by Cara Chapel
Author's Website: http://www.squidge.org/~pumpkin/cara/caraindex.html
Disclaimer: Alliance owns them and they are very unlikely to approve of what I did to Ray.
Author's Notes: A million thanks go out to Fuzzicat for a variety of invaluable assistances. Thanks also go out to everyone who encouraged me to write and post this, especially Basingstoke, for beating me to death with an empty gun. ;)
Story Notes: This is "man gets turned into a woman and gets laid by his best friend, thus learning to want sex with him" shameful horrible gender bender fic. So sue me. It was fun to write. <G>
by Cara Chapel
Warning! This is "man gets turned into a woman and gets laid by his best friend, thus learning to want sex with him" shameful horrible gender bender fic. So sue me. It was fun to write. <G>
Carnies. What could ya do? Ray gasped like a fish in the summer heat as he tried not to trip over tent pegs, guide wires, and a horrible black spaghetti of electrical cables. Dogged, he sprinted after the perp he'd personally witnessed snatching a fat wad of cash from the gypsy fortune-telling booth. Robbing the robbers, as far as Ray was concerned, but the carnival had a license to operate and the fleeing thief didn't.
Ray wished Dief and Fraser were along; he could use someone to cut this guy off at the pass. But then, Fraser probably wouldn't still be chasing him. Fraser would find some kind of crazy, perfectly logical, elegant way to... to...
Ray's eyes fell on a fat black cable paralleling their course, and he skidded to a halt, then leaned down and yanked.
The scream of shrill music from the nearby calliope abruptly went silent, but the robber tangled his feet and went down, thrashing, bills scattering everywhere. Ray was on him in seconds, planting a knee in his back and cuffing him, then gathering the fluttering money. Just a teenager, greasy and defiant and pocked with acne, staring up at Ray with hate and fear.
"Come on, pal." Ray dragged him to his feet and started shoving him back towards the gypsy booth. "Let's get moving."
"I won't press charges." The woman's shawl covered her long dark hair; its beaded tassels swung, glittering crazily in the sunlight. Ray wasn't surprised; with her money back in her pocket, she had no reason to want to turn up in court. She wouldn't even be in town when the court date came up on the docket.
"Yeah, well, then I'll have to let him go so he can do this to somebody else." Ray was already unlocking his cuffs, resigned.
"No, he won't." The woman darted forward, touching her index finger to the center of the boy's forehead. She uttered something in a language Ray didn't know. The kid flinched and jerked, pulling the single remaining locked cuff out of Ray's hand and running off with it still attached, yelling something creatively profane, but otherwise unintelligible. Ray blinked. There went a damned good set of cuffs, and he was going to have to fill out paperwork in triplicate to requisition another pair, and he didn't even have a bust to show for it. Fuck.
"You're a good boy." She eyed him with speculative fondness, reminding him oddly of his mother in spite of her bangles and gaudy trappings. "Let me reward you for your good deed. I can tell your fortune."
"Well, I'm kinda busy--" and he was; Frannie didn't have a boyfriend to win her a stuffed animal and she'd been moping about it ever since she saw the ad for the carnival. So Ray was going to find a target shooting game, let it fall that he was a cop so they'd unrig it, then win her the biggest bear they had to offer and leave it for her to find on her bed. And flatly deny the whole thing, when asked. Knowing her, she'd get some crazy idea that Fraser'd done it as a symbol of his secret devotion and Ray would be off the hook, even though Benny might be dodging his sister's determined adoration for the next six months.
The old woman was relentless; she was dragging him inside her pink-draped parlor and pushing him toward one of the two chairs there, behind a dingy 'crystal ball.' Ray shook his head. "Look, I appreciate it, but I gotta be going. Just watch the money better next time, all right?"
Ray was too well conditioned as the son of an Italian mama to ignore that tone, so he sat. Might as well enjoy the ride. Sweat started to trickle down his back, staining his suit. The air was stifling.
She laid her fingertips on the ball, and as expected, Ray watched it light up, knowing she had her foot on an electric switch. "You lead a dangerous life," she mused in rich husky tones.
Yeah, and she already knew he was a cop. Ray tried not to fidget. "You're batting a thousand, there."
"You have fine friends and comrades, but you do not let them close to you." She frowned and Ray did fidget this time. Most men could say that, though. Just generalizations, with enough universally applicable truth in them to mingle with the few truths she knew and make things sound authentic. "You are sad."
Ray blinked, then shrugged. "I do all right."
Still looking into the ball, she frowned. "There are many secret truths you do not wish to hear spoken." Abruptly the light inside the ball extinguished, and Ray sighed with relief, glad it was over-- he didn't want to know what kind of secrets she thought he might have. He stood and she did also, following him around the edge of the table toward the flap of the tent.
"A blessing for gaining your heart's most secret wish, Raymondo." The old gypsy woman lightly ran her gilded fingernails down the side of his face, a crackle of static electricity making him flinch. No wonder, with all the polyester scarves she had swathed everywhere.
"Yeah, thanks. Remember what I said about watching the till." Ray made his escape, blinking owlishly in the bright exterior light. The air was thick and heavy with the stench of gasoline generators and cotton candy; the light made his head ache. Giving the gypsy woman a final nod, Ray set out to find a target game.
There was one a few yards down the midway, but even after he told the greasy proprietor about his job at the precinct, Ray had a hard time winning Frannie her bear. His head hurt so much he couldn't seem to focus properly, shot after shot wavering off center. Finally he managed, probably after paying the guy more than the bear cost to begin with. Shouldering the giant bear, he stopped to pick up a plastic sack of cotton candy for Frannie and a sno-cone for himself, then wandered back through the dizzying heat and the suffocating crowd out into the parking lot to find the Riv.
Chicago wasn't supposed to be this damn hot.
Ray fumbled his key into the scorching lock, twisted it, and staggered at the ripple of baking heat that hit him when he opened the door like a blast from an oven. He threw the cotton candy and the teddy bear into the back seat and sat down inside anyway, his head swimming. Gray speckles gathered and whirled in front of his eyes at an alarming rate, blocking out the glare of the sun....
....Ray blinked, dizziness receding slowly. Whoa. He must've blacked out. Too much heat, wearing all these heavy clothes and running after that guy, sitting in the stifling tent, standing in the sun for an hour and a half to win that bear... sitting down in the hot Riv had been a bad idea. Maybe the sno-cone hadn't been a good idea either; Ray's stomach felt unsettled, threatening nausea.
He glanced up into the mirror to examine his sweaty face... and nearly passed out again.
"What the FUCK?"
Ray shook his head to clear it. The heat must be worse than he thought; it was giving him hallucinations. He wasn't safe to drive, he oughtta call Fraser and get the Mountie to ride a bus out here and pick him up. Ray reached to adjust the mirror, and saw his own hand-- slender, a little awkward, recognizably his own... but not. Like his face-- damn, he looked like shit! He jerked his eyes away, downward-- and yelped in baffled fury; where the hell did those come from? Holy shit, he had breasts! His unfamiliar hands flattened against his suit coat, confirming the fact... small breasts, upright ones. Perky.
"God, I hope some paramedics find me fast..." Ray moaned. "I don't know what kinda drugs they put in that sno-cone...." But the fact was, he didn't feel high. Aside from the receding ache in his head and the swimming nausea of the heat and the fact that the Riv's seat didn't fit him right anymore, he felt all right.
Ray reached up and touched his face, then pulled down his eyelid as he stared in the mirror. His refractory response looked OK. No signs of drug usage. His shirt and coat sleeves were only a little loose on his arm, and his watch had slid around, the heavy face dangling downward, but he was mostly the same size as before. It was just... distributed a little differently. Enough to make the tailored shoulders of his jacket sag and spoil the line of his suit.
A thought occurred to him and Ray blanched, then snatched at his belt and hesitated, heart pounding sickly before he made himself look inside.
Ray sat back, paralyzed, too horrified to scream.
"You need some help, mister?" A paunchy, pleasant looking man had approached his still-open door. He studied Ray for a minute. "Uh, miss?" Ray studied him vaguely for a long moment before realizing he should answer.
"No. No help. Thanks." *Yes. Help. I'd like someone to take me to a psycho ward, please*.
"You dropped your keys." Sure enough, they lay on the ground in the dirt next to Ray's melted sno-cone, winking in the sun. "You sure you don't need some help? You look like you're not feeling very well." The man's wife and kids drew near, the children peeking at Ray from around their mother's body. The guy picked up Ray's keys and proffered them. "I can call the cops, get you some help--"
"NO!" Ray was appalled at the high feminine squeak. "I mean no, no, I'm fine. I just... had a shock." He took the keys with determination, ignoring the kids' tittering. "Thanks."
The man left with his family as Ray banged the door shut and cranked the engine. He reached for the air conditioner and turned it on full blast, accepting the hot flood of air and waiting for it to cool. He wasn't changing. Still a woman. It was starting to look like this wasn't a momentary lapse of sanity. OK. Fine. Ray was a man of action, and-- well. He was capable of action. He was confident, he was in charge. He could do something, here.
He had no clue what.
'*A blessing for gaining your heart's dearest wish, Raymondo*.' The words echoed in his head and he jerked upright. How had the old gypsy known his name? He certainly hadn't told her... he remembered how the kid had flinched and run in terror after the woman touched him. A real gypsy? But nobody could do stuff like this, whether they were gypsies or not!
Then again, nobody had conversations with his dead dad in purgatory, either. But Ray did.
Ray suddenly thought of his Aunt Antonia from Sicily, with all her superstitions and warnings and crazy tales about black magic and gypsy curses, the ones that had scared him and Frannie so bad when she visited the USA while they were still kids. This would have been right up her alley.
Ray scrambled out of the Riv, barely remembering to lock it before he was trotting back into the carnival, jostling people aside, making a beeline for the gypsy booth.
It wasn't where he remembered it. Just a patch of trampled grass and some holes where tent stakes used to be. Ray blinked. Maybe he was disoriented. He trotted around the midway again, located the booth where he'd won his bear, backtracked-- no, this was the place all right, and by now people were looking at him funny. Not too many women shaved their heads and came to a carnival in an expensive gray Armani suit, after all.
Ray nearly giggled with hysteria, standing where the booth wasn't anymore, and bent to pick up a fluttering scrap of paper clinging to the grass. Inscribed there in dark purple ink, in a heavy but graceful hand, he read his fortune: "Wait with patience and all will be made clear to you."
It damn well better be.
Coming out of the carnival much slower than he'd gone in, Ray found the Riv once more and got inside. After waiting for it to cool off he paused to adjust his seat and pulled purposefully out onto the main road, looking for some way to figure out what the hell he was going to do.
Three hours later, Ray was still driving aimlessly around the city, avoiding the 27th precinct like everybody in it had leprosy and worrying about where he would stop to get gas, because he was nearly out. He wasn't any different, he was still a woman, and he didn't have any place to go or any clothes to change into and he wasn't drugged or drunk and he had no idea what the fuck happened, so he just kept driving until he got worried that the car was going to die. That would be bad for the engine, so he pulled in at a service station and cautiously got out.
His hips were fuller than they had been, so his pants didn't fall down when he bent over, which was a good thing, and the pump was an automatic one so nobody asked why some woman was using a credit card registered to Raymond Vecchio.
He could go to a doctor, but what kind of doctor was gonna believe him when he said he used to be a guy? He'd wind up in a rubber room counting his toes.
At least his shoes still fit. But hell. He was one ugly fucking woman. Looking into the shiny glass of the Riv's rear window, he couldn't escape that conclusion. He kind of thought he looked like Frankenstein's version of Francesca; somehow Frannie had a lot of the same features but managed to make them look cute. Maybe because she had a nice pointy chin, and not so much nose.
At least he wasn't fat. He was still gawky, gangly like he'd always been, only that looked a whole lot worse on a woman. But there was no way he could fake still being a guy, and it wasn't just the breasts. There was something subtly but profoundly changed about him, something that rendered his looks unquestionably female.
In spite of his tough crew cut.
Ray grimaced and put the gas pump back on the hook, then took off without waiting for his receipt. Okay. Seeing the gypsy and asking her what the hell he'd done to deserve this was out. Seeing a doctor was out. He had to pull himself together and... and... come up with some way to exist until, well, until either he changed back or he got used to it.
Ray swallowed hard and decided he'd be putting danger money on "changed back." *I'm still Ray Vecchio. Still a guy. My dick's gone, Jesus! but I'm still me, right? Right*?
That kind of thinking was getting him nowhere. First things first-- he needed a practical explanation for the change, and that meant as long as he was like this, Ray Vecchio had to be officially AWOL. Ray pulled into a dime store and bought some cheap stationery, then started writing. Apology notes-- one to his family, one to Lt. Welsh, another one to Fraser. No way was he going to let them see him like this. Not a chance in hell.
But then how was he gonna deliver the notes? Welsh was probably already blowing his stack wondering where Ray had vanished to for the afternoon, and he was supposed to have dinner with the family tonight. Heck, he'd invited Fraser. They'd all be wondering where the fuck he went.
