Fallen in Love with a Little Time Bomb by Spuffyduds

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Title: Fallen in Love with a Little Time Bomb
For: sage
Pairing/Characters: Ray Kowalski/Benton Fraser
Warnings: R for language
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes:
Many thanks to my delightful and encouraging beta, who deserves a nice fruit basket.



"Nude?"

"No, Fraser," Ray says.  "Art is nude.  Sculptures are nude.  Crazy guy in a tree in the park is naked."

"Perhaps he's had a surge of sanity and gone home," Fraser says.  "We've covered most of the park by now..."

A shriek echoes from their right, and Fraser says, "Perhaps not."

As they're sprinting across the park, Ray gathers up everything that he worked out in his head, says, "So, I had a date last night."

"Good for you," Fraser says, and Ray tries to decide if he's snippy or just a little breathless.  Full-bore running when it's twenty degrees out isn't leaving Ray with a lot of lung power, himself, so he drops the subject for now.

They navigate by shrieks, and find the guy treed right by a bike path, where he's startling the hell out of people passing.

"Sir, your state of undress is alarming the populace," Fraser says.

"The state of the English language is alarming ME!"  says naked guy.  And then he and Fraser get into this long discussion and it turns out that the guy is, as he says, "Grand Amphibian and, sadly, thus far the sole member of the Society for the Preservation of the Word "Polliwog."  Which Ray doesn't see how exactly that fits in with the buck naked and turning blue in a tree thing, but Fraser says he agrees that it's sad that this glorious term is being gradually replaced with the much more pedestrian "tadpole," but perhaps they could discuss it somewhere where his mode of protest is not frightening children. 

Unfortunately this sends the guy off on a tangent about the long respectable history of getting naked and freezing your nuts off as a form of protest, and Ray is getting cold and bored, so he says, "Hey, frog guy."

"Yes?"

"You seen the weather report for this afternoon?"

"Can't say that I did, no."

"Sleet," Ray lies, and gives the guy's already-not-real-happy equipment a Significant Look.

"Oh my," frog guy says. "Well.  Perhaps it's time to resume sending letters to the Tribune, instead."

He climbs down, and Fraser gets a blanket on him and Ray Mirandas him, and they walk him back to the squad car.

*****************************

Ray tries to drop naked-guy paperwork off with Frannie, but she gives him a both-hands "stop" and says, "NO, bro." 

"No?"  Ray says.  "It's your job. Sis."

"Not when you haven't given me back the last thirty-seven other pieces of paper that I gave back to you after you gave 'em to me because you left some lines blank or because you have the suspect's name spelled three different ways or because you put, 'Cause he's a fuckin' asshole,' under 'reason for arrest.'"

"Oh, yeah, Billings," Ray says.  "Have you met that guy?  Because he made that into a crime."

Fraser nods solemnly and adds, "That is actually a fair assessment of Mr. Billings' character, Francesca.  However," and he looks sideways at Ray, "He did commit more specific infractions, which really should have been enumerated."

"Yeah," Frannie says.  "Enumerate, buddy."

Ray mumbles something about enumerating the ways she is the worst sister ever, and goes back to his desk to start work on the pile of thirty-seven other pieces of paper, and Frannie nails him in the back of the head with a pencil eraser.

"She has really startling long-range accuracy," Fraser says, and Ray just says, "Mmmmm," because he is trying to figure out his own handwriting on the first paper.  He can't really have meant "Stole nun's chicken aria," can he?  But then Fraser says, "You mentioned a date," and Ray looks up.

Fraser's expression is extra-bland.

"Yep," Ray says, and starts studying the paper again, but he's paying real close attention to Fraser now, and he notices that Fraser's fidgeting a little.  Ray smiles, but just in his brain where Fraser won't see.

"And?" Fraser says, finally.

"And what?" Ray says, because he has never, ever been able to pass up the opportunity to make Fraser squirm.

"How was it?"

"Oh, the date?" Ray says, and Fraser smiles encouragingly but his eyes narrow just a tiny bit.  Ray knows Fraser-face by now, and that is the "I am homicidal but I mistakenly believe I am hiding it from Ray" look.   Heh.

"It was...comfortable," Ray says.

"Ah," Fraser says, looking down at the desk.  "Well, that's...wonderful, Ray."

