The ice gave way, and he fell.
30 metres, at least, down an almost-sheer escarpment, ice and rocks falling with him, until the ground hit him.
No. The ground hadn’t hit him. He hit the ground. But that wasn’t what it felt like. It felt like an attack, from a solid immovable force that he couldn’t fight back against.
He lifted his head and tried to move. The world lurched in front of his eyes and the snow pulled him back down. He tasted blood in his mouth.
He was lucid enough to realise he must be concussed. He didn’t recall losing consciousness, but the sun was higher in the sky than he could account for otherwise. At least, he thought it was. Heavy clouds stretched from horizon to horizon - it was hard to tell. Not clouds that would bring snow, but dark sullen clouds that kept the light low and the temperature constant.
Ray had complained of them before he left for work. Scowling at the window, he’d said, “Cloudy. I’m going down to Whitehorse an’ I won’t be able to see anything on the way. That sucks.”
“Shouldn’t you be watching the road rather than admiring the scenery?”
“Yeah, ‘cause there’s so much traffic six thousand feet above the Yukon,” he mocked. “You got your arctic terns jumpin’ the lights, your Eider ducks that never signal…”
“John Patuktuq says he saw an eagle with a three metre wingspan over Mistik Lake, you know.”
“Uh-huh, yeah, and I want some of what he’s drinking, but only after I get back, ok?”
“Of course. I couldn’t overlook drink-flying, even for you Ray.”
Later he managed to get an arm under his head, and that was better. His face was out of the snow, and he could see the whole valley stretched out below him.
Diefenbaker had whined and nudged at him, trying to encourage him to get to his feet. The wolf dragged his pack within reach, and sat watching him, as if expecting him to fashion his own stretcher and rescue team out of it.
He did manage to fumble some water out of his canteen and into his mouth. He spit red into the snow, then drank. Most of it trickled down his chin.
Eventually Dief lay down beside him.
“I’m open to all suggestions at this point, Diefenbaker,” he whispered. It felt like one of his ribs was broken.
But this wasn’t the mineshaft they’d met in. He didn’t really expect Dief to come up with anything.
“I hope you’ll stay and keep Ray company,” Ben said after a while. “Or go back with him, if he decides not to stay here.” Yes. Definitely broken. It hurt to take a deep breath.
Dief growled low in his throat.
“Well, he could go wherever he likes. He’ll have - there will be money, for him…” he had to stop. Dief didn’t need to hear his voice break.
“I didn’t put anything in your name, because you know, someone else would only have to administer it on your behalf, and I thought - well, I thought Ray would be the best person to…” Oh, what did it matter? It was all out of his hands now anyway.
He closed his eyes just for a moment, and when he opened them again the wolf was gone. Whether to seek help or with an animal’s instinct that there was nothing more to be done for him, he didn’t know. It hardly mattered at this distance: it had taken him all morning to hike up here, and a spring rockfall further down the trail had lead him off the route logged with the detachment. A search party would take hours to find him, in the morning: nobody would miss him until nightfall.
It would be suicidal to set out to find him in the dark, and even in late April his chances of surviving overnight, injured, without shelter, were slim.
Ray might have raised the alarm sooner if he’d been home, but it was no help to anybody to think in what ifs. Things were what they were. He had more than he ever hoped for, these last two years. Having Ray here at all was an unlooked for blessing. Some people got lifetimes, and some people got two years, that was all.
There was nothing he could have done to predict or prevent this. Just one of those accidents that can happen to anybody, however experienced they may be in the dangers of a northern spring - rotten ice, hidden crevasses opening under your feet, sudden meltwater thundering down. The terrain would show that there was nothing he could have done. It was nobody’s fault.
All he could do was lie here, looking out across the plain. The airstrip Ray had taken off from was a distant smudge at the far edge; he could make out the runway but not the buildings, and certainly no people. From this height, the contours of the land were visible as if the hillside had bones. Caribou trails followed the contours like lines on a map.
If the choice had been his, he would have chosen a death like this. Not old and bed-ridden, trapped indoors at the mercy of other people’s kindness; but in full health, doing what he loved, a burden on nobody. He had thought about it often. Less so, of late, with his off duty time filled with another person’s thoughts and complaints and desires, with squabbling over the proper pronunciation of “pecan” and wrestling for the remote.
