Personally, Ray thought it much more important to find out what was going through Fraser’s head than prepare to face a guy who was pissed off because he had lost at something that resembled housework.
He chanced a glance over at his partner but Fraser looked miles away. He was still chewing on his lip which might have meant that he was still lost in the kiss – Ray’s preferred interpretation – but it could just as well mean that whatever freaky objections Fraser had about this thing between them were getting the upper hand again.
Ray had a nervous fluttering in his gut and it definitely wasn’t about the curling guy.
First things first, if they could get past the current situation Ray might get another shot at convincing Fraser – which seemed to work better without words anyway, go figure.
“What do you think? Was McKinnley watching us the whole time?”
Fraser came out of his musings with a start.
“Ah, I don’t think that’s likely. I don’t remember seeing another car when we came back from our walk. I think he only spied on us after we’ve returned,” he paused a moment. “Mr. Conroy’s appearance has probably prevented him from taking any action.”
Ray nodded thoughtfully.
“He’ll be waiting for us, huh?”
Fraser glanced at Ray for a second.
“Ah, yes I’d say so. However, I think he will try to catch me on my own and since he has to believe that I am hiding at the cabin for my own safety it is highly likely that he still considers us unaware of his attention.”
“Okay, so I simply stay close,” Ray shrugged.
“On the contrary Ray. I believe it would yield the fastest results if we provided him with the opportunity to strike.”
Ray looked at Fraser as if he had lost what little grip on reality he’d had.
“Are you unhinged??”
“I will not leave you alone so you can do the noble thing and get shot!”
“This is insane and I know that – for whatever weird Canadian reason – you’re not terribly keen on being alone with me, fine, but-”
“I am not leaving you to your fate just so you can be dead on your own.”
“It would be staged,” Fraser explained as if that should have been obvious.
“Staged?” Ray repeated dubiously.
“Yes, Ray. As soon as we are aware of McKinnley’s presence we stage a fight, create a situation that will lead him to believe that you won’t be coming back anytime soon which provides him with a golden opportunity he won’t be able to resist. You would have to stay hidden but, of course, able to monitor his moves—“
“Yeah, okay, I get it.” Ray relaxed slightly. “I can do that.”
“I know you can,” Fraser said.
They arrived at the cabin and Ray stopped the car a little distance away. They surveyed the area and after a moment of silence Fraser quietly said: “Over there. Look over the roof of the cabin. He has pulled in off the road; the car is almost completely hidden by the group of trees to the left.”
Ray pulled out his glasses and put them on.
“Yeah, I see it,” Ray answered. “Showtime,” he murmured.
Ray parked the car in the driveway and they entered the cabin silently. Inside, Fraser pulled Ray close and pressed his mouth against his ear.
Ray’s heart was trying to jump out of his chest when Fraser’s lips touched his skin because it was beating so hard.
“He might have placed a bug during our absence. We need to keep quiet.”
Ray closed his eyes and breathed Fraser’s scent in as deep as he could. He smelled of pine needles and sunshine and Ray never wanted to let go. Ray nodded quietly and Fraser stepped away.
Before Fraser had even taken more than one step Ray’s hand had closed over Fraser’s.
Fraser met Ray’s gaze steadily and he squeezed his fingers softly before nodding.
“Fraser?” Ray whispered as low as he could.
Fraser whispered back “Yes, Ray?”
“Don’t do anything stupid.” Ray whispered tonelessly before he moved to the door and opened it.
“You know what your problem is, Fraser?” Ray shouted as he turned around. He hadn’t known what he was going to say but frustration broke through without even engaging his brain.
“You still don’t trust me!” Ray accused and for a second he was so surprised at what he had said that he just gaped at Fraser in utter shock. He had not planned to say that at all, he had just thought of inventing something to fight over.
“Ray, I assure you I do trust you.“ Fraser sounded apprehensive and if Ray had to hazard a guess he’d say that Fraser was as surprised by his choice of topic as he was.
“No! You trust me to risk my scrawny ass, you trust me to cover you but you do not – I repeat – you do not trust me, Fraser!” He jabbed two fingers of his right hand in Fraser’s direction. And it was true, that was exactly Fraser’s problem.
“Ray, I-“ Fraser sounded pained but this had been preying on Ray’s mind since it was clear that Fraser was not rejecting him because he didn’t want Ray like that.
“I followed you onto a fucking ghost ship even though I can’t swim and I almost drowned because of it! Dammit! I went on an Arctic quest with you and I’ve never so much as left Chicago before and still—” Ray shouted hoarsely, “I can’t believe you still don’t trust me to stick around!”
“That’s not true, Ray!” Fraser tried to get through but Ray needed to get this off his chest.
