This story is most definitely a PWP and features characters from Due South most notably Benton Fraser and Ray Kowalski. It is part of in my "Fishing" series, and is a sequel to The Catch. Timeline-wise this, like "The Catch," is set between the episodes "Hunting Season" and "The Call of the Wild," FYI, although this series began as a DS/HL crossover, there are no crossover aspects in this story.

Rated NC-17 for graphic sexuality (M/M). If you're considered a minor in your community please do not read this (do your parents know where you are, you young whippersnapper you!?). If you're narrow-minded or easily offended, you may want to take a pass as well. Characters property of Alliance, everything else is MINE ALL MINE!

Thank You to my Beta readers, Julia Kosatka, Debra Ann Fiorini, AuKestrel, & Marina Bailey

© 1999, Kellie Matthews


Ray didn't move. His lanky, muscular form was slouched in his desk chair, legs stretched out in front of him and shifted slightly apart, which tended to draw one's gaze to the rather . . . er, well-packed vee between them. Fraser quickly lifted his gaze to Ray's face, finding that his partner's gaze was still fixed on some distant point, a slight smile curving his mouth, making it extraordinarily kissable. Which wasn't something he really ought to be thinking about in the middle of the 27th's detective-division bullpen. But in the short time they'd been lovers, Ben had come to know exactly what that particular smile meant, and could he help it if Ray looked as if he were, well, indulging in a little sexual fantasy?

"Ray? Ray? Ray?" He repeated himself, several times, each time a little more strongly, a little more exasperated. Finally, on the last repetition, Ray's gaze snapped to his.

"Uh . . . what, Fraser? I didn't hear you."

"That was eminently clear, Ray. I asked if you were ready to go."

"Go where?" Kowalski asked, blinking in a way that ought to look vacuous but instead seemed merely casually inattentive.

"You promised to take me back to the Consulate by three. I have to help prepare it for the reception tonight, and you said you wanted to pick up the Chelovek files."

"Oh. Oh! Right. Sorry, Frase. I was a million miles away there."

"So I noticed."

Ray's gaze slid down his body, then back up, in a singularly suggestive manner. "Actually, it wasn't quite a million. It was really only a couple hundred, I think. Somewhere underwater."

Under water? That was odd. "Are we going?" Fraser prompted.

"Yeah, sure," Ray said, coming to his feet, grabbing his jacket, heading for the door. He stopped halfway there. "Well? You coming?" he asked with a grin that told Fraser he knew he was being obnoxious.

Fraser bit the inside of his lip to keep his expression severe, picked up his Stetson, and followed. Diefenbaker came out from underneath Frannie's desk to trot behind him. He let Dief into the car, settled into the passenger seat, fastened the safety belt, and waited until they were en-route to ask the question that Ray obviously had wanted him to ask.

"Underwater, Ray?"

Ray's sleepy blue gaze slid toward him, and a laugh line appeared at one corner of his mouth. "Yeah. Underwater. You know. 'We all live in a yellow submarine.'"

He sang the last bit, and Fraser was a little surprised to find that Ray had a relatively pleasant voice. Somehow he hadn't expected that. Then he got it. Yellow submarine. He felt a smile tugging at his own mouth.

"What about yellow submarines, Ray?"

"Could you tell? I mean, you never said a word, but hell, we were so tight in there that I was plastered up against your butt like sticky on tape, and after y'kissed me on the Henry Allen I couldn't keep my mind off sex."

"I didn't kiss you on the Henry Allen, Ray," Fraser protested.

"Izzat right? Tell me you had to use your tongue to do the buddy-breathing thing."

Ray's gaze held his. Too long. He felt his face getting warm. "Er, well, not exactly. Please, Ray, the road?"

Reluctantly Ray shifted his gaze back to traffic. "Don't worry, Ben, I got great per.. perif . . . um, side vision. But if it makes you happy--"

"It does, Ray," Fraser assured him fervently.

"Then I'll keep 'em on the road. So, did you notice?"

"Notice what, Ray?"

"God, you have the attention span of a gnat, you know that?" Ray pointed out good-naturedly, if unfairly. "And I thought I was bad. Did you notice I was hard as a rock when I was sitting behind you in the sub with my crotch about glued to your gorgeous ass?"

Ben's already warm face got warmer and he tugged at the stiff collar of his uniform. "Ah, yes, I noticed that you were in an, um, state of arousal."

"Is that why you looked at me weird?"

"I looked at you weirdly?" Fraser asked, then suddenly remembered that he'd been looking at his father. But of course, Ray couldn't have known that.

"Yeah. Real weird. Like you couldn't believe I was doing that. I was just trying to put together some excuse when you started acting like it was no big deal. So I figured, why argue, it's easier that way. But you did. Notice, I mean."

"Yes, Ray, I did."

"Ah," Ray said, somewhat maddeningly.

"Ah, what?" Ben asked.

Ray grinned. "Just 'ah.' You know. Like you do."


"So, didn't you wonder why?"

It seemed very warm in the car. Ben rolled down the window a crack to let cool air in, and cleared his throat. "I assumed it was merely an adrenaline reaction, Ray."

Ray chuckled. "Fraser, I run on adrenaline. Do I usually get a hard-on from adrenaline?"

Fraser thought back. "Well, now that you mention it, not that I've noticed."

"But that didn't occur to you then?"

"I'm afraid it didn't. I had other things on my mind at the time."

Ray put the back of one hand to his forehead in a Drama Queen pose. "I'm devastated! There I am, practically can't think of anything but getting into your pants, and you've got other things on your mind?"

"I'm sorry," Ben said, trying to look appropriately contrite. "The circumstances were rather distracting. Would you have preferred it if I had said something?"

Ray laughed, shaking his head, his thumbs tapping at the steering wheel. "No, probably not. At that point if you'd said anything I'd probably have freaked out so bad you'd've had to tie me down to keep me in that sub. But even then, I did wonder how you could possibly not have noticed."

"Oh, I noticed. Believe me, I noticed."

A broad grin curved his partner's mobile mouth. "Good. So, how'd it make you feel, when you noticed?"

"Excuse me?"

"The wolf's deaf, Fraser, you're not. You heard me." He reached down to shift, and then his hand casually slid off the gearshift and onto Ben's thigh, one finger tracing along the left side of his groin. "Did it make you hot?"

"Ray!" Fraser said in scandalized tones, but he didn't remove the hand on his thigh.

"Come on, Frase, fess up. Did it turn you on?"

He wasn't about to discuss this now, not when he had to be at work in just a few minutes. This was a discussion best saved for Ray's apartment. He attempted to change the subject. "This is silly, Ray."

"Silly?" Ray demanded, affronted. He pulled the car into a parking lot and stopped. "That does it. We're not going any farther until you tell me."

"It's only another four blocks to the Consulate. I can easily walk," Fraser pointed out, feeling unaccountably stubborn.

"True." His partner chewed the inside of his lip thoughtfully, scratched his back, then turned in a surprisingly swift twist and Fraser felt cold metal slip into place around his wrist. He looked down to find that he was handcuffed to Ray. He lifted his stunned gaze to Ray's, and saw determination, amusement, and desire in their hot blue depths.

"Oh, dear."

"Tell me, or you get to explain to the Ice Queen why you're trying to clean the consulate with me hanging off your wrist."

"Ray," Ben said severely. "Blackmail ill becomes an officer of the law."

"Since when do I care?"

Well, there was that. Ray had never before shown a particular abhorrence for the occasional bending of protocols. Fraser looked at him again, saw again the determination in those normally sleepy eyes, and sighed.

"Ray, I really have to go to work," he said, sounding a tad bit more plaintive than he'd intended.

"Yeah, so?"

"The last time you got me to thinking about things like . . . this, before I had to work, I had a great deal of difficulty concentrating and I filed the monthly reports completely out of order. I had to work quickly to rectify that before Turnbull discovered my lapse and wanted to know what was wrong. And it's difficult enough explaining things to Turnbull when I can think clearly!"

Ray laughed softly, the sound a sensual caress. "I don't suppose they'd think being horny was a good excuse?"

"Highly unlikely."

"Mmm, too bad," he reached down with the hand that was linked to Fraser's and flattened his palm over Fraser's crotch.

"Ray!" Ben hissed. "Stop! We're in a public place for God's sake! Someone might see!"

Ray grinned. "Yeah. I know. But you're the one in the day-glo uniform and they won't know me from Adam. So, you gonna tell me, or go to work like this?"

Ray's hand moved, curving suggestively over the growing bulge between Fraser's thighs, effectively forcing Fraser to do the same, since their hands were cuffed together. He closed his eyes and tried to think of glaciers. It didn't work. The greenhouse effect was in full force and the glaciers were melting, rapidly. For some reason he found this whole scenario incredibly, irresistibly erotic. His fingers moved over Ray's, stroking the back of his hand, sliding down those long, lean fingers, tracing the curve of his thumb. God. He froze, suddenly realizing what he was doing. He knew he was going to have to give in and tell Ray what he wanted, either that or he was going to lose his mind.

"I can always tell the inspector that you lost your key," Ben hedged, trying one last time to get out of this.

"True. But that leaves out why we're in 'em to begin with. Course, Thatcher looks like she might be into this scene. Maybe she'd like it."

"Ray," Ben's voice lowered warningly. He looked into Ray's face and knew he wasn't getting out of this one. Usually he managed to retain the upper hand, but not this time. He swallowed, and looked out the window. "Yes. I did."

"Yes, you did what?"

"I, ah, found your arousal, stimulating."

"There, now was that so . . . hard?" Ray asked, with a little squeeze.

Ben bit back a moan, head back against the back of the seat, eyes squeezed tightly shut. "Please!"

"Please what? God, I wish it was dark. I'd have you out of those pants so fast . . ."

"Ray!" Ben protested in a whimper.

"Okay, okay, I get it. Enough. For now. More later. After work."

As Ray lifted his hand, their hands, Fraser swallowed, trying to get some moisture back into his mouth. Finally he managed a sentence. "I'm working late, remember?"

Ray sighed. "Right. That sucks."

There was a soft click, and the handcuffs released. Ben sighed, a little shiver going through him. He had never understood the appeal of certain things he'd heard of before, but now he had just an inkling of why some people might, under some circumstances, find them interesting. Ray reached over and checked his wrist.

