Thanks to my betas, Ardent, AuKestrel, Bluster, BethH, Kalena, and Sihaya Black. Maybe I don't always listen, but you always make me think. And to Otsoko for helping me with the French. --Kellie
A sense of peace seemed to surround Fraser in inverse proportion to the level of pandemonium in the 27th division's grimy lobby. The restlessness and claustrophobia that had plagued him for the past fortnight eased almost instantly. He wondered if it could be considered treasonous to feel more comfortable working for another country than for his own. Having to host the delegates from the trade mission at the Consulate for the past two weeks had left him somewhat edgy.
He nodded to Sergeant Pagano at the front desk and started to ease past a collection of young men who stood, handcuffed in pairs, beside it. They appeared to be wearing nothing but wet tights and ballet slippers. Huey stood in front of them with a book in one hand, sounding out words one at a time in very bad French.
"May I be of assistance?" Fraser asked. "I speak French."
Huey looked relieved. "Yeah. Tell them that it's illegal to go swimming in Buckingham Fountain."
Fraser turned to the group, wondering why they were all staring at him with such bemusement, and translated. One of the group, a handsome young man with a sculptural build and short-cropped, dark curly hair suddenly looked enlightened.
"Natation? Est-ce-que monsieur l'agent croit que nous avons fait de natation?"
Fraser looked back at Huey and translated the question into English. "He wants to know if you really thought they were swimming."
"Yeah, Fraser, they were swimming in the fountain. Or wading. Whatever. And they can't do that."
Fraser turned to the youth. "Oui, il croit que vous avez fait de natation, et ça c'est inderdit."
"Bien non! Nous ne nagions pas. Nous êtions en train de executer une performance. Et nous avons, comment vous dites, un permis," the man replied vehemently.
"He says they weren't swimming, they were performing, and that they have a permit," Fraser explained to Huey.
Huey looked skeptical. "A permit? So where is it?"
"Puis-je voir votre permis, s'il vous plait?"
"Moment," the boy said, and then spoke to his companions in what was clearly an Eastern European language, not Russian, but possibly Polish or Czech. A moment later they all crowded around their leader in a circle, obscuring him.
"Hey!" Huey complained. "What are they doing? They can't do that!"
"I believe they are locating their permit."
"Oh." Huey looked perplexed. "But. . . ."
Just then the crowd parted and the boy triumphantly held out a ziplock plastic sandwich bag with a piece of paper in it. "Permis'," he said, hitching up his damp tights with his other hand.
Huey looked at the bag dubiously. "Man, I do not want to know where he had that."
"In that case, I won't ask him," Fraser said, taking the bag and opening it to pull out the paper inside. "I'm afraid I'm not conversant with this particular form so I can't vouch for its authenticity, but it does appear to authorize the Dance Ensemble Aquatic of the Czech Republic to perform in Buckingham Fountain between eight a.m. and ten p.m. today."
Huey gave a longsuffering sigh. "Why didn't they just say so to begin with?"
"Well, I venture to say that they had no idea why you were arresting them. Shall I tell them they're free to go?"
"Yeah, yeah. And I guess I'll have to call the bus and have them all hauled back to the fountain."
"That would be very kind of you, and under the circumstances, appropriate, I suspect." He turned his attention back to the young men. "Vous autres pouvez aller. Nous aurons vous conduir de nouveau à votre exécution."
"Fraser! I never said we were gonna execute them!"
Fraser almost laughed but managed to turn it into a cough instead. "'Execution' means 'performance', Detective."
"Oh." Huey looked relieved. "Good. I'll, uh, just go get the transport set up. And, tell 'em we're sorry and all that."
"Certainly. Monsieur le detective vous offre ses excuses pour la confusion. Voudrez attendre le transport?"
"Effectivement, nous l'attendrons. Puis-je vous demander quelque chose, êtes vous ... Canadien?"
Fraser nodded. "Oui, j'en suis."
The young man beamed. "Nous l'avons su! Vous et votre manteau êtes très beaux." Looking at Fraser flirtatiously, he lifted a hand and put it on Fraser's chest, fingering fabric, and buttons, and indirectly, the chest beneath them. "Peut-être vous voudriez venir voir notre exécution? Peut-être nous pourrions arranger un visionnement privé?"
Embarrassed, Fraser cleared his throat. "Yes, well, I mean. . . ."
"Hey! Hands off the Mountie!" a familiar voice broke in, and Fraser looked up gratefully as Ray strode out of the hallway that led to the bullpen. He looked. . . different. Not to mention annoyed.
Apparently the young man understood that much English, or perhaps just Ray's expression, and he snatched his hand back with a sulky pout. "Désolé, j'ai pas su que vous êtiez avec quelqu'un."
The composure he'd begun to regain deserted him abruptly as he realized what they thought. "We're not. . . I mean, I'm not. . . ." he realized he was using the wrong language and tried again. "Non, nous ne sommes pas des . . . " He hesitated, not knowing quite how to put it. " . . . petits amis."
"You're not what, Fraser?" Ray asked, glowering at the group. "Public property? That's right, you're not. Now tell the kids to go play in the street or something."
"The young man was just . . . admiring my uniform."
"Uh huh," Ray said disbelievingly, coming to stand close to Fraser, one hand on his shoulder. "Tell him to admire from a distance. And tell him goodbye, I need you."
Under the circumstances it was difficult not to put a slant on Ray's words that he no doubt had not intended, but even the intended meaning gave him a pleasant glow. "Of course, Ray. Just a moment." One last time he gave the group his attention. "Il faut que j'aie pour aider mon associé. Mais, si vous avez n'importe quel problème, ne hésitez pas à m'appeller pour l'aide a la traduction. Je suis le Gendarme Benton Fraser du Consulat Canadien." He put the permit back in its plastic bag, and then got one of his business cards out of his handcuff case. Tucking the card into the bag as well, he handed it back to the young man.
"Merci." The boy grinned engagingly. "Mais je pense votre ami pourrais objecter si nous vous téléphonions."
"Il n'est vraiment pas mon. . . ."
The boy made a rude noise. "Ouais, Si vous le dites."
Fraser gave up with a shrug. It was highly unlikely they would meet again, so it didn't really matter if they thought he and Ray were an 'item,' as Ray would no doubt put it. "Avez une bonne journée."
Ray tugged at Fraser's elbow, and Fraser followed him toward the bullpen. "I thought Australians spoke English," Ray said.
"They generally do, or rather, something that closely resembles it," Fraser said. "Why?"
"Kid just said they were Aussies."
"Actually, Ray, they're Czech."
"Huh. So they're like, undercover too?"
"Ah, something like that."
"Cool. Man, am I glad to see you," Ray said, slinging an arm across Fraser's shoulders and pulling him along as he headed toward the bullpen. "Things just aren't the same without you. Come on."
Feeling somewhat disoriented, Fraser allowed himself to be guided to Ray's desk. Ray settled into his chair and gestured for Fraser to take the one next to the desk. He eyed Ray quizzically, and his hand rose almost on its own to his own face, unconsciously fingering a line across his upper lip and down toward his chin. "May I ask what made you decide to grow a beard?"
Ray stroked the neatly trimmed goatee he'd acquired over the last two weeks. "Got a gig undercover." He held out his hand. "Carlos Gomez, South American drug lord. Nice to meet you."
"Carlos Gomez?" Fraser asked incredulously, looking Ray up and down. At second glance, his hair was a shade darker, and it looked as if he had missed his monthly barber's appointment. "They're sending a blond, blue-eyed American of Polish extraction in as a South American drug lord named Carlos Gomez?"
Ray laughed and shrugged. "Hey, makes as much sense as sending me in as a balding American of Italian extraction."
""Perhaps they thought you'd pass as northern Italian," Fraser said absently, fingering his earlobe as he stared at the slim silver hoop in Ray's left ear. "And you got your ear pierced as well?"
Ray reached up to touch the earring and then his hand dropped again as he shook his head. "Nah, I've had that since high school."
"Get out! You have not!"
Ray looked amused. "Yeah, I have."
"I think I would have noticed," Fraser said indignantly. There was simply no way he would have missed seeing that all this time, especially considering the amount of time he'd spent thinking about Ray's ears, which probably - no, definitely - did not bear mentioning.
"I had the hole, just didn't put anything in it. Haven't for years. In fact the back part was kind of skinned over and I had to poke it through. Hurt like a son of a bitch and got blood on my Rawhide t-shirt." He sighed exaggeratedly. "'The things I do for England.'"
"England?" Fraser echoed faintly. "You're going to impersonate a drug dealer in England?"
Ray laughed. "No, Fraser, that was Bond. James Bond. God, I have got to give you a crash course in American pop culture one of these days."
"Ah." Fraser still didn't see what England, or James Bond for that matter, had to do with Ray inflicting pain on himself, but he'd learned over time that it was best to just let some things go. He eyed Ray's left ear-lobe, noting that it seemed faintly pinker than the other. "I hope you sterilized the earring and are using an antimicrobial on the wound. You wouldn't want it to get infected."
"Yeah, I put some alcohol on it, don't worry, Mom."
"I believe that alcohol is contraindicated where puncture wounds are concerned, as is peroxide. The current recommendation is for solutions or cleansers containing chloroxylenol or trichlorsan. Failing that, a topical solution of benzalkonium-chloride or 0.13 percent benzethonium-chloride is next best."
Ray looked bemused. "Uh huh. And just where am I supposed to get that?"
"Your local pharmacy, I'm sure, carries the latter. It's called 'Bactine.™'"
"Right. Bactine.™" Ray shook his head, and eyed Fraser askance. "Do I want to know how come you know all that?"
"Well, I thought it prudent to read up on it when I . . . ."
Ray held up both hands. "Whoa! If you got holes Mother Nature didn't give you in places that don't show when you're dressed I really do not want to know about it!"
Fraser swallowed the rest of his explanation, not sure why Ray would be so squeamish. He knew for a fact that Ray had been wounded in the line of duty himself. Of course, Ray could be strangely fastidious about things like blood and death. "Back to the subject at hand. It seems a little unusual to have an officer who's already acting in an undercover capacity go undercover."
Ray rolled his eyes. "No sh. . . kidding. I've got more personalities than Eve here. But at least if I forget who I am, I've got you to remind me, right?"
Though Ray's tone was joking, his eyes were serious. Fraser met his gaze steadily. "Of course."
"Good. That's. . . really good."
Ray smiled, not his usual cynical smirk or irritable baring of teeth, but the rarely-seen real smile that made Fraser's chest tighten in a ridiculously tender fashion. He cleared his throat and tugged at his collar. "When are you expected to begin this assignment, and how long will it last?"
"We go live on Friday. It's a short-term sting; the DEA's working with the 11th on this. I'm a bigshot from south of the border, looking for some local distributors. They've been setting it up for weeks now, putting out the word, they just needed someone nobody around the 11th knows to play the part."
"They think there are officers in the 11th who might be dirty?" Fraser asked. Things could get difficult when other law enforcement professionals were targeted. Both during, and after the operation.
"No, I didn't mean it like that. I meant around the 11th as in around the neighborhood of the 11th where the bad guys already know all the cops in the shop. They did a survey of who's worked where, and I've been over there like twenty minutes in my entire career so I got elected."
"Ah. Well, that makes sense, I suppose, as long as no one asks you anything in Spanish."
"We got that covered. See, I'm from Argentina, but my family immigrated from Germany after the second World War and changed their names. Kind of a 'Boys from Brazil' thing." He winked.
"I see," Fraser said, even though he didn't. "Earlier you said you were in need of my assistance. How can I help you?"
"You can be my bodyguard," Ray said. "No self-respecting drug kingpin would go around without at least one bodyguard. Huey said it would be racist to ask him, nobody would buy Dewey as a bodyguard, and believe it or not, every other decent-sized guy in this place has worked at the 11th at some point. The place is like a farm team for the 2-7."
"Do you really think anyone will 'buy' me as a bodyguard either?" Fraser asked doubtfully.
Ray leaned back in his chair and studied him for a moment, and then nodded. "Yeah, I do. Well, if you can keep your mouth shut that is, 'cause you sure don't sound like a bodyguard. But you have this way of looking at people that just makes them behave. Sort of like a cross between a hockey goon and a librarian."
"Why thank you, Ray," Fraser said drily.
"Welcome," Ray said, grinning. "Though we'll have to do something about your wardrobe, though. I got a thousand dollar suit out of the deal. We'll have to see what we can find for you."
"A. . . suit?" Fraser asked.
Ray laughed out loud. "Jeez, you'd think I just said you'd have to wear a g-string. Okay, fine, no suit. We can go with the classic 'bar bouncer' look."
"What exactly would that entail?" he asked suspiciously.
"Jeans, muscle shirt, leather jacket. Maybe some jewelry. Can you hack that?"
Fraser sighed. "I suppose. But no gold chains, please?"
"Nah, silver's better with your coloring," Ray said. "I wouldn't put gold on you."
Fraser looked at him sharply. Sometimes he couldn't quite tell if Ray was teasing or not. "I'll have to make sure it's all right with Inspector Thatcher."
"I'll get Welsh to call her and make it good."
"That would be very useful. She rarely questions Lieutenant Welsh."
Ray grinned. "I know. That's why I asked him. I can't do this without you, buddy."
The sentiment sent a warm glow through him.
* * *
As they passed a wall of large, green-tinted windows, Fraser caught a glimpse of their reflection and it momentarily distracted him. Ray didn't look like Ray, and after shopping with Ray, Fraser didn't look like himself either. Someone from a movie. Brando, perhaps, or McQueen. The clothes made him feel like someone else, as well. Aware of his body and movements in ways he usually wasn't.
He'd never owned black jeans before. Nor had he ever worn an undershirt as anything but an undershirt, though fortunately that was mostly hidden by his new jacket. Ray had vetoed his choice of a nice leather barn coat and insisted on a bomber-style jacket that he'd said was 'distressed.' Fraser thought it wasn't just distressed, but actually terminal, appearing to have been run over several times by a truck and then left out in a sandstorm. His feet felt odd, clumsy and too big in the heavy motorcycle boots Ray had chosen for him. Even the almost imperceptible weight of the bead-chain circling the base of his throat made him feel strangely . . . oversensitized. Of course that might have something to do with the fact that it had come off Ray's wrist.
Ray seemed to have no such difficulties adapting to his camouflage. To Fraser's surprise, considering Ray's usual disdain for such things, he wore his Dior suit and band-collar linen shirt as if born to them. At Fraser's look of amazement he'd grinned and shrugged and muttered something about Stella. It had somewhat helped ease Fraser's concern about the assignment. He wasn't really worried about Ray's abilities, after all, he'd done undercover work for years. It was more the people doing the set-up and back up that he worried about. Not that he had any real reason to worry, but he hadn't been in on the planning stages and that made him slightly nervous.
"Are you sure Detective Samuels and Agent Clemens did their research?" Fraser asked again, as they rounded the corner and headed for the door of the building where they were to meet their potential distributors. "This is quite an upscale area for a drug distributor."
"They seemed to be on the ball to me, Fraser. They checked it out and they've got a listening post set up across the street with all the latest goodies. Besides, with the amount of money these guys make, they can afford to live in places like this."
"Well, yes, of course they can, but they rarely do. And even more rarely do they arrange to meet potential suppliers in such surroundings. A neutral location is generally chosen."
"We don't know that they live here," Ray pointed out. "Maybe this is one of those deals where the company rents a place for out of town guys to use when they're visiting."
"A drug distribution ring is hardly comparable to an international corporation."
"Maybe not if you're talking about Inuvik, but around here it is. They've got accountants, lawyers, medical plans -- you name it. It's big business. Hell, even the gangs run like that, remember?"
Fraser sighed. "All too clearly. And sadly, that probably applies to Inuvik these days as well. Organized crime is a problem everywhere."
