How To Prioritize Without Falling On Your Ass
by glossolalia

Fraser's always telling him to calm down. Not in so many words, because Fraser likes to talk around things, not tackle them head-on -- tackling, grappling, he would say, has said, those are yours, Ray -- but the message is clear.

Ray needs to calm down.

The secret to staying calm, apparently, is identifying priorities.

Ray's going to give it a shot. He doesn't hold out much hope.

Prioritizing. Sort out what's going on, what you can deal with, then do that. He's working on it. Not the big stuff so much, because while he's never going to top Fraser in the knowing-millions-of-facts department, the stuff in front of him. He can sort that out.

So: dark, cold, ice, rink. Fraser. Wolf's asleep under the bench, not a concern.

The most important thing is that Ray's cold. He's very cold, and this is more than your regular Chicago cold that he can fix with another can of beer and a ratty cardigan and that electric blanket he inherited from a roommate the winter Stella was down in Vera Cruz learning Spanish, the blue one that, privately, he likes to call 'Lenore' with the scritchy edges and tattered satin on the seams.

He's fucking cold and nothing's going to fix it.

"I'm cold, Fraser. Cold. It's fucking cold." Little puffs of breath on every syllable. Like a fucking singalong. Follow Ray's ebbing warmth. "Fucking cold."

"One might call it that, yes," Fraser says. He doesn't even look over, just stays bent over, lacing up his left skate. It's this whole operation that started with the lace loose in his hand, then he stretched it taut, testing it, started poking it through the hole-things on the skate, and here he is, seven minutes later, still wrapping and weaving it up. "It's a fairly well-known phenomenon that extremes of climate --"


Weave, twist, weave. "-- such as the cold, or natural disasters, including power outages, will cause a spike in sexual activity."

"Fraser." He could swear his back teeth are loosening from the chattering.

"Just look at the New York City blackout, 1977, or the Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake of 1925. Some say the population of Quebec City nearly doubled nine months later, though statistically that's impossible. I myself was conceived in an igloo --"

Ray covers his face with his hands and tries to rub some sensation back into his cheeks. The other important thing is that it's dark. Really dark, because the lights above this outdoor rink out in the ass-end of Waukegan have been shot out, all except the one farthest from their bench. It's quiet, and dark, and fucking-ass cold, and he can't go anywhere.

Because he's wearing ice-skates. White ones, and he notes that Fraser didn't exactly go all out on his laces. The skates are Thatcher's and she wouldn't let him in on the big Canadian secret, so how was Ray supposed to know that guys wear different skates? Bigger, rounder ones like Fraser's, ones that take lots of lacing.

"You really should've told me about the skates," he says, reaching into the depths of his pockets for a smoke.

"I did," Fraser says. "I said that properly-fitted skates are essential for avoiding injury. You said that you didn't skate, that you didn't see the point of investing in skates, and further that you would -- please don't smoke -- just, quote, borrow some. If you remembered to."

"But --"

"You don't smoke, Ray." Fraser's doing it again. Telling him the truth and making it sound like something from on high.

Repocketing the pack, Ray kicks out his feet. The backs of the blades catch in the ice like his feet were planted here. "I look like a dink. What's his name? Like that bald guy in the Olympics."

"Your hair shows no signs of thinning," Fraser says and pushes himself to his feet. He glides over the ice, then turns neatly, extending a gloved hand toward Ray. "And Elvis Stojko has a very nice head of hair. Quite full."

"You go," Ray says, unhooking the blades from the ice and drawing his feet back. The ice makes a sound like fabric tearing. "I'll --. Watch."

There really isn't anything Fraser can't do. Wire a bomb, dismantle a bomb. Throw a knife just right, sing like a sailor. Sniff out ambergris, identify trout. Skate like a fairy.

Look at him. Soon as he hit the ice, Fraser seemed to lose about eighty pounds, and it's not like he's a lumbering oaf the rest of the time, but on the ice, he's nothing, wispy and graceful. Fairy.

Good fairy, though. Big, broad-shouldered fairy whose cheeks are dusty pink now from the cold. Staring at Ray, making Ray look back without having to say a word.

How does he do that?

Not that Fraser's skating now. He's just standing there, still as anything, hand out at a perfect 90 degree angle.

Ray waves his hand in front of his face. He hasn't been able to feel his fingertips since they got out of the car. "I can't skate, Fraser."

