"Okay, I give up."
"Ray?" Fraser looked up from his rifle. Ray was caught in the loops of the sling, his snow suit hampering his motions enough that he was entirely entangled. "Good heavens. Let me help you."
Ray sighed. "Thanks, Benny."
Fraser loosened the buckle of the sling to free Ray's arms. Ray unzipped the coat himself and Fraser helped him peel it off. "You should change your socks," Fraser said. "Put on two pairs since you're not used to the climate."
"This isn't any different from Chicago in the winter." Ray shot a look over his shoulder. Fraser realized that he had touched the man's pride somehow.
"Overpreparation is always safer than underpreparation, Ray. That's why I carry a tool kit in my hat."
"Well, a small one."
Ray turned away muttering something.
"Nothing. Do you think this shirt's all right?"
Ray was wearing a light wool shirt and t-shirt under a sweater. It was rather warm as springs went. "You should be fine."
"Okay." Ray bent over and started tugging at his boots. He was moving painfully, although he didn't complain.
"Let me help you."
Ray shot him another look.
"Please." Ray had been wounded for his sake. He didn't know how to repay that debt, or even how to measure it--how could he measure a mother's grief?
Ray straightened up slightly to lean his elbows on his knees. He was silent, watching Fraser move. Fraser knelt at his feet and unfastened the unwieldy boots. The boots were cold but the fabric underneath was warm from exertion; he wondered how exactly Ray had gotten up here.
He suddenly remembered the last time he'd knelt at a man's feet. Steve--
Oh, goodness. He'd unlaced Steve's boots for him and Steve had lain back in the bed, pulling him up, and they had tumbled across the narrow bed and fallen right off the other side laughing like children. It had been such a long time since he'd been with anyone like that. So long.
He suddenly looked up and realized that the boots were undone and Ray's face was very close to his own, propped on folded hands with a speculative expression. He could lean up and--he leaped to his feet. "I'll make some tea."
Perhaps it was the uncertainty of their situation or the enforced closeness of the case that brought such inappropriate thoughts to his mind. Or perhaps--looking back at Ray--there was something there. A spark.
Fraser couldn't let himself think about just now. Gerard was coming for them and they didn't have much time.
"Tea would be nice," Ray said, so Fraser put the kettle on to boil. Ray finished changing his clothes.
The dogsled skimmed over the snow. Ray's warmth radiated up from his place at Fraser's feet. He could hear the snowmobiles growling behind them, but it was fine, it was fine, because they were on his home ground and he always won here...
"Is the wolf okay?"
"He will be." Fraser leaned back against the wall of the veterinary clinic. "They're sewing him up now. It's rather cramped, so they had me go outside."
Ray leaned against the rough logs beside him. "He's a tough guy."
"Yes. And the veterinarian is quite skilled; there are more animals than people in this area, so she has a large practice." Fraser closed his eyes but opened them against after only a moment. He couldn't rest until Gerard was brought safely in. "I should be out there," he murmured.
"Why?" Ray rested his good hand on Fraser's shoulder. His left arm had been re-injured in the battle and the vet had put him back in a sling.
"It's my duty."
"But it's also your duty to look after your animals, right?"
"I should have done both." But his concern for Diefenbaker had blotted his other duties from his mind, and the constables on duty had gone to retrieve Gerard from the plain where he lay.
"I forgot. You're Superman." Ray shook Fraser's shoulder hard enough to rock him back and forth without sending him off-balance. "You don't have to be Superman."
There wasn't any reply Fraser could make to that, so he just looked down at his hat and thought about the day. He didn't think about Ray's hand sliding from his shoulder to the back of his neck, or the accelerated pace of Ray's breathing. He didn't want to think about anything at all. Nothingness. He swept his mind as clean as the snow.
His hat quivered in his hands, and it took him several minutes to realize that it was his hands that were shaking, and not the hat itself, and not the ground. Not the blood-spattered snow.
"You cold?" Ray asked.
"No," he said, raising his left hand to examine it. "It's quite warm."
Ray turned to him and grabbed his hand. "Fraser. You freaking out on me?"
"I killed a man," Fraser said, looking at Ray's enormous seawater eyes.
"Oh, shit." Ray pressed Fraser's hand to his chest. "Come on, buddy, keep it together."
"Keep what together, Ray?" The ground shook, shaking Ray with it. The wall trembled at his back. Would Diefenbaker be all right in the shaking building? He should see. He moved toward the entrance but Ray stopped him with his grip on Fraser's hand. "Please, Ray, I need to see to Dief."
"Dief's sleeping. That's why we're outside." Ray stepped closer.
Fraser gestured. "But the earthquake, Ray. He'll be frightened." It was perfectly obvious; why was Ray resisting?
