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Brad is so shocked that his mouth gets ahead of him and he’s blurting out, “What the fuck, Ray?” before he tunes into the fact that he’s getting hard at the sight of Ray in a dress. Ray’s looking at him like a deer in the headlights, eyeliner frozen in the air where he’d been putting it on. A second later the bathroom door’s closing, and Brad crosses the room toward it.

“Ray,” he says, trying the door handle, but of course it’s locked.

“Fuck off,” Ray snarls. “You’re not even supposed to be home.”

“We got done early,” Brad says lamely. “I -- sorry.”

Ray doesn’t respond; Brad stands outside the door, trying to think of something else to say. He hears water running and the sound of a drawer opening and closing. Ray comes out a moment later. He’s wearing PT gear, face red and makeup-free, his hair a mess. “It’s fine, just shut up about it.” He brushes past Brad and shoves a bundle of fabric -- the dress -- into the trash can by his desk.

“Ray,” Brad says, but Ray shakes his head.

“Please just don’t. I’m going for a run.” He leaves the room and a moment later the front door slams.

“Shit,” Brad says under his breath. He goes into the bathroom, a little aimlessly, and looks at the unobtrusive little bag sitting on the counter. It’s dark blue and, with the zipper closed, it could easily be a shaving kit. There’s an assortment of makeup inside; the lip gloss has smudges around the lid, and the eyeliner’s worn down to a charcoal nub. This is far, far from the first time Ray’s done this, and Brad just completely fucked it up.

The dress is made of a soft, thin fabric -- it clung to Ray’s hips, Brad remembers -- and it’s only a little wrinkled when he pulls it out of the trash can. It’s green, with matching lace along the collar. It’s delicate and girly, something Brad would never have pictured Ray being drawn to. He lays it out on Ray’s bed and stares at it, trying to figure out what made Ray buy it. Maybe it was the same thing that had made Brad’s cock twitch in his pants before he’d opened his fucking mouth and ruined it.

He’d thought, in that first second after he realized what he was seeing, that Ray in a dress had looked wrong. But when he plays it back in his mind, that moment before Ray had known he was there, the way the soft fabric of the dress had looked over Ray’s muscles doesn’t seem wrong. The contrast hadn’t made sense to him at first, but now he can’t stop thinking about it -- what it would feel like if he ran his hand down Ray’s shoulder and went from touching the smooth fabric stretched over Ray’s bicep to touching his warm skin.

Brad’s phone buzzes in his back pocket, and he realizes he’s standing in Ray’s bedroom, touching the dress with one hand while the other inches dangerously close to the bulge in his pants. He rests his hands at his sides and considers his options.

He folds the dress, tucking the tag under the edge of the collar so it doesn’t stick out. It’s a medium, and he doesn’t think about why he’s looking at that and filing the information away. He doesn’t think about any of it; he just leaves the dress on Ray’s bed and pulls out his phone. The text is from Daken, demanding his presence at the bar for drinks, so he leaves Ray a note saying he’ll be back no earlier than 11 and makes himself scarce.

*

Ray’s already in bed when he gets home, and the next few days are weird. They’re awkward around each other in a way they’ve never been before, like neither of them knows what to say, and Brad can’t stop thinking about what happened. He wonders if that was Ray’s only dress, or if he has a whole row of them in different colors. He wonders if Ray put the green dress back in his closet, or if he threw it away. The idea of Ray putting it back in the trash bothers him. He thinks about going into Ray’s room and looking, but Ray might know that he’s done it, and then he’ll just make things worse.

He passes a woman in the grocery store wearing a dress with a bright flower pattern, and he has to grit his teeth and hold his basket in front of himself for a few minutes because all he can think about is Ray wearing it, ruffles swinging around his hips. When he checks out, the woman in front of him has a stick of eyeliner and a little container of blush at the end of her line of items. Brad sets the divider right behind them and thinks about the eyeliner that had been in Ray’s little bag, how it had been worn down to almost nothing. Ray’s been doing this for a while -- probably since before Ray permanently moved to California and moved in with Brad, maybe even before they were in the Corps together. This is something Ray likes and Brad has ruined it.

They go for their usual run on Saturday morning. They rarely exchange more than a few words on a normal day -- if they can talk and run at the same time it just means they need to pick up the pace -- but today the silence seems unnatural. Brad keeps catching glimpses of Ray out of the corner of his eye and thinking about how it would look if Ray was wearing a dress, how the fabric might ride up his thighs just like his shorts.

When they get back to the house, Brad pulls off his shirt and slings it over one shoulder, his sweaty skin prickling under the air conditioning. Ray turns into the kitchen and gets a glass of water. He drinks it slowly, eyes closed, and Brad fights to look away from the line of his throat as he swallows. He’s gotten good at being subtle about looking at Ray over the years, sticking to short glances or looking when he knows Ray won’t catch him. All of that has gone out the window now; he stares so long that Ray finishes drinking and catches him.

Ray looks startled, and then nervous. Brad doesn’t know what to say to get that look off his face, but he knows he needs to say something.

He clears his throat. “Ray --” he starts, hesitant. Ray’s already shaking his head.

“We don’t need to talk about it,” he insists. “It’s not gonna happen again; you don’t need to worry about it.”

Ray disappears down the hall. A minute later Brad hears the shower turn on. He swears under his breath. Did Ray just mean that he’s going to make sure Brad doesn’t walk in on him again? Or is he not going to dress up at all anymore? Either way, Brad feels like he’s fucked everything up. He wants to tell Ray that he’s not mad or disgusted or anything even close, but Ray clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. He needs the right words to let Ray know it’s okay, but he doesn’t know how to talk about it without giving away the fact that he can’t stop thinking about how good Ray had looked. I’m sorry, I’m not going to judge you, please let me see you like that again, I’m an asshole, please let me touch you -- he fucks it up when he’s just thinking about it. If he tries to talk about it, he’s just going to make things even weirder.

He waits until he hears the shower turn off to go into his own bathroom and start his. He stands under the spray and jerks off slowly, thinking about Ray. If he’s being honest with himself, it’s not exactly the first time Ray’s slipped into his thoughts like this, but usually he thinks about other things for as long as he can before he gives in to mental images of Ray’s hands and mouth toward the end. This time all he thinks about is Ray -- drinking water in his sweaty PT gear, taking off his shorts and shirt and putting on the green dress, putting on eyeliner while Brad watches.

