Title: False Spring

Author: Seana Renay.

Series/Sequel: Part three of what I'm tentatively calling the "Seasons of Love" series. (I know it's cheesy. Sue me, I'm a Rent fan.) Follow-up to March Snow and Winter's End.

Pairing: Fraser/Kowalski.

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

Summary: Wherein Ray talks down a jumper, Fraser laughs at God and the $64,000 dollar question is asked.

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

Feedback: Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Date: March 2001.


"This has to end, Ray."

That's the first thing I hear, walking in the door.

Not 'Hello, Ray', not 'How was your day, Ray?' No, the first thing I get is 'This has to end, Ray,' and Fraser looking at me like I just shot the damn dog.

"What has to end, Fraser?" I'm getting a weird feeling like I'm unwelcome, even though this is my apartment. Coat, boots, and holster fall in a little trail behind me and I walk toward the fridge because I don't think I can make it through one of Fraser's Serious Talks completely sober tonight.

"This," he says really calmly, like that explains everything and I'm an idiot because I don't get it. He gestures around the living room. What, he wants me to move? "Everything. Us. We have to....It has to end."

I leave the fridge door hanging open and stare at him.

He meant that. Shit, he really meant that. Fraser's breaking up with me. Oh, this is not fair. I have had the motherfuck of all bad days, I am tired, and it is not fair that he's springing something like this on me now, out of the godforsaken blue. You don't just....There's gotta be warnings about something like this, right? There were warnings with Stella, I mean, not that I saw them at the time, but I understand them now. There was nothing like that with Fraser. I would have done something, if there had been. I would have fixed it. He could have told me. And how does he expect me to be able to talk with my chest hurting like this? I feel like he's standing on me and my ribs are going to break. My heart is going to break.

Fraser's breaking up with me.

"Why?" I can't help it, and I know it's a stupid thing to do, but I throw the beer bottle across the kitchen as hard as I can and it breaks, makes a good shattering noise. Surprises the hell out of him. At least that fucking Zenned-out Hindu cow expression changes for a second. "Why?"

He takes a deep breath, and suddenly I'm all out of hurt and right on to pissed, because he's about to start talking to me like I'm six years old and acting out in class, I know he is. "Ray, I need you to under--"

"No! No, Fraser! You just....No. Just wait."

How did this happen? Five minutes ago, I walked in that door, and I knew exactly what was going to happen. Me and Fraser were going to get dinner and then I was gonna try and get him to sit down with me and watch Easy Rider because he's never seen it before and it's on TV tonight and he was gonna like it, I know he was, because it's a kickass movie, and then we were going to have really good sex and then we were going to go to sleep, hanging all over each other like we always do, all curled up nice and warm.

But somewhere between the hallway and the door, I fell into the Bizarro World where we're fighting and he's breaking up with me.

I suck at fighting with him. I suck at it because it's pointless and we both know it. We're meant to be together, me and him. Yeah, there's petty shit that makes us mad at each other sometimes but fighting doesn't do anything because no matter how much we fight or how angry we are, it's not gonna change anything. It's not going to change fate. We can't break up, Fraser and me. We can't, it would be like laughing at God.

This makes me feel better. I settle down a little and sit on the arm of the couch, trying to keep still. I'm gonna give fate the benefit of the doubt here and just hear him out because whatever it is, it's gonna be okay. It has to be okay.

"Okay, Fraser. Tell me why you want to leave me."

He turns big sad blue eyes on me, and he's suddenly a kicked puppy. "I don't want to leave you, Ray."

"Then what's this 'end' garbage, huh?" I want to touch him, but I can't. That would be no fair, that would be a foul, time-out. Because Fraser can't say no to me when I've got my hands on him, he never could. But if he thinks he can do kicked puppy better than me, then this Mountie has a whole 'nother thing coming, because I can pout with the best of them. I could probably trip over the bottom lip I'm giving him now. "What brought this on?"

He's looking at the floor and the door and the wall and the door again like he expected this to be over by now and he's just itching to walk out.

