Disclaimer: Not mine, no money is being made from this.
Summary: A post CoTW-ficlet about the end of the search for Franklin’s Hand.
The wind is icy this morning, but the activity of driving the sled is keeping me warm. Caught up in watching the team (my team) I don't notice that the scenery has changed at first. A loud whistle (our signal for `heads up!') has me jerking my head up and focusing quickly on the world around me again. Wow. Water. Lots of it. I look over at Fraser on Fraser's sled and catch him grinning at me. We pull up next to each other.
"Ray! We made it!"
"What, that's the Beaufort Sea?"
"Yes, Ray." He's still grinning.
"Wow. We did it! Woo-hoo!" I jump up in the air and laugh out loud.I can't help it. I'm thrilled! I grab Fraser and pound on his back for awhile and I'm even more thrilled when Fraser laughs with me and pounds me back.
Anyway, we celebrate for awhile and then settle in for the week letting the dogs run, still searching. Until it dawns on me that Fraser is starting to look a little panicky about not finding any sort of , well,... hand. Like he's worried that I might think that the whole quest wasn't worth it or something, if I didn't have some sort of something to find at the end. So that night, I sneak off for personal business, and end up drawing a big hand print in the snow. (No, not like that, Geez.) I show it to Fraser the next morning.
"Dere. Right dere. Whaddya see?"
He looks. He tilts his head in that Fraser-way and looks some more. "It would appear to be a..."
"Yeah, a what?"
"A Hand, Ray."
"A hand? So, we found it! Wooo-Hooo!"
"We certainly did."
"What, you're not excited?"
"I'm amazed, actually."
"Yeah, so, why?"
"Well, Ray it would seem that the hand of Franklin has not 5, but 6 fingers."
"Yeah, well you know some people do."
"And another thing. There seems to be no actual demarcation of the thumb from the fingers. See how all the digits are the same size. As if, in fact, Franklin were not human at all but rather another type of being all together...."
"Frase." I attempt a dangerous tone.
"Yes, Ray?" His eyes are twinkling.
"Is this or is this not, MY quest?"
"Of course, Ray." His eyes are shining now and his mouth is twitching.
"Then, I say THIS is the Hand of Franklin and I have found it."
"Right you are, Ray." He's biting his lip now but continues. "We should celebrate."
I grin. "An excellent idea. How do you pro-" The snowball that hits me in the face cuts off the rest of my sentence and the war is on until all that's left of Franklin's hand is a hollowed out area covered with footprints.
"So, Frase," I venture that evening at the campfire.
"What do we do now?"
"Well, Ray, in just a bit I imagine we'll go to bed and rise again in the morning ready to begin our journey southward---"
"Frase--" I gaze steadily at Fraser.
"Yer doin' that deflecting thing again."
Fraser stares at me across the campfire without words for a moment, then drops his eyes. He runs his fingers across his eyebrow and sighs. I go back to poking the fire with a stick.
"You're right. I was. I suppose I was hoping to put this conversation off for awhile yet." Fraser crosses his arms across his chest and lets his head drop back with his face turned up to the stars in a position that is both defensive and vulnerable.
"Why would you think so?"
I wave a hand at him, "Body language, Frase. We've been together a pretty long time now, and your body language says you are scared about something."
He stares at me for a moment."Scared? No, no," a half-chuckle kinda dies out when I keep my eyes on his. "Well," Fraser hedged, visibly reconsidering the absolute honesty of the previous statement. "Perhaps, a little nervous."
I look back at the fire. "Scared."
"Huh," I say, quietly triumphant. "Me, too." Silence follows, each of us watching the fire intently and the other out of the corner of our eye.
"Can I ask why you are scared?"
I glance up before speaking. Fraser is still watching the fire, deliberately not meeting my eyes. "You can always ask, Frase." I watch him still not look up, but smile ruefully at the flames and run his fingers over his eyebrow again before moving his hand to the back of his neck. This conversation means a lot to him.
"I don't want to presume..."
