Raymond Vecchio, Chicago PD, up-ended the lighter fluid and squeezed for several seconds, then tossed the can aside, stepped back, and threw a lit match onto the pile of sticks and logs.
He smiled. Mountie magic was pretty good, but no match for having the right tools. The fire burned hot, dispelling the early-spring chill of half-thawed Canada. Now, he just needed to get the water hot for the coffee.
“Nice fire, Ray.”
“Thank you, Benny.” He turned from the flames with his smile still going, then started to laugh. Benton Fraser, RCMP, looked at that second like an over-grown elf escapee from Santa’s workshop. Despite the fact that there was snow on the ground, Benny was only wearing those red longjohns and his Mountie boots, unlaced, like a half-opened Christmas present. His hair was mussed and his cheeks flushed pink and his strong, pale hands rested on his hips, accentuating those long legs.
Benny smiled at him, but Ray’s laughter tapered off. Comfortable, familiar affection was starting to get crowded out by more disquieting emotions. That red cotton wove and hugged and stretched over all the right places, including the bulge below the final button.
Ray wanted to muss up that hair some more. He wanted to make a joke and punch Benny on the shoulder and play some football. He wanted to go to his knees and suck Benny off right there in front of passing moose and God and everybody, grab that fantastic ass and listen to his screams echo through the nearby forest and he really needed coffee before he thought things like that.
“Ray? Are you all right?”
Ray scowled down at himself, avoiding those blue eyes that he’d allowed to get to know him so well. He’d slept in his clothes last night, cold inside the tent until he’d gotten Benny in his arms under both sleeping bags, and now he was a long, scrawny, wrinkled mess. What was the point of being suddenly gripped by the desire to have Benny unbutton those last couple buttons and then, while still wearing that red bodysuit, ride him senseless and make his own screams echo everywhere when he looked like the “before” picture of the *LL Bean Catalog*?
“I’m fine, Benny. You want some coffee?”
“I want you, Ray.”
Oh man. Benny’s voice had gotten all husky, and when Ray looked back up he was still standing there in the morning light like a big Mountie cinnamon stick. They’d done no more last night than pull the jeep up to the remains of Robert Fraser’s cabin, set up the tent, snuggle, and fall asleep. It had been the night before last since he’d had a chance to touch Benny more than a little here and there. He nodded vaguely and waited for Benny to get more specific, or at least walk up to him. It was somehow too much to expect him to ruin the image Fraser made, standing there, with his own grubby body. He needed a shower. Benny did too, he supposed. He wondered if Benny would let Ray lick him clean.
“You got me, Benny.”
The dark brows raised high over bright eyes. “Why don’t you take off some of that thermal wrapping, then, Ray? The fire is nice and warm.”
Ray looked around: yellow sun, blue sky, snow covering the ground in large patches, ice dripping off the tent ropes – even Dief was still in the tent, enjoying the blankets and sleeping bags Ray had left only out of the most extreme caffeine requirements. Sure, Benny could scamp about in nothing but his underwear, but he was Super Mountie. Ray was just…well…Ray.
“I’d freeze to death, Benny!”
Benny shifted his weight and emitted a long-suffering sigh. Ray’s eyes narrowed at the familiarity of the sound.
“Am I going to have to finish the cabin and equip it with central heating before I can get you back in my bed, Ray?”
Benny blinked, and let his head sway back just slightly. “’Yeah?’”
“Yeah. And I want the bathroom done too. That john I bought wasn’t cheap. I don’t want it going to waste in the crate while you wander off in the bushes and commune with nature.”
“Well…what if I told you I’m not touching the commode until you and Mr. Vecchio make it worth my while?”
Ray struggled to keep his brain working. “If Mr. Vecchio came out to play right now, he’d freeze off!”
Benny’s mouth made a little moue of sorrow. “So throwing you on the ground and having my way with you right now is out of the question?”
“The ground’s all wet and cold.” He really needed to get his breathing back under control. Benny was mopping the floor with him.
“You’ll warm it up, Ray.” Benny took a small step towards him, those long boots swaying ominously as his voice again grew husky with lust. “You could melt an iceberg in January.”
Ray scooted around the fire as he backed away, his heart pounding and his palms sweating. It was a week, today, that he and Benny had first figured out where their friendship didn’t end. He was still off-balance, and it wasn’t fair that his friend/lover/whatever was dancing circles around him. Where was his sexually repressed friend who looked like a squirrel in headlights right before you hit him with your car?
“You’d get your longjohns all wet,” he protested as best he could, then was assaulted with images of Benny in the afore-mentioned wet and clingy longjohns.
Benny lunged, knocking them both to the ground, which was indeed wet and cold. Ray squealed, felt ridiculous, and then bellowed “Benny!” even as that firm, delicious body rolled them over and over, rubbing their bodies together and kissing his face over and over as well, until “Mr. Vecchio” was insisting that it really wasn’t too cold outside to come out and play, honestly.
Ray gave it up, growling, and sought Benny’s hot, sweet mouth as his hands slid down the warm, damp cloth to cup and squeeze two rock-hard cheeks and press Benny right up against him. Once he was sure the Mountie was distracted, he rolled them again until he was on top.
And he was looking at a pair of black mukluks.
Blue and green eyes looked up together, seeing the dark jeans, the black belt, the dark green coat, the somewhat curious dark eyes.
“Hello…Eric,” Benny managed.
The Inuit man regarded them steadily. “What are you doing back here, Mountie?”
Benny let his head fall back the extra inch to the ground and shrugged the shoulder that wasn’t pinned under Ray. “I’m fixing up my father’s cabin.”
Eric’s eyes turned to the burnt-out shell of logs and trash ruined by snow and sun and neglect. Bob Fraser had built it to last, but wood burns. People can’t do anything about it.
Fraser and Vecchio were standing up when he looked back, brushing grass and snow off their clothes.
“You need logs,” Eric said.
“Yes, well, I have, er, two axes,” Fraser said, backing now towards the tent as he had towards his closet once, evidently uncomfortable in nothing but his red underwear. Eric couldn’t help wondering why he’d left his tent that way in the first place, since he’d taken the trouble to put his boots on. It was somewhat pointless, unless Vecchio was kinkier than he looked, of course.
“So, Eric,” the cop was saying now, swinging his arms around to clap them quietly together in the front, back, forth, clap, repeat. “What are you doing around here? Somebody steal some wood carvings and hide them in the forest?”
“Not that I know of. You ever built a cabin before?”
Vecchio shrugged. “I helped a few friends redo apartments, things like that. I figure what I don’t know Fraser will show me.”
Fraser emerged from the tent in jeans, work boots and a sweater. “Ray and I were about to make some coffee. Would you like some?”
“I’m heading to Anthuk. Somebody’s having trouble with birds.”
“Birds?” Vecchio echoed.
“Bad medicine.” Eric looked at the cabin. “There was nothing good here, after the fire. People liked Bob Fraser. It will be good for you to rebuild it.”
“I think so.” Fraser looked at Ray, then back. “Do you need me to come with you to Anthuk?”
“No.” Eric frowned at them. “I didn’t know you were here.” He looked at Fraser only, focusing disapproval. “You have been gone too long, Mountie.”
Benny didn’t flinch. “I have two homes now.”
“There was a brother and a sister once, lived in the same village. When she ran away, his torch went out.”