"Just concentrate on this organization for the moment, okay? He yawned suddenly, and shook himself. "Sorry. Didn't sleep much last night. Kind of keyed up."
"Are you sure -" Fraser began, concerned.
"I'm good," Ray said. "Let's do this thing."
Fraser reached for the door and pulled it open, then gestured for Ray to precede him. "After you."
Ray looked at him with an expression of fond exasperation. "Fraser, not that I don't appreciate the polite thing, but the bodyguard goes in first. Checks things out. Makes sure it's safe."
"Right you are." He stepped in front of Ray and surveyed the lobby. It was a vast, open area several times the size of the foyer of the Consulate, carpeted in charcoal gray, furnished with arm-chairs and love-seats upholstered in a lighter gray, and a scattering of granite-topped coffee and end tables. Saving the room from sterility was a profusion of potted plants that gave it color and life. Near the elevators was a sleekly modern reception desk behind which sat an attractive young woman in a security guard's uniform. There wasn't another soul in sight, and the reflective nature of the windows on all sides would have given him a good view of anyone attempting to hide behind the furnishings. He looked back at Ray. "It appears to be safe."
Ray nodded, stepping inside. "Okay then, let's go find 3220."
Fraser stepped toward the door that bore a discreet brass sign that read: 'Stairs.'
Ray cleared his throat. Fraser stopped. Ray turned his head slowly and deliberately toward the elevators. Fraser didn't need a translation. He stepped in front of Ray and led the way.
"Can I help you?" the uniformed woman behind the desk asked. This close, Fraser could see that her name badge said 'Cyndy Portis' and that the computer terminal on her desk displayed several windows showing different areas of the building on closed-circuit . He stopped, waiting for Ray, and then felt a nudge in his lower back. He cleared his throat hastily. "Mr. Gomez has an appointment in 3220." He had to consciously remember not to sound polite, or, indeed, courteous at all.
The woman consulted her book, running her finger down a column that Fraser could see was mostly empty. "Oh, yes. Here you are. All right, let me unlock that elevator for you."
She got up and walked toward the bank of elevators, a large ring of keys jangling in her hands. She turned a key in a lock on one of the elevator key-pads, and turned back toward them as the door slid open silently.
"There you are, gentlemen, I hope you have a productive meeting."
"Thank you," Fraser said as they stepped into the elevator.
The doors slid closed behind them and Ray shook his head. "What did I tell you about the polite thing?"
"I'm sorry," he said, genuinely contritely. "I can't always help myself. In any case, she started it."
"Yeah, yeah. And if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?"
"I suppose it would depend on the elevation of the cliff," Fraser said. "And the reason for the jump. For instance, if there were a grass fire and . . . ."
Ray sighed. Deeply. Loudly. They rode the rest of the way up to the 32nd floor in silence.
When the elevator eased to a stop, the doors slid open to reveal yet another foyer. This one was not as large or as comfortable as the lobby, but the floor was the same dark polished granite. The only furnishings were two large men flanking the only doorway who looked much more like bodyguards than Fraser felt he did.
Both were muscular and quite fit. One was African-American, one Asian, and they wore identical navy suits of excellent cut. Clearly this operation did not lack for funds. The careful tailoring of their suits disguised, but did not completely hide, the fact that both were armed. And suspicious, judging from the way they were looking at Ray. He angled his body forward to step in front of Ray, trying to make it appear that he was being unobstrusive while in fact ensuring that they noticed it.
"Mr. Gomez?" one of the two men asked.
"Who wants to know?" Fraser asked, a little surprised by the growl in his voice. He hoped it made him sound more in-character.
"Mr. Lewis," the man answered. "Are you Gomez?"
"I am Gomez," Ray said. "He's with me. I am expected."
Fraser had to stop himself from staring at Ray, wondering when he had acquired a faint but very decent Spanish accent.
"Yes, sir," the man said. "If you'll both just step over here for a moment."
Fraser looked at Ray and lifted his eyebrows. Ray shrugged and nodded, and they walked over to where the guards waited. They patted Ray up and down perfunctorily, confiscated his cell phone, and then took their time with Fraser. It was a trifle disconcerting, and he wondered if most police officers got quite so. . . intimate . . . with one's anatomy. He knew he would have been far more perfunctory. The bulk of a weapon was not something that was particularly inconspicuous in clothing as form-fitting as the outfit Ray had chosen for him. They even slid their fingers inside his boot tops, fortunately not far enough to reach the RCMP-issue electronic listening-device detector he had taped into the left one as a precautionary measure.
After several seconds, Ray crossed his arms. "Okay, that's enough. I think you've had enough fun." He sounded irritable.
The guard stepped back, clearly puzzled. "What the hell is he packing and where?"
"He doesn't carry." Ray said, smirking a little. "He doesn't need to. Canadian Special Forces. Ex, that is."
Both guards eased back, looking at Fraser respectfully.
The first guy unclipped a cellular phone from his belt, dialed, and then spoke into it. "They're clean." After a moment he nodded, "Yes, sir." He closed the phone, and gestured at the door. The second guard opened the door.
"Mr. Lewis will see you now," the first guard said.
Ray started to step forward, but Fraser stopped him with a hand on his chest and a quick shake of his head, stepping into the room in front of Ray and giving it a quick scan for anything that seemed dangerous. Nothing struck him as particularly unusual, other than the fact that the room looked like an interior decorator's showroom.
The two bodyguards took up positions slightly behind and to either side of the seated man whom Fraser recognized from the case files he'd studied. Jerrold Lewis had started his career as a pharmacist and had gone on to an entirely different sort of drug distribution. He was quite wealthy, with ties to at least half the drug operations in Chicago, and had recently expressed a desire to deal directly with the source of the pharmaceuticals he distributed, quite ingeniously, from his chain of drugstores. It was that desire which had opened the way for the sting operation.
The photo in the file had shown only his face, that of a clean-shaven, somewhat overweight Caucasian male in his late fifties, with pale blue eyes and hair too uniformly brown to be natural. In person, Fraser also saw that he was also a very large man, standing well over six feet tall, with the build of someone who rarely denied himself anything. He wore a hand-tailored silk suit in a shade of blue just slightly too bright to be called navy. Personally Fraser would have chosen a more subdued color, and a fabric with less sheen, since the way the light caught on the raised portions only served to emphasize the wearer's corpulence.
The large man's gaze went from Fraser to Ray and stayed there. Ray moved forward, extending a hand. "Carlos Gomez," he said smoothly. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Lewis. Shall we do some business?"
'Shall?' Fraser thought, bemused. He wasn't sure he'd heard Ray use that word before. Ever.
Lewis stared at Ray for a moment, then reached out to shake his hand, eyeing him questioningly. "You don't look Argentinian," he said suspiciously.
Ray laughed, seemingly at perfect ease. "You should tell my mother that. It would make her very happy. She is always worried someone might think our family line has degenerated from our German forefathers simply because we changed our name forty years ago."
Fraser found himself somewhat awestruck by the ease with which Ray lied, and the way in which he had altered his usual patterns of speech, smoothing them into something convincingly non-American. He realized suddenly that he'd been selling Ray's abilities short, based on his lack of discernible attempt to imitate Ray Vecchio, other than a few perfunctory attempts early on, involving his wardrobe, and behavior around women. Those things had been out of character for the Ray he had eventually come to know, and had clearly been in imitation of Ray Vecchio. Eventually even those had been abandoned as unnecessary, given the fact that everyone at the 27th was well aware of the situation.
After shaking hands, Lewis gestured toward a chair and took a seat in one opposite it. Ray sat down, and, taking a cue from the two men with Lewis, Fraser stationed himself behind Ray, standing at parade rest.
"I must tell you that this is an ingenious system you have," Ray said, lounging back in the chair as if it were his own living room. "My people have been asking for some of this action since word got out. No one looks twice at someone coming out of a farmacia with a bag. This is very smooth, very smooth."
Lewis preened visibly under Ray's compliments. "Thank you. I do take pride in the operation. I built it from the ground up. And I've wanted to have a more reliable supplier, one who doesn't have the problems that my current ones do with . . . interruptions of shipments."
Ray nodded. "Yes, that I understand. And perhaps today we can come to an understanding. You received the samples we sent?"
"We did," Lewis said. "The merchandise was of excellent quality. Just what my customers demand. And I'd like to do business. I'm currently paying more than I want to, so I would expect a volume discount."
"That is very possible. What sort of volume are you thinking of?"
"I can sell as much as you can give me."
Ray nodded. "Me gusta. We will start small, say, a hundred keys? When we have an idea of your turnover, we can set up regular shipments. For a hundred keys, what do you say to eighty percent of your current price?"
"Excellent, excellent," Lewis said. "That sounds quite reasonable."
"Good. Let's start the paperwork," Ray said, reaching toward his inner pocket.
Lewis hesitated. "I'd love to. Except the thing is, we have a little problem."
Ray sat forward, fingers laced together loosely, looking interested but not worried. "What manner of problem is this?"
"Well, it's really not a big problem, but you see, my people haven't been able to confirm your identity," Lewis said. "We haven't been able to reach our contact in Buenos Aires who set up this meet. I'm sure you understand, we can't be too careful. So I'd like to offer you the hospitality of the apartment here for a day or so while we wait for that."
Ray didn't turn a hair. He sat back, to the untrained eye still seeming as relaxed as he had been before. Fraser was the only person in the room who could see the tendons that had tightened down the back of his neck.
"I regret I must decline this generous offer. I have other business I must attend to while I am here.," Ray said, not missing a beat. "It is not as if we are in a hurry, after all. We can reschedule manãna," Ray smiled, apparently acknowledging his countrymen's penchant for 'manãna.' "Neither your clients or my product are going anywhere."
Lewis nodded. "I understand your objection, but I'm afraid you don't understand mine." He walked toward the door, flanked by his bodyguards. "I believe we've supplied anything you might need. The bar and kitchen are fully stocked, there's digital cable on the television, and there are linens enough for a week, though I'm sure it won't take that long. If it turns out we've forgotten anything, just ask Glenn or Jim here, or one of their relief guys, to get it for you, since there are no phones in the apartment."
Frowning, Ray surged to his feet, moving to intercept Lewis before he could get to the door. Fraser followed, and ended up running into Ray as he stopped abruptly. When Fraser could see around him, he realized immediately why Ray had stopped. Both bodyguards had drawn their weapons. Instantly he moved in front of Ray.
"What is this?" Ray demanded, pushing Fraser aside, his elegant phrasing slipping a bit.
"Now, now, gentlemen," Lewis said patronizingly. "There's no need for upset, I'm sure. We're all friends here. I'm sure if you are who you say you are, then you won't have a problem waiting for us to confirm your identity."
"I have no problem with the confirmation, but as I told you I have other business to take care of."
"Surely a few hours won't be a problem?"
"What if your employee has gone to Bermuda for a month using the money I gave him for setting up a meet with Martinelli for me?"
Only his longstanding habit of professional blankness kept Fraser from smiling. Dino Martinelli was Lewis' chief competitor in the upscale drug market in Chicago. By bringing up his name, Ray simultaneously cast doubt on the reliability of the contact's word, and also implied that Lewis wasn't the only Chicago iron Gomez had in the fire. Very well played.
His words made Lewis hesitate for a moment, frowning. "Okay, tell you what. If we can't reach him by. . . " he looked at his watch, ". . . by noon tomorrow, you're free to go. That work?"
Ray thought about it, shook his head a little, then shrugged in a gesture of resignation. "I see. I shall need my phone back for a moment. I must let my assistant know where I am."
"Sorry, can't do that."
"You're a businessman, Mr. Lewis. You understand that it's important to stay in communication with your assistant. I have appointments and reservations that will have to be changed." Ray looked at him evenly, betraying no trace of anxiety, just a hint of exasperation. ""Come now, if your American television shows are to be believed, even the police give to you one phone call, esta bien?"
Lewis thought about it, and nodded slowly. "Okay. One call. But you don't say where you are or anything that might bring your people here. We don't want any trouble."
Ray nodded. "This is only fair." His gaze hardened and he crossed his arms. "Am I to be compensated for this frivolous waste of time?"
"I. . . ah, I'm sure we'll find some way," Lewis said, for the first time looking less than sure of himself.
Fraser didn't blame him. Ray was extremely convincing.
"Glenn, please give Mr. Gomez his phone," Lewis said.
The African-American security guard reached into his coat, got out Ray's phone and handed it to him. Without looking at it, Ray hit an autodial. After a moment Fraser could faintly hear a tinny voice respond, though he couldn't make out the words.
"Francesca, Gomez here. Please write this down, it is very important. I'm going to be incommunicado. . . what?" He sighed, making his exasperation plain to the men watching. "Out of touch," he said solowly. There was a long pause during which Ray listened intently. "Yes. Mr. Benton and I will be out of touch until noon tomorrow. Please cancel my appointments, which should include Mr. Welsh and Mr. Samuels, and cancel also my dinner reservation with Miss Clemens. Yes. Yes, we stay with Mr. Lewis and his associates. Yes. That's right. Yes. It's very important for you to do this. No, if you don't hear from me by tomorrow afternoon, Mr. Lewis will know where to find me. Yes. Esta bien."
Ray thumbed off the phone, shaking his head. Fraser could almost see the sympathy in Lewis' eyes, while the bodyguards were clearly suppressing smiles. "Good help is, as they say, difficult to find." He turned the phone over . . . "I'm sure you understand that I would prefer to keep my contacts . . . private?" he said, smiling as he pocketed the useless phone.
Lewis looked annoyed but couldn't protest overtly without admitting they were prisoners: obviously he didn't want to go that far. "Yes, yes, of course I understand." He paused for a moment, uncertain, then opened the door of the apartment. "I'll see you soon, I'm sure."
Ray nodded curtly, arms crossed, and Lewis left without further comment, the guards following him out of the room.
As soon as the door swung closed behind them, Fraser opened his mouth to speak, only to find Ray's right index finger pressed firmly against his lips. Startled, Fraser instinctively licked his lips, which resulted in licking Ray's finger as well. Ray gave him an odd look, and lifted his eyebrows. Fraser nodded that he realized the need for silence, and at that, Ray removed his hand and stepped away, miming a fly.
Fraser nodded, understanding instantly. "What would you like to do now, sir?" he asked aloud.
Ray shrugged. "What can we do? We must wait. At least they have cable."
Fraser took his cue, picking up the remote and handing it to Ray. "Certainly. I'm sure there is, er, football on.," Fraser said. He strongly suspected that not many Argentinians watched hockey or curling.
Ray settled onto the couch and turned on the television, thumbing the remote until he found a channel showing a soccer game. "Bien," he said turning the volume up to a painful level even as he tugged Fraser down next to him. "That should cover a whisper," he said, proceeding to demonstrate. Directly into Fraser's ear.
The feel of Ray's breath warm against his skin made him shiver, and he disguised that with a nod. "Indeed. And my compliments on your accent," he whispered back.
Ray grinned. "Not for nothing have I watched 'The Wrath of Khan' four million times."
Fraser had already calculated that doing such a thing would take in excess of 913 years when he realized it really wasn't the time or place to tease Ray for exaggerating. He filed it for future teasing, along with the fact that Ricardo Montalban was from Mexico, not Argentina. Ray was probably right in guessing that Lewis wouldn't know the difference. also helped explain the origin of Ray's subtly menacing attitude.
"Should we attempt an escape?" Fraser asked.
"Nah. I figure Clemens and Samuels will get us out of this. They know what's happening, right?"
"Right," Fraser agreed, although there was something nagging at him, something that made him less than sure about that, but since he couldn't put his finger on it, he thought it best not to mention it.
Ray stood up abruptly. "I must have coffee," he said loudly, using the Khan accent again. He seemed to be using it any time he thought he might be overheard. "Would you like some?" As he spoke, he tugged at his ear and looked around questioningly.
