It’s weeks later before Fraser mentions it again; more like months, actually, because the holidays are over and it’s a new year. They’re relaxing after watching a low-stakes game, New York and San Jose, and since they’re only vaguely invested in those teams’ relative luck, really only for how it might change the standings, they were able to just appreciate the plays. Not caring about San Jose, Ray didn’t have to take it personally when the idiot Sharks fucking started Nabokov, because who the fuck is Nabokov? Ray quickly realizes that maybe Nabokov is a name he’d better get used to, so it turns out that it’s also a good thing he doesn’t care about New York either, because then he’d be worried that the genius Sharks fucking started Nabokov.
“Tough guy,” Ray says, and there’s a sharp intake of breath from Fraser’s side of the couch.
“I can be a tough guy,” Fraser says. “As I believe I’ve proven.”
“Yeah,” Ray says. “But I was talking about Nabokov. Kid’s going places. Too bad for him it’s with the Sharks.”
“I’ve been places,” Fraser says, injecting a little bit of “hey there, hot stuff” into his voice and Ray suddenly gets that Fraser is trying to get something started here. He grins, because he’s automatically on board with…whatever this is going to turn into.
“Tough places,” Ray says playfully. Fraser just beams at him and then schools his expression into something just shy of threatening.
“Very tough. I’ve taken people with me, sometimes,” and Ray realizes he’s not talking to Fraser at all anymore.
“Mike?” he asks. After that first time of playing Ray and His Scary Pick Up, and a quick discussion about how maybe Ray’s Scary Pick Up could be Ray’s Scary Boyfriend, Ben had insisted that, whatever the game, Scary Guy had to have completely different name. He’d come up with Mike, who was apparently an actual cop Fraser knew up in Canada, not RCMP, but, according to Fraser, “A good officer, a good family man and someone I never, ever want to be interrogated by.”
Fraser nods, and this is interesting, because he’s just slipping into the role without prior discussion. Ray likes that a lot, but they’ve only done this once and they really need to be careful here.
“Give?” Fraser asks, and Ray reluctantly shakes his head.
“Can’t let you take right now,” he says regretfully. “Gotta, you know, figure it out first.”
Fraser nods. “You’re right, of course. I just saw an opening and had bit of a moment.”
“’S fine,” Ray says. “You just do that whenever you want. And I am very much interested in discussing this particular subject if you want.”
“I do,” Ben says. “Very much so. You mentioned that perhaps Mike and Ray might be in a relationship?”
Ray scrubs at the back of his neck, the gesture making Fraser’s eyes get very wide and then suddenly very narrow. Ray hadn’t meant to turn him on, it was more of a thinking gesture than a signaling gesture, but Fraser’s interpreting it that way means that it’s definitely time for them to be doing this again. “Maybe it’s like, I dunno, me and Mike, I mean Mike and Ray, the Ray who’s kinda like a deer, have been sort of seeing each other.”
Fraser nods. “Perhaps for a number of months, but not regularly, not systematically.”
“Right,” Ray agrees. “Mike just sort of shows up….whenever.”
“Whenever it’s convenient for him,” Fraser says. “Not necessarily convenient for Ray, though.”
Ray grins. He is definitely liking this conversation. A lot. And Fraser is asking for things without apologizing, making stuff up without immediately looking all guilty about it. “Yeah, so he just shows up when he wants to fuck Ray, and maybe Ray’s not always into it.”
“Not in the mood,” Fraser interprets and Ray nods. “Perhaps not even sure he’s, ah, into being with Mike at all.”
And, whoa, this is new, the idea that Fraser’s fantasy isn’t just to force Bambi Ray into wanting to fuck, but extends to wanting to force Bambi Ray into the whole relationship. Ray does not want to analyze where the hell that is coming from, but Fraser will definitely be getting some extra attention, sweetly vanilla attention, when they go to bed.
But actually, the night ends up being more about Fraser giving him everything, and Ray thinks maybe Fraser’s been having the same thoughts Ray had, thinking a little too much because hey, Constable Benton Fraser after all. Worrying about what his fantasy says about himself, and also worrying about how it maybe sounds to Ray, so Fraser’s the one doing the reassuring. In bed, like the old fortune cookie joke. With his mouth, more specifically.
Fraser gets Ray stretched out on the bed, and every time Ray starts making a move like maybe he’d like to be getting in on the action, Fraser gently touches him, strokes his hand or his leg or whatever body part Ray’s been trying to use to touch Fraser. And Ray understands that he’s not supposed to use that hand again, not deliberately anyway, because Fraser seems fine with Ray flailing around. And he’s certainly not getting tied up or anything, but Fraser definitely does not want Ray to be proactive here, and Ray is perfectly okay with being reactive in this whole situation they’ve got going on here.