Even when Ray wasn’t there, he found himself ambushed by sense memories, startling images of the way Ray touched him: his hot-eyed determination when he pushed Ben’s knees apart; the way his breath caught when Ben slid into him… Contemplation of one’s own mortality was impossible in the face of such distraction.
He was 41: hardly old, but past his physical peak by anybody’s standards. He couldn’t run as fast, see as keenly, keep going for as long as he had been able to ten years ago. There was silver at his temples (“Silver fox, Frase,” Ray had said, on finding him frowning at his reflection. Then “Nah, actually strike that: you’re more of a silver wolf.”) and crowsfeet crinkling his eyes (“They’re cute. Yeah I’m callin’ you cute, whatcha gonna do about it?”) To Ray, his body was apparently attractive, at least, if what he said in bed were to be believed. He had read somewhere that it shouldn’t be. But even assuming Ray to be sincere - and that was hardly a stretch: Ray was transparently in earnest in all their dealings, it would be an injustice to deny it - his opinion was subjective in the extreme.
He had visited as much of the world as he cared to: most of his life spent here, in the far north, four years in Chicago, and then back again. Justice served, as best it could be when a murderer had lived free for thirty years. A homecoming, of sorts, for an un-prodigal son.
By Ben’s age, his father was a sergeant, halfway to legend already, patrolling the land he would later die on. Whether he had known it was coming, seen by whose hand he died, nobody could tell. He hadn’t backed down and he hadn’t asked for help, and that didn’t prove anything at all.
That he died instantly, the coroner was certain. On the question of his afterlife, a doctor could not have been expected to speculate.
Ben hadn’t asked, but might it not have been precisely the death his father would have chosen? Dying for his ideals, protecting the land he loved, before his career trailed out in bureaucracy and obscurity? And if there was anybody left behind to miss him - well. Ben had his answer there.
And now it seemed he was to be granted the same privilege - the death he would have chosen. Be careful what you wish for, they say. You might just get it.
After a while his head felt steadier. He took another sip of water, still tasting iron on his tongue, and tried to move his legs. A wall of pain rose up and crashed down upon him, so intense that he cried out. His vision whited out, and for time he couldn’t measure he was buried under that pain. Nothing else existed.
Outside a Chicago courtroom, Ray Vecchio had stuck a sign to his back which read “Please shoot the other leg.” It had been intended to make him laugh, take his mind off police corruption, the sight of his father’s killer hale and hearty. And it had, a little. Ray would probably appreciate the irony that this time it was the other leg. Broken rather than shot, but close enough.
Even if somebody found him, a break like that wouldn’t heal up overnight. It might not heal properly at all.
Last night, he and Ray had run around the lake. The evenings were long already, daylight until they were both home and then sunset vivid on the water as they ran. Most of the way they were side by side, but with the cabin in sight Ray shot him a grin. One of those teasing, provocative grins, that made him want to -
“Bet I get there first,” Ray said, and he was off.
Ben took off after him.
He caught up on the home stretch, but only because Ray slowed down for him. Let him pull level, flashing that grin, wiping the sweat out of his eyes. Ray’s whole body was telegraphing his intention to put on a last burst of speed, inviting Ben to stop him.
So Ben did. Grabbed him round the waist and brought them down in a tangle on the grass, laughing and smelling of fresh clean sweat.
Maybe Ray was faster, but Ben had 20 pounds on him. He was always going to come out on top, so if Ray kept encouraging him to take him down, Ben had to conclude it was because he didn’t mind losing.
Ray sprawled back warm and pliant, letting Ben pin him, and Ben wanted him so much he couldn’t bear it. It didn’t seem possible that he really had this: Ray, bright-eyed and smiling up at him, pulling him down into a kiss under a northern sunset.
Well, now he wasn’t going to have it any more.
He was almost asleep when he heard the plane. At first it was part of a dream; Ray was trying to tell him something, but his words were being drowned out by the sound of an aircraft coming towards them like something out of Hitchcock.
