Disclaimer: due South belongs to the Pauls and Alliance Atlantis. No infringement intended.
Notes: Written for ds_flashfiction's Fantastic First Line Festival, using the first line from KassRachel's Not To Yield.
We are underway.
Buck Frobisher’s detachment is a vanishingly small smudge of dark colour on the endless white horizon behind them when Fraser allows the words to ring in the silences of his mind.
The sounds of the running dogs and the hissing of the sled runners combine together into a quiet-but-wild welcome home song. Fraser finds himself moving with the sled in a way that indicates that while his mind may play tricks on him, his muscle memory is perfect.
If it wasn’t for the extra weight, Fraser would hardly have known that he wasn’t alone. This may well be the longest period of time that Ray has ever been quiet in his life. Every so often Fraser glances down, reassuring himself that the bundle of blankets and clothing does indeed conceal a person, and that it’s not just a figment of his imagination.
Ray had asked for an adventure and Fraser had offered this; a search for the hand of Franklin, a trip around the land he thinks of as home. To Fraser’s surprise, even after the hypothermia had worn off, Ray was still determined to go, defending his lack of hives at being out of a city environment by explaining that is was obviously too cold for them. After all, polar bears never got hives, did they?
Despite this typically Ray-like explanation, Fraser is still not at all sure of the motives that Ray has for making this trip and he is carefully avoiding thinking about his own motives.
I am merely unwilling to create distance in our partnership without a memorable farewell, Fraser tells himself. It is the prospect of helping Ray discover the Northwest Territories that has me feeling excited.
Fantastical fragments of memorable farewells and discoveries crowd unbidden into Fraser’s mind and he jerks himself back to awareness before they can sink their bittersweet claws into him any further.
They are journeying almost due west, directly into the sunset.
Fraser is uncomfortably aware of the irony.
We are underway.
Ray stares at the single line he has written in his journal. It sounds like something Fraser would say and it’s not even right. It would have been right if he’d written it five days ago, but writing it now is just nonsense.
A surreptitious glance reveals that Fraser is sitting on the far side of the fire, diligently writing in his own journal, same as he’s done every time that they’ve stopped. If Ray tilts his head to the left slightly then he can just make out the dense, upside down blur of Fraser’s handwriting, filling up the pages. He looks back down at his own journal; all bare white pages, a couple of coffee flavoured cup rings and a single line that doesn’t even sound like he’d say it.
The journal pretty much sums up the whole Ray-Kowalski-in-the-Northwest-Areas picture, actually.
In fact, thinking about it (because, let’s face it? The chances of him writing anything at all in the journal are not good), it also does a damn good job of summing up the whole Ray-Kowalski-and-Benton-Fraser picture, too.
Ray chews on the end of his pencil for a moment as he looks around at their camp. Themselves, the dogs, and their equipment are the only spots of colour in the endless sea of shades of white and, despite that, he and Fraser are still sitting on opposite sides of the campfire.
Ray thought that he’d been almost pathetically obvious— especially with his lame-ass excuse about polar bears. He’d even thought that the whole sledging off into the sunset thing had been a typically freaky and Fraser-like way of saying I understand.
And now Ray does have something more to write in his journal after all. He deliberately turns the page and prints THIS SUCKS.
We are underway, Diefenbaker tells the rest of the sled team. He tells them the same thing every morning. Partly this is because Dief has spent far too much time living with Fraser and partly this is because Dief is the leader and the others are only dogs, and therefore aren’t very bright.
Speaking of not very bright… Dief turns to give Fraser and Ray an extremely jaundiced look before electing to ignore them. They’ll figure out what they’re trying to say to each other soon enough.
The white place is good for that.
Fraser is worried about Ray.
Oh, he seems to be adapting to the harsh environment of the near-Arctic tundra adequately enough, but Ray has developed a strangely preoccupied air and, on several occasions, Fraser has caught Ray staring at him with the strangest expression on his face. Not for the first time, Fraser wishes that he had the same facility with body language as he does with the spoken variety.