"There's no earthquake." Ray's hand tightened.
He grinned. "That's just silly, Ray, why else would things be shaking?" He whirled and walked toward the entrance by the most direct route, but unfortunately the wall was in the way. He bounced off and staggered into Ray.
"Benny!" Ray flung his arm around Fraser and they both fell rump-first into the snow. Fraser was sprawled in Ray's lap.
"Oh, terribly sorry, Ray." Fraser sat up but Ray grabbed the collar of his coat and pulled him back. "Ray?"
"You're in shock or something, Benny, you're not yourself. Sit down for a minute." Ray hung onto his coat and flung one leg over Fraser's.
"Ray." Fraser pried off his hand and dumped him gently back into the snow. The ground had quit its trembling but the air was quite cold. Fraser struggled to his feet and slumped back against the wall of the veterinary clinic.
Ray surged up after him. "You are pissing me off, Mountie," he growled and body-slammed Fraser back into the wall. "All that snow fry your brain?"
"One can hardly fry in snow, Ray."
"Gonna try something to get your brain back together, Benny." Ray's hand skated over Fraser's coat, up and down, and his thighs interlaced with Fraser's. Ray looked him in the eye. Green eyes. Enormous green eyes. Fraser began to think inappropriate thoughts again. Perhaps the pine trees brought it on; he always felt charged among the evergreens.
"Ray--" Fraser started, but cut himself off when Ray touched his lips. He meant to ask if Ray had the same stirrings that he did--oh, goodness--
Ray dug his shoulder into Fraser's chest and his hand burrowed furiously into Fraser's pants, brushing cold against his penis but warming quickly. Ray grabbed and smoothed it upwards, leaving Fraser gasping against the wall, legs locked and bracing. His fingers dug into the wood. Ray stroked him hard, bringing him up to the brink; and with an inspired manipulation of his foreskin, sent him over. Fraser came with a grunt and leaned back into the wall, panting heavily, his eyes closed.
Ray slid his hand from Fraser's trousers and tugged at the handkerchief in Fraser's pocket with the other one. Fraser pulled out the handkerchief and passed it to Ray without opening his eyes.
"Because you were panicking," Ray said. "Last thing I need is a panicked Mountie running all over creation."
Fraser nodded, catching his breath. He felt--he didn't feel much of anything at the moment. His head was clear like an empty snow field.
"Because I wanted to do it," Ray said, his voice quiet, and Fraser opened his eyes. Ray patted his cheek and Fraser turned toward his hand. He would have licked Ray's fingers but Ray dropped his hand too quickly.
"Yes." Fraser straightened his knees slowly, pushing himself upright against the wall.
Ray rested his hand on the center of Fraser's chest. "You did the right thing."
"I killed a man," Fraser said, but the panic didn't rise again.
"They were trying to kill you. This is basic survival."
"I thought it would be like hunting." Fraser looked at the mountains behind Ray's head. "I've hunted many times for food. But this is more like the first time I killed a caribou."
Ray watched him, waiting for more words, but he had none. "And what was that like?" Ray asked finally.
"Wonderful at first; and then terrible."
"Then and now, I can't help wondering if it was worth it. If the benefit of the death outweighed the solemn fact of it."
Ray shrugged. "I think so. And you have to remember who put you in that situation; it wasn't you, it was Gerard. He sent the guys after you. His decision. You didn't go out hunting."
That struck Fraser as oddly funny. "Like arming the caribou."
They were quiet for a little while. Fraser rested his hand on Ray's hip and thought about causality, friendship and the long-rippling waves of circumstance. He didn't know what Ray was thinking and was a little scared to ask.
"They're bringing back Gerard," Fraser said, nodding toward the horizon.
Ray glanced over his shoulder to see the dark lines of the dogsleds against the snow. "I guess this is goodbye then."
"I guess it is. There's a flight south tomorrow; I'm sure the RCMP post can put us both up tonight."
Ray nodded. "If you ever find yourself back in Chicago--"
"I'll look you up."
"I'll buy you dinner, even."
Fraser reached out and cupped Ray's cheek, pausing for a moment. Ray curled two fingers into the open throat of Fraser's shirt. Fraser leaned in, his eyes on Ray's, his fingertips feeling the bold rush of blood beneath Ray's skin.
Ray tilted his head and kissed him. His tongue flickered across Fraser's lips and Fraser remembered to open his mouth; his hand slid around Fraser's neck and Fraser remembered to put his arms around him. It had been such a long time since he'd kissed someone.
His eyes were closed when Ray pulled away. "They're back," Ray said. his hand stroked Fraser's shoulder as they parted.
"Ray--" Fraser opened his eyes and started toward him, wanting to say something. Anything.