He comes in what feels like seconds, biting his lip to keep from saying Ray’s name out loud.

*

Going to breakfast with Katie. Back no earlier than 1300. he texts Ray as he’s getting on his bike the next morning. He thinks maybe it will help, if Ray knows exactly when Brad will be back.

Lunch with his little sister is a welcome distraction -- she talks him into getting mimosas and fills him in on everything going on at the hospital where she works. Everyone seems to be dating each other, although Katie has a boyfriend who’s incredibly nice but boring and in finance, so she just laughs at the drama and tells Brad about it whenever they see each other.

After Katie leaves, he takes a walk around the downtown area near the restaurant, killing time. He passes a few shops with dresses in the window and tries not to look too long.

Home in 20. he texts at a stoplight on his way home, so Ray has some warning, just in case. He thinks, if Ray saw Brad’s text and decided to dress up while Brad was gone, that it might be easy for Ray to get distracted. The fabric of the dress had been soft, even under Brad’s calloused fingers, so when Ray wears it, it probably feels good against his skin. Maybe he runs his hands over the fabric, over his body, so he can feel it better. Maybe he loses track of time.

The vibrations of the bike mean Brad stays half-hard the rest of the way home. His heart is pounding in his ribcage, embarrassingly fast, as he parks in the garage. He hopes that Ray dressed up while Brad was gone, if he wanted to, but he’s a little worried there will be signs when he gets inside. Maybe Ray’s face will be red again from taking off the makeup, or maybe he’ll be able to look at Ray and just know.

A part of him loves the thought of knowing -- the idea that Ray might have been dressed up right up until Brad sent that last text makes Brad’s chest feel tight -- but if he can tell, he won’t be able to stop thinking about it. He won’t be able to take his eyes off of Ray, and Ray will probably figure out why, and he doesn’t think Ray will like it if he can tell Brad knows. He must have been really careful about it, before, if he’s been doing it for a while and Brad never had a clue.

When he gets inside, Ray’s wearing ratty jeans and a t-shirt and sitting on the couch like he’s been there for hours. There’s an bowl on the coffee table with a little bit of milk in the bottom. It seems almost deliberate.

“Hey,” Brad says, hanging his keys on the hook by the door.

“Hi.” Ray clicks through a few channels until he lands on a South Park rerun. “How was Katie?”

“Far as I can tell, her life is basically that hospital show where all the doctors are in love with each other and crying about it all the time,” Brad says as he toes off his shoes onto the mat and walks into the living room, hovering behind the couch. Ray snorts. “She seems happy, though. Her boyfriend’s taking her on a skiing trip.”

“Of fucking course Steve’s into skiing. He’s too nice to hate snow like the rest of us.”

“She thinks he might ask her to marry him,” Brad says. “She sounded excited. My own sister, gone to the dark side.”

Ray shakes his head. “You can’t save everyone, Bradley,” he says, somber.

“There’s still time to talk her out of it,” Brad says. “I’m gonna go for a run, you wanna come?”

“Nah, I worked out this morning.”

Brad nods and starts toward his room to change.

Look,” Ray says just before Brad leaves the room. He’s looking at the TV instead of Brad. “You don’t need to do this texting thing, okay? You don’t need to -- to report in, or whatever.”

“Okay,” Brad says. “Sure.”

He goes into his room and opens the dresser, thinking. If Ray doesn’t want Brad to let him know how long he’ll be gone, that must mean he’s not planning to dress up anymore. Maybe he thinks Brad is texting to make sure he never has to see Ray like that again; maybe he thinks Brad is disgusted by him. Trying to talk to him about it just makes it worse, but Brad needs him to know that it’s okay.

*

He goes to buy socks. He’s walking past the women’s section, and he sees a bright blue dress out of the corner of his eye. It’s kind of shiny, and the fabric looks thin and soft. He keeps walking, grabbing a couple packs of athletic socks and a pack of undershirts. He does a lap of the store and ends up back by the dress. There’s no one in the section, so he approaches. The fabric is as soft as it looks. The dress has short sleeves and a wide rounded collar; it’s tighter at the top, and then the skirt flares out. The one at the front is a medium, the same size the green dress had been, and it looks like it would fit Ray. The sleeves might be a little tight, but that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

The store clerk doesn’t bat an eye when Brad checks out, but his heart is beating fast when he gets in his car. He sets the bag on the passenger seat and sits for a minute, getting his breathing under control. It’s ridiculous; he’s been in combat and here he is getting worked up over buying a dress. He wills himself to relax.

Ray is in the living room when he gets home, so he takes the bag to his room. When Ray leaves for a meeting the next morning, Brad unfolds the dress and goes into Ray’s room. He thinks about sending Ray a text telling him when Brad will be home that night, just in case, but Ray had told him not to do that anymore. In the end he just lays the dress out on Ray’s bed and leaves.

*

His day is long and full of stupidity, both above and below him. By the time he gets home, it’s past 11 and he’s forgotten about the dress. Ray’s still up when he gets home, stirring a pot of chili and humming random snatches of music. He’s wearing plaid pajama pants and an old t-shirt -- Brad can’t seem to stop cataloguing Ray’s clothes, something he doesn’t remember ever noticing before -- and his hair and the back of the t-shirt are damp.

“You just take a shower?” Brad asks, grabbing the spoon out of Ray’s hands to steal a bite.

“It’s not done yet, asshole,” Ray says, smacking at Brad’s hand. He pauses, long enough for Brad to glance up at him, and then says, “And yeah.” He’s looking at Brad when he says it, and he’s not answering the question Brad asked.

Brad thinks he should say something, but all he can do in that moment is look back at Ray and feel himself start to smile a little helplessly. Ray rolls his eyes and steals his spoon back, hip-checking Brad away from the stove.

“Twenty minutes,” he says. “You smell like ass.”

“Your mom smells like ass,” Brad calls over his shoulder.

