The characters Benton Fraser and Ray Kowalski are from the television series due South. I don't own 'em, I wish I did. I'd be a lot richer, plus I'd be insufferably smug. Yeah, the characters are property of Alliance, yadda, yadda, yadda; everything else is my smutty intellectual property. 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, easily offended, or have something against Chicago Flatfoots with Experimental Hair, you may want to take a pass as well.

NOTE: I've always been intrigued by the fact that Ray has a bicycle hanging on the wall in his apartment. They never elaborated on that detail in the series, and that has just... niggled... at me. So, I did. :-)

Thanks to Judi, Betty, LaTonya and AuKestrel for beta. Y'all are the best. (I was born in Texas, I can legally say that.)

Soundtrack: Pierce Pettis– lots of Pierce Pettis: 'My Life of Crime,' 'Love Will Always Find Its Way,' 'My Heart Goes Out,' 'Hole in my Heart,' 'Comet,' & 'Words Said in the Dark.'     Also, Bruce Cockburn: 'Look How Far' & 'Isn't That What Friends Are For.'

Changing Gears
© 2000 Kellie Matthews

"Okay everybody, listen up. Anybody here got a bike?"

It was a bizarre question. Ray looked over at Welsh, standing at the door to his office. Everyone else was looking at him too. Duh. Like they'd dare look anywhere else when Welsh was talking.

"It's for an undercover job, probably three or four days' work."

Undercover was a cookie. No question about that. He hunched down in his seat a little, trying to be smaller. Welsh was trying to bait them with the undercover thing, which meant Ray didn't want any part of it. And he wasn't about to volunteer his bike.

"You mean a motorcycle?" Dewey asked.

Welsh scowled. "Did I say a motorcycle? No. I did not. I said bike, as in bicycle."

Ray slid a little further into his slouch, trying to look as unathletic as possible.

Fraser shifted to look at him, puzzled, then back at Welsh. "Ray has a bicycle," he offered. "A very nice one."

Welsh didn't smile as his gaze pinned Ray, but Ray could see the grin anyway.

"I didn't know you were into fitness, Detective Vecchio. I assume you can actually ride this bicycle of yours?"

It was tempting to lie, but Ray figured there wasn't much point in it, not any more. With a fulminating glare at Fraser, he shrugged. "Yeah."

"Good. Thank you for volunteering. In my office, now."

Ray sighed and stood up. "Yes, sir." Halfway there he stopped, turned, and looked at Fraser. "You too, Fraser,"

"But, Ray, I . . ."

"Now, Fraser," Ray said, backing it up with a Look.

Fraser nodded and followed. Once the door was closed, Welsh settled at his desk and laid out the deal. They needed someone to go undercover as a bike courier because there had been a bunch of ripoffs lately that pretty much had to have been inside jobs: only the couriers carrying valuable goods were getting hit. A couple of the couriers had been smacked around when they hadn't wanted to give up their bags. No one had been seriously injured, yet, but you never knew when something like that was going to turn ugly, which it almost always did with guns in the mix. So the Chicago PD decided to put someone in there to see what he could see. It wasn't a bad plan, actually, and Welsh had some references cooked up for him that looked good, but Ray thought about how long it had been since he rode seriously and shook his head.

"I dunno. I don't think they'll buy it. All my stuff's about two years out of date, and I'm way out of shape."

Fraser looked at him slantwise and started to say something but Welsh snorted and beat him to it.

"Kowalski, compared to most of us around here you're Lance Armstrong, so don't give me that crap. You got a bike, you know how to ride it, and I've seen those guys. You have the look."

"What, like some crazed maniac with a death wish?" Ray asked jokingly, then wished he hadn't when Welsh nodded.

"Yeah, just like that."

"I wouldn't say death wish, or even crazed," Fraser murmured in his defense.

Ray noted that he didn't demur about the maniac part, and his irritation flared. Okay, fine. If Fraser could volunteer him, he could volunteer Fraser right back. Fair was fair. He folded his arms and stuck his chin out stubbornly. "I want backup. No way I can carry a piece in courier gear. I need someone watching my back." He slid a look at Fraser, and Welsh got it immediately; of course he did, he was good.

"I'm sure Constable Fraser will be as effective as always," Welsh said smoothly.

Ray bit back a grin. "Yeah, but he's gonna have to keep up with me. That means he's gotta go undercover, too."

Welsh thought about that and then nodded.

"But, Ray, I . . ." Fraser began.

Ray shook his head. "You too, Fraser," Ray said firmly. Fraser hesitated, but when Ray backed his statement up with yet another Look, he gave in with an apologetic glance.

"Very well, I'll. . . I'll do my best, Ray. But what if they don't need two couriers?"

Ray looked at Welsh. "You said this place is run by a woman, right?"

Welsh nodded. "Yeah, one Cassandra Peterson."

Ray grinned. "No problem, then. They'll hire you even if they don't need another courier. I'll need to update some of my gear. Shoes and helmet, especially. No self-respecting courier would go with the kind of gear I have. We'll have to outfit Fraser, too. And find him a bike, 'cause mine's not built for two."

"Fine. Whatever," Welsh said. "Get what you need, I'll sign the vouchers."

Ray did a double take and gave Pod!Welsh the eye. Welsh, volunteering funds? What the hell?

"One of the riders who got roughed up was some alderman's kid," Welsh explained, looking a little embarrassed by Ray's wide-eyed stare. "The mayor's screaming about this one."

"Well, that'd explain it all right," Ray said cynically. "Okay, come on Fraser. Time to go spend the city's money."

On their way out, Fraser balked again. "Ray, there's something I need to tell you."

Ray paused at the door to the station, looked at Fraser, and sighed. "What? Besides 'Ray, my friend, I'm very sorry for volunteering you and your bike without your permission.'"

Fraser frowned. "Well, I didn't volunteer you, I merely mentioned that you owned a bicycle, which, really, you ought to have done yourself, as it was a polite request."

"Yeah, a polite request with a bunch of strings attached, Fraser. And I didn't get a chance to check out the strings before 'volunteering' for this job. I like to know what the heck I'm getting into before I do it, Fraser, unlike certain Mounties who have a habit of leaping before they look. I was playing him for more information, okay? I figured he'd come out with some if nobody said anything."

Fraser looked taken aback for a moment and his face fell. "Oh. I. . . yes, I understand now, Ray. I'm sorry. I didn't . . . "

Ray sighed, waving a hand. "Yes you did. You always do. Water under the bridge. Now, what's bugging you?"

"I, ah . . . well, you see, there weren't many places in the Territories where one could actually ride a bicycle, and my grandparents didn't feel it was worth the cost and effort to order one and have it shipped, and so . . . well, truth of the matter is that I. . . I . . . ."

By the time Fraser got that far, Ray had finally figured out what he was trying to say and his jaw dropped. "You telling me you never rode a bike? There is actually something you, Super Mountie, cannot do?"

Fraser looked acutely embarrassed. "Yes, Ray."

Ray whistled softly. "This has to be my lucky day! Not only did Welsh agree to let me spend money, but I found something I can do better than you."

Fraser looked at him in that odd, assessing way he had where he ducked his head a little, and narrowed his eyes a little, and wrinkled his forehead a little. "I'm sure there are many things you do better than me, Ray."

Ray made a rude noise and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. Okay, so I gotta teach you how to ride a bike. No sweat."

In the end it did entail a certain amount of sweat, not to mention the loan of a bike from an old riding buddy of Ray's who was about Fraser's size, but, as Ray had figured, Fraser got the hang of it with only a few ungraceful tangles with the spidery bike-frame. In a disgustingly short amount of time Ray had him riding like a pro. . . or at least not a novice . . . around the track at a local high school. Even Ray's impromptu obstacle course barely slowed him down. What floored Ray was that once Fraser figured it out, he was clearly enjoying himself. Ray had never seen an outright grin on Fraser's face before, and it made him feel oddly pleased and even a little proud to have helped put that expression there. He hated to pull Fraser off the track to go to the cycle shop and outfit him properly, but it was work, after all. As he roamed the aisles examining the merchandise, Fraser trailed behind him, watching, frowning a little.

"You seem to know a lot about bicycling, Ray, though I don't believe I've ever seen you ride."

Ray shot a glance at him, nodded. "Yeah. Haven't had much time to ride lately. Used to, though, especially after Stella and I . . . ." He stopped and cleared his throat. He didn't need to get into that, didn't need Fraser to know it had been a way to keep himself from moping around his apartment feeling sorry for himself. "Anyway. I know my way around a bike. And I do still ride sometimes when Thatcher keeps you busy, though I'm not the maniac I used to be."

"It seems a shame that you're not able to keep up with a pastime you enjoy. Perhaps now that I've learned, we could ride sometimes."

Ray looked at him for a moment, frowning. "You don't have to humor me, Fraser."

"No, of course not," Fraser said quietly, and something flickered in his eyes, something a little more human than his usual bland expression, something a little. . . hurt?

"But if you really want to, that'd be cool," Ray said, automatically trying to fix that pain he'd seen, and maybe caused.

"I would like that, yes," Fraser said firmly.

"Cool then," Ray said. "It's a date. You, me, a couple of bikes. Maybe we could even wear out the wolf."

Fraser looked puzzled. "Wear out the. . . ah. You mean Diefenbaker."

"Well, yeah. What'd you think I meant?"

"Well, for a moment I wasn't entirely sure. It sounded as if it might be a metaphor of some sort."

Ray snickered. "Wear out the wolf. Yeah. Like spank the . . . ." He stopped abruptly. Oh no, Stanley Raymond Kowalski-Vecchio. Don't even think about it. "Uh . . . never mind. Come on. Let's get going here. My mom always said when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping."

To his relief Fraser didn't pursue the dropped conversational thread and just followed along as Ray shopped. In the end he judiciously selected a dozen or so items before heading for the checkout. Fraser blanched a little at the total on the register, and cleared his throat meaningfully, but Ray just grinned back. "Welsh said the city would pay for it."

Fraser rubbed his eyebrow with a fingertip. "I, ah, don't think he quite understood the, ah, full implication of his assent, Ray."

"Hey, if he wants us to play in the big leagues . . . ." Ray shrugged, leaving the rest of the sentence hanging.

Fraser looked a little disapproving but didn't protest further, at least not until they get back to Ray's place and Ray handed him his share of the loot and nodded at the bathroom. "Go change."

Fraser looked at the meager pile of fabric in his hands, back at Ray, and swallowed. "Ah . . ."

"You gotta look the part. Just think of it like that time you went undercover as a used car salesman."

That forestalled the impending argument, and Fraser disappeared into the bathroom. Ray took his own loot into the bedroom and changed quickly, checking himself out in the mirror. Not too bad. He wouldn't win any beauty contests but he didn't look like a complete fraud either. Done, he waited impatiently for Fraser to emerge from the bathroom. And waited. And waited. Finally he began to wonder if Fraser had drowned in the sink or something. He went over to the door and tapped on it lightly.


"Yes, Ray?"

Okay. Alive. Alive was good. "You been in there a long time."

"Ah. . . yes."

"Something wrong?"

"Not. . . not as such. No."

"What then?"

"I'm afraid you purchased the wrong sized clothing for me."

"I did not. I have an aptitude for sizes. Never once got Stella wrong, and I know guys better than I know chicks, being one myself and all."

"Well, but they're very . . . snug."

Ray grinned. "They're supposed to be, Fraser. Open the door."

There was a moment of silence, then the door opened about two inches so all Ray could see was a part of Fraser's face as he looked out.

"Ray, I really . . . ."

"All the way, Fraser."

With a long-suffering sigh Fraser opened the door and stood there awkwardly. Ray's gaze traveled down Fraser's broad chest, lovingly clung to by a red and black jersey, past the shorts -- black, with a yellow stripe, and even made in Canada, according to the tag. He had to be careful not to let his gaze linger too long on the way the gleaming fabric flowed over every concave and convex curve that Fraser owned, forced himself to move on down the bare legs which looked really strange without their usual armor of jodhpurs and granny-boots. Strange, but . . . nice. Finally he looked back up at Fraser's face and grinned "Perfection, Fraser. Definitely not the wrong sizes. That's the way they're supposed to fit. Aerom. . . arid. . . aerodynamic."

Fraser frowned a little, and studied him, taking in Ray's equally snug orange jersey and black shorts. His eyes widened slightly as he moistened his lower lip with a slow flicker of his tongue. That was followed by another quick glance down Ray's torso, then back up. "Ah. . . yes. I see. Very aerodynamic."

Ray told himself firmly that Fraser's words held absolutely no double meaning, but he couldn't help one of those quick glances himself, which led to him noticing something odd about the fit of the shorts. He frowned. "Fraser, tell me you are not wearing your damned boxers under those."

"Well, of course I am, Ray."

Ray sighed and shook his head. "No. The whole point is to not have anything that chafes or binds so you don't get . . . chafed, or bound. See? Now go take 'em off."

"But you didn't give me anything to wear und . . . oh. I see."

Color flared across Fraser's face and Ray had to bite his lip to keep from laughing as he realized that just the idea of going commando had set his partner blushing like a schoolgirl. Fraser's gaze flickered down a third time, back up, and his color deepened. He looked like he wanted to say something, but finally he just stepped back into the bathroom and shut the door. Ray tried not to let his imagination get carried away with the fact that Fraser was in there getting almost naked. Or with the fact that Fraser just checked him out. . . three times. He was just looking at the clothes, that's all. Normal. Not used to them, on himself or on Ray. A few minutes later the bathroom door opened again and Fraser stepped out, walking inexpertly in the rigid-soled shoes. Ray looked up from the kitchen sink where he was filling water bottles, and couldn't resist asking a question he knew Fraser wouldn't answer even under torture.

"Feels better now, right?"

Fraser blushed again, Ray could see it from clear across the room. "I just feel rather . . . exposed," he said finally.

And he looked it, too. Ohyeah. Jesus, Ray. Enough. "Yeah, it takes a little getting used to," Ray said nonchalantly, trying to make Fraser feel a little more comfortable.

