Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: Thanks to rispa for you, know, helping out.

It was stakeout nine thousand and fifty-six, and Ray just knew that, yeah, if something didn't happen soon, if someone didn't show their sorry ass, he was going to lose it and combust, leaving real small bits of himself all over the Goat and, man, his dad would kill him and the smell would probably be really gross because he'd had nachos that night for dinner and the bean factor alone…

"Ray, stop it, or I will not be held responsible for my actions."

What the fuck?

"I'm about to combust here, Fraser, I'm serious. Splatter city. So cool your jets. I've got life forces leaking out of my eyeballs. Hear me? We're talking 'Danger, Will Robinson' time."

Ray got the sigh that Fraser usually made when dealing with some fuck-up of Turnbull's.

"That's so not buddies, Fraser."

"I beg your pardon."

"You just huffed the Turnbull huff of doom at me. I know when I'm being dissed. What's your problem?"

"My problem," oh Christ on a raft. Stakeouts were hell, but stakeouts with a snippy Fraser sucked mondo suckage, "is that you are unbearably fidgety. Far be it from me to rehash old arguments—"

"Jeeesus Chriiiiist, will you give it a—"

"But six cups of coffee at dinner when the chances of being immobile for several—"

"What about the chances of staying awake? Huh? Not all of us can get by on sixteen hours of sleep a month because we're not fucking robots who've had real critical body parts surgically removed and—"

"You've been hitting the steering wheel with your fingers; tapping the floorboards with your feet; clicking your tongue against the roof of your mouth with, well, your tongue. I even saw your eyebrows wriggling uncontrollably for several—"

"Stop with the pouting already. You hear me? Just because I won't let you tell any Inuit stories where everyone fucking dies of frostbite—"

"In short, Ray, your fidgeting is driving me mad, and if you don't stop it, I will be forced to use extreme measures."

Well, Ray could pout too. But, like, Chicago style.

"Bite me, Fraser," he snapped and began tapping the steering wheel. Like pounding it with the flat of his hand.

"You've brought this on yourself, Ray."

As was so often the case when partnered with Fraser—like every frigging day—Ray was handed a first-class ticket to the Twilight Zone. Except this wasn't anything like the recurring episode where they jump off a ten-story building and survive due to the lucky location of a dumpster (Ray had to admit that Fraser had excellent dumpster karma). Or that episode where they happened to be driving a car that had flames shooting out from the undercarriage and, oh look, a lake. Or even Ray's personal favorite, the one where they were in a plane and there was only one parachute and it was party time at ten-thousand feet.

Nope. This had nothing to do with endangering his life in wildly bizarre ways. It had to do with Fraser reaching across the front seat with his left hand, unzipping Ray's pants (with his left hand!), spitting into his right hand, then sticking his wet hand down Ray's boxers, and jerking him off. Whoa. Fraser was ambidicktrous.

To Ray's screech of surprise, Fraser merely said, "I warned you, Ray," and kept up this punishing stroking of Ray's dick that had Ray swearing and punching the upholstery with his fists and thrusting up as much as the steering wheel would let him, plus making really weeny whimpering and begging noises that even at the time Ray knew were pathetic but, like, hello? A ginormous Mountie hand just swallowed up Ray's dick in a million different kinds of jacking off greatness. That wicked twist at the end of every stroke meant Ray was only good for about sixteen strokes before shouting, "Jesus, fuckfuckfuck" and coming. His frigging brains out.

The only thing keeping him upright was the steering wheel. Which was a good thing. Because he was slouched in the direction of the warehouse, and the one millimeter of Ray's brain that hadn't been fried by that orgasm was reminding him that he was still on stakeout, and now that the fun and games were over it was time to concentrate on getting decent in case of, you know, crime and shit.

As soon as his hands stopped trembling and twitching, he'd give serious consideration to putting his dick away. As usual, Fraser was five seconds ahead of him. With his classic no-nonsense efficiency (was there one goddamned thing this guy was bad at?), Fraser pulled out the inevitable handkerchief, cleaned him up, tucked him back in, pulled up his zipper, and managed the top button of his jeans, all in about ten seconds. The same way he filled out forms, totaled restaurant tabs, and buckled his seat belt. Ray didn't know whether to be insulted or relieved.

"Frase?" he managed to croak out when the audio portion of his brain had returned to its normal programming, because as much as Ray didn't do the talking thing, it seemed that he needed to make an effort because they'd just done a really gay thing and, well, fuck.

"Are you relaxed, Ray? No more fidgets?"

Ray was pretty sure any fidgets he had had just been jacked right out of him. So much so if Mikey Lucca and his band of merry thugs showed up within the next twenty seconds they were toast.

"Uh, yeah. I am, and uh, nope. No fidgets. I'm good." Which was true. In a really gay way.

"Good. Did I tell you about the time when a ballet troupe came to Norman Wells and an activist with the Swan Liberation Front stole all the tutus?

And that, apparently, was that.

One of Ray's strengths was that he was good with tells and body language. You know, when to throw a perp against the wall, when to smash a chair six inches from their face, when to turn it over to the Mountie for the confession to get away from the psycho cop. He and Fraser had this down. But you had to see cracks, now matter how small, to twig when someone was breaking up inside.

After doing the nasty with Ray's dick did Fraser have any cracks? Nada. Was their drive home from the stakeout any different than the previous one-hundred-and-forty-six drives home from the stakeout? Nope. Ray argued for donuts, Fraser for bagels (Christ, whole-wheat bagels even), a fight Ray always won because two against one; Dief, you're my man. Or wolf. Like always, Ray's concession was to go to the donut shop that also carried bagels and not so bad coffee. Like always, they'd brought breakfast home to Ray's apartment, he had poured boiling water over tree bits so Fraser could wash down his bagel with something hot, and it was still same old Frase, running down the calorie and bad cholesterol count in each and every bite of donut. In between charting Ray's death from a major heart attack in the year 2036, he thanked him kindly for the tea and, yes, he'd like another cup, if Ray didn't mind.

At the end of breakfast, Ray drove Fraser to the Consulate. Which being Saturday meant that Fraser would actually get some sleep. They firmed up their plans to watch the game that night (as being the team with the highest solve rate, Ray had no problem with pulling rank on the weekends and saying, "No fucking way am I sitting in car on a Saturday night when there's a Hawks game on. With all due respect, Sir."). Fraser said, "Thank you kindly for the tea, Ray, and I'll see you around six," closed the car door, and entered the Consulate.

Ray went back home to his apartment and had his nervous breakdown.

As soon as Ray got inside he threw a piece of lettuce to Turtle—"Go to town, green guy"—and thought about taking a shower because he was still sort of sticky despite Fraser's wipe down. But oddly he didn't want to because Fraser's hand had felt fucking fantastic and showering would be one step toward making it like it didn't happen. His wigging out about the hand job was, apparently, less than his enjoyment of it.

Which only freaked him out further.

Ray lay down on his bed and pulled the covers up over his head because he needed to be really alone. Like completely in his head. He used to do this when he was a kid and needed space from his brother. Forcing Ray to share a room with his little brother was close to child abuse, as far as he was concerned. Inevitably the little fucker would try to rip the covers off and then it would be "Mommmmm." Then it would be, "Stop it, you fucking little turd." Then it would be Ray losing his allowance for a week. Which really burnt his muffins because couldn't a guy just put his head under the covers and be left alone? When he grew up… Why Ray had thought once he grew up things would be fair and he could slide under the covers (metaphorically speaking) and no one would try to pull them back… Man, was he wrong. In fact, the last five years he really hadn't gotten any allowance. Truth be told, he basically had been paying people. And now he found himself in a space where life was revenue neutral and damn it all if most of that wasn't down to having Fraser as his partner and friend.

If he ever needed to get his head together it was now. Right now. Wrapped up and hidden under cover goodness.

Okay, he was a detective. Detect. Start from square one.

Mr. Logic meets Mr. Instinct. They'd been grooving on that and things had been really good, once they got that socking each other and that near transfer thing out of the way. Ray was mostly okay with going through plate glass windows (said something that he didn't even think twice about shit like that anymore—although the jumping off of buildings thing still got to him). Throw in the occasional airplane and boat fiascos… Getting shot at every fucking week was a little much, but now Ray just put on the Kevlar every morning with as much thought as he did his boxers.

Today? Today it was Mr. Gay meets Mr. Gayer. No contest who was gayer because someone shoves their hand down your pants, it's your job as a hetero to make complaints. Ray's only complaint at the time was that he was stuck behind the goddamned steering wheel and couldn't thrust up deep enough.

Like when had Ray's straight decide to play hide and seek? Olly olly oxen free.

He'd never done the guy thing. Not that he cared one way or the other, it just hadn't been his gig. Course, his gig didn't include other women either. At least not until Stella had given him the heave ho. Then he'd sort of dated, but nothing stuck because women who wanted to date cops were kind of twisted, but not the good twisted, and women who didn't date cops, didn't want to date him. Because he was a cop. Stella was in that camp, but he sort of snuck in before being a cop was an issue, but then it was an issue and they'd been married for ten years before he realized that Stella was, like, one of those women who didn't date cops. Oops. Course, she also might have been in the anti-Ray camp, too, but that hurt too much to think about. Even under the covers.

Was this some weird-ass revenge thing?

Ray thought about this for a long time and came to the conclusion that, no, it wasn't. He wasn't thinking, "Hey, Stella would freak if she saw this happening. Ha ha ha, bitch. Plus double ha ha ha, bitch, with a cherry on top, because it's Fraser." First of all, Stella was the only person on the face of this earth who didn't like Fraser, so getting a hand job from him wouldn't earn Ray any brownie points; and second, Stella didn't give a rat's ass who fucked who. Never had. It might raise her eyebrows a tad to think of Ray making it with a guy, because the issue of Ray maybe swinging both ways hadn't been in the fucking radar, EVER, until six hours ago, but she probably would have shrugged off her surprise in about thirty seconds and then written Fraser a thank-you card for taking Ray off her hands.

