Disclaimer: The due South characters belong to Atlantis Alliance. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please. Not as explicit as most of my stuff - I'm just dipping a toe in the due South waters, trying to see if I can "hear" Kowalski.

Rating: R for language and some slashy sexual tension.

Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski

Spoilers: Mountie on the Bounty

Thanks go to Aristide, Dawn P and Crysothemis for shouldering beta-reading duties.

Comments are welcomed at JBonetoo@yahoo.com


Layers

by Bone


He got me good. Socked me. Clocked me.

Right in the kisser.

Just like I told him to.

Evens things up, I told him. I did it to him, he did it to me - now we're square.

'Course I hadn't counted on the Mountie-strength in that arm of his. Forget sometimes, just how scrawny I am compared to him. Usually, we balance pretty good - he's better at some stuff than me, and I'm better at some stuff than him. Okay, it might take me a few minutes to come up with some examples, but he never makes me feel like I'm not pulling my weight, like he's propping me up or anything. I got my own boxer/dancer wiry thing going on, but it's never going to top a Mountie.

Never going to top a Mountie.

Nope, I'm never going to top a Mountie.

Fraser packs a mean punch. And I don't even think he tried very hard, which makes it better or worse, I don't know which yet. I'm licking blood out of the corner of my mouth, wondering how come now he decides to just do what I tell him. Couldn't have been when we were up there getting our asses nailed to the wall, couldn't have been when I suggested we wait for backup. No, then it's all do what he says, Mr. Logical, Mr. Smarty-Pants. But I tell him to pop me one and WHAM, he just does it.

Makes my blood boil, it does. I can't remember the last time anybody made me this mad. He's got me all worked up, so mad I'm having trouble remembering where all this crap started, cuz it feels like it's just been like this for way too long. I can't remember the last time I felt this much, good or bad, and I guess I oughta be grateful I'm not just zoning my way through life still, like I'd been doing. Not feeling much, not wanting to.

So I got a fat lip, which feels pretty rotten, which feels pretty good, because I'm feeling, see? I just wish it hadn't come from that hand. That hand attaches to that body, and that head, and that heart, and if I know Fraser (and I'm starting to wonder if maybe I don't), it hurts him as much as it hurts me.

Yeah, look at him there. I'm the one got spun, but he's the one who looks beat up. He's all red, and not just the jacket, but his skin, too. Red and mussed and untidy, which isn't like the Fraser I know at all, but maybe I don't know Fraser. Maybe this is a Fraser most of us don't get to see.

Which feels pretty good, in the middle of feeling pretty rotten. I just… I just…

I don't know how we got so out of hand. I don't know how we ended up here, in the dark, punching each other's lights out. And I can't figure out how come when I'm the one that got hit, he's the one who looks like he just took a jab to the whatsits…solar plexus. Looks like his collar's too tight, looks like he can't hardly breathe.

Looks like he surprised himself, just a little.

He surprised the hell out of me. He's been doing it all along, so I don't know why I keep being surprised.

He surprised me. Irritated me. Bugged the shit out of me.

Protected me. Befriended me. Stirred me all up.

Hell of a thing, huh.

I went and fell for a Mountie. A guy. A straight, straight-up guy. Not just that, but my partner to boot. There's things you just don't do, and getting hot and bothered about your big Canadian partner while you're filling in for somebody else's life is one of them.

Cuz it's stupid. And dangerous. And if you're not careful, you end up getting in fights instead of getting naked. You end up shouting at somebody you'd much rather be swapping spit with. You end up cornered and taking fuck-all stupid risks when you damn well know better.

So it looks like we're ending something, just when it started to get interesting.

I did it. Aw, hell, we both did it. But I started it. Started feeling again, starting melting down a little, loosening up a little, started pushing him a little, trying to melt him down, trying to loosen him up.

Might as well have asked Dief to listen to the radio.