He was going to have to get a disguise and carry these into the precinct himself. If he went in there, dressed like he was now-- Ray shuddered. The only thing worse than being turned into a woman was other people finding out about it.
Ray groaned and got out of his car, went back into the dime store, and reluctantly purchased a blouse and a pair of jeans, adding some cheap canvas sneakers. Disguise. There were wigs on a counter in the cosmetics section and he picked the least ugly one they had. It looked a lot like Frannie's hair, only fake. Great. He'd leave the notes on the desk at the precinct, where Fraser would find them and deliver them to everybody.
Then maybe Ray could do something about getting changed back. Find another gypsy. A witch. A shaman or something. Get a transgender operation. Hell, there had to be some way!
Ray paid in cash for the clothes and changed in the restroom at a nearby fast food joint, belatedly discovering that he'd forgotten a bra and miserably reminded that he didn't need his Y-front briefs anymore. And they were silk, too.
The knit blouse he'd bought made him uncomfortably aware of his new breasts; he tried hard not to look at or touch them as he jerked it over his head and was glad he'd bought it loose. At least the jeans felt right, even if his body didn't, and sneakers were sneakers. He hadn't remembered socks either, but that was OK, sometimes girls went without socks to show their ankles. Not that his were anything to write home about.
Ray plunked the wig onto his head and stared into the mirror morosely, trying and failing to arrange it attractively. Great. Now he looked like Mrs. Frankenstein. No makeup, and if he'd had it, he wouldn't have had a clue how to put it on. Looked like he was gonna be a fan of the natural look. Of course he couldn't be like Fraser; Fraser who had somehow transformed himself into an oddly graceful, refined lady with perfect makeup-- beautiful in spite of everything. Fraser, who'd got to keep his dick while he was doing it!
Ray shuddered. Stuffing his neatly-folded suit into the dime store bags, he sneaked out through the restaurant, avoiding any curious eyes.
Grimly Ray forced himself to drive to the precinct, parking his car in a shadowy corner of the garage and hurrying to get away from it before anybody could associate it with him. He clutched the messages in his sweating hand as he walked in and nodded to the guy on duty-- a beat cop, thankfully one he didn't know-- and got in the elevator, pushing the button for a ride up to his floor.
So far so good. The elevator stopped on the first floor and Huey got in, but didn't say a thing to him. Ray felt like he was naked, with neon signs flashing all over him, screaming "Ray Vecchio! New and improved! Now with vagina!" and he had to fight off hysterical giggles as he waited to sneak out of the elevator, blinking when he realized Huey was courteously ushering him to go first.
Best to get it over with, fast.
Ray made a beeline for his desk and dropped the messages there with the one for Fraser prominently displayed on top; it offered his apologies for unexpected out-of-town business and asked the favor of Fraser delivering the others, with everything to be explained when Ray got back. He had to hurry; he hadn't realized it was this late. Fraser was off work already, he was bound to get here soon--
He was halfway out of the squad room when Benny stepped through the door, looking toward Ray's empty desk with a mild frown.
Cursing his luck, Ray ducked his head and kept on going, relatively secure in the knowledge that Benny avoided women whenever he could. No way was he going to--
"Excuse me, miss?"
Well, hell. He should have fawned all over Benny; Fraser would've burned shoeleather running to get away from him. It figured. "Have you seen the man who uses that desk? Tall, somewhat irascible, very short hair, probably wearing gray Armani?"
Ray shook his head and sidled away, trying to escape, but Fraser's frown had deepened and Ray felt his heart sink. He was in deep shit here. "His name is Detective Ray Vecchio," Fraser explained politely. "But you would know that, wouldn't you?"
Ray's stomach lurched and he thought he was going to throw up all over Benny's shiny boots. "I..."
"The family resemblance, you see." Benny looked apologetic. "I noticed right away. I'm afraid I haven't had the pleasure of being introduced. I'm Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP. And you are?"
Ray blinked, totally blank. His mouth hung open, so he forced a word out. "Ramona." It was the first female name that occurred to him. "I'm pleased to meet you. Ramona... Vecchio, I assume?" Ray just blinked into Benny's smile and nodded numbly. "Perhaps from the Florida Vecchios?"
Ray nodded again, blinking, struggling to come up to speed. That was a good idea, actually. He had cousins down there nobody'd ever met. "Yes," he answered, still uncomfortable with his own unfamiliar voice. Benny smiled confidently, looking pleased.
"Ray was supposed to meet me here before dinner. I can't imagine what's happened to him." Benny frowned at Ray's desk again. "If you'll excuse me for a moment?"
"He was supposed to meet me too." Inspiration struck. "I think I'll go look for him." He started to make a dash for it.
"No, that won't be necessary." Somehow Benny was already back in front of him without appearing to have hurried, Ray's letter open in his hand. How did he do that? "I believe he's been unavoidably detained." Benny raised his clear gaze to Ray's eyes, his whole attention on Ray at last.
Ray swallowed hard. If Dewey had made Ray feel naked, then Fraser.... Ray shifted his feet, acutely uncomfortable. *He's probably thinking how awful I look, and in about two seconds he'll realize it's me*. The thought made him miserable.
"I'll be glad to escort you home, of course." Benny's lips curved up in a sweet, handsome smile that made Ray's heart falter and then race. Fraser steered them to the side for a brief detour past Lt. Welsh's office and dropped off the appropriate note. "You are staying with the Vecchios, I assume?" He caught Ray's arm smoothly and whisked him toward the elevator, the perfect gentleman. "Rosa wouldn't hear of you staying anywhere else, I'm sure."
Stopping crisply in front of the elevator, Benny pressed the button with a formal flick of his left wrist. He turned to call down the hall. "Diefenbaker, come. Or we're leaving without you." There was a note of impatience in his voice. "You're going to make a bad impression on the lady."
Dief whuffed impatiently and trotted up from the break room, licking white powder off his muzzle. "Powdered doughnuts?" Fraser questioned, exasperated, and Ray couldn't suppress a grin. Dief eyed Ray curiously, then moved to sniff at his jeans for a moment before trotting into the elevator casually the moment the doors opened. Ray wondered if the wolf knew him or not. He hoped he'd keep quiet to Fraser about it if he did.
"I'm sorry. Dief has no manners. And you don't have any doughnuts." Fraser gave the wolf a stern look. "Behave yourself and be polite."
*Those aren't the only nuts I don't have*. Ray smiled at Fraser morosely. Too insane to be believed. Maybe it was all a nightmare, and when he woke up everything would be back to normal. But before then, it was bound to get worse.
Rosa Vecchio greeted Ray like a long-lost daughter, dragging him inside and buying the cousin-Ramona-from-Florida story without batting an eyelash. Ray winced as Frannie caught sight of him with Benny and glared daggers at him; he'd left her bear and the cotton candy in the car so there wasn't going to be any fraternal comfort from the carnival. To have some strange woman turn up on Benny's arm had to add insult to injury. She turned to Maria, muttering something under her breath, and they laughed quietly, both turning their eyes to look at Ray in a particularly unpleasant, amused sort of way.
Ray was sharp enough to catch Fraser's glance in their direction in spite of his embarrassment, and though they immediately looked as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, he knew Benny hadn't missed the exchange.
Ray supposed that was enough to explain Fraser's behavior for the rest of the meal. He made sure he sat next to Ray and conducted his own version of pleasant conversation with him. Even Fraser had to struggle to be heard, waiting politely during the intervals when Ray fumbled to invent answers for Rosa's questions about his relatives and their connections as the family bickered around them.
"Where are your things? Didn't you bring any things?" Rosa inquired, sincerely distressed. "A girl needs things!"
"The airline lost my luggage." Ray patted his lips politely; he'd had all he could hold. "It ought to catch up with me in a few days." He felt uncomfortable lying to his mother.
"Francesca!" Rosa barked. "Did you hear that? Your cousin Ramona lost her things. You let her share your makeup till her luggage comes. It'll be all right, cara. We'll go shopping, get you some nice clothes to wear till yours get here."
"Thanks, Ma." The words were out of his mouth before he could think; Rosa lit up like a Christmas tree and reeled him in for a sloppy kiss to the cheek.
"Cara mia!" She seemed moved beyond words, beaming at him. "You'll make a fine daughter for me while my son is gone! Won't she, Benton?"
Fraser nodded, looking at Ray with a small smile on his face. "I think you're right, Mrs. Vecchio." Ray blinked; he'd never seen quite that expression on Benny's face before. "Perhaps I could take Ramona shopping," Benny suggested, looking at Ray's mother earnestly. "It would save Francesca the trouble."
Ray winced, afraid to look at the atomic bomb he knew was preparing to go off on the other side of the table.
"That's a wonderful idea, Benton, but I'd love to have some time to get to know my cousin Ramona better," Frannie crooned. Her voice had an edge like a sugar-coated razorblade.
"And I'd love to come along." Benny was smooth as butter.
"I can go shopping by myself," Ray tossed in, but they ignored him, Frannie smiling at Benny for all she was worth.
Ten minutes later, they were in a taxi headed for the mall. Ray fidgeted in the front seat next to the cabbie; Frannie had managed to wangle her way into the back with Fraser in spite of all his polite machinations.
"Ick! There's something sticky in this seat. Benton, do you mind if I sit in the middle? No, that's not quite far enough... I'm so sorry...." Frannie squirmed half into the Mountie's lap.
Ray rolled his eyes toward heaven and the cabbie chuckled, giving him a sympathetic look. Ray noticed he gave Fraser one too when Benny got stuck with the fare.
In spite of everything, Ray was glad Frannie was along to help him pick out a bra; he was even gladder when Fraser disappeared conveniently into the men's wear section and left them to it.
Still, shopping with Francesca had its drawbacks. Even after listening to her argue with Maria for years, Ray hadn't ever realized how much of a cat his baby sister could be. "How big around is your rib cage? You have to wear a bra, honey, or everyone will think you're just a common hooker off the street!" By the looks of the red ones Frannie was picking out, they would anyway. Ray grabbed desperately at something white, came back with a lacy handful.
"No way do you need a C-cup." Francesca looked at him critically, sizing up his breasts without an iota of self-consciousness about it. "B, max. Probably A. Maybe somewhere in between...." She kept grabbing underwear and tossing it in the cart.
Ray fumbled to exchange, irritated at his sister. It was hard not to feel like a bull in a china shop; his body might not be male but his mind still was and it was telling him the lingerie section was the last place on Earth he wanted to be. He snatched a package of panties and threw them into the cart. "Can we try these on now?"
Frannie just rolled her eyes and picked another package instead. "When's the last time you went shopping? You lose a lot of weight since then?" She switched the ones in the cart out for the new package, a much smaller size. "You need more imagination in your wardrobe."
Maybe so, white was pretty plain, but leopard spots? Ray got another package, high-leg bikini-cut pastels. "How's this for compromise?" He'd have preferred a bolder color, but there weren't any.
"Whatever. They're your panties."
About a dozen bras later, hiding in his stall in the ladies' dressing rooms and refusing to come out, Ray was only starting to come to terms with his breasts. Not with bras, though. None of the damn things fit; the A's were too tight and the B's were too loose and the bands were too short.
"How you doin' in there, Ramona?" Frannie tapped on his door. "I think Benton's gettin' bored. He sent me in to make sure you're all right."
That meant he was probably desperate to rest his ears from Frannie's inane chatter. "They don't fit," Ray barked at her, exasperated, and she laughed.
"Yeah, you're an awkward size. Let me come in and help you." She rattled at the door, which he'd locked firmly.
"Nah, this one's close enough." Ray picked an A with a band that had come pretty close to fitting him out of the pile.
"Better get two."
Yeah, she was right. He fished out another one, one of the B's that hadn't been as loose as the others, and left the rest with the bored clerk at the front of the dressing area, making sure not to glance left or right on the way out.
After that ordeal, a couple of shirts didn't seem like much hassle, and it wouldn't have been if he hadn't had Frannie's taste to contend with. He didn't know what his color was as a woman, but it was definitely not hot pink. Or purple. Maybe red, if he'd liked the things Frannie was picking out, which he didn't.
"How about this?" Fraser held up a moss-green silk shirt with a single pocket over the right breast. Oversized, it would at least cover Ray's long waist.
"That looks good." Francesca's sense of fashion struggled with her desire to please Fraser, and she fiddled with her hair nervously.
"Yeah, I like silk." Ray took the shirt and grabbed a blue one just like it. He marched toward the cash register.
"What's her problem?" Francesca muttered.
"I don't believe she enjoys shopping." Ray heard the cart begin to rattle in time with Fraser's measured steps in his wake.
So. Ray now had a bra and panties to go with his wig and his breasts and his blouse and his-- other parts that he really really didn't want to think about, much less look at or take care of when he had to get a shower or use the john. Worse, he'd already had to do both, since it was now his second day as a woman and counting.
He had a jealous sister who had to let him use her makeup and he had no idea how to do it. He had an adopted mother who was his real mother and no job and no home... and that was the least of his problems.