"Come on, Fraser." I stand up and put my hands on either side of his face. Maybe it's not fair but neither is what he's doing. It's awful to think but I bet touching him while I'm asking will get him to answer me.

He just stands there looking down and breathing in kind of funny, like real hard and quick. I can't see his eyes but I think he might be trying not to cry.

Good. Fucking good. He should be crying, he should be sad as all hell for even trying to pull something like this on me. For thinking I'd let him get away with it.

Time to pull out the big guns. I stroke my thumbs over his cheeks and, sure enough, hot little tears fall over them. "Come on, baby. Tell me what's wrong, tell me what I did wrong. Tell me what I can do to keep you with me, okay? I need to keep you with me."

He sighs, all shuddery, and he rests his hands on my hips and his forehead on my forehead and sort of sags against me. "It had to end sometime, Ray," he says, sounding like he doesn't even really think so, like someone just told him that and he took it as the Gospel truth. "It has to end, and I might as well do it myself. Spare us both the pain."

How crazy is he to tell me something like that? To think that shit's going to fly with me? Jesus, he was fine this morning and we were both at work all day, what the hell happened to him?

I want to say something and I'm kind of surprised that I have to take a real deep breath to get my voice working right. Life with Fraser is so good, you know, that this is the hardest thing I've had to do in a while. I tilt his face up and make him look at me, nose to nose, and it's good that it makes me smile because both of us don't need to be crying for this. Then we'd get nowhere.

"Fraser, this is hurting you. Is this hurting you?"

He gives me a couple of fast nods, frowning miserably. "Yes, Ray."

I hug him. I have to. He's shaking like a leaf. "I know. I know, baby, I know, I know, I know. It's hurting me, too, seeing you like this, hearing you say those things. So you gotta figure, Fraser . . . What you gotta figure is, whose pain are you sparing here?"

When did I become the strong one here? That is not a good role for me. I don't get a chance to play it very often and I'm way out of practice. Fraser seems to like it, though, like it gets through to him. Guess he's always had to be the strong one. Hell yeah, he has, fucking six years old and left alone in the woods to build a fire with a rock and a twig, like it was the Flintstone era and not the twentieth fucking century. I know that for whatever reasons Fraser's old man means a lot to him, but if you want my candid opinion here, the guy was seriously twisted. Screwed up priorities and zero heart. And what scares me is that sometimes Fraser seems set on ending up just like him. Fraser is just way too good at being alone.

Only right now he's holding onto me like someone who never wants to be alone again. Like someone who didn't just try to break my heart. "I didn't . . . I never wanted to hurt you, Ray." He's quiet now. That's good. He's using his I'm Sorry, Ray voice, not his You Really Must See Things My Way, Ray voice. That's even better.

I gotta be real gentle with him now, like trying to talk a jumper off a ledge. Any second now he could slip back behind the Mountie Mask, and that thing is one hell of a bitch to get off. "So what, Fraser? You thought I'd say 'Okay, see ya around' and let you walk outta here, no mess, no stress? I mean, I know I've obviously impressed you with my amazing relationship recovery time track record but that's crazy even for me."

He doesn't laugh. He chokes back a sob.

Real nice going there, Stanley. Geez, I'm a moron. "Hey. Hey. Hey. Look at me. Fraser, look at me. You thought I'd give you up without a fight? I love you." I'm about to lose it now, go weak-kneed and desperate. Can't let this one go, not Fraser. If anything was ever for real, it's gotta be me and him. Otherwise nothing makes sense anymore, not a damn thing. "I love you, baby." He has to know how hard this is hitting me if I'm calling him that. It's embarrassing as fuck-all to call a guy that could kick your ass six ways to Sunday 'baby', but sometimes I just can't help myself. It just slips out. When it comes to pet names, my red-blooded, beef-eating, American male reflexes have zero gender bias. Kind of like the rest of me.

He's kissing my neck without any real purpose at all. What he's doing is just sort of banging his lips against me over and over, and actually hitting my neck is maybe what you'd call a happy accident. He's got those big arms wrapped all around me like it's the last time he'll ever get to touch me and, knowing him, he probably thinks it is.

