They tried, but it was a long night, and too cold for deep sleep, perfect for an hour snatched between little starts, reaching for each other, doing nothing more than holding each other, because there was nothing else, and perhaps because they had wanted to reach for the other so many times before.

They waited until sometime in the middle of the night, knowing they would soon be hungry again, and were in fact only hungrier after they fished the cheeseburgers out of the greasy sack and swallowed them down, and they could not speak with so many things not to be spoken of: no talk of the future, of love, of choices or of being forced.

Fraser bit back a dozen times the plea that Ray save himself tomorrow, run to the station and never return, leave him here happy in the knowledge that Ray was safe. Ray looked ready to speak a few times as well, and still hesitated right before he would lay down at Benny's side. He let himself think about the possibility of surviving this, and knew that his permission to touch his friend's body would not survive with them.

He fought the need to make the most of this time as possible, keeping his hands as still as he could. When he would sleep, however, he would awaken to find his body wrapped around Ray like kudzu. If Ray were deeply asleep, he would lightly press his nose against that hot skin and breath him in. Once, he stroked over the surprisingly soft bristle of his hair. If Ray were stirring awake as well, Benny would slide his hands back from any place too familiar, and if Ray ever felt the change of temperature on his body, he never said anything.

Fraser was more than little shocked at himself. He was used to being out of touch with his feelings, but he thought he had a good idea of their basic content. That long, sleep-starved night he stuttered from waking dreams to half-sleeping visions and back, outraged, aroused, frightened, fascinated, wanting more and wanting to run and wanting, wanting, wanting.

It was all Ray. Every vision was of Ray, smiling across at him from memory, spread out beneath him from fantasy, touching him in both. He had swallowed so many times, seeking the faintest taste of Ray in his mouth, his throat was sore and dry. He thirsted for Ray, hungered, ached…

Only once had he awoken hard, pressing into Ray's hip. His friend hadn't moved, and he'd gotten himself under control as quickly as he could. He didn't know if Ray had been awake. He hoped not.

But he welcomed the dreams, the desires, the longing, even the pain of it: whatever would keep him from dwelling on the future, when he was tied to some chair staring at a chain saw or an axe and waiting for Ray to return to save him, praying he wouldn't, knowing he would.

After that, it would probably be two bullets through the head and some sort of efficient burial where they wouldn't be found for decades.

But thinking of Ray made that fact melt away in the scent and silk of his hot skin.

He raised himself up at last and watched the flutter of light sleep over Ray's eyes. He had managed to stay under for more of the night than he had expected, his police officer training allowing him the sleep he needed to do today's job.

Green eyes, shadowed with regret, opened and watched him.

"Can I kiss you, Ray?"

A fine hand, pale as porcelain, raised to his face, traced the outline of his lips. Benny knew he was shaking, knew he mustn't suck those fingers into his mouth.

"I don't think I could take it, Benny."

Fraser closed his eyes, ashamed of his selfishness.

"I don't want to be thinking about kissing you when I'm out there. I don't want to think about touching you, or having you…I just need to think about you as my buddy, okay?"

Blue eyes opened this time, bright with heat.

"Understood, Ray."

Ray withdrew his hand, but bit his lip. Fraser stopped breathing.

“Benny…if we weren’t here, or, if we were but we were safe, or even if Dief was here, keeping an eye on the door, what would you let me do to you?”

The Mountie smiled. “Anything, Ray.”

The lean body shivered, but Ray’s eyes didn’t seem pleased.

“If we were safe, would you want to do anything to me, Ray?”

Ray closed his eyes, then opened them, trying to figure it out, knowing only one thing.

“I’ve never been this scared, Benny. I don’t know what ‘safe’ means anymore. I can’t imagine it. I don’t know what else I feel but scared. And so when I think about ‘us,’ I just feel scared more. I don’t know if it’s because she’d chop us into little pieces to feed the lawn and not care, or if it’s because the thought of losing you is like some sort of Vecchio special hell, or because I know what it would mean for us if other people really thought we were screwing around. I only know I’m terrified, Benny. I can’t think farther than that.”

“It doesn’t scare you to think about our friendship, does it, Ray? It shouldn’t.” Benny was looking at him now as gravely as he must have looked while giving his Mountie oath. “I’ll always be your friend, Ray, no matter what else happens.”

“But you want more from me than friendship.”

“I want only what you want to give me, Ray. I always have.”

He closed his eyes and kept them that way. He couldn’t process this now. He’d never understood why Benny wanted to be his friend. Wanting to be his lover was simply too weird. Was the guy really that lonely? How could he be when every woman in Chicago wanted him? How did a guy - Canadian or not - stand before a smorgasbord and then beg for table scraps?

He’d saved Benny’s life, and Benny was grateful. He’d saved him from the shears and the cleaver and he was overwhelmed and confused. When it came to sex and love, Fraser never did have his head on straight. Right now the guy was probably just so glad he wasn’t Victoria he’d probably marry him.

Shit. One Victoria in his date book and he’d probably be asking Huey out for Chinese and a hump-hump behind the dumpster.

God. Benny had sucked his cock. He couldn’t think about that now, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He’d never had it so good, not even when he’d been in love with his wife had he come like that.

Ange. He still loved her. And maybe she could do him one more favor before the end. Maybe she was something better than sex for him to give Benny before he was running all over town doing singing telegrams. He knew he had to give Benny something, and a kiss was out.

“Fraser, I never told you why Ange and me broke up.”

There. Look at those Mountie eyes go soft, Vecchio. That had been the right thing to say. Count yourself not a complete waste for at least a good five minutes.

“No, Ray. But I never wanted to pry -“

“Shhh. Let me just say it, okay? I’m not sure we got time for it as it is.”

“Yes, Ray.”

“Me and Ange, we had our problems, right from the start, but we knew who we were, and we knew who the other person was. I never had anybody before Ange who never, not once, was fooled by something I said. I loved that about her. I mean, Pop was always telling me what a disappointment I was, and then everyone else in my family expects me to do everything - not that I mind, you understand - and then here was this beautiful woman who knew I was full of it and didn’t care. I could relax around her, you know? I never had to prove myself to her.

“And it was heaven, really, in a lot of ways. We had our problems with the usual, when to have kids, how to spend money - she was always picky about money, never liked the way I’d blow it on things. But that wasn’t what did us in. None of the little things we fought about really mattered.

“The killer was the thing we didn’t talk about, because there’s no way to tell someone when…” God, he wanted to wait this part out a bit, but surely it was morning by now. Benny probably knew the exact time. He didn’t want to ask.

“It was small things at first. I’d be talking about chasing some guy, and I’d say that I ran out in traffic and almost got hit, and her eyes would narrow, or she’d smile. I’d talk about how I helped out on some case, had an insight the others missed, desperate for a little praise, a pat on the back, and she’d nod and make a little smug face.”

“God, Fraser. I started to hate that smug face. I actually asked her, a lot, to stop making it. So then I started hating her I’m-not-being-smug face. I even told her I needed praise, and she tried, she really did try, Fraser. She complimented my driving, told me I was handsome, told me I was a good cop.

“But it wasn’t praise I wanted, Benny. I wanted something you just can’t ask for, and when I fell in love with her I was so happy she wasn’t disappointed in me I didn’t notice…that she had no expectations to begin with.”

Fraser was silent, his eyes now showing the warmth of sympathy and the pain of empathy.

“She didn’t…she wouldn’t…”

“Believe in you, Ray?”

He couldn’t believe Benny understood so easily. Hell. Everyone believed in Benny.

“Yeah. I felt like some selfish bastard who didn’t know a good thing when he found it, but I wanted more than just someone who still loved me when I messed up. I wanted someone who’d believe my way might be better.”

Benny was staring and at him, eyes pleading.


“I wish…I wish you’d let me kiss you, Ray.”

“Aw, geeze, Benny. I’m not made of steel.”

“I’m sorry, Ray.”

They felt it, together. Perhaps the draught from the door opening, or just the way she seemed to suck the heat from the air around her. They were sitting up, beneath the blanket, as she walked in, two men with her, one of them Bent-nose, holding his clothes in a neat little pile, the other Little-nose holding Benny’s. She nodded but the men did nothing more than put the clothes on the floor.

“Get dressed, then you can have breakfast and piss.” She left, and the men followed, but the door wasn’t shut.

Cold cheeseburger burned Fraser’s stomach as they were marched to the room with the table and doubtlessly some new cutting implement. God, he couldn’t take it this time. Would Ray forgive him if now, just now, he asked him to leave and not come back?

But the room was empty of all but Ms Socks and her shadows, and when he was blinking in confusion, he was thrust suddenly forward, stumbling against the wall, slamming down over his shoulders so that his sleep-deprived, starvation-weak body buckled to the ground. When Ray didn’t shout, he looked up, desperate in fear, to see a gun down Vecchio’s mouth as he was shoved backwards, out of the room through a door he hadn’t seen used before.

The door closed, and he could see nothing, feel nothing.

“Get up, Mr. Fraser.”

He stood, and awaited instructions. She spoke of the van, of blindfolds, of his going into a pharmacy on Clarring with the false prescription she held out and attempting to purchase painkillers. He felt the sweat gather over his scalp, took the slip of paper, nodded, agreed. Two hours to get arrested at that pharmacy and no other, two hours to confess after his Miranda that he needed the drugs for his lover, Ray Vecchio. Two hours, or things were going to be done to Ray he couldn’t hear, blocking it all out except his duties.

She waited.


Ray was the hostage. All along had this been the plan? Or was it seeing Benny on his knees that had made Ms Socks realize the resources at her disposal? He looked at her, waiting for the signal to leave, knowing she could tell him to kneel, stand, kiss her, kill himself to save Ray, and he’d do it.

*Ray, forgive me.* He would do whatever she wanted, including posting his bail with the money she gave him, and return here hoping for nothing more than to be killed before Ray was, so he wouldn’t have to watch, wouldn’t have to know. If she had it done quickly, he wouldn’t even have a chance to feel the certainty of lost hope. He could pretend to the last second there might be a reprieve, a chance to have a future again, when he might be able to lure Ray back out again on some wild chase, some non-regulation case, some stolen moment, somewhere, when he could finally kiss him.

She nodded, and he ran down the hall, jumped into the van, closed his eyes as a blindfold was slipped into place, and let himself be cuffed. He felt like pulling his arms back and forth, making bruises, perhaps drawing blood.

Two hours to be arrested and confess, then the hours until bail, and he might see Ray again.

They stopped the van and shoved him out on the street a mile from Clarring, two miles from the pharmacy. He had only the money for bail, none for the taxi. He was too debilitated to run, but a steady walking pace would put him there within thirty minutes.

Automation put his head up. It was quite early in the morning, and the air was as crisp as it got in the city, and he should be enjoying being outside, at least appreciating the ability to move for more than a few feet in one direction. But the air was ash on his tongue and dust in his lungs. Every step seemed to be taking him farther from Ray, not closer.

And, for the life of him he couldn’t say why, but something was wrong.

Well, obviously, many things were wrong. He was about to commit a crime, and then give false testimony. He was about to get himself disgraced and killed and he had no idea who wanted this to happen.

Why hadn’t she tied Ray down? Where were the scissors? Where was the *specific* threat she’d always made so very carefully plain before she demanded obedience?

As though there were a chance, a thought, that he might not obey her. That gun in Ray’s mouth was the most obscene thing he had ever seen.

Why had he been hurt when he’d been separated from Ray? She was usually so methodical, so cold. Why that rashness? What was the hurry?

Half a mile eaten up. One fourth of the way to the pharmacy. He fingered the paper in his pocket, feeling it calm the little fear so that terror could flow unimpeded through his body.

What had it looked like from Ray’s point of view? He’d been on the ground, looking for all the world as though he were the victim.

His right leg was cramping up. Too much fear, too little exercise. No money to grab something to eat on the run.

On the run.

Why get himself arrested now? Now, after all these days? He would have done this before, perhaps even more easily days ago when he could have convinced himself it wouldn’t mean their eventual deaths.

What had it looked like from Ray’s point of view?

If she had wanted to turn the tables, why bungle it like that?

He had come to a halt, and he stared at his feet in outrage. They somehow seemed to stare back.

Ray would have believed Benny was still the hostage when he saw him on the floor.

God, were they both out here?

Was that why she had worked so hard to own them? Was that why she had to *know* they couldn’t resist?

Had the whole issue of homosexuality only been raised because it would shake them, make them mistrust each other? Ms Socks had to have known they weren’t intimate. Had he and Ray been brainwashed these past few days?

Well, obviously, they had been brainwashed, but had the brainwashing, not the training itself, been the point? Was he supposed to do this without thinking, because thinking meant he - meant they might figure it out?

If Ray were outside, if Ray figured it out as well, where would Ray go?

He tried to get his feet moving again. A man with a briefcase scowled past him. The city was waking up. There would be a nice crowd at the pharmacy to witness his arrest. Only then would he save Ray…

To be killed. Obedience was death. Disobey, and there was a chance either for guilt that would break him, or…impossibly…life.

Ray wouldn’t go to the station. He’d want to stay mobile. He wouldn’t want to answer a lot of questions. The Vecchio house was also crossed off the list. Even without his family there, superstitious Ray wouldn’t expose his house like that. Benny’s apartment was a probability, but there were so many people there, and with the police doubtlessly looking for both of them…no.

The Consulate. Not inside, but outside, where no one would be looking for them.

His feet still wouldn’t move. *Choose,* he ordered them. Choose and die for certain or risk a fate worse than death and just maybe save Ray.

*Choose, * even though his dreams would forever remind him of a meat cleaver and those filthy hands on Ray’s body. *Choose.*

His feet turned. He had been walking the wrong way. On the curb, he held up a hand for a taxi. It wouldn’t matter if he spent the money now. If he were wrong, there were many free ways to kill himself.

The entire drive to the Consulate he pleaded with himself to go back. When the taxi glided to a stop at the corner, he almost ran out the door rather than hand over some of his precious bail money. When, after his first furtive look around, he could see no sign of Ray, he almost closed his eyes and walked out into traffic.

The Consulate looked appallingly normal. There was even Constable Turnbull at sentry post, staring straight ahead, doing well the one duty he could do well.

Why couldn’t Ms Socks have decided that he and Turnbull were lovers?

He took point behind the dumpster and waited, committed to it, standing guard along with Turnbull over nothing more than his own ill-formed paranoid hunch. Ray was the one with hunches.

Ray. Just thinking the name hurt.

*Forgive me, Ray.* And it was a prayer like the one he had made ten years ago. *Forgive me. It was all I knew to do.* The clock chimed, and one of his hours was gone. But it was too late already. He would stay here until the blue-bleak embers of his excuses crumpled to dark, flat gray.

And yet Ray would forgive him. Ray always did. Besides, he would have appreciated this. Even if he were completely wrong, Ray would approve.

Oh God. If Ray were even now tied to a chair and staring at her instrument of torture, would he think Benton Fraser had left him to die? Would he believe --

*Forgive me, Ray. God, please forgive me.*

“Heya, Benny.”


There was a sort of *whoosh,* and then two strong Mountie arms had wrapped around him, a shoulder shoved up under his nose, his ribs protesting the strain, his back bent under the pressure, and Fraser was trembling and completely unmindful of the fact that they were practically out in the open here. Turnbull could probably see them.

He wrapped his arms around Benny and hugged back, and in all honesty there wasn’t anything in the whole world for a few minutes there but knowing he’d been right, that having Benny punched in the stomach wasn’t the same as having him tied to a chair, and that there’d been a reason for the sudden change in the program. The part about meeting at the Consulate, well, that was obvious. Finding the right look-out place on the first shot, that was just luck.

Or God forgiving him at last.

“Benny, we gotta get off the street.”

But Fraser’s eyes weren’t focusing correctly, and Ray settled for dragging him farther back behind the dumpster, which meant a few steps more brought them to the alley. He shot a look back at Turnbull, who was still doing the signpost thing, and then hustled them down and away.

“We have to find some place to think things through for a while, Benny.”

“Think?” The deep voice was faint and almost ready to break.

“You okay, Fraser?”

“I thought I was wrong, that I was leaving you to die.”

“Well, the same thought crossed my mind about a billion times, Benny.” They came out the other end of the alley and Ray looked around. They’d gone towards Benny’s place, which meant the neighborhood was already turning into something out of a rap song. He had three thousand dollars in his pocket - the bail needed for first-time-cop-offender-types who assaulted other police officers in broad daylight, screaming “Where is my lover? What did you do to Benny?” at the top of their lungs.

