|There's a canyon
of buildings on either side of Westlake Avenue. They tower overhead, forcefully,
awesomely, as if carved from an alternate earth made of steel and glass.
We come here, Ray and I, because of the rather staggering variety of eateries
in the vicinity, which tend to be empty during the in-between hours when
we manage to fit in our lunch.
||So we're standing
on the corner of Westlake Avenue. Big buildings all around, lookin'
like what the future used to look like--back in the movies, before the
future went out of date. We come here, him and me, a lot on account
of the fact that there's places to eat and nobody in 'em. That's
about 5, which is when we eat if we eat at all, which sometimes we don't.
|I admit that I'm not particularly
fond of this part of town, despite the impressive architecture. It's
unbearably crowded, particularly at this time of day, when the people--well,
there's really no other word for it. They swarm. There's also
a devastating sameness about them--not just in attire but in affect.
||Then again, 5:00 is a shitty
time to be downtown--what with the buildings letting out and the sidewalks
all jammed. Around us, everyone's late for something--they're running
for trains, catching buses, hailing cabs. They all look the same
to me--guys with ties, chicks in chunky heels and power suits.
|No. It's more than that.
||Nah, there's more to it.
|I can't pass a sky-rise without
thinking of her. All that bronze and silver and whirling, spinning
glass. The doors revolve, the cylinders defining the space they enclose.
And within them I can see softly falling snow, and dark hair, and blood.
Westlake Avenue is lined with these orbiting capsules, and outside some
of them, men in formal coats stand stiffly at attention, ready to offer
||All the women look like Stella--Stella
now, not Stella then. Stella then hung out in jeans and sneakers.
Stella then wore her hair long and pulled back in a sloppy ponytail.
Stella then spent all her time sitting at our crappy linoleum-topped kitchen
table, surrounded by books and gnawing her pen. Stella now--well,
the pen's sterling silver, and she'd probably break her teeth if she tried.
|Sometimes they remind me of me.
||I bet they all got silver pens,
|But Ray likes the restaurants here;
I should focus on that. He looks as lost as I feel--a gritty, dark
cowboy, out of his element, too naturally warm for all that cold glass
and steel. But the setting sun comes to his rescue, exploding off
the buildings and turning everything briefly orange and then gold.
Those colors are warm, and they suit him.
||It's easier to be here with Fraser--at
least I ain't the only one who sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe
I don't fit but he don't fit either--Fraser's real, like he's the only
thing that's in color, bright red in all that black, gray and blue.
The sun turns its brights on and blinds me--shit, this whole scene gives
me a fucking headache.
|He thrusts his hands into his jacket
pockets and turns to me.
||Or maybe I'm just hungry.
I mean, that could be it, too.
|"So whattya say, Frase--Lenny's?"
Ray is scowling now; he's really hungry. Yet his suggestion is meant
to please me, as indeed it does. Left to his own devices, Ray would
as soon have a frankfurter on the street. Three bites and it's gone--and
Ray is ready to go, too. It's for me he eats in restaurants, knowing
I need peace and quiet to recharge. God bless him.
||"So whattya say, Frase--Lenny's?"
Fraser's looking distracted, but Lenny's'll cheer him up quick. Underneath
that starched exterior, the Mountie's got a thing for French fries.
Guy loves 'em, and no one ever guesses, but he'll eat all of his and half
of mine. Then again, he'll give me his pickle and cole slaw, so we'll
come out even like we pretty much always do.
|Ray's looking expectant, and I realize
I haven't answered. "Yes, certainly. Lenny's would be--"
||"Yes, certainly," Fraser says quickly,
and he looks grateful--even a half smile. "Lenny's would be--"
|And then I see her. There,
in the white coat--dear God, not possible. A delusion, a visualization.
||And then the smile's gone, and he's
lookin' right past me, face intense, his eyes narrowing slightly and--
|I have to try. I must have
hope. And even this panic is a form of hope. And even this
pounding in my chest is a form of hope. If I'm running, I must be
alive. If I'm panting, I must be alive. If I'm this terrified,
I must be alive, then, mustn't I? I think it must be so. The thrill
of the chase is still thrilling. My muscles move as I ask them to.
I've run through canyons before, I've jumped off cliffs before. This
is no different. This is no different.
||--he's off, bang! running!--dodging
and weaving between the stunned suits and the power chicks with their short
skirts and leather satchels. And this is normal enough, the sort
of thing we do all the time--so I whirl and turn and I'm right behind him,
yanking my gun out of my shoulder holster. I figure it's like, you
know, the usual--terrorist monks, guys boosting a car, or maybe a pickpocket
that Fraser's spotted from four blocks away.
|Cabs instead of caribou. Black
tar instead of white snow. Running through the canyon, cutting across
a river of traffic, the air full of noise, blaring, honking--the
cries of exotic animals.
||And he's really running, now--full
out, full-tilt, faster than me--then turning, swerving, cutting across
the street at an angle. The taxi horns blare and the SUVs slam
on the brakes.
|Her white coat billows out behind
her. Her long, dark hair tails out behind her. Reaching out
for me. Hope swells in my chest. She's so close. Reaching
out. So close, I'm reaching out, close, reaching, my hand stretches
||He takes the high road and I take
the low road, always and forever--and so I cross a little further down,
figuring I'll take rear flank on this one. I go up, scrambling over
the hood of a car, sliding and running and flicking the safety off my gun.
|I grab her coat, it's soft, I've
||Because he's stopped, he's there,
he's got her.
|--and I turn her and look and--she's
not. It isn't her, nothing like. Her green eyes are surprised,
then confused, then frightened and dimly I can hear Ray's voice, yelling,
I think. Eyes, nose, shape of the face--all are wrong. And yet, if
I squint, I can see Victoria in her, through her. Part of me wants
to indulge this fantasy as long as I can, just let myself hold her and
stare and dream. But she's scared, struggling, throwing her purse
at me--and in her fear and hate of me she is very like Victoria.
||"FREEZE! CHICAGO PD!
DROP IT!" and I'm in a crouch, my gun aimed at her chest. Fraser's
got her, is clutching her tightly and she lets out a shriek and flings
her snazzy little black bag down onto the sidewalk. It spills open,
everything clattering out, and I half expect to see--I dunno, the Hope
diamond, or a kilo of coke, or at least a gun or something. Instead
there's a scatter of cosmetics, a wallet, a palm pilot, a set of car keys.
Maybe ten round gold tokens for the express bus.
|Her face suddenly contorts, but
she isn't looking at me. She's looking beyond me, past me.