"Yes," Fraser agreed. A faint frown creased his forehead as he looked down at himself. "If I might ask. . . is it usual for there to be. . . padding . . . in the, ah, groin area?"

Ray chuckled. "Yep. And believe me, you'll be glad of it, too, after a long ride. Just be glad I'm not making you shave your legs for authenticity."

Fraser cocked his head. "I've done that before. It's not so bad."

Ray stared at him. Did he even want to know? He thought about it for a second, and studied Fraser narrowly. "This what you were talking about in the crypt that day? About dressing up like a woman?"


"Kinky," Ray teased, grinning.

Fraser blushed a little. "It was for undercover work."

"Uh hunh. Sure it was."

"Really, Ray, it was."


Fraser opened his mouth, shot him a look, and closed it again.

"Rats. You're no fun," Ray grumbled.

Fraser shook his head, suspiciously bland. "None whatsoever, Ray."

* * *

Hanging out in the front office of Peterson's Pro's waiting with several other people for an interview, Ray figured he was a shoo-in, what with the references Welsh got for him. Unfortunately that made him feel a little guilty. If he got the job, he'd probably be taking bread out of these guys' - and girls' - mouths, and some of them looked a little hungry. He consoled himself with the thought that it was only for a few days and then they'd be hiring someone to replace him, and that his replacement would be a lot safer with the perps behind bars.

He glanced over at Fraser, who sat primly in the chair next to him trying as hard as he could not to notice that every eye in the place was sliding his direction every few seconds. Even with the streamlined black Bell helmet in his lap concealing the most interesting bits, it was just hard not to look at Fraser in spandex and stare. The man was amazing enough in the goofy pants and old-fashioned-fire-engine-red tunic of his dress uniform, but when he was tricked out like this it was a wonder he wasn't on billboards across the country advertising something. . . anything. Ray figured people would line up to buy air if Fraser was selling it. Well, if they didn't actually know him and know how really irritating he could be.

"Kowalski?" A voice called. "Ray Kowalski?"

It took him a minute. He was so used to Vecchio that he'd nearly forgotten his own name, his real name. He jerked his gaze away from Fraser to the snotty clerk with the clipboard. "Yeah, I'm him."

"Ms. Peterson will see you now . . . if you're ready." The clerk cast a smirking glance from Fraser back to Ray, and Ray glowered at her until he remembered he was supposed to want this job and smoothed out his frown, nodding.

"Ready," he said, deliberately not looking at Fraser again.

The clerk opened the door to an office, not a big, spacious, well-furnished one, though slightly better-furnished than the little front room, at any rate. The first thing he noticed was that just as he'd suspected, the long mirror next to the door was a one-way, so the boss could keep an eye on the front room if she wanted to. Worked for both management and security aspects.

A thin, fortyish woman with faded blonde hair and skin that had seen way too much sun was seated at a desk that looked older than he was, making notes on a steno pad. She looked up as he came in, her shrewd blue-gray eyes assessing him, and Ray was glad he'd taken the time to scuff up his shoes and get a few concrete-snags on his outfit before he'd shown up, because he had a feeling not much got past this woman. She stood up and extended her hand, took his in a firm, no-nonsense grip.

"I'm Cass Peterson, I run this dump," she said, waving a hand around. "Have a seat, Mr. Kowalski." She gestured to the tacky harvest-gold Naugahide chair on his side of the desk. "You want a job?"

Ray sat, then nodded. "Yeah. Could use one."

"I read your papers." she said.

Ray he shook off the feeling that he was a racehorse or a dog, and lifted his eyebrows. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. You rode pro?"

"Mmmhmm, but not for a while," he lied diffidently. "Been working in the Big Apple, but my mom's sick, had to come home to help out."

She looked at him speculatively, and he thought about how he'd feel if his mom really was sick, and put that into his face. After a moment she nodded, flipped a couple of pages on her desk. He recognized 'his' resume.

"This is pretty impressive. We can't pay this well."

"Nah, I know that. I figured that. This ain't The Apple, after all."

She grinned and nodded. "True, Mr. Kowalski. But there are other outfits right here in Chi-town that pay better than we do. Why did you come to us?"

"You have a rep for being fair and for not overworking your riders. I'll need to have a flexible schedule, to work around times I need to be home helping out."

Ms. Peterson frowned. "I can be a little flexible, but I need coverage. I have regular clients who rely on us, and things are tough right now with the muggings. You've heard about that?"

Ray nodded. "Yeah. News travels. I can take care of myself."

He felt that shrewd gaze on him again, and she nodded. "Yes, you look as if you could. So. Coverage? How will you guarantee my coverage when I need it?"

Ray fidgeted a little. "I. . . got a friend. He needs a job, too. Was hoping maybe we could work together. Kind of a two-for-one deal, he rides when I can't. I'd need to take him out with me at first, show him the routes, he's from up north, not familiar with the city like me. Growing up here, you get to know the place."

The boss-lady was frowning again. "Two for one? That strikes me as too good to be true, Mr. Kowalski. Is he any good at what he does?"

Ray laughed ruefully. "Lady, he's good at everything he does. It's pretty damned depressing some days. But he's even broker than me, and doesn't have family here to crash with. He's been sleeping on a cot in a friend's office, but I'm trying to get Mom to let him stay with us for a while." She frowned a little, and Ray gestured toward her window on the outer office. "That's him over on the left. Red jersey. Sitting like a school-marm."

She snickered and leaned left to look past him out into the office, and Ray watched her eyes widen. "Oh, my," she breathed reverently.

Ray chuckled. "Yeah. Sucks. You have any idea how hard it is to get a date when you hang around with that all day? But he's my friend, and a real good guy, so what can you do?" He shrugged eloquently.

Ms. Peterson tore her gaze away from the spectacle that was Fraser in spandex and moistened her lips. "I. . . ah. . . don't know what to say. He'll really work any shifts you can't? For no more pay?"

"Yeah, until maybe you need another full-time rider. It beats park benches."

Her gaze had wandered off over his shoulder again, and she frowned a little. "I . . . have a bit of a difficult time believing he can't find employment."

Ray looked at her steadily, pulled out the big guns. "Oh yeah, he's been offered a couple of jobs, but they're not what you'd want a friend doing. Not if you don't want to see them messed up and tossed in some back-alley dumpster like so much trash, or a year or two down the road in the hospital in with a disease nobody can cure yet."

She blinked, snapped her gaze back to his face, and he saw the shock in her eyes. "I see. Yes. Well, if he's willing to cover you when you need time, then yes, I'd be a fool not to hire you. And that's something I'm not. Welcome aboard, Mr. Kowalski."

"Just Ray, please. We'll do our best for you, Ms. Peterson. You can count on us."

She looked at him with her head tilted a little, her expression startlingly reminiscent of Fraser's assessing look. "Yes, I believe you will. Why don't you bring your friend in and introduce us, and we'll get the paperwork out of the way."

* * *

Two days riding the routes, and Ray was beginning to get that feeling . . . that 'we're close' feeling, that 'someone's watching' feeling that lifted the hair on the back of his neck, those few that weren't glued down from the sweat, anyway. Yeah, he knew Fraser was trailing him some way back, staying out of sight, but Fraser never gave him that particular feeling. It was like he could . . . feel . . . the difference, between Fraser watching him and anyone else watching him, almost like he had some kind of weird mental connection to Fraser.

Considering how often Fraser seemed to read his mind right back, Ray wasn't entirely sure that was just his imagination. He only hoped Fraser was never reading his mind when he got sidetracked onto one of his many Fraser Fantasies. That would be-- embarrassing. Though Fraser would probably just do his Oblivious thing and pretend he hadn't. Still, just in case, Ray always made a concerted effort not to let that kind of thing happen around Fraser. Unfortunately since he wasn't not around Fraser very often, that meant that those kind of thoughts usually occupied his mind at night when he was home alone in bed, which was probably not the best place to have them, all things considered.

Ray shook himself. Told himself to pay attention. He was on the job, and right now with a package in his pouch that was insured for $50K, he knew someone other than Fraser was watching him. Which was good, because he wanted to wind this job up. He liked undercover, he was good at undercover, that was why he was being Vecchio to begin with, but despite Fraser's assertion as to his maniac status, taking on Chicago traffic with nothing but a bike was not really his thing. He preferred the safety of wrap-around steel, and a light and siren he could slap on if needed.

Truth was, he felt vulnerable out here, though not so much to any lurking bad guys, those he was used to, but there wasn't much either he or Fraser could do to protect themselves from several tons of hurtling metal and rubber. It was just. . . be careful, quick, and agile. Unfortunately though he could be agile, Fraser's version of careful involved deliberation, and that could be more of a liability than an asset out here. Ray found himself constantly worrying about Fraser, which really kind of defeated the purpose of having him as backup, not to mention defeating the purpose of getting even with Fraser for volunteering him. Thinking of Fraser, he touched his earpiece, thankful for wires that could masquerade as portable CD players, and scratched his nose to disguise the fact that he was speaking.

"Yo, Fraser, how's it hangin'?"

"How is what hanging, Ray?" Fraser responded immediately, sounding puzzled.

Ray grinned. "Never mind, Fraser. Just making sure you're okay."

"I'm fine, Ray. Why wouldn't I be?"

"No reason. Just . . . " Ray broke off as his bike suddenly wobbled and got hard to steer. "Damn, I got a flat," he said, annoyed, as he dismounted and carried his bike out of the street to lean it against a nearby building.

He glanced around, thinking to himself that this was a pretty good place for an ambush, if one was going to happen. Not much street traffic here, mostly warehouses around, no storefronts to supply witnesses. The hair on his neck prickled a little. He leaned down and examined the flat tire. Not one, but four different carpet nails pierced it. He shot a look into the street, saw a scatter of metal glittering in the sunlight, and frowned. Oh yeah. Carpet nails wouldn't do much to a car tire, but they were hell on bikes. He knelt next to the tire and unclipped the tire pump from its clamps, then started fiddling with the fill valve to make it look like he was focused on the tire. "Frase, I'm between third and second on Grant, and I think this is it. Hang back, okay? Don't let 'em see you."

"Ray, I'm not close enough! The backup cars are even farther!" For once Fraser didn't sound calm, or cool. He sounded worried.

"How far back are you?"

"Three blocks. The others six, at least."

Ray didn't swear, but he wanted to. He was on his own. "Watch the street, they put down nails. Ride on the sidewalk when you get to Grant."

"But Ray. . . "

"Fraser, just ride."

He made a show of spinning the tire and swearing loudly, made it look like all his attention was focused on the flat as he shifted his grip on the pump. It wasn't much as weapons went, but it was better than nothing. He heard the crunch of a shoe on sidewalk debris behind him. He kept up a running grumble about the damned tire and the damned nails, and the damned time he was losing, all the while listening, preparing. Another footfall. Close. He glanced out of the corner of his eye, took in the size and position of the man, and waited. He had to be sure. . . .

"This is a stickup, bike-boy," a gruff voice barked. "Hand over the bag . . . awk!" The order mutated into a startled yelp as Ray surged to his feet and brought the pump around in a smooth arc to impact the heavy wrist holding the gun, then reversed his swing to catch the guy under the chin. The blow was blunted a little by the knit balaclava the guy had over his face, but it was good enough to lay him out, the gun spinning away to the sidewalk well out of reach. Ray had a moment of irrationality, thinking the guy must be sweltering under that mask and was about to whip a set of cuffs out of his bag when a second voice froze him in his tracks.

"Drop the pump," Thug Number Two hissed in a really odd voice, kind of half-whisper, half-growl.

Ray spun around and came face-to-muzzle with another gun. He froze, tried a smile at the balaclava-hidden face across from him.

"Now, you don't want to do that, you really don't," he said placatingly.

"I said drop the pump," Two repeated in that same peculiar voice, almost like he was trying to disguise it, like maybe he expected Ray to recognize it? That made sense. Hide the face, disguise the voice. Whoever this was, Ray probably knew him.

Ray unwrapped his fingers from around the pump and let it fall, studying his opponent closely. He was short and thin and wearing loose, shapeless dark clothing, but the gun made up for a lot of size. A Beretta, he thought, from the silhouette. "It's dropped," he said unnecessarily.

"Take off the bag, hand it over."

"I can't do that," Ray said, stalling for time. "I'll lose my job, they'll take it out of my hide. Don't do this to me, man, I'm just a guy tryin' to earn a living."

"It's insured and you know it, asshole, hand it over."

Ray's eyes widened. He, or rather, she, had forgotten about the voice-disguise for a second there. And now he knew exactly who it was. Oh yeah. The clerk. Inside job for sure. He remembered her smirking at him about staring at Fraser before the interview, remembered that prissy, pissy tone. They'd wondered about her, but her bank records had looked clean. But if she was smart enough not to flaunt her newfound wealth, and she was working with a partner whose account they could use, that explained a lot. What was her name? Mary. As he stared at her he saw her eyes narrow.

"Fuck," she said in her natural voice. "Fuck. You know."

Ray swallowed, not sure how he'd given himself away. "Know what?" he tried. Come on, Fraser, he thought, just as he caught a flash of red out of the corner of his eye and he forced himself not to look, not to give it away as a feeling of relief spread over him. Fraser was here. Things would be okay.

"You know who I am," Mary said flatly.

"Got no clue, other than you're the one with the gun," Ray said, trying to keep her attention focused on him as that flash of red over her shoulder got closer and bigger. Fraser, legs pumping hard, crouched low over the handlebars. Oh yeah. Come on baby, come to papa. He focused on the clerk again, had to keep her focused, keep her attention. "Look, you can have the damned bag, I'll just take it off here, nice, and slow . . . ." He reached for the strap and the muzzle of the gun, which had begun to drop a little, nosed back up again.

"Think I'm stupid?" Mary snapped. "You'll give me the bag then go tell Peterson who's been ratting out her riders, and I'll be looking at a felony rap. No way, you're not getting out of this one, Kowalski, because I am not going to jail."

