All of the following vignettes were written in responses to challenges posted at dS Flashfiction.

voyeurism challenge | makeup challenge | curtains challenge | hourglass challenge | masturbation challenge | telephone challenge | telephone challenge sequel | documentation challenge | summer of '79 challenge | courtesy challenge | courtesy challenge 2 | canoe challenge | cliche challenge | cliche challenge 2 | knickers challenge | mendacity challenge | porn challenge | footwear challenge | movies challenge | movies challenge 2 | door challenge | darkness challenge | marriage challenge | shakespeare challenge | recipe challenge | kaleidoscope eyes challenge | packing challenge | one night stand challenge | authority challenge | icon challenge | fraser-whomping challenge | dead bob challenge | miracles challenge | public sex challenge | transportation challenge | chicago holiday challenge | scars challenge | fraser fucks up challenge | items fraser carries challenge | ice challenge | naked without sex challenge | challenge challenge | shopping challenge

for the voyeurism challenge:


It's not voyeurism, exactly. Fraser might be surprised he knows that word, but he knows it, and he thinks a lot about where exactly the line is. With voyeurism, you gotta be watching something...sexual, maybe. Something the guy doesn't want you to see. It's sneaky, right?

This isn't sneaky. All he's doing is watching Fraser sleep.

Which he isn't sure whether Fraser would let him do, if Fraser knew, but sometimes he gets a funny feeling in his chest that tells him Fraser would. Would say yes. To the watching. Or the whatever.

Ray doesn't really think about what that "whatever" means, but it makes his fingers tingle and his palms sweat. When he thinks about it. Which he isn't doing now.

They're in the car in the dark and Ray's got the binoculars and the shithead who's been selling hasn't moved a muscle up there, not as far as Ray can see, so there's probably not going to be a bust tonight: it's going to be a long, slow night shift.

And Fraser hasn't been sleeping right. He hasn't said so, but Ray can tell. Something's bothering him, something at the consulate maybe. There's shadows under his eyes, and sometimes in them, too.

So when his breathing evens and slows, and his shoulders slump just a fraction of an inch, Ray lowers the binocs and holds them in his lap, and tries to slow his breathing to match his partner's, and tilts his head to watch the steady rise and fall of Fraser's uniform. And if his palms sweat a little, and his heartbeat stutters, it's okay, because the binoculars are on a neck strap, and they won't fall.

And even if they fall, Ray knows they're safe. They're fragile, but they won't break.

(295 words)

for the makeup challenge:

In His Makeup

It's not in my makeup to desire a man. Homosexuals are born, not made, and I am not among their number: my disastrous liaison with Victoria should be proof enough of that.

That's what I told myself when I met the second Ray Vecchio, ne Kowalski. However strangely alluring he might prove, a fleeting physical attraction is not the same as genuine desire.

As we worked together, weeks and then months, my heart began making treacherous noises, the gunshot sounds of rotten ice breaking up in spring. I ignored them. Fraternal love is one thing; romantic, erotic, love quite another. Loving Ray in that way was simply not in my makeup.

I would say it aloud, sometimes, alone in my room at night, but the words did not sound convincing. Even Diefenbaker was not fooled.

"You have to face what's really bothering you, son," my father would chide me, and then inconveniently vanish as soon as I'd thought of a proper retort.

I didn't like admitting it, but knew he was right. The real fear was not that my makeup precluded loving Ray, but that his makeup precluded loving me.


The women's world curling championships are this weekend, and Canada's up against the U.S. I could watch them at the Consulate, but ever since Diefenbaker threw up on a visiting dignitary's exceptionally expensive Italian shoes he is persona non grata there, and I would prefer to spend my day off with him. Thankfully, Ray is willing to indulge my curling obsession, as long as I provide food.

We arrive a few minutes early, but I knock anyway. The bagels are still warm in their paper bag, and Diefenbaker is impatient to steal whatever tidbits he can muster.

Ray opens the door, dressed but hair still mussed from sleep. As I bustle around his kitchen with the bags -- bagels, cream cheese, capers, salmon, hardboiled eggs, sliced tomato -- he puts a kettle on for tea. I glance over and the sight of him registers: he is wearing eyeliner. A hint of new possibilities curls in my belly.

I am too startled to pretend not to be looking, and he catches me. Leans back against the counter and crosses his arms. His chin is raised slightly: a hint of defiance.

The silence is awkward, so I state the obvious. "Ray. You're wearing makeup."

"Went dancing last night," he says, as if that's an explanation. "Stella used to dig the eyeliner, when we were first going out..."

An image of Ray dancing in tight jeans and black t-shirt, eyes glittering and head tossed back, floats across my mind's eye. I push it away; whatever tantalizing possibilities the eyeliner might suggest, he's just reminded me of the very reason his interest in me is an impossibility.

"Hey," he says softly. Apparently my daze has gone on too long; the defiance has gone out of his posture, and his expression is warm with concern. "Does it -- look, I didn't mean to freak you out, I can go wash --"

He makes a jerky move towards the bathroom, but I stop him with a hand on his arm. "No, I..." I inhale as deeply as I can (fresh bread, salmon, a hint of Ray's deodorant) and make myself keep speaking. "I like it."

My hand is big and pale against his charcoal-grey sweatshirt. His arm is warm even through the cloth. I drag my eyes up from my grip to his face.

His eyes are rimmed in dark blue kohl, smudged but distinct. His beard stubble glints faintly. Ray is smiling, and although he is the same familiar Ray I have known all this time, there is something new behind his eyes.

Perhaps the situation is not as hopeless as I had believed.

Desiring me may be in his makeup after all.

(640 words)

for the curtains challenge:


It always seemed unfair to get sick during summertime. Finally it was warm, finally the days were long, and Ray was stuck shivering and aching like some little old lady with arthritis. Happened at least once a year, and he always managed to convince himself it wasn't coming before it hit him.

Ray wished he were a kid again, because even if he was sick the first week after school let out, his mom would take care of him. She'd wrap him in a blanket and let him watch daytime TV and bring him orange juice to drink through a straw, and boxes of ultra-thick Kleenex, and pull the curtains halfway closed so the bright city sunlight didn't hurt his feverish eyes.

Ray wished he were in Chicago again, because even if Welsh gave him a hard time every time he took a sick day, he could take care of himself. He'd put on old ratty sweatpants and watch black and white romance on the Turner Classic Movies channel and call for pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple, and creak the blinds shut so the sun and then the strobes of passing ambulances didn't make his head hurt.

But instead Ray was wrapped in one of Fraser's dad's old Army blankets, watching a whole lot of nothing because he couldn't make his eyes focus long enough to read. And there was no ultra-thick Kleenex and there was no ginger ale and there sure as hell wasn't any delivery pizza. The weird part was, there wasn't any Fraser, either.

Ray was pretty sure he'd kept them both up last night, trying to breathe through the rocks that had apparently grown in his sinuses, sniffing and snorting like a herd of bull moose. And obviously he'd been in Canada too long when he was able to even *think* of anything being like a herd of bull moose. Because last year he wouldn't have known how to tell the difference between a bull and a cow, not by sound, and the sounds he was making were not feminine.

Thing was, there wasn't hardly any dark anymore. Maybe four hours a night, tops, and Fraser had assured him even that would be gone well before the solstice. Which was all fine and dandy, as an idea, but the angle and intensity of the light hurt his eyes and his head and made the fever spells feel worse.

Breathing with the wool blanket over his head was even harder than trying to breathe, period, but it kept the light out of his eyes.

Then again, it was hot. And kind of scratchy on his face. He shoved it back down.

"Jesus," he said out loud, just to hear something, and winced at the way his voice cracked. Diefenbaker raised his nose from his paw, like he was considering getting up to check on Ray, but put it back down and went back to sleep instead. Ray followed him.

When Ray opened his eyes again, the cabin was dark. Somehow, amazingly, blessedly dark. At least by the bed. At the far end of the small room, Fraser sat in the rocking chair with a pile of cloth in his lap. The window beside him was uncovered, and Fraser looked the way ghosts sometimes do in movies, blurry outlines and too-bright skin. Ray blinked a few times to wet his eyes.

"Where were you?" He still sounded rusty.

"You wanted curtains." Fraser was still looking down at the cloth in his lap, making a repeated motion with one hand.

He groped for his glasses and the image focused. Sewing.

Ray sat up, sighed at the inevitable change in head pressure, and blew his nose loudly. Suddenly he Chicken soup. On the stove.

His stomach rumbled.

"Fraser, I --"

Maybe it was the head cold, maybe the aftereffects of the truly ancient decongestants he'd found in Fraser's first aid kit, but he was weak with a wash of gratitude. Fraser must've picked the word "curtains" out of his incoherent half-asleep ramblings, gotten the truck started, and headed off to town: not an easy task in mud season, when what passed for truck tracks around here were likely to be sloughs of icy mud.

Fraser was looking at him expectantly. Ray felt his heart -- and this was definitely the cold medicine talking -- expanding to fill his entire chest.

"I feel better," he said.

What he meant was, "I feel home." (745 words)

for the hourglass challenge:


He thinks it never crosses my mind. Sex, I mean. He's never known me to date, he didn't witness my last (calamitous) romance, and he probably assumes my attempts to brush Francesca off are born of thickheadedness rather than courtesy.

On the rare occasions when I've accompanied Ray and his colleagues for a nightcap, I don't ogle the waitresses, nor elbow the man beside me when a particularly underdressed specimen of womanhood walks by. Neither do they elbow me. It seems universally accepted that I am exempt from this soi-disant ritual of American manhood. At first I thought they were intimidated by the uniform, but I've come to think that the men of the police department regard me as either asexual, clueless, or both.

Clueless I may be, or at least occasionally thrown for a loop by American urban culture, but asexual...not exactly. Nor heterosexual, in the default way I trust Ray and his brothers in blue would expect, were they to spare a thought to my proclivities.

Probably a blessing, honestly. It's strange enough that I'm a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police working unofficially in an American bullpen, or that my childhood involved caribou-hunting and cloudberries and bobbing for trout instead of Big Macs and Nintendo and MTV. They don't need to know the other ways I don't fit in, and I am fairly certain that none of these men would know what to do with a declaration of bisexuality.

Ray might, but I am loathe to push that line.

I don't think about it all the time. When I am on duty, I am alert to the needs of my profession; when we are puzzling through a case, my energies are focused there. But I notice Ray's proximity more often than perhaps I ought: the crisp gelled texture of his hair, the curl of his bicep when he's wearing short sleeves, the spice of his aftershave.

Now and then, in rash moments of relief when we have dodged death or injury, it crosses my mind to tell him that I am not the man he thinks I am, and, more, that I think our partnership could go...further.

But the adrenaline always wears off, and I am always glad to have maintained my circumspection.

Having lost access to Ray Vecchio unexpectedly, some cowardly part of me fears the potential loss of Ray Kowalski if the revelation were to go poorly. Some day Ray Vecchio will return and I will have to navigate the complicated tides of my attachment to both men. It will all be easier this way.


You wanna know the funny part? When he finally came out to me, he couldn't stop telling me about all the other times he'd almost said something. That time Jimmy Gaskell shot at us. The time in the water. The time in the warehouse. The time with the fire. The time in that crevasse. The time I fell through the ice, which I can't really figure how that gave him an adrenaline jolt since I was the one dealing with water so cold I couldn't even scream, but I guess it counts because he looked like he was going to have a heart attack when I dragged myself back to the tent.

I'm usually right about people being interested in me, and I'd been figuring Fraser was but couldn't bring himself to say it in Chicago. Okay, fine, whatever, my turf, my culture, I got that. I was interested enough in him it seemed worth spending some time on his soil. Tundra. Whatever.

But there we were, six months in a tent eating hoosh over a primus stove, which let me tell you is not fine cuisine but you get hungry enough for fat you'll eat lumps of butter plain, and he didn't make a move. I tried dropping hints, but he didn't pick them up. Got to where I was second-guessing my own hunches. All that time and not a word out of his mouth. Not about me, unless it was a compliment on my comfort level with the skis or the sled or the snow. Not about us.

We braved danger a million times, not a word. Slept together in that tent six months, not a word. Got back to what passes up there for civilization, bought my ticket home, was about to deep-freeze my heart so I could go back with some souvenirs and some pictures of nothing and tell everybody it was okay...and that night he finally said something.

"You were willing to put yourself out of your element for me." A hot shower and some quality time with a razor had done us both good, and he looked as sexy as I'd ever seen him, wind-tanned face and tincloth pants and lumberjack shirt. "I appreciate that, Ray, and it deserves to be repaid with honesty. There are things I haven't told you..." And then he stopped.

Might as well lay the cards down. "You and me both."

We stared each other down a while. My heart was hammering. "Surely you don't mean..."

"Didn't you know?" I wasn't sure whether I'd just made the best move of my life, or the worst one. Until he kissed me.

When we came up for air he just started talking. All the times he hadn't told me. All the things he hadn't said. He talked himself almost hoarse.

Well, either that, or it was the moaning.

Needless to say, we bought another ticket.

Now that I've spent some time in the Northwest Territories, Chicago winter doesn't seem so cold. And when I get home at the end of a day, I've got Fraser to keep me warm.

Plus -- maybe it's all that time he spent keeping himself quiet -- I never get tired of hearing "I want you, Ray." I warned him I might never get tired of it, but seems like that's okay with him.

There's not a whole lot anymore that we don't say.

(1000 words)

for the masturbation challenge:

Hands On

Understand, I spent a long time wanting Fraser. I was surprised the first time I got a good look at him, because let's face it, nobody told me being Vecchio was going to involve partnering with a Mountie who was built like Superman, not that you'd know it under that uniform. But I figured it out pretty quick, and it made me crazy. I wanted to feel all that pale skin, to pinch his nipples pink and skim my fingers over his thighs and smack his ass until he was struggling under my hands.

Wasn't long before it was more than just that, though. I doubt I'll ever know anyone else as honorable as Fraser, or as wicked funny either. All the rock-solid reliability Stella turned out not to have, he's got in spades. And sexy, man, even when he's sad or angry or pissed-off. Some people are only hot when they're happy, when they're laughing or flirting, but not Fraser. Either I wanted to kiss my way into his smile, or I wanted to lick away his tears.

But wanting something's only fun if you have a chance in hell of getting it. And for a long time I didn't think I had that chance. No proof I was his type, right? Even if he did swing that way, which I wanted to think he did but I knew I was probably making shit up, no reason to think he'd go for me. I didn't want to make an ass of myself the way Frannie does, so I didn't ask. I looked, but I didn't touch.

Didn't touch him, anyway.

Touched myself plenty. Lying in bed at night with my boxers kicked down around my knees, one hand on my dick and the other rubbing my balls. Sometimes, when I couldn't get to sleep, I did it with a fistful of lube, like it was his mouth on me, his fingers pushing their way inside.

Once, when he showed up at the station on a Saturday in jeans and a t-shirt the rain had stuck to his skin, I had to duck into the men's room and bite my lip to keep from panting out loud while I took care of things with my hands jammed down my shorts. Desperate, and kind of sad, but I came like nobody's business.

Fraser likes that story. One night, maybe two weeks after we started dating, going steady, fucking, whatever the hell this is, we were lying in bed having one of those "what's the weirdest place you've ever gotten yourself off" conversations. He named a few places up in Tuktoyaktuk, and I told hm igloos only counted as weird if they were my stories, since he practically grew up in one. He got kind of huffy and said then surely most of Chicago was offlimits for me. That's when I said, "Yeah, but what if I could've gotten caught?"

Which got him interested, so I had to tell him about my men's room adventure. I'd just sucked him off maybe fifteen minutes before, so I didn't figure on making it especially erotic or anything, I just wanted to see his face turn red. Hearing about it must've turned his crank something fierce, though, because next thing I knew he was pinning my arms to the bed and grinding against my hip and whispering "Is this what you wanted? Hm?" right in my ear, which just about set me on fire.

Now every time we're at the station and I go to take a leak, I can feel him watching me walk out the door, checking me over when I walk back to the desk. Like maybe he thinks I'm getting in a little self-loving action to take the edge off until we can get home and do it for real.

One of these days I'm gonna follow him into the men's room and push him into the handicapped stall and stick my tongue in his mouth to keep him from making a sound while I get one hand into my shorts and one hand into his. Every time I picture it I swear all the blood in my body drains straight into my dick.

Sometimes I think about it when we're necking on the couch, and Fraser bumps up against the stiffness at my crotch and pulls away long enough to murmur, "What?" against the side of my neck. I don't want to spoil the surprise when we get our chance, so I just grin and keep going, thinking wait 'til I get my hands on you.

(766 words)

for the telephone challenge:


I wish you had a cellphone.

Not that one would work up where you are. I know that. I was there, just three days ago.

But I wish there was some way of reaching you.

We were just getting going. Ten days out and I was starting to learn some of your tricks, the things you learned so young you take them for granted: like drying sweaty socks at the end of a day with body heat, so they're not frozen stiff come morning when it's time to put 'em back on. I was just getting to where I could imagine getting the hang of the mushing, and the skiing, and the ice.

And then you saw something moving in the snow. A speck I couldn't hardly make out, but you swore it was people, and it was coming towards us. We didn't break camp. It was a weird morning, waiting for the dogsled to reach us, wondering whether the people on the sled were actually looking for us, whether they carried news.

If I'd known it was our last day together, I would've said something. Told you what I wanted: why I was really out there. What I hoped you wanted, too.

Turned out they'd been riding hard on our trail for three days. Their dogs looked exhausted when they settled down, too tired to even whuffle when ours started howling, and the two constables didn't look much better.

MOM SICK STOP COME HOME STOP. Shortest telegram I ever saw, and before I even had a chance to say anything you were switching the teams so our dogs could pull the two guys and me back to someplace a plane could land.

We didn't get off the sled until sometime the next day. Plane was waiting in the middle of an ice field.

I think I was crying when I hugged Dief goodbye. Told him to tell you I'd miss you. He cocked an ear and at the time I thought he understood me, but now that I'm home in this godforsaken empty apartment I'm wondering what I was smoking to be pinning my hopes for communication on a deaf wolf.

Ma's in the hospital. By the time I got my ass home her condition was looking up. Some kind of stroke, they think, and her left-side motor control still isn't good, but she's going to make it.

Dad did the right thing. If she'd died while I was up there with you, and I hadn't known about it, I'm not sure I could have forgiven him. Or myself.

But now I'm here, it's two in the morning, the apartment already feels stale and dusty and too goddamned small. Even the turtle's at Frannie's, so there's nobody to talk to.

So I'm talking out loud, sitting next to the telephone, because I miss you more than I ever thought I could, and believe me I thought I knew what lonely felt like.

I wish I could make you call.


O'Hare is exhausting and noisy at the best of times, and two a.m. on a Saturday is not the best of times. I left Diefenbaker behind, not wanting to put him through the rigamarole of quarantine again so soon after our return home. He asked me to convey his most sincere face-lickings to Ray, and I'm still not certain whether or not he meant that flopped ear to be the lupine equivalent of a human raised eyebrow.

Attributing archness to my wolf. It's possible I'm losing my mind.

That would explain why I'm standing indecisive outside a dirty payphone booth, back so soon in the city I was so relieved to bid farewell.

But I know that if my erstwhile partner's mother is dying, I need to be here with him: I know something about how it feels to be that lost.

I know Ray's number; I have dialed it more times than I could count. Still, my fingers hesitate over the grimy keys. What if he is not pleased to hear from me? What if his mother's illness holds the silver lining of releasing him from his northern adventure, his real or perceived obligations to me, and my voice is the last one he wants to hear?

I know these are ridiculous questions, the products of a mind both overtired and, of late, underused. I let Walker's dogs rest half a day, fed them well on frozen meat and the stock of biscuit I had intended for our journey, and then spent two days driving them hard myself. An hour with Dief, a few phone calls, and the plane was back to ferry me to a proper airport. I left our gear at the station with my wolf. I spent the money and the time to come all this way. I cannot lose my nerve now.

In my heart of hearts, I know that Ray will not turn me away. That even if his desires do not match mine, he will not reject at least my offer of a shoulder to lean on in this difficult time.

I am lifting the receiver. I am taking a deep breath, ignoring the various savours of the city entering my lungs. I am lifting my finger to dial.

