Even Diefenbaker seemed tired as they climbed the stairs.
"We shouldn't have left him with Elaine," Ray grumbled, his long legs pushing up the stairs with unspoken grunts. "Full of donuts and salami, I bet."
"It is possible that the phone call came from someone who simply wanted to throw us off-track, Ray, a competitor for the favor of whoever is behind all this."
Ray nodded as he pushed open the door, his eyes doing an automatic scan of the room, the floor, the closed windows. Fraser completed his own scan, then walked directly to the radiator. Warm air rushed out.
"Seems unlikely just anybody would know to call Turnbull," Ray noted. "And Turnbull did say the guy asked for him by name. Speaking of which, Benny "
"Yes, Ray?" Fraser headed for the kitchen.
"Does Turnbull have a first name?"
"Yes, Ray. It's Renfield."
When Vecchio didn't answer, Fraser turned from pouring himself a glass of milk to see his friend staring at him in suspicion.
"You joking with me, Fraser?"
"Don't any of your Mounties have real names? Benton? Renfield? Margaret Thatcher? It's enough to make me wonder about Canada."
"Wonder what, Ray?"
"Constable Cooper's name is unremarkable, Ray, even by American standards."
"What his first name?"
Ray threw up his hands and looked heaven-ward. "I rest my case." His arms dropped as his eyes went to Diefenbaker, who had curled up to sleep under the window. "So, you got any lineament?"
"Yeah, you know. I figure you ain't got any massage oil, so I'm not bothering asking. But even you've got to have the sore muscle once an age, or something. So you got any?"
Fraser walked somewhat numbly to the kitchen drawer that held his first aid kit, then extracted the half-used tube. Ray took it without comment, other than nodding towards the bed.
"Ray I don't " Fraser wondered vaguely why he was resisting.
"Fraser, you heard what Welsh said, right?"
"So you know we got a big meeting in the morning, and at this meeting we need to prove we're worth something, because now that we've been targeted we're more a liability than an asset, right?"
"Yes." Fraser added a nod for good measure.
"We're both too tired to be hungry or to think up any great thoughts, and it's too late to play twenty questions. Am I right about everything so far?"
Fraser wanted to ask about the "twenty questions" reference, as he had no idea what relevance a child's game had to or, come to think of it, perhaps he did. In any event, he simply nodded this time.
Ray smiled, and Fraser's knees went wobbly again. "So take off your shirt and lie on the bed. I figure the sooner you get your rub-down, the sooner we sleep and that means we've got a shot at a full eight hours here, which is pretty much the best news I've heard all day."
"Understood, Ray." He turned then, taking off his coat, brown jacket, tie, shoes, and belt, leaving on his pants, undershirt and socks. The radiator had fogged up the windows, but the room was still a little cool. Besides, he wasn't sure Ray meant for him to take off any more clothing.
When he turned back, he saw Ray standing by the radiator in only his own pants, socks, and undershirt, though they were accessorized by a particularly winning smile.
"I've wanted you to do this for a long time, Ray."
Ray's eyebrows shot up. "You only had to ask me, Benny. I'd have done it. Now go on and lie down."
He stretched over the mattress carefully, not really certain whether Ray even realized the extent of the sexuality that might or might not be a part of this act. He waited a moment before he felt Ray sink into the mattress, then there was a hesitation before those strong, slender legs straddled him, and Fraser found himself fighting off a sigh of pleasure.
"Too heavy?" Ray asked as he settled his weight onto Fraser's backside.
"Not at all, Ray." Fraser didn't think about what parts of their bodies were pressed together with only a bit of cloth between them.
He heard Ray warming the lineament in his hands, then nothing.
"Benny? You wanna take off your undershirt? I'm going to get it all funky."
"Certainly, Ray." He wriggled out of it and let it fall to the floor. His arms were still settling again when Ray's warm, strong, soft hands where working on his shoulders. He had to bite his lip to keep from moaning.
A few incredible moments passed in silence.
"I knew you would be good at this, Ray."
"You're not bad at it yourself, Fraser. Man, you're strung up tight here." The touches stopped while, Fraser supposed, Ray shook out his hands. Then a fingertip lightly touched the bullet's scar. "Does this hurt you a lot?"
"Less than I believed it would, Ray. Some days, it troubles me."
"I notice this is a pretty new tube of stuff, and it's getting a lot of use."
"Actually " Fraser savored the feel of Ray's hands working the back of his neck, then down his spine. "I use it primarily on my leg."
"Yeah." Ray's voice was somber, but the magic of his hands increased sharply, and Fraser shivered as pain-relief seeped through his muscles. A few more minutes passed, and Ray began to work on his lower back.
"What made you think I'd be good at it?" Ray asked suddenly.
"You're a deeply sensual person," Fraser responded, half-asleep in parts of his body, like his brain, decidedly at attention in other parts or rather, part. "Profoundly in tune with your body, and aware of yourself. You're so sensitive to others' needs as well. These are all excellent qualities in a masseuse."
"You think I'm sensual?"
Fraser oozed more deeply into the bed. "Extremely."
Ray said nothing, digging into the stiff muscles and tracing the pressure points along his ribs. Finally, almost brusquely, he told Benny to roll over.
That woke Fraser up.
"I'm feeling quite good like this, Ray. I think I could sleep now, if you like."
"It doesn't work, just loosening up the back muscles, Benny. You know that."
"Ray, my turning over right now would introduce an element into our situation with which you may feel uncomfortable."
Fingers trailed lightly over the lower part of his spine while the thigh muscles against his flanks twitched with trembling. Ray leaned down and pressed a soft kiss onto his shoulder.
"Can I see, Benny?" Ray whispered.
"Are you sure, Ray?"
"To tell you the God-honest truth, I'm not sure. But I'd still like to see."
Fraser kept his breathing as slow and even as he could, well aware it wasn't slow or even at all.
"I think we should wait until you are sure, Ray."
Ray sighed. "All right, but I still wish you'd turn over."
Fraser shivered, thinking of holding Ray in his hand, of that extraordinary intimacy. He thought of tasting his way over Ray's body. He thought -- and it was hardly for the first time -- of what Ray's face would look during orgasm.
But he said nothing.
When another soft kiss was pressed to his shoulder, he gasped.
So many times he'd heard Ray say his name, that particular version of his name, as a friend, with love, but with the love of a friend.
This time, the name was different, a certain something in the inflection that made it a name no one had ever called him before.
"I want this so much, Ray."
"But you won't turn over."
"I can't hurt you, Ray, not like that. The idea of it appalls me. I believe we need to take this very slowly."
Ray laughed, his warm breath shivering over Benny's spine.
"If we move any slower on this, Benny, people are going to think we're dead."
Fraser let his ears rest awhile with the tone of Ray's frustration and disappointment, wishing the tension of the moment would soften the ache in his genitals, then twisted slightly, paused to allow Ray to raise up off his body, and then turned carefully onto his back.
Ray looked down at him, smiled, and settled his weight down over the tops of Fraser's thighs, hitching up Benton's arousal several more notches and causing him to emit a most un-Mountie-like sigh.
A strange look settled into Ray's eyes.
"What?" Fraser asked.
Ray shook his head. "Too weird."
"You want to stop this?"
Ray shook his head again, slower and with more emphasis.
"Do you remember the jerk from IA in the cell? When we met?"
That earned another smile, even while Ray's eyes glinted with self-disgust. "I knew better than that, you know. I was just I needed something, you know? I couldn't make anything work, and I thought, if I could just get a high-profile bust, maybe my luck would turn. And right in the middle of all this, I hear some guy asking for 'Detective Armani,' and there you are looking like something out of a cologne ad.
"So my high-profile case is gone bust, and I've got someone who should be warning people not to start forest fires getting in my face about some Canadian lead that looks colder than a dead polar bear and twice as pointless."
"It wasn't an auspicious meeting."
"And even then, I was thinking about how I didn't want you around me with women in the room. Before you got mad and reminded me you were a real person, it was like some movie star cop was slumming, and I just wanted you gone. You made me feel so second-rate."
