This is a Due South/Highlander crossover, featuring the character
of Amanda, from Highlander, and a bunch of characters from Due
South, most notably Benton Fraser & Ray Kowalski. It is a sequel
of sorts to the story "The One the Got Away," written
by myself and Julia Kosatka, though this time the crossover aspects are
rather negligible and to be honest it's a bit of a PWP. ;-D
Rated NC-17 for graphic sexuality (M/M). If you're considered a minor
in your community please do not read this. If you're narrow-minded or
easily offended, you may want to take a pass as well. Please note this
is not a 'fixit' story. If you're going to get upset by seeing Fraser
with Ray K., then you probably want to skip this one. Characters property
of Alliance & Rysher (no, NOT used with permission, are you kidding??),
everything else is MINE ALL MINE! :-)
Timeline-wise this is set after the final episode of Highlander: The
Series, and before the first episode of Highlander: The Raven,
as well as in the meager gap between the Due South episodes "Hunting
Season" and "The Call of the Wild."
Thanks to Julia Kosatka for helping me in some stuck spots and smacking
me around when I needed it. More thanks to my beta-readers, Marina Bailey,
Debra Ann Fiorini, Mary Alice Davis, Cathy Downes, and any others I may
have neglected! Comments to Kellie
c. 1999 Kellie Matthews
Two years, or almost,
anyway. Had it really been that long? A lot had happened in two years.
Amanda had meant to get back to Chicago before this, but things just
hadn't worked out that way. Now, with Mac off searching for spiritual
enlightenment, Methos mostly incommunicado, Joe too busy as the new head
of the Watchers to do much else, and Richie . . . gone, she was lonely
and wishing for friends, people who knew her secret, with whom she didn't
have to pretend. There weren't that many. That was what had brought
up at the unprepossessing brick facade of the Division 27 building and
wondered if Ray would remember her. She figured he would, after all,
he'd seen her die and live again. Among other things. She smiled, reminiscing,
and sighed. Maybe this wasn't a good idea. Right now she wanted nothing
more than someone to be with, to relax with, to talk to without having
to lie, or hedge, or conceal, but she was well aware that their previous
experiences together might lead to-- expectations. Well, that could
be dealt with if need be.
suddenly occurred to her to wonder if Ben was even still even posted
in Chicago. If a lot had changed for her, how much had changed for them?
Well, only one way to find out. She walked into the building and just
like last time was surrounded by barely-controlled chaos. She walked
past the milling masses and found the bullpen. She still remembered
which desk had been Ray Vecchio's, and went to it.
by paperwork, she could see the edge of a nameplate on the desk. What
she could see of it read 'CHIO', which was a reassuring sign. No one
sat at the desk, but there was a still-hot cup of coffee steaming on
a stack of papers, so she figured he wasn't far away. She took a seat
in the interview chair next to the desk and waited.
few minutes had passed, a tall man in his mid-thirties with spiky blonde
hair and bright, intelligent blue eyes wandered over, picked up the cup,
took a sip, and then looked at her. His gaze slid up and down her, assessing,
before he spoke.
"Can I help you?"
he asked hopefully. |
she confirmed, eyeing him back. Not bad. Slender but muscular, with
a kind of Dickensian, two-thirds Artful-Dodger one-third Oliver charm.
"I'm looking for Ray Vecchio."
grinned. "You got him, lady. Whatcha need?"
little bugger, she thought. "That's between him and me."
He sat down, took another
sip of coffee, and then put the cup down. "Well then, go ahead and
spit it out because I got work to do."
Not getting anywhere. Amanda figured he must have somehow misunderstood
her. "I'm sorry, maybe you misheard. I need to talk to Ray Vecchio."
"I am Ray
Vecchio," he said, slightly exasperated. "If you need to talk,
back, staring at him, thoroughly nonplused. "You're Ray
crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, looking slightly defensive.
"I'm the only Ray Vecchio in this Division."
leaned forward, trying to see any trace of the man she remembered. The
two men were around the same height, maybe even the same weight, but
there all resemblance ended. The Ray she remembered had been lanky,
balding, big-nosed, and olive skinned with gray-green eyes. This man
was a lot more muscular, had considerably more hair, a kind of cute little
nose, fair skin, and sleepy-lidded blue eyes. They didn't even sound
alike. She considered what might be possible with plastic surgery, hair
plugs, contact lenses, a dye job, and regular workouts, and still came
up short. Still, she supposed it was remotely possible. In that case.
remember me, Detective Vecchio? Think dark hair, January thunderstorms,
and three-am discussions of immortality."
that looked a little like panic flashed across his face. "Ah, no,
ma'am. I'm sorry, I don't."
cinched it. This was definitely not Ray Vecchio. Not her Ray Vecchio
anyway. While a man might forget a woman he'd slept with once, sort
of, he wouldn't forget seeing her take a Quickening, and everything that
had come after that. It seemed unlikely that two men with the same name
would work for the Chicago police department, even use the same desk,
but maybe it was true. She sighed and stood up. "I'm afraid I've
made a mistake. Sorry to have troubled you, Detective."
sorry, too," he said, looking genuinely regretful. "I think
I might have liked remembering you."
smiled. "Quite possibly." She stood to leave, and then paused.
He still might know something useful. "I don't suppose you'd happen
to know a Constable Benton Fraser, would you?"
Fraser?" Surprise and dismay colored his voice. He stared at her.
"Um, has it been kind of a while since you been here?"
"It will be two
years in January. I've been abroad."
hunh," he chewed on his lip, looked around the office, then stood
up. "C'mon. We gotta talk. Not here."
he took a step away from the desk, his phone rang. He rolled his eyes
and held up a hand for her to wait as he picked up the phone.
he said into the handset. He listened a moment, and frowned, looking
around the office. "Yeah, yeah, Mr. Mustafi. Wait, just a second,
just a sec, let me. . . " He put one hand over the mouthpiece and
waved the other at a dark-haired young woman with a tag that read 'civilian
aide' on her blouse. "Hey, Frannie! We got a TV around here?
Would ya get it and put it on Channel Six?"
do I look like, your wife?" the woman groused, but she got up and
went around the corner, returning a moment later with a television on
a rolling cart. She plugged it in, turned it on, and flipped the channel
selector. The picture wasn't very good, but it was clear enough for them
to see that it was a live news broadcast. The aide messed with the antenna
until the picture cleared a little and the sound unfuzzed.
. .where there is apparently an unfolding hostage drama. Carl, can you
zoom in a little closer? Let us see what's going on?"
camera jostled a bit, then the focus tightened up on what appeared to
be a waiting or lobby area visible through large plate-glass windows.
A small group of people were backed up against a wall, and in front of
them were two men, one clearly holding a large handgun just under the
jaw of the second. Amanda leaned forward, eyes narrowed. That jawline
looked awfully familiar . . . Just about the time she noticed that,
the man claiming to be Ray Vecchio groaned. She turned to look at him
and saw all the color drain out of his face, leaving a scattering of
freckles to stand out in sharp relief.
no, it can't be. Tell me it's not . . ." the blond whispered.
That told her volumes.
He might not be the same Ray, but he was clearly close to Ben. Very
close. She wondered just how close. For some reason she could 'see'
this wiry working class street-tough with the All Canadian Boy more than
she'd been able to see the other Ray with Fraser. She'd always wondered
if that Ray had been able to overcome his upbringing enough to accept
Ben's love for the gift it was. She'd always hoped so, but there had
been an edge of doubt there, too. Macho-Italian-Catholic was a lot to
The civilian aide suddenly screamed in a voice that brought all work
in the bullpen to an immediate halt. Within seconds everyone in the
room was clustered around the television, trying to see what was going
on. Vecchio thanked whoever it was on the phone and hung up, then put
his head in his hands, moaning softly.
does he do it? How come he's always at the wrong place at the wrong
time, every time?"
familiar-looking stocky, dark-haired man stuck his head out of his office.
"You all having a party and didn't invite me? I'm hurt."
Vecchio looked up. "It's
man sighed. "Do I even want to know?"
apparently a hostage situation, sir."
is holding someone hostage?" the man asked, incredulously, moving
closer to peer at the television himself.
sir. Fraser seems to be the hostage. One of them, anyway."
The man sighed again.
"Why am I not surprised? Okay, lets get on this folks. How come
it's on the news and we haven't heard about it yet? Where is it, how
long has it been going on, and is it in our jurisdiction? Get a move
on. That's one of ours out there. Besides, we gotta get him out before
the Canadians find out and get mad. There's nothing worse than a mad
people chuckled, and the crowd dispersed instantly, everyone scattering
toward desks and phones, leaving Amanda alone with the fake Ray, and
the stocky man, who turned to look at her, frowning faintly as he tried
to place her.
me, but do I know you?"
shook her head, not wanting him to remember where or when they'd met
before. After all, technically she'd been dead the last time. "No,
I don't believe we've met."
He absorbed that, then spoke again. "May I ask what you're doing
a friend of Ray Vecchio and Ben Fraser. I just dropped by to visit for
a moment when everything . . . happened."
looked as if he were going to protest her claim of friendship, then closed
his mouth on whatever he'd planned to say.
see. Well, I'm sorry you had to find Constable Fraser in such an unfortunate
looked at the screen and nodded. "So am I, but perhaps I can be
men looked at her, surprised. "Help, how?"
smiled, and fished in her bag, bringing out her wallet and her latest
identification, courtesy of Methos' Magic Makeovers, blessing whatever
gift of prophecy had made him give her the least likely occupation imaginable.
She proffered it to the older man. "Allow me to introduce myself.
Amanda Waring, Interpol."
looked at the ID, looked at her, and looked impressed. "Lieutenant
Harding Welsh, ma'am, Chicago P.D."
shook his hand in a businesslike manner, ignoring the way the blond was
staring at her, goggle-eyed. "Nice to meet you, Lieutenant. Welsh.
Now, I assume that if you could get a team in there without the suspect
knowing it, it would be preferable to a frontal assault?"
Welsh agreed. "But how could you help us?"
me the blueprints to the building and I'll get you in. I specialize
in security, which includes determining alternate routes into, and out
of various buildings." Well, at least it was partly true.
studied her. "You really work for Interpol?" he asked.
She nodded. "I'm
a part-time security consultant for them. Normally I work out of Paris
but I'm in the States on personal business. If you'd like to check my
credentials, you can contact a gentleman named Justin Case at their Security
had a little trouble saying the name with a straight face. Methos had
thought it up, and she hadn't expected to have to actually say it. He'd
insisted she had to have a contact 'just in case' she needed confirmation
of her identity. 'Justin' was a fellow Immortal who'd been working at
Interpol for some time, and the name had been chosen to tip him off as
to the purpose of the call.
hesitated, and the blond shot her a suspicious look. Maybe she hadn't
quite managed not to smile when she'd said the name. Her attention was
caught again by the television, by that image of Ben with a gun pressed
to the curve of his jaw, and she swallowed, hard.
I couldn't bear to think I might have been able to help, and didn't."
The suspicion faded instantly
from the blond's face and he nodded. It was clear he understood. They
all did. People like Benton Fraser were a rare and precious commodity,
and they would all do their best to assure his safety. Finally Welsh
aboard, Ms. Waring. I'm sure we can use all the help we can get."
* * *
"I assure you, sir,"
Fraser said in his most persuasive tone. "I would be happy to stay
and assist you in your mission, however I do feel it would be prudent
for you to let these others go. After all, keeping track of seven people,
plus myself, could become wearing."
cylinder of metal against his throat wavered slightly.
want to stay?" the man asked suspiciously. "You want to help?
pondered the proper response to that for a moment before answering.
The man's temper was clearly unstable, he would have to tread lightly.
"My reasons are twofold. First, I'm sure you must have some compelling
reason for your actions. Secondly, it seems clear that someone must
stay, and I, being an officer of the law, albeit in another country,
should be the one to assume that responsibility."
a cop?" The man asked, his voice up an octave.
gun dug harshly into Fraser's throat, making him wince. Perhaps he should
not have been quite so forthcoming. "Well, not in the United States.
Only in Canada."
The gun pulled away
slightly again, and Fraser swallowed, trying to ease the constricted
feeling in his throat.
are you doing here if you're Canadian?" the gunman asked.
first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father . . ."
Fraser began, only to have his disquisition interrupted by the gunman.
"I mean here, at
he said, making the slight mental adjustment necessary. "I came
to assist a friend of mine with a difficulty he has been having with
his taxes. Mr. Mustafi is being audited, as he seems to have incorrectly
filled out a form, probably a simple error in calculation, which I believe
I can show to be entirely understandable, given the complexity of the
instructions and Mr. Mustafi's relative unfamiliarity with written English."
gunman said. "Okay. But I'm not letting them go. More is better."
is an erroneous assumption. More is not always better."
weird," the man returned.
I'm often told," Fraser agreed. "But I can explain. For
instance, take salt. While a small amount of dietary salt is necessary
to maintain proper health, too much salt can result in high blood-pressure,
dehydration, and eventually even death. So, in that case, less is better."
That was contemplated,
and after a moment the gun left his skin to wave in the air.
you civilians, outta here! The IRS people stay. And you folks tell
them I want to talk to the mayor!"
sir?" Fraser ventured. "The mayor won't be able to assist you
if your problem is with the IRS. Being a state, rather than a federal
official, he holds no sway over them."
That was duly considered. "Uh, who would be the boss of the IRS,
believe the IRS falls under the purview of the Treasury Department which
is headed by the United States Secretary of the Treasury," Fraser
said, without thinking.
The gunman turned to the four hostages who were in the process of moving
cautiously toward the door. "Tell 'em I wanna talk to the U.S.
Secretary of the Treasury."
dear. Ray was right. He really should be more careful about being quite
so helpful. It seemed likely that he should have withheld that information.
It was highly doubtful that such a highly placed official would be willing
to fly to Chicago to meet with a disgruntled taxpayer holding a Mountie
and a few IRS agents hostage. Fraser resigned himself to a long wait.
The last 'civilian' hostage, Mr. Mustafi, edged toward the door, and
stopped, looking back at him apologetically. Fraser cleared his throat.
"May I speak with
my friend for a moment?"
sure," the gunman said magnanimously.
Mustafi?" Fraser called. "Would you call Ray Vecchio and
tell him I will be unable to make our appointment this afternoon?"