(877 words)

Communication II

The phone startles me half out of my chair. I can feel the hair on my arms and the back of my neck standing on end. Maybe it's dad, calling to say mom is worse again. Maybe it's a prank call, or a wrong number.



It's him. Holy shit. How did I do that? How the fuck did I do that?

I don't realize I've said anything else aloud until it processes that he's talking again: "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."

His phrasing is so proper it couldn't be anyone else; I'm so relieved I'm almost laughing. "Never mind. I just--" I stop and take a deep breath. I feel like I can breathe again. "It's good to hear your voice."

Cradling the phone, in my dark apartment, I close my eyes. Even though I know he's a million miles away, it's almost like he's here.

Maybe knowing that he's that far away but he still somehow knew I needed the call will give me the balls to say what I never said before.

"It's good to hear yours, too." Like he means it.

I've got the phone pinned between my shoulder and my ear, and both arms wrapped around myself.

"How is your mother?"

"She's gonna be okay, it was a stroke, the doctors said there's a ninety-something percent chance she'll get all her muscles back." It's rushing out of my mouth, and it's a relief, but it's not what I really want to say. "Fraser, I --"

There's silence, like he knows this is important. Maybe he does.

"There's things I should've said. When we were together." I swallow hard: my throat is dry. "I never..." Wait, that won't work. "I mean, I always..." Damn it. "Promise me you're not going to hang up."

"I wouldn't dream of it, Ray."

Of course he wouldn't; he probably hiked eleven miles to make this phone call.

There's a silence.

"Say whatever you need." His voice is gentle, and it almost breaks my heart, because if what I'm about to say ruins this, I don't think I can take it.

But not saying it damn near broke my heart, too. I press my eyes shut and plunge in. "What would you say if I told you I think I love you?"

"Thank God."

"Not like you're maybe thinking," I rush on. "Not like brothers. Not like, um, buddies." My face is heating up, I can feel it.

"Thank God." He sounds even more fervent now.

Holy shit. I think he gets it. And I think he's glad.

I'm grinning a little now, tentatively. "You mean it?"

"Would I joke about this?" He sounds a little amused, like he knows what everybody thinks of his sense of humor, and it makes my whole face break out in a smile so wide it hurts.

"No, I guess not. Oh my God." It's sinking in.


"I can't believe it. I wish I were in Canada."

"Why's that?"

Isn't it obvious? "Because you are."

"But I'm not," he says, surprised, like he thought he'd already mentioned that part. "I'm at O'Hare."


I know the taxi ride takes somewhere between twenty-five and fifty-one minutes, generally speaking. Given that it's late and there's next to no traffic on 190, it's shorter than usual tonight.

It feels like an eternity.

The driver is listening to talk radio, turned low enough that he must presume I can't hear it. He's wrong, but I don't care. The sound doesn't bother me; the musty smell emanating from the cracked leatherette seat doesn't bother me. Nothing could.

As I walk up the steps to Ray's door, my hands are shaking.

He meets me in the doorway. The instant I'm inside, we are hugging like two people who haven't seen each other in years. Maybe we haven't, for all that we parted company barely 72 hours ago.

His arms are strong around me. His shoulderblades feel thin beneath the cotton of his tee-shirt. The sudden awareness of what we are doing jolts through me and I feel like I am flying.

He pulls back first, and looks at me. His face is shadowed in the dim light of the one lamp, and he isn't quite smiling, but there's something like joy in his eyes.

The kiss starts out gentle, but soon his tongue is in my mouth and both of our heartbeats are ratcheting up. Under other circumstances I might have preferred to discuss this first -- how long have these feelings been present? Are we really talking about the same thing? -- but I don't want to stop. God help me, I don't want to stop.

I leave my bag by the door, my jacket atop it, my clothes in a heap on his bedroom floor.

We intertwine on his bed, hands mapping each others' bodies. He seems particularly enamored of the small of my back, where he can skate a hand down and tease almost at the cleft of my buttocks, which makes me shiver. I am drunk on the way he moves beneath my hands, erection stiffening even as his body language loosens, when I bite at his neck.

And then our motions become more frenzied, our slip-slide against each other more desperate, and he gasps as climax overtakes him. The feel and the sound and the smell of him are too much: I spill my seed against his hip.

We settle into a new configuration of limbs, his back against my chest, and he tugs a blanket up over us.

We will talk in the morning. I find I don't know exactly what he will say, and I know that should unnerve me, but somehow it doesn't. Whatever it is, we won't need a telephone to communicate it. Maybe not ever again.

(972 words)


Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 01:17:26


What the hell was that about?

Are you okay? It's not like you to leave that fast.

What's going on?


Date: 13 June, 1998
Time: 01:22:34


I appreciate your concern. Everything is perfectly fine. My apologies for any inconvenience my departure may have caused you.

I'll see you Monday.

- BF

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 01:31:24

Maybe you didn't notice, but I didn't ask how "everything" was.

Inconvenience my ass. I'm just worried I said something to upset you?

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 01:45:52

Fraser? Did you get my last email?

I'd call, but I'd wake the whole Consulate. Plus probably nothing's wrong, maybe you shut off your computer and went to sleep, but for some reason I'm thinking that's not it.

Are you okay?

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:01:03

Maybe my Kowalski account isn't working right. I'll use this one. I'm supposed to anyway, it's just a pain in the ass to get into it from home.

Are you getting my messages? What is going on? Are you okay?

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:10:42

Okay, I'm coming over there to check on you.

Date: 13 June, 1998
Time: 02:11:07

Ray, please, don't. I appreciate your concern, but your coming here would be counterproductive.

- BF

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:12:33

Ha! I knew you were awake.

Fraser, seriously. Tell me what it is. I don't know what's freaking you out, but it's bound to look worse because you're alone. Believe me, I know all about the two-in-the-morning-alone screaming meemies. Please? It's not like you to act like this.

- R

Date: 13 June, 1998
Time: 02:15:02

> Please? It's not like you to act like this.

That's the second time you've said as much, Ray, and that's precisely my concern: I'm not convinced you know what you're talking about. How do you know what's "like me"? What if you're wrong? What if I'm crazy, or completely different from the person you think you know?

It isn't that simple.

- BF

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:20:01

You're not crazy. Not in the bad way, anyway. Trust me on that.

And think about who you're talking to. If anybody in the world knows what it's like to be one guy on the outside, another guy on the inside, that would be me.

Besides. Maybe I'm more than you know about, too. Being Vecchio and Kowalski ain't the half of it.

Now I sound like one of those Russian doll thingies. (Bet that made you laugh. See? I know you better than you think.)

So what's inside the shell?

- R

Date: 13 June, 1998
Time: 02:26:02

They're called Matryoshka dolls. And yes, you did make me chuckle. Thank you.

Regarding my own shell...

What would you say if I told you my inclinations may not lie along the axis you've undoubtedly assumed? That what sent me from your apartment was your query about whether I imagined myself marrying? No doubt you've heard about my unhappy liaison with Victoria Metcalfe, but I never had time to fantasize a life with her. Our time together was too short, and too whirlwind; to this day I cannot imagine achieving the kind of easy, familiar comfort with her that a marriage would require. Would, indeed, depend on.

The answer to your question, however belated, is a kind of yes. I have imagined, from time to time, sharing my path with someone in committed companionship. But I doubt that marriage will ever be a possibility for me.

Am I being too oblique?

- BF

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:29:04

> What would you say if I told you my inclinations may not lie along the axis you've undoubtedly assumed?

Me too.

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:29:47

> Am I being too oblique?

Not unless I'm reading you wrong, in which case I'm going to feel pretty stupid.

- R

Date: 13 June, 1998
Time: 02:34:20

>> What would you say if I told you my inclinations may not lie along the axis you've undoubtedly assumed?

> Me too.

Ray, what are you saying?

Perhaps I should volley your question back to you. Have you ever imagined yourself marrying again?

- BF

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:41:46

> Have you ever imagined yourself marrying again?


> Ray, what are you saying?

You go for blonds?

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:50:04

Damn it, Fraser, now is not the time to get cagey. I just laid everything on the line. If I misunderstood, or I'm not your type, fine, but you gotta say so.

Like, now. Before I have a coronary.

- R

Date: June 13, 1998
Time: 02:54:47

Damn it. How did I fuck this up?

I thought I had you figured out. I thought I knew what you were saying. I thought you couldn't say it, you needed me to push a little.

You're not answering your email. So I'm guessing I thought wrong.

Fraser, I'm so sorry. Please write back.

- R

Date: 15 June, 1998
Time: 09:03:37

Dear Ray,

I just checked email again and, of course, found your queue of unanswered messages. Again, my sincerest apologies for leaving you hanging.

I would have assuaged your fears sooner, but even in this unsleeping city it takes some time to track down a taxicab at that hour, and of course there was the travel time to your apartment. You know this already, but it seemed only proper to reply to your e-mail in kind.

Your suggestion that the travel time could be effectively erased were I to make a habit of staying over is an intriguing one. Perhaps we should try it, to ensure the arrangement is mutually satisfactory?

As you say, practice can only make perfect.

Though, truth be told, I thought the weekend was quite close, even without the practice. Yet.


- BF

(1073 words)


Dad wants him to go to college. "You don't want to wind up at this godforsaken plant. You wanna know what it's like, try working one day here, one goddamned day, see how you feel about skipping school then, huh?" He hears it every time his dad has too much to drink.

He doesn't want to wind up packing meat like his old man. No question there. Come home stinking of blood: thanks but no thanks.

But college doesn't sound right either. Stell's already studying for the SATs, talking about someday even law school, but it just seems like a lot of work to Ray, and for what? He just wants to make enough to support her. They won't live like she's used to, they both know that, but if he can swing a decent job for a few months he can save up for a down payment on someplace. He can save up for a real ring.

Tommy thinks he's nuts. Not for bailing on college; none of their other friends are planning on that either. Like any of them would fit in to those pictures Ray sees on the posters outside the college counselor's door: all those rich preppy fucks sitting on gleaming lawns with their schoolbooks. Whatever.

Nah, Tommy thinks he's nuts for wanting to get married. He's never been with anybody else, he might be making a mistake. Tommy says it all the time, like he thinks Ray's missing out or something.

Today they're in Tommy's bedroom with a towel stuffed under the door, listening to the Clash and splitting an enormous joint, and Tommy brings it up again.

"Would you fucking shut up about my girlfriend?" Ray's trying to sound tough, but they're both too high to take him seriously. Tommy's stifled laugh pisses him off, and he needles back. "It's not like you've been with every girl in town, either."

"I'm not talking about chicks, man."

Ray feels his forehead scrunching with concentration. Is he that stoned already? "Then what are we talking about?"

Tommy takes a long drag of the joint before answering. "Stella goes down on you, right?"

"None of your business." Automatic.

Tommy ignores him. "You ever thought about the fact she don't have a dick?"

What the fuck is he talking about?

"She don't know what it feels like, is what I'm saying. She's sucking you off, but she doesn't *know*. She's gotta guess what feels good, what really gets you going."

The room is starting to seem uncomfortably warm. The windows are all closed, to keep anyone from smelling their smoke. Ray contemplates taking off his leather jacket. "What's your point?"

Tommy hands him the roach. He's just taken a hit when Tommy says, "That's why guys give the best head." Ray chokes, hard, and then he's sitting up, Tommy hitting him on the back.

"You okay?"

Ray nods, eyes still watering. He's not sure what to say, so he doesn't answer. The choking is kind of handy that way, actually.

There's a lull. Ray stubs out the end of the joint in the pop can that passes for an ashtray. The record finishes a side, but nobody moves to change it.

Ray leans back on the beanbag and closes his eyes. Maybe dozes off for a second or two. When he opens them again, Tommy's propped up on one elbow, staring at him.

Ray remembers what they were just talking about. A weird chill runs up his spine and he's glad he kept his jacket on.

He clears his throat. "Almost dinnertime. I better head out, walk this off before I hafta go home."

"Cool." Tommy sounds normal, for a guy who maybe just propositioned him. Or did he read that wrong? "Hey, you wanna skip out early again on Friday?"

Ray is lacing up his boots, which takes a lot of concentration. "Nah -- I better not. If I'm gonna apply to the police academy, I should probably stop smoking up. I think they drug-test you."

Tommy's looking right at him, through the shaggy black hair that's falling in his face a little, and for a second Ray thinks he's going to call him on it. Call him a coward, maybe. Like there's some other reason he's not going to spend his afternoons in Tommy's bedroom anymore.

But Tommy just shrugs. "Suit yourself."

Ray lets himself out, glad not to run into Mrs. Luczynski on his way out the door. Feels good to be out walking, away from the stuffy second-floor bedroom. The police thing is starting to sound like a better and better idea. Catching bad guys: that's a cool thing to do with your life, right? He doesn't want to think about where that desire started, so he doesn't.

There's a lot of desires he doesn't want to think about, actually.

He thinks about Stella instead. Betcha she'll like the police idea. It's respectable enough to have a decent paycheck, tough enough to be cool.

He tells himself he's thinking about Stella, the whole long walk home.

(842 words)


I woke up three days before Christmas in a pit, and I couldn't see my way out. Stella was happy with what's-his-fuck: even an idiot could see that. I didn't want to spend the weekend with my parents, who obviously thought I was a pathetic loser. Hell, I thought I was a pathetic loser, too. So I got myself hammered.

Fraser came by to bring me a gift, which turned out to be fancy coffee he bought at a kiosk at the mall because he finally figured out I wasn't interested in moose-fat liniment or homemade pemmican or whatever, and found me slumped on the couch in the dark.

"Ray? Are you all right?" He turned on a lamp and I winced.

"'M fine. Been thinking." If I stuck with easy words, I wasn't slurring. Much.


I closed my eyes, which helped with the whole bright-light thing. "Why I'm spending Christmas alone. Again. Why Stella left me. Why I'll never be able to get her back, and it's pitiful that I even keep trying. Why I'll be alone for the rest of my entire goddamned life, because I'm putting out vibes of loser-dom, and no one wants to sleep with a loser."

He sat beside me on the couch. "You're overstating the situation. I'm sure a lot of people want to date you."

And, drunk idiot that I was, I blurted out, "You don't, so who cares?"

Next thing I knew he was manhandling me upright and yanking my clothes off, which got me panicked and hard as a rock at the same time. I tried to put my arms around him, but he kept me firmly at arms-length -- he's stronger than he looks -- and steered me into the shower. Which was, thank God, not on cold, although I still yelped.

An hour later, wrapped in a robe with my hair standing on end six different ways, having eaten half a package of Fig Newtons and worked my way through four glasses of water (on his demand) and a cup and a half of my new coffee (on mine), I finally got up the nerve to ask what the hell was going on.

He took a deep breath. "You're a very attractive man, Ray." All earnest. "Not to mention loyal, and funny, and far smarter than you seem to give yourself credit for. Self-deprecation doesn't suit you. Your romantic prospects are far richer than you seem to think."

And when he'd finished that little speech, he stopped.

"You needed to sober me up to tell me that?" It was kind of sweet, admittedly, but I was starting to feel like a yo-yo. Nobody wants me...wait, he might want me!, he's putting me in the shower...maybe he doesn't want me afterall...but he thinks somebody else might want me...what the fuck?

"I needed to sober you up to make sure you know that you have options," he corrected. "I don't want to be Hobson's choice."

Now I was really confused. "Who's Hobson?"

He smiled, like he couldn't help himself. "No, it's -- what I mean is, I don't want you to choose me out of the misguided sense that you have no alternatives."

My head was spinning, and not from the drink. "But you'd be okay with being chosen?"

"Well, in a manner of speaking, as long as you're sure--"

And that was when it hit me. I'd been holding back 'cause I've been burned more times than I can count. Most of them since Stella moved out, because I'm the kind of asshole who can't let go of something good even when it's not good anymore. Plus I'd never actually hit on a guy: I'd been hit on, but I wasn't sure how to start things, and I figured with my luck he'd be offended because I'd come across as impolite.

Fraser'd been holding back because he was trying to be gentlemanly. It was a ladies-first kind of thing, only I'm about as far from ladylike as a guy with my build can be, so I guess he's just used to putting himself second. It's a sure-fire way of making sure you're seeing to everybody else's needs. Except when those needs include you, by which I mean Fraser, making a goddamned move.

Which neither of us was going to do, because we were trying to be so fucking courteous. We were like a pair of doormen, waving to get the other guy to go through first. 'No, you first, I insist.' 'No, please, be my guest.'

Before he could finish his sentence, I was laughing. So hard I almost doubled over.

"Ray?" He sounded concerned now, like he thought I'd really snapped.

After a few minutes I managed to sit straight, and wipe my eyes, and smile at him. *Really* smile at him. I could see some of the tension draining out of him, the line of his body changing, even though he didn't know what I was smiling about yet.

I stood up, and held out a hand to him, and tried to phrase it as politely as I possibly could. "Fraser, do you think you might be able to spend Christmas with me, and maybe New Year's--" he was standing now, hand in mine, face starting to light up "--and maybe even take some vacation days so we can spend some time learning how to properly fuck each other through the floor?"

Just before his mouth met mine, he grazed the side of my face with his lips and murmured, in a low voice that set every hair on my body standing up in pure excitement, "Why, Ray, I thought you'd never ask."

(950 words)


Ray liked it hard and fast.

Sure, he enjoyed a nice romantic fuck as much as the next guy, now and then. And God knows he was used to being the c'mon-baby-just-do-me member of a pair: he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Stella had asked him to lay off the foreplay and just do it already.

Not that he was particularly interested in counting anything involving Stella at this precise moment.

Not lying on his back, fists clenched in the snarl of sheets, knees bent and legs open wide, with Benton Fraser working his way, impossibly slowly, up Ray's body with his lips and tongue.

He was going to die of waiting. "Fraser, c'mon." He knew he was on the verge of sounding whiny, but he didn't care.

As if in response, Fraser paused and sucked hard at a spot on his inner thigh. It hurt, a little, and almost tickled, but the heat of his tongue was also maddening. In a good way. Even if it was driving Ray bugfuck crazy.

"C'mon, you gotta--"

Fraser pulled back and looked at the spot he'd just been sucking. There had to be a hickey there the color of his uniform, for Christ's sake. Fraser smiled at it and moved to paint Ray's other inner thigh with tiny strokes of his tongue. Ray groaned.

"You're killing me, here." His erection was practically pointing straight up, like the kid in the front row waving his arm going *pick me, pick me!*

After another eternity of squirm-inducing waiting, Fraser lifted his head again. "Now, Ray," he began, and Ray knew what he was going to say, but the predictable words were roughened and sweetened by the low, aroused breathiness of his tone. "It only takes a moment--"

"Fuck courtesy."

Fraser looked up his body and Ray felt himself preening, a little. It seemed to be working, even if he wasn't exactly going to pull off 'relaxed and sultry' with his face flushed and his heartbeat going a million miles a minute: Fraser licked his lips and took a long slow breath. That was Fraser body-talk for 'you've just about convinced me.' Almost there. Thank fucking God.

Fraser planted his hands on either side of Ray's hips and bent his head as though to swallow him whole. Ray flung an arm over his eyes, wanting somehow to block out everything but Fraser's mouth. He was taking a deep breath in anticipation when Fraser breathed four final words over his straining cock.

"What's the magic word?"

His "please" turned into a long, shuddery moan as he spilled into his partner's mouth. Fraser crawled back up the bed and flopped beside him. Beneath Ray's forearm he had a line of sight to Fraser's erection, which was stirring hopefully.

Ray grinned at the ceiling. His turn, now.

His turn to make Fraser say "please." In as many different languages as he knew how...

(494 words)

Canoe Conversations

They'd paddled pretty far, waves lapping at the taut green metal and the sounds of the street receding, when Fraser stopped and held his oar across his knees. Ray stopped, too, mirroring him.

Quickly, and surprisingly gracefully, Fraser turned on the bench seat to face him.

"So," he said.

"So." Ray felt like a weird echo.

"This seems a suitable distance."


"For whatever you wanted to talk to me about." As if it were obvious that Ray wanted to talk.

Which maybe, come to think of it, it was. Ray fumbled for the way to start.

"You just seemed...homesick," he hazarded, after a while. "I figured maybe this," gesturing at the water and the gulls, "would cheer you up."

Fraser's smile was real; it reached all the way to his eyes. Ray felt his heart do a little dance, and ignored it.

