Seen and Unseen

by Dira Sudis

Many, many beta thanks to Iulia for telling me the first draft was boring and making me do it all over again.

"Ray," he called. "Ray, Ray--" Fraser looked up from the tracks he'd found at the edge of the alley, to where Ray was pacing, stiff-legged, the evidence bag in his hand, his hands jerking in small frantic motions as though he were carrying on some silent argument, and cut himself off with a snap of teeth.

He straightened up, brushing off the knees of his uniform pants though they hadn't actually touched the pavement, and stepped into the periphery of Ray's unstable and highly elliptical orbit. When Ray stopped walking and looked at him, his fist clenching on the small plastic bag, Fraser said nothing, merely extending a hand toward the spot he'd been studying. Ray walked over and crouched down, staring at the twin impressions in the urban slurry of mud and leaves and litter for a moment before he asked, in an obviously controlled voice, "What'm I looking at, Fraser?"

"Heel prints," he said, "a match for the victim's shoes. There's also blood--" he pointed to the small rusty smear on the brick wall, and saw by the small convulsive tightening of Ray's left hand that he recalled the raw scrape on the dead girl's palm.

"God damn it," Ray said, running one hand through his hair, "He fucked her right here, right up against the wall."

Fraser merely pressed his lips together, and gave a slight nod when Ray looked at him. It did seem likely, given the width of stance, and the evidence of recent intercourse found in the autopsy.

"And no sign he hurt her bad in the process, so they're gonna say it wasn't rape," Ray said, bouncing up to his feet and starting to pace again. "They're gonna say she was a hooker, Fraser, a hooker or just a slut, and either way she was asking for it, it's just one of those things that happen, bad girls get whacked sometimes. He fucked her right here, Fraser, fifteen feet from the street, and nobody noticed, and nobody cared, and they're gonna go right on not caring, you know that?"

Fraser judged that, given Ray's current level of agitation, there was very little he could say that would accomplish anything, so he made a small noncommital noise and tried to interpose himself between Ray and the alley wall, to little effect as Ray only paced faster. "That's the shitty thing about cities, Fraser, nobody sees nothing, nobody cares. This girl's dead and just because she happened to fuck some guy outdoors, nobody cares."


"He fucked her right here, Fraser, and maybe we can't prove it was rape but no girl with a choice in the matter fucks a guy in an alley full of trash, and then he took her, she was already bleeding and he took her two blocks away, walked down the street with her and nobody looked, nobody cared, and he took her back to that room and fucking strangled her with a phone cord, and nobody saw anything and nobody is going to tell us anything and Welsh is going to tell me to drop it and work on some fucking stolen car because she was just a fucking hooker and nobody, nobody cares--"

Ray was one furious stride from the opposite wall of the alley, and as he drew back his fist, Fraser saw it all in his mind's eye: Ray hitting the wall with all the force of his fury, breaking those small bones so that whenever it rained his hand would ache, and he would always remember this case, this alley, this despair. Fraser couldn't bear to let that come real, and took two running strides across the space that separated them, catching Ray's wrist and hauling him back, spinning on that momentum until his own back was against the wall, his left arm wrapped tight around Ray's chest and his right hand hard around his wrist.

Ray attempted to push free, and Fraser knew he was riding the tiger now, and that if he let Ray go in this state, he'd only have redirected his partner's violence from the wall to himself. He had no interest in finding out if they could endure another such experience, and used all his weight to hold Ray back, even as he put his mouth nearly against Ray's ear. "Yet here we are," he whispered, fiercely, before Ray could say a word, "here we are, investigating, so obviously we care, Ray. We care, and we will find out what happened, and we will obtain justice for that girl, because that is how cities work. A few of us are charged to care, for all those who can't bear to."

Ray took a deep breath, and Fraser instinctively tightened his grip, holding Ray harder to himself, but the breath was released in a long sigh, and instead of pulling away when Fraser loosened his hold in response, Ray relaxed against him, dropping his head down, exposing the nape of his neck. "We care, huh?"

Fraser knew a moment's uncertainty, and then gave in and did what felt natural, and leaned his forehead against the back of Ray's, aggressive blond hair brushing against his closed eyes, his lips just above the collar of Ray's t-shirt as he spoke. "Yes, Ray, we do. I'm sure you know that. It's the only thing that makes the city survivable, knowing that someone cares, caring about someone. Knowing that someone does see, and seeing someone in turn."

Ray did straighten up, then, and turned under Fraser's arm, til they were face to face, a breath apart, eye to eye almost too close to focus. "You care, huh? You see?"

"As do you, Ray," he said, softly, dropping his gaze to Ray's mouth as it shaped more words.

"And you care. And I care. And we do that together, huh, Fraser? Can't care all by yourself, gotta have a partner for that or it just drives you crazy."

Fraser opened his mouth to speak, and saw Ray's mouth open in mirror image; when he tilted his head right, Ray's tilted left, and when he leaned forward, his mouth met Ray's. Their tongues touched, breath mingled, and Ray's eyelids shivered shut a moment before Fraser lost all track of everything, because he was kissing Ray.

When the kiss broke, Ray leaned back a little, and Fraser watched him swallow, and raise the back of his hand to his lips. "We care," Fraser whispered. "That's how we survive."

Ray's eyes shut again for a moment, and then he straightened up, nodding. "We care. We care so much we gotta get back to the station and find out what forensics can tell us and--" his eyes opened again, and he smiled suddenly, blinding-bright, and Fraser knew he would feel this ache in his chest again every time the sun came out from a leaden grey sky. "God, Fraser, I fucking love you."