He didn’t try to explain things to Benny. He didn’t trust himself to talk, anyway. He just walked up two blocks, turned left, and trotted down the last three. People were giving them funny looks, but Vecchio chalked that up to that fact that he had the scraggly beginnings of a beard and even Fraser was showing some stubble. Their clothes were clean, but rumpled, and there was doubtlessly a wild look in their eyes. He felt wild, at any rate, and murderous. Benny looked…poor guy, he’d been through the ringer, and for once it showed.

But he couldn’t really think about Benny right now, not as a person or his friend, only as someone who needed help. He needed help too, but first, damnit, they had to get off the street.

He swerved into the dump-hole flop-house on Gardner he wouldn’t usually go into with backup, and pulled out one of those old-style hundreds from his pocket, nice and crumpled. He even managed to leer at Fraser when he was passing it over to the guy behind the bullet-proof glass. Toothless didn’t blink, and he got the honeymoon suite, sans private bath. They were told to return the key - for which Ray left a ten dollar deposit - to the front desk, or leave it in the slot when they checked out.

Ray gave the guy a toothy grin, leered at Fraser once more, took the sheets, and stepped up the stairs. Benny followed.

The room was a lot like the white room they’d left behind, except that the tiny little mattress wasn’t on the floor and there was a TV in the corner, on top of a small chest of drawers the looked like the rat family considered it a family legacy. There were also two dead bolts and a chain for the door, which Ray did up with hands that were starting to shake.

He couldn’t even turn from the door before Fraser’s hands were on him, drawing him back into an embrace so warm and solid and real he almost went into some sort of trance.

He pushed back and away. “Benny, we gotta talk.”

“I have no intention of raping you, Ray.”

He whirled around, staring into Benny’s eyes and smelling disinfectant. “I didn’t think you did. I just think we need to talk. Don’t you? Or has some of sort of crazy gene suddenly unrecessed in your DNA?”

“We do need to talk, Ray.”

“Well!” Vecchio threw up his hands in jubilation. “Thank God we agree on that one, Fraser! I was afraid I was gonna have to turn on Oprah to hear someone babbling about recent abuse!”

“You came to the Consulate, Ray.”

“Yeah, Benny. I noticed that.”

“I thought I’d killed you.”

“I was kinda worried you were headed for the Great Beyond too there.”

“I thought I’d cursed you.”

Ray blinked.

“Run that by me again.”

“I thought, first Victoria, and now -“

“Damnit, don’t mention me in the same breath as that bitch, Benny!”

Fraser blinked.

“I’m sorry, Ray.”

“You damn well should be. I love you, Benny. You think she did? I know she thinks she did, that asking you to be with her equals love. I know better. You think I don’t, when I risked everything and gave you everything and *don’t you touch me!*”


“You don’t know, Benny. You got no idea what happens to men on the force when they come out of the closet. Every guy and the women too, Fraser. It’s like you got some sort of adult cooties and AIDS and everything else perverted you can have. You want that in your life, huh? You want the women who throw themselves at you to think you got a disease? ‘Cause you keep this up and that’s what life’s gonna be.”


“Stop saying my name like that! We’re out and we’re free and we gotta figure out what the hell that was all about, Fraser! I mean, is Ms Socks something left over from the last episode of *The X-Files,* or was she just born that way? And what was kidnapping us just to set us free supposed to do? And stop looking at me like that!”

The big-eyed Mountie look was suddenly the glassy-eyed Moutie look. “You want us to be the way we were before, is that what you’re saying, Ray?”

“What does our relationship matter right now, Benny?”

God, the hurt look on that face. Why hadn’t he just taken out a gun (which he didn’t have right now) and shoot the poor bastard? This was Benny Fraser, who’d run after a train for the sake of love - no, make that Love, with a capital “L.”

God, Benny was offering him Love.

Love, from Benny.

“When you come back to yourself, Benny, you’ll regret settling for some loud-mouthed scam-artist whose biggest asset is good taste in cars. Yeesh. Elaine deserves you more than I do.”

“You’re alive, Ray.”

“Yeah, Benny.”

“I didn’t kill you, Ray.”

“Benny. God. Stop it.”

Fraser obediently stood there silently, only his eyes pleading.

Since when had he needed anything more than his eyes?

“Benny, it’s my life you’re talking about, and your life too.”

“Could it just be for the next hour or so, Ray?”

“Benny, what the hell? I…do you talk to…shit.”

Fraser blanched. Ray felt like dirt.

What else was he supposed to do? He put his hands on his shirt, undid the top button, exposing an inch of his scrawny body. Maybe a last roll in the hay would get Benny thinking straight.

Large warm hands covered his, stilling him. He looked up into those eyes that undid him completely.

“I love you, Ray.”

God, Benny had said it again, and there was no need.

Was he supposed to go to hell for feeling this way? No. Would people think that? Yes. His life sucked enough. What would Ma say? He didn’t need to add this, especially since Benny would only snap out of it and pull away from him, and then where would he be?

*Hey, Benny. You need a ride to the Consulate? Sure thing. Want me to help you on this case? Sure! Hey, you wanna ever let me make sweet love to you again until my brain - what? Oh, you’ve gotten over that now and don’t wanna talk about it ever again? You wanna do the Dragon Lady while I hold your coat and talk about what a stud you are? Oh, hey. What are friends for?*

But right now he was standing in a cheap hotel room with his hands on his shirt button and Benny’s hands on his. Right now for some reason unknowable Benny wanted him. And the bed here was safe. Oh, God. Safe.

“We’re alive, Benny.”

Fraser nodded. He’d never seen his eyes so huge. And both of them looked so bad. They needed shaves and showers and new clothes and something to eat. Both of them must be starving.

“Did you hear me, Benny? We’re alive.”

“I’m only alive when you touch me, Ray.”

“Oh, geeze! You talk to Victoria like this?”

“No, Ray. If I had, maybe…but I’m glad I didn’t. I’d rather be with you, Ray.”

And the Pope would just have to forgive him, and his mother too, and any other narrow-minded…Benny was panting through his mouth.

Damn. He’d been able to keep from thinking of any of this when they were just friends. If Benny had looked really good in his casual clothes, or in that dress reds uniform, well, he was a guy. He’d resisted more than most people had, hadn’t he? And he wasn’t made of steel. Ange had seen that well enough, and she still hadn’t known him well enough to stay married to him.

But he hadn’t known her well enough either, had he? He’d loved her, but had he really known her? Had he wanted to after she’d made it clear she didn’t want to know him?

Marriage didn’t mean forever anymore, and he’d been glad of that, in the end. But Benny’s eyes meant forever, that look imploring him to give over only everything that he was, or would ever be, like his whole life was now forfeit to Benton Fraser, RCMP.

And when hadn’t it been? He’d been in his hospital bed when he figured out who killed Benny’s father, and what had a few life-threatening injuries meant to helping out a guy who was practically a stranger?

He’d known in those first days, if not in those first minutes after Benny had pointed out that the guy selling stolen merchandise had a hole in his shoe, that whatever Fraser wanted, he’d give. He’d fought the knowledge like a wrestler, but he’d still known. If he hadn’t been forced into looking at it, he could have ignored it for the rest of his life.

But now he had to deal with the whole truth, and nothing but. He didn’t just want to give what Benny needed, he wanted to give everything he had, whether Benny wanted it or not.

Just how lonely was a guy supposed to get before he was a lost cause, and knew he’d die that way? Just when did the final chance feel like the final chance, and there was suddenly nothing but TV between himself and the quiet corner of the nursing home? So Ange didn’t think he was a superhero, so what? What person would? His standards were too high, and in the end he’d had nothing but himself to blame and his dick in his hand for company.

He’d bribed Benny every way he had to make him his friend. He’d offered up his career, his family, and finally his life. That Benny had responded by accepting his friendship was sometimes unbelievable.

And look at him. Benny Fraser, RCMP, was waiting for his permission to make love to him.

And it hadn’t really been like that, had it? Fraser had needed him too. Like Benny needed him now.

“Benny.” What had happened to his voice? He sounded like some blues singer. “Benny, you can’t do this to me. You can’t offer this and take it back.”

And Benny, damn him, smiled, and undid the next button. And the next. But when his chest was exposed, the smile disappeared and his eyes misted again.

“Ray. You’re so bruised up.”

“Just ignore it, Benny.”

Benny gave him a confused look, then leaned in, offering the softest of kisses to his chest as he slid the shirt off and back and away. Then those warm, gentle hands were on his skin, gliding over his ribs, smoothing over the muscles they found, and Ray was embarrassed by a breathy moan until he realized it had come from Fraser.

And he found that he didn’t care if he didn’t get to keep this - or rather, that he didn’t care enough to keep himself from wrapping his fingers around it as tightly and for as long as he could. When Benny pulled away, he’d have to pull hard, he’d have to fight sheer desperation. If he didn’t jump now, he’d be staring down that cliff forever, and sometimes it was better just to jump knowing you were going to busted to pieces than just stare down and feel sick and oh God, oh God, Benny was leaning up now, and staring into his eyes, asking that same question one more time.

He left solid earth behind for the pressure of Benny’s lips on his. The beautiful mouth didn’t tease, didn’t demand, only offered, only sought. Ray opened his mouth and felt it through his whole body as a warm, wet, unexpectedly sweet tongue slid inside to caress his own tongue, then move on to run over his teeth and tickle the roof of his mouth. Then he got his turn to explore, and the sweetness was only more intense inside.

He’d gotten his hands inside Benny’s flannel shirt and undershirt and found skin, the smooth pale skin that he’d gotten to feel when he was too scared to appreciate it, but still had been amazed by. It didn't feel like women’s skin, but it sure didn’t feel like a man either. It could only be Benny, and just thinking about what he was touching was getting him so excited that his pants, loose as they were, were becoming a problem.

When Fraser pulled back, Ray almost panicked, but the Mountie was just letting go to pull his shirts off completely. When Ray could see his eyes again he was stunned by the dark blue wildness of them, stunned and now about twice as aroused as before. His hands went to take off his shoes, because somehow he remembered he needed to get rid of them before his pants would come off properly, but Benny’s hands were there first, and about three seconds later he was wearing only his black jockeys and a smile he hoped to God was sexy.

When Benny’s hands went to his own clothes, Ray snapped out of it and reached forward, pushing him out of the way and pulling off his shoes and socks, then his pants and boxers in one go. His blood was buzzing fiercely, and his hands were starting to shake, but he’d figured out what was coming next before he started on the pants, and now that long, pale shaft with its pink, wet cockhead coming out of the sheath simply had to taste as good in his mouth as it looked.

“Benny,” the sweet name an appetizer. “Benny.” His fingers curled around the warm sac, lifting him up as his mouth descended, tongue out to lap at the soft knob.

“Ray.” A strangled sob and his name. He looked up in concern: that strong, snow-white body, dark hair in all the right places, and deep blue eyes and his hand tightened on the soft flesh below.

“Don’t you want me to, Benny?”

Hands reached for him, pulling him up, settling him on that broad chest, before they traced the marks on his skin.

“Fraser, I’m all right.”

Benny moved them together, and suddenly they were united perfectly, their near-equal height letting each part of their bodies find its mate, and both of them gasped. Benny’s face flushed and his eyes went round with pleasure, and Ray wanted to laugh and make Benny laugh, but suddenly all he could think of was what Benny would look like when he came. His hips thrust forward and the heat low in his belly was spreading out, filling him. Could Benny feel it? His eyes were saying all sorts of things, so it was hard to make out specifics. He kept moving, feeling his heart pound, feeling the rasp of breath in his lungs like matches striking, feeling his balls drawing up tight.

But more than that, he felt sweetly smooth skin against his, he felt Benny’s legs at his sides, stretched out and open, letting him in. He felt the need in Benny’s eyes, and the firm hands on his backside, pressing him close and kneading his flesh and turning him on like crazy. He felt the coarse hair low on Benny’s belly brushing his nerve-endings with every thrust. And he smelled sweat and precum so salty-sweet he had to swallow over and over to keep from drooling. Benny’s jaw, hanging open for his loud, moaning breaths, suddenly snapped shut, and that poster-boy chin set.

“Benny. Come for me, buddy. I need you to come for me while I’m watching it. God, you’re so beautiful, I don’t care what else happens you gotta come right here so I can see you. So beautiful, Benny. God. Do it. Do it now.”

Dilated, glazed, blinking constantly, Benny’s eyes sought and found him, stared up, trusting, even as the rhythm shattered and Ray’s name was shouted with each jagged, sustained thrust and warmth poured between them. Benny held it even as he shivered through aftershocks, then his body began to relax, oozing instinctive contentment, and the gorgeousness of climax softened and softened until he looked almost ethereal: an angel who’d had his belly rubbed to soothe him off to sleep.

Ray buried his face in that pale neck and came with a muffled howl, his entire body’s energy rushing together and out, a purge of all the pain of the past days, a commitment to the man beneath him, an acknowledgment by his body that after so long looking it and he had finally found…

Benny smiled as his partner began softly to snore. They wouldn’t sleep long, and then, clear-headed, they would figure out why this had been done to them. Of course, it was a dereliction of their duty that they had not set immediately to solving their case, but he was sure that even the inspector…hmmmm….perhaps he should just leave this part out of the report, considering…yes…


Margaret Thatcher crossed her arms and managed to produce a small smile.

*I am not going to kill him. I am not going to kill him.*

Constable Turnbull’s eyes shifted from his commanding officer to Ray Vecchio’s commanding officer and then back again.

“Constable,” Thatcher stated. “You say you are almost certain it was Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio that you saw, but that you are positive it couldn’t be Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio that you saw.”

Turnbull felt enormous relief cool his brow and straighten his spine. He had managed to make himself understood after all.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Everyone in the office, Thatcher, Welsh, Ober, Wester, and Huey, waited.

“Constable,” Welsh said at last, grateful as hell Vecchio hadn’t decided to make *this* Mountie his unofficial partner. “We don’t know what that means.”

“Oh!” Turnbull seemed to deflate, then rallied. “I saw two men across the street from me while I was on guard duty.”

“Good,” Welsh said, nodded. “We understand that part. Go on.”

“They were embracing.”


“Yes.” Turnbull nodded. “They were both quite…intent on the other. They said a few words which I did not hear. They were across the street, and traffic was very heavy. I wish I had Constable Fraser’s skill in lip-reading, but even if I had, I was not able to see -”

“Constable.” Welsh’s tone had never been more patient.


“What made you think these two men were Detective Vecchio and Constable Fraser?”

“They looked quite like them, sir.”

“And what makes you think they couldn’t be the officers in question?”

“Many small but extremely important things, sir.” Turnbull paused, but fortunately for his continued good health, it was only to draw breath. “The man who looked like Detective Vecchio sported the beginnings of a beard, and the man who looked like Constable Fraser was also far from clean-shaven. Both of them wore wrinkled and somewhat soiled clothing, and there was a decidedly wild and seedy appearance in particular to the man who resembled the detective, and I know for a fact that Detective Vecchio is a man who takes great care in his appearance. In addition to all this, they could not be the officers in question, because they did not cross the street and seek sanctuary in the consulate, nor did they return here.”

“Which way did they go?” Thatcher asked.

“I believe everyone is currently trying to determine that, ma’am,” Turnbull answered, looking pensive.

She sighed, bit her lip, tried again. “Which way did the two men who looked like the officers in question go?”

“Back behind the dumpster, behind which, I believe, they met.”

Thatcher’s expression became that of a person who has almost managed to get their fingers around their pen under the sofa, if only they could stretch just a bit farther without pushing the pen further out of reach. “Why do you think the men who looked like the officers in question met behind the dumpster?”

“I believe the man who looked like Constable Fraser had been there for some time before the other unknown man appeared. I believe it was because they were hugging each other in welcome that they were propelled into view. They certainly did seem happy to see each other.” Turnbull was smiling at the memory, and looked in danger of drifting off.

“Is there anything else you can think to tell us about what you saw?” Welsh asked.

Turnbull stared blankly, but right before Thatcher was about to dismiss him, he announced, “The man who looked like Detective Vecchio was injured.”

Welsh kept his voice deadly calm. “Injured in what way?”

“There were discolorations on his hands and face, and he limped when he walked, and when the man who looked like Constable Fraser was hugging him, it was obvious from his expression that he was in pain, though I do not believe he told the other man this. As I said, they seemed very happy to see each other.”

“Thank you for your report, Constable.” Thatcher looked towards the door.

“Yes, ma’am.” Turnbull hovered.

“Yes, Constable?”

“Will you be attending the Brazilian Embassy’s celebration tonight, ma’am? If so, I will have the car waiting.”

“I do have to go,” she said, speaking to Welsh more than to her subordinate. “The Canadian Ambassador to the UN will be going there straight from the airport.”