"Don't make this more than it is, Benny."
Fraser leaned back. "And what is it, Ray?"
"Ah." Friends. The Chicago version of friends, he supposed. He tried to imagine Old George Pikeney from Tuktoyaktuk reaching into his trousers with engine oil-stained hands, and a tiny laugh escaped him.
"What's so funny?"
"I, ah--" Fraser shook his head. "I can't imagine doing that with any of my other friends."
"Not all friendships are created equal." Ray prodded his shoulder. "Come on, they brought in the bad guy. Lets go gloat a little."
Fraser could only nod and smile, and watch the answering smile on the face of his friend.
Fraser sat beside Ray in his unfashionable green car, looking carefully at the sidewalk. He couldn't look at the street--it made him nervous. The other cars hurtled over the asphalt like hungry orcas through the water. But Ray navigated the streets effortlessly; it was home. Ray was home. He closed his eyes and put his trust in Ray...
Ray pulled the car into a parking space sharply behind a departing van. Another car honked and Ray gestured in return. "I said I'd buy you dinner."
"So you did."
Ray scowled at the hotel door. "I can't believe you're staying here."
"Well, not many places will allow Diefenbaker. But they don't seem to mind anything at this hotel and the rates are quite reasonable."
"Okay. We'll park the wolf and go get dinner." Ray turned off the car. Dief grumbled.
"Quiet, Dief." Fraser stepped out of the car and held the door for Dief. "I'm sure you can keep yourself amused in the hotel room. I believe I smelled mice. You can practice your hunting skills."
"Mice aren't harmful, Ray. Rats can be, but they have a different odor entirely." Dief huffed in agreement. He sniffed at the sidewalk and sneezed, looking up at Fraser in offense. Chicago streets smelled a good deal stronger than either of them were used to.
"Nutso. Mice. Ugh." Ray shook his head and locked the car securely.
"I don't think I smelled any nuts, Ray," Fraser said, and was faintly disappointed when Ray didn't catch the joke. Ah well. Ray followed him up to the room anyway.
"It's very green," Ray said, wrinkling his nose at the florid wallpaper.
"Well, Ray, green is a symbol of life and rebirth in many cultures."
"Yeah, I can see how that would be appropriate in this room." Dief began to sniff around the moldings and Ray stood stock-still in the middle of the room. "I'm not touching anything."
"You don't have to. I think I'll take this opportunity to change, though." Fraser stepped into the closet and began to unfasten his uniform coat.
"Yes Ray?" He slipped out of the coat, hung it up and started on the tie.
"You scared to change in front of me?"
"Certainly not." Fraser finished un-knotting the tie and pushed the door open. Ray watched him, his hands in his coat pockets. "It's simply not my custom to undress in public."
"You seemed a little scared back there at the cabin, Benny."
"I wasn't." Fraser hung up his uniform shirt and took a flannel shirt from the hanger. He slipped the flannel over his undershirt.
"I remember you jumping up like the floor was on fire."
Fraser bent down to untie his low boots. "That wasn't fear. That was duty."
Fraser stepped out of the boots and straightened up to find Ray barely a foot away. "If I'd given in to my impulses, we'd have been killed."
"Impulses." Ray reached out and stroked Fraser's chin. He caught Fraser's eye and sustained the gaze. If Fraser remembered his comparative anthropology correctly, that was a courtship gaze, one that was given as a gauge of intent. It would be met either with a look away or an expression of further interest, such as a kiss.
Ray's mouth was soft and his hand was strong against the back of Fraser's head. Fraser was quicker this time to remember--mouth open, arms embracing--but then it hadn't been nearly as long a time since his last kiss. He leaned forward into the touch eagerly.
Ray's injured left arm was wrapped around Fraser's shoulder while his right hand stroked up and down his back and then stroked and pressed one buttock. Fraser panted into Ray's mouth and pushed with his hips, aiming toward the bed.
"And here I thought you were a romantic."
"Hm?" Fraser opened his eyes. Ray was looking down at him with a look of distinct amusement. "Ray?"
"I thought you'd want flowers or something."
"Why would I want flowers?" Standing in an intimate embrace ought to be simple, straightforward, but now Ray wanted to bring flowers to bed?
"Romance, Fraser." Ray was grinning as if something were funny.
"Romance. Ah, you mean a prolonged courtship ritual in which each party attempts to demonstrate to the other the depth of their affection through gifts and partner-focused deeds before engaging in sexual union?"
"But we've already done that. Including the sexual union."
Ray was still grinning and cupping his buttock. They hadn't moved. "We have?"
"Yes, we have. At least--Ray, did *you* want flowers?" He felt completely lost now, in this strange city and its strange buildings hearing words he didn't fully understand. He had his arms wrapped around strong male shoulders--that anchored him. And Ray was touching his face now, which anchored him further.