“Yeah, thanks for the history lesson,” Ray said, stepped towards Eric a bit. So what if the guy had forty pounds on him? “If you don’t want coffee, we don’t wanna keep you.”
“It’s not far.” Eric turned away, though he threw a last look at the cabin. “You need more logs.”
“Yeah, we’ll get on that.” Ray had his hands on his hips as he watched Eric walk over to the jeep they’d driven up in, give it a look, then walk around it, settling his pack on his shoulders and then moving on until he was lost in the trees.
“Nice neighbors you got here, Benny.”
“The sun and the moon.”
Ray leaned forward, brows raised. “What was that?”
“The Inuit legend says that a young girl kept getting a night-visitor who would blow out the light in her igloo, then kiss her and leave. She wanted to know who her visitor was, so she put ashes on her face. That next morning, after yet another kiss from this stranger, she went outside and found to her horror that the boy with ashes on his face was her brother. She grabbed her torch and ran, and he chased her. She became the sun, and when his torch blew out, he became the moon.”
Benny paused, frowning at Ray, whose face was doing an impression of a gathering thunder cloud.
“How – who the – just what does he think he’s doing? Did we ask his opinion?”
“Ray, I don’t think –“
“Just let him show his mask-stealing butt around here again and –“
“Ray! I don’t think he was talking about you and me.”
“Well, what the hell was he talking about, then?”
Benny’s eyes were puzzled, and even while he still wanted to kick a certain Eskimo’s butt, Ray felt his heart beat unevenly as the snow around them chipped into those ice-blue irises. Benny belonged here, which meant that he, Raymond Vecchio, child of Chicago, would have to find a way to belong as well.
God, in a few years he might start spewing out Inuit legends on busts. He’d have some perp on the floor, cuffing him, and he’d tell the story of the moon trying to kiss the sun.
And screw Eric over good if the guy tried to stop him.
Of course, the fact that no one in “his” world but Elaine knew about them was just not something he was going to think about now. He and Benny hadn’t nearly gotten over the super-hots for each other in the three days they’d had at his house before the mob returned. Hell, they’d only been inside each other the one time apiece, neither of them wanting to admit how sore being on the receiving end had made them, but neither of them wanting to do *that* to the other until they’d felt all better themselves. He wanted to explore every inch of Benny’s body at least a dozen times before he had to think about Real Life things. Coming up here to work on the cabin was supposed to make them safe.
Eric better just keep his Inuit stories to himself…except that Benny really looked puzzled, his ice-chipped eyes resting now on his own, as though seeking solace.
“You think maybe he was talking about you, Benny, being someone who lives in two homes?”
The eyes cleared somewhat. “Perhaps, Ray.”
“Well, the sun and the moon balance out, right? Maybe that’s all he means.”
Benny smiled. “Perhaps.”
“I love you, Benny.”
The smile deepened, broadened, became the beginning of a happy sigh, slowly expelled. “I love you too, Ray.” His eyes went to where Eric had disappeared, then back to Ray, before he confessed, “I don’t want to go.”
“With Eric, to the birds, to help. I should, but I don’t want to. He really didn’t know we were here.”
“That’s right.” Ray’s head lifted up slightly. “Wait a minute, are you saying you’d rather stay here with me than go help somebody?”
Ray stood there blinking in the brightening morning sun and Benny ended up laughing.
“Do you believe I love you now, Ray?”
Ray laughed as well, and reached into the pack on the ground for the coffee. “I’m getting there, Benny.”
Smiling, Fraser got out oatmeal and jerky for their breakfast, then broke out the tools. He and Ray needed to get measurements of the site before they started selecting trees for their axes. The plumbing for the washroom was beyond them both, so they had some plumbers coming next week.
Next week. Three weeks here with Ray. The best medicine in the world.
After breakfast, Benny made a few signals towards the tent, but Ray seemed eager to get to work, so they wound up standing with the tape measure and marking off each side, then across the diagonals, then from the ground to the foundation on all four corners, then up along the original beams that were still standing.
They would have to tear almost all of it down, of course, except for the west wall. The fire had been started in the middle of the cabin, burning through the floorboards right above the concrete foundation. There was a depression in the concrete where Victoria had chipped out a space for the box with the stolen money. Benny tried not to look at it.
The wind had been from the west, so while the east wall was totally gone and the north and south walls were irreparable, the western wall was barely charred, and a section of the roof over it was still intact as well. This had provided some unexpected shelter for the table and the chest inside which Benny had yet to look. He wanted to believe that some of his childhood souvenirs might still be recognizable. Besides, the chest was buried under charred trash. He and Ray would sift through it later.
Benny nodded over the pad in his hands. “Well, we can start cutting trees now, Ray.”
“Hm.” Ray was looking around the blackened ruin and scowling. “He’s right, you know, Benny.”
“Eric.” Ray’s eyes met his, and Benny felt abruptly pinned and wriggling against the unburnt wall. “Her stench is here, Benny. She tried to ruin everything you had.”
“She loved me and she hated me, Ray. It’s the most powerful combination there is. And it took you to free me from it.”
Ray shivered while his eyes continued to glint with purpose. “Where do you suppose she stood to start the fire?”
The hair on Fraser’s nape was beginning to stiffen, and though he didn’t want to, he protested, “I don’t think Victoria was Tupilak, Ray.”
“Like I know what that means, Benny. Where do you suppose she stood?”
“Here, Ray.” He pointed to the center of the floor where almost all the wood had been burned back, and the concrete was charred black as night.
Ray nodded, then walked to Benny, put his hands on his hips and guided him to the same spot.
Benny was trembling and part of him was terrified. He’d begged Ray only a few days ago to drive Victoria and that man’s touch from his body, and while he’d gotten what he wanted, and while getting what he’d wanted had saved his soul, he hadn’t thought about the power he’d handed to Ray. He trusted Ray like he trusted no other, but with that had come such a loss of power and control over his own life.
Ray was going to do something now, something he’d been planning to do, and while there was no question but that he, Benton Fraser, was going to go along with it, there was also no question it was going to be a significant event. His father’s cabin had come to mean a great deal to him. And whatever Ray had in mind was now going to be a part of him, a part of his relationship with his father.
And so he was trembling.
Ray turned him gently, getting him to face out towards the forest. Then Ray knelt down in front of him.
“Great Scott!” Ray had opened the first button of his jeans, and the realization of what Ray was about to do burned like ice on bare, vulnerable skin.
“Shhhh. I wanna do this, Benny. Look at the trees and stuff.”
He shuddered and tried to do what Ray said, but it was hopeless. He stared down as those elegant, nimble fingers undid his fly completely, then opened his boxers and pulled out his sheathed length, already starting to harden.
“You know, Benny, I can’t believe what the sight of your cock does to me.” Ray’s breaths caressed his cockhead, and he moaned. Ray chuckled, but it was almost a grim sound. “I watched guys shower for years, change in the locker room, hell, all but do the nasty in front of me at bachelor parties, and I could really gives a rat’s ass, you know? And now the sight of this pink skin peeping out from the foreskin…God…” Ray’s warm tongue licked over the swollen knob, lingered in the slit, swirled around the sides. Benny whimpered and let his palms caress the soft bristle over Ray’s head.