“I saw in the paper,” Welsh responded. And she had mentioned it about twenty times, but he saw no need to bring that up. “I’ve even wondered if it might be connected to the business with Vecchio and Fraser.”

She shook her head. “I’ve already checked. Neither Fraser nor his father had any sort of contact or connection with Ambassador Braun. And I assumed that Detective Vecchio would have no reason to know him either.”

“I’ll check on that.”

She seemed suddenly to realize Turnbull was still there. “Yes, Constable. Please go get the car.”

He nodded, looked around the room, nodded again and left.

Thatcher watched him go, then made a sound very close to a growl of frustration. “If they’ve been held hostage, if they’re hurt, if they’re back together, why aren’t they here?”

“Well.” The lieutenant was standing and straightening his jacket. “It is *them.*”


“I’m absolutely certain, Ray. I’ve never had any contact with Ambassador Braun.”

“But it’s the only big thing going on. No major drugs, no recent Italian imports, and nobody I busted getting out on parole or escaping.”

“I still don’t know him, Ray.”

Vecchio sighed and looked back at the mess on the bed between him and Fraser. He’d bought every magazine and paper in the store, along with a mountain of plastic-packaged food, and private guy things currently sitting in a bag in the corner. First, though, he’d made a few phone calls to people who wouldn’t know he was supposed to be missing, but it was just like he told Benny: nothing was going down.

“Ray, I think it’s time we accepted that the only acceptable course of action is to report to our respective superiors. It will be difficult to explain why we didn’t do this immediately, but -“

“No, damnit, Benny. I told you and you told me and we did it before we even talked it over: she wanted us arrested, she wanted us with the cops. I ain’t turning us in before we figure out why.”

Ray grabbed up a paper he hadn’t looked at yet, just to keep from having to look into Fraser’s eyes. He shouldn’t have bought something that had “Elvis’ Ghost Speaks from Toaster!” printed on the front, but you never knew where a lead might come from. In fact, when he turned the page, there was yet another picture of Ambassador Braun, this time leading his daughter out of a limo.

“Ray? What’s wrong?”

Ray looked at Fraser, then back down at the picture.


“Give me a sec, Benny.” Ray kept staring at the picture, his brow wrinkling further and further until the skin was triple-folded. Then with a grimace he smacked the paper down and looked at Benny in triumph.



“Rave parties. Kids do ‘em now; I don’t get it at all. They get together in groups and wear sleeping clothes and suck pacifiers and get drunk, and sometimes they do drugs. Sometimes, they sell ‘em. And sometimes the drugs they sell and take are bad, and then rich parents have to come down to County General and ID the body.” He turned the paper around and pointed at Braun’s daughter.

“She doesn’t look dead, Ray.”

“No, she didn’t die. Her boyfriend did, long and slow and painful, and from what I could tell, she didn’t do a thing to help him.” Ray’s eyes were dark and his body was twitching with each little hot pop of anger inside him. “I wanted her so bad, Benny. I mean, she had to walk over him at one point to go to the john. I arrested her for negligent homicide and dealing drugs and every last thing I could. And it was open and shut, air-tight and all ready for News at Five. When the DA showed up with the social worker, I just about danced them out the door.”

“And then?”

“And then nothing. Nada. Zip. Except a call from IA telling me I need to turn over my files and my notes and never mention any of it again. I bitched to Welsh, and he said it was federal and that was it. I asked around about it for weeks, kept my ears open for months. Nothing. I never even found out who she was.” He sneered at the picture. “’Course, she’s older now, and the hair’s different.”

“Same nose, though?”

“Without the nose ring, yeah.” He smiled, then shook his head. “So, it’s gotta be about her, then.”

“Baring an incredible series of coincidences, yes, it would.”

They looked at each other in silence for a good two minutes.

“So, how does this help her?”

“I have no idea, Ray. Considering how obedient, if resentful, you were when ordered not to pursue the matter officially, it seems unlikely someone would believe you would make any sort of public outcry at her appearance.”

“If I even noticed. I don’t tend to read much about Canadian dignitaries.”

“No, but I do. Perhaps they felt your involvement with me would cause you to be involved as well.”

“And so what? I’m gonna run up to her in the middle of the reception and call her names? And besides, the brass would have just come after me anyway. In fact, if they were worried about it so much, why not just have the feds give me the warning?” Ray stood up in a rush and paced in cramped fury. Fraser remained on the bed. “This ain’t making any sense, Benny.”

“You know, Ray, my father told me something once.”

“There’s a shocker. Does it involve some sort of ancient Moutie secret?”

Fraser considered it, then shook his head with the corners of his lips turned down. “Not really, no.”

Ray’s heart thudded. God, was everything Fraser did gonna turn him on now?

“He told me that when a man runs like a madman, he knows something you don’t.”

Ray waited.

“Well, Ms Socks wasn’t running, but her motives won’t make any sense until we try to see things from her perspective.”

“Fine. You find me a bum, and I’ll chop his nuts off.”

“There’s no need to be so defeatist, Ray. Now, we need to remember that she was not simply pretending to be unemotional, she actually was unemotional.”

“Yeah, I caught that too. She was getting paid. It was nothing personal.”

“And yet it was intensely personal, for no obvious reason. Abducting us I understand, as I do separating us from the force into a safe house and separating us from Dief. What I don’t understand was her continuing to refer to our as-then non-existent romantic relationship. She acted as though she were disgusted by us as gay men, but it was clear that she didn’t really care. And then there were the things like the shared shower and the mattress and the blanket…”

“It was a head game, Benny.”

“Which would seem to suggest that she wanted us not only to be confused and desperate when we were released, but programmed.”

“You know, I’m thinking she didn’t care. Either we got ourselves arrested or we turned ourselves in, the end result was the same.”


Ray spread his hand out and leaned against the wall. The torn wallpaper scratched his back through his thin shirt. “And so then what? I’m looking at the ruins of my life or I’m safe back at the precinct, and *what?* Was messing with our heads just supposed to frighten us? Make me too scared to raise a fuss?”

“Perhaps she sought to discredit us. Considering the trouble we’d be in if we were arrested, your comments regarding Ms Braun might have been dismissed.”

“But then she would have done the ax thing with you and just sent me out alone. There wasn’t a need to use you, and setting us both free, it’s so unnecessary! It’s like she was begging me to get so mad that I -“

They looked at each other, hearing the joined *click* that meant they had to be right.

“She wanted me to shoot my mouth off. And she wanted all the crap that’s been happening to us to validate my claims that someone was trying to shut me up.” Ray was off and pacing again. “You know, I bet if we tried we could find the place they kept us at, minus Socks and friends, of course. And there’s evidence of the freaky stuff she made me do - feed Dief, move the car. Hell, I wouldn’t even have to shoot my mouth off to cause trouble.”

“And my statements to the inspector would only cause further trouble for the ambassador.”

Ray shot Benny an “I’m going to tell you something about myself” look and shrugged. “I’m half-tempted to do it anyway, Benny. She had no business walking.”

“Well, perhaps history is repeating itself.”

“What, you mean she was set-up before?” Vecchio thought carefully over the resources expended on dealing with him and Fraser. “I guess…it could be possible. Damnit. We still can’t come in from the cold. No matter how we tell this story it’s gonna start all kinds of things in motion.”

“We need to be more certain of our facts before we do anything, Ray.”

“We need Elaine.”

“We need the library.”

“We need Elaine and the library.” Ray blinked. “What do we need at the library?”

“We need to find out who could want Ambassador Braun embarrassed and perhaps forced to resign.”

“But that’s what we need Elaine for.” Ray sighed, frowning. “We can’t get to her until she’s out of the station.”

Fraser’s face went suddenly earnest. “It’s too bad Diefenbaker isn’t here, as we could send him to fetch Elaine.”

Green eyes narrowed. “You funnin’ me, Fraser?”

“Me, Ray?”

“Yeah.” Ray’s voice had gone a little husky with menace. The library was closed by now, and Elaine wouldn’t be home yet to call. He swaggered a pace towards the bed. “You making one of those Canadian jokes at me?”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know how, Ray.” The Canadian in question was trembling, just slightly.

Ray put his hands on his hips. “Well, now you gotta make it up to me, Benny.”

“How?” A pink tongue wet a pair of perfect lips. Ray thought his heart was going to thud out a hole in his shirt.

“You gotta clean off the bed before I get in it with you.”

“Will you get in it with me, Ray?”

Ray stretched slightly, sighing, and shrugged. “I might.”

Fraser swiveled on the bed, brought up his legs and used his feet to push the food wrappers and papers and magazines in a splatter to the floor. Guileless blue eyes looked up with a smile.

“I cannot believe you did that, Fraser. Do you have any idea how turned on I am right now?”

Fraser looked at his groin, turned his smile into a smirk, and whispered, “Yes, Ray.”

“Oh God.” Ray ran to the bag in the corner and pulled out a tube and a box, ran back and plopped them on the nightstand, then started stripping off his clothes. Benny sat happily on the bed and watched.

“Benny,” Ray groaned as he got off the second sock, “this will go faster if you take off your clothes too.”

“Tell me something intimate, Ray.”

He paused, his hands on his belt. “What?”

Benny swallowed and flushed and made no move towards getting undressed. “Tell me something you only tell your lovers.”

“I ain’t had so many I got a list, Benny.” He dropped his trousers, then moved impatiently to Fraser and pulled the flannel shirt up and off. Benny helped him with a shrug of his arms, then peeled off his own undershirt while Ray moved on to his shoes.

“Please, Ray.”

“Help me out here, Benny.” Ray got the shoes off and decided he didn’t care about the socks as much as the pants.

“What do you call your penis?”

Ray stopped everything and just stared. Benny admired the shine of the inexpensive lamp off his newly shaven skin, noted to himself that Ray’s bristle hair was getting a little long, thought smugly that that long, gorgeous nose *was* indicative of Ray’s beauty elsewhere, and was then reminded of his question.

“Well, someday when we’re in the throes of passion and I want you to…do something with your penis, I want to be able to use a word that is less clinical.”

“’Cock’ isn’t good enough?”

“…and less crude.”

Ray shifted his weight, sitting instead of crouching, and Fraser enjoyed the line of his leg muscles. He wondered if he could remove Ray’s underwear while using only his teeth.

“What do you call yours, Benny?”

“I did ask you first, Ray.” He had yet to be allowed to have a proper view of Ray’s naked posterior, he realized, though he knew from touch it was lightly fuzzy, and even in those baggy pants it was obviously compact.

“I call him ‘Mountie-nip.’”

Fraser’s mouth dropped open. Ray was laughing. Benny had the fiercest erection he’d had since he could remember and Ray was laughing at him and thinking about how clever he was.

“Is that right, Ray?” he asked in a smooth, calm voice.

Ray was instantly on the alert, so Benny simply rushed him, pressing that perfect, lean, strong, willing body back on the bed and spreading his legs out with splayed hands on his thighs.

“Is that right, Ray?” he asked again, slightly breathless now, but that was all right. He put his head right above Ray’s black briefs, made sure those green eyes were on him, then dipped his head down, nipping at the prominent bulge.

“Ahhh, God. Benny!”

He did it again, and again, and again, until Ray’s hips were squirming and his name was being gasped out with heartening regularity. He nuzzled the crease at the top of that rhythmically flexing leg and breathed in deeply. He could detect the stale fear, the fresh arousal, and then, just as he wanted, that salt-sweet tang of Ray. He opened his mouth wide and covered that cotton-covered heat, and Ray pleaded with him for more.

The briefs went down partially with one tug of his teeth, but he had to use his hands to keep from tugging on anything he shouldn’t. He kept the elastic around Ray’s legs for a moment, nipping again until Ray’s moans could no longer be resisted. A shift of his weight and a long pull got the underwear off, then he could spread out the other half of himself, of his future, of his life and take that naked softness inside, using his tongue to express the words anyone would understand.

Hands came down to rest in his hair, never tugging or pushing, only guiding.

“Benny. Benny. What you’re doing to me. Caro mio. Benny. Oh God.”

Using the discipline that let him stand for hours outside the consulate, that kept him alive in the winters of the Northern Territories, that kept him from doing things to Ray his friend wasn’t ready for, Benny raised his head and let that hot, wet length slip from his mouth.

“Benny! God. Don’t stop.” Dark green eyes pleading: emeralds were nothing by comparison.

“Who am I sucking, Ray?”

“Me! Oh! You mean…” Ray looked distressed. “Benny, I don’t think the name is gonna work anymore.”


“It’s, well, Ladies’ Man.”

Fraser raised his eyebrows, wanting to ask if that name would ever be appropriate again, but he wasn’t about to ask Ray questions like that during sex. “Well, ‘Mountie-nip’ won’t do either, Ray.”

“Give me a few days to think about it, huh, Benny?” He canted his hips, and the red tip waved in Benny’s face.

“Perhaps you would allow me, Ray.”

“God. Whatever you want. Just…” The red tip waved again.

Blue eyes looked down, accessing, and Ray's penis twitched. Benny smiled. “He’s waving at me, Ray.”


“Hello, Mr. Vecchio. How are you today?”


“Yes, Ray?” He looked up into Ray’s red, furious and highly aroused eyes.

“Benny, *Mr. Vecchio* needs some attention.”

“Certainly, Ray.” And he slid the hot, wet length back inside his mouth, sucking and licking, until he swallowed salt and bitter and sweet and hot. He lapped carefully to keep things clean, then slithered up to capture Ray’s lips. His mouth was even sweeter now, and Fraser made a note to make a habit of kissing Ray directly after orgasm. He wondered what it would taste like if they were kissing when Ray orgasmed. Well, when Mr. Vecchio recovered, he’d have to see.

Ray stirred, weakly. When he finally spoke, his voice was cracked and hoarse. Benny felt enormously pleased with himself.

“I do not believe you.”

“Tell me you love me, Ray.”

“Who *are* you?”

“Benton Fraser, RCMP.”

Ray shook his head, looking up into Benny’s eyes with open incredulity. But then, Ray was always open, and almost always incredulous, it seemed. “That’s who I went to bed with, but you’re some sort of -“

“Did you go to bed with me because you love me?”

“I already said I did, twice.”

He shouldn’t have played around so much before. “Are you really going to keep count, Ray?”

How could it always be so easy to tell what Ray was thinking? How did he stand to let others know him so well? And what had been wrong with his ex-wife, anyway? It was all there for anyone to see.

“I love you, Benny. Okay? I love you. I love you. How often would you like to hear it?”

“Once a day would be nice, Ray, if you don’t mind.”

“Aw, geeze. Of course I don’t mind, Benny. But I’m just thinking I’d rather show you than tell you.”

He tried a smile and got one back. Another need met, and though his request had been extravagant he knew Ray would fulfill it. His happiness seemed to go right to the place between his legs, an area already more than amply stimulated.

Ray’s grin turned slightly evil. “So…what do you call it, Benny?”

He bit his lip and moved just a bit, hoping a distraction might -

Ray’s hands clamped on his hips. “What do you call it, Benny?”

“Well, you see, Ray, that’s the issue right there.”

“What issue?”

“You must understand, that with the possible exception of my mother, no one ever called me Benny. To the other children I was Ben, and to the adults I was either Ben or Benton. By the time I reached puberty, very few people were even calling me Ben, so…” He tried to think of a good way to say it, but those eyes had already gone wide.

“You call the little guy ‘Benny,’ Benny?”

“Well, I don’t call him ‘the little guy,’ Ray.”

“All these years I’ve known you, I been calling you by the name you gave the little fireman? No wonder you been lusting after me!”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that I had been lusting after you, Ray.”

“No?” Ray looked hurt.

“Well, that is to say…” His hips pressed forward.

“Tell Little Benny I’m not coming out to play until you tell me how you were feeling, Fraser.”

“Ray, I realize you have a perfect right to tease me now, but…I…I suppose I was lusting, Ray. I just didn’t let myself think about it.”

“What? When I was calling you by your cock’s name?”

“All right, at first…but then I got used to it. In fact, I was thinking of changing his name before this, but the only thing I could come up with is a little too predictable, I’m afraid.”

“What, ‘Big Ben?’”

Benny felt his face flush, but Ray’s eyes, which had been twinkling, suddenly went soft. “Gawd, that’s so sweet I’m gonna need an insulin shot.”

Someone whimpered, and Fraser was mortified to realize it had been himself. Ray’s smile deepened, and then his clever hands went to Benny’s pants and slid them off along with his underwear. It really was proof of the advantage of wearing boxers.