Needing to speak, and having no idea what to say, Fraser whispered an inarticulate protest and reached up, holding himself back at the last moment, and winding up with his hands fallen lightly to Ray's thighs. He stared up into his friend's eyes in alarm, but they only widened slightly, then relaxed into a hint of pleasure. Ray's own hands draped softly over his own, and for a long while they retained the tableau, feeling the artistry of it, sharing simple beauty.
"I didn't know then I'd be spending the next few years watching every woman in Chicago throw herself at you. Sometimes I've thought, and I'm not saying it's a noble thought or nothing, but I've thought that it's a good thing for our friendship you're so clueless with them."
Ray paused, frowning with the same doubt that made Fraser bite his lip, then confessed, "It's weird now, thinking about how you look and thinking it's for me. I mean, do you have any idea how fantastic you look right now? And I was thinking at first about how some girl would really freak out if she could she you, and then I was thinking well *I* see you. And I gotta tell you, it makes me feel like one lucky bastard."
Fraser was well aware that he was grinning like an idiot. He had hoped that Ray's somewhat frustrating unwillingness to talk about "mushy stuff" would be off-set by the introduction of physical intimacy, but he was uncertain why verbal intimacy was being increased as well.
When, in answer to his friend's puzzled look, he voiced his thoughts, Ray chuckled, his fingers curling and uncurling along the backs of his hands to introduce yet another novel caress.
"I was married, Fraser. Not sharing stuff in bed means treating your wife like a whore." Ray shrugged. "Same goes for lovers. I mean, I'm sitting on your lap, or where your lap would be if you were sitting up, and I'm seriously thinking about getting you naked, so I think it's safe to say we'd better put the whole 'buddy talk' thing in a drawer for a while." Ray stared down at him in sudden concern. "You okay, Benny?"
Fraser nodded dumbly, barely hearing Ray after that first sentence, lost in sharp, painful memories. He and Victoria had never talked in bed. They'd said so much before, and afterwards, but while in each other's arms their physical expressions had spoken for them and so falsely, on her side. While she kissed him, touched him, took him inside her body and drawn climaxes from him literally too profuse and intense to count, or to remember with perfect clarity, she had not spoken the truths in her mind. She had lied more profoundly than anyone had ever lied to him before or since.
"That's exactly how it was, Ray. She treated me like a prostitute, and she made herself one as well."
"It wasn't your fault. You were in love with her. You're still in love with her, I think, at least a little." When Fraser began to protest Ray talked just a little louder. "If you weren't, then love wouldn't scare you so much."
"I was going with her. She treated me like *that,* and I was going to throw away my whole life to be with her."
"That's what love feels like, Benny. The feeling isn't wrong. Sometimes throwing away your whole life to be with someone is the only right thing to do. You just picked the wrong person to risk it on."
It was astonishing that he could think of nothing to say, could be so completely blank and helpless, and yet still be so aroused. And this wasn't even real love -- real romance, that was to say -- he and Ray were creating. This was only the love of a friend. How could Ray not understand his problem even with the evidence so clear?
"Benny." Ray's voice and hand on his shoulder were feather-soft. "You gotta forgive yourself for it. You gotta let it go."
"Can you understand now, Ray? Do you know how grateful I am that you were only trying to protect me? That you shot me and then still called me your friend?"
Ray's eyes darkened with sorrow, his face coming closer now, then closer still so that it was easy for Fraser to trace the curve of his cheek, then the line of his chin, then closer again, and at last they were pressed close enough to kiss again, to be lost in sharing kisses once more.
When Ray settled down against him, pressing against Fraser's long-neglected erection, he could not help the low, desperate moan, or the buck of his hips against that hot pressure. He grabbed wildly at those erotically slim hips, then yanked them back with a gasp, frozen in horror.
Ray was still above him, and tense, staring down in evident confusion.
Fraser slid his hands behind his own body, wishing vaguely he had a tail to tuck between his legs in submission -- rather than the unrelenting erection currently making its intentions known -- and waited.
Ray grinned, though it was a little shaky, and put his hands on Fraser's bare stomach. A few light caresses had Benny writhing and gripping the sheet so hard his body had to arch painfully off the bed to make room below for his fists.
But then Ray slid his arms around Fraser's waist, retrieved his hands, and put them back on his hips. Not letting go, he pressed Benny's hands lightly back, over his buttocks, frowning slightly, then up to settle them in the small of his back. Closing his eyes with a smile of satisfaction, Vecchio began to rock slightly, establishing the gentlest of paces.
Fraser relaxed into it with the willingness of being blessed. It was both a relief and intensely erotic to realize Ray wanted him to do nothing more than lie here with his legs spread. He spread them even wider and canted his hips up, moaning Ray's name and shivering with waves of heat rippling up and through and over. Did Ray feel them?
His eyes had closed, and with effort he got them open again. Ray's beautiful face was tilted back, his eyes half-closed, his mouth open with quick breaths. He was Oh, God incandescent
A groan wracked Fraser's body. A few more of Ray's undulations and he would come. Good thing he was still inside his boxers.
It took a moment to realize Ray had gone still again. Fraser tried to ask what was wrong, but only managed a sort of dry croak.
"Can I see you now, Benny?"
Benny managed to swallow, and found his voice, somewhat. "Are are you sure, Ray?"
He started to lift his hands from Ray's lower back, but Vecchio shook his head and reached down, fumbling, and opened up Fraser's fly. He gulped slightly at the sight of the bulging cotton beneath, and withdrew his hands.
"Maybe you'd better," Ray whispered.
Very slowly, Fraser brought his hands down, wishing he could get them to stop shaking, and carefully, gently, brought out his flushed, swollen length, searching Ray's green eyes for signs of fear or pleasure.
All too clearly, then, he made out Ray's apprehension. Quickly, his hands covered himself, but Ray reached out, frowning, wrapped his fingers around Benny's wrists, and pulled his hands away. Fraser knew he should be uncomfortable under that mesmerized gaze, but, if anything, it only made him harder.
Ray's eyes flicked up to Fraser's face, then seemed startled, and rested there. A faint smile appeared over Ray's mouth, which then faded as he turned back to his friend's open fly.
"It just doesn't seem like you, Benny." Ray laughed a little. "It just I mean "
Fraser hitched his hands around the top of his uniform trousers and slithered them down his thighs. Ray raised up on his knees again -- revealing to Benny's astonished eyes a decided bulge in his designer-clothed groin -- and helped pull the wool pants completely off, along with Fraser's starched boxers. When Ray settled and looked again, the smile returned, and stayed.
"That's better," he announced, running light fingertips over Fraser's splayed thighs. "Looks more like a part of you and not just this " Ray's laugh was both louder and more uncomfortable than the last one. "Damnit, Benny. I'm not doing this right at all."
Fraser sympathized, but was also aware that he had almost reached his personal tolerance limit. He needed to do something, or he was going to orgasm all by himself or start screaming. He doubted either would be good for Ray or for their relationship.
It still took everything Fraser had to ask, "Would you like me to show you what I like?"
Even in the dim light, Ray's eyes obviously dilated. When Vecchio's pale hand slipped down to cup his own crotch, Fraser moaned, and when nimble fingers undid the button and slid down the zipper, he almost came.
"Turn-about's fair play, right?"
Fraser was too busy staring to answer. Unlike his own pale, uncircumcised member that showed off a thick blue vein and rose above darkly furred testes, Ray was cut, smooth, and almost hairless, the nut-brown skin rosy with diffused blood. They were close to the same size, though Fraser curved up and Ray's erection thrust straight and true from his body.
And then, even as he watched, Ray became even longer and thicker, filling with more blood, more heat.
"Ohhhh " Tell-tale shivers rose up. Fraser grasped himself frantically, but could only manage a few swift strokes before it was too late. With a final, wrenching groan, he exploded over his own chest and stomach, driven on by the knowledge that Ray was watching him the whole extraordinary time.
Then he could do nothing but lay there in a sprawl, whispering apologies.