"Ray, I...thank you. Kindly."

There was a 'but' coming, he could feel it. Damn: had he done something wrong?

"But there's nothing like this where I come from." Fraser's voice was earnest. "To be able to be on water like this, but surrounded by one of the great cities of the continent...? It's a marvel, really."

"Huh." Had a point there, actually.

"And I've grown quite fond of Chicago. Not to say, of course, that I don't miss home; but the city has its own particular delights."

Diefenbaker, lying on the bottom of the canoe with his head pillowed on a paw, barked once as if in response.

"That's absolutely not what I mean, and you know it."

Was Fraser's face a little pink? Ray decided to ignore it. "I'm glad you're not homesick," he offered. "You've seemed kinda sad lately."

Fraser took a deep breath. "I've been missing Ray Vecchio."

"Oh." There was a long pause. Like Fraser was holding something back. Maybe Ray wasn't imagining things. "You two were close," he said slowly.


"More than just partners." Mentally crossing his fingers, hoping he hadn't just stepped over some kind of line...

"Well, Ray, one feels a sense of bereavement when sundered from a longtime work companion," Fraser started, then cut himself off. He turned to look over his shoulder, apparently at the sparkle of sunlight on the water, and muttered something that sounded oddly like "Leave us *alone*," which Ray also chose to ignore when Fraser turned back and said, "but yes, we were more than partners."

Water lapped at the sides of the boat again. Diefenbaker let out a long, slow huff of breath and closed his eyes. Ray tried to figure out how to answer.

"Were you still..." he made a vague gesture which he wasn't really sure what it was supposed to look like, "when he went to do the mob thing?"

"Oh! No, no. We had ended that phase of our relationship some time before his departure." Fraser rubbed at an eyebrow. "Sometimes, even when you love each other, you just can't make that kind of thing work."

Ray thought, for a fleeting instant, of Stella packing her suitcase and walking out. "Don't I know it."

The air smelled like lakewater and a little bit like gasoline from one of the huge boats going by, maybe a hundred yards away.

"So whose idea was it to split up?"

"The decision was mutual, but it was Ray who first broached the subject of what wasn't working."

"Jeez, if I was him," Ray started, then caught himself. Way to let the mouth get ahead of the brain, he thought, disgusted. He looked down at his feet, at the bottom of the canoe, at the wolf.


"I wouldn't'a done that." Determined to finish the sentence, no matter how red his face got. Which was probably pretty red by now.

If Fraser noticed the blush, he didn't say. "I'm not an easy man to be with."

Ray snorted. "Like I don't know that?"

Diefenbaker gave a short half-howl, as if in agreement.

"Oh, you shut up," Fraser snapped.

Ray hid the temptation to snicker. What the hell: in for a penny, in for a pound. "I'm just saying, I wouldn't throw you out of bed for eating crackers."

Fraser cocked his head slightly and seemed to be appraising him. "Nor would I, you, Ray."

Holy shit. Was that just Canadian politeness, like saying "no, it is a greater pleasure for me," or did Fraser actually mean that? Ray's heart was suddenly rocking and tipping far more wildly than their craft.

"Ray, you're not wearing sunscreen."

Another left-turn into Fraserland. "No, Fraser, actually I'm not."

Fraser made a tsk'ing sound. "You're going to burn. Your face is quite pink."

That's from me thinking of what I might be eating in your bed instead of crackers...

This time Ray had the sense not to open his mouth until the thought had passed.

"Here, take this," Fraser said, briskly. Handing his Stetson over the sleeping wolf, into Ray's hand.

"I'm fine, Fraser, I--"

"We should head back. I'd hate to see anything happen to your skin." Fraser turned back around and had his paddle in the water before Ray could tell whether that was flirting or not.

Sure as fuck felt like flirting. How about that.

He put the hat on. It was slightly too large for his head, and it smelled like Fraser.

It made him smile the whole way back to shore.

(899 words)


A trip with Fraser: greatness. Happier than I'd ever been, except early on with Stella. No, this was better, or maybe I just valued it more. Divorced guys know loneliness, and how lucky we are when someone eases it.

A trip with Fraser: terrifying. I'd spent all this time hiding my crush, and now we were going to be alone together for God-knew-how-long. Sharing a very small space. Huddling our sleeping bags together for warmth. Hot fodder for my fantasy life, sure, but it left ice in my stomach when I thought about how badly it could backfire if Fraser figured me out.

Turned out hiding it wasn't a problem, at first. I had a lot to learn: when to put booties on the dogs, how to keep the harnesses untangled, how to tell snowblink from the reflection of an open lead. Plus it was fucking cold, which meant we were seriously bundled. We may have pressed together, but we were too wrapped-up to feel it...and by the time we made camp each night I was too tired to fantasize. Body-tired. A good tired.

That stopped when summer hit. Arctic mosquitos are brutal. When the snow melts, it only drains so far -- that's thanks to the permafrost -- and the tundra's dotted with little lakes. Pretty, except they're all stagnant bug-breeding pools. About a week into the season, we looked at each others' pockmarked faces and hands and agreed it was time for a vacation.

"I'd forgotten how bad they are," Fraser said, reaching up to scratch a bite above one eyebrow but aborting the move midway through. "We'd be better off on the coast somewhere."

The slim margin between land and sea ice where we were camped didn't count: we needed real ocean. We went south a ways, and west.

Alaska was shocking, loud and crowded. The sheer number of RVs on the road was overwhelming. So was the greenery: even the bottle-brush spruce of the boreal forest (I was learning, I could sling the lingo good as he could) were weirdly dark and vivid after so much time in pale tundra and ice.

Which might explain how I tripped over my own feet when we were hiking a glacial streambed. Too busy looking at the goddamned trees. Turned an ankle in the silt, and landed hard on a rock. I made it back to the tent, but putting weight on my foot hurt, so I was slow. Fraser went to pull dinner together; I eased my pants off the hip, and almost yelled when I saw the color of the bruise. Like a birthmark, eight shades of red and purple, and tender to the touch.

We ate just outside the tent. Fraser bagged our foodstuffs and hoisted them into a tree; I limped back in and lay down again.

Even that far south, night didn't really "fall," but after a while Fraser came in to read. It was hotter than we'd gotten used to, and I was sweating. Fraser stripped down to undershirt and shorts, and suddenly I was sweating for a whole other reason. I wanted to roll away, read my book facing the blue wall of the tent, but even inching in that direction made my hip flare up. No salvation there.

So I closed my eyes, figured I'd try to sleep. Trying to keep visions of Fraser from filling my head.

Visions of Fraser practically naked. Right next to me. Shifting atop his sleeping bag. I gritted my teeth.

And practically jumped out of my skin when he spoke right in my ear.

"Ray? Are you in pain?"

I opened my eyes. Yep: braced on one elbow, maybe eight inches away from me, looking as mind-blowingly sexy as ever. "A little." Better to admit the pain than to play like nothing was wrong; he'd want to know why I was acting funny, and I sure as hell didn't want him to notice that my pupils were dilated, my heartrate was elevated, and my dick was begging to point right in his direction.

"Here, sit up," he said, and I obeyed. "You're too warm." And before I could argue he was tugging my shirt off. Jesus: I could feel my nipples getting hard. Before he could get too close I said "thanks" and scooted away.

The scooting hurt, though. Which he noticed. "Wait, you'll be more comfortable--" He reached over me and untangled my sleeping bag, moving me back towards the center of the tent. I held my breath and prayed he wouldn't notice.

I picked up my book again and tried to ignore him.

"I wish I could...alleviate your pain." His voice seemed to have gotten lower.

I exhaled and read the same sentence for the fourth time, willing my erection to subside.

"I could take your mind off..." He seemed to stop himself. "Well, I don't know if you'd be interested. Chances are you wouldn't, really."

I put the book down. "What, you got some North Country remedy for sprained ankles and bruises? Liniment again?" I was trying to get us on what felt like safer ground. Teasing him was familiar territory.

"Liniment could be involved, yes, though with your injury I'm not sure I'd try anything that ambitious."

You have a dirty mind, Kowalski, I told myself. He sure as hell isn't thinking what you're thinking.

Probably whatever he was thinking would be completely unsexy. And it would help me stop obsessing about how badly I wanted to touch him. "Hey, I'm game. Lay it on me."

Bad phrasing. Shit. My face heated up. If he didn't know what I'd been thinking, he probably knew it now.

Fraser knelt up, seeming to fill the tent. He shifted, and climbed over me so his knees were on either side of my thighs, careful not to jostle my bruise. I think I'd stopped breathing, so dazzled by the sight of him. In that instant I think I would have risked my night's lodging, our trip, even our friendship to be able to grind up against him and feel his cock swelling next to mine.

And then his arms were bracketing my head, and he was lowering himself like a cadet doing pushups girl-style, until his mouth met mine.

(1045 words)

Morning After

This was not the way good days started: Ray couldn't see.

And his bed felt all wrong. He was fully dressed (why was he fully dressed?) He was way too hot, and the mattress was too solid, and he couldn't feel his right arm, and his eyes weren't working.

"What the--?" He tried sitting up, but the motion made his head spin. His mouth felt furry. Maybe he was dying.

Then the wool blanket slipped askew and the brightness made him blink, hard, and then the weight on his arm lifted.

It was Fraser. Hair mussed from sleep, face patchy and pink from the pressure of the pillow, wearing some kind of red longjohns.

They were on his cot, at the Consulate. Diefenbaker was blocking (guarding?) the door, watching them in the blinding late-morning sun.

Ray blinked. Carefully lay his head back down. And closed his eyes again.

Obviously he was still drunk and was hallucinating.

He tugged the scratchy blanket back over his face. Ahhh: darkness. That was better.

But now his hallucination was tapping him on the shoulder.


Muffled by the blanket, but unquestionably Fraser.


Ray gritted his teeth. He was asleep. He was making this all up.

There was a pause.

"Ray, we should talk."

Like hell they should. His stomach was curdling with the sick realization that this wasn't a dream: that he'd apparently gotten hammered, driven over here, and forced himself into bed with his straight-as-possible partner. Oh, God. What else had he done?

"No." That sounded definite, right?

"Ray, reasonable. Please." Coaxing, now, like he was talking to the wolf.

"Leave me alone." Let me lie here and try to remember what stupid-ass things I said and did so I can beat myself up for them before you get the chance.

He felt Fraser moving, contorting himself to get out from under the blanket and out of the cot without dislodging him. He didn't hear footsteps, though, which meant Fraser was still standing right there. Damn it.

"You don't want to talk to me." A note of surprise.

"Finally he gets it." Sarcasm: the last refuge of the...sarcastic.

There was a pause. "I take it you didn't mean the...things you said, then." Fraser sounded deflated. "I suppose I should have anticipated that."

Ray could hear him moving around the room. Cloth rustled.

"I was tempted at the time, of course, but my better instincts indicated we should wait until the light of day."

He didn't sound angry. He sounded...sad.

Wait a second: tempted?



Ray sat up and flung the blanket down, squinting. Fraser was standing as far away from him as was possible, wearing a pair of jeans and nothing else, clutching his dopkit. Despite the hangover, despite the headache, despite the horrifying fear that he'd ruined everything Ray couldn't keep his heart from doing flip-flops at the sight. Fraser looked so...beautiful.

He looked afraid.

Ray took a breath. "I don't remember anything."

Fraser's brow furrowed; he set the dopkit down. His shoulders went back, as though he were on duty. "Do you know who you are? Do you recall a blow to the head?"

"Fraser, no, Christ, it's not amnesia." Ray ran a hand over his hair, which was sticky and gross. "I mean I don't remember anything from last night."

"Ah." Fraser re-crossed the room, sitting gingerly near Ray's feet.

Might as well start with the obvious. "I got drunk?"

"Indeed. You showed up here shortly after one a.m., smelling rather strongly of whisky, insisting you needed to speak with me. Fortunately, Constable Turnbull and I were awake watching curling reruns; he heard you on the steps and let you in."

Ray groaned and buried his face in his hands. "The Ice Queen...?"

"Has no idea you're here."

"Thank God."

"Please; give us some credit." A bit sharper, but at least he didn't sound angry. Yet.

Another pause. Ray's stomach did more somersaults.

"In any event, you...professed certain feelings. For me."

A longer pause. Apparently it was his turn. He dropped his hands and looked at Fraser. Helplessly.

"Did you mean what you said?"

"I don't know what I said!" This was ridiculous. His head hurt and his mouth tasted like a mouse had slept in it. "If it was something like, ' I wish you weren't straight, I think I'm in love with you,' then yeah, I meant it. If it was 'I've probably ruined our friendship now and I hate myself for it,' I meant that too." He scrubbed a palm over one side of his face. "Throw me a rope, here, Fraser, I'm..." He flailed. "Lost. Drowning."

"No, Ray. You're not."

Fraser looked solemn, but still not angry.

"You're on terra firma."

That sounded okay.

"You're with me."

That definitely sounded okay. Better than okay. Fraser was smiling now, a smile Ray had never exactly seen before, and it curled his toes. "You were really tempted?" Stupidly, dazzled, as Fraser's body approached his.

"More than you can imagine."

Ray was grinning like an idiot, eyes closed, but instead of the kiss he expected he got a light brush of Fraser's lips to his forehead, and then the warm body pulled away.


The dopkit was thrust into his lap. "The bathroom's down the hall."

Translation: I'm not kissing you until you taste a whole lot mintier. Ray chuckled. "You got a spare toothbrush?"

"Avail yourself of mine."

The offer made Ray tingle. Like it meant a lot more than the words. Like it meant 'I love you too.'

Just as soon as he got himself clean, they were going out for breakfast: coffee and something greasy, the best hangover cure there is. And then they were going to spend the rest of the weekend exploring just what Fraser was so tempted to do.

Despite the hangover, Ray danced his way down the hall.

It was going to be a good day afterall.

(990 words)

The Present

Ray figures he wears boxers. Probably plain cotton ones, white or navy or grey, unadorned and unassuming. Probably they've been washed so many times they're a little limp and clingy, won't hold their starch like they used to.

Nah: probably even Fraser doesn't starch his underwear. Everything on the outside, yes. But underneath, there's got to be something he's not ironing. Maybe because he figures nobody's ever gonna see it.

Frannie, now, she'd like to see it. That's obvious to anyone with half a brain. Probably obvious to Fraser, too, but he plays like he doesn't notice 'cause he can't figure out how to let her down easy. At least, that's what Ray likes to think.

Ray likes to think Fraser might go for somebody else, if the situation were right. Somebody else named Vecchio, at least for now.

He's dropped a few hints, here and there, but Fraser doesn't seem to pick them up. So maybe it's not gonna happen, after all. S'okay: he can always lie around and imagine. What Fraser wears under that uniform. What Fraser might be like if Ray could ever, slowly, one piece at a time, take the uniform off.

At the office Christmas party Frannie gives him socks. Which, okay, not all that exciting, but what did he expect? He got her chocolates in a fancy box from the drugstore, which isn't exactly a high-class gift that a lot of thought went into.

She gives Fraser underwear. Silk underwear. Red and green silk boxers with little dancing elves and wreaths of mistletoe on 'em. His face goes a little red, and he thanks her kindly, and she makes some innuendo-laden comment that everybody ignores, and the party moves on.

The next day, kicking back at Ray's apartment, Fraser asks him about it. "Is it considered...normal to give coworkers underwear here, Ray?"

"Not exactly." Not unless you want to get into their pants, he thinks, but doesn't say.

"Hm." There's a pause, while Fraser sips his hot chocolate and Diefenbaker gnaws happily on the enormous rawhide bone Ray found at the pet specialty store.

"I might regard them as a courtship gift," Fraser says cautiously, "if their motif weren't so...whimsical."

"That's one way to put it. I might say 'butt-ugly,' but 'whimsical' works too."

"Ray!" Scandalized and amused at the same time.

"What? It's true!"

"I suppose it is," Fraser concedes. "It was good of her to think of me, but they're not exactly"

The word sounds strange in his mouth, but Ray figures he knows what Fraser means. He bites back stray thoughts about what underwear might be Fraser's style, what underwear Fraser might actually be wearing. "Yeah, wouldn't have picked you for a dancing-elves man, myself."

"My tastes run a bit more towards the, ah," Fraser takes a deep breath, "the masculine."

The words sound labored, which for a second makes Ray wonder what's so hard about saying them (maybe Fraser isn't used to talking about his underwear? with another guy, no less?), but he glances at Fraser and suddenly it hits him: Fraser's flirting. With him. Right now.

Excitement prickles every hair on his body to stand straight up. Ray takes a deep breath himself. Two can play at this game, right?

"Masculine, huh? Like silk boxers in some nice designer plaid, or like...something a little wilder, with a little punk to it?" Mentally crosses his fingers that he's reading Fraser right, and, more, that Fraser hears what he's really asking.

Fraser downs the end of his cocoa and sets the mug down on the endtable, reaching over Ray to do so, and Ray catches an intoxicating breath of soap and aftershave that aren't his own. "Something a little 'punk' might be just the thing, though I'm given to understand silk also has its benefits."

Now there's an image: Fraser in silk. Fraser wearing nothing but silk. Fraser's dick tenting a pair of silk boxers, just begging to be stroked through the fabric. Ray swallows and tries to ignore the arousal spiking through his body.

"I'm a boxer-briefs guy myself, but you could probably convince me." Voice a little gritty.

"I'd like to hope you wouldn't need too much convincing."

Ray is so hard he's not sure he can keep the thread of the conversation going much longer.

"You've got chocolate on your mouth," he says, stupidly, aware that it's a non sequitur but unable to tear his gaze away from the smudge of cocoa at the corner of Fraser's lips.

And then they are kissing, Fraser's tongue sliding into his mouth, Fraser's body mind-blowingly solid against his own. Ray's last non-sex-related thought is 'I'd better thank Frannie for that underwear,' and then his hand glides beneath Fraser's waistband and Ray doesn't think about anything else except being horny and happy and having Benton Fraser, hallelujah, hot and eager in his hands.

(812 words)


"Yo. I'm Ray Vecchio."

Ray took another deep breath and retracted his hand and then offered it again, firmly, to the mirror. "I'm Ray Vecchio." Vecchio. The rhythm was all wrong, after a lifetime of saying Kowalski.

"Nice to meetcha. I'm Ray Vecchio."

He narrowed his eyes at his reflection.

"What: you never seen a blond Italian before?" He smirked at himself. "Runs in the family. It's a rescuscitative gene."

Ray turned around and went back to the couch and tipped back another long slug of coffee. He flipped the binder open and scanned the top page again, then flipped it shut.

"I'm one of three kids. I got two sisters."

He looked over at the turtle. The turtle didn't say anything.

"I was raised Catholic. I was probably an altar boy. Jesus Christ," muttering to himself, "that's gotta be the only thing we have in common."

The binder was lying on the couch next to him. Was it his imagination, or had it grown thicker? So much crap to memorize.

"I'm not married anymore."

Suddenly this wasn't so much fun anymore. He wished like hell that line was a lie.

His skin itched. Ever since Stella kicked him out, he'd been wanting to get inked again. She'd used to think his tattoo was sexy, but the last year or two she'd kept telling him to cover it up, not to go out in wifebeaters anymore.

Christ, he wanted a new one. Something to hurt a little, to make him feel like he was still in his skin. Instead he was shedding it. Or covering it over, anyway. With somebody else

Ray flipped the binder open again and looked at the photo. No way was he wearing those clothes. Screw that shit: he was sticking with jeans.

"Angie and I split. We're on good terms, though." He took a deep breath. "Time heals all wounds, right?"

He wasn't sure if that was true or not. Ask again in three years, pal.

"Tomorrow I meet Constable Benton Fraser." The Mountie.

He had the story on how the Mountie got to Chicago, more or less, but there had to be something people weren't telling him. What exactly kind of best friends *were* they? All Frannie and Elaine would say was that the guy was "dreamy," which was not exactly helpful.

"I have no fucking idea what I'm getting myself into."

That was true enough. Ray wondered whether Vecchio would ever admit something like that out loud. He wondered whether he would, if there was anybody there besides the turtle to hear him.

His coffee cup was empty. Ray got up again, paced the apartment, wound up in front of the bathroom mirror again. The fluorescent lights were not flattering: there were bags under his eyes. It was almost two a.m. He needed some sleep.

