Core Re-warming

by Speranza

The pickup truck was parked on the shoulder of the Wilson Street bridge. It was facing north; they were heading south. Ray had the vague impression that something'd been thrown over the side, but he didn't see what; his eyes were on the road ahead, so it was just a blur in his already-crappy peripheral vision. Someone was river-dumping again—a bad thing, yeah, but ultimately not his problem. But Fraser suddenly leaned forward and clutched the GTO's dashboard and said, in the most terrifying voice Ray'd ever heard, "Ray. Turn around."

With a squeal of tires, Ray turned around, cutting across two lanes of traffic and probably scaring the fuck out of everyone on this normally quiet part of Wilson. Ahead of them, the truck pulled off the shoulder and sped away into traffic.

"You want me to get 'em?" Ray asked, shooting a quick glance from the road to Fraser as the car picked up speed—and man, he'd been partnered with Fraser for too long, because he could recognize the crouch that meant that Fraser was on his way to jumping out of the fucking car.

"Yeah," Fraser said distractedly. "Put your light on. Stop them," and then wham—Fraser flung his arm out, and the side door flew open, and Fraser was going, going, gone, rolling out onto the bridge and into a standing position and—

and that was it, because by then Ray was over the bridge and flying north on Wilson Street. He looked up, quick, into the rearview mirror and saw that Fraser was—fuck, Fraser was up, standing on the railing in his fucking peacoat and diving into the fucking river. Shit, holy shit, and he had to wrench his eyes away from the mirror and look at the fucking road before he got himself killed. He coaxed the GTO faster, blindly feeling around on the floor of the car for his light and then shoving it, flashing, onto the dashboard.

Cops, motherfucker!, Ray thought, and followed the erratically dodging and weaving pickup through the midday traffic. Ray grabbed for the radio and called for backup, hearing Fraser's voice in his head (Stop them) and trying not to worry too much about Fraser himself. It was freakin' cold, so at least there weren't many pedestrians around. Ray rode his horn hard, trying to warn other cars to get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the fucking way!

Ray pulled up behind the pickup with a screech and flicked his lights on and off into the guy's face. The truck's driver was looking frantically over his shoulder like maybe he was gonna shit himself. A black and white, siren blaring, finally joined the chase—and a moment later, the pickup pulled over at a bus stop. A group of people, wrapped up from head to toe, scattered like birds, waddling in their parkas.

"Freeze!" Ray yelled, pulling out his weapon as he launched himself out of the car and crouched behind the door. "Come out with your hands up!"

Beside him, the black and white also screeched to a halt, and two officers he recognized—Dacey and Worczak, from the 21—pulled out their guns supportively. Ray tried to ignore them and to focus his attention on Mr. Pickup, who was still sitting in the driver's seat, unmoving.

"Use your megaphone," Ray said without looking. "I ain't got one." A moment later, he heard the metallic voice. "This is the police. Come out with your hands up." "He don't come out in five, I'm gonna open fire," Ray said through gritted teeth. "You fuckin' tell him that—"

"Okay. Okay," Dacey said breathlessly, but just then the door opened and Mr. Pickup came out, hands raised, looking shit fucking scared. He was really tall and skinny, dressed in jeans and a giant green parka.

You could hide anything in a coat like that, Ray thought, and yelled, "On the ground! On the ground! On the fuckin' ground!" Pickup Guy fell onto his knees in the grass. Ray tentatively came around the GTO's door, gun still clenched tight in both hands. "Face down!" he yelled and gestured with his gun. The guy fell forward, and in a flash, Ray'd crossed the distance between them, and handcuffed him, and yanked him up to his feet.

"Geez, Ray," Dacey said, coming up fast on his right side and taking Pickup Guy off his hands. "What'd he do?"

This brought Ray back with a start, because Christ, how the fuck should he know? "I dunno, I dunno, he did something," Ray growled, and stabbed his finger hard into the tall guy's chest. "Fraser saw him and jumped into the fucking river. So you just hold onto him." Ray pushed the perp hard, nearly knocking him over. "I gotta go get Fraser."

"Okay," Dacey said as Ray stalked back to his car.

Shit, he had to hope the guy hadn't been—you know. Littering.