"Not really," Ray says.  "I mean, she's fun to hang out with, kept up with me beer for beer, plays a mean game of pool, I think we're gonna be buddies. But it wasn't, you know, sparky."

Fraser lets out a long breath, and Ray would lay odds that Fraser hadn't known he was holding it.  Then says, "Ah, you are more attracted to the...traditionally feminine?"

"Have you met Stell?"

"Well, yes, not in terms of workplace ambition, certainly, but I thought...hobbies or habits...beer..."  and he trails off.  And the little ball of excitement in the pit of Ray's stomach grows and burns brighter, because, yeah, he is on to something, here.  Fraser never trails off.

"Nah, it's not that, exactly," Ray says, and shoves half the pile of papers over to Fraser.  He taps on the top one and says, "You got any ideas?"

"Chicken aria?" Fraser says.

****************************
They plow through twenty-three of the thirty-seven pages, and Ray actually starts to feel bad about how incomprehensible some of them are, and because he is not so great with out-and-out apologies, says, "Hey, Frannie?  I'm buying your lunch tomorrow."

"And dessert," Frannie says, smugly.  So, apology accepted.

He gives her the stack of finished ones, and says, "C'mon Frase, my place, pizza," and walks off before Fraser has time to come up with a reason why not.

Fraser catches up to him at the GTO and tries to start in with, "Actually, Ray--"

"Pitter-patter," Ray says, climbs in and guns the engine so he can't hear anything else Fraser's saying.  Fraser finally stops moving his mouth and climbs into the car.

Ray just focuses on driving for a few minutes, then says, "What I figured out after last night, is I'm not looking for comfortable, is the problem."

"Hmmm," Fraser says, looking out his window.

"Did I ever tell you about the girl before Stella?"  Ray says.

"I was under the impression that you and Stella fell in love in kindergarten. Possibly in utero," Fraser says.

"Oooh, snippy," Ray says, and whaps him on the shoulder.

"Hands on the wheel," Fraser says, and smiles a bit.

"Next door neighbor girl, Mary Louise, I called her Wheeze and she let me," Ray says.  "Same age as me, and, you know, I hung out with the guys in my neighborhood a lot, but when I wasn't with them I was with Wheeze.  Her dad worked with my dad, and her mom and my mom drank coffee in each others' kitchens and when we played house, we pretty much played at being our moms and dads, doing what they were doing.  And our folks used to joke about us getting married, but it wasn't all the way a joke, you know?"

"Sounds...nice," Fraser says, and Ray wonders how old Fraser was before he even had a neighbor who wasn't six rivers and a couple bear territories away.

"It was," Ray says.  "And when I was ten, the whole getting married thing to Wheeze thing sounded just fine.  I was gonna go off and have a lot of adventures first--you know, be a Hollywood stunt man and a pirate and a cowboy and a garbageman, but after I was done with that, having my parents' lives sounded a-okay.  And that's what Wheeze ended up doing--married a guy from the neighborhood, dinner at her folks' every Sunday, six kids, seems real happy."

"Garbageman, Ray?  A useful and honorable profession, but it doesn't quite fit with the rest of your ambitions."

"Hanging off the back of the truck looked cool."

"Fair enough."

"And then I met the Stella," Ray says.  He digs in his jacket pocket for his cell phone, tosses it to Fraser.  "Go ahead and order the pizza, we can pick it up on the way."

Fraser launches into a long-drawn-out listing of various possible toppings, good and bad, and okay, he doesn't want to hear about the Stella.  Which Ray can't blame him for, God knows when they first got partnered up he talked Fraser's ears off about her.  Ray's pretty sure, or pretty hopeful anyway, that Fraser's actually gonna like this conversation, but he lets Fraser derail him anyway, gets drawn into arguing the merits of anchovies just to make the guy more comfortable.

They pick up the pizza, and Ray checks in with Sandor, who doesn't have any useful street info this week, so Ray gives him a twenty to keep his listening ears on, and pulls Sandor's wool hat off and thwacks him with it, to remind him to listen harder.

When they get back into the car Ray launches into the Stella part before Fraser can cut him off, says, "So, then I met Stell, dance class.  And I was trying, sure, I was crushing, who wouldn't? But I never thought it was really going to work, I figured it was me and Wheeze, and I was okay with that, just--taking a swing. Giving it a shot."