Okay, Mr. Detective, what do we got so far? Ray not doing a revenge thing. But Ray still having done a pretty gay thing. The accessory after the fact? Lying in his bed smelling like his own come, with his dick twitching and frisky at the thought of Fraser doing it again. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Ray meet Mr. Gay.

Moving on. The Fraser thing. Already jake with the partner business (except for the jumping off of roofs—that shit had to stop). On to the friend business. And no, we ain't talking yet about the gay business yet.

The guy was stand up. Stand-up. He just accepted Ray for Ray. And as Ray Kowalski. People hadn't done that much in Ray's life. His mom. Stella in the beginning. But then being married to a cop started to bite. Combined with maybe getting killed on the job and realizing that he would never wear a button-down shirt or loafers or drive a Japanese luxury car and that was that. At the end of their marriage, Ray wasn't sure what bit the most: his job or the fact he didn't wear shoes that required polishing.

The first time Fraser had said, "That tee-shirt, Ray," Ray had growled back at him, "So?" Fraser didn't say, "You've owned that shirt fifteen years and the cuffs are fraying and I'm not walking out the door with you unless you change it." Which is what he expected Fraser to say. Because Fraser would rather strangle himself with his own lanyard than wear a uniform with frayed cuffs. What Fraser did say was, "It's cold outside. You might want your jacket." No mention of frays or rips. This from the guy who irons his shorts. Which Ray knows because he made a joke about it one day and Fraser didn't laugh, but said something about the proper iron settings in order not to scorch the starch, which cracked up Ray so bad he had to stop smoking for two days so his lungs could heal.

And that courtesy thing. You'd think it would bug Ray that Fraser trotted out that polite thing to all and sundry and then was a snippy as all hell with Ray pretty much all the time. They argued walking down the hall of the precinct. They argued while jumping out of planes. They argued when jumping off of buildings. Which Ray admitted was really dumb.

Took him a while to realize that Fraser didn't do this with anyone else. Not with Franny. Man, the woman could whip out a tit and shove it in his face (not like she hadn't come close), and all he would do would be to blush and thank her kindly but he had to see the Lieutenant and have a nice day. Same with Dewey, the asshole-ish of the assholes. If you weren't rude and snippy to Dewey, then you weren't rude and snippy to anyone.

Except Ray Kowalski.

Fraser dished out that snide Canadian thing, his humor so dry that Ray often checked his elbows for scaly patches. It struck Ray, lying in bed with the covers over his head and his dick making a nice little tent so that he could breathe, was that Fraser was so cool with Ray that he let Ray see him. Actually see him. Like he trusted Ray.

Up until last night, Ray would have gone to the fucking bank that Fraser was straight. Or at least neuter, except for that Victoria thing. Which Ray didn't want to think about too heavily because it might be a bucket for the straight team, but it was also a three-pointer in overtime for the psycho team.

In addition to Ray not being sure what he was, fuck it if he could now say what in the hell Fraser was. Acting like giving your partner a hand job was about on par with telling him he had spinach in his teeth. Which wasn't gay or straight per se so much as fucking weird. Or neuter.

Three hours later he was still under the covers, still clueless about what had happened, with the added bonus that his dick was now screaming, "I got the fidgets and that nice Mountie with the happy hands can come over and play anytime."

Which was gay. Yep. Gay.

Ray woke up feeling just as confused, compounded by a Fraser-inspired wet dream. Ray thought being sixteen sucked six different kinds of ass and wet dreams were a big part of that. To be thirty-eight and having them was beyond pathetic. In the shower, he weighed his options. Talking was always a mistake. Whenever Ray tried to talk to Stella, it would always result in him getting the polar opposite of what he wanted. Talking about buying a house ended up with him signing a mortgage for a condo he hated. The sort of place that had a doorman and a gated garage and your neighbors gave you dirty looks because you drove American. Or the kids "talk" that ended up with Stella taking that fat cat corporate job, where an eighty-hour work week was considered slacking off.

So talking was out.

But Ray couldn't let it lie because FRASER HAD GIVEN HIM A HAND JOB FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. He paced his apartment for an entire hour until Mrs. Krauss from downstairs screamed at him through heater vent that she was going to march up the stairs, break down his door, and chop his feet off with an axe if he didn't stop it. He stopped. Mrs. Krauss was one of those older women whose hair had become impervious to dye; the beauticians had to go to greater and greater lengths to hide the gray by throwing ten different colors on there and if any of them took, greatness. Except it made her really mean because who wants a calico head of hair? If he had hair that color, he'd probably want to wield an axe too.

Curling up on the couch, feet off the floor, he thought Fraser. He thought Canadian. They wouldn't talk, but what could they do that wasn't really talking but involved mouths making noises they both understood? Because dollars to donuts, if Ray said, "Hey Frase, let's talk about you jacking me off," it would, given Ray's talking karma, result in them discussing the mating habits of trumpeter swans. But if they chatted… Chatting. They'd chat about it! A real Canadian sort of word. Ray would even serve tea. Hell, Ray would even drink tea with Fraser if it would help. Fraser would be all over chatting. And with tea? Man, he'd probably do handstands. Chatting. Yeah. It was real close to curling, but with words. They both started with a 'c' anyway.

Ray made sure he was well supplied with twigs, called for Chinese, ordered three lo meins (because Ray had a thing for lo mein and could eat one by himself, and Dief could eat one, okay, he could eat three but he was only getting one), and, while waiting for Fraser to arrive, he practiced his chatting skills.

"Yeah, Fraser, you know that thing we did?"

Maybe too vague.

"Frase, when you had your hands down my pants…"

Real up front. More like talking than chatting.


Ray was doomed.

Initially, Ray was relieved that Fraser was acting no different than how he normally acted. He arrived at Ray's apartment, hat in hand, wearing his usual clothes, nagging Dief, making snide comments about the Hawks and how they were gonna get pasted by the Oilers. The usual. Like the big gay thing hadn't happened. Nope. Hadn't happened. Two hours later, they were watching the game, eating Chinese, drinking tree bits. Like always. Except bullshiiiiiiiiiit. The big gay thing had happened; it was out there in really big letters. So big that even Ray could see it without his glasses. And, cause it was there, when Fraser licked a noodle out of corner of his mouth, Ray got a boner. Which pissed him off because he really should not be getting boners because Fraser had a bit of food on the corner of his mouth. Except it was Fraser's tongue that whisked away that food and it would be Fraser's tongue on his mouth or his dick, should they decide to let their inner, or by now, outer, homo go hog wild.

And he didn't know how to bring it up because it was pretty clear that he sucked at talking and chatting and it was driving him crazy and his dick hurt but also felt good and he was just going to pop Fraser because this was so stupid and he was straight goddamit and what in the hell was happening to him?

Ray was so mad that he threw the carton of lo mein against the wall and shouted at Fraser, "This is all your fault, Fraser, and don't expect me to forget this anytime soon. You are so in for it, pal."

Fraser blinked. Blinked again and then swiveled his eyes over to the lo mein making its way down Ray's wall. "Ray?"

Ray, whose anger had not abated one iota, especially seeing the mess he'd made, pointed a menacing finger at Fraser and said in a low nasty voice, his perp-you-are-dead voice, which, of course, Fraser well knew, and said, "Your fucking fault." And then pointed at his boner.

Fraser blushed, which made Ray even madder.

"Don't act Mr. Innocent. Mr. I-shoved-my-hand-down-your-pants-on-stakeout."

At which point, Fraser regained his composure completely and gave a tiny irritated sigh. "Oh that. Really, Ray. That was just letting off steam."


"Letting off steam?" Ray repeated. Because letting off steam in Chicago did not mean giving people hand jobs. He'd better make sure. "You let off steam in Canada by shoving your hands down random stranger's pants? This apply to women as well? Just see someone with a frown on their face and gear up? Must be a nation of really happy people. Say thank you kindly after?"

Fraser gave Ray his mildly disapproving smile number three. "Don't be silly, Ray. First of all, you are far from a stranger. I was letting off your steam. Masturbation is a perfectly acceptable way of releasing stress, and you were exhibiting all the classic signs—"

"Whoa, right there. Stop the mule train. Unharness those suckers. Here in the United States of Amer. Ri. Ca. men do not let off steam like that. Okay, scratch that. Yeah, occasionally in cars, been known to happen, but not with other guys. Unless, you know…" He coughed, flailed a hand, and then coughed again. Because.

"I'm sorry, Ray. I'm not following you."

Ray often felt like murdering Fraser and this was, yep, bingo.

"Do not pull this clueless shit on me, Fraser," Ray demanded, because Ray might be clueless about a lot of this, but the one part he was damn certain about was that both he and Fraser were men and that in anyone's book, even the Canadian Kinsey, jacking off another guy wasn't a socially acceptable pastime for relieving stress. UNLESS YOU WERE GAY!

"Excuse me, Ray, but perhaps I might discern exactly what you're hinting at if you weren't swearing. It does not shine any light—"

Oooohh, the snippy Fraser was coming out to play.

"Pardon my fucking French. Even if a person was exhibiting stress, in the crowd I run around in, which happens to be super hetero, you get the guy a fucking drink, preferably a double. You don't spit in your hand and grab his dick!" Ray shouted.

"Next time, I'll just reach into the glove compartment and pull out a fifth—"

"That was gay, Fraser. G. A. Y. Doesn't get any—"

"You're making a mountain out of a molehill—"

"You sure played my 'mountain' for all it was—"

"If I'd known you'd be so narrow-minded I never—"

"You are in such trouble, mister. Big time trouble—"

"I am quaking in my boots. I can assure you it will never happen—"


Ray slung a leg over Fraser and straddled his lap. With one hand he pinned Fraser's shoulder to the couch and with the other jerked him off.