Ray shoved the car into park and jumped out, pulling the top of his cloth coat together at his throat where he'd lost the button. Fuckin' cold today. A curved stone staircase led from the street level down to the riverbank, and Ray ran down the long flat steps, scanning for Fraser among the boats and barges. Ray was assuming Fraser was fine, that he'd surfaced and swum to shore, no problem. But the stupid Mountie could've hit his head or something. The stupid Mountie could've drowned himself. Cause the stupid Mountie had jumped at least twenty feet off a bridge into the fucking Chicago River in fucking December

But there was the stupid Mountie now, and Ray let out a breath that he didn't even know he'd been holding. Fraser was hunched on a strip of narrow embankment—or at least he thought it was Fraser, he could really only see the navy blue peacoat. Ray fumbled in his pocket for his glasses as he jogged toward him, hating the way they fogged up when they hit the heat of his face.

"Fraser!" Ray called, and now he could see Fraser more clearly; Fraser was bent over what looked like a bundle of rags. "Fraser, are you—" except that was a hand, that was a tiny white hand and—Mother of God

Fraser raised his head, wet hair plastered to his face. "Ray. Get—"

"Yeah, right away," Ray said, stumbling backwards and then turning and running for dear life. Fraser's hand had been moving while he talked, pumping down two, three, four, five. Which meant no pulse. Fucking—

Ray slid behind the wheel of the GTO and grabbed the radio off the hook.

The ambulance was there in four minutes, which seemed like about ten million years. Ray pointed the paramedics toward the staircase, then got out of the way as they pounded downward carrying thermal blankets and oxygen. Following, Ray watched as Fraser backed off and let the paramedics do their thing. Within moments they had the child wrapped in blankets and intubated with oxygen. Ray backed up against the cold concrete wall of the stairwell as they rushed past him, up, toward the ambulance. He saw one small, sparkly-purple sneaker flopping and felt his stomach turn over.

A remaining paramedic seemed to be arguing with Fraser, who had gotten unsteadily to his feet, a thermal blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Ray drifted closer, wincing at the sound of sirens. Above them, the ambulance was pulling away.

"You could have a head wound," the paramedic was saying.

"Yes, I could, but I don't." Fraser raised his hands and scraped his wet hair away from his forehead—presumably to demonstrate that he didn't have a head wound. The river water left a gritty trail across his pale skin—jeez, Fraser looked terrible. Ray was used to seeing Fraser do stupid, incredible things and hardly mess up his suit, but now Fraser was wet and slime-streaked and shivering faintly in his sopping wet wool.

The paramedic crossed his arms. "That's what you'd say if you had a head wound."

But Fraser glared right back at him and stood his ground. "Pardon me, but I don't think so. In my experience, people with head wounds tend to say things like, 'Auuughabaca.' or possibly, 'The cheese is not my friend during sunset.'"

Ray put a possessive hand on the wet sleeve of Fraser's peacoat. "I'll keep an eye on him—"

"That's not necessary," Fraser retorted. "I'm fine."

"Except you could have pneumonia," Ray said gently. "Or, you know, the plague, because that water is filthy, Fraser. That ain't Purity Lake, Nunahobit—"

Fraser jerked his arm away irritably. "Where the hell is Nunahobit? It's not in Canada, I can tell you that," he said, and turned his back to Ray, staring instead out over the dingy green river.

O-kay. Ray kept his face neutral, and focused his energies on dispatching the paramedic. "I'll keep an eye on him for twenty-four hours, just in case," he said, knowing that a twenty-four hour observation was standard procedure. "He's a strong swimmer, I don't think he inhaled much in the way of river water—"

"You know, I'm standing right here," Fraser said.

Ray ignored this. "—and the sooner you let me get him out of here, the sooner I can get him into someplace with heat. Okay?"

The paramedic shot Fraser a quick glance, then nodded. "Yeah. Okay."

Fraser pulled the blanket off his shoulders and carefully covered the GTO's passenger seat with it before getting into the car.

Ray was already behind the wheel, starting the engine, flicking the heat on. "What the fuck are you doing?"

"Protecting your upholstery," Fraser replied, pulling the door shut. His lips, Ray saw, were blue and a bit pruned.

"Fuck the upholstery," Ray retorted. "Put that thing on your body."

Fraser looked at him across the car. While Ray'd seen that expression on Fraser's face before, it was usually followed by a period of sullen silence.

Not today.

"It's not that cold," Fraser said.