"Good, no marks. Now, hang on, I'll be right back." He let go of Ben's arm and slipped out of the car, pulling his leather jacket closed so the hem hid his crotch. Ben smiled inwardly, knowing exactly why he'd done that. He disappeared into the office building they were parked next to, then reappeared a few minutes later holding something, which he handed to Ben as he got back into the car.

"Here you go."

Ben looked at the beverage in his hand with a frown. "You know I don't particularly care for soft drinks, Ray."

"It's not for your mouth, goof," Ray said with a wink. "You've got to go to work, and I know how long you last." He pushed Ben's hand firmly downward, until the cold can was between his thighs. "There."

While Fraser had his doubts as to the potential efficacy of Ray's folk remedy, it did indeed seem to help, and when they pulled up to the consulate with three minutes to spare he was at least able to walk, though still glad his jodhpurs were baggy and his tunic was long. He eased out of the car, then turned.

"Ray, I'm afraid you'll need to come in and get the Chelovek files yourself, I won't have time to bring them out to you. They're on my desk, in the out basket."

His partner nodded. "No biggie, Frase. I know where your office is."

Ray hopped out of the car and followed Fraser up the steps as he opened the door to the consulate and found chaos within. He could hear Inspector Thatcher's voice raised, clearly annoyed. Turnbull hovered outside the door to her office, looking distraught. Constable Avery was threading electrical cords beneath the runner so people wouldn't trip over them, and there was a distinct scent of melted plastic in the air. He shook his head. Leave for a few hours and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. He strode over to where Turnbull haunted the doorway.

"What seems to be the problem, Turnbull?"

Turnbull turned to him, eyes wide and distressed. "The caterer, sir. Four of her assistants have come down with the flu after catering a hospital event last weekend, and she's only been able to find two replacements. The Inspector doesn't believe we can get by on two."

"In that case, we'll just have to help out, won't we, Turnbull?"

Turnbull drew himself up, looking offended and shocked. "Inspector Thatcher suggested that, sir, but I convinced her that it was beneath the dignity of the uniform."

Fraser sighed. It wasn't undignified to have a uniformed officer fetch her dry-cleaning, but they weren't to be waiters? Still, Turnbull was probably right in this case. They had enough trouble with people thinking they were bellhops and ushers without adding waiters to the list. He frowned, trying to think of anyone he knew who could help out. Frannie, perhaps? No, she'd mentioned having plans. Huey, Welsh, Dewey . . . no, he couldn't imagine any of them would be pleased to spend an evening carrying a tray. Perhaps Stanley Smith, the young man who'd helped them with the Rankin case, might be willing to help if they could find him a tux for the evening. Fraser still had his pager number in his Rolodex.

"Hey, Frase. Need a hand?"

He turned to find Ray standing at his elbow. "No, but thank you, Ray. We'll work it out."

Ray looked around, sniffed audibly at the acrid odor of hot plastic, and lifted an ironic eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"I'll make sure of it," Fraser said, not boasting, just stating a fact. He had no choice.

"Look, I heard you need a waiter. I slung a mean tray, back in my wild and misspent youth."

"I'm afraid it's a formal reception, Ray," Fraser said absently.

An odd little smile quirked the corner's of Ray's mouth, and he nodded. "Gotcha, Frase. I'll just go get that file and head on out, then."

Fraser nodded, already deep in planning. "I'll see you tomorrow, Ray."

* * *

At six minutes to eight, Ray stepped up to the rear door of the Consulate and knocked. After a moment, a harassed-looking constable, Ray thought the guy's name was Avery, opened the door. He looked pretty silly in dress reds and an apron, but Ray carefully didn't smile.

"Yes?" the Mountie demanded crankily.

"Fraser sent me," he lied baldly. "I'm supposed to help wait."

Obvious relief flashed across Avery's face. "Thank God! Come on in, the caterer is in the reception room but she'll be back in a few minutes to brief you. In the meantime, would you mind putting the garnishes on that tray over there? Since the caterer is short-handed we're running behind. It's all finished except for that. They're in the bowl, just stick some on to pretty it up."

Ray looked at the tray, which looked pretty good as it was, looked at the bowl of flowers, and shrugged. If the Canadians wanted flowers on their food, who was he to argue?

"Sure. Let me wash up." He didn't want a health-code lecture.

He was in the middle of deciding where to place one of the orangey-red nasturtium blooms when Turnbull appeared, escorting a tux-clad young black man, who grinned when he saw Ray.

"Hey! Vecchio! You moonlighting?"

Ray smiled back. "Hey, Smith. Nah, I volunteered. Gotta help out your friends, right?"

Stanley nodded. "Right." He wandered over to stand next to Ray, surveying him with a critical eye. After a moment he whistled softly. "Man, where'd you rent your suit? It's a lot nicer than mine!"

"Rent? I'll have you know I own this baby." Ray said, touching a finger to the gold and sapphire collar stud which had been a gift from his ex-wife. He'd bought the tux himself, for the occasional stuffy function they'd had to attend for Stella's job, and of course, for dancing. Fraser's casual assumption that Ray couldn't handle a formal dress occasion had piqued him into proving otherwise.

"You own it?"

Ray tried to decide if he ought to be affronted by the kid's incredulous tone of voice, and opted to let it go. "Yeah, I own it. And put that down 'til you wash your hands," he ordered as Stanley picked up the bowl of flowers Ray was working with.

Stanley complied, and then the caterer reappeared and called them over for a quick briefing, and then things were off and there was no more time to yack. Circulating through the crowded reception room with his tray, offering canapés randomly to milling guests, he noticed what a difference the tux apparently made in the way people perceived him. He was definitely catching glances that conveyed interest, both from women in their elegant, sparkling gowns, and from a couple of the men.

Funny, if he'd hit on any of these people in his usual attire they wouldn't have looked at him twice, in fact, they might have called a cop, even though he was one. But now, in a tux, he was eligible, even if he was just a waiter. Something to remember, if he and Fraser didn't work. . . no, he wasn't going to think about that. Speaking of Fraser, Ray hadn't spotted him yet, maybe he was out front doing the doorman thing. Or maybe hiding in his office from the sheer volume of people. Fraser wasn't big on crowds.

Now, that would really be annoying, he thought, smiling determinedly as a too-skinny society-type female dithered over his tray, trying to decide between the chevre en croute and the salmon puffs. What would be the point if Fraser didn't see him? Well, the point would be the good deed, but good deeds weren't really his style. What he really wanted was to blow Fraser's mind. Or maybe just to blow Fraser, he thought, and his smile softened into something much less plastic.

The woman stared at him, looking a little dazed, and licked her lips. Uh oh, he thought. Better watch that if you don't wanna get hauled into some Consulate closet by one of these people. He let his gaze and his smile go distant again, and she finally chose a salmon puff. Just as he started to move away, he felt the unmistakable brush of a hand against his backside, and swung around give the evil eye to whoever had helped themselves to an item not on the menu, only to find himself face-to-face, or rather face-to-top-of-head, with Meg Thatcher.

Her gaze moved slowly up from somewhere around crotch level, a rather predatory smile on her face, until her eyes came to rest on his face, and widened. She gasped audibly.

"Detective Vecchio!"

He grinned. "In the . . . flesh, Inspector."

"What are you doing here?" She hissed, looking around as if for assistance, or maybe just to make sure no one else had noticed. She looked great, in an elegant red dress cut surprisingly low in front.

"Helping out," he said, nodding toward his tray. "Heard you were short-handed. Speaking of which, I don't know how things work up in Canada, but you do know we've got laws against feeling up the help in this country, don't you?"

Her face went beet red, which clashed alarmingly with the brilliant Mountie-scarlet of her dress. "It was purely accidental, Detective, I assure you!"

"Mmmhmm, I believe you," he said, making sure she knew he didn't.

"Oh, look!" she exclaimed brightly. "There's the Roumanian ambassador. I'd love to chat more, but I'm afraid I really must go greet him." She took off as fast and as determinedly as four-inch-spike heels and a tight skirt allowed.

Ray admired the view. She was a definitely a babe. And apparently not as icy as she liked to let on. He'd file that fact for future use. You never knew when you'd need blackmail material. Musing on the rather flattering fact that the Ice Queen had just copped a feel, and trying to decide if he ought to feel guilty for finding that enjoyable, Ray spotted a flash of crimson just beyond the man Thatcher was making a beeline for. He squinted, trying to see if it was Fraser. Tall. Solid. Dark-haired. Red-jacketed. Either Fraser or Turnbull. Hopefully Fraser. He casually headed in that direction, trying to get close enough to bring his target into focus.

* * *

        Considering the state things had been in when he'd arrived at the Consulate that afternoon, Fraser thought the reception was going rather well. Stanley Smith looked quite presentable in the tux Fraser had arranged for him to rent, and seemed to be doing a good job circulating among the guests. The caterer had even commented that she might use him again, which would be good, as a legitimate job might help steer the young man away from his criminal proclivities. The smell of melted plastic from the canapé tray Avery had inadvertently placed on a hot burner had been mostly dissipated by a few judiciously-placed fans and some cinnamon and cloves simmering in a pan on the stove. Most importantly, there was a full compliment of guests, so the Inspector would be pleased by the success of the function.

He looked around, searching for Thatcher, and found her across the room, speaking to one of the waiters. She looked lovely, he thought. That dress must be new. He was sure she hadn't ever worn red to a Consular function before, other than on those occasions when she wore her dress uniform. In fact, she'd once commented that was exactly why she didn't have anything red in her personal wardrobe. She must have reconsidered her stance for some reason. It was just as well. As he'd observed before, red suited her.

Odd, though, she appeared to be quite flushed, in a shade that was not at all becoming with her gown. She seemed agitated. He frowned, wondering if there was some kind of difficulty with the catering. As he moved toward them, his gaze moved up from Thatcher's face to the waiter's, and he stopped so abruptly that someone behind him bumped into him. He was so stunned that it actually took him a moment to think to turn and apologize, but by then the person had moved on. He turned back, staring across the room at the apparition that met his eyes.

Ray. In a tuxedo. The sight literally took his breath away. The severe black jacket emphasized the lean lines of his body, and the deep vee of black shawl-collar lapels against snowy-white shirtfront made his hard chest seem broader and accentuated his narrow waist. Something as blue as his eyes glimmered at the top edge of his collarless shirt, drawing attention to the strong lines of his throat and jaw. He was clean-shaven for once, and his hair was spiked neatly. Really, that seemed a contradiction in terms, but somehow Ray had accomplished it, looking as if he'd just come from a stylist, looking . . . beautiful. Looking absolutely, one-hundred-percent edible.