So he sinks into the bed, and Fraser starts licking him. All over. And Fraser’s being thorough but not methodical; one second he’s tasting Ray’s knee, then he looks sort of thoughtful, and then starts licking Ray’s stomach, like Hmm, that is a very fine kneecap, very tasty, but now I think I’d like to sample the belly and I must say that shoulder blade looks delicious. Like it’s all so good that it’s giving Fraser some kind pleasure-related attention deficit….
“Fuck!” Ray yells, because suddenly and without any warning at all, Fraser’s got his mouth on Ray’s dick, and this is good, this is greatness, this is the best. Fraser looks up at him hotly and takes Ray’s hand in his, deliberately pulling it to the back of his head, and now apparently Ray can be an active participant in this. So he grabs at Fraser’s hair, maybe even yanking it a little, because Fraser likes those rare times when Ray gets a little forceful.
But that means thinking, and Ray wants to just let himself feel, and now what he really feels like doing is lightly petting and stroking Fraser’s hair. Fraser could do this for hours, and really Ray is very much in favor of letting him, but they do have work in the morning, so Ray doesn’t hold on as long as he could. He closes his eyes, which normally he would not be doing at this juncture, because why would anyone not want to watch Fraser giving head? But Ray wants something a little extra, so in his mind he pictures Mike, scary Mike finding out that Ray’s letting Fraser, sweet Fraser, suck his cock and Mike would probably have some really harsh things to say about it.
That works for Ray, and he doesn’t even manage to warn Fraser before he comes. Ray peeks at him, because that was kind of rude, but it turns out that Ray’s sudden orgasm works for Fraser, too, because Fraser just humps at the mattress a couple of times and comes even as Ray slides himself out of Fraser’s mouth.
Still feeling kind of apologetic about it, Ray pulls Fraser up and kisses him long and deep, because it really only takes an extra minute (or five) to be courteous and Ray wants to make sure Fraser’s mouth is nice and clean before he falls asleep.
The next day is a paperwork day, so they meet for lunch at a diner near the consulate, and while they’re waiting for their order to be up, Fraser strokes his eyebrow and says, “Please do not construe this as a complaint, Ray, but last night you finished a bit abruptly.”
“Oh, God, Fraser, I am really sorry about that,” Ray apologizes. “You were down there, all happy and in your groove and it probably seemed like I came out of nowhere, no, what, build-up or anything.”
“I’m not complaining,” Fraser repeats. “It’s more a point of curiosity. Did you have a particularly…intriguing thought, perhaps?”
Oh. Oh. Fraser’s going fishing here. “Yeah, I did,” Ray says, giving Fraser an intense stare. “You wanna know what it was about?” Ray lowers his tone, trying to warn Fraser that they’re about to wander into negotiating territory.
“It’s why I asked, Ray.”
“It was about Mike and how if Mike ever found out that I was getting my cock sucked when he’s not around, there would be absolute hell to pay.”
Fraser sits up even straighter and licks his lower lip. “Ah, yes,” he says, sounding a bit strangled. “I imagine that Mike would be extremely furious with you.”
Ray nods. “Mike would have words with me about that.”
“Loud words. Probably rather vulgar ones at that.”
“Or,” Ray’s just spitballing here, “maybe he’d have quiet words, scary quiet.”
“I would think,” Fraser’s also improvising, feeling out what Mike might do, “that he would make sure that you knew, really understood, that you had stepped out of line, and that he was going to put you back in your place….”
Jesus, just that phrase coming from Fraser, not even from Mike, because right now fuck that guy, makes Ray’s dick twitch and he’s even fucking got a little precome dribbling out over here, if they keep this up, he’s gonna be lucky if that’s the worst thing that happens to his pants over lunch.
Fraser looks smug for a moment, then climbs back aboard his train of thought. “As I was saying, Mike would need to put Ray in his place,” and good, there’s some distance now, Ray really needs that fucking distance. “Perhaps explain to him why letting someone else into his bed was an ill-advised course of action. And demonstrate, physically, the sorts of consequences that will inevitably result from such rashness.”
Okay, that’s it, this weird combination of Fraser’s vocabulary explaining Mike’s attitude is actually making Ray whimper, and while Fraser still looks smug, his hands are clutching at the edge of the table, so this conversation is making Fraser white-knuckle it and Ray is not alone here.
There are times when Ray wishes he lived in a society where public sex in broad daylight was considered no more wrong than scratching an arm. He wonders if he’s gonna have to dump his ice water in his lap, because he can’t imagine even trying to move in the state he’s in.
“I don’t think he’d, you know, just take Ray across his knee and spank Ray ‘cause he’d been naughty,” Ray says, and he really is not helping himself calm down here. Fraser reaches for his water with a hand that’s got a distinct tremor, and for a wild moment, Ray wonders where that water’s going. But Fraser just wants a sip of water, he’d never just dump it in either of their laps or anything, of course not.