He made to roll them so that they were on their sides, but Ray’s hands went to his legs, then his sides, urging him up on all fours. A possibility occurred to him that made his breath rush out of his lungs, but Ray wasn’t making any moves to get off the bed. Indeed, the wiry body slid down the sheets until he was right below Benny’s blood-swollen, hot and aching -

“Ray!” Oh, oh dear. Ray was licking him, and he had this sudden image of coming all over Ray’s face. He was shivering so hard he locked his arms at the elbows and sagged his shoulders just to take off some of the strain. It also helped him to watch carefully as Ray opened his mouth, reached up to glide his hands around Benny’s rear, and pull him down and in.

“Ray,” he protested as his eyes closed in bliss. His hips sank down, and he was groaning wordlessly, and Ray’s mouth was so hot, so gentle, so insistent. “Ray…Ray…” He rolled his hips slightly forward, and then back, unable to help himself, relieved beyond words that Ray didn’t seem to mind. In fact, the hands pressed harder and the mouth sucked with more enthusiasm, and Benny felt himself rushing to that point of pleasure he’d needed for so long, until, foolishly, he opened his eyes.

From this angle, Ray was almost all eyes, looking at him. Beyond his nose, Ray’s mouth was wrapped around his length, but he couldn’t take his eyes from Ray’s because they, more than that mouth, more than the hands on his body, those eyes were saying “I love you” over and over.

He stopped pumping and leaned back, slowly, keeping his balance and keeping himself buried in Ray’s mouth. He was vertical now, his legs bent beneath him, and he got enough weight off his right hand to touch Ray’s face and smooth a palm over the soft curve of his head. Love warred with shame, love that Ray had agreed to forsake so much to do this for him, shame that he had gotten Ray to forsake so much to do this for him.

Hands pressed into his backside again, urging him to resume his rhythm, but for the moment he couldn’t. He thought perhaps he was going a little soft.

Ray let go of him to speak, and he prayed it wouldn’t be another reference to silly names. He couldn’t bear it.

“Come in my mouth, Benny. I really want to know what you taste like.”

He sobbed and slid himself back inside. Only a few smooth, controlled, gentle, hot thrusts, and he felt his semen rush along his shaft, felt the contractions in his lower belly, felt the heat and the release and the white-light joy of it, staring all the while down into those green eyes that owned him completely.


A long, tapered and smoothly ebony limb arced over the bed and groped for the phone

“Hmmmph. Hello?”

“Elaine, it’s Ray Vecchio. This line clean?”

“Mmmph? Who?”

“Is the line clean?”

“Clean? Why wouldn’t…what…”

“Wake up, Elaine! I ain’t got a lot of time here. No, I am not being rude. Look, do you want to talk to her? No! You’ll be so polite we’ll never get this call finished.”

“Ray?” Elaine sat up in bed. “Ben?”

“Elaine, we need your help, okay? Can you meet us at -“

“Ray, every cop in the city is looking for you and Benton!”

“I know that, Elaine, and I’m not happy about it, okay? But something big is going on here, something Benny and me gotta figure out before we come in. You have to meet us at Candles in one hour. Okay? What? Benny…all right. Look, please, Elaine. We need you, okay?”

“I’ll…be there, Ray.”

“And don’t tell anyone, all right? This is really important and I know it puts you in a bind, but please, okay, Elaine?”

Elaine nodded, then said “Yes” into the phone. It had been a long time since she’s heard Vecchio sound so scared and desperate. She didn’t like it.

“And Elaine, if you have any mercy in your soul, bring donuts.”

Elaine stared at the phone for a second after the loud click, then got up and got dressed. Vecchio wouldn’t care, of course, but today was her day off. When she bought the donuts, she got jelly for Ray, buttermilk for Benton, and Choco-Maniacs for herself. If the knowledge that Ray and Ben were alive was sweeter to her than donuts could ever be, she’d just keep that to herself.

The drive to Candles took up the rest of her hour, almost exactly. She had to hand it to Ray: this was one place no one would be looking for either him or the Mountie. Far out of the 27th Precinct, and the 22nd, the coffee bar was a haven for yuppies and disaffected teenagers. Open twenty-four hours and often a host to acoustic bands and poetry readings, it had a wide-screen TV, every kind of chair from Bauhaus to stuffed sofa to beanbag, and an alcove filled with old books and new computers, each with Internet access, that one “checked out” for free with a coffee order over five dollars - which at Candles meant a small dark. The place took its name from a complete absence of lightbulbs, and when Elaine walked through the door with her bag of warm goodies and about a thousand questions, the smell of the burning scented wax threatened first to give her a headache, then to put her to sleep.

Even knowing to look for them, she almost missed the two men in army surplus sitting on a paisley couch near the “Reading Room.” Ray had to have a couple sweatshirts on under the large olive green jacket, and the baseball cap on his head was turned just right to throw off the distinctive curve of his somewhat pointy head. That goose neck was hidden by a turned-up jacket.

Fraser wore a long dark coat, black pants and a camouflage T-shirt with clunky boots, and though she wouldn’t have thought it, the look was completely wrong for him, especially with the greasy-looking cap on his head. They looked like over-grown nerds who were trying to fool the world into believing they didn’t live in their parents’ basements. The only things missing were inappropriate tattoos and a few face-piercings.

She sat down in the chair across from the couch, not blocking their view of the front door, opened her paper sack, and held it out.

“You do realize if anyone I know sees me with you two right now, my reputation as a woman of taste will be ruined beyond repair.”

Vecchio took the bag from her, dived in and brought out both his jelly donuts, then handed the bag to Fraser.

“Thank you kindly, Elaine.”

“It was no problem, Ben.”

Ray only nodded. She noticed he’d already inhaled his first donut. That was impressive, even for him. Fraser ate his first buttermilk cruller quickly as well, which was even more unusual. She took the bag back from Ben and ate one of her chocolate bonanzas slowly, using the time to look them over without, she hoped, staring.

She realized the reason the disguises were so effective was the changes in their faces. For half a second she thought it was makeup, but no, those were genuine dark circles under their eyes and pale faces to offset them. Ray’s face and neck and hands were bruised and scabbed, and both of them looked drawn and tight and thinner.

Ray slurped down the last of the giant coffee he’d bought himself, and Fraser gulped just slightly as he drained his tea, then they were eating their second donuts. She found herself on her feet, grabbing their cups and going to the counter to buy them another round and herself a grand latte. She frowned at her hands until they stopped shaking, then watched the face-pierced twentysomething put the cups on a tray she carried back.

Thank God, when she got within earshot, she could hear them going at it.

“I wasn’t always stuffing my face, Benny.”

“I didn’t say you were always -“

“Sometimes I’d just sit there and watch the old man, you know? Pop could get so excited when the game was on, he was better than TV.” Ray shot her a look and reached for his cup. Fraser did the same, though he thanked her. “You got no idea how much I missed coffee the past few days, Elaine. And you know what, Benny? I’m fairly certain, for the rest of my life, there’s something I’ll never be able to eat again.”

“Well, MacDonald’s, while a fine and family-oriented restaurant, has never been an establishment that -“

“You saying you could choke one of those things down again, Benny?”

Fraser froze for a moment, then spoke with a sincerity that almost brought tears to Elaine’s eyes.

“I’d rather boil one of my shoes again, Ray.” The two men looked at each other.

Elaine almost dropped a grand latte in her lap. *I didn’t see that. I not see Ray and Benton share a look right out of *The Love Boat.* I did not see that.*

The two men were looking at her now, calmly, minus the traces of sugar on Ray’s lip and on Benny’s chin, then Fraser cleared his throat.

“There are many things we need to tell you, Elaine, so many, that it is difficult to know where to begin.”

“You were abducted from the safe house,” she prodded.

“Yeah. You know if Roberts and the other guys watching us are okay?” Ray took another deep drink of his coffee, and Elaine could swear she saw his color improve.

“They woke up with lousy headaches and stories about dartguns.”

“Yes, Detective Vecchio and I were darted and taken to a small complex whose location we have yet to determine, and held there for a number of days.”

For the first time since she’d met Constable Fraser, his formality annoyed her, and she found herself addressing Ray. “We know you left food for Dief - who’s fine, by the way - and moved your car, and that you were on a bus.”

“I thought that guy would remember me.”

“Constable Turnbull also saw you yesterday across from the consulate.”

“Elaine, are you aware that the Canadian Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Gerald Braun, to be exact, is currently visiting the city of Chicago?”

“Yes. Welsh had me check everything I could to find a connection to that and Ray, but I came up empty.”

“You were meant to come up empty,” Ray snorted. “I got a connection, all right. The problem is, me and Benny think the people behind this wanted that connection exposed. If we go back now, even just to Welsh, then they’ll probably end up getting what they want. I mean, we might chance it, except Ms Socks knew the second we were charged with conduct unbecoming, and she knew a lot of other stuff too.”

“Ms Socks?”

“What we need, Elaine, is some clue as to who would want to embarrass Ambassador Braun. Now, this may be political, but it may also be personal. After all, ambassadors aren’t usually the focus of political assassinations, although there have been many cases even in Canadian history of -“

“We also need to know if there’s been any progress on figuring out how she’s getting her information. And of course, we need to know if anyone’s contacted headquarters since we disappeared.”

Elaine held up her hands. “Okay, let me talk for a minute here.” She opened her mouth, then closed it. “Who is Ms Socks?”

“The dead voice on the phone. She’s dead in person too.” Ray shuddered, and Ben nodded.

“And she gave you no clue about any of this stuff you want to know? She didn’t tell you anything about why she kidnapped you?”

“She seemed primarily interested in determining our obedience, then in giving Detective Vecchio a number of bizarre tasks.”

“The general idea at the station is that you were so obnoxious on the bus either because you wanted the driver to remember you, or because you were worried about Ben.”

“Elaine, you’ll get to read the report.” Green eyes were pleading with her, but her eyes shot back that she wanted to know just where she stood.

“Elaine.” Fraser’s voice had gone pure formality again. “I believe Ray and I should tell you -“


“Ray, we are trusting her with our lives.”

“Our lives, yes! This? No!”

“Oh my God.”

They looked at her.

“Oh my God.”

It was bad enough that Ben hadn’t wanted her. It had seemed to be heading towards being bad enough that he would want Inspector Thatcher instead. But this! To be turned down, looked over, snubbed and not wanted in place of *Vecchio!*



She held up a hand. “Give me a minute.” Vecchio. Not her. Vecchio. Not her. Vecchio.


She shook herself slightly, closed her eyes, took a deep breath. She’d just have to think about it later.

“We haven’t heard anything from anybody since you two disappeared, and no one has a clue how the kidnappers knew so much about what was happening at the station. We did find evidence that someone wearing gloves searched Fraser’s apartment while you were gone, which means that they got in and out without being spotted by the team we had staking out your apartment. No one’s bothered your house, Ray.”

“Was anything missing from Benny’s place?”

“We’d need Ben to tell us, but it didn’t look like it.”

“Might be one of the neighbors.”

Why had she never noticed before the way Ray’s voice got all soft when he talked to Benton?

“Ray, I hardly think my neighbors would take advantage of my absence to scour my apartment.”

“Definitely the neighbors.”

Elaine cleared her throat. “I’ve already made myself pretty familiar with Ambassador Braun’s career, and some about his life. He’s a widower, and his wife’s family is old, old money. He’s got a daughter who used to be pretty wild, but she’s settled down and is getting a pre-med degree now. He’s on the board of about a thousand charities. Nice guy, from what I could see.”

“Whoever wants him to go down has money and power and connections.”

“I’ll look, Ray.”

“Thank you kindly, Elaine.”

“Yeah. Sure. Fraser.” She gave him a smile, and was again bothered for the first time by that phrase. It sounded so special the first few times you heard it, but it was just a phrase like any other. “How do I talk to you guys again?”

“We’re getting out of town. I got a place I know to go to. The thing is, I need someplace to call you where no one’s going to be ready with a trace.”

She thought, then reached into her purse and scribbled a number before handing over the slip of paper to Ray. “I can go to my hairdresser’s and hang out in the back. Joy won’t mind. You call me there tonight, six o’clock. She’ll be closing, but she takes forever. I’ll tell you what I have so far. But Ray, you have to let me tell Lieutenant Welsh.”

“Elaine, right now it’s just me and Benny to blame for this. You help us, you know neither of us is gonna say a word about you being involved. You bring Welsh into this, and it’s his job on the line too, and yours.”

“Everyone is worried about you. People are working overtime -“

“And if Welsh pulls them off, then the people who took us are going to know we made contact. That might be enough to cause who knows what. You said you liked this Braun guy. We make a wrong move on this, his life is pretty much fried. As long as no one knows where we are, I’m hoping we got them in a bind. It ain’t much, but it’s all we got right now, Elaine. You’re all we got right now, Elaine.”

*You have each other, Vecchio, you lucky jerk.*

She stood, and gave a sharp little nod. “Six o’clock.”

“We’ll call.”

She nodded again. She really needed to get away from all these candles. But first she went to the computer she’d “rented” and punched in the URL for the *Edmonton Sun,* then she browsed for the article on the ambassador’s planned goodwill tour. She scanned through it, then found the half-remembered name and jotted it down. Ray and Fraser came to join her, and she left them quietly bickering about what else they could find.

It wasn’t until she made it to the station on her day off, fobbing people off with lame excuses about wanting to catch up on her paperwork, that she knew she wasn’t going to tell Welsh what had happened. Fortunately, he was out of the office most of the day. It didn’t matter though. In the end, she had to help them both, even though she was certain that this was going to get her fired.


The lot at strip mall was just starting to fill up with cars stopping off between work and home. Skateboard-toting kids came without irony from the frozen yogurt shop, licking and calling each other names. One of them eyed the two men walking on the sidewalk with curiosity. They were a little old for their clothes, and he wanted them to see him rolling his eyes. His girlfriend, the only chick in the group, said something he didn’t care for, and when he thought to look again, the two men had passed.

Ray and Benny walked for miles after their last bus, keeping out of sight of traffic as best they could, Ray complaining the whole way about his tired feet and uncomfortable shoes. They didn't stop to eat, to use the facilities, to show their faces to anyone anywhere near the small, somewhat ill-kept house in the suburbs Murph got from some uncle who’d been a cop. He let his friends use it when their wives threw them out, and sometimes it got taken over for a bachelor party. Of course, there was a good chance someone was already there, and if so, then the key would be gone, and they'd have to hike another mile to another bus to the Day's Inn at the very outskirts of town.

In-between Ray's complaints, which sometimes turned into inquiries about Fraser's well-being, they ran through possible scenarios to explain Ms Socks and her motives. In part, they were only being as thorough as they always were, questioning everything, trying to prepare themselves for whatever might still be coming after them. But there was an extra urgency that came from knowing that when they finally got into the same room as a bed they weren't going to be doing any cop talk for quite a while.

In fact, as much as he tried to focus on their predicament, Fraser was almost overwhelmed by the need to get Ray to that bed as quickly as possible. The small urges and suppressed thoughts of his entire relationship with Raymond Vecchio had seemed daunting when he first allowed them to have their way with him in bed, but now that he had actual memories to mix with his fantasies - which seemed to multiply in number with every few blocks they walked - he found himself assaulted with the ghosts of smells and tastes and sounds and sights and feelings, so much so that the real world around him would fade for seconds at a time.

To keep walking in the right direction, he followed Ray's voice and the dark, poorly dressed shape beside him. To keep his brain from shutting down in protest, he allowed himself to think of the line of a long, lean thigh under his hand, the curve of that impossible neck, the color of the sea when the water was almost freezing, the warm sweetness of a mouth seeking his own warmth and sweetness in return.

He found he was planning out his next series of touches on Ray's body, rehearsing how he would stroke his skin, kiss his lips, lick at each sensitive place until the man was incoherent with pleasure. He wanted to know if Ray liked being bitten on his nipples, or if soft, gentle caresses were best. He wondered if Ray liked the way he looked in his brown uniform as much as he had once claimed to like him in his red one, and if Ray didn't mind that he preferred flannel and denim to silk and Armani. He wondered if Ray enjoyed handcuffs in bed, and then found himself wondering if he himself enjoyed handcuffs in bed.

He had no idea. He hoped desperately Ray would help him find out.

He cursed himself for not asking more about the lubricant and condoms Ray had put on the nightstand last night. They hadn't been there in the morning, nor had he and Ray been granted any time to explore each other before they had needed to leave, not wanting the morning light to expose them as they made their way from the hotel.

"I tell you, there better be food at Murph's place, Benny. My stomach's about to eat my spleen."