The need, the pure, shining desire he'd felt that afternoon in the car came flooding back in a rush, nearly making Ben gasp aloud. He had to fight down the insane urge to cross the room and push Thatcher away from Ray, to shove him up against the wall and kiss him senseless, to rock his body into that long, lean form until they both . . . . For God's sake, he admonished himself. You are a Mountie! Get yourself under control! He felt a trickle of sweat run down his neck, under his collar, cooling him a tiny bit. Yes. Control. That was it. Better. Much better. Still, it would be a moment or two before he could comfortably walk.

The Inspector turned away from Ray, looking distinctly flustered as she headed in Ben's direction. Her expression was nearly as effective as a chilled soft-drink can. Ben sighed. Ray had an uncanny ability to annoy his superior. He wondered what Ray had said or done this time, or if it was merely his presence that had set her off. Steeling himself for a confrontation, he was puzzled but relieved when Thatcher instead took the arm of the man in front of him, steering him off toward the bar. He stared after her for a moment, then looked back to find Ray slowly making his way toward the spot where he stood.

Fraser very nearly ran for cover, not at all certain he would be able to keep his hard-won control with Ray in the immediate vicinity. Then Ray's eyes met his, and he knew he would stay, would wait while three guests stopped Ray and took an inordinate amount of time to choose an hors d'oeuvre. Stayed while two of those guests gave his Ray come-hither looks before leaving, causing him to experience the unusual desire to do something highly ungentlemanly to both of them. Then finally, finally, Ray was there, in his space, almost close enough to smell, almost close enough to taste. He gave a sultry smile, ducked his head a little, and looked at Fraser through his eyelashes flirtatiously.

"Coffee, tea, or me, Frase?" he whispered, barely audibly.

Fraser gasped, unable to stop himself. He closed his eyes, breathed, opened them again, cleared his throat and nodded meaningfully toward a less crowded corner of the room. Ray followed him, and once they were safely out of the main flow of traffic, Ben managed to speak.

"I must admit I am somewhat surprised to see you here, Ray."

One corner of Ray's mouth quirked up in a lopsided smile. "Yeah, I figured that. So was her ladyship."

"What did you say to her?" Ben asked with some trepidation.

"Nothing much. Just suggested maybe it's not a good idea for her to go around fondling the help."

"Ray! For heaven's sake!"

"Hey, she started it!" Ray said defensively. "Not my fault she picked my ass to grope!"

Fraser stared at Ray, looked over at Thatcher, and scowled, torn between jealousy and disbelief. "She did what?"

Ray grinned. "Your Ice Queen ain't as cool as she lets on."

"I'm sure it was just accidental, Ray."

"What, like I can't tell 'oh excuse me but it's crowded in here' from 'nice handful there, bud.'? Remember, Fraser, I'm a guy. An American guy. I've done my share. I know the difference."

Fraser considered that. Ray was right. He quite likely did know the difference. He remembered the look on Thatcher's face, the blush. Good God! His superior officer had actually . . . . He coughed.

"Yes, well, she's been under a great deal of stress about this function," he offered lamely.

Ray chuckled. "Good save, Fraser. Hold this for a sec, would you?" He held out the tray, which Fraser took automatically. Ray rolled his shoulders, then his neck, and sighed. "I'm out of practice. Carrying that around gets old fast, I tell you."

He reached over and snagged three of the salmon puffs, eating two himself and putting the other one in Fraser's mouth when he opened it to scold. Fraser had to stop and chew as Ray artistically repositioned one of the floral garnishes which had been disarranged by someone rooting for their hors d'ouvre of choice.

"You know, Fraser, I always knew you Canadians were odd. Flowers go in the garden or on the table, not on the food."

Fraser swallowed his unwanted bite, and jumped to the defense of his country. "Actually, Ray, it was the caterer's idea, and she's American, not Canadian."

"Yeah? Well, she's a caterer, they're weird too," he said grinning. "Anyhow, Frase, I'd love to stay and chat, but since I'm doing the 'serve' part of 'to serve and protect' here, I've got to get back on the beat. See you!"

He took his tray from Fraser's hands and turned to go, then had to step back abruptly to avoid a couple who had just decided to move into the same spot. Surprised, Ray backed into Fraser, who reached out to steady him. Ray regained his balance, looked back over his shoulder with a grin, and pushed back harder with a slow, deliberate grind of his backside against Fraser's frontside.

"Gosh, sorry, Fraser," he said insincerely.

Fraser swallowed hard, hands clenching a little on Ray's hips as he fought the renewed surge of arousal.

"You can let go now," Ray said, sounding amused.

Fraser whipped his hands away, looking around guiltily, hoping no one had noticed. Thankfully it didn't seem anyone had. Ray stepped forward and Fraser took a moment to adjust his tunic, then finding his voice, he spoke.


Ray turned, eyebrows lifted.

"You look . . . quite . . . well, nice," he said inadequately, wishing he could say what he really wanted to say, but knowing he couldn't. Not in a room full of people. Not with Inspector Thatcher only a few yards away.

A slow, pleased smile curved Ray's mouth, and a faint flush painted his skin. "Thanks, Fraser."

He headed off with his tray. Fraser watched him go, still feeling somewhat stunned by the new version of Ray. He'd always thought Ray was attractive, and very sexy. Those feelings were even stronger now. Distressingly so. He closed his eyes. "I am a Mountie," he muttered under his breath. "I am a Mountie. I am not a wild animal in heat. I am a Mountie."

"Constable Fraser?"

Fraser's head snapped up and he found himself gazing into Inspector Thatcher's frowning face.

"Ah, yes sir?" he responded automatically, praying he hadn't been speaking aloud.

"Are you feeling quite all right, Fraser? You look flushed."

"I'm fine sir, it's just a, a trifle warm in here." He tugged at his collar. "From the crowd, you know."

"Yes. Of course. Well, I, ah, was just wondering what you and Detective Vecchio were discussing, just now."

Fraser stared at her, his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth. Oh, God. He groped desperately for an innocuous subject. His gaze lit on the tray that Stanley Smith was carrying past them, and his mind kicked in. "Garnishes," he blurted out.

Thatcher's eyebrows rose. "Garnishes?"

"Yes. We were discussing the, ah, the floral garnishes, on the trays," he improvised, fingers of one hand crossed behind his back.

"I see," she gave him an odd look. Well then, good, carry on."

"I shall, sir."

"Good. Do that. I'm just going to go over to the bar now."

"Yes, sir."

She stared at him a moment longer, still frowning, then shook her head and moved away. Fraser let out a sigh of relief. He hadn't, quite, lied to his superior officer. He wouldn't be damned for all eternity.

* * *

Ray spotted Thatcher talking to Fraser moments after he'd moved on, and thanked his lucky stars she hadn't shown up a minute earlier. With as much as she disapproved of him, he had no illusions about how peeved she would be if she caught him teasing 'her' Mountie. He knew he shouldn't, he really did, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Ben was just so teaseable! He was so honest that he never even thought to dissemble, and his responses were so beautiful. That blush. That stammer. The heat that warmed his eyes from ice to smoke. The unconscious flicker of tongue against lower lip. Ray hoped no one ever told Ben he did that, because he'd be mortified and stop, and it was so damned sexy that would be a crime.

Teasing the Mountie. A plot began to form in his head. He smiled evilly. The best thing about teasing Ben was that he was far too polite to kill him for doing it. Of course, he would make him pay, somehow. Preferably pleasurably. A warm glow spread through him and he looked over to see that Thatcher had left Ben and gone over to the bar. His evil grin resurfaced. There was more than one Mountie here to tease, too.

He noticed Stanley Smith heading for the kitchen with a nearly-empty tray, and eyed him assessingly. Yeah, he'd do. If the Ice Queen liked 'em slim with a nice ass, that is, and judging from her earlier grope, she did. He decided his tray needed refurbishing as well and followed his fellow waiter into the kitchen. As the caterer moved what was left on their used trays to the fresh ones, he checked the contents of his wallet, then sidled over to Smith.

"Hey, Stanley, wanna earn an extra fifty bucks?"

The younger man looked at him narrowly. "Depends on what I gotta do to get it."

Ray laughed. "You? Scruples? Gimme a break."

That earned him an answering laugh, then a sheepish smile "Just don't wanna screw up this gig, Vecchio. It's a real job."

Vecchio. God, sometimes he hated that name. He was so tired of being Vecchio. He forced that thought aside, and pasted on a smile.

"No problem my man, none at all. I'm not even going to ask you to help me hide a corpse. All you have to do is put yourself as close as possible to a certain female out there, as often as possible. Now, don't touch her or anything, you'd get in trouble and we don't want that. Just be . . . around. Close enough to make her fingers itch."

Stanley's eyebrows went up. "Tell me she's not eighty, okay?"

Ray grinned. "C'mere, I'll point her out." He took Stanley down the hall and they waited just outside the room until Thatcher came into view. "That's her in the red, with the cleavage."

Stanley whistled. "That?" He swung around, frowning. "Why?"

Ray grinned. "Let's just say I got a score t'settle."

"You sure I won't get in trouble?"

"Hey, you'll just be doing your job, right? Can you help it if you have to walk around the room and pass by her? A lot?"

The younger man chuckled. "True. Okay, you're on." As they walked back toward the kitchen, he suddenly stopped, frowning. "Wait! What if she does go for the, uh, 'bait?' What do I do?"

"That's up to you, Stan," Ray said with a wink. "But I prob'ly wouldn't kick her outta bed for eating crackers."

Actually, he would, he thought with a little smile. But only because he preferred what, or rather who, he had there now. Someone who would never dream of eating crackers in bed. It just wouldn't be polite. Still smiling, Ray picked up a tray and headed back to the reception to dispense more treats, crostini with roasted red peppers this time, and some kind of little phyllo triangle things.

Standing in the doorway Ray surveyed the room until he found Fraser. Slowly, unobtrusively, he began to work his way that direction. His path took him past Thatcher, who stood chatting with an older woman. He made a subtle little show of turning to face Thatcher as he passed, and saw her face go pink. Unable to resist, he stopped next to them, politely proffering his tray. Thatcher's blush got deeper, and the other woman looked from her to him with a slight frown, then shrugged and took one of the phyllo things, leaning to whisper something to Thatcher who just about choked on her wine. Ray wished, not for the first time, that he had Fraser's hearing. Figuring that he'd give himself away if he stayed any longer, he continued on his meandering course toward Fraser.