“No, while some men might do that, Mike wouldn’t,” and, Jesus, is Fraser one of those men? Are they going to get to come up with whole new roles to play? Maybe something where Stan and fuck, he’s running out of names, Stan’s boyfriend are kind of old-fashioned and when Stan fucks up, he gets physically corrected, while being told firmly but affectionately not to do that bad thing, whatever it is, again. Or, and this is a weird thought for Ray to be having, but now he's outright leaking, maybe Stan’s the disciplinary guy in that particular relationship, and Ray’s not even really sure why he’s liking both these ideas so much, formal punishment with rules and scoldings and nose-in-the-corner is not really their kind of thing, but Christ, who even knows anymore where they’ll stop? Not Ray, that’s for sure.
“I am really liking the everloving fuck out of this discussion here,” Ray tells Fraser, “but we’ve got to stop because I am about twelve seconds away from coming in my pants and this,” Ray gestures wildly at the diner, “is not a place where I can do anything about that.”
“Understood,” Fraser says. And for the rest of their lunch, Ray just hunches down over his plate, not even daring to look at Fraser because he’s gonna be lucky if he can just get himself to a state where standing up is (a) possible and (b) not going to frighten or offend the waitress.
And really, this time the negotiations are so much easier, it’s not days and days and days before they resume, not like last time. Fraser’s still going to be overtly careful, of course, and Ray has to be kind of sneaky about being careful of Fraser, because Fraser still doesn’t really seem to grasp that the guy on top is also vulnerable, it’s like he’s willfully blind about that.
But now that they’ve done it once, and everything went as well as it possibly could, Fraser’s a bit more relaxed about it. So it’s only after dinner before they can start up where they left off at lunch, not like four days or something. But Ray still waits for Fraser to bring it up first.
“Mike hates it that Ray doesn’t seem to understand that fidelity is not optional,” Fraser says. And oh, God, this is gonna be good, Ray’s developed a fucking kink negotiation kink, the discussions about how this scene is going to play out are like a scene in themselves, and maybe they should negotiate ground rules for the discussions and, Jesus, this is like that thing where you’re standing between two mirrors and there you are, over and over again, past the horizon. Infinite recession? Progression? Something like that, he’ll ask Fraser later.
“Ray’s completely confused by Mike,” Ray says. “He’s there, he’s not, and he just keeps showing up and it’s all take, take, take….”
“Give, give, give,” Fraser interrupts him; he may not really get why Ray insists that both of them have safewords, but at least he’s trying to get with the program here.
Ray nods enthusiastically; these are not efforts that Ray wants to discourage in any way.
“Anyway, so Mike is like on-again-off-again, and Ray doesn’t know if they’re, what, actually in a relationship here, or fuck buddies, or what, so he doesn’t feel like he owes Mike anything.”
“But Mike thinks he does,” Fraser counters. “Mike knows that he’s entitled to Ray.” Ray shivers; Fraser always chooses his words carefully, and that Mike knows, not believes or feels, he knows he’s entitled to Ray are all doing really good things to Ray’s mind, and consequently his dick.
“That first time,” Ray murmurs, and Fraser nods.
“Yes, Ray, that first time showed Mike that Ray is his, and that Ray says ‘no’ but his body screams ‘yes’ and ‘please’ and ‘more.’ Clearly, Mike owns Ray, and is utterly baffled and angered by Ray’s refusal to acknowledge that except when he’s under Mike, begging him for more.”
And Ray’s cock really loved that particular torrent of words, but Ray knows that any second the change is gonna hit the floor and Fraser will realize what he just said and hello, guilt, hello, shame, we really did not miss you at all oh, and you brought three-steps-back with you? How lovely.
And Fraser does look stricken, but not, thank Christ, sick at himself. “I’m sorry Ray, you know I don’t really believe that about you, about anyone, I would never….”
“Ben, of course you don’t. This is Mike we’re talking about here,” and really Ray has never been so grateful that Ben decided to subdivide the roleplaying to the extent that he’s not even using his own name.
“We’re done here,” Fraser says curtly. Ray’s pretty sure he just means for now, for the night, but he’s still worried that Fraser has scared himself out of wanting to be Mike again. He reminds himself that of course Fraser is right to pull out if things get too intense, too real, that’s what he’s been trying to tell Fraser the whole time, and maybe Fraser’s finally starting to get it, too, because when they go to bed, there’s no sex, just a quick kiss but it’s followed by Fraser taking Ray’s hand and giving it the quick double-squeeze, which Ray gives back to him instantly, and they actually fall asleep holding hands. Which is the kind of thing that happens with them, sometimes, but is never once spoken of.
Fraser works through it in his head, and Ray works through it in his head, and it’s a few days later when Ray feels confident about bringing it up himself.
“Maybe, next time Ray sees Mike, he should show up at Ray’s place,” Ray says, waving his hand around their apartment.