And from his center came a jarring protest. “Ray…I’m not doing anything for you…”
Ray leaned back on his heels, meeting his eyes with a wicked gleam. “I’m sucking you off in the middle of nowhere, Benny, and you’re gonna come down my throat and scream my name.”
Benny stared at him, his heart pounding so hard it hurt.
“You ever done that for anybody else, Fraser?”
Green glimmerings warned him. “If I ever chased you, Benny, I’d catch you, whether you turned into the sun or not.” And then Ray leaned back in, sliding Benny along that velvet tongue into a warmth he’d never known this way before, and it seemed to Fraser that his consciousness pulled back slightly from the moment. He saw himself standing among the ruins of his father’s cabin, shameless, wanton, plain and simple and human, thrusting into Ray’s beautiful face as though it were his birthright. Strong, clever fingers cupped his buttocks, pulling him deeper, wanting him. Wanting all of him.
“Ray!” The name was a rifle shot, cracking and rebounding through the wilderness that owned him, and that the man who owned his heart was trying to let inside him as well.
“Ray!” The name was a call to his own buried needs as they spilled out and were taken in, accepted once again.
“Ray!” The name was all he wanted. He hadn’t really believed in it before.
“Ray.” A mere whimper now, the echo of his spent self.
A final gentle touch, a lick to clean him, he thought, and then a kiss. He was tucked back inside and nestled against the slick warmth of his own body. Regal fingers covered him back up with each button, one by one, then Ray rose up and kissed him: an agreement, a treaty signed in blood and semen.
Fraser shook himself slightly. He wasn’t thinking right. There wasn’t any blood in the kiss.
“You’re mine to love now, Benny. Don’t forget that.”
He found his breath, and breathed it in. “Yes, Ray. Yours.”
Ray rested his noodle arms and watched Benny chopping down his fifth tree. He had two on the ground himself, and felt pretty good about it. They were big damn trees, after all.
God, Benny was beautiful. He’d taken off his shirt a tree ago and that ice-white body was all muscle and sweat.
He was surprised at how good he felt about himself. Going down on Benny to “see off” the old, ruined cabin had been a great idea. Hearing Benny shout out his name like that had been better than getting a climax for himself. Once again, and yet for only the second time in his life, he’d started out hard, ended up soft, and felt like the orgasm he witnessed was somehow his own as well.
He’d once made the claim that coming here would put Victoria “behind them,” but that was before he’d appreciated how much damage she’d done to Benny, how deeply her poison had reached into him, how black was the darkness she’d smothered into his soul.
Ray wouldn’t get rid of Victoria that easily, though he would get rid of her in time. He’d spend his life searching out the tainted places she’d touched and driving out the ghosts of her. It would be the hardest thing he’d ever done, and worth it in spades if Benny slept a little easier for it.
Standing there, getting just a little cool now as his sweat dried in the early air of frozen-tundra spring, he admitted that loving Benny wasn’t the problem. If he could somehow put what he was feeling in a box and just hand it over to Benny, everything would be so simple. The Mountie could come by whenever he felt the need and Ray could give him a little packaged love to keep him happy: the Vecchio convenience store.
But even when they were “just” friends it had been more complicated than that, hadn’t it?
Benny took a really good swing at the tree, cut through deeply, wedged out his ax, pressed a broad, square, pale hand against its trunk to see if it would fall, then heaved up the ax and swung again. *Crack!* *Crack!*
Ray felt his body go heavy and fresh sweat start up.
True, he was still reeling over his sudden expansion of sexual orientation – how was he supposed to be a good Italian Catholic and know he was bi? – but he knew he had noticed Benny’s beauty before. How could he not? The guy was a poster boy, and every woman he knew fell for him on sight. He’d even told Benny he looked good in his uniform, though at the time he’d only been trying to reassure the guy because he’d lost his memory…
Ray frowned a little, thinking about the rude, super-casual and not terribly likable version of Benny he’d seen then. He knew that meant Benny was at least a little like that, underneath. Ray would have to explore that in time, bring it out…though maybe it was already connected to the good non-Fraser way his friend was when he got all sexy and evil in bed.
Man, look at those shoulders. Look at that chest! Benny’s muscles were flexing with the weight of the ax, and Ray was beginning to feel faint. He didn’t understand it. The idea of seeing some other guy with his shirt off didn’t get him hot. But then, other men weren’t Benny.
Nothing had ever really made sense with Fraser. Why had he ignored the forty-one cases on his desk to chase leads all over Chicago on the “dead Mountie thing?” Why had he thrown his own body towards the bomb and Fraser out the window when he’d known the guy all of about two days? Why did he believe whatever Benny told him? The guy tasted mud and quoted history books and knew the atomic weight of potassium. How could he stand hanging around him at all?
Ray knew they were both still scared and in some sort of shock over the whole Ms Socks thing. He was still sweating at night through replays of the van rides, and dreaming of meat cleavers and pruning shears. And he knew Benny was still thinking about all that stuff too.
Coming up here was supposed to be a chance to make things real between them, to figure out just what was going on. But after his impromptu stunt at the cabin he knew his own motives better now. He was trying to make things perfect. He wanted to give Benny everything.
The horrible part of it all was that he’d been raised with *Cinderella* and *Sleeping Beauty* and Benny’d had Inuit stories to boot. For some reason, people kept raising their children to believe that you had One True Love. And it had taken him a hell of a long time, and a busted-up marriage with a good woman, to get over it.
Now he knew. If you were lucky, you found someone who got you excited and whom you could stand for forty years or so, and you lived with that someone and didn’t feel alone forever and counted your lucky stars one by one.
But this was the hard part: remembering during the “honeymoon stage” that love wasn’t ever perfect.
And so what? He was incredibly fortunate to have found Benny. So it wasn’t perfect, that was just fine.
Yeah, sure. He had to know even as he gave his heart away completely and left himself vulnerable to who knew what that if he and Fraser hadn’t been forced to get together sexually to stay sane they’d still just be friends. Whatever urges Benny claimed to have had before that, they’d both been satisfied with things as they were. They certainly weren’t soulmates or destined to be together or any of that crap.
And, once again, what the hell difference did it make? There was still a really good chance that he could go over to that god-like body and be able to do pretty much whatever he wanted with it. What more could a hawk-nosed cop ask for without drawing laughter from all sides?
Oh God. He wanted Benny, and he wanted Mr. Alabaster Greek God to want him back, to want him *right now.*
Benny’s fifth tree fell with a *crack* and the whispering after-applause of snapping branches and rustling leaves. The Mountie watched it fall, nodded, then turned, threw his ax on the ground, and strode towards Ray.
“Benny?” Ray asked when his friend got close enough.
“You’re looking at me, Ray.”
“What? Don’t I…uh…get to?”
Benny smiled and Ray felt his knees melt.
“Yes, Ray.” And then Fraser bent over and got out of his boots, then shucked his pants and underwear and just stood there. There was still snow on the ground in spots, but he just stood there, shiny and panting. “Look all you like.”
And one second he was looking. The next he had Benny in his arms, pressing him in close, desperate for the taste of him. He kissed him, thrusting his tongue inside for the flavor he craved, seeking incoherently to draw him in, like oxygen, to burn his lungs. Benny’s hands moved over his many layers of clothes even as his own hands slid down to cup that perfect ass.
“God, Benny, I want you.”
The tall, solid body shivered with the insubstantiality of a willow and that deep, musical voice groaned affirmation.
