Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Don't make money off 'em. Rated NC-17 for man-on-man hotness.

Soundtrack: Dan Fogelberg: Make Love Stay, Believe in Me, Only the Heart May Know, Dar Williams: The One Who Knows Newcomers Home: After I Broke. Bruce Cockburn: Don't Forget About Delight, Open. James Keelaghan, I Would I Were.

Thanks to my betae, Ardent, AuKestrel, Bluster, Justacat & Kalena. You guys rock! --Kellie


© 2003 Kellie Matthews

If he stayed utterly still, his own body heat filled the little hollow he made in the bedding and he felt mostly warm. Well, except for his feet, which stubbornly refused to acknowledge that he was no longer trudging through snowdrifts. The problem was, Ray was not by nature a staying-still kind of guy. And every time he moved, some bare part of his body came into contact with sheets only marginally less icy than the snow howling outside the window. Snookered by the first real bed he'd seen in weeks, Ray had taken off everything but his boxers before climbing in.

Ten minutes later Fraser had come back from the communal bathroom (Hot showers! Hallelujah!) in a clean pair of thermals and slipped into his own bed on the other side of the room. Smart man. Ray guessed he could get up and put on some clothes, but damn it, they were indoors, and in real beds, and he was supposed to be able to sleep in his boxers with impunity, so he'd be damned if he would. He'd just grit his teeth and go to sleep.

The lights were off and there was no moon or stars to reflect off the snow and light the night, no rippling bands of green, blue, and scarlet to give everything an eerie glow, and no stove to make the tent a brilliant dome, so he couldn't even see Fraser being warm. Somehow that had always helped when he was cold. Looking at Fraser, seeing him lying there, all comfortable, like it was a balmy summer night. Sometimes he'd imagine that it was actually warm. Or at least not cold, and that they were lying on top of the bags, not in them, and that the northern lights lit iridescent highlights off Fraser's fair skin and made mysterious shadows in his hair, and . . . Christ. He should never have read that book of Frannie's.

Irritably, he turned over, tugging the sheets higher, and hissed in shocked surprise as the frigid sheets settled over him, making his nipples pinch painfully tight, and sending a shiver racing through him. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. In more ways than one. He scrubbed a hand over his face, hearing the scritching sound his beard made against his palms, punched the flat, lumpy pillow up a little, and sighed.

"Ray?" Fraser's voice came from the darkness behind him.

Oh great. You woke him up. "Yeah?"

"Is. . . everything all right?" Fraser sounded concerned.

Well duh. Of course he is. You woke him up because you can't handle being a little chilly. Be a man. There's no way it's even half as bad in here as it would be outside. Stop being such a freakin' pansy. "Yeah, Fraser. Everything's fine."


Ray thought that was the disbelieving 'ah,' not the accepting 'ah,' but he didn't say anything, and Fraser didn't speak again, so he figured he'd gone back to sleep. He let out the breath he'd been holding and flopped onto his back, forgetting again.

Jesus. Was there an air conditioner in his bed? He shuddered, and tucked his hands into his armpits, trying to warm them up, but all he succeeded in doing was making his pits cold. He sighed, feeling sorry for himself. He was shivering now, a little tremor that wouldn't stop.

Fraser's bed squeaked, and then he heard the soft whuffing sound of covers being tossed back. A floorboard creaked, and a moment later the bed gave next to Ray as Fraser sat down on its edge. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Ray said, hoping he didn’t sound as surly as he felt.

Fraser sighed. "Ray." He leaned down, and his hand touched the sheets next to Ray's shoulder. "Christ that's cold!"

Ray looked up at him, wishing he could see him in the dark. Fraser's hand slid down lower, feeling the bed.

"This bedding's damp. It must not have been completely dry when they made the bed. Why didn't you say something?"

Ray sat up, feeling a little sheepish as Fraser clicked on the lamp that was nailed to the wall between the beds. "I thought it was just that after six weeks in the great outdoors my internal thermostat was stuck on 'frozen wasteland' or something."

A corner of Fraser's mouth quirked upward, barely noticeable beneath his moustache. Fraser's efforts at acquiring a natural face-warmer had been noticeably slower and less successful than Ray's, but eventually he'd managed something that didn't make him look as if he'd picked up a case of mange. "I don't actually think that's possible," he said finally, amusement leaking into his voice.

Ray nodded vehemently. "Good, 'cause I've never been all that fond of hot weather, and the idea of having to move to Florida doesn't exactly float my boat."

Fraser's gaze shadowed instantly. "No, I'm sure it doesn't," he said softly, placing his hand on Ray's shoulder and squeezing it gently. His hand was warm, and Ray leaned into it instinctively. Fraser moved back immediately. "Why don't you take my bed and warm up while I see what I can do about this bedding?" he asked.

Ray had a sudden flashback to his childhood, his mother sitting on his bed reading 'Little Red Riding Hood' to him. Fraser's words reminded him of the part where the Wolf was in Granny's bed. Except that would make him Little Red. . . so nuh-uh, no way. And Fraser wasn't a wolf. He was more like the anti-wolf. In any case, there was no call for Fraser to be doing this for him. "I can make a bed, Fraser," Ray said.

"I realize that, Ray," Fraser said. "But you're cold, and I'm not, so it makes sense for you to get warm now and let me deal with the bedding. Especially as," Fraser's gazed ranged down him, then back up, "you're not exactly dressed for the weather."

"Yeah, well, I kind of figured I didn't need the survival gear, what with the central heating and all," Ray said sarcastically, crossing his arms over his bare chest, weirdly self-conscious all of the sudden after weeks of wearing at least three layers of clothing every moment.

"Ah," Fraser said. He looked as if he was debating whether or not to say something else.

"What?" Ray prodded. "You know you won't be happy until you say it."

"I was just going to say that central heating isn't very effective if there's insufficient insulation and poor seals on the windows," Fraser said. "I had noticed that while the dining room and lounge were quite warm, the outlying rooms are noticeably less so, in large part due to inferior construction."

"Hence the Doctor Dentons," Ray said, waving a hand at Fraser's red union suit.

"I should have mentioned it, I'm sorry," Fraser said.

Ray waved off the apology. "It's not your job to babysit me, Fraser. I noticed it was chilly in here before I got in bed. I was just being stubborn. I'm indoors. I wanted to pretend it was a normal kind of indoors." Even as he spoke, the wind picked up outside, hitting the side of the building with a thump that sounded more like Creatures from the Id than weather, and tendrils of cool air snaked through the rattling window. Ray shivered.

"Ray," Fraser said, frowning.

"Yeah, okay. Have at it." He heaved himself out of his own bed and dove beneath the covers of Fraser's. The warm hollow under them seemed made to hold him, and he sighed. "Oh yeah."

Fraser flashed him a smile, with teeth and everything, and then turned back to strip the covers off of Ray's bed. If you didn't count the facial hair, there was something kind of sweetly boyish about Fraser, barefoot and in thermals with his hair all messed up. When Fraser bent to tug the fitted sheet and the mattress pad off the mattress, Ray noticed that the back flap of his thermals gapped a little on one side, exposing a narrow triangle of pale skin. The triangle widened when Fraser leaned to place a hand flat in the center of Ray's bed, feeling around.

"Oh dear."

"Oh dear what?" Ray asked, pretending he hadn't just been ogling Fraser's ass. Sort of.

"I'm afraid it's not just the bedding." Fraser said. "The mattress itself appears to be damp."

"Don't look at me," Ray said, grinning – the warmth was starting to make an impression even on his stubborn feet, and he felt a little goofy. "Been potty trained since I was three."

Fraser shot him an amused glance over his shoulder, then leaned down some more and. . . sniffed. Ray was preparing to voice his disgust when Fraser straightened up again. "Fortunately it doesn't appear to be any sort of bodily fluid."

"Imagine my relief," Ray said, not joking.

"And mine, as Diefenbaker isn't here to blame."

Ray laughed. "Dief would be offended that you'd dare suspect him."

"Yes, he probably would, though it wouldn't be the first time he'd expressed his displeasure in such a fashion. However, in this case I expect that someone set a piece of ice-encrusted luggage on the bed, and as the ice thawed, the moisture leached into the mattress."

Ray shot a look at his pack where it leaned against the wall. He clearly remembered dumping it carelessly on the bed before they'd headed for the dining room and their first non-dehydrated meal in weeks. "Guess I should've checked for that."

"Hmm?" Fraser turned to look at him. "Oh. No, I'm sure it wasn't your doing. It would have been much more noticeable had it occurred today. This quite likely occurred yesterday. Since it was a single occupant who only used one bed, housekeeping didn't re-make this one and so didn't discover the problem before we rented the room."

"Oh, okay." At least he didn't have to feel like an idiot greenhorn yet again. He watched Fraser fold the sheets and covers and stack them in the corner, and then go to his own pack where it sat at the foot of the bed. Ray frowned as Fraser begin to untie his sleeping bag and pad. "What are you doing?"

"Setting up a bedroll for the night."

Ray sat up. "Oh no you don't. If anyone is going to sleep in the floor it should be me, since it's my bed that's soggy."

"Of the two of us, I'm far more accustomed to. . ." Fraser began.

"Which is why you should be the one who gets the bed," Ray interrupted. They'd had this argument before. He got up and went over to his pack to get his own gear.

"That makes no sense," Fraser said, laying out his pad and bag in the space between the beds.

Ray flattened his pad out next to Fraser's, snapped his bag open, and then grabbed the pillow off his bed. "Yes it does. For me a bed is normal, for you, it's a treat. Staying indoors was supposed to be a treat, therefore you should get the bed."

Fraser stared at him, and then shook his head. "You have the strangest way of looking at things."

"I think that's one of those 'eye of the beholder' kind of things," Ray said dryly as he unzipped his bag and crawled in. When he went to zip it back up, the zipper got stuck in a fold of fabric. Irritated, Ray started yanking on the zipper impatiently.

After watching him for a moment, Fraser sighed and crawled over. "Let me do that. You'll rip it." He took the fabric and patiently worked the zipper free, then pulled it up. "There."


"Any time." Fraser slid into his own bag and pulled up the zipper with no problem at all.

They lay there on the floor about three inches apart, the light still on, and stared at each other. After a few moments, Ray saw Fraser's lip twitch a little. He lifted his eyebrows. Fraser bit his lip, trying hard not to smile.

