It was quiet in the bare, rundown apartment. Quieter than Ray could ever remember it being. True, Benny was as comfortable with silence as he was with telling endless Inuit stories, but Ray was starting to wonder if something was wrong with his friend. This was just too quiet.
He glanced over to where the Mountie was standing beside the kitchen window, looking out at the street below. He thought Benny looked sad. In fact, he'd often seen that withdrawn look on Benny's face lately. He couldn't think of anything that had happened recently to cause such sadness, but if there was one thing he knew about his friend, it was that Benny knew how to keep things to himself.
As Ray watched, the Canadian seemed to pull himself together slightly. He turned and smiled at Ray.
"Would you like a cup of coffee, Ray?"
"Yeah, sure." Of course, Ray was always ready to drink coffee, but it might also mean Benny was ready to talk.
Or maybe not... half an hour later, Ray found himself out on the street, having been politely, but comprehensively dismissed. And still none the wiser.
Once he'd come to the decision that there was something wrong with his friend, Ray wasn't about to let go of it. Or do nothing. But there was no point in rushing in the way he usually would, if the person in trouble had been, say, a sister... No, with Benny you had to approach things gradually. Watch for clues. Ask subtly leading questions...
At the end of another week, Ray still had no idea what was happening. If anything, Benny had retreated further inside his shell. Maybe it was time to try a more up-front approach. He looked across at his friend as he pulled the Riv over to the curb outside the apartment building at 221 West Racine. He had a feeling that Benny wasn't going to invite him up, so he simply switched off the engine and got out of the car before the Canadian had a chance to say anything.
Dief bounded past him up the stairs, but he couldn't hear Benny at all. At the first landing, Ray stopped and looked back.
"Well? Aren't ya coming?"
He thought Benny looked startled. "Of course, Ray." He started up the stairs, with obvious reluctance.
Once inside the apartment, Ben went about his usual routine, taking off his jacket and tie and rolling up his shirtsleeves. "Would you like a coffee?"
Ray dropped into a chair. "Yeah, sure." He was beginning to regret his decision to bring this to a head. Maybe it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie.
"Are you all right, Ray?"
The innocent enquiry made Ray laugh. "That's supposed to be my line, Benny."
He looked up and met Ben's startled eyes and for a long moment they simply stared at each other. Then Ben began to blush and suddenly dropped his gaze. Ray's breath caught in his throat. It couldn't be. What he thought he'd seen in Benny's eyes couldn't possibly be right.
He was still staring down, unseeing, at the tabletop between his hands when a coffee cup appeared there and a gentle hand touched his shoulder for a brief moment. Then Benny was sitting on the chair opposite him and it seemed like everything was back to normal. Almost.
After Ray had left, Ben heaved a sigh of relief and went over to the kitchen area to wash the coffee cups. He didn't really need to do that now, but he needed to do something.
"I think he knows."
The wolf merely stared at him non-committally. Ben shrugged.
"Do you think I should talk to him, Dief?"
Dief whined softly.
"Perhaps you're right. It might be better just to let things lie. I don't think Ray's ready to talk about this."
He ignored Dief's sceptical look.
It had taken Ray several days to accept that what he thought he'd seen in his partner's face could possibly be real. He wasn't ready to say anything, but he watched. And, in the end, he had to accept it. Benny was in love with him. When you knew what to look for, it showed. Especially in all the little things, the things that nobody usually noticed.
He wondered whether it would be better to say something, or just to keep quiet and hope that it would pass. Yeah, like Victoria. He'd loved her for ten years, for God's sake. There wasn't any choice really. Maybe if they could get it out in the open, and Benny could accept that nothing was going to happen between them, they could put it all behind them. Besides, Benny was looking more miserable every day. He had to do something. But it wasn't going to be easy.
Benny wasn't coming around to the Precinct as often as he used to, and he wasn't waiting around for Ray to give him rides home, either. If Ray was more than a few minutes late getting to the Consulate, he could be sure that Benny would have already left. That left lunchtime.
When Ray breezed casually into his office at midday, Ben could feel his heart sinking. He hadn't missed the searching gazes when Ray thought he wasn't looking, or Ray's general air of nervousness. It didn't particularly surprise him, Ray was a detective after all, and looking back, he supposed he'd been rather transparent. Well, to someone who knew him, anyway... Any faint hope he might have nourished that Ray would respond positively to this situation had rapidly faded. Especially now. Ray certainly didn't have the look of a man in love. More like the look of the prey turning to confront its hunter.
"Hey, Benny, want to have lunch? There's this new Chinese..."
Ben interrupted. It was clear enough what Ray was planning, and the last place he wanted to start that kind of discussion was in a restaurant. "That's most kind of you, Ray, but I've brought my lunch with me today."
"Well, it'll keep till tomorrow, won't it?" Ray had a determined look in his eye.
Ben sighed. "Perhaps, but I really am too busy today. I was wondering if you could give me a ride home tonight. We can talk then."
"Sure." Ray looked relieved, then frowned. "Whaddaya mean, talk?"
"Oh, Ray... isn't it obvious?" Ben managed a small smile. "We can talk tonight. I promise I'll wait for you."
Their eyes met for the first time since last week and Ray nodded slowly. "OK. I'll be here."
It should have been reassuring that Benny wanted to talk about it, but somehow, it wasn't. Ray's heart was in his throat as he accepted the obligatory cup of coffee and put it down untasted. Benny sat down opposite him and they exchanged uncomfortable glances.
"Ray, I'm sorry..."
They both spoke at once and stopped. Ben grimaced slightly.