“Oh, yes,” Fraser agrees immediately. “Which is rather frightening to Ray, because of course he never gave Mike his address.”
“So Mike figured it out anyway, and Ray’s trying to wrap his head around that: did he look at my license? Does he have access to information he shouldn’t? Is he stalking me?”
“No,” Fraser says firmly. “He is not stalking you. That’s just not red ships, Ray.”
Ray nods, okay, there’s a line Ben doesn’t want to cross here, and it’s good they’ve finally found some kind of limit here, because this is good but it’s also kind of terrifying. And Ben’s getting to be very good at communicating what he wants and doesn’t want, and that’s good, too.
“How does he know I’ve been with someone else, then?” Ray asks. “Maybe Ray gets mad and just throws it at him?”
Fraser looks away quickly, his face shutting down, getting tight. “Okay, no, not like that,” Ray says, and suddenly he’s got it. “He finds out by accident. Sees something he shouldn’t.”
Fraser’s looking at Ray again, although a bit warily. “He doesn’t actually walk in on him with another man, does he?” Fraser doesn’t look like he likes that one bit.
“God, no, definitely not that,” Ray assures him. “I’ve got something in mind, though, can I spring it on you or do you want to know in advance?”
Fraser looks a little torn. “Hmm. I think I need to know in advance, although something would be lost in the scene.”
“Hey, no foul,” Ray says. “I was thinking Mike surprises Ray in the hall, waiting for him, and Ray’s just been to the grocery store and there’s something in his bag that’s a giveaway.”
Fraser relaxes. “Oh, Ray, that is genius. You are absolutely brilliant at this.”
Ray grins. He loves this, Fraser gave him a task, with parameters, and he performed it well. His cock is pretty pleased with this, even though the task involved thinking, which is usually the opposite of what he wants to be doing when serving Fraser, but this whole conversation is about sex and being in a scene, so his mind is making the conversation a scene. One more piece of evidence for any scientists who were thinking of adding “kink negotiation” to the list of Ray Kowalski’s Official Kinks.
“Okay, so Ray comes home from the store, Mike comes into the apartment with him, and, hey, is Ray struggling from the start?”
Fraser bites his lip. “I don’t think so,” he says. “I think they’ve done this a couple of times in the meanwhile. In fact, I think Mike has already been to Ray’s apartment.”
“So Ray’s startled when Mike shows up, but he’s used to it in a way, he already knows that Mike knows where he lives.”
“Yes, that really works much better for me. I hope you weren’t too attached to that part of it, Ray.”
Ray shrugs. “Coulda been hot, but not at all necessary.” He’s wondering if Fraser’s still mentally hitting the brakes on the whole “stalker” thing, because that really seemed to make him uncomfortable.
“So Mike is waiting for Ray in the hall, outside his apartment, he hasn’t picked the lock to let himself in this time,” and, Jesus, maybe Fraser doesn’t like the stalker idea, but that little hint of “this time” suggests that there might be another time when Ray gets home from wherever and Mike’s already waiting, watching his TV, drinking his beer, or, oh, God, going through his toy box and getting all sorts of ideas about just how far he can take this thing with Ray. Ray tries to focus on this time.
“Right, Ray’s got his groceries, just a few things he picked up,” because the last thing Ray wants to see Mike do is put away a complete grocery shopping expedition, and the last thing Fraser would want would be to leave food out on the counter where God and all his hungry little creatures could see it.
“Yes, and at first it seems like this might be an easy night with Mike. Because these past few…encounters, aside from the element of surprise, have been much less fraught.”
“So, it’s not like it’s been gentle or anything, right? But not as scary as the first time.”
“But this time, Mike sees that Ray’s been seeing someone….”
“Or perhaps multiple someones….”
“Right, yeah, different guys, you should totally use that against him, by the way. And…?”
Fraser thinks for a few long seconds. “I think I’m comfortable with improvising from there,” he says. “Given what we’ve already discussed.”
“Good,” Ray says. “Let’s adjourn the fuck out of here and will you please take me into our bedroom and nail me into our bed until the frame is scraping paint off the walls?”
“Pushy bottom,” Fraser says with a grin, and then gives Ray exactly what he’d asked for, and even gives him a little preview of coming attractions, growling and using his hand on Ray’s ass, telling him how much harder Mike is going to be on him.
It’s cold out, nearly February, and Jesus, why does Ray stay in Chicago? And why had he forgotten he was just about out of toothpaste; he could live without a lot of things, but toothpaste is absolutely essential. Otherwise, he could’ve just stayed in his nice, warm apartment, thinking about an engine rebuild he’d like to do; it’s been so long since he’s done anything more complicated than gapping spark plugs and endless oil changes.
But he’s back from his quick trip to the corner pharmacy for toothpaste, and a couple of other things, hell, a new toothbrush, why not really live it up? He leaves the stairwell and…oh, shit.