Ray also had Benny to contend with. On his front porch at one PM, just after Ray had finally managed to detach himself from his family with a notion of going out and hunting for someone to help him.
"You want a what? "
"A date." Even though he wasn't in uniform, Fraser held his hat in his hand, looking quite sober. "I thought you might like to accompany me to a film, actually."
Fraser actually looked nervous! Ray blinked, not believing what he heard. "Which film?" he asked suspiciously. He could hear Francesca over his shoulder, eavesdropping and swearing in Italian. Fluently.
"There's a new James Bond film playing at the Carmike. I hear it's... quite bad actually. Humorously so." Benny looked at him earnestly with those blue, blue eyes that could slay a woman at twenty paces.
Ray sidled out and shut the door for privacy. "Look, this is awful nice of you, and I know what you're doing, OK? Frannie can be a bit of a cat sometimes, but you're just making it worse by being nice to me." God, he felt like an idiot.
Fraser blinked, mildly dismayed. "I assure you, I had no intention of thwarting Francesca by being nice to you. If you're not convinced, I'm sure Diefenbaker will vouch for my intentions." He turned to where the wolf was peering out of the taxi, tongue lolling. "Isn't that true, Diefenbaker?"
The wolf gave a wavering whine and a low woof, and Fraser frowned. "Well, he would vouch for me. If I let him have all the doughnuts he wanted, but surely you understand why I can't do that." Benny was sweating just a bit, his hair curling in tendrils against his temple. As always, even sweat looked appealing on him.
Ray found himself laughing in spite of everything. He'd never thought he'd see Benny on the make-- certainly not on the make for him.
"So you'll come?" Fraser looked hopeful.
"Nah." Ray shook his head, still amused, and was surprised to see Benny's face fall. "Maybe another time," he heard himself say.
"It was the choice of movie, wasn't it." Fraser looked crestfallen. "We could go to another, if you prefer."
God, this was weird. "Nah, Bond's fine." He realized he was talking to Fraser just like he always did, not trying to be flowery or fey or anything, and Benny didn't seem to mind. The rest of the family gave him odd looks when he talked like himself.
And he was still a him, even if he was 24 hours into being a woman and counting. Even if Fraser was hitting on him-- insane. He hadn't seen the man come on to a woman, ever. Not even Victoria; she'd already been a done deal when Ray learned about her. That was another thing-- Victoria, no matter what her other flaws were, had been beautiful. Gorgeous. Nearly as pretty as Benny himself.
I look like a gargoyle, but I remind him of Ray. The thought skittered through his head and lodged there uncomfortably.
"Does that mean you'll reconsider?" Fraser looked perfectly polite, but this time Ray recognized the dogged set of his stance. When Fraser looked like that, mountains got out of the way whether they wanted to or not.
"You miss Ray, don't you?"
Benny tilted his head a little. "His leaving was unexpected."
Not a whole answer, but Ray didn't push. "You two would've probably spent the afternoon together. Maybe even gone to this movie."
"Well, yes, that is possible. But I'll be equally happy to share it with you."
"What about Frannie?"
Benny blinked again. "If you really want her to come along, I suppose she could be accommodated."
"You're too polite for your own good, you know that?" Ray looked at Fraser and sighed. "Let me go change, all right?" Jesus. He sounded just like a girl, but even when he was a man, he'd changed the way he dressed so he'd go better with the Mountie. Ray didn't like appearing at a disadvantage.
"Come on in." Ray led Benny inside, ignoring the furious glare Francesca shot his way. He went upstairs to the guest room and changed into the green silk shirt Fraser had picked out for him; might as well be as easy as possible on the man's eyes. After all, Fraser was lonesome and he was looking for a friend, and Ray was maybe the only woman alive who hadn't ever come on to him, so he was a good choice. Maybe Benny's only viable choice out of the female population of Chicago.
"I'm tellin' ya, the only real Bond was Sean Connery." Ray waved his mostly-empty popcorn cup for emphasis.
"Perhaps so, but George Lazenby and Roger Moore were at least acceptable substitutes--"
"Lazenby? He was a wuss." Ray caught the smile on Benny's face and flared. "What, what? You sayin' he wasn't a wuss? He got married, for Chrissakes."
"Well, he was in love!" Benny protested.
"Yeah, but Bond wouldn't fall in love." Ray offered him popcorn. "It's not Bond."
"So heroes don't fall in love." Benny accepted a kernel, looking inscrutable.
"I'm not saying that. I'm sayin' Bond wouldn't fall in love." Ray jerked at the strap of his bra, exasperated-- fucking thing itched and pinched and it wouldn't stay in one spot. He glanced at Benny and saw an amused, tolerant look on his face. "You laughin' at me?"
"Absolutely not." Staunch, as ever.
"You're laughin' at me. He's laughin' at me!" Ray announced to Dief, who trotted up to them as they headed out into the plaza. "You see this man? You think that's chivalrous? He's laughin' at me!"
By now Benny was laughing for real. "I'm laughing with you."
"Yeah, right." Ray watched as two girls passed, eyeing Benny with badly concealed interest and flickering Ray hostile, bemused looks. It pulled him up short; he'd been checking them out, having almost forgotten he wasn't himself. Old habits die hard.
Ray frowned, wandering over toward the fountain that dominated the center of the plaza. They stopped by the edge and he stared down into the water at the copper- and silver-colored coins that lay inside, their round shapes distorted by ripples. "Ya know, you shouldn't be out slumming. You should find somebody pretty to hang out with on a Saturday afternoon." He meant it, mostly.
Benny blinked and sobered immediately. "Pretty is as pretty does." He reached and brushed back a wisp of Ray's hair, fingertips trailing across Ray's cheek.
Ray flinched, eyes widening. Shit. Shit! Benny was putting the moves on him! He shied away, avoiding the soft touch.
"Don't." Benny's voice was gentle. Then the touch of his fingertips firmed on Ray's chin and cheek and before he could blink, Benny's warm mouth feathered over his once, then again, a little firmer, tugging very lightly at his lower lip.
When Benny pulled back Ray stared at him blankly for a long moment, trying to process what had happened, then turned away, walking toward the edge of the plaza. His mind whirled in absolute stunned silence, shying away from settling on any word or image.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have done that so soon." Benny was at his shoulder in seconds. "But I assure you, I wanted to very much."
Ray hardly heard him, shock battling with something completely unfamiliar, a warm expanding glow at the base of his stomach that turned into a piercing sweet ache even lower. Arousal. It didn't feel like anything he was used to, but it couldn't be anything else. Especially not when Fraser's hand settling gently at the small of his back made it flare again.
He felt the silk shirt plaster to sweat on his back under Benny's hand, but he couldn't move. He wondered disjointedly if Benny had kissed anyone else since Victoria.
"Do you want to go home?" Considerate, soft voice at his ear.
Ray shook his head wordlessly, mesmerized by the heat of that hand on his back, somehow hotter than the sun baking down on his shoulders. No, whatever he wanted, it wasn't that.
"Then how about dinner?" Ray raised his head and met clear guileless eyes.
"Yeah, dinner would be good."
Benny smiled a little, sweet triumph, and Ray felt that strange, hollow pang of pleasure burst through him again. He hadn't ever known Benny was so attuned to the little nuances of dating, but now he read subtle knowledge in Fraser's eyes. Yeah. Usually when your date caved in after you tried something, it meant she wanted it and maybe more. Ray shivered, caught in those strangely knowing eyes. Fraser had no reason to suspect he wouldn't be wanted, after all-- half the women in Chicago would roll over for him if he gave them half a chance.
"Your eyes are beautiful. They match the color of your blouse." Fraser sounded a little husky. God, Benny was really working at this! Good thing Benny didn't know Ramona was him. He'd be embarrassed if he knew he was so wrong. Ray just didn't want to make him feel bad, that was all.
"Chinese?" Fraser suggested.
Oh, yeah, Benny, give you a chance to impress your date by jabbering Mandarin or whatever right off the menu. Ray couldn't bite back all of a smirk. "Yeah, Chinese sounds great."
"I know a great little place, right around the corner." Benny smiled, irresistibly charming. "In China Town."
*Now he's using my own lines on me. What next? He gonna ask me up to his slum for a nightcap? Show me his etchings*? The devil got into Ray, goading him to mischief. "You do?" He widened his eyes, letting the vestiges of the tense moment pass. "Wow, you really know a lot for somebody who hasn't always lived here."
"Ray showed me around." Benny smiled with a little humor of his own. "He's very well-versed in local culture."
"Really?" OK, Vecchio, no fishing for compliments.
"Absolutely." Benny gently pressed at the small of Ray's back, urging him to turn and walk at his side. Ray followed, feeling an odd but sincere pleasure in walking with Benny. Let everybody else wish they had him; today Benton Fraser was with Ray. Ramona. Whoever.
That gentle hand lay on his back as they strolled lazily toward China Town, and Ray cynically recognized it as yet another date ploy; he supposed it was like taming a horse or something. First you got it used to letting you touch it, then you touched it more, and pretty soon you were in the saddle. Not a very flattering notion. Being female certainly gave you a new perspective about things like that.
He glanced at Benny, who looked quietly happy underneath the shady brim of his hat. You'd think the thing was attached to him if you didn't know better. Part of the shadow fell on Ray's face, tempting him to walk a little closer to escape the glare of the slanting sunlight. What the hell.
Ray gradually angled in closer, tilting his head to bring both eyes into the shadow of Benny's hat, and just as smooth as that, Benny's hand slipped around to rest comfortably on his waist. "You need some sunglasses?"
Ray considered the vendor standing ahead of them on the street. Hispanic, nervous-looking, probably didn't have a city vending license. He didn't want to risk Fraser going into all that. "Nah, that's all right. We'll be inside soon." His arm was awkward hanging between their bodies, but the only other viable place to put it was around Benny's waist. After a few more moments of feeling like a total oaf, Ray surrendered and hooked his fingers into Benny's back belt-loop.
Might as well go for the full female experience. At least this way he wasn't really touching much.
He sneaked a glance at Benny, who looked pleased. It made Ray feel like a heel, and he was relieved when they separated at the door to the restaurant. It was a little awkward when Ray reached for the door as Benny moved to let him in, but they got it sorted out eventually, even when Benny held his chair for him to sit down.
It was too far to walk all the way home when they were done, so Fraser called a taxi. Ray felt a pang of guilt at the thought of the fare on top of the cost of the meal on top of the movie tickets on top of the fare from last night; he knew all too well how expensive dating was.
"We could take the bus," he complained weakly, but Benny just looked at him and smiled, sacrificing his wallet gallantly in the age-old cause of truth, justice, and getting laid. Ray blinked at the thought, uncomfortable again, watching the streets roll by. Composing escape routes in his mind, just in case. 'I don't kiss on the first date.' But he already had. *Oh, God, I'm easy*.
The absurdity of it almost sent him into a hysterical laughing fit, and Fraser seemed to sense it, reaching over to take his hand companionably in the warm darkness of the cab. Ray's heart thudded, and he frowned sternly at his body-- sheesh, if women always reacted to guys like this, it was a wonder they ever got anything done at all.
Fraser laced their fingers together casually. Ray's mouth went dry; he didn't know any good way to escape without hurting his friend's feelings. Fraser's hand felt good, strong and slightly callused, and his wrist rested warmly on Ray's thigh. The sneaky sonofabitch. How come I never knew he could put the moves on a girl?
In spite of Ray's nerves, it was all too soon when the cab pulled up outside his house. Ray forgot to wait for Fraser's courtesy and opened his own door, climbing out. He saw a curtain flick in one of the dark front rooms and guessed it was Frannie. Fraser caught up with him smoothly halfway to the door.
"It was a most enjoyable afternoon." They stepped onto the porch together, coming to a stop in front of the door. Benny had his hat in his left hand and Ray watched his right hand warily for signs of an impending move, trying to come up with a seamless way to get inside without getting kissed or hurting Benny's feelings. Damn. And he'd thought it was hard from the other side of the fence! "I'd like to do it again sometime." Benny looked straight at him, and Ray met his eyes, knowing it was a mistake and a snare and falling for it anyway.
Then the hand he wasn't watching, the hand with the hat in it, came up behind his back-- damn the man!-- and Ray's breasts were lightly pressed against Benny's chest, he was looking into Benny's eyes with his heart hammering, and the Mountie's other hand slipped up behind his nape. "Maybe tomorrow?" Fraser breathed, and then Ray's world narrowed to Benny's lips touching his.
Something clattered and broke inside the house, but Ray was oblivious. Benny's mouth moved on his with confident, delicate skill, teasing and clinging for long moments, drawing Ray forward in spite of himself. He blinked, realizing Benny had stopped, eyes dark in the dim porch light. Ray's hands were on Benny's shoulders, and he couldn't breathe. Couldn't breathe, he was shaking and he couldn't breathe, and his knees didn't want to hold him as Benny slowly let him go, but when he sagged a little the door was solid behind his shoulders, and Benny stepped back when Ray's arms fell away, boneless. He put his hat back on.
"Tomorrow at five," Benny's voice was like chocolate silk. He bowed his head to Ray and turned, walking back to the cab with his spine perfectly straight, and rode away.