"Go on, Ray."
"No, it's OK. You..." Ray shook his head slightly. "I'm sorry, Benny. I shoulda said something sooner, but I just didn't know what to say. I mean, I don't want to hurt you, or anything... But I just don't... well, you know..."
Ben leaned forward. "I know, Ray. I've never really had much hope that you'd... well, return my feelings. I didn't mean to make this difficult for you."
Ray blinked. Whatever he'd expected, it hadn't been this. To tell the truth, he was surprised, and a little offended, that Benny was willing to give up so easily.
"Oh! Well, I'm glad you see it that way. I mean, I'd hate to lose your friendship, just coz, I'm, uh, not interested..." His voice trailed off. Ray wasn't quite ready to specify exactly what it was he wasn't interested in.
Ben smiled slightly. "Understood."
He stood and began to clear away the untouched coffee cups rather more briskly than was strictly necessary. Ray heaved a sigh of relief. Thank God that was over. Now things could get back to normal.
They didn't talk about it again. Ray wasn't willing to risk it, and Benny seemed to consider the matter closed. At least that's what Ray thought at first. Certainly, he'd seemed a little happier, almost as if, now that Ray had ruled out any possibility of their being more than friends, Benny had been able to put it aside and get on with his life. Which meant hanging out with his best friend, Ray.
Maybe it would have all blown over, if they hadn't seen those two guys walking hand in hand down the street one afternoon. Ray had pretended not to notice, but Benny had blushed bright red and looked away hurriedly. He'd been unusually silent for the rest of the day and Ray heard warning signals going off in his head. He ignored them.
But as the weeks went past, it was painful to watch the brightness die out of those blue eyes and the smile fade without warning from his friend's face. He tried to talk about it, but Benny would just tell him that he'd get over it, and not to worry.
So, of course, he worried.
Like, now, when a sudden, awkward pause appeared in the conversation for no apparent reason, and Ray wondered what he'd said and tried not to notice the desolation in his friend's face that seemed to get worse, not better, as time went by. Without thinking, Ray reached across the table and laid his hand over his friend's.
"You OK, Benny?"
Blue eyes lifted to meet his. Twin blue pools of misery. "I'm fine, Ray."
"You always were a lousy liar, Benny. Sometimes I wonder why you bother." Ray smiled shakily.
Ben shrugged slightly and didn't answer him. His eyes dropped to their joined hands and he tried to pull his away, then stopped when Ray tightened his grip.
"I didn't think it would be this hard for you, Benny. I'm sorry." Belatedly, he released Ben's hand.
Ben's voice was quiet. "It's not your fault, Ray."
"I know that! I'm still sorry, OK? I hate seeing you like this."
In fact, it reminded him uncomfortably of the time after Victoria, when Benny had seemed to lose all interest in life. He didn't want to go through that again. He pressed his hands against his eyes for a moment. When he dropped them again, he caught a look on Benny's face, so full of love and longing, it almost made his heart stop. If it had been a woman looking at him that way, he would have been in seventh heaven.
Ben looked down at the table top again. His cheeks, paler than usual, had become stained with pink. Ray blinked and swallowed. All that love, and all that beauty... wanting him... and he was turning it down because it came in the wrong shaped body? Just because his mind refused to think about where his body, and his heart, might take him if he let them? He reached out and touched Ben's cheek gently.
A pair of startled eyes lifted to his.
A long moment later, Ray licked lips suddenly gone dry and tore his eyes away.
"Benny... I don't know if I can do this. I mean, I've never..." A sudden thought occurred to him. "Have you ever...?"
Ben shook his head silently.
"Are you sure you want to..." Ray stopped and forced a laugh. "Silly question, huh? It's not as if it isn't obvious... Geez, Benny, I don't even know what we'd do! I'm not sure I want to know either. But..."
"But?" Ben was looking at him encouragingly.
"Well, we could try, couldn't we? Try..." he floundered at the pathetically hopeful look in Benny's eyes. "A kiss. That's all. Just a kiss. There's no harm in that, is there?"
"None at all, Ray." And the Mountie was standing up, damn him, having apparently decided that Ray had decided... when all Ray was doing was thinking about it... Oh, hell. It was just a kiss. Ray stood too.
Belatedly cautious, Benny was waiting for him to make the next move. Ray took two steps and was at his side. Their eyes met again, and Ray looked away, then back to see Benny staring at him again, lips slightly parted. He hadn't thought of that. He'd intended something chaste, the kind of kiss you'd give an auntie at Christmas. It kinda looked like Benny had something different in mind.
Awkwardly, heart pounding wildly, Ray leaned in. Warm, soft... a gentle kiss, not quite chaste, but not too... The kiss deepened suddenly and a tongue flickered across his lips. Ray pulled back hurriedly, his eyes widening. If Benny didn't have any experience in kissing men, he must have at least thought about it a hell of a lot.
"Well, Ray?" A tiny smile crossed the perfect lips.
Ray shrugged casually, postponing the moment when he'd actually have to speak, while he frantically fought for breath.
"It was OK." God, was that his voice? It was only about an octave too high.
The smile grew a little. Damn! Rather than give himself away any further, Ray leaned forward and brushed his lips against that smile. This time when the tongue caressed him, he didn't pull away. After a moment, he even parted his own lips slightly and braced himself for whatever Benny might do next. His lips, teeth and gums were thoroughly explored and then another soft kiss was placed on his lips. His bottom lip was stroked then held firmly and sucked. Ray shuddered.
Abruptly he was released. Benny smiled at him and stroked his cheek. He stepped back, breathing fast.