Finally he stood adjacent to Fraser, who was conversing with a short, olive-skinned man in a tux draped with what looked like beauty-pageant sashes and Christmas-tree ornaments. After trying to eavesdrop for a moment, Ray realized they were speaking French, and gave up, content to stand there eyeing the way the Mountie's red tunic flared out in a gentle slope over Fraser's butt. It wasn't quite as nice a subject for perusal as the butt itself, but it was a pretty good substitute. So was the way the belt defined his waist and made the shoulders above it look that much broader. And the way his hair was so dark against the snow-pale skin at the back of his neck. Hell, he could just drool out here for a few, no problem.

After a couple of minutes the guy with the sashes started to look glazed-over, and made some excuse to wander away. Ray figured Fraser had been telling Inuit stories again. Not that they couldn't be fascinating, when one was in the right mood, but Fraser just didn't seem to have the knack of knowing when someone was or wasn't in the mood. For Inuit stories, anyway. He'd finally gotten clued in to certain other moods, though, at least when Ray had them. Which was pretty much all the time.

Subtly he managed to position himself so that if Fraser turned, he'd be plastered up against Ray's backside. Then he sighed. Of course, Mr. Bat-ears heard it and turned to see what was the matter. Ray braced himself against the bump and just swayed a little, not losing a single crostini off his tray, then turned, with his best flirtatious grin.

"Getting anxious, Frase? I guess we could slip off to your office . . . ." Funny, Fraser and Thatcher blushed just about the same color.

"I'm terribly sorry, Ray," Fraser said, taking a step back. "I didn't realize you were quite so close."

Ray shrugged as best he could. "No problem. You sure you don't wanna . . ."

"Ray!" Fraser hissed, looking around. "Please!"

"Oh, you want one of these?" Ray asked ingenuously, holding out the tray.

"No, I don't want one of those," Fraser snapped. "But if you could kindly refrain from-- ah, Inspector Thatcher." Fraser's somewhat strained expression rearranged itself into blank politeness as the Ice Queen walked up to them. "May I say how lovely you look in that dress? It's new, isn't it?"

Thatcher looked down at herself as if to check and see what she was wearing, and looked back up. "Yes, it is, Fraser, thank you."

"May I be of assistance in any way?" Fraser asked, sounding suspiciously hopeful.

"Actually, I wanted to speak to Detective Vecchio for a moment."

Fraser looked quizzically at Ray, who made his innocent face back. He hadn't done anything to annoy Thatcher. Not that she could prove, anyway.

"Alone, Constable," Thatcher said pointedly.

Fraser hesitated for a moment, then moved away, leaving them alone. Ray gazed at Thatcher expectantly. She stared back. He waited. Nothing.

"You, uh, wanted to talk to me?" he prompted.

She jumped. "Yes. Right. I. . . I ah, I just wanted to thank you, Detective."


"For not mentioning . . . I mean, well, I mean, for your . . . assistance. With the function, of course."

"Oh, that. No problem. Fraser's a friend of mine, and friends help each other out, right?"
        "Right. I, ah, so, what was it about the garnishes that interested you?"

Ray frowned. "Garnishes?"

"Yes. Fraser told me that earlier, after I inadvertently, well, you know, that you didn't say anything to him. That you were just discussing the floral garnishes on the caterer's trays."

Ray had a great deal of difficulty trying not to laugh. Fraser had managed to find a way to lie to Thatcher without technically lying. So much could be accomplished by omission and half truth.

"Right," he said. "I was just saying to Fraser that it's big now to use flowers as garnish," he lied, figuring Fraser owed him bigtime on this one. He looked nodded toward his tray. "You can even eat some of 'em," he said, dredging up a bit of trivia from his childhood. "Nasturtiums, and the little blue ones, borage, I think. They're edible. Same with the mallows, and even pansies, though I'm not sure about the lavender . . . " he trailed off, because Thatcher was staring at him like he'd grown a second head. On his shoulders. "What?" he demanded, frowning.

Thatcher blinked. "I'm sorry. I was just surprised, that's all. I had no idea you knew anything about flowers."

Oops. Shit. That's what he got for trying to be smart. Flowers were not something a hard-assed Chicago police detective was supposed to know. If that got out, he would never live it down. Even if he had come by the knowledge honestly, working alongside his mother in her garden when he was a kid. Damn, he hoped Thatcher wouldn't mention it to Fraser, or to anyone else for that matter. Okay, misdirect, and maybe she'll forget about it. He grinned and winked.

"I'm just fulla surprises, sweets."

That did it. She looked at him with the faintly disgusted grimace that was her usual expression around him. "Yes, I'm sure you are, Detective. Excuse me."

He watched her go with a smile. He'd hit that one just right. All she would remember was the annoying Romeo move, not flowers. Oh yeah, he was full of surprises all right, he thought, glancing over at Fraser who had been pretending he wasn't watching them from a few yards away. Full of surprises.

* * *

Fraser locked the back door and leaned his forehead against it tiredly. Finally, everyone was gone. The quiet was a blessed relief. He hated these kind of events with a passion. Too much noise, too many people drinking too much alcohol. These receptions were one of the few drawbacks he'd found to living at the Consulate, although, recently he'd discovered a new reason why it might be nice to have his own place once more . . . or perhaps to share a place, if that became an option. Tonight's reception had been better than most, because Ray had been there. It had also been worse than most, for the very same reason.

He shook his head, smiling ruefully. Ray had been absolutely merciless all night. As if his mere presence hadn't been arousing enough, his partner had managed to keep brushing against him, standing too close, making eye contact then doing suggestive things with his tongue. Trying quite deliberately to drive him out of his mind, Fraser was sure. He'd very nearly succeeded. Ben had actually, with complete seriousness, contemplated dragging Ray off to the nearest closet. But duty and decorum had won out in the end.

He stood there for a moment, desperately wanting to go through that closed, locked door, out into the night and over to Ray's apartment. But Ray was no doubt long asleep and it was only a few hours until they both would have to be up and working. No, it was too late now. He'd known he would be spending tonight alone when he'd insisted Ray go home after the reception. It had been the right thing to do, if also one of the more difficult things he'd ever done.

With a sigh, he straightened up and untucked the dishtowel from his waistband, placing it over the hook where it belonged. Picking up his tunic from the chair where he'd carefully placed it before pitching in to help the caterer clean, he turned out the light and headed for his office. Something soft crushed under his boot and he stopped to pick it up, found himself holding a crumpled deep garnet mallow blossom. It must have fallen off one of the trays.

He moved on, and found another flower a few steps further on. Then a third. He frowned, paying attention now. Odd. Why would the caterer have been back in this area? It was almost as if someone had been marking a trail with them. A trail that led to . . . . He stopped in his tracks, looking from the handful of blossoms he held to the door of his office. He started to smile, despite the little voice in his head telling him that it was completely inappropriate to even think about using a consular office for what he was thinking about, even if it was also his bedroom. With considerably more enthusiasm than previously, he put his hand on the doorknob and quietly pushed open the door.

The shelf lamp was on, shedding a soft glow over the figure on his cot. Ray lay there in the boneless relaxation of sleep, one hand behind his head, one knee cocked to the side. A red-orange nasturtium blossom was tucked behind his left ear. He had removed his jacket, shoes and socks, and unbuttoned his cuffs, rolling his sleeves up to mid-forearm. Several studs had been removed from his shirt, and the open vee bared shadowed golden flesh down to about his sternum. There were flowers threaded through each unoccupied buttonhole.

A stem of deep blue-violet lavender was wound through the silver-bead bracelet on his right wrist. A jumbled pile of nasturtiums, lavender, mallows and pansies nestled casually in the crease that formed in his pants along his groin, as if dropped there when the hand that lay lax on his thigh had released them as sleep had come. He looked like a faun, or some modern-day Puck. Bacchanal and beautiful. In every possible way.

The flowers evidenced a side of Ray that Ben suspected his partner had shown only to two people in his entire life: Stella, and himself. The gentle, romantic soul that hid behind the tough, frenetic mask. Strong, but delicate; aggressive, yet vulnerable. All those contradictory things that were essentially, inseparably, Ray. The dichotomy that was perfectly exemplified by his unrepentant teasing during the reception, and now this . . . this offering, when none had been expected or anticipated.

Ben closed his eyes against the rush of feeling, so intense it stole his breath. It didn't matter that they were in his office, that this was utterly inappropriate. He needed this. He needed Ray. Now. Here. For the first time he could remember, he locked the door. Diefenbaker raised his head momentarily, looked at Ben, then lowered his muzzle to his paws once more, eyes closing. Apparently he didn't find it odd that Ray should be here, or that Ben should have locked the door. Ben took that as a sign.

He went to his knees beside the cot, and leaned over, putting his lips to the hollow at the base of Ray's throat, touching his tongue to skin, tasting the minerals left there by sweat, a faint hint of shaving cream or soap. He breathed deeply, inhaling the unique combination of odors that made up Ray's personal scent. Instantly he was hard as steel, aching. He felt unaccountably dizzy as he moved his mouth down that hard, admittedly somewhat bony chest which he found more beautiful than any sculpted model's, only to be stopped by closed shirt-front.

Ray stirred, stretching slightly, a little 'mmmm' sound escaping his lips as his hand lifted and came to rest on the back of Ben's neck, fingers idly toying with the short-cropped hair there. "Thought you were never going to come to bed," his lover said softly, his voice husky with sleep and desire.

"Had I realized you were waiting, I would have hurried," Ben said, lifting a hand to push the shirt open, baring more responsive territory. He licked at a nipple, then sucked. Ray arched beneath his mouth, fingers threading into his hair, tugging him up when the sensation got too intense, which it quickly did.

"Stop, Frase, you know that kills me!" he gasped, breathless.

Ben smiled. "I believe the saying is 'turnabout is fair play.'"

Ray chuckled. "Was I mean to you?"

"Terribly cruel, Ray."

"Sorry," he offered, fingers sliding down Ben's face to trace the line of his mouth. "I just couldn't help myself."