"It's plenty cold, Fraser. Welcome to Chicago. It's cold—"

"Not for me."

Ray shoved the car into drive. "Well, you're looking pretty blue over there. Don't know why you gotta be so fucking macho about it—"

This only seemed to make Fraser angrier. "You know, I'm not particularly known for my 'macho'—"

"Yeah, right. Pull the other one, Mountain Man."

Fraser crossed his arms and looked out the passenger-side window. "I'm not the one with the adolescent automobile."

For a moment, Ray was stung—but abruptly the sting faded away. This whole conversation was just...surreal. Benton Fraser was making fun of his car. Ray took a deep breath and drove steadily toward his apartment. "Yeah, well, I've got a small dick," he said finally. "So I've got to overcompensate."

That seemed to take the fire out of Fraser, whose shoulders slumped a little. A moment later, Fraser shot him a quick, embarrassed glance. "I'm...sure that's not true."

"Yeah, shows what you know," and suddenly everything was all right between them. Not looking away from the road, Ray reached out and aimed the car's heat vents at Fraser. "Heating up now," he said.

"Yeah. Thanks."

"S'okay," Ray said, and then he ventured a sideways glance. "Why're you fighting with me?"

Fraser sighed and rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. "Because you're here," he said. "I'm sorry."

Ray nodded slowly, tightening his hands on the wheel. "S'okay. No problem."

Upstairs, Fraser stood on the doormat in front of Ray's apartment and carefully bent to unlace his boots, which were dark with river water.

"Just come in, Fraser," Ray said from the kitchen, where he was putting water to boil on the stove. "I don't give a fuck about the floor."

Fraser ignored him, pulling his boots off and leaving them out in the hall. But Ray noticed with a kind of annoyed satisfaction that Fraser's soggy socks were leaving footprints on the wood floor. "Okay, wait," Ray said, pulling a large plastic garbage bag from beneath the sink. "Let's get that stuff off you."

Fraser nodded grimly and unbuttoned his peacoat. Before pulling it off, Fraser emptied the pockets, pulling out a set of keys, a pen, a knife, a few sodden rectangles of paper—movie stubs. Ray wondered if Fraser was going to the movies without him, and felt oddly jealous at the thought. Finally, Fraser slid the coat off his shoulders and handed it to Ray. It was heavy, and stank of river water. Ray put it into the bag.

Fraser was unbuckling and unbuttoning. Lanyard, Sam Brown, and holster went onto the kitchen table, and the red serge tunic went into the bag. Ray felt himself making a face when he saw the grimy white Henley underneath—if he ever had any doubts about the filth of the Chicago River, he had none now. Unselfconsciously, Fraser stripped the Henley off, revealing a pale chest streaked with scraggly lines of dark, dripping hair.

Ray shoved the Henley into the bag while Fraser unzipped his pumpkin pants, revealing wet hairy legs sticking out of soaked white boxers. Ray grabbed the pants, trying to ignore the way the wet boxers had gone translucent, showing the warmer tones of Fraser's skin, the darker curls of his pubic hair, the purpling flesh of his cock.

But then Fraser skimmed those off too, and handed them over. He was standing there naked, and shivering slightly.

"You, uh—" Ray said, but he lost the end of the sentence, somehow. You should hit the shower, he was going to say, but somehow that wasn't at all what came out. He felt oddly mesmerized by Fraser's body, which was—nice, yeah; strong-looking and well-developed, but oddly far from perfect. Fraser was—well, just so fucking pretty that Ray'd half-expected him to have the body of a porn star: hairless chest, muscled pecs, washboard abs, neatly-trimmed pubes. But Fraser hadn't been kidding about that layer of subcutaneous fat, and his skin bore a number of strangely-shaped scars. He had sparse but erratic chest hair and was slightly thicker around the middle. His sodden pubic hair was dark and plentiful. He was beautiful.

"Ray?" Fraser was looking at him, one eyebrow raised.

Ray said the first thing that came into his mind. "You got a lot of scars, Fraser."

"Well, yes." Fraser's lips twisted ruefully. "I try to think of them as a memoir. A personal history of a sort."

Ray wasn't even conscious of reaching out, but suddenly he was tracing an odd mark just below Fraser's right collarbone; Christ, the human body was fragile, wasn't it? "What's that?"