He doesn’t let himself think about it until he’s in the shower. He thinks about Ray coming home and finding the dress on his bed; he wonders if Ray had put it on right away or if he had waited, out of worry that Brad might come home or just to heighten the anticipation. He thinks about the damp skin on the back of Ray’s neck, how he’d probably stood in his own shower and washed the makeup off. He leans one arm against the wall and touches himself with his other hand. He’s almost fully hard, just from imagining Ray wearing the dress Brad bought for him. He comes fast and hard, muffling a groan against his bicep.

There’s a bowl of chili and a bag of shredded cheese waiting for him when he goes back to the kitchen. Ray’s halfway through his, pausing to crumble a few more crackers into the bowl.

“You’re disgusting,” Brad says. Ray eats a spoonful and grins at him, open-mouthed, as he chews. He has little dark smudges around his eyes that he missed. They sit and eat, and Brad keeps glancing up at Ray’s face. He knows Ray knows he’s doing it, but Ray doesn’t say anything.

Instead, he asks about Brad’s training exercise, and Brad regales him with a tale of stupidity for the ages.

*

Things seem to have settled now, back to the comfortable way they were before. They run on Saturdays and eat together whenever they’re home at the same time, and Brad knows Ray probably waits until Brad’s gone and dresses up, but they don’t talk about it. He thinks he can tell, sometimes, and he likes knowing. Ray will have a smudge of eyeliner at the corner of his eye, or just a look about him, and Brad will hold onto that image and think about it later, when he’s in bed or in the shower.

He pictures Ray in that first dress, or in the blue one Brad bought for him, tugging at the skirt so it lays flat, the way Brad has seen women do. He pictures Ray leaning over his bathroom counter to line his eyes and put on lipgloss. He isn’t sure what happens after that -- does Ray just walk around the house like that? Does he sit and watch TV or do the laundry? Or maybe he does what Brad does when he thinks about Ray. Maybe he does all of that. Brad likes to picture it that way, Ray doing normal things around the house and then eventually lying down on his bed and pulling the dress up until he can touch himself.

He’s out for a run one Wednesday when he passes a man and woman walking along the beach. They’re holding hands and gazing at each other, obnoxiously romantic. The woman is wearing a patterned dress that almost reaches the ground. Brad glances over his shoulder at them and keeps going.

It sticks in his mind for the rest of the week, and he’s not sure why. It’s not the dress itself; when he thinks about Ray in a dress, it’s always in something shorter, like the first one, with the skirt brushing over his thighs. It’s not a color he would pick for Ray, either, and it’s not like the woman reminded him of Ray or anything. He tries to push it out of his head, but that never works as well as it used to.

They grill out that Saturday. Ray comes out onto the deck in a tank top and jeans, already grumbling about Brad over-seasoning the steaks.

“Do you want to do it?” Brad asks, holding out the tongs. Ray sprawls out on one of the deck chairs.

“I’ll just supervise,” he says, tipping his sunglasses down from on top of his head.

“Can you supervise your way into the kitchen and get me a beer, since I’m doing all the actual work?”

“How’m I gonna know if you’re ruining the natural flavor with your weird spices?” Ray says, standing up and stretching -- Brad has to look away -- and heading back inside.

“It’s pepper, you degenerate,” Brad calls after him.

Ray comes back a few minutes later with an ice bucket full of bottles, handing Brad an open one and putting the rest on the table. He comes over and leans against the shelf of the grill, shoulder brushing Brad’s arm.

“Another minute,” Brad says, settling his weight so his arm presses into Ray a little more. Ray doesn’t move away.

They stay out on the deck as the sun goes down. They light a fire in the fire pit and pull the chairs closer to it. It’s the only light source, and Ray’s face is bathed in shadows. Brad’s on his fourth beer of the night, and when he looks at Ray and thinks, he could be wearing eyeliner right now and I wouldn’t even be able to tell, it’s easy to blurt out, “Do you ever go out?”

“Do I ever go out,” Ray echoes. Brad can’t read his eyes in the light.

“When -- when you’re --”

“I know what you --” Ray cuts him off and then cuts himself off, looking at Brad, and then answers tightly, “No. I don’t go out.”

“You don’t want to?” Brad asks. He shouldn’t be asking this. If he keeps going, he’s going to start asking Ray all the things he’s been thinking about, and then everything will be over.

Ray is still watching him, and the tension slowly goes out of his shoulders. “I don’t need to,” he finally says softly. “I could, I guess, if I went somewhere else, but it’s not -- I don’t need to go to a club or something and have people see me. That’s not what it’s about.”

Brad nods. He still doesn’t really get it, but he doesn’t understand why he can’t stop thinking about it, either. He still has a hundred questions he wants to blurt out, beer making him stupid, but he holds them back. “Okay,” he says, as quiet as Ray. “Thanks.”

The deck is quiet except for the fire crackling. Ray watches him for another long moment; Brad picks at the label on his bottle and watches back. He tries not to think about anything stupid, because he knows Ray will be able to tell -- he’s always been able to read Brad, even in Iraq when he’d been cold and hard and pretended nothing could get to him. Ray tilts his head to the side, like he’s thinking, and then turns back to look at the fire; Brad does the same.

“Thanks for not being super weird about it,” Ray finally says. “I mean --” He waves a hand in the air, encompassing the time they both spent being weird about it, before Brad bought the blue dress.

Brad is definitely still weird about it, but not in the way Ray means. “Why would I be weird about it when I can just go back to judging you for every other aspect of your pathetic whiskey tango existence and all the baffling, stupid choices you’ve made in your sad little life?”

“Right, right,” Ray says. “Moving in with you, for example, where I am likely to be slowly worn down into a broken shell of my former self by your shitty ass seasoning and poor choice in beer.”

“Ray, you would drink piss if someone put it in front of you and told you there was alcohol in it,” Brad counters.

“I may be into weird things, Bradley,” Ray says, over-articulating and arching an eyebrow, “but I am not into that.”

Brad feels his face heat a little and pretends it’s from the fire. The conversation is verging back into territory he’d been trying to avoid. “Everyone’s a little weird, I guess,” he says, because if Ray is into weird things, so is he.

“Jesus, are we gonna start having confession time? I might need another beer. Are you trying to tell me you’re into watersports, Brad?”

Brad tips his head back and looks over at Ray, shaking his head. “No, Ray. I’m not into that.”