Fraser was wearing those super tight jeans, so the first couple of rubs must have been greatness, but the rest really uncomfortable. Fraser hadn't fought him off like Ray sort of expected. Aside from a surprised gurgle, there was nothing neuter about the grunts coming out of his mouth now; and Fraser's dick after the first couple of swipes was also about as non-neuter as you could get. A tortured, "Ray. Pants," and that was it, taking care of any fears that Ray had that Fraser was gonna clock him.

"I got you, I got you," he whispered, and stifled his own groan when Fraser leaned his head against Ray's shoulder and whimpered in gratitude.

Oh yeah, he fumbled a bit with the zipper, and it was tough coordinating raising up enough to pull Fraser out without ripping his dick off, because Ray wasn't ambidicktrous. But he managed and did his own thing with his own spit and his palm and then Fraser's dick in his hand. It was familiar and not. Familiar in that it responded in pretty much the same way Ray's dick did when he palmed the crown or rubbed a thumb up the underside. Yep, jerked its happy little dick heart out. But Fraser wasn't cut, weird, and it wasn't as long as his and a lot thicker. He could never really smell himself when he jerked off, but he could smell Fraser, earthy and yeasty, with a hint of peppermint from that stupid soap he used. All of a sudden that section in high-school biology on phera… phono… pera… that stuff people give off that makes another person horny—where you got a whiff and it was "Do me, do me" time—now made a hell of a lot of sense. Ray's dick began jerking in earnest, in sympathy, in envy. While Ray's hand went to town, Ray kept inhaling all that wonderful scent, and Ray must have been giving off his own odors because Fraser was nuzzling his armpit, inhaling him, smelling him, groaning, grunting with it, and, Christ, wasn't that a total fucking turn on.

In a twenty-four hours full of surprises, might as add one more chunk to the mounting evidence that Ray was not straight. Because jacking Fraser off was just as much fun as getting jacked off. If Ray had closed his eyes while in the car, he could have pretended it was a woman with hands the size of trash can lids. Which was a turn off so he didn't go there, because why would her hands be that big if she was a woman, which meant she was a man. And although you'd think that would stop the boosters from firing it didn't. Because after the initial "huh?", he wanted it to be Fraser's hands. Which, duh, were man's hands. Ray didn't want to think about this because it still didn't make any sense whatsoever. Except now Fraser's dick was in his hand, which being hetero should have had him screaming, "This is way too much buddy shit, Fraser." But he wasn't. He was screaming, "More gay greatness! Yay!"

He hadn't touched someone who had wanted him to touch them in a very long time. The grip Fraser had on Ray's shoulders told him that Fraser wanted him there. Wanted him doing what he was doing. Aside from the emotional turn-on of being actually wanted, Ray couldn't deny the physical turn-on as well. Palming another guy's dick was hot. End of story.

Fraser lasted about as long as Ray had. And while Ray had been gripping the steering wheel to keep from flying apart, Fraser held on tight to Ray's shoulders, his fingers biting into Ray's shoulders, and then when giving it up, Fraser's grasp loosened and he pumped into Ray's fist.

Ray was about to get up, maybe grab his passport and get the first plane out of O'Hare to Bogota—or make a side trip to the bathroom first, jerk off into the bathtub, then get his passport—when Fraser's hands tightened on his shoulders again, raised his head a fraction, and then rasped out, "Fidgets, Ray?"

The fact that Ray was stock still, not even breathing practically, made this as gay as it could possibly get. This was asking permission. This was, maybe, granting permission. This was, maybe, two homos jacking each other off. This was Ray nodding and saying, "Yeah, big time."

Ray lasted thirty-four strokes this time. And then promptly passed out.

When Ray woke up, he was alone. The night had a 3:00 a.m. hum to it. He was stretched out on his couch, the room dark, and he was covered with a blanket, tucked in tight under the cushions. He fumbled to turn on the light and then fell back against the couch cushions with a thump and a groan. Proof positive that the evening's activities had actually happened and wasn't the result of some nice old-fashioned fantasies courtesy of Herra Dura Silver on the rocks with salt. Until he'd turned on the light he still could have fooled himself into thinking he'd passed out on the sofa from far too many margaritas. Course, his usual M.O. when pounding back the tequila was to sleep on the floor of his bathroom hugging his bathmat. Closer to the john, the better. He could have talked himself into that bullshit—that he'd had the presence of mind to throw himself on the couch and haul a blanket over his head before passing out and then had a really great dream where he and Fraser had given each other hand jobs—except for one thing. The blanket tucked underneath him? With hospital corners. Okay two things, because a quick sniff in the direction of his crotch and we're talking major fumes. Adios tequila-fueled fantasy, hola Benton Fraser.

He turned the light back out. Some things you got to think about in the dark and this was one of them.

Okay, pervert tally coming right on up. Hand jobs to date? Three. Fraser was up on him two hand jobs to one, except that if it went up in front of a judge, the whole intent thing was missing. Hand job number one was sort of a stealth hand job in that Ray didn't even have it on his radar, and Fraser treated it like it was just something you did when on stakeout. Like stocking up on the gum. Hand job number two was in response to Fraser being a total asshole and pooh-poohing Ray's understandable class grade-A freak-out, like, of course you jack off your partner during stakeouts. All the best families do it sort of shit. So they were about even steven until the last round of spank the monkey when Fraser asked and Ray said yes. That wasn't about Ray dancing his usual ADD mambo or Fraser working his attitude. It was about Fraser giving him a hand job, and Ray totally on board with getting one.

Where in the hell did they go from here?

Ray had tried chatting. That didn't work very well. He ended up with Lo Mein trickling down his wall. Talking? Fraser pulled out his fifty-seven varieties of scorn and laid them on with that Canadian trowel he always had handy. Of course, he'd also pulled Ray's dick out of his pants and done him, so maybe Ray should just shut up.

Yeah, that was it. Shut up, Ray. Ray had spelled it out and shouted it out, and now it was time for the Canadian team to take that baton and run with that gay sucker. Ray had done his sprint with the whole gay thing, and now it was up to Fraser to pick up the fucking slack. Fraser had been the last one to touch dick and now it was his turn to deal with the fact that he and Ray were, apparently, trading in their used hetero for some new homo.

Although Ray should have just continued to freak out and question every decision he'd made since 1978, because this sort of shit was, fuck, life altering—atoms weren't exactly doing nuclear stuff where you get mushroom clouds, but they were reorganizing in a pretty weird-ass way—he didn't. Nope. He found himself indulging his latent fourteen-year old teenage boy by laying a whole slew of stick shift jokes on Turtle. Which were really stupid, but pretty funny in a totally guy-like way, and he had to tell Fraser in the… ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Did Fraser get his Canadian ass with the program? Did he say anything to Ray whatsoever?

Fraser said dick.

Oh, it wasn't like Fraser wasn't talking. Fraser was talking alright. He wouldn't shut the fuck up. But none of it was about Fraser and Ray getting up close and personal. In a nutshell? The entire Arctic Circle was on the verge of melting and it was ALL RAY'S FAULT.

Up until now, Ray had grooved with Fraser's love for all things Arctic, frozen, and tree-ish. And while you'd think that this would have been a deal-breaker given Ray's love of gas-guzzling muscle cars, it wasn't. Ray paid tribute to Fraser's tree-hugging persona by not running the water when brushing his teeth, recycling (which was really just throwing his beer bottles into a milk crate and having Fraser take them out to the curb whenever he came over), and writing lots of checks to a ton of tree-hugging organizations (that had been vetted by Fraser). And while Fraser might deplore the effect carbon dioxide was having on the ozone, he really appreciated, like whoa, Ray's ability to handle a car and the Goat's ability to haul ass when push came to shove. Which was a given about three times a week on average. And you didn't make those sorts of moves and burn frigging rubber driving a fucking Prius. So yeah. They were cool with each other, generally, on that score.

So? What the fuck?

It started off on Monday morning during their donut/whole wheat bagel run, with Ray getting a lecture on how he was single-handedly felling the entire Amazon based on the number of napkins he'd just used. Then at lunch Fraser asked him (in all seriousness) if Ray had given any thought to converting the Goat to gassing up with vegetable oil (the very idea caused Ray to snort bits of pastrami sandwich out his nose). The rest of the week was more of the same.

Ray had gotten pretty good at turning a deaf ear to Fraser's save-the-earth spiels (Dief deaf my ass), but this time Fraser wouldn't let up. He'd keep interspersing these Nature channel info dumps and Ray being an accessory after the fact, with critical observations about the cases they were working on, so Ray had no choice but to listen.

Every day Fraser reamed Ray a new environmental asshole, when he could have been discussing assholes in an entirely different and a whole hell of a lot more fun context. Ray honestly didn't know where this shit was coming from. It was ENDLESS. They weren't talking about their boners, which is what they should have been talking about (which, Ray admitted, would have normally freaked him out, but now seemed hell of a lot more reasonable than putting Crisco in the Goat's gas tank). All this talk about impending environmental doom and gloom did kill most of his sexual impulses and maybe that was the point.

By Saturday night, Ray had had enough. His hand was itching to just grab the napkin container sitting on the table and beat Fraser to a silent bloody pulp with it. Like seriously harm his environmentally-friendly Canadian ass. He'd get off, no question. He'd call Fraser as a witness for the defense, and let Fraser talk for three hours about whatever. The bailiffs would probably have to hustle Fraser out of the room before the jury turned on him and collectively beat him to death with their notebooks. They'd return a verdict of justifiable napkin holder battery. Ray would be free by dinner time; Fraser would be deported for being the most irritating fuck on the face of this planet.