It doesn’t help matters that Fraser is finding— for the first time in his life— that the tundra is a lonely place to be. It is entirely unsettling to be feeling like this, and the additional complications of his unruly subconscious providing him with ridiculously vivid and increasingly erotic dreams every night, has Fraser feeling distinctly off-balance.
This lack of centring means that he has to snatch his hand back from reaching towards Ray, or straighten his posture moments before he would find himself leaning against Ray like a… well. He’s not entirely sure what. All that Fraser is sure of is that he is perilously close to losing control. While it will be a wrench to lose Ray when this adventure is over, it will be a thousand times worse if he should cause it to happen sooner.
Ray leaving at the end of their adventure will still leave them as friends. Any other course of action would be a foolhardy risk.
Ray’s friendship is more than enough, Fraser insists to himself as he settles into his sleeping bag and resists the urge to roll closer to Ray’s side of the tent.
Ray is worried about Fraser.
Oh, his body is there, making sure that neither of them fall down crevasses or get eaten by ptarmigan or otherwise endangered in a wildly bizarre fashion. This does not include, whatever any evidence to the contrary may suggest, the times that Ray has driven the sled.
So, yeah; Fraser is all present and correct as far as his body (and the fifty zillion layers of clothing) is concerned, but his mind? Ray is beginning to think that is stayed behind in Sounds-like-hens-clucking with Frobisher.
Ray had taken to watching Fraser— even more than he usually does— in an attempt to figure it out. It takes four days and it isn’t until Ray notices Fraser nearly dislocating something by sitting bolt upright, maybe half a second before he’d have been leaning against Ray’s shoulder, that Ray finally buys a clue.
Fraser actually wants him.
Instead of punching the air, whopping and maybe doing a ridiculous strutting dance through the snow like he really wants to, Ray contents himself with leaning his weight back on his gloved hands and grinning up at the Northern Lights.
Out of the corner of one eye, Ray can see that Fraser is watching him, his expression somewhere between longing and wistful.
Ray isn’t good with words (except for I’m sorry, learned towards the end with Stella) so he doesn’t say anything. He just watches the Northern Lights paint the snow fields with the colours of cold fire and then helps Fraser check on the dogs and extinguish the campfire for the night.
In the tent, Ray performs his usual impression of an epileptic slug as he changes into dry clothes within the confines of his sleeping bag. Once he’s done Ray rolls onto his side and stares at the immovable lump on the other side of the tent.
Language abilities notwithstanding, Ray is obviously going to have to make the first move.
A gust of wind makes the side of the tent thrum and Ray decides that this is also a fairly good summary of the Ray-Kowalski-and-Benton-Fraser picture.
Trying to keep as much of himself as possible safely in the relative warmth of his sleeping bag, Ray worms his way across the tent. The scratchy-sliding sound of fabric rubbing together obviously catches Fraser’s attention and he turns over to stare at Ray.
In the uncertain light of the aurora filtering through nylon, Fraser’s eyes are wide and dark, his expression confused. “Ray, what—oof!”
Ray manages to lunge forwards and lands half on top of Fraser. While Fraser is the good one with words, Ray is fairly sure that letting him talk now would be stupid. Before Fraser can regain his breath Ray makes another lunge, bangs their noses together, and presses his mouth to Fraser’s.
Fraser lets out a surprised sounding “oh,” and kisses Ray back.
Ray’s going to add a third entry to his journal. THIS DOESN’T SUCK.
Dief is worried about Pepper.
Oh, as if being named after a condiment wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that the poor dog has no idea what a donut is.
This will have to be remedied when they arrive in Inuvik.
The half-wolf settles himself into his snow-den on the leeward side of the tent and experimentally sniffs the air. Fraser and Ray finally seem to have solved their communication problems.
Diefenbaker yawns, wraps his tail around himself and watches the dancing lights in the sky.