser/Kowalski
Warnings: none
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes: Many thanks and much love to the excellent and hard-working DSSS admins. Thanks also to the incomparable [name redacted] for generous and helpful beta-type activity under great time pressure.





"After Margie noticed the irregularities in the paperwork, she discovered that a number of antiquities were on permanent loan to unverified institutions of dubious authenticity, which, naturally, concerned her greatly," Fraser explained as he made his way through the labyrinth of temporary shelving and boxed exhibits in the Field Museum West Subbasement Level B3 storage area.


"Dark," Ray noted darkly. 


"Hmm, yes," Fraser said, forging ahead. "That could be for energy efficiency, to protect the delicate antiquities, or perhaps because somebody forgot to turn on all the lights."


"I bet," Ray's muffled voice came from the underlit gloom behind him, followed by an equally muffled curse. "I'm lost. I'm lost, Fraser."


"Left, left, right. Just follow the sound of my voice. So, as the antiquities are not definitively known to be missing, and as Margie's good friend and possible love match Paolo signed off on the majority of the loans, she asked me -- us, rather -- to look..."


"Right, what right?" Ray wasn't panicking yet, but the strain was definitely mounting in his voice. "There's no right here."


"Four paces past the sarcophagus--" Fraser's words cut off as a powerful blow to the head stunned and rocked him. He swayed, trying to focus on the footsteps hastening away before losing consciousness, but the footsteps were drowned by Ray's bark of concern, the pain blurring his senses. Before Ray could reach his side, Fraser's vision dissolved into a cascade of silver sparkles, his knees gave out, and everything went black.


He opened his eyes to a landscape of clean snow and dark trees, the horizon wide and free of human construction. He was savoring the clean, crisp air when his father announced, in that unique way he had of combining gloom, doom, and delight, "You're in for it now, son."


"In for what?"


"You'll see, you'll see. This is a good one." His father rocked back on his heels, his breath a small puff of white. "Never let it be said that the universe doesn't have a sense of humor."


"Certainly not," Fraser agreed. "I can name any number of times when cosmic irony came into play, and those are just instances relating to you."


"That's the thing, my boy; I'm afraid you can't. Now now, anyway." With that delightful little gem of incomprehensibility, his father began to fade out. "Listen to your heart, son!" he called as Fraser was jerked back to the museum floor and a pounding head. "Or your gallbladder. I always forget which one."


In this reality, Ray was crouched over him -- not, Fraser noted with a flicker of impatience, pursuing his assailant, assuming there had been an assailant -- yelling his name.


Fraser winced, reaching up to cover Ray's mouth. With the booming noise reduced to a splutter, he was able to concentrate on cataloguing his injuries. Fortunately, aside from the concussion -- his fourth, was it? He tended to lose track -- and some minor bruising on his tailbone, he seemed to be in fine working order. He would do. He lifted his hand away from Ray's mouth, revealing Ray's tense, distressed face.


"Fraser," he told Ray reassuringly. Then, with some confusion: "Fraser. Fraser?"


"Nuh-uh," Ray spat. "Tell me you didn't break your head." 


Fraser tried to slow his racing heart and control his usually reliable body. Focusing on Ray's name, he instructed his mouth to form just that one, familiar, tiny word: "Break your head. Break your head!"


Under normal circumstances, Fraser would have been extremely unlikely to repeat the phrase Ray uttered next. At the moment, he was physically incapable of saying anything else.


He would not soon choose to repeat that harrowing drive to the emergency room, during which Ray repeatedly ordered Fraser to tell him how many fingers he was holding up and Fraser repeatedly attempted to request that Ray use both hands to drive the car, a conflict that resulted in them yelling "How many!" at each other in increasingly furious tones. The experience was not bettered by the ensuing hours of poking, prodding, and headscratching on the part of the medical staff.


Fraser couldn't blame the doctors; trauma to the brain was both unpredictable and mysterious. However, as Fraser had sustained concussions before, he was familiar with the treatment options. Even this symptom, however unusual, would surely disappear with time. And as no good would come of him sitting on a paper-covered table in an ill-fitting paper gown, parroting "Tell me where it hurts" and "Hmmm, unusual" and "Have you ever spoken with a psychiatrist?" back at a doctor -- a doctor whose dubious expression and air of suspicion was mostly likely an unfortunate quirk of genetics -- Fraser re-donned his uniform with no small measure of relief and liberated himself.