"Shhhhh," Ray soothed, his hands working in a motion that snapped open Benny's slit-closed eyes. He watched as Ray's penis jumped in his hands like a wild thing. Ray's body shivered, pressing down on Fraser's thighs, then shook, and then, as Ray sighed, released scalding hot semen over Benny's body to mingle with his own. If it had been physically possible, Fraser would have come again.
He raised up dull, heavy arms, opening an embrace to be filled only with his friend's body. Ray came to him, pressing them together, sharing the last of each other's trembling aftermath. The room was quiet and dim, and for a long, long time, Fraser knew only peace.
Later, they washed off at the kitchen sink, smiling, talking little, not touching each other, but staying close. Then after cold pasta salad out of a Tupperware bowl, they climbed again into Fraser's bed and slept until dawn.
The Inuit move within the land of dreams with less confusion than the descendants of Western Europe, but Benton Fraser knew better than to attribute the power of mystery to fundamental principles of interpretation of the psyche.
The first time Eric had brought him into a sweat lodge, he had, as the man once reminded him, almost thrown up and fainted, perhaps not in that order.
It had taken many more visits to learn to withstand the heat, visits spent also in learning the difference between a vision and wishful thinking, between a vision and an hallucination, between a waking vision and one from his dreams.
And so he knew this was a dream with something to tell him, this dream of sitting next to Ray in the Riv, watching his friend drive.
"Then you're okay with this, Benny?"
He smiled. "Of course, Ray."
Ray shot him a look. "Even though there's no road?"
Fraser looked out the side window, and indeed there was nothing below them beyond what seemed miles and miles of sheer, deadly drop.
Fraser jerked awake.
Ray's arms were around him. Their legs were entangled. Ray's breath was hot and soothing over his skin.
It was an hour or so before dawn. Diefenbaker was panting in his sleep, a perfect double-tempo to Ray's quiet exhalations.
Ray was so warm. His body so strong and spare. Was this what it had meant, that dream of driving on nothing? Couple it be simply that his lover's body seem to produce so much more than it took in?
Ray's love had been generous and unlimited almost since the moment they had met. Why had Fraser ever believed it would be other in bed? Ray was getting over his reticence almost alarmingly fast, and it was all because Fraser needed him to, because it was something to do for a buddy.
It was odd Ray's ex-wife had never tried this approach. One would have thought
No matter. Fraser was, after all, selfishly glad she hadn't tried it. Ray was his now, and he wasn't letting go.
Smiling, still half-asleep, he allowed his hands to smooth over that warm skin, delighting, refreshing himself.
Ray murmured, and he reached over to kiss a line back and forth along the expanse of that neck.
"What?" Ray mumbled.
Ray sighed and oozed a bit.
"Your back is really quite noteworthy as well, Ray."
"Your spine, in point of fact, is delectable."
"I'm guessing you mean 'kissable' by that, Benny."
Ray laughed, and Fraser made his slow way down Ray's body, breathing him in, tasting him, reveling in his silky textures, memorizing his smells.
Only when his tongue slid luxuriously into the indentation between two soft, spare mounds did Fraser remember why he wasn't supposed to be doing this.
Ray's moan of disappointment when he stopped, however, returned him to his soft explorations. The light down at the base of Ray's spine was soft as feathers, as mink, and Ray's musk mingled clean man with Armani and dried basil. Fraser let his lips tickle over one lean buttock, then another. Ray's hips pushed back against him, but then stilled when Benny's hands shifted to his hips.
Slowly, Fraser reached out to the sides and found Ray's hands, holding them tightly, gently in his own. In a few moments, Ray relaxed again. Using only his lips and tongue, he returned to that sweet softness, running his tongue back and forth over smooth skin, exploring unexpected dimples to the outside of the cheeks, licking at the crease right before the thigh.
He did nothing to explore deeply, or between, nor did he use his teeth. He did rub his nose up and down the spine, and rest his forehead on Ray's backside. And then, greatly daring, he blew into the cleft.
Vecchio's body shuddered, tensed, relaxed cautiously.
"Was that too much, Ray?"
"I don't know." Ray breathed for a while, his hips pushing down just slightly into the mattress. Then, impossibly, his legs spread just slightly. "Perhaps you should try it again."
His breath was uneven, a mere whisper, but Ray's new position revealed that dusky star, so vulnerable, so small and private, it seemed impossible to appreciate that someone had once abused it, made Ray suffer through that abuse.
Fraser edged forward, watching the tiny contraction of muscle as he breathed once more.
"Ahh," Ray moaned softly, pressing his hips once more into the mattress, undulating, really, obviously lost in sensation.
A butterfly kiss, Fraser thought. Isn't that what they're called? The lightest touch of his lips to this hidden opening to his friend's body, his nose pressing into the cleft, his hands held fast now in Ray's. Another gentle kiss, another long, slow undulation of Ray's long, lean body.
And then a sort of strangled noise, and the pungent odor of semen, and Ray going tense, and then limp, and Fraser knew what he'd accomplished with this small touch that meant
"Ray," he breathed, in and out and in again. Ray here, Ray with him, Ray under him, Ray trusting him.
Ray turned, looked up at him, and Fraser knew he would do anything for this, be anything for this. Ray's right hand brought Fraser's right to his lips, their arms all twisted 'round, and then released them, catching Fraser up, holding him, promising him. He felt his hard length pressed into Ray's soft stomach, and felt complete, redeemed, invincible, and loved beyond the dreams of emotional avarice.
In less than a half-second, he was off the bed.
Ray seemed to take a minute to realize that had happened. Fraser stood there and felt cold, his erection shriveling.
"Benny?" Ray sat up in the bed, staring at him in the dawn light.
"I can't do this, Ray."
It was a cryptic comment, at best, and yet Ray knew what he meant. Those green eyes closed and stayed that way many long seconds, the face around them growing smooth and blank. When Ray looked at him again, it was something a friend might show over coffee in a diner, less than Ray himself had shown over coffee at a particular diner.
Fraser hugged the memory close. They were still friends. They would always be friends.
"If that's what you need, Benny."
"I'm sorry, Ray."
Vecchio shrugged and looked down at himself, grimacing.
"I'm a mess. Got your robe? I wanna take a shower."
"I can't lose myself like this. Not again." Fraser realized his arms were wrapped around himself.
Ray held up a hand. "I get it, Fraser. Okay? Too intense. Too much what you didn't want, right?"
"I do want it, Ray. That's the problem. I had thought I would be safe, that you would be safe, but --"
Benny realized he'd been babbling, and quieted himself only with considerable effort.
"I got it." Ray actually smiled, a benediction, an absolution, a contract. "I really do."
Fraser turned and got his robe, handing it to Ray and the turning to give him privacy while he drew it on. Only later would he remember he did nothing about his own nudity.
"Fraser." He felt Ray's hand on his shoulder and turned, meeting calm, understanding eyes, which he expected, and an over-all sense of great relaxation, which he did not.
"It's okay, Benny. It really is."
"How can it be, Ray?"
Vecchio smiled, and now it was finally a little grim.
"If we'd kept up that way, Fraser, it would have been it for both of us. We know that. Let's not pretend we don't."
Ray left then, and Fraser did nothing to stop it. By the time Vecchio returned, the bed was changed and a cup of coffee waited on the table.
Ray flashed him a smile and slid out of the robe, handing it over. "I think I left you some hot water."
"Thank you kindly, Ray."
And in the tub, rushing, Fraser knew it was all true, that the road they had been driving had not existed, but that now together they had found not each other, but at least safe, solid ground.
The call came when they were driving.
"Detective Vecchio's mobile office," Fraser offered, but the joke was old, and Ray's smile was thin.
"I believe you're looking for me," said a male voice, well-educated and mature, with a slight Bostonian accent.
"Indeed? Perhaps if you provided your name, sir "
A slight chuckle.
"Who is it, Fraser?" Ray asked softly, pulling up at a red light.
"I wonder, Constable, if perhaps you could guess what I've decided tonight's target will be."
"I might be in a better position to do that, if I knew more about you."
