Ratings: Slash, m/m. Kowalski/Fraser, Kowalski/Turnbull.
Summary: Ray makes an offer which Fraser must decline.
Disclaimers: This was inspired by Basingstoke's lovely Chopsticks and Curling. You should read that first, if you haven't already; not only does this have a better chance of making sense if you do, but there's a lot of hot nookie over there (which, I'm sorry to say, you won't find here). She has very kindly given her permission for this bit of self-indulgence, and anything that doesn't belong to Alliance belongs to her, with the exception of the mistakes, which are all mine.
Note: Despite the title, this is not a Christmas story.

In the Manger
by Sitnah


Fraser's fingers curled anxiously around his fork as he gazed at the television. It was only the sixth inning, but the starter had already thrown one hundred and thirteen pitches -- he couldn't imagine what the manager was thinking, to let his young prospect wear out his arm in that manner. But Ray had spoken to him. "Yes?"

"Frase," Ray said, and suddenly his weight was on Fraser's knees, and his shoulders blocked Fraser's view of the television, which was not something that had happened before.

Fraser laid his fork down. "Ray?"

"I'm trying to get your attention," Ray said, as if that were an explanation.

"Well, you have it," Fraser said after a moment, when it became apparent that no further comment was forthcoming.

"I want more of it," Ray said.

Fraser lifted a thumb to his eyebrow. "How do you mean, Ray?"

"Like this," and Ray leaned forward and placed his mouth over Fraser's. His lips were warm and rather chapped, though not really unpleasant to be… kissing, Fraser supposed. He hadn't known Ray wanted to kiss him. Had he? He drew back a little. "Ray," he said. Ray was still pressing forward, nuzzling at Fraser's cheek and chin in default of his mouth. "Ray, Ray, Ray!"

Finally Ray sat back. "What?"

"You need to stop."

"How come?"

"Because," Fraser said, and words failed him as they always did when this question arose; it had been, each time, one of the most awkward duties he had had to face. But no, at least this time he would be spared the necessity of composing a personal reply to convince and yet avoid offending the questioner. "Because," he repeated. "I'm a heterosexual."

"You sure?" Ray asked. His fingers moved over Fraser's left bicep.

Fraser considered. Indeed, because Ray was his partner, and his friend, he gave the question rather more consideration than usual.

He liked Ray, he knew that, and he knew that Ray was fond of him. He tried to imagine having Ray's warmth next to him as he slept. That was actually rather appealing. Of course, Ray would not want only to sleep. He would want to kiss Fraser. Fraser supposed he could do that; it would be like buddy breathing, in which he had been trained.

Then, Ray would want to take his clothes off -- his own, and Fraser's as well. Perhaps Fraser could convince Ray to give him some time before taking such a step. And Ray would want to touch him. That needn't be unpleasant; after all, Ray would not be attempting to hurt him, but quite the contrary…

…but no. Even if he could bring himself to do what Ray was asking, Ray deserved better. Someone who wouldn't need to try so hard; someone who really wanted him. Fraser drew in a breath, hoping his pause hadn't been so long as to become conspicuous, and said gently, "I'm sure."

"Well, okay," Ray said, and tumbled back off Fraser's lap, settling on the next sofa cushion. "Worth a shot, though, huh?" And he turned his gaze back to the screen.

Fraser found he could not yet do the same. "Are we all right, then? You won't be… angry?"

Ray turned and met his eyes. "C'mon, Fraser, what do you take me for? We're," and his voice softened, "buddies, you and me. You know that."

"Understood," Fraser said, and they didn't speak again until the pitcher was finally, mercifully, removed from the game.

Ray was as good as his word; they continued working together just as they always had, and Fraser put the incident more or less out of his mind. He couldn't help thinking of it again, just a little, when Ray drove him back late one night after the conclusion of a particularly trying case, looking so exhausted that Fraser could only assuage his own concern by asking Ray if he would like to stay at the Consulate, rather than risk life and limb driving home in his current state. Fraser was a little anxious then that Ray not misinterpret his offer, but Ray seemed to understand quite well, despite the trouble he was having focusing his eyes. He spent the night on Fraser's cot, and Fraser slept in his bedroll on the floor, and Ray drove them out for breakfast in the morning before Fraser's duty shift began, and there was no awkwardness between them.

The next evening Fraser opened the door to a conference room and saw Turnbull crouched over Ray. They appeared to be kissing.

Ray did not seem discomposed at being discovered; he merely joked and teased as usual -- but he did want Fraser to leave, and he made no bones about saying so. Fraser answered somewhat at random, closed the door, and reproved Diefenbaker, who seemed disposed to intervene.

In his own office, Fraser tried to examine his feelings. Surprise, of course. And a bit of disbelief -- when he had thought that Ray should have someone, he hadn't exactly been thinking of Turnbull. But, he reminded himself, he had thought someone who really wants Ray, and apparently Turnbull fit the bill.

Fraser searched himself for regret, suspicious of his own defenses, but he could find none. There was, however, a tiny thread of relief -- relief from the guilt of refusing his best friend; relief that he would not, in the end, have to steel himself to accept.

"I'm glad," he said aloud. Dief, who had settled himself next to Fraser's cot, thumped his tail against the floorboards. "Glad for them," Fraser told him. Dief lifted his head and bared his jaws, tongue flopping loosely between them, in a rather canine grin. Fraser turned away and began removing his lanyard. He would have to get used to sharing Ray's attention, that was all.

He lay down eventually and went to sleep with his hand curled in Dief's fur.