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"We don't, um," Ray said; have to, Benton heard, although Ray didn't say it, although Ray carefully tied his hands against the cool slats of the headboard, the surety of the knots belying his uncertain voice. Benton tugged the knots gently; they'd hold.

"I know." He licked his lip: tread carefully. Only a handful of times had he felt more grateful for Ray's ability to go with his gut, the offer so obviously prompted by instinct, but only a handful of times had he seen Ray less certain of his own intuition. Benton appreciated that: this understanding they'd reached, the astonishing balance of give and take, the ... love, name it, Benton, the shared love, it was good, a gift after they'd both ceased to expect good fortune. Anything beyond what they'd already done (hands, mouths, naked skin, already more than he'd ever hoped for) seemed uncomfortably like asking too much. Benton knew this; Ray knew this. But it was about trust -- they both knew that, too, had known it from the moment Ray had offered with studied casualness and Benton had stared at him, astonished out of any attempt to prevaricate by the sheer force of newly-discovered desire, breathed Yes with a fervency that put to rest any doubt. So Benton made sure, now, to catch Ray's gaze and hold it, no matter that he was beginning to blush, and say, "I want to."

"Okay," Ray said, with the faint edge of a smile. He leaned in and kissed Benton, a deep and thorough kiss, and Benton pushed back into it eagerly. This was familiar: here was the heat of Ray's body, hovering over him, a nearly-deliberate tease; here were Ray's hands, indenting the pillow on either side of Benton's head; here was Ray's mouth, the taste of him that Benton chased to Ray's lower lip before biting down gently, savoring it, pulling away a little and refusing Ray access to a kiss in return, but continuing to gently worry at Ray's lip until Ray began to pant, gave a little gasping whine and pulled away. "Uh-uh," Ray murmured. "This is not your show."

"Of course, Ray," Benton said, pleased. It was remarkable how Ray's uncertainty instantly vanished when he was sufficiently aroused. Benton envied him that, a little. But of course that was another point of this exercise.

"I can see you thinking," Ray accused. "Okay, close your eyes."

Benton did so. A moment later smooth cloth covered his eyelids; he lifted his head a little at the silent request of Ray's hands, and another knot was tied smoothly against his hair. Ray's hands retreated. Benton settled his head down against the pillow: the cloth was soft enough, and the knot at such an angle, that he could hardly feel it. He blinked his eyes open. The cloth was entirely black; he could see nothing.

"You good there?" Ray asked quietly, and -- yes, yes, he was fine, but Ray's voice was already a blessing, a navigating sound, an anchor, roughed out by equal measures of lust and concern, instantly recognizable. Benton nodded, suddenly not trusting his own voice. "Good," Ray said, acknowledgement and reassurance; the bed shifted under his weight, and he pressed a lingering kiss to the side of Benton's mouth before moving away. The place where his lips had rested burned with phantom contact, and Benton could feel every nuance of Ray's shifting weight, every bit of hovering warmth between their bodies, and Ray wasn't touching him, wasn't touching him anywhere. He began to tremble a little, trying to anticipate the next bit of contact, and felt the motion of Ray leaning down to murmur, nearly against his ear with the quiet breath of a laugh, "You're thinking about this, Fraser."

Perhaps it was the laugh, the proximity, Ray's assured ability to read him and see him while Benton lay caught open in the dark -- whatever the cause, Benton's body responded, shivering under a sudden onslaught of arousal and heat. "I, ah --"

"Nuh-uh." Ray bit lightly at the shell of Benton's ear, unexpected, and Benton's hips jerked up off the bed, his hands clenching into fists. It wasn't the small shock of negligible pain; it was the unpredictability. There was nothing Ray might do with his body that Benton didn't trust him to do, but that Ray could ...

He was finding it a little more difficult to control the shivering now.

"Better," Ray said, soft and pleased. The bed shifted again under his weight, but Benton couldn't tell what the change meant, could no longer quite find his bearings. It came as another wonderful shock when one of Ray's hands settled against his belly, rubbing gently, soothing. It was both reassuring, another thing to ground him here with Ray, and absolutely agonizing -- if only Ray's hand would move down a little -- Benton's hips came up again, not entirely voluntarily.

Ray laughed -- still right against Benton's ear, sending another bout of shivers through him -- and said, "Y'know, Frase, there's this thing I've been meaning to talk to you about."

"Mm-hmm?" Benton managed, but, good lord, he could be more articulate than that. "And it would be ...?"