Hearing the word "eat" at that moment, even with Fraser's somewhat limited understanding of sexual double entendre, was unfortunate. He was starving in a way he had never been before, not even for his parents' love or Victoria's forgiveness, not even for seeing his father's killer brought to justice. It actually *hurt* that he wasn’t touching Ray right now.

“Hey, Benny? You okay?”

Fraser looked around. They were half-way down a block of tract housing, half-hidden from the street by a minivan. He could see no one else.

“Are we almost there, Ray?”

“Yeah, a few more blocks is all, if we can get in. What’s up, Benny? Don’t tell me Mr. Mountie can’t hoof a hundred miles even without a caribou strapped to his chest.”

“I need to kiss you, Ray.”

“Here?” Ray was looking around in near panic, but Benny noted with relief that he didn’t look actually horrified. In fact, he was half-smiling. But he shook his head.

“We really don’t need to be drawing attention to ourselves, Benny.” He caught his friend’s eye, and leered slightly. “Besides, you wait ‘til I get you back in bed, the things I’m going to do for you…”

“What are you going to do to me, Ray?”

Ray frowned, not liking Benny’s tone. It was sexy, but it was something else.

“Benny? Something wrong?”

It was odd how well he’d gotten to know Benny’s eyes these past few days. When they glinted with pain, he felt almost as though he’d been struck.

“I need to kiss you, Ray. I need it. I need to make love to you, to touch you, to know I’m giving you pleasure. I need it so much. I don’t know that I like that, that I can bear that.”

Ray was shaking hard enough that Fraser could see it through his many layers of clothing. In the evening air of early spring they could see traces of their own breath, and Benny was abruptly confronted by the fragility of everything, pressing in on him, jeering at him for thinking he could want so deeply, need so much, and survive.

“Me too, Benny.”

Fraser stared at him in shock.

“Me too, okay? I want to jump you so bad I can’t think straight. I’m in more trouble than I’ve ever been since I became a cop, and all that’s on my mind is what we did last night. I don’t even know if we’re doing the right thing here, and if we’re wrong Welsh’ll kick me off the force so fast I’ll have skid marks on my butt. But this is as good as I can think now, the best I can manage, and since you agree with me on it, I know there’s no way I’m going to come up with better.

“Now, I’m hoping like anything God is feeling nice about us today and there’s nobody already at Murph’s private hideaway that I once swore to him I’d never use. I’m hoping when it’s six I’ll be able to pry myself off your naked body long enough to make it to a pay phone and call Elaine, and I’m praying that whatever she tells us won’t mean we can’t sleep together tonight, all night long, pressed up against each other, ‘cause I’ll die if I can’t be with you tonight, Benny. You got me? I’ll just die.”

Ray had watched those eyes clear as he talked, and worried now that he’d run out of both words and air, but Benny was close to smiling now, and seemed to be breathing easier. Almost inevitably, however, a frown once again appeared.

“I’m sorry if you’re feeling ways you don’t want to feel, Ray.”

“You don’t want to feel the way you feel, Fraser?”

The man considered it seriously, Ray could tell that much, but it wasn’t a long deliberation.

“I’d die before I would let anyone take from me the way I feel about you, Ray.”

Ray felt punched in the gut. He’d been expecting another “I love you.” Not that. Not…how did Benny do it? How did he walk around for almost three years saying “Thank you kindly” and then come out with stuff like that?

“It’s just a few more blocks, Benny.” Fraser nodded, but looked anxious. Ray remembered he still hadn’t said his own piece. After a deep breath, held for several seconds, he offered up the best he could. “Benny, when we get there, or wherever we find, I’m going to get you naked and then kiss you all over. You see if you can tell from that whether I’m sorry about what’s going on between us, okay?”

“Okay, Ray.” And Benny seemed just as Ray supposed he should have realized he would: not relieved, not anxious, just ready to be shown the evidence.

It was enough to get them to the house.

It was one of those two-car garage, two-bedroom and two-bath places, with a large window at the front and to the side of the garage, and little diamond windows in the front door. The stucco had faded to a yellow-green slightly alleviated by dark green trim on the windows.

The key was supposed to be hidden under the fat, chipped garden gnome near the sprinkler turn-off, and when Ray tipped the little guy over his hand almost slipped off his pointy hat, his palms were so sweaty.

He came up with the key, and made a serious prayer of thanksgiving as he walked back to the front door and opened it up. Inside, there was a battered TV on some milk crates, a torn sofa and mis-matched chair, and the vague smell of sulfur and sour milk. He felt Benny behind him as he walked through, and then hands were on him, peeling off his coat.

He managed to turn around and shut the door before his own hands were in Fraser’s clothes, the black and army junk he knew looked so bad on him only because of the way he was wearing it. Paper towels would look good on Benny if he wanted them to.

Benny was gasping, his eyes unfocussed and lost while he tried to say his name. Ray wanted more than anything to replace that look with one of pleasure, perhaps even, temporarily, with one of contentment.

“I love you, Benny.”

There, that got his attention…and then some. Benny came at him in a rush, almost snarling, and Ray felt his three sweatshirts pulled up and off so hard the elastic only barely missed ripping off his nose. His pants were next, and then with a dizzying *thump* he was down on the floor, Benny’s body over him.

He didn’t even try to clear his vision or catch his breath, just reached up to pull Benny’s face to his for a deep, hard, agonizingly sweet kiss that went on and on. When he felt warm flesh against his groin, he fumbled for Benny’s clothes, but there was no time. The heavy, frantic movements over him increased their pace, and he was being thrust against again and again. Fraser’s eyes were almost all white, and his name was gasped out over and over. Ray watched as Benny bent back, screaming, and then a hot flood covered his hips and stomach as Benny screamed. A moment, he held himself, poised. Then he collapsed.

Ray caught him, and worked at breathing right with a hundred-sixty-plus pounds of Mountie on top of him. His brain wasn’t working right, and he wasn’t really thinking about anything except the last look he'd seen on Benny’s face. He couldn’t even say for certain how long a time passed before his friend suddenly stirred, gently at first, then with a vengeance.

“Great Scott! Ray! I’m so sorry!”

Ray smiled up into the face above his, now supported by two locked arms and punctuated by a shame-flushed cheeks. “For what, Benny? That has to be the sexiest thing I’ve seen in my whole damn life.”

Fraser bit his lip, wanting to believe. “I can’t believe I was so selfish, Ray.”

“Neither can I. I must really turn you on like crazy, you acting like that.”

The arms began to bend, and a breath was slowly expelled. “You have no idea, Ray.”

Ray brought him down further and kissed him deeply, cherishing the feel and the taste and the knowledge of who was in his arms. “Let’s find the bed, okay, Benny? We only got an hour before we gotta find a pay phone.”

Fraser frowned and pulled back, looking down at Ray’s body.

“You’re not excited, Ray.”

Ray laughed ruefully. “Yes, I am, Benny.”

“But Ray -“

“Don’t you get it, Benny? I was hard when I opened the door.”

“But you didn’t…come, Ray.”

“No.” Ray shivered and sat up, peeling off Benny’s clothes as he went on. “I was so involved in what you were doing, so turned on…when you came, it felt like it was me too. I just gotta remind my body it wasn’t me.” He was gratified to see blue eyes go wide.

“Really, Ray?”

He opened his mouth to answer, then just smiled and put Benny’s hand over his groin. The flesh responded instantly, but Ray pulled back and away.

“Bed, Benny. I’m serious. The carpet is filthy.” The detective stood, waiting, his stomach shiny with Fraser’s cum, his body gently aroused. Ben was on him instantly, licking his stomach clean, holding his hips in hands that kept wandering, moaning Ray’s name. Ray lasted under the onslaught about ten seconds, then was carding his long fingers through Benny’s hair and begging for the touch of his mouth around his cock.

Fraser instantly complied. Hungry, so hungry his stomach growled and his hands shook. So thirsty he took almost Ray’s entire length in his mouth and down his throat, swallowing as his hands lifted the warm, heavy sac, caressing, urging…and then receiving, savoring, making it last as long as possible.

Ray wound up bent over Benny’s shoulders, his hands splayed on Benny’s back.

Benny’s voice was muffled, but desperate. “Ray? Can we lay in bed until it’s time to go?”

Ray wanted to soothe, to reassure, but he was running out of words. There was so much, more than he had thought there could be, just between himself and Fraser. And they hadn’t even tried to deal yet with the rest of their lives. Even now, he made the mistake of looking down as his hands clutched that perfectly smooth skin - perfect except for the scar over the spine. What wouldn’t he give, what wouldn’t he take from someone else to offer up, to be able to reach down and pull his bullet out of Benny’s back?

“Yeah, Benny. Sure.”


They wolfed down Domino's pizza and kept an eye on the clock. The phone in the booth next to the strip mall was working fine, and Ray couldn't let go of the change in his right hand, scooping up slices of pepperoni with black olives and green peppers with his left. When the box was empty, they still had five minutes left to wait.

"Let's get another before we go back," Ray said. The cupboards at Murph's place had nothing but Mac and Cheese and two cans of tomato paste.

Benny licked at his fingers, making Ray look out over the parking lot to keep from embarrassing himself. "Mushrooms."

Ray shrugged. "All right."

"No, Ray." He pointed at the small plot of ground curbed by concrete. Small white knobs peppered the soil under some half-hearted greenery. "Mushrooms."

"Yeah. So?"

Fraser shrugged a little defensively. "I was just trying to come up with something to say other than that I wish my fingers were your Mr. Vecchio, Ray."

Ray jumped off the little plastic chair outside the frozen yogurt shop, folding the pizza box with hands that shook, then walked to the phone booth, glad only that the jacket he was wearing came half-way down to his knees.


He spun, looked around, then hissed, "I already want to jump your bones in broad daylight, Fraser. You don't gotta stoke me every five minutes!"

Benny looked at the ground. "I suppose I’m just used to telling you what I'm thinking, Ray."

"And I want you to, Benny. All right? Just not when I can't do anything about it."

Fraser nodded, then looked up, cautiously smiling. "It's just so…easy with you."

Ray was incredulous again. His hands spread wide, his right fist closed around quarters and dimes. "Easy! What part of this do you find easy, Fraser?"

"Well, you're not a woman."


"Before, when I wanted a woman, it always seemed impossible to tell her, to get her to understand what I was feeling."

"But not with me, is that what you're saying?"

Benny dazzled him with a smile. "Yes, Ray."

"Well, that's funny, Benny. Because I've been thinking about how it's twice as hard. You know, Ange wasn't no virgin when we got married, but if she'd been straight out of St. Helen's Cloister for Girls Who Don't Even Know What a Penis Is, I wouldn't feel so much like I was -" Ray bit his lip.

"Like you were what, Ray?"

Ray shook his head and turned to the booth. "We gotta call Elaine."

The booth stank of sweat and old beer, but was strangely urine-free. Ray got a quarter in the phone on his second try and dialed the number before putting in more money.

"Elaine? Yeah. What did you find out?"

Vecchio held the phone out and Fraser leaned in to hear her, blocking out his proximity to Ray with the discipline he had used to survive in the north, to stand sentry duty, to let Ray slip out of his mouth when he'd wanted nothing more than -

*Stop that and listen to Elaine!*

"Ray, you have to let me tell Welsh you've made contact. IA is all over the station. I'm to get back there ASAP and let them dig through everything."

"What's going on?"

"Like any of us knows? Apparently, there was some sort of break-in at old evidence storage, but the case boxes weren't searched so much as just thrown around, like someone was looking for buried gold."

Ray looked at the change in his hand, ready to put in more money when the operator instructed.

"Meanwhile, Welsh has been calling in more men to look for you and Benton, and Inspector Thatcher has called Canada for more people too."

"Yeah, okay. What did you find out about Braun?"

Elaine hesitated, and Ray's knuckles on the hand around the receiver striped white. "Ray, I'm sorry, but…he hasn't got any enemies. More than that, it's like there's no one on the planet that isn't his best friend. He was appointed to his post and approved faster than just about anyone in the history of the world, he's on the board of every major Canadian charity, he's for women's rights, civil rights, uh, gay rights, kindness to animals and student scholarships. He's never had anyone oppose him politically. He's…he's like some sort of ambassador saint.

"The only guy I could find to say something negative about him is Gaetan Paul, a journalist, who was just complaining that Braun uses every last job perq when it comes to travel and stuff, though why he's not supposed to…I mean, he *is* the ambassador. But I had to dig for that.

"I'm sorry, guys."

"We know you did your best, Elaine. Thank you kindly."

"How much longer is this guy in Chicago?"

"He's got an AIDS charity ball tomorrow night, and a luncheon tomorrow with some Canadian college students. Then he leaves on the redeye."

"Is he attending either with his daughter?"


Ray was instructed to feed more money into the phone.

"Elaine, for the AIDS ball, have plans for that been changed since Ray and I disappeared?"

"Not that I know of."

No one spoke. Finally, Ray looked at Fraser, who nodded.

"Elaine, get yourself alone with Welsh. You understand me? Alone. You tell him we met you on the street outside the beauty parlor or wherever you are. Tell him we're okay, but that we know there's someone dirty working on the inside. Tell him we want him not to tip them, that we only got one more day before this guy is gone. Tell him what's at stake. Tell him…tell him if I did the wrong thing here he can have my badge as a Christmas present, okay? Tell him…"

Ray's teeth worked over his lips, his eyes staring out the booth. It was getting really dark outside.

"Tell him we'll do everything we can, okay? Tell him me and Benny are on it."

"All right, Ray."

Fraser leaned in towards the phone again. "Thank you kindly, Elaine."

"Ray? Uh, Ben? Take care of yourselves, all right?"


Ray hung up, but Benny didn't move back, and Ray didn't ask him to, staring down at his fist, sliding some of the coins together as his muscles flexed.

"I guess it never made sense anyway, trying to pressure a goodwill ambassador politically. Maybe it was him, trying to scare us. Maybe it's not connected at all. Maybe…"

Green eyes, so green now they were the forest, beckoning him, beseeching him. Fraser fought the urge to talk of sex, or even to go on his knees there in the booth and force Ray from this moment. The eyes dropped away, staring again at his fist full of change.

A car went by, blaring rap music. Fraser saw teenagers with blond hair.

He looked back down at Ray's hand. It was open now, the sweat-shiny coins laying there. Eighty-five cents.

They looked at each other, then down again at the coins.

"Money," Ray whispered.

"His wife. His wife came from money."

"The reporter complained that he was always using the public's money to get around, right? So maybe it's because he didn't have it to spend it."


"Ms Socks wasn't angry, and neither was whoever she's working for. You notice that? She never had to worry about the client, and she didn't care about us."

"Like you said, Ray. It wasn't personal."

"No, it was money."

"Someone was looking for your old case on the daughter."

"Which they took!"

"No, the government took that, as a favor to Canada or as a personal favor to a man with so many friends."

"No, Benny. If he had the case stuff back, he wouldn't be paying the blackmailers."

"But if the blackmailers had it, they would have used it by now, and they wouldn't have needed to…determine our obedience."

"Which means someone else has got it."

They looked at each other again, hearing that joined *click.*

"A cop."

"I believe you are right, Ray."

"When I turned all my stuff over to the feds, someone copied it."

"So we have two blackmailers: the original extortionists, and the police officer who decided he wanted a slice of the action."

"Piece of the action, Benny."

"Thank you, Ray."

"So the first blackmailers, they get the goods on the girl, but then the government steps in and they're cheated out of the goodies until Mr. Cop tells them he's got copies."

"This goes on for years, but the police officer in question gets greedy or they get tired of dealing with him, so -"

"So they rain on their own parade? They fix me to run off screaming about how she's a murderer and her old man had me abducted?"

"Perhaps he stopped paying. His daughter has recently become an adult. Perhaps he felt it was time to confront the issue."

"Yeah, Benny. A guy like that would have a hard time with his conscience, paying off people like that. And when he stopped paying and the original blackmailers ordered the cop to turn over the stuff, he refused."

"And so they wanted to use you, Ray, to expose the case and the cover-up."

"And when we figured out that we shouldn't go back, they raided the evidence room."

"And found nothing."

Ray looked around. The booth was illuminated by the street lights. "Let’s get back to the house, Benny."

"Pizza, Ray?"

"They'll remember us if we go back inside."

"Actually, the young man who served us before seems to have gotten off work at six. I saw him drive away in a Toyota pick-up while we were talking to Elaine."

Ray smiled. They'd figured out the first bit. Now they just needed to connect the dots.

They were back at the house in half an hour with their pizza and Pepsis. They hadn't talked beyond ordering the toppings - mushrooms, pepperoni, and olives. The house was musty and the windows were lousy for peeking out of. But they were safer here than any place where they'd have to sign the register.