Mike’s standing there, wearing the same thing he always wears, the jeans, the boots, the tight T-shirt, the boots, the wallet chain and carabiner with the keys on the left, the boots, the mussed hair, and did Ray mention the boots? Because the boots are really very nice.
“Hello, Ray,” Mike says. Ray’s not quite over the initial hotness of seeing Mike there, but he wonders whether he’s really in the mood for Mike. Ray sighs and unlocks his door. It doesn’t really matter whether or not he’s in the mood, because Mike can make him be in any mood Mike wants him to be in.
Mike pushes Ray into his own apartment, gently by Mike’s standards, and takes his bag away from him, immediately snooping through Ray’s purchases.
“Condoms, Ray?” Mike demands, holding up the box. “If I wanted to use condoms with you, I would bring my own.”
Okay, that’s it, Ray thinks, not in the mood for this shit, not now. Mike never said anything about condoms before, and Ray tries not to think about it too much because, really, most times when Mike comes around, his safety concerns are much more immediate.
“Maybe they’re not for you,” he snaps. And, oh, that was the wrong thing to have said, because now Mike’s gone completely still, staring at Ray with something that might be shock and is definitely anger.
“Oh, Ray, you did not just say that,” Mike says, softly, dangerously, just before he slams the door closed. He looks at the box again, then throws it aside and stalks up to Ray, who is definitely feeling like a hunted deer at the moment, frozen in place.
Mike stops in front of Ray, reaches up with a trembling fist and Ray braces himself for the blow. But Mike pulls his hand back, flattens it out, and slowly lowers it. And Ray gets it, gets that Mike is so angry he’s afraid he might actually kill Ray and that would be kind of a hassle for Mike.
“Who is it, Ray?” Mike demands. Ray shakes his head. “This is not a good time to be willful and defiant, Ray,” Mike says, voice still terrifyingly quiet. “Tell me who it is.”
“Look, it wasn’t a big deal,” Ray says. “It was just this guy I know from around, we’re buddies, he comes over sometimes.”
“Just this guy you know from around,” Mike repeats. “So you weren’t out in bars picking up strangers like the slut you are?”
Oh, man, this is so good, better than Ray had imagined when Fraser had told him that Ray wasn’t seeing any one guy, but maybe several instead.
“Hey,” he protests. “What do you take me for?”
“You give me to understand,” and shit, that was a pretty elegant catch there since Ray hadn’t really even been aware he’d actually pitched something, “that your picking up total strangers, and I believe anyone would agree that is the behavior of a total slut with no self-control whatsoever, is not exactly unprecedented in your personal history.”
Ray’s about to protest some more, but Mike interrupts. “Don’t even try it, Ray. You picked me up in a bar, and it was clearly not the first time you had done that, and now, apparently, I’m finding out that it wasn’t the last time either.”
And, whoa, Ray picked Mike up? What the hell? Ray was there, he remembers it vividly, and Mike picked Ray up at the bar and then pretty much literally picked him up his fucking staircase.
“Well, why would it be the last time?” Ray argues back. “If I’m really such a disgusting slut.”
Mike shakes his head. “You don’t really seem to grasp the magnitude of how incredibly badly you’ve fucked up.” Oh, shit, oh, Christ, this is turning Ray’s crank like crazy now. “Picking me up in a bar is what makes you a slut. What makes you disgusting is that you went back and got someone else.”
“What, I’m supposed to save myself for you?” Ray demands.
Mike grabs him by the shoulders. “I thought I made it perfectly clear that first night that I own you. Tell me, did this man you picked up, did he make you feel like I do?”
“Fuck no!” Ray exclaims, and Mike is nodding and smiling like he thinks how he makes Ray feel is a good thing, that’s just fucking fantastic that he can’t get that from anyone else.
“So why get someone who can’t give you what you want, what you need? Because you really do need that, Ray, you clearly need it very badly indeed, if you’re willing to settle for some stranger in a bar who will probably constantly ask you if he’s doing it right.”
And Ray’s really losing it here, from the intensity in Mike’s voice, from the way his hands are on him like a living bruise.
“Because that man isn’t really what you need, you need me, you need me to show you your place, to show you the parts of yourself that frighten everyone else, and to make you take it exactly the way you need it.”
And Ray’s not sure who’s talking here, if it’s Mike or maybe even Fraser himself, because of course that’s what he and Fraser do for each other. The character bleed is wonderful, it’s making it all so real, except he has to fucking concentrate here, because there was a word in there, wasn’t there?
“And you’ll give it to me?” Ha, caught it. “What if I don’t want it?”
“I suppose you could go to the police,” Mike says. “If you want to get laughed at and mocked and called much worse names.” And this is definitely Mike; if Fraser ever found out a guy was being treated like this, he would tell him to go directly to Ray Kowalski in the 2-7, or David Paulsen at the 1-6, plus a couple of other names they know, guys who weren’t like that.