"Uh..." Ray swallowed. "...I think that's enough for now, Benny."
"All right, Ray." Ben was still smiling slightly.
"I liked it, OK? But..."
"But you want to think about it?" Trust Benny to be helpful, even now.
"Yeah." Ray repressed a shiver. "Think about it."
Ray spent most of that night thinking about the kiss. Or two kisses. Maybe three... definitely three kisses. At least. Well, who needed sleep anyway? He even tried thinking about what might come after the kisses, but his mind really didn't want to go there. Gritty-eyed and irritable when he woke, Ray only knew one thing. He had no idea what he was going to do.
Benny, damn him, looked like he'd slept as soundly as a baby.
Now that Ray had had his eyes opened, so to speak, he'd started noticing things about Benny that he hadn't noticed before. Like the perfect cupid's bow of his lips, and the faint dimples that appeared when he smiled. Really smiled, that is. And there was something very appealing about his forearms, when, as he did now, he wore his sleeves rolled up.
Ray heaved a mental sigh. God only knew what the guys at the Precinct would say if they heard him maundering on about Benny's forearms... Anyway, all of this was beside the point. Ray knew that he'd just love to kiss Benny again, but as for anything else... well, he'd take the Fifth on that, even in the privacy of his own thoughts.
Their eyes met and they both blushed.
"Well, Ray? Have you come to any decision?"
Ray could hear the uncertainty Benny was trying to keep out of his voice. He shook his head. "Maybe we should just..."
Ray glared. "Stick with kissing for a while."
The blue eyes dropped. "All right." They lifted again, hopefully. "Now?"
"Of course, now! Geez, Benny!"
But Benny wasn't sticking to the rules. Of course the rules only existed in Ray's head, but still... The biggest rule was 'just kissing', and there was Benny stroking the nape of his neck. Did Benny have any idea how sensitive his nape was? Ray suspected that he did. Well, as long as those fingers didn't go any further down his body, Ray figured he could just let it go, this time.
And Benny was quite the kisser. Ray knew he was no slouch himself, but what with the awkwardness he still felt at kissing a man, he had to admit he was completely outclassed by the Mountie. Not that he minded. After a while, Benny seemed to sense when he'd gone about as far as he could and drew back a little.
"Ray?" Their cheeks brushed slightly, intimately, and Ray felt it right through his body.
He sighed. "Maybe I'd better go now."
Benny didn't make a sound, but Ray could feel his disappointment, and it was starting to hurt him to be always letting Benny down. Even so, he couldn't imagine letting this man, beautiful as he was, make love to him. He said as much and saw his friend's eyes go thoughtful.
Ray attempted a joke to lighten the mood. "I dunno, Benny, maybe you just oughta seduce me."
"Oh, I couldn't do that, Ray." Benny's cheeks turned delightfully pink.
Ray grinned. "How come? Against your ethics, is it?"
"No, Ray. Well, perhaps... But the truth is, I just wouldn't know how. I don't have much experience in these things..." Benny's eyes lit up. "Perhaps you could teach me, Ray."
"What? You want me to teach you how to seduce me?" He shook his head. "This is way too weird for me, Benny. I'm going home."
They stopped for a goodbye kiss on the way to the door. And again at the door. Afterwards, Benny took his face between those square, capable hands and examined him carefully.
"What? You're afraid you're gonna forget what I look like?"
Benny's eyes crinkled at the corners. "Oh no, Ray. But you do look particularly beautiful when you've just been kissed. I wanted to remember that. Until next time."
Ray groaned. "Geez, Benny, and you say you need lessons in how to seduce me?" A thought occurred to him. "I'll give you one tip. It's a hell of a lot easier to seduce somebody on a couch. Good preparation, Benny. Ya can't beat it."
Benny's eyes went thoughtful again, and Ray grinned and made his escape.
Ray stared at the ancient couch, covered by a brightly woven cloth, and cursed himself. He should learn when to keep his big mouth shut. Benny hovered anxiously.
"Yeah, it's just great, Benny. Which garbage dump did you get it off?"
Benny obviously took it as a joke. "I didn't get it at the dump, Ray. I bought it for twenty dollars."
"Well, I hope it was Canadian dollars or you were ripped off."
"Don't you like it, Ray?" Concerned blue eyes met his.
Ray relented. "Sure I do. Is it safe to sit on?"
"Well, that depends, Ray." Benny's slightly husky voice was demure, but his eyes were most certainly not.
Oh dear, as the Mountie would say.
Ray drove home in a daze. He'd better be careful about giving Benny any more tips. He'd been surprised by the speed and enthusiasm that his last one had been acted upon. And the results... He remembered the touch of Benny's hands, and lips, on his face and throat with a shiver. The running commentary in that husky, maple syrup smooth voice had been pretty inspiring too. Inspiring enough to encourage him to run his own fingers through the thick dark hair, soft and silky smooth, and to stroke the flushed cheek so close to his own.
He thought he'd never forget the feel of that pulse, hammering under the fine skin of Benny's throat... He blinked. The traffic light ahead was yellow. He cruised to a stop just as it turned red and waited with a smile on his face, oblivious to the blaring horns and shouts of the astonished Chicago residents behind him.
"Well, what do you think, Dief?"
Ben thought he detected approval in Dief's grumbling growl. He smiled and lay back on the couch, his hands behind his head, his stockinged feet, daringly, propped on the armrest at the other end. He thought the couch had been a very good idea of Ray's.
