Adventures in commitment. Adventures and commitment?
Original Story: Five Things Ray Wanted That Surprised the Hell Out of Fraser by bluebrocade.
5. Ray wanted to go an adventure.
The thing is, it's pretty hard to have an adventure in Chicago. Or at least an adventure adventure. I did a lot of stupid stuff as a kid. I used to break into vacant buildings. Never got caught. Used to look for ghosts in St. Walburga's cemetery at midnight, too. Never saw one — mostly just gangs hung out there, so it's probably lucky I didn't get shot. Once, my friends and I got drunk and dropped acid. You know that joke about waking up naked in Cleveland clutching a Barbie doll? Well, it was more like on the dunes in Indiana with a tattoo, but the naked part was right. Never even got an STD from that, even though the evidence I had kind of pointed out that I was literally fucking lucky.
I guess what I'm saying is that adventures can be dirty or clean. The dirty ones drag you down, after the adrenaline wears off, kind of leave a stain on your soul, if you know what I mean. Maybe it was just thinking about all that Canadian snow, which had to be cleaner than Chicago snow. I kind of thought, hey, Hand of Franklin, man, nature, virgin snow, sled dogs — these were the forces that had produced Fraser, am I right? And Fraser's a good clean adventure all to himself. He's like the architect of adventure.
Arch. . . whatever.
If I can be perfectly honest, I don't think Fraser wanted to go with me, operative word me. Which is my own fucking fault, because I bitch, like all the fucking time. It's half talking myself into or out of things and half just thinking out loud and half because I'm scared or nervous or angry or whatever. It doesn't mean I'm backing down, okay? Just that I have to bitch bitch bitch, it's like jump-starting a car. And it's not like Canada's perfect. There's the cold and the snow, and those have nothing on the mosquitoes. Sometime get Fraser to tell you the story of the Mosquito Hunt of 1997 — that was a situation where even Fraser got royally bitchy, and he was carrying a firearm. So, the important point here is, if I say I want to do a thing, I want to do it. Even if I bitch.
It pissed me off that Fraser tried so hard to get me to back down. The food, yadda yadda, the cold, yadda yadda, you can't possibly be serious, Ray, and I certainly wouldn't hold you to anything you said while suffering from hypothermia, and you do realise, Ray, that finding the hand of Franklin is likely a metaphor. Truth be told, I pretty near gave up on the whole thing. I know when I'm not wanted, right? But when Fraser finally caved — which he did in a very Fraser way, he went to bed saying you do seem to find Canada inhospitable, Ray and he woke me up with about ten pages of shopping lists and a rise and shine, Ray, we need to procure supplies if we're leaving by the end of the month — that made me feel the way I did when I stood in front of the church and said my vows with Stella. It was a commitment. And I knew — I did, honestly — that it was a commitment to an adventure, but if adventure was what Fraser was willing to give, then I'd take.
4. Ray wanted to learn.
Heh. You bet your ass I wanted to learn. I wouldn't say that I fell in love with Fraser the day we met, but the potential for it started right in the squad room. In preparing to take over Vecchio's life, every single reference to Fraser said how honest he was, how trust-worthy, upright, faithful, and true — and the very first things I said to him were lies. I mean, they had to be: every time I opened my mouth, lies lies lies. A real Devil's bargain, because I needed Fraser, needed him as a partner and as an accomplice, and there I was doing something to him that he'd find unforgivable. But he did forgive me, though me standing between him and a bullet might have helped some. Frannie says he has a heart as big as Canada, and that's what I wanted to learn, how to be a good person like that. Chicago can even make adventures dirty. You don't want to know what it does to the heart of a dumb Polish flatfoot.
So I spent a lot of time learning from Fraser, more like cribbing off his answer sheet, really, and I didn't know I was in love with him until I got jealous over one of his lady friends. Don't recall which one, the sexy gambler, or the instant-family-just-add-water bounty hunter, or even Thatcher, I always thought there was a history there, didn't you? Yeah. I had to take myself outside and give myself a firm talking-to about friendship and partnership, and about how Fraser didn't swing that way, which I knew because he got all weird when I let it slip that I'm bi. All stiff and talking like he had to check that every word was P.C. That nearly fucked everything up but good. So loving him was way up there on the list of stupid things to do. He's just lucky he came after Stella, is all I can say, because getting back to a place where I could be friends with Stella, that was a trip made of blood and sweat and tears, let me tell you, but it broke me of needing to possess, you know? So I could love Stella even if she wasn't mine, and I could love Fraser, who wasn't mine either.
Except for when we were on the whole adventure thing, which I admit I screwed up.