The door opened behind Ray abruptly and he nearly fell through it.
"I can't believe this!" Francesca threw her hands up in the air, eyes blazing. "How the hell did you manage it, huh? I've been chasing that man for three solid years and you come in and you've got him in one day! What, is it the Florida water?"
"Frannie, shut up," Ray snapped. "I need help."
Apparently his panic reached her. "Yeah, well I can believe that." She set her fists on her hips. "You let him get away! He was kissing you, and you just let him drive off!"
"He wants to go out again!"
"And this is some giant cosmic disaster?" Her hands started flying again. "Well, sure it is. You've got two blue jean outfits and no makeup and the worst wig I've ever seen and he wants you to go out with him and he's probably going to show up on the doorstep in full ritual uniform with a bouquet of long-necked roses! I'll say you need help! Did he tell you where you were going?"
Ray just shook his head.
"Well you can't wear any of my dresses, that's for sure." Frannie eyed him with irritable satisfaction.
"Like I'd want to?" Ray's temper got the best of him.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Her eyes snapped dangerously.
"Basta!" Rosa Vecchio's voice thundered down the stairs, silencing them. "Francesca, you will help your cousin and congratulate her on her good fortune. Ramona, apologize for your insults at once."
Ray sighed, and together he and Francesca muttered insincere apologies at each other.
"Now you will both go to bed and stop keeping the family awake!" Rosa stomped back into her bedroom, clearly considering the matter settled.
For all practical purposes, it was. Ray remembered to go to the guest room instead of his own, Frannie banged shut the door to her boudoir, and even though it was still early the house settled for the night.
Except for Ray. It was like his skin itched; he couldn't rest. Every time he shut his eyes, he remembered how he couldn't breathe when Fraser finished kissing him. He wondered if he'd kissed back or not, he wondered how his hands came to be on the Mountie's shoulders. This body was driving him crazy; it didn't listen to what he wanted it to do. He probably had kissed Fraser back. And women said men's brains stopped working when their dicks got hard? Hypocrites, every one of 'em.
If he were in his own body, he'd know what to do to get to sleep. Hell, it'd probably work tonight, except he'd rather have his hand cut off than go exploring down there. He did not want to think about the state of the union any lower than his navel or any higher than his knees, thank you very much. There was just too much missing down there.
*You also don't want to know if kissing Fraser got you wet...*
Ray jumped out of bed, swearing, and managed to bark his shins on the night-table before he got the light turned on so he could rummage through the bookcase. Something long and dry and boring... only anything dry enough to put him to sleep wouldn't keep his mind off Fraser. Something exciting and tense would keep him awake, but it looked like he wasn't going to sleep much anyway.
Settling for a good Tom Clancy thriller, Ray settled down to read, and finally nodded off to sleep with the lamp still on.
Tom Clancy didn't work very well after he fell asleep.
Girls' dreams weren't as much fun as guys' dreams, but they were a lot less messy, Ray decided as he stood in the shower, trying to work up the courage to wash his more intimate areas. He soaped his washcloth and tried not to admit how good it felt brushing over the tender skin of his new body. He also tried not to admit that he wanted to be clean for his date with Fraser.
Besides, doing this was better than the alternative.
It had been a long, stressful morning-- yet another five hours of his life wasted on shopping. It was a tossup whether he was going to kiss Benny or kill him when he turned up; calling Francesca at eight AM and asking her politely to help Ray get ready for an evening of dancing... it was too much. Did the man think he couldn't do it himself?
Turning toward the corner of the shower stall, Ray eyed a curvy-handled pink razor and its accompanying pink canister of aloe vera gel shaving foam with loathing. Both Frannie's choice, as was the dress laid out for him in his room.
They'd fought bitterly over Ray's dress, and finally ended up with a compromise that satisfied neither of them fully: a black velvet cocktail dress. It had a high tapered neck that terminated in a low rhinestone studded collar that rendered the length of Ray's throat aristocratic and left his shoulders and half his back bare (Ray's insistence against cleavage), and a skirt too short for human decency (Francesca's refusal to consider anything with more cloth in it than a handkerchief).
Ray had won the fight over high heels, though, and wound up with a pair of modest patent leather wedges that had about an inch and a half of sturdy heel. They'd probably make his feet scream bloody murder inside nine seconds, a full seven seconds later than the stiletto heels Frannie wanted him to wear.
"If you don't get out of there soon, you're gonna be late!" Frannie sounded pissed.
Cursing quietly to himself in a most unladylike fashion, Ray picked up the razor and set to work.
"God, you did a lousy job." Frannie looked at his legs critically, sighed with theatrical flair, then went out. "Anybody'd think you never shaved before."
"Only every day of my life," Ray muttered under his breath, furious with embarrassment. At least he'd managed to get into the panties and the new strapless, longline, low-backed bra he'd had to buy just for the dress before she barged into the bathroom. He clutched his terrycloth robe tight. Funny how being a woman turned out to be even more expensive than dating one.
She returned with the shaving cream, a bowl of warm water, and a wet washcloth. "Time for damage control."
Ray collapsed on the bed. Now he had to submit to his own sister shaving his legs? "That's it, this is too much, I'm not going. Call him up and tell him you're going instead."
"Like hell you're not going." You had to give it to Francesca: sometimes she had ethics. Not very often and always when Ray wished she didn't, but sometimes. "We've worked too hard on this for you to back out now." Francesca squirted foam and expertly slid the razor along Ray's calf. "Point your toes." How the hell did she do that so fast? "You're already late, he's gonna be here any minute. What took you so long?"
"Prayer," Ray snapped.
"Yeah, tell me about it." Francesca's laughter sounded brittle. "If it works, tell me what you said, huh?" Finishing Ray's left leg, she moved on to his right. "Move your butt." He squirmed uncomfortably as her fingers brushed the back of his thigh, then submitted with ill grace.
"There." She pronounced him finished at last. "Now... perfume." She chose a bottle, then discarded it. "You're definitely not the floral type. Maybe something with just a hint of musk." She snatched his arm and started touching the stopper to pulse points. Whatever; coming out of the bottle it all smelled like rubbing alcohol to Ray. He just hoped Benny would like whatever she-- good grief, he was starting to think like one of them!
"Now stockings. Garters, you definitely don't want pantyhose." She rummaged through the pile of shopping bags from their morning excursion. "Takes too long to get 'em out of the way." Ray flushed to the ears.
"I don't think that's gonna be a consideration here, Frannie."
"Always be prepared for the possibility," she told him curtly, tossing the things at him. "And don't get a run."
Ray eyed the nylons with wary respect; he'd seen Ange put hers on enough times to know you had to roll them up before you put your toes in. He got them pulled up just fine, but when they were, he couldn't manage to fasten the garters. Terrible things. Frannie just rolled her eyes and fastened the stockings, sliding the knobs into the eyes for him deftly, then made him stand up so she could straighten the seams on the back of his legs.
"OK, now the dress." She lowered it over his head, making him wince with the memory of her choice words when she first saw his real haircut, and helped him settle it around his body. It did fit well, highlighting the changes that had happened when whatever the hell it was got hold of him. "I never saw a tomboy as bad as you," Frannie grumbled, draping a protective towel over the dress just as the doorbell rang downstairs.
"That'll be him," she muttered, wiping a coat of something sticky and beige onto Ray's face with a sponge. "He's just the type to be early. Got to cover the circles under your eyes, too. Did you sleep at all last night? Well if you're lucky, you won't tonight, either. Drink a lot of caffeine, stay alert. Don't forget to touch up your lipstick after you eat something. You've got good skin, but you need to moisturize more." She painted and patted hastily and Ray tried not to move. "That's the base. Now let's get the wig on, I think I hear him coming up the stairs!"
Frannie lunged for the styrofoam head holding the wig they'd finally settled on; it had cost more than the rest of the junk combined. Long straight hair, thick and dark brown. It fell to the middle of Ray's back when Frannie put it on him, pressing the sticky stuff she'd put inside the wig onto his scalp. "You don't want that coming off in the middle of something hot and sweaty, if you know what I mean. If he took one look at your real hair, he'd think he was having sex with my brother!" Ray flinched a little at that. "Or maybe he'd like that." Her voice was heavy with sarcasm. "I mean, you look just like Ray in a woman's body!" Ray winced even more. "Sit still!" Frannie flipped the long hair behind his shoulders just as a light tap sounded on the door.
"Just a minute!" Her tone went from vinegar to honey in nothing flat. "We're not quite finished with Ramona's makeup."
"I'd love to watch, if you don't mind." Fraser's voice nearly sent Ray into an attack of hysterics. Whatever was in these female hormones, he was never going to take a woman's composure for granted again.
Frannie glanced at the door, torn between the need for privacy and her desire to be near Fraser however she could, and Ray shook his head and his hands at her frantically, but she was already talking. "Well, we are decent." Her tone was coy, implying disappointment. The knob turned and Fraser stepped in, and damned if Frannie hadn't been right; he was wearing full dress reds, complete with the ridiculous baggy pants, and had a bouquet of red roses in the crook of his elbow that had set him back at least seventy bucks.
Ray blinked as they were courteously extended toward him, not able to take in Fraser's courteous compliments, accepting them automatically. This was too much; he was in way over his head. He stared at the flowers in a daze until Frannie took them out of his arms, murmuring and clucking. "Say thank you to the nice man, Cousin Ramona." Her exasperation showed through in the crispness of her tone, and Ray managed to mumble something, cheeks flaming.
He hadn't blushed so much since he was fourteen and started getting erections in gym class. Damn. He missed erections.
Fraser sat down next to Ray on the foot of the bed, laying his hat on the coverlet, and watched calmly as Francesca advanced on Ray with a palette of eyeshadow and another of blush. She opened the latter and set to work.
"That's fascinating. You do it well," Fraser commented after a few moments, leaning in for a better look.
"Thank you, Benton." Frannie looked absurdly pleased, then frowned, then decided to concentrate on Ray, getting out the eyeshadow. Ray just shut his eyes and tried not to let them water at the unfamiliar pressure on his eyelids, but Frannie was prepared with kleenex and dabbed him dry. "You know, usually the date doesn't get to see this," Frannie explained. "But it's really an art form."
"I can see that." Fraser's voice sounded entirely too close to Ray's ear.
"Now you've gotta be real still for this; open your eyes, look up at the ceiling, and don't blink. Don't look down, either, till I say. It has to dry." Frannie brandished her mascara wand. Ray opened as directed and he was right, Fraser was too close to him, almost as close as he'd been last night when-- damn.
"I can't do this," Ray muttered, blinking wildly as the wand advanced, seeming destined to poke out his eye. Frannie drew back, looking exasperated. "Well, I can't! You're gonna blind me for life!"
"May I try?" Fraser took the wand and leaned in close.
"Be careful and don't touch the skin. That stuff will ruin anything it touches except the eyelashes. Don't try to get too close to the eye. That's it. A couple of light coats are better than one thick one." Frannie was leaning over Fraser, her hand on his shoulder, casually pressing her breast against him. Of course. "Dip it to get some more and wipe most of it off."
It really was easier with Fraser doing this; Ray realized without surprise that it was because he trusted Benny a lot more than he trusted Francesca. "That's it, just a little on the bottom. Not too much, they shouldn't be as heavy as the top. Now they dry.... now brush them lightly to separate." Great. Ray could just feel Benny soaking up the advice and storing it against the next time he had to pass as a woman.
"OK, now the lipstick. You can stop looking up now," she belatedly remembered to tell Ray, who lowered his head to find himself face-to-face with Fraser's intent gaze. He froze like a deer in headlights, mortification once more making war with the erotic flutter deep inside him. Frannie deftly outlined his lips with a pencil, then Benny took the lipstick from her and filled in the outline, stroking delicately, his eyes dark and sensual.
"That's good, Benton! If I didn't know better I'd think you've done that before." Frannie beamed on him like a prize pupil.
Ray rolled his eyes, which felt uncomfortably heavy with all the gunk on the lids and lashes.
"Now lip gloss. What flavor do you like, Benton? Cherry? Strawberry? I know, pomegranate." Frannie rummaged in a drawer. "Or maybe passion fruit."
"I'm not wearing flavored lip gloss!" Ray yelped, for once not caring about his feminine squeak.
"Cherry," Fraser answered, his voice smoky.
Oh Jesus. Ray swallowed hard and let them put the cherry lip gloss on him.
"A little translucent powder to set it... here she is," Frannie pronounced, and held up a mirror. Ray looked into it cautiously, like a kicked pup, then blinked with surprise; whatever Frannie had done, it was almost enough to make him pretty, if not for his nose. His eyes in particular stood out, looking exotic and sensual. She'd even done something to make his chin almost look like it was there.
"Thanks, Frannie. You did a good job. And Fraser." Ray looked at the face in the mirror, trying desperately to reconcile it with his own picture of himself in his mind. He just couldn't do it.
Frannie shoveled some tubes of stuff into Ray's purse. "Don't forget to use these. I'll put your bouquet in water. You two... have a good time." She sounded distressed now that her usefulness was at an end.