He slams on the brakes to avoid hitting a fucking jaywalker, leans on the horn and flips the bozo off. 

Fraser picks up the pizza from where it shot off his lap onto the floorboards.  It's gonna be all smooshed into one side of the box now, and when Fraser gives him a "Behave better" face and opens his mouth, Ray holds up a hand stop, because, really, stupidly endanger your own life all you want, pedestrians, but the fucker mangled his pizza.  Ray is not interested in behaving better about that.

"So then, after the bank thing," Ray says while he's got Fraser shut up.  "Stella's parents had my whole family over, to say thank you, I guess.  And we were all eating dinner, and I was trying to figure out what the hell all the extra forks were for, and the dads were talking politics, and my dad just threw out some casual comment about Chicago these days being the most corrupt city ever.  And Stella just launches into how she personally thinks it would have to be New York in the Boss Tweed, Tammany Hall days."

"Impressive," Fraser says.

"Yeah, well, Stella was already reading history books outside of class.  And she wasn't drawing Steve McQueen on motorcycles in her notebook in class."

"Steve McQueen, Ray?"

"Yeah," Ray says, and glares at him, because he fucking knows Fraser has figured out that part of things, that part of Ray, and he's tired of Fraser pretending he hasn't; it makes Ray angry and sad and tired.

Fraser looks away and flushes. So, yeah.

They pull into the parking garage Ray's paying out the nose for, because he's not parking the Goat on the street and having it disappear on him again, ever.  And once he's parked he just sits there for a minute, smiling, remembering that moment of Stella. 

"Ray?"

"Yeah.  Just remembering.  She was a spitfire, Fraser. Is."  Ray sighs.  "Anyway, what you gotta get here is that--my dad, he's got temper problems, sure, the not speaking to me was not a healthy thing, I get that, but he was never a hitter, like a lot of the dads in my neighborhood were.  But there was no question who was in charge.  You did not contradict him, he threw out an opinion and you either agreed with him or kept your mouth shut, me and my mom both, he was the dad."

"Traditional," Fraser says, and lifts the lid to peek at the pizza with a slightly mournful face, but Ray refuses to take the hint; he is not done, here.

"So he's sitting there turning purple because this little blonde girl is sassing him, but she's not sassing him, Fraser, I could tell she wasn't.  She was just talking the way they talked at her dinner table, like she was as entitled to an opinion as he was. And it hit me how just totally different her family was, her world was, because her dad was looking at her all proudly. They'd raised her to debate stuff."
 
"Good way to produce a lawyer."

"Yeah, well, I'm pretty sure they regretted it when she was renegotiating her curfew every week in high school.  Anyway, the thing is, that's when I fell in love.  She was so different, she might as well have been from another country, Fraser."

Fraser makes a small unintelligible sound and doesn't look at him.  Ray chickens out a little and climbs out of the car, and Fraser does too with the pizza, and then Ray mans up again, puts his hands down flat on the warm hood of the Goat for courage and doesn't look up and forges on.

"She was so different, Fraser.  And she wasn't going to fit into my life, like Wheeze did, like my date from last night could.  She was going to argue with me about every damn thing and I was going to have to scramble to keep up with her, and she was going to piss off my parents just by being her and she was going to blow my life the fuck UP, Fraser, and that's when I fell."

Ray breathes out, because whatever happens at least he said everything, and he turns fast and walks off, toward his building.

Fraser catches up, walks in synch but doesn't say anything.

They get to his building and Ray is starting to breathe a little funny because Fraser's still not saying anything, but when they let themselves in the front the landlady peeks out her apartment door and then smiles hugely and says, "Mr. Vecchio, I think I got it!" And then comes out into the hall and does a pretty passable box step, way less stiff and tentative than she was last week.

"You have definitely got it," Ray says, and puts a hand on her waist and they do a little bit of a hallway-narrowed waltz, and then she high-fives him and goes back in her apartment.

Fraser is giving him a completely goofy grin.

"What?"  Ray says.  "She wanted to learn for her son's wedding, never hurts to have the landlady happy with you, right?"

He trots up the stairs to his apartment, and Fraser walks up behind him, stands too close while he's unlocking the door, but he always does that so it doesn't necessarily mean anything.

"Ray," he says as they're getting the door open, "you have a nice life."

"Yeah," Ray says, "it's improved over the last few months."