Fraser cocks his head; man's spent, maybe, a little too long with Dief. They're picking up each other's habits.

Ray doesn't want to think about what habits he's picking up from Fraser. Prioritizing's bad enough. And what about what Fraser might be picking up from him? There is no good down that road.

Benton Fraser, dancing con man. No.

"Would you listen for once?" Ray says. "I can't skate."

"That's why we're here," Fraser says and turns his hand palm up. Just a precise little flick of the wrist, like a salesman demonstrating all the features on your new camera. Probably teach them that at Little Mountie Pre-School. "Give me your hand, Ray."

Ray could run, except for the skates. He could fake a fit, maybe. Maybe he's frozen to the bench so there's no point in trying to move.


Fraser doesn't say anything. There's patient, which Ray is not, and then there's something that's more than patient. That's this kind of...stillness, a certainty, maybe, and that's Fraser. That's where he lives, inside that still certainty. He's willing, Ray knows, to stand here all night if that's what it takes.

"Fine," Ray says. Gripping the edge of the bench, he pushes himself up. Stands, and his right foot goes that way, and his left foot skids behind him, and the ice is rushing up, up, white and bright, and -- "Ooof."

Fraser catches him, hands in Ray's armpits. "Easy."

"Easy?" Every time Ray thinks about moving, his feet start to slide and glide and fucking run away from him. He must look like some cartoon character, running in place, legs turned into egg-beater wheels.

Fraser takes Ray's weight, leaning easily back, pulling Ray with him. "Traditionally, one learns to skate using an upright table chair. Preferably a ladder-backed one, though that's not strictly necessary. Something for the child to lean on. To trust."

"I'm not a child," Ray says through gritted teeth. Scary up here, not being able to trust his own feet, his cheek pressed right up against Fraser's quilted jacket.

"No, of course not." Shift to the right, and Fraser guides them around in a circle. "I don't believe I suggested you were."

"You said -- a kid and a chair. Something about kids." They're going faster now, and it feels like Fraser's loosening his grip on Ray's armpits, and that can only lead to terror and falling and skulls cracked open.

Blood bounces on ice, just like vomit.

Ray watches hockey now, all right? Not the Blackhawks, that's his father's team, but the Bruins and the Habs. Fraser had said something about the original six and the persistence of tradition. And maybe he enjoys the fights more than the games, which are fairly hard to figure out because they move so fast, but it's something. An embarrassing something, but something, and he might be getting into the whole hockey thing.

Fraser does a weird little pointed-toe thing and pulls them to a stop. Ray feels like a major 'tard, arms wrapped around Fraser's waist like this, helpless and scared, and now Fraser really is loosening his grip, starting to pull away.

"Fraser, don't --"

"Don't what, Ray?" Sharp intake of breath, and Ray's so close he feels Fraser's chest swell up, and then Fraser's gone, three feet away and Ray's falling.

Slam, down onto the ice, knee hitting first, then the flats of his palms and his face is this close to slapping against the ice, too, but it doesn't.

"Damn it, Fraser --" He pushes back on his knees, his hands stinging and the knee that hit throbbing ominously. Stunned-pain tears, not emotional, blur out his eyes. "Fuck did you do that for?"

Sound of swishing silk and then Fraser's gliding on one knee up to him, hand gentle on Ray's neck. "I'm sorry. I thought you were --"

"What? Getting too close? Thought I was too trusting? What?"

When he's confused, Fraser's face softens. It's the weirdest thing, how his mouth gets a little plumper, his cheeks too, and he just looks back at you. Like the dog, really, when you're talking too fast and he can't read your lips.

There's a moment of indecision, then Fraser clucks his tongue very softly and returns to normal. "I'm very sorry. I --"

Ray hurts. His knee's wobbly, his hands are a little chewed up and very cold, and he doesn't want to fight. Soft-faced Fraser, like unbaked bread or those biscuits that come in the pop-open roll, is not a good thing. Jarring, basically, and disturbing. "Forget it. Help me up."

There are plenty of ways Fraser could pull him up. Ray knows this, and Fraser knows it, too, because Fraser knows just about everything. So it's deliberate and they both know what it means -- apology, consolation -- when Fraser slips his gloved hand around the back of Ray's neck, then the other under one of Ray's arms, and pulls him up with just a nudge and a breath so they're face to face.

Ray can't skate and bumps forward and Fraser can skate but doesn't move, just squeezes Ray's neck gently, and their breath clouds out both their faces in the t-minus three-two-one before they kiss.