I turn and I see Ray, crouched and--dear God, he's got a gun, he's got
his gun out, he's going to shoot me, it's happening again, Christ, no,
||Now she's shrinking back against
a shop window and cowering and fuck me if she doesn't look terrified. Fraser's
staring at her blankly, and then his head turns slowly toward me.
His face instantly changes and he gasps, "Christ, no!"
|And I'm braced for the pain as I
rush him. I'm braced for the sound of the shot. In the front,
this time--in my lungs or heart perhaps. Not a bad way to go, quick
and easy and symmetrical. But he doesn't fire.
||And that's my first, fat-ass cue
that something's off, because Fraser's blaspheming. And then he's
on me, grabbing my arm and twisting and shoving it down, forcing my gun
|And then the moment has passed.
The danger has passed. Ray looks angry, which means he's frightened,
and that is my fault. Behind me, I hear the sound of weeping, and that
is my fault, too. "Put the gun away," I plead quietly, "please put
the gun away. Mistake."
||The woman bursts into horrible,
ragged tears. Fraser's got this look on his face I've never seen
before--he looks sick, anguished, confused. "Put the gun away, please
put the gun away." And then the second, fat-ass cue as he swallows
and whispers, "Mistake."
|The anger drains from his face;
he looks puzzled, confused, disappointed. I've literally led him
astray, wronged him as certainly as I've wronged the poor woman behind
||Mistake? This is a mistake?
Fraser made a mistake? Wow--holy shit. I can see why he's so
miserable, being as he probably hasn't made a mistake since 1974.
|I can't bear to look at him, or
her, and so I turn and busy myself with collecting her belongings together.
I've done a terrible thing, made a horrible error. I've accosted
an innocent woman, put her in danger, made her cry. "I'm so sorry.
||He's on his knees now, and he's
deadly pale, staring at the ground and collecting the bric-a-brac from
the chick's handbag. "My mistake," he's saying over and over, and
his hands are shaking as he reaches for her compact. "I'm so sorry.
|I pick up her car keys; they're
heavy in my hands. Powder compact. Into the bag. Lipstick.
Into the bag. Above me, the sound of sobs. Such a near miss--Ray
could have shot her, could have shot me. I've endangered an innocent
woman's life--and why? Chasing a dream? I fumble her
wallet and it flips open. Margaret Saunders. Dear Margaret,
I am so very sorry.
||The word is freaking me out.
On Fraser's mouth, it's a worse blasphemy than "Christ." And if it's
true, if Fraser's made a mistake, I've practically pistol-whipped
some poor lady for no good reason. Pulled a gun on a crowded street
and aimed it at one of the citizens I'm supposed to be trying to protect.
Bad, bad juju--and a public relations nightmare, at the very least.
|Ray's boots step forward.
He's apologizing to her. He's apologizing, although he's done nothing
wrong. My fault; a moment of weakness. If I'm honest, more
than a moment. This loneliness is my weakness. "We thought
you were..." Dear Ray. Trying to explain. "You resemble somebody
||I flick my safety on and quickly
reholster my gun. "I'm sorry," I say, raising my empty hands and
trying to look as non-threatening as possible. She ain't buying,
though--she's looking at me like I'm some kind of nutcase--but what else
can I do? "You...we thought you were...you resemble somebody we want."
|Dear God. Does he know what
he's saying? Does he know, or has he just put his finger on
the matter in that odd, instinctive way he has? Ray's instincts,
his intuitions-- what he calls his "hunches" in that offhand, self-deprecating
way--never cease to astound me. It's a talent he has--reading people,
seeing through them, and then moving with unerring grace toward the mark.
I take the high road, he takes the low road, but he's always in Scotland
afore me, grinning and impatient.
||At my feet, still gettin' the lady's
stuff together, Fraser flinches--and okay, so maybe it's not true, but
you'd think he'd cut me some slack for a lie considering that he got me
into this mess in the first place. And it's gotta be at least partly
true, I figure, even though I'm flipping through my own personal mental
mug-shot book and I ain't coming up with a suspect of this description.
Female, mid-thirties, brunette, slim, olive-skinned--real long, thick hair,
all corkscrewing and wild like that.
|I'm dumb, numb--but he's already
there and smoothly taking control. All I can do is offer Margaret
her purse. And the way she looks down at me, on me, makes her seem
very like Victoria, my dearest mistake.
||Fraser's still on his knees, but
now he's clutching the bag in his hands like an offering and staring at
her. "My mistake," he says softly, like it's a prayer or something.
"My mistake." I wish he'd quit it.
|And when I blink and refocus, it
isn't Victoria at all, but just poor red-eyed Margaret Saunders.
And that look on her face isn't sneering pity but fear--fear of me. I can't
explain, I haven't the words to explain, but I can apologize.
||He extends the bag to her and she
takes a nervous step forward and snatches it from his hand before skittering
back again. "I'm so, so sorry," he says, and I can't stand seein'
him like this, so--so--shocked and penitent and off-kilter.
|"Listen, really," Ray says smoothly,
taking control, knowing I'm not in control, "I'm sorry, lady. Is
there anything we can do to--" Margaret looks at him and then at
me, and then, quite sensibly, flees. From her perspective, we are
undoubtedly lunatics. Fair enough.
||"Listen, really--I'm sorry, lady,"
I say again. "Is there anything we can do to--" I'm trying
to force myself to fess up my name and badge number, but she just takes
another step back. She eyes Fraser, then she eyes me--and then she
runs for it, away down the street.
|"Shit," Ray groans. "That
was a fuck-up." A fuck-up indeed, a dangerous lapse of judgment.
||"Shit," I sigh, rubbing my eyes
with the heels of my hands. "That was a fuck-up."
|I've been ambushed by my own desires.
They've seized me, reasserting themselves with a vengeance. I'm a
danger to myself. I'm a danger to Ray. I'm endangering others--and
for what? What do I need so badly? Why do I still feel compelled
to get up and chase that white coat?
||Fraser's still on his knees, but
now his head has turned--he's watching her run away, watching her back
disappear, that wild hair flying behind her. I watch him for
a moment and he's looking like he's having trouble getting his Mountie
face on, a thing I never seen him have a problem with before.
|She hates me. She's
always hated me. Maybe I need her to hate me.
||Finally, he takes a deep breath
and slowly gets up to his feet.
|"Fraser." Ray's voice is oddly gentle.