The couch had been a bad idea. Ray shivered as Benny's hand slid over his back. Sure he still had all his clothes on, but how much longer could he count on that? The couch was giving Benny ideas, the same ideas his couch had given him when he was a teenager, and that was warning enough. He moaned into the Mountie's mouth as those fingers found a sensitive spot between his shoulder blades. The hands stopped abruptly and his mouth was released.
"Is your back sore, Ray?"
There was only innocent concern in Ben's voice, but Ray hesitated. The offer of a back rub would be welcome enough, but it would certainly involve taking his shirt off, if nothing else. He realised he'd hesitated too long, Benny was beginning to blush and look uncomfortable. Oh well...
"Yeah, I helped Elaine shift some filing cabinets today. Next time I'll tell her to call Maintenance and wait a week."
Benny blushed some more. "I could give you a back rub..." his voice trailed off uncertainly.
Ray found that he didn't have the heart to refuse, not when Benny was looking so adorably confused. "Sure. That'd be great."
Expecting an immediate skirmish, Ray watched in puzzlement as Benny detached himself and stood up, holding out a hand.
"Come on over to the bed, Ray. You'll need to lie flat."
Ray gulped. The bed? Oh God. He noticed Benny eyeing him with a hint of surprise. He guessed it was a genuine offer, but still... He found himself walking towards the uncomfortable-looking bed with Benny's hand resting, just a bit too familiarly, on the small of his back.
"You'd better take your shirt off."
Ray closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and began to unbutton his shirt. When he dared open them again, Benny was nowhere in sight. Then he saw him peering into a cupboard under the kitchen counter. He emerged a moment later with a bottle of oil in his hand. Ray shuddered. He didn't know much, but he knew what oil could be used for, besides massages. With a churning stomach, he lay face down on the bed.
Warm, wet, slippery hands slid gently over his back, Ray tensed.
"Relax Ray, I know what I'm doing. I read a book..."
Ray groaned. "I know... in your grandmother's Library in Runamukluk."
"No, Ray." Ben's voice sounded surprised. "Here in Chicago."
Well, as long as it wasn't The Joy of Gay Sex, he ought to be all right, Ray thought. He sighed and began to relax a little as the hands kneaded carefully at his sore back. Benny was right, he did seem to know what he was doing.
After Ben had got out the worst of the knots, his hands gentled still further until they were no more than gliding over the surface of Ray's skin. Ray floated in a blissful daze for a while, then came to earth with a bang when the hands lifted away and Ben's voice suggested that he roll over. No way was he going to do that.
Firm hands took hold of him and flipped him onto his back. Ray stared up in shock at the hurt look on Ben's face.
"Ray Vecchio, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you don't trust me, what kind of friends are we?"
Ray blinked. "Sorry, Benny. I guess I'm just... well, if I were you? And I was with a woman I liked... I guess I'd be trying something about now."
If anything, Ben looked even more offended. Ray sat up quickly, ignoring a twinge in his back. Maybe that hadn't been very tactful, mentioning a woman like that. He leaned forward and kissed Ben's unresponsive lips.
"Ah, come on, Benny. Don't tell me you weren't even a little bit tempted." Another kiss, lingering, and a hint of a response.
"Well, of course I was tempted, Ray, but I would never..." Ben's eyes drifted down over Ray's chest and his breath came a little faster.
"Yeah?" Ray was grinning, on safe ground again.
An oily hand was laid flat against his chest, the fingers splayed. One fingertip brushed against the edge of a nipple and Ray shivered. Maybe that ground wasn't so safe, after all. Benny's parted lips descended on his, but the hand stayed exactly where he'd put it. Ray thought, rather incoherently, that that had been an oversight, until a gentle shove on his chest had him dropping back onto the bed's surface.
A warm body, still fully dressed, stretched out on the bed beside him and wrapped itself around him. An even warmer tongue invaded his mouth and Ray surrendered completely...
"Ray?" Ben's voice was muffled.
Ray managed to detach his mouth long enough for them both to catch their breath.
"I really think we ought to stop now."
It didn't sound like Benny wanted to take his own advice. Ray looked at the open need on his face, and regretfully withdrew his hand from inside Benny's shirt. He couldn't remember how it had got in there in the first place. They stared at each other.
"It's gonna happen, isn't it, Benny? I'm gonna end up sleeping with you."
"Yes, Ray. Eventually. When you're ready." A tiny smile appeared on Benny's face. "Is that such a terrible prospect?"
"No... Yes... Hell, yes! I'm a Catholic, for God's sake. And Italian. Do you have any idea what that means?"
"Of course, Ray. But I'd like to remind you that there are gay Catholics." Benny brushed a kiss against his lips. "And gay Italians." His throat. "And even..." another little smile... "gay Americans." He rounded the social studies lesson off with a kiss placed firmly on Ray's left nipple.
Ray felt the jolt of it all the way to his groin. "Hey, no fair... how am I supposed to agonise over being gay if you keep doing that?"
Benny's voice dropped to a whisper against his chest. "Oh, Ray, I don't want you to agonise over anything."
Now he was being unreasonable. "Well, I'm Catholic. I have to agonise. Don't deprive me."
Benny sighed his put-upon sigh. "Only if you promise to agonise as little as possible."
"It's a deal." There was a silly grin on his face, he was sure of it.
Once he'd gotten used to the idea that he was actually going to have sex with his best friend, Ray was able to relax a bit. Even though he was still having problems thinking about what they were going to do when the time actually came, he figured he could leave that to Benny. Hell, he was still having problems just imagining himself naked in bed with Benny. Or in the same room, for that matter.