Ray finished off the first slice, then sat back in the ratty chair with another. Fraser was on the sofa, a low, chipped table between them.

"Okay, Benny. I figure the cop doesn't want to turn over the file because things have gotten so hot, or because he wants to go into business for himself. I favor the first one, because if Braun is saying he won't pay, you'd be a fool to think he'll change his mind."

"Agreed." Fraser took another slice as well, and Ray was grateful to the god of movies that the Mountie had never seen *Tom Jones.* He couldn't stand sexy cheese nibbling right now. "Ray."

"Yeah, Benny?"

"Perhaps it is simply that I do not like protecting the virtue of someone who did not help another to avoid death, but is there a possibility she is innocent?"

"Of being passed out while her boyfriend gave it up? No." Ray chewed up and swallowed another bite. "But she could have been set up, Benny. Would have been easy to slip the bad stuff to Cliff Townman - that was the guy's name - and to give her something to put her down. Mess up the apartment, make it look like she was walking around while he was dying…yeah. It could have happened that way."

Fraser nodded, thinking.

"So, Benny. How we gonna get into the ball to see Braun tomorrow night?"

"Well, I don't think we can get into the ball itself, but I should be able to arrange for the two of us to drive them there." He shrugged when Ray shot him an impressed look. "The limousine was instructed to pick them up from their residence at exactly 7 PM. I know the protocols, and can phone ahead that last-minute security changes have made the time 6:45. If we can simply acquire our own limousine, they should be escorted into the car."

"Genius, Benny."

"Thank you kindly, Ray." Benny smiled in surprise.

"No, I mean me. You are about to witness an act of genius." Ray stood up and flashed Benny the house key. "Back to the booth!"

Another half-hour passed before they returned, Fraser once again amazed by the connections Ray had. It seemed that Ray had once found the murderer of the brother of a man who rented cars, including limousines. Ray had explained that he needed the car for a "very secret case involving a young woman's life," and the black-and-chrome-stretch and two driver's uniforms were theirs at 5 PM tomorrow.

Ray closed the door with finality. They need only stay out of everyone's sight until tomorrow, and tomorrow could take care of itself.

He couldn't turn to face the room, what with Benny plastered over his back.

"Ray…" Benny breathed into his ear. "My sweet Ray."

"Benny, we gotta talk."

"I want you inside me, Ray."

With a snarl, Ray pushed away from the door, throwing Benny's considerable bulk off his body. When he turned, the fact that his friend looked so bewildered only made him angrier.

"How am I supposed to do this, Fraser? Huh? You think I'm ever gonna get interested in regular sex again once I've…" His hands waved out the words and generally indicated Fraser's buttocks. "You can do me if you want. I'd like it, okay? But I can't give you everything, all right? I can't talk dirty to you in public and do you in the bedroom and give you everything I have when you're just along for the ride." Benny stared at him, and Ray put up his hands now, forcing them steady.

"Okay, okay. That's not fair. I love you, Benny, and I know you love me too, okay? We've, you know, loved each other since I don't know when. Maybe since we got Gerard, I don't know. And now you want more love and I want to give it to you, but I gotta protect myself a little here. I'm not my old man, but sometimes you gotta look out for number one, especially now that we've maybe figured out something to do to avoid getting fired or killed. Real life is coming back to us, one way or the other, Benny, and I'm not going to spend the rest of it thinking about what you loaned me when we were in trouble."

"Ray, what in the world are you --?"

"You can have any woman in the world you want, Benny. For once, could you please just not pretend you don't know that?"

Fraser blinked at him, the struggle evident. Then his jaw firmed.

"What if you could have any woman in the world, Ray?"

Ray snorted, but before he could answer Benny was about two inches from his face, all the better to let his rage reach between them like heat, to make more visible the crack of fury in flame-blue eyes. When he spoke, his voice was husky with control. "Imagine them, Ray. On their knees, naked, asking for you: Louise St. Laurent, Elaine, Susan Chapin, Victoria, even. Every woman in the world: there they are!" Benny jerked forward, his nose bumping Ray's. "Do you have the image in your mind?"

The shaking in Ray's body made it to his voice. "Yeah, Benny. I got it."

"Now, if you want one of them or all of them more than you want me, then this is over."

Ray swallowed. Fraser leaned back slightly, his breaths deep and his face tightly shuttered.

"Well, is it over, Ray?"

Ray's jaw worked, but no sound came out. He found himself shaking his head.

"Ray -"

"I can't ask you to marry me, Benny."

Fraser frowned. "I didn't ask you -"

"No, I mean I can't ask you to marry me, and I don't know what to ask instead. I want…I want forever, Benny. I want you to be the other half of my life. I want…geeze, the romantic nightmare that I want, Benny." Ray sort of laughed.

"Tell me, Ray. Please."

"I don't know how to tell you, Benny. I don't have a clue how this works. With two guys…walks in the park holding hands? No way. Taking you home to meet Ma and the family? They've already met you, but they'll probably get a gun and shoot us both if I say we're…whatever we - Damnit! I don't even know what we'd be called!"

"Lovers, Ray."

The word rocked him, and Benny used the excuse to take him in his arms. Fraser lowered his head and breathed Ray in and out, feeling him, soaking in his heat, seeking a bond from which Ray could not pull free, no matter how hard he tried.

"We could move in together, Ray."

"You'd do that, Benny?"

"Please, Ray."

Deep within Ray's body some set of muscles and tissue he hadn't known could let go the ache of tension just relaxed with no warning, painfully, snapping something that kept his breathing regular, and ruining whatever it was that was supposed to make his legs hold him up. Benny took his weight, cradling him.

"I ain't moving into that rat-trap you live in, Benny."

"No, Ray."

"We'll have to get a nice place of our own, someplace where the neighbors aren't nosy, with locks on the doors."

"Yes, Ray."

"I like to be quiet for a while when I get home from work."

"So do I, Ray."

"And Dief can't sleep on our bed."

"I'll tell him that, Ray."

"He chews up just one of my loafers, and he'll wish he was back in Canada."

"I'm sure, Ray."

"And I'll be wanting sex every night, cheerfully and upon request."

"Me too, Ray."

Ray shivered harder. For God's sakes why were they still in their *clothes?*


"Yeah, Benny?"

"I want to keep going to restaurants, and movies, and things."

"All right, Benny."

"And one day I'll need to go north again. Maybe permanently, or maybe some sort of Persephone/ Demeter arrangement, living here and there, and you'll need to come with me."

"Okay, Benny."

"I want you inside me."

"Bedroom, Benny."

"Kiss me first."

Ray's legs held him again as his hands slid up Benny's body and rested on the sides of his smile. His tousled hair, sapphire eyes, pale skin…no, he couldn't think about that right now. His loyalty and compassion, his standards of right and wrong…no, don't go there either. His incredibly sexy body and that long cock even now pressing against his hip.

He kept the kiss brief. He wasn't going to hurt Benny, and rug-burn was out of the question.

"Benny, I need you not to talk, okay? If you talk to me I'm going to rush this."

Fraser bit his lip, almost leaned in for another kiss, then swallowed and nodded, his eyes never leaving his lover's.

"Now, I need to know. I had a girl once, in college, and she liked this sort of thing. You ever done this before?" The dark-haired head shook slowly. "How about a woman to you, you know, with fingers?" Another shake. Ray wanted to groan in frustration. "Geeze, Benny. You ever do anything but the missionary position?" A nod this time, and a half-smile that made Ray's eyes close for a moment. "You gonna show me that later?" Another nod.

Ray took his hands from Benny's body and turned slightly to check the door again and fix the chain. To his relief, Fraser began walking towards the bedroom on his own, shedding his coat and throwing it over the back of the sofa, then stepping out of his shoes and kicking them in a corner. After retrieving two items from his pocket, Ray had the jacket and all three sweatshirts off by the time he walked through the bedroom door, and as Benny sat on the bed and whipped off his socks, Ray walked into the bathroom, slid out of his pants and jockeys, and dampened a towel before wiping himself down. He really should take a shower, but sometimes one had to cut a few corners.

He brought another towel to Benny, who was sitting naked on the bed now, and who leaned back, saying nothing with actual words while Ray gave him a quick, somewhat awkward bed-bath. Ray further muted Fraser by not looking into his eyes, but he could do nothing about the pink flush on that marble skin, or the sound of his breaths peppered with small, involuntary noises. Ray felt bad about making him restrain himself. He didn't want Benny to feel he had to maintain discipline *now,* but he knew if Benny asked for him one more time he would flip that perfect body over and take him hard.

It was bad enough knowing Benny had to be looking at his erection. It was quite possible he'd never been so hard before. Just thinking about his own arousal made his hands shake.

When the bath was done Benny scooted back and lay down, then rolled over on his stomach, waiting.

Seconds dragged themselves past, then more seconds, perhaps half a minute now. Fraser's hands fisted the light green sheet, and it was all he could do not to thrust himself against the mattress.

A kiss, the softest kiss imaginable, fluttered and hovered and finally was pressed against the scar over his spine.

Ray whispered against his skin, "God, I'm so sorry, Benny. I'm so sorry." Hands were over his shoulders, then leading the way as lean, strong, warm arms wrapped around his body, and he was pulled against an even stronger, warmer chest. "So sorry, mio piccolo. God. So sorry."

Benny reached back and grabbed Ray's hip, then pulled him forward, pressing his half-erect warmth against a firm cheek. Ray shuddered, but kept holding him, his face now pressed into Benny's nape as he shivered. At least the pained words fell silent.

Well, there were times for quiet obedience, and times when a man simply and *finally* thought he just might have the right thing to say. He had forgiven his friend so many times and still not healed the wound Ray's bullet had made in his own heart. Stronger medicine was needed.

"Make it up to me, Ray."

His lover stopped breathing, and the warmth of his skin flickered to low flame.

"For the rest of your life, every day, love me and make love to me, make me come so hard I don't remember who I am, be with me and make me yours and be mine until you have nothing left and need me to fill you up again. Make up for shooting me, Ray. Give me everything I want."

Ray had steadied again, and as the flush came to his dark skin Benny felt it over his whole body like a caress, like a warm tongue licking him from head to toe. Even Ray's hands stopped shaking as they left those broad shoulders for the tube he'd dropped on the bed. He sat up and back, put just a dab of the cool gel on his fingers, rubbed it against his palm to warm it, then lightly stroked down Benny's spine before parting him and rubbing the slick fingertip over the dusky, puckered skin.

Benny produced a most unMountie-like whimper.

"I warned you about talking, Benny."

He stroked again, keeping it light, teasing without mercy now as he bent down and lick-nibbled his way up and down that strong, pale, smooth back. With his right hand doing the important work, his left traveled up and down as well, trailing touches over hard-muscled thighs at one point, then stroking that pelt on Benny's head, then pulling back on a hip to keep his lover from humping the sheets.

Drawing his lips over his teeth as he got more lubricant on his finger, he nipped hard at the base of Benny's spine, then slid inside, making Benny moan and getting a loud gasp out of himself. Hot caramel and so tight! But he kept stroking, smoothly, slowly, as he kissed and caressed, and Benny began to relax. Things slowed down a bit, and they simply continued this, getting into a rhythm, letting go of each anxiety, one by one.

"You know I'll give you everything you want, Benny. I never could resist your Big-Eyed Mountie Look. How am I supposed to resist 'Give me a lift and I'll give you a kiss,' huh? You'll be leaping off buildings and I'll be watching your back and your butt and rushing off to handcuff the bad guys so they'll get out of my hair long enough for me to drag you back to bed." He was up to two fingers now, and he'd found the spot inside that got Benny whimpering again. He was pretty sure he was talking so much to keep himself from whimpering as well.


"What did I tell you about talking?"

"You're taking so *long,* Ray. I need you."

"I need you too, Benny. You're just not ready yet."

"Yes, I am!"

Ray bit his lip hard enough to taste blood, then let himself look at and think about what he was doing. Benton Fraser was naked with his legs spread out, rocking back, fucking himself on Ray's three fingers, his hands white-knuckle-tight on the mattress, begging for more. Begging for him.

He drew his fingers out, and ordered roughly over Benny's protests, "Roll on your side." The long, pale body rolled as Ray fit himself to the bed behind him, stretching out legs that were about to cramp, drawing in the oxygen he needed to whisper how good Benny felt against him while he opened the condoms and rolled down the cool latex to keep his lover safe.


"Shhhhh. Tell me if anything hurts, Benny."

He put his right hand on Benny's hip, helping him angle back, licking a bead of sweat from his shoulder. This was really going to happen, which meant that he had to *let* it happen. He had to allow himself to believe that Benny wanted this, wanted him, and that because of that…he made himself think it…because of that he deserved it. They loved each other enough for him to take his best friend and make him his lover, to enjoy his body, and take his pleasure with Benny's body so tight around his own.

There was resistance at first, then heat, incredible heat around him, holding him close, deeper and hotter until he was inside completely, accepted completely, and a sort of blinding joy flashed within his blood. The completion of it overwhelmed him, and for perhaps the first time in his life, there was no fear.

Benny moaned and pressed back, wanting Ray to move. His hands flattened against the mattress for balance, using the leverage to make his impatience known.

Ray smiled and began to thrust, gently, letting it build. When Benny was moaning with a lovely constancy, he reached forward and took the hands from the bed, then pulled Fraser's arms up over his head, not letting him hold anything for support.

"Ray, please…"

"Shhhhh, Benny. Trust me."

It was the right thing to say. The strong ice-white fire-hot body relaxed, rolling without resistance as Ray took his right hip in a possessive grasp, thrusting inside more strongly, then slid his hand to Benny's arousal, pumping him in time to each entry, guided by each sound of pleasure which built and gathered, like the energy in his body, like the heat between them. When the end pressed upon them both he welcomed it, wanting to soar while inside Benny's body, knowing he would be held up.

Benny's first real keen of ecstasy took him by surprise, though he was too intent on his rhythm to falter. The sounds continued, wonderfully loud, inviting packmates to join him in howling at the moon. He felt Benny's body preparing, then the jerk and buck just before release, and threw himself into his own scream, pressing inside, touching *Benny* inside and then everything started shattering and wouldn't stop, on and on and on, calling his lover's name and being called in return, united in the selfish revelation of bliss.

For some time, the dim room was quiet and warm.


"Mph. Ray…my sweet Ray."

Their bodies had separated physically, but they had wound up nicely in each other's arms. Perhaps inevitably, Ray's head rested on Benny's shoulder, and their legs were a tangle.

It was odd, really, not wanting to move, not needing to speak. He wasn't even worried about what Benny was going to say, or if the man were going to be quiet. Worrying simply took too much effort.

Benny was nudged up gently to the surface.

"Ray? What's so funny?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." Ray's hand stroked his chest faintly, soothing him, before rubbing his tummy.

"Mmm…not 'sleep."

"Shhhh." The man in his arms stretched lazily and drifted back off. Later, he would tell Benny about how he was laughing at himself, at how safe and perfect he felt. Considering things objectively…but he didn't want to be objective, and he didn't need to be objective. He had a naked Mountie in his bed. If it took more than that to make him happy, he'd be the most ungrateful bastard on the planet.

Turning his head just a bit, he could see Benny sleeping. Pretty soon, he'd have to reach up and kiss him. Maybe a nice shower together. And soon he wanted what Benny'd just gotten.

Later, though. Benny was so toasty.


There was upon waking an unfamiliar haze of happiness that felt almost like a threat. Benton Fraser felt his body struggling awake, demanding his attention to the lateness of the morning hour, but with an unprecedented act of will he pulled away from the demands of duty. He body ached, and he was quite hungry, and none of it mattered. The heat-generating body in his arms was Detective First Grade Raymond Vecchio, and all was right with the world.

He was frightened in a way that he had never been before, but it was the source of the fear, not its intensity, that tried to distract him from the experience of waking up in Ray’s arms. He had known perfect contentment; he could never again pretend that he was satisfied with anything less than a continuation of that contentment. His years in Chicago seemed unbelievably empty, and the expanses of the Northern Territories that had for so long framed his ambitions now seemed a barren, Ray-less waste.

But then he remembered last night’s words, and Ray’s casual acceptance of his need to return home eventually, and he was overwhelmed with thoughts of having Ray all to himself in his father’s cabin: coming in from a midnight walk in the snow, shaking out of his clothes, then sliding into a warm bed with Ray laying naked inside. Ray complaining about the bad food, and then cooking “something edible” at the stove. Could he be naked there as well? Perhaps only an apron, covering his front, framing his perfect, hand-sized buttocks.