"What the hell was that?
||"Fraser," I ask him, tryin' for
casual. "What the hell was that?
|And that's precisely the right question,
of course. Again, Ray's in Scotland before me; again, he's gone straight
to the mark. What answer can I give him? Ray, I'm so empty
inside. I'll take hate, love, anything.
||Slowly his head turns from where
she's disappeared, and he looks at me. He's still corpse-pale, but
he tries on a smile. He isn't really one for smiling anyway, but
this--this one is godawful. Thin, fake, and all wrong.
|I try to tell him. I try to
be honest; he deserves my honesty, my fealty. "That was a very sad
and pathetic spectacle, Ray."
||"That," Fraser says finally, in
a voice as dead as he looks, "was a very sad and pathetic spectacle, Ray."
|He frowns at me, waits, look like
he wants me to say more. But there's nothing more I can say right
||Now what the hell does he mean by
that? I keep my mouth shut, but he looks away, like he's said all
he's gonna say.
|Something will have to change.
Something will have to give.
||And so basically, that was the last
normal day we ever had.
|It's a problem,
but I can't seem to solve it. It's like a puzzle, except some of
the pieces appear to be missing. Or maybe I just can't manage to
put them together. Maybe it's me, some sort of intellectual or emotional
deficiency on my part. Again and again I try to start from basic
premises, from what I know for sure, little as that is. That's what
logic indicates, and yet, this situation seems to defy all logic.
me nuts. He's different somehow. Two weeks worth of different--two
weeks of him sort of quiet and caved in on himself. Like his insides
have collapsed. Something's brewing, but I don't know what it is
and I can't seem to find the right place and time to ask him about it.
We barely manage to get ourselves lunch each day, never mind some decent
place for a real conversation.
|My--susceptibility--is a problem.
Ignoring it has ceased to help, and in fact, seems to leave me and the
people around me unacceptably vulnerable to danger. So perhaps it's
time to--give in to my yearnings. I am nearly forty years old, after
all. Not a child. And yet, in this, I am a child, I think.
Utterly inexperienced, particularly in this context.
||Still, though, I try to like--check
in with him whenever I can. "Hey Frase, you okay?" He always
looks a bit surprised, like he's forgotten who he is and where he is.
Then he answers, always the same. "Yes, certainly, Ray." Insert
nervous gesture--sometimes he rubs his eyebrow, sometimes he tugs his right
ear a bit. "I'm fine."
|Ray could help me. If I only
knew how to ask.
||Yeah yeah, right right. Fine
|I know he would help. I know
he's concerned about me--he asks me if I'm all right about three times
a day. I never know what to say, how to start. So I'm
both grateful and nervous when he finally corners me.
||Finally, you know, I can't take
it no more and I take the best chance I got. I'm droppin' him off
outside the Consulate, and he's reaching for the handle, about to get out,
when I reach across and grab his arm.
|His long fingers dig into my arm.
He's looking at me across the front seat of the car--and he's right, as
always. The car is as good a place as any, and better than most.
||The car ain't perfect, but it's
as good a place as any, and more private than most. Better than the
station or our booth in the diner or under the Ice Queen's nose, right?
|I wait for his question, and try
to form my own. "Frase," he says, his voice nearly a whisper.
"Really, man--are you okay?"
||"Frase," I say quietly, trying to
tell him--now. Here. Talk now, talk here. I ask him if he's okay, and keep
my fingers crossed.
|I understand his tone of voice;
it is meant to promote and encourage confidentiality between us. I'm grateful
for it. I love him for it. "Yes, I'm fine, really," I assure
||He looks at me and says, "Yes, I'm
fine, really,"--and damn, if I don't want to pop him one. But wait--he's
letting go of the door handle, he's sitting back in his seat.
|How to put this? For God's
sake, I'm nearly forty years old--why does everything have to be so bloody
||He's got that constipated look that
means he's trying to figure out how to say something embarrassing.
|"I've just been...thinking," I manage,
as if that weren't startlingly obvious to anyone, let alone someone as
strikingly perceptive as Ray.
||"I've just been...thinking," he
says, and it takes everything I got to keep my face neutral. Yeah,
Frase, I got that part already.
|"Um," I continue, and that's good,
that's highly articulate, a prize utterance. Eloquence incarnate.
||He falters, and I'm like--trying
to send him the vibe. C'mon, c'mon, attaboy, you can do it...
|I steel myself and claw into the
moment with my nails. Ridiculous to let myself be defeated. This
is my friend, my best friend, and he's kindly offered me his ear.
||I gotta say, though, when he spits
it out it ain't nothing like I've been expecting. I don't think my
face stayed in neutral--I think I upshifted into drive, there.
|"I wondered if I could ask you...well,
||"I wondered if I could ask you...well,
|Ray looks--well, shocked.
Nearly comically so. "Women?" he repeats, and it's funny, really,
but his sudden lack of balance helps me to find my own.
||Women?! Fraser wants
to ask me about women? Fraser wants to ask me about
women? "Women?" I blurt, but he's nodding--he's confident again.
|"Yes, " I confess. "I find--I'm
not sure how to proceed."
||"Yes," Fraser replies. "I
find--I'm not sure how to proceed."
|Ray shifts uncomfortably in his
seat. "Uh--go on?"
||Proceed. Women. Um.
Uh. "Go on?"
|"Well." I seem to have a ridiculous
number of questions. "For one thing. Where--do you go about
||He coughs a little, into his fist,
but he's doing great, doing fine. "Well. For one thing. Where--do
you go about meeting them?"
|He stares at me for a second and
then suddenly he's grinning, gripping the wheel in his hands and letting
his spiky, blond head hang forward. The back of his neck is flushed.
||All right, just fuck neutral, because
the answer to this is so preposterous, this whole situation is just
so fuckin' preposterous, that I'm never gonna make it through with a straight
|When he looks up, his blue eyes
are sparkling, laughing, and I'm already smiling in anticipation.
||I look down and grin, mainly to
pause for the timing. Timing is everything in comedy, so they say.
|"Sixth grade," Ray says, and then
he falls back against the seat, loose and lanky and hooting with laughter.
My smile widens.
||Then I fix him with my eyes.
"Sixth grade," I tell him, and it's all the funnier cause it's God's honest
truth, and he knows it.
|He presses his hand to his belly
and says, "Seriously, Fraser-- I'm the wrong person to ask."
||"Seriously, Fraser," I say, when
I can breathe again, "I'm the wrong person to ask."
|"But surely," I object, still smiling,
"you've pursued someone since Stella."
||He smiles and shakes his head.
