Fraser held his breath for as long as he could, but the stone-like grip on his head didn’t lessen and at some point he had to take a breath. Desperately, he gasped for air.
He almost choked as the white powder filled his lungs. At first it was pleasant; he felt almost high with it.
Arousal whispered through his blood and Fraser felt a warm pulse inside, making his spine glow.
By next afternoon Ray felt that he had his identity crisis more or less back under control. He dropped by the Canadian Consulate with a peace offering of pizza and found Fraser pleasantly surprised and Dief already salivating in anticipation.
Ray crouched down to ruffle his fur. “Hey, furface, long time no see. You’d rather hang out with us, too, huh?”
Dief yipped in agreement and wagged his tail.
“I hadn’t expected you,” Fraser said with a warm glow of gratitude in his voice.
Ray held the pizza out. “Yeah, just wanted to make up for yesterday.”
Fraser shook his head. “There’s nothing to forgive. On the contrary, I apologize for my unprofessional behavior.”
“Nah, I just…” I just don’t want you to kiss other people, Ray thought and chuckled out loud. Oh God, please let insanity be quick and without much room for introspection.
“Are you alright, Ray?” Fraser asked, concerned.
Ray waved him off. “Yeah, don’t worry. I’m good.” A little bit unstable, maybe, but Ray figured he was doing alright given the circumstances.
They settled in Fraser’s office as comfortably as they could.
“So, what was it about missing people?” Ray asked in between bites.
“Ah, yes. A few of the men told me that they had stopped taking the drug after one of their friends went missing. They weren’t sure if anything had really happened to them, all they could definitely say was that they went to the club together and that their friend had left to find some Push and after that he went missing. In a few cases the missing friend reappeared sometime in the early morning and in others he stayed missing for almost a day before he was heard of again.”
Ray chewed thoughtfully. “What, and the missing person never had a story to tell?”
“That struck me as odd as well, but the men I talked to swore that their friend claimed nothing had happened, that he had only lost track of time or that he had met someone.”
“But you don’t think that’s likely?”
“Well, it would be a remarkable coincidence seeing that I heard the story from numerous different sources and they all sounded identical.”
“True,” Ray conceded. And in Fraser’s world coincidences just didn’t happen.
“And I got this,” Fraser opened the drawer of his desk and got a small pouch out; he reached inside and pulled a tiny plastic bag filled with white powder out, “from the man I was… talking to towards the end.”
Translation: the guy I played ‘find the left lung’ with.
Ray took the packet and studied it. “So this is the stuff?”
“Yes. However, he claimed not to know the man who gave him this. Whoever is doing this is covering his tracks very nicely.”
“Hmm.” Ray was still thinking about Fraser kissing this guy. Was that the reason why? To get information from him? Did it even make a difference? Fraser could kiss whomever he liked after all. And he had definitely enjoyed the kiss…
It didn’t help to know that it was none of his business; Ray’s mind came back to that question again and again.
When Ray arrived at the Skydeep the cleaning staff was still busy getting the joint ready for business. Philly was already there which surprised Ray, but judging from Jack’s grin it couldn’t be too bad whatever it was that was going on.
“What’s up?” Ray asked as soon as he was close enough.
“Philly’s man is showing up tonight,” Jack answered, amused. “He only rarely drops by here and whenever he does Philly goes completely mental. Everything has to be perfect and you better look your best tonight… not that you have to work too hard on that,” Jack added with slightly reddening cheeks.
“And when he gets here you won’t see Philly for the rest of the evening. They will spend the whole night in one of the private booths at the back,” Jack pointed a thumb in the direction of the mirrored wall where three large curtains partially obscured the view. Ray had thought there was nothing behind them, that it was merely for decoration.
“So they all open to some sort of stall or what?”
Jack nodded. “Most of them are just big enough for a large table and leather loveseats around it. The one in the middle is bigger, though. But it stays carefully closed unless we have some kind of VIP here, which in this case we have as you might’ve figured.”