Ray walking in the snow and complaining about how there was no place to piss. Ray commiserating with Diefenbaker about the lack of jelly donuts. Ray in the summertime, swatting mosquitoes. Ray gaining confidence in his ability to find his way around. Ray growing to love Canada as he did Chicago, because he, Benton Fraser, was there.

But he would never ask Ray to leave America permanently, which meant that he would have to spend time here as well, for the rest of his life. He tested his feelings, thinking hard about what that would mean, and found he had no regrets.

Perhaps Persephone and Demeter had the right idea, after all. Canada’s deep winter would make a chilly, snowy Chicago. Chicago’s sweltering summer meant beautiful greenery and…

Ray was moving in his slumber, close now to waking. Benny moved with him, gliding up to stare into his lover’s sleeping face. It really was a preposterous nose. The arch of his brows was delicate and almost perfectly symmetrical. His long neck was pale and soft to kisses. There was a scar on his left shoulder, and then that patch of crinkly hair in the center of his chest. Broader shoulders than one expected, probably because Ray had a habit of rolling his shoulders in when he gestured. Olive skin set off those date-brown nipples, and then the flat stomach…Benny moved the covers out of the way…sharp hips, long, lean-muscled legs with shins that were barely bowed at all. Long toes, nice arches.

Snickering at himself, he let his gaze travel upwards once again. Ray’s penis at rest was beautiful and arousing and so naked and unprotected. Slowly, he crept upon it and placed the barest kiss right at its tip.

A gasp and twitching muscles told Benny that Ray was awake. Those green eyes must be open and looking at him.

He slid up the bed to capture dream-soft lips in a kiss. Pizza-flavored morning breath did little to mask the sweetness of his mouth, which he savored with delight until breathing announced its imperative.

He raised his head reluctantly, but it was worth it to see Ray smile. There was a slight struggle in his eyes, then:

“I love you, Benny.”

He felt his eyes go round and his mouth make what had to be a very silly smile. “I love you too, Ray.”

Ray nodded against the pillow and looked just slightly relieved, then grinned. “Kiss me one more time, then we better get going.”

Benny’s eyes narrowed, though it was true that the day was getting along and they had a lot to do, including, possibly, being killed and/or having their careers ruined and/or seeing a good man publicly exposed for a crime his daughter may/may not have committed.

All of which just made his present circumstances that much more valuable and himself that much less willing to give them up. He raised himself up slightly, watching with amusement as Ray frowned, denied his kiss, then allowed his lover a moment to realize he wasn’t going anywhere. On all fours, he hovered and surveyed his choices.

“Roll over, please, Ray.”

Ray, predictably, looked nervous, but Benny just smiled.

“I haven’t gotten to see you properly. I want to know what you look like all over.”

To his delight, Ray looked slightly embarrassed, then ready to argue, then just rolled over and let Benny look.

“You have a beautiful back, Ray, so long and straight, with such broad shoulders and narrow hips.”

“Benny…” the protest was faint and pillow-muffled, but obviously sincere. Benny responded by lowering his mouth down until he could cover Ray’s smooth back in dozens of butterfly kisses, each one meant to convey gentleness and appreciation. Fraser was happy to see Ray’s body flush and begin to shake just slightly with the movement of his quick-beating heart.

He buried his nose in the small of Ray’s back and breathed him in. They could both use showers, no question, but there was a sensual indulgence in the mix of dried and fresh sweat that rocked him, and he covered that dip in Ray’s body with the softest of kisses to steady himself.

Next, a firm, tight, lightly furry backside with almost no fat to speak of. Pert, almost, and quite delectable. He wanted to nibble and lick, but continued with nothing more than butterfly brushings of his lips as his fingertips grazed the length of those legs, not tickling, not scratching, just barely touching, using the air stirred by his movements to aid in the caress.

He raised himself back up, looking down at the palm-fitting curves, and thought just for a moment of what it would be like to be accepted there. He knew, if he asked, he would be, but as much as he wanted it, he didn’t want it right now as much as he wanted Ray to turn around again and smile at him.

Ray wordlessly granted his somewhat breathy request, revealing enormous and darkened eyes and a growing arousal. He let himself again consider his choices, then decided he would indulge himself completely.

Gentle kisses on his right shoulder, gentler kisses on his left. The softest nuzzling in that swirl of hair gave him an idea, and next he was running his lips over and through the soft bristle hair on Ray’s head. This got some nice gasping ging, as did the time he spent delicately licking at his ears. He was down again next, trailing his lips just over the faint hair on his stomach, then butterfly kisses again up and down those endless thighs, then again at his chest, and almost imperceptible sucking pressure over each nipple in turn, back and forth.

Ray’s breath was a wind storm, but Fraser was still surprised when those long, aristocratic hands gripped so tightly around the sheet. He raised himself up yet again, and stared down into eyes now wild and unfocused. A glance down revealed yet another surprise, as the proudly lifting cock was crowned with a glistening drop of precum.

Why Fraser’s gentle foreplay had become so much more to his partner was a mystery he would need solved in time, but for now he thought only to complete this, moving down to cover the swollen cockhead with little tiny kisses and dart his tongue gently into the slit, lapping up thick, bittersweet drops, before softly licking at the warm, tight sac.

Ray arched up, needing just a bit more pressure. Benny complied in the gentlest way possible.

“Benny! God!”

And Ray came in Benny’s mouth, spasming and shivering, then lying limply as the man moved up and covered him, seeking that sweet mouth. His kiss was returned with the gentleness he himself had shown, and his hands went to rear, pushing him in close. Before he could stop himself, Benny was thrusting down, and in only a few seconds, he spilled himself out between them.

“Oh my! Ray…Oh, God…”

Ray’s voice shook and finally just became a whisper. “I swear, it’s not even sex with you, Benny. It’s something else all together.”


Canadian Ambassador to the UN Gerald Braun regarded his daughter Melissa as she stood looking out the large glass window of her hotel room.

He hadn’t meant to intrude, but the door between their rooms had been open, and he was used to this signal’s meaning she was ready to go out.

And she was ready, in terms of being dressed. She was transforming now from the fashion-victim inevitability of teenage girls these days to tentative forays into elegance and even a muted sense of personal style. He was long used to seeing boy’s heads turn as they walked by. Now he was having to get used to the men looking as well, and not just the inappropriately older ones, either.

By all rights, he should get to worry about his daughter’s relationships with such men. It was downright unnatural to find himself wishing instead that she would accept a polite invitation to dance, or that she would take pleasure in small-talk, rather than clinging to his side.

He used to try to get her to talk about it, but when everything had been gone over again and again and the details were simply a form of self-torture, he allowed her to lapse into silence, trying to provide what support he could with his presence, and with making sure she knew nothing of his own details. The stacks of cash, the envelopes, and his dealings with his own government in the matter never reached her, though he suspected somehow she simply knew about it anyway. She had always been an intuitive girl, and Before, he had trusted her instincts completely.

Of course, he would trust them now again, if only she trusted them herself.

He had no way of knowing if the choices he had made were correct. He had done only what he could, and then, finally, taken the required path, risking the ruin of their lives.

But they had to go. Tonight was their last event in Chicago, and though it was sheer superstition he would breathe easier when they left this city. Perhaps in Atlanta he could get her to go for a drive or a walk, something other than being at his side as he shook hands or burying herself in medical textbooks.

He walked to her now, staring with her out the window at the lake, rosy with sunset.

“We won’t have to stay long,” he murmured.

“We should, though. It’s for AIDS.” Her voice held her mother’s music, and he seemed to hear in those controlled notes a plea from his wife to care for Melissa and protect her from the evil of the world she herself had left many years ago. He had prayed once or twice for forgiveness, but the dead offer no comfort.

He nodded, and she turned from the window, composed and silent. They walked together to the front door, and when he opened it to find the security detail, it was already too late to avoid failing his daughter once again.


“Park it over there, Mac. They’re coming down now.”

“Got it.”

“Thank you kindly.”

The limousine swerved expertly to the curb and waited, the near-silent engine even quieter at idle.

“How long we got?” Ray was fooling with the small device he’d purchased earlier that day, along with the wires running from it to the back of the limousine. He seemed satisfied, and tucked it out of sight under the seat.

“I’d say another ten minutes before the next car arrives, Ray.”

“Okay, Benny.”

There were a few reporters at the entrance to the hotel, talking to each other. A security guy - unmistakable in his gray suit and little earphone - had his back to them, watching over the front door.

“You look really good in that outfit, Benny.”

“Thank you, Ray. It suits you as well.”

“Hm. Off the rack.”

The security guy turned, saw the limo, and beckoned, his hand pressing on the earphone. Ray got out and strolled over.


“You aren’t the driver we had yesterday.” The security guy’s eyes were bored.

“Man, we gotta go through all those codes again?”

The guy shook his head, then went over the evening’s itinerary.

Inside the car, Fraser watched Ray nodding and looking around, for all the world a bored driver who’d rather be home watching the game. He looked around himself: the hotel, the street, the reporters, the Mountie in the backseat.


“Hello, son.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You know, son, by now I should think you’d start to get used to my showing up as a pleasant surprise.”

“By now you should know to knock or cough or something.”

Rob Fraser thought this over a minute, his brow furled underneath the winter Mountie hat on his head. Then his eyes cleared and he simply shook the issue off. He looked at his son a moment, then out the front window, then back again.

“So. The Yank, hm?”

“Yes, Dad.”

Bob Fraser grunted, looked back out the front, then frowned and looked at the hotel. “Canadian ambassadors giving in to extortionists. It’s enough to make you doubt the value of diplomacy.”

“His daughter may have been set up.”

“All the more reason to fight for the right, son. Teach her a few home truths while he’s at it.”

“By what? Seeing her in prison?”

“What sort of talk is that for a Mountie? Laws have been broken!”

“Yes, but just who is the victim here?”

“The victim of what?” Ray settled back into his seat, letting his fingers settle to tap on the wheel. They had about four minutes left.

“Are they coming down, Ray?”

“Supposedly they’re in the elevator. They got guests or something though.”


There was motion at the front door, then flashbulbs started popping and two gray suits opened the glass doors wide. Braun and his daughter were walking with two men and a woman. The woman was well-dressed and composed, and kept one of the two men with her between herself and the reporters. The two men were wearing black suits. One of them had a slightly bent nose, and the other one had a nose that turned slightly to the left.


Benny nodded, numb everywhere except that twist in his guts.

They managed to get out of the car and hold open the passenger doors, their faces turned from the light and half-hidden under the caps, neither of them breathing. Braun, his daughter, Ms Socks and the thugs all passed them without seeing them, intent on the tension already taut within the group. Ray and Benny closed the doors on both sides of the limousine, met each other’s eyes over the shiny black roof for a terrified second, then climbed into the front seats, keeping their heads staring straight ahead.

Ray didn’t have his gun. Both of them felt naked.

He slid the car into drive and pulled away from the curb.

“Raise the slide,” Ms Socks commanded, and Fraser’s hand shook just slightly as he obeyed.

She waited until the slide was up completely before turning her gaze to Braun’s daughter, and the man’s arm tightened around her waist instinctively.

He had never forgotten those dead, almost bored eyes. The men with her were strangers, but he wasn’t certain he’d never seen them before. This had been a part of his life for so long, and there had been so many of Ms Socks’ men that he found them almost invisible now.

“Detective Vecchio has finished his debriefing.”

Braun kept his voice level. “Then my daughter and I will soon be arrested.”

“You’re a fool, and you’re destroying your daughter’s life through your foolishness.”

“My daughter did nothing wrong but place too much trust in her boyfriend.” He cleared his throat and played his last card. “Do you think I haven’t figured out how you arranged to frame her for his death? Do you think that just because she was a little wild at sixteen I’d ever believe she would watch him die? Your people were careless in their arrangement of the scene. The bathroom floor was covered in glass shards from the broken mirror. There were none in my daughter’s feet, nor in her clothes.”

“A fact kept well away from the detective on the case. As far as he’s concerned, she’s guilty, and he’s got a good enough record as a detective to be believed completely when he takes the stand. Besides, your career will be over the moment she’s charged, and as for any hope of her becoming a doctor…”

She looked at the family in front of her. They weren’t obeying. They feared her, but there was no obedience here.

The limousine had no escort. She flipped the switch on the intercom.

“Stop at the next corner, driver. We’re picking someone up.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the driver answered politely, the sound distorted by a slight crackle.

“It doesn’t matter whom you bring into this car,” Braun said. “I’m not going to pay you people anything anymore.”

Ms Socks shrugged, then nodded at Jefferson, who opened the door even as the car slid to an expert stop. Charles Ober climbed smoothly inside, then settled himself beside Melissa Braun, who shrank from him.

“You do remember Detective Ober, don’t you, Mr. Braun?”

Braun’s eyes were dead, and Ms Socks allowed herself a moment of satisfaction.

“Where is Mr. Wester?”

Ober looked at her, then jerked a shrug. The whites of his eyes were showing all around the iris, and he was sweating. She wouldn’t want to use him again after tonight.

“Dead. Dying.”

“You’re not sure?”

“He was wheezing out his last. I shot him four times. I had to get here.”

Most unsatisfactory. “We will check on him afterwards.”

Another shrug. She dismissed him and turned back to Braun.

“So you see, your connections with the Canadian government in this matter have been severed. It was a clever move to enlist their aid, but also a risk you must have known could mean your destruction. Detective Ober has seen to it that all evidence of his and Mr. Wester’s undercover operation have been erased. There will be nothing but lost files and some further incriminating evidence should you attempt to protect yourself with claims of working for your own country’s good.”

“There are several in the government who know I was paying you off only because I had been ordered to do so.”

For the first time, Melissa roused herself, turning to look at her father with wide eyes. He hugged her even more tightly to his side.

Ms Socks shrugged. “You’d be surprised how few of them there were, and how little any of them will care for the idea of risking their reputations on the rumors of covert operations. Against whatever support they muster, I have photographs and receipts and enough video to keep the evening news happy for weeks.”

“How many of us do you control?” Braun’s voice was bitter, but not resigned. His anger blistered each word. Ms Socks was beginning to think little more could be gained from him other than the opportunity to use him as an example. “How many of the so-called rich and powerful people of this world feature you in their nightmares?”

The lake, she thought, would do. Braun, his daughter, the drivers, and Ober in one wet, fingerprint-free limousine. Everyone would get the message.

Braun, meanwhile, was on a roll. “If you think for a moment anything you can say or do will ever force me to -“

“Melissa might enjoy my men here.”

Jefferson caught Braun easily, and shoved him back into his seat. Ms Socks toyed with the idea of letting Jefferson use some of his hidden talents, but there was no point. Braun was useless now.

They were getting near the AIDS thing. She could see two patrol cars near the door to the hotel. She flipped the intercom switch again.

“We’re taking a detour, driver. Turn right.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

So obedient. Everyone did their job in the end, took their paycheck home, and slept well enough.

“Dad?” Melissa Brian’s voice in the car was jarring in its little-girl sweetness. Everyone was looking at her. “I think you did everything right.”

Braun’s eyes filled with tears, and he wrapped his arms around his daughter.


Ms Socks jabbed at the intercom again.

“Driver, I told you to turn right.”

There was no reply this time, and she reached for the switch to bring down the slide.

It didn’t budge.

The limousine was still headed to the hotel, but it swerved suddenly to the right, knocking the outside mirror off a patrol car and scratching along its side with a *clunk” that threw everyone to the right before the car swerved back into the lane. Ms Socks righted herself, looking around in suspicion, and noticed that at the top of the slide, in the corner, a small black object had been wedged, marring the smooth line of the padded ceiling against the metal bar. She reached up to investigate, then almost sprawled out over Jefferson when the car swerved again.

The inside of the car began to flash from the police lights outside, and the sound of sirens reached them. They were being pursued by the car they had hit. The limousine sped by the hotel, narrowly missing some reporters who walked into the street to take pictures of the excitement, and then turned the corner with a squeal of burning tires. Ms Socks looked back to see several cars pursuing them now. Where had they all come from?

Even more patrol cars came out from a cross-street, blocking the way, but she had no time to register this before the long car was thrown into an impossible skidding turn, spinning almost completely around as it stopped. There was the sound of doors opening as the drivers ran out, and then the squeals of other cars skidding to a stop.

“This is the police!” Someone had already gotten out a bullhorn. “Come out with your hands up!”

Melissa Braun screamed and opened the door, scrambling over a dazed Ober and tugging her father behind her. Ms Socks reached for the black object pressed against the ceiling, and found herself holding a small microphone.

It didn’t matter. The drivers were cops, obviously, but it would still be their word against hers. When she got the right judge on the case, that lack of evidence would be enough to get her off.