Fraser sighed. "It's an otter. Yes, I got hit with an otter."

Ray nodded absently. "And this?" Ray asked, moving his hand up to Fraser's shoulder.

"Knife wound."

Ray's slid his fingers down Fraser's arm. "What about here?"

"I fell on the ice," Fraser admitted. "Which can be rather sharp. Not one of my more graceful moments." Fraser took a deep breath and then seemed to forge ahead with the narrative, as if he were afraid of where Ray might put his hands next. "Right leg—broken once, stabbed once, shot twice. I've broken my right arm and both collarbones multiple times, and I broke my left elbow in a jeep crash on the Dempster Highway. My jeep crash," Fraser amended a moment later, seeming somewhat embarrassed. "No one else was involved. I swerved not to hit a—well, but that's not important right now. I've had three concussions, the last one from a plane crash I was in with Ray Vecchio. Stab wounds here and here," Fraser said, touching his left shoulder and bicep with his fingertips. "This is an axe slipping," Fraser added, and touched a mark on his thigh, "this is a bear bite, and this was an icepick. I broke my left ankle jumping off a waterfall near Kent Hill—

Ray suddenly had an image of a single lavender sneaker, flopping. He pressed his hand to Fraser's side, which was firm and smooth, fat layered over muscle, but also cold and kind of damp. Fraser fell silent. Mere inches away from Ray's hand, Fraser's cock was getting hard—

The kettle whistled, and Ray nervously took a step back. "Go take a hot shower," he said, averting his eyes and turning resolutely toward the kitchen. "There's towels in the bathroom. Meanwhile, I'll find you some clothes, make you some tea—"

He heard Fraser clear his throat. "Yes, thank you," Fraser said, and when Ray turned around again, Fraser had slipped from the room.

Ray switched the gas off and then went to find Fraser something to wear. He and Fraser were about the same height, and while his jeans might be snug on Fraser, Fraser wore his jeans snug anyway. He picked up his loosest-fitting pair, the pair that practically slipped off his ass the moment he stopped exercising, and tossed them over his shoulder. He supposed that he was going to end up as one of those old men with skinny legs and no ass, if he lived that long. It was harder to find an appropriate shirt, because a tight t-shirt on top of the snug jeans might make Fraser look like, well, kind of a hooker. He toyed briefly with the idea of making Fraser wear one of his old rock t-shirts, like his Kiss 1977 "Lick It Up" World Tour shirt before remembering the sweater—which in Ray's mind was always The Sweater. The Sweater was large and tan and v-necked and made of 100 percent pure cashmere. The Sweater was as soft as a baby's bottom. The Sweater had been given to him for his thirtieth birthday by The Stella, and the minute Ray had drawn it out of its fancy box he had known it was just a matter of time. A divorce was clearly on the horizon, because nobody who knew or loved him could ever have bought him a tan cashmere sweater. Mr. Rogers could maybe have worn this sweater, if, say, Mr. Rogers could fly and benchpress two-fifty.

In other words, The Sweater was perfect for Fraser.

Ray added some thick wool socks and a pair of boxer shorts to the pile, then went to knock on the bathroom door. "Fraser," he said. "I've got some clothes for you. I'll leave them outside the—"

Fraser opened the door, a towel wrapped around his hips. His skin had lost that bluish tinge, and his hair, now clean, had been roughly towel-dried and was standing up at all angles. Fraser took the clothes from Ray's hands and set them down on the counter next to the sink. "Thanks. Ray, I—" Fraser sighed and leaned against the doorframe, and Ray didn't know whether to pull away or lean in. "Would you think you could call the hospital?"

Ray jerked up straight. "Yeah, Fraser. Absolutely."

"I just...I need to know if..." Fraser trailed off, biting his lip.

"Yeah. Sure. Of course."

Fraser closed his eyes and blew out a long breath. "There aren't many children in the Territories. The environment isn't congenial to them—believe me, I know," Fraser said bitterly. "Those who do manage to raise their children do so against incredible odds. So I can't—I don't understand how anyone could possibly—"

"Nobody understands it, Fraser. It doesn't make any goddamned sense."