His former fellow-tenant
nodded, his face lit with understanding. Clearly he realized Ben was
telling him to call the police. "Sure, Benny. I call him. Right
you kindly, Mr. Mustafi."
friend nodded and slipped out the door, running as soon as he was out
of the room. Ben sighed. He felt better knowing that at least some
of the others were safe now. There were still three other hostages left,
but that was better than seven.
now we wait," the gunman said. "You people, sit down over
there, together so I can keep an eye on you."
tried to ease the muscles in his neck, which were starting to stiffen
from being held in an unnatural position for so long. "Sir? May
I ask your name?"
man tensed. "Why?
under the circumstances I may feel it necessary to get your attention,
and should that occur, it would be more polite to use your name, rather
than, say, 'hey you.'"
It's Roberts. Captain Louis Hover Roberts."
to meet you, sir," Fraser returned automatically, as if he were
at a formal reception, not standing there with a gun to his head. "Constable
Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
nice to meet you too, I guess," Roberts said, not moving the gun,
sounding a little embarrassed.
Roberts?" Fraser asked after a moment.
the gunman snapped irritably.
would be appreciative if you could see your way clear to allowing me
some freedom of movement. My neck is getting a little sore."
There was a moment's
hesitation, then slowly the gun was eased away, and the man let go of
him. "Yeah, go sit over there by the others. Don't move, and no
took the indicated seat, and looked across the room at Roberts. He seemed
ordinary enough. He looked to be in his late fifties, relatively fit,
with graying dark brown hair cut militarily close and rather intense
blue eyes. Not the sort of man one expected to take hostages in an IRS
office. Of course, one didn't generally expect that sort of behavior
in any case. The man stared back at him, frowning slightly.
nothing personal, you know," he offered a little apologetically.
Ben nodded. "Understood."
"May I ask the basis
of your complaint?" Ben asked conversationally. Perhaps he could
find a way to help the man reach some sort of resolution. The other
hostages looked at him like he'd lost his mind. He ignored it. He was
used to that.
complaint?" The man asked, his voice tense, his eyes, which a moment
earlier had been almost normal, went flat and hard. "My complaint
is that as leader of the Patriot's Militia, I have a right to military
exemptions which these," he waved the gun at the three IRS employees
cowering together, " . . .these idiots refuse to allow me to claim!
They have no right to tell me otherwise!"
dear. Fraser decided that he had made a distinct error in judgement.
He had assumed that the man was basically rational, just driven to take
action by desperation, perhaps financial hardship. Clearly that might
not be the case. While he knew little about the U.S. Tax code aside
from what he had studied to assist Mr. Mustafi, he was fairly sure that
military exemptions did not as a rule apply to civil militias. Also,
after having lived for some time in the United States and having kept
abreast of the news, not to mention having had direct, personal experience
with the Bolt brothers, he knew that some of the people who were drawn
to participate in those organizations were not the most stable of individuals.
Still, he had to try.
see. Well, being unfamiliar with your laws, I can't really address that,
however it seems to me that your case would be better addressed by your
local legislator. Perhaps you could send him, or her, a letter stating
your belief and suggesting that the tax codes be amended to allow for
exemptions of this nature?"
The man started to pace. "Politicians? Corrupt sons of bitches,
every one of 'em. They make their money off the backs of people like
me. Writing a letter to one of them would be like flushing it down the
john. The only thing they listen to is power, and I got that now."
Ben swallowed his sigh,
and nodded. "Yes, sir, at the moment, you do appear to," he
said conciliatorially. "However, appearances can be deceiving,"
he couldn't resist adding.
pacing stopped and the gunman turned to him. "Shut up. I did
what you said because I wanted to, and because you were polite, but I've
heard enough now."
nodded wordlessly, his mind already evaluating cover, searching for exits.
If he couldn't reason their way out, he might have to get them out some
other way. His gaze lit on an air return vent located at floor level
on a wall behind a desk and low partition. He looked at the other hostages.
None of them were particularly large individuals. It could work. Possibly.
Providing there was enough going on to distract the gunman. He wouldn't
be able to fit through it himself, but the others could. He would need
to gauge his opportunities carefully.
just a moment he wished Ray were here. The other man's quicksilver mind
would lend itself well to evaluating the problem. Guiltily he shut down
that thought. He certainly would never want to put Ray in any danger.
In point of fact, he found himself trying very hard to keep Ray out of
danger, because he knew from painful experience that losing someone as
close as Ray had become was like losing part of his soul. He couldn't
go through that again. He didn't have very much soul left to lose.
* * *
"Got the location,
'Ray' Kowalski jerked his attention from the television screen as Huey
started waving a slip of paper triumphantly. "IRS office over on
Milwaukee. The Channel 6 news got a tip about some kind of protest to
be staged there today, that's how come they were there when it happened."
Welsh barked. "Get me blueprints, fast! And tell Channel 6 if
they ever withhold information on us again I'll slap their asses in jail
so fast they won't have time to say 'first amendment!'"
ripple of angry agreement went through the room, and Ray grinned. Nice
to see he wasn't the only one pissed off. He saw movement on the screen
and watched as the asshole with the gun finally turned loose of Fraser
and his friend crossed the room to sit with the other hostages. He relaxed,
marginally. Though the situation was still bad, it was better than seeing
him with that damned gun shoved up under his jaw in that spot that always
made Ray's mouth water.
to get rid of that thought he picked up a pencil, flipping it through
his fingers like a majorette's baton as he stared at the TV, trying hard
to see if the Mountie looked scared. He couldn't tell, the picture wasn't
good enough. Suddenly the hairs on his neck prickled and he looked up
to find the Interpol chick was watching him, her gaze narrowed and speculative.
Instantly he stopped flipping the pencil and gripped it hard. It broke,
and he swore, throwing the pieces into the trash, and ran his hands through
starin' at?" he demanded, low-voiced.
she said candidly. "Are you okay?"
fine," he snapped. "Why wouldn't I be?"
smiled gently. "You know why. You're as worried about him as I
am. More, probably. How long have you known him?"
closed his eyes. "All my life," he whispered. It felt like
it. Until Fraser, he hadn't had a life in a long time. Suddenly he
realized he'd said part of that out loud and his eyes shot open again,
a blush washing his face. "I mean, a few years. Since he got to
she paused and looked at him significantly. "May I call you Ray?
Or would you be more comfortable with some other name?"
bit his lip, avoiding her gaze. She knew. He was sure she knew. She
must have known them, Fraser and the other Ray, before. "Ray's
she said, noncommittally. "Just before this started, you were going
to tell me something. What was it?"
flicked a glance at Welsh, who didn't appear to be paying attention to
anything but the scene on the television. "Nothin'."
I'd like to step outside for a moment, get some fresh air. Would you
care to join me?"
hesitated, then nodded. "Sure, why not?" He grabbed his worn
leather jacket from the back of his chair and stood up, going to Welsh.
"Back in a minute, sir, gonna get some air."
nodded, and waved him on. Amanda moved smoothly toward the door and
Ray found himself admiring her the way he had for a moment, before all
this started. Sharp-lookin' lady. Classy. Great everything, especially
legs. He liked the short, silvery hair that was actually kind of similar
to his own, except lighter and, well, flatter.
a moment he felt a little disconcerted. Sometimes he even confused himself.
Here he'd been waking up for months to hot, wet dreams of a certain very
male Mountie, but he was still noticing women, too? Maybe it had just
been so long since he'd gotten laid that everything was starting to look
good. If he started dreaming about Diefenbaker he'd better see a shrink.
Or a hooker. Anything.
stepped out of the building and inhaled a deep lungful of frigid, exhaust-scented
air. He coughed, and the chick patted him on the back. He waved a hand
at her to tell her it was just the shock of the cold and took a smaller
breath through his nose. Okay, better, though the little hairs in his
nose all crinkled as the cold hit them and that felt weird. She waited
a moment, then put her hand on his arm.
you and I both know you're not really Ray Vecchio," she said. "But
I can also see you really do know Ben, and you care about him. Please,
tell me what's going on."
would kill him. Ben would kill him. The other Ray would kill him.
Of course he didn't much care about that one. Still, this chick was
sort of a cop, and he'd been right. She had known Fraser, and Ray, back
then. He sighed.
tell ya much. It's an undercover thing."
nodded thoughtfully. "I thought it must be something like that,
since everyone else was calling you Ray, too. It's not too often you
find an entire building full of totally delusional cops. What's your
Stanley Raymond Kowalski, and yeah, my folks were big Brando fans. But
I go by Ray now." Except with Fraser. Sometimes. In my dreams.
Stop it, idiot.
to meet you, Stanley Raymond Kowalski. So, you've been working with
Ben for how long now?"
two years. Thought I was gonna strangle him at first, but now . . ."
Ray shrugged helplessly. "He kinda grows on ya."
grinned. She had a great grin, mischievous. "Yes, he does, doesn't
he? I don't suppose you can tell me what happened to the, um, the other
shook his head. "Nope. Can't. Too dangerous. Shouldn'ta said
anything I already did."
understand. And thank you for that much."
how'd you know them, before?"
ah, met on a case."
frowned. "You did? I don't remember you from any of the case files.
Course, I mighta missed one."
involvement was strictly confidential, it probably didn't make it into
any official report," she said, her glance flickering to the side.
Funny. She was
lying about something, or holding something back. His gaze sharpened.
"What case was it?"
shook her head. "That's not important. Why don't we go back inside
and see if they have the blueprints yet?"
paused for a moment, staring at her. "What're you up to?"
He asked suspiciously.
gazed back at him innocently. "Nothing. Except trying to save
into her eyes a moment longer, and finally gave it up. She was good.
He wasn't going to get anywhere. "Okay, c'mon."
* * *
"For the last time,
absolutely not! We can't risk it."
Welsh, for the last time, I'm your best bet. I've done this before.
Look around, how many of the people in this room do you think will fit
in that duct? Myself, and Detective Vecchio here are about it. The
rest of you, no offense, are simply too big in one dimension or another.
Let me do this!" Amanda finished her speech and glared at the man
in front her, daring him to deny her this. He knew she was right, damn
it. He had to.
glared back at her, and then Ray Kowalski stepped up, right in Welsh's
right, sir. We can do it. We're the only ones who can. Let us go in
sighed. "The SWAT team is more experienced at this kind of . .
SWAT team are a bunch of cowboys who'd rather shoot first and ask questions
later, and you know that. They'll get him killed." Ray's voice
softened, almost pleading. "Sir, he's my partner. He's my friend.
Let me, let us go."
studied his face, his eyes, the timbre of his voice, and smiled inwardly.
Oh yeah. Kowalski was definitely hooked. He'd told her he'd known Fraser
about two years, that meant Ray Vecchio must have gone undercover very
shortly after she'd left them that night. She sighed. Poor Ben. That
had to have hurt. She wondered how long it had taken him to work through
"Look, I know you're his partner and his friend. That's half the
problem, Kow. . . Vecchio." Welsh's eyes slid toward Amanda as if
to see if she'd caught his slip. "How can I trust you to be objective?"
Ray rolled his eyes.
"This ain't brain surgery, ya know. It's 'go in, get the bad guy,
take him out.' How hard is that?"
don't want to have to see charges of excessive force in the Sun-Times,
put her hand on Welsh's arm. "Get us tranquilizer guns. We'll
go in with those. No one can accuse you of excessive force then."
He stared at her, surprised.
"Tranquilizer guns?" He frowned thoughtfully. "Interesting
idea." His gaze shifted to Ray, who looked as if he were about
to launch a punch if Welsh didn't agree. "What's your take."
"Whatever it takes,
sir, I'll do it. Just make sure whatever it is works fast."
Welsh nodded. "Okay,
we'll go with it. Let's get this show on the road."
* * *
The duct was tight and
close, Ray had gotten stuck in it twice already, and only eased free
with a liberal application of the silicone spray Amanda had insisted
they both carry. She'd teased him about being 'bigger than he looked'
and he'd growled something in response about showing her just how much
once they got out. But he hadn't meant it. All he wanted to do when
he got out was to grab the Mountie and get him the fuck outta there.
Stick him someplace safe and warm and never, ever let him out again.
The closer he got
to Fraser, the scareder he got. His heart was pounding, his palms slick.
What if he screwed up? What if, God help him, what if he got Ben killed?
He froze, unable to move past that thought as it played over and over
in his head. He'd seen dead people before. Messily dead. No way could
he let that happen to Fraser. Cause that. Oh God.
Amanda whispered. "You okay?"
I'm going to puke, he thought, but didn't say. "Uh, I'm not too
sure about this," he said, trying to communicate his unease.
"Can't back out
now, sweetie. Keep going. We're halfway there. You can do it. They
told me you're the best marksman in the Division."
told her that? Cool. He squirmed a little, pushing his leg against
the side of the vent until he could feel the uncomfortable bulge of his
glasses case in the thigh pocket of his borrowed black fatigues. Reassured
that it was still there, he could relax a little. As long as he could
see, he could make the shot. He started to move again.
* * *
Fraser could see Roberts
was growing more and more tense. The police had arrived to surround
the building and evacuate other offices some time back, and Roberts had
ordered the blinds closed then, fearing, not without cause, that sharpshooters
might take him out through the window were they given a clear shot.
Negotiations had been established and broken off several times. The
Secretary of the Treasury was unavailable, being in Belgium at the moment.
Several lower-level officials had been suggested and rejected. Roberts
was starting to talk about shooting hostages.
was unacceptable. If it came to it, Fraser would simply have to prevent
it. And, the situation being what it was, he knew it was entirely possible
that he would not survive. Yet as was so often the case, his duty was
clear, and unavoidable. He had no choice. As always, duty gave him
As he thought
that, a lifetime, or at least two years, of regrets seemed to well up
inside him. He thought about how little he would leave behind, and had
to swallow, hard. He leaned forward a little, snagged a piece of paper
from the computer printer on the desk in front of him, and slipped a
pencil from his pocket. Roberts lifted his gun.
do you think you're doing?" he snapped.
writing a note, sir. To a . . . friend."
looked at him silently. They both knew why, there was no need to verbalize
it. After a moment Roberts looked away, no longer able to meet his gaze.