He should make a crack about Ray’s mom or something. Change the subject. But Ray’s already looking at him with that speculative gleam in his eyes, like he’s figuring Brad out. Brad thinks he might let him.

*

He cuts through Macy’s to get into the mall, on his way to Foot Locker. He walks down an aisle with dresses on both sides and doesn’t even bother to pretend he’s not going to look. The dresses on his left are mostly giant skirts and too many layers of weird see-through fluff -- it must be prom soon, or at least he hopes it is. He looks over the more casual ones on his right as he walks.

The dress he leaves with is a dark red-orange and shaped like a long t-shirt, with a drawstring thing around the waist to tie it tighter. Mostly he likes the color, and the tie means he won’t be too tempted to ask Ray how it fits. It’s not as soft as the blue one, but the fabric is light and seems comfortable.

He buys a couple packs of briefs and a new jacket, so the dress isn’t the only thing he’s buying. He ruins it by getting sidetracked as he passes the makeup department. One of the women behind the counters catches him staring, and he makes up a lie about his girlfriend texting him to get her some eyeliner. Then she asks him what kind and he realizes there are half a dozen different types in the display. He pretends to look at his phone again and points out the one that looks closest to what he’d seen in Ray’s makeup bag.

“Does she wear black or brown?” the woman asks.

“Black.” Brad is going to fake an emergency text and flee if there are any more questions.

Thankfully, that’s it, except then she offers to ring up everything he has. When she sees the dress, she starts cooing over what a sweet boyfriend he is, and he has to smile awkwardly until he can escape.

On the ride home, he thinks about Ray wearing the dress and tying the drawstring in a little bow on his waist. Then he thinks about Ray putting it on and Brad tying the bow, and then untying it, and when he gets home he drops the bags on the kitchen counter and goes into his bathroom. He fumbles his pants open and jerks off over the toilet, gasping, picturing himself sliding the dress slowly up Ray’s legs --

Fuck,” he grits out, coming into his hand on an upstroke. “God.”

He washes his hands twice, splashes water on his face, and goes back to the kitchen.

Ray, jacket still on like he’s just coming home, is opening the bag, calling, “What the fuck did you get from Macy’s --” over his shoulder. He looks into the bag and Brad can see him freeze. There’s a long silence that Brad doesn’t know how to fill.

“I thought -- the color,” Brad finally says, fumbling for words because there’s nothing he can really say.

Ray has one hand in the bag -- he’s touching the fabric, Brad realizes -- and he looks over at Brad, eyes wide. “Oh,” he says. He opens his mouth, stops, and starts again. “Brad --”

“I have to --” Brad crosses the room and grabs his keys off the kitchen counter. “I just stopped to -- I’ll be back. Later. At 2100.”

He’s not really proud of himself for running, but sometimes retreat is the only option.

*

He gets on his bike and just drives. He thinks about the way Ray had looked at him that night on the deck, and the way Ray had looked at him just now in the kitchen, and he speeds up, swinging around a curve fast enough that he has to lean far into it, pavement looming close. His phone vibrates in his pocket as he straightens out, but he doesn’t slow down.

He drives for nearly an hour. He stops at a gas station to fill up the bike and buy a bottle of water. He drinks half of it at once, then takes out his phone.

We are talking when you get back. Text me when you’re on your way.

It’s almost 1930. He types Back in an hour, hits send, and finishes the water.

He tries to slow it down a little on the way home, but he still gets back before it’s been a full hour. He idles around the block for a few minutes. He opens his text messages a few times, re-reading what Ray had sent and trying to figure out what it means. Maybe he’s mad. Maybe he’s just going to tell Brad to stop, but he could have told him that in a text.

At 2025, he gives up and goes inside. The living room light is on, but Ray’s not in sight. Brad hangs up his keys and takes off his jacket and shoes.

“Ray?”

“In here.”

Ray opens his door a few inches as Brad comes down the hall. His light is off; Brad can barely see him in the light from the living room. His eyes are big and dark; he licks his lower lip so it’s shiny.

Neither of them says anything for a moment. Brad still doesn’t know what to say. Finally, Ray leans into the door frame, bracing a hand against the wood, and sighs.

“I’m gonna be an asshole,” he warns. “I need you to tell me what this is.”

“It’s -- nothing,” Brad stutters out. “I wasn’t trying to--”

“You bought me a dress.” Ray’s voice is soft, and Brad leans in a little, feeling like his heart’s about to stop. “Two dresses. That’s not nothing. We both know it’s not. But I need you to tell me. Is it -- you just want to buy me things and -- and leave them for me, and that’s it? Nothing after that?”

“If that’s -- if you wanted it to stop there,” Brad says.

“But you’d want it to keep going, if I wanted that.”

Brad nods.

Ray licks his lips again. “Are you just into guys wearing dresses, or you wanna pretend I’m a girl or something?”

“No,” Brad says instantly, and jesus, no wonder Ray’s been looking at him like he’s a puzzle he can’t figure out, if this is what he’s been thinking. “No, I --” He scrubs a hand over his face, frustrated. He doesn’t know how to explain it, but he has to, if he wants Ray to understand.

He steps forward, putting his hand on the door frame so his fingers are almost touching Ray’s.

“I could ignore it, before. How much I -- I wanted you. I had to ignore it, because otherwise I think I would’ve gone crazy. But then -- and I don’t even know what it is.” He leans his forehead against the door frame, closing his eyes. Now that he’s started, he can’t make himself stop talking. He doesn’t know if he’s making any sense. “That dress -- I can’t stop thinking about how good you looked. Everything else I could train myself to ignore, but I can’t -- every time I see somebody in a dress I think about you wearing it. About whether the color would look good on you, about how it would fit you. I wasn’t even planning to -- the blue one, I just walked past it on my way to get some fucking socks, but then all I could think about was you wearing it.”

“So you’re really into dresses, huh,” Ray says. He’s leaning in and smiling a little, teasing, but Brad can tell he still wants a real answer.

“I’m really into you,” he confesses, drifting closer to Ray. “And the way you look in a dress.”

They’re so close now, and Ray hasn’t opened the door any wider, but he leans up and grabs at Brad’s shirt, pulling him into a kiss. Brad closes his eyes, leaning into it, and Ray makes a hungry little sound. He touches Brad’s cheek, fingertips brushing over his jawline and tilting his head to the side so Ray can lick into his mouth. Brad brushes his tongue tentatively over Ray’s lower lip and tastes strawberries.