In retrospect it was weird how everything had almost seemed to stop, like a movie in slow motion. He'd actually seen Mary's finger tightening on the trigger, and had resigned himself to taking one, to maybe dying, and he'd felt really crappy because there were so many things he hadn't done, so many people he had never told how he felt about them . . . well . . . one person, at least, in particular. Then Fraser was there, riding to the rescue like a big, red bat out of hell, launching himself off the still-moving bike and onto Mary at a good fifteen or twenty miles per hour.

The momentum of the tackle propelled Fraser and Mary into Ray, and all three of them went down in a heap. A blast of sound hit Ray's ears and he'd felt a dozen tiny stings along the side of his face, like a bunch of pissed-off bees had attacked him. Brick shards, he'd realized as he shook his head and swore, trying to clear the ringing from his ears. He'd managed to grab Mary's gun as Fraser stared down at him with a wild-eyed look that Ray had never seen on him before. Then Mary started to squirm where she was sandwiched between them, swearing like a sailor, Fraser blushed, and a huge burst of relief at not being dead surged through Ray and left him grinning foolishly.

"You know, Fraser, there are easier ways to get me into a menage á tory, if that's what you're after."

Fraser's eyes had gotten really wide then, and he'd blushed even worse, but he said his next line right on cue, like he couldn't help himself. "Trois, Ray. Menage á trois."

Ray chuckled. Everything was definitely back to normal. "Whatever. Now you wanna get off me, and get Mary off me, before I suffocate and before her boyfriend over there wakes up?"

"I'm terribly sorry, Ray," Fraser said as he scrambled to his feet, looking apologetic. He hooked a hand into the back of Mary's shirt and hauled her up, too, using his other hand to tug off the mask that had hidden her face. He didn't seem at all surprised by the face revealed. "I'll restrain Ms. Crowe, if you'd be so good as to take care of her accomplice."

"Already on it, Fraser," Ray said, tugging his cuffs out of his bag and heading for the guy on the sidewalk who was starting to stir and groan. In short order he had him rolled over and cuffed, and had started to read him his rights when Mary struggled in Fraser's grip to turn and stare at him, mouth open.

"Cops? You guys are cops?" Mary gasped. "I'm going to sue your asses for brutality! I think you broke my ribs, you asshole!" She wrapped her arms around her midriff and assumed a pained expression.

Fraser's face took on that prim look he got when he was offended. "I apologize for my roughness, Ms. Crowe, but as you were in the process of attempting to shoot my partner, I felt a certain judicious use of force would not be unjustified."

Just then a familiar tan economy car came screeching around the corner with a portable light on the dash; behind it was a pair of blue-and-whites with light-bars on full and sirens wailing. Fraser nodded toward the cars as they squealed to a halt.

"Our backup is here, we'll have them call in some paramedics to make sure you're not seriously injured."

Huey and Dewey piled out of the first car, the uniforms got out of their vehicles, and the scene dissolved in controlled chaos. Measurements were made, photographs taken, and the nails from the street and Ray's tire and the bullet that had hit the bricks and blown shards into his face were all collected as forensic evidence. The paramedics eventually arrived and could barely even find a bruise on Ms. Crowe's supposedly broken ribs, though her boyfriend had a hell of a knot on his jaw from where Ray had clocked him with the pump.

Finally, with the crooks comfortably separated in each of the blue-and-whites, they had to head back to the station. The only vehicle remaining was Dewey's compact, and after cramming the two bicycles awkwardly into the hatchback, Ray and Fraser ended up in the tiny back seat trying to avoid getting skewered by protruding bike parts every time the car hit a bump. After the third time Ray got clipped on the sore side of his face by a set of handlebars, Fraser had shifted back against the door and tugged Ray over to his side of the car. It had worked, and Ray hadn't had to keep a protective hand over his face any more.

Unfortunately the position had put him practically in Fraser's lap, and Ray had been acutely aware of the fact that he was snugged up tight against Fraser, even in such a completely innocent fashion. He hoped like hell neither Huey, or especially Dewey, could see his face in the rear-view mirror, because he was pretty sure he was nearly as red as Fraser's jersey. Fraser's complete nonchalance about it had helped Ray regain his composure, though, and as the adrenalin surge from the bust started to fade out of him he'd begun to relax until his back touched Fraser's chest. Instantly he'd sat forward again so they weren't quite so close. After the second time that happened, Fraser had put a hand on his shoulder, lightly.

"It's all right, Ray, I don't mind."

Ray settled back again before he stopped to wonder just what it might mean that Fraser, who never willingly touched anybody, didn't mind Ray slouching all over him in the back of Dewey's junker. After a couple of turns made him even more aware of their closeness and Fraser's apparent relaxed acceptance of it all, he did start to wonder, but it wasn't the time or the place to ask, and then they'd pulled into the parking lot and there wasn't time to ask. There was just time for paraffin tests, and statements, and reports in triplicate, and to interrogate Ms. Crowe and Mr. Jackson, and find that Mr. Jackson was interested in spilling about their partners at some of the other courier services in exchange for a lighter charge than attempted murder of a cop. Then there'd been a trip to Welsh's office for congratulations that made Ray blush like Fraser. That was one of the things he and Fraser had in common. He hated being congratulated for just doing his job.

Finally, what felt like days later, Welsh let them escape and Ray headed to the men's to take care of some pressing business, followed, inevitably, by Fraser. As usual he had to tell himself firmly that it was bad manners to watch Fraser while he peed, and then found himself trying not to laugh as it hit him that he could barely remember having gone to the bathroom by himself since he'd become Ray Vecchio. Finishing up, he went and washed his hands, by which time Fraser was doing the same thing. He dried his hands, raked a hand through his hair, looked at Fraser, and smiled a little self-consciously.

"Haven't had a chance to say thanks, Fraser."

Fraser turned to look at him with a slight frown. "For what, Ray?"

Ray shook his head, rolling his eyes. "For saving my skinny ass, Fraser. I'd be one dead cop if you hadn't made like Bjarne Riis to get there before she blew me away."

"Nonsense, Ray, I'm sure you'd have been fine."

Ray snorted rudely. "Oh yeah, right. I'd have been a fine puddle on the sidewalk. Just shut up and let me thank you, damn it."

Fraser ducked his head, looking uncomfortable. "Really, Ray, there's no need. . . ."

"Yes there is, Fraser. I need to, okay? So just work with me here. I'm betting your grandmother taught you this one. I say 'thank you' and you say. . . ?"

"You're welcome?" Fraser said hesitantly. He still looked a little embarrassed, but a slight smile lurked around his mouth.

"There, now was that so hard?"

"Well . . . ." Fraser began.

Ray shook his head, interrupting. "No, it was not. Take it like a man, Fraser. If I can humble myself to thank you, you can humble yourself to accept it. It's not every day some crazed maniac with a death wish flings himself off a moving bike to save my skinny ass from some slimeball-ette who wants to perforate me with high velocity projectiles."

"I. . . wouldn't say death wish or even crazed," Fraser murmured, that little smile lurking around the corners of his mouth again.

Ray laughed, then winced a little. When he smiled big, the cuts on his face from the brick shrapnel stung.

Fraser's eyes narrowed. "Did you have the paramedics see to those?"

"Nah, they're just little scratches. Nothing to worry about."

"Ray, you shouldn't neglect yourself, even a small injury could get infected. We should clean the cuts, and I have some salve that will help."

"Fraser," Ray began.

"Please, Ray?" Fraser asked, using his patented Concerned Expression.

Oh, damn. Please. No way he could hold out against a Fraser 'please.' He sighed. "Okay, fine. But it better not be that mucous stuff again."

"No, Ray, that's back at the consulate. This is a simple calendula salve with a beeswax base. Calendula is well known for its . . . ."

"Just do it, Fraser."

"Understood." Fraser fumbled with his cartridge case and extracted a small tin and an alcohol prep pad.

Ray lifted his eyebrows. "Don't you think sometimes you take that boy scout thing a little too far?"

Fraser flushed a little under his gaze. "I'm not a boy scout, Ray. Not . . . in the sense you mean."

"No? I don't know too many guys who carry alcohol wipes 'just in case.'"

"Actually, I obtained one from the paramedics earlier. I suspected you would not have taken the time to . . . ."

Ray sighed again. Nobody could argue that Fraser didn't know him better than almost anybody. "'Nuff said. Go for it."

Fraser opened the pad and the sharp scent of isopropyl alcohol filled Ray's nose as Fraser leaned close, using one finger to turn his face toward the light, studying him for a moment, up close. Real close. Ray could even kind of smell Fraser over the alcohol, kind of a warm, clean-sweaty aroma. How you could smell clean and sweaty at the same time was a bit of a mystery, but then, that was Fraser in a nutshell. A mystery.

"Get it over with, would you?" Ray asked a little gruffly, kind of on edge at how close Fraser was all the sudden.

Fraser nodded. There was a gentle swipe of cold across his skin, followed instantly by the stinging burn of alcohol on broken skin. Ray sucked in a breath over his teeth and managed not to jerk away, only to do so a moment later in surprise as Fraser leaned even closer and . . . blew. . . on his face.

"Fraser, what the . . . .?"

"It helps the alcohol evaporate more quickly and should make it sting less."

"Oh, okay," Ray said, relieved that it wasn't some weird kind of Canadian foreplay. Or was he relieved? Right now he wasn't quite sure. His body was sending him signals that it liked having Fraser this close, liked smelling him, liked feeling his breath on his skin. Fortunately the realization that he was wearing spandex and they were standing in a public restroom at work fixed that problem.

"Is it better?"

"Is what better?" Ray asked a little wildly, wondering if Fraser could possibly have noticed.

"The sting." Fraser said, looking puzzled.

Thank God. "Oh, that. Yeah. Better."

"Good," "Good." Fraser threw away the wipe, in the trash can of course, and then opened his tin and rubbed his fingers in the pale, creamy stuff inside and lifted them to stroke the substance gently and carefully over Ray's jaw and cheek. Felt nice. Good. Damn it. Not that again. Just cut it the fuck out, he told his body sternly. Not here, not now, probably not ever, even if Fraser did sometimes give off some pretty mixed signals. It wasn't like he was ever going to find out. You didn't go around asking your partner if he ever did guys as well as chicks. It was kind of frowned on.

"Ray?" Fraser asked, sounding concerned.

Ray's focus snapped back into the present, into Fraser's big, gentle fingers on his face, Fraser's face way too close to his, Fraser's lips slightly parted as he gazed worriedly at Ray . . . wow. . . He'd looked at Fraser's eyes hundreds of times, maybe thousands, howcome he'd never noticed that little ring of gold right up tight around Fraser's pupils before? How could he have missed that? That was pretty cool.

"What?" he managed intelligently.

Fraser dropped his hand from Ray's face, and he looked . . . guilty? That was weird. But his words were normal. "Are you quite all right? You look a little. . . odd."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, Fraser. Just kind of zoning out there for a sec. Hungry. Want to go get food?"

"Yes, Ray, that would be nice. However, we're not exactly dressed for dinner out."

No, but you look good enough to eat, Ray thought, and wondered what the hell was wrong with him today. Normally his inner heckler wasn't quite so out of control. "Yeah. We'll go back to my place first, shower, get some real clothes." Maybe getting Fraser covered up a little would help. "And take my poor, wounded bike home so I can fix it. We can leave Ed's bike here overnight, it'll be safe and it's hard enough getting one bike in the GTO. I'll get it back to him tomorrow. It's his spare, he won't care."

Fraser nodded. "I'll call Constable Turnbull and ask him to take Diefenbaker for a walk and feed him before he leaves this evening, so we'll have no time constraint about dinner."

"Good, that's good."

* * *

Ray followed Fraser up the stairs to his apartment, carrying his bike. He couldn't help staring at Fraser's posterior as his partner preceded him up the stairs. Yeah, it was pretty tacky of him, but hell, Frannie wasn't the only one who could appreciate the sight of Fraser in spandex. Jesus. Could a collection of muscles and skin get much nicer than that? No. But in following, and staring, he couldn't help but notice that Fraser seemed to be kind of. . . limping. Not exactly limping, but almost. Just a slight hesitation in his normally purposeful stride which got even more noticeable as they got to the hallway and Fraser was walking on a flat surface instead of the stairs.

He handed over his keys, and Fraser unlocked his door for him, holding it open so he could take his bike in and settle it on its stand. As he did, he finally figured out what was wrong, and grinned a little. "You're walking kinda funny, Frase. You okay?"

Fraser turned back, closing the door, still holding his keys. "I'm fine, Ray. Just a trifle. . . stiff."

Ray snickered. "Admit it, Fraser, you're saddle sore."

Fraser looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "Nonsense, Ray, I haven't been near a horse."

Ray patted the bike's seat. "This saddle."

"Ah. Well, I suppose in that sense, one could say that." Fraser reached a hand back and rubbed his lower back down near the base of his spine. "Riding a bicycle does exercise rather different sets of muscle groups than my normal activities. But actually, I'm afraid that I wrenched my back a bit when I apprehended Ms. Crowe."

Ray suddenly felt a little guilty for having put up such a fuss about having Fraser help him on the case. It wasn't like they'd really needed two undercover bike messengers, he'd only insisted because he was peeved, and now Fraser was hurting. And Ray had made fun of him on top of it. That wasn't buddies. He watched Fraser rub his back again and stretch like his shoulders hurt, and scowled.

"Fraser, go lie down."

Fraser turned to look at him, wide-eyed. "What?"

"Go lie down. You're hurt. You hurt yourself saving my ass. I can help. Go on." He pointed at the bedroom.

"Really, Ray, I'm fine."

"Oh yeah, that's why you're walking funny and rubbing your back and rolling your shoulders. Go. Lie. Down," he ordered firmly.

Fraser looked like he wanted to argue, but apparently the expression on Ray's face dissuaded him. He nodded. "Very well, Ray, but honestly, I . . . "

"Now, Fraser."

