Ray couldn’t quite believe his eyes the first time he flipped open a magazine and saw him. It wasn’t Fraser -- it really obviously wasn’t Fraser, because he was too young, too long-haired, too thin, not even to get into how no way would Fraser ever -- but it took him a very long double-take to convince his eyes it wasn’t. It didn’t even properly look like Fraser, not really -- like Fraser and Marlon Brando’s lovechild, maybe.
He bought the magazine.
Turns out the guy was pretty prolific -- ‘course he was, he was pretty, as long as he wanted to keep posing, photo guys would keep paying him, and losers like him would keep buying the rags.
And he did. He bought every one he could find in Chicago (skulking around the gay porn shops didn’t exactly make him feel like less of a loser, but when he got home and got out the guy’s picture and got his hand down his pants, well, it was worth it, that was all), and when he realized the guy was Brazilian and had done even more work there, was on the cover and in the center of magazines there, well. He had a credit card that wasn’t Vecchio’s, and a phone number the CPD didn’t track, and the long wait for international shipping? Yeah, that’d be worth it, too.
Benton spun his hat off his head -- a bit too frivolous a move to be regulation, but his mood was perhaps too frivolous tonight, too; it suited -- as he and Diefenbaker entered the foyer of Ray’s apartment building.
“Good evening, Mr Booker!”
“You ever gonna call me Jim, son?” Mr Booker glanced over from the row of mail boxes, and smiled as he slammed another shut. Dief pranced over to him, then sat, an exact two and a half feet away.
“Jim, son.” Benton smiled at him, then clicked his heels and bowed at the waist. Mr Booker dug into his pocket, Dief tracking his hand avidly, and laughed.
“Lord, you are in a state today. You and that cop o’yours got any plans tonight? Friday night, couple fine young men like yourselves...” Dief snapped the tossed biscuit out of the air, and it was gone in two bites and a short but thorough cleaning of the floor.
“Ah, no. Well, not especially. I believe the phrase he used was ‘get familiar with the couch and watch the Leafs get the--’... perhaps you don’t need the particulars.”
“Even this old head can fill in those blanks.”
Benton smiled again, and was about to take his leave when Mr Booker called out.
“Red! I got a package here, going up your way. It’s too big for the box, and it needs a signature so I can’t leave it. Could I trouble you--?”
“Of course! No trouble at all.” Benton signed, and bid him good evening. He took the stairs two at a time, curiosity at the fat, flat package adding to his earlier ebullience.
Two firm raps to Ray’s door didn’t yield any answering thumps from inside. He tucked package and hat behind him as he turned to wait.
“Hmm? Oh, I’m sure he’ll be here momentarily. We’ll just… wait.” The package was heavy in his hand -- and then wasn’t at all.
“Dief! What are you--? I assure you, there are not any more biscuits in -- Diefenbaker!” His last shout was accompanied by a loud rip as Dief got the package open. There were, of course, no biscuits, though Dief shoved through the magazines that spilled out just in case.
“Dief! Interfering with the proper and safe delivery of the United States post is a federal crime; do you want me to turn you to the authorities? Of all the unprincipled, ill-mannered--”
Benton’s eyes finally caught up with his hands, gathering in the images as he’d gathered up Ray’s magazines, and he stopped.
It was -- well, it wasn’t him, clearly it wasn’t him, he’d certainly remember had his picture ever been taken like that. And yet.
“Hey, Frase-rrrr, could you get the--”
Benton was certain his eyes were wide, wide open, but all he saw was Ray’s face -- Ray’s dear, familiar face -- as it took him in (crouching, torn package remnants on the floor, hands full of Ray’s own post, Ray’s very private post, covers which likely would never have made it past his own country’s stricter import laws), as it fell, as it closed off, shut down, hardened like concrete, like steel, like a city he would never be able to know.
“I know you don’t believe in other people’s privacy, but I didn’t know you were in the habit of committing felonies, Fraser.”
Benton swallowed, scrambled to his feet, torn between wanting to proffer the offending (offensive? never that) material, and wanting to hide his indiscretion, feign ignorance and regather Ray’s trust.
Too late, of course.
Ray’d shoved past him, shoulder checking him, not a familiar brush, not like it had just hours ago, but hard, offense as defense, and if they’d been on ice Benton would’ve expected a ref’s flag.
But there was no one, just Dief slinking away down the hall, as Ray threw his basket inside, scattering his clean shirts and pants (underwear) across his livingroom, across the couch they’d planning to share.