"A person," Fraser says, "might hold...himself...one might hold back from something that one had begun to truly want, if one thought it would...upset, disarray, explode such a nice life."

"One might," Ray says, agreeably.  He takes the pizza out of Fraser's hands and puts it on the counter.  "One would be a dumbass."

Fraser gives him a serious look, finally.  Fraser gives him this very serious look, and then takes Ray's chin in one hand and leans into him and kisses him, a soft and quiet and tentative kiss, and then he pulls back and looks some more.

"Boom," Ray says, and smiles at him.



--end--

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36 Comments

Stars said:

OMG THIS UTTERLY FABULOUS! I adore it so much there aren't even words. The banter, Ray being sooooooooooo on to Fraser, the mangled pizza and the story, eeeeeeeeeeeee the story!!!

This was fantastically wonderful and has the bestest title EVAR. :D :D :D

And I think I know who you are, so none of the above should surprise me at all, and it doesn't really except for the whole delighted beyond measure factor. Sage is so lucky, and we get to be lucky tooooooo! \o/

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

Anyway, thank you SO much for liking and commenting, particularly since yours was the FIRST comment--that's always such a huge relief!

Sage said:

bweeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! This was WONDERFUL!! Thank you so much!! I love the crazy polywog protester and Ray making peace with Frannie and Ray having a girl before Stella and Stella being a spitfire -- I love that Stella feels real! -- and I also love that Ray knows what he's into and has the courage to flat-out TELL Fraser.

This was SO happy-making! Thank you!!!! \o/

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

Anyway. Thank you so much for liking! It's always kind of terrifying with exchanged, waiting to see if your recipient will like it, you know? I'm so glad you did.

omens Author Profile Page said:

I LOVE this Ray and this whole story. He's so brave and intuitive, and such a force. He knooooooows Fraser so well, too. Awesome read!!

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

And yeah, Ray is just so emotionally brave! I'm glad you felt I did that justice.

Jay S said:

This is a great little story -- I love your Ray voice!

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

Thank you for liking the voice. I have so much FUN listening to RayK rattling on in my head.

I'm sitting here speechless with how much I loved this. I want to hug you and I don't even know you! Thank you for this gem of a story!

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

ANYWAY! Thank you so much for liking, and for the offered hug! Much appreciated.

Luzula Author Profile Page said:

Eeee, this is just delightful! It feels so fresh and new. Also, I think I can guess who you are. *g*

Besides your awesome Ray and Fraser, you also give great Frannie and Stella.

These are some of my favorite lines (although really, there are so many good lines here that it was hard to choose):

"I was under the impression that you and Stella fell in love in kindergarten. Possibly in utero," Fraser says.

then Ray mans up again, puts his hands down flat on the warm hood of the Goat for courage

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

So, yeah, I imagine you figured out who I was. :) Thanks so much for liking, hon.

Anonymous said:

you put 'Cause he's a fuckin' asshole,' under 'reason for arrest.'
Made me SHRIEK with laughter!

Ray smiles, but just in his brain where Fraser won't see.
And this made me explode into tiny hearts.

"One would be a dumbass."
More hearts! Hearts all over this story!

agent152 Author Profile Page said:

I was just reminded to look at these because signups went live for THIS year, and--did I really not manage to reply to ANY of the comments? *headdesk* SO SORRY.

I am so glad you giggled AND exploded into tiny hearts! Makes me all squeeful myself, even at this late date. :)

Awww, this was incredibly cute and sweet and yes, please, add me to the list of people who just adore the title. :D

"She has really startling long-range accuracy," Fraser says,

\frannie/

Ray knows Fraser-face by now, and that is the "I am homicidal but I mistakenly believe I am hiding it from Ray" look.

HEEEEE! Charming and sassy, and all of the character voices are so clear in my head (where Fraser can't hear them).

*cackles and goes back to re-read*


china Author Profile Page said:

OMG, this is fantastic! *loves and loves and loves*

This is a perfect story.

I love all the wacky details, from polliwog guy freezing in the tree, to Ray's incomprehensible form-filling talents, gunning the motor of the GTO so he can't hear what Fraser's trying to say...

But what I love the most is how the story comes full circle - it feels like Ray's just randomly rambling as Fraser is wont to do, but no, he has a point and it works PERFECTLY.

