used to have conversations like this:
“Pass the syrup, Frase?”
“Certainly not, Ray.”
“Oh, c’mon. I can’t eat pancakes without maple syrup!”
“Well, firstly, that travesty in your cupboard is not
something I would ever describe as ‘maple syrup’,” Fraser
crossed his arms obstinately, “and secondly, we are supposed
to be having traditional pancakes.”
“Syrup is traditional!”
“I think you’ll find that’s not the case in England, Ray,
where tradition calls for lemon juice and sugar.”
“Euch! Lemon and sugar? That is beyond gross, Frase.”
Ray threw down his fork in disgust.
“Actually, Ray, I think you’ll find it’s quite palatable—”
“That isn’t going anywhere near my palate.”
And now he had conversations with himself that went like
“Maybe I should do a wash. Oh, and tomorrow I gotta remember
to file the notes I made on the Johnso—no idiot, don’t
think about work, it’s a day off! Remember those? Ok,
so I’ll put a wash on and then go to the park. Nah, it
looks like it’s gonna rain. I wonder what’s on TV?”
And then he’d spend the rest of the day flicking between
infomercials. And that was possibly the most depressing
thing of all – the pile of crap slowly accumulating in
his cupboard: exercise tapes and fat-free grills and weird
devices to open bottles of beer by attaching it to your
counter-top except he didn’t have a drill.
Kissing was ok.
Ray figured it was kinda like the first course. It was
like eating those little shrimp things with your fingers,
before you got to sit down and start the proper meal (a
big T-Bone steak with potatoes, or a generous portion
of chicken noodles from that place round the corner).
Or, maybe it was like sitting in the audience of a boxing
match versus actually taking part. You got a snack, a
nice view, but none of the good sweaty stuff.
So, yeah, kissing was ok. But recently, it had been all
Ray had been able to think about. He went to see this
movie, some crappy movie, with Huey and Dewey, and there
was this scene in it with a kiss, and damn that was a
kiss something. And Ray hadn’t gotten laid in way too
long if just a kiss was doing this to him, but… damn.
And so, yeah, he blamed that movie. Because a month later
– an un-laid month later – he flew out to the top of the
world, and did something really really stupid.
They used to leave notes like this:
Frase – We’re going to the movies later with Huey and
Mrs. Huey. See you there at 8 (the one round the corner
from the place with the good fish). Vecchio (ha ha)
Ray – I have already informed you that I am unable to
attend due to obligations at the Consulat du Canada. Sometimes
I wonder if you listen to me at all. BF
Frase – Mrs. Garvey called, gone to her place to get her
statement. Meet me there. Ray
Ray – I think the milk in your fridge may be past its
Frase – I’m in the laundry room – basement. Bring me a
And now they say:
…Things are quiet here; not much to report I’m afraid.
Nothing anywhere near as exciting as the hijinks that
ensued on your last visit. I thought that there may be
some illegal poaching going on over at Allan Creek, but
upon further exploration it emerged that it was simply
natural causes that had triggered the drop in population
levels. Of course, this is an encouraging development
– no news is good news as Grandmother used to say, and
I always was more comfortable with a quiet existence,
Which reminds me – how is Chicago? Please send my regards
to Lieutenant Welsh.
I was wondering if you were planning on taking advantage
of some accrued holiday leave soon? Obviously I don’t
mean to be presumptuous – I know that Northern Canada
is probably your last prospective holiday destination
(didn’t you once mention Hawaii?) but I wanted to check
as, just in case you were thinking you might like a change
of scenery, I may invest in one of those sofa beds that
you have in your apartment. Yours was quite comfortable,
I seem to recollect – a nice, firm mattress. Also, in
anticipation of your arrival, I would need start stocking
up on beer as soon as possible. (I am joking, of course.)…
…there is no such thing as a comfy sofa bed, Frase.
That’s, you know, anathema or whatever. But, yeah I was
thinking of maybe coming up over the summer. If you have
other plans then fine, of course, but I thought maybe
we could do that blanket toss thing you were telling me
about. It sounded like fun. I know I’m not the most likely
guy for Inuit local rituals but I was kind of looking
forward to it. Write me and tell me when would be good
for you. I can take up to two weeks, but if that’s too
long then just say. I don’t want to outstay my welcome.
