Fraser was out of town, out of Illinois and out of America, natch. Not a bad thing provided one Stanley Raymond Kowalski was out there to watch his back and share his igloo.
No such luck, though, no such animal. Just some boring ass conference in Ottawa that the New Inspector thought it would be a good thing to send somebody to and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be himself, Fotheringay, or Turnbull. Even if Turnbull was now running the entire paperwork stream at the Consulate and raining memo after memo onto the New Inspector’s desk about increased efficiency of working practice. And the occasional absence form during Curling Season, cunningly hid in with the paperwork. Somehow, Turnbull had managed to swing the firearms conference instead. When Ray thought about it, there was less “somehow” in it than he thought. He remembered Turnbull in the Consulate carefully relieving people of their firearms and lovingly caressing them and writing down their make and details.
So Fraser was at a meeting on First Nation Integration with reference to the Nunavut Question at the behest of the New Inspector. “New Inspector” made Ray think of that old show, the one where the guy was trapped in a village or island somewhere, and the bad guy would be somebody new each time, but would still introduce themselves the same, “the New Number Two”.
Ray really wanted Fraser to escape the conference thing, because the work at the 2-7 was currently more boring than trigonometry and political scandal and Ray was going fucking crazy without him.
He was still awake now, at oh-dark-oh-thirty. A time reserved for stake outs and late night movie marathons, which of course, required the required row with Fraser about Canadian cinema being boring and depressing, except, allegedly the movie with curling, and there was no way that Ray was watching a movie with curling in. It might give him cooties.
Sure, it had been proved otherwise, the sneaky kinky Mountie, the promise of a blow job to take off the top of his head and give his brain a rub, and then the sudden use of the VCR. Yes, it was funny, but Ray was still struggling for a way to get sexy vengeance (the blowjob had come suddenly out of nowhere, just as the team won the bonspiel thing) when Fraser had got sent to Lesser Freezerland. You know, the boring civilised bit which was no place to cage a Mountie, particularly in the Holiday Inn.
He’d talked to Fraser hours ago, and it was like they had nothing to say because they’d communicated by freaking telepathy so long, they’d forgotten what their mouths were for. Besides licking weird shit and blowjobs and kissing, obviously, those they were still good with, because, except the first, they were just more telepathy.
And now, Ray’s beginning to stare around the apartment, trying to see some sign that Fraser is there, some mark he’s made on Ray’s life to match the one he’s made on Ray’s beating bleeding heart.
And Ray knows Fraser’s a tidy guy, but it’s like there’s nothing. He knows that if he opens the closet, he’ll find Fraser’s uniform hanging there, but it isn’t like Ray should have to hunt out in the recesses or nothing.
There’s a through-draft from the darkened bedroom and for a moment, Ray feels cold despite the heatwave. Cool despite the window onto the fire escape that Fraser insisted it was unwise to leave open overnight, and this from Corporal No Door Locks. Sure, it had seemed to be a bit much, but maybe Ben’s just afraid that somebody might sneak in and hurt Ray. It’s not as if he even has the Donut Hound with him, he’s off with Turnbull and whichever one of Turnbull’s boyfriends likes shoe pastry and cream.
And Ray knows that it isn’t just Dief that’s making this hole in his head, just as he knows he could but won’t try to fill it in with Jack Dee and pizza. Which leaves him here, with these holes, the Fraser hole, the Dief hole, the in his head hole, the sleep hole.
In a hole bunch of holes in the dark, sitting on his sofa with everything off, watching the turtle float in the street-light, Ray starts shivering again. Maybe opening the window wasn’t such a hot idea, for reasons that he’s sure Fraser could tell him, if Fraser was there. Or maybe some perp had broken in and poisoned the milk in a fit of vengeful revenge and without Fraser’s magic Mountie tongue…
And Ray gets up and turns to head into the bedroom he’s avoiding, because it’s minus Mountie and if he stays out here he can pretend that he’s got insomnia just doesn’t want to wake Fraser up, and…
There’s sunlight, it’s kind of faint, but it’s coming from the fire escape. Where Fraser insisted in planting things, despite Ray saying that nothing grows in the city and people would nick them and shit, and yeah, Fraser deciding to grow cucumbers, because he never manages to back home on the Icy Wastes of the Northwest Areas.
Ray leans out the window, which really stretches all those muscles that were getting comfy on the sofa a moment ago, takes a deep breath of fresh smog, and there’s sunshine coming out of the cucumbers.
Actual beams of sunshine like you see on boxes of breakfast cereal and the perfect ice plains where there is nobody to hear you scream.
And it’s the ice plains that…
…no, Ray, isn’t crying really, no, not all…
…make him think of Fraser and how that smile of his, the happy not-polite smile, outshines all the sunlight in the world…
…because that’s soppy and anyway it isn’t crying if there’s nobody to see it, it’s, uh, zen.
Zen, heh, Fraser really is good for him; Ray knows stuff now that he doesn’t even know he knows. He’ll have to ask Ben when he comes back, if you know, he can find a way to say it without the crying and pining for the one thing that makes his damn stupid life work.
“It’s hard, isn’t it, son?” The voice somewhere behind Ray startles him, yet he doesn’t turn, half afraid he’ll break the magic, half afraid that Fraser was right about the crazed Ray-killing intruders.
Ray’s noticed that Fraser has got a hell of a lot more careful since they started, uh, you know, but that’s neither here nor there, is it?
“Yeah,” Ray exhales, tipping his head back and looking for a moment at the paltry light of the stars.
“I know, son.” And a pause that adds years, maybe eons, to the speaker’s voice. “I could never get it right, being away hurt so much, and yet, I never thought that it might hurt those I left behind more,” and Ray has this feeling of pine trees, a whole forest, frozen, petrified, “I never went back, because somehow, I thought it would make leaving again worse, and never thought about the hole I was carving out of my own heart.”
And Ray’s still not looking.
Yet, he understands what the mook is saying, but there’s more to it than that. “And the holes you were carving out of theirs.” The nonspecificity of all this is burning at Ray, it’s like the guy’s a detective reaching for a way to tell him something gently and leaving out the worst parts of the truth.
“I didn’t realise that for such a long time, and then, they were gone and so was I.”
There’s just silence. You could hear a pin drop if Ray was the sort of guy to keep pins in his apartment and Ben was the type to leave them loose.
“Tell him you love him, son, and tell him I loved him too,” and with that Ray turns and the only thing he has is the faint smell of snow.
And the light of the cucumbers almost winks out, but not quite as Ray breathes almost silently into the warming air, “I love you, Ben,” before he drags the cucumber, plastic pot and all, through the window and into the middle of the bedroom, before flopping down on the bed and sleeping in its faint light.