“We need…supplies, Ray.”
Ray forced himself back, looking away before he lost it completely. “Tent.”
Benny turned and walked to the tent some fifty yards away, and Ray followed, his eyes raking up and down all that raw power and beauty until he was dizzy with it. And the dizziness wasn’t all good. He managed to shed his jacket despite the way his guts were twisting up, and he would have stopped to take off more, but Benny ducked into the tent, and not being able to see that luscious body suddenly filled Ray with rage. With a soft roar he burst through the opening, then fell, quiet as a held breath, to his knees before the image of Benny laying on the sleeping bags, his hand holding out a small tube and a thin little foil package.
Ray took them with numb fingers, his eyes enormous and itching to blink. When Benny began to roll over on his stomach, Ray’s throat emitted a quiet, shattered sound.
Concerned blue eyes turned back to him. “Ray?”
He shook his head, and if his legs hadn’t gone to sleep he would have run out of there all the way back to Chicago.
“I can’t do this, Benny.”
The naked man said nothing.
Ray gestured feebly. “When I look at you…when I see you in my mind, on your hands and knees, taking it…taking it up the ass, God, Benny, damnit…” Ray’s eyes closed, and the foil packet crinkled with the force of those fingers. “I’d kill any guy who tried to do that to you. I’d kill him, I swear to God.”
Ray’s eyes were green-tinted slits in a shuttered face.
“I want you inside me, Ray. Only you, Ray.”
“You shouldn’t want it, Benny, and I shouldn’t want to give it to you.”
“We love each other and we want to be as close as we can. It’s as natural as –“
“It ain’t natural, Benny!”
“Animals do it, Ray.”
“We ain’t animals! Look, I’ll suck you off and kiss you and whatever else, but you shouldn’t be letting me do this to you, Fraser!”
Benny bit his lip, and Ray felt himself groaning despite himself. He was so *fucking* beautiful, it hurt to look at him – the perfect pale curves of strong muscles on his legs and arms and over that tight, firm, smooth…he dragged his eyes away, meeting Benny’s, and watched in awe as they suddenly went soft and seductive.
“You won me, Ray.”
“You killed dragons for me, and now you get to take what’s yours.”
Ray strangled out his name, and tried to shake his head.
“You fought all my demons.” Benny reached over almost languidly and took the tube, flipped open the top, and spread some over the fingers of his own left hand. “You loved me and cared for me and brought me back to myself.” Benny reached back behind himself, propped up on one elbow, his legs spread out, looking back at Ray over his shoulder. “You gave me a new family and a new reason to care about people again.” Ray stopped breathing when those pale fingers slid down between the smooth, cool curves to circle the dusky ring within. “You believed in me.” Ray shivered. One finger disappeared inside Benny’s body and Ray’s own hands were cramped and clinched between his folded legs.
Benny breathed out, his eyes half-closing with pleasure as his finger slid in and out of himself. “I can’t wait to feel you in me, Ray.”
Ray gasped and started breathing again, his heart pounding out the demand for air, his cock pounding out its own even more insistent need.
“You love me so much, Ray.” Benny had two fingers inside now, and was writhing slightly, his face blissful but pleading. “You’re going to love me with your body.”
“Benny…” The protest was faint, but survived the struggle past his clenched teeth. Blue eyes seemed to narrow slightly, then perfect lips twisted wickedly.
“You won me. You won the right to claim me. No other man has, or ever will.” Slowly, Benny’s hips pressed back against his own fingers. “My body belongs to you.” While Ray’s eyes stared, unblinking, dry and wild, those pale fingers withdrew, shiny with oil, and Benny lifted himself up and back, offering himself up as he whispered brokenly, “F…f-fuck me, Ray. Hur-ry.”
With a primal, feral scream, Ray threw himself forward, tearing down his pants and underwear and adding the protest of ripped cloth to his assault. He sprawled out over Benny’s hot, slick back, thrusting inside the body he’d watched prepare itself for him as his hands grabbed Benny's smooth hips and forced him back to aid his own impalement.
“Ray!” Benny’s voice was harsh with lust and high with joy. “Oh, God, yes! Ray!”
Ray withdrew, thrust in deeper, then withdrew to thrust again and again, taking everything Benny offered, driving so deep inside him, over and over, he could almost feel the connection become permanent, intractable, irreversible. But mostly he just felt the heat of him, so soft, so giving, so tight. So damn tight and hot he threw his head back and screamed again, more spirit than man, more sensation than thought. Benny’s skin under his hands was no longer snow or marble. For him it became the thin covering over a man he knew better than himself, too thin to keep him out, an insubstantial drape over the soul he loved, the heart that beat with his own heart, the pure pleasure he was claiming with each sharp, perfect, thrust.
He screamed again and tightened his grip, seeing the sparks he could feel behind his eyelids, getting ready to reach around Benny’s body and bring them both home.
“Ray. Stop. Please.”
His rhythm broke, and he trembled to a jerking stop, half-in, one breath from fracturing to a billion little pieces of himself. Somehow, he croaked out, “Benny?”
The red-mottled pale body slid forward, easing itself off his iron-hard shaft. Ray shook harder. Had he hurt him? There wasn’t any blood on his cock. Oh, but there wasn’t a condom either. Had Benny simply needed him to put on a rubber?
Please, God, let that be it.
Benny turned to look at him, shaking as hard as Ray, his own arousal as painfully obvious both between his legs and in his eyes. His lips stretched into a creaking smile that his pink tongue wet with a little dart before he spoke, his voice a splintered whisper.
“Do you see now, Ray? You can only do to me what I want. That’s…how you’re made.”
He found his voice, and there was undeniable resentment and injury in it. “And what do you want, Benny?”
“You, Ray. Any way I can get you, every second of every day of every year for the rest of my life, I want you, Ray.”
Ray felt awe at the steadiness of his own hands as he opened the condom and covered himself with it. When the pain receded with those soft words he felt almost as if this time didn’t exist, as if his heart would only start beating again when he was back where he belonged.
Benny made to roll over again, but he took those strong thighs and folded them back over Benny’s flushed chest. Pale hands grabbed Benny’s shins, and those blue eyes closed as the dark-haired head leaned back, arching his neck in an undeniable display of contrition and submission. Ray’s hands took those hips again, raising him up, before he slid back inside and Benny sighed with pleasure.
Only a few thrusts, and the wildness was back, softer, at first, than before, robbed of the urgency of fear and doubt. This was a little like the first time he’d taken Benny: so sure and right. But now when possessiveness swept him he reveled in it, pressing in tighter, changing the angle to get just where he wanted.
“Oh God!” Benny’s crazed eyes locked onto his even as Ray’s lips stretched back in a wolfish grin of satisfaction. His hips slammed forward to that same spot and Benny screamed. Then another scream, joined by his own. They thrashed and thrust together to urge the crescendo on, two pairs of hands grasping to quicken the pace of each combustive impact.
Benny stiffened, flailed, screamed his name and erupted over his own chest and shoulders, his body drawing tightly down over Ray’s cock even as it pulsed and rocked into soft, sweet heat. Ray rode it out, that wave of fire from his groin out to his fingers and toes, thrusting one last time through the aftershock, gasping as tingles turned again to quicksilver, then gracefully folded forward to cover Benny’s shuddering body and let himself fall free of all thoughts and feelings but soul-deep, heart-sure, love-filled fulfillment.