“Then we’d better get this show on the road,” Ray replied, considering the veiled entrance. So Philly was out for the count the whole evening long. Meaning it wouldn’t get noticed if Ray wasn’t on his post at all times. Maybe it was time to have another look at that locked room in the back.
The club was only beginning to fill when Ray saw a brightening on Philly’s face. He turned around to get a good look at the visitor. Tall, dark-haired, with some Asian mixed in there somewhere. The two made a stunning couple. Philly and the man greeted each other more with looks than with any actual gestures, but Ray could see Philly smoldering from all the way across the room. Saying their hellos didn’t take more than a minute before Philly led the way to the scarlet curtain in the middle; he parted the folds and vanished from view, shortly followed by his friend.
It took another hour for the club to fill and for Fraser to arrive. So far Jack’s prediction seemed true enough; not once had Ray seen Philly or his visitor emerge from their private hiding place.
Jack was bustling around the bar with his hands full when Ray decided to make his move. He grabbed an empty crate with bottles and hefted it up.
“Hey, Jack, I’m just going to dump the stuff in the back, give us some room here.”
Jack nodded fleetingly at Ray and then he turned around again to place two bright blue cocktails in front of a young man whose face had never quite lost the look of a 15-year-old.
Ray moved through the throng of people until he was in Fraser’s line of sight. For once, Fraser was alone. He placed his half-empty water glass on a table nearby and just looked at Ray.
Taking a deep breath, Ray ambled closer. God, he wished he wasn’t so nervous. He wasn’t really coming on to Fraser, but… his heart rate sped up anyway. Bu-bump, bu-bump, what was it about the increasing heart rate and the heightened arousal?
Ray stopped when he stood right in front of Fraser, almost close enough to feel the expansion of his chest as he breathed. Would this be as difficult had he not known that Fraser was into guys? He raised his arm and placed it next to Fraser’s head. Slowly, he leaned in, bringing his face close to Fraser’s.
“We have one chance to take a look around the rooms in the back tonight,” Ray murmured and his face almost brushed Fraser’s cheek as he spoke. He saw Fraser lick his lip.
“All right,” Fraser said.
“Let’s go.” Ray reached down until his fingers closed around Fraser’s hand. It was warm and big and Ray realized that this wasn’t the first time he was holding Fraser’s hand… but it was the first time he really noticed it. Ray pulled him along and Fraser followed. Like at some clandestine meeting, Ray pulled Fraser into the shadows, into the corridor that led to the locked room.
Once there, Ray released his hand. He didn’t know how much time he could spare so they had better set to work.
“Is this the room?” Fraser asked.
“Hm.” Nimble fingers smoothed along the plastic of the PIN pad. “The problem isn’t disabling the mechanism; with the right tools this shouldn’t be very difficult. I don’t think this lock is designed to withhold much force, it’s a simple precaution. I didn’t come with the necessary equipment though. If I had my hat; I always carry a—”
Fraser stopped mid-sentence and cocked his head. “Ray, there are footsteps heading in our direction.”
“Shit,” Ray cursed succinctly. He looked wildly around. They only had to hide Fraser; Ray could still explain his trip to the storeroom.
“Quick—” Ray started to say, about to push Fraser in the direction of the storeroom when Ray caught sight of someone coming into the hallway.
Instead of pushing Fraser away he reeled him in and Ray used their momentum to press him against the wall. “Just go with it,” Ray whispered breathlessly and before he could think about it he pressed his lips to Fraser’s.
After one terrifying second in which Fraser was absolutely frozen in place he finally got with the program. His arms came around Ray and his fingers dug into Ray’s shoulder blades. Oh God, those lips… and there wasn’t even time. He could’ve sworn there was a hint of tongue, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. His lips clung to Fraser’s and he felt the smooth skin of his freshly shaved jaw underneath his fingertips as they followed the strong lines of Fraser’s face. Fraser’s lips moved softly underneath his own and now that he had gotten this far Ray wanted nothing more than to deepen the kiss. His lips parted slightly.