He knew it was bad to fall asleep - of course he did. He had known all the signs of hypothermia since early childhood; possibly even his mother had taught him. But knowing the signs of hypothermia and being to do anything about it were two quite different things. He could rage against the dying of the light and try to stay awake, but what would that achieve, really? So he had let his eyes close.
And now he was forcing them open again. A plane was approaching the airstrip, a speck against the setting sun. This time yesterday I was running round the lake with Ray. But now the engine noise wouldn’t let him talk to Ray - Ray had been right here, where was he now? It wasn’t fair: he was already losing his second chance, dying on this godforsaken mountainside, and even his unconscious had been robbed?
For a second he was furious. Furious enough to really wake up, process what he was seeing. This wasn’t just a distracting noise, it was somebody with the vantage point to pinpoint his location and reach him. Maybe there was nothing to be gained from raging alone in the snow, prolonging a pointless agony, but he had a pack, he had a flare, and there was a plane to see it - Ray’s plane, it had to be Ray’s plane!
His hands were very nearly numb. He had to prop himself up to find the flare in his pack, and the jolt of pain that greeted his rash movement was overwhelming. He dropped back in the snow, panting. The sound of the engines got louder.
He couldn’t do it in time, the plane would land without seeing him. Ray would jump down, do his post-flight checks, stop to talk to Jim, then go home, expecting Ben to be there. He wouldn’t worry right away; he’d wait an hour before he called. Maybe more. Telling himself he was worrying over nothing, not wanting the RCMP to think he was fussing. And when he did call, they would tell him, no, Fraser isn’t back yet. Yes, he’s late, but what can we do? It’s dark now. He must have had to make camp overnight.
And when he didn’t come back in the morning, would they start looking for him then? What time? They’d allow him an hour or two to make it back before anybody thought to go looking. Ray would be up at dawn, expecting him any minute. But Ray wasn’t a search party. He would just have to wait, wait and wait for no news and no news and no news, until no news became its own answer.
It wasn’t fair, goddamn it! A second chance for both of them just when they thought there was no such thing, and him with a flare within reach and he couldn’t fire it? The universe was mocking him; the Raven was playing a trick in a story someone else would tell.
But then the flare was in his hand. The iron taste of blood flooded his mouth again as he fired it and saw the red glare off the snow.
And in the distance, the plane banked against the sunset, and turned towards him.
His next clear memory was in hospital.
He wished he could say he didn’t remember anything of his own rescue, but that wasn’t quite true. He remembered pain, and the plane turning in circles overhead, and a helicopter. Later, he would be embarrassed at so many resources being expended for an officer who might never be fit to work again. But at the time everything was a blur. He was sure Ray was there, but later it occurred to him Ray must have been flying the plane, so how could he have been in the helicopter?
Doctor Singh told him, “We gave you a general anaesthetic to put a pin in your knee, Mr. Fraser. It was a bad break, but I’ve performed a lot of these procedures and the recovery rate is excellent.”
He was sure she called him something else, usually - more people used his first name these days. But he appreciated the doctor-patient formality of Mr. Fraser, now that he was flat on his back in a hospital bed.
He went back to sleep as she was saying, “I see from your records you’ve had surgery before, so you’ll be familiar with the after effects of the anaesthetic - you may find you’re unusually sleepy for the next few days…”
Ray was there the next time he woke up.
He was hunched forward in a chair next to the bed, arms resting on his thighs, apparently deep in contemplation of the floor between his feet.
He must have made a noise, because Ray looked up and saw that he was awake. He didn’t smile, but his face and his shoulders seemed to relax like all the tension had gone out of him. He didn’t say anything either, just reached out to take Ben’s hand. Ray didn’t usually hold his hand in public. Or was it him who didn’t usually hold Ray’s hand?
It was nice, Ray’s hand in his.
He went back to sleep.
The next time he was awake, Ray said to him, “You’re a dick, you know that right?”
There was probably some context to this statement that he’d missed. But Ray sounded upset.
“Mm,” he said. Ray was probably right. Ray knew him pretty well.
“‘Cause every day I say it, every damn day I tell you to be careful. Is that not what I say?”
“Yes, Ray,” he agreed.
“And I know you’re gonna tell me you were being careful, but it didn’t look like that from two thousand feet with you dyin’ in the snow.”
“The ledge gave way, Ray,” he rasped.