Write. But keep your hands where I can see them," Roberts snapped,
them stalked across the room to cautiously move the blinds aside with
the barrel of the gun so he could look out.
smoothed the paper over his knee, and began to write. To his left, he
heard one of the female hostages begin to cry. He looked over at her
and smiled reassuringly.
sure everything will be fine, ma'am. Don't worry."
sniffled, and looked at him suspiciously. "Then, why are you .
. . ?" Her eyes went to the paper.
smiled again. "I intend to make sure of your safety," he said
that, and her eyes widened. "I -- I-- thank you."
quite welcome," he said automatically.
straightened in her seat, and sniffed a few times, but no longer cried.
Fraser felt somewhat better. He returned to his note, trying to find
ways to express what he felt that didn't come right out and say it.
He couldn't do that. He'd never been able to do that worth a damn.
Not with his father, not with Victoria, not with Ray Vecchio, not with
Meg Thatcher, or Janet, and certainly not with Ray Kowalski. Every time
he tried, he got hurt a little more, a little worse. He'd finally given
at what he'd written. 'Dear Ray, Diefenbaker is at the Consulate with
Turnbull. If you don't mind, would you please pick him up and take care
of him for me?' That was it. He felt his mouth curve in a bitter smile.
Oh yes. That would certainly do it.
eyes and nose stung. There must be something in the ventilation system
. . . He straightened, frowning, and inhaled deeply. Something actually
did smell odd. Something kind of chemical, like an aerosol propellant.
His gaze went to the air return vent he'd noticed earlier. He heard
a slight creaking sound, like the sound that ductwork makes when it expands
with heat or contracts in the cold.
gaze narrowed and he listened harder. The other hostages were whispering
amongst themselves so it was difficult to be certain, but he thought
he'd just heard a very familiar voice whisper "Ow, geez!"
He also thought he detected a hint of movement behind the grating that
covered the vent. He calculated Ray's dimensions against those of the
vent, and almost smiled. It would be tight, but he could do it.
Quickly he turned the
paper over and wrote on the back, then passed it to the woman to his
left. She read it, glanced at the vent, then back at him, and nodded,
showing it to the two next to her. They both looked at the vent, then
carefully back at him. He lifted his eyebrows, they nodded. The woman
wrote something on the paper and passed it back to him. He read it,
thought about it, and wrote his answer, outlining what they were to do.
Passing it back, they all read it, then Ben held up three fingers in
succession. She smiled, they all nodded. They had a plan. He stood
up suddenly, and Roberts swung around to sight at him.
are you up to? I told you to sit!"
spread his hands in a pacifying gesture. "Yes, sir. I'm aware
of that. But, well, frankly we've been here for several hours now and
the call of nature is, ah, pressing." He felt a faint flush rise
in his face at discussing bodily functions in mixed company, but it had
been the first plausible reason that had sprung to mind and he had to
distract Roberts from the vent. "I suspect the others are in the
same, er, boat," he offered.
nodded. All of them.
scowled. Clearly bathroom breaks hadn't been part of his plan.
"There's a bathroom
there," the woman who had cried said, pointing toward the opposite
side of the office, in the back. A small sign on the door read 'private.'
Roberts walked over and flung open the door, sighting into the closet-sized,
windowless room as if he expected it to be occupied. It wasn't. And
it was indeed a bathroom. Fraser glanced at the door, noting it was
an inch thick, and like the other doors in the office, was fire-proof--
solid, and steel-cored. Excellent. Out of the corner of his eye, Fraser
saw the vent cover bow outward. He coughed several times as it popped
open, drawing Robert's gaze and covering the slight sound it made.
"What's your problem?"
Fraser apologized. "My throat is a bit dry."
you first," Roberts said, pointing to the woman who'd told him about
the bathroom. She got to her feet, hesitantly.
on, get it over with!" Roberts snapped, watching her carefully
as she sidled toward the room, his gaze flicking back and forth between
her and the others. "The rest of you go stand next to the door
where I can see you all."
Roberts spoke, Fraser glanced over to see the grate being slowly eased
aside, and a pair of hands emerged to place a small pistol on the floor.
Elegant, long-fingered hands faintly dusted with golden hair and freckles.
He knew those hands. He dreamed about those hands. Seconds later a
familiar, spiky blonde head emerged from the vent, followed shortly by
the rest of Ray's body as he slithered out of the duct, keeping flat
on the floor where Roberts couldn't possibly see him. Attired in all
black, he looked surprisingly dangerous. And stunningly attractive.
Their eyes met, and Ray's
face lit up, his blue eyes shining with . . . Fraser's breath caught.
He couldn't believe what he was seeing. No, Ray was just pleased to
see him. That was all. His friend gave a thumb's up sign as a second
figure appeared behind him, no one Ben knew, not with that bright platinum
hair. Probably SWAT personnel, judging from their clothing.
to look at the vent too long, Fraser shifted his gaze back to Roberts
and stayed put as the others slowly made their way to stand beside the
bathroom. They stood there, waiting. The first woman stepped inside,
and looked back. Fraser tapped first one finger, then another, then
finally a third against his thigh. At that signal, the other two hostages
rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, the lock clicking
into place behind them.
howled with outrage, and aimed at the door, then spun to look at Fraser,
then back at the door, torn between targets. As he hesitated, Ray rose
in a fluid, athletic glide, his glasses firmly in place, and took aim.
Roberts saw the movement out of the corner of his eye and his weapon
wavered between Fraser and this new threat, the other hostages forgotten
just as Ben had hoped. Ray pulled the trigger, but instead of the ear-splitting
bark of exploding gunpowder, there was just a soft hiss of air and a
slight 'thwack'-ing sound.
eyes widened as Roberts turned toward him, furious, and time seemed to
slow down as his finger tightened on the trigger. Out of nowhere, a
slim bright-haired figure in dark clothing was suddenly between him and
Roberts. The gun fired, the muzzle flashed, and the figure between them
stumbled forward into Fraser, who caught the person, a 'her' he realized
on impact, automatically in his arms. He finally saw her face as she
looked up at him, a strange smile on her lips.
Ben," she said breathlessly. "I've been dying to see you again."
Beyond her, Roberts staggered,
and dropped the gun, then slowly collapsed to the floor. Fraser felt
something hot and wet beneath his palm, and lifted it slightly from her
back to see what he'd feared. Scarlet. At least this time it didn't
frighten him. He knew better. He sighed.
he began, admonishingly.
lifted a hand to his lips and stopped him. "I know, I know. We've
got to stop . . . meeting . . . like this." She laughed weakly.
"Oh, damn it. I didn't . . . mean for it to be like this. Sorry."
She shivered a little and took a deep breath. "Remember. . . no
hospital, no doctor. . . no autopsy. Promise?"
sagged against him and he held her up so no one would know she couldn't
support herself. Her black clothing hid the blood well. He looked past
her to where Ray knelt, handcuffing the apparently unconscious Roberts.
His eyes met Kowalski's, and once again Fraser couldn't believe what
he saw in those anxious blue eyes. No way. No. That wasn't pain, was
it? Could that possibly be . . . jealousy? He shook off the sudden
hope that look engendered as Amanda's fingers dug painfully into his
realized he had only seconds to act before the place was swarming with
law enforcement personnel. "Ray, is your car here?"
Frase, right outside, around back. Why?"
tell you later. I'll be right back. Oh, and Ray, please tell the others
it's safe to come out of the bathroom now." He slid an arm around
Amanda's waist and caught her hand to pull one of her arms across his
shoulder. She gasped, teeth drawing blood from her lip as the action
pulled at her wound. Ray looked lost for a moment as Fraser walked Amanda
toward the door.
he said, quietly, sounding as lost as he looked.
okay, Ray. Really. I'll be right back. Ms. ah," he realized
he had no idea what her name was this time around, and quickly shifted
gears. "Amanda is feeling faint and needs to rest for a bit. I'm
taking her to your car."
dropped his gaze, his mouth pulling to one side in a self-derogatory
moue. "Yah, sure. Whatever."
hesitated, torn between reassuring Ray, and getting Amanda out of there.
Both needs were equally urgent. Amanda started to slide from his grasp,
making his decision for him. He walked her around the corner, then lifted
her in his arms and headed for the rear entrance, knowing that the front
was about to be invaded. Then it dawned on him that there were likely
officers at the rear as well. Logically, they would be watching all
the exits. He stopped, and sighed.
sorry, I have to stash you for a bit. Is that all right?"
smiled weakly. "Just keep me . . . away. . . from pathologists."
I promise." He pushed open the door to the ladies' room and looked
around. A small closet at the back appeared promising, and he opened
it to find it full of custodial supplies. Turning over a bucket, he
seated Amanda on it and went to his knees to look into her eyes, his
hands around hers.
don't know how you did it, but thank you for saving my life, again."
got to his feet, and realized he had blood all over his hands, and his
jacket. He washed his hands quickly, peeled off the jacket and placed
it around her, then closed the door and headed back to try and mend the
breach he'd just created between himself and his partner.
* * *
Ray stared after Fraser,
feeling bereft. He'd never seen Fraser act like that around a woman
before. He'd held her. He'd touched her, pulled her to him. God, he'd
almost kissed her, their mouths had been that close. He closed his eyes,
swallowed hard, and shook himself.
it up, Kowalski. You knew he wasn't for you anyhow. Just 'cause he
don't seem ta like women don't mean he likes men. Besides, since when
do you like guys? A little voice inside the voice in his head whispered
'since about sixth grade' but he ignored it like usual.
heard other voices, real ones, as his fellow officers started to invade
the building. Concentrate. You got work to do. Resolutely, he stood
up and went to what he assumed was the bathroom door, and knocked.
"Hey in there, it's
okay ta come out now."
there?" A female voice asked suspiciously.
Vecchio, Chicago P.D."
He'll be back in a sec. Had to step out for a minute. Come on, he's
my partner. It's okay, really."
was a hesitation, some whispering, then the door was unlocked and opened.
Three people practically tumbled out of the close confines of the tiny
cubicle, all looking shaken. One, a smartly-dressed woman in her mid-thirties,
studied his face.
said you're his partner?"
nodded. "Yep. Sure am."
looked him up and down, and sighed sadly. "I knew he was too good
to be true. Why is it all the good ones are either taken, or gay?"
She looked down at the paper in her hand and held it out to him. "I'm
guessing this was meant for you, then. What he started to write, anyway."
Confused, he took the
paper and looked at it. It appeared to be an outline of the escape plan
they'd just used. He looked at it blankly, then at her.
smiled. "Turn it over," she said, walking away.
turned it over, read the brief request that graced the page, and started
to smile while at the same time blinking back tears. "You bet,"
he said softly, folding the paper and pocketing it. At least now he
knew he meant something to Fraser, even if it wasn't what he wanted.
Fraser wouldn't trust the wolf to just anyone.
looked up and saw Fraser standing in the doorway, gazing in his direction
with an expression that made his breath catch. He turned, automatically
looking to see who was standing behind him, Amanda, maybe? Nope. No
one. Just the empty lavatory, and nobody in their right mind looked
at a bathroom like that. Course, that assumed Fraser was in his right
mind. Sometimes he wondered. He turned back, but now the Mountie's attention
had been distracted by Lieutenant Welsh and the moment was gone. What
the heck had that been about?
could ask Fraser about it later. If he could get his courage up. If
Fraser didn't run right off with Little Miss Interpol. Now, that wasn't
fair. She'd helped a lot. Her plan had worked like gangbusters, and
he'd even liked her, until he saw the way Fraser reacted to her. It
was jealousy. Pure and simple. Thing was, he wasn't quite sure which
one he was jealous of. Both, maybe.
sighed. Why did life have to be so weird? Or maybe it wasn't life, maybe
it was just him that was weird. Probably so. He mentally shook himself
and got to work, still trying figure out why that lady said that stuff
about 'the good ones' being either 'taken or gay.'
* * *
Kowalski looked up at
him, eyes shadowed. "Yeah, Frase, what?"
need your assistance."
straightened, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. "Shoot."
"I have to go back
to the IRS building, I left something there."
I noticed your coat was missing."
my coat." Fraser hedged. It was a good excuse.
smiled. "Let's go then, time ta blow this pop-stand. Sometimes
I spend so much time here I start wonderin' where they put my bed. Been
a long day." Suddenly he frowned, and looked around. "Hey,
where'd Miss Interpol go?
looked blankly down at him. "Miss who?"
cute blonde in the SWAT suit who thought up our daring rescue. Thought
you were gonna put her in my car."
I was, but plans changed."
Ray absorbed that, and then frowned some more. "Ya know, I never
saw her after you left with her. Where'd she go? How come she don't
gotta do paperwork?"
her presence was technically unsanctioned, and she prefers to avoid the
public eye whenever possible."
gotcha," Ray said, winking. "Black Ops and all that."
that," Fraser agreed. "Also, Ray, I'd like to have an opportunity
to talk with you," he hesitated a moment, then added the dreaded
looked up at him, lower lip caught in his teeth for a moment, looking
like he was expecting some sort of lecture. "Uh, yeah? 'Bout what?"
Fraser looked pointedly
around the bullpen and lifted his eyebrows.
right. Alone. Well, come on, then." He shot to his feet and loped
out of the office.
wondered where he found the energy to move that fast, and followed him,
moving much more slowly, willfully hanging back. He had made the decision
to speak to Ray but the reality of actually doing so was on the verge
of terrifying. There were really two discussions involved. Since he
might need Ray's help to retrieve Amanda safely, he had to divulge a
secret that wasn't really his to divulge. That was actually the easier
of the two discussions.
far more difficult one involved what he had seen, or thought he'd seen,
in the other man's face, in his eyes, earlier that day. It wasn't the
first time he'd gotten a look with ambiguous interpretations from Ray.
Not by a long shot. That ambiguity was what kept him constantly on edge,
constantly half-aroused in his presence. For a long time now he'd been
fighting that, telling himself it was just wishful thinking, that he
was just transferring his feelings for Ray Vecchio onto Ray Kowalski.