"You want something, you suck at asking for it." Ray kissed his ear, his jaw, his shoulder, shifting down along Benton's side, barely touching; his hand strayed from Benton's belly, detoured in the hollow of Benton's hip and began tracing abstract patterns against Benton's inner thigh, each skim of fingertips leaving hot contrails of feeling in their wake. "For example," Ray added, and paused in his agonizingly slow lecture to lick at one of Benton's nipples, pause thoughtfully, and move enough to bite down lightly on the other. Benton's breathing went up and out of his control again, pulse throbbing in every extremity. "For example," Ray said again, and for the briefest moment his knuckles skimmed along the underside of Benton's erection, another shock, this one of nearly unbearable pleasure. Benton choked back on something suspiciously close to a whine. "Usually right about now you'd be grabbing one of my hands and shoving it at your cock like I don't know how it works or something," Ray explained. "Problem is, your hands are kind of out of the picture here, so today we're going to work on communication."

Benton actually laughed at that, a surprised little yelp of a laugh more than half desperation. Oh yes. Ray knew exactly what Benton had wanted. Ray was evil. "Yeah?" he managed.

"Oh yeah." Benton could feel Ray's grin, happy and pleased and the slightest bit challenging, no longer uncertain in the least. "See, if you want something, you ask for it." He pressed a kiss to Benton's hip. "Like, you can say, Ray my friend, if you would kindly jerk me off now ..." He trailed off, possibly because Benton was shaking his head. Ray huffed a laugh, warm air setting Benton's skin tingling and causing another involuntary upward twitch of his hips. "Maybe not those words," Ray admitted, weight shifting again, leaning deliberately closer, the palm of each hand now settled flat and steady on Benton's hips to keep him from moving, and Benton's breath stuttered out again into gasps of anticipation. Ray ran a thumb gently, torturously along the crease of Benton's thigh, and murmured against his belly, the feel of each exhale of words making Benton lightheaded, "Or you could say, Ray, stop screwing around and suck me."

"I -- yes."

"Hmm?" Ray nuzzled at Benton's belly, stubble rasping a little against Benton's hip just next to Ray's splayed hand. "You gotta say it, Frase."

"I --" Overlaying the urgency Benton could feel himself beginning to blush again, different from the flush of need. But Ray was right -- and Ray would accuse him of thinking again -- and Ray was holding him down, holding him here in the dark; Benton could feel he was trembling too, if only a little, moved by what he'd wrought, and Benton couldn't imagine what he himself looked like, but he could imagine Ray, his skin beginning to shine a little with sweat and his hair spiking endearingly, eyes dark with lust and full of --

Name it, Benton.

"I -- Ray, please -- your mouth -- I need --" and he didn't know what he was saying, didn't need to, because Ray understood, understood that these desperate fragments were as close as he could come to the real words, and Ray took Benton in his mouth and loved him, held Benton down and set the rhythm and loved him, hummed a small echo of pleasure to every one of Benton's quiet panting moans.

There was always something wonderful to this act, but it took on a strange edge now. Benton should be reaching for Ray, grip at his lean hot shoulder, run a shaking thumb along the edge of Ray's jaw, cradle the back of Ray's head in a hand with gel-stiff hair tickling his palm -- but here there was nothing. Benton's hands grasped helplessly at the empty air, and in the darkness even the solid pressure of the bonds round his wrists wasn't enough to keep his sense of place. That was slipping away, leaving Benton dizzy, his internal compass gone: day, night, Chicago, the Territories, all of those facts were irrelevant, fragmented. The solid pressure of Ray's hands, the wetness and heat of Ray's mouth, those were the only points of contact in Benton's whole universe. And he couldn't see Ray, couldn't -- but suddenly it didn't matter; he could feel Ray, the raptness and pleasure suffusing his face, and the joy of it turned Benton's pleading sounds into words, completely without aim but because he had to say it, a heady compulsion gasped out, "Ray Ray Ray --"

And the contact vanished.

The firm even pressure of Ray's hands holding his hips down, the delicious half-frictive slide of Ray's tongue, gone. Benton voiced an involuntary inarticulate noise as his body twisted up, futilely chasing Ray's heat, restraints tugging a little too hard at his wrists for the first time. In the moment between Benton's hips leaving the mattress and gravity pulling them down, Ray made some swift movement and Benton landed back on a pillow, hips canted up. He had barely the time to draw a surprised breath before Ray's hands were on him again, smoothing hot over his belly and side, and Ray was murmuring, "'s okay, Fraser, you're okay, yeah?"

He was directionless and trembling, breath and pulse beyond his control, hardly able to think with need; it was something so far out of the realm of the dull amiability of okay that Benton had no words for it. But Ray -- Ray needed that confirmation now, and out of all contradictory impulses Benton would go unerringly to whatever choice was best for Ray, if he knew it.

"Yeah," he confirmed, and his voice was all but unfamiliar in his own ears, soft and rough. He felt Ray tremble a little too, in sympathy.

