Ray leaned against the gritty bricks and puffed. He was gratified to notice that even Fraser looked kind of... breathless.
"Next time a girl asks you out, Benny, would it kill you to say 'yes'?"
"It would be ungentlemanly to have lead her on, Ray," Fraser answered, as aggravatingly reasonable as ever.
"But the chances are good she wouldn't have pulled a gun on us."
Fraser cracked his neck and took a deep breath, making his chest seem to swell like a marshmallow peep in a microwave.
"How could I have known that she'd become... obsessed with me?"
"How about because it happens all the time?"
Another bang-bang-crash. Who knows how many galvanized garbage cans would have to die before this nutty chick ran out of bullets?
"I'm sure Jeanette merely needed someone to talk to. It's entirely possible that she'll come to her senses, and put the gun away."
"Benny, I read those letters. Her exact words were 'If I can't have you, no one can.' It doesn't sound like she's ready blow you a kiss and say 'let's just be friends'."
"She's a tormented soul, Ray. She deserves our help," Fraser chided, readjusting his hat.
"*She* needs help?! Who's shooting at who here?" Another bullet rang out in the alley. Ray pulled his own piece and took the safety off. "I'll tell you one thing," he muttered, crouching down. "If a babe like that had asked *me* out, you can bet I wouldn't have said no."
"Even knowing of her... ah, delicate... mental balance?" Fraser sounded mildly surprised.
"LOOK at her! She's practically Naomi Campbell. She's *gorgeous*. So, okay, she's also certifiable... But I hang out with you, don't I?" He lifted his head enough to smile at Benny. If he was gonna get shot by Miss Supermodel, he at least wanted to smile at Fraser one more time. Everybody needed a hobby; his happened to be trying to get Benny to smile back at him every once in a while. Now seemed as good a time as any.
Fraser seemed wrapped up in the dire-ness of the situation, though. He just looked steadily back at Ray, blue eyes a little sad.
"I apologize for getting you involved in such a... personal matter, Ray. If I *had* taken her invitation, your life might not now be endangered."
Ray waved at Fraser dismissively.
"Aw, lay off with the guilt, Fraser. If you'd had dinner with her you'd probably have ended up in 50 different snack-sized plastic bags in her freezer."
Fraser's eyebrows raised at that suggestion, but finally, Ray heard sirens.
"About time those bozos showed up."
*Police! Drop your weapon!*
More gunfire, then the sound of hysterical sobbing.
Cautiously, Ray peered around the corner of the building and was greeted by the sight of a very tall, very pretty woman being handcuffed and read her rights.
Sighing in relief, Ray straightened up, only to notice that the knees of his slacks had been darkened by... well, *something*.
"Christ! What *is* this stuff?"
Fraser peered at his pants with a focused expression and opened his mouth to answer.
"Forget it," Ray asserted. "I don't wanna know. Let's just get down to the station."
Fraser nodded briskly, and swept his arm out in that weird old-fashioned 'After You' gesture he had.
For a change, the Riv was pleasantly lacking in bulletholes, and Ray felt his mood lighten.
"So, another lady's lost her marbles over you," Ray teased. "You'll be on the cover of Tiger Beat any day now, at this rate."
Fraser removed his hat, and fidgeted with it.
"Not to sound arrogant," Fraser began.
"As if," Ray snorted.
"But the constant, if often flattering, *rigorous* attentions of... ardent admirers," here, Fraser tugged briefly at his collar before continuing. "Can be... wearing."
"I bet," Ray confirmed, as he pulled into traffic.
"Do you think I'm bragging, Ray?" Fraser sounded vaguely peeved.
"You never brag," Ray assured him. "That's even more depressing. I gotta ask you-- obviously, you notice when women are making cow eyes at you. How come you never do anything about it?"
"Perhaps... We shouldn't discuss this just now."
"C'mon, Benny," Ray encouraged. "Fess up. You've been hooking up with them on the sly. You're secretly married and your old lady is back home keepin' the igloo warm--"
"Now, Ray, that's just silly, not to mention immoral..."
"So tell me why you don't have a girlfriend, then."
"Because I have someone very specific in mind, Ray," Fraser snapped. Oooh, testy. The Mountie wasn't easy to rile, but it looked like Ray had his number now. Then he felt a twinge of guilt.
Softly, Ray said: "You're still not over her, huh?"
"'Her'?" Fraser gave Ray that famous Mountie eyebrow.
Fraser looked away, staring out the passenger window for long minutes, and Ray figured the discussion had ended. But then Fraser spoke again.