"But surely you're pursued someone since Stella."
|Oh dear. I've said something
wrong, something tactless.
||Suddenly I don't feel much like
laughing no more.
|Ray winces a little , then shifts
in his seat to cover it up. "Yeah, sure, maybe I've pursued one or
two people, but not like that makes me an expert or anything."
||This is dangerous territory, thin
fuckin' ice. "Yeah, sure, maybe I've pursued one or two people,"
I hedge, "but not like that makes me an expert or anything."
|"I'm not looking for expertise,"
I say quickly, feeling embarrassed. "I'm simply looking for...suggestions."
||Fraser's red-faced now--fuck, I'm
fucking this up. He asks me for advice, but what advice have I got?
|"Yeah, well, I don't think I have
any," Ray mumbles.
||I'm the wrong guy for this, I got
nothing, I tell him.
|I nod slowly, and try to think of
a way to apologize without compounding my error.
||He nods and looks away, and god,
I feel like a shit. The guy cracks himself open like a lobster, and
I give him grief.
|He's squirming uncomfortably now,
and I can see he's thinking hard, too. Of course, he'll get there
first; Ray always does.
||Maybe I could remember that this
is supposed to be about him? Maybe the whole world doesn't
revolve around me? Ya think?
|"So, I mean, you're thinkin' about--maybe
getting a girl?"
||"So, I mean, you're thinkin' about--maybe
getting a girl?"
|"Yes. I...have been thinking
||He nods--god almighty, he's really
thinking about it.
|Ray looks away, out his window.
"Anyone in particular?"
||I look away, I can't look at him,
somehow. "Anyone in particular?"
|"No," I explain to the back
his head. "That's part of the problem."
||He tells me no, and somehow that
makes things better.
|"So, you're just thinking like--generally,
||"So, you're just thinking like--generally,
|"Yes, exactly," I say, grateful
that he's understood. "And I'm--rather out of my depth, here, in
more ways than one."
||"Yes, exactly," Fraser says quickly.
"And I'm--rather out of my depth, here, in more ways than one."
|He turns back at that, and now he's
frowning, seeking clarification.
||I'm not sure what he means.
"What ways?" I ask, turning around.
|"Well, Chicago for one. American
girls. It's all...quite different." This feels like a pose,
like a lie, and I hasten to explain. "Not that I have a great reservoir
of experience to draw from in any case."
||"Well, Chicago for one. American
girls. It's all...quite different." He looks rueful for a second,
mouth twisting wryly. "Not that I have a great reservoir of experience
to draw from in any case."
|He smiles faintly. "Yeah,
I get that."
||I wonder if that was hard to say.
|"I thought perhaps...you might help
me negotiate..." I seem to have run out of words unexpectedly,
||"I thought perhaps...you might help
me negotiate..." Fraser waves his hand around and I think: the car?
|But Ray fills the gap in my sentences.
"Yeah, okay, sure. I'll negotiate whatever you want--treaties, whatever."
I smile my thanks at him, but his brow is creasing; he's frowning.
||Then again, it doesn't matter what
he means. He wants my help with any or all of those? He'll
get it. Treaties, whatever. What bugs me is that he wants
help. That--worries me.
|He knows me far too well, I think.
||That worries me very much.
|My first task
was to come to terms with Chicago. If I were even going to entertain
thoughts of marriage, I had to reconcile myself to the idea of making Chicago
my home. And of course it was, had become so--had welcomed me, a
stranger, with all due warmth. And yet, of course, I had been resisting
the idea on some level, refusing to settle in, to make a real home or life
||All in all,
that didn't get us much further, except that now I know what's on his mind--sort
of. A woman, Fraser wants a woman. Which I guess I can understand,
except well--really thinking about it, I could maybe list a couple of things
he needs more, or maybe just first. Like maybe moving out of his
office. Getting a place of his own with a sofa and a TV. A
place to hang his hat.
|To my relief, this proved easier
than I expected. After some consideration, I realized that I didn't
actually mind the idea. There was Ray, of course, and Chicago had
a number of other amenities which I tend to take for granted unless I'm
particularly focused on them--international cuisine, cultural variety,
dry cleaning. There were, I realized, several neighborhoods where
I could see myself living.
||I always sort of wondered why he
never bothered to find himself another place. It seemed like he was
sending a message--I'm not here, I'm not staying, don't get too used
to me or anything. I got used to him anyway, though, so that
didn't work. Maybe his old place was such a pit that he figured the
office was better. Or maybe he just wants to sleep on Canadian soil, as
close to home as he can get.
|So that part was easy enough.
Much harder to find a suitable someone to share that life with.
||Still, if he's thinking about getting
a girlfriend--well, he must be thinking about staying, right?
|Chicago is full of women, and yet
it sometimes seems that there are no women here at all. I've tried
to school my attention, to note more specifically the faces, voices, and
smiles of the women I encounter each day. And yet, none of them--
||What's funny is, now that I know
he's thinking about girls, I can see the small, shy doubletakes he's making.
I mean, I watch him pretty closely, but I never woulda seen it if he hadn't
told me what he did. But now that I know what to look for--I can
|I can't see--
|I can't picture--
||He's imagining, lingering.
|It seems impossible that--
||Thinking over the possibilities.
|The world is empty, bereft--worse
so now that I've bothered to notice.
||The world is his banquet table,
his smorgasbord, his fuckin' oyster.
|I've never felt so alone.
||I'm happy for him. Really.
|Again and again, my mind returns
to Victoria. What did she have that I wanted so badly? Was
it her dark good looks that attracted me? Her brains? Her courage?
||Sometimes I play this game with
myself where I try to anticipate who the girl's gonna be. Does he
like 'em tall? short? blond? brunette? bodacious? slinky?
|It's hopeless. I don't know.
It was, perhaps, a fluke.
||I'm just dyin' to know what
type is his type.
|And then it occurs to me that perhaps
I'm looking at this the wrong way. I've been selfishly focused on
what I want, and that's probably the wrong question to ask. Perhaps
the correct question is--is there anyone who wants me?
||Cause face it, Benton Fraser can
have his pick. I've seen it a million times--the glassy look, the
sudden smile. They all go down like ninepins--thud, thud, thud.
It's a show, I'm tellin' ya; I think they call it "universal appeal."
|Put that way, the answer is obvious.
||Wish I had half a pound of that.
|Next time I'm
at the station, I approach her with my hat in my hand. She looks
up and shows me the most sensational smile. The warmth of that smile,
the joy in her face, simply crushes my reservations. Or at least
dents them. Well, nearly. Almost.