"This is stupid," Ray announced.

Fraser snickered, and quickly controlled it. "Indeed."

"So get in bed."

"You get in bed."

Ray clenched his fingers in his too-long hair and pulled on it. "Fraser, you are making me crazy."

"More so than usual?" Fraser asked politely.

"No, about the same."

"Ah." Fraser closed his eyes, and settled back, fingers laced across his chest.

Ray closed his eyes. If Fraser was going to pretend to sleep, he would too. After a few minutes of listening to Fraser breathe, he realized he had a new problem. He was getting a little too warm now, which wasn't any more comfortable than too cold. Sweating in a sleeping bag was not good. A few more minutes passed, and he eased down the zipper, one tooth at a time, until he could flip back the upper half of the bag and get some air on his skin.

Cold air.

Damp skin.

Shit. Right back where he'd started. He opened his eyes and looked at Fraser, whose eyes were determinedly shut, whose mouth was set in a stubborn line, and whose skin was starting to gleam with sweat, the dark hair across his forehead curling damply.

"Too hot, huh?" Ray asked.

Fraser opened his eyes and looked over at him. "It's fair to say that sleeping bags rated for a hundred degrees below zero are overkill for this situation."

"Yeah. So what do we do now?"


"I suppose we could. . ." Fraser began, only to stop abruptly. "No, never mind."

"We could what?" Ray asked, ignoring him.

"I said never mind," Fraser snapped, closing his eyes again.

"Fine," Ray snapped back. Then he lay there, his top half too cold and his bottom half too hot, wondering what had crawled up Fraser' ass and . . . . oh. Ooooh. He started to smile. "You know," he remarked to the ceiling, "we could share the bed if somebody in this room didn't think his partner was a pervert." Of course, that was putting aside the fact that he was beginning to suspect he was a pervert, but hey, he could keep his hands to himself.

Fraser sat up, staring at him, aghast. "Ray! I don't!"

"Then what's the problem? It's not like we haven't been sleeping almost that close for the last six weeks anyway. It's not like we're not sleeping that close now. What's the difference between close and uncomfortable and close and comfortable?"

Fraser opened his mouth. Closed it. "I, ah, you have a point."

"Of course I do." Ray shed the sleeping bag like a snake skin and stood up, pillow in one hand, the other held out to Fraser. "So come on."

Fraser hesitated for a moment, and Ray wiggled his fingers. Finally Fraser unzipped his bag and reached up to take Ray's hand. A moment later they stood side by side staring down at the narrow single bed.

"What side do you sleep on?" Ray asked.

"Left," Fraser said.

"Great. I'm a right." Ray sat down on his side of the bed and stretched out on his side, pillow bunched under his head. After a second or two he felt the mattress dip as Fraser joined him. Ray pulled up the blankets and waited as Fraser arranged them to his liking. Fraser was an arms-outside-the-covers kind of guy, while Ray was an everything-underneath kind of guy, so it took a minute or two before everything was settled. But finally they stopped moving and lay there together, stretched out back-to-back on their sides.

"All right?" Fraser asked.

"Perfect." Ray said.

Fraser turned out the light.

"Good night, John-boy," Ray said.

"Good night, Mary Ellen," Fraser responded, as he had for the last few weeks, since Ray had explained the phrase to him.

"How come I always have to be the chick?" Ray said, amused and sleepy.

"Just lucky, I guess."

Ray yawned, finally comfortable, and already fading. "Yeah. 'Night."

"Sleep well," Fraser said softly.

* * *

Going to bed with Fraser was one thing, but waking up with him was an entirely different proposition, Ray discovered. He'd woken up slowly, from a sensual sort of dream about someone rubbing him all over, to find that it wasn't entirely a dream. Fraser was wrapped around him like a blanket, one leg between his, an arm possessively across his belly, one hand splayed across his chest, the other holding onto his thigh up by his hip, thumb resting in the crease of his groin. The weird thing was how normal it seemed to wake up that way.

If anyone had told him a year ago that he would be sharing a bed with a very handsy Fraser and kind of enjoying it, he'd probably have laughed himself sick, but here he was, not even freaked out by it. In fact, it was kind of nice. Oddly right. Comfortable. Even kind of . . . Okay, no. Do not go there. It was definitely looking like he was a pervert after all. Figuring Fraser would be embarrassed half to death to wake up clutching him like a big rag doll, and needing to use the can anyway, Ray managed to ease himself out of Fraser's clutches without waking him. He dug a pair of sweats out of his pack and pulled them on, grabbed the bag with his toothbrush and stuff, then headed down the hall to the bathroom.

When he got back, the bed looked like no one had ever slept in it, and Fraser was up, dressed, and staring out the window. Ray went over and looked out too. The window was frosted over, nothing to see but white. Except. . . the frost was moving. Ray blinked, squinted, and realized it wasn't frost. It was snow, blowing hard. Sideways.

"Thought you said they didn't really get much snow up here," Ray said after a minute.

"Well, I suppose that's relative, but it's not actually snowing. It's a ground blizzard-- high winds stirring up snow already in place. According to the front desk, the high winds are supposed to continue through Wednesday. I'm afraid we're not going to be able to get out to the park or go across to the bird sanctuary on Bylot Island until after they die down. It's not really safe to go wandering around in unfamiliar territory in unstable conditions."

Ray stared at him. "Say that again?"

Fraser looked puzzled. "It's not really . . . ."

Ray waved him off. "Nah, never mind. It was just the novel experience of hearing you say something wasn't safe."

Fraser snorted at him. "Very funny, Ray. In any case, I'll need to call Tuk and ask Marlon if he can continue to mind Dief and the sled dogs, as it looks as if we'll have a longer stay here than planned, if that's all right with you."

"Hot showers and real food for a few more days? There's a hardship."

Fraser chuckled. "I thought you might not be too unhappy with that turn of events."

"Always knew you were a bright boy. Come on, let's go get breakfast."

* * *

Slinging his pack into a corner, Ray eyed their new room. If he was generous, it was slightly bigger than a closet, but the solitary bed took up most of what room there was. "Kind of small for a queen."

"That's because it's a double. The room was intended for a single occupant."

"That would explain it. So tell me again why we had to move even though we were here first?"

"So that Mr. Sullivan's contract with the oil company would not be jeopardized. Since this facility was built to house oil company employees in transit, they have prior claim to the rooms. After all, we're only here on suffrage and had originally planned to be gone by now. We were lucky to get this, as it was originally the caretaker's room and not usually rented to customers. Fortunately Mr. Sullivan has his own home now."

"Right. Okay." Ray reached over and yanked down the covers, and put both hands on the bed, feeling around ostentatiously. "At least it's dry."

"Silver linings."

"Always look on the bright side, huh? I'm going to go take a hot shower. Just because I can." Not to mention that after spending the day cooped up in the lounge watching videos of action movies that all seemed to involve explosions on oil rigs– which he found a little creepy considering most of the audience were oil-patch workers-- he was feeling a little antsy. He'd gotten used to being outside more, to doing more. Sitting around was. . . boring. And it led to thinking. Thinking about stuff he probably shouldn't be thinking about. So he really needed a few minutes by himself.

Fraser nodded, opening up his pack to dig inside. "Enjoy."

"Believe me, I will. Hot showers are right up there next to sex on my top ten list." Oops. Probably not wise to be mentioning those two things in the same sentence right now.

Fraser stopped digging for a moment, then he started again. "They are quite . . . agreeable."

Ray snorted. "Agreeable. Yeah. Hey, you want anything from the bathroom as long as I'm going?" he asked, just for grins.

Fraser looked up, clearly amused. "Your freshly bathed self will be quite enough."

"You got it," Ray said, heading out.

The roughnecks had already been and gone-- the big locker-room style showers were deserted, but humid, and there were puddles everywhere. He'd stripped off and gotten under the spray, reveling in the feel of hot water on skin, when Fraser's words came back to him and finally really sank in. His freshly bathed self? What the. . . ? He opened his eyes, got water in them, then shut them again. Nah. He was sure Fraser hadn't meant that. He wasn't quite sure what he had meant, but it was pretty unlikely that he'd meant that. So Ray was back to being a pervert again for thinking of it. Or at least it had been too long since he'd had any privacy to take care of certain things.

Speaking of which. . . he glanced around, realized that no one could see him from the door even if someone did come in. Plus the door hinges squeaked like a sumbitch, which meant he'd have enough warning to turn on the cold water just in case. He slid a hand down his wet chest, rubbing it over his nipples for a minute before moving it lower, cupping his cock. Oh yeah. That was it. That was good.

Usually he'd take his time, make it last a while, but there was no knowing how long he had before someone came in, so he couldn't indulge. The white wall tiles distracted him, so he closed his eyes. The darkness was familiar; he could have been in his own shower. He braced his feet wider apart, tightened his grip, and started to stroke, but . . . nothing happened. He tried one of his old favorite fantasies. . . the one with the two Russian supermodels-- and still nothing happened. A little desperately he resorted to an even older favorite, one he always felt a little guilty about since the divorce, but . . . nada.

Great. Okay. Maybe the new one, then? The one he'd been having for a while now, about some chick with creamy skin, short, dark hair, and surprisingly strong hands. That got a little twitch, but not much more than that. He sighed. That had happened more often than he wanted to think about lately. Though this time he could put it down to being paranoid about someone coming in. He knew it was perfectly normal, everyone did it, and he wasn't a prude, but some things just weren't meant to be shared. Especially not with some roughneck on his way to, or worse, from, a drilling platform.

He quickly finished showering and then dried off. After pulling on clean boxers, a henley, and his sweatpants, he headed back to their room. He let himself in and was about to say something to Fraser when he realized that even though the light was on, Fraser was sound asleep, sprawled on the bed, taking up more than his half. Ray felt a grin stretch his chapped lips. Frannie would never believe this. No one back in Chicago would. They wouldn't recognize this mop-haired, scruffy-bearded man in boxers and a wife-beater as their starched and buttoned Fraser. This Fraser was his and his alone.