\o/

sam80853 Author Profile Page said:

Wonderful!

Ray really is good with words!

This fic is all kind of coolness, Anonymous Author!

It was funny and sweet and very, very due South (from the naked protester all the way to Frannie's banter and RayK's story).

Favourite quote:

"Oh, the date?" Ray says, and Fraser smiles encouragingly but his eyes narrow just a tiny bit. Ray knows Fraser-face by now, and that is the "I am homicidal but I mistakenly believe I am hiding it from Ray" look. Heh.

Hee!

I've got such a big smile on my face right now. I really love this story. ♥

Oh, this is gorgeous. I especially love Ray knows Fraser-face by now, and that is the "I am homicidal but I mistakenly believe I am hiding it from Ray" look. Heh because I read that first line and actually said "Heh!" aloud right before I read it. I'm going to say that this reaction is sort of a microcosm for my reaction to the whole fic, which is that all the words drew me on perfectly. I love the glimpse of young Ray and Stella, and I love how Fraser understands what Ray's trying to say when Ray says it as a story. Wonderful.

mezzo_cammin Author Profile Page said:

Your state of undress is alarming the populace.

Soooo Fraser!! And it just kept getting better from there!

You just have the most deft touch with these guys. They're so them when you write them! Ray wanting to be a garbageman so he could hang off the back of the truck. Of course he did! I totally buy that.

'one would be a dumbass' !!! ♥

Write more, please?


Arrow said:

I so much love this, with spangly hearts and stuff that I can't even CONTAIN MYSELF.

because this:
"Sir, your state of undress is alarming the populace," Fraser says.

and every single tiny bit of Ray's narrative about Weeze FINALLY FINALLY makes me understand about Stella which I just never, NEVER understood, and makes me understand so much more about Fraser, and oh, Fraser's mis-middle-wubbling about himself-oneself--one would be an ASS. OMG I loved that. I just...and that tentative kiss. BOOM went my heart.

kaBOOM.

Queue said:

I cannot possibly find the words to tell you how much I adore this story - particularly your characterization of Ray, a Ray who at once knows he has a good life and can still give himself the space to feel angry and sad and tired when someone he loves willfully misunderstands him - because you have USED UP ALL THE GOOD WORDS ABOUT RAY AND FRASER IN THIS STORY OMG.

So, so good.

More, please.

Outstanding story. I'd quote the whole thing back to you to explain why, but the open and close are both compelling!

Awesome! Such a fabulous Ray-voice. I love all the little details, and I adore him dancing with his landlady in the hallway almost as much as I adore him not letting Fraser dance around them any longer.

Boom! Superb! &hearts &hearts &hearts

azamiko Author Profile Page said:

*grin* Pretty cool. I like the landlady part; I wish I could find more fics where Ray does things like that...

galenlisle Author Profile Page said:

This was so great! I love clued-in Ray, and how he uses Fraser's own story telling technique to clue Fraser in as well. The pacing has a really nice energy too.

Fab character voices, wonderfully due Southish details (Frannie being a crack shot with an eraser! hee!), and smart, smart Ray figuring out the best way to clue Fraser in to what's going on between them. Very nice, Spuff!

Mal Author Profile Page said:

And that made my heart go BOOM! You know. In the really, really good way.

Shayheyred said:

I forget, sometimes how wonderful good Due South stories can be, and then I read something like this, full of punchy dialogue and perfect voices and smart characterization and slight misdirection followed by an on-target BAM! and I remember, oh yeah, Due South! And when the characters are in the hands of a terrific writer, like you, the result is explosive. Boom, indeed!

LOVED IT.
--Shay

happydork Author Profile Page said:

Oh, how utterly wonderful! The last line is an absolute killer, but the whole thing is brilliant -- the pacing is just perfect, and the little moments that add together to make a whole world, they're amazing.

mamaffy said:

It's just gorgeous and I am sad that it's over. Adorable story! ♥

wychwood said:

Just stumbled across this, and - adorable. Just lovely. I love the pacing and Ray's voice and the way he's just laying it all out for Fraser like that until he finally gets what Ray is saying to him. Lovely.

Helens Author Profile Page said:

Could I love this story any more? I don't see how I could love this any more. This was so wonderful! Boom. :D

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This page contains a single entry by agent152 published on December 17, 2009 10:39 PM.

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