"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" Ben whispered, then sucked Ray's index finger into his mouth, stroking it with his tongue, mimicking a more intimate act.

Ray shuddered, his hips lifting a little. "Yeah, Ben, I know," he rasped. "'Cause you do the same thing to me." He drew his hand back toward his face, and Ben moved with it, unwilling to relinquish his plaything yet. Ray grinned. "Lucky me, I get the guy with the oral fixation."

Ben laughed, letting him go, and Ray lifted his head until their lips met, and they both indulged in a certain orality, the soft play of lips, tongues, and breath. Fraser picked up a spray of lavender and used it to stroke Ray's chest and throat. Ray pulled away, breaking the kiss, then reached down for one of the red-orange blossoms from the heap on his thigh. Opening his mouth he put the bloom on his tongue, and pulled Ben back down. This time the velvet of petals and the faint, citrus-sweetness of the flower augmented their kiss, until Ray swallowed it, wringing an anticipatory shudder from Ben. Ray eased back, and reached up to tug at one of Fraser's suspenders.

"Clothes. Off. Now."

Ben nodded, amused by the monosyllabic order, and sat back, peeling down the straps, then tugging his undershirt off over his head. Ray turned on his side to watch Ben undress, unabashedly admiring. When Fraser stood up to unfasten his pants, Ray reached out and hooked a finger in his waistband to pull him forward and rub his nose across his groin, pretending to bite at the hardness he found beneath the fabric, making Ben gasp. He let go after a moment, and looked up at Fraser mischievously.

"Swear to God, Fraser, you're the only person on the planet who can look sexy in jodhpurs. But you're even sexier out of them, so peel down."

Fraser stood for a moment looking down at him, then he shook his head and leaned down pushing Ray onto his back once more. Ray grinned and put his hands under his head as Ben unfastened the button at Ray's waist, eased down the zipper, then stopped suddenly. Having expected Ray, as was his wont, to be wearing nothing at all beneath the tailored slacks, the sensual resilience of silk under his fingertips was startling. His eyes lifted to Ray's, brows raised. Ray grinned.

"Can't wear a tux without anything under, it just ain't done. So I figgered if I had to wear something it oughtta be . . . comfortable. And you can keep doing that," he said, arching, catlike, into Ben's stroking fingers. "That's nice."

Ben stopped.

"Getting back at me?" Ray asked, looking amused and put out, simultaneously.

Ben attempted to look wounded. "Of course not . . . " he began, then felt the truth welling up in his throat and couldn't stop it. "Well, yes," he admitted with a sigh. He couldn't even lie when it didn't matter.

Ray laughed out loud. "God, I love you! Get down here!"

He reached up and put his arms around Ben, dragging Ben down on top of him. They were starting to rock against each other despite the fact that they were both half-clothed, when an ominous creaking brought Ben's head up abruptly. He went still, looked down at Ray, and then rolled quickly off to kneel on the floor. Ray looked up, gasping and bemused, struggling back toward alertness.

"What? We got prowlers or something?"

"No, nothing like that. I was just a trifle concerned that the cot is old, and probably not up to our combined weights."

Ray thought about that for a moment, sat up, then stood up, and peeled off his shirt, tossing it aside. His pants went next, followed moments later by the black silk boxers. Ben closed his eyes, trying to quell the instant need that a completely naked Ray brought out in him. Then hands were pushing him gently backward, and he opened his eyes to find out why. Ray grabbed the pillow off the cot and tossed it to the floor, then he was slipping between Ben and the cot, kneeling on the pillow, hands braced against the cot's frame.

"There. See? No problem."

God, it was tempting, so tempting. But impossible. "Ray, no. We can't, not . . . that way."

Ray looked back at him, puzzled. "Why not? It's not like we ain't done it before. I like it that way."

Ben felt a blush creeping up his neck. "I'm afraid I'm not . . . I don' t have anything here that we could . . . I mean, I never expected to . . ."

Ray sighed, shaking his head, and reached over to grab his pants from where he'd tossed them, dug in a pocket, then held up a small bottle. "Don't leave home without it," he intoned solemnly.

Ben shook his head, smiling. And people said he was the one who was always prepared. Ray put the bottle in Ben's hand and looked at him hungrily.

"Now, Ben. I been thinking about this way too long to wait now."

He turned away again, back arched slightly as he braced his hands on the cot again, his slim body practically smoldering with tension. His urgency was nearly irresistible, but Ben hesitated.

"I'm still dressed, Ray."

Ray twisted back around, lithe and pantherish, and proceeded to unfasten Ben's pants, roughly dragging them down to mid-thigh along with his boxers. "There. Now?"

Now. God. Now.

* * *

Like that. Oh man, yeah, just like that. Ray felt the roughness of wool against the insides of his thighs as Ben moved in close, and above that the silky warmth of his lover's skin. There was something incredibly abandoned about the idea of doing it in Fraser's office, in the consulate, with him still half in uniform. Who'd have thought that getting it on with a guy in jodhpurs and granny boots could be so damned hot? Fingers, slick with lubricant, stroked and caressed between his cheeks, drawing teasing patterns on the outside until he thought he would go nuts, but never giving him what he needed. It was all he could do not to hump the cot, which would probably hurt, so he really had to remember not to.

Reading his need, Ben slid an arm around his waist and cupped his cock, stroking it, far too gently. He was dying here. He needed hard, and fast, and deep, and Fraser was playing nice. He pumped himself into Ben's hand, giving him a hint. His lover laughed softly, a low, sensual sound, and one teasing finger stopped teasing and slid deep, piercing him, making him gasp, hips jerking in response.

"Please," he moaned, utterly unashamed. "God, Ben, please!"

He pushed his hips back, leaning forward with his weight on his arms, head bent, offering himself as fully as he knew how. He heard a sound, almost a growl and knew he was having an effect on Fraser, 'cause it sure wasn't the wolf, who was sleeping obliviously. That first finger was joined by a second, almost too fast, but he was learning how to yield, how to let himself adjust. He breathed into the feeling, felt relaxation warming through him, then just as he thought he'd gotten there the fingers were sliding out again and Ben was sliding in and oh god it hurt but it felt so good and yeah, yeah, there, just there, all the way. He moaned, and heard it echoed from behind him. Felt Ben's forehead against the back of his neck, heard the harsh panting of his breath. Yeah, go for it, go for it . . . .

A slight shift of position, knees spreading his thighs wider, hands on his hips pulling him back hard onto each thrust. He sensed a kind of wildness in Fraser that he hadn't felt in him before, and encouraged it, panting his name, urging him toward completion, uncaring of his own need. He'd get there eventually, right now he just wanted to feel Ben lose it. He used words he could never use with Fraser in any other venue, and felt them hit like body blows, torquing that wildness higher. Then there were teeth in his shoulder and the cock deep in his body was pumping hard, and Fraser was sobbing like he'd just heard there was no Santa, tears mixed up with panting and gasping and the last shuddering waves of orgasm.

Ray waited until he could feel Ben softening inside him, and eased away with a slight twist of his hips, smothering a gasp as they disengaged, simultaneously dragging the covers off the cot and turning to wrap them around Ben, who was hiding his face against his arm. He eased both of them down onto the floor in a gentle embrace, hands stroking soothingly down Ben's back, brushing his lips over Ben's lips, kissing the salt from his eyelashes.

"Jesus, Ben, what's wrong?" he whispered after Ben had finally begun to subside.

What came out was garbled, but sounded suspiciously like "I'm sorry." Ray sighed, and soothed Fraser some more, stroking him gently.

"You've got nothing to be sorry for, Ben. Just tell me what's wrong."

"Sorry," he managed. "Too hard, too fast. I . . . hurt you."

"No you didn't! Geez, I think I'd know."

"You didn't finish . . ."

"So? We got some kinda deadline? Relax. I'm fine. I'm not hurt, and I think I can handle a little delay. Now that can't be what's bothering you, so spill."

Ben rocked his head back and forth against Ray's chest. "Nothing."

"Not nothing. You don't cry for nothing. What's wrong?"

Ben pushed him gently away and lay back with a sigh, staring up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I just felt so . . . out of control."

Ray smiled. "It's okay to be out of control now and then, Ben. It really is. You're just a man. You're not perfect, you're not Superman, okay?"

Ben curled away again, his arm back over his face, concealing, protecting. Ray reviewed what he'd just said, and none of it struck him as particularly painful. For him, anyway. But maybe not for Fraser. He thought about what he knew of his lover's past, not much, but what there was seemed awfully full of pain for as sweet a soul as Ben. He thought about what he would feel if he'd grown up as Ben had, what it must have been like for him to lose his mom so young, for his dad to be so distant that he learned about him only through his diaries after he was dead. Then there was the whole Victoria thing, and then Vecchio . . . shit. That was it. There was the pattern, staring him in the face. Goddamn.

Ray felt a wrenching pain inside as understanding came. He'd been there himself, in the same emotional black hole, though he hadn't been through it quite as often as Ben had. And it was worse for Ben because it had started earlier, when he was just little, and didn't understand that sometimes people didn' t have a choice about going away. That had set the whole thing in motion. God, no wonder he tried so damned hard to be perfect. It was heartbreaking

Everyone Ben had ever loved had abandoned him, or worse, used him. Ray knew, he just knew, that illogical as it was, somewhere deep inside Ben thought those things were all his fault, that somehow, if he could just be more perfect, then people would love him, and maybe, stay. Ray understood that, viscerally. Illogic was his forté, after all. It seemed like nobody ever stayed anymore, and he needed that too, probably as much as Fraser did. He put his hands on Ben's shoulders, stroking gently.

"It's all right, Ben. You don't have to be perfect all the time. I'll love you anyway. It's okay to sometimes be selfish, to sometimes do stuff that's just for you. I won't love you any less. And I won't use you." He tightened his arms around the warm, solid body he held, ducking his head so his lips were against Ben's ear. "And I won't leave you. I promise," he whispered.

Ray had meant it to be reassuring and grounding, but he felt Ben stiffen in his arms, heard him draw a deep, shaky breath, then there was hot wetness streaking down his shoulder where Ben's face was pressed against it and the shuddering wrack of held-in sobs. For a moment he was scared, wondering what he'd said wrong, and then he relaxed, understanding. This wasn't pain. This was catharsis. He held Ben, rocking gently, lips against his hair as he whispered stupid consoling things like 'it's okay,' which didn't mean anything, but at the same time meant everything.