One day, in a fit of fancy or something, he put in a P.S.:
I’ve run out of milk – will you pick some up on your
And he figured Fraser would think he’d gone batshit. But
when he finally got the letter in return, Fraser had put
his own P.S. right back:
Certainly, Ray. I’ll be by about seven. Please can
you ensure that the popcorn is salty and not sweet this
time, you know Diefenbaker has a sweet tooth and popcorn
is just not good for his digestive system.
And, yeah, that just about killed him, so he didn’t try
Ray didn’t want to think too closely about why he only
seemed to feel… not-empty, when he was away from Chicago.
He thought maybe it was the job, which was so much less
fun when there was no one around to jump on cars or taste
(There were conversations that sucked now too:
“He got away! How could you let him get away?!”
“He got on the 277! I couldn’t catch him in time!”
“Well, you suck. And now we’ve lost our only lead. Maybe
we could figure out where he’d been today, follow him
backwards or something.”
“You suck. And how the hell are we gonna do that?”
Ray looking around furtively, before pointing at a large
puddle of mud and motor oil with a size nine footprint
in it. “Lick that.”
He got punched in the face.)
So, yeah, the job totally blew at the moment. Maybe he
needed a new partner. Except he’d been through so many
that Welsh had said to him that if he dumped this one
he’d take Frannie back on full-time as Ray’s partner,
qualifications or none, and Ray would have to live with
So Ray kept his mouth shut and, when he woke up in the
mornings, felt fine for a few seconds before he remembered
that he had to feed Curtis and he’d gotten a parking ticket
yesterday and there was no milk, and he had to interview
that Stolland kid today and, oh yeah, Fraser was fucking
So the days when he woke up on a painful sofa bed with
a bar digging into his back and a crick in his neck from
too-thin pillows were the best ever.
Out there in that vast white wasteland, there were jaunty
Fraser-type things to do. Late breakfasts (well, late
for Fraser) and killing their own dinner, and sometimes
Ray borrowing one of Fraser’s sweaters – apparently they
really knew how to make a soft knit up north.
And they had conversations like this:
“I thought we might…”
“Shall we have…”
“Where shall we go…”
“We’re just here to get some…”
And for some reason that was the best thing ever.
Ray did things he wasn’t proud of.
1. He faked a headache one day so that he could stay on
the sofa, all wrapped up in blankets. Fraser just sat
at the other end and read, and Ray lay with his eyes sometimes
open and sometimes closed and that was the most strenuous
thing he did all day.
2. He stole Fraser’s sweater. (He would wear it sometimes
on Sundays back in Chicago, and sometimes on cold nights
in bed. He said: “No, Frase, I haven’t seen it. Yes I’ve
unpacked, I’m not totally undomesticated! No, I swear,
it wasn’t in with my things. Maybe it got stolen by a
great white bear or something. What? Ok, a great brown
3. He asked Fraser to teach him how to buddy breathe,
and he wasn’t quite sure why, even then, except that his
great friend Mr. Molson seemed to think it was a good
idea at the time. His head was swimming, though, and the
next day he didn’t remember it very well, but he did have
a funny crunchy feeling in his stomach until Fraser made
him scrambled eggs with “mustard and just a little bit
of dill – my speciality, Ray!” and then everything carried
on as normal.
4. Fraser didn’t know, but Ray bribed Dief with anything
he could get his hands on, just so that when Fraser wrote
letters he would say: “Diefenbaker is missing you terribly,
Ray,” and so that when he showed up at the airport Dief
would leap all over him whereas Fraser just gave him a
quiet, warm smile and an outstretched hand.
So they were sitting on the couch. It was a normal night
– or normal for the middle of nowhere. The electricity
was flickering occasionally, and the fire popping and
smelling of pine (Fraser, typically, knew what kind of
wood to use to make the fire smell good. Ray bet no one
else in the world was that sad.)
Ray decided it would be fun to flashback to his unwise
teen years and had picked up a bottle of nail polish from
the local store. Of course, the only colour he could get
was 'Candy Cloud Pink'. Either way, he had somehow conned
Fraser into letting him paint his nails.
He never got that far, though. He sat there with Fraser’s
hand held out in front of him and thought— shit, he didn’t
think at all. He just went ahead and did it. Kissed Fraser.
