by Speranza

for Pares, who's also having a hard day

Fraser had often ruminated on the likely circumstances of his death, and while "trapped in an ice crevasse," had certainly been one of them, he hadn't anticipated, "while arguing with Ray Kowalski about Citizen Kane."

"You are so wrong, I can't even believe how wrong you are!"

They didn't have much room to maneuver, but still, Fraser managed to cross his arms. "I didn't know you were such a cineaste."

"Hey, watch your mouth," Ray shot back. "Call me names if you want, but this time you got it wrong, Fraser. Joseph Cotton-- Jebediah --he's the center of that movie."

"Surprising, then, that it's called Citizen Kane," Fraser replied irritably. "Perhaps it was a last minute marketing strategy."

"I'm serious, here. Doesn't matter that it's called Kane." Ray sounded somewhat breathless, but he was still managing to hold up his end of the conversation, which was good. "Jebediah's the heart of the thing. Kane is--"

"--the star of the film, and in almost every shot," Fraser finished.

Ray took a deep breath. "--a mess, a disaster zone. He lets his ideals turn him into this crusading weirdo, when all he really wants is his mother and his sled." Ray tilted his head and looked at Fraser. "Now, don't get me wrong. I understand where you'd relate--"

"Relate?" Fraser asked; his legs were starting to go numb.

"--and I myself have come to love sleds like nobody's business," Ray continued, still struggling to breathe, "but you have got to admit, Fraser: Kane would've been better off if he'd maybe listened to Jebediah more."

Fraser opened his mouth to argue, then saw that Ray was sweating a little despite the cold, his eyes glassy. "I--yes, I guess that's possible," he agreed quietly.

"Because it's Jebediah who tells Kane that he's gone off the rails. And Kane goes down the toilet when Jebediah leaves him. And vice versa."

"Very true." Fraser looked up at the sliver of sky overhead. Someone must have seen their flare by now. Or, failing that, Diefenbaker would find help somewhere. "Still," Fraser added absently, "Jebediah shouldn't have left him. Kane was clearly in trouble."

Ray didn't answer. Fraser glanced down sharply and nudged him. Ray blinked rapidly and said, "Kane fired him. Kane fired him, remember?"

"Ah, yes--that's right." Fraser knew the movie backwards and forwards, (he'd seen it at least fifteen times,) but right now, all he wanted was to keep Ray talking. "Well. Then you're right. Kane was a fool."

Ray grinned stupidly, then suddenly he was sucking desperately for air. Fraser reached out for him, held him tightly and started rubbing his back--god, was this just the cold, or had Ray sustained some kind of chest injury in the fall? After a moment or two, Ray took a few ragged, gasping breaths and started to breathe easier. It was the cold, making his chest seize--for whatever that was worth. "My point," Ray said hoarsely, "exactly, Fraser--"

The sun vanished, and to Fraser's relief, he heard a voice above yell, "Hey! You all right down there?"

"Yes!" Fraser called back. "We're alive, but we need a rope!"

"Okay! Hang on! ! I'll be right back!" and then the sun came out again as whoever it was backed away from the narrow crevice they were trapped in. The whole time they'd been down there, wedged together, Fraser had tried to give Ray as much space as possible, but now he bent forward and impulsively kissed his cold mouth. When he pulled back again, Ray looked breathless in a way that had nothing to do with hypothermia.

"You won't go, will you?" Fraser asked with quiet urgency; it was the question he'd been wanting to ask during this entire, insane trip across the tundra. "You'll stay, won't you? I mean--I want you to stay. Please stay," and Ray smiled and said, "Sure," just as the lifeline fell heavily between them.

The End

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