He thought again about the photograph of the Mountie. About the names of everyone in the Vecchio family (he was pretty sure he had the family tree by heart). He looked himself in the sleepy eye.

"I can do this."

His reflection didn't look convinced.

"In fact, it gives me something to think about besides my ex." Saying the words still hurt, but was it his imagination that they were starting to sting a little less? "It might be kind of fun."

'Sure, Kowalski,' he thought. 'You just keep telling yourself that.' Ray yawned.

Ray brushed his teeth, yanked his clothes off and into a heap on the floor, and crawled into bed. He checked the alarm again. Tomorrow was a big day.

"I'm Ray Vecchio," he said again, aloud, to his dark bedroom.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, after all.

(614 words)

O Stay Me

The first time Ray put his mouth on my erection, I very nearly came apart at the seams. I had experienced his unzipping of my trousers merely as relief, imputing no immediate ulterior motive beyond making me, and by extension us, more comfortable for what I had assumed would be another evening of what Ray charmingly calls "necking."

I sensed the couch shifting with his weight, but my eyes were screwed shut (as though to watch him touch me were to risk the entire experience going up in smoke) and I was not expecting his boldness. Was not expecting the way his mouth would feel, surely hotter than normal (was he feverish, or was I, now that his tongue was working its way towards my scrotum and setting me alight?)

Though my mind ran John Wilbye's lyric, which suddenly seemed not veiled in innuendo but blazingly, blindingly clear. I fall, I fall, O stay me/ dear love, with joys ye slay me...

It was the faint scrape of his barely-stubbled jaw against my thigh which made the dreamlike haze feel real, which sent me so precipitously close to the edge. In embarrassingly short order I was clutching at the edges of the couch, legs as akimbo as my partially-dressed state would allow, trying to draw enough breath to moan. When his hands snaked somehow in to my pants, to rub along my testicles applying pressure in places I never knew were capable of erotic sensation, I tried desperately to think of something else, anything else, to bring me back from incipient climax. My breath was shallow, almost gasping, and when Ray pulled his mouth away I couldn't help the distressed sound that escaped my lips, mortifyingly like a whimper.

"I've wanted to do this since day one," Ray murmured, his mouth so close that I felt his words as puffs of breath on my wet and straining erection.

His broad, capable hands continued their manipulation and I bit my lip, hard, to keep from begging. of life your lips deprive me/ sweet, let your lips revive me...

"And now I can't decide whether I'd rather make you come in my mouth, or with my hands so I can watch it happen."

"Ray..." Was that my voice, almost a whine? I was greedy, pinned between the conflicting desires to listen to him talk about what he wanted to do with me and to feel him performing the acts he described.

He bent and licked, slow and insistent, at the base of my penis. I choked back a groan, ashamed of these animal sounds, of how quickly and easily he had rent my control.

"Such a pretty cock." As if observing to himself, though surely he had to note how the organ in question twitched in his hands at the praise he bestowed. One hand moved to stroke along my length, up and back. Desire was weakening my entire body, pooling in my limbs and my chest like mercury.

Suddenly my erection was left quivering in open air. I pushed myself up on one elbow and opened my eyes, half-panicked, to the sight of Ray -- my lover; what a thrilling word -- kneeling up between my open thighs, surveying his handiwork. His hair was mussed, his shirt un-tucked and half-unbuttoned and wrinkled. He was quite possibly the sexiest thing I had ever seen. I wondered whether I would ever find myself able to speak of these things as apparently easily as he could, whether I would ever be able to tell him that.

When he spoke again, his voice was gentle. "What're you thinking?"

The begging words of the madrigal's close cycled furiously around my head. Instead I managed to marshal a few words of contemporary speech. "Please. Don't stop."

I would have winced at my own cliche, but Ray didn't seem to mind the phrasing: he took my plea to heart. The renewed heat of his mouth and motion of his fingers wrung my climax from me.

When my bones had re-knit themselves, I vowed silently, I would return the favour. As soon as I could move. Already my mouth tingled in anticipation. It would be my turn, then, to make him fall.

(708 words)

Note: Obviously, Fraser strikes me as the kind of guy who'd be familiar with late sixteenth-century English madrigal verse. You can find the lyrics to the song he's humming here.


Vecchio climbed up onto the shoeshine stand, splayed his legs, and beckoned. Ray tried to raise an eyebrow, Mountie-style, but figured it hadn't worked when Vecchio scowled at him. In a friendly way, of course.

"C'mon, there's another seat." Vecchio gestured toward the other chair.

Ray laughed at him.

"My treat."

But the shoeshine man, who looked old enough to be their father, took one glance at Ray's shit-kickers and snorted, turning around to busy himself with Vecchio's shoes. Ray felt somehow vindicated. Like, hey, the shoeshine guy wouldn't even shine his boots, even if he wanted the guy to.

The guy was taking his time, which made sense: he probably didn't get shoes as fancy as Vecchio's every day. All that hand-stitched Italian leather bullshit Vecchio liked so much.

"Haven't you ever wanted a pair of nice shoes?"

Damn, had he ever. Those motorcycle boots, the summer he was fifteen. With the metal rings on them. Leather thick enough to stop a switchblade, guys said. And black as black could be: not that crappy dyed stuff that was actually grey on the inside, that leached out onto your feet. "Hell, yeah. There were these motorcycle boots," Ray started.

"No, Kowalski." Somehow Vecchio managed to make his name sound like an insult. Ray was never sure how he did that. "Nice shoes. Nice."

Y'know, having Vecchio on a pedestal like this was kind of cool, not that Ray would ever tell him that. It put his crisp ironed grey pants at just the right height, his groin just below Ray's face. Ray stared at Vecchio's crotch for just a second too long, then dragged his eyes up to Vecchio's face.

Vecchio knew what he was thinking. His face flushed.

Hah. Ray put on his dirtiest smile, just for Vecchio, over the head of the shoeshine guy who wasn't paying him any attention at all. "I don't do nice," he said.

Vecchio took a deep breath, then looked right back at him.

Ray's eyes were saying When we get home, I'm going to fuck you into tomorrow. At least, that's what he hoped they were saying.

Because Vecchio's were saying, Yes, yes, yes, yeah, fuck yeah.

Ray pulled out his wallet and handed the guy ten bucks with a flourish. "Keep the change," he said.

They walked back to the car nice and slow, both wanting to run but neither wanting to give the other the satisfaction of breaking first.

Life was good.

They should hit the shoeshine stand more often.

(420 words)

In Pictures

"Wait, wait, wait a second." Welsh was waving one hand like that would get Ray to shut up faster. "Lemme get this straight. They got him to do what?"

"They said they were making a movie," Ray explained, again. Trying to be patient instead of giving in to the impulse to tell Welsh to go fuck himself. Fraser needed him! He wanted to be halfway there already, not twiddling his thumbs like a kid hauled to the principal's office one too many times.

"A movie of a toy store robbery?"

"I don't know what kind of damn movie they said it was!" Okay, okay, staying calm, he wouldn't be doing Fraser any favors if he got himself stuck here listening to a lecture about courtesy to one's superiors. Courtesy was Fraser's strong suite, not his, but at least he was trying. "They said he was just right for the part. Probably said he had a career waiting for him in Hollywood or something."

"Hollywood? Fraser?"

He had to admit Welsh had a point; Fraser wouldn't last five seconds in LA. "But they wouldn't've known he was a freak," Ray pointed out. "The guy just said 'you oughtta be in pictures,' and he bought it."

Not for the first time since the call came in, Ray stifled the mental reels of what kind of pictures he personally thought Fraser belonged in. With that mouth...


"Uh. Sorry." Ray cleared his throat. "Anyway. I didn't get the details exactly. Something about a supersoaker and some paint, a couple of Hula hoops, and one of those Spiderman nets-in-a-can."

As if on cue, Dewey walked past Welsh's office window with two handcuffed perps, spattered blue with tempera paint and trailing torn webbing.

Welsh wasn't saying anything. Time to make the, how'd Fraser put it?, gravity of the situation known.

"He's still in the men's room at the scene. I gotta get his spare uniform and get it over there, like, half an hour ago. The Ice Qu--I mean, his boss'll have his head if he shows up at the Consulate like that."

The Lieu put his elbows on the desk and buried his face in his hands.

Ray waited.

After a minute he noticed Welsh was shaking. Like maybe something was really wrong. He was half out of the chair to reach out to the guy -- it had to be hard to be in charge, maybe the Lieu had problems none of them knew about -- when he realized Welsh was laughing. The kind of silent hysterics that made your stomach hurt.

"Aw, jeez." Disgusted. "Can I go?"

Welsh waved him off with a hand, still snickering. "Go see to your partner, detective."

Ray bolted for the door and ran down the hall, skittering around the corner to avoid hitting Frannie who was carrying four cups of fancy coffee in one of those cardboard Starbucks things.

As he started the car and slapped the police light on, Ray wondered whether Fraser would go for making movies. The...less-dressed kind.

Hell, they'd have to go back to the apartment to retrieve his second uniform anyway. Ray wouldn't be missed at the station until at least lunchtime.

Fraser'd said he was all paint-covered; he'd have to shower. He'd be naked anyway. Plus they had those handcuffs. And Ray was pretty sure he still had the old videocamera somebody gave him and Stella when they got married; probably still worked, too.

Fraser in pictures. Heh.

Hell: couldn't hurt to ask...

(584 words)

The Fast Runner

When the movie ended, I just sat there on the couch, watching the credits roll. Still mesmerized.

After a moment, Fraser cleared his throat. I glanced his way.

"That was...longer than I expected." He sounded apologetic. "I hope you weren't--"

Bored, was what he was going to say, but I didn't let him get there. "That was amazing. Is it really like that?"


I waved my hands in a gesture that was supposed to mean Up North, but was probably sign-language for some completely other thing. "The Northwest whatsits. Is it really like that up there?"

His eyes softened, went a little nostalgic. "It used to be." Quietly, almost talking to himself. "Still is, sometimes."

"It's so -- so bare, so -- how do people live without trees, anyway?"

Fraser smiled. "They make do. The Inuit are a surprisingly resourceful people, Ray. Why, I once saw a man turn a walrus carcass into--"

"No, I mean -- I know you can make things with, like, sinews and bones. I mean, don't people go crazy without anything to look at?"

"Ah." Now he was getting my drift. He chewed on his lower lip for a moment. "Those who are...born to it...find the spareness beautiful, even comforting. For a native of the Arctic, the temperate forests of southern Canada would be quite overwhelming. The sights and sounds, the smells, the diversity of species, might seem to him like the din of an enormous crowd does to you."

Fraser looked...homesick. Like he was pining for the fjords, you know? Or the ice floes, or the tundra, or whatever.

"But you got used to being here," I offered.

His eyes startled slightly. "Eh? Yes, I suppose I have." There was a pause. "Although I have spent significant time with the Inuit, I'm not actually Inuit myself. I didn't belong that far north. Sometimes I think I don't entirely belong anywhere."

Ouch. Hearing that felt like a punch to the gut. I could only imagine what saying it felt like.

Just to find something to say to get us off that track, I came out with, "I'd like to see it sometime."

"The Arctic?" Fraser sounded shocked.

Suddenly it sounded like a great idea. "Yeah! Why not? I get to show you all my favorite parts of Chicago, you know, Vish's pierogi place and the lake and--" I was fumbling for places to name and couldn't think of any others. "Anyway, you ought to get to show me your favorite parts of Tuktoyuktuk."

He was really smiling now, so I ran with it.

"I mean, assuming you got favorite parts of Tuktoyuktuk. For all I know, there's nothing worth seeing up there, nothing but--"

"Oh, there's plenty to see, Ray."

Suddenly my palms were wet and my mouth was dry. Fraser has a way of doing that to me: he'll come out with a line like that and it sounds so damn much like he's flirting that I just can't help wanting to respond. I swallowed hard and did my best to push the thoughts out of my mind.

"All right, it's a deal, then. One of these days, I'll go back there with you."

It was just a lousy vacation I was agreeing to, I knew that, but somehow it felt like I was promising more. Like more was what he wanted.

Fraser offered his hand, a shake to seal the deal I guess. His palm was warm and his grip was firm and for that second I didn't want to let go.

(593 words)

Behind Closed Doors

Not long after dawn, the morning after he invited Fraser to move in with him, Ray was awakened by weird sounds coming from his hall closet. Knocking. Banging. A low repeated whine that sounded suspiciously like sawing.

At the time, it didn't occur to him that the noises and the invitation to cohabitate were related. This was the city, so it wasn't like an animal could've gotten trapped in there. Seemed like it had to be a person. But how had whoever-it-was broken in, and why was he in the closet with the winter coats and the old hockey gear? Was it a homeless guy? Some kind of drug addict? Someone Ray (or, worse, Vecchio) had put behind bars who was out now and desperate for revenge?

Ray grabbed his gun and advanced towards the closet door, slowly, wishing he'd had time for coffee before trying to deal with some fucked-up fugitive. He grabbed the door handle and yanked it open, shouting, "Police!"

And blinked. Confused. Because inside his closet door was a kindly-looking white-haired guy in paint-spattered Carhartt's and a river-driver shirt, standing over a pair of sawhorses. Behind the guy was the frame of a small shack. There was a whole *landscape*, for God's sake, dry fall grasses and tall skinny pine trees and a cloudless sky.

"There's no need for police here, son," the man said. "You've got a Mountie under your roof now."

"Uh," Ray said, feeling like he was missing something. Like maybe his brain.

The man chuckled. "Soon enough you'll have two. Caroline always said two was more'n enough."

Closet guy seemed to be waiting for a response. Ray managed a "Right," as if that explained everything. Who the hell was Caroline? For that matter, who was the old guy in his closet?

The man nodded his head toward the hinges. "Mind closing the door? You're letting out a bit of a draft."

The sawdust, Ray noticed, was blowing into his apartment. "Sure thing," he said, and closed the closet door.

He looked down at the dust and wood shavings which absolutely did not belong in his apartment, and decided this was some kind of temporary weirdness. It was projection, that was it. Subconsciously he was freaked-out about committing to Fraser, committing himself to Fraser, the whole two-people-under-one-roof thing, so he was fabricating imaginary men in his closets.

Men in his closets. Heh. That was a good one. Subtle, right? His therapist would be laughing all the way to the bank, if he had one. A therapist. Or a bank, for that matter.

Or a brain.

It was way too early to be awake.

Ray walked into the kitchen, put the gun down, stared blankly at the coffee pot, and decided to go back to bed.

He burrowed back under the covers. He could still faintly hear the sound of hammering, which maybe wasn't a good sign for his sanity. Just for good measure, he got back up and closed his bedroom door, too...

(500 words)

Darkness, Darkness

Like everything else, the moon is different up North.

The first time the moon swelled to full Ray couldn't fall asleep, because even through their heavy-duty tent the light was bright. He could've read a book by the light of that moon reflected on endless snow. He didn't have one, so he just lay there and watched the light on Fraser's closed eyes, watched Fraser's chest rise and fall, and thought Damn, Kowalski, you've got it bad.

But he got used to the moon. Got to where he could sleep through it. And then its light started dwindling, and then came their first completely pitch-black night, what Fraser called moon-dark. And yeah, there were more stars up North than in Chicago -- more stars than he'd seen camping anywhere he'd ever been -- but the night was darker than dark. That night he couldn't watch Fraser sleep.

That night he had the weird feeling Fraser was watching him.

Which was crazy, because it was way too dark to see, but in the impossible blackness of the night crazy things seemed real. And Ray lay there, trying to breathe like he was sleeping, listening to Fraser who he was pretty sure was also trying to breathe like he was sleeping, and he wondered what Fraser was thinking about.

After a long time, Ray rolled to one side and tried to press the button that would light up the face of his digital watch in blue, so he could see what time it was. No dice: whatever electronic gel was in there had apparently frozen to death.

"It's two-fifteen," came Fraser's voice, quietly.

Ray jumped in his sleeping bag and knocked into Fraser's bag, which was right alongside his but he tried to be careful to keep some distance: the temptation to reach over and touch was bad enough as it was. "Jeez!"

"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to startle you."

"Nah, 's fine. Thanks for the time." Ray closed his mouth and wondered how Fraser had known what he was doing. How Fraser had known what time it was, for that matter.

He thought about asking, but didn't. The answer would probably be some crazy Inuit story involving frozen caribou.

"Thank you for the time," Fraser replied, and it took Ray a second to realize that Fraser was repeating his words back to him.


"For...taking the time to do this with me," Fraser clarified.

Ray grinned up at the ceiling of the tent in the dark. "Wouldn't have missed it," he said, and the craziest thing was, it was true. Cold, dark, freezing his nuts off, lying on a sleeping bag in the snow and he was still happy as a clam in mud. Because Fraser was there.

"It means a great deal to me. Your...friendship means a great deal to me."

Ray's sleeping bag was still scooted up alongside Fraser's, which was a pleasant source of warmth, but it meant that when Ray shivered Fraser felt the motion.

"Ray! Are you too cold?" Solicitous as always.

Shit. The shiver wasn't cold: it was horny. It was his out-of-control libido turning "your...friendship means a great deal to me" into something it wasn't. But how was he supposed to explain that?

Next thing he knew, Fraser's bag was rustling and then hands were groping at the zipper to his own bag. "Hey! Fraser, what're you --"

"The cold can be quite dangerous, especially in sleep." As he talked, Fraser was unzipping Ray's bag, letting in cold air, and Ray couldn't stifle a yelp. "This will help."

Ray heard the sound of zipper again, and then registered other legs alongside his own. Oh God: their sleeping bags.

"Fraser, you can't -- you don't -- " Ray was fumbling for words. "I wasn't cold."

"You were shivering," Fraser pointed out, logically. Ray was about to come up with a logical reason for why this was a first-class, Grade A Bad Idea when Fraser's arms slid around him and they were spooned together like lovers.

Ray closed his eyes, not that it mattered in the total darkness, and couldn't help shivering again. Christ, but Fraser felt good like that. Long legs against his, strong chest against his back. And to have arms around him again...

"See? Isn't this better?" Fraser's voice was right in his ear, he could feel Fraser's breath warm against his neck, and that did it: Ray was hard as a rock.

This was some new kind of torture. And clearly it was only a matter of time before Fraser figured him out. Ray racked his brains to come up with a believable reason for why sharing a sleeping bag with his partner was sparking this kind of diamond-cutter.

"Better. Yeah." God: even his voice sounded stiff.

There was a pause.


"Yeah, Fraser?" Maybe if he could bring the snark, he could keep things under control.

"You seem...uncomfortable."

"I do?"

"You're rigid."

Oh God, oh shit, he knows. Panic flooded Ray's brain.

"You need to relax if you're going to warm up," Fraser continued, and Ray realized with a rush of relief that Fraser was talking about his spine, about his posture, not about...the other thing.

Ray took a deep breath and tried to relax.

And Fraser's arms loosened. " wasn't my intention to make you uncomfortable," he said, very quietly. "I apologise. Truly, my intentions were honourable."

"No, no, it's cool, I know." Rushing to get the words out, because jeez, the last thing in the world he wanted was to make Fraser feel guilty for his own damn sins. "You're the most honourable guy I know."

I'm the one with dishonourable intentions, Ray thought.

But at least they were both wearing longjohns: that would help. Help conceal his aching, longing body from Fraser. They covered neck to toe, which he'd thought was pretty goofy-looking in the supply store in Yellowknife, but now it made a lot more sense.

Like the butt-flap. His inner twelve-year-old had thought those were pretty funny. But they made sense, out here. When you were camping in the snow, you didn't want to drop trou when Nature called.

For that matter, the butt-flap could come in pretty handy now. Fraser could just reach between them, unfasten a pair of buttons, lube his fingers up and...

Ray squirmed despite himself. Stop thinking about what you want Fraser to do to you when you're sharing a gaddamned sleeping bag!

"Ray! You're still cold!"

"No, I wasn't shivering, I--"

And that was as far as Ray got before Fraser's hands somehow multiplied in the dark and were rubbing his chest. Hard.

"Fraser! What're you--"

"We've got to warm you up," briskly. "The cold can be dangerous."

Fraser's hands were skating over his chest and arms, and Ray was wriggling to get the hell away because his body, the traitor, was not getting with the program his brain had set, which was all systems down. His body was more like all systems go.