Of course, that thought was followed instantly by the recognition that it was a lie. Fraser was no more his than Diefenbaker was Fraser's. Sure, he might choose to hang out with you for a while and scam donuts and hamburgers, but at heart he was a wild thing and belonged to no one but himself. Ray wasn't stupid. He knew this trip was just a way of postponing the inevitable. The sense of loss he felt at that admission look his breath away, as strong and sharp as the way he'd felt when Stella left him. He looked at Fraser again, wishing he had some way to capture this moment in his memory so he could take it out and look at it later and it would be as fresh as it was now, but experience had taught him that memories faded with astonishing speed. Now when he wanted to remember the early days with Stel, he had to get out his old. . .



He'd taken a zillion pictures so far. Pictures of dogs. Sleds. Deer. Caribou. Moose. Foxes. Mountains. Trees. Snow. Ice. But not Fraser. Boy was he dumb. He knelt beside his pack, sorting through layers of clothes to find his camera. Pulling it out, he turned it on, only to find it was out of film. He vaguely remembered having shot the last frame on the roll out the window of the Twin Otter in which they'd flown to Mittimatalik as they got low enough to make out the town. He dug out a fresh roll, rewound the film, popped the back of the camera open, and tucked the old roll in a fold of his sweats as he slipped in the new roll. When he stood up, the used roll fell smack into the trash can next to the bed. Ignoring that, he stepped back until he had all of Fraser in the viewfinder, and touched the button.

The flash went off, of course, and he held his breath for a moment, waiting to see if Fraser would wake up, but he didn't. Didn't even stir. That wasn't too surprising. On the trail, when things were iffy, Fraser slept light, but he made up for it when they were indoors and there were no bears or blizzards to watch out for. Ray waited for the flash to recharge and then took another picture from a slightly different angle, the lens focused in on Fraser's face this time, lips slightly parted, framed by short sable beard, lashes dark against creamy skin. Memories.

He wanted to take more, but didn't want to risk waking Fraser. He'd just have to remember to take a lot of pictures of him from here on out. He put away the camera, and then remembered the other roll of film and squatted down to fish it out of the trash. He had to dig under a wad of damp tissues to get it, and he grimaced a little, wishing the bathroom was closer, but then, he'd been sharing everything but spit with Fraser for five weeks now so a little snot wasn't going to hurt him.

He held up the roll of film to see if there was anything disgusting on it, and a shiver went through him, his cock suddenly and mysteriously hardening. It took him a minute to figure out why, but it finally came to him as he rubbed his forehead and caught a better whiff of his own fingers. He dropped the film again. The faint, almost bleachy smell was unmistakable. And he knew it wasn't him he was smelling, despite his three different attempted fantasies in the shower. Which meant. . . His eyes lifted to Fraser, so innocently sacked out on the bed, and the tension in his groin grew fuller, heavier. He closed his eyes, he couldn't look. Couldn't. It wasn't right to stare at him like that.

Unfortunately, closing his eyes only made it worse, because then Ray was alone with his imagination, which had always been on the overactive side. In his head, he saw Fraser, eyes closed, lower lip caught between his teeth as his arm moved steadily, fist enclosing the top few inches of his cock, sliding up, then back, revealing the slick, flushed head. He imagined Fraser trailing the fingers of his free hand up his chest, his throat, rubbing them back and forth across his lips. He imitated that. Opened his mouth, and touched his fingers to his tongue. He could taste a faint, faint hint of salty bitterness.

It happened so fast he couldn't stop it. Couldn't have stopped it if he'd tried, which he hadn't, but he did manage to shove a hand down into his sweats fast enough that most of it ended up in his palm, not on his pants. When his head cleared a few seconds later, something that had been trying to get his attention for months now was finally clear to him. Three different attempts in the shower had been total failures, but the smell of Fraser's come, the taste of it, just the idea of him jerking off, had set him off without him having laid a single finger on himself. Taken along with some of the other ideas and feelings he'd been having, and pretending not to have, he realized he was in big trouble. Really big trouble.

At least, thank God, he'd managed not to moan, groan, whimper, or any other thing that might wake Fraser from his own masturbation-induced coma. Or so he thought, until he opened his eyes and found Fraser staring at him, face flushed, blue eyes dark, smoky, and very wide.

Oh. Shit.

He had two choices. Lie his ass off, or come clean. So to speak. He cleared his throat. "Uh. . . could you, um . . . ."

He was going to ask Fraser to close his eyes for a minute while he did some cleaning up, but Fraser was more practical. Wordlessly he reached over to the box on the nightstand and pulled out a handful of tissues, handed them to Ray, and then rolled onto his back, looking at the ceiling. Face so hot he was sure he could fry an egg on it, Ray wiped off his hand and the bit that had gotten on his sweats. When he was cleaned up enough that nothing was going to drip, he pitched the tissues and tried to think of what to say. After several uncomfortable seconds, Fraser prompted him.


Ray winced. Nodded. "Yeah. I know. Explanations would be good, right?" he asked, then barreled on, not giving Fraser a chance to answer the question he didn't need an answer to. And before fear could override instinct. "I think I just had one of those. . . things. You know, like saints have?"

"A . . . passion?" Fraser asked doubtfully, turning back onto his side to look at Ray.

Ray snorted. "Uh, yeah, but that's not what I meant. You know. Like when they all the sudden know . . . something. Something they didn't know before."

"Ah. An epiphany?"

"Yeah, that."

"I see." There was a moment of silence. "May I ask what your epiphany was?"

Ray looked at him. "You know you're my best friend, right?"

Something in Fraser's gaze softened a little. "I. . . hoped so."

"Well, know so, okay? Best friend ever. Better than Todd Wirtz even, back in fifth grade, when we cut our fingers and made blood-brothers. Even better than Stella."

At that, Fraser looked downright poleaxed. "Ray. . . you needn't. . . ."

"Yeah, I need. Anyway, you're my best friend, and so I figure if I can tell anyone, it's you. And you're pretty good at handling stuff that freaks other people out so I figure you can handle this." Ray stopped again. Despite his certainty that Fraser would be okay with it on an intellectual level, he wasn't quite as sure how he would handle it on a personal level. Christ. Ray didn't even know how he was handling it on a personal level. Fraser might be just as confused as he was. Except. . . he was Fraser.

"What is 'this'?" Fraser's voice was soft, the way he sounded asking a scared witness about a murder.

"This is. . ." Oh hell. Just say it. Just get it out. "This is me thinking that maybe I might be kind of gay."

There was a long silence. "I assume you mean in the more modern sense of the word?" Fraser asked finally.

"Yeah. I'm not talking about being cheerful here. Since we both know I am not a cheerful sort of person."

A faint smile curved Fraser's mouth. "Oh, I don't know. . . ."

"Be honest," Ray warned.

"Well, you can be cheerful. From time to time."

"Okay, fine, but it doesn't change the fact that that's not what I meant."

"No, I know that." He wasn't really looking at Ray, more like at nothing. But he didn't look pissed, or scared, or sad. Just thoughtful.

Ray watched him anxiously until he couldn't stand the silence. "You okay with that?"

Fraser's gaze flashed to his, sympathy in their cloudy depths. "Of course, Ray."

The tightness in his chest eased a little. "Okay, good. That's good. And look, I'm really sorry about . . . I didn't mean to. It just happened. I dropped my film in the trash and I got down to get it and . . . ."

"It's all right," Fraser said softly. "Really."

Relief shuddered through him. Fraser wouldn't lie. "Thanks." He turned away suddenly, unable to stand the intensity of Fraser's gaze, and started to unfasten his bedroll from his pack, hands shaking so much that he fumbled the buckle three times.


"Yeah?" he asked without turning around.

"What are you doing?"

God he hated it when Fraser got dense. It always seemed like he got dense just when Ray needed him to be smart. "I. . . just getting my stuff set up."

"You don't need to do that."

Ray sighed, shoulders sagging. "Look we already went through this the other night. I'm not putting you out of your bed."

"Is there some reason why we can't do as we did then?"

He didn't hear that right. He couldn't have. "What?"

"Why don't we just share?" Fraser asked, making it clear that Ray had heard him right the first time.

"Well, um, because I'm . . . I've. . . you. . . "

"Ray, I'm not worried."

"Oh." He shot a look over his shoulder at Fraser, tried to look mean. "Maybe you should be."

Fraser snorted. "Right."

He swivelled around, fists on his hips, which probably looked pretty stupid since he was on his knees. "Hey! You think I couldn't take you?"

Fraser shook his head. "Whether or not you could, I know you wouldn't." His eyes grew serious again. "And in any case, since you've been honest with me, clearly it's time, past time even, that I was equally honest with you. You know that epiphany you had?"

Ray nodded.

"I had it when I was fourteen."

Ray's jaw dropped. "You're yanking my chain, right?" he asked after several seconds of gape-mouthed silence.

Fraser's mouth curved upward in a faint, rueful smile. "Not at all, Ray. I suppose I could have ruled a crush on one male friend an aberration, but two. . . well, that was more along the lines of a pattern."

"But. . . Victoria? Janet? The giggly chick?"

"But. . . Stella? Luanne? The serape 'chick'?" Fraser mimicked.

"Okay. Yeah. Okay." Fraser had a point. He scratched his cheek, ran his fingers through his hair, and tried not to imagine Fraser with some faceless guy. Two faceless guys. At fourteen. Jesus. And here he'd always thought Fraser was not only straight, but kind of. . . virginal. Hah. He tried to breathe slowly and evenly, but a yawn surprised him, though it shouldn't have. He never could stay awake after he came. Used to bug the snot out of Stella, because she'd always wanted to talk after.

"Come to bed, Ray," Fraser said quietly. "We can talk about this in the morning, after sleep, and coffee."

Ray supposed it only made sense. After all, if they were both . . . whatever they were . . . then it was okay, right? Nobody was going to be all freaked out. Except him. He was pretty freaked out. But Fraser's calm was like a warm, fuzzy blanket around his freak-out. "Okay," he said. There wasn't much else to say. They went through the settling routine the same way they had the previous night, getting comfortable. Sometime much later as he started to drift off, Ray wondered hopefully if Fraser wasn't just okay with sleeping with him, but if maybe he might be interested in more than just sleep.

* * *

Fraser wasn't curled up around him when he woke up. In fact, he wasn't even in the bed. Ray tensed, suddenly worried that Fraser had finally freaked out sometime during the night, but he relaxed a little when he spotted Fraser sitting in the chair at the small table in the corner, pen poised over his journal. His relaxation faded as Fraser continued to sit there, staring at the page, not writing. Somehow he suspected that was a bad sign. He sat up, and Fraser dropped his pen, turning, clearly surprised.