"Thank you, I would. Shall I prepare it?" Fraser asked, wondering if a bodyguard would in fact prepare coffee. "
"No, I like coffee my way. Why don't you explore our accommodations while I make the coffee? See what they are like?"
Fraser almost smiled. Ray was a very quick thinker. "Yes, sir." He leaned down, yanked up his pant leg and slid a hand inside his left boot, pretending to scratch his ankle as he freed the electrical tape that held the small bug-finder in place. He palmed it under guise of pulling the hem back down, and straightened. Fairly certain the living room was bugged, he decided to check out the other rooms, hoping to find one in which they could talk freely.
There was only one bedroom. The bed was a king. He stared at it, trying not to imagine. . . . He shook himself. If they had to stay long he would suggest they take turns sleeping and . . . keeping watch, as it were. That should avert any potential awkwardness. He checked all the usual spots, both visually and with the finder. Ventilation grates, lamps, clock-radio, mirror, under the bed, in the headboard. He unmade the bed to check between mattress and box springs, and then made it again. He noted there was a variety of track suits in the closet, while the bureau contained assorted t-shirts, underwear, and socks, also in varying sizes. The apartment was clearly stocked for visitors. But he'd still found no sign of bugs, mechanical or natural.
Next he tried the bathroom, where he discovered an abundant supply of bed and bath linens, and a vast assortment of sample-sized personal care products. It was rather like being in a very upscale hotel. Or at least what he had gathered that was like by listening to Inspector Thatcher wax ecstatic over her last visit to Montreal. He did not, however, turn up any listening devices, which he found increasingly odd.
"Coffee's ready," Ray called out.
Fraser hopped down off the toilet where he'd been standing to check the bathroom fan, once again finding nothing, and headed for the kitchen.
Ray had found an absolutely enormous cup somewhere, and was stirring spoonful after spoonful of sugar into the sable liquid it held. Another, smaller mug sat next to the coffee pot, already whitened to the cloudy butterscotch shade Fraser preferred. A carton of half-and-half sat on the counter next to the cup. Fraser nodded his thanks and picked up his mug, sipping. It was very good coffee. Far better than they ever had at the 27th or Ray's version of hot tap water and instant. In contrast, this was smooth, velvety, lusciously bitter. It made him understand how some people could prefer coffee to tea.
He took another sip and watched as Ray cradled his over-sized cup in both hands and drank from it as if having a religious experience. He loved to watch Ray indulge, loved the way his eyes closed, loved the expression of abstracted pleasure his face took on. He sometimes wondered if Ray looked like that when he came.
When Ray lowered the cup, their eyes met, and Ray lifted his eyebrows. Fraser felt himself flush a little, having been caught staring yet again. Fortunately Ray never seemed to find it annoying. He pretended that Ray was asking about the presence of surveillance equipment and shook his head, frowning slightly, and mouthed 'nothing' at him.
Ray frowned too, pointed around the kitchen, and mouthed 'nothing' right back at him. Fraser checked with the finder as well, and came up empty-handed. It seemed strange; they had both assumed Lewis and his men would be sophisticated enough to use surveillance equipment, and clearly Ray thought it as odd as he himself did.
"Come on, we're missing the game," Ray said, heading for the couch again.
Fraser followed, taking a turn around the room , coffee cup in one hand, finder in the other. Nothing set it off, so he sat beside Ray, who immediately leaned over. His goatee brushed Fraser?s ear, a sharp-soft sensation that evoked not only a shiver but another autonomic reaction as well. He casually put his free hand across his lap.
"No surveillance stuff?" Ray asked.
"Not that I can find," Fraser said, turning to whisper to Ray in the same fashion.
His lips brushed Ray's hair and, quite unfairly, he shivered again: goose walking on his grave, his grandmother would have said. He felt himself getting harder as well, and was glad of the heavy, dark denim that confined him, although he wished for the tails of his tunic to hide behind."It seems strange," he whispered, struggling to stay on track. "Perhaps this was a last minute plan when their contact failed to report in time for the meeting."
"Maybe so," Ray said, looking as puzzled as Fraser felt.
A sudden roar from the crowd on the television announced a goal by one of the teams, and out of habit they both turned to look. Almost instantly they looked at back each other, and then once again at the entertainment center with its assortment of electronics. Fraser lifted his eyebrows. Ray gave a tiny nod.
"I am bored with this. See if there are any films," Ray ordered.
"Yes, sir." Fraser stood and went over to the unit as if to look for videotapes or DVDs in the cabinet. A brief examination turned up a tiny camera and microphone combination hidden in a corner of the unit above the CD-player. Standing to the side where the camera couldn't see him, he pointed down at it and mimed filming and then cupped his ear. Ray's eyes widened slightly, but other than that he controlled his reaction.
"I'm sorry, sir, but there are no movies. Perhaps a different channel? Or would you prefer music?" he asked, making an 'okay' sign with his fingers as he mentioned music.
Ray nodded. "Music would be good. Why don't you find something?"
Fraser reached down to turn off the television as the buzz of radio static filled the room. He pressed buttons, searching for the station he knew Ray preferred.
"Something classical," Ray said, sounding idle, but Fraser could hear the tension in his voice.
Surprised, Fraser turned to look at Ray so quickly he nearly fell over. He grabbed at the cabinet to steady himself, and then took advantage of the situation by tangling his fingers into the camera's lead wire as he did. When he straightened, he gave it a good yank, and the little LED on the back of the camera winked out. He grinned at Ray, but still not completely sure whether or not there were other devices yet unfound, he merely gave a 'thumb's up' sign.
Ray nodded faintly as Fraser found a classical station and turned it on. Beethoven's Ninth roared from the speakers and Ray winced a little. Just on the off chance they'd missed a listening device, Fraser left the volume where it was and moved back to sit next to Ray, leaning close to whisper in his ear.
"That ought to do it."
Ray nodded. "Good work, 'Mr. Benton.' And where's my 'sir'? I was starting
to like that."
"All the more reason to stop," Fraser said, trying not to shiver as the warm sibilants in Ray's sentence sent shivers down his spine.
"You call Welsh 'sir,'" Ray pointed out.
"That's because he's my superior."
Ray shot him a suspicious look. "You saying I'm inferior?"
Fraser frowned, suddenly worried. "Of course not! We're equals."
"Just yanking your chain, don't worry. So, now that we're alone . . . " Ray stopped, and looked at the entertainment center again, and snickered. "You know what we probably looked like to them, sitting so close, whispering together?"
Fraser felt tension knot his stomach as he realized what Ray meant. "Yes, I do. I . . . I'm sorry."
Ray frowned. "What for?"
"Well, for giving them that impression." He hoped that the idea didn't make Ray too uncomfortable. He hadn't seemed to be earlier, but he might not have realized. . .
Ray shrugged. "No skin off my nose. Besides, I'm whispering in your ear as much as you were whispering in mine." His expression changed suddenly. "Um, maybe I should apologize to you?"
Oh, excellent. In trying to make sure he hadn't offended Ray, he'd made Ray worry that he'd offended him. "Absolutely not," he said firmly. "You know I have no objections to intimate contact with you."
Ray shot him an odd look, and on reviewing his words, Fraser thought perhaps he ought to have chosen different ones, as in retrospect they could be taken in a way he hadn't exactly meant. Or at least not meant to say aloud. Fortunately, Ray just shrugged again.
"So we're both good. That's . . . good. Geez, I've been hanging around Frannie too much."
Fraser smiled, but his smile suddenly faded as he finally identified what had been making him uncomfortable about their situation. Ray noticed immediately, and frowned.
"Ah. . . "
"Wait. Is there someplace we can really talk? I'm getting tired of making out with your ear."
Perversely disappointed, Fraser thought for a moment. "I'm certain the bathroom is clear. There are very few places to hide a device there."
Fraser followed Ray into the bathroom, closed the door behind them, and turned the taps on for good measure.
"There. Now, spill." Ray ordered. "What's wrong?"
"It's just that . . . have you noticed that the windows on this building are highly reflective?"
"Yeah. Shiny green windows. What about it?"
"I suspect they're aluminized."
"I've been trying to recall why that bothered me when I first saw it, and I finally have. The listening post was equipped with parabolic microphones, and if I remember correctly, aluminized windows interfere with the ability of parabolic microphones to clearly receive signals."
Ray stared at him. "You're saying they won't work on this building?" he hissed.
"Ah. . . well. . . it's a strong possibility."
"You're telling me we're hosed."
"No, of course n. . . er . . . well, in essence, yes."
Ray sighed. "Figures. I should've known this wouldn't go right. There's a Fed involved." He shook his head disgustedly. "So what's the plan for getting out of here?"
Fraser blinked. "Plan?"
"Yeah. I know you have one, so spill."
Fraser opened his mouth. Closed it. "I. . . ah. . . ."
A look of trepidation came over Ray's face. "No plan?"
"Er. . . nothing yet," Fraser admitted, feeling as if he'd let Ray down.
Ray started pacing, not an easy thing to do in the narrow confines of the bathroom. "No plan," he said. "We're stuck here, I have no idea if Frannie figured out she needed to tell people we're stuck here, and any time now Lewis is going to find out from his guy down south that we're not who we say we are, and you don't have a plan. We are so dead."
"We are not dead," Fraser said. "I'm sure there's a way out. I just haven't thought of it yet."
"Dead, dead, dead," Ray chanted softly.
Remembering that Ray was tired and had just consumed rather a large amount of sugar and caffeine, Fraser tried to be patient. "Ray, if you'd just. . . "
All right. Sugar, caffeine, and fatigue notwithstanding, this was annoying. "Ray, if you don't stop that I'll. . . ." Fraser let the sentence trail off. He couldn't very well threaten Ray with mayhem, since he knew he would never follow through.
"You'll what, Fraser? What could you do that's worse than dying in here, 'cause that's what we're gonna be doing as soon as these guys find out that the real Carlos Gomez is cooling his heels in a Miami jail cell."
"Ray, we are not going to die in here." He didn't even sound convincing to himself, so he wasn't surprised by Ray's response.
"Riiiiiight," Ray said, his mouth twisting sarcastically.
All right, that was just the outside of enough. "Well, if you could bring yourself to stop that infernal pacing and be still for more than thirty seconds so I could think, I might be able to come up with a solution!" Fraser snapped.
Ray snorted. "Yeah. And just how are we going to pull off that miracle? Get bit by a radioactive spider, grow spinnerets and shoot webs out our wrists and swing over to the next building?"
Fraser stared at him, an idea forming in the back of his mind. It was insane. . . completely insane. It was not only insane, it was clichéd. But it certainly had history to recommend it.
Ray sighed, shoulders sagging. "Spiderman, Fraser. It's a comic book."
"I know that, Ray. It's just. . . it's not a bad idea, in principle."
It was Ray's turn to stare. "Okay, you're worrying me. We're not superheroes, Fraser. We're just people. Or, well, I am anyway. You've really lost it this time."
"Not at all, Ray." Going out into the hallway, he pulled a sheet from the linen closet, used his teeth to make a small tear about two inches from the edge, and then he ripped it lengthwise from the tear. The fabric tore in a neat strip, just as he'd expected. Ray watched with an expression of near-panic as Fraser did the same thing another couple of inches in, tearing a second strip.
"You are really freaking me out here, Fraser!" Ray yelled.
Fraser had forgotten that Ray tended to get loud when he was upset. Worried that the noise might attract the guards, he dropped the sheet and moved toward Ray. Ray's eyes widened and he started backing up, fast.
"What the hell are you. . . ?"
Fraser caught Ray next to the kitchen, pinning him up against the wall with his body, one hand over his mouth. He was instantly aware of the wiry strength in Ray's body as they struggled, feeling the rapid rise and fall of his chest, hearing the sound of his breath, the vibration of suppressed words against his palm, as well as the slight rasp of rough-soft beard.
"Shhh," Fraser hissed. "Be quiet."
The apartment door opened and Glenn-the-guard looked in, mildly curious. Fraser shifted his weight, leaning into Ray with his hips, gave him a look that pleaded for understanding and cooperation, and then turned his head to the door with what he desperately hoped was a lustful expression. "It's all right. We were just . . . playing."
As he spoke, he let his hand slip away from Ray's mouth to rest on his shoulder. Out of his peripheral vision he saw Ray's tongue slide slowly across his lips, and despite himself he shivered a little. Ray's hand moved from pushing against his chest to curl loosely around the back of his neck, which only made him shiver more.
The guard gave them a half-amused, half-disgusted look, but lifted his eyebrows. "You okay, Mr. Gomez?"
Ray nodded. "I'm fine. We just got a little. . . carried away." He grinned, the look wolfish and exactly how Fraser hoped he himself had looked a moment earlier. Ray let his hand slide up Fraser's arm, and his fingers ruffled the hair on the back of Fraser's neck, raising goosebumps all over him. "It's quite dull in here."
The guard rolled his eyes. "I'll leave you guys alone then."
"Bien," Ray said, snapping his fingers towards the guard.
The door closed, the locks clicking into place. Fraser sagged in relief, leaning full against Ray. He had just enough time to register that he really liked leaning full against Ray, that he would very much enjoy remaining there, taking full advantage, and then he realized what he was doing and pushed back from Ray so quickly it was almost dizzying. "I'm sorry, Ray. I just had to do something . . . ." he began, horrified.
A flash of some unidentifiable emotion crossed Ray's face but then he shrugged. "No problem, Fraser. I've been groped by worse. So if you haven't lost your mind, what the hell were you doing with the sheets?"
Fraser started to reply, then stopped, and grabbed Ray's wrist, tugging him back into the bathroom. Once he felt secure, he finally replied. "There's no guarantee that I haven't lost my mind, some would argue I did that long ago, but since the building has balconies, what I had in mind was making a rope so we can climb down to the balcony below ours and there gain access to our freedom."
Ray thought about that for a moment, and then shook his head. "Okay, I was right the first time. You've gone totally around the bend. Has it escaped your notice that we're thirty-two stories above the ground here?"
"Actually, no, it hasn't. But we're only talking about a distance of a few feet to the next floor down."
"Yeah, but what if we slipped?"
"Well, I had planned to tie a rope around myself to prevent such an occurrence."
"Oh," Ray said faintly, swallowing hard, his face pale. "Fraser. . . I'm afraid of heights."
Fraser gritted his teeth. It was a viable solution to the problem and all Ray could do was nitpick. It was really extremely annoying. "Is there anything you're not afraid of?" he asked irritably.
Ray gave him an odd look. "Yeah," he said, running a thumb across his lower lip. "You." He was silent for a moment as Fraser tried to decipher that cryptic comment, and then he spoke again, before Fraser managed the feat. "So. . . again, what's with the sheets?"
"We need to tear them into strips and braid the strips together for strength."
"We're trusting sheets to keep us from falling thirty-two stories to our untimely deaths?"
"Well, yes. The tensile strength of a braided rope is far greater than the original material on its own. We're lucky that these sheets are of excellent quality, four-hundred thread count Egyptian cotton, I suspect, and quite new. They certainly spared no expense for our comfort."
"Lucky." Ray snorted. "Yeah. Okay, let's get at it. Time's wasting."
"You're going to help?" He winced at the incredulous note in his own voice.
"It's the only idea we've got. And if I'm going to die I'd rather die on my own terms than in a bad Godfather knock-off, you know? So let's make rope and play Tarzan. If we fall, we fall. It won't hurt for long."
"Actually, and mind I'm not saying that we will, but if we did, it wouldn't hurt."
"No, really. A man falling from this height would quickly reach terminal velocity, at which the speed of nerve impulses in the body are actually slower than the speed of the fall, so he wouldn't have time to feel anything before he died."
Ray stared at him, and then shook his head. "I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that was supposed to make me feel better." He opened the door and headed for the bedroom, Fraser hastily turned off the tap and followed as Ray stripped off his jacket, tossing it aside and rolling up his sleeves.