Mid-liberation, in the hallway outside the examining room, he came across Ray standing at a bank of telephones, his hand braced against the wall, his shoulders pulled tight. "Yeah sir, yes sir. He only repeats. Like, I say potato, he says potato, he doesn't say anything about tubers or cold weather storage or this old guy with no legs and one eye named Potato Pete, except on Tuesdays when he went by Roberta. Just potato."


Potato being, in fact, the only thing Fraser could say at the moment, he waited patiently at Ray's shoulder for his attention. At that moment, however, he glimpsed one of the doctors hurrying down the hallway, so he reevaluated the situation and instead made his way directly to the nearest exit.


Most unfortunately, his momentum upon exiting propelled him directly into the path of Francesca Vecchio, who, since he'd seen her at the station, had changed into a rather smart white suit that somehow evoked a young man's erotic fantasy of the nursing profession. Gasping from the impact of their collision, Frannie clung to his arm and generously offered to nurse him back to health.


"You can't stay at the consulate, of course. I bet it was a lack of a comfortable home life that caused this whole mess. Not that you're a mess. You're anything but a mess, you're, anyway, you're coming home with me where you can recover in peace, is what you are. I've got experience in these things; my second cousin Cheryl had a brain aneurysm once, and she was fine. I mean, except for the limp, but--"


Attempting to extricate himself, Fraser said, firmly and apologetically, and not at all the excuse he was attempting, "Limp."

 

Frannie seemed to lose the thread of her monologue. In the ensuing silence, Fraser strived to explain that he was only slightly injured, in no need of medical care although he did of course appreciate her concern, and in fact needed to get on his way at this moment so thank you and good day. Instead, he said, "Limp, limp, limp."


The fact of the matter was Fraser loathed brain injuries. It was at times like this that he truly understood why so many wild animals instinctively crawl off in the woods to suffer and survive or, if it was their time, to die alone. To explain what followed, one must understand that it had been a particularly trying day, that memories of his last concussion -- and, in fact, the three (or was it four) before that -- were most likely preying on him, the twin facts of Frannie's inability to read rudimentary body language combined with her disproportionate and really quite impressive grip strength, and the strong possibility that Fraser's doctor might have been hot on his trail.


As the event transpired, Fraser was for once in his life grateful for the general incivility of the Chicago cabbie and the specific incivility of the cab driver at the traffic intersection directly to the south of where they stood.


"Are you stupid?" he asked loudly. "The light was red, moron. My ex-wife's poodle can drive better than that." 


Frannie's eyes were as wide as saucers. "Oh, Fraser. You were married?"


Fraser steeled himself and committed fully to his course. "Up yours, pal." 


Frannie dropped his arm like it was on fire. "Whoa now, Mister, that was just rude. You're really... I'll just go. Get help. A lot of help." She stumbled back and began to run at full speed towards the main entrance, her white heels clattering on the sidewalk.


And with that, Fraser, flushed with chagrin, completed his escape. The museum was conveniently located nearby, and the short, brisk walk somewhat buoyed his spirits, as did his success in -- through the universal language of mime -- directing a small group of disoriented Japanese tourists to the closest source of authentic Chicago pizza.


Upon his return to the museum subbasement, he found to his satisfaction that Ray had beaten him there and was now peering into dusty display cases, his arms folded as if to guard against the antiquity threat. 


Ray jumped at his approach, and then glowered at him darkly. "Rule one of being partners, Fraser, when you have a brain injury, you stick together. That's why I stick with you all the time, okay? Repeat after me: when you have a brain injury, you stick together."


"When you have a brain injury, you stick together," Fraser said, warmed by Ray's concern.


"Remember that, Fraser. Words to live by." 


They stood in silence for several moment, squinting into the general gloom of low lighting and tall, overfull shelving. With a sudden, nervous laugh, Ray said, "Whoa, okay. I was waiting for you to... Yeah. So you and me were nosing around where Margie said the thingums were stored. I was exploring the wilds of Timbuktu back there, and the bastard got you ... here."


"Here." Fraser nodded. "Here." He'd been turning the corner between two columns of unusually tall shelving when he'd been struck -- an excellent spot for an ambush. He closed his eyes and attempted to replay the moment in his fractured memory. It was futile: he had no recollection of sensing an attacker's presence; smelling an unexpected odor; or hearing a sound other than those faint, hurried footsteps. It was possible though unlikely that the object that struck him had simply fallen off the shelving and the footsteps had been an invention of his injured brain, but the force with which he'd been struck and the location of the impact -- on the left side rather than crown of his head -- argued otherwise. 


His memory thus failing him, he glanced at Ray with a lift of his eyebrows. 


"Nope," Ray bit out. "Too dark, and I didn't have my glasses on, and you were down, and the bastard was quick. I didn't see a damn thing."