They were eating in their favorite diner—possibly about to become their former favorite diner because that napkin holder had "State's Exhibit No. 1" written all over it—and Fraser was sniping about Ray's napkin consumption again and how many trees had died so that Ray's upper lip could remain catsup free. Bash him until he shut the fuck…

And then he got it. Oh, he was so fucking stupid. So stupid. The Canadians hadn't forfeited. Mr. Snippy was trying to pass the baton! But not Fraser's usual Ray-you-are-being-ridiculously-stupid-it's-obvious-it-was-Miss-Scarlett-with-the candlestick-in-library snippy. Nope, it was his Ray-please-touch-my-dick-you-ozone-depleting-whore snippy.

Ray debated sliding down into his chair, spreading his legs, and just laying on the sex-me-up voice, but he didn't. Because Fraser riding his ass for the last week in this totally backward and annoying way told him that this was as hard for Fraser as it was for himself. Ray wasn't going to play games with him. Given the mountains of snippy shit that had been spewing out of Fraser's mouth for the last week, he wanted it bad.

Ray sat forward and said in a low voice, "Fraser, you're pretty snippy there. You want me to take care of that for you."

Fraser blushed and dropped his fork, and for one second Ray panicked because maybe mutual dick fun wasn't on the menu, but then Fraser ducked his head so that Ray couldn't see his face, but he could see the nod.

Ray found himself blushing, too, and rather than look at Fraser he threw some bills on the table and growled out, "Wolf, we're out of here."

There's wanting it bad and there's throwing-Ray-against-the-hallway-wall-so-hard-that-he-had-a-mother-of-a-bruise-for-a-month-and-shoving-a-hand-down-his-pants-pronto bad.

Which was hell of good. Gay good, but still real good.

No stopping this train. No way. No how. The thud of Ray hitting the wall brought a corresponding thunk back from Mrs. K., but Ray couldn't give a flying fuck about her axe-wielding ass because Fraser was doing some really fine ambidictrous shit where he had Ray's dick in one ginormous Mountie hand and his own dick in his other ginormous Mountie hand, and then, thank you baby Jesus, Fraser brought their dicks together and began working them both.

If someone had told Ray that dick touching dick was one hell of a turn-on, he would have snorted beer out his nose, and once he'd cleaned up the beer boogers, he would have shouted, "No fucking way." As it turned out, it was way way. A hell of a turn-on and, Christ, could the epiphanies please just take their sweet time because Ray had all the gay he could handle right now. Not that he wanted any of the gay he'd accumulated so far to be gone, because Fraser's sweaty rod next to his sweaty rod, add the hand job and hot damp breath against his neck? Hallelujah, fuck me twice.

They were both too worked up for it to be anything but dirty and fast. All that earth-saving shit must have really pumped Fraser up because he came first. At the hitch of Fraser's body against him, Ray opened his eyes to see Fraser coming. Fraser was beautiful. Got the memo. But like this? He was like a frigging saint. Ray knew that saints didn't have orgasms and that if he wasn't going to hell for all this sudden gay shit he was doing, he would be going to hell because he was comparing Fraser getting off to those haloed types, but damn if the expression on Fraser's face as the orgasm tore through him wasn't pure and essence of Fraser. Ray half expected to hear lyres or some sort of weird-ass harps, because Fraser was, basically, angel material no matter what way you cut it. Ray couldn't give more than a passing thought to how cool that was because his own orgasm took him, and dammit if Fraser didn't hold him through it all whispering, "Yes, Ray. Yes."

They stood there in Ray's hall trying to catch their breath, leaning against each other, Ray's hands on Fraser's shoulders and Fraser's arms wrapped around his waist. Okay, Fraser wasn't just holding Ray up, he was hugging him. So Ray tightened his hands and began kneading Fraser's shoulders. At a certain point the handkerchief came out, Fraser mopped them up, tucked them in, and then Ray said, "Want some tea?", and Fraser said, "Thank you, kindly,", and Ray put on the kettle for tea, popped open a beer for himself, sat down at the table, and said, "You think that Mikey Polara is lying through his ass?" and Fraser sat down and said, "It appeared to me he was prevaricating…" Business as usual.

Ray might be clueless sometimes, but he was not stupid. And once he got it, he got it. So now whenever Fraser said something even remotely connected to nature, Ray had it covered. It got to the point where Fraser only had to say, "Oh look, Ray, a tree," and Ray would find a deserted alleyway or race for home or pull Fraser into the supply closet. And it would be hands down pants and jacking each other off and seeing Fraser do his angel imitation. Ray got really good at the two-dicks-at-once thing while Fraser handled the handkerchief end of things.

They were a fucking duet.

There wasn't any sort of reciprocal code because hetero Ray was a horn dog and homo Ray was also a horn dog. Good to go pretty much twenty-four seven. They still didn't talk about what was going on, and Ray gave it up. He'd given it his best shot and failed miserably.

Moral of the story? Talking was bad. He talked to Stella and he ended up signing for a loan on a lakefront condo he hated and owning a bunch of polo shirts he'd never wear. He talked to Fraser and, based on the dirty looks from Mrs. K. lately, he'd earned a date with an axe at some point plus a weekend painting his living room. The next time he felt the compulsion to throw a bunch of Chinese food against his wall, he was going to do it before he added soy sauce. Stained the wall like a motherfucker. Which meant he was going to have to paint his entire freaking living room because there was no way the paint would match. Course Fraser would probably help him and then they could jack each other off afterward so the weekend wouldn't be a dead loss.

The next couple of weeks were more or less normal—outside of the "Save a Whale, Palm a Dick" thing they had going on. Per the norm, Fraser talked about everything but the fact they were jacking other off on nearly a daily basis, and Ray was coming round to thinking that maybe that was just the way it was going to be.

Then it all went to shit because that brunette secretary who worked on the third floor, the one named Cynthia, needed Ray to sign something. She wasn't Ray's type—she dotted the "i" in her name with a heart—but she had legs that were a gazillion miles long and an ass that said fuck you anorexic supermodels. Plus she never wore slips under her skirts, and when the light hit just right it was like she wasn't wearing anything. Today she seemed to be boycotting underwear as well, and, Christ, Ray could see her bush outlined through the linen as she sashayed her way across the room. Which gave him a righteous woody. Which made him race to the john to jack off.

No sooner did he mop up than he went into the supply closet and turned out the lights. Not exactly under-the-covers goodness, but desperate measures call for desperate times. Whatever.

Clearly, his hetero wasn't broken and based on recent events (like at ten o'clock last night in the backseat of the Goat) his homo was still good. Maybe this was one of those enlightenment sort of deals. Like it was all good. Welcome to the sex buffet. All you can eat.

So where did that leave him? He thought he was hetero, then Fraser jerked him off on stakeout and made him think he was homo. But now Ray was thinking he was a homero. Or a Frasero for sure.

Which meant all the things he did as a hetero and enjoyed were exactly the same things he would enjoy as a homero or a Frasero. Which meant kissing. Ray loved kissing and why hadn't he and Fraser kissed? He also loved giving head. He never understood guys who complained about the smell and the taste. He loved it. Earthy and salty and hot and slick. Were blow jobs much different?

He locked the door to the supply cabinet, took out his dick and tried to taste it, but his body didn't bend that way. So he slicked up his hand, grabbed his balls, ran a hand over his crown, and then licked his hand again. Yep. Earthy and salty. Hot and slick were a given.

They were gonna have to have a talk.

Ray would drive a few blocks, then turn around, drive a few more blocks, then turn around, and basically just kept driving in a larger and larger circle until he figured he'd put about a hundred miles on the Goat and now it was time to stop this crazy shit and get his ass to the Consulate because he was running low on gas. Course, talking was clearly another kind of crazy shit, but it was a whole lot cheaper than filling up the Goat with premium. Plus, it had started snowing, and if he didn't get his talking-challenged ass to the Consulate, he'd be fighting with the snow plows for a bit of road. Man, it was snowing, and, being the first big snowstorm of the year, the drivers were going to freak out like they always do and drive like aliens are on their tail and what in the hell was wrong with people? It was just snow. Cripes.

Ray parked, ran up the steps to the Consulate, and barged in, ready to talk this out, once and for all, only to find Turnbull and Thatcher in the hallway, passing each other the Kleenex, and pretty much having a no-holds barred boo-hoo fest. Which was majorly scary. Because he didn't think Thatcher could cry, and willingly doing so with Turnbull (who was always sobbing over something, so no worries there) was like, whoa, something had really come down. And since Fraser was not there in the hallway passing out Kleenex… Fuck.

Thatcher gave him one look and fled to her office.

Okay, since she was gone, Ray could slam Turnbull against the wall and demand some answers.

"What in the hell is going on? Where's Fraser? You got two seconds."

"First," sniff, "snowfall. He's not here."

Even though by this point Ray was pretty good with generalized Canadian weirdness, Turnbull weirdness had a special Turnbullish weird all its own. Turnbull weird combined with your general all-purpose Canadian weird, and you got potential mushroom cloud action. Ray couldn't cuff him on the side of the head and say, "No shit, Sherlock," which is what he would have done to anyone else, but this was Turnbull. Who, if you came down on hard made you feel like you were kicking a puppy, so he always tried to rein it in. Which was kind of interesting, because while Turnbull frustrated the hell out of him, Ray refrained from his usual kick 'em in the head, ask questions later, M.O. Whereas Fraser, who never met a perp he didn't like, tended to be snippy with Turnbull. And not nice snippy, the way he was with Ray. Like real irritated, wanting to beat Turnbull silent (possibly dead) with the four-inch thick RCMP regs manual snippy.

Which was hell of fun, because it gave Ray the rare opportunity to call Fraser on his shit, which never happened. So Ray kinda liked Turnbull, because it was the only time he ever got to say, "Hey, Frase, lighten up."