"Gimme a sheet," he said, taking a seat cross-legged on the bed.
Suddenly he looked like Ray, rather than Carlos Gomez, and Fraser felt something in him relax a little as he handed Ray the sheet he'd been working on. "Here you are. I'll get another."
Soon they had a good pile of strips and Fraser started to braid them. It shortly became clear that they would need the fitted sheets as well. Fortunately Ray found a pair of nail scissors in the bathroom and used them to cut away the elastic and start the tears. They worked in silence, only the classical music on the radio in the other room supplying any sound. A couple of times Fraser looked up in surprise as Ray softly whistled or hummed along with a piece. The second time, Ray noticed, and gave him a wry smile.
"Didn't think I knew any classical, huh?"
"I. . . ah. Well, you hadn't evinced any partiality for it since I've known you."
"Evinced?" Ray shook his head, chuckling. "Who the hell says 'evinced'? No, never mind, I know. Your grandmother. Anyway, that's me. Full of surprises."
"You are a constant revelation," Fraser admitted. "Every time I think I know you, you show me a new facet."
Ray stared at him, looking a little tentative. "Sounds like poetry."
Fraser blushed. "I didn't mean. . . ."
"I liked it." Ray interrupted. "Thanks."
Fraser was momentarily speechless. "Ah. . . you're welcome."
Ray ripped another strip. Fraser went back to braiding.
"I think it's long enough," he said after a while. Ray had run out of sheets and had been sitting quietly watching Fraser work, bouncing one foot to Bolero from time to time. Fraser was not sure why American public radio stations seemed to feel compelled to play that particular piece at least once a day.
Ray looked up from his zone-out. "Yeah? How long does it need to be?"
"About three and a half meters."
Ray's brow furrowed momentarily, and then he nodded. "That's around twelve feet, right?"
Fraser felt his eyebrows lift before he could stop himself, and Ray chuckled.
"Hang around a Canuck long enough and you learn metric in spite of yourself." He looked toward the living room, and then back at Fraser. "You sure about this?"
Fraser nodded. "It's our best chance."
"And some chance is better than no chance," Ray said, getting to his feet. "Okay then. Let's do it. Before I lose my nerve."
"Put your jacket back on," Fraser said, standing as well.
Ray turned to look at him, puzzled. "Why? So I can look good when I hit the pavement?"
Fraser sighed. "You're not going to hit the pavement."
"Just yanking. . . ."
"My chain. You know, there are times . . . ." Fraser bit off the rest of the complaint. Ray didn't need that.
Ray looked at him apologetically. "Yeah, I know." He put his hand on Fraser's shoulder and squeezed a little, almost a hug. "Sometimes I don't know when to shut up. Sorry."
Fraser tried to ignore the surge of warmth he felt at Ray's closeness. "No need to be sorry," he said. "I just wouldn't want you to lose the suit. It looks good on you."
Ray brightened. "Yeah? You think so?"
Fraser nodded. "Very much so."
Ray's head tipped a little to one side as he studied him for long seconds. "Fraser. Benton. I . . . ."
Fraser waited, heartbeat speeding up a little. After some seconds had passed, he couldn't stand the suspense. "Yes?" he prompted.
Ray dropped his hand from Fraser's shoulder and stepped back. "Nothing, never mind. Just me being a headcase." He grinned wryly and shook his head, then turned and headed out of the room for the balcony doors.
Fraser stood immobile for a moment, wishing he hadn't pushed. If he hadn't, might Ray have. . . no. No, that was just so much wishful thinking. He zipped up his jacket and then looped the rope around his chest under his arms and tied it securely over the leather, hoping it would shield him a little from the inevitable jolt that would come when the rope pulled taut. He hoped it wouldn't break any ribs. Finally he followed Ray out onto the balcony.
Ray was standing staring off into the distance with a slight squint. "Kind of windy," he said.
There was a very faint breeze, but Fraser didn't correct him. "Mm," he said noncommittally, moving over to the rail, looking down for a moment. Ray came to stand next to him, looking down too, squinting more.
"Long way down."
He was right, it was a very long way down. It was probably a good thing that Ray wasn't wearing his glasses so he couldn't really tell just how far. "Fortunately I don't suffer from acrophobia."
"I don't either really. It's not a fear of heights, it's more like a fear of falling and smashing every bone in my body. What would that be. . . . rayosmashophobia?"
Fraser chuckled. "Something like that."
He inspected the upper balcony rail, finding that it was made of steel and attached to the building with bolts and plates. It was clear that it would easily hold their weight. He took a breath and began knotting the free end of the rope around the railing, tugging hard to double-check his knots. He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. It was time.
"We really gonna do this?"
Fraser looked at him and nodded. "Yes."
"Okay. So . . . how?"
"You're going to have to trust me."
The fact that Ray said it without a second of hesitation sent a little spike of warmth through him. "All right then. If you would get one of the dining-room chairs and bring it out here."
Ray nodded, and did as he'd asked. Fraser pushed the chair up right up against the balcony rails and then stood on it. "Now, if you would just come up here and stand facing me."
Ray looked at the chair, looked down, looked at him. Rolled his eyes, shook his head, and held up a hand. "Give me a hand up."
Fraser put his hand out and Ray grabbed it, using it to steady himself as he climbed up. They were facing each other, very close. So close in fact that they were touching all along their fronts. Ray still had hold of his hand, too.
"Now what?" Ray asked, eyes searching Fraser's.
"Put your arms around my neck," Fraser said.
Ray moved even closer, winding his arms around Fraser's neck.
Fraser linked his own arms around Ray's waist, pulling him in tight. He expected Ray to make some sort of joking quip about the position, but he didn't, he just stood quietly, waiting. "Ready?"
"Yeah," Ray said, then he tensed. "Wait. No. Wait." He pulled back a little, stared into Fraser's face. "I have to tell you something. Just in case."
Fraser nodded, trying not to cross his eyes because Ray was so close. "All right."
"I love you."
"And I you," Fraser returned, as he always did.
Ray looked frustrated. "No, you don't get it. I don't mean I love you, I mean I love you. I just wanted you to know that. Now. Before. . . " he glanced back at the drop behind him. "Before we do this. Just in case."
Fraser stared at him, trying to read his expression, which truth to tell looked more apprehensive than anything, trying not to get his hopes up. "You. . . uh. . . love me?"
"Like a brother?" he asked, trying to clarify.
Ray snorted. "Down here they kinda frown on brothers who do that, but maybe if we were both Canadian . . . ."
"Brothers who do. . . ?"
Ray shook his head. "Since when are you dense? Who do this!" Ray leaned in, and brought their lips together.
Ray's lips were dry and soft against his own, the pressure infinitesimal. His moustache tickled faintly. But his body was taut, with apprehension, he realized suddenly, and that wasn't right, not at all. Instinctively he pulled Ray closer, hands learning the hardness of his back, tilting his head just enough so that he could part his lips to taste Ray for the first time. He tasted faintly of coffee, and fabric softener from the sheets. Ray leaned into him, shifting slightly, one thigh sliding alongside his own as full contact was achieved. And wondrously, miraculously, Ray was hard against him. Ray. . . wanted him. He moaned into Ray's mouth, arms tightening, as he tried to deepen the slightly tentative kiss.
A cracking sound penetrated his consciousness, his brain instantly warning him of danger as one chair leg gave way, pitching them forward. He pulled his mouth from Ray's, gasped "Hang on!" and held him tight as he kicked off from the balcony railing to make sure they didn't hit the decorative metal facing that might damage the rope.
The world fell away.
They flew together. With a brain shocked from pleasure into fear Fraser realized that he'd miscalculated the length of the rope. It was longer than they'd needed. They were swinging out too far, gaining too much momentum. It seemed to take forever, though he knew only seconds had passed before they hit the rope's fullest extension, slamming to a stop in mid-air. The rope instantly became a band of steel around his chest, forcing the air from his lungs, trying to pull his arms upward.
He felt Ray sliding out of his grasp, and had no breath to cry his protest aloud, but somehow he managed to bring his knees up, locking his legs around Ray's thighs, holding him in place as they started, inevitably, to swing back in. He saw the building coming toward them, shockingly fast, and curled upward, so they missed the rail on the balcony below theirs by a scant inch or two, and then he straightened his legs out so he hit the fast-approaching glass of the door with both booted feet rather than letting Ray's back take the impact.
Glass shattered all around them. He ducked his face down against Ray's shoulder and felt glass rain in his hair, but it didn't cut him. As they fell to the floor of the apartment in a welter of dull-edged crystal, he realized that, unimaginably, their luck had held. The glass was safety-glass. He lifted his head, looking down into Ray's stunned gaze.
"We made it."
"Of course we did," Ray said, laughing. "It was your plan." Then his fingers were in Fraser's hair, yanking him down for a kiss that was not tentative at all, but a duel of hot, slick tongues, the clash of hard teeth, the rasp of stubble against sensitive skin.
"Well, now. It looks as if he really did find you attractive."
The voice sounded vaguely like Katharine Hepburn's, and was uncannily familiar. It couldn't be. . . . Fraser opened his eyes to find Ray looking past him, a faint blush fanning across his cheekbones.
"C'mon, Gladys, this is private."
Apparently it could be.
"Now, really," Gladys said, exasperated. "You come flying through my window and then expect me not to notice?"
"Okay, you got a point," Ray conceded. His gaze shifted to Fraser's face. "Uh, we probably ought to call this in before Glenn and Jim come looking for us."
"Right you are." Fraser pushed himself off Ray, and sat up, looking at the slim, elegantly dressed older woman who stood on the other side of the sofa from them. "Good afternoon Ms. Karlz, it's good to see you again. This is your apartment?" he asked fumbling with the knot around his chest, suddenly realizing it could be a liability should the guards go into the apartment and decide to see what was on the other end of it.
Gladys nodded. "Yes it is. Dear Henry left it to me." She waved a hand vaguely. "The whole building, actually."
He and Ray shared a glance. Ray cleared his throat. "You own the building?"
"Yes, I do. It's a very nice building. Tasteful, wouldn't you say?"
"Uh, yeah. Tasteful," Ray said. "Very tasteful."
Gladys looked at Fraser, still trying to untie the knot he'd put in the rope. "Would you like a scissors?" she asked.
"A knife might be better, if you have a good one," he said.
"Of course, dear, I'll just go fetch it." She disappeared into another room. "Would either of you like a cup of tea?" she called out from wherever she was.
"Uh, no thanks," Ray said. "But can I use your phone?"
"Go right ahead. It's on the end table, by the lamp."
Ray went over, picked up the phone and started dialing just as Gladys reappeared to hand Fraser a Gerber survival knife.
"Will this do? It was Henry's, he always liked to have the best."
Fraser took it from her, opening the blade to check the edge, which was beautifully honed. "It should do nicely," he said, sliding it under the rope and starting to saw. The fabric gave quickly beneath the sharp steel, and soon he was free. He looked up to find Gladys regarding him expectantly, and he cleared his throat. "I suppose you'd like to know what we were doing."
"Well, I could see what you were doing," she said, with a definite twinkle in her eyes. "I'm just not sure why you chose to do it while dangling from my building on a rope."
"It's rather a long story." He noticed that Ray's voice was escalating in volume and vehemence. "I'm sorry, if you'll excuse me for a moment?" He turned to eavesdrop shamelessly on Ray's end of the phone conversation.
"Are you out of your minds? What do you mean we have to. . . no, I got that. Yeah. How the hell are we supposed to. . . ?" Ray sighed. "Yeah, yeah. Okay. We'll see what we can do. And you know, if you'd told us about that to begin with, we wouldn't have had to . . . . Look, just because we got a reputation doesn't mean it's because we like doing it. It just sort of. . . happens. Okay? Okay. So this is me hanging up now." He slammed the phone down into its cradle and then winced and looked at Gladys apologetically. "Sorry. Got a little wound up."
"That's all right dear. It's replaceable. Bad news?"
Ray sighed, slouching. "Yeah. We got to go back up there and pretend like we didn't escape."
Fraser straightened, wide-eyed. "What?"
"Escape?" Gladys queried, looking intrigued.
"How the hell are we supposed to do that?" Fraser demanded, then he realized what he'd said and gave Gladys an apologetic look. "If you'll pardon my language, Mrs. Karlz."
"Don't think a thing about it, I've heard much worse. In fact, I've said much worse." She winked. "But do go on."
Ray looked at Fraser. "You know that camera we turned off?"
Fraser nodded. "Yes."
Ray sighed. "Turns out they sorta neglected to tell us it's theirs. They got the everything, right up to when we found the camera. So they're on top of things, and Lewis' guy in Buenos Aires is really their guy and he'll confirm that I'm Gomez so we can finish the sting."
Gladys had been following the conversation avidly. "Are you talking about that dreadful Lewis person who has the apartment above? I don't know what Henry was thinking, giving him a long-term lease on one of our apartments." She shook her head sadly. "I'm afraid sometimes Henry's greed got the best of him. Thank heavens the man is rarely there. I think he thinks it's a hotel, always people I don't know going in and out up there. I would dearly love to get rid of him, but he never does anything that would break the lease."
"Well, we might be able to help with that," Ray said. "Since we're trying to get him arrested for drug dealing. Think that's grounds for eviction?"
Gladys beamed. "Oh my yes! I certainly think we could work with that." She clasped her hands together. "This is so exciting! Most fun I've had . . . well, since that day in the cemetery. Did you know I hired Tom? He's now the building's horticulturist. He maintains all the plants for us. And he's going to A.A."
"I'm glad to hear that," Fraser said. "It seems an excellent choice."
"Yeah, yeah, it's great, but can we get back to the problem?" Ray asked, clearly exasperated.
"What problem is that?" Gladys asked.
"We've got to get back into Lewis' apartment without tipping anybody off that we got out to begin with."
"Oh, well, that should be no problem at all," Gladys said airily. "I'll just have Cyndy bring up the master keys and let you in."
"Except it doesn't solve the problem of the guards seeing us go back in."
"There are guards?"
Ray nodded. "Two."
"Let me think a moment." Gladys tapped her chin thoughtfully with a finger. "Oh, I have it! I'll go up and distract them. I can ask them to come down because my window broke and I'm just so afraid." She crossed her hands over her heart dramatically. "And they'll have to escort me back down to my apartment because I'm an old woman, and just can't cope, don't you know." She winked broadly. "And while they're down here with me, you two can slip in unnoticed."
Ray looked at Fraser, eyebrows lifted.
Fraser hesitated. "It's a workable plan, but I'm not sure we ought to be involving a civilian in . . . ."
"It's my civic duty to assist the police!" Gladys said, cutting him off. "And you wouldn't deny a lonely old woman a chance for a little excitement in her life, now would you?"
"Well, I. . . ."
"And in return I won't tell your superiors about the broken doors or bill the city for the replacement expense," she added, with an arch look.
Ray looked as if he were having trouble containing a smile. "She's got us by the short-hairs, Frase."
Fraser winced. "Less than delicately put, but . . . all right, Mrs. Karlz. But I'm only allowing this because Mr. Lewis' guards did not appear to be the type to harm anyone not directly under their watch."
"Lovely!" Gladys said. "I'll be right back." She disappeared off down the hallway, leaving Fraser alone with Ray again.
Their eyes met, and Fraser felt his face heat. The faint flush that appeared along Ray's cheeks let him know he wasn't alone. Ray moistened his lips, and Fraser automatically followed suit. "Ray. . . ."
"Fraser. . . ."
They laughed. Fraser smoothed an eyebrow with his thumb, suddenly nervous. "Ray, I . . . ."
"How's this?" Gladys asked, coming back into the room.
Fraser gave Ray an apologetic glance and then turned to look at her. She had pulled several wisps of hair free of her usual neat chignon, letting them straggle around her face. In addition, she had overdone her makeup, and put on a wine-colored velour robe with lavish gold embroidered trim.
