Episodic Romance

Episodic Romance, a due South adventure of the Fraser/Kowalski variety.
Rated as "R" for your sanity convenience. Somewhere around 70,000 words.
Film students, dead gangsters, becoming Ray Vecchio, Old Chicago, and familiar faces.

Written for the Red Ships Green Ships 'zine and findable here

Introduction and Story Notes
Episode 1 Shadows and Men That Do Not Exist
Episode 2 Not Greta Garbo At All
Episode 3 Nothing like drowning
Episode 4 Your Own Personal Ghost
Episode 5 Nothing Would Be Easy Ever Again

Episode Five: Nothing Would Be Easy Ever Again

Ray wakes up. Fraserís father is gone.

Ray wakes up.

Bentonís heavy against his chest, one leg hooked over Rayís. His mouth is open and his hair has gone experimental with sweat and sleep. Heís nothing like the imperfect freak who camped out on the floor of a dive apartment with his arms crossed over his chest and an alarm clock in his head.

Ray reaches out with his free arm to shake Fraser.

Ray stops.

He could pretend that he just doesnít want to disturb Fraserís rest, what with all that sleeping on couches and getting out before Ray wakes. Not to mention a wolf with a taste for trash-TV.

Ray could pretend. Itís what heís good at.

But this is real.

Ray isnít always good at words, but in that moment he woke, he could feel them. Theyíre trapped in his chest and his lungs are bursting and heís drowning in words, explanations. Only he canít let them out. Can he?

It would be so easy to wake Benton up. So easy, and then nothing would be easy ever again.

Theyíre solid, theyíre good, and all it takes is Rayís idiot mouth and theyíll just crumble to sand. The words are still pressing against Rayís chest; itís tight and Rayís trying not to struggle with the breathing because waking Fraser would not be good.

Ray has to get these words out.

"Ben." It comes out like a breath, like a gasp, and if this was a cartoon, Ray would be holding his jaw closed with a look of wild shock in his eyes. And then his mouth would walk off his face and blab anyway.

But this is the real world, and in the real world sometimes things just work.

"Benton." Itís barely a whisper. "Ben, thereís something Iíve got to tell you, but I canít." Because if Fraser was ready to run to try and escape a broken heart, then Benton would run right off the edge of the world and into the stars, if he thought it could fix Rayís. "I know theyíre real, the ghosts. I know that your old man follows you about and tells you the answers to pop quizzes. It ainít important."

Rayís breathing easier already. "I canít talk to you about that, youíd have to trust me enough to tell me, and maybe you never will. And I get that, because Iím just as afraid as you are. A partnership where the… uh&helllip; partners are never afraid wouldnít last long. Not if theyíre not afraid of the important things. Iím not talking guns and submarines, Fraser, Iím talking about the things inside there.Ē Ray shifts smoothly – he doesnít want to wake Benton – and places his hand on Bentonís chest. He can feel Bentonís heart beating steady and thereís the whoosh of Rayís own heartbeat in his ears.

Rayís trying to keep calm under all this. Heís not thinking of caribou thundering across the snow plain, but whatever Rayís doing – and right now, Ray doesnít know how heís doing it – seems to be working. "And the thing Iím most afraid of is hurting you, losing you. íCause without you, itís like being Dorothy in Kansas – everything is black and white; thereís no life in there, itís just… Itís not like I expect this is to be Wonderland or anything, Benton. Itís justÖ youíre the colour; youíre everything; and I donít want to be in a world without you no more." Ray thought he had colour so many times before, with Stella, with Jack, with people he barely even knew. And now he knows he was living his life in a monochrome rut and thinking he was one step from paradise.

"And I know itís the same with you. You told me you were prepared to run to the Northwest Territories to avoid a broken heart; and when you said that, you stopped being afraid of it. Stopped being afraid of being hurt and started being afraid of hurting me. Only, I know you, and I know if you thought I was hurting and you thought you not being here would cure it, youíd do that in a heartbeat. Youíre all kind of noble like that. Iím not noble, but&hellip:"

A single sob shudders, trapped in Rayís chest. If Ray let it loose, it would break everything. Everything would shatter and the pieces would cut them both to the bone.

Ray tries to make out patterns in the nicotine-brown water stain on the ceiling, and all he sees are rats. Heís not going to make that mistake again. This isnít Stella and he isnít the Ray with the dive room and the rats in the rafters. He isnít that Ray. Thatís it, the problem.

"See, buddy, Iím going to ask a question, even though I know your answerís ‘no’. Because you have to be sure, up there in the snow. You might take calculated risks, but youíre always certain. You have to be confident in yourself, know who you are and why youíre there, because otherwise, youíre deadski."

"If I tell you this when youíre awake, Iím going to wish I was dead, because there would be a big Benton-shaped hole in my life and everything would be back in black and white. And I donít think I can live with that no more, even if Iím not so sure about&hellip:"

Rayís getting off track, he needs to get back to the question. He doesnít need to be any particular Ray in order to do this, itís enough just to be here and know that heís got to say it, even if he can only do it now, in the dark time between sleep and waking.

"You ever feel like you don't know who you are? I know you donít ever feel that way. Iím not so sure about me, but maybe Iím just becoming somebody new, like this gig has cracked open my chrysalis and given me wings&hellip:"

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