And between the rubbing, and the squirming, somehow Fraser's hand skated over Ray's erection, right through the soft fabric of his longjohns, and Ray couldn't help a gasp.

Abruptly all motion in their sleeping bag stopped.


Fraser sounded uncertain now.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. It was over. It was all over. "It's not -- I mean, I --"

"You're...lonely," Fraser offered quietly. "It's been almost a month since you've had other human companionship; your body is merely...hungry."

A lump rose in Ray's throat. Fraser was giving him an out. But somehow, in the pitch dark of the moonless Arctic night, Ray couldn't lie to him. Not about this.

"Nah. It's you. It's always been you."

There was silence.

"Fraser, I'm sorry -- I swear to God, my intentions were -- I mean, I wasn't gonna do anything, I--"

"How long has this...been going on?" Fraser's voice too low to read.

"A while." Miserably. God: he'd ruined everything.

And suddenly Fraser's body was plastered against his back, arms sliding back around his chest.

"I wish I'd known," Fraser murmured just behind his ear.

What the...?

And then Fraser's mouth was exploring the back of his neck, little half-biting kisses that made Ray's whole body weak.

His hands were lingering on Ray's chest, zeroing right in on his nipples through the union suit, each brush of thumb like fire.

"Fraser!" Ray was on the verge of moaning already, but somehow he held it back. "What are you --"

"I'm trying to seduce you. If you can't tell, I must be out of practise." His voice was snippy, but coloured with affection.

Ray felt his heart melting along with the rest of his body. "You don't have to," he started, one last-ditch effort to be -- like Fraser -- honourable.

"I want to." Fraser's voice seemed to have dropped an octave, which was maybe the sexiest thing Ray had ever heard.

Another kiss to the back of his neck and this time Ray couldn't help the moan. Fraser hummed approvingly and pressed harder against him and holy shit, Fraser was hard too.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to."

Ray was entirely boneless, a singing instrument beneath Fraser's fingers.

And when Fraser unbuttoned the critical two buttons over his dick, and slipped a warm, capable hand inside, against the unbelievable pitch-blackness of the tent Ray could have sworn he saw stars.

(1574 words)

Asking For It

The day Ray's marriage ended was the worst of his life.

Which is why he never planned on getting married again. He knew guys who'd been divorced twice, and he didn't intend to be one of them. He didn't ever want to go through that again.

So it was a good thing that he wound up with Fraser, because they couldn't get married even if they wanted to. Ray told himself that was a relief.

Except, as their...thing started feeling like it could be permanent, he realized it wasn't specifically divorce he was afraid of. It was heartbreak. And heartbreak could happen even without the certificate and the rings and the priest and the reception.

Once he figured that out, he walked around with a constant low-grade buzz of fear that Fraser was gonna wake up and realize this was all a bad idea. Realize Ray was a bad idea. And that would be that.

Fraser, though. Fraser could tell something was up. And one night, lying in bed, just before Ray fell asleep, Fraser asked him quietly what was wrong.

For some reason he could never remember afterwards, Ray tried to tell him. He tried to explain what it had felt like the day Stella made him face the reality that it was over. He even, and this embarrassed him the next morning, asked Fraser to promise he would never break his heart like that.

Fraser was silent, and Ray's heart started to pound. Not in the good way.

And then Fraser said, "I can't promise you that, Ray," which for an instant felt like the worst moment of his life in replay.

But then he went on to say, "You know my word is my bond, but I don't think even my word would convince you that I...want nothing more than a life with you. The only way I can convince you of that is to stay."

And the knot in Ray's chest loosened a little, enough for him to say, "yeah," and he drifted into sleep with Fraser snugged around him like a blanket.

And when word started to spread that guys could get married in Canada, Ray turned the idea over in his mind and smiled. Somehow, it didn't seem like asking for heartbreak anymore.

(379 words)

On to You

Pursuing my father's killers brought me hence:
I stayed for reasons reason knows nothing of.
It may be what I felt for Ray was love
(He never "led me on," in his defense.)
Too long I tarried North, and now I find
My partner's looks and manner passing strange.
I always feared I might wind up deranged
Given the way my dead speak in my mind
And no one now will look me in the eye
To tell me who this "Vecchio" may be.
It is as though nobody here but me
Can tell that aught's amiss, askew, awry.
Full fair found I my Ray's prominent face
But this Ray's fair of head, and arms, and gait.
It's true I've never been what you'd call "straight,"
But rare I'm this struck down by easy grace.
Am I deceived, or in those laughing eyes
Might interest lurk, a hint of what might come?
He flashes me a smile and I'm struck dumb
By every choice that now before me lies.
My father's ghost no useful answers gives.
My deaf half-wolf wants donuts, "Boston Kreme."
I feel I stumble in some waking dream
I know not where Ray is, or if he lives,
Or how this stranger's come to know so well
The details of our working partnership.
I watch him sling his holster at his hip
And wonder, could his hands speak, what they'd tell
Of history. Who is this man, and why
This clumsy subterfuge? His walk's not right,
His nose, his dress: I even checked his bite.
And yet, perverse, I find I'd like to try
To glean his story, given he knows mine.
We seem to work together very well.
And what the future holds, no man can tell:
Not even ghosts can cross that shadowed line.
This Ray's a bafflement, a mystery.
But duty calls, an arsonist to track:
I guess I trust this man to watch my back
Until such time as he'll divulge to me
His purpose here. Unless, of course, it's true
I've snapped and nothing's different than before...
Enough: it's time to work. My friend, the door.
But think not that I'm fooled. I'm on to you.

(367 words)


When you're newly divorced, Thanksgiving sucks.

All you can think about is, this time last year we were still married. This time last year I still thought we might have kids someday at our holiday table. At least, that's all you can think about if you're me and you're about to hit your first Thanksgiving as a single man.

Every time I picture sitting down with my folks alone, just the three of us, I want to go to the gym and beat the crap out of some poor defenseless punching bag. For about nine hours.

Ma hinted I should bring a guest, a "special friend," but the closest I've got to a special friend is Fraser, and damn but I am not going there, because that is Not a Good Idea.

Seems like all anybody can talk about is Thanksgiving, and every time I hear it, I get more depressed. I'm miserable and I'm touchy and I'm bitter, and I figure there's no prayer of life improving until at least after Christmas.

And then Fraser shows up at the PD late on Tuesday night. Hat in hand, all bright and cheery, Dief at his side. He asks how I'm doing, and I practically bite his head off.

He kind of deflates. And so does the wolf: lies right down on the tile and puts his head on his paw.

And just like that, my anger at the world evaporates.

"Shit, Fraser, I'm sorry. I'm just...Thanksgiving's gonna be lonely."

He nods, still looking down. "Yes, I can imagine."

I'm about to ask what he's doing for the holiday, but suddenly I realize the answer: probably nothing. "Man. Do you even get the day off?"

"Well, as you know, Ray, Canadian Thanksgiving was last month. I have no shortage of vacation days, but haven't put in for any, inasmuch as I have no reason to be away from my desk."

"You could come with me," I say, before I have time to think about why I shouldn't say it. Like: my folks are crazy. Like: they might get the wrong idea. Like: he might get the wrong idea. Or the right one. I'm not sure.

Fraser lights right up. "Thank you kindly! I'd be delighted."

His smile makes my spine tingle. To hide that, I start backpedaling as fast as I can. "I mean, it's just my parents -- they're kind of a pain, you know, and it's just us, so it's not like, I don't know if you ever went to the Vecchio's, there's probably a zillion people there, and a lot of good food, and I don't know if you'd have a good time--"

"I can bring something," he says, and I can see he's already running through recipes in his mind.

"Nothing weird," I tell him.

"It's dinnertime, Ray. Let's go get some food."

I'm standing up, pulling on my shoulder holster and my jacket, turning off my desk light, when he pipes up, "How about Greek?"

"For Thanksgiving?"

"For dinner."

"Works for me."

Dief barks, probably agreeing, and we head out the door.

"Nothing weird for Thanksgiving," I tell him again. "My parents are kind of traditional." We're walking down the street to the Greek place Vecchio introduced him to.

"So no seal-fat ice cream," he muses.


"Or walrus-intestine soup," and he sounds almost sad again, "I know a lovely recipe, but I don't suppose--"

"I am warning you--" I catch a glimpse of his reflection in a store window and he's on the verge of laughing, and it makes me smile too.

"Oh, fine, bring whatever you want."

"I was thinking of apple pie, actually."

"Can Canadians make that?"

"The popular phrase notwithstanding, I assure you there's nothing exclusively American about apple pie, Ray." He sounds stern but I can tell he's faking it.

I like that he knows when I'm just giving him shit for the fun of giving him shit.

And then we're at the restaurant, and Dief's curling up on the curb outside the door and Fraser's holding the door open for a party of eleven because that's just the way he is. And I realize, weird as it's gonna be, I'm not dreading Thanksgiving quite so much anymore.




3 cups flour (I like King Arthur's unbleached)
8 teaspoons shortening (Crisco or butter or, if you're kosher and need to eat this with a meat meal, margarine will do)
Cold water


Several apples, peeled and sliced
A generous splash of brandy
(Optional: a few spoonfuls of sugar. Though then it's not sugarfree anymore.)
Dash of cinnamon
Half a cup of applesauce

Cut shortening into flour, either with knives or a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add cold water until crust coheres. Separate into two balls.

Toss apples with brandy, optional sugar, cinnamon, applesauce. Roll one crust into a round and put it in a pieplate. Pour filling into pieplate. Cover with second crust (I like to cut the second crust into strips and lattice the top crust, but a whole crust works too). Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour.

(862 words)

In Amstel Veritas

It was still early when I bid my date adieu. I didn't relish the notion of returning to the Consulate this soon. Turnbull might still be on duty, and would no doubt ask how the evening had gone.

I was less apprehensive about admitting the failure to Ray, so I stopped by his building. His lights were on, so I walked up. Surely there was nothing untoward in stopping by a friend's house on a snowy evening, and if he were otherwise occupied I would excuse myself and walk home.

Ray greeted me warmly, which dispelled my fears of the unannounced visit being an imposition. Still, I could tell something was off from the moment he opened the door. His body language was...odd. He stood closer than usual, and his gestures were more expansive. It didn't take long to recount my evening, and by the time my embarrassingly short story reached its end, I had realized that Ray was decidedly not sober.

"You know what your problem is?" Ray's speech wasn't slurred, but I suspected it should have been, given the number of empty Amstel bottles on his countertop. I wondered what had been the occasion for his intoxication. Something to do with his ex-wife, perhaps.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The reason the dates aren't going anywhere," he clarified.

I almost said, 'But I always take them out for a meal,' but restrained myself. This drunk, Ray was unlikely to recognize the teasing.

"They're the wrong women." With this pronouncement, he sat back on the sofa, arms crossed.

"Well, that's helpful."

Ignoring my sarcasm altogether, Ray continued. "You've gotta look outside the box, Fraser."

"Box? What box?" Ray's bizarre leaps of logic don't always make sense to me even when he's sober.

"You're looking at the package. 'S the wrong way to go about it."

Ahh. "Are you suggesting that I place too high a premium on physical attractiveness?" The notion rankled.

"It's not just that. You gotta look inside," Ray said. His voice was decidedly earnest. "Find someone who cares for you."

"I don't see how a woman who doesn't know me yet could possibly fit those criteria--"

Ray interrupted. "Like me."

Was it my imagination, or was Ray sitting nearer to me on the couch than he had been before?

"I beg your pardon?" Desire was threatening to ignite, and I was quashing it as ruthlessly as I could, because I knew Ray could not mean what it sounded like he meant.

Which made it all the more astonishing when he twined his arms around me and opened his mouth to mine. He tasted of beer and his mouth was hot and for an instant I couldn't help savoring the kiss.

It was with some difficulty that I disentangled us. "Ray," I said, as he grinned up at me, lopsided, on the verge of toppling into my lap. He reached for my chest.

"Ray!" As firmly as I could, I detached his hands and put them back on his person.

"What?" He sounded put-out.

"You're heterosexual," I pointed out.

"I'm open to possibilities."

He leaned my way again and it took some effort to hold him upright. "I think you'd regret this tomorrow."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Fraserrrrr," he sighed. "I wanna."

Between his closed eyes, unguarded expression, and pleading tone, he was the picture of anguished desire. Something in me thrilled at the sight.

"You've been drinking."

"I've wanted this for ages."

It was a non sequitur, but I was disinclined to point that out.

"I can make up my own mind," he argued. "I'm a big boy."

Half a dozen inappropriate responses flitted through my mind. Before I had settled on an answer Ray had climbed onto my lap.

The kiss was sweet and hot and dirty. Ray's weight pressed deliciously on my groin.

As if from a great distance, I heard myself groan. This was not the turn I had expected the evening to take. With what was left of my mind, I struggled to hold on to the mantra which had kept me from pushing this boundary before: I would be foolish to squander the closeness of our working partnership, our friendship, in pursuit of mere physical pleasure...

Ray's hips were moving over me, his own drunken weaving dance. He nuzzled his way down my jaw towards my throat and I could feel my control eroding.

"Ray..." I had intended the word as a protest, but it sounded more like a plea.

Fast, he scrambled off of me and landed on the floor between my feet. Relief warred with frustration.

And then his hands were working at the fastenings of my trousers. He was biting his lip in concentration, trying to undo belt and buttons.

"I want to suck you," he said. My imagination caught fire. To my mortification, I gasped and arched into his hands and shuddered to climax before he could put his mouth on me.

I tipped my head back onto the edge of the sofa and closed my eyes, overwhelmed. My body was thrumming with aftershocks; my head was spinning; somewhere in the pit of my stomach I was terrified of how Ray would react when he came to his senses.

I felt him rise and stand over me. After a long moment I took a deep breath and looked at him.

His shirt had come untucked on one side, and his lips were wet. His left hand was hooked into his waistband, thumb inside a belt loop, and his right hand stroked up and down over his crotch. Despite myself, I felt my libido stirring.

"Come to bed," he said.

My reasons for arguing seemed further away every minute. "I can't."

"You want to."

Something in me snapped. "Of course I want to! You're my best friend and you're beautiful and I want to make you scream."

He grinned. "I like screaming."


He sighed, theatrical, and suddenly his posture changed. Not sultry anymore: now he was just standing in front of me, looking down.

"I'm not going to regret it." His voice was quiet.

"You don't know," I began.

"Do too."

"And I don't believe you really want--"

"You want to," he said again.

"We're not talking about what I want."

"You know how long it's been since somebody wanted me?" He didn't pause long enough for me to answer. "God. You...see me. And you still..." He ran one hand through his hair, looking frustrated. "I don't know what you see in me, but I want to be the guy you want."

"You are." The words almost hurt. I felt as though the entire world had receded to this: two men, two feet apart, staring at each other in a darkened room, hurtling headlong into the unknown.

"And I think I love you."

I had not believed words -- those words, in particular -- had the power to steal my breath anymore. Not after Victoria. And yet Ray's pronouncement, shaky as it was, caught in my heart and lodged there.

"C'mon, Fraser. Please."

I couldn't say no. When I stood, he flowed into my space. The kiss was even better: maybe we were improving with practice. I murmured that I loved him too, pressing the words onto the sensitive skin beneath one ear, and he shivered.

And then I was following him into his darkened bedroom. "You're gonna have to show me what we're doing," he said, shimmying out of his shirt.


I was about to reach for him when he jerked back. "Wait -- hang on a sec."

He returned with a tumbler of water and a pair of aspirin. "Hangover cure," he mumbled, around a mouthful of pill. After he swallowed, he grinned at me. "I think I'm gonna like this. I want to feel good enough in the morning to do it again..."

(1318 words)

Due North

Ray's apartment looked like a tornado had hit.

That's what Fraser would have said, if he could've seen it. For that matter, so would Stella. Clothes everywhere. Shirts all over the bed, pants in a pile outside the closet, socks spilling out of the dresser drawers.

The longjohns had to be somewhere, right? He couldn't have just lost them. Ray ran a jittery hand over his hair and scowled. Plane was leaving in eight hours and he couldn't find his long underwear.

It was going to be cold, and he wanted to be prepared.

His first trip back North since.

Since he'd screwed up. Since he'd pulled away from their first kiss -- their only kiss -- with his mouth tingling and his head spinning, and said, "What the hell are you thinking -- I don't swing like that!"

He'd thought it was true. And Fraser had said, "Of course, Ray, my apologies," and maybe he'd looked sad but he'd hid it pretty quick, and after that things weren't awkward, exactly, but they both knew the trip was over.

And Ray hadn't wanted to think about why he felt empty, or what he felt cheated of. And he'd been back in his apartment almost a week before he woke up from a dream about one of Fraser's weird Inuit stories, and realized he'd wanted Fraser to talk him into it. To change his mind. To show him how right they were for each other, how good it would be.

He was a jerk.

He felt weirdly lost, all the time, even though he knew most of Chicago like the back of his hand. It was like some part of him didn't want to be there, was straining to be back...North, back with Fraser, back last month before he'd ruined it. Was this how Fraser had felt, living in Chicago for so long with his heart pointing towards home?

People asked how the trip was, and why he'd come back so soon, and he got the feeling they were wondering why he'd come back at all. Frannie seemed to feel sorry for him, like she thought Fraser had dumped him, and she took him out a couple of times. Even Stella called to say she was sorry things hadn't worked out. It was sweet of her, and he felt like he ought to miss her more than he did, but he didn't.

And Fraser sent letters, but they said things like, "The full moon on snow sheds light bright enough to read by," and "I tracked an Arctic hare last week," not the things Ray wanted them to say.

For a while Ray thought he'd lost the chance, the right, to hear them. Felt sorry for himself. Pissed and moaned to the turtle a lot. Drank more than he knew he should.

And then one night he had some kind of weird hallucination. He was lying on the floor and this old Mountie stood over him and tsk'd and told him he'd been the one too chicken to kiss Benton so he'd have to be the one man enough to set things right. Woke up the next morning with a hangover something fierce, but he knew the imaginary guy was right.

He left a phone message with Fraser's boss (since Fraser had no phone), called the Lieu, and bought himself a one-way ticket. Leaving in the morning.

And he'd turned his apartment upside-down and he still couldn't find the longjohns. Must've left them up there. He'd packed kind of numb, and he'd missed them. (Seemed odd that Fraser hadn't mentioned it, though.) Had Fraser given them to Goodwill? (Did they even have Goodwill up there?) Or maybe he'd kept them. Maybe he'd slept with them, or worn them. The thought made Ray ache.

Nah. That was the kind of sentimental shit Ray would do, but Fraser wouldn't go there. Gets it into his head that he can't have something, and he just buttons it up and ignores it. (That thought made Ray ache in a different way, concentrated in the chest instead of spread all over his skin.)

Besides, they wouldn't fit him. But maybe he'd saved them, Ray decided. Maybe Fraser hoped...

Ray zipped the duffel bag and threw it on the floor, feeling strangely triumphant. He might not have his longjohns, but he knew where he was going.

Due North. At last.

(733 words)

For Ever

When Ray was bored or couldn't sleep, he bargained with fate in his head. What would he trade, if an angel came down and asked? Would he leave Chicago for a million bucks? (Hell, yes.) Would he get a sex change if true love hung in the balance? (He wasn't sure.) Would he get a sex change for a million bucks? (Probably not.) Would he trade any chance of reconciling longterm if he could just have one more night with Stella?

From the start, he'd had a mixed answer to that one. The "yes" times were mixtures of horny and lonely, insomniac times when the light of his digital clock cast weird shadows on his ceiling and even jerking off didn't help. The "no" times varied. At first, he'd been sure he'd never give up hope. They were meant for each other, and three months apart would show her that. Or six months. Or nine months. Or, okay, maybe it wasn't going to happen, but he still didn't want to give up.

Lately, though, neither option excited him. The one-night stand didn't sound so hot anymore, and he wasn't as interested in reconciliation with Stell as he used to be. He was a lot more interested in Fraser, who was every bit as smart and snarky and prissy as Stella. And just as sexy, in a totally different way. Plus Fraser, unlike Stella, hadn't decided to boot Ray out of his life. (Yet.) Ray figured he'd trade pretty much anything to know he wouldn't be booted out of Fraser's life.