Eventually Fraser settled down, his body relaxing, breathing evening out, deepening. When his arms went lax, Ray smiled, realizing he'd fallen asleep. That was kind of nice. No, it was very nice. It showed trust. He liked that, a lot. He shifted position, getting as comfortable as he could considering he was on the floor and tangled up in blankets and Mountie. His body still had a little current of fading arousal in it, and he thought a little wistfully about the fact that the 'minor delay' had just become a major one, but he wasn't about to wake Fraser up and make him take care of it. He might be a guy but he had some sensitivity.

* * *

Ben woke to find himself in considerable discomfort. He was lying in the most peculiar position, as well as being wound up in blankets, and rather more than half-undressed, the fabric of his shorts and trousers cutting into his thighs. In fact, probably the only reason he hadn't woken in even more discomfort was that the Ray was holding him, his body acting as a bit of a cushion, though as thin as he was, he wasn't much of one. Still, he was definitely softer than the floor. Lifting his head, he noted that Ray appeared to be sound asleep, not to mention quite naked.

He put that together with his own dishevelment and their position, and everything came back to him. He was appalled. Good God, not only had he subjected Ray to an embarrassing emotional outburst, he'd compounded his transgression by then falling asleep on him! Embarrassed, he tried to ease himself out of Ray's grasp, only to have his arms tighten around him, stroking gently, a sleepy 'Sssssh, s'okay' falling from half-smiling lips.

"Ray?" he asked quietly.

"Mmm, what Frase?" Ray said, without opening his eyes.

"You're awake?"

"Yeah. You?" Ray asked, eyes still closed, lips still curved in that oddly serene smile.

"I am now."

"Feeling better?"

Ben considered that. Actually, he was. Surprising as that seemed. Perhaps there was something to that school of thought which held that such emotional outpourings were actually healthy. "Yes, I am. Quite a lot better."

"Good. Figured you might be."

"Ray, I think I should move, you must be uncomfortable."

Ray chuckled. "Nah, everything went to sleep awhile back. Doesn't bother me any more."

Fraser stared into Ray's face for a moment trying to decide if he were joking, and decided he wasn't. Instantly he was pushing himself away, scrambling to relieve his lover of his weight, only to be sabotaged by his own clothing and end up sprawled in an undignified heap on the floor. Ray grinned at him, amusement carving deep grooves around his mouth.

"And here I thought I was the klutz. How come there's never a camera around when you need one? Nah, quit trying to get up, you'll never make it like that. Lay back and let me help."

Embarrassed, Ben lay back while Ray moved to kneel beside him, wincing a little as feeling began to return to those parts of him that had gone numb.

"You ought to get zippers put up the backs of these or something," he said as he began unlacing Ben's boots. "They're a pain."

"Actually, Ray, they're quite comfortable," Ben said defensively.

"Not that kinda pain," Ray said, rolling his eyes as he finished with the first boot and tugged and wiggled it until it came free. "There. One down. I'm getting good at this." He unlaced the second boot, worked it off, and tossed it aside over Ben's protest. "You can pick 'em up later. Leaning forward he caught the waistbands of Ben's pants and shorts in both hands, easing them down from where they were wound around his thighs, then hauling them the rest of the way off inside-out and tangled together. "There you go, 'free as nature first made man.'"

Fraser, in the midst of sitting up, suddenly froze in place and stared at Ray in amazement. Ray gazed back, eyebrows lifted.

"What?" he demanded.

"Ray, did you just quote John Dryden?"

A hectic flush painted Ray's golden skin, and his lashes shuttered his eyes. "Uh, yeah. Sorry."

"I had no idea you were familiar with Restoration-era poetry."

"Had to memorize it for a class once," Ray said self-consciously. "Just kinda popped up in my head."

Fraser studied him for a moment, reading his body language. It wasn't all a lie, he probably had memorized it for a class, but there was more to it than that. Something to explore at length some other time, perhaps, when there wasn't a more pressing matter at hand. He stood up and went to the S-through-Z file cabinet, opening the bottom drawer to get out his sweats, bracing himself against the cabinet to pull the pants on.

"Hey!" Ray protested. "Didn't I just get you UN-dressed, Fraser? What gives?"

"I need to go," he said nodding toward the door.

Ray frowned, "Go? Go where?"

"I need to go," he repeated with more emphasis.

There was a brief pause as Ray absorbed that, then he looked enlightened. "Oh! You need to go!"

"Yes, Ray." He pulled the shirt on over his head, tugging it down so that the RCMP logo was straight.

"Can I ask you something, Frase?"

Ben paused, hand on the doorknob. "Of course."

"We're the only people in the entire building, right?"


"So what's to keep you from walking out there in your birthday suit?"

"Decorum, Ray," he said, swinging the door open and stepping out.

Fraser went through the routine actions of relieving himself and washing up on a kind of autopilot, his thoughts occupied with what had happened earlier, with the things Ray had said to him, and the stunningly selfless comfort he had offered. He stood at the sink, dripping, eyes closed, feeling a warmth seep through him that had nothing to do with water temperature, or desire. No one had ever said those things to him before. No one had ever told him it was alright to be less than perfect. No one had ever said they would stay.

While he knew, logically, that it might be an impossible promise to keep, Ray had said it, and more, he had meant it. The man was one of the most emotionally transparent people Fraser had ever known, and when he lied, it was painfully obvious. He really wanted to stay, had every intention of staying. That was the most amazing gift anyone had ever given him. He had no gift but himself to give in return.

Finished, he dried off and opened the door to find Ray standing on the other side of it, defiantly bare. He had to bite the inside of his lip to keep from smiling, not wanting Ray to think he was laughing at him, which, of course, he was, though not in a bad sort of way.

"All yours, Ray. There are towels and washcloths behind the door should you wish to use one."

"Thanks, Frase," he said, deliberately brushing against Ben as he moved into the small room and closed the door.

Fraser allowed himself to smile then, and walked slowly back to his office, where he spent a few moments picking up and folding scattered clothing, then untangling the bedding. He laid the blanket out neatly on the floor and covered it with the sheet, then took a second blanket from the closet with a quick, almost surreptitious grab. His father hadn't shown up all day and he wanted to keep it that way. God only knew how he'd react to finding his son in flagrante delicto with his partner. Even if he had, sort of, given his blessing to it. Knowing exactly what he wanted to do when Ray returned, he moved his cot back against the wall and placed the second blanket so that it padded the hard edge. Then, skinning out of his sweats, he lay back to wait.

* * *

Ray stood outside Fraser's office, deliberately putting off the moment. He knew when he opened the door, he'd find Fraser on the other side, covered neck-to-ankle in his disgustingly pristine RCMP athletic gear. (Didn't he know sweats were supposed to be baggy and stretched-out and holey?) He was sure that Fraser would, with sincere regret, suggest that it was probably time for him to go home, since, after all, it was only a couple of hours until dawn. Not that Ray got up at dawn, but Fraser did, and he wouldn't change that just because he'd been up half the night. Only part of which time had been spent on extracurricular activities.

He really didn't want to open that door. But it was chilly in the hallway, and he was buck naked, mostly to prove a point, which he'd done. So, time to stop putting it off. Go on. Get it over with. Maybe if he played his cards right, he'd at least get a really solid kiss goodnight.

Ray sighed, and pushed open the door. And stopped, staring in stunned disbelief. Fraser. Naked. On the floor. He made a mental note to be sure to buy a lottery ticket sometime today, because clearly, his luck had just taken a serious upswing. He closed the door, and locked it, then turned back to Ben, who was looking at him with the most incredible expression on his face, almost glowing from inside. Okay, buy two lottery tickets.

He went to his knees on the carefully arranged blankets, put his hands on either side of Ben's face, and found his mouth, warm, and open, and God, passionate. His libido kicked back into high gear like he was sixteen again, and he moved to straddle Ben, his lips moving from mouth, to throat, to chest, to nipples, filling his senses with the taste, scent, and texture of his lover's body. Salt, sweat, and silk. He was heading further south when Fraser gently, but firmly, stopped him.

"No, Ray. This time is all for you."

Ray grinned. "Yeah, it sure is," he said, freeing himself from Ben's hands and resuming his explorations. Ben stopped him again.

"No, Ray. I mean it," he insisted earnestly. "I want to do, ah, I mean I . . . I want to give you . . ." Ben trailed off, blushing, biting his lip, eyes imploring Ray to finish the sentence he couldn't seem to.

God, was there ever anyone more adorable than this beautiful, sensual man who couldn't say the words 'blow job' to save his life? Irresistible. Completely irresistible. Fraser could ask him to lie down in traffic and he'd probably do it, if he looked at him out from under his eyelashes like that when he asked. Well, hell, he wasn't going to look his gift horse in the mouth. "Okay, Ben. Where do you want me?"

Fraser brightened, clearly relieved to have been spared the trauma of actually saying what he wanted to do. "There, Ray. Sit there." He nodded toward the cot.

Noticing that the cot had been moved and its hard edge padded with a folded blanket, it was clear to Ray that Fraser had planned this. Knowing exactly what Ben wanted, he saw no reason to play coy, so he sat down with his legs apart and shifted his weight until he was comfortably balanced. Ben cautiously put his hands on Ray's thighs, obviously remembering that he was ticklish there, and moved between his knees, leaning in, lifting his mouth.

Ray leaned down and met him, and they kissed languidly, tongues stroking. He felt Ben's hands slide up to his hips, then move down, and inward, fingers of one hand surrounding his erection, the other hand cupping the soft, sensitive folds beneath, tugging a little, rolling a little. Ray pulled his mouth away just a bit, catching Ben's lower lip in his teeth, nibbling, then moving back in to lick up into that hot, sweet mouth, tasting his taste, feeling the silky slickness of him. He shivered, pushing up into Ben's hand, imagining that luscious heat on his cock.

Of course, Ben couldn't do any of the things that Ray was imagining unless he stopped kissing him, so he reluctantly released Ben's mouth, and leaned back, head and shoulders against the wall, only then realizing why Ben had moved the cot. Where it had been before, there wouldn't have been back support. Fraser thought of everything. Ben's fingers tightened slightly around him, stroking slowly, thumb slipping over the sensitive glans. Ray braced his hands to either side of his thighs, to keep himself from 'helping.' He had to work on that impatience thing.