A pity. His attacker, assuming there had been one, was either extremely lucky or unusually talented at covert assault. 


Fraser turned his attention to the weapon, now lying in broken pieces on the floor. Fishing out his pocket flashlight and switching it on, he squatted on his heels for a better look. Even a casual glance was enough to identify the shards as having once made up a large and particularly sturdy specimen of ancient Grecian pottery. He held one shard in the light of his flashlight, inspecting the mythical imagery decorating the sides. It was lovely. The destruction of this artifact was an appalling, unconscionable, infuriating waste.


Ray crouched down next to him, booted toes illuminated in the circle of the flashlight's beam, and said. "It's the same guy, no a random head-bashing. We come to investigate; the buttwipe tries to take you out." 


"Out," Fraser said inanely, when all he'd been attempting was a simple 'Hmmm.'


Even after a thirty-minute inspection of the scene, lying full length on the ground to inspect the dust in minute detail, he could make out no definitive signs of an attacker's presence. It was as if he'd been assaulted by a ghost, notwithstanding the dead's extremely limited ability to manipulate solid objects.


Somewhat diminished in spirits and still suffering from headache, he declined Ray's generous offer of a place to stay for the night. Diefenbaker was more than babysitter enough for him.


Still, that evening the consulate was even less homey than usual, too emphatically bare and sterile and silent. He considered calling Ray on the phone for the reassurance of conversation, however mangled and repetitive; Ray, he trusted, would understand the need to verify somebody was out there and that he himself truly existed. Instead, he stripped the wool blanket off his cot and carried it into the parlor with his tea. He fell asleep on the couch, murmuring late night news coverage back at the the television set.  


In the morning, his head felt much better, and he was momentarily certain that he'd recovered as the swelling in his brain subsided. 


"Good morning, Dief," he attempted to address the sleeping wolf at his feet, but it was soon clear he was still suffering the mysterious debility. Lacking any recent spoken conversation to repeat, he simultaneously twitched his nose and his right hand, whining. Dief woke with a start, shook himself vigorously, and, after a moment's cool observation, stalked out of the room, head held high. Apparently, he felt mimicking his dream-speak was an affront to his dignity and his privacy, and who wouldn't.


Fraser sighed. Day two of concussion number four -- he was almost certain it was four, the incident when he was seventeen was probably just an inner ear imbalance, or possibly the aftereffects of overindulging in elderberry wine -- was not off to a promising start. 


It did not improve when Inspector Thatcher quickly scanned and then much more slowly reread the report he'd prepared, and then sat back with in her chair to appraise him over steepled fingers. 


"The agreement is you may liaise with the local police department if said liaising does not interfere with your ability to effectively serve. I mean serve Canada, of course." 


"Serve Canada," Fraser said firmly, eyes fixed over her head. "Of course."


Thatcher sighed gustily. "You leave me no other options, Constable. You know what to do, yes?"


Indeed. "Yes."


"Yes, sir," Thatcher chided, attention already shifting to the latest word from Ottawa.


"Yes, sir," Fraser repeated promptly. 


The color rose high on Thatcher's cheeks, because that happened to people sometimes for no reason other than minor fluctuations in humidity or possibly if they'd eaten almonds that morning. "Oh, get out of here, Constable," she snapped.   


Guard duty was the opposite of punishment for Fraser in his current condition; it was a relief akin to easing his aching body into a hot bath after a grueling slog through thirty miles of deep snow. Throughout the day, foot traffic was fairly light, with the unusual increases of activity when the buses came by and during the noon hour. The sidewalks, crusted with fragile, antique snow in the morning, were soon damp and slippery. He almost broke from his post to catch a pedestrian as she wobbled, but she righted herself and his assistance proved unnecessary. In the early afternoon, light flurries fell, bringing the fresh, biting scent of snow.


As it neared the end of his shift, Ray's car rumbled slowly down the street, parked illegally, and Ray himself sauntered over to slouch next to him and catch him up on all the ways the world had managed to annoy him so far that day. It was a long list.


He'd deteriorated to grumbling about an offensive hairstyle worn by a prosperous-looking passerby when the hour struck. Fraser cracked his neck and cast him a dubious look.


Ray protested, "Well, it was!"


"Well, it was!" Fraser mocked lightly.


Ray grinned, showing teeth all the way up to his gums, then jerked his head to the side, signaling a change of topic. "Still stuck on repeat?"