Ray figured if he was really, really good -- if he promised everything he could think of to whoever was in charge Up There -- maybe he could do this one right enough that it would last. He could think of all kinds of things he'd trade for that. He'd trade Chicago for life with Fraser. Trade a million bucks, if he had it. Sex change? Hell, maybe. If he had to.

Lately, on stakeout, with Fraser riding shotgun and Dief curled up in the backseat, Ray asked himself the Fraser questions. If he knew it was all he was going to get, would he take a one-night stand? (Hell, yes.) If he had a choice between one fucking spectacular night (or one spectacular night of fucking), and the way things were now: no sex, no romance, but the chance they might be able to get there someday...

...he'd take the way things were now. A night with Fraser: the thought could fuel his fantasies for the next year, easy. But the possibility of something more was worth missing the one-nighter for. If God or an angel or the Ghost of Whatevers Past offered it to him, that was the choice he would make.

Which was kind of cool. He wouldn't trade the way things were now, because the way things were now, he had hope for where they might go. For more than one night. For real. For ever.

(500 words)

In Uniform

"I want to hear one."

We're spooned together and Ben's voice is husky by my ear.

I grimace, which he probably feels in my muscles even though he can't see my face.

"I told you one of mine," he points out.

It's true; he did. Surprised the hell out of me. Who'd've figured Benton Fraser for a guy who'd fantasize about silk? He's getting silk boxers for his next birthday, and I can't wait to watch him give in to how good they feel.

"It's...hard," I offer lamely. Being Ben, he skips the obvious joke, which I appreciate. Because this really is hard for me. I'm the big talker, yeah, but not when it comes to stuff like this.

He bites the back of my neck, gently, and I melt. Christ that feels good. "Fair's fair, Ray."

I close my eyes. Even though the room is dark, it helps.

"Okay, so...this would never actually happen, right?"

He nods into my shoulder.

"I mean, I wouldn't ever try this, it wouldn't be, you know, respectful, of the uniform, or the, um, the Inspector, or--"

"You're stalling."

He's right. I take a deep breath. "You're on duty. And for some reason the Inspector isn't there and you're doing something at her desk. She's got a great big wooden desk, right?"


Just thinking about this makes my skin prickle. "And I show up, 'cause I've got the afternoon off, and I want to get you the hell out of there, show you a good time, but you can't leave."

His hands are stroking up and down my sides. It feels good.

"So, um -- look, the plot gets kind of hazy, but I really want to give you a blowjob, right?"

I can feel his dick stirring behind me.

"But you've got this paperwork. And you keep saying all this stuff about the Inspector's expectations and all the crap you said you'd accomplish and how you need to respect the authority of her position."

"I simply can't leave the desk."

"Right. So I tell you to scoot your chair back and close your eyes, and you look at me like I'm crazy but you do it anyway, and I crawl under there and squeeze myself under the table and then I grab your calves and pull you forward until you're just at the edge of the chair, and I put my mouth on the crotch of your pants and breathe."

I'm getting hard just thinking about it, because this is one of my favorite fantasies ever. Better yet, Ben's getting hard, too, pressed up against the backs of my thighs. I can't believe I'm telling him this. I can't believe he likes it.

"And I get your pants open and pull your dick out and you're just sitting there in your boss' chair, hands clenching the armrests, all done-up in your uniform with your erection sticking out of your fly and this dazed look in your eyes, and it's so hot I can hardly stand it, so I put my head in your lap and start sucking."

His right hand is on my dick now, working me nice and slow, and it's getting hard to breathe because I'm so turned-on. I'm sandwiched between his hot body and his hot hand, and I'm starting to squirm.

"And then what?" His voice is hoarse.

Ben's hand tugs just right and I gasp, suddenly closer to the edge than I knew.

"What happens next?"

"Next? Uh. God." I'm about to start babbling. "I make it last a long time, all slow and wet," and he pulls his hand away and I'm about to bitch when he sticks his fingers in my mouth. So I suck on them for a second or two, which I'm not sure if it's sexier to him or to me, and when he pulls his hand free and touches me with wet fingers I groan. He's thrusting against my ass now in time with the squeezes of his hand on my dick.

"Do I ejaculate in your mouth?"

God help me, but I love to hear him talk dirty. Those fifty-cent words in his raspy bedroom voice. "Yesss," I hiss. "You come in my mouth, you love to come in my mouth, you can't believe what I just did to you but you love it--"

"I love it, I want to, all over you," he murmurs, roughly, and I damn near lose it. But I've got to finish my story.

"--and when I push the chair back and climb out from under the desk you look like you've been fucked six ways from Sunday, your face is red and you're breathing hard--"

He gasps in my ear. Oh, God, I'm gonna come any second now.

"And I tuck you back in your pants and zip you up," glad he isn't correcting me, because I know the uniform doesn't have a zipper, but it does in the fantasy, "and just as I'm leaving I run into the Inspector, and I smile at her and go out to the car, and she's never going to know what I just did to you in your uniform under her desk."

I am this close to coming when his hand slows. "But what about you, Ray?"

"What -- about -- me?" Trying to push into his hand faster than he wants to stroke me off.

"Don't you get a climax? In the fantasy?"

"Nah, but I get one in real life," I hint.

"Do you masturbate with this fantasy in mind?"

"Do I ever," I blurt out, because the internal censor doesn't work real well when Ben's dick is painting lines on the backs of my thighs and his hand is skating over my balls like that. And then a new heat colors my face: Jesus, I didn't mean to say that out loud, he's gonna be offended, I don't respect the uniform, I don't respect the Consulate, I don't have any respect for the authority of--

In the same split second his hand tightens on me, his dick jerks and splashes, and he stifles a groan by biting the back of my neck again. That's all I need: I'm over the edge right there with him, in his arms.

Guess he wasn't offended after all.

After a while we recocoon in the blankets, which kind of got thrashed away during the whole sex thing. I'm drifting off towards sleep happy as a clam.

Maybe I was wrong: maybe we could try that one. Not at the Consulate, obviously -- kinky fantasy life or no, he'd never actually go for that -- but I could get him to put on the uniform here...

Actually, there are a whole lot of ways things could go once he puts the uniform on...

I fall asleep with a grin on my face.

(1148 words)


Inspired by this icon.

Ray asks if I trust him.

I answer in the affirmative: with my life. By now he must know that, though I understand why he wants the verbal reminder.

Energy coils in his gestures. He is agitated, like a hare unsure whether or not a fox is near.

Me? I feel serene. Excited, to be sure, but my emotions are contained. My body holds the anticipation in check, tamps it down, tinder waiting for a spark.

The lights are dim. Low music plays. I am in uniform, as requested, including even the leather falconry gloves I have often polished but rarely use.

Ray had hesitated before sharing the fantasy, afraid, I think, that I might regard his imaginings as desecration of the uniform and the rank it represents. He could not have been further from the truth. Something in me started shivering when he described it, and has not stilled in the weeks since.

Until now. I stand at parade rest in our bedroom, hands loosely clasped behind my back. I bend my head slightly, wanting to show acquiescence in every way. It is a gesture Diefenbaker would recognize.

Thankfully, so does Ray. He takes a deep breath, runs a finger along the back of my neck (leaving me burning already), and crosses in front of me with the coil of rope.

When I am trussed, unable to move my arms more than half a centimeter, he licks his lips, unfastens my trousers, and drops to his knees.

I have imagined him like this. Wanted his eager, talented mouth providing precisely this pleasure. Serving this animal need. And yet it is I who am subservient: standing, but bound; blazing against his tongue, but unable to move my hands to touch his neck, his spiked hair. I have yielded control and it is too good to believe.

I am shaking, every tremor causing the cord to tighten across my chest. Ray pulls away, kneels back on his heels, surveys his handiwork. Abruptly he reaches down and unbuttons his jeans, pulls his erection free, begins to stroke. The sight of him clothed but for his penis makes me gasp. I imagine what he sees -- how much more wanton I must look attired as I am -- and, overwhelmed, I close my eyes.

My other senses heighten to compensate. Familiar uniform on my skin; scent of sweat; unfamiliar leather gloves creaking against my wrists; white-hot pleasure of my wet penis aching; sound of Ray working himself, flesh on flesh and his breathy gasps. And above all, the ropes, keeping me from flying apart.

His mouth returns and I groan, spilling over, shamed by my lack of control. The orgasm is exquisite, but tinged with regret that our adventure has ended so soon.

I am still breathing hard when Ray rises and stands behind me. I expect the ropes to loosen. Instead his hands reach around me, pull my opened trousers down. A frisson starts at the base of my spine.

He removes my boots, then tugs my trousers free. Leaving me clothed from the waist up, Ray maneuvers me to the bed and pushes me down onto my belly, positioning a pillow beneath my chest. He strips his clothes away and climbs behind me. He bites the back of my neck, not gently, and I moan. My half-nudity feels more exposed than I could have imagined, and the distribution of weight in this position is strange to me.

The lubricant is cold and slippery and I allow myself to moan almost continuously from the onslaught of sensation. Ordinarily I make an effort to quiet myself, conscious of the proximity of neighbors, but tonight I do not, I can not. All I can do is gasp, and whimper, and then beg when his erection finally slides into me. Words disappear, and all I can do is repeat "please" and "yes," and try, helplessly, to squirm back to meet his thrusts.

Ray is muttering a low litany of obscene endearments, words which would appall me in the light of day but which enflame me now. How beautiful and tight my ass is, how much he loves to fuck me, how hot I am half-dressed and bound like this. How he may never release me.

I am not hard -- I could not sustain an erection again so soon -- but even so I feel a kind of climax when Ray's rhythm speeds, then falters. When he presses so deep inside me, seeming to hover there, that his orgasm makes my entire body shake. I bite the bedspread to muffle my wail.

Eventually Ray pulls away, leaving my body spasming with delicious aftershock. He picks at the rope until it comes free. The tingling of blood returning to my hands is an almost sexual pleasure. I shudder as he works the remainder of my uniform off; I am too delirious to object when he tosses it to the floor. I would not be able to wear it without drycleaning now in any event.

We curl together, my chest against Ray's back. He hums with contentment and I am again stunned to find my language returning. I whisper into his neck how unbelievable that was, how incandescent, how I knew I would enjoy it but never expected such gratification from what was, after all, his fantasy, how I feel the circuits of my brain fused now and melted. I confess I am not certain I will ever be able to look at a length of rope again without blushing.

In return he turns in my arms, quiets me with a long kiss, murmurs that he might enjoy a reversal if I were willing, and assures me too that he would do this again for me in an eyeblink.

My last conscious thought before sleep is this: I don't know where we are bound, but wherever it is, I will go there with him and be glad.

(990 words)


The first time Benton Fraser fought, he was fifteen. The moment he overheard Jack and Qilut's plans, he knew he had to confront them; no Fraser would knowingly tolerate cheating. His skin prickled with foreknowledge of their fists. It felt good to raise his chin and call after them, catching up with them on the far side of the snowbank, knowing the altercation was coming.

He held his own. Jack and Qilut wound up with bruises and split lips, and his threat to tell Mr. Forteith (combined with his obvious lack of fear of reprisal) cowed them into replacing the stolen answer key. Had his father been there, he might have been proud.

Ben came home aflush with new sensations: aches where he'd been hit, sore muscles where he'd struck back, and overall the feeling that his skin had been sensitized. He knew the workings of the endocrine system: many men developed erections after violence. It was a survival mechanism, a lizard-brain response to threat.

Though he also knew better than to mention it to anyone, especially his grandmother who fussed over wrapping a chunk of ice in a towel to stop the egg forming on his forehead.

After the rare luxury of a hot bath, he slid between the rough wool blankets of his bed, but his arousal refused to dim. In the end he took himself in hand, in one of the many cheap bandannas he bought with his allowance for precisely this purpose, and jerked himself to quick, shuddering completion.


Fraser and the new Ray, it turned out, fought side-by-side with the rhythm of many years' partnership. By the time the two would-be muggers were cuffed and awaiting transport back to the station, Ray was stanching a nosebleed and Fraser could feel bruises welling up in several places.

"Nice work," he said, walking over to where Ray leaned against a lamppost.

"If you can get it," was Ray's cryptic reply. Fraser was still mulling that over when Ray spoke again. "Hey, you wanna come over and have some pizza? Hate to think of you going home alone after a fight like that."

Of course, after a fight like that was the only time Fraser relished going home alone: to the prospect of a long, slow masturbation session fueled by the post-brawl adrenaline. But it would be impolite to refuse the offer, and besides, Fraser had been hoping that he and this Ray might grow to be friends.

"I'd be delighted." He was rewarded with a flash of smile that turned his knees to water and intensified his post-fight erection. Fraser set his jaw and smiled back. It might be a long evening, but the anticipation would make his climax all the sweeter when he finally got there.

Once at the apartment, Ray took one look in the mirror and made a beeline for the shower. "All this dried blood, pretty nasty," he called apologetically through the closed door.

"No trouble at all, Ray."

"You're welcome to shower once I'm done."

Fraser felt himself flush at the notion. He wanted to think the invitation had meaning, but it was probably just hospitality. "Thank you kindly, but I'm all right."

"Suit yourself." The water kicked on.

Fraser looked around the living room for something to read, but found himself sitting on the couch listening to Ray's shower. He was...humming something, though Fraser couldn't quite make it out.

The humming stopped, then abruptly re-started. It was chokier, now. Jerkier.

Less like a hum than like a series of short, repeated gasps, actually.

In the next second, Fraser's deep breath revealed the scent of semen. It hit him harder than any of the blows he'd taken, and left him reeling. In the very next room, separated from him only by a hollow-core door and a shower curtain, Ray had just taken himself in hand. It hadn't taken long: he must have been as excited by the fight as Fraser was.

Unconsciously Fraser grabbed a side pillow and pressed it over his aching erection, willing it to subside. He felt almost sick: with excitement, with desire, with the voice in his head which told him he had no right to listen to Ray's activities in his own home, with the other voice which urged him to follow Ray's example, to accept the offer of a shower, to touch himself under the spray -- he closed his eyes, the better to envision Ray's capable hands --

"Fraser? You okay?"

Ray was standing right in front of him, hips wrapped in a towel. Fraser had been so lost in fantasy that he had not heard the shower shut off, nor the creak of the opening bathroom door. Fraser swallowed hard, knowing his face was reddening as his id shouted for him to reach forward. Ray was so close...

"Yes," he managed. "Yes, I --" And how was he going to finish that sentence?

Oh God. Ray was looking at the pillow covering Fraser's groin. When he looked back up at Fraser's face, his eyes seemed almost...hopeful.

But that couldn't be. It was a delusion, surely, brought about by the strength of Fraser's desire, which threatened to undo both his restraint and his common sense.

This was unbearable. He was misinterpreting. Ray's emergence from the shower half-naked was a reflection of some appalling American custom, not flirtation. If he opened his mouth now he would ruin the nascent friendship (and how would Ray Vecchio forgive him, when he came home to find that "he" and Fraser were not speaking?) Fraser stood, dropping the pillow hastily, and with three large steps reclaimed his Stetson.

"Thank you for your hospitality, Ray, but I simply must --"

"Shit. I'm sorry." His tone was so subdued that Fraser turned to look. Ray's body language had entirely changed. The slump of his shoulders projected defeat. Fraser's chest tightened.

"I thought maybe you were -- I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." Ray scrubbed at his face with one hand.

Concern overtook arousal. Fraser placed the hat back on the chair and took a step towards Ray. "I don't understand."

Ray smiled at him, but it was thin and unconvincing. "Don't worry about it."

"Ray, I can't...I need to understand." Hope warred with terror in his chest. His skin prickled, as it had before his first fight, fifteen years and a million miles ago. But this was another kind of first, wasn't it? Unless he was wrong, unless this too was going to end with him nursing bruises in his dark and silent room, stroking himself with pained fingers --

Ray took a deep breath. "I thought maybe you were interested in me, but I can see now I was on crack, it was just the post-fight thing, everybody gets it, doesn't mean you're gay, I shoulda known that."

Fraser felt time stop. He just stood there, looking at Ray.

"Man, did I just make things -- you said you had to understand, don't be weird about this, Fraser --" Half-under his breath, like a prayer.

Finally Fraser found speech. "You were right."

"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry, can we let it--"

He stepped closer, into Ray's space, relishing the shower-clean scent of him, the surprised little gasp which made Fraser tingle. "I mean you were right, before. I understand your hunches often are."

Ray's posture still said scared, shoulders tensed protectively, but his smile looked more genuine. "You were interested?"

"I am interested," Fraser corrected.

"Whaddaya know," Ray mused aloud, and before Fraser could begin to consider how to answer that, Ray's mouth was opening to his.

Every bang and bruise flamed up as their bodies pressed together. Ray's embrace compressed the bruise over Fraser's kidney and the scrapes along Fraser's left arm, but the pain and the adrenaline of taking this crazy, delicious leap just ratcheted each other up. It was intoxicating. Ray was hot in his arms, still damp from the shower. As Ray moved against him the towel came untucked and hung there, caught between them. Fraser thought he might combust.

There was a bed in the next room. And when they got there, Fraser would strip his uniform away, and Ray would kiss and lick every mark on Fraser's body, and if Ray were hard again Fraser would touch another man's erection for the first blessed time, and if not maybe Ray could be enticed to place his hot, sweet mouth...just...there...

And Fraser would get his long, drawn-out post-imbroglio orgasm, but this time it would be better than ever, because he would not be alone.

(1438 words)


"I can't imagine what the boy was thinking."

The gull cocked its head at the ghost, who opted to interpret that as interest. He was an optimist that way.

"You'd think he'd appreciate a little fatherly advice."

The gull pecked at the sand.

"I had a lot of years on this mortal coil, you know. And I spent most of them in the line of duty. Chasing down malfeasants. Serving truth, justice, and the Canadian way."

The gull dug a few millimeters down, pulled out a flake of mussel shell, and discarded it.

"I know what I'm talking about, especially in these matters. And with all the flak he gives me for not having been around -- don't think I don't hear it, just because he leaves the words unspoken -- you might think he'd be glad I'm helping now."

The gull didn't do a damn thing. Bob kept talking.

"'Those handcuffs are meant for official police use, son,' I said. 'It's a perversion of the office to make use of them otherwise.' I was *going* to add, 'They'll abrade your wrists, you can do better, they make them lined with that faux-fur now, and I'll tell you, while the leopard-print is admittedly reprehensible, you'll feel a lot better about in the morning when your skin isn't chafed.' But would he listen?" Bob sniffed. "'Shove off, Dad,' he says. Is that any way to speak to your own father's ghost?"

The gull shoved off and flew away.

Bob sighed and skipped a ghostly pebble across the lake.

Suddenly he brightened. "Maybe the Yank will see reason," he said, to no one in particular.

And vanished.

A thousand miles away, in a Chicago apartment, Ray Kowalski screamed.

(286 words)

Walking on Water

It was one of those days. We were on our way to get hot dogs from the guy on the corner when Fraser took off at a run shouting "Stop!" Figures: can't even eat lunch without Fraser sniffing out a criminal. He sprinted four blocks, climbed a fire escape, jumped to a second rooftop, and tackled the punk who'd taken the purse.

We brought them both to the station; while I explained his stupidity to the punk in a holding cell, Fraser took a statement from the woman in the green mini-dress with the scoop neckline. She was giving him serious "do me baby" eyes when I came out of the interrogation room, leaning forward so her boobs practically fell out of her dress, and didn't seem to hear me walk up and clear my throat. She couldn't stop looking at Fraser. Not that I could blame her, but it still ticked me off.

"You're sitting on my desk," I finally said.

"Oh!" She stood, looked me up and down, and practically sniffed. "I was just giving the Constable" -- she said it like a bedroom word -- "my story."

"Thanks for your assistance, Miss," Fraser said, standing ramrod-straight with his hat in one hand. I hid a smile: he wasn't interested, I could tell. Bet she wasn't used to people ignoring her...charms.

"Here's my number, if you learn anything more about my assailant," she said, handing Fraser a business card. He set it down on my desk.

She left. I started filing out the paperwork. When he wasn't looking, I dropped her card in the trash.

"Miss Castorini was certainly appreciative of our efforts to recover her purse," Fraser observed.

I snorted. "She looked at you like you could walk on water." I was staring at the paperwork on my desk but still seeing the woman batting her damn eyelashes. The way she looked at him...