"Do you own a pair of those Mickey Mouse ears, Benton?" the man asked. Ray, listening to the phone as Fraser held it exactly two inches from his left ear, started just slightly.
"No, I do not."
The light had changed. Ray drove forward carefully, then pulled over to the curb in front of a hydrant.
Fraser waited, then at a nod from Ray, hazarded, "What benefit would I gain from wearing such apparel?"
"Knife wound in a Mountie tonight is worth fifty points, unless the target is wearing Mickey Mouse ears. You have yourself a good one."
"I would --" Fraser looked at the phone.
Ray shook his head and made a low growling noise that flattened Diefenbaker's ears.
"Ray, it would be most inappropriate for members of the RCMP to --"
"This is stupid."
Fraser raised his eyebrows.
"Would jerk us around like this? What's the point? The kind of payment he must be dishing out to make people this nuts, the kind of power he's wielding -- what? So he can get Canadians to look foolish? Like you guys don't already look strange enough?"
Vecchio smacked the steering wheel, distracting Benny with concern that he would hurt those gentle hands.
"Think about it, Benny. He's just calling us this time, instead of Turnbull. This is garbage! None of this makes sense, none of this would make any money, or do anything but this is junk."
"It may well be more than that, Ray. This evening, the Consulate staff, with the exception of myself, will be hosting five representatives from different nation states, including an extremely influential healer-chief from the Akuit Nation of the Northwest Territory, Jake Dearfoot. The appearance of mouse hats would not well serve the occasion's call for decorum, to say the least."
"Besides, the Dragon Lady would never go for it, or for calling off the big dinner. So that means we're gonna have to cover "
They looked at each other.
"What else is going on tonight, Ray?"
Vecchio was rubbing his hands over his scalp now, and shaking his head. "What isn't going on? This is Chicago, Fraser! Money transfers, big-wigs holding fund-raising dinners, politicians yacking in public -- and we don't even know if any of this means anything!"
Fraser bit his lip.
"Could you get Elaine, Ray?"
Ray punched the number on his speed-dial. "What am I asking her about?"
"An address, though it may well be out of date. A young man I saw in a bar over two years ago. You may remember the night, Ray."
"You and that ambassador's brat?"
"Yeah, Elaine? We need an address from a guy in a raid. Remember that leather bar we busted Fraser at? Yeah, I thought you would."
"I believe his name was Gates, Ray. David Gates."
"David Gates, Elaine."
Ray covered the mouthpiece while Elaine tapped the information in. "Why do we want to talk to him?"
"His costume was memorable, Ray. Perhaps you saw him."
Ray frowned, then shot up his eyebrows. Extraordinary eyes.
"He was hardly a Mountie, Ray, though that was the effect he was pursuing, certainly, recreated in leather. Now, I'm assuming that while the man himself has no criminal connections, criminal activities of various types may well be known to some regular patrons."
"And they'd warn him about wearing the outfit tonight," Ray finished, nodding. His eyes slid towards the phone. "Yeah. Got it. Tell Welsh we've got something and I'll be reporting in after I see this guy, okay? Thank, Elaine." He angled the phone towards his partner.
"Thank you kindly, Elaine."
David Gates' address, fortunately, was a mere two miles from the bar. Even more fortunately, he still lived there.
He was not, however, at home.
"He in any trouble?" the landlady wanted to know.
"Not at all," Fraser explained while Ray bounced just slightly on his feet. He was so broad-shouldered and slender that his overcoat swayed without obstruction or bulge, just the slightest bit, with each bounce. "In fact, we're hoping he may have some valuable information that will assist in the prevention of a crime."
Mrs. Bubbard sniffed and scratched at her scalp, avoiding a nest of curlers with her thin, precise fingers.
"He works over at Tony's Pizza. He's probably pounding dough right now."
"That on Sound?" Ray asked.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser touched his hat.
Ray handed her his card. "If he shows up here and we haven't talked to him, would you ask him to call me at this number?"
She pecked the card from his hand. "If it's important."
"It is." Ray swirled around and out of the hallway. Fraser touched his hat and then followed, well aware of the eyes on his backside as he made his way through the heavy door to the street.
Tony's Pizza wasn't open, but Ray pounded on the door and showed his badge through the glass.
David Gates himself, easily remembered for his tall, somewhat stretched body and face, opened the door, his eyes lighting up when he saw Fraser.
"We meet again," he drawled.
Then the long face folded into a frown.
"No Mickey Mouse ears?"
"Vecchio," Ray said into his phone, setting down the file he was reading and rubbing wearily at his eyes. "Yeah, Mom. I'm fine."
Elaine thought much more of this was going to give her eye strain.
Something very odd had been going on for several days between Ray and Benton, and today was the strangest day yet.
Today Benton wasn't just hanging around Ray and getting hypnotized by his every word and positioning himself between Ray and other people. Today Benton was *not* looking at Ray, except when Ray wasn't looking. Then Benton stared at Ray as though something.
It's was an adoring gaze, not like the one she'd spotted in the Mountie's eyes for years now, whether even of them seemed to realize it or not, but a slightly desperate one.
*Are they sleeping together or not?* she wondered for -- what? The hundredth time? The thousandth?
She still harbored hopes. Why shouldn't she? But watching Ray's sister make such an ass out of herself had cooled Elaine's fascination years ago. Besides, Fraser was just so *not interested.*
There! It happened again when Ray hung up. Benny had been gazing at Ray with this lost look on his face, but when Ray looked up, Fraser was looking down at his file.
The files. What a pain. Who's idea had this been? Welsh's she thought, but she hadn't been in the office.
It made sense, she supposed. If all this business about putting a hit on Mounties really weren't to distract the Consulate staff, but rather Ray and Benny themselves because they'd seen something they weren't supposed to see, then looking over every case report for the crimes they've been investigating for the special task force might crack this creepy case wide open.
On the other hand, if that weren't what was going on, then this was just another huge waste of time. Especially for her, as she'd been given the stack of cases that had been slated for attention, but that Fraser and Vecchio hadn't managed to work on. Was she supposed to find the Easter Bunny in here? That seemed more likely than any other goal.
They'd even gotten Turnbull on it at the Consulate, going through everything Fraser had done for the past two weeks, including his logged phone calls and whatever else he did there.
It wasn't that Elaine wasn't willing to do the work. Heck, everything she did for the station was like this: going through files, looking up addresses, transcribing, working with witnesses to get something, anything the detectives could use. But she was really beginning to think she could do more. She was just as smart as the men and women around her who actually got to solve the crimes with the information she dug up. Why did she have to stay behind a desk all day? Why did she have to sit here when Ray and Benny went off to slay dragons or whatever else --
There! She's definitely seen something in Benton's eyes that time, and so had Ray. Fraser's face was turning painfully red, and Ray was about to say something, but then his eyes went to some delivery guy coming through the door.
"Over here," Ray called, standing up. The guy handed over a box, Ray handed over some cash, and the guy left.
Ray made a satisfied noise and set the box on his desk, grabbing his letter opener and having no success getting the brown wrapping paper off the box. Fraser watched a moment, then reached into his sock or shoe and produced a knife. Ray flashed him a smile and cut through the thick paper easily before handing the knife back with one hand and reaching into the box with the other.
"Aha!" Ray pulled out a Mickey Mouse hat.
Fraser frowned. "Now, Ray," he started. Elaine hid her smile.
"I ordered up a batch for the guys at the Consulate too, Benny, and Thatcher approved it, so just get your nose out of the air. Besides " Ray reached into the box and pulled out a black Mickey Mouse T-shirt. "Now, you can wear this over the brown jacket, or under with the jacket unbuttoned, or just over the shirt, or whatever, but you're wearing it, Fraser. Inspector's orders, and with the shirt the hat won't look so weird."
Benton glared for several seconds, then seemed to fold, and held out his hands for the hat and shirt.
"Eyes back in the head, Elaine," Ray called out. "Fraser ain't stripping down quite yet."
Throwing them both a look that should wither foliage, Elaine looked back down at her files.