Ben sighed happily as a pair of lips clamped themselves firmly around his nipple and sucked hesitantly. It had taken almost two weeks for Ray to try this, but he didn't care. Time didn't matter, it was the results that counted, and this had taken a very long time indeed, if he counted back to the moment he'd first realised that he was in love with Ray. He slid his hands inside Ray's open silk shirt and stroked his chest gently.
Oh, how he loved to do that. The different textures of skin, and hair and soft, crinkle nipples turning to hard little peaks under his touch... Ray sucked a little more firmly and Ben moaned, knowing that Ray loved to hear him. He lifted his free hand to the back of Ray's head pressing him closer. Ray's hands moved over his back and chest, toyed with his other nipple briefly before resuming their wandering trail. Heat flared in his groin and Ben moved his legs slightly further apart, feeling his thigh brush against Ray's. It was amazing how much pleasure it was possible to achieve without actually proceeding to sexual intercourse...
He twisted slightly and fell back on the couch, dragging Ray down on top of him, their legs suddenly entangled, their groins touching for the first time. Ray's head bobbed up suddenly, his beautiful green eyes round with astonishment.
Ben grinned. For once his lover was speechless. He didn't know when he'd started thinking of Ray as his lover, he only knew that he no longer thought of him as anything other than that. The fact that they hadn't even made love yet was irrelevant. They would. Soon, he hoped.
Ray watched as Ben stripped off his uniform jacket and hung it carefully in the small room that served as both closet and bathroom. Next he'd roll up those sleeves, exposing the pale forearms Ray had admired so many weeks ago. Ray smiled smugly. Now he had other things than forearms to go weak at the knees about. The memory of Benny's smooth, hot skin under his hands, the eagerly peaking nipples in his mouth... He was beginning to wonder, now, about what lay under that thick navy serge.
Benny had been so incredibly patient with him. Soon he would get his reward. Soon, but not today. Ray still needed to deal with one last thing. Benny was turning back to him, one hand busily rolling up his sleeve. Ray went over and put out a restraining hand.
"Why don't you just let me take it off?"
A smile transformed Ben's usually serious face. "Thank you kindly, Ray."
Ray grinned. "Pleasure's all mine, Benny."
He applied himself to his self imposed task, sliding the wide blue braces off his lover's shoulders. Then he stopped. When had he started thinking of Benny like that? They weren't really lovers, not yet. Still, he knew they would be before much longer.
"Is something wrong, Ray?"
He blinked, and found himself staring into Benny's concerned face. It was time to take the next step. He just wasn't sure if Benny would go for it. Or if it was even fair of him to ask it.
He took Ben's face between his hands and kissed him gently. "Benny... I don't know if I should ask this, but I'd like it if we could..." His voice caught in his throat.
"What, Ray? You can ask anything. You know that." Oh, the hope in that beautiful voice...
Ray shook his head slightly. "I'm not ready to make love with you yet. But... I'd really like to get naked with you."
Ben closed his eyes for a moment and when they opened again, Ray saw the hesitation in them.
"It's OK if you don't want to. I know it's a lot to ask, to do that and not make love. Geez, Benny, if I was you, I'd slug me for even suggesting it."
"Then it's just as well you're not me." Ben smiled faintly, still looking uncertain.
Ray's heart began to pound. He knew suddenly that Benny was going to agree, and his mouth went dry. A moment later he was swept into Benny's arms for a long, devastating kiss.
Locked together, they stumbled to the closet where the bedroll was kept. He felt the play of muscles under his hand as Ben reached up to pull it out and disentangled himself long enough to allow Ben to lay it out on the floor. They stared at each other across it, then Ray plonked himself down on one side and pulled off his shoes and socks.
He was vaguely aware of Benny doing the same on the other side, then they were turning towards each other, falling to lie closely entwined. Even now, Benny wouldn't rush this. They exchanged long, slow kisses, their hands caressing over clothing before they came to remove it. Ray was hardly aware when the last of his clothing was tossed aside. Then it was just the feel of skin on skin, the slow awakening of his cock against Benny's body. He could do it, he knew that now. Almost, he suggested that they make love then and there, but something held him back. For now, this would be enough.
With a shock, Ray realised he still hadn't actually seen Benny naked. And he wanted to, very badly. He levered himself away from his lover and touched his cheek. Dazed blue eyes stared up at him.
"Benny? Let me look at you?"
Benny seemed beyond words. He swallowed and nodded. Ray pushed himself still further away and allowed himself to survey the body beside him. Some of it he knew well, already. Still his gaze lingered in those areas, appreciating them anew. Then his eyes moved further, over the slightly rounded, muscular belly and down to the neat dark patch of pubic hair. He gulped.
Like the rest of his body, Benny's cock was pale and sturdy, and right now, very, very excited. He couldn't quite work up the courage to touch all that eager beauty, but his eyes greedily devoured the sight of it. Instead he laid his hand on Benny's thigh and felt him shudder. Oh, this was so unfair, to expect Benny to come so close to what he wanted and then to deny him. Ray spared one last glance at the rising cock, its tip weeping with arousal, and turned back to his lover.
Ben's face was twisted almost as if in pain. Before Ray had a chance to speak, he dragged himself to his feet and fled into the closet, slamming the door behind him. Ray was after him in a moment. He reached for the door handle, heard a sobbing moan from inside and hesitated.
Another moan, and then a voice, hoarse and shaking. "Go away."
"Are you OK?"
"Please, Ray. I'll be fine. Just go." Ben's voice cracked on the last word.
"All right. I'm sorry, Benny. I'll call you." There was no answer, and Ray moved away, knowing that Benny wasn't going to come out again while he was still there.