"But I can." His words cut through my daydream; the woman mooning over Fraser went poof, leaving Fraser leaning on my desk right where she'd been sitting, looking right at me.

Huh? Oh, yeah, walk on water. Right. Fraser said it totally deadpan; I had to laugh.

"You can, too."

"The hell I can."

"I'll show you sometime." There was a little lift in his voice, and damn if it didn't sound like flirtation. Got my motor going every time. "You'll love it. It feels...remarkable." Down, boy.

"Okay -- how about now?" I like to call his bluffs.

He looked shocked. "We couldn't, now. For one thing, your report isn't finished."

Oh, for...

"And besides, it's not the right time."

"Sure, Frase. We'll wait until the time is right." What a nut. He was pulling my leg. I should've known.

A few days went by and I forgot about it. And then weeks went by. And a couple of months. Until, the second Saturday in January, the coldest day after the coldest day after the coldest day in recorded Chicago history, a knock came at my door. It was Fraser, all bundled up, and Diefenbaker panting happily next to him.

"Ray!" He walked in past me, smiling. "Put on your warmest clothes."

"What? You want me to go outside on a day like this?" I gestured at the thick icicles creeping down my windows.

"You'll want long underwear, under...less form-fitting bluejeans," he said, and for a second I thought he sounded sorry about that.

I downed the end of my coffee and sighed. "Fine."

He smiled brighter than a new paint job; I couldn't help the start of a grin in response. There is nothing in the world better to look at than Benton Fraser when he's this happy about something, and even though I didn't know what it was, I was game to find out.

So I scrounged up some long underwear, and some jeans to go over 'em, and a turtleneck and a sweater and gloves and a hat and a coat, and we headed out into the streets. It was fucking cold, yeah, but we were moving, so it wasn't so bad.

"I made you a promise," Fraser said. I didn't know what he was talking about, but I nodded anyway.

It came clear to me as we approached the lake: frozen, as far as the eye could see. Fraser clambered over the rocks at its edge and reached a hand up to me. "Come on down," he said, so I followed him.

"Okay, I get it." I remembered the conversation in the bullpen now. "I see your point."

"Shh, Ray, keep going." We walked further and further out, the ice crunching softly under our boots, Diefenbaker trotting beside us. Slowly the sounds of the city grew quieter. Our breath made soft puffs of steam that disappeared as we walked through them.

Finally Fraser stopped. "Here." He turned around; I turned with him; and the sight of the city, under snow, across the white lake, took my breath away. Or maybe it was the cold. Or maybe the look on Fraser's face.

"Wonderful, isn't it?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," I breathed. "Beautiful."

I wasn't sure whether I meant Chicago, or him, cheeks red from the cold, eyes as alive as I had ever seen them. Or maybe both.

"I was hoping you would think so," he said.

We looked at each other for a minute. The minute turned into two. If he didn't stop staring at me, I was going to kiss him. I was really going to do it. Right now.

I moved a little closer. Fraser was looking right at me now, not even pretending to be taking in the view.

His lips were cold, but once he opened his mouth the kiss was hot and sweet and kinda like introducing ourselves all over again. Tongue, meet Benton Fraser's teeth. Mouth, meet your new best friend.

Fraser was right: walking on water was the best feeling of my life.

(991 words)


Ray wasn't sure how he got himself into these things.

He had no desire to spend a Saturday selling tickets at the St. Raphael's street fair. It would be loud, and hot, and there would be screaming kids and spilled slurpees everywhere, and besides, he and Fraser had plans. Plans. Plans to nail each other to the bed, because between Ray spending two nights on stakeout and Fraser being chained to his desk more than usual, they hadn't had their hands on each other in over a week.

But Sister Catherine asked Frannie to help organize it, and she told Ray he was volunteering.

"But Frannie --"

"Of course my brother's going to help me out," she said, sweetly.

"Look, it's not, I just --"

"It's what you're expected to do."

"Okay, I'll owe you, I --"

Her eyes narrowed a little. "Give me one more excuse and I'll make you work the kissing booth."

"Tickets! Selling tickets is fine."

So maybe that was his first mistake. He should have put his foot down. He should have told Frannie no dice, no go, no fucking way was he spending his afternoon tearing tickets off the huge paper rolls and collecting quarters and dollars in return.

His second mistake was what he'd said to Fraser that morning on his way out of bed. The whole conversation was so fresh in his memory, it was like it was still happening:

"You'd like it, wouldn't you?"

"What? Hell, yes, but that's not the point."

"What is* the point, then?"

"The point is -- let go, I gotta get up, I told Frannie I'd be there by ten and I have to slam some coffee first or I'll never survive -- the point is, you wouldn't do it."

"I wouldn't?"

"Gimme a break, Fraser, I know you, and you. Would. Not."

"I see. Never mind. Go take your shower, then."

And when Ray got out of the shower, Fraser was gone. In hindsight, he realized he should have noticed how quiet Fraser got, at the end, there, but he didn't see it at the time.

Which is why when Ray stomped onto the fairgrounds, got his badge, and settled himself in the flimsy folding chair inside the ticket booth, he yelped when firm hands grasped his calves.

The "shhh" that came from under the table made his hair stand on end.

The feeling of Fraser's hands tugging him down in the chair, so his hips were barely balanced at the edge of the seat and there was somehow just barely room between his pelvis and the table for Fraser's head to fit, almost unhinged him.

"Fraser!" he whispered, as loudly as he dared. "Are you fucking insane, you can't--"

"Quiet, Ray, or people will think you're talking to ghosts," came the tart reply.

And then his first customer was there. A kid, maybe seventeen, trying to look tough with the ripped jeans and the tight white t-shirt, with his girlfriend right behind him. He wanted ten dollars' worth of tickets.

"Welcome to the St. Raphael's Fair," Ray said, inanely, hoping his voice and the various noises of the fairground covered the zzzit! of his zipper opening.

And then he bit his tongue to keep from moaning as Fraser took the first long, slow lick.

He should have known better. He'd practically dared the guy. Hell, in Fraser's mind, he had dared him. If anybody in the world had a stubborn streak, it was Benton Fraser.

Who was making this the longest, slowest, fucking sweetest blowjob Ray had ever gotten in his life. It took every ounce of his willpower not to pound his fists on the table, not to let his head fall back and thrust hard into Fraser's mouth.

But of course, he couldn't. He was counting tickets for a family with four kids. Hoping his smile looked genuine. Hoping nobody in line could tell that his swollen wet dick was slipping maddeningly in and out of his lover's mouth. In. And out.

He had to count one lady's twenty-four tickets out twice, because halfway there he lost track of where he was, other than holding on to sanity by his fingernails.

At last there was a lull in the line of customers, and he pushed just a fraction further into Fraser's mouth. He had to come. He had to come right that fucking second or he would die.

Fraser seemed to take the hint; he sucked harder, moving his tongue just under the head the way that drove Ray the craziest. Almost there, he was almost --

"Hey there, bro." Mother of God, it was Frannie. Leaning on the front of the ticket counter, drumming her painted fingernails against the tabletop. "How's it going?"

Frozen just at the edge of orgasm, Ray wasn't sure how he found the voice for, "fine." It came out a little strangled.

"You don't sound so hot."

Fraser took that opportunity to pull back and blow a gentle stream of air across Ray's tortured prick. Ray felt the blood drain out of his face.

"I, ah --" He was fumbling for words. Horrified to think that she might know. Oh, God, what if she --

"You look sick," Frannie said, suddenly concerned. "Are you getting enough sleep?"

Fraser popped the head of Ray's dick back into his mouth. Ray bit back a whimper. "Ah, no," he gritted out. "Stakeout. Y'know."

"Shit, Ray, I should have let you sleep in." She looked genuinely remorseful. "Look, the crowd isn't as bad as I thought it would be -- I'll find somebody to cover tickets, go home and take a nap."

"Sounds good," Ray managed.

She headed off towards the Ferris wheel.

"Son of a," Ray started, when suddenly his cock was back in Fraser's mouth, and somehow Fraser had worked a hand up there, kneading his balls in time with the suction, and that did it: Ray was jerking in his chair, pulsing into Fraser's mouth, coming.

He sagged back, his eyes closed. Against his lids he was still seeing stars.

He felt movement by his feet; his chair scooted back an inch; and suddenly Fraser was standing behind him, discreetly wiping the side of his mouth. Bastard didn't even look like he'd gotten a speck of dirt on him, kneeling under the table all that time.

"I cannot believe," Ray began, hoping he sounded slow and dangerous instead of just slow from having come his brains out. And then he stopped, because Frannie was heading their way with a teenaged girl in tow.

"Fraser!" She sounded delighted. "When'd you get here?"

Ray shot his partner a look.

"Francesca, it's a pleasure to see you. I was just stopping by to see if Ray could be...relieved."

Ray hoped like hell the burn in his cheeks looked like too much sun. "Thanks for letting me off the hook, Frannie," he said, fast, and grabbed his jacket to hold in front of his still-unfastened jeans as he climbed out of the ticket booth. Fraser followed him, and shielded him from sight while he hastily zipped up.

"See you later," Fraser said, sunnily, appearing not to notice Frannie's wistful sigh.

Ray grabbed his wrist and jerked him towards the car. "When we get home..."

Fraser coughed. "I confess, I had thoughts about home."

"Oh yeah?"

"I'm afraid I'm in need of some...relief...myself."

"Just you wait," Ray said.

(1240 words)


I drop the binoculars in my lap and rub my eyes. It's getting late.

"I'll take a shift with those, if you like," Fraser says. I hand them over.

I can't see much without the night scope, so I look at Fraser. A little uptight, maybe, but not hard on the eyes, I'll give the guy that.

I shift around in my seat, trying to get comfortable, and knock my biggest bruise against the steering wheel. "Shit," I mutter, because it hurts.

"Are you all right?"

"Huh? Yeah -- just, got a bruise. From the bullet." Has he ever been shot through a vest before? I almost ask, but then it seems too...personal.

"Mmm. I have some salve which might help with the soreness. I can bring some to you tomorrow, if you like." His voice is low, almost sultry -- an off-duty voice. I haven't heard him sound like this before.

He's looking through the binocs, still, so it's not like I have eye contact to help me read the guy. But was that tone of voice -- was that flirting?

The silence seems too loud, so I say the first thing that comes to my head. "This car sucks. Damn shame about the Riv."

From the photos, Vecchio looked like kind of a yutz -- what kind of guy wears those clothes? -- but he had good taste in cars.

"Sayonara, Riviera," I say, cracking myself up a little. "You're swimming with the fishes now." Fraser lowers the binoculars and looks at me for a second, and I feel guilty all of a sudden. Maybe it's not funny to make Mob jokes about Vecchio's car. I ought to have some respect for the guy. I couldn't do what he's doing, that's for damn sure.

But then he cracks a smile, and the tightness in my chest eases a little. "I don't know that the Riviera could be said to be 'swimming,' strictly speaking, Ray."

"Oh yeah? You never know."

"No, I suppose you don't," he says, and hands me the binoculars. He has a thermos at his feet, which I hear him start to unscrew. "Tea?"

Somehow it seems really sweet that he brought hot drinks for us. Did he do that for Vecchio? It's almost like a...courting thing.

The mental image practically knocks me over: Vecchio in the Riv, wearing one of those flashy suits, loosening his tie and undoing the top button of his dress shirt. The two of them kissing, groping, making out in that big sweet back seat. Heavy breathing. Somebody moaning. It's a pretty image.


I swallow hard. My face feels hot. "I'm...not a big tea guy," I say, lamely.


I blink and make my eyes refocus on what's actually in front of me, instead of on the porn show in my head. I look out the windshield and through the bushes and across the street and four floors up. Scanning for Kensinger gives me something to focus on. Something other than thinking about doing this guy I barely just met in the back seat of an unmarked cop car.

At least he doesn't know what I'm thinking.

"You didn't answer my question about the salve."

Does he know that sounds like a come-on? Man, what I would do with some salve right now...

I wrench my mind out of the gutter. "Yeah, sure, bring it over," I say, hoping I sound normal, not like I'm getting hard thinking about it. Which I am.


Nothing's happening in Kensinger's apartment, and I keep moving around, trying to get comfortable. This car really does suck.

"You seem stiff," Fraser observes.

I bite back a laugh, because something tells me he's not the Beavis and Butthead type. "Yeah."

He sips more tea. "Perhaps you might benefit from a more...thorough massage."

Okay, that's it, I'm jerking off the second I get home tonight. I might not make it as far as the bed. I might not manage to peel these jeans off. I'm trying to figure out how the hell to answer that when suddenly there's motion in Kensinger's living room, and I snap forward against the steering wheel. "Hey, he's moving around."

"Does he have the briefcase?" Fraser's voice is totally different now. All business.

"I can't--" I can't tell what he's holding. Wait, yes, I can. "Yes. He's got it."

I hand off the binocs and pick up the radio handset. "Station, this is car oh-five-niner, Kensinger has the briefcase and he's headed out."

"Confirmed, oh-five-niner. Tail him from a hundred yards."

"Got it." I put the car in park, check my shoulder holster and glasses case, and tuck the keys in my pocket. Fraser's already out the door, in the shadows, getting ready to follow. The fantasies will have to wait.

(800 words)

Phone Confessions

Ray! How good to hear your voice.

No, no, I was awake.

Speedy is well.

Yes, half a lettuce leaf since youıve been gone. I assure you, Iım taking impeccable care --

The conference is going well, I take it?

That sounds fascinating.

No, I think I would quite enjoy it. Really.

Perhaps I will, next time. As you say, I have no shortage of vacation days. I expect Turnbull could be convinced to look after Diefenbaker and your turtle.

Indeed I do, Ray. Do tell.

Shoplifting from the hotel gift shop! The poor boy.

Iım sure he had no idea the Radisson was host to so many visiting law enforcement officials.

I assure you, I never shoplifted once.

True, opportunities were limited, but you know that wasnıt why, Ray. You know me better than --

Of course Iım offended.

No, Iım not claiming I was perfect. I made my share of adolescent errors.

[No, Dad, Iım not talking to you. Go away.]

Well, the worst resulted in my running away from home for a time.

Itıs embarrassing.

Ray! Of course I didnıt. I wasnıt like that. Besides, ifŠif you must know, no one would have been interested in sleeping with me even if I had made a move.

No, and really, itıs none of your business.

Because I donıt want to.

Oh, for --

I'm never going to get any peace until I tell you, am I?

I had just discovered a book in the library about aboriginal Australian culture, and I got it into my head that I should learn to carve boomerangs.

I thought I could give one to one of the boys in my class, as a kind of friendship-offering. I wasŠshort on friends at that time.

No, no, itıs quite all right, Iıve begun the story and Iım going to finish it now.

I didnıt want anyone to see me fail, and I naturally assumed that my first few efforts would be flawed. So I hiked out to Carsonıs Mine, which had been abandoned for some months. Imagine my surprise when I found two men roasting a haunch of elk over an open fire.

It wasnıt elk season, you understand.

It was my intention to apprehend them, but I was alone and unarmed. I thought perhaps I could stun one with a boomerang and then tackle the other hand-to-hand, but my better judgement convinced me otherwise.

They had parked their snowmobile beside a stand of trees. I waited until nightfall, crept to the machine, and turned it on, intending to ride to the nearest RCMP outpost. The men shouted and fired their guns at me, but fortunately neither could see well in the dark, and they missed.

Alas, the snowmobile proved to be low on gasoline. It ran out barely a mile from the mine. I abandoned it and ran. Fortunately for me, I had achieved enough of a head start that the poachers didnıt catch me, and I made it to the stationŠonly to discover that the two men in question were Mounties, themselves. They had apprehended a pair of poachers just that afternoon, and since the elk had already been shot, they were making the best of a bad situation by roasting the meat for their own meal. I had just stolenŠwell, the equivalent of a police cruiser.

Donıt laugh! Itıs not--

Well, I suppose it is funny, when you look at it that way.

No, I didnıt go home for over a week.

Fairıs fair: now you have to tell me the most embarrassing story from your teenage years.



[cough] Oh.

Thatıs quite --

Oh, my.


Iım sure I --

You didnıt.


In flagrante delicto!

No, Ray, itıs Latin, it means --


Iım afraid itıs time for bed, Ray. Youıve given me fineŠfodder with which to help myself towards sleep.

And if you ever breathe a word about the snowmobile, Iıll --

Yes. Only this time youıll get the punishment you deserve.

Interpret that however you like, Ray.

I look forward to your coming home, too.

Good night. Sweet dreams.

(683 words)

Five Scars Ray Kowalski Might Have


The first time Stella broke up with him, Ray thought about cutting himself. He was twelve.

It wasn't that he wanted to die; he didn't even like pain. He was just broken.

He didn't want to talk. (Who would he have talked to? His parents were old and he had no girlfriend.) But he wanted the world to know -- wanted God to know, maybe.

He sat on the fire escape and turned his pocketknife over in his hand. The blade clicked open.

He stared at it.

He scraped a flake of paint off the railing and watched it fall.


Jack was flirting with him. Jack's leather jacket was only soft under his arms and by his neck. Jack wanted to suck his dick.

After the third night of jerking off desperately to keep from saying yes, Ray got a tattoo. He spent a while standing outside, looking at the designs in the window, fingering the bills in his pocket.

He wound up with a flame, like on a bike. On his ass, where his jeans would hide it. Mom gave him a dirty look every time they walked past somebody with a tat, like she knew what Ray wanted.


Good thing about Kevlar was, it saved your skin. You could still bruise something awful, though: the morning after his first day with the Mountie Ray rolled over groaning.

He cursed when he looked in the mirror. Even though it hurt like a motherfucker, he wasn't ready for the red and yellow and purple spreading from where the bullet hadn't pierced his chest.

Once, Stella would've cried, he thought, turning on the shower and waiting for the steam. Now she wouldn't even know.

That hurt.

Somehow, remembering Fraser's voice helped. His face. How he'd shouted, "Ray!" when the bullet hit.


Their fourth day out was unseasonably cold, Fraser said. Ray couldn't tell the difference, but that night when he peeled away his socks his toes were grey and numb.

Fraser unfastened his flannel and rucked up his riverdriver shirt and made Ray prop his feet against Fraser's chest, closing all the layers back over them like blankets.

It was weird, but kind of sweet. Fraser went on about frostbite, and how valuable toes were. His eyes were warm and he made Ray laugh. He kept talking.

After a while, Ray found himself crying.

When something's been frozen, sometimes thawing hurts.


The axe glanced off the green wood and scraped his boot. Thank God for steeltoes: only the leather got scarred.

After that, Ray spent an afternoon with the grindstone. His hands and arms had too many nicks from shitty tools already. You could do serious damage with a bad axe. In summer you could radio the medi-vac, but in winter...

Besides, Fraser would kick his ass. "This body is irreplaceable," he murmured, almost every night.

Ray liked hearing that.

By dinnertime it was getting dark, but he couldn't resist setting up one round on the block. It split clean through.

Second Chance

The day we turned towards Yellowknife, Ray's silence changed.

A reverential silence often descends under the aurora borealis; a contented silence falls after a long day of sledging and a hot meal. This was neither of those.

This was the anticipatory silence of someone waiting to make a declaration, and it struck fear into my heart.

I knew what Ray was going to say: this time in the wilderness had changed him; he wanted to stay here with me. He thought he might love me enough to overturn a lifetime of heterosexuality, if I were willing to take the same leap.

Once the words left his mouth, I wouldn't be able to deny my complicity: I've never been skilled at concealing my heart. My head knows the romance would be doomed; my body, traitor, relishes every "accidental" touch. I couldn't say no to what I have wanted for so long.

So I determined not to let him speak. He was deluded; two months in the great white North can give one illusions, and a romantic like Ray Kowalski would be especially susceptible -- a factor I should have considered before we set off into the sunset together.

But the reality of life in the Territories is harsh, and I didn't think I could bear seeing my shine wear off in his eyes. Once he got back to Chicago, he'd be glad of what he hadn't said.


Time to take the plunge. "Fraser, there's something I've been meaning to--"

"Look!" His voice was bright. "That's where I had my first encounter with the caribou."

Fraser was pointing into a thicket of dwarf birch, barely as high as my knee. It looked just like a zillion other places we'd passed. "Huh," I said.