"No, Benny, I don't want flowers. I was just messing with you," Ray said, and he cut Fraser's words off with a kiss. He shuffled backwards, pulling Fraser along with him toward the bed. "Sorry about that." He kissed Fraser's chin, his neck, his earlobe, and Fraser tipped his head back wordlessly. Words didn't seem to be doing him any good today.
Ray's mouth found Fraser's again and Fraser kissed back as intently as he could, tongue against tongue, lip against lip. He leaned forward, trying to follow Ray as Ray pulled away; but Ray disengaged and fell deliberately backwards onto the bed. He landed with a gasp and a prolonged wince.
"Ray?" Fraser knelt on the bed beside him.
"Bad idea," Ray said between gritted teeth. "Forgot about the bruises."
"Oh dear." Fraser slipped his hands under the small of Ray's back and his shoulder and helped him sit up. "Would you like me to apply some liniment?" He sat beside Ray, one arm draped loosely around his waist.
"No. No, I'm okay. Old bruises, can't do much with them." Ray took a deep breath. "Mood-killer," he muttered.
"Let me change my trousers and we can go to dinner." Fraser was still in a plaid shirt and his striped uniform trousers.
"Yeah, okay. Rain check."
Fraser stood up and went to fetch his jeans from his duffel bag; he had two pair neatly folded into one end. He quickly unfastened and stepped out of the uniform trousers and hung them over a hanger. Ray made a small noise. He looked over to see Ray openly admiring him.
"That butt's a work of art, Benny."
Fraser blushed and Ray grinned again, and then Fraser put on his jeans and hiking boots and they went to dinner.
"So do you want real food or do you want a place where we can kiss in public?" Ray asked.
Ray braked for a stop light. "There's some gay-friendly places but the food isn't so hot, at least not after my Ma's home cooking. And there's some places near here with great food but we gotta keep our hands to ourselves. So what are you in the mood for?"
Fraser blinked. "I'm sure I'll be happy with whatever you think best, Ray."
"Uh huh. Steak it is then." The light turned green and he drove on.
Fraser sat back and watched Ray drive. He'd never run across these problems in his fling with Steve.... Up north it was a question of tent or cabin, mostly. Fresh meat or dried goods. Breakfast in bed or over the fire, and he needed to stop that before he got terribly homesick. Chicago was his home for the foreseeable future and no amount of moping would change that.
Another stoplight and Ray stopped and looked at Fraser. "So you do this a lot?"
"Do what a lot?"
"This dating guys thing."
Fraser touched the brim of his hat on the dashboard, thinking over his answer. "I have been in love three times, as far as I can tell. Once with a woman and twice with a man." He blinked. "Well, two separate men, on two separate occasions."
"And in between?"
"I've spent a lot of time out in the field, Ray." Long stretches of his life had been spent without any contact with people at all other than messages from base or the odd lost tourist. It wasn't that he didn't like people; it was just that he didn't need to be around them very much.
Now, of course, that wouldn't be an option.
"So you don't date?" Ray kept his attention on the road.
"I'm not entirely sure what you mean."
"Date. Go out with the express purpose of finding someone to share your life with."
"Well--I'm not lonely, Ray, I have books and Diefenbaker."
Ray whirled and looked at Fraser, then quickly back at the road, and then at Fraser again. "That took me places in my head that I didn't want to go, Fraser!"
Ray shook his head and waved one hand in the air between them. "Never mind, I don't want to go there again. Anyway, this is the place."
They pulled in beside a bustling restaurant. It looked rather smart--smarter than Fraser did. "Are you sure I'm dressed appropriately?" he asked Ray.
Ray cast an eye over him and grinned. "Sure, Benny. You look great. I can take you anywhere." He patted Fraser's shoulder and opened the car door.
Ray leaned back on the bar, beer in hand. He was looking at Fraser with a small smile. Fraser was working at the cherry stem in his mouth. It wasn't anything he had ever thought to do, but he did like a challenge. If he held the end in his teeth, then he could slide the other end around, and--there he was.
Fraser removed the tied knot from his mouth and set it on the bar in front of the young woman with the cocktail. "With a little dexterity, that was quite simple," he said, feeling pleased.
"Well how about that. You've never done that before?" She smiled, lowering her lashes.
"I'd love to see what you can do with practice," she said, leaning forward and stroking his cheek.
Fraser suddenly realized how low-cut her dress was. Oh, dear. He jerked his eyes away, feeling un-gentlemanly. "Ray?"
Ray grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the bar. "Table's ready, Benny." Fraser stumbled backwards for a few steps before regaining his balance.