I was cool with the fact that Fraser wouldn't love me back, not romantically or sexually, but knowing didn't stop me from dreaming, now did it? And out there in the middle of Canadian nowhere, when it was just me and Fraser, we got into this weird pattern. He expected me to be dead weight, but I'd made this commitment to the adventure, and if that meant learning how to work with the sled dogs or prepare the freaky food or pitch a tent or use a sextant with a straight face, then I was happy to do that. I have to admit, too, that exploding all Fraser's low expectations was kind of a high. He looked so — don't even know what the word is, floored? Or yeah, flummoxed, that's a good one — whenever I did something right, and it warmed me straight through, even if I passed it off with I got it or it's cool or C'mon, Fraser. Admit it. I'm a natural
I learn by doing I told him, and that's true, that's always been true. But I should have been more careful. Because what I was doing was getting used to the closeness and the happiness and the being-together-ness, and what I learned was to think that I could magic my dreams into real life. And that was a lie. And Fraser deserved better.
3. Ray wanted Fraser.
What happened was we were staying in the Hyatt Regency of the great white north, me and all my wishful thinking with Fraser in this room with this bed and a freaking fire in the fireplace, and my stupid self decided that Fraser was on the same page with me.
So I made a pass at him, and kissed him, and was out on my ass and on a plane back to Chicago faster than you can say Tuktoyaktuk.
I'm really still pretty embarrassed by that, so if we can just skip on to the next thing? Thanks.
2. Ray still wanted Fraser after he "freaked out and acted like a total asshole."
After I got back to Chicago, I made sure to be real busy: took on a new job, finally cleaned all the old crap out of my apartment, worked on the car, whatever. I can't say my heart was in any of it, but my heart was in the doghouse so what it felt didn't really matter.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Stella, who'd heard from my mother that Stanley was just not the same after getting back from Canada. She also had it from Vecchio that Fraser was acting weird, and she wanted to know what we'd fought about. I'd told her about me years ago — it had seemed like something the person you're married to ought to know — but Stella'd just turned insecure, in a bitchy kind of way, asking did I find this guy or that guy hot. Pretty much the only answer that didn't wind up with me on the sofa was baby, you're the only one who lights my fire (except of course not saying 'baby' because she hated that — Stella was full of rules like that). So there was no way in hell I'd confide in her, especially not when she'd tell Vecchio and he'd tell anyone he could, and I'd wind up Mr. Persona Non Gratis in the Chicago P.D. I got off the phone with her feeling kind of cold, and kind of like I wanted a drink or a cigarette, and kind of like I was going to die alone. I hate that.
I didn't take up drinking (I might have, but I'd already put on weight since coming back to Chicago, I sure didn't need a beer gut) but I did start thinking. I'd accused Fraser of freaking out and acting like a total asshole, but that wasn't true. He was guilty of A, but B was all me. I'd done to him exactly what Stella had done to me. When our marriage was falling apart, I knew things weren't right, but I was thinking maybe we could take a vacation somewhere, Acapulco or a cruise or something. Then one night after we made love she rolled off me and said she wanted a divorce, and got out of bed, and got dressed, and walked out. Just like that. How could we have been on the same page? We weren't even reading the same book. It was like one of those optical delusions, where the fruit bowl suddenly turns into an old lady.
I felt really shitty for doing that to Fraser. He had just been friendly, and Fraser does friendly better than anyone I know: on a good day, he can be friendly to ten different people before breakfast without even breaking a sweat. I was the idiot who decided that meant we were practically dating. Committed — as in, I probably should be. Christ, Kowalski, you dumb fuck.
There wasn't even anything I could do to fix us. If I called, we'd just end up having to talk it out, and I suck at talking things out. I figured I'd send him a Christmas card and pretend that everything was fine. I also figured that since Fraser was a lost cause, I should get a dog or get laid or otherwise find something to do with my sorry-ass self.
I went so far as to pick up the free paper on the way home from work, telling myself that I'd check out the good homes wanted section even though I could feel the club ads in the back like a pressure against my fingers.
Figures that would be the day that Fraser's letter arrived.
I had to drink myself the courage to read it, and even then I couldn't read the whole thing straight through. The first page was all small talk, which was a relief, but there were eight pages. I counted them, and then I got so jittery that I had to get up, go wash every one of the dishes in the sink, and then scrub out the sink, and then take a Brillo pad to the stove. That made me thirsty enough I needed another beer, and then I grabbed up page two and brought it over by the window to read in the last of the daylight.
By the time I'd read through the whole letter twice it was well after midnight. I was drunk, my apartment looked like a Merry Maids convention site, and the stereo had practically worn through ABBA Gold. I wanted to do something stupid. Instead I fell asleep on my shiny newly-waxed bathroom floor, which was really convenient the next morning, let me tell you.