He melted down all right. Let loose this unexpected sarcastic bastard he must've had lurking underneath all those layers of uniform all this time, only he never let anybody see. I guess I should be flattered. Not everybody gets the sharp edge of RCMP Constable Benton Fraser's tongue. Frannie doesn't get to see him lose his temper, and I think he'd resign before he lashed out at the Ice Queen. It's just me who gets that. The sharp tongue, the impatient looks. The tight-lipped, eyebrow-rubbing scowl. Even a pop to the mouth is better than that old Mountie face he pulls out for everyone else.

I wanted to peel him, a layer at a time. Get under all that polite, open a door for him sometime. Push him, melt him, see if I couldn't get his hands on me, or mine on him. Didn't want it to be a fist, though. Didn't want to push him so far he really started to piss me off, made me forget what I was doing in the first place and just left me there, mad as a wet hen, with sore knuckles, and he's got that damn "why? why now? why are you doing this?" look on his face. Didn't know I was going to make him come back out here and do it to me, planned-out-like and deliberate.

Me, who usually goes by the seat of his pants. I planned this. Made it a ceremony kind of thing. Fraser ought to get that. That ought to be something his methodical, logical brain can wrap itself around. Hell, it's like something his precious Inuits would do. Mark the occasion. Hail and farewell to the partnership of a stick-up-his-butt Mountie and an only-good-at-stuff-that-don't-matter cop.

It's just not at all what I wanted to have happen.

Man, have I heard that song before.


All right, so it didn't turn out quite as awful as I'd expected, even if Fraser did risk my life in wildly bizarre ways. He saved my skinny ass about six times, too, so I guess I can forgive the freaky ways he did it.

Besides, he did that thing with his mouth, and even though he reverted back to that pissy combination of snarky and superior later, when I called him on it, I'm still licking traces of Mountie tongue off my lips, so don't talk to me about not getting excited. Although, I have to say, I wasn't excited. Not then. Neither was he. Or so he says. With Fraser, you never really know. He was probably calculating lung pressure or water temperature or some other damn thing while he was blowing me at entirely the wrong end, and I was mostly thinking I was going to die down there, and for what? For one of Fraser's damn quests for justice.

I got no excuse. I let him talk me into it. He got me going with that Edmund Fitzgerald story he told, sucked me right in with him. It's like listening to the Bible being read by Moses or something -- the man's got a gift. Next thing I know, we got the pedal to the metal, all the juice in the pitcher, barreling down the road for one last case. One last time. Then that's it. We're quits.

Except we're not. Cuz somewhere out there, between the "I can't swim" and the "I don't have a permit" crap, we each turned out to have something the other needed. I mean, there I was, handcuffed to that rail thingy, and here comes Fraser, like the Cavalry, right? Only with no horse. And no keys. And no lockpick. Okay, so he's not perfect. But I had the gun, didn't I? Not that a gun would've done me much good without him there to get it out and shoot it, and then find a way out, and make me go with him and pull me along with him and breathe for me…shit on a brick… he gave me his air down there.

Now I'm getting excited. Now that we're free and clear and floating on something that doesn't look as sturdy as a tanker, but is filled to the brim with Mounties, I'm not worried about a thing. If one Mountie can do all the shit Fraser can, imagine what a whole platoon of them could do. Sounds like a good reason to keep diplomatic relations…um… diplomatic.

All I know is that we're neither of us taking the transfers, and we're still… whatever we were. Partners, I guess. Friends, I think.

Still dancing around each other a little bit, still a little testy. But we do good when we're not talking, I figured that much out. Got the bad guy with a few hand signs and some eye contact. Can't beat that with a stick. So maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

I could be all for not talking. I could be all for him doing that thing with his mouth again, only without the fucking frigid water and the whole "I'm gonna die down here" part. I could be all over that.

Good luck getting the Mountie to shut up, though. Never heard a man who talks so much, about all the stuff that don't amount to a hill of beans. But getting him to talk about real stuff, important stuff, well, it's like pulling teeth.

He's an exercise in frustration, he really is.

In all kinds of ways.


I guess if you're a Mountie this looks pretty good. They got tents, and bedrolls and a grill thing for cooking. Mountie heaven. Even Thatcher has stripped off her outer layer, and Turnbull looks like he might have finally found his element. And I think we'll be lucky to get Lt. Welsh back to Chicago - last time I saw him he was trying on somebody's red serge.