Sometime during the next several minutes he became aware of Benny’s arms flopping over his back. Much later, he realized he was no longer inside his friend and had to fumble a bit to retrieve the condom, which he tossed into the little trash bag. Benny took advantage of his movements to strip him before, with mutual sighs of pleasure, they dragged their somewhat sticky, groggy bodies inside one of the bed rolls, curled around each other, and slept like the dead and reborn.
They’d started to get the dead birds two months ago. There had been five now, all eagles, and all of them seemingly dead from the cold in this warm early spring. All of them had been found without their eyes.
Eric was no shaman, but he served his people. Anna needed to know more about the birds, and it was a simple enough task to go to Anthuk and see if there really had been another bird there, or if it was just people needing to keep the story going.
Many of the young people today didn’t understand the power of stories, and they were bored now that food could be had so easily, and only at the cost of giving up their entire way of life. It was enough to make him wonder if he’d gotten the masks back too late to do any good.
It wasn’t good that the Mountie was back. Eric let himself hope for a moment that the wolf was still back in the States. But that was unlikely. At least the cop was nothing more than a loud-mouthed tourist. The most harm he could do was dump trash or take a picture.
His feet made it to the pavement of Anthuk’s only road. This place wasn’t big enough for a store, but Doc had some drums of gas in his shed for people who needed it, and the three Corven sisters wove baskets they sold out the side door of their A-frame house.
“You come about the bird?”
Eric nodded at Pete Lookstwice, twenty years old now and losing the color from his eyes, like his mother, though his gangly elbows and sharp cheeks made him look like his dad’s skeleton with one meal inside him. Pete would be the type to enjoy a good story. He’d worked last summer at some hotel in Moosejaw.
“We kept it in Doc’s shed. You want to see him?”
“Who found the bird?”
Eric nodded again, not asking if she’d been drunk at the time. There was a faint odor of gasoline from Pete’s clothes. He might have been sniffing it. The boy turned now to lead him to the shed, and Eric followed, though he didn’t care now what he found there.
Pleasure. Unbelievable pleasure. And a faint pain, burning. Hands on his hips; he was being ridden, hard, but only after he’d begged for it.
Inspector Thatcher had something for him to file. He looked up into her eyes and saw the taint of disgust. Ray laughed, and her dark eyes rolled.
Fraser woke up with his mouth open, a protest between his tongue and teeth. His rectum hurt. His body was sticky with dried seminal fluid. A fire-warm body pressed against his, with strong, slender arms draped over his back. His head rested in the hollow of Ray’s shoulder. Even in sleep, Ray’s heart beat fast and strong.
Shaking a little, he lifted up his head and turned for the reassurance of his best friend’s face, peaceful in slumber. It really was Raymond Vecchio, his best friend, who had said he loved him.
How could such a soft kiss to the man’s chin bathe him in almost liquid calm? How could feeling Ray’s light stubble against the tip of his tongue make the ache deep in his body suddenly seem sexy? His fingertips caressed that high smooth forehead, then went on to brush the soft hair along that sweeping curve.
Would Ray just be completely bald one day? He thought it more likely he’d always have a fringe of hair, softening him, preparing witnesses for the beauty of his eyes.
Those eyes opened, somewhat glazed, to focus on his.
Fraser fell into the kiss, warm and soft from Ray, loving and a little desperate from him. Ray seemed surprised at first, then rallied, and the arms around his back pressed him in tight and close. Ray’s lips opened under the pressure of Benny’s tongue, and one of them moaned softly, even as another long, wet tongue lapped excitedly at their faces.
“Augh!” Ray broke the kiss and tried to roll away from blood-tainted wolf breath. “Diefenbaker! That is disGUSTing!”
Benny looked with some foreboding to Diefenbaker’s feet. As he suspected, a plump rabbit lay as an offering, and Fraser was buffeted with both concern for Ray’s state of mind and pride in Diefenbaker’s accomplishment. Unfortunately, before he could resolve his own state of mind and commend his friend on his prize, Ray saw the rabbit too.
“Augh! Augh! Gross! What did you bring that in here for?” Ray pushed Benny away and sat up, pulling his legs far from the rabbit and groping for his shirt.
“Diefenbaker, thank you for sharing your kill with us,” Benny said clearly as the wolf looked at him, panting for praise. “Ray and I will enjoy the rabbit very much.”
“Yeah, yeah. It’s like arctic pizza service, but couldn’t you have left it at the door?”
“Ray, the act of laying it at our feet, as it were, indicates that he’s offering it up to us in recognition of his packmates. Moreover, I believe he’s trying to repay us for the food we’ve shared with him in Chicago.” Benny looked at the wolf carefully. “In fact, he may have been offering it to you more than me, Ray.”
“What, a hundred jelly donuts gets me a rabbit? What do I gotta give him for a moose?”
Ray found his shirt and briefs, then edged past the rabbit and out of the tent.
“I really do appreciate this, Diefenbaker,” Benny told the wolf solemnly.
Dief snuffled, then yawned and curled up on a bed roll and closed his eyes.
Outside, Ray had washed himself off with some unused coffee water, standing naked by the fire. Benny reached into one of their packs and retrieved a towel, holding it far from the rabbit in his other hand.
Ray took the towel with a smile. “Why don’t you drop the rabbit on the ground and I’ll wash you off, Benny?”
“I wouldn’t want Diefenbaker to feel we didn’t appreciate his offering, Ray.”
Green eyes looked over his body. “Well, just hold it out of the way, all right?”
Benny complied, and Ray moistened the towel, cleaning him with soft thoroughness and finishing off the bath with a kiss to each nipple, then a long, lingering kiss on his lips.
“So, what say you make the rabbit into something humans can eat and I chop down a couple more trees? We’re never going to get the cabin rebuilt at this rate.”
Benny couldn’t help smiling. “You sound so domestic, Ray.”
“Well, that’s me, Mr. Domestic.” Ray stepped back, threw on his shirt and briefs, then stomped into the tent for his clothes and some muttering at Diefenbaker, who was evidently using his jacket for a pillow. Benny got out some fresh clothes from his pack, nodded when Ray came out again, then turned to the serious business of gutting and skinning the rabbit. While it was cooking over the fire, he used the late afternoon sun to fell two more trees himself, forcing himself not to watch Ray wielding his ax with increasing skill.
They ate soon after that, with Ray making comments about how Dief had managed to find the tastiest rabbit in all of Canada, then they packed the trash and sat together looking at the fire for hours, arms around each other, talking about nothing in particular, sometimes not talking at all.
Benny felt those hours pass like the healing work of strong medicine. He hadn’t known how much he needed this, how much both he and Ray needed this. Three weeks of this work and talk and making love would give them a foundation on which they could build a relationship to last a lifetime. By the time the stars were brilliant and the day long gone, they were yawning and moving amiably about the fire, banking it for the night, more than ready for sleep.
Diefenbaker left soon after sundown, and as he trotted back towards them Benny smiled at the sight of yet another animal in his mouth. The wolf was making up for those hunt-less years in Chicago with admirable energy.
But when the white shape was close enough, Benny could see the bristling of his fur, and the alarmed arc of his back.
“What’s wrong with Dief?” Ray asked, standing at his side.
“I don’t know. Dief? What is it?”