"Repeat, repeat," he repeated, suddenly glum. Regulations prohibited any more hours of guard duty, worse luck. Now, without the distraction of liaising, he supposed he'd have the opportunity to catch up on some long-delayed organizing of passport forms. And his uniforms could always use a full session with brush, needle, polish, and iron. There was so much he'd been meaning to do; surely this temporary condition could be viewed as a blessing in disguise.


"Yeah, we'll have to stick at the station," Ray said with venom. "Paperwork. Come on." 


Despite a several second delay while he processed the change of plan from long-postponed chores at the consulate to long-postponed chores at the station house, Fraser was in the passenger seat, seat belt buckled, before Ray had opened the driver's side door.


At the station house, Detectives Huey and Dewey -- who really out to make an effort to spend more of the working day on the streets, pursuing justice and protecting the public instead of needling co-workers -- spent twenty minutes leaning against a neighboring desk, their conversation a transparent attempt to induce Fraser to inadvertently repeat "Maple syrup is for the birds," "Hockey makes me yak," or "Eh-t," the purported -- and if one were Detectives Huey and Dewey, riotously funny -- answer to the question "How many Canadians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"


Then Ray threw some chairs around in that way he so enjoyed, Huey and Dewey retired to their side of the room, Fraser used his eyebrows to express his concerns about Ray's behavior, and Ray righted the furniture he'd upset and apologized, in his way, to the other detectives. Fraser was once again absorbed in transcribing the Richter case notes when a crisp high-heeled stride made its way down the hallway and navigated the office to stop next to his desk and Assistant State's Attorney Kowalski's mildly suspicious voice said, "Constable."


Over by the filing cabinet, Ray's head came up like a prairie dog facing sunrise.


Fraser stood up politely as Stella dropped a file on Ray's desk. "Try it again, Ray, in English this time." Then she set her right foot on its toe and shifted her weight to pivot left, almost certainly in preparation for an equally brusque exit, when she hesitated. "I was sorry to hear of your injury, Constable. Did Cheryl get it right, you can just repeat what others say?""


Ray materialized next to her, angled between aisle and desk. "Hi Stella."


Stella pivoted then, showing Ray her shoulder.


Fraser sighed and indulged her curiosity. "Hi Stella. Hi Stella."


She tilted her head in a manner both remarkably like and distinctly unlike Ray's. "Weird." 


Fraser agreed. Weird, inconvenient, embarrassing, alarming, crippling, unnerving, infuriating, profoundly inconvenient...


"He's fine," Ray said. "Weird Canadian thing. Whack him with a hockey puck, it'll clear right up."


"Clear right up," Fraser said, because it was easier to speak than to not.


Dewey, two desks over, called, "I knew a guy with, you know, that Touring syndrome."


"Oh yeah?" Ray asked.


"Tourettes, genius," Huey corrected. 


"Yeah," Dewey smirked. "He's standing right over there."


"Ha ha, laugh it up, funny guy," Ray retorted.


Stella checked her watch, clearly torn, but lingered where she was. "But this isn't Tourettes," she mused. "It's like Echo."


"Echo?" Ray echoed, his Chicago accent distinct.


"Echo," Fraser murmured, chagrined that the parallel hadn't occurred to him earlier.


"You remember, Ray," Stella said with a glint that could as easily be humor as malice. "You and that Greek myths and heroes book you carried around for a whole year."


"I was twelve!" Ray hissed, cutting an utterly appalled glance towards the others.


"Greek?" Dewey said. "I'm part Greek."


"Anyway, Echo was a girl," Ray argued, then winced.


"Was she the one with the cow and the rain of gold?" asked Huey. "I liked the rain of gold."


"Nah," said Dewey. "She was the one who loved the beautiful guy that everybody loved." 


Fraser regarded him with unheralded respect.


"Oh, oh, Narciful!" Frannie sighed copiously. "I know that one. He didn't get married, so he died all alone. So sad. Isn't that sad, Fraser?"


Dewey made the sound usually referred to as a raspberry.


"Narcissus, Frannie," Ray sneered, then winced again, for all the world as if there was something to be ashamed of in a passing familiarity with any history or myth at all. Sometimes Fraser despaired of him.


"But I don't know the girl," Frannie said, ignoring all challenges. "Echo? That was her name? Like, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo?"


"We get it, Frannie," Ray snapped, as Fraser repeated, softly, "Echo."


"Echo used her voice to save her friends, offending a vengeful goddess," Stella explained to Frannie. "So she was cursed to only repeat, never speak first. Hence, echo."


"Hence, nothing," Ray muttered.


"Fraser did talk a lot," Huey mused, eyeing Fraser where he stood.


"Not that much," Ray insisted. 