“Yeah, I know. I know it did. I just - you know, I just -”
Ray’s head was bowed so low Ben could only see the spikes of his hair. “I don’t know what I’m even doing here,” he told the floor. “I mean, if you’d -”
“Sorry, Ray,” he didn’t know what he was sorry for. The state of the ice in late spring, probably. If someone had to be held responsible for the changing seasons, he was as good a candidate as any. He just looked at Ray’s bowed head until Ray looked up at him. His eyes were red.
He reached out towards the nightstand. “Would you - ” his mouth was so dry his voice came out a croak.
“Sorry. Sorry, sorry, yeah, here -” Ray leapt to his feet, was leaning towards him with the plastic cup. His fingers brushed Ben’s lip as he steadied the straw.
Even over the hospital smell of soup and lilies, he could smell Ray. The light glinted on his stubble, and then suddenly he pulled back. Water sloshed out of the cup when he put it down.
“Ok, look I’ll be - I just gotta -” he waved towards the door with one hand, scrubbed at his face with the other. “I’ll come back. I’m just gonna…fuck, I gotta get my shit together for a minute, ok? I’ll be right back, ok?”
And the door was closing behind him before Ben could say anything.
“Ok, sorry,” Ray said when he came back. Ben had lost track of how much time had passed. Nobody seemed to be enforcing visiting hours, and either nobody was enforcing a no dogs rule or Diefenbaker’s lupine bloodline had been called into play to work around the regulations.
“I got - I was, I was - you scared me, you know?”
“No, no you don’t gotta be sorry. I get it. Things happen. You’re ok, you feel like shit right now but you’re gonna be ok, so I’m sorry. Just, hospitals, and the form - the thing, they made me sign the thing, for the surgery. Your surgery. ‘Cause you were unconscious. They tried to ask you, but they gave you something, on the chopper, for the pain, and you were pretty much out of it.”
“Yeah. So then they’re, hey look, Mr. Kowalski - everyone was real polite, lotta “Mr Kowalski,” really freaked me out - you’re down here as his next of kin, you need to sign this consent form so we can operate, and by the way sometimes people, uh, people sometimes - in surgery there’s always this risk that people -”
“I know, Ray.”
“Yeah, so I signed it.” Ray rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. “And you’re ok, it’s fine, but I get, uh, I get, I got - I got scared. You didn’t look so good, Frase.”
“Sorry, Ray,” he said again.
Ray nodded fast, several times. He was looking up at the ceiling.
“Yeah so there’s a whole bunch of people waiting to see you, an’ I’m not so good at this, so I’ll see you later, ok?”
There were indeed a bunch of people waiting to see him. Doctor Singh, still briskly professional, jumped the queue; and then Maggie, and Constable Qulitalik and Sergeant Wilson from the Detachment, Eric and Patty, Susan Amaruq with pie (he didn’t want the pie. Ray would have eaten the pie for him.); Mary Svensson with flowers; June with grapes (“Mum told me you bring sick people grapes, but you’re not sick, you broke your leg. You still want the grapes?” He did want the grapes.)
Ray didn’t come back - he left a message, explaining that he had to go to work. And it wasn’t like Ben needed him there every minute - he was fine. Of course Ray had to go to work. Supplies still needed to be flown in; the world hadn’t stopped just because Ben had been careless enough to fall off a small cliff.
Ray was back in the morning. It seemed best not to let on quite how much better he felt with Ray in the room, in case Ray felt he had to stay all the time.
Ray stood at the end of his bed bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I shoulda brought food,” he said, pointing at the pie from yesterday. “Sorry. I didn’t -”
“No, really, there’s no need. I don’t want any more food. It’s great just to -” but he had decided not to say that, hadn’t he?
“Ok,” Ray gave him a little shy smile. “What about clothes? You need clothes? I shoulda asked yesterday -”
“Yes. Clothes. Definitely,” he said at once. If he had to receive visitors while stuck in bed, at least he could do it with some proper clothes on and not a gaping hospital gown.
“Ok. I’m on it. Clothes.” Ray nodded like a man making an important mental note. Ben nodded back at him, and wished with every atom of his being that he could think of something normal to say that would put Ray at ease.
But he couldn’t.