He starts to pull back -- he’d thought maybe Ray was keeping the door between them for a reason, and now he knows Ray dressed up for him and he needs to see it. But Ray wraps his hand around the back of Brad’s neck, keeping them close. He pulls Brad forward into his room, clicking on the lamp by the door as he moves. He doesn’t let Brad pull away until they’re in the middle of the room. He lets go of Brad and puts his hands on Brad’s chest, pushing him backward a step.

Ray is wearing the blue dress, and it fits exactly how Brad hoped it would. It’s tight in the arms and chest, fabric clinging to Ray’s skin; the skirt flares out and skims over Ray’s thighs, a few inches above his knees. Brad’s breath punches out of him in a gasp, and when he lifts his hands, they’re shaking. He’s so overwhelmed by how good Ray looks that he can’t even get his arms to reach out so he can touch.

Ray steps forward and takes Brad’s wrists, pulling him in until his hands meet the fabric, curving around Ray’s rib cage where the dress still fits him tightly. They both gasp at the touch. Brad has to close his eyes for a second, and when he opens them, Ray is looking up at him, pupils blown wide and cheeks flushed. With the lamp on, Brad sees that his eyes are lined in black and his lips are shiny with smudged lipgloss. Brad clutches at the fabric of the skirt; he has to force himself to let go so he can move his hands up, touching Ray’s chest and shoulders.

He slides his fingertips over the collar of the dress until he’s touching skin, and Ray tilts his head to the side, giving him room to touch Ray’s collarbone, his throat.

“Jesus, Ray,” he murmurs. “Fuck, you look so good.”

“You like it?” Ray asks, batting his eyelashes, arching up into Brad’s hands a little. “You like how it fits me?”

Brad opens his mouth and lets out a strangled noise of want, smoothing the fabric down over Ray’s arms.

“It’s so soft, isn’t it? It feels so good when you touch me.”

Ray catches Brad’s hands and moves them both backward, letting go when they reach the bed so he can climb up onto it, sprawling on his back, the skirt riding up his thighs. He lies there, spreading his legs a little and letting Brad look. Then he gets up on his elbows and says, “Jesus, come here, get your hands back on me.”

It’s impossible not to obey. Brad gets up on his knees above Ray on the bed and runs his hands from Ray’s collarbone down to his waist. Ray rocks his hips up into the touch. Brad can feel his hipbones through the fabric. Brad stares down at his hands, at the bulge of Ray’s cock under the skirt. He’s not wearing any underwear; the soft fabric of the skirt has been sliding over his cock and his ass every time he moves.

“You can buy me something,” Ray promises, voice barely more than a whisper. “Something to wear under this. Anything you want.”

Brad groans, dropping down onto his elbows. The idea of Ray in some tiny scrap of fabric, lace maybe, with a little bow in the front --

“God, you fuckin’ love this, don’t you,” Ray says wonderingly, running a hand over Brad’s hair.

Brad buries his face in Ray’s neck, shuddering. “I do, fuck, I do,” he says.

“Yeah,” Ray breathes. He rucks up Brad’s shirt and slides his hands over Brad’s stomach on his way to tug at one of Brad’s belt loops and cup his hand around Brad’s cock through his jeans. “Yeah, you bought me this dress, didn’t you? You got it for me ‘cause you knew I’d look good in it. You knew it’d feel so good when you touched me.”

He squeezes, a barely-there pressure. Brad lets out a whine and comes, just like that, hips jerking.

“Holy shit,” he hears Ray say. “God, Brad.”

“Ray,” Brad moans, nuzzling at his throat. “You look so good, feel so good. Fuck, let me blow you, please.”

Ray turns toward him and catches Brad’s mouth with his. The kiss is sloppy and wet; Ray fucks his tongue into Brad’s mouth and wraps a leg around Brad’s hip. Brad puts a hand on Ray’s knee, trying to ground himself, but the next thing he knows he’s sliding his hand up Ray’s thigh, pushing the skirt out of the way to get to more skin.

“You want to?” Ray asks between kisses. “You wanna push my skirt up and put your mouth on me?”

“Yes, please, let me,” Brad gasps the next time Ray pulls away from his mouth long enough to let him talk. Ray leans in and bites his lower lip and then licks over it, soothing. He pushes Brad away from him an inch or two, and when Brad opens his eyes, Ray’s grinning up at him.

“You better not get my dress dirty,” he teases, pushing down on Brad’s shoulders.

“I’ll buy you a new one,” Brad promises.

Ray laughs and squeezes Brad’s shoulders, running one hand up and over Brad’s hair. He lets his legs splay open on either side of Brad as Brad lies between his thighs. The fabric slides down around Ray’s hips, just covering the head of his cock. The rest of him is laid bare to Brad’s eyes -- his hard cock, his balls, the pale soft skin of his ass.

He looks up over the soft fabric and up to Ray’s face. He's watching Brad, and Brad feels hot and over-exposed, even though Ray's the one who's almost naked. He moves onto his knees and elbows again and leans in, pressing kisses to Ray’s stomach as he nuzzles the dress out of the way. He rubs his cheek against the fabric and Ray’s skin.

The back of the skirt is still under Ray, and Brad's hands land on it when he shifts forward. He smooths the fabric out and then settles his hands on either side of Ray's hips. He can't resist looking over him again, from his sprawled-wide legs up to his dark eyes. His gaze has gone soft and knowing, and Brad ducks his head, leaning down, away from Ray’s eyes.

Ray catches him with a finger under his chin before he can get too far. Brad sucks in a shaky breath and meets his eyes. Ray runs his knuckles along Brad’s jawline and up over his cheek. Brad leans into the touch. Ray touches his thumb to Brad’s lower lip and wraps his other hand around the base of his cock.

“C’mon,” Ray says, moving his hand from Brad’s face to the back of his neck, “don’t you want to make me come in my pretty dress?”

He puts the lightest pressure on the back of Brad’s neck and lifts his own hips at the same time, and Brad opens his mouth and lets Ray feed him his cock.