Fraser shut up, finally, and walked hesitantly toward the bedroom. He looked back at Ray with a slight, puzzled frown, then sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed like he was afraid it would collapse under his weight. Ray studied the broad line of Fraser's back as he bent over to untie his shoes, noted the long, smooth curve of calves, the strong arch of thigh. . . oh, crap. He was staring. Way to be obvious. It suddenly dawned on him that maybe this hadn't been such a good idea, but he couldn't back out now. He was committed-- and maybe he should be committed-- but for once his motives were actually pretty pure. At least they had been until it had sunk into his brain that Fraser was in his room, on his bed, and wearing a hell of a lot less clothing than normal.

Do not go there, Kowalski, he admonished himself, trying to make his inner voice sound all stern and paternal. Just 'cause you played for the other team a few times in your wild and misspent youth does not mean that Fraser is a switch hitter too. Besides all that, it was a really, really bad idea for a cop to go where his libido was hinting it wanted to go. He thought about Dewey's probable reaction to any of this, and that pretty much flatlined any lurking arousal. Relieved, he cleared his throat. "Take off your shirt," he called out, heading into the bathroom to wash his hands and dig through the medicine chest.

"My shirt?" Fraser sounded shocked.

Ray grinned, imagining the look on his partner's face. "Yeah, your shirt. You hard of hearing?"

"No, Ray, my hearing is fine, but why should I need to remove my shirt?"

Ray emerged from the bathroom with the tube of Aspercreme and held it up. "Because I can't put this on your back through your shirt."

"I really don't think that's necessary, Ray," Fraser said.

Ray frowned. "Geez, you are so stubborn. Like it's going to kill you to feel better?"

"I've certainly felt worse in the past and managed to muddle through without assistance."

"Yeah, you muddled through. But you don't have to muddle, Fraser, when I can help. So let me do this for you, okay? I just want to help."

Fraser opened his mouth, shut it again, and sighed resignedly as he unzipped the snug neck of the jersey, then reached down and pulled it off over his head. Once he managed to stop staring at Fraser's bare chest, Ray noticed that taking off the jersey had left Fraser's normally perfect hair a tousled mess, which was, Ray realized with some surprise, a good look for him. Hunh. Maybe that was why he was always so anal about keeping it neat-- he got hit on enough as it was. Okay, stop mooning, Kowalski. Action.

"Good," he said, surprised at how normal his voice sounded. "Now, down."

"We can do this sitting up . . ." Fraser began in a voice that was suspiciously close to a whine.

"Fraser, what is it with you?" Ray demanded, annoyed. "Will you stop arguing? Just do it."

"Yes, Ray," Fraser said, almost meekly.

Ray deliberately looked away as Fraser settled onto the bed on his stomach, musing that Fraser must be in really bad shape to be so submissive. Usually he was the one giving orders and getting his way. Politely of course, and with that way he had of making you think it was your idea. Still, it was kind of nice to be on the other side for once. He felt the bed shift a few times, and then the movement stopped and he looked. And, oh, that was so . . . pretty. He couldn't help but take a moment to admire the flow of back down into ass, and thighs, and calves. Hell, even the back of Fraser's neck was good-looking. If he was an artist he'd want to paint Fraser, but the only thing he'd ever painted was the GTO, and he didn't think Fraser would look good in seven layers of gloss black.

He wondered if Turnbull ever sketched Fraser in secret. He bet he did. How could he resist? Ray was pretty damned sure the other Mountie had done his share of team swapping, especially after watching Turnbull on the boat that time with that barely-old-enough-to-shave junior Mountie. And as Ray well knew, if you played for both teams then it was just about humanly impossible not to look at Fraser every now and then and wonder what he looked like naked. In fact, Ray figured you didn't even have to play for both teams to wonder that. He had a funny feeling that pretty much everyone sometimes wondered that, even the straightest of the straight. And, heck, since this was as close to naked as Ray was ever going to see Fraser, could anyone blame him for taking a minute to just admire? No, he didn't think so.

"Ray?" Fraser's voice broke into his contemplation.

"Yeah, Frase?"

"Is anything wrong?"

"No. What would be wrong?"

"I . . . don't know. You're just very quiet."

Oh. Yeah. Oops. He was doing that a lot lately. Had to get a handle on that. "Nah, nothing's wrong. Just . . . planning my strategy here. Thinking."

"Ah." Fraser sounded unenlightened. "I wasn't aware that applying liniment required a strategy."

"Not liniment. Aspercreme. And yeah, a good back rub requires a strategy. Where does it hurt worst?"

That earned a long silence. "Back rub?" Fraser asked finally, sounding like someone had just offered to execute him like that Wallace guy in 'Braveheart.'

"Yeah, back rub."

"Oh." Fraser's voice sounded even more strained all of the sudden. "Really, Ray, that's not required. . . ."

"Know it's not, but I want to. I mean, it's my fault you had to do the whole bike thing to begin with."

"Actually, Ray, it's more my fault. If I hadn't spoken up about your abilities when Lieutenant Welsh asked if there were any cyclists in the station . . ." Fraser began, and Ray cut him off.

"No, Fraser, it's your fault I had to do the whole bike thing to begin with. It's my fault you did. I. . . um. . . kinda wanted to get back at you for volunteering me. Sorry."

"Ah. Well, I don't really blame you, you know. I should have asked you first."

"Yeah, but you didn't, and I didn't, and we're here now and you're sore so shut up and tell me where it hurts, okay?" Ray said with some exasperation.

"I can't very well tell you where it hurts if I shut up, Ray."

"Fraser," Ray said warningly.

"My neck and shoulders are a trifle tense," Fraser admitted reluctantly.

"Okay. Good. Got a place to start." Not that Ray believed him for a second. He'd seen where that hand was rubbing a few minutes ago, and it wasn't anywhere near his neck or shoulders. Nope. It was his lower back that was bothering Fraser more. And his butt, probably, but that didn't bear thinking about because he knew he was not going to get those shorts off. Even if he did, Fraser probably had molded-on plastic underwear just like Stella's old Ken dolls. That image made him smile and reminded him that he was just there to be a good friend. He opened the tube, squirted a dollop of Asper-goo into his palm and rubbed his hands together to take the chill off, then took a deep breath and started.

Oh nice skin. Nice muscles. Nice everything. Felt good under his hands. He hadn't had skin under his hands, besides his own of course, for way too long. Fraser was really tense at first, his whole body tight and unyielding, but the longer Ray worked him, the looser he got. Ray kind of zoned out on it, smoothing, circling, using just enough pressure to make that sleek, pale flesh yield and dimple under his hands. After a while Fraser made a little sound, one that from anyone else Ray might call a groan, but this was Fraser and . . . yeah, it was still a groan. He grinned.

"Feel good?"

Fraser nodded into his arm where his face was pillowed against it, but didn't speak. Ray let his hands slide around on those strong shoulders for a little while longer, digging under the wings of shoulder-blades with his fingertips. He got a couple of explosive little grunts out of Fraser at that so he concentrated there until he felt the tension there soften, and Fraser made a new sound, a kind of contented little 'mmm' that made Ray want to hear it again. It was completely unexpected to hear Fraser make those kinds of noises. He was always so . . . proper . . that it just never occurred to Ray that he might even be capable of sounding so. . . well. . . primal. And that led, inevitably, to thoughts of what else Fraser might be capable of that Ray hadn't thought of. Oh. . . boy.

He shook off that thought and got more goo on his hands, preparing to go a little lower, and that's when he noticed the scar for the first time. Before he'd been concentrating on the shoulder area, and it just hadn't caught his attention, but it did now: a deep crater just to the left of Fraser's spine, mid-back. The scar tissue was still pink, not white so he could tell it wasn't a really old scar, and it looked awfully familiar, like . . . oh yeah. He remembered then, from when he'd read Fraser's file getting ready to be Vecchio. That was where Vecchio, the real one, shot him. The bullet was still in there. He remembered that, too. Fraser had almost died before Ray ever got a chance to meet him. An unexpected shudder wracked him, and to his surprise Fraser turned his head to look at him with puzzled, concerned eyes.


Ray looked back, trying to organize his thoughts, and shook his head. "I'm good."

"If you're tired. . . " Fraser began.

"Not tired," Ray interrupted before he could finish. "Not tired. Just. . . ." he reached out with one finger and gently traced a circle around the area, well outside the scar tissue. "It was bad, wasn't it?"

Fraser dropped his head back down to his forearm, effectively hiding his face, and nodded. "Yes. Very bad. I was. . . ." He choked a little, shook his head. "Bad."

Ray knew, somehow, that Fraser wasn't talking about anything physical. He wished he knew more, wished he could help. He feathered a touch over the area. "Still hurt?" he asked quietly, not talking about the physical, either.

There was another long pause. "Sometimes," Fraser whispered. "Sometimes."

Ray felt a clench in his stomach, a flare of empathic pain. "Yeah. I know. Been there." He wasn't talking about the time he got shot, and he knew that Fraser knew that.

Fraser shivered and Ray reached out to smooth his hands gently across his middle back, moving closer, pressing the outside of one thigh against Fraser's, just offering comfort.

"You have nice hands, Ray," Fraser said with a sigh.

And thank God Fraser wasn't too tough-guy-macho to say things like that, because that was sweet. Real sweet. A little thing, but sweet. He kept working, very gentle now, careful around the scar, not too much pressure. Fraser sighed again, a different sigh, shifted a little under his touch, then made that coveted little purr again. Uh oh. Suddenly Ray was way too conscious of that big, warm body, and how nearly-naked it was, and kind of by extension how nearly-naked he was, too, because you know, spandex just made you feel . . . naked. He suddenly understood Fraser's earlier comment about feeling exposed. Yeah. Very exposed.

Back rub. Scar. Pain. Okay. That was better. He eased his hands lower, to just above the waistband of Fraser's shorts, skimmed back and forth there. Remembering the way Fraser had pressed his hand against his lower back there, Ray frowned. "It hurt here?" he asked, rubbing a fingertip across black spandex at hip level.

"I . . . perhaps a trifle," Fraser admitted in a low voice.

Which Ray figured for anyone else would probably mean they were in agony. "Can I. . . I mean, do you mind if I . . . uh . . . push these down a little? So I can get at that with the goop?"

To his complete surprise, Fraser didn't demur, didn't even pause. "That would be nice, Ray."

Well, now, that sucked. He actually had permission to peel down Fraser's shorts and he couldn't even allow himself a moment of illicit thrill because . . . Fraser trusted him. Trusted him. Crud.

He took a deep breath and reached out to slip shaky fingers under the waistband, stretching it as he pushed the fabric down as far as he could, which wasn't really very far because they were, after all, bike shorts and made to fit tight. He realized suddenly that if he let go, the waistband would snap back on Fraser's ass and that wouldn't be comfortable at all. Oh man. How did he get himself into things like this?

"Uh, Frase. . . " he began, trying to think how to ask what he needed to ask.

"It's all right, Ray. Go ahead."

Hoooly cow. That was way more permission than he'd expected. "Um, okay. Could you maybe, lift up a little, so I can . . . " his sentence trailed off as Fraser tucked his knees up and lifted his ass like a . . . no, don't go there, find some other simile... um. . . like a sleeping toddler. Yeah. That worked.

He eased the shorts down to Fraser's knees and closed his eyes as Fraser just kind of melted back down onto the bed and lifted his knees so Ray could tug the shorts the rest of the way off. He tried so. . . damned. . . hard. . . not to notice that Fraser was buck naked in his bed. Be Good, he said in his head. Be good. Begoodbegoodbegood. He chanted it like a mantra under his breath as he squirted more Aspercreme on his hands and started to work on that lower back area, staring fixedly at Fraser's spine right about waist level because he didn't dare look anywhere else. He hit a tight spot and Fraser flinched and sucked in a sharp breath.

"Sorry, sorry," Ray apologized, lifting his hands instantly, not sure if he should continue.

"No, it's all right, Ray," Fraser said reassuringly. "I was merely startled."

Okay. More permission. Wow. He took a deep, quiet breath and started again, really lightly, barely touching at all as he smoothed the cream across pale skin which had started to flush a little with increased circulation. There had been no more gasps, but Fraser was still shifting a little with each stroke though, so Ray knew his back was still bothering him. He kept working, though he eased off to just fingertips, barely touching at all.

Eventually he felt relaxation set in, and Fraser didn't seem to be holding his breath any more. Unfortunately he'd started making those little sounds again, and Ray had to keep telling himself it wasn't what it sounded like, it wasn't, so he was very relieved when Fraser stopped making those noises and just kind of lay there like a log. All the time he worked, Ray carefully kept his hands above the equator of those amazingly perfect cheeks, and he figured he deserved an effing commendation for his restraint. Finally he realized that his hands were starting to ache a little and sat back with a sigh, rolling his own shoulders and cracking his neck with a quick side-to-side twist. Amused at himself for picking up that Fraserism, he chuckled softly.

"Hey, Frase, you got me do. . . ."

Ray stopped suddenly as he realized that Fraser hadn't moved a muscle since he'd stopped rubbing his back, Well, other than whatever muscles were involved in breathing. He shifted a little until he could see the half of Fraser's face that wasn't hidden against his arm and . . . yep, his eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply and regularly. Sound asleep. Completely out, like a light. On Ray's bed. Stark naked.

He eyed Fraser for a moment with some consternation, and then a funny, warm feeling started in his chest as he realized that Fraser felt that comfortable with him, that he could just fall asleep in Ray's bed, like he belonged there. With what he was sure was a really idiotic grin on his face, Ray carefully eased himself off the bed and went and got the afghan his mom had made him from the closet and returned to the bedroom to carefully drape it across his snoozing partner. It wasn't cold, but if Fraser was like him, he liked to have covers on him no matter what. It was just. . . cozier.