I don't want to say this. I don't know what else to say. "Tell me you can walk away and not look back. Can you look at my eyes and say those words to me?"

He takes that as a personal challenge, I guess, because now he's pulling back away from me but he leaves his hands on my waist like he just can't let go. He looks terrible, and my heart's broken all over again. I didn't make him look like that, I know I didn't. But I let him get himself all worked up without even knowing anything was wrong. I wonder how long this has been going on. "I can . . . Yes, I can, Ray. And I will."

Okay, could I have picked a dumber question? Of course he's gonna say yes, he's got that noble chin sticking out even though it's trembling and he's looking like this is the highest damn high road anyone has even taken in the history of human virtue. Well, damn that all to hell. "That is where you're wrong, Fraser. But we don't have to talk about that right this minute. We got other things to cover first." Now, I do want to say this. Damn right I do. Because if I ask him and he lies, I might as well let him walk out the door because I will have lost my Benton Fraser for good. "I just need to hear one more thing. Can you tell me one more thing, Fraser?" "Don't talk to me like I'm a child, Ray," he snaps, letting go of me and backing up. That last question got him in a twist again. Stupid me, I had to remind him why we're fighting in the first place.

I just look at him, at his face, trying to see past all that. Fraser can be as cold as he wants, he can put so many layers between him and me, he can hide behind order and structure and rules and codes and discipline, but he knows that in the end he can't hide from me. That's not who he is. And I can do him one better than all of that because where Benton Fraser is concerned, I have the patience of a goddamn fucking tree. I waited almost three years just to kiss him. Hell, I waited thirty-six years just for him to come along, my real true love storybook guy. My adventure. My happy ending. And I'm sure as shit not gonna let him go now.

"You wanted..." He hesitates, clears his throat, and looks right above my eyes, setting his mouth in a mean line.

I want to scream. I've never wanted to punch anyone so bad as I want to punch the guy I love right in his perfect face. How can he want to give this up? I'd just as soon give up breathing. Just as pointless, just as laughable, really. There are things you don't fuck with in this world and love, love like mine and Fraser's, is numero uno on the list.

"You wanted me to say something else before I go," he says finally.

"Listen to me, Fraser, you just screw that leaving shit." I reach around the back of his neck and pull his head closer to mine, shaking him a little. He wants to get serious, I'll get serious right the fuck quick. "You are not moving from that spot until I get some answers."

No, that's wrong. Damn it, I can't even think, how does he expect me to think like this? I don't think I could argue right now to save my life. Which puts us in piss-poor condition, because suddenly it feels like that's exactly what I have to do. Save my life. Not only mine but his, too. He needs me. Fraser needs me to be strong. God, it helps just thinking that.

"No. No, I was wrong, all I need is one answer, Fraser. Just one. After that, if you want to walk, you can walk. I can't stop you."

"I'm waiting, Ray. What do you want from me?"

I touch his face again and let my fingertips slide over his ears and down his cheeks. "Eyes, Fraser."

He looks up and it's like he's not even in there anymore. I don't even want to think about what's in his eyes, I don't want to figure that out.

Got to be strong. Have to. For Fraser.

"You want to go, you've got every right. You want to leave me, leave everything we have here, that's your decision. But before you do . . . Before I can let you go, Fraser, I need to hear you tell me that you don't love me. I need to hear it and see that it's the truth. Otherwise nothing ends here when you walk out that door. All we're gonna be is apart and lonely and cold and miserable and I don't want that. So you need to tell me if it's true or you need to stay and try to let me fix what's wrong here." I drop my hands from his face and put one over his heart and one over mine. It's like something from a cheesy movie but it feels so right. I need to feel that to get through this. I look back into his eyes and there they are, those depths so deep I could drown in them.

"Do you love me, Fraser?"

That didn't sound as weak as I was scared it might. It sounded like just what it was. A challenge. A dare.

Dare you to let me in, Fraser. Dare you to let it out. Dare you to love me back.

He closes his eyes. I watch him. I wait.