"Frase. This is me. Presume away." He knows he can, but old habits--of politeness, of distance--are hard to break. I want to break them. I lean back against the log behind me and stare at the stars while he gathers his nerve.
"So, why are you scared?"
" I don't know. Change, I guess. Change is always hard. `Specially if you already like where you are."
"And....you like where you are?" His voice is hesitant, still unassuming, not wanting to overreach what he thinks he's due.
I answer casually off-hand, still poking the fire, still letting him not look at me, still feeling his nervousness like a third person at our fire. "Hey, what's not to like? I've got snow, dogs, ice cold winds, my best friend, and let's not forget the frigid temperatures."
He snorts at that
and smiles a real smile, that crooked one I like because I never used to see
it very often. Seein' it more since we started this whole adventure. I go on.
"Where else will I ever get to wear more clothes at one time than I used to own all together? Which, by the way, makes even the slightest innocent itch seem like a thousand times more intense by the time I finally dive down deep enough to find it and let's not even mention," I pause to leer and waggle my eyebrows, "the not-so-innocent itches." Predictably, he drops his eyes and blushes. I continue, warming to my theme. "Where else would Ida learned to drive a dog sled and pick my own team of dogs, which," I mock-glare at Frase before continuing "Can certainly give yours a run for its money anytime."
"Right you are, Ray." Finally, Fraser looks at me. "And if your team isn't quite up to snuff, I have the singing to look forward to."
"Fraser. We agreed not to mention that." I give him a stern look. He grins back with wide-eyed innocence.
"Really, Ray. You have a very pleasant voice. I, for one, particularly enjoyed your rendition of --what was it? American Badass?"
"Fraser--"I start, feeling my ears get hot.
"And the dancing that went with it, I've never seen the like."
"FRASER." By now my entire face feels warmer than its felt since....well, since the last time he brought this up. " You do not agree NOT to mention an event and then go and keep mentioning it. That's not buddies."
"You are right, Ray. I'm terribly sorry. I'm not sure what keeps coming over me. I'm keep trying to erase the experience from my mind, but just can't seem to. Perhaps, another race?"
We both stare into the fire for awhile. Fires are good for that, for filling in spaces in a conversation that could be awkward otherwise. Not that Fraser and I have too many awkward gaps, though. We've been givin'and takin' pretty well since we started this gig and I feel like I know him inside and out now, as well as anyone can know him. I know I can read him pretty well. Like, I'm pretty sure he's got something to tell me or maybe ask me now, but I'm not at all sure he'll let himself. Pushin' him won't work, he can outstubborn just about anyone. Saying it for him won't work either. The only way is for him to say it himself. I can only try to wait him out.
"So, are you scared you'll miss the quest?"
I look at him. Watch him push the coals around his part of the fire with a stick he's stripped neatly of its bark. Watch him hold himself so tight emotionally that the only thing moving are the fingers of his right hand pushing the stick.
His fingers stop moving.
I watch him as I continue. "But then, ya know, I keep thinkin' about gettin' back to Chicago. Good things --pizza, central heat, my bed, sheets, tv, videos, chinese take-out, music,..."
"Those sound like good things."
"They are good things, Fraser, but they aren't all I think about." I look back at the fire.
His head comes up fast, probably faster than he wanted so he compensates quickly with his characteristic neck-crack. Then, he just stares at me, waiting.
Uhn-uh, I think. You wanna know. You gotta ask.
As usual, with us it all comes down to trust. I trust him unquestionably. He trusts me... mostly. With his life, definitely. He trusts me to watch his back, he even (after a 3 month intensive training course he devised himself) trusts me to survive with him out here in Nature's Freezer. That trust means a lot to me. But now...now I want him to trust me with his heart. It sounds corny, I guess, but it's what I want. I want him to know he can ask me anything, tell me anything he's thinking and feel however he wants to feel whether its perfect or not. I want to be the one person in the world that he knows that he can just be himself with--whoever the hell Benton Fraser actually is underneath the layers of Mountie (past and present) he wears whether he has the damned uniform on or not. I think I'd really like him. I think I already do. Hell, I probably even love him.
