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TITLE: Unexpected
AUTHOR: Shrift
E-MAIL: darth_shrift@yahoo.com
FANDOM: due South
RATING: PG for Fraser/Kowalski slash
SUMMARY: "If I hear 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' one more time, I will not be responsible for my actions."
ARCHIVE: Yes to list archives.
NOTES: I really didn't mean to write a Christmas story. God damnit. Take the Butterscotch Schnapps *away* from me. Post CotW.
THANKS: To Purna and carleton97, who said they wouldn't mind more; to colleen, who patted me on the head and gave a read-through; and to Athena, for the reassurance.
DISCLAIMER: Neither the Pauls nor Alliance/Atlantis am I. Narf.


Unexpected
by Shrift
December 2001

"If I hear 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' one more time, I will not be responsible for my actions."

"Legally, in the state of Illinois --"

"Fraser, don't go there right now. Do not go there right now." Blinking red holiday lights reflected off the lenses of Ray's thick glasses when he stopped in the middle of a clothing aisle to jab Fraser in the chest with his finger.

Fraser smiled. "Well, 'tis the season, Ray --"

"You're evil," Ray said. He shook his head and continued walking. "How come I never knew you were evil?"

Fraser gestured for a woman to pass in front of them, tipping his Stetson as she dragged two toddlers toward the polo shirts. "I don't understand how a healthy appreciation for commercial stresses of a holiday season meant to represent birth and joy is evil, Ray."

Ray quirked his lips. "You like watching people freak."

"I find the group behavior in shopping malls fascinating from a sociological perspective."

"You like watching people freak."

"In particular, the quest for the latest children's toy often results in mob-like behavior not unsimilar to football riots in Brazil and the United Kingdom..."

"You like watching people freak."

"...and the suspension of such things as tact and common courtesy are routinely appalling..."

"You. Like. Watching people freak."

"Fine. I like watching people freak."

Ray beamed and winked behind his glasses. "See? Evil. I have an Evil Mountie."

"I'm afraid I must disagree with you, Ray."

Ray stopped suddenly, causing a group of teenagers clad in baggy, flared pants and nearly identical Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts to swear copiously and detour around him. "Disagree with me how, Fraser? That I have you?"

Fraser stepped in close and lowered his voice. "Evil, Ray?"

Ray looked away for a moment, and then back again, eyes narrowed. "Freak."

"Ray."

Ray smiled at Fraser's tone. "You're a freak, and in most states in this Republic, you're a pervert, too."

"Honestly, Ray --"

"What?" Ray demanded. "Something wrong with being a pervert?"

"*Ray*."

"C'mon. One more present for my mom and then we can get out of here. No one should be subjected to the muzak version of 'Frosty the Snowman'." Ray hitched his shoulders and jerked his chin at what looked like the Northern Reflections store, something which Fraser found mildly amusing considering Ray's parents had moved back to Arizona once it had become clear that Ray would not be returning to Chicago on any permanent basis.

"Right you are," Fraser said.

* * *

"Nog!"

"Pardon?" Fraser asked.

"Nog!" Ray said again.

Fraser turned his head slightly to check on his partner, and to ascertain if a sudden re-exposure to urban surroundings perhaps had aversely affected Ray's mental state. "Come again?"

"Jesus, Fraser. Egg nog? With the rum and the salmonella?" Ray swung one of his shopping bags and it lightly connected with Fraser's calf, the paper rustling in protest. Fraser was glad the bag Ray had chosen to swing was the one containing winter-themed clothes for Ray's mother, rather than the bag filled with tins of smoked sausage and processed cheeses for Ray's father.

"Ah," Fraser said.

Ray rolled his eyes. "Egg nog. We should get some. Holiday spirits."

"I'm rather certain 'holiday spirit' doesn't involve the ingestion of alcoholic beverages, Ray."

Ray snorted. "What's that, you're doing that thing with the semantics again. Stop that."

"Well, then, egg nog it is."

They walked through the crowd and exited the shopping center. Snow fell, heavy and silent, covering the gray slush already on the ground. Ray tugged a stocking cap out of his pocket and slipped it over his head, pulling it down to cover his ears. The snow crunched under their boots.

"When did I start hating the city, Ben?" Ray asked.

Fraser continued walking out of reflex, startled. "I didn't realize you felt that way."

Ray turned his face up to the sky and squinted, blinking rapidly when a snowflake circumvented his glasses and landed on his eye. "Can't even see the stars."

"Ray?"

"I mean," Ray said, "I never thought I'd get used to the quiet."

Fraser sighed. Ray had a frustrating habit of beginning conversations in the middle, and abruptly changing topics halfway through if he, by some miraculous chance, actually began a conversation at the beginning. "The quiet in the Territories, Ray?"

"No, the quiet in the mall Santa's hut when little Timmy O'Leary won't let go of the fake beard. Of course the quiet in the great white north, Fraser."

"Ray."

Ray grimaced and ran the back of his gloved hand over Fraser's knuckles. "It's too much. Too light. Too loud. Too dirty. Too... too."

"I," Fraser said haltingly. "I had no idea."

And he hadn't, not exactly. He had always harbored a secret belief that Ray would leave him, would abandon him because Ray would be driven mad by the barren land, the isolation, and the cold. Fraser feared that Ray would leave, and he would let him.

Of course, now that Fraser had brought the fear out into the open and examined it under the lights of a snowy parking lot, it did seem rather inconceivable that Ray would allow him to be such a coward.

"Kinda crept up on me," Ray said. "Didn't get it until we came back here to visit everybody."

"Ah."

"Don't," Ray said. "Don't 'ah' me."

Ray stopped and Fraser realized they were at the car, a rental, Ray's GTO with his father in Arizona. Ray brushed snow off the lock with his forearm and opened the trunk, stowing their packages.

"I simply find your reaction unexpected."

Ray squinted at him over the roof of the car. "Yeah," he said. "You would."

Fraser got into the car after Ray unlocked the doors. Ray shivered a little and started the car, his breath visible in the air. "What do you mean?"

"Unexpected?" Ray said. "Earth to Mountie. You're an idiot."

Fraser ventured a smile. "As well as a freak and a pervert?"

Ray's glasses began to fog as the heating system worked to unthaw the car. Ray pulled them down off his nose and tucked them under his chin, the ear pieces still hooked behind his ears. He blinked rapidly at Fraser in the dark car, obviously trying to focus.

Fraser leaned forward, leather jacket squeaking against the upholstery in the car. Ray's lips were cold, but he opened his mouth to Fraser without pause. The interior of Ray's mouth was slick and warm, familiar. Fraser took off his glove and put his hand on Ray's nape, stroking his fingers up underneath the cap Ray still wore. Ray hummed, blinking lazily when Fraser pulled back.

"Hey," Ray said.

"Hey."

A car that had been waiting for their parking space honked rather insistently.

Ray rolled his eyes and casually aimed a lewd gesture at the vehicle, although the insult was likely concealed by the still-fogged rear window. He grumbled under his breath as he shifted the car into reverse and began precariously navigating the way around the haphazardly parked cars and large piles of plowed snow.

Halfway to the hotel, Ray said, "We'll go home soon."

Fraser simply nodded.

The End


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