He dressed hurriedly and went to the apartment door.
"Benny, I'm going now, OK?" Ray shut the door firmly, slipped out of his shoes and waited.
It was several minutes before Ben came out. As soon as he saw Ray, he stopped.
"Ray, I asked you to leave."
"Yeah, you did." Ray pushed his shoulders away from the door where he'd been leaning. "I couldn't just leave you like that. You wouldn't have gone either, if it had been the other way round."
Ben bit his lip. He still hadn't looked Ray in the eyes. "Probably not."
Ray relaxed slightly. He'd got past the first hurdle. He went over to Ben and slid an arm around his shoulders.
"I shouldn't have asked you to do it, Benny. And you shouldn't have let me. You've waited so long for me."
"I should have had more self control." The words were muttered, almost under his breath.
Ray kissed him. "You're only human, love. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that. God knows, most of the time you act like you're Superman or something." He silenced Ben's protest with another kiss. "So you lost it. Well, it feels kinda nice that I can turn you on that much, ya know?"
The hint of a smile showed on Ben's face. "I suppose you could look at it as a kind of compliment..."
"And I know you're not lying about it." Ray grinned broadly. "Just promise me you won't feel bad about it after I'm gone."
Ben looked at him for the first time. "All right, Ray."
There was nothing but patient resignation in his voice. Ray almost wished he would object. He dragged Ben against him for a long, hard kiss and they held each other tightly. Eventually, Ray pulled free and stood looking at his lover.
"Soon, Benny. Real soon. What are you doing Friday night?"
Ben smiled. "Making love with you, Ray."
"That's right, Benny. You learn fast." He hesitated. "Can I... you know... touch you?"
Ben nodded, the pupils of his eyes widening suddenly.
Ray reached between their bodies to touch the long pale cock, still swollen and heavy, but no longer erect. It trembled in his hand, struggling to rise, but it was too soon. He stroked lightly along its length and withdrew his hand reluctantly.
Another quick kiss. "Friday night, Benny. I'll pick you up, OK?"
Friday seemed an eternity away. Then, suddenly, it was there. Ray's hands were shaking slightly on the steering wheel when he pulled up outside the Consulate to find Ben already waiting. Five minutes early. He looked almost as nervous as Ray felt.
"Hey Benny. Where's Dief?"
Ben blushed slightly. "I suggested that he might like to visit Maggie tonight. He agreed it was a good idea."
"Great. You wanna eat first?"
"Ah. Well, I took the liberty, Ray, of organising something. But it won't be ready until later." Ben shifted uncomfortably.
Ray tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "OK."
So this was it, then. No more putting it off. The drive was far too brief...
But, once they were both inside Ben's apartment, Ray began to relax. He went into his lover's embrace without a second thought. Then, with Ben's lips exploring his, there was no time to think at all.
"Shall we go to the couch, Ray?" Ben's face was flushed and eager.
Ray glanced over at the ancient piece of furniture and smiled reminiscently. It had already seen its share of action.
"Sure. Why not?"
Once again, Benny seemed content to take his time with this, and Ray wasn't going to push it. Besides, there was nothing quite as charming as Benny when he was getting into some serious kissing. In fact, it was Ray who finally made the first move, unbuttoning Ben's brown uniform jacket and sliding it off him... then the braces. When he finally finished with the khaki shirt Ray didn't bother taking it off, just slid his hands inside and began stroking the hot, smooth skin beneath.
Benny liked it. Loved it. Ray had learned that quite a while ago now, but he never tired of touching this wonderful body and feeling it almost purring with pleasure. Benny's hands were getting busy now and Ray waited impatiently for that first touch on his own skin and then leaned in again.
They were half sitting, half lying, sprawled on the couch and Ray's head was swimming with pure lust. Well, not surprising considering he hadn't been able to think of anything else, since he'd seen Ben's naked body a few days ago. Ray found himself fumbling for the buttons on Ben's uniform trousers. It wasn't easy dealing with them when he could hardly think straight. Or at all.
Luckily for him, Benny came to the rescue. Well, those Mountie instincts didn't just go away because he was making out with his best friend... Then Benny turned his attention to Ray's own Armani trousers. Before he had time to think, they were both naked, except for the shirts, which weren't getting in their way any... Ray's mind blanked for a moment, but Benny just held him, as he had the every time it got too much for him. It was the memory of that loving patience which gave Ray the courage not to run out the door.
Then Ben's hands were moving, sliding over his ribs and downwards. Ray felt the light touches on his hips, his thighs and waited, but there was nothing more. Only the heat of Ben's mouth on his, and the sweet invasion of his tongue. For a long time, Ray didn't need anything else, but eventually his own hands began to wander. He couldn't see, but he didn't need to. The memory of Ben's pale, glorious body was firmly entrenched in his memory and his hands followed the path they wanted to take.
It was as though Benny had been waiting for permission, and Ray had just given it... now he too began exploring. Inevitably, there was only one place either of them wanted to go. Benny's cock surged against his hand and Benny gave a soft, delighted laugh at his touch, the sound muffled against Ray's lips. It felt so good to be touching Benny like this, to be giving him such pleasure after all this long courtship. When Benny's hand finally reached between his thighs, Ray gave himself up to his lover's touch with a sigh.
Ben began trailing kisses down his throat as they each stroked lazily. Ray shifted accommodatingly and used his free hand to caress the back of his neck as warm lips sucked at him. Gradually Benny was shifting, turning to face him and then sliding to the floor. Ray protested wordlessly as his lover's cock slipped out of his reach, then roused himself to stare down into Ben's upturned face. He was kneeling between Ray's legs, one hand resting on Ray's thigh, the other still slowly stroking.