At the beginning that might have been true, but today had told him that
had changed. Drastically. He didn't know how Ray felt, but he knew
how he felt. This wasn't transference.
things had changed his adult world irrevocably. First, his father's
death. Second, meeting Ray Vecchio. Third, God, third had been Victoria,
a dream turned to nightmare. Fourth was once more Ray Vecchio, who had
saved him from Victoria, and then, stunningly, had done more. For far
too short a time Ray had loved Fraser back, unlike Victoria, whose love
had amounted to simple obsession. Fraser had loved both of them, given
them everything he was, withholding nothing. He knew no other way to
Out of those
things he'd built a new dream, one with Ray Vecchio at its heart. Then
Ray had gone, and that dream had died a slow, lingering death, killed
by absence, which he could have withstood, and silence, which was far
worse. For a long time he'd lied to himself, telling himself that it
was simply impossible for Ray to contact him at all. But, the difficulty
was, he knew better. Even deep undercover, there were ways. A postcard.
A third-hand message passed through a secure contact. There were ways,
and Ray's decision not to avail himself of any of them was a message
in and of itself. Ray's heritage, his upbringing, and his basic nature
had won out.
taken months, but Fraser had finally understood that message. It didn't
mean that Ray had never loved him, or even that he no longer loved him,
at least as a friend. It did mean that Ray could not be what he needed
him to be. He still loved Ray Vecchio, probably always would, but that
part of his life, that relationship, would never be the same. Everything
wasn't going to somehow, magically, be okay again. Trained from his
cradle to be a pragmatist, Ben had accepted the truth, accepted the pain,
and moved on.
was when he had stopped dreaming. Not just daydreams, or fantasies,
but any dreams, except for those persistent waking-dreams which involved
his father. When he slept, which wasn't much, there was nothing but
unconsciousness. It was strange, not to dream. For as long as he could
remember, his dreams had always been vivid, filled with symbols, images,
guides and guardians. Without them, he'd felt muffled, shut away from
part of the universe he'd always known.
had been frightening, but strangely comforting as well. If he didn't
dream, then his dreams couldn't be taken away. Recently, though, he
had started dreaming again, dreams that most often took the mercurial,
maddening, sometimes downright annoying form of one Stanley Raymond Kowalski.
Dreams that woke him, drenched in sweat and panting, but not from a nightmare.
Dreams of desire, and assuagement. Dreams of friendship, and . . .
more. Dreams that were probably every bit as unattainable as his earlier
So, his world
was changing again, or trying to. The question was, try one more time,
bare his throat for the knife one more time, or continue to hide, and
pretend he was something other than human?
Fraser whipped around,
startled, to find himself staring into his father's face. Oh, great.
is it, Dad? I'm in a bit of a hurry."
father's shrewd blue gaze seemed amused. "Really? It appears to
me that you're dawdling"
waiting for me," Fraser began.
son, he is," Robert Fraser interrupted portentously.
tried to read his face, his body language. Nothing. "Spit it out,
think I need to, son. You've figured it out."
Dad, I don't," he snapped, exasperated.
hiding doesn't help. Not in this situation. If you're going after an
armed suspect, sure, but in matters of the heart, well, son, you can't
hide from yourself, and that's God's own truth."
of the . . ." Ben stared at his father, puzzled. "Dad, are
you saying . . ."
I'm saying, son, is that a man needs to look inside himself, and to find
peace with who he is. He needs to know his own heart, or he isn't truly
stood for a long moment, silent, eyes locked. Ben found no judgment
or recrimination in his father's gaze, only understanding. His own gaze
flickered toward the door Ray Kowalski had just used, then back. He
blinked. His father was gone. He mulled his father's words for a moment,
and shook his head, confused. He wasn't entirely sure, but he thought
he'd just gotten his father's blessing. He wasn't sure which was more
frightening, that idea, or the thought of talking to Ray.
* * *
Uh oh. Big Red wants
to talk. Alone. Looks like ya blew it, Kowalski. Again. Somehow
he knows. He saw it in your face, in your eyes. He's gonna drop the
boom. Gonna kiss you off. If only. He sighed, and unlocked the GTO,
climbing in and reaching across to unlock the other door.
ya go, climb on in."
Fraser got in, Ray started the car and sat there clenching the wheel
in both hands, staring straight ahead. Fraser settled into the seat,
buckled the belt, and then looked at him.
it's all right," he said quietly.
you're worried about."
you don't know what I'm worried about then how do you know it's all right?"
Fraser paused a moment,
sighed, and shook his head. "I can't. But I think I might know.
And if I'm right, then I'm also right."
looked over at him. "Hunh?"
I'm right about one thing, I'm right about both things."
Frase, speak ENGLISH!"
sighed again. "Drive."
Ray said, and put the car in gear.
drove in silence for a few blocks, then Fraser spoke again. "Ray,
I think I need to tell you some things."
trailed off, and finally Ray had to prompt. "What kinda things?"
you?" Ray asked, shooting him a sideways glance. The Mountie looked
very uncomfortable. He was smoothing his eyebrow with his thumb, always
a dead giveaway.
me," Fraser confirmed after a short pause. "And about
Vecchio. And Amanda."
sounds pretty juicy there Frase," Ray teased.
joke was met with silence, and as he pulled up to a stoplight he looked
at Fraser. He didn't think that the red in his friend's face was entirely
due to reflection from the traffic light. He considered what he'd said.
He looked at Fraser. He considered some more. He looked at Fraser again.
His jaw dropped.
winced. "Ray, please."
Fraser. I mean, you're kidding me, right?"
no. I'm not."
stared at him, openmouthed. Behind them someone laid on the horn long
and loud. Ray jumped and looked up to find the light as green as it
could get. He hit the gas so hard he peeled a half inch of rubber off
his tires and drove, trying not to think about it, trying not to see
it in his head, tangled limbs and flushed faces, and soft sighs and moans.
It wasn't working, and he was getting really, really turned on. Finally,
thankfully, he had to stop for another traffic light. He looked back
at Fraser who was still staring straight ahead as if his neck were in
so lemme get this straight. You, and Vecchio, and Miss Interpol, had
a . . . thing?"
sighed. "Not a 'thing' Ray. A liaison. An affair, if you like.
But not a 'thing.'"
rolled that around in his head. He'd known about the psychobitch, Victoria
Metcalfe, who'd just about killed the Mountie. Well, technically that
had been the other Ray, but it was her fault anyhow. So he'd known Fraser
knew what to do with his equipment, so to speak. He'd seen the way Fraser
looked at the Bounty Hunter chick, there'd been something there, even
if it hadn't been acted on, so clearly the guy had feelings, even if
he hid 'em most of the time.
somehow he'd always known, deep inside, that there was something more
than partnership between Ray Vecchio and Fraser, something intense enough
that when Fraser came back from his vacation to find Ray Vecchio gone,
it had wounded him, badly. But he'd never guessed it was this. Never
would have in a million years.
ta blow my mind, Mountie!" he gasped, finally.
light's green," Fraser pointed out helpfully.
drove some more. Then he started to wonder, and it got too big to hold
in. "Why'd you tell me that, Fraser?"
. . ." Fraser hesitated.
snuck a look. His friend was gnawing on his lower lip like he hadn't
eaten in a week. "Frase, if you're hungry we can hit a drive-through,"
he joked, trying to lighten the mood, and get his own mind off the thought
that he'd really like to be gnawing on Fraser's lip, too.
looked at him blankly, not getting the joke. Their eyes met, held, and
Ray's pulse picked up. Another horn shocked him back to consciousness
and he swerved back into his own lane inches from an oncoming taxi, squinting
in the headlight-glare.
Maybe I should pull over."
might be a good idea, Ray."
Fraser hadn't even chastised him for swearing. He was way gone. He
looked at the street-sign as he passed an intersection, and sighed.
"Hel-uh-heck, we're almost there anyhow. We'll just stop when we
get there. But no more bombshells until then, okay?"
Fraser said, seeming relieved.
drove in a burgeoning silence the few blocks it took to reach the building
that housed the IRS offices, then Ray parked the car in the space closest
to the door, shut off the engine, and turned to look at Fraser. "Okay,
more I need to tell you," Fraser said haltingly. "But, I don't
'bout you just open your mouth and let go?"
. . . yes, that might work. Or it might not, but there's really only
one way to know, isn't there?"
one way to know what?" Ray asked, baffled.
you want me."
I . . ." Ray felt like his brain had just hit an invisible wall
past which no thought was possible. Could this really be happening?
Was it even remotely possible he wasn't dreaming again? He stared at
Fraser, sitting there with the pale yellow-pink glow of a streetlight
illuminating his perfect, perfect face, asking if he wanted him.
"Oh God, yes!"
He heard the words
spill from his lips without conscious volition, and saw Fraser's face
light up with pure, unashamed joy. I gotta be dreaming. The alarm clock's
gonna go off and I'm gonna wake up in a puddle of come like a thousand
other times and he'll be gone. Maybe I died today and I went to heaven
and this is my reward. Maybe I'm lying unconscious in a hospital and
drugged to the gills and feelin' no pain.
Fraser questioned, his gaze apprehensive, as if waiting to be told Ray
Ray said, more firmly. "Yes. YES!" That oughta be enough
even for the Mountie.
touched his face, and he opened eyes he didn't remember closing to see
Fraser, still there, still yellow-pink in the streetlight, one hand reaching
to touch the stubbled surface of his cheek, to trace a finger over his
lower lip. A shudder went through him and he reached up to grab that
hand and still it before it sent him over the edge with just that simple
touch. When his fingers closed around that broad, square hand, he gasped
in shock. It was there. It was real. Not a dream. How was that possible?
Why was it possible? What had changed the day so radically that it was
a whole new universe?
why?" He dared to use the name. The one he never used because it
was so much easier to keep Fraser at a distance than it was to keep Ben
I could have died today. I sat there, trying to write to you, to say
goodbye and tell you how I felt, and I couldn't because someone might
see it, and not understand, or understand too well. And I realized that
if I died, you would never know and I couldn't bear that. And because
I thought, for a moment, when you came to help me, I saw something in
your eyes that looked so familiar I had to take the chance."
It was an answer, a wonderful
answer, but to the wrong question. Ray tried again. "I meant,
why'd you wait so long?"
made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. "Because I was
afraid. Because it hurts so damned much."
swear-word had just passed Fraser's lips. That startled Ray so much
it took a minute for the rest to sink in. Then it did. Oh boy, did
that make sense. Perfect sense. Perfect. Just like Ben. Like called
to like. They were both the same that way. Lonely, afraid, outcasts,
trying to find a place to call home. How could that have happened to
someone like Ben? Stanley Raymond Kowalski knew he was no prize, but
Ben was . . . perfect. He knew he was overusing that word, but there
just wasn't a better one. How could someone perfect be an outcast?
How could anyone have done that to Ben? It made him mad just thinking
Ben," he said.
I just wanted to say it," he said, lamely. No reason, no real reason.
They stared at each other, and suddenly Ray remembered the paper the
woman had given him. He squirmed around until he could wedge a hand
into his pocket and pull it out, unfolding it with shaky fingers. "I
got your letter, Ben. It was the nicest thing anyone ever wrote to me."
Ben said, taking it from him curiously, holding it to the light so he
could read the single line, and then smiling ruefully. "Ah. I'm
afraid I'm not very good with words."
wonderful with words, Fraser. You use words I never even heard of. "
Fraser looked embarrassed.
"I realize that sometimes I can be a little verbose," he said.
cares? Whatever it is, I like it 'cause it's you. So, what are we doin'
sittin' here in the parking lot? Go get your damned coat and get back
here fast. I got a perfectly good apartment goin' to waste."
Fraser suddenly went
tense. Ray could actually see it happen. "My . . . coat."
The way Fraser said it
rased the hackles on Ray's neck. "Yeah, your coat. Okay, out with
it. I can hear it in your voice. There's something you're not telling
there is, Ray, but, well, it's very hard to explain. Wait for me here,
question, Ray thought. He'd wait for Fraser until hell froze over.
"I'll be here."
* * *
Fraser stepped out of
the car and walked over to the doors, hoping they would be unlocked,
since he saw lights on in some of the upper offices, though the IRS offices
where he'd spent much of the day were quiet and dark. He'd been delayed
at the District for some time, and he wasn't even sure she'd still be
there. He had no idea how long she normally stayed 'dead' or if she'd
woken long ago to slip away unnoticed. No matter, he had to check, because
he surely couldn't leave her there if she hadn't woken yet.
the door had not been bolted, and he stepped inside, making his way past
doors taped off with yellow crime-scene tape, back through the dimly
lit corridor until he found the ladies' room where he'd left Amanda.
He pulled open the door quietly, listening for other occupants. The
room was dark, and silent. He reached in and flipped on the lights,
squinting a little as the banks of fluorescent bulbs blinked into life.
He crossed to the closet and opened the door. The closet was empty.
Trying not to feel
guiltily relieved, since it made things so much simpler, he started to
close the door and noticed that there was a folded paper towel on top
of the bucket where he'd left Amanda. His name was written on it. He
picked it up and unfolded it, read the message, "4 pm tomorrow at
the Drake for tea? Bring Dief and Ray K." It was signed with an
illegible scrawl that sort of looked like 'Amanda' if he squinted.
He smiled. She knew
he'd be there. Besides, she'd taken his coat. She did have a penchant
for that. He left the room, turning out the lights behind him and returned
to the car. As he settled in, Ray looked at him curiously.
where's yer coat?"
took it. I'll get it back from her tomorrow."
Ray's bright gaze shadowed. "You're seeing her tomorrow?"
he asked, a little forlornly.
heard it, and he met Ray's eyes evenly. "No, we are."
Ray thought about that,
and frowned. "Fraser, I'm not . . . I don't want to . . . ."
He stopped and sighed. "I'm not real good at sharin'," he
finally blurted out.
smiled. "Frankly, neither am I."
absorbed that, then he grinned happily. "Oh. Good." He paused,
then shot a look at Fraser. "You sure we gotta go see her tomorrow?
I'd kinda like to have . . . other plans."
it would be rather rude not to go, Ray. And I do need to get my coat.
Besides, I'd like to ask her how the children are."
dropped his keys and stared at Fraser in shock. "Children? Fraser!