Ben sat back on his haunches, and Ray admired the way his muscles moved in his thighs, under his skin, sleek, like a seal's. He'd seen a movie once about people who turned into seals, or seals who turned into people or something like that. Sometimes he thought Fraser could probably do that, if he wanted to. Silly thing to think, but he couldn't seem to help thinking silly things about Fraser. Like about how beautiful he was, and how amazing it was that he truly seemed to find Ray's insecure, skinny, goofy-looking self worthwhile.

Ben's expression was serious, he was concentrating hard. Then he leaned down, lips parting. Ray fought to keep his eyes from closing with pleasure as that mouth descended, because the sight of Fraser going down on him was just about the sexiest thing he'd ever seen. Ben stroked his tongue down the underside of Ray's cock, using just the tip, hardening it, exerting a surprising amount of pressure for something as soft as a tongue. Geez, even his damned tongue was strong! He watched Fraser's cheeks hollow as he sucked, the visual as stimulating as the touch. Suck, tongue-flicker, swirl, bite, just hard enough to raise the hair on the back of his neck, then it all started over again, the pattern varying each time. Slow, so slow. Hands stroking him, fondling him in a steady, langorous rhythm.

His own hands lifted from the cot, reaching for Ben's head, reaching to guide him, to urge him to a faster pace, to bring a quicker end to the exquisite torture. But just before he touched the thick, dark silk of Ben's hair he heard his lover draw in a long, deep breath, and then his mouth was sliding down, and down, and . . . oh god, oh god, down further. As stunned pleasure sparked and spun in Ray's dazzled mind, Ben eased back up, and then, oh god, then he did it again. Down so far, impossibly far, yet he could feel it, see it. . . Ben swallowed, and he felt that too, all around him. Oh, god.

Involuntarily Ray shifted his thighs further apart, clenched his hands around the edge of the cot, and somehow managed not to thrust, deliciously terrified that if he did, Fraser would choke on him. Only he never did. He just slid and sucked and licked, and swallowed. Hands stroked, harder, urging him on, and he sensed it coming on like a semi-truck, and it seemed like forever but was probably only seconds before he lost it, totally. An explosive orgasm ripped upward from the deepest part of him, pounding through him with each pulsebeat, so strong and hard that if it hadn't felt so incredibly good, it would have hurt. He heard himself sobbing incoherent nonsense noises of delight, shuddering as he shattered into a million pieces.

When coherent thought returned, he was lying on the floor, wrapped in Fraser's arms, in that 'spoon' position that seemed so natural between couples, no matter their gender. He felt totally drained, as if even moving a pinkie was out of the question. Jesus God, where, and when, had Ben learned to do that? He almost asked, but it was too much effort. Right now, what he really had to do was that quintessentially guy thing. He really had to sleep. Not sleeping simply wasn't an option. Feeling a little stronger, he forced his recalcitrant body to move, and groped until he found one of Ben's hands, and threaded their fingers together, squeezing gently.

"Love you," he whispered sleepily.

"And I you, Ray," came the soft reply a second later, and he felt lips press against the back of his neck. He smiled, and shifted his free arm so it was up under his cheek, and closed his eyes. He had to sleep. Fraser would make sure he woke up before he had to be at work. Sleep.

* * *

"Fraser? Constable Fraser? Are you all right?"

The words were accompanied by a tentative sounding knock, and an excited yip from Diefenbaker. Fraser sat bolt upright, blinking at the bright morning light pouring in through the window. Good God! It was broad daylight! His gaze went to the clock and he was appalled to see it was nearly nine in the morning. Then he looked around and felt sheer panic as his situation dawned on him. The voice and the knock belonged to Inspector Thatcher. He was in his office, lying naked in his bedroll with an equally naked Ray. There were clothes, both his and Ray's, lying on his desk where his paperwork should be, and sadly wilted flowers scattered all over the cot and the floor.

"Fraser?" Thatcher's voice called again. "Constable, are you in there?"

He saw Ray scowl, eyes still closed, saw him open his mouth, and slapped a hand over it, preventing him from telling his superior officer to piss off, or whatever colorful expression he might use to express his displeasure at being woken from a sound sleep. Ray struggled a little against his hand, eyes opening, then he saw Fraser with a finger pressed to his lips to indicate the need for silence. Ben could see the change in his eyes as their dilemma was borne in upon him; and his expression became a strange combination of fear and amusement. Actually, he could appreciate that. It was both terrifying and amusing. At Ray's nod, he lifted his hand from his mouth.

"A moment, Inspector," he called, pitching his voice to carry through the door, which, thank God they had locked. Diefenbaker stood by the door looking at him expectantly, clearly annoyed at this breach of routine. He was used to having had a walk long before this. Fraser was surprised he hadn't woken them up earlier. He mouthed 'Dief, sing!" For once he did as asked, and under cover of the wolf's complicit caroling, he put his lips to Ray's ear.


Ray nodded, and scrambled for the closet. Fraser grabbed him and hauled him back. "Not there!" he hissed. That was all he needed, his father complaining about having a naked Yank in his office. "Under there." He nodded toward the kneehole of his desk.

Ray gave him a look that said he was once more wondering about Fraser's sanity, but managed to fold his lean form into the meager space. Fraser grabbed Ray's clothes and shoved them under the desk with his partner, then quickly pulled on his sweatpants.

"Constable, are you ill?" Thatcher called, sounding worried.

Fraser yanked the sweatshirt over his head and moved to the door. He caught Diefenbaker's gaze and mouthed "Quiet, please," then unlocked the door and swung it open wide. He knew that to try to hide anything by blocking the doorway would only make her suspicious. He would simply have to hope she didn't notice anything amiss.

"No sir, I'm not ill," he confessed, eyes fixed on a point just past her head.

She absorbed that, studied him, her gaze moving from his unshaven face to his hastily-donned athletic wear, to his bare feet, then back up. She frowned. "Are you sure, Constable? You look feverish."

He cleared his throat nervously. "I'm fine, sir."

"You're certain?"

"Yes, sir. I simply . . . overslept." He offered no excuse, only stated fact.

Her expression softened into understanding. "The reception did run rather late last night," she allowed. "And I'm sure you were up even later, cleaning, weren't you?"

He nodded. After all, he had been.

She looked apologetic. "I should have told you to take the morning off. Turnbull could have handled things for a bit, so long as there was nothing out of the routine. . ." her voice trailed off as her gaze went past him, and her gaze narrowed a bit, then shifted slightly upward, and she frowned.

He held his breath, hoping that whatever it was she had noticed, she wouldn't find it odd enough to comment on. After a moment she just shook her head and her gaze returned to his face.

"Well, in any case, just don't let it happen again, Constable."

"No sir, I won't," he agreed fervently. From here on out he would simply have to insist. No sex at the Consulate. No matter how tempting Ray was.

She nodded. "Good. I'll be in my office. I don't have anything on my schedule until nine forty-five."

He understood the implicit permission for him to take that long to appear for work. He wouldn't, of course. But it was good to know she wasn't going to make an issue of his tardiness. "Yes sir, thank you."

She moved off down the hall and Fraser quickly closed and re-locked the door, leaning against it with a sigh of relief. A few seconds later Ray poked his head out from under the desk.

"Safe?" he whispered.

Ben nodded, reaching behind himself to click the lock into place again, just in case. Ray uncoiled himself from his hiding place, rubbing his shoulder with a wince and shooting a glance at the closet.

"What was wrong with the closet, anyhow?" he whispered, shaking out his shirt and pulling it on.

"I, ah, felt it was too metaphorical," he whispered back, wincing at his own choice of excuse. But he could hardly tell Ray the truth.

"Metaphorical?" Ray frowned a moment, then he chuckled. "Oh, I get it. Well, it ain't like we're out, y'know. We're cops, for chrissake."

Fraser shrugged helplessly. "I'm afraid I wasn't thinking clearly."

Ray shook his head, still smiling. "S'okay. Neither was I. Jeez, I nearly bawled her out for waking me up!"

They looked at each other, and their gazes locked, and they both started laughing, but couldn't do it aloud for fear of being overheard, which of course made it even funnier, and harder to stop. Finally Ray managed to wheeze himself out and picked up his shirt-studs from the desk, inserting them through the double-buttonholes in the shirt, after first removing the wilted flowers that had occupied them. Then he was stepping into those black silk boxers, and Fraser couldn't resist a touch, running his hand over Ray's hip, closing his eyes to better enjoy the sensation of silk moving over skin. Ray sucked in a sharp breath, and leaned to kiss him, then pulled back quickly, shaking his head.

"Damn, neither of us got any sense, do we? Ain't this how we got into this fix to begin with?"

Fraser nodded sheepishly. "I'm afraid so."

Ray pulled on his pants, tucked in his shirttails, and then zipped up. "Um, how should I get out of here? Back door?"

Fraser shook his head. "No, Constable Avery is likely there. He likes to work at the kitchen table." He looked at the window, remembering the time Maggie had climbed up there to surreptitiously enter the Consulate. Ray followed his gaze and sighed.

"Oh, hell. Okay, okay, but you owe me."

"Certainly. What stake?"

"Steak?" Ray said, deliberately misinterpreting. "Sounds great. Dinner's on you tonight."

Fraser nodded. It would make a nice change from Chinese, pizza, and those instant noodle things he lived on since he rarely had time to cook. Perhaps he could talk Ray into eating a salad as well. Some vegetables in his diet wouldn't go amiss. Ray pulled his shoes from beneath the cot and tied his shoelaces together, then draped the linked shoes around his neck. His socks went into his pockets, and then he picked up his jacket and handed it to Fraser.

"Hold this, and throw it to me when I'm down. It was too expensive to go climbing in."

Fraser looked at the jacket, then at Ray, and his eyebrows went up. "This is yours?"

Ray scowled. "Yeah it's mine. What'd you think? I'm a rental kinda guy?"

"No, no of course not. I just, well, I suppose I didn't think at all. When I needed a tuxedo for the Scarpa case, you didn't mention it."

Ray's scowl turned to a grin so quickly it was dizzying. "That's 'cause you've got a good two inches and at least thirty pounds on me. Huey's more your size."

"True," he looked at the jacket in his hands, his fingers smoothing over the satiny lining. "You really do look quite . . . spectacular in it."

Ray's face got flushed, and he looked away. "Um, I better go." He turned and opened the window, sitting on the sill, one leg outside, one in.