"Nice touch on the slippers," Ray said.
"Do you think so? It's not too much?" she asked earnestly.
Fraser looked down to see that she was wearing two different slippers, one was a pink terrycloth scuff, the other a maribou-decked red mule.
"No, it's great," Ray reassured her. "I mean, these guys are not rocket scientists."
"Good. Now, just one more touch." She walked over to a cabinet near the entertainment center, and the fact that the mule was on a two inch wedge and the scuff was flat made her lurch slightly as she walked. Opening the cabinet, she took out several liquor bottles, opening each and sniffing. "Hmm, the bourbon, I think," she said, pouring a little of the liquid into her palm and sprinkling it over her robe, before lifting the bottle and taking a liberal swig. "There," she said with satisfaction. "That ought to do it."
Ray chuckled, shaking his head. "You should've been a cop, Gladys. Okay, now if you can get us those keys, we can go wait . . . um. . . hm. Where the hell are we going to wait where they won't be able to see us?"
"I assume there's a emergency access stairwell?" Fraser asked, looking at Gladys.
She nodded. "Yes, just around the corner from the elevators."
"Excellent. We can wait in the stairwell upstairs, just outside the door. From there we should be able to hear when you leave with the guards, then Ms. Portis can unlock the door for us. It would be helpful if you could delay the guards for a moment or two down here, just to make sure we have enough time."
"I think I know just the thing." She tottered over to the telephone and picked it up, dialed, and then waited a moment. "Cyndy? Would you be a dear and bring up the building master keys? What? Yes, I think the desk will be all right without you for a short while. Yes, that's fine." She hung up and turned to beam at them. "She'll be right up."
"Wait, we need a backup plan," Ray said suddenly. "What if both guards don't go down with her?"
Fraser stared at him, feeling like an idiot. He should have thought of that. "Excellent point, Ray. Perhaps in that case, Ms. Portis can provide an additional distraction at the elevator, while we use the master key to let ourselves in."
Ray nodded. "It might work. It's all we've got, anyway."
Ten minutes later, having explained just enough of the situation to Ms. Portis to reassure her that they weren't doing anything illegal, they waited in the stairwell as Mrs. Karlz gave an award-winning performance as a confused, slightly drunken, extremely flirtatious elderly woman. It took her very little time to convince the guards that she needed someone to help her check to see what on earth had broken a window in her apartment. Unfortunately, they had to go to their backup plan since only one of the guards went. It was touch and go, but Ms. Portis managed to distract Jim long enough that they were able to slip out of the stairwell and use the master key to get into the apartment.
As the door closed behind them, Ray looked around and shook his head. "Deja vu," he said, and then his expression went tight. "Shit! If they go in Gladys' and find that rope. . . ."
They both headed for the balcony. Ray hauled the free end of the rope up as fast as he could as Fraser moved to untie the other end of the rope from the railing. The knot, drawn tight by the pull of their combined weight on the other end, refused to yield, and he pulled Mrs. Karlz' knife from his pocket and cut it. Ray nodded approvingly, coiling the rope around his arm.
"Smart, keeping the knife."
"I'm afraid it was entirely unconscious," Fraser admitted.
"Well, I guess I'm going to have to run you in, stealing from an old lady. Shame on you," Ray said, giving him an exaggeratedly severe look.
Fraser tried to look penitent. "Indeed, I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself."
Ray snickered, and headed into the apartment, holding the door open as Fraser picked up the remnants of the broken chair and followed him. Pulling the door shut behind him, Ray shook his head. "Lewis is going to be mad about his chair."
"Well, we'll just have to come up with an expl . . . ."
Fraser turned, startled, as the door suddenly flew open and Glenn and Jim burst into the room. They stared at Ray and Fraser, looking relieved.
"Is there a problem, gentlemen?" Ray asked coolly, slipping back into his assumed accent without hesitation. He made no attempt to hide the rope. Probably an excellent choice, since doing so would only have drawn attention to it.
Fraser decided to emulate Ray and stood there holding the broken chair as if it were perfectly normal to do so.
"We, uh, thought maybe you guys might've gotten out."
"And how do you think we would accomplish that? Fly?" Ray asked sarcastically, waving a hand toward the balcony.
The guards looked at each other sheepishly, then back at Ray.
"Guess it was kind of a stupid idea, huh?" Jim said.
Glenn's eyes suddenly narrowed. "What's that?" he asked, nodding at the rope Ray held.
"This?" Ray held it up so they could get a good look. "What does it look like it is?"
"A rope?" Jim said, squinting at it.
"How observant," Ray said drily.
"Where'd you get it?" Glenn demanded.
"We used the sheets," Ray said, sounding bored.
"What for?" Jim sounded suspicious.
Ray looked at Fraser, still holding the chair, and lifted an eyebrow. “I
do not – ah. I offer my apologies for the chair. I told him it was not
strong enough to hold him.”
Fraser realized what Ray was implying and felt a wash of heat surge across his face. He stared determinedly at the wall behind the two guards and prayed that they wouldn't ask any more questions. Whatever higher power there was must have listened. Jim snickered, and Glenn shook his head.
"Jesus, you guys are something."
"I was bored," Ray said. "So I make it interesting."
Still shaking his head, Glenn opened the door and left, followed a moment later by Jim. Ray waited several seconds, probably to be sure that they weren't coming back, and then he released a huge sigh.
"Man, that was close."
"Too close," Fraser agreed, willing his heart-rate to go down.
Ray shook his head, chuckling. "I can't believe they bought that. But that was your doing, you know."
"Mine?" Fraser asked, startled. "In what way?"
"Yours." Ray pulled the chair out of his hands and set it on the floor, where it promptly fell over. Straightening, Ray caught his chin in his hand. "Because it was your goddamned beautiful fucking blush that convinced them," he said, and then he kissed him full on the mouth.
For a moment Fraser hesitated, worried that their guards would return and catch them. Then he decided that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. He pulled Ray closer, returning the kiss enthusiastically. Ray leaned into him, taking a step forward, forcing him to move back a step. Then he added tongue to the kiss and Fraser stopped noticing anything but that until the edge of the table caught him in the back of the thighs, at which point he opened his eyes and freed his mouth.
Ray grinned, put a hand on his chest, and pushed a little, urging him to go back onto the table. Fraser resisted. "I think we really ought to avoid breaking any more furniture," he said dubiously.
"Yeah?" Ray asked, leaning in to lick his throat.
Fraser shuddered, his hands coming up to cup the back of Ray's head, feeling the velvety brush of hair against his palms, savoring the feel of Ray's tongue tracing the tendon that led up to his ear, and the sensual prickle of moustache against skin. "I . . . yes," he managed. "Besides. . . ." his sentence trailed off as Ray bit his earlobe, and then sucked on it.
After a moment Ray lifted his head. "Besides what?" he purred.
Fraser stared at him blankly. "Besides what?"
"That's my line. You said 'besides.' I said 'besides what.'"
"Oh. Right." He gathered his scattered wits. He'd had no idea his ears were that sensitive. Perhaps it was just that no one with a moustache had ever nuzzled them before. "Ah, yes. Besides . . . " he groped for a plausible 'besides.' "The table isn't very comfortable."
"Well, can't have that," Ray said, and moving back.
Fraser felt abandoned. He reached out and pulled Ray back toward him. "On second thought. . . ."
Behind them, the apartment door opened. Someone cleared their throat.
Ray leaned his forehead against Fraser's with a sigh of resignation. "Welcome to Grand Central Station," he whispered, then he took a deep breath, straightened, and turned to glare at Lewis, who was standing in the doorway pointedly looking elsewhere, his face flushed with embarrassment."Your manners leave much to be desired," Ray snapped. "It is polite to knock."
The two guards looked amused. Lewis coughed.
"I, ah. Sorry. I didn't realize."
Ray waved a hand dismissively and looked at Lewis intently. "You are ready to do business?"
Lewis nodded. "Yes, we finally got through to our contact and everything seems to be in order."
"Good." He turned to look at Fraser. "Mr. Benton, if you'll go turn off the stereo, we'll get down to brass tacks."
Recognizing his cue, Fraser went over to the entertainment center, and under the guise of turning off the music, reattached the leads to the surveillance equipment. The green LED came on, and he knew that the device was working again. They would get their evidence.
* * *
When Clemens answered Ray's impatient knock at the door, Ray pushed into the surveillance room, tossed the signed contracts to Samuels, and then spun to poke a finger into Clemens' chest, leaning into his personal space aggressively. "What you guys did was fucked up. Next time you tap somebody to run a sting for you, make sure they have all the information they need before they go in."
Clemens swallowed hard and tried to back up, but was trapped against a desk. "I. . . we . . . we thought you'd be more natural if you didn't know where the equipment was."
"Leave natural to the pros, junior," Ray snarled. "Just tell us what we need to know up front. You could've gotten us killed."
Clemens bristled at 'junior.' Barely out of college and new in his career with the DEA, the man was clearly sensitive about his standing. Samuels came over and put a hand on Ray's arm, gently tugging him back.
"You're absolutely right," she said quietly. "It was a stupid thing to do, and I apologize, for both of us."
Fraser looked at her approvingly. He hadn't met the detective from the 11th until this case, and he liked her. The short, sturdily built African-American woman was nearly as young as Clemens, but without his . . . well, Ray would probably call it 'attitude.' She seemed genuinely more interested in justice than in making points with her superiors.
Clemens muttered something that sounded like 'yeah', carefully not meeting Ray's eyes, but Ray took it as read and allowed Samuels to pull him away. Clemens picked up a piece of equipment. "I'll, uh, take this out to the van," he said, and beat a hasty retreat. It was sometimes amusing how much human dominance behavior mirrored canine.
"We done here?" Ray asked, watching Clemens retreat with a slightly smug expression on his face.
"Yes, I think we've got what we need. Of course, we'll need you in court to testify later."
"Not a problem," Ray said. "We'll be there. Lewis needs to go down."
"Yes he does." Samuels looked down at her hands, then back up at them apprehensively. "I really am sorry. I didn't think it was such a great idea, but I let him talk me into it. He had more experience, I thought he knew what he was doing."
"Next time go with your gut," Ray said. "Trust your instincts. They're good."
Samuels smiled. "You think so?"
"Yeah. I do." Ray smiled his real smile, and she looked a little stunned.
Fraser knew just how she felt.
"Come on," Ray said, tugging on Fraser's arm. "Let's blow this pop stand. I've got a craving for Philly's."
Fraser nodded, following as Ray moved toward the door.
"Wait!" Samuels went over to a stack of videotapes and picked one up. "Here. You guys should have this."
Fraser, closer to her than Ray was, took it curiously. "What is it?"
"Something that doesn't need to be shared with the DEA." She glanced significantly at the camera that was still set up in the window. Fraser followed the angle of the lens, and felt his face getting a little warm.
"What about Clemens?"
"He was in the kitchen stuffing his face at the time," she said. "And what he doesn't know won't hurt him. It's not integral to the investigation. It's the master tape, by the way. And there are no copies."
"Thank you," he said.
She shook her head. "It's the least I can do."
Ray frowned. "I still want to know . . . ."
"I'll explain in the car," Fraser said. "Philly's is calling."
That got him moving again. Fraser tucked the tape under his jacket and followed.
Once in the car and moving, Ray glanced over at him. "Okay, what's the big secret?"
"They had a camera trained on the balcony of the apartment, in case the action moved outside."
Ray slammed on the brakes, nearly getting rear-ended in the process. He steered the car over into the fire lane to let traffic by and turned to stare at Fraser. After a moment, the shock faded from his face and he started to smile, shaking his head. "Well, hell. Leave it to us to have our first real kiss caught on videotape."
"First real kiss?" Fraser queried, puzzled.
"Well, I'm only partly counting the one on the Henry Allen."
"Ray, that wasn't. . . ."
Ray held up a hand. "It's my fantasy, I'll partly count it if I want to.'"
Ray grinned. "Yeah. 'Oh.' At least we lucked out and Clemens didn't see it." He glanced in the mirror, pulled back out into traffic and took a right at the next intersection.
"Isn't Philly's the other direction?"
"Yeah," Ray said.
When Ray made a left at the next light, Fraser knew where they were going.
Ray, eyes fixed on the road ahead, chuckled softly. "Get that smug look off your face."
"You're looking straight ahead, you can't possibly see my face," Fraser pointed out.
"I don't have to. I know you."
Since he was right, Fraser tried to stop looking smug. And failed. "I don't seem to be able to help it."
"That's okay. It's a good look for you."
Fraser let his hand stray across to rest on Ray's thigh, his thumb rubbing idly along the curve of his quadriceps. Abruptly the car lost power for a moment.
"You want us to get home in one piece, you need to stop that," Ray said hoarsely, stepping on the accelerator again.
Fraser sighed. "Oh all right."
"Ten minutes, tops," Ray assured him.
Nine minutes later they pulled into a parking place outside Ray's apartment building. They released their seatbelts and opened their respective doors simultaneously, and fell into step as they headed for the door. Reaching it, Ray held it open, gesturing Fraser through with a sweep of his hand. Fraser took the stairs two at a time, Ray close on his heels. When they reached Ray's door, he saw that Ray's hands were shaking slightly as he inserted the key in the lock. It made Fraser feel better to see that he wasn't the only one who was nervous.
Stepping inside, waiting for Ray to close the door, Fraser cleared his throat. "You know, for a little while I was worried that this was all a figment of my imagination, brought on by too much caffeine."
Ray snorted. "You really think a cup of java is going to send me around the bend?"
"No, I was referring to myself."
Ray laughed, shaking his head "Nothing could make you crazier than you already are, Fraser."
"I'm afraid if I'm addled, it has more to do with you," Fraser said wryly.
Ray's lips twitched. "You saying I drive you nuts?"
"Absolutely," Fraser said, as solemnly as he could manage, then he gave Ray a smile. "But in the best possible way."
Ray chuckled. "Yeah, I get that. I feel like that too."
Fraser looked at him, widening his eyes innocently. "You drive yourself crazy?" he teased.
Ray reached over and fisted his hands in Fraser's hair. "Sometimes. But usually you get there first. Are you done stalling?"
Fraser nodded as well as he could with Ray's hands holding him still, and licked his dry lips nervously.
Ray smiled in a predatory way that sent a shiver down Fraser's spine. He loosened his grip on Fraser's hair, letting his fingers slide gently through it, cupping his head and tipping it slightly, then leaned forward and brought their lips together.
It was nothing like he expected. Nothing at all. He'd expected brash and aggressive, but instead it was soft. Just a light brush of lips against his own, again and again. The fingers in his hair stroked and soothed, almost hypnotically. Impatiently he leaned forward himself, trying to deepen the kiss, only to have Ray pull back. He opened his eyes.
Ray looked apologetic. "Sorry. Give me like. . . three minutes? There's something I need to do."
Confused, Fraser nodded. He couldn't exactly say no. Ray's fingers trailed along his cheek, and he placed one more kiss on his mouth, almost hard enough, almost. Then he was gone, disappearing into the bathroom. Ah. He supposed the call of nature was not to be denied. The sound of running water puzzled him for a moment though, Ray had never been bladder-shy around him. But then, circumstances were suddenly different.
Trying not to think about differing circumstances, he took off his jacket and hung it up in Ray's closet. He had to admit that although his original impression of the item had been negative, Ray had been right to insist. The casual and worn-looking leather had made it easier for him to play his assigned role. Idly his fingers traced the warm metal of the beads around his throat, almost regretting that he would have to give them back. Taking his jacket off made him conscious that his upper chest and back were a little sore, especially up under his arms. Hoping he wasn't coming down with something that involved lymph glands, he rubbed at the area, and found it tender to the touch. Puzzled, he pulled off his undershirt, wincing as he did, and looked down at his bare chest.