“Yeah, just like that,” Ray gasps out. “Fuck, you love it.”

Brad can’t do anything but moan and take him deeper, letting Ray rock up into his mouth. He feels his cheeks hollow and he closes his eyes, focusing on the feeling of Ray’s cock sliding over his tongue. He can taste pre-come with every stroke, but Ray doesn’t give him time to swallow, just keeps up a relentless rhythm, planting his heels on the bed and holding Brad still with nothing more than his palm on the hot skin at the back of Brad’s neck.

Ray slows his thrusts and then stops, slowly pulling out of Brad’s mouth. Brad opens his eyes and looks up; Ray’s watching him, panting and flushed red. He touches the corner of Brad’s mouth where it’s wet. Brad licks his lips and Ray’s fingers, trying to catch his breath and swallow and beg for Ray to keep going all at once.

Ray takes his cock in hand again and presses the tip against Brad’s lower lip. “I‘m gonna come in your mouth,” he says. “You gonna swallow for me?”

Brad nods, desperate, feeling the head of Ray’s cock rub against his lips as he moves. He opens his mouth and flicks his tongue out, just a little, just enough to taste. Ray squeezes the back of his neck and lifts his hips again.

Brad doesn’t look away this time. He keeps his eyes on Ray’s, and he can see the moment Ray starts to come apart. He closes his eyes and tips his head back, exposing the long line of his throat. His hand loosens and then goes tight on Brad’s neck, and he rocks up twice more and comes with a shout.

Brad seals his lips around Ray’s cock and swallows. Ray slides one hand under Brad’s collar, running his nails lightly up and down Brad’s back; he’s shaking a little, letting out soft little sounds of pleasure. Brad pulls off slowly, making sure he leaves Ray’s cock clean so he doesn’t ruin Ray’s dress.

“Mm,” Ray murmurs. He cups Brad’s face in both hands and tugs him up, running his thumb under Brad’s mouth, catching a smear of come he must have missed. “C’mere, god, look at you, you’re a mess.”

He kisses Brad gently, licking at his lower lip, tasting himself. They lie there and kiss for a long time, slow and lazy. In between kisses, Ray pulls the dress down over his thighs where it belongs and then tugs Brad’s clothes off -- first his shirt and then his jeans and briefs at the same time. He wipes Brad off with his sticky briefs and tosses them through the open door of the bathroom. Everything else he pushes off the side of the bed.

He pulls Brad in until they’re pressed together and all Brad can feel is the soft fabric of the dress and Ray’s hands, rubbing soothing circles over his back.

Brad sighs, leaning his forehead against Ray’s. “You feel so good.”

Ray hums in agreement, sliding his leg in between Brad’s. “You getting ready to go again?”

Brad thinks he could, but mostly he just wants to lie here with Ray for as long as possible. “Can I just touch you?” he asks.

“Of course. Fuck yeah, of course you can.”

*

Home in ten.

Come to my room when you get here so I can thank you for the present

Brad has to fight the urge to speed more than usual on the way home. It’s late Friday afternoon -- the sun’s already dipping low on the horizon -- and he hasn’t seen Ray since Wednesday morning. They’d woken up wrapped up in each other, the blue dress the only thing between them. Ray had blinked at him sleepily and kissed his shoulder and the stubble along his jaw -- and then the alarm on Brad’s phone had gone off.

Never has a three-day training seemed so long. Not when he knows what’s waiting for him at home. On Thursday, Ray had texted when the box came, just a picture of the package and a series of question marks. Open it, Brad had sent back. Will you wear it for me when I get home on Friday? Ray responded with a picture of him making a kissy face at the camera -- wearing his normal clothes and the lip gloss Brad had ordered online. It tinted his lips a dark cherry red. Brad can’t wait to see him wearing the rest of the box’s contents.

He showered on base like Ray asked, and now he’s almost home. He turns onto their block and drives past the other houses in what he refuses to call a cul-de-sac. The door to his side of the garage is open, and he parks and makes his way inside. Ray left one of the little lights on the underside of the kitchen cabinets on like usual, and the only other source of light is from Ray’s room down the hall.

He hangs his keys on the hook by the door, kicks off his sandals, and heads down the hallway.

“Ray?”

“In here,” Ray calls out from his room.

The dress is sleeveless and made of gold fabric that shimmers in the light from the lamp -- and the candles Ray has set out on his dresser. Brad raises an eyebrow.

“Shut the fuck up, you love it,” Ray counters, and Brad can’t really argue. Well, he could, but he’s too busy watching Ray’s mouth move. The gloss is even more red in person, and Brad wants to kiss it off. He looks up from Ray’s mouth and Ray flashes him a grin and says, “If you’re too tired, y’know, we could just cuddle.”

“I am very much awake, Ray,” Brad assured him, taking a step closer. The dress doesn’t fit Ray as tightly as the blue one had, and one strap of the slip is peeking out from under the dress. It’s lacy and pale against Ray’s tan skin.

Ray reaches out and pulls him in for a kiss. It starts out soft and almost chaste, but it’s been three days and the gloss tastes like cherries and soon their tongues are moving together, dirty and full of promise. Ray fists his hands in Brad’s shirt and presses himself up against Brad; Brad runs his hands up and down Ray’s sides, rumpling the dress and smoothing it back down. Ray gasps into his mouth and bites down on his lower lip, hands getting rough where he’s holding onto Brad’s hips.

Ray kisses his way down to Brad’s neck, lips sticky. Brad tips his head back, and Ray wastes no time tugging Brad’s collar to one side so he can suck a hickey into Brad’s shoulder. Ray lets out a low, desperate sound, biting down hard, and Brad realizes his hands are cupping Ray’s ass, squeezing.

He pulls back a little so he can see Ray’s face. He looks wrecked already -- lip gloss smeared around his mouth, pupils blown wide, eye makeup making his eyes look dark and wild. He smiles up at Brad.

“Can I tell you something,” he says as he unbuckles Brad’s belt and pulls it off, “I got so worked up when I was waiting for you to get here that I jerked off in the bathroom.”

He unbuttons and unzips Brad’s shorts and shoves them off. “I thought about the way you touched me in that dress, and I got myself off.” He grabs the hem of Brad’s shirt; Brad lifts his arms and Ray pulls it off over his head. “You wanna know what I did after that?”