Jesus. Cozy. Fraser usually slept on a cot in his office and Ray was worried about whether or not he was cozy? He shook his head at himself and went back out to the living room and turned on the TV with the sound down really low. That only distracted him for about half an hour though. There wasn't much on that he wanted to watch. It was kind of like that Vacation movie where they were in England and there was only 'Cheese' or 'Snow' on television, only Ray had over a hundred channels of cheese and snow. Fraser'd probably like the snow part, but it wasn't keeping Ray's attention. He was antsy for some reason, uncomfortable, itchy, even.

Finally he decided he needed to wash off the sweat-salt from the day. Maybe that would settle him down. He hesitated for a minute, worried that the sound of the shower would wake up Fraser, but finally decided that Fraser was so sound asleep it would take more than a little running water to wake him. Ray headed for the bathroom and stripped off his shorts and jersey, adjusted the water temperature, and stepped into the shower. The hot water felt good; it seemed to wash away some of his jitters and relaxed him.

He lingered, enjoying the sensual feel of hot water on his bare skin until that got him thinking a little too much about skin and sensuality, which inevitably led to thoughts of a naked Fraser in his bed, and he decided maybe he'd better not do that, and he turned the hot way down for a final rinse with water just a hair short of frigid. It actually felt kind of good, and definitely tamed his incipient . . . interest. He got out, dried off, and then realized he hadn't brought in anything clean to wear. He sighed. Fate was just not being very nice to him today. Wrapping a towel around his waist he opened the bathroom door and headed for the bedroom to snag something to wear.

Carefully not looking at the bed, Ray slipped into his room, quietly slid a drawer open, grabbed a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, then turned around and oh. . . God. No, Fate definitely had it in for him today. Fate was one mean bitch. Even though he knew he should, he couldn't, just couldn't look away from the sight of Fraser sprawled out on his back, the afghan kicked off and tangled around one knee and thigh, but not hiding anything that really . . . mattered. He had to curl his hands into fists to fight the itch to touch that was immediate and nearly irresistible. His gaze slid over Fraser's body like he wished his hands could, taking in the amazing fact that unlike ninety-nine percent of everybody, Fraser actually looked just as good with all his clothes off as he did with them on. And man, he looked good.

It had been a long time since Ray had felt this way about another guy. Actually, he couldn't ever really remember feeling quite this way about another guy. There had been a time, during one of the many off-again's with Stella before they'd gotten married, when he'd experimented some. Two guys, that was it. But it had been just that really, experimenting, and though it had been kind of fun, he hadn't really thought much about it after he'd gotten back together with Stella until he'd met Fraser, and the attraction just kicked him right between the . . . eyes, bowled him over, really. Stronger than anything he'd felt in what seemed like forever, and he'd been fighting it for so long, and damn it, was he hurting anyone by standing there and just looking? No.

Except he wasn't just standing there. He realized with a shock that he'd been moving forward like his feet belonged to some other person. Some person who was walking toward the bed, toward. . . Fraser. No. Bad. Stop. He shook his head and backed off, got his feet tangled in Fraser's discarded shorts, and sat down on the floor, hard. He was still swearing under his breath and trying to rub both his bruised ass and banged elbow at the same time when he heard Fraser's puzzled voice.


Shit. He looked up, saw Fraser was up on his elbows, gazing at him with a sleepy, confused frown.

"Um, hi, Fraser." Whoa, that was really smooth there, Kowalski.

"What. . . are you doing?"

"I, uh, took a shower, came in to get some clothes. Tripped over your shorts." Okay, lame, but at least it had the advantage of being true, so far as it went.

"Ah," Fraser said, looking somewhat less confused. "It would probably have been a good idea not to have left them on the floor."

For some reason that seemed like the most singularly annoying thing Fraser had ever said to him. "I don't need housekeeping advice, Fraser," he snapped.

"No, of course not Ray," Fraser said, sounding a little distracted. He was still staring at Ray, his gaze kind of. . . intent, and . . . low. Ray looked down, realized his towel wasn't doing a whole lot of covering at the moment the way he was sitting, and he reached to tug it into place, then stopped, his hand hovering as it hit him that Fraser was . . . well . . . he was staring at Ray with an expression not too far off from what Ray figured he'd looked like as he stared at Fraser a couple of minutes ago. And Fraser hadn't grabbed the covers and pulled them up to his neck. And he wasn't blushing, either. Now what the hell did that mean? As he watched, Fraser frowned again.

"Ray. . . how did you manage to trip on my shorts over here," he indicated Ray's proximity to the bed, ". . . when your clothes are all over there?" He nodded toward the dresser.

Damn. Fraser had a real knack for cutting right to the heart of the investigation. Ray felt his face getting hot. Hell, not just his face, his whole torso, his shoulders, his neck, the whole nine yards. "Um. . . I was . . . checking you . . . I mean, checking on you."

"Ah," Fraser said again, and damned if the corner of his mouth didn't quirk upward in a lopsided little smile, like he knew exactly what Ray had almost said. And wasn't bugged by it. Was, in fact, kind of amused by it. Ray's face got hotter, a little lick of anger cutting through his embarrassment.

"Something funny, Fraser?" he asked, feeling his chin lift, his jaw tighten. He knew he had his 'challenging' face on, couldn't seem to help it.

Fraser's eyes met his, a little narrowed, his expression assessing. "Not . . . amusing, no."


Fraser's gaze slid deliberately lower, lifted again. "No. Not at all, Ray." His tongue slid out, moistened his lower lip, and a hint of doubt crept into his expression. "Ray, I . . . . do you. . . were you. . . ?"

He blushed then. Whatever Fraser was trying to ask, he couldn't do it without blushing, which told Ray way more than maybe he really wanted to know, and he started to feel a scary little surge of excitement. He had a gut feeling about this, a kind of good gut feeling, like the kind he got when he was about to solve a case. He shifted a little, bent one knee, and, bingo, Fraser's gaze was right there, and his tongue was out again in a quick little flicker, and his blush darkened, expanded, and he was still lying there without a stitch on and no covers either, so Ray could see just how far down it went Hunches. Instinct. He'd learned over the years to listen to those. He leaned back on his hands and looked at Fraser with what he hoped was a puzzled expression. "Was I what, Fraser?"

Fraser dragged his eyes back upward, opened his mouth, closed it, tried again. "I, ah, did you perhaps mean to say 'out' just then?"

Hunhwha? Out? Ray did a quick mental playback of his last few sentences, and his jaw dropped. No way. No way Fraser just asked him . . . that. Oooh, now Fraser was gonna get it. If he knew that, then odds were good that he knew pretty much every damned bit of slang he'd ever given Ray that blank-eyed stare over. He had to know, though, for sure. "'Out,' Fraser?" he asked. "Did I mean to say 'out' when?"

"When you said you were . . . checking on me."

Oh yeah. Definitely going to get him for that. Eventually. When something much more important wasn't on his mind. "And what if I did? You got a problem with that?"

He was still challenging. He had to. Had to know, before he did something irretrievably stupid. Fraser's gaze met his again, and there was something new in that normally placid gaze, something hot, and verging on wild.

"No, Ray," Fraser said, his voice unusually husky. "No problem at all." He smiled, minutely, just the faintest lift of the corners of his mouth. "After all, turn about is fair play."

Ray's jaw dropped at that, even more as Fraser's gaze slid down again, slowly, Ray could almost feel it on his skin like a touch, and the interest that had stirred in the shower was back, even stronger, and his towel was pretty well useless by that point. He snuck a look at Fraser and saw that he wasn't alone in being interested, that Fraser looked kind of . . . interested, too.

That was all it took. He didn't think he'd ever moved as quickly in his life. He was off the floor and on the bed so fast that Fraser actually looked startled as Ray got really up close and personal, hovering just inches away as he asked one last time, because he had to be sure. Completely, one-hundred-percent sure.

"Benton Fraser. . . I am way out on a limb here, so tell me now if you're just being clueless and you really didn't mean to say what it sounded like you said. Did you mean it?"

Fraser gazed back at him, and that wildness and heat in the back of his eyes got wilder and hotter. "Yes, I meant it, Ray. "

Under other circumstances Ray would have let out a whoop and pumped his fist in the air, but not this time. Instead he took Fraser's face between his palms and leaned in to brush his lips lightly over Fraser's mouth once, twice, and then he settled down in earnest, letting his tongue slide between Fraser's lips and into his mouth. Heat shot through him, tingling through every nerve ending in a rush of sensation so pure and acute that he moaned into Fraser's mouth as that broad tongue met and teased his own. Fraser. He was kissing Fraser. Fraser was kissing him back. And that was just . . . mindblowing, and so . . . good. So good. Better than good. Then it was awful, when Fraser pulled back and stared at him, his moist, reddened, mouth betraying the force of their kiss more than his expression, which was tight and anxious.

"Ray, Ray, wait. . . please. You like this? You know this?"

Ray could feel the heat in his face but he nodded, his eyes fixed on Fraser's face. "Yeah. I know it and I like it."

Fraser looked confused. "But, Ray . . . I thought you . . . Stella."

Ouch. He sat back and ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, well. Old news." He shrugged. "It's been a while, but yeah, been here, done this." He offered a hesitant smile. "Well, not quite like this, just a couple of guys goofing around. Not like-- this."

Fraser's gaze darkened, and another one of those little smiles urged the corners of his mouth upward. "No, Ray. Not like this for me, either."

Not like this for him either? What did that mean? Ray knew what it meant to him, wanted to know what it meant to Fraser, but was too scared to ask. He was still rocked with disbelief every time he thought about what was happening for more than a second or two. The whole time they'd known each other, Fraser had never. . . well, it was always chicks. There was Janet Morse, and Denny Scarpa, and he'd heard about . . . the other one. The crazy chick. The one Vecchio was aiming for when he shot Fraser. Shot Fraser. That shudder hit him again.

"Ray?" Fraser sounded concerned.

He shook it off. "I'm okay. I'm good. Just got the air conditioner turned up too high. So, you know this, too?"

"Oh yes, I know this. Better, by far, than I know the other, though neither well at all."

Whoa. It always got him where he lived when Fraser talked like that, like someone out of an old book, but it was more this time, it wasn't just how he'd said it, it was what he'd said, and the way he'd said it, notes of wistfulness, and self-mockery, and pain threaded into his voice, stealing its usual calm confidence. None of those things were what he thought of as Fraser, and he realized with a sudden shock that this was Fraser laid out, naked, in more ways than one. He reached out, hesitantly, put his hand on Fraser's shoulder. "It's okay," he said, feeling helpless, knowing that saying that didn't make it true.

Fraser's gaze lifted to his, searching, and Ray saw the deep, raw pain there. The loneliness, and need, and desire, and every one of those things had an answering echo in himself, and suddenly the helpless feeling was gone, and he knew what to do, how to make it right, how to make everything all right. He bent and brushed his lips against Fraser's again, drew back a little. "It's all right," he said into Fraser's mouth.

And it was. It was all right. Better than all right. It was good. Mouth against mouth, tongue against tongue, warm, bare flesh against warm, bare flesh, arms around waist, and shoulder, hands in hair, the sharp, drugging spiral of want and need and lust and something deeper, something better, something more. More. He felt Fraser shaking in his arms, tightened them, wrapping him up in arms and legs, holding him, and Fraser turned his head, buried his face in the curve of Ray's shoulder, and said a word. One word.


It sounded so good. He wanted to say something back. Something that said everything he felt. No such word existed. Well, maybe one. "Fraser."

Eyes closed, blind, touching, seeking, mouths finding. Heat began to build again, the hot press of hard cock against his hip, the feel of smooth, strong thigh against his own thickening erection. Nothing, nothing had ever felt this right before, not even Stella. He held onto that for a moment, stunned nearly past thinking, because for most of his adult life Stella had been the pinnacle, the prize at the end of the race, and now here he found out that there was an even better prize than he'd ever imagined. And he was utterly terrified of losing it.

". . . Ray?"

Fraser sounded like he'd been saying that a while, and he was trying to pry Ray off him where he was clutched onto Fraser like a remora on a shark.

"Ray, what's wrong?"

Ray shuddered, shook his head, pushed himself away. "Fraser, I . . . fuck. Sorry," he apologized automatically. "Just. . . don't want to mess this up. Mess anything up. You know?"

To his surprise Fraser nodded solemnly. "Yes, Ray. I do know. But this feels right."

"It does. It feels right," Ray agreed. "Not messed up. But that's how things start, they start good. It's later they get messed up. I don't want to mess you up. I'm . . . " Fuck it. He had to say it. "I'm scared of messing us up. You. . . what if this doesn't work? I lose it all then. Everything. And I can't do that."

Fraser's hand found his, fingers threading through Ray's longer, thinner ones, and his other arm went around Ray, pulling him close. "No, I can't lose that, either. So . . . do we leave this here, as it is? Remain friends and partners?"

Ray pushed him away, looked him in the eyes. "You could do that? Just leave it here, like this, knowing what you know?" Ray knew he couldn't, but he needed to see if Fraser thought he could.

Fraser opened his mouth to speak, shut it, and looked down, his expression tense and unhappy. "I . . . don't know. I can try."

"You want to? You want to try to leave it, go back?" Ray asked more softly.

Fraser shook his head. "No," he said, his voice a whisper.

"Think we got a chance?" Ray asked, even more quietly.

Fraser looked up, his gaze intent. "Yes. We can make it work. We've always made it work, even when we didn't think we could."

Ray smiled. "Yeah, yeah, we have, haven't we?" He sobered abruptly. "It'll be rough going, you know that. We both got a lot of baggage to begin with, and then there's all the baggage that comes with this. . . two guys. Heavy load."

Fraser nodded slowly. "I'm fully aware of that, Ray."

"And you still. . . ?"

"Yes," Fraser said, and the word had weight, and substance.

"Me too," Ray said softly, but just as solidly.

They stared at each other for a long moment, both serious, both scared, if the look on Fraser's face was anything to go by. Ray knew most people thought of him as the rash and impulsive one, the one who dove headfirst into situations, but really, he wasn't. For all his formality and reserve, it was Fraser who was usually the one to leap first and look later . . . or look, and leap anyway maybe. But they were stuck here, mere inches apart, in a standoff. Neither of them, apparently, able to stop looking and just leap, do it on faith. Ray was trying to get up his nerve. . . from what he figured, he was probably the more experienced of the two of them, though that wasn't saying a whole lot, when suddenly, surprisingly, he felt a touch on his thigh. He jumped a little, surprised, and looked down to see Fraser's broad hand resting just above his knee.