Cold, dark, pain goes into hot, bright, sweet when Fraser's mouth opens against Ray's. Ray doesn't know how he's standing on the dinky blades, but then, he can't really feel anything much below his collarbone. But up here, it's all hot and sweet and Fraser's big hand is on his neck, fingers up the back of Ray's hair, then sliding around to cup Ray's cheek. Ray pulls closer, arm around Fraser's waist, hand on the swell of Fraser's ass.

Ass, kissing, Fraser. These things should be way more dizzying, upsetting, confusing and fucking bizarre than skating, dark, cold, but they're not. They're familiar now, and maybe that's the most bizarre thing of all.

Fraser pulls back from the kiss, his hand still resting on Ray's cheek. "You switched brands."

His mouth's thick, lips too warm, to talk clearly. "I don't smoke."

"No, of course not. But you switched brands. If I'm not mistaken, there's a tang of Turkish tobacco." Fraser rolls his lips together. His eyes are sharp in the shadows. "Flue-cured, I believe."


"Yes, Ray?"

"This is a date." It's all about prioritizing; Ray gets that now. It's cold, solitary, dark and quiet. There is kissing and what would be dancing if he could stay upright. "This is definitely a date."

Fraser blinks three times, then sucks his left cheek in between his teeth. "Yes. But --"

Right. Whatever, okay, yes, Fraser. No, we make out and there have been attempts at blowjobs and you've slept over, what? Six weekends in a row, but, no. Of course this isn't a date. Who'd date Kowalski, anyway?

Using Fraser's shoulder to push off, Ray slides backward. His knees start to buckle, but he throws his weight back into his hips and straightens up and he's yelling as loud as he can. Shatter the cold, the dark, just get all this sputtering, M80-arc-torch-flaming anger out of him as fast as possible. "Fine, Fraser, it's not a date. It's a date, it's an un-date, I don't fucking know --"

Fraser smiles at him. Small, precise, straight-edged smile. Fucker. "Ray."

"Yeah, Fraser?" He's actually skating, and as soon as Ray realizes what's happening, he has to windmill his arms to stay upright and his speed's accelerating. The wall of the rink's approaching fast. "Jesus Sweet --"

Fraser's right there, gliding up behind him, hands on Ray's waist. "All right there?"

Ray grabs the rink wall and doesn't turn around. "This is a date."

"I'm not arguing that point." Warm breath on Ray's neck, right behind and below his right ear, steadying him as they skate slowly forward. Ray drags his hand along the wall for a bit before they head out to the center of the rink.

"You're not?"

"I thought you knew what this was."

"Yeah, take Kowalski out to the rink and let him fall on his ass."

Fraser laughs softly. It's a little rumble, almost like a snore, up Ray's back and through the center of his spine. "That, as well as a date."



"It's still cold," Ray says. He's skating. Fraser's holding him, sure, but it's not a desperate grab kind of thing, not any more. They're moving, the ice wik-wik-wikking behind them. "Fucking cold."

"It is the bitter season of the year," Fraser says, tongue flicking along the back of Ray's ear. Right where it connects to his scalp, shivers that are warm and not leaping down his skin at the touch. "And under the frost-gray skies without a sun, Cold desolation wraps the wintry world."

"Poetry?" Ray asks.

"Hmmm." Fraser accelerates, knee nudging Ray's, and they skate together.

"Canuck poetry?"

"Yes," Fraser says, leaning into a turn, and Ray leans, too, and they're slowing down, nearing the bench. "Something more to your taste. 'Even he who is pure in heart, And says his prayers at night, Can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, And the autumn moon is bright.'"

"Yeah," Ray says. Werewolves, simple rhymes, Fraser, and he turns -- somehow, he doesn't know how, it's better if he just skates without thinking about what he's doing -- to face Fraser. Hands on Fraser's hips, tucked up under his jacket, one more kiss. "Much better. But the moon's not out, you know."

"So we're safe," Fraser says.

"Yeah," Ray says. "Freezing to death and, fucking Mary on her knees, my ankles hurt. But, yeah."

The best part comes later, when they're safely inside again and the sweat's dried and Ray has pulled Lenore out of the closet, and Fraser's skin is soft and cold-hot against his own and they're too tired to do anything, but it's sexy and right anyway.

Ray just has to get there. Keep his eyes on the prize, prioritize.

So long as he doesn't freeze to death first.


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