But those are job thoughts, and Ray really wants to be having sex thoughts. “I could get a gun,” he improvises wildly.
Mike laughs, squeezing Ray’s shoulders twice. Ray carefully raises his hands and squeezes back on the forearms that are, oh shit, holding him in his place and yep, the job thoughts have left the building.
“The idea of you with a gun isn’t exactly terrifying,” Mike says. “Especially since we both know it would be mine in about thirty seconds, and eventually you’d end up coming while I stroked the barrel against your cock and then you’d just have something new to be desperate for.”
Oh, fuck, this wasn’t something they’d ever talked about, it’s not something Ray’s ever wanted, but when it’s put to him like this, he’s wondering how soon they can figure out how to make something like that happen. And Mike’s gone for a moment, staring over Ray’s shoulder like he needs to process the words that just came out of his mouth.
“Green ships,” Ray says, and the mini-trance is gone.
“Red ships. This talk of firearms is really immaterial, Ray. You don’t have a gun, you won’t get a gun, if there’s ever a gun in this apartment it will be because I brought it. And you’re a very lucky man that I didn’t bring one with me tonight, because your behavior is really appalling.”
“Being a slut, mouthing off at me like this, yes, this is all quite appalling. But the problem with sluts like you, Ray, is that there’s really not much I can do to you that you won’t end up begging for. I could take my belt to you,” Mike says, and oh fuck, Ray thinks, you certainly could, that is a really good idea, that’s exactly what you should do.
“But why should I reward you like that?” Mike adds.
And of course Ray thinks it would be a reward, it would be the best reward ever, but he probably should be fighting back somehow, so he needs to come back with something. “Some reward,” he says, trying to put as much sarcastic defiance into his tone as he can considering that his entire body is practically screaming for the belt.
Mike squeezes Ray’s arms roughly, just the once, so it’s not a check-in, it’s Mike reminding him who’s in charge here while he puzzles out the larger problem of what to do about being in charge. “You are in no position to be sarcastic, Ray,” Fraser growls at him. “The best thing you could do for yourself right now is to be quiet and compliant and think about how to make me happy again.”
And normally Ray is all about service, and with Fraser, if Ben is unhappy about something, that in itself makes Ray unhappy and want to do his level best to please Ben, to make him happy again, with Ray himself or with life in general; whatever the problem is, Ray wants to fix it because he’s hardwired to want Ben to be happy and pleased with him. But with Mike, Ray just wants him to be happy again because maybe that way he’ll get through this night without permanent injury.
So Ray honestly does not give a fuck about Mike’s happiness except for how it directly impacts Ray, and that is an uncomfortable thought for Ray, because it’s starting to tangle up in him, Mike and Ben together but not the same, and this scene is doing things to his head. Things he’s not entirely sure he likes, and fuck, what’s the word, not the word that will stop all of this completely, but the time-out word, how is that they have safewords and check-in codes, but not a fucking time-out word.
“Time out,” Ray says, and Mike blinks and then Ben’s back, looking very worried and concerned and pulling Ray in for a gentle hug.
“Ray, what is it?” Fraser’s voice is concerned. “What can I do?”
“Just…give me a minute,” Ray says. And he tries, he really tries, to find that feeling he had before his brain started thinking about things, but it’s gone, shit, it’s completely gone because his stupid stupid brain decided that right in the middle of a goddamned scene was a really fantastic time to start thinking about how their, his, sexual dynamics actually work. And suddenly the whole scene has tilted sideways and what was great great great a minute ago is now wrong wrong wrong.
It’s a very long minute, probably more like three or four, and finally Fraser says “Stoplight” very quietly but clearly, and Ray is just so fucking relieved because his head was so done in that he wasn’t sure he could’ve pulled out.
They quickly pull their clothes off, and Fraser just shoves them into the hall closet, out of sight, out of mind (hopefully) and guides Ray into the bedroom. Ray’s thinking that Fraser was the one who invoked, he should be taking care of Fraser, but no, Fraser’s taking care of him, gently leading him to the bed, and sitting him down on its edge, wrapping him in a blanket and grabbing a water bottle off the nightstand. If Ray could manage to find his sense of humor, Fraser's careful and attentive Aftercare 101 approach would be almost funny. As it is, Ray appreciates that Fraser's doing what he can and, for once, is not pestering him with a million questions or apologies, just quietly waiting and watching to see what Ray needs.
And what Ray needs is for the last five minutes not to have happened, because in this, Fraser has been the skittish one here, Ray’s only been playing skittish. And now he’s going to have to do some more goddamned reassuring, if he could only get his head back in the game, but he can’t do that, he can’t get there, and Fraser is worried, is unhappy and Ray can’t seem to get his goddamned shit together already to make it better.