Ray counted to three and then said, "And?"

Turnbull sighed and blew his nose. Yuck. Turnbull snot. "Makes us think of home, Detective."

Oh boy. If Thatcher (who was barely human in Ray's opinion—he bet that she couldn't go through metal detectors because she was half copper) was having an emotional meltdown, then Fraser must be…

Ray let go of Turnbull's shoulders, ran to Fraser's office anyway, because you couldn't trust Turnbull, and threw open the door. No Mountie.

"Where'd he go?" Ray demanded.

"He said something about seeing if he could find any Canadians in need of help in the park."

Jesus. Typical. The not lie, lie.

Ray decided that it would be faster to hoof it in this weather, so he hitched up the collar of his jacket and booked.

Even though it was white-out conditions by this point, there was no missing Fraser. On his favorite bench, facing the lake, a blur of red. Ray assumed Dief was somewhere close by, but hell if he could see him in this white-out. Because Dief was, you know, white.

Ray had planned on playing it cool. Fraser was obviously hurting, and Ray was betting he really didn't need Ray to pull his own U.S.-brand of wingding. Except. Stupid goddamn Mountie. By the time Ray got up to him, a one-inch thick layer of snow coated the brim of Fraser's hat and his shoulders. He must have been sitting there for a hell of a long time. Fortunately, Dief had a brain, was thinking hypothermia, stupid human, and had butted himself against Fraser's chest, shielding him from the worst of the cold.

Being super-de-duper worried about Fraser, Ray couldn't give more than a passing thought of, "Yep, more evidence."

Because Ray had come to the conclusion—and we aren't talking "six margaritas later" conclusion, but "sitting in traffic, fuck, would you please move your tardy ass so I can get through this light" conclusion, that Dief was an alien, and not a deaf alien; Fraser, you are so full of shit. Because that dolf or wog—whatever he was—could probably do brain surgery if he had opposable thumbs. While dogs are smart—Sparky was damn smart—and wolves are smart, in a totally violent, go for the throat kind of way, neither dogs or wolves were Dief smart.

Ray sort of believed that Dief really was an alien (which was a sneaky way of saying that he was completely down with this whole concept but wouldn't admit it because obviously if he really believed it he was frigging nuts). But not just any alien. Dief had been a leader on his planet, and in a plot to get rid of him—because even as an alien Dief had 'tude out the ass and could be really annoying and arrogant, which Ray didn't think was a wolf thing but purely a Dief thing—traitor aliens had convinced him that dolves or wogs were high on the pecking order on this planet we call Earth, had zapped him with some sort of transformer beam, and then plopped him down here in the snow in the Arctic, hoping he'd freeze to death. No one likes an arrogant alien. Not even other aliens. Then Fraser came along and saved his alien ass. So Dief one, aliens zero. Except that now Dief was trapped in this dolf body and… Ray usually stopped right there, because it always scared him at how much sense this all made, except it didn't make any sense. Except it did.

Because no one with half a brain would be sitting in a park, in Chicago, in a white-out, except Fraser, who was having some snow-induced psychotic break. And an alien who luckily had a ton of fur, who knew that hypothermia was a real possibility when you sat in a park, in Chicago, in a white-out.

Ray's plans to play it cool went out the window when he saw how much snow had built up on Fraser's shoulders, because he might not be an alien (and on that issue he was dead solid) but being a Chicago native, he was also dead solid that if Fraser didn't get his ass off that bench pretty damn fast, he'd probably freeze to death. Red serge not withstanding.

"You drive me fucking nuts!" he shouted. "What is wrong with you? Freak! Do you want to be a Mountie popsicle?"

Fraser looked up. He had frozen tear tracks on his face, and Ray felt like shit for yelling at him. Because while Fraser had seen Ray lose it, Ray had never seen Fraser lose it. Right then and there, Ray knew it was only a matter of time before Fraser packed his duffle and headed north. And now Ray wanted to cry. No, bawl his frigging eyes out.

Next, Ray yelled at Dief, because, really, the exiled-alien-dolf thing was out of the bag at this point. "You're supposed to stop him from doing this sort of shit."

At which point, Dief rolled his eyes, which was the alien equivalent of, "Stupid Earthlings. I wash my paws of you."

Ray kinda had to agree, but he wasn't going to give Dief the satisfaction.

Ray sat down on the bench and plastered his side next to Fraser.

"Jesus, man. Come here," he said above the wind.

Fraser turned his head, which wasn't a no, so much of a "hurting here, dude."

Ray brushed all the snow off of Fraser's shoulders and hat and then hugged him.

"Come on, Frase. Let's go. The Goat's at the Consulate. We'll have cocoa at my place and thaw you out."

Fraser didn't say anything, but moved into Ray, in fact, burrowed right into him, which was greatness, and Ray wrapped his arms around Fraser as tight as he could and willed heat into him. After a couple of seconds, Fraser began hugging him back so intently that it was obvious that Fraser wasn't seeking out heat but comfort.

"Sshhh," he said and brought his mouth around to give Fraser a kiss on the lips.

Now, yeah, Ray had been obsessing about kissing with, uh, intent. Serious, hardcore, kiss me and then put your hand on my dick intent. But this kiss wasn't anything like that. It was like the kiss he gave Stella when she was sixteen and was pregnant and then wasn't pregnant. When she failed her first Chem 1A exam, derailing that M.D. she'd had her heart set on. When she'd thrown him out for the last and final time and really meant it. It was nothing about sex and all about Ray being helpless and wanting to do something, wanting to say, I know you're hurting and I'm hurting because you're hurting and I know I can't do anything about it, I can't fix it, but I'm here.

And because Ray really only had Stella as his benchmark, who had accepted these comfort kisses as her due, he wasn't ready for the total and complete avalanche of want coming from Fraser. Fraser might have had a body temperature of minus fifty degrees, but his mouth was hot and desperate and needy. Like Ray had something that he could give to Fraser. To anyone watching them it would seem that he was the passive one, letting Fraser kiss the bejesus out of him; but Ray felt completely in charge. Fraser was biting his lips and pushing that tongue into Ray's mouth, but Fraser wasn't demanding at all. He was frigging begging. With each swipe and nip and lick, Fraser was shouting silently, "Please. Please."

This wasn't about hand jobs between buddies, checking out his homo, Fraser maybe doing a little reconnaissance of his own. This was, and maybe had always been, about him and Fraser and Fraser and him.

And also, maybe, checking out his homo. Just a little.

Thank god, Dief was an alien, because he started yelping and saved both of them from losing their lips to frostbite and fatal chafing.

Ray pulled away and all he said was, "Car."

Fraser nodded.

Once back at Ray's place, Ray threw Dief some left over pizza, and they stripped out of their cold wet clothes. Fraser kept turning off the lights, and finally Ray realized that he didn't want Ray to see him naked. Fine. Whatever. But when Ray insisted on Fraser taking a scalding shower, Fraser said that two minutes would do. Then Ray had to threaten to club him to death with a towel bar if he didn't stay in the shower until the hot water ran out. Fraser didn't disagree, which meant he was pulling that passive-aggressive shit he did. Which meant that Ray had to stand in the shower with him to make sure that he used all the hot water. Which meant they were sort of back to their usual selves; Fraser being snippy on behalf of oppressed water heaters, and Ray being cranky because Ray did cranky.

He stood behind Fraser and held him while the hot water pounded against his chest. And, yeah, Ray got hard because Fraser had an ass on him that wouldn't quit, but it wasn't about that. When the hot water ran out, he toweled both of them off, and pulled Fraser into bed, unearthing every comforter he owned and throwing them on top of Fraser, even the one his mother gave him with the ugly orange flowers on it that looked like a bunch of hibiscus gods went on a bender and then hurled.

He hadn't planned on doing anything, because, shit, Fraser was like porcelain right now, but Fraser had different ideas. It turned out that Fraser liked kissing even more than Ray. Every time Ray turned his head to catch a breath, a hand would come up and tilt his chin back in the right direction. Yeah, so hand jobs plus kissing equals fucking bliss.

Will Mr. Ray Queer-As-Folk Kowalski please come to the white courtesy phone?

Ray lay there limp and loose, happy, listening to Fraser's light snores, and thought, wow. Careful not to wake Fraser up, he burrowed down under the covers until it was pitch black, and there was only him and Fraser's ass hairs tickling his stomach. First of all, oops, he forgot the cocoa, and second, this was big. So big, that even in the dark he was scared shitless.

Because in one day he'd gone from wondering, "What would it be like to kiss Fraser?" to, "I want to kiss Fraser." As he lay there in the dark, with nothing to distract him, he couldn't deny that he was also thinking, "I want to fuck Fraser," and the even scarier, "I want Fraser to fuck me."

He couldn't deny it anymore. He didn't want to deny it anymore, but he also didn't know what all this meant. And why couldn't Fraser be a woman, because then it would all be so easy. Except then he probably wouldn't want him, or would that be her, or hir? Because it was Fraser as Fraser, the male part of him, that turned him on. It wasn't like he was imaging Fraser with tits. He wasn't. And he wasn't missing anything either. Or thinking it was like lite mayo. Got your sandwich wet, but didn't taste right. Nope. Nothing "light" about touching Fraser. Pretty much your old heart attack-inducing Hellman's every single frigging time.

Fraser was up before him, in the kitchen, working on a cup of tea, his coffee ready and waiting.

"Storm's still blowing?"

That simple question brought forth a thirty-minute lecture on weather and the lake effect, like he hadn't lived through nearly forty years of these exact sorts of storms, so while Fraser rattled on, Ray unearthed some not-too-stale bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. When Fraser announced he was walking the forty blocks to the Consulate to "open up," even though it obvious that the entire city was closed, Ray didn't say anything.