And it was awful. Godawful. Really, truly, the worst thing
in the entire world. It was— oh, who the hell was he kidding?
It was amazing.
Fraser actually kissed him back for a start – although
he looked as dumbstruck as Ray felt – and they ended up
necking like teenagers on the couch, Ray cross-legged
and awkward, still clutching the nail polish; Fraser craning
his upper body round uncomfortably, hands clutching the
couch cushions. Neither of them moved for like an hour.
Well, except for their mouths and tongues and breathing
faster and head tilting and stuff. Neither of them moved
And, eventually, they stopped kissing and moved away from
each other, not speaking, sitting facing forward until
Fraser abruptly stood up and bid him goodnight.
Ray, trying not to be so hyper-aware of his swollen lips
and the taste of Fraser on his tongue, had not pulled
the mattress out that night. He’d just lain on top of
the couch until he drifted off – doing his damnedest not
to think at all. About anything.
He figured maybe kissing wasn’t such a small thing after
all. Maybe it was a pretty big deal and could be all that
you could think about, like you were still fourteen and
Stella had just planted one on you while showing you her
Dad’s vintage motorbike in their huge shady garage.
They didn’t talk about it for the rest of the holiday,
and Ray made no plans to return.
Back in Chicago, Ray kissed three women in the next three
months. The first was a back-on-the-horse kiss, and wasn’t
a success. But then, it followed the pattern of the entire
date, which consisted of him buying her flowers that made
her nose swell up like Bozo the Clown, the waiter spilling
ice water down her back and, finally, running into Huey
and Dewey on the walk home – Dewey asking where his girlfriend
Benton was. Ray really did almost pop him one that time.
The second girl was called Antoinette (if you believe
that) and he asked her out to see a movie. It was about
poetry, so he figured it would be a good date movie, but
halfway through these two guy poets started having sex
and Ray lost all interest in anything remotely resembling
a date. They had been necking in their seats, Ray kind
of getting into it, and then suddenly he’d noticed that
on the screen the guys were getting as much action as
he was. He’d pulled away.
The third kiss was drunken and he didn’t remember very
much except he was in a bar, she was wearing a leather
skirt, and the floor of the bar was gritty and sticky
against his passed-out cheekbone when he woke up.
This time, Fraser wrote his own P.S:
Would you mind bringing some tinned cranberries when
you come for Christmas? It is difficult to get them here,
and I know you like them with your turkey.
So Ray went back to visit at Christmas, bringing gifts
and cranberries. Fraser smiled warmly when they met at
the airport, and clasped his shoulder in a manly fashion,
as Dief bounced around and sniffed out the pastry Ray
was hoarding in his bag. “Ray!” exclaimed, as he was wont
They went back and had stew for dinner and Ray updated
Fraser on any news – missing out the kisses – and they
chatted on the sofa for a bit, and then Ray decided he’d
like to go to bed early because, well, it was a long flight.
Fraser more than understood, and helped Ray to make his
bed up, and Ray wondered if maybe they should set up some
personal space rules because at one point they were stretched
out tucking in sheets and happened to kiss again, as can
sometimes happen, and this time it went on for way longer,
and ended up kind of horizontal, although Ray was uncomfortable
half-sprawled on the sofa cushions.
Ray woke up the next morning, aware of the muffled wind
and trees caused by heavy snowfall, and a feeling of happiness
where he should feel leaden and awkward. He ignored the
happiness and did his best to feel awkward.
So he and Fraser did holiday things, and defrosted turkeys
and made gravy and Fraser told him how to make stuffing
the traditional way – another gross piece of information
he could have done without – and they didn’t kiss at all.
Well, maybe once – there was a mistletoe incident – but
it was all over in minutes, and Ray didn’t think it was
significant – more like Christmas cheer.
They wrote more letters when he was back in Chicago:
P.S. I think you should come here next time.
P.S. Please tell me your email address as I am soon to
be fully equipped for the internet at the detachment.
Apparently the RCMP are moving into the 21st century.
P.S. Bring with you a bumper pack of M&Ms?
P.S. Diefenbaker is missing you terribly – it is quite
P.S. Saw Thatcher on the news last night – that moustache
P.S. I must remember to bring that photograph of the latest
litter. They are quite adorable.
P.S. Welsh says not to bother bringing him a souvenir.