Fraser starts talking and Ray honestly does not want to hear it, but thankfully it’s just reassuring babble, something along the lines of, “It’s all right, Ray, it’s fine, you’re going to be all right, I’m here, it’s safe, you’re safe, it’s Ben, I’m Ben, and I’ve got you.”
“You were unhappy,” Ray finally says, shivering a little at the memory, gulping at the water.
“Can I hold you?” Ben asks cautiously, and Ray nods just as cautiously, grateful that Ben’s not pushing him for more information, just letting him work it out at his own pace. Ben moves closer, taking Ray in his arms, rubbing the blanket softly against Ray’s skin. It’s a long time before Ray can even thinking of trying to express what went wrong.
“You were unhappy with me,” he says, and he hates how small his voice sounds. “You were unhappy with me, and I wanted you to be happy with me because then maybe you wouldn’t hurt me. But I always want you to hurt me, I fucking love it when you hurt me, I wanted that belt on me but the other guy was scared.”
Fraser makes a sound of sympathetic distress. “Mike was unhappy with you,” he says carefully. “I was, am, happy with you. You please me so much, all the time, you actually delight and amaze me every day. I’m so lucky to have you in my life at all, and to have you want to be with me, to want the same things I want, is just….It’s perfect, it’s so much more than I ever dared to want.”
“Give you anything,” Ray says, but he knows that’s not quite right, because he couldn’t give Fraser this. “Want to give you everything,” he tries again.
“I don’t need you to be everything,” Fraser tells him. “I just need you to be with me. And you weren’t.”
“No, I wasn't,” Ray sighs. He suddenly feels so tired and disappointed; he just really wants to escape into sleep for awhile. He calls David, tells him that things didn’t exactly go as planned but he’s all right, and David murmurs sympathetically because he can probably guess what Ray’s not saying, and tells him to take care of himself. Ray does, by falling asleep.
Ray sleeps well into the next morning, but when he wakes up, he feels wrong and when his brain catches up with his feelings and he remembers why, he groans. Fraser, in jeans and an off-duty blue henley, is at his side nearly instantly. With orange juice.
Ray takes the orange juice and tosses it back in one go. “Would you like some more? I can have coffee for you in a few minutes,” Fraser offers. Ray nods, and Fraser takes off. When he returns, he’s carrying a tray with more orange juice, coffee and a pile of M&Ms on a little saucer with a spoon next to Ray’s coffee mug.
“How are you feeling?” Fraser asks, still cautious.
“Like a passive-aggressive jack-off,” Ray says instantly.
“Oh.” Fraser doesn’t seem to know what do with this.
“I forced you to safeword me out,” Ray explains.
“Oh,” Fraser says again, but this time it’s an “oh” of understanding. “If it helps, I didn’t, don’t, perceive what happened in that light.”
It does help, but not enough. “What light, then?” Ray asks, trying not to sound combative. He both does and does not want to start an argument, and he’s trying to let the better side of him show.
“Safewords are rather…formal,” Ben says. “They require planning, care and attention. And they worry me,” he adds. Ray forces himself not to say anything, because Fraser is clearly trying to put together something pretty complicated here, and if it’s so complicated that Fraser is struggling for words, it must be pretty big.
“Safewords are predicated on the assumption that both parties are sufficiently aware of themselves and attentive to their situation. You wouldn’t do a scene while drunk or high, of course,” Fraser says. Ray nods. He’s okay with doing a scene if he’s had a beer or maybe even two, but never anything more than that, and then only rarely.
“But when I take my belt to you,” and, whoa, the kink vibe has not died, Ray’s not sprouting wood at Fraser saying this, but he is getting a pleasant shiver, the first one since he’d heard Mike’s words coming out of Ben’s mouth, think about how to make me happy again and everything went sideways on him.
“When I take my belt to you, you’re aroused and then your system is flooded with endorphins, and frankly sometimes it seems to me as though you are significantly impaired. And I tell myself that if I go too far, you’ll use your safeword, but what if I’ve pushed you past the point of self-awareness?” Clearly, that’s not a question that Fraser wants Ray to answer, at least not yet, it’s just Fraser trying to tell Ray what’s going on with him. Which is apparently rather a lot. “So there’s a part of me that worries that, after a certain point, safewords give us a false sense of security.”
“But we weren’t doing anything,” Ray protests, and it sounds stupid even to him. “I mean, I hadn’t been drinking, and you hadn’t hurt me nearly enough to get the endorphins going.”
“And you were distressed and trying to push past it, and I couldn’t watch that,” Fraser says flatly. “I didn’t know, still don’t know, what happened, but you were clearly having difficulties, and you were struggling because you wanted to keep going, because you wanted to please me,” and if Fraser had been the one keeping his shit together last night, now he’s the one who’s starting to lose it, Fraser style. “Because I told you to think about how to make me happy again,” Fraser finishes, quoting himself back word-for-word, but the phrase is now loaded with real anger and, outweighing the anger, causing the anger, self-loathing.