Startled, Ray pulled away to look at the newcomer.
“Oh, it’s you, Stanley.” It was the bouncer from the entrance.
“Uh, hey, Dave,” Ray said apologetically.
“Listen, I can see you’re enjoying yourself and I hate to be the one to break this up, but you don’t want the boss catching you with someone else back here. This area is employees only.”
“God, sorry. We weren’t thinking. I was just—” he looked helplessly back at Fraser and was momentarily caught by his blue eyes.
“I’m afraid we got carried away,” Fraser murmured and flicked his eyes up to meet Dave’s gaze.
A broad grin spread over Dave’s face making his bald head shine like the moon. “I can see that. You guys get out of here before someone catches you. You’re lucky it was just me; I was only using the shortcut to the garage. Two people told me a fight has broken out in the alley.”
“We’ll do that,” Ray promised.
“Thank you kindly.”
They moved past the bouncer and Ray was assaulted by the sudden noise of the club, by the millions of people filling the room, and—had he just kissed Fraser? Ray looked behind him, but Fraser’s face didn’t give anything away.
“That was quick thinking, Ray,” he finally said. “Now you need to get back on your post,” Fraser said with a subtle nod towards the bar where Ray could see Jack urgently gesturing for him.
“Duty bellows,” Ray said, going for a smile. Fraser simply inclined his head as if he was still wearing the goddamn hat.
“Where the hell were you?” Jack accused when Ray moved behind the bar again.
“Sorry, sorry. I met Ben on the way to the storeroom and…” Ray felt like bragging about this. He’d done it. He’d kissed Fraser. God, he knew how Fraser kissed! Ray wanted to do a little dance to honor the occasion. It was kind of weird to know that Ray had now officially made out with another man. He had said he’d try anything once— however, this hadn’t sprung to mind when he said it. He was thinking bondage or maybe a little good old voyeurism with the help of a mirror or something like that. Not gay.
God, he’d kissed Fraser.
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “You didn’t fuck him in the rest room, did you?”
Ray’s eyes widened comically. “What the—no!” Jesus, how could he think Ray would… do that?
“Don’t sound so shocked. The grin on your face looked like you had gotten some. What the hell were you doing then? I’m drowning in work here, man.”
“We just—we kissed,” Ray exclaimed with a giddy grin. Somehow this felt like a major accomplishment. It was only in the back of his mind that Ray felt the niggling question of if he shouldn’t be more freaked out by this.
“Okay, okay, Casanova. Get your mind out of the gutter for the rest of the night, will you?”
“Aye, aye, sir,” Ray mimed a mock salute.
While he worked, Ray tried to come up with a plan of action. They needed to get into that room. Fraser had said that getting in wasn’t a problem, but they would need time for it. During the night was out; the odds were too high that someone would catch them at it. The building was locked during the day. Keys, Ray needed keys. And he thought he knew how he could get those.
He also wanted a look at those VIP rooms. Something was off about that. Why have one that is off limits even to the staff except for those at the top of the food chain? Unless you had something to hide or something you didn’t want people to know.
And what about those missing guys? They didn’t vanish into thin air so where did they go when they were nowhere to be found? Ray had a hunch that the VIP rooms might come in handy when you needed to store someone for a couple of hours. Except that they didn’t have doors and people close by could probably hear what people were talking about behind the curtain.
If they managed to get into the building during the day it should be possible to check out those booths.
An hour later, Ray ended up mixing drinks right next to Jack.
“Keeping your hard-on in check?” Jack asked dryly.
“Fuck you, Jack,” Ray shot back with a grin.
“Anytime, just let me know when you’re done mooning over Baby Blues.”
“I aim to please.”
Ray shook his head and concentrated on finishing his drink. He collected the money and turned back to Jack.
“Tell me who counts as a VIP in here? Some rich schmuck who buys a crate of expensive champagne?”