"Thank you, Francesca." Fraser touched her shoulder gently.
"Yeah, thanks, Frannie." Ray felt lame, inadequate. Frannie tried to shrug lightly in response, but didn't quite make it. Damn, but this had to be hard. Ray owed her big-time.
He was both relieved and stressed when they made it out of the house. It meant he could forget about Frannie, but now he had to negotiate the shoes and the dress and Fraser. For one thing, he couldn't walk naturally. It helped that the skirt was tight, reminding him to take small steps. Today Fraser's hand gravitated to the patch of bare skin between his shoulders instead of the small of his back. It was natural guy-choice-- you went for skin first, and for location next-- but a most distracting one.
His head felt light-- probably the bra squeezing him so tight he couldn't breathe.
Fraser gave him a hand into yet another taxi. "I'm paying today," Ray announced after Benny went around the car and got in. He brandished his new black purse.
Fraser's brows rose. "But it wouldn't be proper for me to permit the lady I'm escorting to pay for a date that was my idea."
"The heck with proper. I'm liberated. Count it as one of the cabs we already took." Ray waved cash at the driver. "Drive!" He pulled at his skirt, which seemed determined to wander in a navel-ward direction. It had to at least cover the garters, or he was gonna sink through the floor. He glanced at Fraser, who wore a strange look like he was trying not to smile.
"What?" Ray folded his hands defensively over his purse. Maybe that was why Benny always carried the hat-- carrying something around gave your hands something to do in an awkward moment.
"I already paid the driver. Including a tip." Fraser turned his face forward. "So there's no need to--"
"You're impossible, you know that?" Fraser couldn't have much of his paycheck left by this time. Well, if he was expecting Ray to put out just because he got a fancy evening out on the town, he had another think coming. Ray Vecchio wouldn't be bought.
Not even by a fancy dinner with dancing. He hadn't been dancing since Irene. The thought made him pensive, and Fraser respected his mood, sitting quietly without touching him as they drove downtown, then on toward Lake Michigan.
They finally stopped near a lakefront park and got out. Ray could hear faint strains of music on the air and saw a sign announcing a summer big-band festival. Trust Benny to drag culture into it somehow, but when they walked through the gate into the park he was pleased; there was a semicircle of green with a bandstand set up in the middle, small inviting restaurants clustered around the fringes. Couples danced under the bandstand or on the green, in every state of dress from t-shirts to evening gowns and tuxedoes.
Fraser took his arm and they wandered around the rim of the circle toward the restaurant Benny had selected, a small French steak-frite. Ray smiled a little. Yeah, there was no point in going for Italian if you couldn't go to Scarpetta's; Ray's ma cooked better than any place in the city. There would be steaks here, which was almost as good.
Fraser had a reservation on the terrace, a sheltered nook with a view of the lake beyond, grapevines growing up the lattice that supported the eaves. The leaves rustled in the breeze off the lake. A pillar candle in the middle of the table provided the majority of the light, casting intimate shadows on their faces, making Benny glow golden with handsome well-being.
Fraser casually ordered in French and Ray had to hide his grin as he put his napkin in his lap to protect the dress. Two for two, big red. He wondered if the scrawny high-school boy who was their waiter actually understood a word Fraser said, but figured Fraser's helpfully pointing finger did the trick if all else failed.
It was nice. Good steak, good fries. Salad frise. Neither of them wanted wine. Ray would have enjoyed dinner thoroughly if he hadn't been worrying about keeping his legs together; he couldn't decide whether to cross them at the ankle or the knee. Conversation was surprisingly easy and he'd always enjoyed Fraser's company, no matter how often he complained about Inuit stories.
Plus Benny was a gentleman. Yeah, sure, he'd kissed Ray twice and kept touching him to escort him, but there was no innuendo, no pawing at Ray's legs under the table or trying to bump up against him like some guys would have done. And those manicured hands had never slipped below Ray's waist, either.
They ate slowly, savoring dessert and coffee. At last Fraser paid the check before Ray could protest and stood, offering his hand. The last light was just fading out of the sky, and the bandstand's warm glow looked inviting in the center of the park. "Would you like to dance?" Fraser suggested.
Ray hesitated. He really ought to have Benny take him home now. Dancing was a recipe for disaster; letting Benny get that close wouldn't be fair, he'd get the poor guy all hot and bothered and then have to turn him down.
"Maybe a walk along the boardwalk?" Ray compromised. It had to be pheromones. That's what it was. Pheromones, working directly on the brain in some way only girls were susceptible to, because Ray used to be sane and he'd never have been in this position in the first place if he was still in his right mind.
Benny took his hand again and they strolled toward the boardwalk. The wind ruffled Ray's hair, making him brush it back. Suddenly the ludicrous nature of the situation struck him full force; he was wearing a wig and a cocktail dress and walking next to the lake holding his partner's hand. People were looking at them, looking at him! Like they could tell he was a girl who used to be a guy instead of a girl who'd always been a girl, and he was letting the Mountie court him like a teenager out on her first date.
They paused next to an overhanging tree and Ray turned to look out at the lake, disengaging his hand as subtly as he could. He leaned on his elbows, watching a coal barge plow into the night far in the distance.
"You're not cold, are you?"
"Nah." He could have been warmer, but his mind shied away from anything Benny might have in mind to warm him up. And right on cue, there was Benny's hand on his back, sending more shivers through him than the damp lake wind, but warm like the sun, glowing between his shoulder blades. Making him tremble.
No doubt about it; this female body he was in wanted Fraser, and no matter how many times he told himself it wasn't what he wanted, that didn't change the effect of the little touches, the quiet looks, the kisses. After all, Ray was a woman now. Maybe he wouldn't ever be a man again. Maybe he wouldn't get back his job and his place in the world. But even so, it looked like he could still have Fraser if he wanted. Did he really want to turn that down?
Ray felt lost and lonely and miserable; he didn't know what he wanted, except two things. He wanted his body back... and he wanted more of the kind, gentle touch on his shoulders, craved it with a bone-deep ache. Ray took a deep breath that shuddered down to his toes. It was all out of his control-- his body, this evening, Fraser, everything.
There were couples dancing on the boardwalk a little nearer the bandstand; a wide deck extended out over the water for them. Ray watched them, men and women holding one another, waltzing or simply standing in place and swaying gently. He pictured himself in Fraser's arms like that, and it seemed impossibly ludicrous.
"You know, often I find myself feeling most alone in a crowd," Fraser murmured. "As though I don't belong and never will." Ray nodded. "But then I remember I have friends." Fraser turned Ray gently and held out his arms.
There was nothing to be done but step into them, let them slip around him. Her. Whatever the hell he was now.
"Relax," Fraser whispered, cheek next to his. "I've got you."
Ray slowly gentled, melting into Fraser's arms by degrees; he could feel the resistance flowing helplessly out of his spine, the weariness that replaced it, the relief. Maybe his world was on its ear, but the one thing he could always count on was Benny.
Then Fraser started to move, swaying softly in rhythm with the waltz playing in the bandstand, cheek against his-- shaved so cleanly Ray couldn't feel a hint of stubble. Fraser smelled of Ivory soap and the sweet oil he used on his leather belt; one of his hands lingered on Ray's back under his hair and the other slipped to his waist, pulling him close. Benny pulled back and touched the tip of Ray's nose with his own, a delicate Eskimo kiss, smiling.
He'd never seen Benny smile so much.
This was what it was to be a woman in Benton Fraser's arms, to look into his eyes, to feel the intensity of his regard. To know that you were in trouble and he would help you. To see desire and tenderness on his face, to see him want you in his arms-- and his bed. Ray couldn't breathe again; his treacherous body felt like he was melting, a sweet core of heat radiating inside. He was empty and needed to be filled, and his body knew it, knew Benny was everything he'd ever wanted.
He understood then, with a simple certainty that transcended all reason, that whatever he said, whatever he did, whatever he told himself he wanted or didn't want-- before morning, he was going to sleep with Benton Fraser.
Ray wondered if Fraser could sense that yielding in him; he'd picked up on it a time or two before when he held a woman in his arms. The quiet, near-imperceptible decision that it was going to happen. He wondered if any woman he'd ever made love to had been half as confused and terrified about it as he was now.
Benny's cheek settled against his, Benny's warm lips nuzzled below his ear, and Ray breathed deeply, drawing Fraser's clean scent inside himself, letting his arms move from his chaste hold on Benny's waist till they circled him. Benny's hot liquid tongue touched Ray's earlobe and his lips closed over it-- oh yeah, he'd felt Ray decide, no secrets there. That was definitely not a move for the uncertain-- and Ray felt himself lift his body eagerly, pressing more firmly against Fraser's chest.
Fraser nestled him there, making the softest sound in his throat; it sent a sharp pang of sweetness arrowing through Ray. "Oh, my God..." he felt Fraser's teeth close lightly on his earlobe. "Benny...."
Fraser's mouth covered his then, and Fraser's tongue was there, darting sweetly between his lips, and Ray let it in, the bottom dropping out of his stomach, leaving him to soar dizzily.
Benny pulled back at last, releasing Ray's mouth slowly, his eyes dark. "Would you like to stay a while and dance?"
Ray shook his head no, feeling his cheeks heat.
"All right." Fraser looked down at him quietly. "Then we'll go."
Ray nodded assent, then walked at Fraser's side as they strolled across the park toward the street, weaving through dancing and talking couples, not touching, never separating more than a few inches.
Fraser hailed a cab and opened the door for Ray, then climbed in himself; Ray sat feeling like he was in a spell, or maybe underwater, watching the world sweep by. Benny sought Ray's hand again, lifted it to his lips, and kissed Ray's fingers, then turned it over and touched his tongue to the center of Ray's palm.
Ray let his eyes close and lived in that tiny circle of wet heat for a long moment, until Fraser drew back and blew cool air softly over it, sending a shiver through him-- where the hell had he learned this stuff, anyway? Jesus!
Fraser folded Ray's hand around the butterfly kiss and held it between both of his during the rest of the ride-- to Racine, of course, and the sight of the road sign made something inside Ray quiver with anticipation that bordered on both ecstasy and terror. He was going to do this, he was going to let this happen!
The cab slowed, and Ray remembered telling Fraser that 'if somebody has to sleep with my sister, I'd want it to be you.' Well, if somebody had to sleep with Ramona, he wanted it to be Fraser too, and nobody else. And the best thing was, it wasn't going to screw up their friendship. If he went back to being Ray Vecchio in his own body again tomorrow, things would still be the same as they'd always been; the only difference would be Ray knew what it felt like to have sex as a woman.
It might even improve his technique.
The thing that really sucked was what it was going to do to Benny. With a sinking heart, Ray remembered how hard he'd fixated on Victoria. Fraser couldn't handle that kind of loss again. He dithered as the taxi stopped. He couldn't do that to Benny, no matter how much that melting ache inside begged him to, no matter how sweet those kisses had been.
Fraser opened his door and Ray climbed out, frowning, his thoughts and emotions whirling.
"I can't do this. You know I can't do this." He gestured at the hall and the railing and kept climbing, Fraser only a few steps behind. "It's just not right." They moved down the hall, Fraser nodding to the curious, greeting his neighbors by name. Ray opened the door and went in, knowing it would be unlocked, and waited till Fraser shut it behind him.
"Look. I'm gonna have to go back to Florida, and you'll stay up here, and I can't do it, you know? I come up here, get you to haul me all over town, buy me dinner, take me dancing, then I use you for a couple of nights and go home? I don't think so." Ray folded his arms tightly and shook his head. "That isn't to say I don't want to, by the way. I do. But it's not fair to you."
Fraser nodded absently, not moving from his position in front of the door.
"I'm not gonna pretend I don't know that's why we're here, because I do, even if I don't know how you plan to fit us both on that plank you call a bed." Ray was babbling now and he knew it. "If you don't want to be embarrassed about the neighbors, I can go out the fire escape or something."
Fraser tilted his head again, studying Ray calmly, and Ray grew aware of the picture he had to present, awkward in his new clothes, standing up to Fraser like a bulldog or something. He swiped at the long hair and threw it over his shoulders impatiently. It took several tries; he didn't have the knack.
"You can take that hair off if you like." Fraser commented quietly. "I wouldn't mind."
"No, I'm not taking it off! I'm not taking anything off for you!" Ray stared at him, exasperated. "What part of this isn't getting through your thick Canadian head? We can't do this."
"Maybe not," Fraser agreed. "But I think we will." He tossed his hat onto the counter.
"Oh yeah? And why do you think that, huh? You think I'm easy? Is that it?"
Fraser shook his head earnestly. "No. I wouldn't say you've been easy at all."
Ray was too angry to listen, and he realized he'd forgotten to fix his lipstick after they ate the way Frannie told him. "I'm fixing my makeup, then I'm outta here." He stalked toward the half-bath and its cracked mirror. The outline still looked okay so he filled in again with the dark red lipstick and even remembered to swipe on the fucking cherry lip gloss, trying to calm down while he did, taking advantage of the chance to be alone.
