This is what happens when I'm home sick for 3 days, living on Ny-Quil, watching "Eclipse" over and over so I can write a review. Thanks to AuKestrel for a rapid and insightful beta. She really deserves co-author credit on this, as much as she tightened up all the sucky spots. --Kellie

Disclaimers: Benton Fraser & Ray Kowalski belong to Alliance, goldarnit, no matter how much I wish otherwise.
Rated R for naughty thoughts of boys with boys and boys with toys.

c. 2000
Kellie Matthews

        Benton Fraser feels relieved when Ray's landlady finally leaves him alone in the apartment. Well, alone save for Diefenbaker, who is just as curious as he is. It's only been a short time but he feels an odd sense of frustration, an inability to get a handle on Ray. He feels he ought to know more, understand more, and he doesn't, although they work extremely well together. One thing he has noticed, because wolves, even half-wolves, are not known for their subtlety, is that Dief seems to be very fond of his new partner. He's exhibited what is really a startling degree of affection, far more than he ever exhibited with Ray Vecchio. And despite a rocky start, Ray . . . this new Ray . . . seems to like Diefenbaker as well, also unlike Ray Vecchio, who at best tolerated his companion. Fraser finds the difference to be surprisingly . . . pleasurable.
        He stands for a moment in the middle of the living room, not certain what to do next. He knows he should leave: time is of the essence and he's discovered the information he came for. But . . . his eyes are drawn again to the photograph on the roll-top desk. The one of Ray and an attractive blonde woman. He frowns, wondering who she is, feeling an odd twinge of dislike for this woman he's never met, who has never done anything to earn his disfavor. Yet there it is. Undeniable. Sister? No, there's an intimacy to the pose that seems to preclude that, and apart from a similarity in coloring she and Ray look nothing alike.
        That narrows the possibilities to girlfriend... or wife. He doesn't think it's the latter, though. He's overheard Ray asking some of the women at the 27th if they would like to go out, and he knows with an inner unshakeable conviction that Ray is not the type to cheat. He's not sure how he knows that, or why, when admittedly he knows very little about this man but there's no dislodging that certainty and he's not inclined to try. Of course, Ray's dating game could simply be part of his cover. Ray Vecchio had certainly considered himself a ladies man. What he doesn't understand is why Ray isn't more successful in his attempts. If he were a woman . . . but he isn't.
        His frown deepens, and he finds himself in the bedroom, at the closet, which is open, relieving him of the necessity of having to open it himself. He catalogues the contents quickly, mostly jeans, khakis, twills, a few sweaters, one good suit in an unusual olive shade, a gray linen blazer, a charcoal blazer, shirts of various types, bowling, polo, even a few dress shirts, one in a rich teal that he suspects would bring out the golden flecks in Ray's blue eyes. This Ray's wardrobe is not extensive, also unlike Ray Vecchio's. He moves to the bureau, its top scratched and scarred from a thousand nights of having a police officer's accoutrements tossed casually down on its surface as Ray undresses after work. Undresses.
        He swallows, once more disconcerted by his reaction to this man. He's been drawn to men before, been aware of this facet of his personality, both as a youth on the brink of manhood, and later, as a man. Mark, Eric, he had felt a version of this with both of them. But not like this, never before so strong, so . . . demanding. His gaze flickers toward the bed, and he drags it back. There's nothing there that will assist him in his quest. He avoids looking at himself in the mirror over the dresser, not really wanting to see himself here, see the expression he suspects his face holds.
        He quietly opens a drawer, discovers it full of t-shirts, multi-hued, haphazardly pushed in with little care, some folded, some. . . wadded. Another drawer reveals sweatshirts, sweatpants. A third holds socks-- unpaired and random. A fourth reveals a jumble of underwear, a startling variety, everything from boxers to boxer-briefs to briefs to bikinis, in all manner of colors, and fabrics as well. He wonders briefly what that might mean about Ray, psychologically speaking. He thinks of his own wardrobe, everything neatly sorted and folded, his own underclothes, t-shirts, tanks, boxers, nearly all of it white cotton, the occasional gray, or blue. Dull. Clearly, Ray is not dull. He could not, Fraser suspects, be dull if he tried.