Before Fraser left though, Ray stopped him with a hand to his shoulder and pulled him around.

He kissed him, gently and simply, and didn't say anything because he was sure that pretty much anything more than "hey' would freak Fraser out. And it might have. But what was more freaky was the hug he got in return before Fraser barreled out the door.

They were screwed. And still not talking about it.

This under-the-covers thing had to stop. For one thing, Ray was getting pimples on his chin (which hadn't been an issue since he was fifteen and maybe he needed to wash his blankets). And for another, even Ray realized that the amount of time he was spending in the dark, scrunched up under a dirty blanket, was beginning to border on kinky. Ray liked his kinky with blindfolds and perhaps ice cubes, not wool.

But shit. It was getting really weird, and the only way he knew how to deal with weird this weird was in the dark, with nothing to distract him but a smelly blanket.

Because talk about a fucking mother-lode of epiphanies he was having here:

  1. He was bisexual;
  2. He was pretty sure he was falling way in love with Fraser, so in love with him that the thought of Fraser packing up and heading north caused his chest to seize up, and if he hadn't checked his pulse to see that it was normal, he'd have called 911; and
  3. He wasn't solely responsible for fucking things up with Stella.

For the first time he got that Stella was a completely wonderful woman, and he was a pretty sweet guy, and one plus one here equals fail. What in the hell were they thinking?

It saddened him to the point of tears that two people could love each other as much as he and Stel had and still not make it work. Love wasn't enough. And now his frustration and her inability to articulate why things were disintegrating was so fucking clear. Ray would scream that they loved each other, and she would scream back, yes, but it wasn't enough, and they'd both end up crying. But he'd be crying and reach for her, and she'd be crying and push him away. Now he knew why.

One night when Thatcher had asked Fraser to work some tedious function at the Consulate—Ray had come to the conclusion that Fraser's sole responsibility at the Consulate was to stop Turnbull from setting the drapes on fire; Thatcher brought up the incident with the plum pudding last Christmas about five times a week on average and Fraser was a stud with that fire extinguisher—Ray lay in his queen-size bed, covers over his face, and sobbed for hours, knowing it was time to say his goodbye. She'd said goodbye years ago, but Ray hadn't heard it. Hadn't wanted to hear it.

He thought about Fraser, the two of them digging each other, Stella, him (again), and the two of them breaking up and getting divorced. Not a word in his vocabulary until it was; christ, bring on the blanket, man. Although the pimples were really beginning to bug him.

The next morning he called Stel and left a message on her answering machine when he knew she'd be at work. All he said was, "Okay. No harm, no foul," and hoped she got it.

Once kissing became part of the routine, Ray and Fraser stopped that spanking the monkey in the car shit. Because you can sit in a car, in an alley, in Chicago, with your portable flasher on the roof, looking all macho and we-be-police-ish—and still give each other hand jobs. But it went without saying that doing it while kissing was blowing your cover in the most spectacular way. Fraser dropped the whole, "Ray! Twig!," which was Fraser for, "Strip my dick, if you please; thank you kindly." So the Captain Planet meets Detective Dick and They Kiss and Do Hand Jobs Show started playing non-stop in Ray's apartment sometimes as much as six nights a week.

Fraser still had a thing about the lights, as in off, but it got so Fraser would reach for the light switch and Ray'd get hard, so it worked. Pavlov's dogs had nothing on Ray's dick. They still weren't "talking" about it, of course, but Ray just gave it up, because of, well, the kissing.

Not because kissing was greatness and why talk with those lips when you can use them to suck face with Fraser, but because he was kissing Fraser, which wasn't like kissing other people, and it both turned his crank like whoa and shattered him every single frigging time.

One, because beneath all that competence and red serge was one damaged dude, and, two, it gave him insight into why he and Stella were doomed on the marriage front from day one.

He'd gone out on a few dates since Stel had thrown him out. Nothing stuck because when you're Ray's age, you know when to cut your losses early. There were deal breakers, and he might as well own up to that. Hates dogs. Deal breaker. Thinks cops are assholes. Deal breaker. (Although a lot of cops were assholes, but Ray wasn't—most of the time—and give a guy a break, why don't you?) A big deal breaker? Women addicted to applying lipstick. Which made Ray think that maybe there was something seriously wrong with their lips, because what were they covering up? And, yeah, women who took one look at the Goat and jumped to the conclusion that he was some pathetic middle-aged divorced guy who massaged his insecurities by driving a muscle car. Which was actually true, but way to be an asshole by letting Ray know you know.

One of the saddest days of Ray's life was when he realized women could be assholes.

Anyway, so, yeah, he went on dates that weren't more than five minutes old before Ray knew it wasn't going anywhere, and he wished he were enough of a jerk to just throw a couple of twenties down on the table and walk out.

The five-minute failures were not bad compared to the stealth failures. Where Ray went out a few times and actually got his hopes up. Women who liked dogs, didn't think cops were the American version of the KGB, and also thought the Goat was cool. Those were the worse dates ever, because Ray'd be on cloud nine for a couple of weeks, and then something would kill it. Like it turns out that, no, she doesn't have the lipstick kink, but the perfume kink, and, jesus, don't spray that stuff around the Goat, it will take off a layer of paint. Or the ones who say they like dogs, but they don't. They like wind-ups toys that smell like dogs and bark like dogs, but fit in handbags. Those are so not dogs, and Ray suspected that they were the products of experiments conducted on Pluto and were secretly alien spies. He'd ask Dief.

Ray never talked about his alien thing on dates because he had discovered that that was the universal deal breaker for all women. Hands down.

The stealth dating screw-ups usually took a couple of weeks for the deal breaker to appear and by that time kissing had usually taken place. Usually. Maybe even sex. Because as battered as Ray's ego was after Stella had thrown him out—man, we're talking bruises up the ying-yang—Ray knew he had a rough sort of charm that he could work when he had the energy. So sometimes, yeah, he got laid, even if he didn't get lucky.

Another really sad day? Was when he realized that there were lots of women out there who were just as lonely as he was, but they weren't going to invest any significant time in a man with a kink for muscle cars—plus their brother had been beaten into a coma by a baton-wielding cop—but they might sleep with him because their loneliness was as big as his. That sort of kissing was about filling a gap until an accountant who drove a Prius showed up.

Kissing Fraser wasn't anything like that.

The first week into the kissing/hand jobs/nirvana gig, Ray thought that Fraser might have sex-induced gay asthma. You know, kiss a guy, get short of breath. A weird-ass hitch would catch in the back of his throat when he'd pull away. Ray was on the verge of telling him that maybe he should see a doctor about that, when Ray realized Fraser wasn't gasping for breath, he was saying Ray's name. A small intake of breath with his name on the back of it. He knew who he was kissing and it was Ray.

This wasn't about turning cranks—okay, crank-turning was definitely involved—but it took a backseat to Fraser being this ginormous ball of need, plastering Ray's mouth with a desperation Fraser couldn't hide and maybe didn't even know he was projecting. Fraser would eke out these tiny whimpers when Ray took over and got all alpha and horny, and Ray knew this had very little to do with sex and a whole lot to do with damaged need, because Fraser would grip him, as if to keep him there, stop him from getting up, which was six different kinds of stupid, because the only thing getting up was Ray's dick.

And this is where the under-the-covers thing comes in, because Ray had to have it dark and silent and contained when he admitted to himself that Stella had wanted him, but she had never needed him.

Not like this.

Even though Fraser's brain never stopped moving—Ray suspected that even in the event of a nuclear atomic blast leveling Chicago, Fraser's brain would keep on ticking—it didn't move in the direction Ray was hoping for. As thinking seriously about giving him a blow job. Their homo was still all above board, well, as much above board as you could get while getting naked, kissing the bejesus out of each other, and stripping each other dicks on a daily basis. Which said something about Ray's confirmed slide into the gay, because six months ago if someone had asked him if two naked men kissing and giving each other hand jobs qualified as completely gay he would have said, "Hell, yeah! Are you high?"

Now, apparently, it wasn't gay enough. Not by a frigging mile.

Their hands tended to stay front and center—something he wasn't complaining about because his boners tended to be front and center; they liked it that way—but their mouths never got beyond sucking on each other nipples. It was like his nipples were the demarcation zone. One centimeter below that and bombs would start going off, the President's thumb would be hovering over the red button, and school children would dive for cover under their desks.

Adding insult to injury, Ray wished he'd had a dollar every time he'd personally witnessed Fraser putting his mouth anywhere on anything. If Ray hadn't been so frustrated, he might have appreciated the irony that Fraser would stick that tongue out and lap up dog shit if it was a potential clue, but as of yet hadn't nose-dived to lick Ray's dick.

Why not point a flame thrower at that pile of gas-soaked rags that was currently his sexuality because he and Stel had been hell of creative—as in anything goes—before the "touch me and you die" thing started. Even anal. So it wasn't like he couldn't just whip out the lube and a condom and with a fair degree of certainty ride 'em, cowboy. Yeah, at the time it was more of a novelty than anything else, but novel plus Fraser's ass sure sounded good right about now. Course, also like the gayest of all gay things, but what the fuck. He'd given up that battle forty hand jobs ago. In for a penny, in for the whole enchilada.

The days went by and the kissing was greatness and the hand jobs were more than greatness because Ray was a natural at sex—even gay sex, apparently—and Fraser wasn't, but he did detail like no one else, and pretty soon Ray knew all of Fraser's hot spots and Fraser knew all of his and they were cooking with gas. Except it was more like cooking with half-wet matches because things stopped. Right there. At the nipple line. In fact, their sex life had that same "We can't go any further because we might get pregnant" feel to it that was so high school, not a period of his life he wanted to relive.