You got children with this woman and I don't know about it? Two
years we're partners an' you never think to say, 'Oh by the way, Ray,
I got kids.'?"
stared at Ray with a look that more properly belonged on a deer in the
path of an oncoming train. After a moment he ran a finger nervously
along his collar and cleared his throat. "I'm afraid you're laboring
under a misapprehension, Ray. I have no children, with Ms. Darieaux
or otherwise. I was referring to the children she was attempting to
assist by working against Mr. DeBoer."
washed into Ray's face. "Oh. Sorry. The way you said it, It sounded
like . . . "
I realized, by your reaction." Ben relaxed, finally, and even smiled
a little, genuinely amused. "It did rather sound that way, didn't
it did. Okay, so now what?"
Ray, I'd like to go to your apartment, if that's all right with you."
"If that's all .
. . Fraser, you are crazy, aren't you?" he laughed, starting the
car. "So when do I hear the rest of this stuff you want to tell
me? The stuff that's hard to explain?"
we are safely off the streets," Fraser said firmly.
* * *
Ray's head was spinning,
and he hadn't even tasted the Scotch he'd poured when they'd gotten to
his place. He looked at Fraser and shook his head. "Surely that
all can't be true," he said, hopefully.
is, every word. I swear it on my honor as an officer of the Royal Canadian
word? About the lightning, and the heads, and the two-spirit thing?
All of it? You didn't make anything up?"
yes, yes, yes, yes, and no," Fraser answered, smiling a little.
Ray had to count
back to figure out what was yes and what was no, but it matched in the
end. That two-spirit stuff had been wild, but it had resonated in him.
He knew that feeling, that strange duality, had since he'd been a kid.
Over the years he'd learned to pretend he didn't find both sexes intriguing
at times, but that didn't mean he didn't know it himself. Some of the
rest had been pretty uncomfortable to listen to. Like the part where
they got naked and . . . well. . . .
swallowed hard. Yep, it had been very uncomfortable, in a bunch of different
ways. He'd found himself bouncing between jealousy, resentment, arousal,
fear, and just plain disbelief. But this was Fraser talking. Fraser
didn't lie. Though he was careful not to reveal much in the way of detail,
Fraser had he met his eyes, and blushed, and stammered, plainly as uncomfortable
with the telling as Ray was with the hearing.
as if he could bear no more, Fraser had abruptly dropped the personal
subjects and gone back to the more fantastic story, the one about how
Miss Interpol was really some kind of sword-wielding, superhuman being.
Ray had let him do so. They would probably need to talk about the other
things someday, but he understood that Fraser couldn't do it yet. He
didn't blame him. There were some things that were just too painful.
After a few questions
to satisfy himself that Fraser hadn't fallen asleep watching 'Xena, Warrior
Princess' and dreamed the whole thing, Ray had allowed himself to become
fascinated by the concept, and kept coming up with questions regarding
the extent of her abilities, mostly in an effort to keep Fraser's mind
off his pain.
like, between then and now she just woke up from bein' dead and walked
"Hunh. How long
does it take?"
not sure. Apparently the time it takes to regenerate varies according
to the amount of damage done, and there may be other factors of which
I am not aware."
Okay. Hey! That's why Forensics couldn't find the slug Roberts fired,
isn't it? It was still in her."
Ray was saying that a lot, but there didn't seem to be much else to say.
happens to the bullet after she, uh, gets un-dead?"
thought about that, and finally shook his head. "I'm afraid I really
don't know, Ray. I suppose you could ask her tomorrow."
shook his head. "This is too weird. I feel like I'm trippin'."
Fraser's eyebrows shot
up as he stared at Ray in surprise. "I wasn't aware you were familiar
with that state, Ray."
shot the Mountie a disgusted glare. "Give it a rest, Frase, I'm
a city boy, and it was a long time ago. For that matter, what about
that stuff yer shaman-spirit was smokin' you with? Tell me that's not
controlled use of medicinal psychotropics has long been an accepted practice
in Native American and many other shamanistic religions, Ray. It's not
the same thing at all. Besides, that was in a vision, it wasn't real."
"Real enough to
send you, right?"
suppose the point is semantic."
eyebrows went up that time. "The point is what?" he
demanded, trying to figure out how that figured into the conversation.
Fraser stared at
him for a moment, then he smiled, then he giggled. He goddamn giggled.
Ray had never seen him do that before. He almost giggled himself.
After a moment Fraser got himself under control.
my. No. The word is 'semantic', Ray. From the Greek, 'semantikos'
meaning 'to signify' or 'to have meaning.'"
licked his lips suggestively. "I love it when you talk dirty to
blushed. "I only meant that the point was in language only. I
suppose that there is little actual difference."
well, darn," Ray said, trying his best to look disappointed.
Fraser grinned, that
beautiful, sunrise smile that so rarely graced his face. Suddenly feeling
very brave, Ray pushed Fraser down and back until he was no longer sitting
on the floor, he was lying on it. Then he leaned over and caught Fraser's
chin in his hand, holding him still.
gotta do this. I can't wait any longer."
moved in, and put his mouth on Fraser's mouth. There was a moment when
neither of them moved, too surprised to do anything more, then Fraser's
mouth softened and his lips parted. Ray dove in, drinking him, tasting
him, tongue sliding over tongue, over the sharp, smooth edges of teeth,
dipping into the well between teeth and lip. Even after a day of use,
his mouth tasted clean and sweet, and, well, Fraserish. Unique. Then
to his utter delight, Fraser was kissing him back, sucking at his tongue,
using his own to slide past and God, into Ray, finally, finally. What
he'd wanted from the first time he ever saw Fraser put something weird
in his mouth and wondered hotly what else he might be willing to taste.
That hit him like
a hammer. Had it really been that long? He'd gotten used to thinking
the attraction was more recent, just since the Henry Allen. It
had all fallen into place then, after that desperately shared breath,
the near-destruction of their partnership, and his own realization that
he'd been angry with Ben because he wanted him, and that just wasn't
kosher in the world as he had thought it was. It had gotten worse since
Maggie had come and gone, and her leaving had made him realize that he'd
only wanted her because she was so much like her brother. But here his
subconscious was telling him it had been since the start.
full years of wanting. No wonder he was washing his sheets every other
day. He was an idiot. He should have listened to himself forever ago.
Then he wouldn't have had to wait so long to find out how right this
felt. He let his lips trail down Fraser's jaw until he could nuzzle
the side of his neck, smelling him, feeling the warm satin of his skin
against his lips, tasting sweat and gun oil and cordite on his tongue
where the gunman had pressed the barrel of his pistol against Ben's throat.
He licked harder,
washing away that trace of terror. Ben tipped his head a little to one
side and his fingers bit into Ray's thigh just above his knee. Right
in that spot that when he was a little kid, and even now as a grown man,
sent him screaming with laughter. He jerked upright, laughing wildly,
and Fraser snatched his hand away in shock. Ray grabbed it and put it
back down where it had been before, but this time not gripping him.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!"
Ray gasped around his laughter. "I'm just a little ticklish there."
Fraser asked drily.
well, a lot," he admitted sheepishly.
Broke the mood. Gotta get it back. He went for Ben's mouth again, and
within a few seconds had satisfactorily reestablished communication on
a purely sensory level. Growling, he pulled back and started dragging
Fraser's red chamois shirt out of his jeans in fistfuls of fabric, ripping
buttons off in his haste, finally getting it open only to find a pristine
white henley beneath it. He groaned and dropped his forehead to the
broad, cotton-covered chest, nuzzling in the general vicinity of where
he thought a nipple might be.
Fraser, you wear too many clothes," he moaned, finding the waistband
of his jeans, sliding a hand beneath it, trying to locate the bottom
of the damned shirt, and suddenly coming hand-to-um-anatomy with something
he hadn't expected to find quite so quickly. They both went still.
Ray gentled his pawing a little, and eased his hand over the shape, feeling
the soft, thin cotton that covered it shift with the movement of his
hand. He grinned.
up to yer nickname, are ya?" Ray teased, his voice a little raw.
Fraser asked, sounding confused, and aroused, and pretty much adorable.
What a stupid word, but perfectly fitting. If ever there was a grown
man who was adorable, it was Benton Fraser.
know, 'Big Red.'" Ray found the buttons on the front of the boxers
and slipped them, Ben's hips lifted jerkily, and he gasped as Ray's fingers
found their way inside the fly and warm flesh made contact with much
they don't really mean that. . . do they?" Ben choked out.
"Nah, I don't think
this is what they had in mind. Or maybe it is, who knows?" His
fingers explored higher, up toward the . . . He drew in a sharp breath,
surprised. "Oh, wow."
"You're . .
. different." He stroked a fingertip along the flare, felt the
slide of loose flesh. "Cool."
levered himself up on his elbows. "What do you mean, different?"
Ray grinned. "I
can show ya, if you want. Gimme yer hand."
held out his hand. He had big hands, broad, with long, blunt fingers.
Fitting, Ray thought, since he was big, broad and blunt elsewhere too.
He took Ben's hand in his and put it on the waistband of the black fatigues
he was still wearing. Slowly, a little awkwardly, Ben managed one-handed
to unfasten the buttons. The delay was excruciating, but when he finally
had them undone, he lifted his eyebrows at Ray as the spreading fabric
revealed that Ray had nothing on beneath.
y'wear too many clothes," he said, grinning.
suppose it would appear so in comparison to you,. However, they do keep
me warm," Ben said, managing to sound very Fraser for the first
time in, well, a couple of minutes at least.
don't think ya gotta worry about that now. Keep goin'."
Fraser eased his fingers into beneath the concealing fabric, and Ray
caught his breath in delight as that hand found him, cupped him, stroked,
explored . . . Ray whimpered. Fraser let his fingers move back and
forth over the taut tip, the smooth skin, the faint ridge where the scar-tissue
he said after a moment. "I never realized you were Jewish, Ray."
Ray laughed. "I
ain't. Most American guys my age are cut. It was 'the thing to do'
suppose we weren't very trendy in the Territories. Does that bother
no. It's kinda neat. Oh, God . . ." Ray's eyes closed, his mouth
opened to gasp for air as the exploring fingers grew more deliberate.
He collapsed backward, his head smacking the floor with a soft thunk.
Fraser chuckled and stretched
out next to him, one hand sliding under his head while the other one
slid over his . . . other head. Fingers massaged the sore spot where
his head had contacted the floor, feeling almost as good as the stroking
going on lower. After a moment both motions stopped, and Ray opened
his eyes to see why. Fraser slid his hand out from under Ray's head,
looking puzzled, and rubbed his fingers together.
hair is . . . slippery," he stated, still puzzled.
reached up and touched his hair, found Fraser was right. Slippery.
Slick even. Weird. He couldn't figure it out for a minute, then he
grinned. "Oh yeah. I forgot. I never got a chance to shower."
He dug in one of the thigh pockets and extracted the silicone spray,
giving it to Fraser to examine. "It was Amanda's idea. Had ta use
this stuff in the ducts a couple-a times when I got stuck. Musta got
in my hair. Guess it doesn't dry up."
eyes met over the small canister. Ray swallowed. Oh man. He wondered
if the stuff was safe for more than just topical application. He knew
Fraser was wondering the same thing. Oh wow. He'd done stuff before,
a long time ago, twenty years maybe. Done quite a bit, really, but never
that. He'd been too scared and hung up then. Not any more. The mental
image of himself spread beneath Fraser's bulk was like gasoline on a
flame. Yes. God, yes.
found himself wondering if Fraser had. Done that. With the other Ray.
He felt a sudden flare of the most intense jealousy he'd ever experienced,
hotter even than his jealousy of Stella when he'd found out she was dating
again. He reached up and grabbed the Mountie, rolling over on him to
pin him down and kiss him senseless, grinding his hips against the other
man's, trying to mark him, to claim him.
growled, hands working at button, and zipper, and finally getting that
damned henley up out of the way so he could put his mouth all over that
sleek, pale chest and suck already-tight pink nipples, and get his hand
down inside the confines of boxers to grip and stroke and make Fraser
moan, low in his throat, like he was trying really hard not to. Ben
tried to stroke him in return, but Ray caught his hands, forcing them
later," he gasped in explanation, not wanting anything to distract
him now. Kissing Ben's chest all over, sucking between each kiss, Ray
happily left little red marks all over him, possessing him. He had to
have him. Now. No more waiting, no chance for anyone else to stake
a claim. Now.
jeans and boxers in his hands, Ray hauled them down, then started kissing
lower. He felt Ben's breathing speed up as he edged onto the flat plane
of stomach, swirling his tongue into the declivity of his navel, tracing
the fine line of hair that led downward from there into the seal-pelt
thickness of pubic curls, momentarily bemused by the contrast between
sleek skin and soft, almost-fur. He licked along the line of demarcation
there, which sent Fraser squirming. He grinned. If that made him squirm,
then what would this do . . .
stroked a finger down the underside of his cock, then wrapped his fingers
around the shaft and eased them down firmly while at the same time engulfing
the glans in his mouth. Fraser arched upward, fists clenched, head back,
gasping. Oh yeah. That was nice. Real nice.
swirled his tongue around, in, over, back, tasting the salt-sweet tears
that leaked from him. Fraser shook and moaned. Not Fraser. Ben. His
Ben. His hand slid downwards, cupping the soft folds below, rolling
the heavy weight of them in his hand, feeling them lift and tighten
. . . Suddenly Ray felt Ben's hands tugging at him, fingers trying to
slide between his mouth and his prize, and he finally realized Ben was
saying something and started paying attention.
Ray, please! Ray, no, stop, I don't have, I didn't bring. . ."
Reluctantly Ray released
him and lifted his head, looking up the long, bare expanse of him, past
the crumpled folds of shirt and henley, up to Fraser's flushed, sweat-glazed
face. His. All his. Somebody Up There had finally decided to be nice
to him. "What, Ben?"
flush on Ben's face deepened. "I wasn't expecting . . . I mean,
I didn't bring anything."
anything? Like what? Flowers? Candy? A casserole? What the . . .
oh. Ooh. He got it. He felt himself grinning like an idiot. Ben cared.
Enough to make him stop when he was that close. Well, Ben might not
have any, but he did. Ever hopeful. Unfortunately they were the kind
that you really did not want to put in your mouth. Nasty tasting things.
So, save those for . . . later. Still stroking the thick, silky-hot
shaft with one hand, he sighed and shook his head. Gotta deal with it.
"You been tested?"
he asked, bluntly.
nodded. "Every year, at my regulation physical. It's not required,
but it seemed prudent."
too. You negative?"
