This story is rated NC-17 (adults only). It includes violence and explicit male/male sex. If this is what you came for, scroll down. If it isn't, hit the Back button.
Afterwards, when Ray wakes up -- sober, dry-eyed, stale-mouthed, with a crick in his neck -- it is almost light outside, and his body is all too aware that it didn't get any dinner. Fraser is lying in the other hotel bed, back turned. In the dark Ray thinks he can see a bruise on the back of one shoulder.
Fraser's uniform is folded on the chair, and the button that popped off has been laid carefully on top.
It was a meth lab. Of course. They'd known that was what they were going to find ever since they tracked Milton Lee down to St. Louis. What they didn't expect was that it was going to be a sweatshop, too.
It was after midnight, and the lights were out in the dentist's office on the first floor and the chiropractor's office on the third, but the second floor -- labeled "Marin Naturals: Fragrances and Aromatherapy" -- was still lit. After pacing off the layout downstairs, they went up and crowded into the ladies' room that shared a wall with the office they wanted.
Fraser put his ear to the wall, and then his eyes widened and he said, "Ray, they're children."
And before Ray could stop him, he was out of the ladies' room and into the hall.
Fraser tried the office door, then gave it a firm kick to open it.
"Fraser, hold up a sec."
Fraser strode through the reception room and aimed an equally assertive kick at the inner door.
Fraser strode right in like there was no such thing as a gun.
Four small dark faces turned toward them -- girls, not even teenagers yet. One of them, wearing an enormous hot-pink turtleneck, ducked, and Ray covered her immediately with his gun, but she popped back up again, terror on her face, showing him two empty hands.
Fraser said something in a language that was all vowels, and two of the girls answered at the same time, and then the one in the turtleneck said something kind of urgent and Fraser hustled them all down the stairs and out into the parking lot.
They were skinny and unkempt, dressed in cheap ill-fitting American clothes that weren't warm enough for the weather. "What are they, seven?" Ray asked.
Fraser said something to the nearest girl, who was wearing a lacy skirt under a man's Mickey Mouse baseball jersey.
"Twelve," he translated her answer. "She was ten when Lee brought her to the States."
The girl smoothed her hands over her chest and hips and said something else.
"She says," Fraser said tightly, "that soon she'll be old enough to be one of his pretty ladies."
And then there was a loud boom and a tinkle of broken glass as the building exploded.
Ray finds it easier to shower in the dark than to look at his face in the bathroom mirror. He takes his time about it, remaining until the tiny room is wreathed in steam and his fingers are starting to shrivel and the prospect of going back out into that uncondemning silence is no worse than the shame of staying in here hiding.
Oh, just the way he wanted this little road trip to end. Ray got the fun and educational task of calling in some local backup and saying, Yeah, we're the dumb-asses who traced Milton Lee all the way down here from Chicago and then let one of his little employees set off the meth-brewer's version of a burglar alarm and blow up all the evidence.
Fraser somehow tracked down the one social worker in the county who spoke Lao. She arrived with a curler still in her hair and stood there looking stricken as the girls explained that he was a good man, he was their patron, he paid them money they could send back home to their mamas and papas, without him they'd never have come to this land of opportunity.
When Ray asked Fraser what the fuck he meant by walking unarmed into a meth lab run by a guy who'd already killed six people that they knew of, Fraser just gave him a blank look. "Whatever," Ray said. "But one of these days you're gonna pull a stupid-ass stunt like that and I'm gonna get called down to the morgue to fucking identify your fucking teeth, and when I do, I'm gonna fucking kill you, you got it?"
When Ray comes out of the shower with the skimpy towel wrapped around his hips, Fraser is lying on his back, looking at the ceiling. Ray wonders whether he slept at all.
Well, he's gotta say it. "Fraser," he says.
Fraser turns over on his side, but he still doesn't look at Ray.
"I'm sorry," Ray says.
Jesus christ. Little kids making meth and looking forward to being whores. And Lee was probably five hundred miles away putting a first-class plane ticket on his gold card.
By the time they got done with the details and headed back to their hotel, it was a truly hideous hour of the morning, and Ray was in a mood that called for some vodka and maybe a fistfight.
Of course, he was saddled with Mr. Clean over there, who would probably suggest a relaxing game of checkers, or maybe a round or two of charades. Ray jammed the key card into the slot savagely and kicked open the door and kicked it shut again behind them, but there was a rubber doorstop on the wall and some kind of spring in the hinges, so he didn't even have the satisfaction of making noise.
"Ray --" Fraser began in a chiding tone.