I know I need him--not only to survive here and now, but also because he cares enough about me to even be here, because he understands how important this quest is and will be to me. But mostly I need him because he makes it easy for me to be the kind of person I want to be--decent, honest, good; like him but with my own high energy slant on it. I like the person I am with him because he likes the person I am and anybody he likes must be worth liking. Kinda a mobius strip kinda thing.
But, I need to know if he can let himself love and need me in the same way and it all starts with trust. Trust enough, in this case, to ask a simple question.
Outta the corner of my eye, I see he's still frozen. So, before I even think too hard about it, I stand, stretch, throw my stick in the fire and move around to his side of the fire. Without ceremony, I plop down next to him. His look changes to a question.
"You looked cold." I say, bumping him with my shoulder.
"I looked cold?" his tone is one of disbelief.
"Not out here," I say touching his arm. "In here." I move my hand and touch his chest over his heart. "You got kinda stuck. You frozen, maybe?" I leave my hand where it is.
He drops his eyes to my hand, and does that lip-lick thing he does when he's thinking. "N-n-not totally."
"Good. I'm thinking, maybe, some de-frosting might be in order."
"H-h-how do you propose,...."
"My mom used to just leave the freezer door open and let the frost melt away. Think you could open that door a little, maybe let some of that ice melt?"
"I don't know, Ray, I'm afraid the resulting runoff might be a little messy..."
I might laugh one day about the innuendo in this conversation, but right now I know it's serious business. "That's okay, Frase, I got your back. I don't mind a little mess. Whyn't you open up just a little and ask me whatever it is you want to ask me."
I keep my hand where it is and shift a little, straddling the log were sitting on to face him fully. He closes his eyes briefly, wages a small internal war, and then opens his mouth.
"You said you liked where you were yet you also said you were thinking of all the good things in Chicago you missed. But you said that wasn't all you were thinking about implying that there were some things you were thinking about that you hadn't yet mentioned. What else were you thinking about?"
Still looking straight at him, still with my hand over his heart I say, "You."
"You. I'd miss ya."
"You'd miss me?"
"Whaddya think? I'd be relieved at getting away from you?"
Thumb over eyebrow, shocked look. "No, no, I mean, not in so many terms, but we have been together for a great deal of time now and I certainly wouldn't blame you for....well, what I mean is I would understand if you were ready for other company...not that I am, but I realize that I can be hard to take...at times, ..."
"Shut up, yer babbling."
"Understood." He shuts up, but the shell-shocked look remains.
"Fraser." I lean in and put my forehead against his. "Understand this. You and me, we're partners. I like that. I love that. Me--I love me when I'm with you. You make me want to be the best person I can be. And you," I move my hand to the back of his neck. "You--I just love. The mountie you, the Benton Fraser you, the you that talks to Dief in public, the you that snores if you have too much bark tea at night, any you you come up with, I love. And I don't want to go home if going home means not being your partner, because I don't know who I am without you anymore and I do not want to find out. Dere. Got that? Understand, that?"
"I understand, Ray." His eyes are glittering.
"Yeah. Well, you'd better." Furious, I take my hand away from the back of his neck and wipe my nose with my sleeve. "So, who's the freak now?"
He turns on the log straddling it now, too and moves one hand to hold mine still on his chest and the other to pull my head to his shoulder. "You are, Ray." Even his voice is smiling.
I sniff furiously and mutter, "Yeah, well, it takes one to know one."
"Right you are, Ray. Right you are."
"You're saying I'm right?" Now, I'm a little nervous. After all I've just laid myself out here and he's not really saying anything. "What am I right about?"
"Everything. All of it." His arm tightens around me and his hand holding mine presses it firmly against his heart.
I wiggle my fingers against him. "So, this area getting any warmer, yet?"
"I'd say Spring has come."
"Right you are, Ray. Right you are."
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