"Morning," Ray said cautiously.

"Good morning," Fraser replied. "Did you sleep well?"

Ray looked at his watch. It was nearly nine. "Yeah, guess I did, actually."

Fraser smiled. "Good." He reached down next to himself, and picked up a thermos. "Would you like some coffee? I got you some in the dining room before they closed the breakfast line. And I picked up some pastries for you."

Ray rubbed his face, trying to wrap his brain around the idea that he'd not only slept through Fraser getting up, but also him leaving and coming back. With food. Now that he was awake he could smell a faint hint of coffee in the air. Coffee was a necessity, but first. . . "Uh, sure. Thanks. Just gotta go use the can. Be right back."

Since he'd slept in his sweats, he just stuck his bare feet into his boots and headed down the hall, wondering if Fraser was trying to butter him up for some reason. Except Fraser never did stuff like that, so that couldn't be it. Still puzzling over it, he used the can and then washed his hands and face at one of the sinks. As he dried his face on a paper towel, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and shook his head. Flat, too-long hair, untrimmed beard. Chapped lips and sun-weathered skin. He looked like one of those guys who hang out at the Salvation Army– minus the tremors and the broken capillaries. It was kind of a face only a mother could love.

He froze, staring at his reflection. No, Fraser wouldn't butter him up, but. . . he might try to soften a blow. His mom had always done that– like the time she'd made his dad's favorite meal the night she knew Ray had planned to tell him he was leaving college to go to the Academy instead. If that was what Fraser was doing, Ray was pretty sure he knew what the coming blow was. He braced both hands on the sink, staring down at the gleaming white porcelain, and swallowed hard.

The night before, when Fraser had confessed to being gay, or bi, whatever, Ray had thought maybe that might mean something important. That maybe it meant there was a chance. But Fraser hadn't reacted right. He'd been too calm, too soothing. More like a guy trying to keep his buddy from wigging out than a guy laying it on the line because he was interested. In the cold light of morning he could see that now. Just because Fraser swung both ways didn't meant he swung Ray's way.

"Hey man, you okay?"

Ray straightened, startled, and looked around at the newcomer, a stocky, weatherbeaten guy in his mid-fifties. He was looking at Ray with concern.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine thanks. Just... not awake yet, you know?"

"'Couple too many brews last night?" the guy asked with a chuckle. "Sure know that one." He stepped forward and began to lay out shaving stuff on an adjacent sink. "Nice the wind has finally let up, eh? Thought we'd be stuck here another day but it looks like our luck has turned."

"Wind's stopped?"

"Yup. And the sun's out. Supposed to be nice the rest of the week."

"Yeah? Good to know. Thanks."

"No problem." The guy started lathering his face.

Definitely good to know. Ray headed back to the room he was sharing with Fraser. Yeah, his luck had turned all right. But he wasn't going to put Fraser through having to tell him that. Wasn't going to put himself through hearing it, either. He stood outside the door for a moment, settling himself, and then he unlocked the room and pushed inside. Fraser was still at the table, and he looked up as Ray entered. Before he could speak, Ray started talking.

"Guy in the bathroom said the wind's stopped, and if I remember the schedule right, the boat that goes out to the island in good weather leaves in less than an hour. If we get our act together we can just make it, right?"

Fraser looked confused, but he nodded. "I. . . I suppose we could, yes."

"Okay then, let's get moving."

"But didn't you want. . . "

"Right. Coffee. I'll get dressed first and then I can drink it on the way out. Nice thing about thermoses, they keep it warm."

The little crease between Fraser's eyebrows got deeper. "No, I meant. . . "

"Yeah, the pastries," Ray said, cutting him off again. "They'll keep. Come on, lets get moving. We got places to go and birds to see."

Apparently that was enough of a hint even for Fraser. He nodded, and stood up. "Of course." He moved over to his pack and began to remove appropriate clothing. Ray let out a silent sigh of relief and got dressed. At the front desk, while Fraser was on the phone booking two floe-edge tour reservations, Ray talked to the manager and made sure they were on the list for a double room again for that night, since the oil workers were leaving and freeing up some space. He would have asked for two rooms, but he wasn't sure Fraser could afford that so he left it at one, but definitely one with two beds. He made sure both beds would be dry this time, too.

* * *

"Well, was it what you expected, Ray?" Fraser asked as they walked up the pier.

Ray shrugged. "Yes, and no. I guess I thought we'd actually get out to the island."

"I should have explained that access is severely limited, as human activity disrupts nesting behavior, and it's breeding season."

"God forbid we should do that," Ray muttered. It had figured that the day after he'd confessed to being hot for Fraser's ass, they'd spent the day watching birds have sex. "'Cause a few less birds would be such a bad thing." He'd never seen so many birds in his entire life.

"Indeed," Fraser said, apparently oblivious to the sarcasm. "Some of the species have recovered dramatically since the sanctuary was created in 1965. The snow goose population, for instance, has increased from around three-thousand to seventy-five thousand."

Ray did a little mental arithmetic. "Geez. That's like, every single bird having two kids a year for thirty years. Give or take a few."

"It's a little more complicated than that, actually, as your calculation doesn't take into account successive generations, or such things as infertile eggs, eggs and chicks lost to predators, lesbian pairs, and the like."

Ray had been nodding along until Fraser got to that last bit. "Lesbian geese? You're kidding, right?"

"Of course not. It's well documented among Canada geese."

Ray absorbed that. Frowned. "What, there aren't any gay geese?"

"Canada or snow geese?"

"Does it matter?" Ray snapped, annoyed.

"Actually, yes, it does. Snow geese don't tend to form same-sex pairs, thus homosexual individuals of either gender comprise only a small percentage of the total population of snow geese, while for some reason it's far more common amongst Canada geese. Some eighteen percent of male Canada geese form same-sex pair bonds, and around six to twelve percent of the females do so. There are documented pairings of Canada and snow goose males, though. Apparently it's easier for a homosexual male snow goose to find a mate outside his own kind."

They had stopped walking and Fraser gazed intently at Ray as he spoke. Ray wondered why, couldn't figure it out, and shrugged. "Next you'll be telling me the whales we saw were gay."

"It's possible, though not probable. Such activity has also been observed among several whale species, including belugas, which is the species we saw today."

That rattled him a little. "Gay birds, gay whales. . . I always heard humans were the only animals that did that."

Fraser cocked his head a little, studying Ray with an oddly sympathetic expression. "Not at all, Ray. Homosexuality and bisexuality are common to many species."


Fraser nodded, still watching him intently. "Yes."


"Oh." Ray thought about that. "Huh." He shook his head. "I can't believe we're standing here talking about gay animals."

"Well, you did ask," Fraser said a little defensively. "I thought you might find the information useful."

Useful. Leave it to Fraser to be useful when what Ray wanted was for him to be. . . helpful. Very helpful. Shit. Kowalski, you're fixating. You know you can't do that. Time to change the subject again. "So what are we going to do tomorrow? Go to that national park you talked about?"

Fraser's shoulders seemed to sag slightly. "I. . . suppose we could do that."

Ray studied him narrowly. "What?"

Fraser widened his eyes. "What what?"

"Don't give me what what. You know what. What's wrong?"

The wide-eyed gaze slid away from his. "Nothing's wrong, Ray. I suppose I'm just a little tired."

"You're tired?" Ray repeated, frowning, then he reached over and put his fingers against Fraser's forehead. He felt a little hot, but that could just be due to the fact that Ray's fingers were cold. Still . . . "You don't get tired." Or at least he didn't admit it.

A faint look of annoyance flashed across Fraser's face. "Of course I do."

Ray shook his head. "No you don't. You don't get tired, or hungry, or cranky, or any of those things," he teased.

Fraser must have missed his tone, because he scowled. "I assure you I do," he snapped. "I get tired, and hungry, and disappointed, and lonely, and. . ." He stopped suddenly, his jaw tight. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then his gaze met Ray's again. "I'm only human, Ray."

Without waiting for Ray, Fraser started walking again. Ray stared after him, frozen in place. For the first time he could remember, he had seen more than just faint shadows in Fraser's gaze. He'd seen things that Fraser had never really let him see before, and that rattled him. He shook off his paralysis and dashed after Fraser, who had managed to get several yards ahead, and caught his arm. "Fraser. . . ." he said, pulling him to a stop.

Fraser sighed and looked at him, eyes carefully guarded again. "Yes?"


Ray didn't know what to say. Not the first clue. Saying he'd only been teasing would sound all wrong, even though it was true. "You. . . uh. . . want to have dinner?" he blurted after a moment..

Fraser studied him quizzically for several long seconds and then nodded, smiling faintly. "I'd like that."

Something eased inside him, and at the same time something else tightened. "Anyplace to eat around here other than the dorm cafeteria?"

"I hear the hotel restaurant is quite good."

"Hotel, huh? We need to dress up to eat there?"

Fraser smiled. No one else would call it that, probably, but Ray knew him, and he knew that was a smile. "I suspect there's very little call for black tie here."

"Good, 'cause I left my tux in Chicago and I'm hungry now. Come on, let's go."

To Ray's vast amusement, there were four teen-aged couples dressed to the nines, though no one else in the place was. So much for Fraser's expectations. As they waited to be seated, he nudged Fraser with an elbow and nodded toward the group.

"Think I should fly home and get my tux? You've got your dress uniform packed, right?"

Fraser shot him a glance full of amusement. "Did you want to attend the dance?"


"The local school's promotional dance, I believe. At our age we might stand out a bit, but. . . ."

Whatever he'd been going to say was lost as the hostess came to seat them, a few tables away from the kids, who were trying so hard to act like grown-ups that it was nearly painful to watch. Ray shook his head. "God, that takes me back. What was your prom like?"

Fraser gazed at him blankly. "My prom?"

Oh. Duh. "Right, forgot about the home-school thing. Sorry. Actually, you didn't miss much. Mom helped pick out my suit, and ruffled shirts were in," Ray said, rolling his eyes. "And my tux was tan polyester, with brown velvet lapels. And I had platform oxfords, brown and tan. I looked like a total dork, and everyone there thought Stella was out of her mind for going with me. The only good thing was when we got up to dance. I think we were the only couple there that knew how to slow dance instead of just strutting around like John Travolta."