Me, I'm just happy to be on solid ground, which still doesn't feel as solid as I'd like. "You've got your sea legs, Ray," Fraser said when he saw me swaying on the grass. Bully for me. Can I have some land legs, please? I'll use them more, I swear.

Hot food tasted good, and I'll never take dry jockey shorts for granted again. And if the tent's a little musty, and the ground a little hard, it's still all better than anything else I've had going for the last few days, so I'll take it.

Except…

Except…

It's dark in here. I don't mean dark like you need a nightlight dark. I mean dark like you can't see a hand in front of your face dark. Dark like you open your eyes so wide they hurt and you still can't see anything. So it feels like the tent's right there on top of me, waiting to smother me in moldy canvas. Feels like I'm back in that air vent on the boat, ship, tanker, whatever, wondering what the fuck Fraser would consider emergency enough to qualify for use of more than one stinking waterproof match.

Okay, I'm starting to breathe funny, and that just makes the tent feel even smaller, not to mention smellier, and that's it, that's all she wrote, I'm tangled up and swearing and trying to get out of the thing without whimpering and finally, finally, I'm breathing open lake air, and grass, and it's not as dark out here as it was in there. There's stars and everything, and it looks sort of peaceful. All those Mounties, all snug in their tents, while visions of pemmican dance in their heads.

I think about splashing some water on my face; I'm all sweaty, but the thought of putting my face in water again gives me the shakes, so I just wipe down with the bottom of my t-shirt and take a look around. Over there at the edge of the camp I can see a white shape that turns out to be Diefenbaker when I get closer. And next to him (where else would Dief be?) is Fraser, stretched out his bedroll, out on the open ground.

"Ray?"

Of course he can see me. Probably heard me coming all the way across the camp. Could probably smell my breath and tell me what I had for dinner. Could probably taste me and…

"Yeah," I say.

"Is everything all right?" he asks, and I wonder if he's been asleep at all, cuz he sounds like 10 AM, not middle of the night.

"Sure, fine," I tell him, looking down to see if my hands have stopped shaking. Pretty much. Good enough even to pass Mountie inspection.

He doesn't say anything more, but he scoots over and opens up the blanket he's lying on, so now it's a nice picnic square, perfectly fine for two people to lie down on in the dark. Perfectly fine. I wait just long enough for him to start squirming around, just long enough for him to think about it, then I plop down beside him, tug Dief over next to me and stretch out, sandwiched between them.

Perfectly fine.

Finally perfect.

"Was the tent not to your liking?" he asks me. I see we're back to polite again. Hard as the sarcastic bastard was to get along with, I think I'd still rather have him yapping at me than have this wall of Canadian courtesy between us. Especially since we're out here by ourselves, in the dark, horizontal. But I appreciate the effort, since I don't have thing one to start a conversation with.

"Tent's fine. Just… too… I needed some air," I stumble over all the words, not just some of them, but he doesn't seem to mind. He's started a sentence or two he couldn't finish himself in his time.

"I understand," he says.

I turn to look at him. In the dark, he's all in black and white, but I can see that his eyes are open and that he's looking at me. Yeah, he probably does understand. He's out here too, isn't he?

"So, Fraser…" I'm talking low. We're not really close enough for anyone to hear unless they're listening, which, why would they be? But if they all hear like Fraser hears, well, let's just say I'm not taking any chances.

"Yes, Ray?"

"Have you done anything like that before?" I whisper.

"Like what, Ray? I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific," he says, all reasonable and calm.

I feel my nerve endings start to tingle. I already want to pop him one. At least I think that's what I want to do. Either that or lay one on him. It's always one or the other, and sometimes both.

"The underwater stuff, finding your way out, holding your breath, all that."

He pauses. "Well, of course, it's standard training procedure to -"

"That's not what I asked, Fraser." Geez, he's annoying.

"I'm trying to answer your question, Ray," he says, and I hear that little sarcastic edge come in his voice. Oh yeah, that's what I'm after, a little real Fraser. Only I don't want to go back to snipping and sniping; I want to get under all that, see if anything else comes out.