"I fear that I will never be truly 'over' her, Ray. But no, she's not the one who occupies my thoughts."
"Who then?" Any guilt Ray had felt was burned away by a sudden fierce curiosity. "If it's Frannie," he allowed, "That's okay. She'll be thrilled. And my mom's already crazy about you."
Something that may have been a laugh fell out of Fraser's mouth.
"I feel quite warmly toward your mother as well, Ray. But, as fond of Francesca as I am, I don't think we'd be a... successful pairing."
"You *are* already married, aren't you?"
"Please what? What can't you tell me? Is it Thatcher? Is it somebody who's NOT Canadian? Gimme a hint, here. I'm your best friend!" He blew past a stop sign and Fraser flinched slightly.
"My best friend," Fraser repeated, slowly.
"You're thinking about..." Ray prompted.
"My best friend," Fraser echoed again, his voice low.
"Wait... That's-- That's me, right?"
A slow nod. Fraser's eyes were carefully front, rooted to the dashboard.
"You've got a thing for me?"
"I love you," Fraser admitted simply, still staring at the dashboard like he was gonna bore a hole in it with Mountie heat vision. And blushed.
Ray pulled into a handy parking lot and killed the engine.
"You love me," he wondered aloud.
Another nod from Fraser.
"Like... in a way that would involve... sexual stuff?"
Fraser blushed more deeply, and that was answer enough for Ray.
"What the hell would you want with my ugly mug, Fraser?"
He stared at Fraser like he'd never seen him before, and his Fraser, the one he'd known and loved and argued with for three years came back. To argue. Naturally.
"You have your own unusual... beauty, Ray."
"Sometimes I think you don't get enough oxygen, Benny. Your hat's probably too tight."
"You have a... regal profile," he gestured vaguely at his friend's face. "Strong, white teeth. Fine eyes. An elegant neck. All fine features, objectively attractive," he explained. "And more than that, you have your personality, Ray. At times forceful, but generally tempered by your basic good nature and kind heart. Your integrity-- your 'spirit', if you will... is very becoming. And there to see for those who know how to look."
Ray knew he was staring.
"You really... think that stuff?"
"And that's why you don't date?"
Fraser nodded, face tight, eyes bluer than blue.
"C'mere, you big goof."
He leaned across the Riv's bench seat and dragged Fraser toward him, pressing Fraser's hot cheek to his and petting the back of Fraser's neck.
He felt Fraser's arms tighten around him, hesitant, and then insistent.
Ray could feel Fraser's chest heave, but couldn't hear him breathing. The Mountie was completely silent, and after a while, Ray let him go and pulled back so he could see his friend's face.
If anything, the poor guy looked twice as miserable.
"You're... a good friend, Ray," he choked out.
Ray rolled his eyes and cupped Fraser's cheek.
"Hey. I'm not pitying you or anything. I wanted to hug you, that's all. I liked hugging you. I'm a big fan of the hug in general. I... uh... I guess you'll find that out."
Ray felt his own throat loosen up when Fraser's eyes brightened. "You... you're not offended? Repulsed?"
"By you? You're kidding, right?" He brushed a hand through Fraser's hair fondly. "But, uh... I don't know too much about... gay stuff. Except what Jimmy Pino in Vice told me, and everybody knows he's full of shit."
"I've... been researching homoeroticism at the library. Several books may be of some interest to you..."
Ray had to smile.
"I'll tell you now, the books ain't gonna be anywhere near as interesting as you."
And he licked his own lips nervously before sketching a clumsy kiss across Fraser's mouth.
It was as awkward and stunningly sweet as his first kiss with Irene had been.
But then Fraser mauled him, and Ray was breathless and pinned and busily being kissed by a *pro*.
When Fraser finally let him go, hair ruffled, eyes glazed, Ray touched his own swollen lower lip with an exploratory finger.
"The library, huh?"
An absent nod from Fraser. He ran a hand through his hair, swallowed noisily.
"You'd be amazed at the wealth of... knowledge available at your local library, Ray."
"I definitely get that feeling," Ray murmured, feeling like he'd just spun off the Tilt-A-Whirl. "That was some kiss, Benny."
And then Fraser smiled at him, ears pink.
"Yes, it was," he allowed.
"Okay. So. We gotta go give a statement about your girlfriend. And then we'd better get busy making you my boyfriend."
"I think that would be best," Fraser replied. He was still smiling, and his eyes had that *twinkle* that always made Ray feel like a million bucks.
Ray decided he'd draw up a list of things he'd like to see Fraser do with that mouth of his, but figured that no matter *what* Benny had learned at the library, that Mountie smile would be at the top of it.