“No? Why do you keep pushing me away then? Why are you so damn afraid to let me close?” Ray’s voice almost broke and suddenly he realized where he was. Shit! This was supposed to be a staged thing; they only wanted McKinnley to make his move.
Well, they certainly looked convincing, no problem there. Ray just really, really hoped that the guy couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Ray tried to convey ‘I’m sorry’ with his eyes but he wasn’t sure if he was successful.
“Just forget it!” Ray shouted, willing Fraser to understand that he meant his whole outburst and not just that he was ending this discussion.
Fraser’s lips tightened into a thin line before he took a step back and slammed the door.
“Fuck!” Ray cursed. He could only pray that Fraser was really just play acting. He really hadn’t intended to discuss Fraser’s schizophrenia now of all times.
Ray had to walk further than he had liked to until he reached suitable cover. He didn’t like this at all. They would have to give McKinnley enough time to at least threaten Fraser otherwise they didn’t have any hard evidence against him and Ray was so far away… fuck.
He had to wait for almost twenty minutes with bated breath before anything happened. The moment Ray could make out Paul McKinnley he realized one major flaw in their plan.
Ray had walked out of the cabin and more or less followed the trail since it wouldn’t have made any sense to plunge into the bushes if he didn’t want to appear suspicious but now McKinnley would see him if Ray came out of hiding before he had vanished from sight.
“Fuck!” Ray cursed again.
Before Ray had more time to consider his dilemma McKinnley checked that the coast was clear and moved to the left-hand side of the building, to the window of the back room.
Ray weighed his options but he was pretty sure that Fraser would have taken position in the front room to be able to survey more of the area. Shit, shit, shit.
It only took him a second more to realize that McKinnley must have broken into their cabin during their absence because he had obviously left open the rear window. God, he was so stupid! Why hadn’t he checked the windows before going outside?
McKinnley heaved his upper body through the window and Ray kicked into action, running as if all the hounds of hell were behind him. He couldn’t be more than 30 feet away when crashing could be heard inside of the cabin.
Ray stopped short when he reached the door. Barging in like that would really not help anyone at this point. Think, Kowalski, think.
He flattened himself against the wall and moved to the window to the right of the door. Ray moved his head as unobtrusively as he could and peered into the window.
He could see Fraser just in front of the doorway; he was kneeling and there was a red gash on his forehead but he was conscious and he looked angry rather than hurt so Ray breathed a sigh of relief.
McKinnley stood a little to the left, a baseball bat next to his feet and a gun trained on Fraser’s head.
Ray counted his options. He could try to shoot through the window but chances were that McKinnley would see him move before he was able to do anything.
Using the door or any of the windows of the front room was out of the question, too; the guy had a clear advantage on him as far as entrance opportunities went. No matter which Ray chose he would hear him long before Ray would be able to move.
That really left only one option: the rear window.
Ray crept around the house as fast and as stealthily as he could.
He reached the window and climbed in as quietly as possible. He heard McKinnley talking which he figured was a good thing; as long as he had things to say he was unlikely to kill his audience by shooting Fraser.
Ray knew he had no hope of overpowering him. This wasn’t what he was trying to accomplish. He was only trying to buy Fraser enough time to act.
He stayed out of sight until he reached the doorway. Ray pressed himself close against the wall before he took a deep breath. He pulled his gun and threw himself around the corner.
The moment McKinnley became aware of movement the gun was trained on Ray.
“Uh, hey there, a bit touchy aren’t we?” Ray grinned condescendingly at him.
“You’re a funny guy, eh? Want me to shoot the Mountie?” McKinnley asked and trained his gun back on Fraser.
Ray stood maybe a foot behind Fraser. Fraser was staring McKinnley down with that stubborn look he had when Ray spoke quietly.
“Fraser, remember how I said that I wouldn’t die over something as stupid curling?”
There was an enraged “hey!” from McKinnley but Fraser turned his head to look at Ray with wide eyes.
“You do know that I only falsely accused you of not trusting me, right?”
“Oh, please!” McKinnley shouted.
“Yes, I-Ray what—“ Fraser said, desperately trying to figure out where this conversation was going and hoping that he was wrong.
“I need you to trust me now, Fraser,” Ray said urgently trying to say with his eyes everything he couldn’t say with words and then he took a step forward.
“Stay right there or I’ll shoot you!” McKinnley threatened.
“RAY!” Fraser shouted when Ray took another step – directly in front of Fraser.
Fraser started to stand up, to push Ray out of the way.
McKinnley aimed at Ray’s chest and Ray gave his best devil-may-care smile and trained his gun firmly on McKinnley.
And then McKinnley pulled the trigger.
The sound of the shot was deafening.
And Ray heard Fraser scream his name before the bullet hit him.