A soft whistle spun him around to face the hallway, where Ray stood, looking appreciative. "Nice," he said, then his smile faded and he moved forward, frowning, lifting a hand to gently trace a fingertip across the livid line that banded Fraser's chest. "Jesus, what happened to you?"
Fraser shivered under his touch, light, almost impersonal as it was. "I . . . uh . . . it's just a bruise, from the rope," Fraser said, eyeing Ray, suddenly realizing what was different, other than the fact that his hair was damp, appearing to have been wet down and then toweled mostly dry. "You shaved."
Ray nodded, looking at him earnestly. "I couldn't do this as him. I needed to be me."
Fraser nodded, and reached out, cupping Ray's face, letting his thumb slide along the groove beside Ray's mouth, which a few minutes earlier had sported beard. "I like you better."
The corner of Ray's mouth quirked up in a half-smile. "What, you didn't like the snappy dresser?"
Fraser studied him. He looked like himself now, not like some exotic stranger. He'd already taken off his jacket, and his shirt was half unbuttoned, the sleeves rolled back, exposing lean, sinewy forearms. Fraser had always loved the way Ray's strength was so apparent in his wiry, muscular body. "Not that you didn't look marvelous, but. . . no. I far prefer you in your natural state. Dressing you up is like. . . like dyeing Diefenbaker blue. It might be interesting, but it's not necessary."
Ray laughed. "Yeah, that figures. You like things wild. Though blue could be cool. . ." He fingered his hair, which had begun to look more golden as it dried.
Fraser realized he must have used some sort of temporary rinse to darken it slightly, which he'd washed out. He'd wondered about that.
"Of course if I showed up for work with blue hair I might give Welsh heart failure and that would suck because he's a good boss. Oh well. Guess my experimental hair license only goes so far." Ray glanced down, and frowned again. "You didn't tell me you got hurt." His fingers skated across Fraser's chest, just below the mark, barely brushing a nipple, which tightened instantly.
"It's just bruising. I've had worse," Fraser said, his voice suddenly hoarse.
Ray looked up. Looked down. Smiled a predatory smile. Deliberately brushed his fingertips over the same nipple, back and forth.
"Ray." It came out a gasp.
"Like that?" he queried, watching curiously as he let his hand slide across pectoral muscles to the other side, framing the tight nub between index and middle finger.
Ray leaned down, and Fraser held his breath, waiting . . . but then he straightened again, and Fraser was acutely disappointed. "Ray. . . ."
"I don't want to lose the momentum again," he said, and reached over to hook a finger into one of Fraser's belt loops. "Come on."
He let Ray tow him into the bedroom. For a moment he stood beside the bed, registering for the first time the frisson of . . . well, he supposed he could admit it was apprehension, which was oddly both eased and increased as he felt Ray's fingers on the fastenings of his jeans, opening the button, carefully drawing down the zipper. He stood still as a mouse under a circling hawk as Ray slid the loosened jeans down, along with his boxers until they caught around his ankles on the shafts of his boots.
"Kick off your boots," Ray ordered, his voice husky, one hand resting on Fraser's hip, so warm, so strong.
He could feel each individual finger against his skin. Hypnotized by Ray's touch, by his voice, Fraser complied, one hand on Ray's shoulder for balance as he kicked off first one boot, then the other. There was something to be said for footwear that didn't lace. His jeans and boxers slid off along with them, leaving him completely naked. He felt strangely unselfconscious under the patent hunger in Ray's gaze. He stood still, waiting as Ray looked his fill, and then, suddenly decisive, Ray reached down and yanked back the covers on the bed, baring a sheeted expanse that looked extravagant compared to his own bed.
This time it was a request, not an order. He reached out, catching Ray's hands in his. "Come with me."
They fell again, not so far this time, but farther, too. He found Ray's mouth with his own, discovering his taste again, memorizing it against some future separation. Nothing at all tainted the unique flavor of him, no coffee, no fabric softener. Just Ray, whose tongue was mercurial, flicking, licking, teasing, until finally Fraser had to break their kiss to gasp for air, having entirely forgotten to breathe. Ray took unfair advantage of his momentary weakness to push him down onto his back, and raise up on an elbow so he could rake his teeth lightly down Fraser's neck, suck at his collarbone, and then proceed in a leisurely southward exploration.
He hadn't known that the crease of his arm was an erogenous zone. Or the hollow of his sternum. He had known his nipples were sensitive, but he hadn't known that the lightest pressure of teeth along with tongue could make him moan. And his ribs, which had never been good for anything but fits of giggles, were suddenly a source of shuddering sighs. It seemed as though every place Ray touched became a source of unexpected delight.
Needing to reciprocate, to touch the long, strong body he had coveted for so long, he reached out and found . . . not Ray's warm skin, but the smooth, heavy texture of linen. He tugged at it, trying to shift it out of his way, but it was increasingly difficult to concentrate as Ray kissed a path slowly down the center of his torso, licking and nibbling. "Ray. Ray. Ray!"
"Mmm?" Ray asked, without lifting his head, the word a strangely erotic tickle against his skin.
"This isn't fair!"
He felt the moist probe of Ray's tongue in his navel. "Don't see a problem," Ray said after a moment's exploration. "You're naked, in my bed. It's all good."
"I'm naked, but you're not!" he said, trying to infuse his voice with outrage, and succeeding only in sounding slightly desperate.
Ray lifted his head of Fraser's stomach and pushed up on an elbow. "So?"
"Could you possibly get a move on? I thought you were the one who wasn't good at waiting."
"This isn't waiting. I got what I wanted, I'm just taking my time enjoying it," Ray said affectionately, then he braced himself on his elbows and looked at Fraser challengingly. "You going to talk all night or use your mouth for something more interesting?"
No Fraser ever backed down from a challenge. Well, unless it was illegal, immoral, or just plain stupid, and this was none of the above. He bent his head, found the first shirt button that barred his way, and neatly bit through the threads, spitting it aside, then doing the same with the next, and moving on. As he took the final button in his mouth he felt Ray's belly move as he laughed softly.
"Definitely more interesting," he whispered.
Fraser discarded the final button and pushed Ray's shirt open, baring a lean, pale torso scattered with occasional freckles. He kissed a freckle that lay just above Ray's waistband, and felt him gasp under his mouth. He let his hand rest over the solid length of Ray's erection, cupping it in his palm, rubbing it softly through the fine-woven wool. Ray tensed, hips lifting into his touch, breath coming short and shallow. He teased for a few seconds longer, until he sensed Ray was about to break, and then he shifted his hand, opening the fly of Ray's trousers.
Beneath the unfamiliar luxury of the suit, he finally found something familiar: the well-worn softness of boxer-briefs that had seen so many washings they were nearly translucent in places. A damp spot the size of a silver-dollar molded the fabric to the head of Ray's penis. He bent his head and inhaled deeply, filling his senses with the rich scent there, and then touched his tongue to the dampness, savoring the first hint of Ray's unique, bittersweet flavor. Ray's hands moved restlessly, stroking his hair, his cheeks, fingertips grazing his jaw as Fraser rubbed his nose along the curve of flesh so poorly hidden. He mouthed the head of Ray's cock again, this time taking the whole of it in his mouth, still shielded by fabric, tantalizing himself with the unknown of texture, now that he knew scent, and taste.
"Please, Benton, " Ray whispered, his voice sounding like a thousand nights in smoky bars and yearning, unrequited dreams. "Please."
He lifted his head, steeling himself against the soft protest Ray gave then, and quickly set about stripping him the rest of the way. Once Ray understood that he wasn't stopping, he helped, enthusiastically, and finally Ray was bare in his arms, bare from head to toe, his legs tangled with Fraser's own, his body a kinetic marvel as he strained to get somehow closer than it was possible for two separate beings to get.
He wound his arms around Ray, sliding his hands down to hold his hips hard, almost desperately, centering him, craving the hard, wet heat of Ray's erection skimming slickly against his belly, against his cock. Their bodies fell into rhythm naturally, as they always did. Talking. Walking. Running. Thinking. Loving. He would not use another word, not for this, not here, like this, with Ray. Everything he'd done before was fucking. This was not. This was flying, with no need of a tether.
Ray's fingers dug into his hair, harsh but perfect, and he turned his head to answer that demand, their mouths meeting. He opened to the thrust of Ray's tongue, returned it, dueling in duet, retreating back to nip at Ray's lower lip, tugging at it, letting go to lick into his mouth again. Ray laughed and gasped, chasing his tongue, thrusting hard, hard against Fraser's aching cock, making him grit his teeth in pained pleasure.
"Now," Ray whispered into his mouth. "Now-now-now-now-now."
Fraser stilled Ray's hips with all the strength in his hands, thrust up against the plane of his belly, and surrendered to that demand, shuddering in mindless joy. Vaguely, he heard Ray's husky moan, felt heat spread against his stomach, and he let his hands slide up Ray's back to wrap him tightly in his arms, never wanting to give up the perfection of that moment, even though he knew he would eventually have to. For the moment there was nothing better in the world than Ray in his arms, body slowly relaxing with little shivers of fading delight.
After a little while Ray shifted away. Fraser protested, clutching at him. Ray's fingers brushed his lips. "Shh, it's okay. Not going anywhere." He stretched to reach the night stand and grabbed a handful of tissues, mopping up the worst of the mess, then pitched them carelessly over the side of the bed. He manhandled Fraser around until he was situated to Ray's satisfaction, then he curled up behind him, a hand draped possessively across his stomach. Fraser sighed contentedly, feeling lazy and replete.
"I wish I'd known before," Ray said after a little while. "I've been killing myself trying to be good."
Fraser tried to look at him, but the angle was too acute. "As have I," he settled for saying.
Ray chuckled softly, his breath ruffling the short hair at the back of Fraser's neck. "Yeah. I guess so. Did a damned good job, too. Every once in a while I'd catch you looking at me, or you'd do something that made me wonder, but you're so good at covering up that I thought it was all wishful thinking."
"I had much the same experience," Fraser admitted. "The way you touched me sometimes. . . just a little longer than you should have, but then. . . nothing. Have you always . . . I mean, that is . . . ." he paused, groping for the right words.
"Have I always liked guys? Yes, and no. I mean, I always knew the potential was there, just didn't do anything about it. Funny, it was one of the things Stella liked about me, once upon a time. She thought it was very 'open minded' of me." He laughed, threads of bitterness in the sound. "Then we were older, and things were. . . .different, and she got worried that I spent so much time with my partners."
Fraser shifted, rolling away from Ray's embrace so he could look at his face. There was a distant anger there, and disappointment. "She didn't know you well, did she?" he asked.
Ray studied him for a moment and shook his head. "No. That was what showed me that, finally. That she could think that. . . no. She didn't know me. Maybe she never did. She just knew who she thought I was."
For the first time Fraser saw an opportunity to ask a question he'd wanted to ask for a very long time. But, looking at Ray, seeing in his face how hard this was for him to talk about, he let it go unasked.
"It was my idea," Ray said, his gaze unwavering, answering the question Fraser had not asked. He gave a rueful laugh. "Yeah, believe it or not. Told her if she couldn't trust me, maybe we should split. I didn't think she would do it. Just goes to show I didn't know her very well either, huh? If I'd taken a look at her old man maybe I would've done things differently. She only had him for an example, and he was a cheating bastard." He looked at Fraser and reached over to slide his fingers into his hair. "Still, it ended up being the smartest thing I ever did, even if it took me a while to figure that out."
"Do you think so?" Fraser tried to ignore the fingers carding through his hair, sending pleasurable little shivers through him. He needed to know this. It didn't make sense. "Forgive me, but you don't generally act as if you thought it was."
Ray lifted his hand and scrubbed it over his face with a sigh. "Yeah. I know. I didn't say I learn fast. And she was . . . safe. Familiar. And she . . . shit, Benton. I knew, you know? With her I knew. I didn't know with you. I didn't know anything. How to know. How to say it. What to do. Even if I should do anything. I guess. . . I guess I thought if I could just make everything the way it was, then I could stop wrapping myself in knots all the time. Except it was just different knots then." He rubbed at his chest, as if the knots were still there, below the surface.
"Oh." That made sense, in a twisted sort of way. An ache spread in Fraser's chest, a tangle of recognition and guilt. "I'm sorry," he said, unconsciously pulling away.
Ray frowned. "Don't do that," he said, reaching out to curve his hand behind Fraser's neck, moving closer to invade the space Fraser had just put between them. "Don't go away. I just found you."
"I was here all along."
Ray smiled. "Yeah. So was I."
Fraser relaxed a little. "Yes. You were." He reached out and touched Ray's chest, his hand occupying the same space Ray's had moments earlier. "You know, I'm pretty good with knots."
Ray laughed softly. "Oh yeah."
Ray leaned forward then, and kissed him again, a long, unhurried exploration of his mouth, and he returned it with the same almost languid care. After a little while they separated again, and Ray draped himself across Fraser's chest, one hand on his thigh, his thumb idly caressing the soft hollow of his hip. It wasn't overtly sexual, but Fraser knew if he kept it up for long it was going to have the same effect on him as if it was.
"I always knew I liked men," he said, responding to Ray's openness with some of his own. "Preferred them, actually. Though I tried to conform, I was never comfortable doing it. And usually my choices were. . . well . . . not wise. I'm afraid my judgement where women are concerned is less than stellar."
"Right. Janet. Lady Shoes. What's her name? Victoria?"
Fraser sighed. "I wasn't interested in Lady Shoes and you know that. And Victoria was . . . an aberration. In many ways. I have a tendency to romanticize, and it . . . served me ill where she was concerned. And really, for all her outward femininity, she was more masculine than many men."
Ray studied him for a moment, and nodded. "Interesting. Janet was sort
of butch too, wasn't she?"
"Janet Morse was a strong woman with many fine qualities, but mostly she was a desperate attempt at self-distraction. I'm afraid by that point my attraction to you had gotten so out of control I was developing a callus on my right hand," Fraser admitted ruefully.
Ray looked perplexed for a moment, and then he laughed, finding Fraser's hand and bringing it to his mouth, running his tongue along the webbing between forefinger and thumb. "That's something I want to see one of these days," he said huskily. He shifted slightly, and as his groin brushed Fraser's hip, Fraser realized that he wasn't the only one experiencing a resurgence of arousal. "So, um, you . . . you've done stuff with guys? You know how?"
He thought about that for a moment, trying to define 'stuff' more clearly within the context of the question. "I've experienced sex with a man, yes," he said hesitantly, a little worried about how that would go over.
Ray let out a sigh. "Thank God. I was kind of worried we were both clueless." He pushed up on one arm and looked at Fraser intently. "Were they nice guys? Were they good to you?"
He looked as if he might be planning to set up a manhunt if the answer was no. Fraser smiled. "It was one man, someone I'd had a crush on for years. I was curious, he was both experienced and willing. We both knew it wouldn't lead to anything more, but it was good." He hoped that was enough reassurance.
"Good," Ray said, looking relieved. "Because I want to do it. With you. I know. . . I mean, if you want to. I've read that some guys don't like it, but I want to do it. Do you like it?"
Oh God. More definitions. There were just too many options. "'It,' Ray?" he asked cautiously.
Ray blushed. It was . . . well, it was adorable, though he knew better than to say that aloud.
Putting a hand over his eyes, Ray cleared his throat and elaborated. "It. You know. Take it up the ass."
Well, that was definitely clearer. "My experience isn't vast, but yes, the time I did that, I enjoyed it very much," he admitted. Because he didn't want to put Ray off, he didn't mention the fact that it hadn't been entirely without difficulty, but he wasn't lying. It had been amazing. His only regret was that they hadn't been able to do it again before Mark left.
"Good, that's good. See, I'm pretty sure I like it," Ray offered. "I mean, I've only ever. . . um . . . I mean, fingers aren't the same but. . . ." he shrugged, looking embarrassed, his face still flushed.