"Yeah." Fraser nodded grimly and pulled away from the doorframe. He seemed about to shut the bathroom door again—but surprised Ray by suddenly knotting his hand in Ray's t-shirt, and pulling him in for a kiss. Ray blindly grabbed hold of the doorframe to keep himself upright. Fraser's lips were sweet and soft, his kiss surprisingly needy. He didn't think Benton Fraser did needy, but he guessed he was maybe wrong.

When Fraser broke the kiss off, he looked kind of shocked at himself. "Ray, I—"

"Do not apologize to me, Fraser." Ray pushed Fraser against the wall of the bathroom and took his mouth again. Ray's hands, searching out Fraser's beautiful, imperfect body, found the towel and tugged it away. A moment later, Ray's hand closed around Fraser's cock and Fraser began panting erratically into his mouth. They kissed and kissed, Ray's forearm working until Fraser groaned into his mouth and came. Fraser sagged heavily against him, and Ray locked his knees to support Fraser's weight. A few deep breaths later, Fraser surged forward, taking Ray's mouth again. Ray stumbled back until his shoulders hit the wall, jarring his mouth free from Fraser's.

Fraser's face was flushed and glowing, like he'd been exercising—which he had been, kind of. "Ray, I—I'm going to need a dry-cleaner."

"Okay." Ray grabbed Fraser's face with both hands and pulled their mouths together for a sloppy, wet kiss. "There's one—two blocks over—on Westlake—"

Fraser's hands were busily fumbling in Ray's pants, undoing the button, shoving down the zipper. Then he pulled down Ray's underwear and took Ray's cock in both his hands. Ray let out a long, shuddering breath, and Fraser looked up, almost apologetically.

"I think I'm going to need another shower, too," Fraser said, and began coaxing Ray to come all over him.

Being as Fraser was already naked, Ray offered him first shower—though it was kind of a while before Ray could make himself leave the bathroom. Finally, he managed to pull himself away from Fraser's mouth, which was soft, and wet, and sweet. "Gonna...make some calls, okay?"

"Okay. Yes," Fraser said breathlessly, and Ray went into the living room, thoughtfully touching his bruised lips with two fingers.

He yanked the cordless out of its base so he could call the station, wedging the phone between his shoulder and ear so that he could make tea while he talked. "Hey, it's Vecchio," he said when Welsh picked up his direct line. "I sent a guy in to you. He threw a kid into the river—"

"Yeah," Welsh interrupted, sounding as beat-up by this as the rest of them. "His name's Gary Benjamin, and he's already confessed."

Ray sighed and let his head hang for a moment, pressing the phone to his ear with his hand. "Is he the kid's dad?" Ray asked finally.

"Uncle," Welsh said. "His sister, the kid's mother, has got a new man in her life. Benjamin thought his sister'd have a better chance of—"

Ray slammed his hand hard against the counter. "Fuck me with a broom! You can't hit the fucking reset button with a—"

"He confessed, okay? He's going down, so don't get your panties in a twist," Welsh said in that calm, infuriating way he had. "Meanwhile, it wouldn't kill you to file your statement before the end of the year—"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming in," Ray took a sip of the tea, which had gone cold. "Fraser, too—he's your eyewitness. But listen, wait—the important thing." Ray took a deep breath and braced himself for the answer. "The kid, the girl. Did she make it?"

The answer came immediately. "Yeah, she pulled through, she's at Chicago General. Nearly froze to death but that's apparently what saved her. She sort of stopped breathing but that meant she didn't inhale much water. Basically they're warming her up. Something called 'core re-warming'—you do it with warm fluids and oxygen and such."

"That's great, that's just great," Ray said, in relief. "Okay, we'll probably stop by the hospital on our way in—I think Fraser'll want to see her."

"Don't take too long," Welsh said, and Ray hung up.

"She's alive—?"

Ray turned; Fraser was standing beside him, fully dressed and looking cautiously optimistic. "She's alive, Fraser. She's gonna be fine."

Fraser closed his eyes. "That's wonderful news. I was so hoping for good news." He reached out for Ray's mug of tea like a man blindly seeking a shot of bourbon. Ray gently slapped his hand away.

"Tea's gone cold, Fraser," Ray said. "You've got to drink something hot." He put the kettle on again.

"I feel fine," Fraser said with a smile. "Plenty warm enough," and hey, it was really good that somebody could finally wear that sweater.  

The End

Author's Notes:  For the DS_Flashfiction "Scars" challenge.  Thanks to Mia and Terri for beta!

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