        He sighs and pushes the drawer closed, turns, only to have the bed catch his eye again. Rumpled, unmade, he imagines Ray there, tangled in the patterned sheets, pale skin lightly flushed. . . no. Resolutely he moves to the bathroom, finds a prescription for sedatives in the medicine chest, an old one, only two pills used. It's out of date, Ray should throw it away. He wonders if it was kept deliberately, or just forgotten. Aspirin and ibuprofen. A neatly rolled Ace bandage with a safety-pin instead of a clip. Band-aids. Antibiotic ointment. Rubbing alcohol and witch hazel. Deodorant. A full bottle of after-shave, its top and shoulders dusty. Razor. Shaving cream. A tube of hair-gel. The usual sort of things one expects to find in a medicine cabinet. Nothing tremendously revealing.
        Moving on to the kitchen, Fraser finds himself bemused by the pattern of Ray's china, which is clearly intended to look like the hide of a Holstein cow. Rather peculiar. Oddly, the kitchen is meticulously organized, while very little else in the house is. Ray has a good assortment of cookware, of spices, even of cookbooks. Yet a glance into the refrigerator reveals mostly take-out food containers. He wonders why, when it's clear that Ray knows how to cook, he obviously rarely does. All in all, the apartment doesn't reveal much, other than that Ray is not a particularly good housekeeper, which fact does not surprise him in the least, considering the usual state of Ray's desk.
        One thing is clear, whomever the woman in the photograph is, she doesn't live here with him, nor does she visit frequently enough to have left spoor. There is no sign of a woman's touch here, nothing in the closet, in the drawers, in the bathroom, all places where he would have expected to find traces, were there any to find. But that does not rule out less frequent . . . visits. He frowns, takes a step toward the bedroom. Stops.
        He shouldn't do this. It's bad enough that he's invaded Ray's privacy to this extent. What he's considering is completely unethical. All the rest of his investigations he can excuse, however distantly, under a genuine need to know. This he can't. But this need is stronger than the other. Deeper. Personal. He moves slowly toward the bedroom again, glancing around as if to be sure he's not observed. Dief watches him, neutral, neither encouraging nor discouraging. He has to make this decision on his own.
        He stands beside the bed, looking at the nightstand. A single drawer, uninvestigated. He sits, on the edge of the bed, telling himself not to. He knows better. He should not. Unconscionable, unforgivable . . . irresistible. His baser nature prevails. He has to. His fingers seem to tingle as he eases the drawer open, just enough to see what he half expected to see.
        He reaches in, removes the open box. Crown. 12, natural latex rubber . . . he slides his fingers into the box, pulls out the contents, counts. His eyebrows lift, and something eases inside his chest, though he realizes it's silly to try to make anything out of the fact that so few have been used. The box could have been purchased as recently as the previous day. He reaches to put it back, and his fingers encounter something that feels startlingly like flesh. He tugs open the drawer further, and his jaw drops. Now this is . . . revealing. Extremely so.
        He picks it up. It's translucent, the color is slightly disconcerting-- a rather lurid shade of magenta. But its weight, and the naturalness of its size, and contours and . . . feel surprises him. It yields slightly to the pressure of his fingers, much like his own sudden erection might, were he to touch it now. A little shiver goes through him as he imagines just what Ray might do with this, and he has to shift to accommodate the now-uncomfortable weight between his thighs. The picture is far too vivid. . . naked, straining, sweating, and so beautiful, so . . . vibrant. He has to shake his head to rid himself of the vision.
        He tells himself again that it's useless to extrapolate. There are many reasons why a man might keep such an object in a drawer next to his bed, most if not all of which could involve the woman in the photograph. But he has. . . a hunch. His lips are dry, and he moistens them, and is suddenly tempted to taste. Closing his eyes, he lets his tongue slide up the underside, much as he would like to do to . . . or for . . . or with. . . the object's owner. Disappointingly he tastes nothing but latex and a hint of detergent. He sighs, and opens the drawer wider so he can carefully return both his finds to their original places, and when he does, he notes that there is also a bottle of lubricant, and smiles. His hunch is suddenly much stronger.
        He is, by nature, patient. He's good at waiting. With just a trace of hope, he can wait for a very long time. Perhaps someday he'll discover if he is as good at imagining as he is at waiting.

*** finis ***

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