D R A W N, for the Ink challenge, by serialkarma and lalejandra
Title: D R A W N
Authors: serialkarma and lalejandra
Word Count: Way Over (2,641, if you must know)
Ray writes on himself when he thinks no one is looking – and he thinks no one notices. But Benton does. Benton notices when he writes on himself, and he notices that Ray writes on himself when Benton isn’t around too. He sees lines of text curling out from underneath Ray’s sleeves, just touching his wrist. Once he noticed that Ray had scribbled L O V E across the knuckles of one hand and H A T E across the knuckles of the other.
Sometimes Ray notices that Fraser notices, and sometimes Ray does it just to make Fraser notice – sometimes Ray writes C U R L I N G on the inside of one wrist and S U C K S on the inside of the other wrist. And the “SUCKS” is always slightly crooked, because he’s not ambidextrous, although he tries.
Once, Ray let a woman write her phone number on his wrist. Her name was Wanda June and she was from Wisconsin and she had a shiny smile, so he couldn’t hurt her feelings by telling her that nineteen was a little young for him – and when did that happen anyway?
And he didn’t shower the next morning because he got a call at four AM that pulled him out of bed, so he called Fraser and pulled Fraser out of bed too, because if Ray has to get up and do cop shit, Fraser has to, too. And when his sleeve slipped up, Fraser got all stiff with him and told four stories about his father and Buck Frobisher, and it wasn’t until Ray got home that night and took a shower that he realized Wanda June’s name and number was on his left wrist in bubbly Catholic schoolgirl script.
What Ray really wants to do, though, is to write all over Fraser. He wants to take a black felt-tip pen and scribble up the inside of his pale arms and in the hollows at the backs of his knees. He’d be tempted to draw wings over Fraser’s shoulder blades but that would probably be a little obvious. Not to mention he can’t really draw.
And he wants to find somewhere, maybe right across Fraser’s forehead or something, to mark Fraser as his. A big sign that says
R A Y ‘ S so that everyone can see and know.
Except he knows, deep down, that what it would really mean is that Ray is Fraser’s.
It’s a slip of the brain, like brain fever or something, and it does not make any sense at all. There’s some Canadian thing happening to Ray, he can feel it, making him gay and weird. Or maybe just honest, because if he’s going to be honest, he’s going to have to say that he’s always been a little bit gay and more than a little bit weird. If he’s going to be Stella, he’s going to have to say that he’s always been “...well, queer, Ray. We both know, ever since – don’t make me say it, Ray. We both know why I had to end our marriage.”
He thinks about Stella and twirls a ball point pen through his fingers and writes, quick, on his ankle, G I R L S S U C K, just like he’s thirteen years old again and fighting with Stella about smoking.
When he looks up, Fraser is looking in the other direction, so Ray throws the pen at him.
Then one night they’re on a stakeout and Ray is, go figure, bored out of his skull. He wants a cigarette, but he knows Fraser hates the smell and he feels bad making the poor guy deal with that on top of being trapped in the car for hours. But he’s fidgety and restless and he needs to do something.
And he’s rummaging around in his jacket pockets for something, anything, whatever, and feels the warm plastic of a Sharpie in the upper left pocket. So he pulls it out, yanks off the cap with his teeth and sucks on it, and starts coloring his fingernails, like he used to do instead of listening to his chemistry teacher in high school.
He’s up to the little finger of his left hand when he hears Fraser saying “Ray? Ray. Ray,” like he’s been doing it for a while.
He lifts his head and looks at Fraser, and Fraser’s holding out his hand towards the pen and saying, “May I?”
Ray looks at the pen and then looks at Fraser. Yeah, sure. He can share. So he hands Fraser the pen and Fraser takes it and then picks up Ray’s right hand, holding it by the wrist. He pulls it over, rests it on his own knee, and begins to draw. Long, curling lines that start at the wrist and swoop up to his knuckles and onto his fingers, a spiral that covers the back of his hand.
Ray’s mouth goes dry.
Benton knows he is, generally speaking, a man who is interested in himself – why he does what he does, what his thoughts mean, where they come from. His almost exact opposite is Stanley Raymond Kowalski, a man who seems to believe that thoughts just appear, that motivations are useless except when they are the motivations of a criminal (and even then they are almost useless). Benton so often feels hopelessly out of his depth with this man, jittery and unpredictable.