A minute later, she was up and walking towards them. Fraser looked about three seconds from tears, contemplating, alternately, the hat and Ray's bent head. She held out the file.
"You didn't go see Bertram Walker."
Ray grabbed the file. "No, he didn't have any red flags."
"Someone tried to rape him."
"So he said." But Ray was just looking at her, waiting. Fraser cleared his throat.
"Bertram Walker is one of the owners of the videostore where we arrested Mr. Martello, Ray."
Ray tucked the file under his arm and grabbed his coat. Fraser grabbed his Stetson. Ray grabbed the Stetson out of Fraser's hand and left him with just the mouse hat.
"Now put that on before I staple it to your pelt," Vecchio snarled, throwing a look of pure exasperation at Elaine, a look that softened instantly to gratitude. "Good work, Elaine." Then: "Dief! Put that down!"
She watched them go: Ray rushing, Benton dragging, the wolf tagging along.
The dragons didn't stand a chance.
"Time was, every other videostore in town was some Ma and Pa organization," Ray was saying, taking the turn too fast and knocking Fraser's right ear against the side of the car. "Now it's like they're making a last stand against Blockbuster, SoundWarehouse, and the rest of them." Ray sighed unhappily. "One day, everything'll just be Taco Bell and Walmart, like in that movie."
"Do you think perhaps Mr. Walker is being targeted because of his store?"
Ray shrugged. "It's some prime real estate for that kind of store, and they can't be doing much business with the stock he's got."
Fraser nodded, thinking over these few facts of importance among the city's seemingly random violence. He was distracted, however, by another tight turn as his mouse hat was pushed again to the side. The T-shirt showing between the open buttons of his jacket did, at least, give some sort of order to his clothes, but primarily he was simply grateful he wasn't in his dress uniform. He flashed on an image of Turnbull and Cooper in their red tunics and mouse ears, and then --
Ray stared at him as Fraser tried hard to contains his little shrieking giggle he hated so much. Why couldn't his laugh be more dignified? He pressed down on it hard, but it only rose to the surface more insistently.
"Ray Ray "
Ray sighed and maneuvered through a yellow light.
"Ray The Inspector is well, in point of fact, a Mountie."
"Well, that is to say I hadn't considered that she "
Ray got it, and his laugh was as open and honest and beautiful as the rest of him. "Mouse ears on the Dragon Lady! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
Ray pulled up smoothly in front of WalkInVideos, still chuckling, then turned off the ignition and stepped out of the car in fluid motion. Fraser briefly considered asking to remain in the vehicle, then sternly got out and pulled the seat forward for Diefenbaker.
"Maybe we should have gotten ears for Dief," Ray said, looking up and down the street before heading for the door.
Fraser got there first and held it open, taking off his hat and following the Amani scents inside.
The store was empty of customers, which was somewhat odd, considering they had now reached the lunch hour. A bored young man behind the counter watched them approach without reaction, even to Fraser's ears. Ray showed his badge.
"Is Mr. Walker here?"
"You wanna tell him he's got cops wanting to talk to him?"
"You the Disney Brigade, or something?"
"Just get him before I look up your record."
Fraser blinked. The door behind the counter popped open, and a round, slightly ruddy face appeared.
"May I help you?" Bertram Walker asked. Fraser saw that one of his eyes was slightly bruised, as though in reaction to a blow to the head. The hand holding the door open had a half-healed scratch over the plump knuckles.
"Ray Vecchio, Chicago PD. This is Constable Fraser. We'd like to talk to you about " Ray realized he wasn't going to get anywhere saying "attempted rape" right in front of the employee of the month. " why Fraser is wearing mouse ears."
Walker remained calm, but his eyes narrowed and the hand shook, just slightly.
"Of course. If you gentlemen would step inside my office "
Ray motioned Fraser on ahead, then would up pulling up the read while Diefenbaker padded ahead as well. The wolf's tail was down and his ears were up. As he turned, Fraser made contact, and Ray's eyes signaled an awareness of the weight of his gun, but there was nothing in the office but a couple desks, some chairs, really bad art, and a door leading off to what was probably the storage room.
Walker sat down behind his desk, then reached into a drawer.
Ray's gun was out.
"Please keep your hands where we can see them, Mr. Walker," Fraser said.
Dief growled, and Fraser saw the barrel of the Smith & Wesson nudge the back of Ray's head even as Ray's hand lowered slowly.
"Put it on the desk," this man with a slight Bostonian accent ordered quietly.
"Sit. And tell the dog to shut up."
"Diefenbaker," Fraser said, not needing to look at his wolf as Ray backed slowly into a chair and sat down. It was a black vinyl chair with a steel frame, the match of the chair Fraser himself settled into. Dief took up position at his knee, doubtlessly ignoring his full awareness that Fraser would rather have him over next to Ray.
"So, looks like we interrupted the party," Ray was saying.
"Douglas," Walker said, his hands hovering as he stepped back away from his own desk.
"Bertram," Douglas responded, voice laced with disgust and amusement. He was tall and, Fraser would estimate, forty-three years old, his hair somewhat prematurely gray. Well-dressed in a dark suit, though being around Ray all these years had given Fraser enough of an eye to see that the man wore "off the rack." His eyes were brown and somewhat dull, but Fraser suspected that was something Douglas had worked to achieve.
"Douglas," Walker bleated, his eyes full of hurt.
"I knew it was a mistake to involve you."
"If you two want to be alone," Ray put in, then froze as Douglas' gun was pressed into his nose.
"Do you believe this to be a joke, Detective?"
It was so cold in the office, Fraser thought. It was hard not to shiver.
"I just think," Ray started, his voice somewhat affected.
The noise hurt, and it took many seconds before Fraser realized he had not, in fact, been shot. Douglas' gun had turned towards him, the gun had been fired. The mouse hat, however, would seem to be the only casualty.
Ray did nothing, though the smoke from the gun's barrel drifted two inches forward into his eyes.
"You know," Douglas said as Walker sank trembling down into the chair behind his desk, "it was almost a compliment, getting a special task force -- until I found out just what I was getting. I thought I was being taken seriously, until the circus act showed up." He leaned down near Ray's ear and whispered. "The ears looked so good on him, don't you think?"
Ray said nothing.
"Your cuffs," Douglas ordered, standing up again.
Ray passed over his cuffs: no jokes this time about being unable to unhook them from his belt.
Walker stared at them all from his seat.
Walker got up, trembling violently, and made his way to Douglas, who held up the cuffs.
"Use these on someone besides yourself for a change."
Walker took the cuffs and made his way behind Ray.
"Not him, you idiot!"
Walker jerked back, then walked behind Fraser. He felt sweaty fingers on his wrists, the skin burning his own, but he saw only Ray's eyes, watching him, promising him it was all going to be okay.
"So Bertram cried rape to the police to get attention?" Ray asked, causing Fraser's heart to stop beating for a full second. "Or did you suggest it to throw off suspicion?"
Fraser found the gun pointed his way again.
"You tell me," Douglas ordered. The penalty for guessing wrong was clear.
Ray shrugged. Fraser thought of those shoulders under his hands. "I'm thinking Bertram doesn't shake his dick unless you tell him to."
Douglas considered this, then smiled, looking Fraser over with an expression the Mountie didn't quite understand until he noticed that Ray looked ready to spit
"We don't have time for this," Douglas said with regret.
"Someone breaking into the store to steal copies of the film," Fraser said, "that wasn't planned."
"No," Douglas acknowledged. "Just a bad break for you, that is." The man threw a look of contempt at Walker. "Get my silencer."
"Aw," Ray waved a hand. "Come on, you can do better than that."
"This isn't a game, Detective."
"Sure it is." He winked at Walker. "That's what he said at first anyway, right? Just a game, nothing to worry about."
Rivulets of sweat were making their way down Walker's high, pink forehead.
"You have a quite the big mouth, Detective. And you don't know the rules of this game."
"Douglas?" Walker whispered.