"Goodness." The young woman was watching him go. Fraser blushed and turned around to follow Ray.
Ray slung an arm around his shoulder. "I guess they don't have bar tricks in the Yukon."
"Tricks that you do in bars, usually using things like tongue dexterity that nobody in their right mind needs. But you, I guess you're not in your right mind."
"I endeavor to use both the right and left sides of my brain." Fraser enjoyed the warmth of Ray's arm across his shoulders and attempted to scull lightly across the river of Ray's words.
"That's a heck of a tongue you have, Benny." Ray slid into the booth and examined the menu. Fraser did likewise, staring fixedly at the menu until he regained his footing. He's knew what flirting was, of course. He'd flirted before. But not usually in such a public place and with such blatant meaning.
His entire courtship with Steve had taken place in the form of a discussion about the migratory paths of the caribou. They had talked all day as they hiked through the evergreens, and when they reached the cabin at the other side of the forest it had been only natural to share the single bed.
This was a different kind of forest. Ray, he supposed, was a different kind of guide. He lowered his menu and met Ray's eyes. "Order for me," he said, and Ray smiled.
Green paint flaked away from the edge of the door as Fraser closed it firmly. He turned toward Ray but felt Ray's hands on his shoulders and Ray's mouth at the back of his neck before he moved far. There was a soft sound as Ray's coat, then his jacket and shirt dropped to the floor. He pressed his forehead and his hands to the cool wood, letting Ray kiss his neck; Ray's arms enclosed him and Ray began to unbutton Fraser's shirt.
No words. They didn't need words for this.
Ray pulled Fraser's shirt back from his shoulders and kissed the nape of his neck, sending hot chills through him. Fraser closed his eyes and let himself feel.
The hand on his shoulder pulled, urging him to turn in Ray's arms, and he turned and opened his eyes. He met Ray's mouth with a wild tangle of tongues; he sank his hands into Ray's hair. Their bodies pressed together.
Dief grumbled from the corner and Fraser waved one hand at him in a quelling gesture. Dief grumbled louder, informing Fraser that he was not happy at the division of his attention.
Fraser disengaged, gasping. "For God's sake--"
Ray leaned into him. "What's he want?"
"He's just being difficult." Fraser looked over at Dief but Dief looked away pointedly. "We should ignore him."
"I can do that." Ray lifted his eyebrows at Fraser. "Can you do that?"
"Certainly." Fraser stroked Ray's head, ruffling his hair. It was a relief to be in a situation where he didn't feel so alien. His hands fit with Ray's hands, his mouth fit Ray's mouth, and that's all that mattered for the duration.
Ray was tugging him toward the bed, walking backwards. Fraser felt suddenly--giddy, almost, like a child, and he bent down and swept Ray into his arms.
"Whoa!" Ray grabbed his t-shirt. "Benny!"
"You're injured, Ray," Fraser said reasonably. He couldn't stop himself from smiling.
"So you're making like Clark Gable?" But Ray couldn't help laughing either. He brushed his hand through Fraser's hair as Fraser set him gently on the bed. "And me without my hoop skirts."
Fraser caught Ray's hand and kissed the palm. He knelt carefully on the bed, settling down onto Ray's thighs.
"So take your shirt off, Rhett." Ray ran his eyes over Fraser's body with a soft smile. He rested his hands on Fraser's knees.
He let the plaid shirt drop onto the floor. Ray's hands followed when he skinned out of the t-shirt, drawing him down for a kiss. He didn't know where the t-shirt landed. Ray's mouth...
He kissed Ray's throat above the neck of his undershirt. Ray made a small, content noise; he bent his knee and pressed his erection firmly into Fraser. Fraser bent down and slipped both hands under Ray's undershirt. He slid his hands over smooth skin, bringing the shirt up with them, feeling the bump of ribs, the tickle of hair--the hot lump of healing wounds. "Oh, Ray," he whispered sadly.
Ray pulled the shirt over his head and pulled Fraser's head back down into a kiss. "It's not your fault."
"I don't entirely agree."
"Knock it off. I'm a *cop,* I don't need pity." Ray held Fraser's head between his hands, pushing it back and forth gently. His face shifted and he lifted his eyebrows, smiling. "Say--if you're feeling guilty, do I get breakfast in bed?"
"Certainly, Ray." Fraser kissed his chin. "I have my camping kit with me; I can build a fire on the balcony and make pancakes and bacon." He kissed Ray's throat again, feeling the Adam's apple bob against his lips as Ray swallowed.
Ray ran one hand though his cropped hair, rubbing his scalp, and slid the other over Fraser's biceps. "That's not a balcony, that's a fire escape. And Canadian or American bacon?" He darted in between their bodies and pinched Fraser's nipple, making him twitch away and giggle. Dief grumbled from the corner.