Ray picked up every object on the nightstand and started reading his get well soon cards. When he tried to straighten them, they collapsed onto the floor in a fluttering avalanche so then he had to pick them all up again. He poked at the flowers, closed the shades, opened the shades, looked out of the window. He sat down and got up again more times than Ben could count.
When Maggie knocked on the door and called, “Ben? Can I come in?” he leapt up one more time.
“Maggie! Hey! Come in!” he said as Ben struggled to prop himself up in some semblance of welcome.
“Hi, Ray - am I interrupting?” she asked, leaning over to kiss Ben on the cheek. He had never been kissed so much in his life - perhaps this was an element of hospital visiting he had been doing wrong. Everybody except for Ray seemed to take it for granted that they ought to kiss him on arrival. It wasn’t that he minded, as such, but it was a little disconcerting. Having started, would all these people carry on kissing him every time they met? He most sincerely hoped they would not. And would Ray carry on not kissing him?
Thank God Maggie hadn’t brought any food. She held out a newspaper and a battered book, the cover of which bore the faded word “Arctic” and something he couldn’t read.
“Huh. Great. Book about the arctic for you. ‘Cause when I nearly die somewhere, I wanna read about it too,” Ray said.
Ben and Maggie blinked at him.
“Sorry, I just thought -”
“Ray, I didn’t nearly - ”
Ray cut them both off.
“I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee. You both want coffee? Greatness! I’ll bring coffee.”
And he was halfway down the corridor before they could get a word in edgeways.
Maggie put the book down gingerly beside him.
“So Ray’s been pretty worried about you, I guess?” she said, fiddling with her hair.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t say that. He just - he doesn’t like hospitals very much. As soon as I get home everything will be back to normal.”
Maggie nodded energetically at the obvious truth of this.
Being home didn’t get everything back to normal at all.
Not for want of trying - Ben hobbled around on his new crutches, feeding Diefenbaker who carefully didn’t get under his feet, putting away his clothes from the hospital, collecting mugs from the coffee table.
“I can get that,” Ray told him.
“No, really - it’s fine, Ray, I need to move around. Doctor Singh was quite insistent about avoiding stretches of immobility.”
“Yeah, ok, but you don’t need to carry stuff…”
Ray hovered around him, as if expecting him to fall at any moment. A little faith would have been nice, but he would just have to demonstrate his competence and Ray would relax. He was sure of it.
“I’m fine, Ray! This is part of the recovery process.”
“Process, Fraser: process - it don’t all have to happen today, gimme that…”
“It’s fine, I’ve got it - ”
“Ben, will you just leave it? The Queen is not coming for fucking tea - ”
But he was stumbling and dropping everything with a spectacular crash before Ray was even in arm’s reach. Cold coffee dregs arched through the air and splashed across the floor between them, soaking into the armchair, the pile of magazines and a rug that had seen better days.
There was a second of silence as they gazed at each other across the mess.
Then Ben sighed and eased himself down onto the couch. “You’re absolutely right, Ray. The Queen is not coming for fucking tea.”
Ray put his hands in his pockets and nodded at the floor.
“You wanna lie down? Maybe you should lie down. Then I can like, tidy stuff up, and...”
Until Ray said it he hadn’t had the slightest desire to lie down, but as soon as the words were out it was suddenly all he wanted. To lie down in his own bed, where nobody was going to walk in and read his chart or check his stitches or offer him pie he didn’t want, and most of all, he wanted Ray to lie down with him. He wanted to be able to feel the mattress dip beside him and smell Ray’s hair and see the shadow of his eyelashes on his cheekbone. That was what he wanted.
“Yes, alright,” he agreed. “Help me up?”
Ray’s hands were warm in his, pulling him carefully to his feet, and Ray lead the way into the bedroom, holding doors and clearing a path wide enough for train to come through, let alone a man on crutches.
Once they were there, of course, he realised that while getting Ray into bed had become so easy and familiar (though no less thrilling for it) that he didn’t even need to think about it any more, he had no idea how to get him just on to the bed. Ray didn’t need to lie down - with Ben immobilised, Ray did need to be the one to tidy, do anything that needed balance and two working legs. Into bed could be achieved any number of ways - from simply looking at him (Ray would grin at him, ask “You want something, Frase?”) to simply grabbing him (“Holy shit, you get me hot when you do that. My legs are still shaking - can you feel that?”). Everything seemed to work.