"I know how to slow dance," Fraser said softly, gazing across at the young couples. "My grandmother taught me."

Ray snorted, imagining Fraser dancing with his granny. "No offense to your grandma, Fraser, but if that's how you learned, then you don't know how to slow dance. Because until you can get up close enough to feel your partner's breath on your skin and feel their sweat under your hand, you haven't done it right." He lost himself for a second, imagining dancing with Fraser. It would be weird, to be the same height. But cool, too.

"Your partner?" 

Fraser's voice brought Ray back to himself, and he found Fraser staring at him, gaze narrowed and intent. "Yeah, your. . ." Ray suddenly realized Fraser must have figured out what he was thinking, and his mouth got dry. "Your . . . uh, dance partner. You know."


Feeling flushed, his heart pounding, Ray pushed his chair back from the table. "I'm gonna go wash up," he said, praying Fraser wouldn't follow. "Back in a minute. Get me a glass of water, okay? And a beer. Whatever's on tap." He took Fraser's agreement for granted as he headed for where he figured the bathrooms were. Finding them, he stepped into a stall and closed the door, leaned his hot face against the cool metal. Jesus. Just make a fool of yourself again. Though at least this time you didn't actually *come* in front of him.

As long as he was there, he figured he ought to use the john, so he did, and then washed up. When he returned to the table, there was a glass of water and a glass of amber liquid with a foamy head at his place. Fraser had water, as well. Nothing else. He settled into his seat and tried the beer. Not bad. Tasted like Moosehead. Probably was. Gratefully he drained half the glass in several long swallows before putting it back down. "Thanks."

"You're quite welcome," Fraser said, sipping his water.

"What happened to the menu?" Ray asked, looking around for the black folder that had been next to his plate when he'd gotten up.

"I took the liberty of ordering for you," Fraser said. "I wanted you to experience some of the local flavors."

Ray stared at him. Nobody had ordered dinner for him since he was about ten. He'd tried it once with Stella, just once, attempting to be a suave man-about-town, and she'd let him know in no uncertain terms that a modern woman could order her own food, thank you very much. "You ordered for me?" he echoed.

Fraser nodded. "For an appetizer, a locally produced soft cheese made from caribou milk, served on oatcakes, and for the main dish grilled char, served with steamed fiddlehead ferns and a pilaf with home-grown wild rice and cranberries."


"It's a fish native to Arctic waters. Truly incredible flavor."

Ray wondered how Fraser had managed not to notice that he never ate fish. Not even tuna. Hated it. He was about to gripe when he remembered the expression on Fraser's face earlier, when he'd thought Ray was serious about the not getting tired thing, and he decided to grin and bear it. One bad meal wasn't worth putting that look back on Fraser's face. "Huh. What'd you get?"

"The caribou steak."

Ray had eaten caribou in several different formats now, and it was pretty good. The idea of a steak made his mouth water. "Sounds good. Maybe we can trade bites."

"Certainly, if you'd like," Fraser said.

He'd rather trade the whole meal but. . . He suppressed a sigh, and couldn't help wondering just what had possessed Fraser to do something like that. In all the time they'd been partners, he'd never done that. Well, not without Ray having asked him to. So why now? Ray had a funny feeling it had to do with the whole "kinda gay" thing, and he didn't much like that idea. If it happened again, they were going to have to talk about it. And since he'd spent the entire day deliberately not talking about it, he really would rather not do that.

"Is your beer all right?" Fraser asked into the slightly awkward silence.

"Yeah, it's good. Want to try some?" he asked flippantly, irrationally annoyed with Fraser for the awkwardness.

Fraser looked at the glass, then at him. "Yes, I would."

Ray was so surprised it took him a minute to react. "You would?"

Fraser nodded firmly. "I would."

Warily, Ray held out his glass. Fraser took it, lifted it to his lips, and drank. Ray watched, waiting the whole time for Fraser to hand it back and say "April Fools" even though it was way past the first. He didn't. And he didn't fake the swallow either, because when he lowered the glass, the liquid level was considerably lower. He watched Fraser's tongue slide across moist lips, and suddenly felt a shiver go through him at the thought of tasting the yeasty bitterness of beer on Fraser's mouth.

"It's quite good," Fraser said, and took another sip.

Ray wondered if he'd slipped into an alternate dimension, and he wasn't sure which was weirder -- Fraser drinking the beer, or him imagining how Fraser's mouth would taste after drinking it. He shook his head slightly to clear it. "You want one? I can get the waitress."

Fraser settled in against the back of his chair in what was disturbingly close to a slouch. "No, I like yours."

The alternate dimension thing was looking more and more likely. He had to swallow twice to get some saliva into his suddenly-dry mouth, but tried to be as nonchalant as Fraser was. "No problem. I'll just get myself another one." He raised a hand to flag the woman as she passed and ordered another beer, wondering if anyone would notice if he stole Fraser's glass at the end of the meal as a souvenir. Maybe if he left extra tip it would be okay. Packing it through the wilds on a dogsled would be tough, but he might need some evidence later on to convince himself it hadn't all been a dream.

Their appetizers arrived along with his new beer, and he stared down at his plate with suspicion. The oatcakes were thin and crisp and brown, more like crackers than anything else, and they were liberally smeared with a creamy white substance he assumed was the cheese. He poked at one with a finger.

"I don't think they bite, Ray," Fraser said, sounding amused.

Ray looked up. "I'm used to cheese that comes in cellophane wrappers. Or in a can."

Fraser shuddered. "That's not cheese, Ray."

"Sure it is, and it's kind of fun to spray it on your tongue." He glanced at Fraser's plate, which contained a half-dozen rocky-looking shells, each topped with a gelatinous grayish mound. There were lemon wedges on the plate too, and the waitress had put a bottle of Tabasco on the table. "What's that?"

"Oysters. They're local as well, and fresh this morning. I couldn't pass that up."

"Oysters." The only thing Ray knew about oysters was that they were supposed to make you horny. He figured Fraser didn't know that or he wouldn't be ordering them. He stared at them, wondering how something that looked that nasty was supposed to make you horny. They didn't even look cooked.

"They're not."

Ray looked up, realized he'd said that last out loud, and hoped like hell he hadn't said the first part out loud too. "They're not cooked?" he repeated, just to make sure Fraser was answering that question and not some other one he didn't know he'd asked.

"No. You eat them raw." He picked up one of the shells, squeezed some lemon over its contents, and then tipped it into his mouth. There was a quick flash of pale gray on pink tongue, and then Fraser was swallowing it down.

Watching Fraser's throat move as he swallowed, Ray felt the strangest combination of revulsion and arousal. Maybe the horny part worked on the person watching, not the person eating. There was something about watching him swallow something whole like that . . . man. He gave himself a mental shake. Stop it. All of the sudden he couldn't seem to quit thinking things that he'd never thought before. . . though maybe if he was honest it was more that he hadn't allowed himself to think them before. It made it hard to sit still. Made it hard to meet Fraser's gaze. Which, he realized, was locked on him. Ray looked at the oysters, then at Fraser's mouth, and wrinkled his nose. "Ewwww."

The corners of Fraser's mouth curled upward just a little, his eyes bright with amusement.

Ray realized he'd been waiting for just that reaction. He smiled back, ruefully. "I'm predictable, huh?"

Fraser nodded. "Very."

"I can't believe you ate a raw oyster. How can you do that?"

"Easily." Fraser picked up another oyster.

Ray watched, mesmerized, as he slid the glistening contents off the shell and onto his tongue. He held it there for a moment longer than last time before pulling his tongue in and closing his lips. Dick. He was showing off. Ray pretended to shudder. "Ugh."

"They're really quite delicious."

"Uh huh."

"Do you really think I'd eat something I thought was awful?"

Ray thought about that. "Um, no. I guess not. You might lick it, but you wouldn't eat it."

Fraser beamed. "Exactly." He picked up a third shell, looked at it, then looked at Ray, and held it out. "Here. Try one."

Ray shook his head. "Uh-uh, no way."

Fraser tilted his head a little, lifted his chin. "Scared?" he challenged.

Well, shit. That was a dare if ever he heard one. Great. He eyed the disgusting-looking thing Fraser held for several seconds. He might be kind of gay, but he was a Kowalski, damn it. "Fine." He took it from Fraser's fingers. "Gimme a lemon."

Fraser handed him a lemon wedge, and he squeezed it as dry as he could over the quivering whitish-gray heap, hoping he would only be able to taste the lemon. Closing his eyes, he lifted the shell to his lips.

"Swallow, Ray, don't chew," Fraser said softly.

Swallow, don't chew? Jesus. How could anyone be that . . . oblivious? Still, he closed his eyes again, and slid the oyster into his mouth. It was slick and cool on his tongue, and the lemon did little to disguise its briny flavor. It was kind of weird, but honestly, it wasn't awful. It reminded him of something though. Something. . . yeah. That was it. It tasted sort of like. . .


Dragging his mind back from the memory of curiously tasting the mess on his fingers after a satisfying jerk-off session, Ray's snapped open in time to catch Fraser's tongue sliding across his lower lip. He stared at Fraser suspiciously. If he didn't know better. . . but he did. Besides, Fraser licked like that all the time. "Not bad," he said, somehow managing a normal tone. "I guess."

That must have been good enough, because Fraser beamed at him. "Thank you, Ray."

"For eating your food? You're a freak, Fraser."

"Understood." He paused, looked at his plate, then back at Ray. "You know, you could make it up to me."

No, no, no. Cool it. He didn't mean that. Ray knew that. He meant Ray could share what was on his own plate. "Sure, here you go." He picked up one of his appetizers and held it out.

Fraser frowned a little, and then took it, looking vaguely disappointed. "Thanks." He licked a path through the creamy stuff on the cracker like he was licking the middle out of an Oreo. "Mmm. Very nice."

Ray grabbed one of the remaining rounds and stuffed it in his mouth, wondering how he was going to get through dinner. Fortunately, the flavor distracted him. The cracker part was flaky and nutty-tasting, the cheese silky and sharp. It was pretty good, really. Like Fraser said, nice. Which irritated him. He wanted to hate it so he'd have an excuse to gripe about having his food ordered for him. He glanced up to find Fraser watching him again, his eyes eyebrows lifted. Ray chewed, swallowed, and gave Fraser a wry smile.