Welsh calls, and I look up from my desk. He's standing in the doorway
of his office, tapping his watch. I look up at the clock--fuck, nearly
4:30, and Welsh wants me to see Wilson before 5:00, and plus we haven't
even had lunch yet. Typical.
|Really, though, her smile is quite
||I sigh and look around for Fraser.
|"Yes," Francesca whispers creamily,
"oh, yes, yes, yes. Whenever. I'm ready. Any time you
say--any night this week."
||Hell, Frannie's got him. Great,
now I gotta stage the Battle of Normandy on top of everything. First--a
||Or should that be bitch-head?
|Yes. Yes. No retreating
now--indeed, it must be this week!
||"Frrrrrraser!" I call, rolling my
rrrrs, announcing my approach.
|I hear Ray call my name and glance
over. He's striding over, determined to stage my rescue. I
have to do this quickly, or I won't do it at all.
||Ollie, ollie, oxen free. Eeeeeverybody
out of the pool. You don't have to go home, Frannie, but you can't
|"How about tonight?" I suggest--and
then I clutch her arm, because she seems like she's about to fall over.
||"Frase, I need you--we gotta go
talk to Wilson about what he mighta seen over at the Country Kitchen--"
|"Tonight?" Francesca repeats breathlessly.
"Tonight. Oh yeah. Sure. Yeah."
||He shoots a look at me, then he's
grabbing Frannie, who lookin' kinda sick, really.
|Ray is nearly upon us now, and so
I murmur, "Perhaps I'll....pick you up about eight?" I barely get
the words out.
||"Hey, what's goin' on--she okay?"
I look at Frannie, who's maybe gonna throw up or something. "You
|"Eight," Francesca repeats.
"Right." And then she gasps, "Oh god, I gotta do my hair, gotta get
a dress, gotta--"
||Frannie ignores me, so what else
is new. "Eight. Right. Oh god, I gotta do my hair, gotta get a dress,
|She turns and bolts out of the bullpen.
I turn my attention to Ray and put on my blandest look, hoping it will
||Frannie takes off like a bat outta
hell, which is fine by me. Fraser gives me his blank face, like I'm
a moron or something.
|It doesn't, alas. "What the
hell was that all about?"
||"What the hell was that all about?"
|From far away I hear Francesca shriek,
and I grit my teeth.
||Something squeaks in the other room--sets
my teeth on edge.
|"Nothing important," I assure him,
and of course in the grander scheme of things that is true. "Was
there something you wanted to see me about?"
||"Nothing important," Fraser says
mildly, and bang, he's on the offense, calm as you please. "Was there something
you wanted to see me about?"
|His curiosity is warring with his
desire to get on with his duties, and thankfully, Ray is first and foremost
a policeman. "Yeah," he admits, scratching his head. "Come
with me on this Wilson thing?"
||And yeah, of course there is--I
want him to go with me to interview Wilson, cause the guy's a scumbag and
that makes me angry, and when I'm angry, I miss stuff. "Yeah. Come
with me on this Wilson thing?"
|"Of course," I say, and off we go.
||"Of course," he says, and off we
Wilson really does strike me as a most unconscionable liar. I can
see Ray starting to twitch with anger. He looks very like a jungle
cat flicking his tail.
||So we go to
see Wilson, who really is a scumbucket and a half. He didn't see
nothing, he didn't hear nothing, he don't know nothing, and still he keeps
us till it's past six o'clock.
|Ray wheels on me as soon as we're
in the car. "You don't believe that guy, do you?"
||I gotta know what Fraser thinks
of this--he didn't buy that geezer's story, right?
|"No," I assure him.
||He smiles a little at the question.
|"Well, thank God," Ray mutters and
turns on the engine. "Okay, so I'm thinking subpeona. I'm thinking,
shake his cage, see what comes crawling out." He glances at me and
I nod; I approve.
||Well thank God for small miracles.
If we both think it, then it must be true. "Okay, so I'm thinking
subpeona. I'm thinking, shake his cage, see what comes crawling out."
I shove into drive and pull out.
|Ray looks relieved, then cracks
his neck. "I'm also thinking lunch, you thinking lunch?"
||Fraser's nodding; he approves.
Greatness. Now if we could just get some freakin' lunch.
|I glance at my watch--it's nearly
half-past six. "It's nearly dinner time, actually." And I have
a dinner to arrange.
||To my surprise, Fraser ixnays lunch.
I look at him, and he's starin' at his watch, the window, anywhere but
|I've given something away, and now
that his work is done, he'll have it out of me. "Spill it," he demands,
and I suppose I'd better.
||"All right, spill it," I say, looking
quick between him and the road. "What're you looking so antsy about suddenly?"
|"I have a...well. A date,
I suppose you'd--"
||"I have a...well. A date,
I suppose you'd--"
|Suddenly the car lurches to the
right, the tires squealing in protest. Dear God. He'll kill
us. I clutch at the dashboard.
||Date. Eight. Hairdo.
New dress. Christ. I'm off the road and on the grass divider
before my head stops spinning.
|He stops short, shifts the car into
park. "Are you out of your freakin' mind?" he yells and that's
the last clear idea he articulates.
||"Are you out of your freakin' mind?"
I yell. "Why the hell would you-- You could have-- She is--
You don't-- How could--"
|"Ray? Ray? Ray?" I had no idea he'd
be this upset. "Ray?"
||"Ray?" Fraser is pale, embarrassed,
trying to reach me I think.
|I duck away as he waves his arms
in the air so that he doesn't smack me in the face by accident.
||I realize I'm flapping my arms like
some kinda demented bird, and grab the wheel tightly.
|"Why?" Ray wails finally--now, he's
banging his head against the wheel.
||"Why?" I ask him, letting my head
fall forward on the dash. "Why, why, why?"
|Carefully, I raise my hand
and drop it gently on the curve of his bowed back. He flinches and
turns his head to look at me.
||I feel his hand on my back--goddammit,
I've made this about me again, haven't I? But hell if it doesn't
like it's about me.
|I try to explain; Ray deserves
an explanation. "She's... fond of me, I think."
||"She's fond of me," Fraser confesses,
like that's some big secret or something.
|"So?" Ray looks agonized, exasperated.
"So she's fond of you! I'm fond of you! Vecchio's--"
I clamp my hand to my ears; for God's sake, he just doesn't understand!
||"So?" God, I can't fuckin'
believe this. He could have anyone. "So she's fond of you!
I'm fond of you! Vecchio's fond of you! Everybody's
fucking fond of you!"
|It isn't enough anymore, this fondness.
I'm tired of being the stray cat everybody feeds. A novelty item, amusing
but disposable. And Francesca Vecchio's attentions have been...persistent.
||I can't believe it--the Mountie's
covered his ears, looked away, tuned me out. I smack the steering
wheel so hard that for a second I think I've broken my goddammed,
|Right now, that seems more precious
||"I think I'm going to kill you,"
I tell him.
|I don't think I've ever fully appreciated--Ray
touches my shoulder.
||He doesn't answer and I sigh, reach
over, tap his shoulder.
|And as I turn to look at him, I
have the strangest wish.
||He turns to look at me, and, man,
his eyes are so sad.
|I wish Ray Kowalski had a sister.
||God, I'm sorry, Fraser. I'm
such a pain in the ass.
|"Okay," Ray says quietly; he's calm
now. "You want Frannie, I'll do my bit to help."
||"Okay." I'm throwing in the
towel, making my apologies. "You want Frannie, I'll do my bit."
|He starts the car again, and I feel
my heart pounding in my chest. Put into words, it seems wrong, patently
||I shift back into drive and roll
us back onto the parkway. I have a plan now, at least I can do something
|You want Frannie. Except
I don't want Frannie. But I want to want her, and maybe that
||And really, Frannie's not bad.