His lightly tanned thigh seemed dark in comparison to Fraser's milky hand, and he wondered distractedly, how Fraser had managed to spend two days riding around outdoors on a bike, in shorts and jersey, without getting even the slightest hint of sun. Must use SPF 200 or something. Then the hand on his thigh started to move, and thoughts of sunscreen went right out of his head.

Slowly, as if afraid to startle him, Fraser flexed his fingers a little, almost stroking but not quite. Ray watched, mesmerized, as those big, blunt fingers moved more deliberately on his skin, and as if a switch had been flipped, he felt it now, felt the slight catch of callused fingertips against him, and his dick perked right back up again as if there had been no pause for reflection on some pretty serious stuff. He was so busy watching that hand inch higher on his thigh that the other hand coming to rest on his shoulder did startle him a little. After he finished jumping he yielded to the slight pressure and let Fraser press him back onto the pillows, reaching up to curl his own hand around Fraser's shoulder and pull him down too.

Mouth to mouth again. Much better than buddy breathing, without that panicked need for air to interfere with the feeling of lips against his own, the feel of skin against his own, well, except for where that damp towel was still bunched between them. In another example of Fraser reading his mind, the hand on his shoulder slid down to his waist and tugged, easing the towel out from between them, then he felt the sudden hot friction of terrycloth against his ass as it was unceremoniously yanked out from under him. He yelped a little, more in surprise than pain, and Fraser drew back, looking mortified.

"Ray, I'm so sorry, I . . . "

"Nah, it's cool. Just surprised me." He grinned. "Kinda anxious there, Frase?"

He saw a hint of a smile curve one corner of his partner's mouth. "Not precisely anxious, no. Anticipatory, yes. Even eager."

"Ooh. Eager. Like that one."

"I thought you might, Ray."

"I am all over eager. Eager is my middle name."

"I thought your middle name was Raymond."



They both laughed, and Ray tried to kiss Fraser in the middle of the laugh, and their teeth clashed which only made him laugh harder, and he had his arms full of warm, naked, laughing Fraser and nothing had ever felt quite so right in his life. Laughter softened into kissing, deep, soft, messy, wet kisses, tongues tangling, sliding, sucking. As they kissed Ray let his hands range down Fraser's back to his hips, then finally, finally did what he'd been itching to do for weeks. Months, really. He filled his hands with the solid curves of Fraser's ass, and squeezed. Not hard. Just . . . right. Fraser sucked in a breath and flinched. Ray was surprised for a moment, then he remembered, and soothed his hands lightly across the lower curves, massaging a little.

"Sore, hunh?"

Fraser nodded against his shoulder, but didn't speak, and his hips pushed rhythmically against Ray's, and a shudder of heat went through him at the feel of the hard length lined up alongside his own. So good, so good, naked Fraser, all that smooth, creamy skin against his own-- hard, hot cock against his own-- soft, sweet mouth against his own, his hands cupping warm, firm rounds that were prettier by far than Stella's. He kept massaging, and he couldn't help but let his fingers slip into the crevice between Fraser's cheeks, where he was warmer, and a little sweat-slick, and oh. . . wow . . . responsive. He stroked a fingertip across the narrow aperture there, and Fraser's hips just slammed into his, hard, and he made a sound deep in his throat that was half groan and half sigh. He stroked again, and Fraser bucked again, and that was seriously cool, that he could make Fraser feel that way, without ever even touching his . . . .

Speaking of which, there was something else he wanted to get a handful of, something he'd been watching covertly ever since he'd managed to get Fraser to come out of the damned bathroom in those spandex shorts. Well, before that really, though it was hellishly hard to get a good look at a man in jodhpurs and a hip-length tunic. He rolled his hips, and shifted his hands, pushing at Fraser. "Turn over," he whispered. "Let me see you."

Fraser's warm skin seemed to get warmer where his face was now hidden against Ray's neck. Ray knew he was blushing, and bit his lip to hide his smile as Fraser slowly shifted up, and turned to lie on his back, his gaze hidden behind thick, dark lashes, a blush still flaming across his face. Shy. Ray didn't understand what a guy that looked like Fraser had to be bashful about, but it was kind of . . . sweet. Though Fraser would probably whack him one if he knew Ray had thought that. No guy wanted anyone to think they were 'sweet' except maybe his mom. But, oh. . . yeah. Pretty, pretty cock. Thick, and hard, pulsing a little with each heartbeat, couched in a thatch of silky sable curls, the foreskin slipped back a little to expose the flushed, slickened glans.

"Oh, man," he said quietly, appreciatively, and reached out to touch, running a finger down the turgid length, curling his long fingers around the broad shaft, stroking idly, learning the weight and texture of him and his responses, which were strong, and surprisingly vocal.

Fraser's head went back, exposing his throat, and Ray couldn't resist trailing kisses up it, pressing his mouth into the sensitive hollow behind his ear and feeling Fraser's heartbeat racing against his lips. He kept caressing the heavy shaft and with each stroke Fraser bucked into his hand and shuddered, fists clenching in the covers like he was afraid he'd fall off the bed if he didn't hang on. Egged on by Fraser's appreciative responses, Ray dragged his thumb experimentally across the tip of his cock, spreading that slickness over the whole surface, twisting a little on the way back down. Fraser made a sound like someone had kicked him in the gut, and arched tautly, and wow. . . spurt after spurt of thick, creamy wetness spattered Fraser's chest and thighs, and Ray's arm and hand.

Ray continued to stroke him, automatically, gradually slowing, until the last welling drops had been coaxed out, and Fraser's cock had softened to a silky half-hard state that was nearly as much fun to play with as his erection had been. He couldn't help grinning as he watched Fraser gradually coming back to himself, but he was surprised when Fraser looked at him and blushed, clearly embarrassed.

"Ray, I'm so . . . "

Oh geez. Not that. Ray shook his head firmly. "Shh. No, Fraser. Don't spoil it. That was so damned cool."

There was a short silence, and Ray looked up to see Fraser staring at him, looking puzzled.

"It was?"

"Oh yeah. Got some nice range there," Ray grinned. "Not to mention volume. Wow. Been a while?"

Fraser laughed, blushed some more, then nodded ruefully. "Actually, yes, quite a while."

Ray reached down and dragged his thumb through a puddle, lifted it to his lips and sucked it clean, savoring the bittersweet taste, slick, smooth texture.

"Ray!" Fraser began. "You shouldn't. . . ."

Ray quelled him with a look. "Trust you, Fraser. All the time. With my life, you know that."

Fraser looked like Ray had clocked him with a baseball bat, and his eyes were hot and astonished at the same time. "Ray," he said, his voice oddly choked off. "Ray, I . . . ."

Ray leaned in and shut him up with a kiss, drew back a moment later, grinning. "You talk too much, Fraser."

Fraser nodded in response, still looking a bit dazed. Ray's grin got wider.

"I'm going to mark this day on my calendar for a whole lot of reasons, including the fact that you just admitted that you talk too much."

Fraser blinked, and gave him a reproachful look. "Ray, it's really not very nice of you to take advantage of a momentary lapse of mental faculties like that."

Ray chuckled. "Frase, with you I need all the advantages I can get. I'm usually two steps behind."

Fraser's gaze dropped to his groin, lifted. "So I see."

Ray laughed out loud, "Jesus, I knew you had a sense of humor! Sneaky bastard."

"My parents had been married for some time when I was born," Fraser remarked mildly, then his gaze slid down again, and he caught his lower lip in his teeth for a moment, frowning thoughtfully, then his eyes lifted once more. "Ray. . . ."

Ray had a feeling he knew what Fraser was going to say, but, God, he wanted to hear it anyway. "Yeah?"

"Would you . . . you seemed to be, well . . . " he paused, and shot Ray a look that clearly requested assistance.

"Would I what, Fraser?" Ray asked helpfully.

Fraser cleared his throat. The blush that had receded some rose again, and his gaze was full of some odd, unfamiliar emotion. Well, no kidding, it wasn't like this was really familiar territory for either of them. They'd both been a ways down this road before, but not with each other, and it was one of those weird kind of roads that changed every time you got on it. Ray would just have been happier if one of the emotions he was seeing there hadn't looked quite so much like trepidation He smiled encouragingly. Fraser took a deep breath.


It took Ray a second to sort out the words, blurted out at a speed that would have done a native Chicagoan proud. Then he stared. Blinked. Processed. Jesus. No that was not what he'd expected to hear come out of that incredibly proper mouth. He swallowed until he got enough moisture in his dry throat to actually speak, and forced out some sound because Fraser was starting to look pretty panicked at his continued silence. "Fuck!"

"That would be one way to put it," Fraser said, his voice a little strained.

"No, I mean. . . Jesus, Fraser. You, um . . . I wasn't expecting that."

Fraser looked at him, frowning slightly. "You weren't?"

"No. I, uh, I mean, I guess you said you've done. . . stuff . . . before, but I didn't, well, it's kind of, I'm just not used to thinking of you-- like that."

Fraser frowned a little. "Ah. I see."

Ray remembered the way Fraser had responded to those really intimate touches earlier, the way his hips had moved when Ray had petted his ass-- it was pretty obvious he'd liked that. So, maybe Fraser was a lot more experienced than Ray had imagined. After all, he had said he knew guy on guy stuff a lot better than the guy on chick stuff. Okay. If Fraser wanted to go there, Ray could do that. He'd done it a couple of times with Art in his experimental phase, and it had been pretty damned hot. Once with Stella, who had been seriously unimpressed by that particular activity. Still, Art had seemed to like it a lot. Maybe it just worked better for guys than chicks. He suddenly realized Fraser was watching him intently. Waiting. For him. Oh. "I mean, not that I wouldn't want to, if you want to," he said quickly. "Just thought we might want to . . . ease into things, you know?"

"Ah." Fraser nodded. "Yes, I imagine that would be best."

Oh, good. Ray felt relieved. Well, as relieved as he could feel sitting naked on his bed, sporting major wood, with a come-covered Fraser within petting distance. Speaking of which, that couldn't be comfortable. He reached over and grabbed the towel that had been around his hips and used it to mop up Fraser's belly and thighs, then his own hand and arm. When he leaned over to drop the towel onto the floor beside the bed, he felt a touch on his flank, and he started a little, turning back to look at Fraser, whose gaze was warm and dark but a little concerned. Ray deliberately looked down at the hand on his thigh, back up at Fraser, and he moistened his lips. Fraser's tongue echoed that movement. Unconsciously his lips parted, waiting, hoping . Fraser's hand slid deliberately upward, from Ray's thigh to his hip, to belly, to his chest, fingers skimming a nipple and making Ray gasp.

On that gasp Fraser leaned in and their mouths met again, and his tongue went deep as his hand skimmed higher and then slid behind Ray's head to cup and tilt him to a better angle. Ray sucked on his tongue as it penetrated his mouth, subtly thrusting, and his hips echoed that movement, pushing into air, his cock straining, aching. He felt the bed give a little as Fraser shifted position, felt himself pushed back, and gave way until he was flat, with Fraser half over him, braced on one elbow as he continued to plunder Ray's mouth with a thoroughness that was shockingly at odds with his usual politesse. This was take-no-prisoners mouthfucking-- sucking, licking, flicking, sliding, even biting at his lower lip and tugging on it in a way that sent shudders through him and made his hips arch helplessly.

When it came, the touch he'd been waiting for, aching for, it shocked him into a moan so loud he was surprised the neighbors didn't bang on the wall, for the tenth of a second it took to have the thought, then his brain was completely, one-hundred-percent focused on the feeling of Fraser's wide palm curving around him, his strong fingers tightening, not in a half-assed, chick-like gentle touchy-feely way, but in a perfect, hard, grip that he could really, really lose himself in-- so he did. Bucking, fucking that tight clasp, sucking on Fraser's tongue, mouths fused.

Fraser pushed him, stroking fast, and hard, and just right, and then suddenly the mouth left his and he mourned its loss with a soft hiss of protest. Then the hold on him shifted a little, moved lower, down to the base, holding him, holding his cock away from his belly a little. Fraser's other arm shifted so it was across his hips, his weight concentrated there, almost holding Ray down, which was a little freaky but good, too. He had only a moment of warning as he felt the warm, humid ghost of breath on sensitive skin before his cock was engulfed in Fraser's mouth.

One touch was almost all it took. Just the incredible realization that the warm wetness surrounding him was Fraser's mouth, his amazing, beautiful mouth. But Fraser didn't let him come; he gently but firmly pressed down at the base of Ray's cock until the urgency faded a little. Only then did Fraser start for real, rubbing the tip of his tongue against that little spot just beneath the head of his cock that felt so fucking good, and using his hand just right, and sucking and licking until Ray just couldn't help but writhe and buck and moan like he was losing his mind, which he was, pleasure just arcing and sparking and rushing through him in a searing flood, and then he was gone.

Every muscle in his body clenched, toes curled, fingers fisted as he arched and bucked and came like he'd never come before in his entire damned life. And Fraser took it. He took it all. Sucking. Swallowing. Moaning like he might be coming too, and that vibration was just the cherry on top. Jesus. Nobody had ever, ever swallowed before.

"Oh, God . . . ." The words burst from his throat in a long, slow groan. God. Yes. Fraser. He could worship Fraser. Like he didn't already. Now it was just. . . more. Sacrilege, but true. Well, true in between all the times he wanted to shake some sense into him. But right now he was feeling too good to think about that. Because Fraser, Benton Fraser, had just given him the best blowjob of his life. As his breathing slowed and his body began to relax, he had time to really think about what had just happened, and it hit him again with stunning force. Fraser liked guys. That way. It boggled his mind, even now. Fraser liked guys. Knew guys. Knew . . . this. Fraser was good at this.