They exchanged a long look and then Ben began to kiss Ray's belly, with soft wet kisses that moved gradually lower until Ben's lips were nuzzling the sensitive crease of his groin. His cock was held lightly against the flawless curve of Ben's cheek, while Ben's fingers continued their caress. Ray's thighs were gently pushed further apart and the exploration continued lower still, until Ray was shaking with hunger and shock at the raw sensuality of it.
He gasped out his lover's name and the blue eyes lifted to his, smiling. The fine lips echoed the smile, parting in anticipation, and Ray knew what was going to happen next. Even before they touched him, he cried out in pleasure, and then was silent as his cock slid into the wet warmth of Ben's mouth. His hips began to lift in slow undulations, sliding his cock between Ben's lips and he had to control the impulse to thrust with total abandon into that welcoming haven. After a moment the urge faded and he sighed with pleasure and relaxed.
Benny was very intent on his work... Ray watched as the dark head moved slowly up and down, and reached out to ruffle the soft hair teasingly.
"Geez, Benny, I thought you'd never done this before." It came out as a strangled groan.
Ben lifted his head to stare into his eyes, a little, pleased, smile on his face. He didn't answer in words. Ray gasped as a luscious pink tongue snaked out and curled across his cockhead. All his nerve endings seemed to catch fire at once, and he plunged upwards into Ben's mouth once more.
From a post-coital bliss induced distance, Ray was aware of more kisses being rained on his belly and thighs, but he didn't have the energy to move, much less respond in a manner befitting the situation. He managed to lift his hand and caress the dark hair of his lover. Eventually, he managed to lift his head as well.
Surely his voice was too faint to be heard. But then Benny's face turned up to his, blue eyes soft as a puppy's. He muttered something incoherent and leaned up to kiss Ray's lips warmly.
This was too inviting an armful to be resisted. Ray wrapped his arms around the sturdy torso and pulled him closer. Ben gave a ragged gasp, the breath hot on Ray's shoulder, and Ray realised that his lover was still aroused and unsatisfied. Ray reached down between them, awkwardly, and stroked the trembling shaft, just once.
He tugged at a broad shoulder and Ben came up onto the couch, straddling Ray's thighs, his cock a hard, searing lance against Ray's belly. Ray slid his hands down over Ben's back to his butt, drawing him closer still and Ben began to move against him in a fast, urgent rhythm. It was incredible to feel the powerful thrusts against his belly, the smooth motion of the muscles under his hands, while Ben's heart beat wildly next to his own. Ray pressed his face into Ben's throat, his lips caressing the fluttering pulse, and murmured encouragement.
Suddenly, the tempo faltered, picked up again for a moment and then fell apart. Ray looked up in time to see Ben's head flung back, his face contorted with desire as the orgasm rocked him. It was an awe inspiring sight, to see the controlled Mountie give way to such unrestrained passion. Ray felt his heart pounding in sympathy with his lover's.
A moment later Ben slumped against him, his back heaving under Ray's hands as he struggled to breathe. Ray rubbed his back soothingly, still shaken by what he'd seen in his lover's face. And Benny really was his lover now. Ray smiled in satisfaction and stroked a sweaty curl from Benny's forehead.
"So, what do ya want to do now, Benny?"
Ray looked at the last slice of pizza and decided, regretfully, to leave it for Dief. He exchanged a smiling glance with his lover. His lover... he couldn't stop thinking those two words it seemed.
Ben dropped down to recline on one elbow, his eyes wide and innocent. He didn't bother to answer. Under Ray's appreciative gaze, he was already beginning to become aroused. Ray's smile broadened. There was something wonderfully decadent about lying in a nest of bedding on the floor and eating Chicago-style pizza with your naked lover. Especially when your lover was such a gorgeous hunk of a man...
Ray's eyes nearly popped out of his head when Ben lifted his hand and began with great care to lick the grease and crumbs from his fingers.
"Geez, Benny, that is so sexy!"
But Ben merely smiled slightly and began to investigate the sensitive join between his middle and index fingers. Ray shivered and restrained himself, with difficulty, from throwing himself on top of Benny there and then. One handed, he tossed the pizza box aside and moved closer to his finger licking Mountie. He nuzzled the base of Benny's throat, drinking in the rich scent of him.
"Benny? You haven't answered my question yet."
His hand was abandoned and the dark head lifted to stare into Ray's eyes. Ben licked his lips nervously and Ray braced himself.
"I want you to fuck me, Ray."
Ray choked. "You want me to...?" He couldn't quite bring himself to say it, couldn't believe that he'd heard it from Benny.
"To have sexual intercourse with me." Ben offered the explanation helpfully.
"I know what it means, OK?" Ray wiped a hand across trembling lips. He was shaking just at the thought of it. Not that he didn't like the idea, he just hadn't been ready to hear it right now. "Benny, are you sure about this? I mean, I don't want to hurt you or anything."
"Oh, you won't, Ray." Ben's response was carefree. "I've been preparing for it for a while now."
"You have? How... no, don't answer that!" Ray thought about what Benny had just said. "How long have you been preparing, Benny?"
Ben smiled. "Since the night you first kissed me."
Ray glowered at him. "Taking it a bit for granted, weren't ya?"
That was it? Just "yes Ray"? No penitent looks? No "sorry Ray"? No...? Ray growled in his throat and launched himself on top of his lover. Clear blue eyes stared happily up into his, and Ray didn't have the heart to punish the offender as he so richly deserved.