When he stepped out, ready to leave, Fraser was waiting to one side of the door. Ray squared his shoulders and started to walk out.
"Listen." Fraser's voice stopped him with his hand on the knob, quiet and deathly serious. "If tonight is the only night we have, I want it. If this hour is the only hour we have, I want it. If I can't have you forever I want you now, do you understand me?" He stepped forward, hand curving around Ray's upper arm, and visibly tried to bring himself under control. "Fate doesn't make a habit of giving me multiple opportunities to be with someone I care about. I'd like it very much if you'd let me take this one with you." His hand stirred, sliding upward to Ray's shoulder, cupping its curve in the hollow of his palm.
Ray shivered, goosebumps rising on his skin. "Fraser...."
The pain and the history behind that single word stopped him, and Ray yielded again, let himself step into Benny's arms. "All right. I'll stay." It broke something inside him; it felt like coming home. He met Fraser's eyes. "Because I care about you, too."
Benny's pupils dilated and Ray wasn't sure who made the first move, only that they were stumbling across the room, locked together. Benny plied Ray with short kisses, tugging on Ray's lips with his, only gradually letting his tongue start to play in Ray's mouth, teasing him with a promise of depth and then retreating again, only to return moments later.
Fraser's hands were a little clumsy, tense, touching Ray's face, his shoulders, his back-- but still oddly reticent, not moving lower as though not certain of his welcome there, or maybe as though he was satisfied for the moment with restraint, mapping Ray's female body a little at a time.
They struggled for a moment for dominance of the kiss, then Fraser pushed Ray against the wall, the weight of his body trapping Ray there tenderly, and Fraser dove deep into the kiss for the first time, his tongue tickling Ray's palate and stroking Ray's tongue without mercy. Ray moaned; his nipples felt delightfully sensitive to the touch of Fraser's body. He was keenly conscious of Fraser's strength suddenly, perhaps considerably more than Ray's even when they'd both been men.
It was oddly exciting, intimidating and erotic, to feel Fraser's strength against him and know Fraser could probably tie him in a knot if he wanted-- mostly because he knew Fraser wouldn't do that unless Ray wanted him to.
Fraser's hands slid downward then, measuring the span of his waist for a moment, then finally slid lower. Ray sighed into the kiss as they curved around his hips and lifted him forward, tight against Fraser's body. He couldn't feel much through all the layers of tunic and trousers, but Fraser's groan told him enough. Fraser's knee gently nudged between Ray's thighs, and Ray let it, melting hot sweetness flaring unbearably in his body at the feel of his legs parting for Fraser and the sensation of cool air drifting up inside his skirt.
Then Benny pressed his hips forward and Ray moaned, feeling proof of Benny's arousal at last, a thick band of heat that lay along the inside of Fraser's left leg. He clenched his fingers in Fraser's hair, letting the kiss turn sloppy, tasting his own lipstick and that damned cherry lip gloss in Fraser's mouth.
Who'd have known Fraser could ever be like this... moving down to nip and suckle at Ray's throat, pushing the long hair aside with his face and biting his way down to the collar, where he paused for a long moment, sucking hard, and Ray gasped, wondering if Fraser was leaving a mark, but then he didn't care, because squirming on Fraser's thigh, he suddenly found it, and a shockwave of bright pleasure rippled through him.
"Oh!" Ray knew he had to be pulling Fraser's hair, but he couldn't stop, wrapping his legs behind Benny's thigh and hanging on for dear life as Fraser thrust him against the wall gently, over and over, licking at the sweat trickling down his throat from under the long, hot hair. Ray cried out, struggling-- where once he'd have struggled not to come, now he struggled hard for more pleasure, the brilliance of it not enough, so close to perfect but not there, not there... he scrabbled at Benny's shoulders, trying to hitch himself higher, and Benny pushed him harder against the wall for a moment, then Ray's feet were on the floor again.
He opened his eyes, baffled and frustrated, to see Benny's head moving lower. Fraser knelt, running his palms along the length of Ray's calves and thighs, up and down in a slow, hypnotic rhythm, Benny's head bent as though he were praying. Benny's fingertips lingered behind Ray's knees, following the seam of the silk stockings from ankle up to the edge of Ray's skirt, which had slipped down again when Fraser set him on his feet.
He lifted Ray's foot, slipping the shoe off it, and his fingers stroked Ray's instep and briefly cradled his toes, kneading them gently to relieve the pinch from the tight shoe, then setting the foot on the floor. He repeated the process with the other foot, bending to kiss lightly at Ray's ankle through the sheer silk. Then he trailed kisses up Ray's calf, lingering at the inside of the knee, his hands smoothing up and down across the muscle of Ray's calf over and over, savoring the silk stocking that covered it.
Then he looked up at Ray, and deliberately ran his hands up Ray's thigh, inside and out, fingers slowly disappearing under Ray's skirt. Ray shuddered involuntarily, watching and feeling, wondering how far they would go, knowing he wouldn't stop them in any case, wanting them not to stop, his breath coming fast. Then he felt them work deftly, releasing the garters from the stocking, and when they came down again, rolling the stocking delicately down his leg, there was nothing between them and his skin. It was a hundred times hotter, a hundred times better, to feel the calluses on Benny's fingertips as he caressed Ray's leg, fingers moving in slow circles, almost massaging.
Ray sighed as Benny slipped the stocking from his foot and tossed it aside, then started again, moving straight to Ray's calf this time and letting his warm palms slide up under Ray's skirt and caress there, agonizingly close to where Ray needed him but not close enough. Benny laid a kiss at the top of Ray's thigh where skirt met skin and slipped the stocking down, following the contour of Ray's leg with both palms.
"Beautiful." Benny kissed him again, tongue wetly tracing the hem of the cloth, and then he took the hem in his teeth and tugged upward, and Ray's knees went weak.
"Bed," he pleaded, and Benny looked up, eyes wicked with mischief.
"I thought you said it wasn't big enough." Benny's hands settled on either side of Ray's thighs and his thumbs slipped beneath the skirt, caressing in a slow tease.
"I don't care what size it is." Ray was shocked at the husky innuendo in his tone. "Just get it over there on that bed." He picked up his foot and abandoned modesty to agilely swing his leg over Benny's head by way of escape; Benny's breath hissed through his teeth and Ray blushed like crazy but kept going, walking toward Benny's bed, keenly aware of Benny's eyes following him. He raised his hands to his neck, sweeping his hair over one shoulder, and unfastened the first button that held the collar in place, looking back nervously to see if Fraser was following.
Benny scrambled to his feet, still fully clothed in his dress reds, even the lanyard. Ray spared a second to worry how he was going to get Benny out of all that, but then Benny's hands were with his, working the buttons of the collar gently, helping him untangle the long dark hair that had wound around them over the course of the evening. It came free at last, and Ray immediately felt his dress shift slightly, precarious now that nothing remained to hold it up over his breasts.
Benny's hips bumped gently against Ray's backside, sensually urgent; he brought one hand down to Ray's waist and slipped it upward to cover Ray's breast, holding the left half of Ray's dress in place even as the other side tumbled as far downward as it could. Ray felt rather than heard the purr of the zipper as Fraser's other hand eased it down. Benny was too close behind him for cool air to penetrate to the exposed flesh of his back right away, but then Fraser stepped back, moving his hand to let the dress fall, a soft, hesitating avalanche of cloth that finally puddled around Ray's ankles to cover his feet.
Ray closed his eyes as though that would hide his body from Fraser, grateful for the scant covering of the bra and the garter belt and panties-- Frannie's good intentions wasted; it looked like Fraser wasn't in any particular hurry to get to the main event. The sonofabitch was still dressed, even as he eased just the garter belt down over Ray's hips and let it drop to the floor.
That was far enough, Ray decided, at least till they established some kind of parity here.
He stepped out of his dress and turned around, avoiding Fraser's eyes, and started to work on the lanyard-- he knew enough by now just from watching Fraser not to loosen the knot till he'd unfastened the epaulettes, then to work the knot down and slip the whole thing over Benny's head. He took the opportunity to lean in for a brief kiss, breasts touching Fraser's chest again, a tantalizing pressure.
Benny let him, following his mouth back slightly before subsiding. Ray looked for the clip of the strap that crossed Benny's shoulder and unfastened it from his belt, aware of Fraser gazing downward, wondering if he was looking at Ray's hands or elsewhere, and suspecting he had a damned good idea which.
He tried not to think too closely about what he was doing as he clumsily worked the double-tongued buckle of the Sam Browne; he'd never imagined undressing a guy, not even Fraser, the most handsome man he'd ever encountered. He knew what was under there, but there were still enough layers that he could pretend he wasn't gonna find it, so he kept going, freeing the heavy belt and letting it fall.
Benny's tunic, next-- still safe territory. For Christ's sake, the Mountie wore a turtleneck shirt, suspenders, and an undershirt under the thing, after all. He wore that in public often enough that it might as well be outerwear.
"How come you don't suffocate inside all this stuff?" Ray murmured, working the heavy brass buttons through their tight buttonholes, a little uncomfortable as he neared the skirt of the uniform tunic, relieved when he pushed it off Benny's shoulders. "Don't you get hot in there?"
"Sometimes." Benny's voice rumbled softly under Ray's hands. "Right now."
Ray stopped, his fingertips under Benny's suspenders, and swallowed. Fraser covered Ray's hands with his own and helped push his suspenders off; they fell at his sides and he pulled his arms out of them, once again waiting for Ray to move first.
Well, he could unbutton the pants, or he could try pulling out the shirts. With the tunic and suspenders gone so quickly, all the reassuring layers from a second ago were now alarmingly thin.
He reached and tugged at Fraser's shirt, trying to get hold of it and not the undershirt, but ultimately pulled them both out of Fraser's jodhpurs. Then Fraser's arms flexed and he reached to the hems, pulling them over his head and tossing them away, leaving Ray to stare at an expanse of chest he'd only seen once or twice before.
Ray swallowed. Benny's chest looked a lot different now that he was so close to it; pink nipples widely set, skin smooth and hairless, hard muscles not overdeveloped. Ray's throat felt dry-- how the hell was it that just looking at Benny was setting him alight again?
"That's enough for now," Fraser decided, then gathered Ray into his arms and eased him back toward the bed, lingering next to it for a long moment while he kissed Ray again, his hands running up and down Ray's arms, soothing and arousing at once.
So wonderfully close. Benny's skin hot and moist from the long day in full uniform. The scent of clean sweat and masculine musk made Ray's mouth water. Benny nuzzled his way down Ray's throat, but this time when he reached Ray's collarbone, he didn't stop, softly kissing the smooth skin of Ray's chest, angling slightly toward one breast, which rested in its lacy cup, half-bare, Ray's aureole visible as an olive-pink crescent above the black lace.
A swipe of tongue, a cool breath, and Ray felt his nipple prickle and tighten, rewarding the kiss with a visible peak. Then the world spun for a moment and Ray was on his back in Fraser's bed with Fraser settling over him, Fraser's mouth swooping in for another taste of his nipple, his tongue diving beneath the edge of the lace to circle the hardened flesh, pushing the lace below it.
Ray cried out surprise and enjoyment, arching; as a man he'd never liked having his nipples played with, so he hadn't expected such pleasure. Then it doubled as Benny's mouth sealed over the exposed flesh, suckling. Ray writhed, hearing himself whimper, not able to gasp enough breath into his lungs even though Fraser wasn't heavy on him, lying on his side with most of his weight there, not covering Ray's body.
Benny's trousers felt rough and a little scratchy against Ray's thighs as Benny crooked one leg over them possessively and continued to work the nipple he held. Ray thought the top of his head might come off; he writhed and pushed up into Benny's mouth without shame, reaching to cradle Benny's head against him.
Fraser purred low in his throat and moved across to Ray's other breast, more of his weight settling on Ray's body. Ray arched urgently as Fraser teased him, mouthing him through the thin barrier of lace. Fraser stroked him, right hand drawing gentle patterns over Ray's ribs and belly, fingers trailing around his navel, and Ray quivered with lust, wanting them lower, bucking up helplessly to tell Fraser that, unable to articulate what he needed.
But Benny knew, this strange sensual Benny who'd lain hidden in the quiet, reserved man who'd stood at Ray's side for years. Benny's hand glided lower, and just the heel of his palm settled against Ray, light pressure and circular motion, Benny's fingertips slipping inside the band of Ray's panties to tickle at the skin there.
Electric shock, currents of ecstasy snapping between the flesh under Fraser's palm and the wet tip of Ray's breast. Impossible pleasure, like nothing he'd ever felt as a man-- not better, just different-- and coming in waves. More, more, the slow arduous buildup of intensity overwhelming and compelling. "Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop...." Ray heard himself gasping the all-too-familiar litany, begging Benny for patience.
"I won't." Fraser's warm wet mouth moved against his breast. Benny's free hand gently tweaked the neglected nipple, pinching lightly, more shocks of pleasure reverberating through Ray's unfamiliar body, teaching him its secrets so beautifully, making it impossible for him not to buck up against Benny's hand. Benny pushed harder, moving faster, his eyes gleaming in the light from the window as he looked up to watch Ray's face...