She climbed from the car unhurriedly, and watched as the police approached, weapons drawn. Jefferson, Addams, and Ober were disarmed, and they and she were handcuffed. Braun stood there with his daughter, looking dazed, but his eyes were focusing on something to their left.

She turned to see the two limousine drivers coming towards them. A second before the streetlight hit their faces, she knew.

She let herself smile. Vecchio and Fraser on the stand would sound convincing, but they had obvious reasons for wanting to lie. As witnesses against her, they were vulnerable, particularly with the homosexual angle. It was most satisfactory that she had made that so public an issue.

And then Vecchio raised his hand, and she saw he was holding something, a little gray box with black and red buttons.

She looked into his eyes, knowing he saw nothing, even when he threw her a wink and handed the tape recorder to his partner.

In about three strides Ray was in Ober’s face, his fists around Ober’s jacket.

“Where’s Wester, you son-of-a-bitch?”

Benny recognized many of the officers around them, so he wasn’t too surprised when Lt. Welsh appeared, standing quietly behind Ray. Fraser saw Huey not far from them as well. Elaine must have told them everything, but it was still very clever of them to have known to stake out the hotel.

Ober said nothing, and Ray threw him back against the car.

“We got you on tape bragging about shooting him four times! You want the jury to feel you’re anything better than scum that should die, you tell us where we can find him!”

Ober sneered, but the logic made sense to Ms Socks.

“He’s at Mr. Fraser’s apartment.”

Everyone looked at her as she continued, “If you search Mr. Ober, you will find Mr. Fraser’s gun.”


Ray rested his forehead on the Formica table and felt two hundred years old.

Wester was alive. He’d been wearing a vest, and though his ribs were cracked and he had a concussion from falling to the floor unconscious, he was going to be all right. Ray never thought before of allergic wheezing as a benefit, but maybe he’d have to try it sometime.

Ms Socks’ real name was Janet Widdley. She held an official position in Canadian Foreign Affairs Office. They were going to be tracking down the others in her “organization” for days, if not weeks.

Ms Widdley was nothing if not practical. With the tape recordings and what she’d revealed about Wester and Ray and Benny’s testimony, she knew she was as good as convicted, so her only hope lay in being as cooperative as possible. It wasn’t that Ray didn’t suspect her of holding back a great deal of information about just who really ran the show, but the information she was giving them was a road map of corruption through both the American and Canadian governments. There had been some stuff in there about Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Spain as well. Ray couldn’t remember all the details right now. His brain was mush.

He and Benny had been separated to give their statements, and then Welsh had wanted it all over again while the Dragon Lady heard it all in detail from Fraser. Dinner had come from the vending machines, and the final verdict on their actions would come from someone far over Welsh’s head.

Until then, he was suspended from duty. It was after midnight and he was all alone. He should go home.

He’d called his family, told them he was okay. Ma didn’t want to come back up until after the weekend because they’d made plans. He almost forgot himself and asked her what day it was. Later, he’d found out from Welsh it was Thursday.

Well, he didn’t have his badge and he still didn’t have a gun, but that bitch was behind bars and Braun and his daughter were safe, and…Oh, God. He pressed his forehead against the cold table hard enough to bruise, and brought his hands over his head, not wanting to think about possibilities.

He’d never noticed before how quiet things were in this room. When he wasn’t talking in here, he was listening. It was an odd sort of silence: unnatural, apathetic. The room stank of cold sweat.

Or was that just him?


His head shot up from the table, breaking out of his hands, which fell to the side like the broken shells of a cocoon.

Benny was standing there in his brown uniform. He noticed Ray looking at it.

“I changed at the Consulate.”

Had he? That made sense, Ray supposed. Benny was looking now at his own brown suit.

“I keep a suit in my locker. Never know when I’m going to be crawling around in a sewer or something and need to get cleaned up."

Benny smiled faintly.

“My apartment is a crime scene.”

“My house is empty. We got lots of bedrooms.”

Benny closed off just slightly, even as he nodded. “Thank you kindly, Ray.”

They walked to the car, still in the spot where Ray had parked it just a few days ago. A flash of images, shaking hands, meat cleavers, thinking any second he was going to throw up, made him fumble before he got the passenger door unlocked, but Benny didn’t say anything. He walked around the car, got behind the wheel, started the motor and revved until he got that powerful purr, then drove home.

They said nothing, Ray’s careful driving for once not even giving Benny a chance to comment on missed stop signs and neglected turn signals. He wanted to say something about picking up Diefenbaker in the morning, but couldn’t get past the fact that Ray would simply agree to drive him. Whatever else was going to happen, they were still friends. There had to be that much left between them.

He understood what loneliness did to people, and fear, and guilt, and shame. If Ray didn’t want him *that* way anymore, he would have to find a way to deal with it quietly. He knew himself well enough to know that he was going to need to see as much as possible of Ray in the next few weeks, that being with him, whatever they were doing, was going to mean everything to him. If Ray didn’t want to touch him, then he would have to live off words and looks, and if those words were all about the cases they worked on, or what woman Ray was trying to get to go out with him, then he would have to bear it without accusation. He could do nothing to push Ray out of his life.

If only his hands would stop shaking.

They’d started to tremble when he’d heard “Ms Socks”’ voice over the intercom, that soulless monotone as she set about manipulating and destroying more people’s lives. It had continued during the arrests, and during his double debriefing.

It had continued when he had met Meg Thatcher’s eyes in a way he’d never done before, without fear, without suggestion, as he gave his report. It had continued when he took a taxi back to the station long after Ray should have been back at his house, because he couldn’t bear the idea of calling the 27th to be told Ray wasn’t there. And now, safe in the Riv with familiar smells and the heater going, he had his hands tucked around crossed arms and couldn’t quite catch his breath.

Ray pulled up the driveway and killed the engine. They got out and walked inside. The house smelled a little musty and the milk in the refrigerator had gone sour.

“You hungry, Benny?”

He looked at his friend, trying to see clearly through his fear. Ray’s eyes were huge and miserable, quite unlike a man who had just busted open an international government blackmail ring.

Ray had brought him home. Perhaps he simply needed do the rest.

“May I take off your clothes, Ray?”

“Do you want to, Benny?”

“More than anything, Ray.”

The tall, ever-moving body sagged in on itself, and the pain-filled eyes closed in relief. “Thank God.”

Fraser grabbed him up into a tight embrace and held him over his own healing heart.

“God, Benny, I ain’t been so scared since…” Ray laughed weakly. “…about six hours ago.”

“Ray, do you think you can feel that for me again, just while living our normal lives?”

“What’s a normal life around you, Benny?”

Fraser pulled back, his eyes serious, earnest. “But without the drama of…without thinking that…”

“…that we might die any second? Benny, I never needed any of that. We didn’t come together because of her, Fraser. We came together despite her, and if we’re doing this for keeps we gotta remember that.”

Benny felt light-headed. “For keeps, Ray?”

“I told you I can’t ask you to marry me.”

“I told you I didn’t ask for it. Your word’s always been more than enough for me, Ray.”

“You giving me your word, Fraser?”

“You have everything that’s mine, Ray.”

He bit his lip, looking into Benny’s eyes, then his own twinkled just slightly. “You can keep Dief.”

“Well, he’s not mine to give, Ray. However, I believe you should know by now that he’s adopted you.”

“I wonder if Ma will take him in lieu of grandchildren.”

Dark blue eyes frowned. “Ray, about your family…”

Vecchio threw up his hands, and somehow the fact that they were shaking made Fraser feel the first hint of calm he’d known since he and Ray had gotten reluctantly out of bed late that morning.

“Benny, my family…we’re gonna have to figure out what to do there, but for now, this is just…I don’t wanna make any announcements until we’re a little easier about it ourselves, okay?”

“Certainly, though, as you know, you are already listed as my next of kin, Ray. I feel it would also be prudent to draw up other legal documents to…”

“…make things more official?”

Benny nodded.

“Well, I can’t leave you the house. You want the Riv?”

“I want you, Ray.”

“I thought you were going to take off my clothes.”

Benny stepped forward instantly and began to undo the buttons of his dark blue silk shirt. Ray reached for those Mountie-issue buttons on the brown jacket, and soon it became a race, a race Ray won once again by sliding Benny’s pants and underwear down together.

Benny smiled, then slid off Ray’s black briefs. Neither of them was aroused. The day had been too long. Ray bent down to his jacket and found his supplies, then straightened with a leer.

“Let’s take a shower together and make a lot of noise. God knows when the whole mob’s going to be away again. ‘Bout time I got to use my own house properly.”

Benny followed him upstairs, purposefully going behind him to admire the view. Ray threw a somewhat flushed look over his shoulder, but said nothing.

In the bathroom, Ray got the water ready, then pulled Benny in with him, and for several quiet, long and sweet moments they stood under the spray and in one another’s arms.

“I need to be able to rely on you, Benny.”

“Don’t you, Ray?” There was just a note of hurt there.

“I don’t care how frightened or guilty or trapped you feel ever again, you can’t run from me, all right?”

“I promise, Ray.”


“And what?”

“What do you need me to promise, Benny?”

There wasn’t enough hair on Ray’s head for Benny to hide his smile in it. “You giving me a blank cheque, Ray?”


Fraser shivered.


“Well, we’re going to be doing things…I’m going to be doing things, feeling things I’ve never let myself feel before. I don’t know if you can promise this, but I need you to…accept what love does to me, Ray.”

Ray shuddered, looked into his eyes, letting him see everything. “I promise, Benny.”

They moved apart after that, soaping up several times, washing off so much dirt and stink and sweat the bar of Ivory lost half its size.

Benny started laughing during the last soap-up.

“What’s so funny?”

“I was thinking about you in the garbage bin, screaming because of the parasites, and then in here, with your whole family running through the room.”

“You can laugh it up. You got no idea what’s like. No privacy, no respect for a guy’s space -“

“Will you miss them very much, when you’re living with me?”


“Are you sure?” Benny’s eyes were clouded with worry.

“I didn’t miss them when I was living with Ange.”

“Oh.” Benny brightened. “All right then.”

Ray laughed. “You’re a nut, you know that?” He leaned in for a kiss, got soap in his eye, and spent the next three minutes flushing it out while Benny made helpful suggestions.

The water was going a little cold when he turned off the tap. They dried themselves and each off thoroughly with their towels, then trotted downstairs naked to raid the ‘fridge. They had to settle for omelets, after scraping a little mold off the cheese and pouring the milk they didn’t use down the drain. They even managed to locate some frozen orange juice and some pop-n-fresh crescent rolls. They barely took their eyes from each other the whole time.

They ate quickly, left the dishes for later, and went to Ray’s room. Fraser walked to the bed, then turned with an inquiring look to his lover.

“Would you just get in the bed, Benny? I wanna see you in it.”

With a smile that got Ray’s toes curling, Benny sprawled out on the bed, rolling over on his back, spreading his legs before lifting up his left knee and propping himself up on one elbow. While Ray’s eyes bulged gratifyingly, the man ran a hand down his pale chest, toyed with a pink nipple, then, slowly, gently, eased his hand down to the half-erect length below, running his palm along the side, coaxing further development.

“Benny…” Ray strangled out. God. That pose was out of some sort of skin mag. And Benny knew it. “I thought…I thought you were so innocent, Benny.”

“Do you want to watch me, Ray?”

Ray looked ready to pass out. “I want everything from you, Benny. But right now, I wanna know what you feel like.”

Benny considered that if both of them passed out, no one would find them, perhaps for days. Would he still be hard? Ma Vecchio wouldn’t care for that one.

He scooted back in the bed and felt Ray’s heat a moment before that dry skin was pressed against him. What was it about this sensation that made him moan so loudly?

“You’re fire, Ray.”

“Fire?” Ray looked puzzled, then broke out in a smile Benny had first seen when Ray had discovered his lottery ticket was worth $25,000. “You’re something, you know that, Fraser?”

Benny smiled and ran a thumb over his cockhead, shivering. Ray growled and lunged onto the bed, throwing the supplies to the side, then bending his head to kiss a path that followed the touch of that thumb. Benny lost control of his arms and sprawled back completely now, spreading his legs, opening himself up, until the madness ebbed slightly.

“Stop, Ray…please.”

“Don’t you like it, Benny?” The sensations on his cock ceased, and sanity won out more completely.

“Of course, but I want to come inside you, Ray.”

His lover went absolutely still.

“Ray?” He sat up in alarm, seeking green eyes. “Don’t you want that? I thought -“

“Yeah, I want it, Benny. I just…I just can’t stand it when you say things like that.”

Fraser looked him over. Ray’s eyes were large, and his thin body was shaking, his skin was flushed, and he was overtly aroused. Feeling those eyes on him, he reached down and stroked himself again.

“You have a truly beautiful posterior, Ray. I’ve thought all day about being inside it.”


“Yes, Ray?”

“That’s…no way for a Mountie to talk.”

Benny felt himself laughing. “No, it’s ‘Mounter’ talk, Ray.”

Ray groaned. “You’re not getting into my pants with a mouth like that, Benny. What *is* it with you and pillow talk, anyways?”

“You’re quite right, Ray, we don’t have to talk at all.” He reached out and drew a willing mouth to his own, plundering even as his mouth was explored possessively. He pressed back and ended up draped over Ray. When his lips sought that long neck, his name rasped out in the dim lamp-light of the room like a prayer.

“It feels so good to touch you,” Benny mumbled against that hot skin. “So good to make love to you and know you’re safe.” His hands reached down and around and kneaded those tight little cheeks. “So good to be here with you in your bed. It’s…an incredibly comfortable bed, Ray.” A fingertip slid down that fine cleft, and Ray groaned, moving against his touch. “You’re so beautiful, Ray. I can’t believe how much I want you. I can’t believe I get to touch you.”

Ray’s eyes met his, staring wildly, then he simply rolled over and spread himself out on the bed. Benny was instantly kissing and licking and nibbling at the smooth flesh, rubbing his face against the furry skin, breathing in Ray’s sweet smell. His fingers parted him, adding in musk and revealing the puckered circle that seemed woefully small and too tight to accept him. He placed a soft, remorseful kiss on the rim.

Ray screamed.

“Ray?” Benny began to reach for his shoulders in alarm, but Ray shuddered and pressed his hips down against the mattress.

“Benny, do that again. Please. God. If you can. Do it again.”

It was just as well that Ray couldn’t see the smug expression on Benny’s face as he bent down to his task. He kissed again, then licked, while Ray screamed into a pillow and writhed over the sheets. When he began probing with his tongue, Ray was almost sobbing. He was also relaxing.

He also sounded dangerously close to orgasm. Benny grabbed the pillow that wasn’t half-stuffed into Ray’s mouth, raised up Ray’s hips and settled the pillow beneath them while Ray gasped and shivered. Then he reached for a condom, smoothing the cool sheath down over himself as an aid to regaining his control.

Ray said nothing as he used gentle fingers to prepare him, nothing as he pushed the pillow out of the way and rolled Ray over onto his side. And Fraser found that he needed permission. It wasn’t just enough to take. He needed to have this given to him. It was appallingly selfish.

“Ray? Are you all right?”

Ray half-laughed. “I guess.”

“Don’t you want this?”

“More than anything, Benny. And I want to do it to you again.”

“Yes, please, Ray.”

“And I want to do that tongue thing to you, and I want to suck you and lick you and rub every part of your sweaty, hairy, muscular manly body over every part of mine.”

“Is that…so bad, Ray?”

“Sounds like heaven, Benny. But I’m not the person I thought I was.”

“No. You’re someone who loves me.”

Ray sighed and turned around as much as he could, finding Benny’s lips with his own. “Yeah. I’m glad about that, Benny. So glad, you don’t know.” Then he turned around again, grabbing the pillow. “Benny? Make me scream again.”

“Y-yes, Ray.” He used his hand to guide himself, then had to apply more force than he liked to slide inside, and then…”Oh! Fire, Ray. You’re fire!” He slid all the way inside, burned, branded.


The rocking motion set an instant, inevitable rhythm. Ray groaned and moved with him, began shouting his name, then screamed again, louder than ever, when Benny’s hand found him.

Fraser closed his eyes and did nothing but feel the constricting flame of Ray’s body, listen to his screams, taste the lingering sweetness of his sweat off his shoulders and neck, breathe in the salt and sugar of him. He pushed away the uncertain future and the thousand obstacles of possible prejudice and incompatibility. He would love Ray for the rest of his life, based just on being here right now, based on the pleading desire of those screams, based on the hand that found his beneath their bodies and held on tight.

Ray’s body stiffened, held, spasmed, erupted, demanding Benny’s willing surrender, and with relief he gave all that he was to the one person in the world who wanted everything he had to offer.


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