Fraser arched an eyebrow his direction. Ray gave a complicated shrug and facial twitch that conveyed his opinion that Fraser did, actually, talk far more than a lot and if Ray was a vengeful god he'd have had something to say about that but it wasn't Huey's damn business and anyway don't kick Ray's partner when he's down. 


Fraser gave a small nod of acknowledgement.


"Echo was a dolt," Ray declared. "Ate her heart out alone in the woods. Fraser would've wrestled a bear and won its voice or something."


What a splendid, if improbable, image. Fraser looked at him, pleasure crinkling his eyes, but Ray had returned to hovering over Stella.


"She did have lousy taste in men," Stella agreed, adjusting her body to more pointedly exclude her ex-husband.


Fraser drifted off in thought, pondering narcissism and the inability to see or value what's before one's eyes, then touching briefly on self-love and inverts and some extremely upsetting theories he'd read in the one book -- a tome on psychiatry he'd decided was too stained for circulation, after upsetting a cup of tea on its cover -- he'd removed from his grandparent's lending library after inheriting primary caretaking duties. It was a lot to get through, but fortunately he was a rapid thinker.


When he returned to the conversation, Huey was asking, "So, how'd she get better? In the myth?"


"Huh? Oh, she didn't," Dewey said blithely, turning a thumb upside down to indicate a sad end.


"Too bad." Huey sounded sincerely regretful. 


"Yeah, too bad Dewey can't shut his fat face," Ray snarled.


Stella eyed her watch again, and finally executed the long-delayed pivot toward the doorway. "Can it, Ray. Nobody's saying Fraser's going to die alone in the woods. It's just head trauma."


"Damn right, it's head trauma," Ray insisted, and then with his own particular brand of logic: "He's fine."


"So, who was the one with the cow and the rain of gold?" Frannie asked plaintively.


"They're different stories, detective, featuring Io and Danae, two young women who would have had much happier lives if they'd paid more attention to their jobs." Welsh grunted, appearing in his office doorway with his customary coffee and customary long-suffering expression. "Assistant State's Attorney, I do appreciate you stopping by and filling our educational content requirements while the good Constable's on the bench, but it's time to get back to work, people."


The rest of the afternoon proceeded satisfactorily, and that evening Fraser and Ray walked down yet another snow-crusted sidewalk, discussing their dinner options. Ray had suddenly lost the ability to understand Fraser's expressions and gestures, a loss that coincided exactly with when he'd discovered Fraser didn't agree with his restaurant choice.


A hectic five minutes later, the stout woman with the baby carriage was perched on a nearby bench, talking animatedly at a cocker spaniel in a hand-knit sweater; Ray was rubbing his elbow where he'd smacked it after Fraser shoved him out of the tow-truck's path; and Fraser was utterly, helplessly furious with himself.


"A dog in a baby carriage," Ray ranted. "People."


Fraser paced back and forth, two steps in either direction, like an animal trapped too long in a cage. He'd seen disaster looming, the truck, the carriage, and Ray all on a collision course, and had yelled at the top of his lungs, "Szechwan PORK!" And so Ray was bruised, the stout woman and her dog had come closer to death than should have been necessary, the truck had slammed into a dumpster with significant damage to both, and Fraser's shoulders shook with the urge to release this tension, to punch something.


Ray stood near his shoulder, his mouth moving, but Fraser was too irate to hear; he just saw Ray's face, concern sitting oddly with the deep lines and habitual tension, the contrast of caring and callous that was so typically, awkwardly Ray. 


"That's it," he said, forgetting again, so instead he said, "Cuckoo," and didn't spare the time to wonder what Ray had been saying after all, because he'd already reached out and deliberately wrapped a hand around Ray's biceps. Ray's jacket was worn, the leather soft and cold, and under the layers of clothing, Ray's arm was hard.


Ray's face was turned toward him. Fraser saw him swallow, hesitate, and then say, "At home."


Yes, Fraser thought with a fresh surge of adrenalin.


When he'd thought about ways and times he could again touch another person, could touch Ray, he'd thought about it rather hopefully as a joyous thing, touched with laughter and ease and ecstasy and therefore purely the stuff of fantasy. This right now was his hand, Ray's arm, Ray knowing exactly how to understand what he was saying, and no guarantees for either of them.


Despite his words, a scowl was fighting with panic on Ray's face, but Fraser didn't wait for him to finish the battle. Still holding onto Ray's biceps, he started walking briskly in the direction of the apartment. After several strides, Ray shook him off but didn't stop, and they walked together in silence down the street, up the next street, past the restaurant with Ray's favorite oversalted Szechwan pork, turned left, and went up the musty-smelling stairs to Ray's apartment and, finally, to Ray's bedroom. 