He looks at Brad expectantly, and Brad swallows thickly and asks, “What did you do?”

Ray runs a hand down Brad’s bare chest and wraps it around the base of Brad’s cock, stroking him slowly. “I pulled up my skirt and got myself nice and slick and ready for you to fuck me.”

Brad gasps, hips stuttering up into Ray’s hand. “Fuck. I -- oh, I thought --”

“I know,” Ray says softly. His hand stills and he pulls Brad forward gently. “You bought me this dress so I could wear it while I fuck you, and trust me, we’re definitely gonna do that. But there’s something else I wanna do first.”

He turns them around when they get to the bed; Brad stands with the mattress against the backs of his knees, waiting for Ray to tell him what’s going to happen next. Ray runs his fingertips up Brad’s cock, base to tip, maddeningly gentle, and then cups his balls and touches the sensitive skin behind them. Brad sucks in a breath but doesn’t move. Ray licks his lips and nods like he’s made up his mind about something.

“Lie down on your back,” he says. “Hands on the headboard.”

Brad stretches out on the comforter and wraps his hands around the bottom bar of Ray’s headboard. Ray opens the drawer on his nightstand; Brad clenches his hands around the metal and breathes in, out, trying to relax. He feels his shoulders settle down onto the bed, and the tension in his muscles starts to ease.

Ray sets a bottle of lube and a box of condoms on the bed and climbs up on his knees next to Brad. He runs his hand across Brad’s chest, fingers catching each of Brad’s nipples. When Brad arches up into the touch, he leans down and flicks his tongue across Brad’s left nipple as he pinches his right. Brad lets out a sound, half gasp half moan, and Ray bites down lightly. He moves to straddle Brad as he does. The skirt slides over Brad’s hips and his cock, and Brad moans and shakes with the effort not to take his hands off the headboard so he can touch.

Ray plays with Brad’s nipples until Brad is letting out little whines every time he feels Ray’s teeth. He’s close to begging and he thinks Ray knows it. He moves down Brad’s body, pausing to press light little kisses to his abs and hipbones. He breathes over Brad’s cock and looks up at Brad to watch his reaction. Brad chokes on nothing and looks back at Ray, watching his mouth get closer and closer to where Brad wants it to be.

He licks a slow line up Brad’s cock and swirls his tongue around the tip. He takes Brad into his mouth, until Brad hits the back of his throat, then pulls off. Brad fights not to move, gasping for breath. Ray takes him into his mouth twice more, then reaches for the condoms. Brad closes his eyes, trying to get his breathing under control.

When Brad is ready, Ray only lifts the dress long enough to settle himself over Brad’s hips and press the head of Brad’s cock against his entrance. He spreads the skirt out as he rocks down onto Brad, so it covers him down to his knees. The skirt and slip trail over Brad’s stomach and thighs as Ray fucks himself onto Brad’s cock.

Ray makes these gorgeous noises as he moves, little gasps and moans that drive Brad crazy. He’s slick and tight and Brad feels like he might lose it before they’ve even really started. When Ray’s all the way down, when Brad is fully inside him, he arches his back a little and stays there, spreading the skirt out so it lays flat.

He shifts his hips a little and they both draw in shaky breaths. Ray looks up at him, rocking up just a little higher. Brad makes a pleading little sound, hands flexing on the headboard. Ray leans forward until Brad can see the long line of his back; he presses his forehead against Brad’s and kisses him softly.

“You can come whenever you want to,” he murmurs against Brad’s mouth. “When you do, I’m gonna finger you open and fuck you until you come again.”

Brad nearly comes right then, and from Ray’s answering grin, he knows it.

“But for right now,” Ray says, “I want you to touch me.”

He slides his hands up Brad’s arms and tugs gently at his wrists. For a second Brad can’t move; Ray touches his hands until he manages to loosen his grip. When Ray presses Brad’s hands against his sides, they both moan. And then Ray starts to move in earnest. He rises up slowly, letting Brad slide nearly all the way out of him, and then slams back down. The rhythm of it is enough to leave Brad gasping for breath, hands clutching at Ray’s hips. He feels like he’s being set on fire.

Ray plants his hands on Brad’s chest, giving him more leverage every time he fucks himself back onto Brad’s cock. Brad watches him move, the play of his muscles under the soft shiny fabric, the flush in his cheeks. He’s biting his lip like he’s trying to hold back noises, and Brad reaches up to touch his face. He runs his thumb over Ray’s lower lip. Ray’s lips part and he opens his eyes and moans, “Fuck, fuck,” looking right at Brad, and Brad can barely hold himself back from the edge.

“Are you close?” Ray asks. “You gonna come for me?”

Brad nods, and Ray twists his hips a little on the way down, and it’s all over.

*

Ray lies on his chest until their breathing starts to even out, and then he sits up and lifts up the dress as he slowly eases himself off of Brad’s softening cock. He gets rid of the condom and disappears into the bathroom for a minute. When he comes back, he sets a box of tissues on the nightstand and drapes himself over Brad.

“Hey, hi,” he says softly, kissing Brad’s cheek. “How’re you feeling?”

Brad beams up at him, knowing his smile is probably verging on ridiculous but too blissed out to really care. “Ray,” he says, reaching up to touch Ray’s face. “It’s perfect, I’m -- I like you so much, d’you know that?”

Ray grins at him. “Jesus, you big fuckin’ marshmallow. I like you, too.” He turns and presses a kiss to Brad’s fingertips. “You ready for round two?”

“Mm, yeah.”

“Yeah? You ready for me to fuck you?”

Brad bites his lip and nods. “Please, yes.”

Ray circles Brad’s nipple with his thumb. “You ready to see what’s under the dress?”

“Oh, god, yes,” Brad says. He’d forgotten completely.

Ray sits back on his heels and pulls the dress up over his head. The slip is made of pale pink silky fabric with lace edges. The top’s a little tight across Ray’s chest, and Brad can see the dark outline of his nipples, hard under the fabric. His erection tents the fabric of the slip, a wet smear of pre-come showing through it.

When he’d been looking through the website on his phone, Brad had thought about how the color and the lace would look against Ray’s skin, but he’d never imagined Ray would look this good. He can’t take his eyes off him.