He got another smile. He hadn't seen Fraser smile this much. . . well . . . ever. He was starting to get worried. "You feel okay?"

"I feel quite well, thank you," Fraser said, and took another sip of Ray's, no, his beer.

Maybe it was normal. Ray had noticed that Fraser had been relaxing, little by little, ever since they'd set off on the trip. Loosening up a little bit at a time. But this was a whole lot of loosening in a pretty short period. He wasn't quite sure what was up with that. Maybe Fraser was just trying to show him he was still comfortable with him. Yeah, that made sense.

* * *

Much to Ray's annoyance, he'd loved his dinner. So much, in fact, that when Fraser reached over to sample it, he'd been sorely tempted to stick his fork in the back of his hand. He hadn't actually done it, but he'd been tempted. After dinner they'd hung out in the hotel bar and played chess for a while. Ray won two games to Fraser's one, which might have had something to do with the fact that Fraser night-capped his beer with a shot of some scotch with an unpronounceable name. And it wasn't even the Queen's birthday. When Fraser had offered Ray a taste, he'd figured what the hell. It sort of tasted like smoky dirt. Opting not to join him in that particular folly, Ray kept him company with a glass of Lacko Sliwowica, which he was amazed to find stocked.

Ray kind of wished they were staying at the hotel, so they wouldn't have had to leave, but he knew their finances couldn't handle it. They'd have to be happy with the oil-company dorms. Fortunately the burn of the sliwowica kept him warm on the cold walk back to the dorms. That, and Fraser's arm around his waist. He'd never seen Fraser unsteady on his feet before. Actually, Fraser didn't seem unsteady to him, but he must've to himself, if he was steadying himself on Ray. When they got inside, Fraser headed toward the hall where their old room was, and Ray had to haul him back.

"Hang on, we got to get new keys."

Fraser frowned. "Why?"

"This morning when I asked, they said they'd be able to give us a regular room again and they'd move our stuff over while we were gone."

Fraser stared at him, frowning. "A regular room?"

"Yeah, a double."

"A double?" Fraser repeated.

"Yeah," Ray said again. Clearly Fraser was not a frequent drinker. "A double."

"Oh." He sighed, and sagged a little. "I see." He scowled. "I liked our old room."

"Well, we don't got it now. We got a new room." Ray went over to the desk, where a brief conversation got him the new key, and then he headed for their new room, Fraser trailing in his wake. As he approached the door, he started to smile. "Good thing you liked our old room, since they gave it back to us."

Fraser looked puzzled for a moment, then his gaze lifted to the number on the door and he chuckled. "So they did."

Ray opened the door and moved inside. Their packs were both neatly leaned up against the far wall, and everything looked okay. He walked over to the left hand bed, peeled back the covers, and made a show of checking the mattress. "Whew. Dry," he said with exaggerated relief.

"Ah well, can't have everything," Fraser said cryptically as he took off his coat.

Ray wondered what the hell he meant by that. Considering Fraser was probably a sheet or two to the wind, he might not know himself. He shrugged off his own coat and then sat on the end of his bed to take of his boots. Once they were off he stood up again, methodically stripping down. Remembering how chilly the room had gotten last time, he decided to leave his thermals on. He turned to ask Fraser if he wanted him to set the alarm on his watch for a specific time, and stopped, staring, as Fraser peeled off both his thermal undershirt and the regular undershirt he had on beneath it. Dropping both shirts to the floor, he hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his thermal pants and started to slide them down. Along with his boxers.

He probably should have closed his eyes or something, but Ray had never pretended to be a saint. He watched, mesmerized, as smooth, pale curves came into view, then the sleek length of thighs below that. Man, Fraser had almost no body hair. Ray felt positively fuzzy. Fraser also had an ass better than Stella at eighteen, and that was saying something. If he'd had any doubts about his new 'kinda gay' status, they were gone now, as his body reacted to Fraser's display with predictable, not to mention uncomfortable, results.

Turning away, he slid into bed quickly, not so much so he couldn't see as to keep Fraser from seeing what he couldn't hope to hide. Personally he thought Fraser was taking the whole comfortable thing way too far. He waited to hear Fraser get into his pack and get out a fresh set of thermals, but instead he heard the soft creak of the bedsprings as Fraser got into bed. Startled, Ray turned and looked. Sure enough, from what he could see, Fraser was in bed naked. Not only that but he'd left his clothes on the floor. Either the world was coming to an end, or he was sick or something.


Fraser turned to look at him, the covers falling away from his bare chest. "Mmm?" he asked, looking a little sleepy.

"You okay?"

A little frown creased Fraser's forehead. "I'm fine, Ray. Why do you keep asking me that?"

"I. . . uh. . . " He stopped, not quite sure how to say that Fraser sleeping in the raw was pretty much unprecedented. "Aren't you a little chilly?"

"Actually, I find I'm slightly overwarm."

"You got a fever?"


"Oh." Ray thought about going over to see for himself, but that would involve getting up and his hard-on hadn't gone away yet. Showed no signs of doing so, actually. "Okay. Well, 'night."

Fraser reached up and clicked off the light. "Goodnight, Ray. Sleep well."

Ray blinked in the darkness, trying to get rid of the image of Fraser's naked torso, bare to below the waist as he stretched to reach the lamp, but it was as persistent as the blue spots he always saw after someone took a flash picture. Finally it began to fade, and he wondered why Fraser had sounded so . . . sarcastic. He didn't usually sound like that when he said good night. Maybe booze made him snarky. If so, it was probably good that he didn't drink often. Ray closed his eyes, shifted uncomfortably, and sighed. It was going to be a long night.

* * *

A door slamming somewhere in the hallway brought Ray bolt upright from a sound sleep. The dial of his watch had read 5:10 the last time he'd looked at it. There had already been light leaking in around the blackout shade and curtains then. Now it was even brighter. He held his wrist close to his face to see what time it was, and swore when he finally made out the numbers. He'd forgotten to ask Fraser what time to set the alarm for, and now it was eleven twenty-eight. He shoved the covers back and stood up, going over to Fraser's bed and putting a hand on his bare shoulder, shaking him.

"Fraser? Hey! I forgot to set the alarm."

Fraser blinked up at him, frowning, and yawned. "That's all right, Ray. Don't worry about it." He turned over, pulling the pillow over his eyes. As he turned, the sheets wound themselves around his hips, dragging them down. Ray could see a hint of the dimple at the base of his spine. He swallowed hard.

"I mean it's time to get up," he said, hoping he didn't sound weird.

Fraser muttered something from under the pillow. The word was muffled but it sort of sounded like 'no.'

"No?" he asked, making sure.

"No." Less muffled this time.


"Weren't we going to head out to the park today? Do some hiking, set up camp?"


"Yes we were. We talked about it yesterday."

"Changed my mind."

"Oh. Well, what do you want to do?"


Ray stared down at him, worried. Fraser had acted weird all last night and was still not back to normal. Something was definitely wrong with him. Something he wasn't telling Ray. He would have guessed a hangover, but Fraser had started acting weird before the alcohol. So he had to be sick. He had to be. Ray's fingers flexed abortively as he debated trying to check Fraser's temperature. He wasn't sure how Fraser would take that. In Ray's experience Fraser never liked showing any sort of weakness, even to him, and he was about as safe as it got. It was something he understood, even if he wished Fraser would be more open with him. Hell, they were best friends. He'd cried in front of Fraser. He wished Fraser felt free to at least admit when he felt like crap.

"You can be honest with me here. I know you don't like to complain or anything, but if you're sick, would you please tell me? I bet there's a doctor somewhere in this burg, or at least a nurse, or maybe a medicine man. I'll go get them for you. Hell, I'll have someone flown in if there's no one local."

Fraser sighed, and pulled the pillow off his face, turning back to face Ray again. The covers did more winding as Fraser moved. This time they left one whole leg bare, all the way, and there was just a hint of silky darkness showing at the edge of the sheet where it bunched across Fraser's groin. With difficulty, Ray dragged his gaze away and concentrated on Fraser's face, feeling a blush rise.

"I'm not sick, Ray. I feel fine. I just don't feel like going anywhere."

"You sure?" Ray reached out, touched Fraser's forehead briefly, unable to resist the need to check for a fever. He felt normal. Cool even.

Fraser nodded, watching Ray's hand as he drew it back. "I'm sure."

"Okay. Ray sighed, and sat down on his own bed, scrubbing his hands over his face before looking up at him again. "Okay. You're fine. Right." Now he was back to the 'Make sure Ray knows I feel comfortable' theory. "Look, I . . . I really appreciate what you're doing and all, making sure I know you don't think any less of me or anything, but . . . well . . . I'd appreciate it more if you could maybe tone it down a little? It's kind of hard on me."

Fraser sat up and stared at him, wide eyed. "You. . . I. . . Good God, Ray! Did you really think that was what I was doing?"

"Well, uh, yeah. I guess. I mean, I couldn't think of what else . . . ."

Fraser moaned softly and put his head in his hands, shaking it back and forth "Christ. I can't even do this right."

Concerned, Ray leaned forward. "Fraser, you didn't do anything wrong! I'm sure whatever it is, it's my fault. . . ."

Fraser looked up at him, eyes intent. "Ray, if you were sharing your room with a woman who acted as I have the past day, what would you think about her?"

"I'd think she was a cock tease," Ray shot back.

A slow grin spread across Fraser's face, shocking in its genuine openness. "I was wondering if you were ever going to notice."

Ray stared at him. Slowly the events of the last day or so began to fall into place. "You did that stuff on purpose!" he said accusingly.

Fraser widened his eyes. "Did what?"

"That. . . ordering dinner, and drinking my beer, and . . . everything. The oysters. The cheese. The arm around my waist thing."

"Ah, that 'stuff'. Well, yes, of course. How else was I to get you to see me?"

"Huh?" Ray asked, puzzled. "I see you all the time. I mean, maybe if I don't got my glasses on you might be a little fuzzy around the edges, but I see you."

"Do you?" Fraser asked. "Even though you see me more clearly than most, there are still times when I'm not sure you see past the person I've allowed you to think I am."