"I was eleven years old at the time. Usiliaq had taught me to follow the shallow indentations left by their hooves in the tundra..."

Dief gave a quiet whine and trotted off.


I felt it coming before Ray opened his mouth. "Look, I've been--"

I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Have you ever been swimming with a walrus?"

"What?" His expression said clearly that he was starting to find these diversionary tactics annoying.

"The first time I encountered a walrus in the water I was in a traditional whaleskin umiaq," I babbled.

I kept talking as we struck camp, packed up, and skiied off.


"Fraser. You awake?"

No response. Damn it.

"Psst. Hey. Can I talk to you?"

I never noticed he was such a sound sleeper, before.

Unless he was avoiding talking to me. But that couldn't be it; he'd barely stopped talking in two days.

It just seemed like he didn't want to listen.


In our final days together I aborted no fewer than seventeen attempts on Ray's part to have The Conversation.

He made his eighteenth try as we were walking across the tarmac to the small plane that would carry him on the first hop southwards. His skin was brown from the sun, his beard surprisingly golden.

"Fraser," he began, and I steeled myself to spout another Inuit tale. Then he surprised me. "I get the feeling you don't want to have this conversation," he said, almost too quietly to hear over the revving propellers.

His directness merited a candid response. "Don't say something you'd regret."

For a long moment we stared at each other. When he took off his sunglasses I saw something in his eyes that made me want to weep.

His lips tightened. "It's been..." He stopped. "Thanks."

"You're most welcome." It sounded inane, and for an instant I couldn't stop my mouth from babbling. "You're always welcome."

"Yeah, pull the other one," he muttered, so softly I wasn't sure I'd read his lips right. He pulled me into a one-armed hug, my heart froze, and then he was walking to the plane.

He didn't look back.


Nothing in my life has ever been as depressing as that trip back to Chicago.

I wasn't planning to take it, for starters. I spent a week deciding what I was going to say. We were quiet out there, but it was okay because it gave me time to figure out what was in my head.

What was in my heart.

But the minute I opened my mouth, Fraser started talking. At first I thought it was cool; he was telling me all kinds of stories. I thought maybe it was his way of saying he felt the same way, only without actually saying it.

But it got pretty obvious he was saying just the opposite. He was heading me off at the pass. Trying to protect me from being embarrassed when he didn't want the same thing I did, I guess. I wanted to hate him for it, but I couldn't.

I had a book to read on the way back, but I didn't even crack a page. Couldn't sleep, either. Just kept picturing him standing there on the landing strip, watching me walk away.

Nobody met me at O'Hare; they didn't know I was coming. My duffle bag looked battered and sad on the conveyor belt. The taxicab smelled nasty. My apartment was hot and stale and dusty.

I hoped I wouldn't dream.


"Son, have you entirely lost your mind?"

My father sat at the edge of my cot. I was oddly glad to see him: already my world without Ray was lonely. I told myself it would have ended this way eventually, but it wasn't much consolation.

"Nice to see you, too, Dad."

As usual, he ignored my words. "I can't say I was happy when you first took up with the Yank --"

"We never 'took up,' that's entirely--"

"--but sending him back like that was uncalled-for, and you know it!"

"I was sparing him the inevitable."

"You were sparing yourself, and it's obviously working, eh?"

"You don't have any idea what you're talking about!" The words came out angrier than I intended

His shoulders slumped a little. "I know about pushing someone away to ensure that I won't disappoint him," he said, quietly.

I couldn't move.

"And I know it generally backfires. Most of us aren't granted the chance to return and set things right."

When I looked up again, he was gone.


The knocking woke me from a dream of snow. I pulled on a robe and staggered to the door, wincing at how sunlight glinted off the empty whisky flask.

It was a DHL Express guy. I signed for the envelope, slammed the door in his face, and dropped it on the counter. Coffee first.

Halfway through my first cup (the smarties were stale, but what else was new) I turned the envelope over. The return address was Moose Jaw.

Suddenly I was wide-awake.


The note was only four lines long, but it took me almost two hours to compose.

I did us both a disservice by fending off your conversation. I was afraid you would change your mind, and wanted to spare myself that heartache. I find I would prefer the risk of losing you later to the certainty of having lost you now. I hope you can forgive me.

The travel agent in Moose Jaw was delighted to see me a second time in one week. Her name is Karen; she was a contemporary of my father's. I rescued her lead dog from a crevasse ten years ago, and she is still appreciative of my efforts.

"I hope your young man comes back," she said, smiling conspiratorially as she passed the ticket across the counter.

I sealed the envelope, handed it to Eddie at the post office, and went back to my cabin to wait for my second chance.

(1300 words)

Always Be Prepared

I don't know if they have Boy Scouts in Canada, but if they do, Fraser must've been one. I don't know jack about scouting except the motto, but nobody in the world is more prepared than Fraser.

I should've known.

Here's the thing: I'm a chickenshit for doing it the way I did. I had a hardon for Fraser from the start. Plus there was something lonely about him, and I've always been a sucker for somebody who might have a hole in his heart that I could work my way into.

But the physical stuff? All I had to do was think about thinking about it and my palms started sweating, and not in the good way, either. It was halfway to a panic attack.

Wasn't supposed to matter, though, because I wasn't going to bring it up. I had all these reasons why.

Over time, they vanished. Fraser wasn't straight, not enough to mind. Once we got past the Henry Allen I knew he wasn't going to hit me again, no matter what came out of my mouth. And speaking of the Henry Allen: that buddy-breathing thing...?

Nah, I wasn't going to be rejected. He was waiting for me to make a move.

And I was scared out of my mind.

I can talk a good game, but I'd never done anything with a guy. I didn't know what I was doing.

It wasn't that it repelled me. It was more like a train wreck: I didn't want to look, but once I started thinking about it, it would stay in my brain. Behind my eyelids. And I would go to pieces.

I knew a guy who was afraid of needles. I went with him to get his first tattoo. The minute he sat down in the chair he passed out. Ron wouldn't ink him like that; we had to wake him up with smelling salts, and he thrashed around when he came to. I had to get half a flask of Beam into him before he'd sit still for it.

I felt kind of like that. I knew what I wanted, but there was a wall of complete terror between here and there.

So when I finally decided to say something, I picked my moment. I got a long weekend's leave and asked Fraser to come camping up in Wisconsin. Once I poured my heart out we'd have a few days to fool around, but we wouldn't do anything too heavy, because Fraser would never have unsafe sex and we wouldn't have any supplies. It was genius.

We parked the car at the trailhead and hiked into the park. Dief ran around like he was on speed, sniffing things and barking and being the picture of happy dogginess, or wolfitude, and I let Fraser lead so I could watch his ass. Hey, I'm shallow sometimes.

After dinner we sat next to the fire, on a blanket, looking at stars. Even though I'd been thinking about it for months now, I still didn't have the right words, so I blurted out, "Fraser, can I kiss you?"

Nothing fazes Fraser. He just smiled and said, "Of course, Ray." And that was that.

It was good kissing, just like I knew it would be. We didn't have to talk about it; his tongue was in my mouth, and my hand was in his hair, and it was perfect.

We eased our way down onto the blanket and wrapped our legs together and kept going. We'd pull back, and smile at each other, and kiss some more. And it wasn't long before Fraser was hard, and I was hard, and that was perfect, because there was nothing to be afraid of.

But then he was working a hand into my jeans and muttering in my ear, "I hope you weren't planning on sleeping."

"Whyzat?" My dick liked the attention, even if my brain was waking back up.

"I have plans for you..." His voice was low and his tongue touched the edge of my ear and part of me wanted to come right there.

But another part of me was starting to freak out, so I nipped it in the bud. "We don't have know...stuff." I moved to kiss him again.

"Stuff?" Fraser had pulled back a little. The firelight was just strong enough for me to see the bafflement on his face.

I took a deep breath. "You-know-condoms-whatever." There.

Fraser's face brightened; he was practically beaming. "Wait right there."

What the...?

No way had he brought condoms. No fucking way. I mean, there was something kind of endearing about the thought of him carrying them around waiting for me to ask (and something kind of hot about it, too, but I pushed that thought as far away as I could) but it just didn't seem right. I couldn't imagine him going into a drugstore and asking the surly kid at the counter for a package of...what? Trojans? Extra-thin? Lubricated? Ribbed?

His body tackled me to the blanket and we were kissing again. I meant to ask, but he was on top of me, his hands holding my head steady, and I stopped thinking. We were thrusting. Rubbing. Greatness.

When he moved away I made a little sound of dismay. "I want to see you," he said softly, and suddenly that sounded like a really good idea. Maybe I could watch him touch himself.

I swallowed hard and stripped. Beside me, Fraser did the same. I was aching for a look at his dick.

And then I heard a...plastic snapping sound.

I sat bolt upright, my heart pounding.

When Fraser turned back to me, one of his hands was ghost-white. He was wearing a glove. And he was unscrewing a little tin.

"What -- wait, Fraser, what's --" My voice came out too high-pitched. I was starting to sweat. My erection was deflating. Visions of prostate exams were dancing in my head, and that was not a good thing.

"Homemade liniment, Ray," he said, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

"But--" There was a lump in my throat.

He set the thing down and looked at me. I could see him seeing that I was tense, putting the pieces together. I looked at the blanket. God, I hadn't thought this through. I'd fucked this up.

"Ray, you --" He sounded scared himself now. "Are you a...survivor?"

It took me a second to process. "Jeez! No, I just -- I don't know what we're doing."

His body relaxed; he looked relieved. "You're afraid."

I flinched, I couldn't help it, even though there was no condemnation in his voice. I had to swallow hard before I could say "Yeah."

Slowly Fraser lay back down on the blanket. "Can we go back to...?" He beckoned with his non-gloved hand.

This time the kissing started slower. Gentler. It was a while before my tongue went back in his mouth, but when it did, he gasped, and when I heard that, I was hard again. Thank God.

After a while I climbed on top of him. I liked the way our chests felt together, and fucking his mouth with my tongue made him writhe under me and I liked that even better. My panic was a million miles away.

I slid forward to suck at his neck, and his hands found my ass, and that was cool, that was good.

And then one of his hands was rubbing little circles and that was very cool, actually that was cold and slick and sending sparks up my spine. He wasn't rubbing in, just little tiny movements on the outside, and some far-away part of my brain noticed I wasn't panicking this time. I was harder than ever. And thrusting against his hip. And making little whimpery noises into the side of his neck.

"This okay?" he murmured somewhere near my ear, and I nodded into his shoulder. "Ray? Is this okay?"

I took a deep breath. "Yes." And then, screwing my eyes shut tight, "please."

"Trust me?"

I managed "mmm," which wasn't exactly a yes but was as close as I could get, and I was praying that he would understand because I didn't think I could say it out loud but all of a sudden I wanted whatever he was doing, wherever he was going, I wanted it bad.

Fraser rolled us onto our sides and scooted down my body a little, so his face was pressed into my ribcage and his hands could reach. His tongue was warm and it distracted me and then suddenly his slick finger was inside me. Still moving in little circles.

It wasn't like anything I'd ever imagined. My dick was so hard I almost hurt.

"Okay?" His voice was muffled against my body.

All I could do was moan.

"I'll take that as a yes," he said, and then two fingers pressed into me and I groaned and convulsed and came.

I was only dimly aware of Fraser's fingers pulling out of me; of the sound of the glove being peeled away and discarded; of the night sky over us. My whole body was tingling.

He lay down next to me again and propped himself up on one elbow, looking at me. "Was that all right?"

I didn't know how to answer. It was terrifying. It was amazing. So I pushed up next to him and kissed him again.

He sighed into my mouth, and somehow that freed me up. "God, yes, I want to do that again." Admitting it didn't feel as earthshattering as I thought it would. I worked a hand between us and ran it over his dick.

Fraser shuddered. "Oh--good," he got out, between his teeth. "I was--worried I'd--pushed you too far--"

There was something incredibly sexy about listening to him try to talk when he was obviously on the verge of losing it. I took my hand away and licked it, and his head thudded back against the ground.

About two seconds after that he was jerking under me, biting his lip to keep from making any noise. I couldn't stand it: I licked his bottom lip and he opened his mouth and moaned right into me.

It was almost enough to make me hard again.

Somehow we got off the blanket and into the tent. Fraser spread out my sleeping bag on the ground and covered us with his other blanket, the one that wasn't sticky now.

By the time we arranged ourselves comfortably, I was wide awake again.

I had to ask.

"You always carry that stuff with you?"

It was too dark to tell whether he was blushing, but I think he might've been. "It's good to be prepared, Ray."

I snorted. "I'll say."

"I'm glad you agree." He sounded so proud of himself I would've hit him with a pillow, if we had any.

I settled for kissing him again.

(1833 words)


I. Rink

"No -- no -- no, wait, yes, yes!" Fraser hovered on the edge of the couch, body tensed, as the shot was deflected, skittered across the rink, zipped from here to there, flew into the air at the clash of sticks, and beautifully, improbably, sailed into the goal.

Ray sneaked a glance at Fraser. His face was flushed, his eyes were bright, he looked...more edible than usual.

Ray couldn't help imagining him that animated, that excited, naked, against Ray's own sheets.

Now Ray was flushed.

"Hell of a shot," he said, trying to get his mind back on the ice.

II. Fields

Expanses of glacier, gleaming in the sun. A team of dogs harnessed to a sled, curled into circles, each half-covered by blowing snow. A landscape of ice, peaks and ridges, topped by the weird watercolors of the Northern Lights.

Ray stood in front of the Discovery store for almost fifteen minutes, staring at the posters. Wondering whether that was what it looked like where Fraser came from. Wondering whether Fraser would dig one. Wondering whether he was supposed to be getting Fraser a Christmas gift anyway.

In the end he bought postcard-sized ones, and hung them on his own fridge.

III. Cream

"Only Eskimoes eat ice cream in January, Fraser."

"Inuit," Fraser corrected, though Ray could hear that he was smiling. He knew Ray was just messing with him.


"And historically-speaking, ice cream didn't reach most Inuit communities until--"

"My point was, you're a freak."


They sat on a bench to eat. Somehow Fraser's cone stayed symmetrical as he licked it.

Ray was slurping his, because it was dripping. He was trying not to watch Fraser's tongue.

When he glanced over, Fraser's cheeks were pink. From the cold, probably.

Ray wished it were because Fraser was watching his tongue, too.

IV. Pack

"Ow, that's cold," Ray said, yanking the bag of frozen peas off his temple.

Fraser scowled. "You're going to have quite an egg there."

"Whether or not I ice it," Ray retorted. "So I might as well be comfortable now."

Fraser muttered "suit yourself" and went to put the kettle on.

"At least we got the guy," Ray called into the kitchen.


"Bet nobody's icing *his* bruises tonight," Ray said, thinking of DiLuca in lockup with grim satisfaction.

And actually he kind of liked that Fraser fussed over him when he got hurt. Wasn't about to admit it, though.

V. House

"This is seriously cool," Ray said, again. Fraser grinned and kept placing blocks.

The igloo was finished by dinnertime. They rehydrated some stew, then curled into their bags.

"I guess we'd be okay if we lost the tent, long as you didn't mind building these every night."

"I could teach you," Fraser offered.

"It might take me a while to learn."

"I have all the time in the world." Words chosen carefully.

They weren't talking about the igloo anymore.

"Me too," Ray said. Fraser smiled at him, full of promise.

A shard of ice Ray hadn't known he'd swallowed, thawed.

(500 words)

The Club

"...And tonight should be cold enough," Fraser finished, like he was serious. "I haven't been in years, naturally, but David tells me the tradition is still going strong. Would you like to go?"

I stared at him. "Fraser, you have to be fucking kidding me."

He shook his head and gave a half-shrug. "I assure you, it's quite commonplace. And you've been saying you'd like to feel more a part of the local 'scene'..."

"This is some kind of crazy Canadian thing." Despite myself, I was grinning, because honestly? It sounded too nuts to be true, and I should've known that meant it was true.

"Actually, it may be Russian in origin."

"Figures," I muttered.

"It's practiced by many Scandinavians, Finns of course, some Swedes...and even by Americans, especially scientists and technicians wintering over at McMurdo or South Pole station."

I let my head fall back onto the top of the couch and stared at the ceiling of the cabin. I'd moved to Canada with a fucking lunatic. For some reason, that seemed funny, so I said it out loud. "I've moved to Canada with a fucking lunatic."

"Understood." I could hear Fraser smiling; he knew I wasn't really complaining. "Is that a 'yes,' then?"

"God help me," I sat up with a groan. "Yeah, okay."

And that was how I wound up sitting on the cedar bench in Mac's sauna along with Fraser, Mac, Billy Corker, and an Inuit guy named Luke. The sauna was fantastic: it felt like it was about a zillion degrees (Fraser said it was more like 175, Fahrenheit), and every time Mac poured water over the stones the place filled up with steam and it felt ten times hotter.

We talked about stupid stuff -- who was going to play hockey this weekend, what new movie rentals were coming to the place in town, shit like that. I mostly melted and enjoyed the heat.

Also, part of my brain was working hard on not paying attention to how good Fraser looked with sweat rolling down his belly, because I did not want to get an erection in a sauna full of big burly guys. Even if they all knew about us and they were cool with it, I still didn't want to embarrass myself. So I just closed my eyes and let my head loll back against the wooden wall, and breathed the hot air as deep as I could, and promised myself I'd nail Fraser to the mattress when we got home, if I survived this thing.

And then I heard somebody stand up. When I opened my eyes, they were all standing up, heads almost hitting the low ceiling. "Ready to go?" Fraser asked.

I shook my head, but I got up anyway. "Two hundred club, here I come."

We went out the door to the anteroom and tugged on our shoes, because as crazy as this was, going out barefoot was actually dangerous. Slipping on the ice could lead to falling down, and falling down -- well, let's just say landing on the ice could lead to frostbite in places I didn't want to think about.

And then Mac opened the door and we ran outside, whooping and yelling. I was so hot I didn't even feel the air at first.

The sky was huge, and scattered all over with stars. Somehow it seemed bigger when you were standing outside naked in the dark. The aurora swirled green and pink all around. Fraser and Mac and Billy and Luke looked like ghosts, the steam rising from their bodies making little clouds around them. I lifted up one hand and watched the steam float up from my skin. There were more stars out than I had ever, ever imagined could exist. It was incredible.

And then the cold banged into my forehead like a frying pan, and I shouted, and I ran back to the shed, and one by one we all piled back inside, hopped on one foot to yank our boots back off, and sighed with relief when the sauna door closed behind us and we were back in the heat again.

We were all grinning like madmen. Billy clapped me on the shoulder with his cold hand, Mac poured another dipper of water on the rocks, and Fraser said, "Welcome to the club, Ray."

And I had to admit, it felt good.

(733 words)


"Are you serious?"

Ray shrugged. "Why not?"

"It's cold."

"Warm in here."

True: now that the woodstove was going, the cabin seemed tropical after the tent. Fraser cast about for a more solid argument.

"It's...a little juvenile, isn't it?"

"Afraid to get naked with me?" Ray's expression held an invitation.

An invitation he intended to accept. "Not in the least. But if you're going to make a pass at me, why not just make the pass?"

Ray looked thoughtful, then grinned. "My way's more fun."

It might be, at that. "Strip-gin-rummy it is, then," Fraser said, and dealt the cards.

(100 words)

One Word

Ray doesn't really make shopping lists. Sometimes he scribbles things on the notepad next to his phone -- beer, milk, bread, canned soup -- but he always forgets to bring the pages with him.

Sometimes he writes himself reminders on old receipts -- sitting in the car on stakeout, under the glow of the streetlights -- but even those don't work. He finds them months later. The ones that say "oatmeal" and "hot chocolate" turn up in the pockets of his jacket one air-conditioned night in July. He balls them up and throws them out. The one that says "peaches" he finds in November, stuffed into the tiny change pocket of his jeans. It's been washed a million times, but the print is still barely legible. It makes him wistful. There won't be good peaches again for months.

After the first time Fraser sleeps over, Ray finds a note in his handwriting. All it says is "tea," but Ray understands what it implies -- something for me to drink in the mornings when I've stayed the night because your coffee with candy in it is not potable under any circumstances -- and it makes him waltz around the apartment, smiling like a loon.

(200 words)

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