"So have you?" I ask again, still just whispering.

"Technically, no," he finally says.

I nod. "You're good under pressure," I tell him, and he gives me this surprised look. Guess he wasn't expecting that. "Don't let it go to your head or nothing."

"No, I won't," he says, distracted. "Thank you."

"What for?"

He doesn't answer.

"What for, Fraser?" Damn, I want him to say it. I have no idea why he's thanking me - for the compliment? For not transferring? For going along with all his hare-brained schemes?

"For helping to apprehend some dangerous criminals," he says, turning on his side to face me. "You put aside your reservations for the greater good, and I -"

"That's not why I did it," I cut in.

That shuts him up. I shift around a little, so I'm on my side, too, facing him. We just look at each other for a minute, feel all that quiet settle around us. Up against my back, Dief is warm, and the space between me and Fraser feels warm, too, like we're filling it up just by being there.

Fraser clears his throat, and it sounds too loud. I lift my head, but I don't hear any stirring in the row of tent cocoons.

"Then why?" he asks.

Do I really have to tell him? Do I have to open my mouth and say it? I did it for you, you doofus. Cuz you sort of asked me to, even though you never did really come right out and ask. What else was I going to do? Stay there and let you go off by yourself? Get hurt or dead or something without me? I can't see that happening. Can you?

Give me one good reason, I told him. Didn't tell him he didn't have to say anything. Didn't tell him just walking up to me was good enough. Didn't tell him that's all he ever has to do.

There's more to life than dying. And it's stretched right out here beside me.

I sit up, startling Diefenbaker, who huffs a little then curls up at our feet. "I've got something of yours," I say, taking one more cop look around the camp.

"Something of mine?" he asks, and unless my hearing's as bad as my eyesight, there's a little catch in his voice.

He makes like he's going to sit up, too, but I put a hand on his chest and push him back down, and follow him and before I can think about it good enough to decide it's a really bad idea, I'm putting my mouth over his and puffing a breath into him. His mouth's hot, and inside, when I dart my tongue in, he's wet and slippery.

And then it's done. I'm sitting up again, licking his taste off me again, wondering where I got the guts up to do that, and wondering which layer of Fraser I'll see now.

I don't even look at him, but maybe I licked up some Mountie peripheral vision or something, because I can feel him next to me, like I'm seeing him, even though I know I'm not since I'm staring straight forward, looking out over the lake. But I can feel the breath he takes, feel him sit up so his shoulder's pushed against mine.

"Have you ever done that before?" he asks me, that Bible voice of his low and a little rough.

"You'll have to be more specific," I tell him before I think better of it, and that gets an eyebrow rub out of him.

"Have you?" he asks again, ignoring my poke at him.

"Technically, no," I say.

He nods.

"You're good at it," he says, which just flips my lid.

That's it? That's the extent of the Fraser reaction to me filling his lungs and licking him?

When I turn to face him, he's close. Really close. So close I could probably look up his nostrils if I wanted, but I don't because he's leaning in, nudging against me, putting his mouth on mine again, but not blowing in me this time. There's no air this time. I'm not sure there's air anywhere, not in this whole great white north. I think we'll live on spit instead, grow gills and breathe through our ribs so I never have to let go of his mouth.

I get distracted by that tooth of his that sticks out a little, and when I go back to it, licking all around it for about the fifth time, he makes a sound way back in his throat and pushes hard against me, and ups the ante a little by putting his arms around my back. I let him, lean in a little, let him use that Mountie power for good.

He thinks I'm good at this. Okay, so maybe I'm blind as a bat. Maybe I lose my temper sometimes and eat shit that's bad for me and have this weird aversion to things that could get me killed. This he thinks I'm good at. He probably arrived at that conclusion through some half-assed, convoluted Mountie-logic.

I don't care. Don't care a bit. Don't give a rat's ass what makes him think so, just so long as he does. Besides, if I told him it was just my gut that brought me here, that it was just instinct, he'd probably get all pissy on me again.

And I'd hate to have to pop that mouth again.

There's lots better things I can think of to do with it.


The end.