Fraser joined him at the window, and reached out, touching his fingertips to one flushed cheek. "You are beautiful, Ray."

The blush deepened. "C'mon, Frase, you're the good-looking guy."

Ben sighed, wondering if he would ever manage to convince Ray he was telling the truth. "I'll see you at six, then?" he asked, allowing himself to be diverted.

"Six it is. Don't work too hard."

Fraser frowned. "Why would I not work hard, Ray?"

Ray rolled his eyes and shook his head. "It's just a saying, Frase, like 'don't do anything I wouldn't do,' which," he grinned evilly, ". . .as you know, ain't much. See you."

He studied the route for a moment, then eased his other leg out the window, and slid out, holding the sill and feeling for toeholds. Then he began to move, and mere moments later he was on the ground. Fraser was impressed. Ray was an excellent climber. He stood on the ground below the window and held out his hands. Fraser tossed down the jacket, and Ray shrugged into it and headed off, whistling faintly, still barefoot. Fraser watched him until he was out of sight around the corner, and then quickly turned away. He had to get ready for work, and Diefenbaker still needed a walk. He'd best get a move on.

* * *

Meg Thatcher stood in her office, smiling a little as she recalled the oddly attractive young man who'd seemed quite taken with her last night. Of course, he was far too young for her, and from what she had gleaned from Fraser, was one of those streetwise types she normally detested. However, it had been quite flattering how often he seemed to place himself in her path. Maybe she'd get Fraser to make sure he was able to work the reception for the Cattlemen's Association next week. And maybe without Vecchio around she could manage a covert touch or two. Her face heated as she recalled that moment when the waiter with the tight little butt had turned around and she'd realized to her horror that it was Vecchio. Or whatever his name really was. She should ask Fraser, surely he knew.

Thinking of Fraser made her frown. He had certainly been acting oddly this morning. She'd been stunned to arrive a few minutes before nine and not find him up and working. She couldn't remember a similar occasion. Her concern had been exacerbated by finding his door locked. He never, ever locked his door, as she had learned to her own embarrassment on at least one occasion. And then for him to have overslept? Even more unheard of. Yet, he professed to be fine. Strange.

Then there had been his office, which had been in unusual disarray. His cot had been bare of blankets, those being in a tangled heap on the floor rather than neatly on the cot. There had been what looked like flowers scattered on the floor as well as on the coverless cot, and a handful of small, oddly-shaped metal objects on his desk, including one that was gold and blue. That kept nagging at her. She knew she'd seen them before, knew she ought to know what they were, it was right at the edge of her recollection, but avoiding it handily. Ah well, it would come to her eventually.

With a sigh she went to the window and looked out. It seemed as if it was going to be a beautiful day, sunny and cool. It made her a bit homesick. As she stared out at the day, movement down the street caught her eye and she saw a man walking away from her, toward one of the cars parked about half a block from the consulate, in a spot that was only legal between seven p.m. and seven a.m. He walked with a bit of a saunter that was vaguely familiar to her, so she kept watching as he stopped and leaned over to tug two parking tickets from underneath his windshield wiper. Stuffing them in his pants pocket, he then proceeded to drop his keys on the ground. As he bent to pick them up she realized he was barefoot. Now that was odd.

Finally he turned to unlock the car, and she saw his profile. That wasn't . . . no, it couldn't possibly be him. She watched more closely as the man swung the door open, took what appeared to be a pair of shoes from around his neck and tossed them into the car, then finally turned toward her as he got in. It was. It really was Vecchio. The fake one, not the real one. The one who'd been helping at the reception last night. The one whose butt she'd patted.

What was he doing here? Fraser wasn't off work for hours yet, so he couldn't be here to pick him up. No, wait. He'd gotten not just one, but two parking tickets, which meant he had to have been here awhile. The meter maid always came down the street at about ten after seven to ticket all the people parked illegally from the previous night, and returned about an hour later to do it again. In addition, Vecchio was wearing the same thing he'd been wearing last night, though of course, he'd had shoes on last night. She was a trained observer, and remembered his outfit clearly, black tux, white shirt with studs rather than buttons, no tie. Shirt studs . . . the collar stud had been gold with a blue stone. Fraser's desk.

Fraser oversleeping. Shirt studs on the desk. Gold and blue. Fraser unshaven and disheveled, lips even pinker than usual, with that slightly swollen look that sometimes resulted from a lot of kissing. Had he been anyone else, she'd have said he looked like he'd spent the night making love but since it was Fraser it hadn't even occurred to her. Until now. Flowers on the floor, on the cot. Blankets on the floor. Vecchio and his parking tickets, still in formal wear from last night. Good God! Her jaw dropped as all the pieces slotted neatly into a place that left her feeling completely and utterly dumbfounded.

Fraser? Benton Fraser, a man she herself had personally kissed, once (oh, all right, twice) in a fit of madness, and . . . Ray Whateverhisnamewas? Fraser, and a man? She sat down abruptly on the chair near the window. It was very nearly inconceivable to even think of Fraser having sex at all, let alone with another man. But the conclusion did appear to fit the evidence. Fraser and his partner were apparently partners in more ways than one. She remembered Vecchio saying 'I'm full of surprises,' and shook her head. Yes, he very definitely was.

Good heavens! What were they thinking? If it got out, it could ruin Fraser's career, which was none too secure in the first place. For that matter, she suspected it wouldn't do either Vecchio, the real one or the pretend one, any good. She shook her head in disbelief. They had to be out of their minds to do something like this, to risk everything for . . . what? What did they have?

For that matter, what did the abrasive, wild-haired Chicago detective have that she didn't? Why would Fraser have turned to him, when he could have had . . . no. Meg sighed as reality set in. He couldn't have had her. Oh, she'd known he was attracted to her, had even reciprocted to a degree, but she was his superior officer, and that alone was enough to preclude any further intimacy between them. And she knew, deep inside, why he might have turned to his partner.

He was lonely. She knew that, could even bring herself to speak of it on occasion, usually when she'd had a drink too many. Though nearly everyone seemed to like him, he tended not to let people close, being a man with many friendly acquaintances but few close friends and no family, save his recently discovered half-sister. He lived like a monk in an office that was more of a storage closet than a room. He was almost pathologically bashful around women, so he didn't date. He could be maddeningly obtuse and aggravatingly ethical. And he was desperately needy.

Admittedly, that, as much as the chain of command issues, had made her shy away from him. She sensed in him a depth of deprivation that she couldn't come close to filling, and frankly didn't even want to try and fill. It would demand too much of her. Perhaps that was shallow on her part, but at least she was honest about it. Apparently, though, that need didn't frighten his partner. In fact, as she thought back to the expression she had seen a couple of times in Ray's eyes, perhaps he contained an equally deep and complementary need.

She had noticed that Fraser had seemed happier in the past week or so. He seemed to be getting out more, spending a lot of time, not just work time, with Ray. Was this that recent then? They'd always spent a great deal of their time together, but lately they'd almost been inseparable. She'd heard it said that in many ways, a law-enforcement partnership was like a marriage. You had to depend on your partner for so much that a deep level of trust evolved between you, as well as a certain degree of intimacy. And for two needy people, that might develop into physical as well as emotional intimacy.

Still, this was Benton Fraser she was thinking about. While the cop clearly was the type who'd try just about anything, Fraser was so earnestly innocent that she had trouble with the whole concept of his having any sort of sexuality at all, let alone bisexuality. And since she knew he'd responded when he kissed her, and she knew he'd had some sort of relationship with that Metcalf person, he clearly wasn't averse to women. She sighed, feeling a twinge of regret at the lost opportunity. He was an extraordinarily handsome man, and she had a feeling he would be just as efficient in bed as he was out of it. But it was probably best to have let that sleeping wolf lie.

A tap at her door brought her out of her reverie and she glanced at her watch. Nine-thirty. That meant it was probably Fraser. She wondered how she was going to be able to look at him, or at Vecchio for that matter, without giving away her newfound knowledge. It was going to be difficult. But then, she hadn't gotten to be an Inspector in the RCMP by shirking difficult duties. She could do it.

And she could keep their secret. No one was going to find out about this from her, she had no intention of letting loose lips sink Constable Fraser, to use a hopelessly mixed metaphor. He was a good officer, if a frequently irritating one, and whom he slept with, or did not sleep with, had nothing to do with his efficacy or professionalism. Besides, the evidence, however compelling, was purely circumstantial. She went to her desk, sat down, and composed herself.

"Come in."

The door opened and Fraser stood on the threshold, a little hesitantly. He was fully uniformed and impeccably groomed, making her doubt that she'd seen him less than half an hour earlier, sweat-suited, rumpled, and unshaven. Only the slight reddening and fullness of his lips betrayed anything, and that only because she was looking for it.


"Yes, Fraser, come in."

"I'd like to apologize again, sir, for . . ."

She held up her hand to stop him. "Think nothing of it, Fraser. You got us out of quite a bind last night, and I don't begrudge you a few extra moments of sleep. I was just concerned that you might be ill. I'm pleased to know you are not. Now, my nine-forty-five appointment should be here shortly, and I'll need you to take dictation during the meeting."

He nodded. "Of course, sir."

"Have you eaten, Fraser?"

He blinked, puzzled. "No, sir. Why?"

"I thought you might not have taken time. Go get yourself something,." He looked at her oddly, and she realized her suggestion that he eat something was out of the ordinary. Hastily she covered herself. "After all, I can't have you passing out from hunger while you're taking dictation, now can I?"

Apparently that was more normal, because he relaxed and shook his head. "No, sir."

He turned to go, and she called after him. "Oh, and Fraser, bring me a cup of coffee when you come back," she added in a master-stroke of normalcy.

"Yes sir," he returned, closing her door.

She sighed and leaned back in her chair. Fraser, and Ray -- Whateverhisnamewas. The world was sometimes a very strange place. Remembering those flowers scattered around Fraser's room, she smiled a little, shaking her head. She would never look at either of them quite the same way again. Or, floral garnishes for that matter. Flowers, and those two? Full of surprises, both of them, apparently. Straightening, she picked up the itinerary for the meeting and began to read it. Time to get to work.

* * * Finis * * *

PS. The practice of unsafe sex in this and other stories is due to the fact that it's FICTION. In real life, folks, USE IT OR LOSE IT! Okay? Let's be safe out there. :-)

Email me: kellie at