Ray moves between Brad’s thighs, sliding his hands under Brad’s knees so he can spread his legs further apart. He pushes them up toward Brad’s chest and Brad wraps his hands around his own thighs, holding himself open. He feels Ray’s hot gaze move over him, his half-hard cock and his ass and his exposed entrance. His heart is beating loud in his chest. He wants Ray inside him so much.

Ray moves in closer and touches Brad’s inner thighs, right where the skin is the softest and most sensitive. Brad shivers a little. The snap of the lube opening is loud in the quiet; Ray covers his fingers and rubs them together, warming it up.

The first touch of Ray’s fingers against him has Brad gasping. Ray circles his fingers lightly and slowly starts to increase the pressure until one slips inside. He fucks it into Brad slowly and then moves to two, spreading and twisting his fingers, working Brad open. Every time Ray’s knuckles slide into him, Brad lets out a desperate little sound.

“Now, Ray,” he manages to say. “I’m ready, c’mon.”

He’s already feeling out of control and Ray’s not even inside him yet; he feels every movement of Ray’s fingers, every change in the pressure of Ray’s other hand on Brad’s thigh, like it’s magnified, like it’s the first time anyone’s ever touched him. Ray keeps moving, not even changing the rhythm of his fingers. He’s watching every move Brad makes, though, and he squeezes Brad’s thigh with every noise Brad lets out.

Ray,” Brad begs, and Ray looks right at him and slides a third finger in. “Fuck, oh, fuck, Ray, christ, please.”

Ray runs his hand up and down Brad’s leg, soothing, even as he moves his fingers a little faster. Finally, finally, he reaches for the condoms. Brad feels like he’s about to cry with relief. Ray slides his fingers out slowly -- Brad squeezes his eyes shut for a second at the sensation, feeling abruptly empty -- and opens a condom, fumbling a little as he lifts the slip up over his cock and slides it on. He looks up at Brad, corner of his mouth quirking up, and Brad suddenly, desperately wants to kiss him.

“Ray,” he says again, so quiet he can barely hear himself.

Ray finishes wiping his fingers off on a tissue and moves up over Brad, planting his hands on either side of Brad’s head and leaning in for a kiss. Brad opens his mouth for Ray’s tongue. It feels like everything stops for a second and rushes back in all at once. Ray’s cock brushes his, and Ray shifts Brad’s legs, tipping his knees further up toward his shoulders.

Ray has to move back a little to line himself up. He rubs the head of his cock over Brad’s wet hole until Brad’s trembling with the effort to not just flip them over and ride Ray like Ray had ridden him. Brad pulls his eyes away from Ray’s cock and looks up at his face. Ray’s watching him again, biting his lip, eyes locked on Brad’s. Brad opens his mouth to say something, anything, knowing whatever comes out won’t make the least bit of sense, and Ray pushes inside him.

The first stretch as the head slips inside him hurts just the right amount, a steady ache that gets folded into the need and anticipation and then swallowed up by pleasure. All the air has been punched out of him. Ray is steadily making his way deep inside Brad, his cock stretching Brad wide as his gaze lays Brad bare. Brad doesn’t know why he worried about this for so long when it should have been obvious that they would end up here together.

They let out twin moans when Ray bottoms out. Brad takes a moment just to breathe and watch Ray watching him, and then he lets go of one leg so he can reach out to Ray. One of the lacy straps of the slip has slid off of his shoulder. Brad puts it back in place and runs his hand over the fabric, feeling Ray’s heart beat in his chest. He hooks his fingers over the lacy edge of the neckline and pulls Ray down to him.

The taste of cherries is gone completely from Ray’s mouth. Their kiss is barely a kiss, messy and wet and overwhelming on top of everything else. Ray presses even closer, and Brad whines when the fabric touches him, the only thing between him and Ray’s hot skin.

“Fuck,” Ray whispers. “God, you feel so good, Brad.” He kisses the corner of Brad’s mouth. “You feel good? You like how I feel inside you?”

Brad nods, licking his lips. “So fucking good, Ray.” He lifts his chin up for another kiss. Ray sucks Brad’s lower lip into his mouth, leans back a little, and starts to move.

Ray has him spread out and pinned down so he can barely move. All he can do is take it, and feel -- the heady rush of fullness every time Ray fucks into him, the slick drag as he pulls out. Ray is drawing noises out of him, and the louder Brad gets, the harder Ray fucks him. Ray changes the angle, and Brad nearly comes when the head of Ray’s cock slides across his prostate.

“Oh, fuck, right there,” he moans. “Ah, ah, ohh, fuck, ‘m so close.”

Ray drives across that spot again and again, eyes on Brad like he’s just waiting for him to go over the edge. He gets this wicked look in his eyes and leans forward until the silky fabric of the slip touches Brad’s cock, sliding against him every time Ray moves.

Brad comes without a hand on him, just Ray inside him and over him and the thin fabric brushing his cock. Ray lets out a guttural noise and follows after, fingernails digging into Brad’s hips.

*

Ray pulls out slowly, petting Brad lightly with his free hand. Brad lets his legs settle back down onto the bed and watches through half-open eyes as Ray tosses the condom and goes back into the bathroom. He blows out the candles on his way back into the bedroom. Now that Brad’s not distracted, he’s definitely going to make fun of Ray for the candles as soon as he can get his brain to work again. In a minute. After Ray finishes gently cleaning him with the washcloth he brought back from the bathroom.

Ray’s still wearing the slip; he tugs it off while Brad watches and then leans in and kisses Brad, smiling against his mouth.

When they get under the covers, Ray’s the big spoon. It’s an affront to everything Brad stands for, and he’s only going to allow it this one time, even though Ray fits kind of perfectly behind him. Ray wraps his arms around Brad and nuzzles his shoulder and Brad thinks maybe they could just do it on special occasions.

“Stop thinking,” Ray mutters. “I’m into you, you’re into me, you’re really fucking into me wearing a dress, and tomorrow I’m gonna show you all the clothing sites I have bookmarked on my laptop.”

Ray’s hands are folded together over Brad’s stomach; Brad brushes his fingers over Ray’s, and Ray pulls Brad’s hand between both of his.

If Brad is grinning, no one can see it but him.

*