"Me too. So what's
the problem?" Ray asked, lowering his head again. Just before
his lips made contact, Fraser balked again.
sometimes it doesn't show up, the test might not be accurate. I could
be . . ."
sighed and lifted his head again. "Ben, how many people have you
slept with? No, scratch that, let me say it so you can't beat around
the bush. How many people have you had sex with, ever?"
. . . three," he admitted reluctantly.
somehow kept himself from grinning. "Three. Total. And one of
'em was a cop who gets the same exams we do, and one of 'em was a chick
who can't even get a disease. Granted, you should probably have
got yourself steam-cleaned after the other one, but that was, what, nearly
three years ago? Really, Ben, I think you're safe. I know I am. Any
more objections from the floor?"
didn't wait for an answer. Ben sounded funny trying to gasp, moan and
laugh all at the same time. He went for the kill, using every trick
he'd ever learned, every trick that had ever been used on him, determined
that Ben wouldn't even remember the others after this. Biting just
hard enough, sucking, tonguing, wrapping his hand tight around the base,
he set about driving the Mountie out of his mind, stroking fast and
hard, like he knew would bring it on, exactly the way his own body was
screaming at him to do.
slid a finger into his mouth, alongside his tongue, alongside Ben, slicking
it with saliva and pre-ejaculate, then eased his hand lower, between
round, muscular cheeks, pressing slowly inside then firmly down until
finally Ben arched like a drawn bow, sobbing, and then he was coming,
and coming and Ray caught it all, swallowing greedily, until the last
faint spasm subsided and there was nothing left to take.
* * *
Fraser couldn't move,
couldn't speak, could barely breathe. Drained, and panting, he lay there
until he managed to form enough coherent nerve impulses to get his hand
to move, to curve around Ray's arm and tug him up from where he lay with
his face pillowed on Fraser's thigh. Ray resisted for a moment, then
finally let Ben pull him into an embrace. It took a few more moments
of sensory recovery to realize that the shoulder and back he was stroking
was taut to the point of trembling, and that Ray was keeping his face
tucked under Ben's chin so he couldn't see him. Something wasn't right.
brought every sense back online instantly. He tried to read the tension
with his fingers, was it just unmet need? No, he didn't think so. This
wasn't that simple. It felt more like fear. But, why? As soon as he
asked the question, he knew the answer. Much like himself, Ray was a
mass of insecurities. Unsure of his abilities, his intelligence, his
attractiveness, and probably his desirability. How to ease that, to
defuse it . . . he smiled suddenly, knowing how. He tried to speak,
had to clear his throat, still tight with the effort of not screaming.
Finally he managed it.
voice was as tense as his body.
I still alive?"
was a momentary increase in tension, then suddenly Ray's head lifted
and his eyes met Ben's, a slow, sweet grin curving his mobile mouth,
the fear fading quickly from his gaze.
and sighed. "Yes, Ray."
grin widened. "Cool."
was back. Intense, impulsive, mercurial, earthy, explosive Ray, who
fit into all his gaps as if hand-tooled to do so. The relief he felt
was almost as intense as the pleasure Ray had given him. He wanted nothing
to go wrong, no misunderstandings, no assumptions. Ray hadn't let him
touch him before, or give to him, and now he wanted to do nothing else.
Easing back, he
slipped his hands beneath the long-sleeved black tee that completed Ray's
'SWAT Team' look, pushing it up as he let his hands explore the taut,
rounded muscles of his chest. Ray reached down and caught the bottom
as it rose, pulling it off over his head in a quick tug.
suits you," Ben said, as Ray emerged from the folds of fabric, hair
looking perfectly normal in its disarray.
grinned. "You like us bad boys and girls, doncha Frase?"
Ben smiled ruefully.
Clearly Ray knew him quite well. "I'm afraid I do, Ray. One in
hallelujah! 'Bout time you figured that out!" He rubbed his nose.
"Though it took me too damned long, too. I'd've saved myself a
ton o' laundry if I'd been smarter about this a long time back."
Fraser stared at him,
puzzled, and Ray's grin went sly.
on, Frase. You get it. I know you do." He licked his lips.
Fraser got it, and blushed.
He too had done rather more laundry than he otherwise might have. "Oh.
Yes, I see."
laughed. "Nobody ever said I was too swift when it comes to this
afraid it's not my strong suit, either," Fraser sighed.
we figured it out now, so it's okay."
than okay, I hope," Fraser said, then wished he hadn't.
more." Ray said firmly, deliberately tangling a foot in the jeans
and undershorts that were still snarled around Ben's calves, pushing,
trying to get them the rest of the way off. Unfortunately they caught
on his boots and refused to budge. Ray sighed and shook his head, then
looked at him, his gaze amused and aroused. "Wanna get rid of some
clothes there, Fraser?"
some reason that made him blush again, but he did strip off both his
shirts and then sat up to work on his shoes. He was glad he hadn't known
before this how little Ray was wearing. It would have made things much
worse. In fact, if he discovered that Ray made a habit of that, it probably
would still. Knowing everything was so close to the surface . . . He
cold?" Ray asked, revealing just how closely he was observing him.
Ben smiled. "No,
Ray, I'm not."
He sounded pleased by that. "Look, I'm just gonna go check on something,
back in a sec."
moved off toward his bedroom. Ben had managed to get one boot off when
Ray opened the bedroom door again. He stood there, slouching insouciantly
against the door frame in his unbuttoned black fatigue pants and nothing
else, watching him. Fraser found himself staring in fascination at the
way the untied blousing-tapes of the pants dangled across Ray's feet.
Why on earth he should find that erotic he had no idea.
was hard to keep his mind on what he was doing when what he really wanted
was to launch himself across the room and tackle Ray to the floor. But
that would be disrespectful. His hands were shaking a bit by the time
he finally finished and his second boot hit the floor with a thunk.
"I checked, it's
safe!" Ray announced proudly.
room. No moldy pizza, no takeout boxes, and the sheets are even pretty
clean. So, we can go in there if y'want, instead of usin' the floor,
though I know you're probably more at home there . . ."
does everyone seem to assume I have no appreciation of comfort?"
Fraser asked, feeling defensive.
they've seen how you live," Ray shot back.
he had somewhat of a point. Fraser acknowledged that with a faint nod,
and lay back, lifting his hips so he could haul his jeans back up, as
they were too tangled to get off without some rearranging. Ray looked
there! That's the wrong direction, Frase! Off, not on!"
he could explain, Ray was straddling him, trying to interfere. Fraser
finally stopped him by the simple expedient of rolling over to pin him
to the floor with his greater bulk. Immediately Ray's eyes closed and
he licked his lips, lifting his hips in a blatant request for more contact.
"Guess I don't
mind the floor if you don't," he said huskily.
put his head down on Ray's shoulder, trying not to laugh. This seemed
almost frighteningly right. Where was the angst? The guilt? This felt
so clean, so innocent, so natural.
weight he hadn't even been conscious of seemed to lift from his spirit
and he took Ray's face between his palms, brushing his mouth back and
forth across that slightly sulky lower lip that had been haunting his
dreams, then coaxing, with very little effort, those lips apart so he
could taste deeper, learning Ray's flavors, branding them into his memory.
Aware on some level
that Ray was gasping for breath, Fraser lifted his mouth and began to
a leisurely exploration of the lithe body beneath his own. He knew Ray
felt he was ordinary, but he was not at all. Though they were of a height,
Ray's elegant dancer's frame was gracile, all long, fluid muscles over
dense, but narrow bones. His skin was warm, and soft, faintly dusted
with blond down, and an occasional freckle. His nipples were bronze
disks that Fraser had long ago noticed hardened at the slightest provocation,
sometimes enough to show through those excruciatingly tight t-shirts
he favored-- or perhaps had ended up with after doing laundry at the
one nipple lightly with his teeth, Fraser felt Ray arch beneath him,
breath hissing through clenched teeth. He gentled his touch, swirling
his tongue around first one, then the other, tasting sweat, feeling the
tiny hairs that surrounded the areolae. Ray caught his head in both
hands, fingers digging almost painfully into his hair, holding him still
while he gasped something not quite coherent about stopping. He filed
that fact. Ray was very, very sensitive.
Ray's fingers finally unclenched, Fraser began to move again, tasting
the long indentation that troughed between Ray's sternum and navel, finding
the golden down that began to thicken below that, silky and rough at
the same time. There was only a narrow vee of flesh exposed between
the open edges of Ray's fatigues, and Ben teased him, tasting only what
was uncovered there, lapping back and forth in the gap but never dipping
beneath the fabric despite the insistent arching and pleading. Finally
he lifted up to look into smoky blue eyes.
me what you want, Ray."
smoke turned to fire. "You know what I want, Ben. I want you in
a shock. No, he hadn't known that. He'd been expecting something much
. . . less. He had to clench his teeth against the urge to comply with
that request before Ray could change his mind. But, no, he couldn't
out beside Ray and traced a finger down the long curve of one of his
thighs, then back up, careful to avoid the spot he now knew was ticklish,
then he flattened his palm against Ray's hip and turned him slightly
so they lay on their sides facing each other. Almost without conscious
volition his hand slipped down to fan over the curve of one cheek. Ray
caught his breath, almost a sob, trembling slightly. Fraser frowned.
"Ray, have you ever
. . . ?"
sighed. "No. Have you?"
considered carefully, and shook his head. "Not-- like this."
"Like what then?"
He should have known
Ray would ask that. He rubbed his eyebrow, avoiding his gaze. "I've
been, well, I was on the . . ." he stopped, unable to finish.
Ray got it anyway. His
eyes narrowed and he frowned. "Oh." The frown turned into
a scowl. "I'm gonna haveta belt my namesake if we ever meet. That's
not right. Should be shared, should be both, should be equal."
Ben closed his eyes against
a hurt he hadn't even realized was there until Ray verbalized it. "No,
Ray, it's all right. I didn't mind," he said, meaning it. He really
hadn't, and he'd understood that was how it had to be. Not that he hadn't
wanted it to be different, but, well, some things just weren't meant
to be. "But, Ray, I do think we should start slower. I can . .
Ray interrupted mulishly, then his gaze softened. "Please, Ben.
It's what I want. What I need."
ached to give in, to learn what it was like to have someone trust him
that much, to want him that much. But . . . .
won't hurt me. You know that."
looked into his eyes, startled. How had Ray known that was what he was
"After two years you think I don't know you? You won't hurt me."
"Yes, Ray, I will."
Ben said deliberately, trying to make him understand.
stared back at him, and he saw it hit. He sucked in a long, slow breath.
"It hurt you."
nodded, unable to meet Ray's gaze, blushing. "At first, yes."
Ray leaned down until
he could look into his face, then started to smile again. "But
not bad enough to make you want to stop? So you wanna hog all the good
stuff for yourself, hunh?"
put his face in his hand, shaking his head, then looked back up. "Ray
. . ."
The single word
was husky and the desire on Ray's face was raw and open. Oh God. How
could he turn that down? He couldn't. He didn't have that much willpower.
No one on the planet had that much willpower. He rolled to his back
and stared at the ceiling for a moment, then sighed.
to his feet and held out a hand. Ben let himself be drawn to his feet
and toward the bedroom. The covers had been turned back, messily, and
on the night table lay couple of familiar looking plastic-and-foil strips,
and a small bottle of a popular polymer-based lubricant. He lifted both
eyebrows at Ray, who blushed. That had to be a first.
uh, well-- it works good for other things, too."
hid a smile. "It does?" he queried artlessly. "Squeaky
laughed. "Cut it out, Frase. Even you ain't that innocent."
"I wondered when
you were going to figure that out," Fraser said with amusement.
"Hey, gimme a few.
Shocks like that take time to absorb."
sighed. "I know. Believe me."
was still absorbing one himself. Several, actually, not the least of
which was Ray's stunningly matter-of-fact acceptance of the attraction
between them. He closed his eyes momentarily, swallowing the lump that
tried to rise in his throat. Before he could open them again, Ray was
there, his body warm and hard against Ben's, his mouth roaming along
his jawline. When he got to the juncture of jaw and throat, he licked
and sucked there again, as he had earlier. Ben was a little puzzled
by his actions until he spoke softly, between licks.
a good thing Miss Interpol made me take a tranq gun. If I'd had a real
one . . . well, I'd probably have gone a little postal. When I saw
you with that gun shoved up here. . . " he licked again, his tongue
a wet, silky caress. ". . . all I could think about was doing this,
to make you forget it. Don't ever get in trouble without me again, damnit!"
He caught Fraser's earlobe in his teeth, biting almost hard enough to
hurt, then quickly let go, and soothed the bite with a lick. "Got
it?" he whispered, his breath warm and ticklish against the sensitive
automatically, although he knew logically he could not possibly promise
such a thing. It just felt so good to have someone care.
sighed. "Good. Now," his hands caught the side-seams of Ben's
jeans and started tugging at them "Get. . ." He tugged harder,
"these," he managed to get them halfway down his thighs, ".
. . off!"
do realize, Ray, that it would be slightly easier to do so if you let
go of me," Fraser said evenly.
know, but where's the fun in that?" Ray said sliding down to his
knees, taking Fraser's jeans with him. This time they made it all the
way down. Ray tapped his left ankle. "Step out, Frase. We're
almost home, here."
complied, steadying himself with a hand on Ray's shoulder. Then it was
done and he was completely bare and feeling vulnerable and faintly embarrassed.
Ray leaned back, looked him up, then down, then back up, and sighed,
shaking his head.
Fraser, you're gorgeous everywhere. It just ain't fair."
are you trying to make me blush?" Ben asked, mortified.
"Yeah, and succeeding,
too," Ray said, cockily unrepentant. "Yer cute when y'blush."
Fraser studied him for
a moment, wondering what it would take to turn the tables. Ray had seemed
embarrassed by the implications of his having a personal lubricant readily
available, but that would be difficult to exploit a second time. Then
he smiled. He had it.
held out his hands and drew Ray to his feet, then stepped back. "I
believe it's your turn now."
looked at him blankly. "My turn?"
finish disrobing," Fraser explained.
