a birthday library fic for Nestra
"Have you found anything?"
Ray raised his head from the microfiche viewer. Jeez, his eyes felt sunburned.
He tilted his head back. Fraser looked just as fine and untouchable upside-down as he did right-side-up. Ray sighed. "No," he said. "You?"
"Well ..." Fraser hedged. "In the sense that I now know ninety-six days on which Barbara Evanrud's obituary did not appear ..."
"Admit it, Fraser. You struck out."
"As you say." Fraser tipped his head sharply to one side, then to the other. His neck made unsettling cracking noises. "Perhaps we should pursue other sources of information, since this one isn't proving very useful."
"Yeah, good idea, Fraser. Next time try having those good ideas before my eyeballs shrivel up, OK?" When he stood up, his chest felt tight from hunching over the machine. He clasped his hands behind his back and leaned forward, lifting his arms as far as he could. "Jeez, I hate libraries."
"Really, Ray?" Fraser gripped his hands and lifted them gently.
Ray was so shocked by the unexpected touch that he forgot to be quiet, and his groan of relief was rather loud. "Sorry, sorry," he whispered hastily.
Fraser lowered Ray's arms slowly. "It's hard to imagine disliking libraries," he said. "Some of my fondest childhood memories involve libraries."
"Yeah, well, your childhood and my childhood are a horse on the other foot, Fraser," Ray said, "C'mon, if we're done in the dungeon I'll show you."
They walked up the back stairs, took a shortcut through the periodicals, and went down the wide marble entry stairs. At the bottom of the steps, just inside the revolving doors, Ray turned back to face inward. "Get down on your knees."
"Ray?" Fraser frowned.
"Just do it, Fraser."
After a moment, Fraser did.
"Now," Ray said, kneeling beside him. "Let's say you're six years old, right? And Mrs. Early's whole first-grade class has made a field trip to the library. You're all getting ready to go in, and Mrs. Early points to that stuff up there."
Carved in the stone over the entrance was a quote:
My library was dukedom large enough. -- Shakespeare
"Only, see, you can't read yet," Ray went on. "Mrs. Early wants to have a special conference with your parents to find out why you're so backwards, and you've already lost the note twice, so next time she's gonna call." Mrs. Beckwith, his second-grade teacher, had taught him to read in two weeks, with a few muttered words about "that evil old bat," but that was a long way away.
"So when she points up there, what it says to you is, 'This is not for you.'"
Fraser looked at the words for a moment longer. Then he stood up and brushed the dust off the knees of those stupid pants. "Hm," he said. "I suppose it depends upon your frame of reference. May I show you my library, Ray?"
The elevator doors opened on a big, high-ceilinged room crammed tight with bookshelves.
"I didn't even know there was a fifth floor," Ray said.
"Many of the older books end up here," Fraser said. He walked forward, and Ray followed.
"I was twelve," Fraser said, "when Melissa Morgan's parents took a temporary posting in Inuvik. Melissa was a year ahead of me in school, and we immediately bonded over our mutual dismay at the National Geographics and outdated encyclopedias that constituted the school library."
Fraser paused to take a deep, satisfied breath. Ray sniffed, too. The room smelled like dust and leather and old paper. When Fraser began to walk again, Ray speeded up to keep in step with him.
"Naturally, I knew the Inuvik Public Library quite well," Fraser went on. "Better still, I had a key, and tacit permission to enter when it was closed, as long as I was neat and responsible and locked up well afterwards. So one Sunday when I met Melissa by the creek, I offered to show her the library."
"You sly dog, you." It was unbearably cute, young Benton Fraser and his little bookworm girlfriend. "What happened?"
They reached the end of the row and started up the next one.
"I pointed out all the sections, of course, and I'm afraid I gave her a rather pompous lecture on the Dewey Decimal System --"
"Then I took her to my favorite section: Fiction Classics." Fraser must be a showman at heart, because they'd apparently stopped at just the shelf he needed for props. He started pulling down books -- old books bound in age-faded cloth, still older ones bound in leather.
"The Prisoner of Zenda," Fraser said, kind of hushed, like he was naming a great treasure, and he handed Ray a book. "Green Mansions. Treasure Island. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Alice in Wonderland. Moby Dick. East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. The Call of the Wild. The Light Princess. The Fall of the House of Usher."
He looked so happy, weighing Ray's arms down with books, that Ray had to grin back at him. "And then what?"
"And then," Fraser said, still holding one last book, "she smiled down at me -- she was quite a bit taller -- and said, 'Oh, Ben, it's Paradise!' And I laughed." He was smiling straight into Ray's eyes now. "And then I kissed her."
And he leaned right over the books and pressed his mouth to Ray's.
After a moment he put his hand on the back of Ray's neck, rubbing his thumb up into Ray's hair.
After another moment, Ray let the books fall and wrapped up an armful of warm, breathing, sighing Fraser.
After a great many more moments, Fraser stepped back, soft-eyed and smiling, hand still on Ray's neck. With the other hand, he offered Ray the last book. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.
"This," he said, "is for you."
--end-- Feedback me at email@example.com
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