The wolf stopped before them and dropped the animal on the ground. It was a dead eagle, and by the light of the fire both of them could see that while it looked freshly dead, its eyes were gone.
“This is Anthuk? You’re kidding, right?”
“I told you the village was small, Ray.”
“Fraser, I see four buildings here. That’s a street corner, not a village.”
Benny shrugged and swung his legs out of the jeep, then retrieved his Stetson and set it on his head, brushing his fingers across the brim. Ray got out from behind the wheel and ran his hands together, pushing the black gloves back up his fingers. He could never get gloves that fit quite right.
Dief hopped out of the jeep and began to nose around. The wolf had been almost subdued since the previous night, and seemed reluctant to stray far from his pack. Ray had no idea why the bird would have bothered him so much, though the thing had been creepy, no question.
Fraser hadn’t had to tell him that animals usually lost their eyes first to predators, though he’d let the Mountie drone on about it for a good three minutes before making him stop. Eyes were tasty and juicy.
But the bird had been so completely untouched except for the eyes, and there’d been no reason they could see for it to be dead.
Ray blamed Eric completely. Without his bit about the birds and the sun and stars they’d have ignored the damn bird and they’d be working on the cabin, or better yet not working on the cabin right now. Instead they were in the sinkhole of the grease spot of the armpit of the frozen north.
One of the buildings was a shed, and while he and Benny stood there trying to pretend they knew what they were doing, the door to the shed opened and a scrawny teenager with dark hair slumped out into the sunlight, blinking, his hands resting on his lower back, his arms up like picked-over chicken wings.
Fraser started walking towards the kid, and Ray followed without betraying the sudden sensation of being watched. He thought he saw the curtains twitch in the gray little house closest to them: some old lady maybe, watching the business in the street without getting involved. He rode a little wave of Chicago homesickness.
Fraser stopped before the kid. “Aren’t you Peter Lookstwice?”
“Yeah.” Dark eyes slid away from Fraser’s gaze. “You looking for Eric? He was here yesterday.”
“Do you know why he was here?”
The kid looked at Ray, who kept silent and smelled gas. Lookstwice’s nose was red, and the skin was a little cracked, his pale skin had a yellow tinge that went all the way to his jagged nails. Back home, the kid would be carrying weed, but it looked like inhaling fumes was the best the guy could do.
Benny, of course, was waiting respectfully for the kid’s answer like he was dressed in a business suit and accompanied by his lawyer.
Lookstwice shrugged, and it made him look like a bat. “I saw a bird and he wanted to see it.”
“What sort of bird?”
“Eagle. Dead. Didn’t seem to care.”
“You mean that Eric didn’t seem to care about the bird?”
“Yeah.” The kid sniffed.
“Is the bird still here?”
“In the shed.” Dark eyes were looking at Ray again.
“Oh, forgive me. This is Ray Vecchio, a friend of mine. He and I are very interested in seeing this bird, if you could show it to us.”
Another shrug, then gangly shuffling back to the shed.
Inside the tin-and-wood box, the smell of gasoline made Ray’s eyes water, but on the little workbench lay a dead eagle, molting, dried out, and eyeless.
“I found it near the house. Just dead with no eyes.”
“Had you heard of the other birds before that?”
Ray kept his smile to himself. *Slick, Benny.*
Lookstwice shrugged again, and Ray had this image of the guy getting airborne and flapping away. “Everyone has.”
“Did Eric say where he was going?”
“Back to Anna. She wanted to know about the birds after they found them two at the river.”
“Thank you kindly for your help, Peter.”
Ray avoiding another shrug-show by turning and walking out, breathing real air with relief. Lookstwice and Benny followed.
“He thought I done it,” Lookstwice announced, looking at the ground.
“Eric thought you did that to the bird, just to get attention?” Ray asked. After all, it was what he was thinking too.
The kid seemed amazed that Ray could speak, his mouth dropping open as he nodded.
“I’m sure Eric was simply being careful,” Fraser said calmly.
“Ma found it. Not me.”
“We will speak to him about it when we see him.”
*We will?* Ray thought with a little sigh. The cabin would have to wait, it looked like.
Lookstwice shrugged. “Don’t matter.”
“It does matter. I’m sure the bird upset your mother greatly.”
*Bingo.* The kid was looking at Fraser now the way cops thought they could get people to look at them when they offered to help…for about the first five minutes on the job. Then they knew better. But Benny was always proving the world wrong, whether he knew it or not.
Ray fumbled for his keys and turned away. Lookstwice was mumbling his thanks to Benny now. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to go back into the shed when they left.
He got behind the wheel, waited for Fraser and Dief to get in, then cranked the motor and drove the jeep back the way they came, rocking with the car over the unpaved road, until they were about a mile away. Then he killed the engine, and looked over at his friend.
Damn bucket seats meant he couldn’t slide over, so he just leaned, leaned into Benny’s warm, sweater-covered chest and drew his arms over those strong, broad shoulders, closing his eyes and breathing him in. More warmth and strength were added as arms went around his waist and held him close. Something soft and furry rested several pounds on his shoulder, and there was this little high-pitched whine.
God, this was his life now, a Mountie and a wolf comforting him in a rented jeep about two thousand miles north of anywhere man was meant to live. Only the fact that he felt about a thousand million times better when he pulled away kept him from running off into the woods screaming.
He put a light kiss on Benny’s lips, then rubbed Diefenbaker with both hands behind his ears. The wolf ended up licking his face, but not even that was enough to ruin the moment. He found he could almost laugh about it, especially since he had a handkerchief on him that sopped up the drool okay.
“So where we gonna find this Anna woman, Fraser?”
“I need to kiss you, Ray.”
He’d learned better than to argue with that tone, but the look in Benny’s eyes still shocked him. He found himself shaking his head a little bit, sort of laughing, then leaned back in and oh God Benny was going to eat him alive. This wasn’t a kiss, it was communion and it was lust, it was a full frontal assault and pure fireworks. What the hell did Benny do to get his lips that soft? And where did he learn that tongue thing?
He opened his mouth, seeking more, then threw his head back with a yelp as a warm hand covered his groin. Oh God. *Here?* Right *here?*
Oh God. Right there.
“Benny, either do something about what you’ve started or stop it.”
Pale fingers worked on the button of his wool pants even as Benny nuzzled his neck, mumbling against it, “You started it, Ray.”
“I just wanted a hug!” The fact that his hands were buried in Fraser’s hair made it clear his comment wasn’t a serious protest.
“You touched me, Ray.”
“I needed it, Benny.”
A harsh, low moan against his neck, and then his pants were opened and the head in his hands sunk down, seeking him, until a hot mouth took him deep inside.
It happened again, like it hadn’t happened since that one time with Benny almost a week ago, when Benny had suggested they move in together. There was a space inside him he hadn’t known about, and that space had relaxed, releasing tension he thought necessary to his survival. He had welcomed the ease inside him like a coke-head welcomes the first taste of crack, instantly addicted, and as that tension flowed from him yet again into the heat of Benny’s lovemaking, he was home.
“Benny…” The name was sex in his mouth, like Benny’s tongue or his cock. He felt his lips pull apart to make the name again, his eyes stretched wide to confront blindly the endless blue sky, streaked with the dark arrow of a bird cutting through all that blue, blue like Benny’s eyes, pure and clean like his lover’s soul made his soul now as the tension poured out even more and he was a boneless nothing sprawled out over the bucket seat.