Yeh." He stood worrying his lip with his teeth for a moment, put
a hand on the waistband of his pants, then hesitated. He flicked a surreptitious
glance at Fraser from under his eyelashes. Fraser continued watching
him intently. The lip went back in his teeth and, and sure enough, a
faint tawny glow began to rise up from about mid-chest.
watch?" Ray asked.
enjoy watching you, Ray."
blush deepened. "C'mon, I'm not much to look at."
entirely a matter of opinion, Ray. I think you're beautiful."
Ray shot him a surprised
look, then took refuge in his usual defensive tactic, sarcasm. "Had
yer eyes checked recently?"
a matter of fact, yes. My vision is twenty-twenty."
so it must be exposure. You just ain't been around enough."
were librarians, Ray. I've been exposed to centuries of art. I know
the classic balance of proportions, the flow of line and the harmonies
of form, the play of light and shadow on musculature. You are beautiful."
Ray raked a hand through
his hair, looking frustrated. "Yer makin' me crazy."
smiled. "That was my intention."
eyes widened, then his gaze lit with mischief. He hooked his thumbs
in his belt-loops and eased his pants down a few centimeters, just enough
to show the prominent curve where the muscles of his abdomen met the
hip-bone. Then he slipped his fingers down into the shadows beneath the
edges of his fly, stroking ever so slightly. He let his eyes drift shut,
let his lips part slightly, tongue flickering half-seen across the edges
of his teeth. Fraser felt his temperature rising and decided perhaps
it was better not to tease, unless he was fully prepared to be teased
in return. One would think that he would long ago have learned not to
provoke wild things. Of course, that went both ways.
took a deliberate step forward. Ray let his pants slide a trifle lower,
still not low enough. Ben took another step. Ray turned away, then
looked back over his shoulder and pushed his trousers lower until the
base of his spine and just a hint of the upper curves of both cheeks
were in view. A classic cheesecake pose, gender reversed.
moved, fast, pouncing, carrying both of them to the bed, startling a
surprised 'oof' out of Ray as he landed mostly on top of him. Without
a pause he rolled to one side, grabbed the loose folds of fabric, and
stripped Ray's pants down, and off, tossing them aside with an uncharacteristic
disregard for neatness. Ray shoved himself up onto his forearms and
looked back at Fraser with a wicked gleam in his eyes, then very deliberately
shifted his thighs apart.
mouth went dry. He closed his eyes, trying not to see the afterimages
that seemed burned into his retinas. He heard himself make a sound,
a half-sob, and fought for control. Control. Ray had no idea how difficult
he was making this. This shouldn't be rushed. It was too dangerous.
Finally he managed to rediscover a little composure, and opened his eyes
again. Ray was looking at him, an uncertain frown on his face. Ben
sorry. I, ah, wasn't quite prepared for my reaction."
slow, pleased smile curved Ray's mouth as he looked at him smokily.
"Then do somethin' about it, Red. What'cha waitin' for?"
Fraser reached out, placed
a surprisingly unsteady hand on Ray's shoulder, stroked it down his back.
Can't rush this, he thought. Take it slow. Get him relaxed, prepared.
He stared at his hand, pale against gold. Relaxed. He sat up, and swung
his legs over the bed. Ray frowned again.
where ya . . . ?"
be right back, I promise," Fraser said, moving swiftly out to the
living room to pick up the glass of Scotch that Ray had left there, untouched.
Returning to the bedroom, he found that Ray had rolled over, and was
sprawled tantalizingly across the bed, all golden-pale against dark blue
sheets, looking not a little put out by Fraser's abrupt desertion. Fraser
handed him the Scotch.
"Frase, ya got it backwards. It's supposed ta go like this: first
y'get me drunk and then you proposition me."
eyebrows drew down in a puzzled frown. "You, Mr. Teetotaler, want
me to drink?"
nodded. "Yes, please."
shrugged, and knocked back half the glass in a single swallow, grimacing
slightly at the burn. "Okay?"
do I get if I do?"
you asked for."
took a moment to sink in, then Ray's face lit up and he finished the
glass in three quick swallows, and set it down on the night stand with
a decisive thunk. "Done. Any other requests?"
back, though his eyes widened as Fraser knelt to straddle him, then he
relaxed as Ben brought his hands down on his shoulders, fingers circling,
searching for tension, massaging it away. Closing his eyes, Ray let
his head fall back on the pillow.
that's nice," he sighed, shifting a little under Fraser's touch.
said, moving on, letting his fingers slide down over taut pectorals,
along the arched fan of ribs, cautious there, knowing if Ray was ticklish
in one place he could easily be elsewhere as well.
thoroughly, he worked his way down Ray's lithe form, carefully avoiding
genitalia, but neglecting nothing else, even doing his feet, which elicited
husky groans of appreciation. As he'd hoped, between the massage and
the alcohol, Ray was relaxed to the point of dozing. Finally finished
with the front side, he put a hand on his shoulder and pushed gently.
"Roll over, time
to do your back."
blinked up at him owlishly and grinned. "You been moonlightin'
at a massage parlor?"
shook his head. "No, however, I have done extensive reading on
various techniques and therapies, and received advice from physical therapists
during several hospital stays."
looked up at him incredulously. "You read about it?"
He shook his head. "I guess it figgers you'd be good right off
the bat." He sighed again, and then flopped over onto his stomach.
"There ya go, have at me."
paused for a moment, admiring the view, then set to work again. He soothed
the last dregs of tension from surprisingly broad shoulders, worked deep
into the muscles flanking Ray's spine, slipped down to dig into narrow
hips and flanks, and on down long, lean thighs and calves before starting
back up on a return journey that, this time, ended with the tight curves
of his buttocks. As Fraser's fingers stroked and circled firmly, Ray
shifted restlessly, bringing one knee up and to the side, consciously
or unconsciously asking for a more intimate touch.
back, Fraser reached over and uncapped the bottle of lubricant, pouring
a small puddle of it onto the nightstand, then braced his hands on either
side of Ray and leaned down to place a kiss on the small of his back.
Ray made a little 'mmmm' sound, encouraging more. Ben traced his tongue
down his spine from there to his tailbone, and the shallow divots to
either side of it. At the same time he slid a hand beneath Ray's thigh,
was partly aroused, in that soft-hard state halfway between flaccid and
erect. Fraser cupped him without stroking, and let his tongue edge down
to where the gluteus maximii separated into two distinct mounds. As
his mouth touched that spot, the shaft in his hand hardened considerably.
He smiled. If he'd needed proof that Ray had no reservations about what
they were doing, he'd just gotten it. He stroked slowly, running his
thumb across the tip, which slickened under his touch.
go, Fraser put one hand on Ray's shoulder, the other on his hip, and
pulled him back until he was lying on his side in front of him, his backside
just inches away from Fraser's groin. Easing one knee forward, he used
it as a lever to lift Ray's uppermost thigh, giving himself better access.
Reaching back to the night stand, Fraser dipped the fingers of his free
hand into the pool of lubricant. They shook slightly, and he had to
concentrate hard to stop the tremors as he stroked his fingers down the
silky crevice, down, then up, then down again, tracing abstract patterns
over the sensitive flesh there. Ray shivered, his hips moving in an
. . ." his name was a raspy sigh. "Please." Ray leaned
his head back against Fraser's shoulder, eyes closed, a half-smile on
his mouth, pushing languidly into his hand.
closed his eyes and put his head against Ray's as he found the narrow
aperture and slipped a fingertip within, smoothing lubricant inside,
shallowly at first, but slightly deeper with each stroke, until finally
he'd eased past the tight ring of muscle to push deeply into the tight
heat of his body. Ray caught his breath, then let it go in a hissing
sigh as Fraser stayed motionless, letting him adjust, waiting until he
could read the relaxation returning to the smaller man's body.
you all right, Ray?" Fraser asked, needing to be sure. His voice
sounded odd to his own ears, tight and hoarse, as if he'd been screaming.
"Kinda . . . weird,
but good," Ray said huskily. "Keep goin'."
pushed back against the invading digit with a little wriggle that nearly
undid every bit of control that Fraser had so far managed to retain.
He sucked air in through his nose and released it through his mouth,
yoga breathing until some semblance of calm returned. He slid his finger
most of the way out, then back in.
yeah," Ray sighed, and wriggled again, his head dropping forward
onto his arm.
could see his lower lip caught in his teeth, but his expression wasn't
that of a man in pain, at least not any kind of pain he wanted to stop.
He repeated his caress, then again. It got easier each time, and after
a little bit he was brave enough to try adding another finger.
Ray gasped, and the process
started over again, tension, then slowly, relaxation. The wriggle finally
came back. God, that was going to kill him, Fraser was sure of it.
Every time Ray did it, he had to fight to keep from shoving him over
onto his belly, grabbing that perfect posterior in both hands and taking
him, hard, and fast. Only the knowledge that he might actually injure
Ray by doing that kept him from acting on the impulse. He couldn't hurt
stroking gently, Fraser added a third finger. Ray yielded easily this
time, no gasp, no tension, just a steady rhythmic undulation of his hips
as Fraser pushed his fingers deeper, angling downward, searching for
the spot he knew would change what Ray felt from merely sensually pleasurable
to explosively arousing. He knew when he found it. Ray jerked in his
arms, and moaned, shuddering.
Ben! That's . . . that's . . . " he whimpered, hips bucking as
Fraser continued to stroke the sensitive gland.
know, Ray," he whispered against his ear, nuzzling the taut tendon
at the side of his throat. "I know."
please, now? Please, I gotta feel you in me . . ."
knew he was lost. He put his head against Ray's shoulder, and nodded.
"Yes, if you're sure, Ray, if you trust me to . . ."
my life, Fraser, with my life. Now fuck me, damnit!"
It might not be romantic,
it might even be crude, but it was one of the most beautiful things Fraser
had ever heard in his life. Awkwardly he worked his unoccupied hand
back to slap it down into the remaining lubricant on the night stand,
coating his palm and fingers. Bringing it forward again, he wrapped
his hand around his own aching cock, covering it with the stuff, though
he hardly needed it at this point. He'd been dripping for what felt like
hours now, as hard as if Ray hadn't given him a mind-blowing orgasm with
his mouth within very recent memory. He hadn't dared think about how
aroused he was, because he would have been gone in an instant if he'd
done that. He'd only managed to keep from embarrassing himself by concentrating
his entire focus on pleasuring Ray instead.
pushed his knee upward, opening Ray further, then slipped his fingers
out, replacing them with the tip of his cock, pressing inward a tiny
bit. Ray went tense as he was breached, his breath catching, and Fraser
Ray gritted, making the sentence a single word.
past experience Fraser knew that was not necessarily an idle threat.
Against his better judgement, he allowed Ray to make the decision, gave
Ray the same trust that Ray was giving him. Ray knew himself. Ray knew
his own needs, his own desires, and his own capacities. If he said he
wanted to continue, then he did. Reaching forward he interlaced their
fingers, giving Ray something to hold onto. He remembered needing that.
Ray tightened his fingers around Fraser's and . . . wriggled. Fraser
lost the battle, and lost his mind. Rational thought ceased. With a
growl, he rolled Ray onto his belly and pushed inside, not hard, not
fast, but relentlessly.
Almost painfully tight. Softly yielding, yet resistant at the same time,
friction thankfully lessened by the lubricant. The shock of realization,
the knowledge that this was Ray he was inside, that it was Ray, his partner,
his friend, his . . . lover. No one had ever given him this kind of
trust before. No one. Ever. Hot wetness streaked down his face, as
hot as Ray was around him.
Ray's fingers clenching painfully on his brought Fraser back to marginal
awareness. He heard Ray's breath coming in sobbing gasps and remembered
pain almost made him withdraw, but then Ray spread his thighs wider and
tucked his knees up, making it even easier for Fraser to take him. Fraser
lifted onto his knees so he could change the angle of entry, to give
him the pleasure he'd learned this could give, and started to pump slowly
in and out. Ray relaxed finally, and loosened marginally around him,
his sobs becoming sighs as Fraser found the same spot he'd used his fingers
on, this time hitting it with his cock
reached down to find Ray's now-flaccid cock, stroking it, fondling it,
rolling his heavy testicles in their soft, loose folds of flesh until
the stimulation both outside and within restored his erection to its
former dimensions. It was an awkward position, though. He wanted to
be able to touch all of Ray, to stroke everywhere, to have free access
to his cock, and those amazingly sensitive nipples. . . Sliding his
arms around Ray he eased back onto his haunches, pulling Ray upright
as he did, so they knelt, bodies fused.
grabbed onto his forearms where they curved across his chest, clutching
as if he were afraid of falling, then he managed to shift his weight
backward, which had the dual effect of stabilizing their position, and
embedding Fraser even deeper inside him.
. . Fra . . . ser!" Ray panted, arching back, his head against
Fraser's shoulder. "God!" He shivered and bucked, hips moving
in a fluid glide. He reached back to wind his long, lean arms around
Fraser's waist, holding him.
position gave Ray most of the control over their movement, and he used
it, driving himself back roughly with a desperation that Fraser understood
all too well. Hands free now, Fraser fanned one over Ray's chest, fingers
rubbing and rolling one tight, hard nipple as his other hand slid down
into the curling thatch of dark-gold between Ray's thighs, finding the
rigid shaft and fisting around it, stroking hard, and fast.
was all it took, Ray shuddered, and moaned, and came, and the pulsations
echoing inside him set off a matching explosion in Fraser, waves of ecstasy
slamming through him like rough seas. Finally they collapsed together
onto the bed, breathing slowing as the pleasure ebbed.
* * *
Wow. Ray knew that was
a pretty lame way to describe what had just happened, but his brain wasn't
really functioning good enough to find a better word. Wow. He could
still feel Fraser inside him, though he was starting to slip free now
that he wasn't hard any more. Yeah, it had hurt some at first, but it
had hurt so damned good, and then it had stopped hurting and all there
was left was the good. And it had been good. Better than good. Fabulous.
The best. He lay there, trying to absorb the fact that he'd just been
well and truly fucked, and by Fraser, of all people. He sighed happily,
content to just lie there, surrounded by Fraser's arms, his big body
sweaty and sticky all along his back. It felt great. Until Fraser suddenly
let go of him with a gasp.
my God! Ray!"
didn't sound so good. Ray turned over to look at his Mountie. Definitely
not good. Fraser's face was white, his expression horrified.