Ray felt a strange mixture of intense jealousy and intense gratitude towards whoever had taught Fraser how to make love like that. He knew it was way better than his own half-assed attempt. But that was okay. He could do better now that he had a standard to go by. That always helped. Still, there was part of him that hated the idea that Fraser had ever done this with someone else. Stupid, he knew, but. . . there. Just deal with it, Kowalski. Get over it. You got people in your past; so does Fraser. For all that this was pretty weird to begin with, it'd be even weirder if he didn't. He's with you now and that's all that matters. He reached out and stroked his fingers through Fraser's thick, soft hair, touched the curve of a cheekbone. "Fraser," he sighed.

Fraser gave a last little lick and released him, making Ray buck and gasp a little, then he slid higher in the bed, his gaze searching Ray's almost anxiously. Ray knew that feeling. He tugged Fraser closer, and kissed him lazily, tasting his own semen overlaying Fraser's less strident flavor. He liked that, liked that combination of the both of them. Both of them. Together. It was just. . . right. He drew back, stretched a little, and yawned. Fraser pulled him back in, close, tight, holding him hard, almost hard enough to make breathing difficult. Ray pushed at his shoulder.

"Hey, I'm not goin' anywhere. Relax."

Fraser loosened his grip marginally, still holding on. "Ray," he said in a dark, shaken voice.

Ray tried to pull back and look, suddenly worried. "Fraser? You okay?"

He felt a kind of tremor slide through Fraser, then he sighed. "Yes. I'm just. . . today, I wasn't sure . . . . "

"Wasn't sure about what?" Ray prompted, ready to reassure on the two-guys-having-sex front, even though he was still a little iffy on that himself, but no way was he giving this up so he was prepared to lie his ass off if necessary.

"I was afraid I wouldn't get there in time," Fraser said after a moment.

Get there in time. It wasn't a real far piece from his mouth to his cock. . . hang on. No. Fraser didn't mean that. Ray got it suddenly, remembering standing on a street corner looking down the barrel of a gun. He hugged back, hard. "You did. You always do, Fraser. We're a good team."

For some reason that worked. Ray felt the tension ebb. "Yes. We are."

They lay still for a few moments, and Ray felt a yawn rising. He tried to stifle it, but as he did, Fraser yawned, too, and Ray laughed. "It's a sign. Bedtime."

Fraser stirred a little. "You should eat, Ray . . . . "

Rolling his eyes a little, Ray stroked Fraser's shoulder with one hand. "Chill, Fraser. I'm a big boy, okay? Besides, when you're talking sex, sleep and food, any order's good."

He could feel Fraser take a breath to protest, stop, and then finally nod. "Mmm, you have a point."

Ray almost made a crack, then decided to let it go. He was in too good a mood to spoil things with unnecessary smartassed-ness. It had been an unbelievable day, like somebody had decided it was time to hand Ray pretty much everything he wanted on a silver platter with a red serge napkin on top. He was definitely not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. He shifted around until he was comfortable, his head pillowed on the curve of Fraser's chest, then lifted his head. "This okay?"

All he got was a faint smile and fainter nod. He returned his head to its pillow, and closed his eyes.

* * *

It took Ray a minute to figure things out when he woke up. First off, he woke up with a hard on. Not an unusual occurrence, really, but this wasn't that kind of full-achy-itchy 'I gotta pee' kind of hard on. No, this was the full-achy-tingly 'I wanna fuck' kind of hard on. And he was tucked into a nice, warm, kind of snug spot that just seemed to call for a little rocking motion. So he rocked. Which felt really, really good, even as it stirred a sleepy murmur from . . . Fraser? Oh yeah. It all came back to him in a rush. A hell of a rush.

Fraser. He was in bed with Fraser. He. Was. In. Bed. With. Benton. Fraser. Jesus. They'd kissed. Sucked. Played. Made love. And it felt . . . right. Way right. Like this was how it should have been all along, between them. Like they should have been doing this since the first day they met. He remembered throwing his arms around Fraser that first time, feeling the shock of almost-familiarity that solid body against his own had created. Like he knew that feeling. Like it was comfortable, and expected. Just like this. Waking up in bed with Fraser should have been freaky but it wasn't. It was just right.

It was kind of funny how he'd gone to sleep on top of Fraser, and woken up behind him. Back in his Stella days that was how they'd usually slept, with Ray curled up around her from behind. He guessed that his body had just said 'company in bed, do the usual.' That made sense. Company in bed. Oh yeah. Been a while for that, and he couldn't think of anyone he'd rather have there, either. Not after last night. Absently he rocked again, and Fraser pushed back a little against him with an encouraging little sound that brought to mind the offer Fraser had made him last night. As soon as he remembered it, he felt that smoky little curl of jealousy again. Who had Fraser done it with, where had he gotten that experience?

Fuck that. It didn't matter, damn it. He knew it didn't. Don't be a possessive jerk. You know where that gets you. Nowhere. You're better than that, Kowalski. Deliberately he thought about all the good stuff, the reality of Fraser in his bed, in his arms, naked and warm; the reality of having his best friend be something . . . more. That was what had always been missing before. Even with Stella. They'd been in love, but somehow they'd never quite been friends. In the end, that was why they hadn't worked. But him and Fraser, they had that, had been through the fire together, tempering their friendship into something stronger and more flexible than before. Flexible. Yeah.

He grinned, inhaling deeply, filling his nose with the scent that surrounded them, left-over from the night before. The smell of sex: himself, and Fraser. Oh yeah. He'd definitely inhaled, and the rush was better than that joint he'd shared with Mark Jelinek in seventh grade. He let his hand slide down from Fraser's stomach, spreading his fingers through the soft thatch of pubic hair, fingertips skimming lightly along his cock. He wasn't hard . . . quite. Getting there though. Pretty quickly. He smiled against the back of Fraser's neck, and rubbed his lips across the velvet of short-cropped hair there.

"Morning," he said, still smiling.

"Good morning, Ray." Fraser's morning voice was husky, and warm.

"You, um, want to eat?" he asked, figuring he ought to at least offer before he jumped the guy.

"That would depend on what's being served," Fraser said, his voice full of humor.

Ray chuckled. "If we're talking my kitchen, I'm afraid it's probably Corn Pops," he said ruefully.

Fraser shuddered hard enough for Ray to feel it. "I think I'll pass, thank you."

"Sorry. I wasn't prepared for a breakfast date. We can go out if you want. My treat."

"I'm not really . . . hungry . . . Ray."

Oh, that was a nice pause there. It surprised the hell out of him, but it was definitely an insinuation Ray grinned, his fingers returning to that thick, hard thrust of cock at Fraser's groin. "No?" he asked, stroking lightly.

"No." Fraser cleared his throat. "Not for . . . food."

Ray decided he really liked Innuendo!Fraser. This was a side of the man he'd always had a funny feeling was in there, just kept well in check. "Mmm. Something else you got in mind?"

"You seem to be on the right track," Fraser said, punctuating the statement with little movements of his hips.

"That's me. I'm a tracker. Good at that." Before Fraser could comment on that assertion, Ray amended it. "Well, city tracking. And this is definitely something this city boy can track," Ray said, tightening his grip a little. Fraser's cock thrust forward into his hand and his head whacked back against Ray's shoulder with an audible thunk as his breath caught on an almost-moan. Ray almost laughed out loud. Oh yeah. Underneath all that buttoned-and-proper there was a real live boy who liked sex just as much as the next guy.

"It's . . . it's a good thing you didn't . . . mention a breakfast date last night," Fraser said, amazingly coherent for a guy getting a hand job.

"Yeah? Why?" Ray asked as he slid his cock rhythmically in the smooth, warm crevice between Fraser's cheeks, not really with intent, just because it felt good. And oh, it felt so good. He counterpointed his strokes behind with his strokes in front.

"I. . . oh, Ray!" Fraser gasped, pushed back against him, bucked into his hand, and then tried again. "I might have thought . . . ah, that's . . . yes. Mmm."

He was losing coherence fast, just as Ray had planned. "Thought what, Frase?"

"Thought . . . ah . . . you only wanted . . . ."

Ray laughed out loud as he figured out where Ben was going, or trying to anyway. "Thought I only wanted to get you in bed?" he asked, sliding his free hand down Ben's back to his ass, squeezing lightly.

"Uh-hunh,"         Fraser managed, nodding jerkily, his body shuddering as he tried to decide which sensation should take priority.

Ray let his thumb brush across the head of his own cock, then he spread that slickness across the small opening between Fraser's buttocks. Fraser gasped, his penis surging in Ray's hand. Ray stroked him again, let his thumb press in a little. Fraser flinched. Damn. Not enough. Okay, okay, what'd he have. . . yeah. That would work. He twisted a little so he could reach his nightstand without letting go of Fraser's cock, and found the jar of stuff he used for recreational activities. He tried to get the lid unscrewed one-handed, but it was rough going, especially since he'd apparently been sloppy last time so the jar was slippery. Finally he plunked the jar down on the bed and said "Fraser, hold this."

"What is it?"

"Hand cream," Ray said, not wanting to get into specifics at the moment. Apparently accepting that explanation, Fraser held the jar and Ray finally managed to get it open. He armed himself, then went back to the task at hand. He soothed his thumb back and forth in the cleft between Fraser's cheeks, the way eased by the slick cream, and judging by the hitch in Fraser's breath and the slide of his hips between Ray's hands, he was really getting into it. Ray was getting into it too, rubbing his cock up against Fraser's backside in the same rhythm he was using on Fraser's frontside. After a while he let his thumb press in again, and this time it slid in that first little bit nice and easy, and Fraser didn't flinch. In fact, he practically purred, making a low sound in his throat that was just . . . hot.

"Like that?" Ray couldn't resist asking.

"Mmmhmmm," Fraser breathed.

Ray grinned. He'd always wondered if it was possible to render Fraser speechless, and he was getting close here. He was down to non-verbal, anyway.

Ray let his thumb ease out, then back in, out and in, feeling Fraser relax more each time, letting him in deeper each time. His own arousal was getting hard to ignore but he sternly told himself to wait, because it was no good rushing things. It had to be good for both of them. Not just him.

"Ray. . . ? "



Wow. Okay. More. He shifted his hand, and slipped a finger in, going deeper, if not wider.

"More." Fraser repeated.

"Patience is a virtue."


"Proper preparation . . ."


Definitely monosyllabic. With a kiss to the back of his neck, Ray gave him what he wanted, and Fraser hissed a 'yes' through his teeth as Ray slipped his thumb out, moved his hand, and eased two fingers in. Getting serious now. Serious. God. Impossible to ignore the pounding blood in his veins, the ache in his groin that wanted him to be as impatient as Fraser, to say the hell with preparation and just slide on home in that tight, smooth heat, deep and hard. Could this possibly be real? Was he just having one of the world's greatest wet dreams? Jesus. If he was dreaming he didn't want to know.

He let go of Fraser's cock and pushed himself up on one hand so he could lean around and bring their mouths together again, softly at first, but with growing intensity, until Fraser's mouth opened to his, and his tongue slid against his own, and he sucked softly at Ray's lower lip, and he was where he belonged, naked, in Ray's bed, in his arms, right up against him everywhere. Yeah. Oh yeah.

Ray broke the kiss and shifted position back again, licking the back of Fraser's neck as he resettled his hand over the hard, silky weight of Fraser's erection. Fraser shivered and bucked into his hand. Smiling, he trailed his tongue up to his ear and traced the convolutions there. How sad was it that he thought Fraser had sexy ears? He'd look hot with an earring. . . all that cool, prim and proper Mountieness put to the lie he'd just discovered it was, and God, he was going to enjoy proving that. The whole concept of Fraser wanting, of Fraser needing. . . him . . . . was just the most amazingly erotic thing he could think of.

He wiggled his fingers. Slick with lube, they moved easily, and the movement drew a dark, soft moan of pleasure. Clearly Fraser had pretty much gotten used to them being there. Which mean that it ought to be pretty easy for him to get used to something else being. . . there. Ray shivered at that thought, and began to stroke his fingers rhythmically in and out. Fraser's hips echoed the movement, a graceful undulation that was nothing like his usual starchy movements. Ray curved his fingers a little, searching, and when Fraser suddenly shuddered and moaned, he smiled. Long fingers had their uses. The shaft in his hand swelled and thickened, and Fraser's movements lost a lot of their smoothness.

He licked and bit along the line of Fraser's jaw, not hard enough to leave marks, just enough to tantalize, enjoying the rasp of faint stubble. Each scrape of that roughness against his tongue sent a shiver of sensation straight to his groin, where he was starting to ache because he was so hard, and it was so difficult not to just hump a few times against that silky skin and put himself out of his misery, but God, he didn't want to stop. He wanted to torture himself a while longer with the sheer, unadulterated delight of the sweaty, musky scent of aroused Fraser, the pulsing heat of cock in his hand, the raw catch of breath and little sounds Fraser made in his throat as pleasure made him mindless.

"Ray. . . " Fraser finally made a word instead of just noise. He sounded breathless.

Ray waited, licking the soft skin below Fraser's ear, never letting go of his cock.

"Ray?" Fraser repeated.

Smiling, he kept waiting, he knew it was coming . . . .


There it was. "Yeah, Frase?"

"I need. . . I'm so. . . that feels . . . please. . . ."

"I got you, Fraser. I got you," he whispered, and started to stroke Fraser's cock in earnest, no longer teasing, just intent on giving his partner what he needed. Fraser shook his head sharply. "Not that."

He stopped. "No?"


He knew what Fraser was asking. He swallowed hard. "I'll last ten seconds."

"I don't care."

Fuck. No performance anxiety there. "Okay, okay. We're good, hang on." He reluctantly let go of Fraser's erection, slipped his fingers out, and shifted a little, rolling Fraser onto his stomach instead of his side. With his knees between Fraser's, he spread his legs, making Fraser do the same, and the sensation of cool sheets against hot, sweaty skin was deliciously sensual.