"Good," Ray said; Benton heard him draw in a shaky wondering breath. "Jesus, Fraser." The hand on Benton's belly moved down, Ray's fist wrapping loosely around Benton's erection and gliding easily now, not firmly enough to bring any real relief but enough to keep Benton's breathing ragged, keep him shaking on the humming edge of something so that the rest of Ray's words came distantly, enfolded in a haze of heat. "I didn't, uh, I thought this might be kind of fun but you ... wow, you -- gotta let go sometimes, don't you, only ... fuck, Frase, we are doing this again, if you could see yourself, you ... Hang on."

"Mmhm," Benton said, or something approximating, agreeing to all of it indiscriminately, if only Ray would keep on, perhaps forever, the squeeze and slide of his hand and the hypnotic fascination in his voice, the heat in Benton building unbearably without ever quite reaching the breaking point.

When Ray's hands vanished again from his skin, Benton only made another pleading noise at the back of his throat, too far gone for any better protest, nor lost by the loss of contact; he could still feel the entire shape of Ray, the mattress dip that was his knees pressing on the sheets, the varying electric degrees in distance between his body and Ray's. Through the same heat-hazed distance of sound he heard the brief wrapper-crinkle and tube-cap pop, familiar sounds; it took him long precious seconds to understand.

It wasn't as though he and Ray never did this. Ray loved it, in fact, something that had briefly surprised Benton before he realized that Ray loved the dance of it, slyly leading when he might be meant to follow, and that it was perhaps no great leap for Ray to trust Benton literally inside him as he figuratively did in every conceivable situation. It was only fair for Benton to do the same, then, and undeniably it felt good -- but he'd always made the necessary preparations himself, swiftly and efficiently, countering Ray's Jeez, doesn't it hurt your wrist at that angle, you nutcase? with No, I can do this perfectly well, and if Ray didn't complain, well, he enjoyed ribbing Benton and their mutual pleasure wasn't inhibited in any way by Benton's habits. But now ...

Now his hands were tied.

"I -- Ray --" he whispered, and it wasn't fear, exactly, he was too far gone on endorphins and lust for that, but ...

"Yeah, I know," Ray said, quiet, one hand rubbing gently at Benton's hip, allowing him a moment to regain the necessary brain functions. "You don't like it, just say stop and we'll go back to that blowjob plan."

Part of Benton -- the everyday thoughts part, the part that kept track of forms waiting to be filed and knew with a terrible certainty that one day the intersection of their professional life and this intimacy would destroy them -- wanted to find the words, say them now, tell Ray the original plan was good. The rest of him -- shaking, breathless, deeply in love and trusting Ray beyond reason -- knew Ray's instincts, knew Ray was right, and Benton didn't think it through, didn't need to; nodded.

"Good," Ray said. His hand detoured from Benton's hip to give him a firm stroke, wonderful, wringing a needy whimper from him. Then Ray's hand was steady on his hip again, shifting Benton a little, and with his other, slippery and cool but not cold, slipped a finger into Benton, one knuckle, two, easy as anything. "'s okay?" he asked again.

"Mmhm," Benton managed, and it was, it was, no discomfort, little physical difference between his own finger and Ray's, but it made all the difference in the world, because his hands were tied and the world was a blank and it was Ray, Ray carefully sliding in a second finger and oh -- of course, long fingers, unexpectedly long fingers and Benton's hips involuntarily came off the bed again, driving down on them, his eyes squeezing so tightly shut on the overload of sensation that for a moment he could see again, an explosion of white and gold fireworks against his eyelids. Distantly he heard Ray make some laughingly pleased noise, and his fingers moved a little, experimentally, unerringly hitting the same spot, and Benton was lost again, profoundly lost, no longer capable of even the attempt to stifle his urgent cries. Somehow the sheer urgency he was feeling brought back the faintest trace of coherency, so that rather than wordless whimpers he spoke in Ray and please and now.

He might as well have continued without words, though, for all the attention Ray paid them. Ray twisted his fingers a little, out, in, twist, and again, too slow to set any real rhythm, and Benton couldn't get enough air, not even enough for real sound; his erratic trembling was leveling out into a sort of continuous shiver, his muscles overtaxed and burning wonderfully, and without warning some invisible unknown barrier in him vanished. There was nothing but this, nothing but Ray, no thought but that he needed this, an onslaught of sensory input on the edge of too much: the stifling heat of the air, the slick rough sheets under his back, Ray's palm like a brand against his hip and Ray's fingers, slow and erratic and hypnotizing, wringing from Benton sounds in desperate vowels.