“Ray,” he began.
“Yeah?” Ray turned in the doorway, already taking a step back towards him.
“Will you lie down with me?” Direct approach. Ask for what you want. It sounded easy, but oh, it wasn’t.
Ray smiled, and then frowned.
“Oh no, not, I’m not up to - I just mean - keep me company?”
Ray frowned at him for another second, like he didn’t know what to do with this idea either. Then he was nodding and toeing off his shoes, lying down and stretching out awkwardly at Ben’s side.
He could hear Ray’s breathing, and the clock ticking. A bird sang outside. Ray’s arm was just touching his; they were both wearing blue socks, and their four feet were perfectly evenly spaced.
“Ok this sucks,” Ray muttered. Then he was turning on his side and wriggling closer, and Ben could see at once what he was trying to do - he was trying to do exactly what Ben had wanted all along. Ben turned to meet him, awkward in the cast, pulling him closer so Ray’s back was pressed against his chest and Ray was tugging his arm around his waist.
“Mm,” Ben mumbled into the back of his neck.
“I got used to you being here. It was weird sleeping on my own,” Ray said. “Last night I slept on the couch and now my back hurts.”
“Yeah well, it’s ok, but don’t fall off any more cliffs.”
“That’s certainly my goal.”
“S’ a good goal. I’ll get you a shirt with that on it.”
Ray laced their fingers together, thumb rubbing over Ben’s knuckles over and over again, ribs rising and falling under Ben’s arm.
“Were you scared?” he asked quietly. “You know, when…”
“I -” Ben began, and then he didn’t know what to say. A no would sound like bravado, or worse, but how else could he answer? He couldn’t lie, not to Ray, not about this. “No. More - I was resigned, I think. It seemed like as good a way to go as any. I used to think, out there, before I was really old, that that would be...better. Than - waiting and seeing.”
Ray’s head moved like a nod on the pillow.
“Me, I thought I might get shot. When I was a cop. That was always a thing that could happen, and I figured it wouldn’t be so bad, if it was all over quick.” There was a choked sound to his voice. “Now, I don’t think about it. Freaks me out. Wanna live forever - want you to live forever.”
“I’ll give it my best shot, Ray.”
Ray nodded again, took a deep hitching breath.
“Thanks,” he muttered, face buried in the pillow. Ben held on tighter, put his good leg over Ray’s.
“Were you in the helicopter?” Ben asked.
“What? The one that - no.”
“I didn’t think you could have been. But they gave me something for the pain, and I thought you were there.”
“Nah. Wouldn’t even let me in the ambulance.”
“Yeah,” Ray’s hand left his for a second to scrub at his face. It came back damp.
He pressed his forehead against the nape of Ray’s neck, took a shaky breath.
“But it was your plane, wasn’t it? That was you - you said, from two thousand feet, it looked…”
“Yeah. Saw your flare.”
“Yes,” Ben closed his eyes and carried on breathing, breathing in Ray-scented darkness.
Then he was speaking again, without having consciously decided to say anything at all. “I was - actually, I was angry. I could see you, I knew it must be your plane, and I almost couldn’t fire it. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to fire it. It seemed - well, it seemed bitterly unfair…”
Ray pulled his arm tighter about himself. “Yeah. That woulda been unfair alright,” he whispered.
Ray’s thumb was still stroking over the back of his hand. Ben forced himself to unclench his fist, curled tighter around Ray’s body, pressing them together ankle to nape.
“It would,” he said.
He held onto Ray. Ray’s thumb moved in that tiny caress, and neither of them said anything.
Eventually Ray cleared his throat and broke the silence. “You remember what we said, when I didn’t go back to Chicago - you know, with you an’ me, how we said that we’d see how it goes?”
“Yes.” Of course he remembered. The words had seemed to express their shared optimism for the future, without alarming either party with premature declarations.
“‘Cause I think I know how it goes. I don’t need to carry on seeing.” Ray’s hand tightened on his arm, keeping him close. “You’re it for me, so, uh, this is, this is for as long as you want, you know? That’s how it looks to me.”