He sat back a little and groped until he found the still-open jar of cream where it had nearly fallen off the bed, and scooped out a fingerful, then spread the slick stuff down his cock, gritting his teeth against the urge to just lose it right then and there. Don't, not now, keep your head. He looked back at Fraser, spread out, waiting, bare, and beautiful, and needy, and had to lean down to kiss the corner of his mouth, trying to say what he couldn't say, that this was more than just getting off. Fraser turned his head a little and kissed him back, and Ray suddenly knew he got it. He got it. Thank God.

His hands shook a little as he cupped the firm, muscular curves of Fraser's ass and he moved into position. "I don't want to hurt you," he said, suddenly afraid. "Don't let me hurt you."

"I think a certain amount of pain is inevitable in any relationship, Ray," Fraser said quietly, his voice rough and husky, not at all his usual smooth, bland tone.

And oh, fuck, that was God's own truth there, wasn't it? Yes. But . . . "'Those have most power to hurt us that we love,'" he heard himself say, and he closed his eyes and bit his lip, hard, wishing he could take that back, because it said far too much about him, far more than he wanted anyone to know, even Fraser, even now, because it stripped off all of his armor and damn it, he needed that.

Fraser lay still beneath him, quiet, absorbing his words, and he knew it was too late. He was bare and vulnerable now, and he waited for the blow.

"'Sorrow that is not sorrow but delight; and miserable love that is not pain to hear of,'" Fraser quoted back at him.

Damn, didn't it just figure that Fraser would do that? Not make fun of him. Not even be surprised that he had a quote in him to begin with. Just quote something right back at him. He didn't know that one, not surprising. He knew about eight quotes all told, every one of them learned in the aftermath of Stella, so they all dealt with pain. And for that pain, Fraser returned delight. Freaks. Both of them.

"You want me, Benton Fraser?"

"I want you, Ray Kowalski." There was no hesitation or doubt in his voice.

Ray grinned. "You got me." He shifted his weight forward, holding himself with one hand, the other taking his weight. He went in slow, using the sound of Fraser's breath and the tension in his body as his roadmap, forcing himself to stop and wait a couple of times until he felt Fraser relax, trying with marginal success to ignore that part of his anatomy that was demanding deep-hard-fast-now-now-now-damnit. Finally, finally he was in, all the way in, and he was shaking and sweating like a junkie in need of a fix. And he couldn't move, because if he moved even an inch, he'd lose it completely and he really didn't feel like being the poster boy for premature ejaculation.

"Ray . . . " Fraser said softly, in that hoarse, husky voice that just seemed to drip sex. "You feel so . . . good."

He had to say that. He just had to. Ray dropped his head to Fraser's shoulder with a gasp. "You. You do. Damn. . . I'm sorry, I can't . . . ."

He couldn't hold it back, couldn't stay still. He moved his hips in a long, slow curl, and Fraser made an indescribable sound, his hips echoing that movement, and then they were moving together, in tune, in time, like dancing only so much better. The air was rich with the scent of sweat and sex, and the sounds of harsh, panting breaths and mindless little pleasure-sounds from two throats. He watched Fraser's hands fist in the sheets, felt him buck hard beneath him, three times, with a deep, throaty growl. Then a fusillade of shudders raced through him in quick, heavy pulses. And oh, fuck, the knowledge that he just made Fraser come was just more than Ray could take. He slammed home once, twice, burying himself deep, and let go, let it all go. He groaned as the pleasure just rolled up through him and out of him and back in sweet, hot waves. Too good. Too good.

He slid himself out of the warm clasp of Fraser's body and collapsed down onto his partner's strong back with a sigh, then remembered about the backache and rolled them onto their sides to take the stress off. Fraser shivered, and Ray scrabbled for the covers, drawing them up so the air couldn't get at Fraser's damp skin. Really, the only thing that would have made it better was to have been able to see Fraser's face, to look in his eyes, touch him, kiss him, watch him to make sure it was good. But how . . . ? That wasn't anything he'd ever done. Okay, Fraser said he knew this stuff. Had to know more than Ray, whose experience was limited to three times with two people, none of it anything like this. He stroked Fraser's arm a little to get his attention.

"Fraser?" He got no response, other than a completely meaningless moan. He stopped stroking, and tried again. "Hey, Frase?"

This time he got a distracted-sounding "Mmm?"

"You ever. . . I mean, when you did this, um, before, you ever do it. . . frontways?"

There was a long pause; he guessed Fraser was trying to get his brain working. Ray was kind of having that problem too. Finally Fraser tried to look at him, kind of craning around until they were nearly nose to nose and that had to make his neck hurt, which probably explained why he was frowning a little.

"When I did what before, Ray?"

"This," Ray said, dropping a hand down to Fraser's ass, stroking two fingers lightly across slick-wet, yielding flesh.

Fraser's face went slack and he gasped. "Oh, my . . . oh . . . "

Ray stopped moving his fingers. Incoherence was not what he was after, for all that it was an incredible turn on to be able to do that to Mr. Coherent. "So? You ever. . . ?" he prompted.

Fraser blinked. Focused. Blinked again. And his flushed face got even pinker. "Oh. That."

"Yeah?" Ray said hopefully.

"Well, ah, you see. . . I've never actually done that before."

"You nev. . . ." Ray stopped, tried to decide if there was any other way to interpret what Fraser had just said, and couldn't think of one. It was like having a bucket of ice dumped on him. He was lying here with Fraser having just fucked him because he'd thought Fraser knew this, was experienced with it, and . . . . he wasn't. He just . . . wasn't. Jesus.

His first instinct was to back way off, but he knew that would probably be misinterpreted and could screw things up even worse, so he didn't. He just stayed there, frozen, trying to think, trying to figure out what the hell to do. Okay. Think, Kowalski. Think. Fraser hadn't protested. Fraser had seemed to enjoy it. Fraser had asked for more. He'd. . . come. That was good, right? God. He felt like he'd just debauched a virgin. Hell, he had just debauched a virgin. The thought made his head spin.

"Ray?" Fraser sounded worried. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, Frase. It's okay. I'm okay. It's just. . . Jesus. I thought you . . . you said you knew this stuff. I thought you meant you knew it." As soon as he said it Ray could feel the tension hit, feel it spread all over Fraser's beautiful, naked body. Oh, smooth. Way to go. Make him feel like he did something wrong. He babbled on, trying to fix things. "I mean, I'm just surprised. I should've asked. I shouldn't have assumed. You know me, Frase, you know me. I do stuff without thinking it through sometimes."

That didn't help. If anything it made things worse, he could tell by the way Fraser kind of drew in on himself, trying to ease away from Ray's hands. Jesus. What had he said? What could he say? How could he make it right? He tightened his arm around Fraser's waist, hooked a knee over his thigh, holding him there, not letting him run, not letting him escape. If he messed this up, it was over, finis, gone, and he wasn't going to let that happen. Not ever going to let that happen again. Fraser didn't exactly struggle . . . it would have been pretty undignified to struggle with Ray holding him like that, both of them buck naked, in Ray's bed, still dripping. But he didn't relax, either, and Ray knew the moment he let go, Fraser would bolt. As he tried to think of what to say, Fraser spoke.

"I'm sorry, Ray," he said quietly, sounding achingly sad. "I never meant to make you uncomfortable. I'm afraid this probably wasn't a very good idea."

Ray shook his head against Fraser's shoulder, so he couldn't help but feel it. "Fraser. Jesus. No. You didn't. You didn't, I swear. I was just surprised. That's all."

He felt Fraser take a deep breath. "Ray, clearly it matters to you that I'm inexperienced. Please don't pretend otherwise. I may be somewhat naïve, but I'm not stupid."

Fraser sounded kind of irritated, which was better than that sad, quiet voice, but still all wrong. So wrong. He took a deep breath. "Yeah, Fraser. You're right. It matters. But not for the reasons you're probably thinking. See, if I'd known, I'd have done things different. You deserve better. Better than this."

Fraser tried to turn and look at him, but the position didn't really allow for it. Ray could visualize the frown on his face, though.

"Better?" he asked, in that patented Fraser 'I don't get it' voice.

"Yeah. Better. Better than me groping you like some horny teenager at a drive-in. You deserve more than that."

Fraser shifted, rolled over, and looked at him, his face grave. "Ray, we're in your home, in your bed, and you did not grope me like an aroused adolescent. You made love to me, very effectively."

God. Not that voice. Not the 'you did good, Ray' voice. He just couldn't catch a break here. "Do not do that, Fraser," he said a little snappishly. "You don't need to reassure me, okay? This isn't about that, and my self-esteem is fine. I just screwed up here, and I know it, that's all."

Fraser was silent for a long moment, then he nodded. "All right, I can see you think that. But so far as I'm concerned, you didn't 'screw up,' Ray. I'm an adult, we both are. I chose to be here with you in this way. You made the choice to be here with me. We talked about it. We made an informed decision, didn't we?"

He had a point. "Yeah," Ray admitted grudgingly.

"Then I don't see what the difficulty is."

"I just. . . you never . . . and I kind of just. . . went for it. Should've been slower, nicer. . . I don't know. . . just better." Ray said vaguely, not really sure what he meant, but trying to say it anyway.

Fraser was quiet again for a minute. Then he spoke, his voice sounding . . . amused? "Ray, I don't need candles, or flowers, or chocolate."

Oh, damn. Yeah. That was it. Leave it to Fraser to get right to it in one swell foop. Yeah. Romance. He was thinking in the box. The box he was used to. Chicks. Fraser was not a chick. Not by any stretch of the imagination. An uncomfortable flush climbed Ray's face and he shook his head sheepishly. "Um. . . sorry."

Fraser nodded sympathetically. "It's all right. I do understand. It is, after all, the dominant paradigm."

Jesus. Only Fraser would use words like 'dominant paradigm' at a time like this. Ray shook that thought off and looked at Fraser intently. "Okay, so, um. . . can I ask, what have you done with guys? So I don't mess up again, making stupid assumptions. I mean, you don't have to say who or anything, I know that's not kosher, just what."

"I, ah . . . well, what we did last night. Hands and . . . mouths."

"That's all?"

Fraser nodded.

"No fingers or anything else anywhere else?"


"And this was how long ago?"

"It's been . . . several years."

"How many is several?"

"Well . . . ."

"Plus or minus ten?"


"Jesus. How much plus?"

"Quite a bit plus," Fraser admitted reluctantly.

"Teenager?" Ray guessed.


"Oh. Man. And what about chicks?"

"That would be rather more recent."

"What, six, eight months? Four?"

"Three. Years."

"Holy cow. Fraser. You telling me you haven't had sex in years?"


"And I thought I had no love life. No, don't get all stiff. Not that way anyway." Ray shifted his hand down, found Fraser's hand, put it over his cock so Fraser couldn't pretend he didn't know what Ray was asking. "What about this?" he asked, using his own hand to urge Fraser's into a slow stroke. He watched, he couldn't help it.

"That? Ah . . . quite recently." How someone's voice could blush was beyond Ray, but Fraser's could.

Ray let out a sigh of relief. "Okay. Good. Now I don't feel like such a pervert."

Fraser chuckled. "I suspect that perversion is in the eye of the beholder."

Ray laughed. "Yeah, true. Too true." He yawned, a jaw-cracking yawn. Sex always made him sleepy. He had to chuckle a moment later when Fraser yawned too. Cool. He'd forgotten about that kind of plus to sleeping with another guy. They didn't expect you to be coherent after sex. He reached for a pillow and tucked it under his head, pulled the other one down and shoved it at Fraser, who took it and settled in as well. Ray had just started to doze off when the alarm-clock went off. It was pretty funny, really, both of them jumping like scalded cats as Ray launched himself across Fraser to hit the snooze button. Breathing hard from the adrenalin rush, they stared at each other with the dawning realization that It Was A Work Day.

"Oh, shit," Ray moaned.

Fraser smiled ruefully. "That seems to sum it up nicely."

Before Ray could do more than grasp the fact that Fraser hadn't gotten all prissy on him about his language, Fraser was sitting up.

"Would you like to take the first shower or should I?" Fraser asked.

"We could conserve water . . . shower together . . . . " Ray suggested slyly.

Fraser looked at him, amusement glowing in his gaze. "While I applaud the concept of environmental conservation, I suspect we would both be late to work were we to attempt that."

Ray stretched and pushed off the covers. "Yeah. So subtle, I'm not. Go on, you first. The Ice Queen will get cranky if you're not there to fix her coffee when she comes in, and I want you to keep your balls, I like playing with them." Ray had the satisfaction of seeing Fraser blush before he cleared his throat.

"Really, Ray, she's quite a good commanding officer."

"Mmhmmm. Yeah sure. Whatever. Towels are in the closet behind the bathroom door. You want some tea?"

"Yes, thank you kindly."

"Fraser. You don't have to thank me. Okay?"

Halfway to the door, Fraser turned and looked at him, an odd expression on his face, and in his gaze. "Yes. I do. Thank you."

Oh. Oh . . . . that. Ray might be crazy, but he wasn't stupid. "No, Fraser, thank you. And you know that bicycle date idea?"

Fraser nodded, eyebrows lifted.

"We're on for tomorrow." He grinned and winked. "That is, if you can sit down by then."

A smile lit Fraser's face. "I'd like that very much, Ray."

"Me too. Now go, or you really will be late and you'll get a demerit or something." He watched Fraser walk away, feeling a strange warmth spread through him. He had a feeling about this. A hunch. A good one. He smiled and got up to go put water on to heat. This morning he'd even do it right, instead of using the tap.

* * * Finis * * *

Note: The quotation Ray uses is by John Fletcher (1579-1625) from 'The Maid's Tragedy.' Fraser's is William Wordsworth (1770-1850) from 'The Prelude.' And yeah, maybe it's a little OTT, but it's not a stretch for me to think anyone who can understand Fraser and use the word 'elucidate' correctly might just know a few classical quotes, no matter how much he likes to joke about Fraser's vocabulary.


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