Ray Kowalski plus high school had equaled major fail. Born with the sort of smarts that scored in the streets, he sucked moldy monkey balls in traditional classroom settings. He got through the police academy by bare-knuckling it through those tests and giving his butt lectures to stay put, but saying it took every ounce of his self-control was something of an understatement. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Ray was ADD or AD-throw-in-a-whole-bunch-of-other-letters, but that was before the days when they medded kids up. In his day it was nuns with rulers and a follow through that would have made Babe Ruth look like a pussy. Over time he'd gradually developed some skills to combat it so that people didn't lunge for a trank gun every time he walked into a room, but he was still one hyped-up motherfucker at the best of times.

He kept telling his hyper to cool it, but it kept whispering back, "Now? We gonna suck that nice Mountie fat dick, now? Huh? Huh? When? When?" It got so bad that he stopped going under the covers because he started having arguments with himself. Should he push; maybe not yet. Why not yet? Then the frustration factor would ramp up and he'd start to get mad and then the Catholic guilt would start working because, yeah: the Fraser factor.

He'd ignored factors all his life and, man, did his ass have the bite marks to prove how dumb that was. Frigging scars. Nearly forty years old and he was finally getting it. Pay attention to the factors, you dumb shit.

The gravity factor that said if you ride a bike up a steep ramp and sailed off the end of said ramp, cool beans, at some point you have to come down, no matter how fast you pedal. Hey, broken leg. Which was why he stopped believing in God, because what sort of sick fuck would put an eight-year old kid with ADD in a cast in the middle of a summer. In Chicago.

Or the shampoo/coconut factor. Like never wank off with shampoo that smells like coconut because it turns out that his dick is allergic to coconut, and how do you tell your ma that the reason you're walking like a crab is because you've got big hulking welts on your dong.

Okay, the biggee. The Stella factor. Not that he could have done anything about that. She had a thing for bad boys, and then she didn't. And maybe Ray had a thing for upper middleclass blonds who grooved on bad boys. Except that he stayed pretty much the bad boy—no running out and getting the tats lasered off—but she grew out that particular kink or just got tired of dealing with him or plain didn't give a fuck anymore. Ray didn't look at the why's too closely, because that was a first-class ticket to self esteem, what self esteem, hello Jack Daniels, have a seat. Right next to the scrap heap that used to be Ray's ego. So, nope, that didn't bear examining at this juncture.

Ray's first clue that factors were in play was when Stella graduated from law school and didn't even bother to pretend she might take one of those poverty and justice sort of jobs. Nope, she went out and bought an eight-hundred-dollar suit with a pair of five-hundred-dollar pumps to match, and got a job with the corporate law firm in town. Yep. Fac. Tor.

Frase's Fac Tors?

Ray wasn't on such solid ground here. He just knew that there were factors. Maybe stealth factors. Like. Maybe Fraser had all the gay he could handle. Maybe he had all the relationship he could handle. Not that Ray's track record was stellar, but he hadn't boinked no criminal with a jacket as long as his arm. Okay, possible boinking was involved but it wasn't like he fell in love or anything. Which Fraser had. Yeah, Ray knew that much. Ray didn't believe for a second that whatever gay they were working was just sex, but maybe Fraser was mondo confused as to what it exactly was. Maybe Fraser was even more fucked up than Ray?

Bing fucking o.

Which gave Ray the biggest emotional hard on ever. Because Ray had never been the one who had his shit together. He'd always lived on the edge, and one of the things he liked about being a cop was that his edge wasn't a liability but an asset. But losing Stel had blurred the boundaries, and he probably would have completely blown it and gotten embroiled in some sort of career-ending police brutality beef if Fraser hadn't come along. Because, man, Ray was so angry and disillusioned and lonely and, well, fucked up. Partnering with Fraser had restored Ray to his usual state of half fuck-up, half straight-up. Which, now, with some time and perspective under his belt, he was now thinking was okay. All his life he'd beaten himself up because that seemed to be his M.O. at the best of times. But whereas a lot of people (code for Stella and his supervisors, and, yeah, the nuns) kept pointing to the half fucked-up part, Fraser kept pointing to the other half. Not a lot of people had done that in his life. Okay. One. His mother. And Stella in the beginning. Like the first three years.

Ray was slowly beginning to realize that Fraser looked completely and utterly together, but behind the serge, man, can you say clusterfuck? And Ray, who on a good day looked like he was three steps away from having some sort of psychotic break, was actually fairly together. Ray was, for the first time in his life, the man, and he felt the weight of and was absolutely grooving on that responsibility. Short of having a frustration-induced stroke, he was going to keep on being patient and good. Because Fraser needed him. Fraser, who never asked for anything from anyone, ever, shouted out that need with his hungry mouth and his shaking hands every single night. And that was enough to tell his hyper to shut the fuck up and chill.

Ray waited and waited and might have kept on waiting if it weren't for Turnbull.

Was there anything more wonderful than a late spring night in Chicago, the chill of winter yesterday's news and the heat of summer still a ways off? Yeah, there was. Having tickets to a Hawks/Leafs game—a playoff game—so that you can savor that perfect evening by spending it indoors watching men on skates beat the shit out of each other with sticks. Cripes, it didn't get any better.

Whistling as he jitterbugged up the steps to the Consulate, he stopped with a jolt. Uh oh. All the lights were on. Bad sign. Because Fraser's commitment to erasing his carbon footprint was legendary; short of it being pitch black, Fraser used the Mountie equivalent of bat sonar to feel his way around the Consulate. Which might explain why his night vision was so kick ass. Anyway, at the very least Thatcher was still there and at the very worst Turnbull. Whose latest hobby was Chinese opera. Something that Ray thought Fraser could actually get behind, except that pretty much anything that Turnbull touched turned to dross, so he was fully expecting to hear that diplomatic relations between China and Canada were in the shits because of some monumental faux pas on Turnbull's part.

If only. Because then he'd actually be paying attention to the game and nodding every couple of minutes as Fraser went on the inevitable two-hour dis-Turnbull rant interspersed with hockey calls. "And then, he—oh my, hooking; that will earn him five minutes in the penalty box—went on and on about the performance, mispronouncing every other word—heavens, that was a rather egregious example of slashing; you can believe that I shall write a stern letter. But the nadir was when he starting singing snatches—that was clearly boarding. These referees are shoddy beyond belief." And so on.

As it turned out, the tickets just sat in his pocket while he and Fraser polished sixteen metric tons of silver, and if Turnbull had actually been there, it would have been a toss-up to see who strangled him first.

Thatcher was threading her arms into her coat when Ray, using a credit card, eased open the front door.

Instead of ripping him a new one, she merely glared at him, also a bad sign. She cinched her belt tight and said in her usual I-scorn-the-ground-you-walk-on-you-lowly-American voice, "Excellent, Detective Vecchio. Another pair of hands. How are your silver polishing skills?"

"Fair to middling," he replied, giving her a fake smile, so fake she had to know it was fake. "Not gonna need them because: the game." He whipped the tickets out of his pocket and flapped them in her face.

"I hope you enjoy the game by yourself," she said with equal insincerity, and without giving him a second look she marched out the door, slamming it shut.

What the fuck?

He found Fraser in the dining room, a frigging mountain of silverware in front of him, like real silver type silverware, with weird-ass stains all over it, like it was molting. Even in Ray's limited experience with silver, he knew it wasn't supposed to look like that.

Fraser didn't look at him as he kept rubbing the handle of a knife.

"Duty calls, Ray," he said in a tight voice. "I shan't be able to join you. Although it would be extremely short notice, perhaps you can find someone else to take my place. Detective Huey?

"I ain't going with Huey." This had a Turnbull fuck-up smell to it. "What'd he do this time?" Ray threw himself into a chair, pretty much resigned to watching Fraser polish silver all night. And it was the kind of silver that had a bunch of curlicues embedded on the handles so it'd be hell to get clean. He and Stel had gotten a set from her parents as a wedding present. Service for eighteen. They hadn't used it once the entire time they'd been married.

"Constable Turnbull"—oh Christ, it was bad—"has discovered the Internet. Nuclear winter cannot be far behind. By passing the normal procurement procedures"—hard not to miss the scorn in Fraser's voice, any more snide and Ray would be missing his eyebrows—"he bought this new product, based on clearly nefarious claims that it would reduce the amount of time it takes to polish the silver by fifty percent. Instead of trying this miracle product on one piece, he submerged all twelve hundred pieces in some sort of bath. The results are thus."

Fraser still wasn't looking at him, and he'd been polishing the same knife the entire time.

"Okay, we tackle this tomorrow night, because this is game seven—"

"I regret to say that we are having the staff of the Chinese consulate as well as the Chinese opera company over for luncheon tomorrow in an effort to address a misunderstanding between Constable Turnbull and members of the Chinese opera. Not that we shall need all twelve hundred pieces. I calculate only six hundred, however, I volunteered to clean all of it."

That was predictable.

"So, why in the hell isn't—"

"Constable Turnbull is on special assignment. He is couriering important documents to Ottawa. He shall return next Wednesday."

"She put him on a plane instead of killing him?"

Fraser gave a stiff nod and then all the starch went out of him. He closed his eyes; his knuckles went white around the handle of the knife. "Ray, please go. I can—"

"That ain't buddies, Fraser. So just can it. Get me one of those superdeedooper special silver thingee cloths and we'll do it together. We can watch the highlights on ESPN after. At my place."

"I… I…" he stuttered before lurching up from his seat and leaving the room. Ray got a glimpse of his face and damn it all to hell if it wasn't just one humiliated molecule after another. Ray had watched Thatcher treat him like nothing more than a serged-up butler since day one, and it never got any easier.