He says he doesn’t understand them.
P.S. I miss you.
P.S. I didn’t know you liked Snickers bars!
This was becoming a habit, Ray decided hazily, as they
kissed in the front seat of the GTO. They were parked
in a secluded dark corner of the parking lot at O’Hare,
and Fraser’s eyes had been glittering dangerously since
he met him at baggage claim.
Their habit went like this: they were doing something
practical, normal, totally ordinary. Like walking down
a snowy slope, or looking under the hood of Fraser’s car,
or passing in a doorway, or throwing Fraser’s bags into
the back of the GTO.
And then they would look at each other and not smile and
not say something flippant and then – bam – they were
kissing. And they never touched, at all, save for on their
mouths. They sat, Fraser’s one hand clutching the dashboard,
his other on the seat between them, and kissed sweetly,
hotly, slowly, and then fast, until Fraser was flushed
and Ray stalled the car twice trying to pull out of the
Also, they never talked about it. Stella would have been
talking his ear off right about now, Ray thought, asking
for explanations, rationalisations, where-are-we-going-with-this-es.
But Fraser simply kissed him and then turned away to point
out a set of bear tracks or to tell him the light had
And, later that night, they kissed horizontally again,
on the sofa, with ice hockey and pizza in the background,
and Ray decided shakily that it might have been the sexiest
thing ever when Fraser slid a hand tentatively inside
Ray’s white shirt.
Fraser ate so slowly it drove Ray mad. Ray’d wolf down
his meal in two minutes, leaving Fraser to get the right
amount of salt and the right amount of pepper, to arrange
the food on his plate, and take a sip of water, before
eating a mouthful.
Ray always sat in the cinema with his leg jiggling, which
Fraser tried to ignore for as long as possible, until
eventually he was forced to lean over and say something.
Ray would always apologise and then, slowly, it would
start happening again, and Fraser could feel the back
of his chair shaking rhythmically, the floor thrumming,
the people down the row glaring at them.
This time, he called a halt to the jogging knee by putting
his hand on Ray’s thigh with the full intention of taking
it off immediately. But Ray went still, and in response
so did Fraser, and ended up leaving his hand there, staring
blindly at the cinema screen.
That night they kissed on a bed for the first time, and
Ray drew Fraser’s hand down until it rested on his thigh,
their breathing loud even against the blare of horns outside.
That holiday they did normal Chicago things, and it was
like it was before. Fraser spoke Cantonese to the people
at the Hong Kong Garden and looked at Ray's notes on the
Benjamin case with him and made him watch educational
TV programmes, and Ray was happy. They still didn’t talk
about their Bad Habit (as Ray had taken to calling it)
but Ray wasn’t minding it so much anyway. It had started
to seem normal, which probably should have wierded him
out more than it did.
And then one day they had a conversation:
“I believe, Ray, that you’ll find that what you’re actually
looking at here is—”
“Hey, Frase, you ever think about moving back here?”
Fraser paused and scratched his eyebrow. “Well not really,
Ray,” he said gently. “I’m very happy where I am, you
Ray looked down at his hands, which were holding a bottle
of beer. “Yeah, I know,” he nodded slowly. “But it would
be nice, I guess.” He took a deep swig and stared out
at the window. There was a fly trapped between two panes
of glass where the window was propped open, buzzing furiously.
“Yes,” said Fraser. “It would be nice.”
There was a moment of silence, and Ray thought how loud
everything here was compared with up north. Wondered why
the hell he’d thought Fraser would ever want to give that
He could feel Fraser looking at him, and then Fraser set
down his glass of water and scooted closer along the couch.
Ray met his eyes, and Fraser looked really serious, like
he was going to say something bad. But he just plucked
Ray’s beer out of his hands and took a swig – Ray raised
his eyebrows and Fraser grimaced at the taste, before
he put the bottle down on the coffee table with a click,
and leant over to kiss Ray.
There was always a moment here where it seemed not so
much like kissing as a confrontation. That, for a split
second, they were both willing the other person to pull
away, to punch them or laugh or something. And then, usually,
they sank into it.
But this time there was nothing except Fraser’s tongue,
coolly-laced with beer, slowly exploring his mouth, hands
pulling him closer, one on the back of his head. Ray felt
totally consumed by it, relaxing completely to the now-familiar
brush of Fraser’s jaw against his own, falling back slightly
and pulling Fraser down with him.