"Well I'm sorry," Fraser snapped at Dief, "we can't all be as dignified as you are."
Ray's eyes went wide. "Benny! Don't talk to the wolf when we're in bed."
"I'm not into threesomes."
"Neither am I." Fraser smiled and kissed Ray's collarbone, flicking his tongue into the hollow of his throat, over the gold chain of his cross. He dropped another kiss into the hollow of Ray's breastbone. Crackling hair tickled his nose.
Ray's nipple was almost rubbery against his teeth and tongue. Ray's body had so many interesting contrasts; his hair was even darker than Fraser's and much coarser, making its own highlights and contours. His bones and muscles showed through his skin. He seemed hotter than Fraser and more alive under his skin somehow, as if the nerves connected electrically to Fraser's tongue.
"Keep going," Ray murmured. His hand rested on top of Fraser's head, not quite pushing. Fraser moved downward. He dropped kisses along Ray's ribs, feeling the smooth heave of Ray's breathing under his mouth and tongue. His hands fit comfortably under Ray's buttocks.
Ray's hand slid over Fraser's wrist, just touching. Fraser stroked his cheek against Ray's trousers. The wool was warm and rough against his skin. But he needed to--he needed to--
He need to exercise restraint long enough to find his prophylactics, for one. "One moment, Ray."
"What?" Ray looked down at him wild-eyed.
"I need to, ah. Fetch the, ah." Fraser gestured. He wasn't entirely sure what the common slang was.
"Yes." Rubbers. He would have to remember that. Fraser stood up, wavering for a moment as his blood flow adjusted.
"Okay. I have one in my wallet."
"I purchased some earlier today," Fraser confessed.
"Prudent, Ray. I thought it likely that we would find ourselves in this situation upon my return, so I purchased some, ah, rubbers shortly after checking in to the hotel."
Ray raised his head and grinned. He propped himself up on one elbow stiffly. "Say that again. Say 'rubbers'."
Fraser wrinkled his brow. "Rubbers?"
Ray laughed and fell back on the pillow. "Ah, Benny. Slang does not fall naturally to your lips. Get the condoms and get your butt back over here, okay?"
"Gladly." Fraser fished the bag from his duffel and crossed back to the bed, handing the bag to Ray. He sat on the edge and bent over to untie his boots.
There was a crinkle as Ray removed the box from the bag, then the soft sound of cardboard. Fraser's skin twitched as Ray touched his back, stroking him while he removed his boots.
Fraser looked up. "Yes." He kicked the boots away and quickly peeled off his socks. "I have a rather strong sense of smell and I find the scent of latex objectionable; in addition to that, it reminds me of work at a moment when I would rather not be thinking of anything but my partner." He leaned down and kissed Ray, sandwiching the cool foil packets between their chests.
"Thank you, Ray." He stood and slipped out of his jeans and boxers under Ray's appreciative eye. Ray stroked his thigh and hip, but Fraser stepped out of his reach before he could touch Fraser's penis. He resettled himself further down the bed to unbuckle Ray's belt.
Ray shifted his hips, pushing up against Fraser' hands. "Need to take my shoes off first."
"If you don't mind..." Fraser looked up. "I like the feel of your trousers against my skin. It's good wool."
He smiled. "Not really." He ran his hand down Ray's thigh, reveling in the soft, fine cloth. Ray shivered and he repeated the caress on the inside of his thigh.
He bent Ray's leg up and re-seated himself between Ray's knees. He could lean forward then and brace himself against the bed and still feel Ray's trousers against his waist and thigh. Perfect.
Ray was already opening a condom; Fraser unzipped Ray's trousers and pulled them down, then folded the green silk boxers over the top. More beautiful fabrics against his skin...he loved it, he so rarely felt them, he couldn't afford much apart from his uniforms--
Ray pressed the condom into his hands, Fraser rolled it over Ray's penis, and then he could finally take it into his mouth. Ray gasped and arched up, both hands skating over Fraser's cropped hair.
He loved this, loved it, loved every bit. He couldn't imagine why he'd gone so long without it. Not while Ray was panting and moving like that, while soft silk and fine wool heated by his lover's body rubbed so firmly against his skin. He stroked with his tongue and sucked with his lips and listened to the soft, frantic sounds Ray made.
Ray's hands pressed down and his hips pressed up and he came with a grunt. "Oh, Benny, I was not expecting that," he whispered as his body subsided. His hands stroked Fraser's head gently.
Fraser kissed Ray's abdomen before removing the condom and tying it off. He felt around on the floor for the paper sack from the drugstore and dropped the condom inside. Ray tugged at his arm, urging him up.