She's pretty, she's got a good body, plus she's warm and she's got a big
|I mean, that might be enough.
||You know what they say--big heart,
|God, get a grip on yourself, Benton!
It's just a date!
||Man, I hope he knows what he's doing.
|My date with
Francesca....clarifies things. She does, I admit, look staggeringly
lovely as she opens the door. She's put her hair up, swept it off
her face and neck into a graceful pile pinned to the top of her head.
This serves to emphasize her huge, dark eyes, which are fixed on me and
are warm, warm, so warm.
||I take advantage
of my wheel-less state and go for a walk. Fraser walks all the time,
and look at him--he's in better shape than I've ever been. I let
myself wander around the city, not thinking where I'm going, and I'm halfway
to the Gold Coast before I realize what I'm doing and switch directions
|I am, I realize, really quite fond
of Francesca Vecchio.
||You can't go home again, boyo--best
to remember that.
|She steps back carefully in her
pale pink dress and welcomes me into the hallway. A glance around
reveals no one else about, but I can hear the shuffle of feet, and the
muttered "shush!" as Mother Vecchio hushes someone or ones huddling in
||So I let myself drift in another
direction, and really, the city's different on foot--warmer, realer.
This is Fraser's city, I realize--this is how he experiences it.
Not from the window of a car but on foot, where you can really see people's
faces and hear music and smell--well.
|She asks me if I would like a drink,
and I thank her and decline. It's only when I notice her curious
gaze, the way her dark eyes keep shifting downward, that I remember to
give her the corsage I'm holding. She opens the cardboard box and
brightens at the sight of the flowers. As I watch, she takes a deep
breath and thanks me with a gravity that's not at all natural to her.
||It's dark and I cross into the park,
disregarding the signs that tell me it closes at dusk. Screw that,
I'm a cop, and plus it's a stupid idea, closing a park. Even Fraser,
law and order guy that he is, breaks this law--he can't get his head around
the idea that they can close the damn park at night. The park's pretty
at night--still and empty, 'cept for the occasional rat. And me.
|She's trying. I'm trying too.
||No, ho, wait, spoke too soon.
|I explain to her about the dinner
reservations I've made and she nods and fetches her wrap. She smiles
at me when she sees Ray's car parked outside, and the smile blossoms when
I open the door for her and help her inside.
||There's a guy sitting on a bench,
looking over at the pond. He looks up as I approach down the path, and
tenses a little, so I try to make my walk say, "Hey, I'm not a serial killer."
I see he gets it, he nods and relaxes back a bit.
|Ray was, of course, right as always;
having the car helps a good deal.
||Course, any good serial killer
would know the walk too, but whatever.
|And if our conversation at dinner
is slow, stilted--well, that at least gives me time to think. I stare
at her across the table and try to project myself into this future.
She is a beautiful woman with a good heart. I like her family very
much; her brother is my dear friend. She would care for me, I think--she
would make a lovely home, she would feed me, literally and otherwise.
||As I get closer to the bench I change
my walk again, just to see what happens. He stiffens, he shifts,
he looks--and hell, I've got him if I want him. Do I want him?
Is that why I came here? Maybe yes and maybe no, I guess. Now
that I'm closer I can see what I'm dealing with--not bad, not bad at all.
Sandy brown hair, longish, sorta flopping over his face. Decent body.
||"Heya," I call in greeting.
||"Hey yourself," he replies.
|Well, certainly I would protect
her. That's one thing. I would work for her, put myself at
her service and--
||Nice voice. "Whatcha doing,
just hanging out?" I stop in front of him, jam my hands into the
|Well, perhaps I could....um...
||His eyes shift away. "Yeah."
|Christ! Why can't I put
myself into this picture?
||"Mind if I sit?"
|Think. Think. I would
come home to her at night, I would provide for her needs, father her children
and try to care for them--
||He shrugs, slides over a bit, making
room for me on the bench. Still, our shoulders brush and I feel that
|Our children, I mean, of course.
||To my surprise, he turns to me and
cuts to the chase.
|But you don't love her.
You know you don't love her.
You don't want her--listen to yourself.
You're thinking of this as work.
||"We can't," he says, and at least
he looks sad about it. "There's a regular patrol here--cops--we're
sure to get caught."
|Well, of course it's work--it's
all work in the end.
||I nod and glance down at my watch.
|In the end--perhaps. But
this is the first date.
||"Next sweep's not for sixteen minutes,"
|"Fraser?" I blink; it
suddenly occurs to me that her mouth has been moving for some time now.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
||It takes him a minute but then he
gets it, I see him getting it. He's quick--I like that in a casual
fuck. "Sixteen minutes?"
|"I was thinking," I blurt, "that
a life of service is a wonderful thing."
||I grin at him. "Fifteen, if
you keep on yammering."
|She frowns, then nods, then tries
on a smile, indulging me.
||He looks around quickly and then
slips to his knees.
|I am still so alone.
||God I need this--connection.
|And this won't stop you chasing
white coats. This isn't what you were looking for. This isn't
what you wanted.
||He sucks me quickly, expertly, and
my head lolls backwards. I look at the sky, gasp, feel my balls tighten.
Need, want this explosion.
|And in a flash I know what I wanted
from Victoria, and the thought is--obscene.
||It's not everything, but it's maybe
enough. This is enough. This is--god. Enough.
|I bring Francesca
home and walk her to the door. She looks up at me expectantly;
she wants me to kiss her. But I don't think I can. I
feel desire within me, coiled like a poisonous snake, but I've learned
||I don't expect
to see him again that night, but I do. He knocks, I open the door,
and I see everything right there on his face. Which means, you know,
that I really see nothing--it's that nothing look on him that's really
|My desire is--not for this.
||See, the thing you gotta understand
|She kisses me anyway, as I knew
she would. And if I were normal, I'd be flushed with heat;
if I were normal, I wouldn't feel so ice cold. If I were normal,
I might presume upon Francesca. Take liberties, cup her soft breast
in my hand, pull her close to me.
||Well, okay, maybe there's more than
one thing. But one of the things you got to understand about Fraser
is that he's hot inside. Inside, he's red. Whereas most people
think he's hot outside, in the more conventional sense, and plus he's got
all that red serge on.
|I don't, of course.
|When she pulls her face away, she
smiles--but I know she knows. I see pity in her eyes, and affection
too, an affection we share. She smiles at me and I smile back.