Ray whirled on him, giving him a shove that knocked him back against the door. "You," he snarled. "By rights you oughta be dead, so you can just shut the fuck up."
Fraser looked back steadily. Even now he didn't have the sense to be scared.
Ray kept his shoulder pinned to the door for another second or two, and then the last voice of sanity went silent in his head and he took that hand off Fraser's shoulder and grabbed his crotch instead.
And Fraser's eyes widened and then fluttered, and under the heavy wool, Ray could feel Fraser getting hard in his hand.
"I thought it was what you wanted, Ray." Fraser still isn't looking at him.
"It was and it wasn't." He rubs his eyes irritably with one hand. "Look," he says. "If you come home alone after a day so long you don't even bother to close the curtains, and you stand in front of the fridge and eat pickles outta the jar with your fingers, that's food, right? Right?"
He doesn't wait for a response, just pushes on: "Right. And if you bring home two good steaks, and you cook them up perfect, and you sit at the table with one good friend, and you have a bottle of wine and some conversation and some laughs -- ah, shit." He leans his head back against the wall. "I didn't want it to be like that."
"Like what, Ray?" Expressionless. Carefully wiped of all anger.
Like what? So joyless. So barren, so impersonal, heat without warmth. So filled with anger and desperation and frustration, so empty of connection, of tenderness ...
"So lonely," he says, and Fraser lets out a bark of humorless laughter.
Ray pressed closer, grinding the heel of his hand up and down. "This what it takes?" he said. "This the only way I can get a reaction outta you, Fraser?"
Fraser held his eyes for a long moment, and then suddenly Ray felt a hot, expert grip on his cock through his khakis.
"It appears," Fraser said, only a little breathless, "that I'm not the only one."
Ray rubbed harder. Fraser followed his lead. Ray tugged impatiently at Fraser's uniform pants, and something went 'ping' on the floor. Fraser used his left hand to unfasten them himself, while his right hand continued to work Ray's cock through the loose slacks, making Ray gasp.
"Don't think this changes anything, Fraser," Ray said. "We ain't gonna be -- you know."
"I believe I know," Fraser said.
At Fraser's laugh, Ray lets the towel drop and walks across the room, kneels beside the bed, and lays his forehead on the mattress in the curve of his friend's body. Shuts his eyes. "I didn't want it to be like that."
After a moment he feels Fraser's hand ghosting over his hair, barely touching. He turns his head to look up at Fraser's face.
"Were you," Fraser says without looking at him, "attracted to me?" After a moment of silence, he clarifies: "To me in particular."
Ray's throat hurts. "Jesus, yes."
Fraser is still for a moment, then goes back to stroking Ray's hair. When Ray raises his head, Fraser's hand follows it.
"Fraser?" Fraser finally meets his eyes. "Can I kiss you?"
Another momentary pause. Then: "Yes."
Fraser makes no move toward him, so Ray kneels up and touches his cheek with two fingers and kisses his mouth very gently. Fraser's mouth. He licks Fraser's lower lip.
"I should have said no," Fraser says softly into his mouth.
"Mm?" Ray puts out his tongue to see if Fraser's teeth feel as fang-like as they look.
"I could," Fraser says, "have told you to stop."
"Why didn't you?"
"I --" Fraser's hand cups the back of Ray's neck. "Under the circumstances, it seemed like justice."
Ray raises his head. "Benton Fraser," he says. "Did you just admit you were wrong?"
"I made an ... error in judgment."
"You screwed up."
"I misinterpreted the --"
"You screwed up."
"As you say."
And everything's the same but it's different, like a tune that just went from minor to major. Ray feels like smiling now, and there's a lightness in Fraser's face, too. "Well, since you apologized so nice ..."
Fraser's stomach growls.
Ray actually laughs. "Go take a shower," he says, grabbing for the towel again. "I'll order you some room service. I think the two-seven owes us."
Ray's not much of a breakfast eater himself, so he plays a little game of What Would Fraser Eat with the room service menu. By the time Fraser comes out of the shower, it's all there in front of Ray at the little table -- melon and toast and strawberries and those weird plastic-wrapped bulbs of coffee.
Fraser's put his boxers and undershirt on and combed his hair straight back, making him look about seventeen. There's no loose towel, no bare skin, no clinging water.
But his feet are bare.
Ray hauls his eyes up to Fraser's face. Fraser isn't looking at him at all, but at the food. He's not smiling, exactly, but his eyes are soft as he sits down across from Ray. OK, good, he knows a food apology when he sees one.