Fraser sorted through the sentence fragments, and it was all he could do not to gasp as he realized he had misunderstood Ray earlier. Ray wasn't asking, he was offering.
He must have had a strange expression on his face, because Ray looked a little worried.
"What? You don't want to? That's okay, I know . . . ."
"No!" Fraser interrupted quickly. "I mean, yes, I mean . . . I was just surprised, that's all. I thought you wanted to. . . with me. Not that you wanted me to . . . ." He suddenly found himself afflicted with Ray's inability to find appropriate verbs.
"Oh," Ray said, eyeing him warily. "So, that okay? You said you liked it."
He coughed. "To be honest, I have no idea if I like it, though I rather assume I would. It's just that my previous experience doesn't extend that far."
He saw the light dawn. "Guess we'll just have to wing it." Ray said with a shrug.
Fraser nodded, trying to remember what Mark had done to prepare him. It hadn't been at all difficult, but he'd had one thing that they didn't. "Damn."
"What?" Ray asks.
"I'm afraid we'll have to wait."
"We haven't any lubricant."
Ray reached across him to the nightstand, opening the drawer to pull out a sleek black bottle with a pump dispenser. "Aisle one, no waiting." He grinned engagingly. "What can I say? I'm an optimist."
"So I see." Part of him wanted to tease Ray about buying the large economy size, but part of him just wanted to use it. That part won out. He held out his right hand. Ray pumped some onto his fingers, and he rubbed his fingers together experimentally. It was different from Mark's brand. Thicker, silky cool, and nearly frictionless. Probably a very good thing, as he suspected he was going to have trouble lasting long enough to actually achieve penetration, much less long enough to even try and give Ray the sort of pleasure he himself had experienced before.
Ray moved, shifting higher on the bed, turning onto his belly. "C'mon," he said huskily. "Do me."
"Are you sure I'm not rushing you?" he asked, hesitantly.
Ray snorted. "It was my idea. How is that you rushing me?"
"Good point." Fraser kissed the back of his neck. "But I think we'll both be happier if we take time to prepare properly."
Ray looked back over his shoulder. "Yeah? You know that from experience?"
Fraser felt himself flush slightly. "Unfortunately, yes." He smiled ruefully. "I couldn't sit comfortably for some time after, and it was entirely due to my own impatience."
Ray chuckled. "Yeah, okay. So go for it, Mr. Proper Preparation." He put his head back down, eyes closed, a faint smile on his face, clearly waiting.
Fraser looked down at his fingers, remembering his own first time, and couldn't deny that there had been pain along with the pleasure. It had seemed negligible, given the excitement of the moment and his high pain threshold, but it was one thing to volunteer for that, and it was something else again to give it. He couldn't bear the thought. What if he didn't do it right? What if he hurt Ray, or he didn't like it? A soft sigh drew his attention back to Ray, who had turned onto his side, and was watching him with a combination of exasperation and understanding.
Without a word he reached for Fraser's hand, twining their fingers together, then bringing them down below the slightly sweaty softness of his scrotum, one knee bent forward to make it easier as he framed one of Ben's fingers with two of his own, centered them, and . . . pushed, never losing eye-contact with Fraser as he did it, until the very last second when his gaze went unfocused and his head tipped back, breath hissing over his teeth in a sibilant gasp.
After a few seconds Ray slipped his fingers free, and the tight heat closed around Fraser's finger, velvety and hot.
"Deeper," Ray whispered.
He obeyed, and Ray moaned.
He thought that single word commands could become addictive. He slipped a second finger into the clasp of Ray's body, stroking gently, noticing how he seemed to welcome his touch, opening for him easily. 'Fingers aren't the same. . . ' he'd said. The mental image of Ray using his own fingers as he pleasured himself made Fraser ache, wanting to see that in reality, though the sight of Ray yielding to his fingers was nearly as good. Reflexively he twisted his fingers, searching, and Ray shivered, his penis jerking with his response, pre-ejaculate pearling from the head. Greedily, Fraser pushed Ray onto his back, leaning down to take Ray's penis in his mouth.
God, he tasted so good. Like nothing else, nothing. A thousand adjectives came to mind, only to be discarded as inadequate. The taste made him hungry in a way that had nothing to do with food. He worked his fingers in and out, feeling how easily Ray took them, and the way the hard shaft in his mouth twitched and surged with each stroke. With each response his own arousal grew, until he was almost hurting with need. Still, he kept licking and sucking in tandem with each caress of his fingers, until Ray began to shake, his hands coming down to cup Fraser's face and try to pull him away.
"Don't!" he gasped desperately. "Don't make me come."
Fraser lifted his head, puzzled. "What?" he asked, not entirely sure he'd heard that correctly through the pounding of his own pulse and the noise of his breath.
"Not that way. Not with your fingers."
God. Lost in the pleasure of mapping Ray's responses, he'd almost forgotten. He could have Ray. He was allowed. Encouraged. Ordered. He slipped his fingers free, and grabbed the lubricant where it lay discarded on the bed. As he pumped a generous amount onto his fingers, Ray turned onto his stomach again, and Fraser stopped, shaking his head.
"No, on your side," he said hoarsely. "I have to see you."
Ray nodded, and turned onto his side as Fraser knelt behind him. Fraser stroked his slick hand over his penis, teeth clenched against the surge of sensation that threatened to send him over the edge, and then moved into place, not worried any more that they were moving too fast. One hand on Ray's hip, he guided himself home, moving as slowly as he could bear. He was torn between watching Ray's face-- lower lip caught in his teeth as he drew in a long, hissing breath, eyes heavy-lidded with arousal-- and watching himself forge slowly into the impossibly small space that opened to him. Ray pressed steadily back against him, panting slightly, and then he was in, all the way. He stayed there, motionless, letting Ray adjust to him, bringing himself back a little from the edge on which he was poised. Finally he felt that it might be safe to move, so he did.
Instantly he knew the position wasn't going to work. When he moved, Ray had to brace a hand against the bed to keep from rolling onto his stomach, and they were both off-balance. After a moment he realized there was a much better way to go about this and still see Ray's face. He slid a hand beneath Ray's upper thigh and shifted it higher, then pulled Ray toward him, twisting Ray's hips slightly so his weight came to rest fully on Fraser's groin, and his shoulders were flat on the bed.
Ray let out a sound halfway between a yelp and a moan as Fraser's, but it worked beautifully, letting him see not only Ray's face, but the heavy thrust of his erection where it curved tautly from the wiry curls at his groin. It also inadvertently drove him deeper into the tight clasp of Ray's body. Ray shuddered, pushing back against him as if he could somehow take him even deeper still, rocking slightly, encouraging him to move. He left his hand under Ray's thigh for leverage, pulled back, and then thrust.
"God!" Ray gasped, his gaze locking with Fraser's as he wrapped his fingers around the base of his own cock, stroking himself. "God, so good!"
Ray worked himself roughly, long fingers tight around his penis, hand sliding over the hard, dark-flushed length, glistening fluid welling over his fingers each time Fraser thrust, the slickness easing the way so his hand could move ever faster. Ray's obvious pleasure freed him from the last of his restraints. He pumped hard into him, taking up Ray's cadence, delighting in the feel of Ray around him, better than he'd ever imagined.
The hairs on the back of his neck lifted, his whole body tightening, heralding the end, too soon. Too soon. He whimpered, trying to hold it back, failing. He held Ray tight against him as he drove himself deep, groaning, his body pumping hot into hot as his pleasure crested. He closed his eyes, panting, and heard Ray's voice, ragged and hoarse.
"Oh, Christ, yeah. Fuck yeah."
He forced his heavy eyelids open just in time to see the first spatter of white arc upward, then fall to paint Ray's belly and chest. Another. Another. He lost count, watching each one trace a new path on Ray's skin. He reached down, wrapped his fingers around Ray's, and helped him stroke the last few spurts out, before collapsing forward, a kiss grazing his mouth as Ray pulled free of him and turned to wrap him tightly in his arms.
* * *
The sound of a phone ringing brought him bolt upright. Not quite awake, he grabbed it, and answered it as he normally did.
"Canadian Consulate, Constable . . . " He got that far before he realized he was not in his office, but in Ray's bed, and Ray was looking at him with a combination of horror and amusement as he gestured for the phone. After a brief moment of analysis, he decided he had to keep going. ". . . Benton Fraser speaking."
There was a long, long pause. Finally the person on the other end of the line spoke. "Fraser?"
It was Welsh. "Yes, sir," he said calmly. How to best salvage this. . . ? "How are you Lieutenant? What can I do for you?"
There was another pause. "I. . . uh, thought I called Vecchio."
Fraser crossed his fingers. "You must have misdialed, sir."
Ray's jaw dropped, and then he started laughing. Fraser reached over and put his free hand over Ray's mouth. It didn't help much.
"What's that?" Welsh asked. "Sounds like you got somebody tied up and gagged."
"That's just Diefenbaker wrestling with a sock."
"Oh. Well, sorry for the wrong number."
"That's quite all right, sir. No harm done."
Welsh hung up, and Fraser returned the handset to its cradle with a stern look at Ray. "That was not at all helpful."
"Sorry!" Ray wheezed. "Damn you're smooth! I gotta remember how well you can lie when you're motivated."
The phone rang again and they both jumped and looked at it. Fraser lifted his eyebrows. Ray wiped his eyes and picked it up.
"Vecchio." He paused for a moment, then grinned at Fraser and winked. "Yeah, hi, Lieutenant, what's up?" His expression went apprehensive as he listened. "She did? Uh. . . what did she say?" There was a pause, and relief wrote itself over his face. "Yeah? Yeah. Yeah, she did. She was great. Really helpful. We ought to give her a citizen's commendation or something."
Fraser deduced that they must be talking about Mrs. Karlz. And that she must not have complained about her broken patio door.
"So, she say what she wanted? She does? Okay, hang on a second?" Ray looked at Fraser and mimed writing with one hand.
Fraser looked around, saw nothing on which to write, or anything to write with, and got out of bed to go fetch something from the kitchen. He knew Ray kept pens and paper there. It felt a little odd to be wandering Ray's apartment stark naked, but getting dressed seemed to hold some negative significance, though he couldn't quite say why. He just knew he wasn't going to do it. Not yet.
Finding paper and a chewed-on pen, he returned to the bedroom and handed them to Ray, who cradled the phone between his shoulder and ear so he could use both hands to hold the pad and write. "Yeah, got it," he said as he scrawled something. "Thanks. Huh? Yeah, tomorrow, back to work as usual." He paused for a moment, and then laughed. "No, I shaved it off already, don't worry. Yeah. Okay. Thanks for the call. What? Oh, yeah, I'll let him know, don't worry."
Ray hung up the phone and flopped back in the pool of sunlight spilling onto the bed through the open bedroom curtains. Arching his back, he stretched tautly, then he patted the bed next to him with one hand. "C'mere. You're too far away."
Fraser had just been thinking that. He sat down on the edge of the bed.
Immediately Ray reached over and wrapped his fingers around his arm. "Jesus. I don't have cooties you know," he said irritably, yanking on his arm. "Get over here."
He found himself sprawled out on the bed, Ray's fingers carding idly through his hair, and thought he understood why cats purred. He turned and wrapped an arm around Ray's waist, pillowing his head on his thigh. Ray smelled of sex, and of . . . him. His scent overlaid Ray's like a blanket. He liked that. Breathing in deeply, he rubbed his nose in the soft hollow of his hip.
"Gladys wants us to come over for dinner," Ray said.
"Mmm?" Fraser said, wondering if he could taste himself there too. "When?" He licked experimentally. Definitely tasted semen, though he wasn't sure he could differentiate his own from Ray's. Perhaps with more practice.
"Dunno. I have to call her."
"Mmm." He licked again, tracing the line of fine hairs that arrowed down from Ray's navel. They felt strange under his tongue. Soft, and harsh at the same time.
"She must have some clout to get through to Welsh on a weekend and get him to call and give me her number." Ray said, picking up the notepad, and stretching to grab the phone and bring the whole unit onto the bed. Picking up the handset, he started to dial.
Frowning, Fraser reached for the handset. Ray held it out of his way. "Let me get this over with. And don't pout."
"I don't pout," Fraser said, curling a hand into a fist on Ray's hip, and resting his chin on it.
Ray snorted and finished dialing. A few seconds passed, and then he was speaking. "Hey, Gladys! It's Ray."
Fraser bit him experimentally, right where hip and thigh came together. Well, not really a bite. Just a scrape of teeth.
"Hey!" Ray jerked a little, obviously surprised. "I, um, I mean hey, what's up? Welsh said you called."
Fraser grinned. Turnabout was fair play. He nuzzled Ray's navel, and then stuck his tongue in it.
"Yeah, we really appreciated it. We'd have come back by after to say thanks, but we had to do the debriefing stuff," Ray said, gripping Fraser's hair and trying to tug him away.
Fraser ignored him, alternating between circling the little indentation with his tongue, and dipping it in. Ray's penis was definitely starting to notice that something was going on in the near vicinity, and it wanted in on the doings.
"Well, it's a cross-jurisdictional thing so it may be a few days before they aaah!" Ray's voice broke a little as Fraser touched his tongue to the tiny opening at the tip of his penis. "I, sorry. Just almost spilled something," he lied, reaching down to cup a hand over Fraser's playground, giving him a dirty look. "Anyway, it may be a few days before they get all the paperwork done and get a warrant." Ray explained.
Undeterred, Fraser moved on. He closed his mouth around one flat nipple, grazing it with his teeth.
"Fr. . . ankly it'll be good to get him off the streets," Ray said, taking his hand off his penis to push Fraser's mouth off his nipple.
Having accomplished his goal, Fraser surrendered the field and made a strategic retreat to his previous target. He wrapped his fingers around Ray's penis and then took it in his mouth, tongue seeking out the faint circumcision scar there. It was fascinating to experience Ray's erection hardening in his mouth, to feel the thickening and lengthening of the shaft, the rapid beat of his pulse. Sometime he would have to try it when Ray was not already a little aroused, just to see how he felt in his mouth when he was soft.
"Suuunday? What time?" Ray asked, his voice a little tight. "Can I, uh, get back to you on that? Fraser's . . . busy right now, and I have to get ahold of him."
Ray grabbed his ear and pulled. It smarted. Fraser reached up and caught his wrist, pushing it away so he had to let go. Since he was holding the phone with the other hand he couldn't really do anything else.
"I'll call you back. Later," Ray said. "Bye." He hung up. "Benton Fraser! You. . . you . . I can't believe you did that!"
Fraser let him slip from his mouth, enjoying the slide of firm, wet flesh past his lips. "Is there some sort of problem?" he asked innocently, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
Ray stared at him for a minute, and then shook his head, hard. With a sigh he flopped down onto his back. Slightly concerned by that reaction, Fraser pushed up on one arm so he could see his face, and as he did, Ray grabbed one of the pillows and hit him with it. Fraser grabbed the other pillow and hit him back. Laughing, they went at it with the pillows for a few moments, stopping briefly to rescue the phone when it fell off onto the floor, but once it was safely on the night stand Ray grabbed him and tried to get an arm-lock on him. Fraser managed to avoid it and pinned him on his back.
He was momentarily distracted by the feel of Ray's body under his, long, lean, and solid, his erection undiminished from the state in which Fraser's mouth had left it. Almost involuntarily his hips rolled against Ray's. Taking unfair advantage of his distraction, Ray hooked a calf over his legs, pushed up with one arm, and managed to flip him over. Fraser tried to roll away, only to find himself on his stomach under Ray, being straddled, strong thighs pinning his own between them, strong hands pinning his wrists over his head.
For a moment he tried to figure out how best to get out of the situation, and then it dawned on him that perhaps that wasn't really the brightest thing to do. Consciously he stopped resisting. Ray must have noticed immediately, because he leaned down, his mouth just behind Fraser's ear, and spoke.
"You give up?" he asked huskily.