Fraser kept pushing, drawing Ray to him, kissing Ray's mouth and chin and neck, and it was only better when Ray pushed back, pushed Fraser off balance and off track and down onto Ray's bed. There, Ray, his shirt half-off and his jeans unbuttoned, put his hand in Fraser's pants and the sight of Ray's strong, familiar wrist moving was almost as good as the unfamiliar feel of Ray's hand on him.


Having Ray's body naked under his hands was exactly what he needed, other than the ability to speak normally again, as was Ray's hands on him, his blinking, brave face focused on him, both of them too aware of how horribly this could go wrong. Fraser inspected and catalogued and savored Ray's body and his grunting, obscene, beautiful reactions, and Ray pushed back and touched Fraser back, and together they pushed each other well past the point where either would normally have collapsed in well-satisfied exhaustion.


Ray gripped his hand over Fraser's, keeping it still as Ray softened under his touch. He kept hold of Fraser's hand after his breathing slowed and his eyes drifted shut again. Finally, several hours after Fraser would have expected Ray to be able to resist asking the question, he said, "Is this the head injury talking?"


"Talking?" Fraser asked, warm and sated and wishing Ray had resisted longer.


"Talking with your body. Dancing in the sheets." 


Fraser bent to lick Ray's nipple, focusing on the freckle on Ray's chest, the sparse, wiry hair. Ray must know there was no way to answer that question other than in the affirmative. The risk of doing this with Ray, risking their friendship and their working partnership and most of what made his life here bearable well outweighed the reward, and would have continued to do so if his life hadn't already become unbearable. If he hadn't lost one more thing than he could stand losing, he likely wouldn't have allowed this to happen, not now. Or maybe he would have, one night, just had to try. Because Ray was there and Fraser wanted him and Fraser might be very good at self-discipline, but he did love to throw himself off cliffs.


"Yeah," Ray said, and he sounded resigned, or diminished, but he pushed Fraser onto his back and straddled his thighs and held him down with strong hands, and Fraser rose to meet him like a much younger man.


In the morning, Fraser didn't wake until shortly after seven, and slipped out of bed without waking Ray. This time, he knew without testing his voice that he hadn't recovered. He brewed strong tea and stood at the window, sipping from one of Ray's chipped, stained mugs. The sun was just rising, and he watched the narrow sliver of visible skyline, imagining the sunrise playing out on a much larger sky.


Eventually, he reluctantly went to work and stood guard duty again. Again, Ray picked him up in the evening, and this time they drove directly to the apartment, Ray sharing with him the results of the background checks on all their Field Museum suspects. 


When they exited the car, Ray reached into the back seat and pulled out a plastic bag from his favorite video rental store. Fraser gave it little thought as they climbed the stairs, until Ray upended the bag over his coffee table, spilling a half-dozen video cassettes across its already cluttered surface. Fraser picked up one cassette and then another. Shakespearean productions, both films and filmed stage performances. 


"The guy at the store said Olivier was good," Ray said diffidently, disappearing into the kitchen to rummage in the refrigerator. "Thought you might want to talk like yourself for a while, instead of like me."


Fraser turned the cassette over in his hands, then slowly, carefully inserted it into the player. He started quietly, echoing a word here or there, but soon he was echoing every line from every player, then letting his voice expand and round and rise, ignoring the pounding from Mrs. Gennero's apartment below. Ray came back, beer in hand, to sprawl on the couch and watch him, thoroughly disregarding the play yet thoroughly pleased with himself.


Fraser played two cassettes back to back, and when the final credits ran, his throat was sore, his body relaxed, his spirits tumultuous, elated, and pained, and he kissed Ray thankfully again and again.


The following morning, he again arose first, and again drank his tea at the window and mulling over the results of the Field Museum background checks. Halfway through the cup, he exclaimed, "Of course!"


From Ray's beat-up couch, Diefenbaker huffed out a breath irritably.


Fraser turned away from the window. "As if you're lacking in sleep. How did you get in, anyway? Please tell me you didn't inveigle Mrs. Gennero into unlocking the door again."


Dief yawned and rolled onto his back, rubbing his shoulder blades against the upholstery.


"Well, because it's taking advantage of her generous nature, for one. You could scratch on the door, or stay at the consulate, or sleep in the snow."


Dief closed his eyes and sighed deeply.


"Of course it is. I've done so myself many times, and without your evolutionary advantages."


Dief sighed again.