"Figured you'd like the fresh stuff," Ray says, just to be sure.
Fraser doesn't answer because his mouth is full of cantaloupe. He looks at Ray over a crescent of rind and nods and takes another bite. The juice is slick on his cheeks. Ray looks away, but not before Fraser catches him.
Ray feels a rush of fear. And then, close on its heels, there's a rush of relief so strong it makes him gasp.
The secret is already out.
The goddamned secret is finally out.
If he wanted to, he could get up and walk over there and lick the sweet melon juice off Fraser's chin, lick the taste out of his mouth --
Fraser's looking stunned, and Ray suddenly realizes that while he was feeling like his whole fantasy life was all over his face, Fraser never knew. Jeez, last night must have come out of nowhere.
A noise makes him jump -- Fraser's chair, pushed back with such haste that it clatters against the table leg. Fraser's walking around to Ray's chair, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, eyes locked with Ray's. He puts his hands on the arms of Ray's chair and leans in and says, low, intense, "You have never, ever looked at me like that."
Ray says, "You just never caught me."
He half rises as if for a kiss, letting the towel slip, and licks a broad swipe over Fraser's chin and cheek. Melon and soap and clean, clean skin. "Fraser --"
"Ray." Fraser drops to his knees, pulling Ray down with him, closer, closer. Ray remembers the arm's length between them last night and kneels up and presses himself against Fraser, body to body, and then mouth to mouth.
"Want you," he says into Fraser's ear, hands wrapping around the straps of Fraser's tank top. "Want you. Fraser, please."
"Please," Fraser echoes, mouth on his neck, hands roaming down his bare back. "Oh, Ray."
Ray lets go of the shirt and flattens his hands on Fraser's chest, a nipple under each palm. Fraser presses forward against his hands, murmuring, and his mouth comes up seeking Ray's again. Ray slides his hands down, curls them over the elastic of Fraser's shorts, then plunges his right hand in and gets it behind Fraser's cock, presses it out toward his own, toward where he's hungriest for the feel of -- oh, christ, that's it --
"Ray!" Fraser's voice cracks as Ray thrusts against him, and again, separated only by the thin cotton. Fraser's belly rubs against Ray's knuckles. Fraser's cock drips over Ray's fingers.
"Oh," Fraser says. He scrabbles at the elastic with one hand, the other still holding hard to Ray's back. "Oh -- Ray -- I need --"
Connection. Ray needs it too. He hauls the shorts down in front, and they ride up again, and he says "Fuck" and shoves them down again as Fraser's hands finally come to help him, and Fraser lets out a sigh that's almost a grunt as their cocks touch for the first time.
"Yeah," Ray says, changing his grip to capture them both. "Yeah, let me hear it --" He's thinking of Fraser last night, grim-faced and silent. But Fraser this morning drags in a breath and lets out a groan, pushing urgently into Ray's hand.
He's disrupting the rhythm. Ray grips tighter, trying to get him back on the beat, but when has Fraser ever let him lead?
It would be funny if it weren't so frustrating, but Ray's so close, and this is just the tiniest bit wrong, just that much off what he needs --
He gasps as the sensation finally hits him. Not off beat. Syncopation, counterpoint, so right, so sweet --
"Fraser!" he gasps, and Fraser's making "ah" sounds that are almost wails, and Fraser's cock jerks under his fingers, Fraser's shooting all over his chest, still holding to Ray, holding him close.
Ray opens his eyes to look at Fraser's flushed and panting face, and comes.
For a moment they stare at one another, breathing hard, and then one corner of Fraser's mouth quirks.
"What?" Ray says. His own mouth wants to smile, too.
"I never realized that you were so fond of cantaloupe, Ray."
"Not very observant of you, there, Fraser," Ray says. "I'm nuts about cantaloupe."
"Yeah," Ray says, feeling a little breathless all over again. "Never get enough of it."
Fraser's all but beaming now. "Then I'll have to see that you're well supplied with it."
"You do that." Ray reaches up over his head and snags the first plate he can reach, which turns out to have toast on it. He tears off a bit and holds it out, and Fraser delicately bites it out of his hand, licking his fingertips in passing.
"Delicious," Fraser says, holding Ray's eyes. Then, as though he's impatient with indirectness, he suddenly pulls Ray into a tight hug.
After a moment, Ray pushes, and they both go over on the floor, where there's just room to stretch out between the table and one of the beds. "Hey," he says, "Does this mean we're --"
"Certainly not," Fraser says into his hair. Ray grins.
"Cool," he says.
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August 24, 2001