...and Ray was gone, writhing insanely as pleasure roared through him and consumed him; sounded like somebody was being stabbed to death in here, and for a second he wasn't sure he'd survive, but then he was floating down on a cloud of pure bliss and for a moment Benny's dark head was between his thighs, nuzzling the wet cotton fabric softly before he moved back up to lie beside Ray for a kiss. Benny's lips were faintly salty from where he'd tasted Ray through the cloth, the scent and savor hauntingly familiar, but Ray didn't have the strength to worry about that, staring at Benny in a daze.
"God." Ray licked his dry lips. "That was..." indescribable, and Benny's deepening smile told him he didn't need to say more.
"...just the beginning." Benny finished for him softly, sliding a possessive hand over his hip and belly, up onto the bra, where it came to rest just under his breast. Ray shivered, wanting the hand to rest on his skin, not cloth, but too shy to say so.
"I can feel your heart beating...." Benny's voice trailed away and his eyes went soft. "Turn toward me."
Yeah. Yeah. Ray turned onto his side and Benny's hands deftly slid behind his back to work the hook and eyes, freeing Ray from the suffocating grip of the bra at last; Fraser peeled it forward, looking distressed at the grooves the elastic had made in Ray's skin.
"You didn't have to wear this for me." He sounded almost reproachful. He bent and kissed Ray's ribcage, licking to soothe the aching skin, then eased Ray onto his back again and discarded the bra, leaving Ray's upper body bare.
Ray lay shyly, not moving to cover himself, and let Benny see him. Fraser gazed for a long moment, then softly settled his cheek where his hand had been, listening to Ray's heart as it gradually slowed.
Sleepy, drifting lassitude lulled Ray as Fraser hummed soft contentment against him, a soothing noise. Benny's hand moved, stroking along Ray's side and up over his nipple, then down to his hip and thigh, and as it descended Benny pushed gently at the elastic of Ray's only remaining garment. Lazy and sated, Ray just lay relaxed while Benny slowly worked his way down, taking the panties with him.
When Benny returned, tenderly triumphant, to check Ray's expression and see if it was all right, Ray reached for him, pulling him into a lazy kiss that went sweetly deep, like coming home all over again. Benny's chest pressed against him delightfully and his back felt solid and silky under Ray's arms. Ray drank of the smooth skin with his hands, wandering down to the waistband of Benny's trousers, then back up. He stopped suddenly, finding the scar there in the middle of Benny's back, the one whose presence he'd forgotten in the heat of their lovemaking.
He pulled back from the kiss abruptly, shame washing over him in a horrible wave. He'd never touched it before, hadn't seen it since a few weeks after Benny got out of the hospital, when he finally didn't need Ray's help anymore to change his dressings. Ray's bullet was in there, inside Fraser. Guilt swelled in him, old and new; how dare he deceive Benny this way? Feeling sick, he opened his mouth to tell Benny everything.
But Benny just covered his lips with a finger, eyes in shadow; Ray couldn't see his expression. "It's all right. It doesn't hurt anymore." Fraser leaned in and nuzzled Ray gently, kissing the corner of his mouth.
Ray swallowed thickly, eyes prickling, and blinked away any suspicion of tears before they could form. Maybe he couldn't take that gunshot back, maybe he couldn't turn back time and keep Victoria from hurting Benny-- but he was here with Benny now, and he could do something to make up for it.
Not letting himself think too hard about what he was doing, Ray abandoned the scar and made his move, sliding the clip at the waistband of Benny's jodhpurs and carefully teasing the zipper downward.
Benny's eyes flared hotly at him, and then he rose obediently to remove his trousers, stepping out of them slowly, leaving his boxers on-- his cock visible behind them, fully erect. Ray was definitely going to have to do something about that, or he'd be one helluva lousy lay.
Heart thumping with fear and anticipation, Ray slowly raised his body and slid his thighs over till he was sitting on the edge of the bed. He reached out, catching the waistband of the white cotton boxers, using it to pull Benny toward him, then slid it down, pulling it forward so Benny's cock wouldn't snag inside the fabric, releasing Fraser's erection gradually. It was proportional with the man, sturdy and moderately tall and uncut, the tip of it rich rosy pink like Benny's nipples and lips.
Ray let the shorts drop, Benny cooperating with a little hip-shimmy that made his cock bob. Ray caught it to steady it, then tried a light stroke along its length, testing its weight in his hand. This was something he knew how to do, except for dealing with the foreskin. He fingered it lightly, curious, and it moved more or less like the skin on the rest of Fraser's dick. Maybe things would work pretty much the same with it.
Fraser murmured his pleasure wordlessly as Ray stroked him, and Ray could almost feel him smile again as he watched Ray touch him. Ray tipped his head back and was rewarded with a kiss, then Fraser firmly bore him down against the bed and stretched him out before climbing to kneel over him, working his way downward with lingering kisses. Down to Ray's breasts, paying lavish attention to each nipple, then beyond. He lingered again at Ray's navel, one hand stroking Ray's left thigh, his thumb suggestive as it traced up and down what little was accessible of the inner curve, since Ray's thighs lay demurely together. Benny raised his head, looking quietly at Ray.
Asking. Asking permission. Asking Ray to open for him.
As if there was anything Ray wouldn't do for Benny-- especially when it felt so good.
Ray closed his eyes and slid his foot lightly upward, bending his knee. He shifted his shoulders, bringing his hands to either side of his pillow, lying open and palm up, and turned his face demurely to bare his throat as he let the raised leg fall lightly to the side. It was something Ange used to do when she wanted to tempt him or invite him to bed, and it had always driven him crazy to watch her.
It worked like hell on Benny, too. Fraser gave a low groan and slipped one knee between Ray's calves, lightly parting Ray's thighs with his palms so that the other knee would fit too.
Ray lay still, squeezing his eyes shut even tighter. He'd never felt so exposed before, so open and vulnerable. He knew precisely how he looked, even if he wasn't sure what Fraser was going to do, so he just lay there, trying not to quiver, skin tense and itching for the first press of Fraser's long body covering his preparatory to Fraser's penis entering him.
But it didn't happen. Instead, gentle fingers touched him, slid gently in and upward and parted him, opening him even more than before. Ray gasped for breath, unprepared for the intimacy of the touch-- then Benny's tongue touched him and Ray's breath escaped him in a startled cry.
Benny began with a long slow swipe, tasting him with thorough leisure, avoiding the center of him, then started over to travel up the other side as well. Ray moaned-- he'd done this himself but he'd never done it like that, never tasted a lover with such evident savor. He didn't really like giving oral sex but it was the one sure-fire way to get a woman to return the favor so he'd learned to do it. Unlike Fraser, he'd always focused his attention right where it counted most.
He should have known Benny would like this, the way he always licked things. Should have-- thought left him as Fraser's tongue returned and explored again, flickering into him-- inside him, God, in him! Ray clutched at the blue bedsheets, trying not to whimper, failing. Benny echoed him with a soft rumble of delight; he kept licking Ray, exploring him thoroughly and messily, avoiding the place Ray needed him most until Ray lost control and reached for his head, pulling him upward with a sobbing moan.
Benny settled there mercifully, dragging long rough licks against the tender bud-- slow, measured liquid strokes varied by soft, wicked darts and flickers of his tongue until Ray was nearly shrieking with the pleasure of the tease, his own cries echoing in his ears. Then Benny settled his mouth there and suckled, tongue pushing knowingly at just the right spot over and over. His finger slid into Ray's slick wet body smoothly and without preamble, curling upward to stroke inside him--
Ray shattered with a ragged scream, thrashing so hard he nearly bucked Fraser into the floor, struggling to contain the sensation that assaulted him. His orgasm crested and ebbed, leaving him floating; he was only dimly aware of Fraser moving off him and a low crinkle of tearing plastic-- then Benny covered him with the speed and grace of a cat, long pale thighs settling between his own, pressing him open. Benny's cock slid into him, swift and effortless, and Ray's eyes snapped open with shock, another uncontrollable cry escaping him at the sudden feel of Benny buried inside his body.
Fraser caught Ray's face between his hands and kissed him hard, pushing his mouth open aggressively with a fierce stroke of his tongue that echoed the thrust of his hips: in deep, out again, over and over. Ray tasted his own salt and musk on Benny's mouth and face. He moaned, arousal flowering inside him again at the taste and the scent of a woman-- himself-- on Benny.
Benny. His body beginning to slick with sweat as he moved, his hair curling slightly as it dampened, his eyes wild and fierce with passion and tenderness. Ray arched to meet the next thrust, drawing a gasp from Fraser, and clung to Benny's shoulders, trying to drag him in deeper. He hooked his legs around Fraser's back, succeeding in bringing the thrusts further inside. Fraser uttered a ragged moan.
Fraser, in him. Having him, claiming him, loving him. Fraser, lost in the pleasure of plunging into his body. Fraser, driven beyond control or reticence, abandoned to passion. Naked and open and infinitely vulnerable, his perfect lips parted as he gasped for breath, driving into Ray again and again.
The quietest, most secret and unnamed desire of Ray's heart, once all but hidden, even from himself.
Ray watched him, murmuring encouragement, heart breaking with tenderness as Fraser went rigid and spasmed, crying out his own pleasure at long last. Ray almost wished Benny hadn't remembered the condom; he'd have loved to feel Benny's orgasm, have the wetness of it inside him, know that the scent of it lingered on him.
Benny collapsed and Ray held his lover's shaking, spent body against himself, crooning softly in his ear. "Love you, love you..." Ray's eyes were wet. He didn't know if Benny heard him or not; he'd buried his face in Ray's neck when he collapsed, and he was apparently going to stay there.
So Ray let him, holding Benny tight until they relaxed into sleep.
Ray woke sometime near dawn, his head aching fiercely. It was hot in Fraser's apartment, nauseatingly so. He and Fraser had remained tangled together as they slept and Benny had pulled the blankets up over them. Benny mouthed softly at his neck, suckling mindlessly, like a hungry baby. Ray blinked and tried to escape the octopus grip that held him. He had to get some air.
Fraser complained softly in his sleep as Ray gently pried free. "Ray...." Benny stretched a little as Ray made his escape and sat up on the edge of the bed, and Benny's forehead creased, his arm flung out as though seeking Ray's body.
'Ray?' Ray blinked, then blinked again, glancing down-- holy shit, Fraser was right. His chest was flat and hairy again, and as he moved, he could feel the familiar weight of his cock and balls between his legs. He flipped away the striped coverlet and found them there. Beautiful, God, they were back, he was back!
Fraser moaned again, sounding distressed, and Ray flinched, eyes darting toward him, a rush of regret battling the elation he felt at being restored to his own body. *It's too soon, it's too soon... oh my God*.
Ray got up as silently as he could and stumbled toward the bathroom. He couldn't put that dress back on, but the growing light showed him a pair of Benny's clothes, neatly laid out for the next day. White turtleneck and jeans. Ray stole them guiltily and put them on as stealthily as possible. *Gotta get out. Gotta get out before he wakes up. Oh, God, don't let him wake up*. He jammed his unsocked feet into Fraser's white sneakers, regretting the theft, but there wasn't any choice, and he had to get out.
Ray yanked off the tangled wig, wincing as it pulled at what little hair he had, and dropped it in disgust. Grabbing a towel, he scrubbed at his face, trying to get the makeup off, then stealthily turned on the faucet and wet the towel, trying again. The cracked mirror finally showed him an acceptable level of success-- it was getting light, and he knew damn well Benny was an early bird.
He'd probably wake up eager to make love with Ramona again, only to find her gone. Never to be seen again. Leaving him just like everyone else.
Ray's throat tightened with misery, but he couldn't stop now. He snatched the wig off the floor and wadded it up, tucking it into the towel, then sneaked out into the apartment, where Dief lay blinking at him-- God, they'd been so hot for each other he hadn't even noticed the wolf last night.
He'd been hot for Benny. He'd let Benny fuck him.
Jesus. Out. Out! Ray snatched up his dress and added it to his bundle, wincing each time the half-rotted wooden floor creaked under his feet, but then the door was open, and then it was shut behind him, and he was home free.
Every step away from Benny's dingy door drove a knife through his heart. He flinched as a doorknob turned, but it was Mr. Mustaphi, clad in his ratty bathrobe, probably on his way out for a morning paper.
"Detective!" A jovial cry of greeting. Ray gestured frantically for quiet, and the man grinned familiarly, but at least he lowered his voice. "You've been to see Constable Fraser, eh? Probably still asleep." Mustaphi beckoned Ray close, speaking in a loud stage whisper. "He's got a girl in there-- she kept the whole floor up half the night, and probably upstairs and downstairs too! You could tell she's a lucky girl to have him." Mustaphi winked.
Ray's face burned with mortification. "Uh, yeah, Mr. Mustaphi. Tell you what, don't let him know I was here, huh? He's awful shy about that sort of thing and I wouldn't want him to think I was prying into his personal business."
Mustaphi beamed. "Our little secret! I won't tell him."