Still not looking at him, Fraser came back in the room a minute later and dropped a rag in front of him. They sat there in silence as they polished, the only sound in the room was Ray's rather frequent sighs—his hyper was not happy—and the dull clink of polished silver as fork after knife after spoon was de-mottled and stacked in a chest that was the size of a small car. Ray thought about making small talk, but the only thing that could conceivably come out of his mouth was, "What a fucking bitch," which Fraser would take exception to. As in probably punching him in the mouth for casting aspersions on his superior. Fraser was pretty touchy about aspersions, no matter how much someone deserved them.

Polishing silver was a lot like being under the covers—not a whole lot of distractions. Ray wasn't sure what was worst for Fraser: having Thatcher treat like he was one-step up from Turnbull or having Ray see that Thatcher thought he was one step up from Turnbull. Did it give him any solace that Ray knew that this was bullshit, or was is just so goddamn humiliating that Ray should have just gone to the game and let Fraser polish silver by his lonesome until four in the morning?

By one they were done.

"Thank you, Ray," Fraser said in a tone that implied anything but, and Ray realized that it was the latter and he should have gone to the game. Slamming the chest shut Fraser moved toward the hallway like he had a stick up his butt and opened the front door with his head cocked in a direction for Ray to follow—as in down the steps. Based on the way he was clutching the edge of the door, he clearly had no intention of coming over to Ray's place.

"Goddamit, Fraser—"

"I shall have to be here in the morning to open up and supervise the caterers," Fraser cut him off. "The luncheon," he added, in tone that was pretty much said, "I had the highest scores of anyone in my class, never mind the highest scores ever, and tomorrow I shall be supervising cutting the crusts off of the cucumber sandwiches, and if I didn't have this ridiculous sense of duty, I'd hang myself with my own lanyard."

Ray lost it right there and then. It wasn't his standard losing it, which usually involved kicking in heads, throwing chairs, and on a good day breaking a lot of glass. This had a cold fury about it that had nothing to do with him and everything to do with Fraser. One of those instances where the hyper was a goddamn blessing. In the three seconds it took for Ray to grab Fraser's arm and propel him out the door, he decided:

  1. He'd gotten over the falling in love part of this crazy homo ride and was now in fully fledged I-am-gay-and-get-over-it in love with Fraser. Like forever. Ray had always seen himself as a mate for life/trumpeter swan kind of guy, but apparently even trumpeter swans get a second chance. He still loved Stel and probably always would, but not that way anymore. There was a new boy in town.
  2. He was goddamned if he was going to stand by and have Fraser turn into a popsicle every time it snowed. He had two years to go until retirement. They could ride it out until he filed and then they'd head north. Because if Fraser stayed here, bad things were going to happen, and no amount of hand jobs were going to change that. That's the thing about the trumpeter swan business. Have wing will travel.
  3. He had this talking shit all wrong. What he needed to do was lay down the law: Ray's law. What Ray wanted, what he could put up with, and what was no way, jose.

"Wolf," he screamed and Dief came skittering around a corner and bounded down the steps—while managing to get out a disgusted snort in passing before he jumped through the open window of the Goat. Ray had to hand it to him. Dief was ambidextrous that way. Laying on the scorn never impeded his speed.

"You coming?"

Ray could see the war going on. Fraser beaten, not wanting Ray to see him beaten, but aching so much, needing. If he let Fraser think too much, the Mountie in him would take over and it'd be stiff upper lip time. He put a hand on Fraser shoulder. Christ on a bicycle, he was shaking underneath Ray's palm.

Ray willed his voice to sound normal. "Come on, Frase. I promise I'll get you back in time to open up. Kay?"

Dief added a truly menacing bark and the shaking stopped. Fraser said in a loud and tired voice, "Well, of course you'd say that, but may I remind you that you were completely wrong about Lorenzo di Medici and the Pazzi conspiracy. It was Sixtus the Sixth."

Whatever voodoo went on between them Ray really didn't want to know (because, hey, it wasn't only voodoo, but by this point it was alien voodoo), but it worked and Fraser got into the Goat without another word.

They drove in silence back to Ray's place. Once inside, Dief did his usual muscling his way through the door first to beat everyone to his favorite chair. As if anyone in their right mind would sit in that chair, now being something of an altar to dolf hair. Ray didn't bother to turn on the light, but made a beeline for the bedroom, shedding clothes as he walked. He hoped that Fraser got the message, and sure enough as Ray was getting into bed, Ray could hear Fraser undressing, no doubt folding everything into that tortured Canadian origami thing he did with his clothes so that they could fit into a letter-size envelope should the occasion warrant it.

When Fraser got in, Ray pulled the covers over their heads. He'd never done this with anyone else and it was kinda cool.


"I gotta say some things and it'll be easier for me if we do it under the blanket."

"I see." Three beats later: "This blanket… It, well, smells."

"Yeah, I know. I'll wash it tomorrow. So first of all, I got two years left until I retire. Can you hang on until then?"

"Hang on? I fail—"

"Don't pull the dense Fraser thing on me. You think you can stand two more winters in Chicago until I qualify for my pension? If you can wait, then we can skedaddle out of here together. If not, then transfer out, and I'll come up as soon as I sign the papers."

Ray didn't bother to let Fraser respond because laying down the law was also kinda cool. Also a lot cleaner than throwing a full container of lo mein against the wall.

"Second, we don't gotta to do this marriage thing, but I'm just going to lay it out there, Frase. We're doing gay shit and I think maybe we might be gay. Okay? Maybe only gay for each other, but that's good because I'm a possessive bastard like whoa, and I don't want other guys making plays for you."

"Why do we have to have labels?" Fraser snapped in a bitter tone that made Ray really afraid. Because maybe Fraser had too much gay as it was, didn't need no more gay, and, in fact, maybe he was rethinking this whole homo shebang.

"Dunno. We don't. Not between us," he said in a voice that betrayed none of the "I am so fucked" feeling that was threatening to crush his windpipe. "Hey, I can be a Frasero and you can be a Rayo. People already think we're nutballs. And it's not like we're doing anything differently, so we don't have to start wearing tee-shirts with rainbows on them. I'm not into broadcasting what we do because, you know, being a gay cop? Not so much fun."

That got a shudder and Ray was about ready to scream, "Can we do a rewind?" when Fraser said in the smallest voice, Ray had to strain to hear him, "I just… People have labeled me all my life. That strange boy. That freak. That weirdo. That—"

Ray cut him off because laying down the lay meant just that. Ray was really glad it was pitch dark underneath here. Not even Fraser, with his x-ray vision could see Ray's face, which Ray knew was flushed with pity and he didn't want to pity Fraser. Or at least he didn't want Fraser to see it.

"People are assholes, Fraser. Okay? I know that you want it all sweetness and light but it ain't like that. They don't like things they don't understand. So we don't give them anything to get weirded out over. We just do what we've been doing, and we get some happy for ourselves."

Oh jeez, they weren't even touching but Ray could feel Fraser knotting up. All those neurons firing, Fraser's factors having one hell of a freak out.

"I will never do anything you don't want to do. Got it?"

Ray waited, counted to ten, waited some more, thought about how weird it was that Dief was so smart but was bamboozled by his alien counterparts. But he figured that was because they played to Dief's only weakness, which was his ego. Which might only be one weakness, but it was a motherfucker of —

"It's not homophobia talking, Ray," Fraser said, his voice sharp with indignation. "Victoria and I didn't… I… We… It was, well, just very simple. And she was my…"

Even with that trail-off, Ray got it. Got it in spades. Given Fraser's obsessive weirdness about that woman, they'd probably done it, but missionary style. Hard to fathom given he was frigging gorgeous, but Ray would bet his neck that Fraser was a virgin when that thieving, murdering bitch got her claws into him and began playing him like an effing harp. When she was feeling generous, she'd probably let him touch her tit. Gave him just enough sex to make him feel like this was true love, said all the right things, Christ, they probably recited poetry to each other. She'd put out nothing more than she had to. And if Fraser projected one-tenth of the need he projected at Ray, Victoria I-am-a-predator-see-me-fuck-you-over Metcalf would have read him in three seconds and patted herself on the back for finding such a complete patsy.

"I'm not very good at this sort of thing," Fraser said in tiny, god, I suck voice. Ray had no intention of letting him get away with that.

"You're damn fine at it. I'm happy for the first time in years, Frase. Happy. We get you somewhere with a lot less concrete and I think you could be happy too. We'll ooze happy. They'll make monuments to us cause we're just going to show everyone how it's done. Shrines even. Ask us to speak at the U.N. and shit."

Those covers. Just magic, you know. Fraser laughed and butted up against him, burrowing his head into the dip where Ray's shoulder met his neck. "Shrines," he chortled.

Victory. Fucking-a. Ray eased an arm around Fraser and got a small whimper. But Ray thought it was of the good whimper variety, so he pulled Fraser in tight with his other and hugged him. He could do this. Take it real easy. Real slow.

"Ray," came a muffled voice.


"I'm suffocating."

Ray let go for a second to pull back the covers but brought his arm back again.

"No labels."


"Take our time?"


"I think I'd like to explore a possible posting to the Territories."

"Cool." Where ever in the hell the Territories was.

"I'm very tired."

Which was like a nuclear bomb going off because since when does Fraser admit he's human, but maybe that was all part and parcel of this duet thing getting really down and duet-ish.

"Yeah, I know, buddy. I got the alarm set for seven. It's two now. You can get a good five hours in."

"Thank you, Ray," Fraser said in a whisper. Placing his hand over Ray's heart and snuggling up even closer, he was asleep in about two ticks. Exhausted, both physically and emotionally, jesus, what a day, Ray fought sleep for just a few minutes. He lay there savoring this sweet glow in the middle of his stomach, identical to the glow he used to get in the beginning of his relationship with Stella. This sense of home and happy and everything was going to be good. And maybe it hadn't turn out to be good forever, but apparently there are a few versions of forever out there. Goddam it, just goddamn it, he was so frigging lucky.