What's wrong?" Did he really want to know? No, but he had to ask
his eyes, swallowed hard, then looked at Ray again, miserably. "I'm
so sorry, Ray. I forgot."
what?" Ray demanded, dreading the answer, a hundred dire possibilities
chasing themselves through his brain.
didn't use protection," Fraser said, as if confessing to serial
at him. That was it? That was all? He started to laugh, unutterably
relieved. "Geezus Fraser, scare a year off me why doncha? It's okay!
You can do me bareback any time."
sat up, raking his hands through his hair. It looked exactly the same
after he got done as it had before he started. Ray was momentarily distracted
by that phenomenon, then Fraser started talking again, his voice hard.
"No, Ray, it's not
all right. It shows a disregard for your well-being that borders on criminal
sighed. Sometimes Fraser was just too Boy Scout for words. He sat up,
and wound himself around Fraser's stiff-backed form, sliding his arms
around him, pressing his lips against the back of his neck, just below
his hairline. His skin was still damp with sweat, and Ray let his tongue
slide along his spine, tasting the salt. Finally he lifted his mouth.
Frase. It's okay, it really is. I liked it," he said. "I
liked you that way. I wanted you that way. And the idea that you wanted
me so bad that you, Mr. Perfect, actually forgot is pretty damned
cool. We already covered the risk factor thing, and I really don't think
we have a problem. Frankly, I oughtta be the one apologizing for not
making you do it 'cause you're at a lot more risk than I am.
Now, we're not gonna have to have this conversation every damned time
we fuck, are we?"
was deliberately vulgar, hoping it would cut through the self-recriminations
he knew were going through the Mountie's head right now. Fraser stiffened
a little more and didn't answer for a moment, then he turned his head
to look questioningly, almost shyly, at him.
time?" he asked softly.
took a second to figure out what that meant, then he grinned. "Yeah,
every time, what'd you think? I'm a one-night-stand kinda guy?"
Fraser shook his head.
"No, Ray, but I didn't know how you would feel, after . . ."
"You fishin' for
compliments, Frase? Okay, you got 'em. It was great. Better than great.
Best ever. Got it?"
blushed. "I wasn't . . ."
rolled his eyes. "Oh fer cryin' out loud, Frase. I know that! Y'gotta
learn when I'm teasin' you. The first part was a tease. The last part
nodded, still red. Exercising his capillaries. Ray sighed, and rubbed
his nose along Fraser's neck smelling the warm, sweaty sweetness of him.
"Now, lay back down, okay?"
nodded. "Okay, Ray."
they lay back down, it occurred to Ray for the first time how often Fraser
said his name. He said it constantly, all the time, like he couldn't
stand to not say it. Funny. He tried Fraser's first name out in his
head, 'Benton.' 'Ben.' It felt weird. He'd been calling him Fraser,
or Frase, for so long that 'Ben' felt awkward. He would have to work
on that. As he stretched out, curling up against Fraser, his head on
his shoulder, it occurred to him that he was going to have to wash the
sheets again. But that was okay. It was definitely okay.
* * *
Ray walked into the bullpen
and headed for his desk. People were staring at him. He looked down,
wondering why. There wasn't even any food on his shirt or anything.
Then he saw that there was someone sitting at his desk already. A lanky,
bald guy. The desk looked funny, too. There was stuff on it that wasn't
his. Stuff he didn't know. Funny, the desk looked like it had when
he'd first started at the 27th.
cold touched his face, then another, and another. Puzzled, he realized
it was snowing, inside the office. Now that was weird, too. He looked
at the guy at his desk again, and sudden tension cramped his stomach.
It couldn't be. They'd have told him, right? Warned him that the other
guy was coming back? They wouldn't just have let him walk in and take
other man looked up, gray-green eyes narrowed as he studied Ray from
head to toe, sneering a little. He stood up, hand sliding beneath his
coat toward where his weapon would be if he wore it in a shoulder holster.
behind him, full of warmth and happiness. Ray started to relax. Fraser
was here. Everything was okay. He turned to greet the Mountie, but the
greeting died in his throat as Fraser brushed past him to go to the man
at the desk, to put his arms around him just as the other man brought
his gun from beneath his coat. With one arm around Fraser, the man looked
straight at Ray, sighted, and pulled the trigger.
* * *
Sitting bolt upright,
Ray could still hear the echoes of that shot in his mind, still feeling
the bullet tearing into him, blasting through bone, to explode his heart.
Which was beating so fast it really did feel like it might explode.
Fraser's voice was sleepy, and concerned.
jumped, startled. What the fuck was Fraser doing in his bed . . . oh,
yeah. He looked down at the long, solid form that lay beside him, and
tried to swallow with a mouth gone suddenly dry. Fraser, in his bed.
Oh yeah. The dream returned to him. Ray Vecchio, with Fraser in his
arms. He closed his eyes.
something amiss, Ray?" Fraser asked, sounding less sleepy and more
his fingers through his hair and cleared his throat. "Nah, nothin',
Fraser. Just gotta pee," he lied, and rolled out of bed, just barely
keeping himself from running.
the bathroom he snapped on the light, closed the door, and leaned back
against it, staring at the ceiling, blinking hard to stop his eyes from
watering in the sudden light. That was it. He wasn't crying. It was
just the light. After a couple of minutes, he went ahead and used the
john, so what he'd told Fraser wouldn't be a lie any more, and he flushed.
He looked into the
mirror, and saw his own pale face stare back. He flinched. How could
anyone love that? No wonder even in his dreams someone else got the
prize. He rubbed at his chest, where it still hurt from the dream, then
ran water and splashed it on his face. Then he paced the tiny room until
he figured Fraser would have gone back to sleep.
he snapped the light off again, and opened the door. He took a step
toward the bedroom, hesitated, then went into the living room instead.
He picked up the bottle of Scotch and looked at it, then put it back
down. Getting drunk would only make him feel worse. And he'd have to
explain it to Fraser. He sat down on the edge of the couch, and winced
a little, shifting his weight. Fraser had been right about it hurting.
Of course, he was always right so there was nothing new about that.
It wasn't too bad, just a slight ache he knew would fade quickly, unlike
the other pain he was feeling. He put his face in his hands.
In the darkness, Fraser's
voice sounded uncertain. Startled, Ray sat upright. He hadn't heard
the other man come into the room. "What, Fraser?"
Frase. Go back to bed."
was a moment of silence, then Fraser spoke again, from closer now. Ray
could see him, a pale shape in the darkness. "Ray, please."
"Really, it's okay.
Just a dream, y'know? Doncha ever have weird dreams?"
was met by a chuckle. "Ray, you have no idea."
tried not to let that laugh warm him. He had to guard himself from that,
from letting Fraser in any deeper. Protect himself. Sex was one thing.
It didn't mean anything. It was just need. He could do that part okay.
It was the rest that would never work. He just wasn't the kind of person
okay, go back to bed," he repeated.
Fraser came and crouched in front of him and looked into his face. But
it was dark, and he couldn't see anything, could he?
did you dream, Ray?"
started to feel panic well up inside, so he did what he always did when
he was afraid, he got mad.
was just a friggin' stupid dream, okay? Now leave me alone!"
Fraser didn't move, didn't
speak, for several long seconds. He just breathed. There was a slight
catch in his breathing. Ray felt like shit.
geez, Frase, I'm sorry. I just need to work it through, okay? By myself."
Although Fraser didn't
physically change position, Ray swore he'd felt him recoil. As if he'd
slapped him. Slowly Ben lifted his hands, and stood up.
well, Ray. If that's what you want."
Ray thought. No that's not what I want. I want you to hold me. I want
you to love me. But I can't have what I want, I never can, and so I
gotta protect myself so it doesn't fuck me up so bad when the real Ray
comes back and you leave me like I know you will 'cause you told me you
love him but you never said you love me and I shoulda figured that out
way before now and damnit, I really am crying this time it's not the
light . . .
arms slipped around him, pulling him against a warm, solid body, warm
hands stroked his back, his hair, his face, a warm voice whispered his
name, made hushing sounds, as if he were a baby, and it was all wonderful
and horrible at the same time. He'd never lost it like this before,
not in front of another guy. He tried to pull away but Fraser wouldn't
let him go, just held him until the storm passed on its own. Finally,
a long time later, Fraser spoke.
to me, Ray."
shook his head. "I can't."
thought you trusted me."
do," Ray said instantly.
trust me now, Ray. What did you dream?"
knew Fraser wouldn't let this rest, not now. He'd push and push, and
push in that polite, but firm Mountie fashion until he got his way. Until
Ray told him. He sighed.
dreamed Vecchio came back. Oh, and it was snowin' in the office."
For some reason that seemed important now. "And then you came in,
an' you went to him, an' then he shot me." He forced a laugh.
"Pretty stupid, hunh? I mean, like, it's obvious, trust me to have
obvious dreams, right? But it's okay, 'cause I understand you love him,
you said so, an' so it's okay. Okay?" he ended lamely.
didn't speak for a moment. For a long, long moment. God, say something,
Fraser. Tell me what a moron I am. Laugh about it. Anything.
Don't say that. Don't sound like that.
I'm so sorry. I thought you knew."
The knife went in deeper. "I do know, Frase. Like I said, it's
okay. I understand."
I don't mean . . ." Fraser reached over, picked up the remote and
fumbled with it until the TV came on. The room lit with its pale blue
glow, and Fraser hit the mute button to cut off a used car commercial,
then turned and looked into his eyes, which, now that there was light,
he could actually see. Ray figured that had been Fraser's intention
all along, since they both knew that what was on the tube at this hour
pretty much sucked.
meant that I thought you knew I love you, Ray. I should have said it
before. I should have told you. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you.
I'm just not very good at saying things like that."
wanted to believe him, wanted it so bad it hurt, but there was one problem.
"But you love Vecchio."
looked at him sadly. "Yes, Ray, I do."
when he comes back . . . "
he comes back, nothing will change, Ray. May I ask you something?"
Warily, Ray nodded.
"Yeah, I s'poze."
you still love Stella?"
been right to be wary. He thought about the question, carefully, and
finally nodded. "Yeah, I guess I do."
looked at if he'd expected that answer. "What would you do if she
were to come to see you tomorrow and tell you she wanted to get back
together with you?"
Ohhhhh. Okay, so some people, apparently himself included, had to have
the picture not just sketched out, but colored in, framed, and hung,
too. He felt a tentative little smile tugging at his mouth.
get it, Frase."
your answer would be?" Something in the Mountie's gaze told him
that Fraser was dreading the answer. He understood that. He could also
put that fear to rest.
be no. Partly 'cause even though I still love her in lotsa ways, I know
we can't ever have back what we had. I've known it for a long time,
I just didn't want to know it, if y'know what I mean. But the real reason
the answer would be no, is because I love you now, Ben."
He'd said it. Even used his name. And it hadn't even been that hard.
Fraser looked so relieved that Ray realized he, too, had felt uncertainty
and fear. Sometimes he wondered why people ever fell in love, it was
such a dangerous thing to do. Then Fraser put his mouth on his, and
he knew the answer.
* * *
Amanda stood outside
The Drake, watching for Fraser, and Ray. In her hands she held a dog
harness. She checked her watch again. Four minutes to four. They were
late. Well, no, they weren't late, but she'd really expected Fraser
to be early, it just seemed in keeping with his personality. She fidgeted
nervously. What if they didn't come? They had to come. She scowled,
annoyed with herself. What difference did it make?
lot, she admitted to herself after a moment of pretending otherwise.
She was lonely. She needed to be with people. People she liked, people
she could be herself with. Of course, in that case she probably shouldn't
have asked Ben to bring Ray, since he didn't know about her, which meant
she couldn't really be herself. But she hadn't wanted to make Ben uncomfortable,
and she'd known instinctively he would be more at ease with Ray at his
side. She sighed. Sometimes being an Immortal was a royal pain in the
ass. It would be so much easier if she could just tell people what she
to four. She paced. She fidgeted. The doorman eyed her curiously and
she turned away from him, pretending to admire the tall windows with
their luxurious draperies. She looked at her watch again. A minute
after four. She bit her lip, trying not to let herself give in to disappointment.
They weren't coming. Ben would never be late. Three minutes after four.
Well, that was that. What now? She turned to go back inside, and heard
that raffish, slightly nasal voice, Amanda turned so fast she nearly
fell off her heels. Ray Kowalski and Ben Fraser were walking toward
her, Diefenbaker trotting at their side. Fraser was looking rather edible
in jeans and a blue cable-knit turtleneck sweater. Beside him, it was
clear that Kowalski had attempted to tame his hair. She steeled herself
to not grin at the result, which was vaguely reminiscent of something
from a bust of Julius Caesar. He too was in jeans, with a very tight
black t-shirt, and over that a very rumpled gray linen suit-jacket that
looked as if it had been stuffed in the back of a closet for some time.
She had a feeling that was his concession to the understated elegance
of the Drake's Palm Court. She ran forward to hug Ben, and plant a
kiss on his lips. Just a little one. Friendly, not sexy.
gave her a jealous, slitty-eyed glare at that, so just to be egalitarian
she hugged and kissed him, too, then stepped back.
work there yesterday, Ray," she said. "I knew you could do
well, it woulda been better if that stuff had worked faster," Ray
grumbled. "Then you wouldn'ta got shot . . . Ooops." Ray
looked guiltily at Fraser.
eyes widened, and she looked at Fraser accusingly. "You told him?"
"I had to,"
Ben said uncomfortably. "It was important. I had to explain some
things, about me. To do that I had to tell him."
considered that, not quite understanding why knowing about her would
make any difference, but knowing that Ben wouldn't lie about it. She
sighed. "All right, I forgive you, this time, but don't ever do
it again. And you," she rounded on Ray, "you keep your lips
zipped! It's a secret!"
nodded solemnly. "Secret's safe with me, sweets. Safe as houses."
Amanda refrained from
pointing out that houses weren't particularly safe and knelt to pet Diefenbaker,
who nuzzled her arm and greeted her with a vocalization. She held up
the harness and looked at Fraser. "May I?"
sighed deeply. "If you must, though I still feel that you're abusing
don't care as long as I pay for it," she fastened the harness around
Dief, put on her sunglasses, and turned toward the door.
chuckled. "I like her, Frase."
like you, too, Ray," Amanda shot back. "Coming?"
* * Finis * *