A tiny little nibble on the head of his cock and his senses surged. So much pleasure he couldn’t be sorry even for the end it brought. He felt the pull as Benny drank him in, and then for a while he wasn’t really thinking about much at all. Warmth in his lap was Fraser’s head, and that lightning-quick flick across his sensitive cockhead came from a wicked tongue he wanted to take and own. Even so, he couldn’t help smiling at a dozen images of Benny tasting things. He wondered if he ranked higher or lower than mud on the taste scale. He knew it was no use comparing himself to Benny: pure maple syrup.
And he felt like being a pancake, even if he could only get the arms and legs moving in slow motion. When he got his head upright one look in Benny’s eyes just made it all the harder to coordinate his body. That slow, sexy, smug smile was going to kill him right here. He ached, suddenly, to press kisses against that smile, and with a shiver of hot anticipation, he reached –
Dief’s howl scraped along each and every nerve ending connected to his spine. Ray and Benny were out of the jeep before the sound finished, and before the echo was done they had found him, about twenty yards from the road, whining and staring at a dead bird that looked to Ray just like the one he’d seen flying across the sky minutes ago. Except for the missing eyes, of course.
“Benny! Damnit! Don’t touch that!”
“I want to see if the body is warm, Ray.”
He grabbed Benny’s arm and pulled him away. “It must be some sort of toxin, Benny, something in the air, or something the birds are eating. I don’t want you near it.”
“We’ll need to have it analyzed, Ray.”
Ray looked back at the jeep. They had a bag with them, with some food and a few supplies Benny probably didn’t know he’d packed. It would do. He dumped the contents in the back of the jeep, turned the bag inside-out, and used it as a glove to pick up the bird, which was warm in his hand. A few twists, and the bird was inside the bag, then the bag was back in the jeep. The food and supplies he shoved into the console, watching Benny watch him with wide eyes.
“Just wanted to be prepared, Benny.”
He turned, but Benny was shaking his head, obviously to himself.
“There’s a station in Axehandle.”
They got back in the jeep, and Ray restrained himself from shooting Dief a dirty look. It wasn’t his fault he had ruined the mood, and he’d just have to show Benny that much better a time tonight.
Axehandle turned out to be little bigger than Anthuk, and the Mountie station looked like the sheriff’s office from *Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,* but the constable on duty, Jane Davenport, turned out to be competent and efficient. In her late forties by the look of her brown eyes, older by the look of her hands, younger by the lack of gray in her straight black hair, she responded gravely to Fraser’s name, but made no personal comments. Ray couldn’t help noticing she wore the old brown uniform, even if her forearms didn’t look as good as Benny’s did with the sleeves rolled up. Her shoes had a high polish, and the station was perfectly ordered.
Before too late in the afternoon, they saw the bird on its way to the lab (only a few hundred miles away in Danes via Davenport’s jeep with her part-time assistant behind the wheel) and had discussed all the as-yet unsubstantiated “eyeless bird sightings." Ray and Benny promised to keep her informed, and she promised to let it stay unofficial for the time being.
They got back in the jeep and waited for Diefenbaker to show up.
“So, who’s this Anna? Tribal elder or something?”
“Not officially. I only met her once.” Fraser looked at him oddly. “She cooks.”
Ray grinned. “Great! I’m starving.”
Dief appeared and jumped into the back, and Ray got the jeep warmed up just as Davenport rushed out of the station. Fraser moved to the back as she took shotgun, her mouth set in a grim little line.
“I need you to take me to Anthuk.”
Ray nodded and got on the road before he asked it. “Trouble?”
She turned and met Fraser’s eyes, then looked back at Ray.
“Peter Lookstwice is dead.”
Constable Jane Davenport left the two men alone to argue and took a long, circular hike around the village.
She was happy for the help. Of course she was. But she couldn’t stop the feeling that her life had been invaded by characters from one of those television shows they only did in America, where two really different guys ended up being best buddies right before they dragged out impractical guns and shot up some Hispanic drug dealer.
And what was the deal with the dog? It looked about half wolf, and seemed to consider people as though he understood what they were saying.
She’d heard about Ben Fraser. Who hadn’t? She’d even met Robert Fraser a few times, and worked with him once. The strongest impression he’d made on her was that he could walk five hundred miles in one day and then wonder what the big deal – was that a fire someone had built?
She knelt down at the small patch of burnt leaves, but the signs of fire had faded. A small trash fire, most likely, a couple weeks ago. She stood, dusted off her hands on her brown pants, and took up her circuit again.
Ben Fraser was definitely a chip off the old block, which made her wonder – despite the conditioning of American entertainment – what he and Vecchio were doing together. The Chicago cop was doubtlessly competent, and his help was as welcome as Fraser’s, but one more crack out of him and she was going to pull her gun.
Vecchio must have seen more ODs in his time than she could imagine, but the guy still didn’t have to look at Peter Lookstwice and remark that some people didn’t know their own limits. The kid’s face was a mess, and the stench of gas on his clothes and that bloody nose had made her regret lunch.
Davenport sighed, and widened out the circle. It wasn’t Vecchio’s fault that she envied his cynicism. Eighteen years on the force now, and she felt as bad for the people she helped now as she had then. If Vecchio didn’t spend his nights remembering rape cases and wanting to give anything to find the murderer of some long-dead victim, that wasn’t something to hate him for. It was just surprising that Fraser would hang out with him. Fraser *had* taken on the whole RCMP and the Canadian government over his own sense of right and wrong, so what was he doing…bah! She shook her head, dismissing it. She knew nothing and she didn’t care about it anyway. If Ben Fraser had made her heart beat a little louder with those baby-blue eyes, that was her problem. She wasn’t old enough to be his mother, but he was still young enough to think she was.
She realized she’d come to the place the bird was supposedly found. Its carcass was still in the shed, but she doubted after all this time with it soaking up gas fumes that a toxicology screen would show anything one way or the other.
She couldn’t live the life she’d lived without developing a healthy respect for tribal customs and oral traditions, but she was still a Mountie, born in Ottawa. Fraser’s theory that the birds were dying from some sort of toxin suited her a hell of a lot better than hysteria over the Raven, or whatever it was that had the locals jumping at shadows.
Her circuit complete, she was walking back into the village from the north. The Corven sisters weren’t home, which was a little unusual, but they often left to sell their baskets in Arrowhead, or Little Ro. Doc was fishing, and would be back tomorrow or the next day. She’d already questioned Mrs. Lookstwice, who said she didn’t know anything about her son sniffing gas to get high, then proceeded to throw up her last drink over Vecchio’s shoes.
This was the worst part of the job, dealing with dead kids. Peter was twenty, but he was still a kid. And it was such a stupid way to die.
Last year, there’d been a kid down south who wanted to get drunk, so he mixed gasoline with milk and drank it. Would have been all right, except that he puked into the fireplace. The fire had killed him and his sister. God-awful waste.
She saw Fraser and Vecchio talking by the shed, the skinny guy using his hands as much as his mouth. She approached quietly, trying to hear what he was saying.
“…and no way you could have known what was going to happen. Not everything bad in the world that happens is your fault, Benny.”
“I’m not saying this was my fault, Ray, but I do believe Eric wanted to ask us to come with him.”