I called in sick, which wasn't much of a lie. I spent the whole morning trying to track down all the pages of the letter. Page five was gone forever, I still have no idea what I did with it. I was so incredibly glad that Fraser hadn't called, because I couldn't have dealt with all his soul-searching and all my own stuff together at once. I had to take it in little pieces.
He apologised in the letter, and for some reason that made me so angry, like his silence had been a dam holding it all back. It took a while and a whole lot of cleaning to get past that anger, and when it was gone I just felt empty.
Fraser wrote about Victoria, who I'd only heard about second-hand from Vecchio. He hadn't left me with much good information on how to move into his life, but he had made sure I knew about the care and handling of Fraser. I think Vecchio understood more about Victoria than Fraser did, if I can be honest: he said that Fraser imprinted on her like a lost baby duck, and that she'd used his mother-hunger and fear of being left alone, and that she'd never loved him but that Fraser'd kept trying, as if he only did this or that or destroyed everything he valued he could change her.
Desperation City. I've been there, bought the t-shirt. It sucks.
But the thing was, here we both were, over and beyond all that, but still alone, still looking for, for what had Fraser said? A joining of souls, a true partnership. Commitment. And here was Fraser, taking the risk, asking for another chance, trusting that I wouldn't do that shit to him, that I wouldn't be another Victoria, and he'd seen me at my creepy worst over Stella. That was enough to blow away the last ragged edges of my hangover and get my brain sharp.
I learn by doing, remember? And I still hadn't learned everything about Fraser yet, or about myself, and here I was pushing forty.
Even drunk I must have had a clue, because when I pulled my suitcase down from the closet shelf, it was already packed full of warm clothes, and the dream catcher was on top.
It took a little longer than that to get all the bureaucratic things sorted. Which was unfortunate, because when I'm set on something I don't like being made to jump through hoops and file things in triplicate. It was hard not to be bitchy
What I was was really bitchy. I pissed a lot of people off. I had to send a metric ton of bacon and syrup in apologies once I got up here. (That's a tonne métrique, for those of you who speak Canadian.)
That was the end of August, when me and my suitcases finally made it up to Tuktoyaktuk. I felt like I'd been juggling chainsaws, dealing with immigration and the consulate and pulling strings (even Thatcher was helpful, it blew my mind) and praying for the intervention of St Jude on behalf of my pension and hauling all the rest of my junk down to Goodwills, except for the turtle, which I gave to Phyllis in 102, and for the stuff I had to send to Stella, and for the car, which my brother took the train up to come collect. It half killed me to watch him drive it off. Ever I find out he's put so much as a scratch on her, I swear I'll fly down there just to kick his ass. Honest to God.
The one thing I realised I'd forgotten to do was to let Fraser know I was coming. It worried me for about three minutes, but I figured that if he had decided to shack up with some lady lumberjack, he'd have sent me another freaking letter revoking his invitation. So I just walked up and knocked on his door, and said I oughta kick you in the head for what you've put me through as I barged in, and you know what? Fraser was so shocked by my bad American manners that it never occurred to him to kick me out. Ha.
I swore I'd take things slow. It kind of worked.
I waited three days before kissing him. Course, I was on my knees and sucking him hard a very short time after our first kiss, but I had all these pent-up stresses and things.
I'm living pretty stress-free these days.
1. Ray wanted to stay.
Fraser's a pretty smart guy. Smarter than me about some things, but Lord is he dumb at math. It took him five months to have a look around and realise that the clothes in the trunk and books in the kitchen (do not ask me why Fraser keeps books in the china cabinet, he just does), and all the talk about jobs and buying Sal's old truck, and the freaking poker game that we'd hosted twice already meant that, whoa, he had a live-in boyfriend.
(You'd think that all the sex might have clued him in, too. Go figure.)
But he looked so gosh-darned happy when he finally came up with you're staying that I didn't have the heart to point out that I'd known I was in this for the long haul from the minute I got on the plane. Before that, even. Maybe ever since I got drunk and packed my suitcase. I told him about the immigration thing, and wouldn't you know that's when his brain went into high gear, asking what about the car and my job and Chicago and the turtle.
That's a huge commitment he said, and I could feel the freak-out building up in him. It would have been easy, and maybe kinder, to just say Nah, but I wasn't feeling easy or kind. Yes, yes it is I said instead, and he stared at me long enough that I started to feel naked. I added It's an adventure, too. You're good at adventures. And I dragged him off to the bedroom to demonstrate just how good I was at being adventurous.
That was that for talking things out. We're neither of us really good at that. But he woke me up just after dawn the next day with a notebook filled with lists about groceries for the winter and firewood and warm clothes, and government connections of his to call, and some stunning sketches of the garage extended out enough for two cars, so I figure we're good. Partners, you know?