Ray stared back at him for a moment or two. Reaching over to the nightstand, he picked up his glasses and put them on. He studied Fraser for a few seconds, and then looked him in the eyes. "I see you," he said quietly. "You're the guy who risks our lives in wildly bizarre ways in pursuit of Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way. And you're the guy who lives in his office and talks to thin air. And you're the guy who gets tired, and down, and sweaty in all that wool, and the guy who's had like one date since I've known him, and who really, really wants someone to bother to listen to him, and to hear what he's saying behind all those Inuit stories."

Fraser closed his eyes, and nodded.

"Kind of a lot like someone else I know," Ray said. "Who maybe doesn't wear a red uniform or tell Inuit stories, but wants someone to look past the outside, too."

Blue eyes opened again, smoky. "I do. I always have."

Ray nodded. "Yeah. You do."

They stared at each other for long moments, the foot-and-a-half gap between the beds seeming to have somehow lessened, and then Fraser reached over and gently removed Ray's glasses. "You don't need these," he said, laying them carefully back on the nightstand.

Ray nodded agreement, moistening suddenly dry lips. The next thing he knew, Fraser's fingers were curling into the neck of his henley and tugging him forward. He ignored the knot in his stomach and let himself be pulled, watching Fraser until he went blurry and double, and their mouths met. His eyes closed as his lips parted.

The kiss was soft, gentle, almost tentative, and over way too soon as Fraser drew back and looked at him with a faint line between his eyebrows, like he was more than half expecting Ray to belt him.

Ray frowned back a little. "What was that?"

Fraser's frown deepened. "I, ah, that was a kiss."

Ray stared at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then he shook his head. "Nah. That wasn't a kiss. This is a kiss."

Fraser wasn't wearing anything Ray could grab him by, so he just pulled him over by his shoulders and tilted his head, sealing their mouths together, tongue sliding along the seam between Fraser's lips until they opened, until he could get his tongue in there and find the slick, wet heat inside Fraser's mouth. Fraser made a sound, and his hands closed hard on Ray's shoulders. There was nothing at all tentative about their kiss this time.

Somewhere in the middle of it, Ray realized he was sliding off the edge of the bed so he scooted back a little. Fraser must have been leaning on Ray with his full weight, because as he moved, so did Fraser. Their mouths separated, and there was a thump, and the next thing he knew he was looking down at Fraser who was kneeling between his legs looking as surprised as Ray felt. His hair was wildly tangled, his lips red, and moist, and slightly swollen, and even though he knew their relative positions were just an accident, Ray couldn't help but wish that they weren't.

Fraser blinked up at him and then one corner of his mouth turned up and his gaze went almost impish. "You're right, Ray. That was most definitely a kiss."

Ray licked his lips– Fraser's weren't the only ones that were a little abused. Chapped lips and hard kissing might not be a really great combination, but he wasn't going to waste the chance. "Sure as hell was."

Fraser put his hands on Ray's thighs, preparatory to pushing himself upright, then he stopped, distracted by something below his eye lev. . . oh. Ray tried very hard not to start grinning like a fool. Fraser looked up at him again, even more of a curve to his mouth, and the impish glint turned wicked.

"That doesn't look very comfortable."

"Believe me, it's not."

"Would you like some assistance with the. . . er . . . problem?"

"You know, now that you mention it, some help would be, uh, helpful."

"It is, after all, incumbent upon an officer of the law to offer aid when it's needed," Fraser said, his voice dropping down to a husky whisper, his hand stealing up Ray's thigh.

Ray flashed back to a couple of mornings previous, to the feel of Fraser's hand, warm and heavy through the fabric of his boxers, and the feel of Fraser's body so solid against his own. He shivered, eyes closed.

"Are you cold?" This time Fraser wasn't teasing.

Ray shook his head, opening his eyes again. "Anything but." He reached for the hem of his henley, pulling it up and off over his head, dropping it down beside the bed. Fraser's gaze tracked over his chest, and Ray fought the urge to cover up. Even with the muscle he'd added on the trip, his chest was nothing like the smooth, broad expanse of Fraser's. Never would be.

Fraser lifted a hand from his thigh and trailed his fingers down Ray's shoulder, over his pec, skimming briefly across a nipple, which made Ray shiver again. Fraser's gaze lifted instantly to his face, eyes narrowed, assessing. And then he started to frown again.

It was like Ray could see the wheels turning. Could almost hear him thinking. 'Does he really want to do this or is it just isolation and the fact that I'm a familiar face and . . .' "Stop that. I do," Ray said.

Fraser's looked puzzled. "Stop what? You do what?"

"Stop freaking out and I do want to do this and I'm not just out of my mind because I haven't been in Chicago in five weeks."


"We good to go?"

"Don't you want to talk about . . ."

"No. Time to put your mouth where your money is, Benton Fraser."

"I think that's . . ."

"Not in this case."

Fraser thought about that for a moment, and then a high-pitched little sound escaped him, something suspiciously like a giggle.

Ray lifted his eyebrows. "You nervous?" he teased.

"Petrified," Fraser confessed.

Ray was surprised. He figured he had reason to be nervous, but Fraser? "Really? Thought you said you'd done this before."

"I have. It's just. . ." Fraser spread his hands helplessly. "Not with you."

Ray thought about that for a moment. "That makes a difference?"

Fraser nodded solemnly, and some of Ray's nervousness faded as he realized what Fraser was really saying. "Makes a difference here, too," he said softly, and leaned down.

Lips met, soft, soft, a blessing, a benediction. He suddenly wished they weren't in a dingy room in a roughneck hostel, but somewhere out under the stars, even if it was risking freezing something important off. It would just feel. . . righter. He pulled back a little, and Fraser's gaze met his, questioningly.

"How long you think it would take?" he asked, waving a hand vaguely at the wall with the window, knowing Fraser would know what he meant.

Fraser put his forehead against Ray's knee, one hand settling on his thigh, tightening just enough to not tickle. "Too damned long."

Ray slid his fingers into Fraser's fine, dark hair, soothing. "Never mind then."

Fraser's head lifted again, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly as he leaned up to place a kiss, not on Ray's lips, but just to the side of them, where Ray knew he had a smile-line starting. "Tomorrow we'll go to the park as we planned. All right?"

Ray smiled. "Perfect." He could handle doing this in a dingy room. Fraser made it more than worthwhile.

Fraser studied him intently. "Are you sure, though? About. . . this?" He still hadn't let go of Ray's thigh-- his hand was heavy and warm where it rested-- fingers slightly tensed on his quads.

Ray snorted. "You mean am I gonna freak out and run screaming out of the room any minute now?"

Fraser coughed. "Er. . ."

Ray chuckled and shook his head. "No. No freaking out. I know that's weird, since I'm the king of freak-outs, but this. . . this is right. I know it is. Ever since. . . well, I'm not really sure ever since when, but for a while now, I've been feeling things I couldn't really admit I was feeling. Thought it was just me trying to hold onto the best thing in my life for a while longer. And yeah, that's part of it, but it's not all of it."

Fraser stared up at him, eyes wide and a little skeptical. "The best . . . ?"

Ray nodded. "The best. Without a single damned doubt. But," he cocked his head a little and tried out his seductive look. It was probably a little rusty but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. "Even if I don't freak out, you know I'm really not all that good at the whole waiting thing. . ."

It must've worked. Fraser's teeth flashed in a quick and startling grin. "I am all over that," he said, voice low and rough, as he moved his hands to Ray's shoulders and pushed.

Ray let himself be pushed, and found himself flat on his back on the bed. Fraser came up between his legs and settled in over him, hands braced to either side of Ray's shoulders so he could look down at him, though the rest of his body covered him like a blanket. It was a little disconcerting, not just because Fraser was naked and Fraser was never naked. It was more because everyone he'd ever been in bed with before had been smaller than him. Fraser. . . wasn't. He was solid, and strong, and everything fit. It was like someone had measured them before matching them up. Chest, belly, hip. . . cock. Oh yeah. Fraser was hard. Really hard. His own cock, only half-hard until that moment, went erect so fast it was like it had decided there was a competition.

Fraser made an approving sound in his throat and rolled his hips against Ray's in a long, slow curl, lips curving in a wolfish smile as Ray mirrored his movement. Staring at that smile, Ray licked his lips, and Fraser's gaze moved to rest there, heavy-lidded and smoky. He lowered his head, slowly, brushed his nose along the groove beside Ray's mouth, and stopped there, inhaling deeply. Ray turned his head, lips parting, and caught Fraser's mouth with his own. Warm, moist breath misted into his mouth, warm, moist tongue followed, a leisurely exploration. He let his follow, a new adventure.

About the time Ray thought he might pass out from not breathing, Fraser let his legs slide to either side of Ray's and knelt up, his ass on Ray's thighs, his hands shifting to Ray's shoulders, then sliding downward, slowly. Naked Fraser, sitting on his thighs, his cock hard, and dark-flushed, and curving slightly to the left. There was something a little different about it, too, something . . . oh. Duh. Yeah. He guessed being born in a barn meant no neat-freak doc had decided little Benton would be too stupid to figure out how to wash his dick if that was still there. He wondered how that changed things. Wondered how it would feel in his hand. Or in his mouth.

Okay, wow. There was a new thought. Dick in mouth. Huh. He should be freaking out. He knew he should. Men were supposed to freak out when discovering they were gay, right? It was in the Manly Men's Handbook, he was pretty sure. He guessed he was going to have to resign his membership because putting Fraser's dick in his mouth sounded really good. And naked Fraser kneeling astride his thighs was just as good. So was the way Fraser's hands roughed across his nipples on the way south.

Fraser must've heard him moan, because his hands stopped moving south, and headed back north again, thumbs experimentally circling Ray's nipples until he was breathing like a dog on a hot day and his hips were trying to circle the same way Fraser's hands were. Unfortunately with Fraser's weight on him, the most he could do was squirm a little. He was also getting seriously overheated, since he was still wearing the bottom half of his long-johns.

"Wait!" he panted. "Just hang on a sec. I gotta . . . " he hooked a finger in the elastic waistband of the long-johns and snapped it. ". . . get these off."

Instantly Fraser stopped teasing him. "Yeah," he agreed. "You do." He leaned forward, braced a hand against the wall, and shifted forward, taking his weight off of Ray as he reached down with his other hand and started tugging at the sweaty fabric.

Ray stared at Fraser's cock, which was now about six inches from his face. Never one to waste an opportunity, he grabbed a pillow and folded it under his head, then reached out, putting his hands on Fraser's hips, pulling him further forward. "C'mere."