Jack laughed. “Almost. No, usually some businessmen with connections to the management. Mr. Takeda, that’s Philly’s boyfriend—or rather Philly is his if you know what I mean—usually accompanies them. Sometimes it’s someone else from the higher-ups. Hey, you’ll be back on Friday, right? You’ll see the spectacle then.”
“Cool,” Ray said casually and took the next order. Finally, things got going.
The night was almost over and Ray’s allotted hours were coming to an end. The next time Fraser ordered a water Ray scribbled something on the napkin which he placed underneath the glass. Ray had simply written ‘Ready to go?’ on it and when Fraser returned the glass and the napkin Ray read his answer expecting to already know what it said.
He read the note twice more just to make sure. ‘Thank you kindly, but I will stay a little longer. I will see you tomorrow’ was written underneath Ray’s question.
What the—? Oh.
Ray saw Fraser standing together with another man, unnecessarily close, and Fraser was smiling and nodding at what his companion was saying. It looked awfully cozy. A sudden lump rose up in Ray’s throat. So Fraser wasn’t going home with him tonight, huh?
A flash of hurt made Ray grimace. He never counted. Never. Or maybe he simply wasn’t Fraser’s type. The man he was talking with certainly looked nothing like Ray. More filled out, with longer hair, that looked not the slightest bit experimental but carefully arranged instead, and arms at least the same size as Fraser’s.
Okay. It didn’t matter anyway. Wasn’t as if Ray wanted to go gay over Fraser. Wasn’t as if he wanted to fuck him. Wasn’t as if Ray was interested in him like that. It was only his ego that had taken a fall, thinking he should be some kind of primary choice for Fraser. Stupid, really.
“Hey, Jack, I’ll see you on Friday.”
“Yeah, see you. Have a good time.”
Ray left the club without looking back. At home, he hit the shower and fell straight into bed afterwards. He hugged his pillow tighter and turned on his stomach to stare at the wall ahead. Hey, he could’ve taken Jack home if he wanted to prove something. It wasn’t as if Fraser was the only guy who had offers.
Absent-mindedly, Ray rubbed two fingers over his lips. It hadn’t really been anything… it wasn’t even a real kiss. It had been a mere peck if Ray was really honest. He had simply been curious, nothing more.
Yeah, it was a bit different, kissing a guy. Big deal. Nothing Ray had a sudden craving for or anything.
With a sigh, Ray flipped onto his back and stared at the ceiling instead. He smothered his face with his pillow and groaned.
Hell, for all Ray knew Fraser had simply stayed on because he had found a new source of information. It didn’t have to mean anything. Just like the kiss thing when Ray had overreacted. Fraser had gotten information from the guy after all… and enjoyed himself quite a bit while he was at it, Ray thought sourly.
Wasn’t it weird to touch another guy like that? Ray smoothed his own hand down over his body. Sure, that felt normal, it was his body after all. Imagining it was someone else’s didn’t work all that well. It had to be strange, right? No breasts and all hard angles instead of curves? Everything bigger and hairier?
The image of Fraser’s big capable hand on his body stirred something, though. Yeah, okay, Ray could see how that would be interesting. You didn’t have to worry about being too heavy or about squashing anything. And you knew just what to grope for. Guys must give spectacular head, Ray concluded.
It didn’t matter because Ray wasn’t about to have sex with another man. He had no interest in finding out what sex with a guy was like. Or Fraser for that matter. Just because Fraser’s lips had felt like the most amazing thing Ray had experienced in forever… or the way Fraser had gripped him that had made every cell in his body twitch with excitement. And Fraser was just about the best guy Ray had ever met and the most amazing friend. And also because everything Ray had told Jack that he liked about Fraser was true.
Ray ruffled his hair in frustration and burrowed deeper underneath his blanket. He didn’t want Fraser like that. It was just all the gay stuff that was going around lately. Bad influence, very bad.