He cleared out before the man could notice he was wearing Benny's clothes, and didn't relax till the taxi was off Racine and heading for his own house. With any luck, he'd be able to sneak in before anybody started stirring.
His ma was already banging around in the kitchen, but she was too busy to come out and catch him with the wet, makeup-smudged towel bundled in his hands, so he darted upstairs and ditched it all under his bed, including Benny's clothes. Maybe sometime he could sneak them into Fraser's laundry, but no, that wouldn't work. Maybe he could just make sure Benny got the money to buy more.
Ray put on his robe and walked into the master bathroom purposefully, but once there his sense of purpose left him, so he sat down on the closed toilet lid and buried his face in his hands. His adrenaline surge was finally starting to fade, leaving him shaky and tired. Shit.
He still smelled like Benny, like sweat and male desire... and like a woman's arousal, too. Like the lovemaking they'd shared was a part of him, imprinted on his skin. Even though he didn't have the same skin or the same parts Benny had touched and kissed so ardently.
He was going to have to wash Benny's scent off himself and go to work.
Ray wrapped his arms around his body and stared blankly at the floor. Maybe he could just keep Benny's clothes; they smelled like him. God, what a damned fool he was.
The door banged open, admitting Francesca, who blinked at him with surprise. "Ray! There you are. Where've you been? Ma was worried sick. Have you seen Cousin Ramona? She just wandered in here fresh outta Florida, bold as brass, and stole Benton from me! If she's still with him, I'll claw her eyes out. I'm gonna go see if her bed's been slept in." Frannie whirled on her heel, murder in her eye.
"Frannie, wait." Ray pulled himself together and followed her down the hall. She threw open the door before he could catch up, shrieking in fury at the neatly-made bed. "Before you go postal, shut up and listen, okay? I saw Ramona on my way in. She said things didn't work out with Fraser. She said she was gonna go to the airport and see if she could get an earlier ticket back to Florida." There, that ought to cover it.
"She left her roses?" Frannie yelped, incredulous.
Ray turned and spied the vase sitting on the guest room dresser, fat red roses carefully arranged in baby's breath. They'd opened since yesterday, lush and perfect, filling the room with their sweet, spicy scent.
Ray's throat closed again. "You think she was gonna lug 'em on the plane? She said you could have 'em, and thanks for helping her out," he muttered roughly, then shouldered out of the room and hurried down the hall, slamming his door behind him. Jesus, Benny.
Numbly Ray showered, scrubbing with mechanical thoroughness, feeling as though his heart was swirling down the drain with the remnants of Fraser's sweat. He made sure all the makeup was gone, washing and rinsing till the washcloth came away pure white.
Sober gray Armani fit him well, and suited him far better than the awkward dress. It felt right on his bony frame, it hid his flaws and flowed with his masculine clumsiness in a way no woman's clothes ever would have. Ray pushed the knot of his dark tie to his throat without checking in the mirror, taking no pleasure in his recovered appearance. He was washed, he was dressed, he was going to work. Nobody better expect anything more.
He was early; nobody but Elaine and Welsh had showed yet. Ray was glad not to have to run the gauntlet of occupied desks. He settled at his own, reached into a drawer for forms, and cranked one into his typewriter. Grimly he started to hunt and peck. Welsh came to the window of his office and gave Ray a look, but didn't call him in, probably because Ray was actually doing his paperwork for a change.
"You and your new lady friend have a nice three-day weekend, Ray?" Elaine brought him a cup of coffee. "You look like you need this."
"As a matter of fact, no," Ray snapped, then regretted it. "Sorry."
Elaine shrugged and retreated, giving him the puzzled fish-eye. He set the coffee aside, scowling at his typewriter.
Louis breezed in and came to an abrupt halt, eyeing Ray. "Vecchi-ooooo!"
"Can it, Gardino, I'm not in the mood!" Ray didn't lift his eyes, taking a swig of his coffee and returning to his form.
"Look at Ray!" Louis crowed in the near distance. "He can't get out of it this time."
Ray lifted his eyes, gathering the breath to explode, but it all whuffed out of him like he'd been punched in the gut. Benny stood there in the door, handsome and immaculate in his dress uniform, his hat in his hand, eyes deep and dark and inscrutable, and Ray just stared at him, unable to move or breathe or speak for an agonizing moment, then dropped his head back to look at the form and started typing. He forced himself to hit the right keys, because Fraser would know if he didn't. T-R-A-F-F-I-C V-I-O--
"Good morning, Ray." Fraser's voice sounded very subdued and sad, his scent a minor wavefront wreaking havoc on Ray's senses as he stepped up to the desk.
"Hey, Fraser." Ray tried to make the words sound normal, not looking up. "You need somethin'?" His heart was running double-time, and just that scent of Benny... Ray's cock stirred urgently and he blinked, resisting the need to clench his hands into fists and wail. Oh, shit, holy shit... still want him. Always wanted him.
"Hey, Huey, come get a load of this!" God, Louis didn't know when to shut up, and what the hell was wrong with him, anyway?
"I found myself at a loose end and thought I might as well come in to spend the morning with you." Benny sounded hesitant. Not a word about Ramona. Thank heaven for small favors.
"Vecchio!" Huey was approaching from Gardino's desk, grinning like a smug ape. "You been dating Vampirella?" He tapped at his throat significantly and laughed.
Ray felt the blood drain out of his face and then flood back into it in a rush of red-hot mortification. He clapped his hand over his neck, feeling the sore spot there for the first time. Remembering Benny's warm mouth sleepily suckling him there.
"None of your fucking business!" Hoarse, angry voice, hardly his own.
"Watch your language in front of the Mountie, Vecchio!" Huey, mission accomplished, sauntered away and left Ray crushed and exposed behind his desk, praying to God that Fraser wouldn't make the correct deduction. He couldn't. He *couldn't*. Nothing short of magic could explain--
Elaine tossed a file onto his desk. "Ray, this came in Friday afternoon while you were AWOL. Some kid turned himself in for petty theft. Says a gypsy woman at a carnival put a curse on him and forced him to confess. He was released into the custody of his mother. Details in here." She tapped the manila folder.
"This is a case for a detective?" Ray tried to bluster, his voice coming out weak and ineffective.
"You were the main witness he named. He had your cuffs on his left wrist." She shrugged and wandered off, leaving Ray to stare dazedly at the folder with one hand still concealing the suck-mark on his neck as though Benny wouldn't know it was there if he didn't uncover it, in spite of Huey's loud mouth.
"Gypsy curses are not to be taken lightly, Ray." Fraser offered soberly, and Ray's eyes flew up to meet Benny's gaze for the first time. Fraser met his look steadily, but his whole heart showed in his eyes.
Ray swallowed, not able to work moisture into his mouth. Ignore this, and Fraser would let it drop. He knew that with an instinct as sure as the sunrise. Just like he'd planned-- buddies; it was impossible; it never happened.
Ray dropped his eyes. "So when did you know?" He picked up the folder and leafed through it, unseeing, his mouth tasting of electricity and fear.
"More or less immediately."
Ray's head shot up and he glared at Fraser, embarrassed to the point of rage. "Oh, yeah?"
"Well, yes, actually." Fraser turned his hat in his hands, suddenly seeming extremely interested in whether the brim was perfectly level.
"You took advantage of me." Ray was stunned by his fury. "You played me like some kind of an idiot. Were you laughing when you--" he stopped, aware that his voice had risen beyond an acceptable level.
"No, Ray." Fraser sagged in his chair. "I thought perhaps..." he lifted his head and looked around the precinct office, a hunted expression on his face. "Perhaps there's a better place for this conversation?"
"You bet your life there is." Ray shoved his chair back and stalked out, not looking to see if Benny followed. Ray beat him to the parking garage by a full minute, which he spent sitting in the Riv fuming, trying to get a handle on his temper. It gave him enough time to admit that it was embarrassment and fear making him mad; the truth was he'd lied to Benny too, and he'd been an active and willing participant in everything that'd happened.
The passenger door opened and Benny climbed in cautiously. "Ray...." he licked his lips, his nerves showing. "I apologize, Ray. I shouldn't have concealed my knowledge from you."
"And I shouldn't've used you like that." Ray dropped his forehead onto the steering wheel. "How'd you know?"
"You have a unique personal scent, Ray. It's really quite pleasant. You move distinctively. Your voice, laugh, and speech patterns, not to mention your opinions regarding James Bond, are highly individual and quite familiar to me. Diefenbaker accepted you immediately. At dinner, I was able to observe the marks of your teeth in the apple you consumed. There is a scar on your left shoulder from the gunshot wound inflicted by Dr. Carter. You called me Benny occasionally without realizing it, after being introduced to me as Benton. You knew the location of my apartment, expected the absence of a lock, and were able to remove my lanyard without difficulty. And your eyes...." Benny stopped and swallowed. "No other eyes could look quite the same as yours, Ray." He subsided and sat staring quietly forward.
"So what'd you do it for?" Ray held his breath, teeth sunk into his lower lip.
Fraser hesitated, once again examining his hat too intently. "There were a variety of reasons." He looked out the window. "You seemed lonely and frightened, and I wanted to be there for you. I didn't know what had happened, of course, but..." he shook his head, still not meeting Ray's eyes. "I hoped that perhaps as a woman, you would find it easier to accept the feelings I have always had for you." His knuckles were white on the brim of his hat. "And you did."
"Watch out, Benny, you're gonna bend your hat." Ray snatched it away from him and tossed it into the back seat with Frannie's bear and the collapsed sack of soggy cotton candy. He sighed, still feeling the weight of Benny's question. "Yeah." Ray looked away himself. "Yeah, I did." He touched one of the dummy lights on the instrument panel, pretending a critical interest in its state of health. "Always had for me?"
Fraser nodded, resolute.
"That means you weren't hot for my body just because I was a girl." Ray tapped at the light.
"No, Ray." Fraser confirmed quietly. "As a matter of fact, I find you even more attractive as a male."
A pang of arousal arrowed to Ray's groin perversely. "Yeah, I made a damned ugly woman." He shook his head. "Sorry I left you alone like that." He avoided the issue of Fraser's attraction.
"No, you didn't." Fraser sounded defensive. "And your leaving is completely understandable. You didn't realize you had a choice, Ray." Fraser surveyed him thoughtfully. "I assume the change occurred after we fell asleep?"
"Yeah. You said my name as I got outta bed. I should've known you knew." Ray laughed without amusement. "I woke up with you sucking on my neck and I had my dick back, so I ran like hell."
"Which explains the absence of my clothes and towel."
"Yeah." Ray laughed again, feeling a flicker of actual humor. "I wasn't gonna wear the dress, you know? I'll get those back to you."
"Whenever is convenient for you, Ray." Benny fell silent and Ray found no more words either, the quiet threatening to become awkward between them. For the first time he noticed how stiffly Benny was holding himself, his right hand resting on his knee.
"Benny, what's the matter with your arm?"
Fraser flushed visibly. "Well, I...." he lifted his hand and straightened his elbow, shaking lightly, and Ray watched as a single red rose, its stem slightly shorter than the length of Benny's forearm, slid out into his hand. Benny looked down at it, turning it between his fingers. "I wasn't sure you'd want it, so I thought it wise to conceal it from you until I was more certain." Fraser took a deep breath and extended his hand toward Ray, the rose lying across his open palm.
Ray hesitated, the scent of body-warmed rose petals slowly filling the car, then reached to take it, his fingertips dragging lightly across Benny's palm. He lifted the rose to his face and took a deep breath, smelling sweetness and Benny.
Benny. His fresh clean taste, his soft velvet skin, his warm agile tongue. The hardness and the sturdiness and the tenderness of him. The love in his eyes when he'd first kissed Ray. The passion on his face as he claimed Ray, their bodies joined.
*I don't have to be a woman to have all that*. The thought echoed in Ray's mind, tantalizing. *It's right here. Right here in this car*. The rose petals were warm and silken-soft against his lips. Slowly he leaned toward Fraser, tilting his head, and Benny leaned forward to meet him.
Their mouths touched hesitantly at first, uncertain, then Ray tasted Benny and groaned. Just as sweet, just as hot as last night. Maybe better, because this time there weren't any secrets.
Losing himself in the rush of desire, Ray fell into Benny's kiss, their tongues meeting, a soft frantic noise rising in Ray's throat. Fraser slid his warm palm over the soft fuzz of Ray's hair as they slid as close as they could, oblivious to the possibility of passers-by or surveillance cameras for a long moment.
Belatedly remembering, Ray finally pulled away, struggling to catch his breath. "We can't do this here."
"Welsh is gonna tear me a new one if I disappear outta the office two days in a row."
"How fast you think we can get to your apartment?"
"If we leave now, we should only pass through the last fringes of rush hour traffic." Benny's eyes were smoky, his voice happy, and as Ray watched, his lips curved up into a smile. Beautiful.
That settled it.
Ray roared out into traffic, leaving a little rubber at the corner, reveling in Fraser's soft laugh. "We do want to arrive in one piece, Ray."
"You got it, Benny."