Ben let out a long breath and Ray shivered.
“Yes,” was all he could say. “That sounds about right. I think that’s how it goes too.”
“Ok then. So that’s good. We’re good.”
He really had only wanted to lie down with Ray, but now with Ray so close, warm and alive in his arms, he couldn’t help reacting. Like warmth spreading from the centre of him, turning everything liquid with wanting. Perhaps his breathing gave him away, or perhaps they were just too close together to hide anything.
Ray half turned towards him, hand reaching back to touch him where he wanted it most. He tried to choke off his moan, but Ray heard him.
“Yeah. Yeah - here, stay still…” a gentle push and he was on his back, Ray oh-so-carefully tugging at his sweatpants. He tried to help, but Ray was glaring down at him.
“No way: don’t you dare move. You don’t move a muscle, you got me? You move and I stop, you got it?”
He nodded urgently and didn’t move a muscle.
And Ray carried on without any help from him at all: warm hands on his skin, warm mouth on his cock, taking in his whole length so, so slowly that Ben was shaking with holding still.
“Ray…” he pleaded.
Ray made a small sound that seemed to magnify the sensations, and he couldn’t keep still, he just couldn’t. He let his hands sink into Ray’s hair - if he wasn’t supposed to move, one of them had to, and Ray made another soft sound and went exactly where the gentlest pressure of Ben’s hands wanted him.
It was wonderful, it was driving him out of his mind, it was so gentle it wasn’t quite enough.
“Ray, harder, I didn’t break my - ” he gasped out, tightening his grip in Ray’s hair in unconscious illustration of what he wanted Ray to do.
Ray choked a laugh, and carried on laughing, and that was it. That was enough: it was the vibrations of Ray’s laugh or the curve of his lips or the relief that Ray was laughing at him, but he was coming and Ray was choking again and spluttering and laughing even harder, pulling off to cough and wipe his face with one hand while the other one stroked Ben through his orgasm. Ray had wonderful hands, perfect hands and Ben was coming and coming and coming like it was never going to stop.
When he opened his eyes Ray was grinning down at him.
“You know what I love about you? That you can’t even say the word cock while I am going down on you. While I am going down on you!” He laughed out loud.
“I can say it,” Ben protested, struggling to sound offended.
“Oh yeah? You, Benton Fraser, will say cock to me? C’mon.”
But Ben did him one better.
A leg in a cast didn’t stop him sitting up suddenly and wrapping his arms around Ray, dragging him down with him again, tight against his side. Ray was breathless, laughing too hard to defend himself - and anyway, Ben was counting on his unfair advantage that Ray would never fight back against an injured man - but he stopped when Ben got his zipper down and began to stroke him. He was so hard, his cock wet at the top, hot and silken in Ben’s hand. On every stroke Ray made a beautiful, broken little sound, like he was already right at the edge.
“As soon as this cast comes off, I’m going to fuck you, Ray,” he said in Ray’s ear “I’m going to spread you out on the bed, and slick you up, and I’m going to fuck you so slowly, you’ll -"
But he never finished the details of his promise, because Ray was crying out, hips jerking, his cock throbbing in Ben’s fist as he came.
“Wow,” he panted eventually. “Ok, you win. You win everything, I surrender. The Mountie with the broken leg wins.”
The Mountie with the broken leg and one hand sticky with Ray’s come couldn’t get the leverage to lean up and kiss him properly. He made do with the back of his neck until Ray twisted in his arms to kiss his mouth.
“What do I win?” Ben murmured, kissing him and kissing him.
“I dunno. Whatever you want. Everything. A shirt with don’t fall off cliffs on it. Anything.”
“How long for?”
“Forever of course, dumbass. We’re both gonna live forever, remember?”
“Oh yes. Of course we are. For forever, then.”
“Yeah. Whatever you wanna do, I’m in. I’m just gonna go to sleep for, like five minutes first. And then, we do whatever you want, ‘kay?”
“Ok, Ray,” he said into Ray’s hair. “Whatever you say.”
Then Ray was asleep, a warm weight in his arms promising him impossible things.
But they were good promises, and Ben thought maybe it didn’t matter if they were impossible.