Title: April Fools

Author: Seana Renay.

Series/Sequel: Part four of "Seasons of Love." (Follows March Snow, Winter's End and False Spring.)

Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski.

Rating: Slash, R. (Angst. Sap. Language, Ray.)

Summary: Wherein you'll find a Mountie at a loss for words, a Ray who can't shut up and the cheesiest final line you will ever read.

Disclaimer: Not mine. No money. Don't sue.

Feedback: Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Notes: This will be the last installment. (I think.)

Dedication: For K.L., who was a wonderful, kind human being and is now God's most beautiful angel.

Date: April 2001.



***




I should have anticipated this. I should have been ready. I know Ray. I know how Ray thinks, how Ray argues. I should have taken more time to consider what his reaction might be, to come up with answers for all the difficult questions he might ask.

'This has to end, Ray.' I know that if I'd given those words any thought at all before I said them, they never would have been said.

I thought that by doing it quickly and arbitrarily I could make Ray angry enough to let me leave. Want me to leave. Ask me to leave. Physically push me out of the door.

I should have known better. I should have.

I can't think. I can't breathe.

Ray is looking at me, I know, but I can't meet his eyes. Almost funny, really. A few moments ago, I couldn't look away from them. Such love there, such perfect trust and patience and calm strength. Nothing I deserve. Because underneath all of those beautiful things, there is pain, unfathomable pain, and fear that I caused. I'm a liar and a coward and a selfish, hurtful human being and yet, somehow, Ray looks at me...Ray looks at me the same way I look at him.

"Open your eyes, Fraser," Ray says softly. He touches my face. His voice is so gentle. It only makes me close my eyes more tightly, makes the ache in my chest and my struggled breathing more difficult to bear. "Please, Fraser. Look at me. Come on, look at me. You like to look at me. Sometimes you stay awake at night, just looking at me."

My eyes flutter open quite involuntarily.

Ray smiles tightly. "Yeah, I know that, Fraser. I probably know a lot of stuff you think I don't know. I know you don't really want to do this. I know you're wishing you would've thought it out a little better because it really ain't going like you planned, is it? I know you don't want to answer my question. But you know something, Fraser?"

"What, Ray?" My voice is low, my throat raw. It's as though I've been crying much longer and harder than I have. Or perhaps screaming at the top of my lungs.

"I already know the answer. I know it. You can lie about it. You can hide it. You can lock it up in your head and never think about it again because I know you're just great at shit like that. You can try as hard as you can to make it nothing. You can even try to make it hate, just turn all those nasty tough feelings right around and throw them back on me. You can do anything you want." He jabs his index finger into the center of my chest, poking hard to punctuate what he feels are important points. "But you know and I know that what we got right here is the real deal. You love me, I love you and it's a forever thing. You can't forget forever, Fraser. You can't make it go away."

His words are coming so rapidly, I can barely keep up. "Stop, Ray, please."

Ray cocks his head to one side, frowning. "What's wrong, Fraser? You're the one who doesn't care, the one who wants to walk out, give up. Why are you even listening to me, Fraser?"

"Ray, please." I put both of my hands on my face so as not to be tempted to reach out for him. I rub my eyes and resist the urge to cover my ears. This ache in my chest must be psychosomatic. There really is no such thing as a 'broken heart.'

He continues insistently, faster and louder. "Why are you still here? You want to go, you know where the door is. It's not like I could stop you, you got a good fifty pounds on me. Why don't you go?"

I'm lost in his voice, his words, his hurt and anger and love. My head is spinning. "Ray, don't!"

"I know it's not easy to walk out on someone who loves you, but you're Benton Fraser. Perfect Mountie. Perfect man. Who do you love? Who do you need? Nobody. Fucking nobody."

Ray is being honest so I owe him honesty in return. My logic center decides this before I have any say in the matter. "I need you, Ray," I blurt out, a hollow whisper.

"What was--Sorry, Fraser, I must not have heard you right." Ray tugs on his earlobe and shakes his head. "You need me?"

I've never been more ashamed of it than I am right now. I stare at the floor and blood rushes hotly to my face. "Yes, Ray."

"You love me, Fraser?" Somehow Ray hears my thoughts--I can't, I can't, I can't--because he continues in that gentle soothing tone. "It's okay, you can tell me. I'll even say it first." He takes my hand and kisses my knuckle and says firmly, "I love you, Benton Fraser. I love you." I think Ray has forgotten that he had a point because he keeps repeating it over and over. "I love you, Fraser, I love you so much, you can't leave me, everybody I love leaves me, oh shit I know it's not fair to say that now but it's true and I can't take it, not again, not with you, I love you, Fraser, please don't leave me."

Only after Ray falls silent and the shudders wracking his body cease does he realize that I've drawn him into my arms and I am whispering, "I love you, too, Ray. I love you, too."

He listens for a moment, takes a deep breath, and says, "You still want to go? I know you're saying you don't want to go but you have to, but really you don't have to, Fraser. You don't have to. Just talk to me. Everything will be okay. Whatever it is, we can get through it, okay? You and me. But you've got to talk, Fraser, you've got to let me in."

He makes it sound so easy. Makes me feel safe, like I could say anything. It's such a helpless feeling to honestly want to open up to someone and to find that you're unable. The opposite of the old proverb, I suppose: the flesh is willing but this time it is the spirit that is weak. "I...I'm scared, Ray."

Ray is momentarily surprised but he covers it quickly and effectively. He nods encouragingly. "Scared of what?"