“Making you happy makes me happy,” Ray says. There’s a lot that needs to be addressed here, but he’s going to start with the specifics. “You know I like serving you, that I get off on you telling me what to do, obeying you, and then knowing that I did it well.” Fraser nods, but still looks miserable.
“But last night, when Mike said that,” and if ever there was a time for making sure that the right names are used, this would be it. “About making him happy, I realized that I would be doing that, making him happy, just to protect myself. And that’s not why I serve you. That’s never why I serve you.”
“So I triggered you into thinking about what we usually do,” Fraser said. “And then you couldn’t unmesh who we usually are with who we were being last night.”
“Right,” Ray says. “But I really did think I could get it sorted out, because it seemed like such a strange thing to get hung up on, just a little thing like that.”
“You’ve been trying to tell me for months now that I have a right to call a halt,” Fraser says.
“You do! I’m not upset that you did, I’m pissed at myself that I backed you into it.”
“I still don’t feel manipulated, if that’s your concern,” Fraser says. “But I wasn’t finished. I was going to say that now I finally understand, because last night I simply could not watch you trying to regain the role. I was not only distressed on your behalf, I was…uninterested in continuing whether you found your way back or not.”
“You got turned off,” Ray interprets, and Fraser sighs and fidgets with his eyebrow.
“I’m afraid so. Mike really is a fantasy, apparently, so in a sense what happened last night is actually reassuring.”
“Now you know for certain you’re not that guy,” Ray says. And he’s always known that Ben is not that guy, but apparently Ben himself had doubts. “So there actually was some chicken salad in there.”
“Chicken salad?” Fraser is startled out of his musing. “Oh, yes, I see.” He actually smiles a bit. “I perhaps would have said something about a silver lining, but yes, we had shit and here I am forcing it to be something more palatable.”
“I dunno,” Ray says. “If you did get that out of it, well, no way am I going to say it was worth it, because I ended up feeling so bad, and I guess so did you, but you know….” He trails off. He doesn’t want to think about doing Ray and His Scary Sometimes Boyfriend Mike again right now, but he’s pretty sure he will once he’s got some distance between last night and feels like remembering that first, perfect time.
“Since we seem to be having that kind of discussion,” Fraser says, “I think, in retrospect, it was not a good idea to introduce jealousy into the scene.”
“Okay,” Ray says. He did not see that coming, at all.
“I’m not proud of my jealousy, and that was not a good way to try to work through it.”
“What the fuck?” Ray blurts out. “Since when are you jealous of me?” Fraser and him, they’re all about trust, he’s never once given Fraser reason to be jealous, and suddenly this is a whole different discussion, and fuck, it’s a discussion they should have had days ago.
“Since always,” Fraser says, and whoa, this discussion has veered into uncharted areas.
“But…what did I do?”
“Nothing, Ray. I trust you. But you…I…I need you, Ray, I need you so much, and I’m not used to being dependent and I’m always mindful that it could all go away, be taken from me, and I would be devastated.”
At the beginning, Ray had felt like that, too, because really, if anyone was going to do the leaving it was Fraser, but he’d gotten over that pretty quickly. Apparently, Fraser never had, and he’s been hiding it all this time, and if Ray’d had any fucking clue about it, he never ever would have suggested that they play around with Mike’s jealousy.
“It’s not a large part of my emotional landscape,” Fraser’s telling him. “In fact, it’s really quite small, but it is something that I become aware of from time to time. And I know that you don’t have any of that particular type of insecurity about our…what we have. I’d hoped never to burden you with it,” Fraser concludes sadly.
“Hey, your burdens are supposed to be mine, too, or at least something you can share with me,” Ray says. He thinks maybe he should be angry that Fraser’s been hiding this, but he’s too tired and he understands this about Ben, that Ben hates certain kinds of his own weaknesses and would really prefer to pretend he hasn’t got any. Also, Ben’s never been married, never really been long-term serious with anyone, so he doesn’t always get it, that the goal here is not to hide stuff from one another. And it’s not like Ray, back when he had those same worries, too, sat down to have a nice long chat with Fraser about being scared of losing him.
And, shit, they’ve been coasting for so long, never really talking about any of these things. Negotiating scenes, reassuring each other afterwards, and they’re going to have to work on that even more because somewhere in there Fraser said some kind of alarming things about safewords, but they’ve always carefully avoided talking about big-picture stuff. That’s not who they are, but they’re going to have to do it, because Fraser is looking a little too lost here.
So when they’re feeling better, there’s a whole lot of conversations that are going to be happening, and Ray is not looking forward to that at all, but he is very much looking forward to, well, making Fraser happy again.