"Douglas, I --"
"Shut the hell up!" Douglas glared at Walker in open fury, then went down under Ray's body. They hit the cheaply carpeted floor hard enough to shake the lamp off the desk. The gun hit the ground and skittered out of Douglas' grasp. Ray had his knee in Douglas' gut, his hand at the man's throat, his other on the hand the man had been using to hold the gun. Douglas' other hand was trapped beneath them.
The gun was at Walker's feet.
Douglas didn't struggle. Ray had him fast, as long as he didn't move. Fraser strained against the cuffs and the chair, but nothing happened.
Walker stared at the gun.
"Get it, you idiot!"
"Two dead cops. You really ready to deal with that, Bertram?"
"I don't "
"Get the damn gun!"
"'Cause that's what it's gonna be, you help him," Ray said.
Walker wiped his hands on his pants and began to bend down.
"He doesn't love you!"
Despite his focus on the moment, Fraser was reminded of the scene in the warehouse where he'd spoken about his feelings for Gerrard to distract the agents and buy Ray and himself time. The word "love" just didn't belong in this scene. It seemed obscene.
But Walker was staring at Ray, whose hand had moved to Douglas' windpipe.
"Love ain't like this, Bert. Love ain't somebody hurting you and then telling you you're nothing. Bedroom games aren't real life, no matter how good they feel."
"You you don't understand."
"I *do* understand. You see that man over there?"
Walker shot a glance at Fraser. Douglas gurgled slightly, but Fraser could see he was getting enough air when he fought for it.
"I love this man. I love Benny with my heart and soul. I'd do anything for him. If he wanted to smack me around and fuck me and toss me aside, I'd let him do it. And you know what? If that's what I wanted, he'd do it for me, even if he had to turn himself inside out to manage it. But we couldn't do this, do what this guy's doing to you. This pervert isn't hurting you because you want it. He'd hurting you because you've convinced yourself that's all you can have."
"Bertram!" Douglas hissed. "Get the damn gun!"
"You're not nothing! Life's better than what you've got, Bert. Can't you see that?"
Walker stared. A slow, wet stain seeped through his pant leg, and the smell of urine made Fraser's eyes water and Diefenbaker's whine fill the room. Walker's eyes fixed on the gun, though it was doubtful he could see it through the tears spilled out onto his flushed cheeks.
"I don't please "
"You don't have to touch the gun," Ray soothed, his hand now vicious around Douglas' throat. "Just come over here and get my keys out of my jacket pocket. You can just let Benny out of the cuffs, and then you can sit down. We won't need you to do anything else besides that."
"You're hurting him," Walker whimpered.
Ray bit his lip, then eased his grip.
"You worthless piece of garbage," Douglas sneered, rasping with his bruised throat and staring at Walker in hatred. "Pick up the gun."
Walker stepped forward, his dress shoe splashing into the stale yellow pool, almost slipping.
"Careful, buddy," Ray whispered.
Walker made it the rest of the way, ignoring the curses Douglas was now hissing, and reached carefully inside Ray's jacket, withdrawing with the keys.
"That's good, Bert." Ray smiled at him, holding Douglas as the man tried to writhe away. "That's real good."
Walker stepped hard on Douglas' shoulder, drawing forth another curse, as he leaned down and kissed Ray's mouth, his empty hand sliding around the detective's neck and then obviously helping to deepen the kiss.
Ray's stomach went tense, but he accepted the kiss even as it drew out, kissing back gently until Douglas' struggles shook them apart.
Walker turned away and stumbled behind Fraser's chair, undoing the cuffs with the third try.
Fraser took the gun, helped Walker to his own chair, nimbly avoiding the puddled urine, then held the gun on Douglas while Ray cuffed him and read him his rights. After that, they closed the store, called for back-up, and let Walker change his clothes in the back room. In a fit of triumphant cruelty, Ray made "counter boy" mop up the office.
Fraser was quiet, smiling at Ray enough to reassure him, but otherwise doing very little at all.
He was a Mountie, after all.
He could wait.
Everyone showed up eventually. Ellen Schwab from the 23rd and Leon Bronski from the 18th, Huey and Barker and that photographer who chewed nicotine gum, Butch or Buddy, Fraser thought he heard Ray say. Even Inspector Thatcher made an appearance, an appearance to which Fraser made certain to show no reaction.
Douglas Gibson had kept meticulous records on each crime had committed under the time periods of his "challenges," including those done by criminals who had never collected on the payments promised. He had records of payments, actual written contracts for further commissions, detailed case files on known criminals -- including some who were wanted, with helpful information about their current whereabouts.
The rape challenge, it turned out, hadn't been the first. A pick-pocketing challenge had come first. Gibson had even kept the wallets and keys and money clips.
The only thing he hadn't kept records of were in his own motivations, and Ray and Benny both knew "getting lost in power trips" wasn't going to satisfy anyone on the police report. Thank God, Ray muttered to Fraser when Welsh turned up, he could turn that part over to the shrink assigned to the case, whoever that would be.
Fraser nodded and said something appropriate.
Eventually, he found himself in the Riv on the way to the 27th Precinct.
"You okay, Benny?" Ray asked.
"It can wait."
Ray looked startled, but not really surprised. Had he thought Fraser wouldn't want to acknowledge what had happened?
It took several more hours to process Gibson and Walker, and when the Inspector and Commander O'Neil showed up at the station, Fraser knew that he and Ray would be fortunate to make it back to his apartment before late that evening. His impatience threatened to rise dramatically, but he spent a few minutes in a stall in the men's room, breathing deeply, planning out just what was going to happen later, getting himself under firm control, and all was well.
Diefenbaker stayed close, sensing the trouble with his pack. Fraser patted him gently, rubbed his neck, whispered at him to stay out of the way.
"What do you think that's about?" Ray muttered from behind his desk.
Ray jerked his head towards Welsh's office, scowling and crushing the small soccer ball in his hand. Behind the blinds, O'Niell, Welsh, and Thatcher were talking, and for superior officers who'd just been handed such an important arrest, none of them seemed very pleased.
"Yes, things went very well, considering," Welsh was saying.
"Of course, once again they managed to infuse the proceedings with a maximum amount of drama," Thatcher noted.
"They didn't have back-up," Welsh said.
"I'm going to have to work on keeping the relationship between Walker and Gibson from dominating people's impression of the entire affair," Thatcher said.
"At least the wolf didn't rescue everyone this time," Welsh offered.
O'Neill wondered if somehow she were dreaming, or hallucinating. The mouse ear hat in Thatcher's lap wasn't helping matters, either.
"But he was there, at the scene," Thatcher said. "That's all it takes."
"Excuse me," O'Neill broke in, "but this is one of the best, cleanest, and more impressive busts we've had in the city all year. They not only brought in the perpetrator and his accomplice, complete with confessions and physical evidence, they did it without injury or any questionable actions in pursuit of the arrest."
The inspector and the lieutenant shifted uncomfortably. O'Neill sighed.
"I need to understand what's not being said here. Neither of you seems to have any personal animosity towards either Detective Vecchio or Constable Fraser, and yet you have resisted my every attempt either to utilize them or to acknowledge their excellence. Now, I have no authority over you, Inspector, of course, but I had hoped that relations between the Chicago Police Department and Canada were of some importance to you."
"They are, Commander, I assure you. It's just --"
The Inspector gazed at her, obviously wracked with inner conflict. O'Neill wondered if there were any laid-back Canadians anywhere in the world.
"Are you concerned that aiding Constable Fraser while he is supposed to be suffering in his Chicago exile will harm your own career?" she prodded.
Inspector stiffened nicely. "No, I'm not." Her eyes narrowed. "Constable Fraser has been ignoring his duties to help Detective Vecchio on more cases than I can fit into the files I have to send to Ottawa to explain why someone under my command has been wounded, has requested leave time, or has yet again been awarded a somewhat mysterious commendation from the City of Chicago for his unofficial involvement in yet another criminal investigation."
"And yet you resist my attempts to make such involvement official."
O'Neill thought she might start screaming soon. "Why?"
"Because it can only make things worse!"
O'Neill just waited for a follow-up to that one. Welsh, she noticed, seemed to understand the reference.