And yet not, because Benton knows that Ray will always call him Fraser, never Ben or Benny or Benton. Benton knows that Ray will always jiggle his leg unless he’s drinking coffee, he will always count out seven M&Ms for the bottom of his cup, even if he’s drinking the biggest mug of coffee Benton has ever seen. Ray always has an instinct that is right warring with an instinct that is wrong. If there is a woman, Ray will flirt with her. If there is a pen, Ray will write on himself with it. If there is a chance to underestimate Benton, Ray will take it, somehow.
Benton watches Ray, because how else would he catalogue Ray’s behavior into something he could understand? To observe is to change, though, Benton knows this. To observe is to change, to interact is to change, and as Benton is changed by Ray, Ray is changed by Benton. Perhaps only in minute ways, but to change is to change, and Ray may hate curling and declare it on his wrists whenever he remembers to, but he still watches it, and even gets excited sometimes, and even came with Benton to a bonspiel in Toronto. He complained the entire time, of course, but that is also part of the predictability of Ray: if he has a good time, he must then complain about it so everyone knows he’s miserable. If he’s unhappy, he keeps it quiet, gets silent – or loud – drinks too much coffee – or not enough – and sometimes moves his fingers as though he expects a cigarette to be between them.
Ray has never, to Benton’s knowledge, colored in his fingernails with permanent marker before. It takes Benton’s mind to places he tries to stay away from – Ray in eyeliner, like in the movie about punk rock he dragged Benton to last week. Ray in black nail polish and ripped jeans. Ray in nothing at all. Benton is drawn to images of Ray in his head – is he drawn to Ray himself? Yes, of course, but in order to be answered, the question must first be asked.
He says Ray’s name several times, as he usually does, until Ray looks up at him. Then Benton holds out his hand, says, “May I?” before he can stop himself. No – he could have stopped himself. But for all that Ray is unpredictable and predictable at the same time, he must think Benton – he must think Fraser – entirely predictable. Boring, even. And perhaps he is.
He takes Ray’s hand, which is slightly chilly, and places it on his knee. He thinks about what he will write – PROPERTY OF BENTON FRASER, RCMP – shakes his head slightly, and draws a long curling line that starts at Ray’s wrist and swoops over the back of his hand, down onto his fingers, back up again. A spiral. His own life, smaller at the beginning, larger and larger and larger, until it covers Ray’s hand, runs over his wrist again, and then more curling lines, all intersecting once he’s on Ray’s arm, drawing on the small blonde hairs.
He sucks on his bottom lip in concentration, refuses to deconstruct and examine his thoughts. He will be unpredictable, he will draw the way his life has intersected with Ray’s, and Ray will think it’s just a pretty picture. Perhaps Benton will tell him an Inuit story afterward, just to diffuse the damp, heavy air in the car.
Fraser’s drawing – he’s drawing on Ray’s skin, he’s pushing Ray’s sleeve up out of the way to draw on his arm, now, and Ray wonders how far he’ll go. He has a brief, slightly hysterical flash of Fraser ripping Ray’s sleeve all the way up to his shoulder and just continuing up, up, up, and then what will happen? Will he draw over the tattoo?
The thought of Fraser’s careful, deliberate marks swirling over the red and black Champion logo makes Ray shudder all over and he shifts in his seat. His clothes itch, suddenly. Fraser doesn’t stop, though, doesn’t look up, just tightens his grip on Ray’s wrist as though to keep him from pulling away. Not that that’s going to happen. Ray really, really hopes the bad guys don’t decide to show up anytime soon, because they’d probably be able to set up an illegal gambling ring over the hood of the GTO right now and Ray wouldn’t do a damn thing about it.
The tip of Fraser’s tongue slides out along his lips and Ray has to look away from that, so he looks down at the lines of ink expanding along his wrist. It’s like Fraser’s trying to tell him something here, something he maybe doesn’t have words or even an Inuit story for. The black ink swoops and spirals along his arm, halfway to his elbow now, and he wishes he knew what Fraser is saying in the loops and curves.
Fraser turns his arm over to continue the loop of a figure eight – an infinity sign, some part of Ray’s brain reminds him – and now he’s drawing on the sensitive inside of Ray’s wrist and Ray has to push his head back into the headrest and draw in a shuddering breath.