Ray's fingers withdrew -- Benton's voice caught on a sob of loss, his body blindly trying to follow Ray's, needing friction, anything -- and for a moment he was wrenchingly bereft, before Ray was back, shifting Benton's legs up and sliding in. The blackness behind Benton's eyes went momentarily dazzling; finally, although Benton was still shaking with heat, on the edge of too much, although Ray was trembling too, the weight of his hands now on either side of Benton's shoulders, braced, breathing nearly as hard as Benton.

It was not anything he'd experienced before. He'd let Ray in, of course, but briefly, enough to bring Ray satisfaction, not -- this. Things as simple as satisfaction belonged to another world. This was knowing Ray, every shaking inch of him, and needing him, now, closer, even if they couldn't be, even if this was all they could do, it wasn't anywhere near close enough. Involuntarily one of his heels came up and dug into the small of Ray's sweat-slick back, pulling him in; Ray let out a shuddering breath and finally, finally began to move.

"Fuck, Fraser," he whispered, and there was no haze in the space between Ray's voice and Benton's understanding; it lodged right in the heart of him, and the lights behind his eyes were relentless invisible flashes, and despite the lack of leverage, his wrists going numb, he still moved with Ray, undeniably with Ray, almost -- almost -- the heat was unbearable and he couldn't bear for this to stop -- and he needed -- oh god --

The world ended.

An eternity later it returned, Ray gasping against the junction of his shoulder and neck with his hips jerking a few final erratic motions, Benton still shuddering through the last vestiges of incredible sensation, and suddenly it was too much. "Ray," he attempted, voice cracking a little.

"'m here," Ray responded at once, kissing Benton's jaw and running a soft shaky hand down his side. "I -- sorry, I gotta --" and for a brief instant was nearly gone, nearly, his hand still warm against Benton's ribs as he eased out and settled Benton's aching legs. Benton couldn't quite swallow a soft whimper. "'m here," Ray repeated, tugging the pillow out from under Benton's back: the sheets beneath were blessedly cool.

Ray shifted again, slowly, doing something Benton was too wrung-out to process, then leaning over and wiping his belly gently with the sheet, his left hand through all this never breaking contact with Benton's skin. It slid up his arm, joined by Ray's other hand, and the knots holding up Benton's arms loosened and slipped free. Benton's hands tingled, not quite pleasantly, and with this feeling came the sudden awareness that his arms ached just as much as his legs did. Ray started to ease them down, but Benton reached out blindly, startling a small sound out of Ray as he pulled Ray against him, close, close, needing the assurance of contact and strangely unashamed at admitting the need. Perhaps it seemed like a small thing now.

"Hey," Ray murmured, snuggling readily up against Benton and tilting his head a little, his hair tickling against Benton's forehead, and kissed him soft and lingering. Benton returned the kiss with equal near-chaste gentleness, not quite ready for words. "Mm," Ray said, his hand moving up and curling briefly in Benton's hair; then he tugged at the knot of the blindfold, and it fell away.

For a long moment Benton kept his eyes closed. It wasn't a matter of adjusting to the light of the room; it had been dim enough when they'd begun, and the lamp would be no great hardship on his eyes. It was rather a question of adjusting to this new place he had found.

There was nothing to be done; Benton opened his eyes, blinking a little despite the gentle quality of the light, and after a moment could see again. There was Ray, exactly where expected, his face only a few inches from Benton's, hair sticking damp to his forehead and stubble catching a little on the light -- and the look on his face was something Benton had never seen. It wasn't quite a smile, although the crease to the left of his mouth had deepened as it did when he felt joy; it was a look of profound and unexpected calm, and something far deeper, which Benton saw nearly every day but never so clearly, without even the expected lust or ensuing sleepiness overlaying it.

"Oh," Benton said, and squeezed his eyes shut again, pressing his face to Ray's neck, overwhelmed. "Ray." Kissed Ray's collarbone.

"Needed that, huh," Ray said, simple words not even masquerading as a question, carding his fingers absently through Benton's hair.

"Yeah." Benton made himself look up again, into Ray's eyes, bright with tiredness and joy, seeing Benton, knowing him, and the words of thanks in Benton's head died before he could utter them. Now Ray did smile, the crease by his mouth deepening and his eyes going softer.

"Wrists?" he asked.

"Fine," Benton said.

"Good. Wouldn't want to try explaining that one to Welsh." The smile became a sleepy grin. "You gonna be good to get up tomorrow and walk Dief?"

The relief and exhaustion were bone-deep, seeping through Benton and dragging him slowly downwards. "Ah. Perhaps you would ..."

"Thought so." Ray yawned and tightened his arms around Benton a little. "I'll take care of it, buddy. Sure thing."

Yes, it is, Benton wanted to agree, but between one breath and another, warm in Ray's arms, he drifted into sleep.