I care for her. And I know she cares for me.
||Outside, he's blue. Ignore
the stupid uniform and Fraser's blue--cool, controlled. Fraser's
got himself trained to be calm, rational, distanced, polite. He's
good at it too, cause it's not phony, it's what he believes in.
|But I've killed something tonight,
without even trying.
||But the inside, the red side, that's
what Fraser is.
|There used to be something else
in her eyes, something that's now gone. Heat, perhaps. Or hope,
or lust. Whatever it was, I've killed it. And I shouldn't be
surprised. The law of nature is kill or be killed, and Francesca
isn't a killer.
||Scratch the surface and you get
the real story--Benton Fraser, a hundred and eighty pounds of pure fucking
will, raw energy, and sheer drive. And see, I get this, mainly
because I've always been a major fan of John Lennon's.
|I am, of course.
||Lemme back up.
|And so was Victoria, my darling
Victoria, my dearest mistake, twice made. She nearly killed me in
Canada, she nearly killed me in Chicago. Did I want her to kill me?
Almost certainly, I think. Even now I'm chasing her, hoping to find
her, and find her armed.
||Lennon, if you don't know, was a
seriously violent fuck. Probably kicked his bassist to death--Stuart
Sutcliff, not that prick George Harrison. Beat his wife, drank, drugged,
half killed himself even before that fruitcake Mark Chapman took his shot.
|Francesca touches my arm, asks me
if I'd like to come in for ice cream or a cup of tea. I thank her,
but no--I should go, I should return Ray's car to him. She nods,
and smiles, and in that moment I do want her--or rather, I want
to want her, and ice cream, and tea, and children, and all those sane,
normal things. I want to want them, so badly that I ache.
||Now a lot of people can't handle
this--it upsets them, ruins the image. But it makes sense to me.
'Course the guy was a peacenick--Give Peace A Chance, All You Need
Is Love, Imagine. Way I figure it, you only crave peace like that
if you ain't got any. It's McCartney, essentially a poofter, who
writes Helter-Skelter--ooh, tough guy, I'm so scared. Bite me.
|I duck my head and kiss her cheek
before heading down the steps to the car. She stands in the pool
of porch light, watching me go, then lifts her arm and waves. I wave
back, and then slide into Ray's car, which smells like--his sweat, his
hair gel, the cigarettes he sneaks when he's distressed.
||So see, Fraser's just like Lennon,
or that's how I see it anyway. The guy's so into order because he's
disordered. Follows rules cause he ain't got any of his own.
We all want what we haven't got, and Fraser's no different, I think.
See what he shows you, and you know what he ain't.
|I drive slowly to Ray's apartment,
park the GTO in his usual spot, and go upstairs to bring him the keys.
||So when I see him there, on the
other side of the door, wearing that nothing look that's all control--
|I knock and he answers.
||I get the picture.
|He's just out of the shower, I think--hair
still damp, still wet behind the ears. He's surprised to see me,
I think, but still he greets me.
||"Hey. You're back."
Fraser, perfectly calm, more calm than he's been in weeks, it seems.
Bad news--must be, gotta be.
|"I just wanted to return the keys
to your automobile," I explain, and offer them to him. "And to thank
||"I just wanted to return the keys
to your automobile. And to thank you." Oh boy.
Automobile, not car.
|Ray frowns and absently rubs the
towel over his hair. "So how'd it go? Or shouldn't I ask?"
||He's gone polysyllabic. Nuh-uh,
not good. "So how'd it go? Or shouldn't I ask?"
|"It went very well, I think.
A most enjoyable evening."
||"It went very well, I think.
A most enjoyable evening."
|Ray looks skeptical. "Uh-huh.
Well, that's good. You wanna come in?" He jerks his head toward
the living room.
||Most enjoyable. Riiight.
That's why you look so fuckin' happy, buddy--I hear the song in your heart.
"You wanna come in?"
|"No, I think I'd better be getting
back. I have several important tasks to oversee in the morning."
||"No, I think I'd better be getting
back. I have several important tasks to oversee in the morning."
|He seems disappointed, but I'm hardly
fit company at the moment. My thoughts are whirling, spinning, violent.
||Worse and worse, but what can I
do? No way I can break through this; he's nearly a machine, he's
so locked down.
|"Yeah, okay. Maybe tomorrow
afternoon? I could maybe use you then."
||"Yeah, okay. Maybe tomorrow
afternoon? I could maybe use you then."
|Of course I'll meet him. Work
is all that makes sense to me now.
||That gets me a smile.
"Why, certainly, Ray. I'd be delighted."
turns out to be most invigorating. Ray needs to investigate a list
of delivery companies patronized by the mendacious Mr. Wilson. All
is well at the first and second establishments we visit, but the third--it's
like stumbling into a den of wild animals. They look up, their eyes
flash, and suddenly the air is full of machine-gun fire.
||Fuck, I'm sorry
I asked! Wilson's papers throw us a list of delivery companies, and
so we go to check them out, right? First one, check, family business,
no problem. Second one, old, established, everything in order.
Third one--it's like a fucking prison movie in there, three guys and a
stolen van, and every one of them a hard-ass felon.
| I dive left, Ray dives right,
and then I'm on the floor, hands and knees, my palms scraped. My
heart is pumping wildly, and I scuttle across the floor and take cover
behind a wall of filing cabinets.
||They reach down, they come up, and
they're spraying the air with bullets. Fraser's a red blur, and I
dive sideways myself, and just in time, cause the wall behind me is suddenly
full of little holes.
|I crouch and peer out on the other
side. They're looking around the room, looking for Ray and me, waving
their guns wildly.
||Hell hell hell hell. I've
lost Fraser, but hey! I've found a two by four. Mr. Two-By-Four,
you are my new best friend.
|Cautiously, nervously, they split
up, triangulating outwards. The one who is coming toward me is slow,
lazy. I can handle him easily.
||I tuck the board under my arm and
shimmy under the huge metal desk. I see feet coming, and I calculate
all the angles before making my move.
|As I watch, Ray springs out from
underneath the desk and takes out the thug closest to him with a two by
four. The board makes a most satisfying sound, and that gives me
||HOLY COW, he makes it! It's
up, up, it's away, over the fence, this is a goner, folks, this is a grand
slam, a home run, and the crowd goes willllllllllllld! Ko-wal-ski!
|When my attacker turns nervously
at the sound of Ray's blow, I step out from behind the file cabinets and
straighten my hat. Perhaps he senses my presence, because he turns
and stabs the gun in my direction, as if wielding a bayonet.
||Bang, down, like a sack of potatoes,
and I've got his big gun off him before he hits the ground. I spin,
covering the room with it, and fuck me if Fraser isn't standing there,
totally unarmed, having a polite chat with a guy carrying a machine gun.
|"If you would kindly give me the
||God, I hate when he does that.
|He looks confused, and for a moment
I think he's going to open fire. Quite an exciting thought.