When the soft felt tip of the pen lands on his palm and draws a whorl at the base of his thumb, Ray’s hand jerks and so do his hips. He can’t bite back a whimper and then, abruptly, the pen stills. Fraser is looking up at him now, and his eyes are dark like the ink on Ray’s arm.
And Ray suddenly knows exactly what Fraser was trying to say.
Benton cannot breathe. He forces air to come in and out, but he must concentrate on it as he concentrates on the ink flooding Ray’s skin, blackest black on palest pale and gold. He drags the marker over Ray’s skin carefully, not allowing the pen to jump over the hair follicles. Every detail is precise – even if Benton is not quite sure what he’s detailing, what it means that the lines fall into particular places.
He marks an infinity sign – breathe in, breathe out – not quite on the inside of Ray’s arm, not on the outside either. On the edge, on the corner, spilling over as he turns Ray’s arm over to draw on the delicate skin on the inside of his arm, down to his – breathe in, Benton – wrist.
A line from infinity, an L shape – the right angle, Benton himself – leading up Ray’s mound of Venus to the base of his thumb, turning into a squiggle – similar, thinks Benton – breathe in, breathe out – and then a whorl, a path back to the palm of Ray’s hand, where he places the factorial n, the unknown.
Benton ends his drawing with an exclamation point after the n, and can hear his grandmother in his head, “...and you can remember to do this by remembering that statements with the factorial always look surprising and important, Benton.” And that is Ray. Surprising and important, the product of himself multiplied by everything that came before – multiplied by Benton – but also unknown.
“Hey. Fraser. Fraser,” says Ray, and Benton looks up at him, pen poised to begin writing again.
“Yes, Ray?” replies Fraser, sounding remarkably more composed than he feels. Of course, he has had quite a lot of practice these last years. All of his years.
“You’re not breathing, Fraser,” says Ray, and Benton feels his lungs take in air, feels the fine hairs on Ray’s arm underneath his fingers, feels the pressure of Ray’s arm and hand on his leg – feels everything. All at once, everything.
“You’re not breathing,” Ray tells Fraser, and he feels Fraser’s fingers tighten on his wrist for a moment, feels Fraser’s leg rise slightly under his arm as his whole body expands to take in air. Fraser’s still looking at him, his eyes still dark and wide, fixed on Ray’s.
It’s too intense, too much, Fraser’s eyes are saying far too much for Ray to deal with all at once, so he looks away, looks down again and blinks when he sees the exclamation mark in the middle of his palm. Huh. It’s weird and out of place, there amidst the swoops and swirls on the rest of his hand. But it’s oddly fitting, all the same. Kind of like Fraser. Like him and Fraser, really. They make no sense, and yet they do, just like that Godel’s theorem thing Fraser told him about. They’re a truth and a lie all at the same time. Two contradictory, opposite things that somehow manage to coexist and maybe, Ray’s realizing now, need each other in order to exist. That thought scares him so much he reaches out, grabbing the pen out of Fraser’s hand. He wraps the fingers of his other hand around Fraser’s wrist and pulls it into his own lap and brandishes the pen.
He has something of his own to tell Fraser.
Benton looks down. Ray’s fingers are longer than his, and slimmer. They are a different color of pale, a darker pink, a lighter white. He looks up, at Ray’s face, at his lines and scars and stubble, his mouth almost the same pink as his fingernails.
He feels the press of the ink onto his palm, but he stares at Ray while the pen moves, and when Ray looks up, Benton does not look down, but looks directly at him. Perhaps everything Benton wants to say is there in his face for Ray to see – certainly Ray’s face is waiting for Benton to read it. There is something there, something beyond a story Benton could tell Ray with words or a marker.
“Before I die of waiting, Fraser,” says Ray, and Benton draws in a long breath through his nose before he looks down at his palm. Coffee, the faint traces of cigarette smoke, chocolate, Ray’s deodorant, which smells oddly of sugar, the scent of spice that must be Ray’s aftershave or cologne. Without tasting it to establish the alcohol content, Benton cannot be sure which it is.
And on Benton’s palm, still held in Ray’s hand, in big block letters, Ray has written R A Y ‘ S.
“All right, Ray,” says Benton, looking up again.
“All right, then,” says Ray, but he doesn’t let go of Benton’s hand.
Notes: Thank you to everyone who happened by and commented while we were fooling around with this earlier today. lalejandra and I had a blast writing this. Also, we beta-ed it ourselves. Go figure.