"Strippers!" Thatcher said next. "Evil dog catchers. Elderly vigilantes, Inuit masks and spaceships."
"Bing, bang, boom," Welsh muttered, a reference the inspector seemed to understand.
"I take it these are descriptions from cases they've worked on." Welsh and Thatcher nodded. "Cases with unorthodox aspects." Two more nods.
"Good. Then I should think very little fazes them anymore."
"Commander," Welsh said, for once so intent on his words that he wasn't showing signs of his somewhat annoying infatuation with her. "I believe the inspector shares my concern that what works so well in an unofficial capacity will suffer from any change."
She held up her hands. "Who wants to change anything? Detective Vecchio should obviously remain with the 27th, and Fraser will no doubt remain with the Consulate. I am merely suggesting that we retain the official nature of their taskforce, so that they may be assigned in a similar fashion to other cases, as is appropriate."
Two very reluctant nods, but nods all the same. O'Neill smiled and suggested they call the two officers in to hear the good news.
It was interesting, Fraser thought, that his dream vision had featured Ray's car so prominently. He had been foolish to ignore that.
Small wonder he had misread the vision so badly. He wondered if the Raven might not be laughing at him.
During his Inuit instruction by Eric and a few other obliging authorities, Fraser had learned about a vital aspect of native spiritualism: the recognition of "magic" places, points on the Earth where certain energies flowed, where the spirit could be more easily refreshed, when thought met possibilities, where, in a more "white" vernacular, miracles could happen.
Fraser had even been allowed to visit two such places. One was a collection of boulders by a mountain lake, where the sun radiated through air unstirred by a single breeze. Another had been a deep cave where drawings of bears decorated the high vault of the ceiling.
Both times, Fraser had felt something, standing there with the Inuit shaman. But he knew that it might have been nothing more than the expectation of the moment. He had simply tried not to desecrate anything, to voice his appreciation, and to appreciate the voice of the people echoing through their sacred ground.
The Riv was his magic place. And it didn't matter that he was currently riding in the third incarnation of this sacred ground. The muffled roar of that engine, Ray's gentle hands on the wheel, the smell of wolf and leather and coffee, this act of taking him around the city wherever he needed to go, the friendship of being here, the closeness they had shared even during their worst fights, the insulation of these globe-like windows that allowed Chicago to pass by without harming them, that kept Ray safely at his side.
Fraser liked his apartment, liked visiting the Vecchios. He had even come to like the Consulate and looked forward to his time at the 27th. He liked the park. He longed for vast fields of snow and skies without limit. But the realization what this place, this unique experience meant to him made it hard not to reach down to kiss the seat, to call for a blessing of the glove box, to warn Diefenbaker not to scratch the backseat.
Was this anything like the love Ray himself felt for this car? He felt the loss of those first two Rivieras like a fresh wound, and would have grieved, had not other concerns been of primary importance at that moment.
"You beat?" Ray offered.
"You're so quiet."
"This pretense isn't necessary, Ray."
But when Fraser didn't answer, Ray didn't pursue it. It was odd, how only one of them seemed able to be brave at a time.
They arrived, somehow, at the building on West Racine. Fraser put his hand on the door.
"Benny, I'm thinking I'll head home."
Fraser got out, pushing the seat forward for Diefenbaker. Over the top of the car, he watched Ray get out and stand there looking slightly bewildered.
No, not bewildered, Fraser considered as he allowed Ray to walk into the building ahead of him. Skeptical, perhaps.
And why shouldn't Ray think Fraser was once again starting something he would be unable to finish? Hadn't Ray seen, more than anyone had ever seen, how weak Benton Fraser could be when faced with genuine emotional needs, especially his own?
It would take a lifetime to make Ray really trust in Fraser this way, and the thought made Benny downright giddy.
They went up the stairs slowly. It had been a long day. They had Friday and the weekend off, barring any immediate needs for the case. It made Fraser think of another three days he had spent in this apartment, in bed, losing himself.
But this time it was a choice. And to choose other would be more than cowardice. To choose other would be the rejection of magic.
There, finally, the door to his apartment was between them and the world.
"What's with Dief?" Ray asked, watching the wolf go quickly and quietly to a corner of the room and curl up on the floor with his ears lowered.
Ray's coat was a nice, obvious selection, but Fraser took off Ray's hat first, smiling at the smooth line of skull beneath, and soft adornment of hair.
"Shh, Ray. Do be quiet."
"You don't owe me anything, Fraser." Ray tried to move away, then frowned when he realized he couldn't.
Fraser stared into those beloved green eyes. Extraordinary, that Ray thought he could still hide. His eyes had given him away from the beginning, hadn't they? Only now could Fraser see. Only now could he give up his own protective blindness.
"I do know everything now, Ray." This explanation was, he supposed, necessary, even with the bed so close.
"Finally confessing that, huh, Mr. Dictionary?"
"I think you mean 'Mr. Encyclopedia' this time, Ray." Fraser shivered with the pleasure of his own humor. Sometime soon, he'd hold Ray inside him and start laughing. The results would doubtlessly be most interesting. "I can't wait to experiment, to find out everything we can do to excite each other, to see how long we can feel pleasure without experiencing climax, to use all our senses to their absolute limit, to test our own courage, our own ability to feel joy, to give everything over to the other over and over again."
Ah, but it was lovely to feel Ray tremble, when the trembling was from this.
"Fraser?" His name was little more than a breath, warm against his cheek.
"You love me, Ray. You're in love with me." Fraser tasted the words in his mouth. "You were in love with me all along. That's what you were trying to explain, why you wanted to explore other options, why you let me touch you, while you're going to let me take you now, why have been there for me so long How long, Ray?"
Ray stared at him, swallowed, swallowed again.
"How long what?"
"How long have you been in love with me?"
Ray looked away. Fraser could smell his fear and his arousal, as well as his own, in equal measure.
"I don't remember."
"Yes, you do."
"I when you said you could never see me as a victim of some drunk in some alley. When I realized you meant it. But -- before that, maybe even when you told me you were leaving with Victoria. I don't know, I just Fraser, this is everything you said you didn't want."
"But you love me, Ray, and I can love you." His arms gathered Ray to him, all of him to all of Ray. "I can love you. I can love you with all of me, with everything. I can spend every minute loving you, and you'll love me back." Fraser laughed, and leaned back enough to start on Ray's coat. He felt drunk with joy. "In fact, if anything you'll only love me more, the way you feel everything so much."
"Could you love me more, I wonder?" There, the coat was on the floor. Ray's gloves were next. "Could anyone love anyone more than I love you, Ray Vecchio?"
"Oh God," Ray moaned.
Fraser simply got Ray naked then, taking off his own clothes efficiently, leaving the brown uniform on the floor. He knelt down for Ray's shoes and socks, then peeled off his pants and briefs, then stripped his own and stood there a moment, admiring, before picking Ray up.
"What the hell?"
"I don't want to talk anymore."
"We need to talk, Benny."
Ray's eyes filled his face as Benny settled him on the bed, placing Ray's legs so they were stretched out to either side of Fraser's knees. He reached down, giving each of Ray's knees a kiss, then left the bed to retrieve some personal lubricant and two condoms from the kitchen drawer. He returned to his kneeling place, showing Ray the items.
"Oh my God." Ray's hips bucked, his soft, hesitant erection growing rock-hard and needy in seconds.
And then, as Fraser wished, the next eleven minutes passed without further words, though Ray's sighs and moans were more eloquent than a Shakespearean play. There had been that moment when Fraser's finger had first brushed the soft opening and Ray had let out a breath in slow, soft relief. Later, there had been a shuddering moan when Fraser reached the bump of his prostate. Then an urgent little series of moans when the third finger slipped inside.
Fraser supposed he really should say something before actual copulation, but that part of his mind wasn't at the reigns, was barely in the sled at all, in point of fact.
It was a sort of madness, not knowing anything but this moment. He'd experienced it once before, and it had cost him everything. Now it was worth everything, and would cost him this moment, this act of looking into Ray's eyes as he sank inside heat, the living softness of this man he could love.