"You give excellent head, Benton Fraser," Ray murmured into his ear. He kissed Fraser's cheek, then his cheekbone, then his lips.
"Thank you, Ray," Fraser replied between kisses. He settled himself comfortably against Ray's body; one leg caught between Ray's, both arms wrapped around him, nose against nose, tongue against tongue.
The pads of Ray's fingers rubbed against Fraser's abdomen, and that was his only warning before Ray wrapped his hand around Fraser's erection.
"Ray." Fraser panted against Ray's cheek.
"Benny." Ray's hand caressed the back of his head and then slid down the line of his back to cup his buttock. He pulled upwards and Fraser resettled himself a few inches higher. "Perfect." Ray kissed Fraser's jaw.
Ray's thumb circled the head of Fraser's penis, sending an exquisite thrill of sensation through him. He couldn't help but rock into Ray's grasp. And Ray's other hand--he gasped and his eyes flew open as Ray slipped his middle finger into Fraser's body. It was--it almost hurt--he could feel the knob of Ray's knuckle, the hardness of his nail, the pulse in his thumb where it was braced against Fraser's buttock. He could see only the feathery darkness of Ray's hair and the grey shadow on the pillow and every breath was full of the scent of Ray.
Perfect. Perfect. He rocked steadily between Ray's hands, thoroughly caught up in the man. Ray pulled out and pushed back in with two fingers, and that was enough, almost too much after such a long abstinence. He pushed his face into Ray's neck and trusted Ray's strong hands.
Ray's strong hands pushed and pulled him in rhythm until his skin felt electric and he was convinced that he was floating, with only his grip on Ray's body to keep him in place. Pushed and pulled and the feeling was *beautiful,* sending him flying rather than floating--then Ray's strong hands moved in tandem over his sweetest spots and he was shaking and coming and moaning in short barks against Ray's neck.
"Oh my goodness," he whispered, relaxing into Ray's arms.
"My goodness gracious," Ray answered, and kissed Fraser's forehead.
He felt blissful, and drifted on that feeling until Ray prodded his side. "Move to the other side, okay?"
Fraser grunted and rolled over toward the wall. He only opened his eyes when he felt Ray leaving the bed. "Ray?"
"Gotta clean up a little."
The lines of Ray's back were outlined in gold from the streetlight, shifting and melding as he moved. The light played along his thigh as he bent over the sink in the corner of the room; his face was a half mask when he turned back to the bed.
Smooth, warm, wet cotton stroked over his stomach, leaving a damp trail behind it. Ray's handkerchief. Ray crumpled it and threw it carefully into the sink.
Ray pulled the blankets from under Fraser's body and covered him up, then crawled underneath as well. Their damp bodies adhered at the abdomen.
He stroked Ray's back, skimming his hand lightly so not to hurt him. The long bruises were hot and slightly puffy under his touch. He bent his neck and kissed the small bruise on Ray's temple. He'd missed this, this sharing. Touch. The feel of another's body against his, the subtler emotional satisfaction of lives intersecting. But at the same time--
"I'm sorry you were injured for my father's sake," Fraser murmured into Ray's hair. "I do appreciate your sacrifice."
Ray stirred and resettled his cheek against Fraser's chest. "Knock it off."
Fraser smiled. "I have to feel guilty at least until breakfast tomorrow, Ray."
"Oh yeah." Ray kissed Fraser's chest with one side of his mouth. "Canadian bacon will do fine."
Fraser laughed. He linked his hand behind Ray's back, luxuriating in the heat and sweat of another body pressed to his.
Ray was still for a while. "You said you were in love three times," he said, just as Fraser thought he'd gone to sleep.
"Well..." Steve. "One was a bush pilot. We met when his plane went down; he stalled in midair and had to make an emergency landing. I saw the crash and naturally went to offer assistance. He was uninjured, having been able to glide the plane in and break his fall with some young trees, but the plane was of course unable to fly. He stayed with me at the cabin I was renting until he repaired it."
"What was his name?"
Stephen Bertram McGillivray Jones, aged 32 years, brown hair, green eyes, with a brilliant smile. "Steve."
Ray settled more comfortably against him. "How long ago was this?"
"Three years. The repairs took five months." Steve kissed him fondly and told him goodbye. Told him he was a gem. Fraser told him he was sorry. Told him he wished they could be together. "Steve lived in Yellowknife. I thought more than once about transferring there, but I was very happy in my duties at my post. Not to mention that I'm not very fond of cities."
Ray patted his chest. "How big is Yellowknife?"
"Eighteen..." Ray shook his head. "Aw, Fraser." He stroked Fraser's chest over his heart.