And then his hands were empty, the door slammed shut with Ray and the images of him (not him) firmly on the other side.
He heard the bolt slam home, and then he heard nothing but the rush of blood pounding in his ears.
Benton had been afraid Ray wouldn’t talk with him after that -- and didn’t, all weekend, the dullest and most interminable weekend he’d had in Chicago -- but, as with many of his predictions about Ray’s behavior, he found, come Monday, he’d been mistaken. It was far worse than that.
Ray talked to him. He asked questions about their cases. He went over theories, ideas, strategies. He tossed Benton his hat when they left to question witnesses. He drew his gun and drew Craig White’s fire while Benton and Dief circled around to free the captured pugs and relieve him of his weapon.
And he never, not once, looked Benton in the eyes.
Further invitations -- for dinner, for hockey, for hanging out -- were, unsurprisingly, absent.
He hardly knew what to say, and when he tried, Ray changed the topic or left the room before he got more than three words out. Benton had counted three times as many trips to both the break room and the men’s room as was Ray’s usual that week.
When Friday ended without so much as a ride back to a consulate, just a slap of a file down on Ray’s desk and a “Fuck it, we’ll finish it Monday” and Ray’s back as he walked (35% faster than usual) out of the department’s doors -- Benton knew he had to try something else.
They’d made it through three more workdays without the ease Benton had long grown accustomed to (reliant upon, his grandmother’s voice chided). Ray continued to be excessively jittery -- perhaps, but only partially, explained by his continued reliance upon coffee to get through their days together and avoid any attempts at more personal exchanges. Benton himself felt ready to twitch out of his skin, and had started increasing the frequency and duration of his walks with Diefenbaker. (“Perhaps it would behoove you to remember this, then, the next time it enters your head to break into another person’s property, hmm?’) He’d also started sorting through the consulate’s backlog of applications and reports -- it was woefully out of date, according to current guidelines for the organization of files. It was also tedious, mind-numbing work, and was thus perfect for the excessively long hours of the night, nearly (nowhere near) as good as a solid night’s sleep.
The sudden, sharp banging startled him, and the I-284/B he’d been putting away cut him. He sucked the blood, copper and iron, from his finger as he walked to answer it.
He no sooner turned the lock than the door flung open, and Ray shouldered his way in, looking around before seeing Benton behind the door, finger still in front of his face, and Ray spun toward him, shoved Benton against the door, closing it. It was as though all the looks and glances missing from the last week and a half had piled up, concentrated to here, now, and Benton could hardly breath from the force of that stare.
“Fraser! What the hell -- what the fuck are these?”
It took another moment for Benton to pull his gaze away from Ray’s (from Ray’s eyes, blue, hazel, the slightest ring of muddying brown at their center, complex, earthy, perfect), to take in the handful of polaroids Ray was waving -- shaking, punching almost -- next to his face.
“They… appear to be photographs, though I can’t --”
A wordless growl, and now Ray did punch, punched the door right next to Benton’s head, and Benton snapped his mouth shut.
“Of course they’re photographs, and I know you know exactly what’s on them because I know Canadian fucking envelopes when I see them, so don’t even try any of that ignorant shit with me. I wanna know what are these?”
“They’re… well… they’re pornography, Ray.”
Ray’s hands -- one on each side of his head, now, pressing into the wood of the door, fighting against its very solidity -- curled into fists as his mouth curled into a snarl.
“These?” He pulled the now crinkled photographs away from the door once more. “These aren’t pornography. I know you know what pornography looks like, and this ain’t that, and the important part -- listen close, Fraser -- the important part ain’t that, it’s what the hell?”
“But, you see, Canadian law on pornography is much more widely, and precisely, defined, and is, ah, defined rather more by intent than content, if you follow. Any material intended for, well, sexual arousal may be considered pornographic under Canadian obscenity laws, and therefore those photographs are, as it were, pornography.”
He’d spoken the words, as clearly and directly as he could, and now he met Ray’s stare, clearly and directly. He watched the words run through Ray’s brain, again, saw them in the flicker of Ray’s eyelashes, the creasing of his brows, and he thought he would see the moment when Ray understood, when Ray saw, but he never did, because Ray was on him, kissing him, pushing him against the door and pulling him close, and Benton grabbed back, hard, hard, met him kiss for kiss, as the polaroids -- red long johns, silver snaps (some undone), glimpses of pale skin -- fluttered to the floor.