Fraser shivered at the feel of warm breath on his ear. "Yes."
Ray chuckled. "Yeah?" he asked. This time his lips grazed Fraser's ear, and he shifted his weight forward slightly. The hard length of his shaft slid along the crease of Fraser's buttocks. "That a hint?"
Fraser leaned his head forward, exposing the back of his neck. Ray wouldn't be aware of the significance, but he did it anyway. "Yes."
Ray took the back of his neck in his teeth and shook his head gently back and forth, surprising him, and sending a flare of acute arousal through him.
"How . . . ?" he gasped.
Ray let go and brushed his lips against the place where his teeth had just been, then lifted his head. "I get the Discovery channel, you know," he said softly, nipping Fraser's earlobe.
A fit of helpless laughter shook him as Ray's hands smoothed down his back and came to rest cupping his buttocks, fingers dipping into the valley between them, grazing the small opening there.
"God, you have a gorgeous ass," Ray said huskily, then laughed. "Oh, big surprise there. Like I thought it wouldn't be?" His touch grew more deliberate, fingers trailing back and forth, teasingly.
Fraser squirmed, trying to spread his thighs, but they were still trapped by Ray's.
"You want something?" Ray asked conversationally, still stroking.
"You know I do," he growled, frustrated by the teasing nature of Ray's caresses.
"Yeah, I know you do," Ray agreed. "That doesn't mean I don't want you to tell me."
"'Cause I have this fantasy where you ask me to fuck your ass, that's why."
"Oh." Fraser wasn't entirely sure if the flush suffusing his skin was embarrassment, or simple arousal.
"Yeah, 'oh.' Come on. Indulge me?" Ray wheedled.
He could do it. He could. Indulge Ray in that one little thing. "Ray, I . . . ." His throat closed up on the words. He cleared his throat. "I want you to . . . ." All right, this was ridiculous. "Ray, I want you to f. . . ." Damn it. Not again.
"Can't do it, can you?" Ray asked, sounding remarkably sympathetic.
"Apparently not," Fraser said, disgusted.
"That's okay. I had a feeling. Besides, now that I think about it, it sounds kind of cheesy, like a bad porn video. And you're not cheesy so it's just as well." He cupped his hands over Fraser's buttocks again, and squeezed gently. "God. I'd make some stupid fruit comparison but I'm not cheesy either." His weight shifted suddenly as he un-straddled Fraser, and slid down the bed.
Fraser was about to look back and see what he was up to when he felt lips graze the curve of one buttock.
"So pretty," Ray whispered, using his thumbs to open him.
He felt vulnerable. Exposed. And a little miffed at being called 'pretty.' He was about to object to that when he felt the soft brush of something warm and wet directly on the furl of his anus. Startled, he jerked, twisting to try to see Ray "What . . . ."
"Shhh. You'll like it, I promise." Ray bent his head, hands still holding him open, and swirled his tongue around the opening.
He whimpered, pleasure shocking through him. "Ray?"
"Mmmm," Ray murmured, the vibration of sound against sensitive skin making Fraser shiver, but he didn't stop. Instead he changed tactics, instead of licking around, his tongue probed, the pointed tip seeking entry.
"Ohgod," Fraser groaned said into the mattress, fingers clenching at the sheets. "Ray!"
Ray stopped licking for a moment, and a fingertip replaced his tongue. "Sweet. Gonna let me in there?" He bent his head once more, and this time finger and tongue worked together, just barely getting inside him. He felt like he was opening up like a morning glory in the sun. Judging from the how deeply Ray's tongue was going in, he might just be.
Fraser lifted his backside as well as he could without being able to shift up onto his knees, wanting more of the incredible sensation. Apparently Mark managed to miss an entire topic when teaching him about sex with men. And just when he thought it couldn't possibly feel any better, Ray brought his long fingers into play, cupping and caressing his testicles as his tongue continued its maddening exploration.
"Getting tight," Ray whispered, tongue abandoning Fraser's skin for a moment, one hand tugging gently on his scrotum, easing the pressure a little. "Gonna come soon?"
Fraser nodded into the sheets, desperately, unable to think in words.
"Okay, just give me one sec here. . . "
Ray leaned over the edge of the bed, scrabbled around on the floor and came up with the bottle of lube, which had apparently fallen off the bed sometime during the night. Fraser heard the tiny creaking sound the spring made as Ray depressed the pump, heard Ray's breath hiss over clenched teeth. . . he must be applying the lubricant. A moment later he felt the nudge of something hard and blunt where Ray's tongue had just been. He closed his eyes and breathed out, waiting, but Ray just held himself there, unmoving.
"This isn't right," Ray said decisively, shifting away.
"Yes it is!" Fraser insisted, reaching back with one hand, trying to find him. This was not the time for Ray to be having second thoughts. "I want this."
"No, no, I know that," Ray sounded a little impatient. "That's not it. Turn over, okay?."
Fraser turned over, slightly frustrated. Ray's body clearly thought this was just as right as Fraser's did. His fair skin was flushed, his nipples were taut, and his penis thrust up firmly from the pubic curls between his thighs, gleaming a little from the slick of lubricant and pre-ejaculate that coated it. He looked into Ray's eyes questioningly, concerned.
Ray smiled and reached out, touching his lips with two fingers. "Yeah, I want it. You have to know I want it. Been jerking off to thoughts of fucking your ass for months. I just want to see you when we do it, you know?"
Relief went through him and he sighed, nodding, having felt the same way the day before."Yes. I understand. Would you like to try it on our sides?"
Ray shook his head, a lascivious smile curving his lips. "No. I want you on top."
"But it's my turn," Fraser objected.
Ray's smile grew wider. "Yeah, it's your turn." He pushed the pillows up against the headboard and leaned back against them, legs together, his erection still arcing firmly upward from his groin. "So come and get it," he said, patting his thigh.
Fraser stared at him for a moment, and then realizing what Ray had in mind,
began to smile, one he suspected matched Ray's. Of course. He wished he'd thought
of it himself. He got up onto his knees and moved to straddle Ray's thighs.
"Oh yeah, like that," Ray said huskily, one hand coming to rest on Fraser's hip, the other moving to grip the base of his penis, holding it steady. "Just like that."
Fraser braced one hand on Ray's shoulder, the other keeping Ray's upthrust shaft in position as he slowly began to sink down it. It was easy to control the pressure this way, to keep it steady and sure enough that his body yielded gradually to the intrusion. There was a faint burn as he was breached, but the slight discomfort never escalated to pain. It was strange, he'd remembered enjoying this before, but had forgotten precisely why. Now as he took Ray in, he remembered how intensely intimate being penetrated was. To let someone else inside you required more trust than he was usually able to give. But he'd already let Ray in, over and over, into every area of his life. What was one more?
He eased down, taking Ray deeper, until finally he could feel the crush of wiry pubic hair against his buttocks. Panting a little, he looked down into Ray's face, and realized that he was barely in control himself. His eyes were closed, his lips parted, his breath coming shallow and rapid. Fraser leaned down and kissed him, trying to give back some of the pleasure Ray's mouth had already given him. He felt Ray's breath hitch in a gasp, then Ray pushed up on one hand, the other threaded through his hair, and he found the tables turned as Ray devoured his mouth in hungry, breathless kisses, his hips moving restlessly, pinned under Fraser's weight but needing to thrust.
Fraser did it for him, lifting, then sinking down again. God, it felt . . .
amazing. His body didn't want to relinquish Ray, and seemed to clasp him tight
even as he lifted away. Ray's hand slid from his hair down his back to clutch
his hip as Fraser rode him, starting slowly, but picking up the pace as it got
easier, and as his own body demanded a faster rhythm. Ray was making noises
into his mouth, and after a moment he realized Ray was actually talking, so
he lifted his mouth to listen.
". . . so fucking good." Ray gasped, opening his eyes, and staring down to where Fraser's penis curved up tight against his belly, pulsing each time he rocked on Ray's upthrust shaft. "Jesus, look at you. . . you're so hard." He sounded awestruck. "So damned hard," he repeated. "You're going to come for me, aren't you? You're going to come without me even touching you, aren't you?" he whispered, his thumb rubbing a circle in the hollow of Fraser's hip.
As if Ray's words had tripped a switch, Fraser felt it starting, inside, around Ray, and spreading like fire through drought-dry grass. He pushed himself down, taking Ray as deeply as he could manage, and pulled him close in his arms, shuddering as orgasm took him. Ray's hands stroked his back and his buttocks, fingertips grazing the place where they merged, and then he started to shudder too, a soft moan breaking from his lips.
They sat there for a long time, breathing slowing, sweat cooling, wrapped around each other, until their muscles began to protest the unaccustomed strain. Finally Ray let go and fell back against the pillows with a sigh, the fingers of one hand playing idly in the mess on his stomach.
"Wow," he said after a few seconds.
Fraser shifted up and off of him with a slight wince. It was strange how it seemed to hurt more coming out than going in. Probably had something to do with endorphins. "Wow," he agreed, stretching out to lie beside Ray, one hand possessively on his thigh.
Ray chuckled. "That sounds so weird coming out of your mouth."
Fraser propped his chin on Ray's shoulder. "What, 'wow?'"
"You're usually so calm. Nothing gets you excited. Like you got a Valium gland none of the rest of us have. I mean, I know it's not true. Underneath you're just as excited as the next guy, but you don't let on. I kind of like seeing the underneath guy now and then."
Fraser sighed. "It's a hard habit to break."
Ray nodded. "Yeah. I kind of figured." He looked down at Fraser, a slight frown on his face. "You know you don't have to break it," he said. "I don't expect that. I like you the way you are."
Fraser blinked, his vision momentarily blurry. "You have no idea how much I appreciate that."
Ray's fingers stroked gently down his face. "Maybe I do.."
Fraser nodded, realizing that Ray had some experiences that in some ways paralleled his own. They lay quietly for a while. Finally Fraser spoke again, the jumble of thoughts in his head demanding to be aired. "Ray?"
"What. . . do we do now?"
Ray looked at him. "Well, I'm hungry and I itch," he scratched his stomach where dried semen matted it. "We could go get a shower, and then make some breakfast."
Fraser was trying to think of a way to rephrase his question when Ray's gaze sharpened.
"Wait. That's not what you meant, is it?"
Fraser shook his head, and Ray sighed. "Thought so." He was quiet for a moment. "What do you want to do now? We can't really put the toothpaste back into the tube, even if we wanted to. Which I, for one, do not," he said vehemently.
Fraser couldn't help smiling at that metaphor, and he shook his head. "No, no we can't. Nor would I want to either."
"Okay, good. That's settled then."
"We're . . . together. I mean, we are, right? Together?"
He sounded a little uncertain at the last, and Fraser put a hand over his. "Yes, of course we are. I just meant. . . how together?"
Ray frowned. "Oh." He sighed. "I think I get what you mean. Okay." He thought for a moment and then sighed. "Okay, first question-- do we want to keep working together? Which I don't know about you, but I do."
"I do, very much so."
"Okay. Good. So that's settled. But since the higher-ups kind of frown on the whole being-in-love-with-your-partner thing, there will be no using to the storage closet to fuck like minks."
Fraser stared at him, wide-eyed, . "Ah. . . were you planning. . . ?"
Ray snorted. "Jesus. What do you think? Of course not. Give me a break, even back in the old days when things were still good with Stella, not once did we play footsie when we both ended up on the same case, okay? I know what's okay for work and what's not."
"Of course you do." Fraser tried not to act too relieved.
Ray sighed. "It's off-work that'll be tough. I hate pretending. That's not me. That's not what I do."
Fraser chuckled. "On the contrary, Ray, you pretend every day."
Ray looked outraged. "I do not!"
"Actually, Detective Vecchio, you do."
Ray blinked at him. "Oh. Okay, I do. But. . . not about being in love. I never had to pretend about that. I'm a heart-on-my-sleeve guy."
Fraser had to swallow hard to get the lump out of his throat. The matter-of-fact way that Ray had, twice now, used the word 'love' was utterly foreign to him, and yet so needed. "I know that, Ray."
Ray sighed, and fell silent for long enough that Fraser started to worry, and then suddenly he sat up, raking his hands through his hair and glaring at Fraser.
"No, damn it. You're not right. I am not going to pretend. I am not going to act like I don't care, because I do care, so when we're not working I'm not pretending and if anybody wants to make something of it, they can kiss my skinny ass."
Fraser opened his mouth to try and make a logical rebuttal of Ray's argument, and realized he didn't really have one. "All right."
Ray looked at him suspiciously. "All right?"
"Yes. All right."
"You're not going to argue?"
"One must choose one's battles."
Ray snorted. "That's true enough." Suddenly decisive, he stood up and held out a hand. "Come on. Shower, then food."
Fraser let Ray pull him to his feet and followed him to the bathroom. "Good idea. Speaking of food, what did Mrs. Karlz have to say?"
"She wants us to come for dinner tomorrow. Sixish. That okay?" Ray leaned over and turned on the water, sticking his hand in the flow to check the temperature and then adjusting.
"I haven't any pressing plans that would interfere, so I don't see why not."
"Yeah, me either. And by then I ought to be able to keep my hands off you for an hour or so without too much trouble. Though to be honest, I'm not sure she wants us to. Get in." He put his hand against the small of Fraser's back and urged him into the shower.
Fraser stepped in, and moved back so Ray could join him, studying Ray as he tried to puzzle out his meaning. "You're not sure she wants us to what?"
Ray ducked his head under the shower head, his hair flattening out instantly under the spray. For some reason that always made him look younger. Finally he stepped back, and ran his hands over his face, wiping away the water and slicking back his hair. "I'm not sure she wants us to keep our hands off each other. I think she kind of got off on us kissing."
"Ray!" Fraser gasped, appalled.
"She's a perfectly respectable woman! You shouldn't be thinking things like that!"
Ray snorted. "I dunno, you didn't see the look on her face."
"All flushed and flustered, like Stella used to get when we watched porn and she'd pretend she wasn't turned on."
"I'm sure you're mistaken. She's . . . she's . . . well, more than old enough to be my mother! Or yours, for that matter."
"I'm guessing you never saw 'The Graduate,' did you?"
"Actually, I did." Fraser was silent for a moment, recalling the film. Perhaps he was being ageist.
Ray held out a bottle. "Shampoo?"
Fraser took the shampoo, shaking his head. "I ah. . . don't know what to say."
"I do." Ray said. "'No, you can't watch,'" he said, making quotation marks with his fingers.
The smirk was irresistible. Fraser pulled him close and kissed it off him. Wet, warm, and slippery, Ray squirmed against him, his hands sliding down Fraser's back to cup his buttocks. Lifting his mouth from Ray's, Fraser rested his face in the curve of Ray's shoulder with a sigh.
"Still worried we're going too fast?" Ray asked, two fingers sliding into the crease, then back out.
Fraser shook his head. "No."
"Good. Don't want to rush you."
Fraser laughed against his shoulder. "Ray, you've done nothing but rush me since we met. But please don't stop. I'd rather go over a cliff with you than stand on the edge without you."
Ray hugged him hard. "Yeah. Yeah. Same." He pushed Fraser away a little and nudged the hand that still held the shampoo. "Do me. Hair, I mean. You can do me the other way later. Speaking of going over cliffs, we need to watch our tape. Hey! We made our own gay porn."
Fraser poured shampoo into his palm and put the bottle down on the top of the shower door, then began to work the soap into Ray's hair, shaking his head. "A loving exchange between two fully clothed individuals is about as far from pornography as you can get."
Ray sighed. "Would've been porn if I had my way. Maybe we can get one of those little mini-cams like they're always showing on the internet. . . "
"Can we at least eat first?"
Ray laughed. "Yeah. Get a move on, slowpoke."
Fraser narrowed his eyes. "You may regret having said that."
Ray grinned. "I sure hope so."
* * * fin * * *