"I am not jealous, I'm simply stating a fact."


Dief's right foreleg twitched.


"Oh, stop pretending to sleep."


Fraser was halfway to the kitchen to rinse out his mug when he paused in his tracks.


"And Dief?" he said. "I can talk normally again. Which you might have pointed out."


Dief opened one yellow eye, then shut it again.


"Rudeness is a symptom of an underdeveloped mind," Fraser told him.


In the bedroom, Ray was lying on his stomach, most of the bedding bunched up around his body, his legs exposed. Fraser touched the cool skin of Ray's left foot. It twitched away violently.


"Ray," he said. "Good morning."


Ray didn't stir. Fraser was beginning to feel more than a little impatient with this morning's audience.


"Sweet, brief condition of oblivion, Easer of careworn mild and sorrowed soul; Yeah, next to death, God's most compassionate gift," he ventured.


Ray didn't stir.


"I know who's behind Margie's missing artifacts."


No response.


"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran. Can I cook a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot?"


"Wha?" Ray said, throwing off half the blankets and twisting over to face the room. 


"Hello," Fraser said. "I seem to have recovered." 


Ray's face creased in concentration. "You're talking?"


"How now brown cow." He rolled every word on his tongue like a fine wine. 

 

Ray squinted at him. "Canada sucks?"


"It does not. Not in the least."


Ray leaned up, weaving slightly, and kissed Fraser on the mouth, his lips warm and slightly sour-smelling and soft right up until they weren't. Ray leaned back, his face as still as his lips. "Oh," he said. "Um. Er." 


And just as Ray had understood Fraser even when Fraser's conversation was purely repetitive, Fraser understood what Ray was saying even when his conversation consisted entirely of meaningless syllables. But the sad truth was, brain damage or no, Fraser never excelled at talking about his personal feelings, and the future, and the risks they were taking, and the ways their dreams differed, and whether love and partnership was enough to keep them whole and strong, or was strong enough to break them. 


So instead he slid under the rumpled sheets, stroked Ray's face until it relaxed under his touch, and asked him to come with him to arrest Kevin Brentwhistle, Paolo's assistant and the criminal almost certainly responsible for both the missing antiquities and the assault on Fraser's cranium. 


Ray said yes.


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23 Comments


Oh, I liked this. I love Fraser and Ray's wacky day, I love Fraser's brain injury, I love Ray making Fraser say "When you have a brain injury, you stick together" .

There was so much about this to love...\o/!

Great job!

shell Author Profile Page said:

Loved this. Absolutely loved it.

This is GREAT! What a clever and original story, and sweet, and I loved the conversation in the 2-7 about the Greek myths. Awesome!!

And awww. Boys!

"Echo was a dolt," Ray declared. "Ate her heart out alone in the woods. Fraser would've wrestled a bear and won its voice or something."

I love this story so much, and this line in particular. I adore this Ray characterization so, so much...smart, thoughtful, witty, and still full of his sweetness and energy. What a delightful read this is.

Hi. HI! I'm so sorry I'm late (my family is crazycakes crackers, what can I say) but I love, love, love this. I love that it uses myth to say so much about them, and I love the weirdness of the situation, and I love that it's Fraser's frustration that finally pushes them together.

I love that Ray can read Fraser, except when he deliberately can't, and I love that Fraser is so very Fraserish. I love the dialogue and the bits in between and I love that it isn't having sex with Ray that fixes Fraser, it's the movies or possibly solving the case or maybe neither or both.

Anyway. You have perhaps gathered that I'm pretty enthusiastic about this fic. Thank you so much!

leonandra Author Profile Page said:

I cracked up several times in the first half of the story. Poor Fraser.

I love this story. I also love your Ray who takes such good care of Fraser as his Echo and still understands him....unless he doesn't get oversalted Szechwan pork.

"Dark," Ray noted darkly.
You had me from right here.

What a terrific story! I love the humorous tone, and the balance struck between humor and the pang of moments like "Yeah," Ray said, and he sounded resigned, or diminished.

Meres Author Profile Page said:

*draws many many hearts around this fic*

*loves and loves and loves and loves*

This was fabulous!

I haven't laughed this much for a long time!! :D That was hilarious and so sweet and I LOVED it!

Jade Lennox Author Profile Page said:

""Dark," Ray noted darkly."
...
"I say potato, he says potato, he doesn't say anything about tubers or cold weather storage or this old guy with no legs and one eye named Potato Pete, except on Tuesdays when he went by Roberta. Just potato.""
...
"That's why I stick with you all the time, okay? "
...
"a manner both remarkably like and distinctly unlike Ray's"

And the cab driver! And the unspoken F/K language (except when they disagree); and mimicing Dief; and Dewey, Welsh, and Ray knowing mythology; and Fraser knowing one arm has biceps, not a bicep!