"This was my choice, Ray." Fraser looked up at the ceiling. Old water cracks had stained spider veins across the white plaster. The green wallpaper was mis-aligned along the bed, leaving a gap at the join of the ceiling and the wall where spider hung their webs and streamers of dust spilled down like icicles.
Streetlights shone a yellow trapezoid onto the wall, while the pulse and rattle of the periodic trains and the hum and honks of traffic were battled bravely by a cricket hidden in the furniture.
"It was my choice." He closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to Ray's hair.
Ray stroked his chest, skating his fingertips over Fraser's heart. "How about the other two?"
His breath caught in his throat. "Well--the other man--it's a rather dull and typical tale, I'm afraid."
"Tell me anyway."
"Oh, dear. I was nineteen and living with my grandparents at the time. I lived with them until I joined the RCMP, you see. I worked a series of odd jobs, and that winter I was employed by a search-and-rescue team as a tracker." He sighed. "There was another young man often assigned to work with me, a paramedic, somewhat older. Twenty-six, I believe."
"The older man."
Fraser touched Ray's wrist, letting his hand move with Ray's. "We--bonded, I suppose, over the course of some rather arduous searches, and I fancied myself in love with him. He was a good man, well worth falling in love with. I was in a bit of a state during that winter." Lying awake in the snow-sheltered tent watching him breath. Fingers ghosting over the air above his face, one inch above his skin, not daring to touch. Writing verses in his notebook. Making fragile sculptures in the snow.
"But at the end of the winter, when the teams were changing over and he was heading to Vancouver to begin medical school--I swore to myself that I would go to him and tell him how I felt, once and for all. I have no idea what I expected to happen, but I felt that I had to tell him." Fraser sighed.
"And I went to find him and he introduced me to his fiancee." He could still remember the stabbing, searing pain of that introduction. He had never considered that he could be so wrong. He had never been so wrong, at that point. He'd soaked his scarf with tears on the trip back to his grandparents' house.
"Yeah, that's typical all right." Ray turned his palm upright and squeezed Fraser's hand. "Every single guy I know, the first guy they had a crush on was straight."
"I had a rather sheltered upbringing," Fraser said.
"I didn't. And it happened to me too." Ray heaved up onto his elbows and kissed Fraser's lips. "So the third was a woman?"
His heart leapt; one single, painful beat against his ribs before it settled into a strong rhythm again. "I'd really rather not talk about her. Please."
"Okay." Ray kissed him. "If you're going to break out the heavy artillery with the pleases and the thank yous." Ray kissed him a third time, long enough to chase away any words.
They kissed leisurely until Ray tensed up at the sound of a police siren outside. He raised his head and looked at the window as it grew louder, but then went past. He relaxed. "Somebody else's problem."
Fraser clasped his hands behind Ray's back. "So what about you?"
"Have you been in love?"
Ray groaned and rubbed his cheek against Fraser's shoulder. "Twice. Both women. The first--she was the right person but the circumstances were all wrong, and the second--everything was wrong. She wanted me to leave Ma, can you believe that? She wanted me to move out. And she hated my car."
"Shocking." Fraser kissed Ray's forehead.
"Hey, was that some kind of backhanded Canadian insult?" Ray dug his hand into Fraser's chest, propelling himself upright to glare down at Fraser.
Fraser widened his eyes. "I wouldn't dream of it, Ray."
"Yeah, you keep right on not dreaming of it." Ray grinned and settled back down, resting his palm on Fraser's chest and his chin on his hand. "So what are you up to in the morning?"
"After making you breakfast?"
"Work. Including a substantial shift of guard duty, I'm afraid. And then I thought I would look for an apartment."
"I can help with that. Drive you around."
"Thank you, Ray." Fraser smiled.
"Don't mention it."
Fraser could barely see Ray out of the corner of his eye. He was leaning up against his car with something in his hands.
Five...four...three...two...one...the bell tower rang out the hour and his shift was over. He turned his head and strode toward Ray, curious to see what he had in his hands.
"Lunch is on me," Ray said cheerfully, and he handed Fraser a hot dog. Dief leaped up and sniffed eagerly at the waxed paper.
"I'll give you some of mine if you don't shed too much in my car." Dief yelped in agreement. Fraser thought about mentioning that Diefenbaker had very little control over his hair follicles--but in the end, the hot dog did smell rather good. He took a bite.
Ray had an odd little smile playing about the corner of his mouth. Fraser licked ketchup from his lips and it turned into a grin.
"Your tie is crooked." Fraser reached over and straightened it for him, brushing his fingertips against Ray's shirt front and ending with a little pat on his shoulder.
"Well thank you, Benny." Ray leaned against the door and Fraser leaned against the hood and they both ate their hot dogs in the afternoon sun; and even if they didn't touch, they couldn't stop glancing at each other, and that was enough.
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