"Yes," Ray whispered. "Yes, be safe inside me, Benny. God, Benny. Let me hold you."
Was that how Ray felt this? Was he being taken inside?
Yes, the firm strength of the channel around him was a haven. Once inside, the urgency was banked, and he rested there, Ray's limber legs wrapped easily around him, his cheek pillowed by soft hair, a brown-pink nipple flaunting itself a mere inch from his nose.
"Stay with me." Ray's voice vibrated through his chest and against his ear.
Ray shivered, and his muscles contracted, stroking Fraser's length, and then there was no more peace within him. He thrust, and Ray groaned, and it was
"Fire! God, Ray! Fire!"
Ray screamed and came. Fraser remembered little that was coherent after that.
"You're late," Brent's third customer tonight said.
Brent put on his best, "Please don't do this to me" look.
"Aw, man. I couldn't find the address."
"You're still late." The guy was holding a twenty like it was some sort of fish and he was supposed to bark like a seal for it. Brent was tempted to just pass the pies over and have done with it, but this was his third late pizza in as many days, and he was really getting tired of losing out on the money.
But then the guy passed the twenty and Brent made change, unable to help looking into the apartment a little, what he could see through the crack in the door, anyway, which wasn't much. Maybe the guy had just moved in, or something.
He'd certainly just gotten out of bed, and hadn't even bothered putting a shirt on, which wouldn't look so bad if he were wearing jeans, instead of sharply tailored, but quite wrinkled pants.
*Has he got a girl in there?* Brent wondered, thinking with envy now of the meat-lover's pizzas as he passed them back with the change.
The guy sneered a little and gave him back two bucks.
"Thank you, sir."
Ray shut the door, and Benny came out of the kitchen, enjoying the goosebumps walking around naked still gave him, for all that he hadn't had a stitch on in two days.
Ray started towards the kitchen himself with the boxes.
Rolling his eye, Ray undid his pants with one hand and let them shimmy to the floor before stepping out of them and finishing his journey to the counter. Fraser stepped behind him and placed a hand on each buttock.
"How can you even think about that?" Ray demanded. "I'm starving."
Diefenbaker agreed with a plaintive whine. Ray dropped the wolf's box to the floor.
"Ray, you shouldn't get it to him all at once."
Ray turned and shoved a slice into Fraser's mouth.
"I'm not having him bother us for more when we're busy, understood?" Ray bit into his own slice, and grunted with pleasure. His flat stomach growled eagerly.
Fraser nodded, chewing his slice and holding the part he couldn't cram in his mouth with one hand while his other hand played with Ray's chest hair. Such a delightful sensation, that soft, strong hair against his fingertips. He stroked a nipple, and Ray scowled.
"They're a little sensitive right now, Benny."
Fraser put up his eyebrows, considering options.
It was interesting, this game Ray played, wanting to be seduced over and over again. Benny had found he took an equally inexhaustible delight in taking on the role of seducer, particularly since, once Ray decided he was prepared for lovemaking, they could go on to adopt any new role they chose.
Fraser thought he was rather in the mood to be taken, and Ray was already on his second slice. Fraser reached for his own second helping slowly, allowing his breath to trace a random pattern over Ray's shoulder and neck.
"It is so not happening right now, Benny."
Fraser nodded his head as though the inspector had given him a direct order. Then he giggled.
"What?" Ray asked around a mouthful of pizza.
"She had mouse ears on, Ray."
Ray laughed. "She sure did, Benny. She didn't look nearly as cute as you did in them."
"Would you like me to put them on, Ray?" Fraser asked, draping his eyes with his lashes.
Ray licked a grease off his lips. "Maybe later, Benny."
Another solemn nod, and, having thoroughly distracted Ray, Fraser drew a finger over and around one of his pepperoni slices, then brought up his lubricated digit and made the same pattern over and around one of Ray's own tasty treats.
Ray watched him, the third piece of pizza drooping slightly as Ray failed to bring it to his mouth. Fraser finished his slice, licked his lips, then knelt down and took Ray's pizza-flavored nipple into his mouth, suckling.
Ray groaned and dropped his pizza back in the box before gently cradling Benny's head to his chest. Fraser groaned back, well aware that he was doubtlessly making what Ray called his "blissed-out" face. He looked up to stare into Ray's brilliant smile, and allowed himself a flush of victory.
Ray pulled him upand all but threw him on the bed. Fraser moaned, then shouted in joy as Ray's mouth engulfed him.
"Don't you two ever sleep?!" a woman's voice called from behind Fraser's wall.
There was a slight popping sound as Ray sat upright, dislodging Benny's cock from his mouth. "What did she say?"
"Who cares, Ray? Just keep fucking me."
Between them, there was a sort of shocked stillness. Fraser realized what he'd said, equally embarrassed for his inaccuracy as for his crudeness in diction.
"I'm so --"
Ray groaned, cutting off his apology, and leaned forward to cover his lover's body completely and whisper against his mouth, "Say 'fucking me' while I kiss you, Benny."
Fraser's heart rate tripled.
They had this down already to a dance, Fraser raising his legs while Ray used fingers to stretch his passage, still somewhat loose from the last time. He was, in truth, getting as sore there as Ray's nipples, but the sensation quickly passed as those elegant fingers withdrew to spread his cheeks.
A simple thrust next, already showing the benefits of practice, and Fraser's head slammed back against the pillow with a most unMountie-like grunt of pure pleasure. It burned, but even that felt good, and Ray inside him was all strength, all possession.
"You like that?" Ray asked, his voice taking on that slice trace of menace that thrilled Fraser down to his socks...regardless of their present location in his closet.
"Yes. Yes, Ray."
They had gotten their rhythm now.
"Say it. Say you like my cock inside your ass, Benny."
"I like oh your cock inside me."
"Inside your ass."
"Insidemyass more! More, Ray."
The tempo sped.
"Say say for me "
"What should I say, Ray?"
"I don't know! Anything. Say you love me."
Fraser screamed, not quite coming, not wanting it to end.
"I love you!"
"Could you love each other quieter?" the faint voice reached them.
Ray screamed next, his face transformed to primal need, building up.
Fraser came then, thinking of how this was only the beginning, only the first few of a hundred thousand thousand times, of how everything that had come before was exactly right, since it brought him to this moment.
Or rather, he thought all that a few minutes later, as he lay without a single care in his entire body, in the entire apartment, in all of Chicago, with his lover draped over his body and moaning somewhat pitifully. He stroked the back of Ray's neck to calm and quiet him, and a long time passed in perfect silence.
"You have my heart, Ray," Fraser offered at last.
Ray seemed to consider this.
"I think we've just got one, Benny, and we share it between the two of us."
Fraser smiled, liking that even better. The bed rocked as Diefenbaker, his breath reeking of pizza, joined them on the bed, laying himself across their feet.
"What was it, Benny?" Ray asked, lifting himself up to look into Fraser's face. "What let you trust me enough to love me?"
Fraser smiled, enjoying his reflection in Ray's green eyes.
"It wasn't trust, Ray. It was love."
"You loved me before. That's what scared you."
"I knew only the love I had known, Ray: with my father, with Victoria. It wasn't until I could see love the way you saw it, until I could see what love would be like with you, that I realized I could love you and still be safe. I realized I could see with your eyes, that I could be how you see me."
"And you got that from what I said to Walker?"
"No, Ray. I 'got that' from when you let him kiss you."
Ray blinked. "How does that work, exactly?"
"He was a stranger. You didn't even like him. And yet he needed, and you gave."
Ray considered this, then wrinkled his nose. "The little bastard even slipped me the tongue."
Fraser laughed, making Ray's body bounce up and down in a way that had him laughing even harder.
"I don't want this to end, Ray."
"It won't." Ray kissed his chest and snuggled down again.
"No, I mean this moment, right now, this time."
Ray shrugged. "It has to, Benny. You know why?"
Ray smiled against his skin and wrapped him up in strong arms.
"Because the next one will be even better."
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