“He wanted to ask you. He didn’t want me tagging along, and he knew you’d bring me.”
“Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, Ray.” Fraser put his hand on Vecchio’s shoulder, and startled green eyes lifted and connected.
Then they noticed her.
“Did you find anything?” Fraser asked, his hand sliding off Vecchio’s shoulder as the two of them shifted just slightly away.
Davenport shook her head, privately rolling her eyes. What was it with men and touching each other, anyway? So she’d seen them seeking a little human contact. Did they think she was going to take a picture? Did they think she was going to think they were “fags?”
“The kid’s packaged and ready for the trip,” Vecchio said, his shorthand, evidently, for saying that he and Fraser had finished bundling Lookstwice in a tarp and put him in the back of the jeep. She looked over to the battered rental and saw the dog near the passenger door, as though standing guard. It made her think of McDermot, who needed to be fed, and suddenly she couldn’t stand being here anymore.
“I’ll come back tomorrow and talk to the sisters.”
“Lookstwice had sisters?” Vecchio seemed just slightly outraged.
“No, the Corven sisters. They live in that house.” She waved vaguely and started for the jeep. The men followed her. “I might get more out of the mother tomorrow as well.” She looked back at Fraser. “You want to be here for that?”
Fraser hesitated, then opened the jeep door for her and said, “Ray and I will be visiting Anna tomorrow.”
Davenport nodded, privately suspecting Fraser should leave Vecchio behind for that one.
“Where are you staying?” she asked as she settled into the seat. The American was already behind the wheel.
“We’re rebuilding my father’s cabin.”
“Ah. I heard about the fire.”
They said little on the ride back, and Davenport knew she wouldn’t shake off her depression at least until morning. She’d get Lookstwice into the freezer, call for a pick-up tomorrow, go home, have a drink and rub McDermot’s tummy until bedtime. Damn Vecchio, anyway. If Fraser were alone, she’d be able to offer him the drink, and the tummy-rub too, for that matter. Sure, he’d turn her down, but she’d at least have a story for the cat.
The men helped her get the body in the freezer, and took a couple steaks she pressed on them, unable to keep herself from smiling at the image of Vecchio putting one on the end of a stick to hold over the fire like a marshmallow. How had Fraser ever talked the city slicker into coming up here?
“Check in with me later in the week,” she told Fraser, shaking his hand. “We’ll see what we’ve got.”
“Thank you kindly.”
“Yeah. Thanks for the help.”
She watched them through the window as they drove off. She should have asked them both for a drink, damnit to hell.
Ray felt the Mountie woman’s eyes on his neck as he drove the jeep out. She was a fellow officer of the law, and he respected that, but he hadn’t been able to get a line on her at all. He would have asked Benny, but Benny’s breathing hadn’t been right since they got into the jeep.
It was a lot of miles back to the cabin. Ray put three of them on the right side of the jeep before he pulled off the road and killed the engine. Since he wanted to get out from behind the wheel for this, he didn’t meet Benny’s eyes, just swung his legs up and out and then was walking away from the road into the bushes, like he was about to relieve himself or something.
Relieve himself. Relief.
It was sort of appropriate, if completely inaccurate.
He turned to watch Benny take the last few steps towards him. Trees shielded them now from the non-existent traffic on the road, and the ground suddenly seemed more than sufficient for a bed. He started to take off his long jacket when Benny just grabbed him up, stared into his eyes like there was something magical to be found in them, and then came in for the kiss they’d needed for hours and hours and hours.
He wanted to savor the taste and feel of Benny, sip him like good wine until the stars were shining all around them and there was nothing but the two of them and nothing could touch them at all. But Benny was already grinding his hips against Ray’s, and moaning deep in his throat, and in all honesty he was grinding and groaning himself.
He got his hands down between them, and opened up Benny’s jeans, but when he went for his own waistband he was suddenly falling back. Considering that they kissed all the way down, it was a miracle neither chipped a tooth. Benny was thrusting now without rhythm or aim, but Ray managed to get his own pants down and then they were pressed together for real and both of them had to break off from kissing to groan out loud.
“Ray. Ray. My sweet Ray…”
God, did Fraser have any idea what that particular phrase did to his insides? He brought his legs up and wrapped them around Benny’s folded-down jeans and pressed up, needing contact, needing connection.
“Love you, Benny.”
“Ray! God! Ray! Harder! More! You feel so…Ray…sweet Ray…”
Moisture and determination had them sliding together easily now, friction and nerve endings and soft, soft skin: the reality of Benny’s cock against his own.
“More, Ray, please…”
“Everything I got, Benny. What…ever you want.”
Their words led their lips back to each other’s, sharing everything now, desperate and knowing that this time wasn’t going to last long. Ray’s body was burning up, and every jolt of heat through his groin was making it all the way out to his fingers and toes and even the tips of his ears…or was that the grass tickling him? He didn’t care, spreading his legs out wider and arching up for more.
Benny’s next groan was almost a scream, and he felt that solid body quake and flutter above him, grinding down now on just the spot he needed for the perfect pressure on his cock and balls and there…*there!*
“Benny! God! Oh *fuck,* Benny!”
Hot cum splashed across his stomach, soaking his shirt, and he only knew it was Benny’s, not his, when the pleasure continued to spike, higher, and then higher and then he wasn’t even there anymore, not in his own body, or at least in his right mind. He knew he was screaming and clutching on tight and then everything was exactly the way it should be and he didn’t need to hold on anymore and the whole world was just warm and cozy and…he couldn’t breathe too well. Benny weighed a ton.
He tried to shift a bit, until he got the message across and Benny slid over to the side, still holding him close. Ray tried to think about nothing, but the grass was itching his ears and neck, and God knew what sort of bugs they were lying on. The sun was going down, and the evening was chilly already.
“I wish we could stay here. I wish we didn’t have to go back.”
“To Chicago? Or to the cabin, Ray?”
“To wherever. I just want it to be me and you, Benny.”
The dark head turned until Fraser’s perfect mouth was nuzzling gently at his neck. Benny seemed to like his neck. He was glad. He’d always thought it was a little too long, maybe kinda geeky. But if Benny liked it, then it was just…distinctive.
A clever tongue traced up the side of his throat, and Ray shivered. He could maybe stand the bugs for another couple minutes.
“Diefenbaker.” Benny’s voice was hesitant, his warm breath cooling the moist line his tongue had painted.
“Yeah? What about him?”
“Diefenbaker and you and me, Ray.”
What little energy Ray had at the moment fizzled out in irritation. “Yeah, yeah. The wolf too, Benny. Geeze.”
Benny leaned up, showing him eyes blue even in the gray of twilight. “Before I had you, Ray, he was all I had…to take with me.”
Ray’s mouth opened, and for a moment he could only shake his head, gently, hearing and feeling the grass rustle against his scalp. Then he reached up and brought Benny down for a kiss, then another.
“You and me and Dief, okay, Benny? Stranded on a…floating on an iceberg, with no one to visit us but the penguins.” He wondered if his eyes were twinkling. “All we’d have to worry about is him chasing them off the edge.”
Benny reached down, kissing softly along that same line of his neck. “I’m sure they’d be safe, Ray. Diefenbaker is nothing if not practical.”
Ray let himself smile into the dome of almost-stars. “I don’t know, Benny. All those penguins…from the back, they’d look like big chocolate bars.”
Proceed to Part II