So. Much. Love. FABULOUS.

I adore: Ray gave a complicated shrug and facial twitch that conveyed his opinion that Fraser did, actually, talk far more than a lot and if Ray was a vengeful god he'd have had something to say about that but it wasn't Huey's damn business and anyway don't kick Ray's partner when he's down beyond all reason! I re-read it 3 or 4 times in a row, and then just sat back and savored the moment.

Ray being embarrassed about knowing mythology was adorable, and I love how he looked after Fraser by brining him Shakespeare to repeat. I can just piccture Fraser in that moment after the final credits rolled - flushed, hoarse, ecstatic. I would have dragged him off to bed immediately!

galenlisle Author Profile Page said:

This was so much fun! Inventive, and warmly characterized. And lovely play with language.

\o/

Fabulous story! So much fun, so clever, so delightful and delicious.

Petra said:

This feels like a missing episode. I laughed my head off. Wonderful!

spuffyduds Author Profile Page said:

Oh WOW. I adore this beyond all reason. So, so funny, and Welsh! with the mythology! And I too was completely bowled over by "Ray gave a complicated shrug and facial twitch that conveyed his opinion that Fraser did, actually, talk far more than a lot and if Ray was a vengeful god he'd have had something to say about that but it wasn't Huey's damn business and anyway don't kick Ray's partner when he's down." because, YES, they can say SO MUCH to each other without talking, because of the LOVE. And I love that they tumble into the sex fast and angrily and without either of them fighting it at all, but THEN there's fear. And the tone of the whole piece is so complicated--funny and angry, frustrated and sweet. Just. WOW.


china Author Profile Page said:

Oh, I loooved this! Awesome crack premise and full of great observations and snark. \o/

Rule one of being partners, Fraser, when you have a brain injury, you stick together. That's why I stick with you all the time, okay?

made me laugh out loud, and then this:

If he hadn't lost one more thing than he could stand losing, he likely wouldn't have allowed this to happen, not now. Or maybe he would have, one night, just had to try. Because Ray was there and Fraser wanted him and Fraser might be very good at self-discipline, but he did love to throw himself off cliffs.

This is both hilarious and a Truth. YAY!

TOO MUCH LOVE. cannot fit it all. SEND HELP.

*makes heart-shape in your general direction*

*hugs you, this story, ray and fraser*

and though i adore the line that a couple people have quoted, about ray not being a vengeful god, my heart was stolen by the line immediately following:

"Echo was a dolt," Ray declared. "Ate her heart out alone in the woods. Fraser would've wrestled a bear and won its voice or something."

what a fantastic translation for "i love you."

this, too:

"The guy at the store said Olivier was good," Ray said diffidently, disappearing into the kitchen to rummage in the refrigerator. "Thought you might want to talk like yourself for a while, instead of like me."

etcetera-cat Author Profile Page said:

I adore this particular type of cracky magical realism in general and this story in particular &sli;

pharis Author Profile Page said:

Oh, this is absolutely lovely. The premise is so original, and it fits and comments on Fraser's character so perfectly, and you give just enough of the mechanics of the case. I love their uncertainty -- it's not quite "fall into bed and fix everything," either on a literal level or in their relationship.

"That's it," he said, forgetting again, so instead he said, "Cuckoo," ...

Lines like this make me love love love this fic! Especially in the Fraser-Frannie interaction, where he (clever devil) uses the malfunction to his advantage. Nonetheless you show how damned frustrating it is for him and Ray, and how it brings them closer even through the confusion.

I adore how Fraser deals with the damage, his rather distanced 'I hate brain injuries' attitude, and Ray's determination to 'buddy it out.' This story is fabulously funny, sweet, sincere, and very, very in character for all of them. Fantastic! Thank you!

sam80853 Author Profile Page said:

Oh, this was wonderfully hilarious:)

Luzula Author Profile Page said:

Wow, I love the first sentence of this story. Great opening, and then you just kept it up. This is just delightful. Funny and serious and quirky in a truly dS way.

There are so many lines that I loved. Here's one of them. Oh, Fraser.

Because Ray was there and Fraser wanted him and Fraser might be very good at self-discipline, but he did love to throw himself off cliffs.

Typo: who really out to make an effort to spend more of the working day on the streets

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This page contains a single entry by slidellra published on December 15, 2008 11:34 PM.

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