Fraser gasped, his hand slipping on the wall a little, the other clutching at Ray's waist, task forgotten as Ray's mouth closed around him.

It probably should have made him gag or something, but it didn't. In fact, he kind of liked the thick, smooth, heavy feel of Fraser in his mouth. He tasted good– faintly salty, faintly bitter. He even smelled good, like musk, and weirdly, honey. Experimentally, Ray flicked his tongue across the rounded head. The taste was a lot stronger there. Still good, though, so he did it again.

A shudder went through Fraser's body. "God, Ray!" he said hoarsely, both hands braced against the wall now, staring down at Ray with wide, astonished eyes.

Ray smiled around him. It was always a kick to surprise Fraser. He tugged at Fraser's hips, urging him to rock into his mouth. Fraser shook his head, wordless, and Ray felt the resistance in his taut muscles, but didn't know why. Hell, if their positions were reversed, he'd be. . .

Okay. Probably he'd be doing the same thing. He'd be afraid of screwing up, of making Fraser choke or something. It was the same reason he'd never felt free to really go for it with Stella. So he had to make Fraser know it was okay, somehow. He closed his eyes, and tongued the soft frill that had drawn back behind the corona, and listened to the choked-off moan that Fraser gave. He rubbed circles on Fraser's hips, and used his mouth to show Fraser it was all right, sliding forward, pulling back, sliding forward, pulling back, keeping it shallow. After a few times, Fraser took the hint and started moving on his own, easing himself into Ray's mouth, and then out again. This close, Ray could see that Fraser's thighs were trembling. Cool.

Definitely going to have to resign that membership, because sucking Fraser's cock was the hottest thing he had ever done in his life. The shaky curl of Fraser's hips as he rocked into Ray's mouth, his soft, panting moans and growls, made Ray feel like he was about to go off like a Fourth of July firecracker even though nobody was even touching his cock. Without warning, Fraser reached down and grabbed himself hard enough that it made Ray wince in sympathy, and then he pushed back from the wall, pulling himself out of Ray's mouth with a shuddering gasp.

"Hey!" Ray protested, licking slick lips. Then he got worried. "Did I do it wrong?"

"God, no!" Fraser assured him, un-straddling him and scooting back a little, reaching for the waistband of his thermals. "It was delightful. Amazing. Wonderful. Marvelous . . . "

"That's enough," Ray said with a grin. "Any more and I'll stop believing you."

Fraser chuckled softly, working Ray's thermals carefully past the obstacle of his erection. "I just don't want . . . lift up." Ray obligingly lifted his hips and Fraser slid the pants down to his knees as he continued. "I don't want to be alone. I've been alone too long."

Ray was confused for a moment, but then he figured out what Fraser was saying. If Fraser just wanted to get off he could do that by himself any time. But he wanted to do it with Ray. "I get that," Ray said hoarsely. "God, do I ever. Come on. Let's be not-alone together."

Fraser's smile could have lit the sky for miles as, with a quick yank, he finished stripping off Ray's long-johns and paused for a moment, his gaze sweeping Ray's body. Ray leaned on his elbows and let Fraser have a good look at him, feeling a little curl of fear in his stomach. If Fraser was going to back out, it would probably be now.

"Oh . . . Ray. You're just . . ." Fraser looked like a kid who'd just been handed a whole box of candy and told he didn't have to share with anyone. He lifted his gaze to Ray's. "Just splendid," he said, almost reverently.

The fear vanished like the steam of breath in below-zero air, and a warm, half-embarrassed, half-elated glow washed through Ray. "Nah, that's you," he said, putting a hand behind Fraser's neck and tugging gently.

Fraser settled against him, thighs splayed around Ray's hips, the strong, hot length of his cock stroking slowly through the wiry tangle of Ray's pubic hair and coming to rest on his belly, so close . . . so close their cocks were almost touching. Ray could feel the sticky-slickness of pre-come on his skin, his– Fraser's– both. No telling them apart. He could even feel the fast, hard tic of Fraser's pulse in the long vein that was pressed into his abdomen. And it wasn't enough. Not yet. He reached down, grabbed Fraser's perfect ass in both hands, and pulled, grinding Fraser's cock into his belly, arching upward at the same time . . . God! Yes! Finally. He thrust and pulled again, hoping Fraser would get with the program, and the muffled groan and shudder told him that he might just be starting to get it. Once more, thrust-pull, and . . . there. Fraser made a sound that was suspiciously close to a growl, braced up on his arms, angled his hips, and started to pump against Ray.

Slick cock slid along slick cock, neither slick enough to stop the drag of skin on skin. Ray gasped, and twitched. Nearly perfect. Nearly. Sweat built, adding to the ease of their movements, and it went on for endless moments, grind-pull-roll-grind, tension building and building, until Ray had to hold on tight, and he spread his fingers on Fraser's ass, their tips edging into the cleft between Fraser's cheeks.

Fraser moaned, his head lifting, his eyes wild and dark. "God, Ray," he panted. "God, please. . . ."

Christ. Ray lifted one hand and pressed two fingers against Fraser's mouth. Fraser took them in, licking and sucking like those fingers were Ray's cock, and weirdly Ray's cock didn't really seem to know the difference, as he throbbed and ached in time with each suck-buck-thrust. The inside of Fraser's mouth was hot and wet and it felt so damned good Ray forgot why he'd put his fingers in there to begin with, until his other hand, still clamped on Fraser's ass like it was the only handhold on a sheer cliff-face, slid on sweaty skin and Fraser groaned and bucked. Oh yeah. Right.

He pulled his fingers out of Fraser's mouth. Fraser stopped sucking and opened wide as they slid out, so they stayed nice and wet. He used his thumb to guide himself down, not wanting to lose any wet against Fraser's back, and then he was there, and he put both fingers against the little hole and pushed. There was a moment of resistance, and then Fraser grunted and pushed back, and opened up. God. Tight. Fraser shuddered, and whimpered, his hips bucking erratically. Ray worked his fingers deeper, and Fraser's whole body jerked as he ground his hips into Ray's, and gave a low, aching moan.

The feel of Fraser's cock pumping against his belly and the smear of wet heat between them shattered the last vestige of Ray's control. He filled his mouth with the rounded curve of Fraser's shoulder to keep from yelling and came hard, adding to the mess between them as they sagged into a shuddering, panting heap.

* * *

Someone was watching him. The knowledge woke Ray up with a start, and he looked around wildly, only to discover that it was just Fraser. He was lying on his stomach with his arms crossed under his chin, watching Ray intently, a slight frown line marring the smooth area between his eyebrows.

Uh oh. Frowning Fraser was not what he had hoped to wake up to. Ray swallowed hard. If Fraser was having second thoughts. . . Christ. He did not want to know. But he kind of had to. He cleared his throat. "What's that for?" he asked.

Fraser looked puzzled. "What's what for?"

Ray reached over and stuck his finger between Fraser's eyebrows. "That."

Fraser shifted a little, reaching up to touch his own forehead. "That what?"

"You . . . um . . . you were frowning."


Shit. Ah. That was not good. Ray sat up, feeling the dried come on his stomach crack and flake, and itch. Unable to face the thought that Fraser was having regrets, he grabbed at that excuse. "Look, I . . . uh, I'll just go get a shower."

Fraser's hand shot out, his fingers wrapped around Ray's wrist almost painfully tight. "Stop." He studied Ray intently, looking worried. "What's wrong?"

"I asked you first." Ray shot back.

"Nothing's wrong. I was just . . . ."

It made Ray crazy when Fraser didn't finish his sentences. "Just what?" he demanded.

Fraser looked embarrassed. "I was just, ah, wondering if you would be willing to shave. It's not that the beard isn't fetching, and quite practical, but. . . I'd like to be able to really see you."

Ray stared at him for long seconds, not quite believing his ears. "Shave?" he echoed faintly. "You want me to shave?"

Fraser nodded.

"That's it? That's all?" His voice shook a little. The relief was threatening to make him giggle.

Fraser nodded again. "That's all. What did you think I . . . oh." He rolled his eyes, his jaw tensing, looking a little pissy. "You know, it's hardly flattering to realize you think I'm that fickle."

"I don't! I. . . I never thought. . . I mean. Oh hell." He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, then looked back at Fraser earnestly. "I just, I'm not good at next mornings. I've had too many next mornings that didn't work out like I thought they would, so I've kind of got to where I expect that, I guess. It's not you. It's me, okay?"

The tight line of Fraser's mouth relaxed and his gaze softened. "I haven't had much experience with next mornings myself," he confessed. "Though of the ones I did have, most, as you say, didn't work out the way I thought they would. For a moment just now I thought. . . "

His voice trailed off, and Ray waited expectantly, then started to laugh softly. "You did it too."

Fraser gave a wry smile and met Ray's eyes guiltily. "I'm afraid so."

"Let's start over," Ray said decisively, holding his hand out, palm up, fingers slightly curved. Fraser looked at it, then put his own hand in it. Ray tightened his grip and pulled Fraser to him slowly, and when he was close enough, brushed his lips softly against Fraser's mouth before pulling back just enough to speak. "Morning Fraser, last night was great. In fact, the whole trip's been great. And before that, the whole partnership's been great. Pretty much everything's been great from the start. Want to do it some more?"

Ray felt Fraser's mouth curve upward against his own before Fraser kissed him back, not a little brush, but a full-on kiss, tongue parting his lips, sleek and smooth, making him shiver before he broke the kiss a few moments later.

"I'd like that very much," Fraser said huskily. "In fact, I'd like to do it for both the foreseeable and the unforeseeable future, if that's all right with you."

The unforeseeable future? What the hell did that . . . oh. Ray's brain came back from where Fraser's tongue had sent it, and he realized what it meant. Just to make sure, he pulled back to look at Fraser, who was. . . definitely not teasing him. His expression was solemn, and his gaze wary, like he was expecting a rolled-up newspaper across the muzzle. Ray chose his words carefully. "I can do unforeseeable, Benton Fraser. I'm all over unforeseeable."

* * * Fin * * *

Comments to: kellie @ mrks. org



Sliwowica (aka Slivovitz) is a highly alcoholic beverage made from fermented plums, which is sort of the national drink of Poland. 'Lacko' is one of the better-known brands. http://www.polishvodkas.com/fr_lacko.htm