"To let you in. To tell you things." I realize how juvenile that sounds but Ray has been speaking to me like I'm a child all night and I assume that he won't mind if I answer like one. "It seems . . . I don't know. Futile, perhaps. It hurts so much to be honest with you, Ray, to share myself with you. I don't know why I should put myself through it, since we're just..."

"Just what? Come on, Fraser."

"Since you're just going to leave me, anyway!" I say quickly, shocked at my own words. "You say that everyone you loved has left you, Ray--you're not the only one. I've never known anything but loneliness. It's all I've ever had. I don't know how to not be on my own, how to let myself become dependent on someone. You're right, solitude is a talent of mine, a skill I've had to learn. You want me to talk to you, to open up--I don't know how! And that's not...that's not good enough for someone like you. I'm not good enough for someone like you." I can just hear his reply. That I need 'mountains of therapy and Prozac the size of jawbreakers.'

Ray begins to laugh and for an incredibly painful moment I think he's making fun of me. He places his hands on my shoulders and looks me squarely in the eye. "Fraser. You know something?"

"What, Ray?"

"All that stuff you just said, all that stuff you're scared of? I was scared, too. When we first got together, I was scared that I was gonna say something stupid or let something slide and you were gonna see down in me, what's really there. I was scared that you wouldn't love me anymore because of it. I just knew I was gonna mess it up somehow. But see, Fraser, you kept saying that you would always love me. You've seen me angry and sad and scared and all different shades of fucked-up, and you know what you always said? 'Beautiful.' You gotta understand, Fraser. Same way I'm always beautiful to you, you're always beautiful to me." Ray smiles, as thought just talking about it is making him happy. He kisses me on the mouth. "Always."

I want to trust Ray. I've never wanted anything as much.

Ray sighs and slowly shakes his head. "I just wish you could see it, baby. I just wish I could make you feel like you make me feel. But I guess I can't." The corner of his mouth twists into a wry smirk. "Now who's not good enough?"

It's awful to know that I'm hurting him. If he's feeling even a fraction of what I'm feeling right now, all I want to do is make it go away. "But you are, Ray. You do make me feel...like that. I believe that you love me, Ray, and that you are happy with our relationship, such as it is, for now. But I know...I know that someday it won't be enough for you anymore. We can't get married, we can't go out in public together, we have to keep secrets from the people we care about. I can deal with that, although I wish that things were different. But I don't think that you can. You had Stella, you know what it can be like. What you and she had was real. What you and I have--"

"Fraser, Fraser, Fraser, stop, stop, stop." He waves his hands in front of him, frowning. "Don't go there, okay? That's bullshit. Me and Stel has nothing to do with me and you, except that now I know that you gotta talk about things otherwise you get one person who thinks everything is fine and dandy and one person who's dying to get out and then everything goes to hell. And as for that keeping secrets stuff, you think I wouldn't be shouting it off of all those rooftops you drag me onto if I could? I want to tell everybody I see, every day. People been asking why I'm so happy all the time, you know. You think I don't want to say 'Because I got the greatest guy in the world in love with me'? I'm..." Ray breaks off, tilts his head to one side, and grins broadly. "I know it sounds real dumb but I'm proud of you, Fraser. I'm proud you love me. I'd be showing you off all over the place if I could. But this is Chicago and we're cops and the world is shitty and unfair and I don't want to see you get hurt just for being with me. You get that?"

How does he do that? How does he always manage to say just what I need to hear? "I get it, Ray. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that I hurt you. I'm sorry that I didn't--

" "Fraser?"

"Yes, Ray?"

"Knock it right the hell off," he says gently, pure affection in his eyes. I smile slightly, which makes his face light up. He kisses me soundly and touches my face, tracing my cheekbone and my eyebrow with his thumb. He's picked up all my physical mannerisms; when possible, he does them for me. "Nothing to be sorry about, baby. I'm glad. I'm real glad we understand each other better here. But things still need fixing, you know? Can't just go back into the routine, not when you're feeling all...unappreciated." Ray is speaking more to himself than to me now, working out his thoughts vocally. It's uncanny, being able to visibly witness his mind working. "I should do something special for you, huh? We should go out." My apprehension must be plain on my face because he looks at me intently and says, "No, Fraser, really. I always wanted to, always wanted to go out dancing with you, I only didn't because I didn't want some asshole to say something stupid and make you start having doubts about us or maybe something even worse. But I get what can happen and you get what can happen and we got each other's backs. We don't even gotta worry about people talking, really, we can go somewhere out of the way. It'll be great. What do you say?"

I'm feeling thoroughly superficial because the idea of an evening out with Ray, going to dinner and dancing and holding hands and all the things real couples are supposed to do, makes me so happy. I know that it is simultaneously a very simple and very important thing. "I think...it sounds wonderful, Ray."

Ray hugs me, an embrace full of warmth and security and unwavering love. "Great. Greatness. And by the way, Benton Fraser," he says, a kiss of breath against my ear. "That other thing you said? About how we can't get married?" Ray shakes his head firmly and laughs. "Any day of the week, Fraser. Any day."

What can I say to that? I hold him tighter and exhale slowly. It feels as thought I've been holding my breath for months. The ache in my chest has been replaced by a nearly foreign, completely sweet sensation; honest happiness. And I let myself feel it, for once, because Ray is here to keep me safe, just as I am here for him. How could I think that this was wrong? Maybe only because I had no frame of reference to define something so absolutely right.

It's springtime in Chicago and everything is just as it should be.