"Well, don't do it again."
"So, will you do it, Ray?" It was obvious Benny considered the other matter closed.
"I might." Ray held his stern look for all of twenty seconds. "We're gonna need some stuff, Benny. You know..."
Well, there was always the oil in the kitchen cupboard. But Benny was smiling again.
"Of course, Ray. I bought what we need..."
A smile tugged at his lips. "When? After the first time I kissed you?"
Well, that was all right, then. Ben reached under the bedding and drew out a small paper bag and Ray grinned. Trust the world's oldest Boy Scout to be prepared. He wasn't so happy when he saw the contents.
"Condoms? Do we have to? I trust you, Benny..."
Ben frowned at him. "It's not a matter of trust, Ray. I trust you implicitly. It's simply a matter of taking sensible precautions, considering the risks involved in our jobs."
Ray sighed, but he couldn't really argue with that. And ten minutes later, he didn't want to. Who would have known that putting on a condom could take so long, or be so much fun?
Ray felt Benny's body slide against his and he bit back a yelp. If Benny wanted this, he'd better get a bit less enthusiastic with his foreplay. He pulled back and grabbed Ben's hands.
"How do you want to do this, Benny? I suppose you've got it all planned."
He watched as a slightly guilty smile appeared on Benny's lips. "Well, Ray..."
"Get on with it, then. Are you sure you need me at all?" Geez, this guy!
"Like this, Ray." And Ben rolled onto his back and drew his knees up to his chest.
Ray seriously considered passing out. He'd never seen anything quite so... so... He gave up thinking about it and bent over to kiss the proudly rampant cock. One kiss wasn't nearly enough. He devoted a bit of time to the adequate appreciation of this wonder, then transferred his attentions to the smooth balls, drawn up tight against Ben's body. He decided he could easily get to like this.
The rest of it, he wasn't so sure about. Ray gazed at the tiny puckered opening doubtfully and touched it carefully with his fingertip. He felt it tremble slightly as Ben gasped. Well, he had to do something... he reached for the lube and rubbed a little of it over the soft skin. Taking a deep breath, Ray closed his eyes and pressed. The tip of his finger slid inside easily and he opened his eyes again with a short sigh of relief.
Ben was watching him trustingly, knees still clasped to his chest. Without looking, Ray slid his finger in as far as he could and began to stroke the smooth inner wall. Ben moaned as his finger found the bump of his prostate and Ray began to feel more confident. A second finger went in as easily and Ben began to rock against his hand. The look on his face was breathtakingly beautiful.
With an effort, Ray took a deep breath and removed his probing fingers. He shuffled up closer to Ben's body and positioned his cock against the opening. Once again, he hesitated, then met Ben's eyes as he slid cautiously inside.
It didn't seem to hurt, but Ray stared in dismay as the pale cock wilted slightly. A hand touched his cheek.
"It's all right, Ray. This is a common reaction. You aren't hurting me at all."
Ray nodded, unable to speak for the conflicting emotions he was experiencing. He leaned forward, supporting himself on one hand and began to move his hips slowly. Ben moaned again and Ray began to relax and enjoy the sensations. He stroked Ben's cock tenderly and felt it rapidly harden again. Ben's hips pushed up involuntarily, and all Ray's uncertainties vanished.
He lowered himself over Ben's body and felt his lover's strong arms close around him. Then Ben's thighs encircled his hips and they both began to thrust enthusiastically. The pressure mounted, and Ray lost himself in it, moving faster and harder until he was pounding into the body below him, half crazy with the need to climax. Ben's groans and cries echoed his own. If anything, his lover was even more uncontrolled than he.
Neither of them could last for very long like this, but neither of them cared. Ray felt the first contractions of his cock and pushed into his lover's body as far as he could go. He seemed to hang for an eternity in that space where thought was impossible and then fell, spiralling downwards as Ben's body tightened around his aching flesh. He rode out the wild plunging of Ben's orgasm and, by the time it was over, had recovered enough to realise that he ought to withdraw, before he lost the condom entirely from his shrinking cock.
That dealt with, he turned back to Ben and found him lying, still on his back, legs asprawl, his eyes wide and vulnerable looking. Ray eased down beside him and laid an arm reassuringly across the heaving chest. It was too intense for him to feel comfortable, and he searched for a way to defuse the situation. It had taken them ...well, him really... so long to get to this point, it was hardly surprising that they'd reacted so fiercely. He remembered his challenge to Benny and grinned.
"Hey, Benny. I thought you said you didn't know how to seduce me. Looks like you were holding out on me, huh?"
Ben turned his head, a glimmer of a smile in his eyes. "I didn't seduce you, Ray."
"No, really." Ben raised himself rather shakily on one elbow, his voice very solemn. "I simply allowed you to... well, to seduce me."
Ray stared up at him, outraged. "Oh, come on, Benny..." His voice trailed off as he remembered, with sudden clarity, some of the events that had led them here...
"Damn you, Benny." His voice was relaxed, even tolerant. Quite simply, he was too exhausted to care. He pulled Ben down into his arms and stroked his hair. Cat-like, his lover relaxed against him and Ray felt a sleepy tugging at his nipple.
"I guess you'll wanna do that to me, sometime, huh Benny?"
"One day, perhaps. But there's no hurry, Ray." Ben's voice was serene.
Ray tried to frown and found his face wouldn't let him. "Yeah, I guess we've got plenty of time." He thought about that for a while, and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the sound of it. "Benny, do you think..."
A soft, contented snore interrupted him.