Fraser lay on top of him, and they rocked against each
other with a motion slow and wave-like, and Ray felt like
he was drowning.
Fraser went back home, and Ray went back to his apartment.
They wrote emails and everything went back to the way
it was. Not before Fraser went away, not in the past few
months, more like the way it was when Fraser first left,
like they both wanted to shout at each other but didn’t
quite know why.
They wrote emails, often one-liners all throughout the
day, like they were chatting over a case:
Frannie just popped in with #5 and #2 – they send their
love. #4 is called Fraser, did I say? I’m having an egg
salad sandwich for lunch, what about you?
Diefenbaker stole an entire ham out of the pantry last
night, and is consequently as sick as, well, a dog, at
the moment. I give him no sympathy.
I found your sweater last night. It was inside one of
mine. I’ll wash it and mail it to you.
There is no need to do that, Ray. Keep it until the next
time you visit.
And Ray seemed to get angrier and angrier until it was
all welling up inside him like a blocked pipe in an old
Tom and Jerry cartoon, getting ready to burst.
He snapped at everyone at work, and at night all he could
think about was the last time with Fraser, when he had
asked him to move there, to be with him, and Fraser had
said no and then they had gone to bed, really gone to
bed, for the first time, like it was some kind of consolation
prize, and then Fraser had flown home as-scheduled the
And partly Ray was pissed at himself, that he could be
so selfish as to want to deprive Fraser of everything
that he loved just so Ray could have him to himself. But
Ray couldn’t help that selfishness, that deep-down belly
craving for Fraser’s skin and hair and teeth and eyelashes.
It consumed him and scared him because all he wanted was
to indulge it, and he already knew that was dangerous.
And then one day, he was on an airplane. It was just like
that, a snap of the fingers; he’d been thinking about
it for weeks and months and suddenly there it was happening.
He was on a plane, and then he was in a truck with a local
called Herb, and then he was on the high street, and then
the front steps, and then, wham! there he was, standing
in front of Fraser.
“Because it’s like this, Frase,” he said, as though they
were in the middle of an argument.
“Ray!” Fraser exclaimed, as he was wont to do.
“You do one thing, you say another, I mean, how’s a guy
supposed to take that?”
“Ray, did you just fly in? You look exhausted! Sit down.”
Ray paced, “You sit with me and talk with me and write
me these letters, pages and pages – how long does that
take you, anyway?! – and then you go away again, and you
write emails and send me bags of M&Ms and remind me
to buy turtle food because you have some sixth sense that
it’s running out and I’m tearing my hair out over here,
“Ray, please, calm down—”
“And you call us ‘we’, ‘we’re going into town later’,
‘we could listen to the concert on the wireless’, we we
Fraser gripped Ray’s shoulder’s tightly and forced him
backwards into a chair. Ray felt the tight grasp and felt
Fraser went to say something. He opened his mouth, slight
frown between his brows, consternation in his eyes – Ray
knew all the signs of when Fraser was going to say something.
But no sound came out.
They sat there in silence for a long time, Fraser kneeling
on the floor in front of Ray, hands on Ray’s shoulders.
Ray could hear someone typing outside, the occasional
rumble of a highly practical automobile – no GTOs out
here – a dog barking.
They sat there as Fraser thought, and Ray knew better
than to rush him, knew that Fraser was working stuff out
and that, even if he didn’t like what he’d eventually
hear, at least… at least he’d have his answer.
So they sat there, until Fraser sighed and his hands dropped
from Ray’s shoulders. Their eyes met.
“Live here with me.” Fraser said in a rush.
Ray’s mouth dropped open. “What?!”
“Live here with me, Ray. Move here. I know it’s selfish
but… I don’t want to go back to Chicago and as I apparently
can’t stand any more polite meaningless emails either,
and— live here with me. Please.”
On their fridge door:
Fraser, that milk is disgusting by now. How many times
do I have to ask you to get some from the store on your
way home? R x
Ray, did you feed Diefenbaker beer last night? He was
not on top form today. BF
Ben, I’m out of clean clothes. Does this mean we have
to take all our laundry fifty miles into town? Or do you
have some magic Inuit cleaning spell?
Ray - I’ll be back at seven. I love you. B x