However, I don't give him a moment--I simply reach out, sieze the barrel,
yank it out of his sweaty hands, and clobber him with it.
||Fraser's smiling, and then he's
got the gun and he's lifting and BAM! he just nails the sucker like he's
playing whack-a-mole. Guy goes down, and now Fraser's doing this precise
little military move, revolving the gun and unloading it.
|I unload the weapon and put it down.
Ray's got a machine gun trained on the third perpetrator, who turns to
||Fraser's fine, so I turn my gun
on Guy Number Three, who considers the new odds here and runs for it.
|I love the chase. The thrill
of the chase is still thrilling.
||And he's off!--Fraser's off, after
him--and so off I go, too.
|He's the youngest and most fit of
the three, which is just as well--no fun otherwise. I'm perhaps ten
feet behind him when I burst out through the back door, and that fact tells
me that I'm faster than he is. Ah, but he's clever--good boy, he's
going up the fire escape, moving vertically. Points for thinking
outside the proverbial box.
||When I get to the door I have to
stop myself from blinking--cause they're gone, poof, like a magic trick.
Now Fraser's fast but he ain't that fast, not speed of light fast.
But I can't think to where he's gone--until I hear a clang and look up.
The Third Guy's two flights up, on the roof, and Fraser's right behind
|I like that in a perpetrator.
||Catchin' up, too.
|I climb quickly and then step onto
the roof. He's there, just a boy, really, standing unsteadily and
pointing his gun. But I am rock steady. I smile a bit,
and walk toward him, hand extended.
||I cross the alley and crane my neck
to see if I can see something. Yeah, I barely can--I can see a bit
of red serge, Fraser's arm, then a bit of dirty white jumpsuit. I'm
steelin' myself to go up there when--
|He's unnerved, because he doesn't
understand. I. Don't. Care.
||Oh my God. Oh god no oh jeezuz
no--no, no, no, no--
|He fires then, and I dodge and weave
and rush him. He tightens his finger on the trigger even as I force
the barrel down, spraying the tar-paper roof with bullets. They're
bouncing, ricocheting, and they could strike either him or me--it's anyone's
game, really. We lurch from side to side, bullets flying all around
us, and then I realize that we're quite near the edge and--
||The air is suddenly full of gunfire,
and I race for the fire escape, leaping onto the first rung and scrambling
upwards. Christ, and Fraser's unarmed, let him be okay, God, if you
can hear me, God, please please please. Just--take care of him, God,
make him bulletproof, God, don't let him be hurt or (killed) or nothing
like that, 'cause I just won't survive it.
|Oh yes. Do it.
||I freeze, clutching the ladder,
|---I shove us over it.
|The free-fall is fucking fantastic!
The scream in my ears is fucking fantastic! And even the smash, the
jolt, as we bang into the awning and then roll, crash hard to the ground,
is fucking fantastic! The world is spinning and I've dislocated my
shoulder and I might throw up but who gives a good goddamn?!
||They blur past me, they're falling,
I hear screaming, and then they're hitting the awning and pulling it with
them to the ground. I stare at them, I can't move, I can't breathe,
they're not moving. And then Fraser does move--he lifts his
head and rolls onto his back and clutches his stomach in pain--
|I'm alive. I'm really alive.
|God, I feel wonderful.
||I think he's laughing.
|Suddenly Ray is looming above me,
spiky yellow hair framed by blue sky. He looks frightened, and when
he touches my face; his hands are absolutely freezing. "Fraser...?"
||Way to go, God! I race down
the ladder and drop to my knees beside him--man, he's laughing all right.
His face is flushed and he's breathing like a freight train. "Fraser...?"
|I smile at him. "Hello, Ray."
The light shines through his hair, and the edges gleam gold.
||His smile is absolutely glorious--god,
it's like he's high or something. "Hello, Ray."
|He looks like an angel. "Fraser,
tell me you're all right."
||"Fraser, tell me you're all right,"
I beg him.
|"I'm fine." I know that telling
him isn't enough, and so I take a deep breath and sit up. The
world around me looks bright, and new, and beautiful. "But I suppose
we ought to check on our friend there."
||"I'm fine," Fraser says, and then
he's sitting up, looking happy as a clam. Guy falls off a building,
no problem, doesn't even bother to say ouch. "But I suppose we ought
to check on our friend there."
|With Ray's attention momentarily
distracted, I grab my elbow and shove my shoulder back into place.
It hurts like the dickens, and I see stars, but only for a moment.
The pain fades into a dull ache.
||A look at "our friend" tells me
he hasn't come through this as well as Fraser. He's breathing, but
I can already see that one of his legs is broken. God knows what
kind of internal damage he might have.
|Ray turns back to me, concern creasing
his fine features. "I'll call an ambulance."
||I look back at Fraser--he's sweating
a little, but he seems pretty much okay. "I'll call an ambulance."
|"Yes," I agree. "I think that
would be wise." I look over at the young man and see that his leg
is badly broken. That's a pity indeed. "Poor man. It's
important to know how to fall."
||"Yes. I think that would be
wise." He's coming off of it now, returning to his normal self.
He looks at the other guy and sighs. "Poor man. It's important
to know how to fall."
|I know better
than to argue with Ray when he looks at me like this--and so I let the
doctors examine me. I'm bruised, yes, and my shoulder is turning
black, but I'm otherwise fine and the doctors pronounce me good to go.
Ray's still edgy, I see, so I decide to be as agreeable as possible.
It's the least I can do, since I worried him so.
cart them all away--the two concussions inside, and Jello Boy, out here
on the sidewalk. Just because I'm a stubborn bastard, I insist
the docs take a hard look at Fraser--and damn if he ain't all bruised up
under there. Plus black around the armpits means dislocated shoulder--I
ain't blind or stupid or nothin'.
|So I find myself accepting his offer
of dinner and television at his apartment. I suspect he wants to
keep an eye on me, but that's all right--there'll be nothing to see.
In any case, I enjoy Ray's company immensely, so it's hardly a punishment.
||They let him go and I tell him he's
coming to my place tonight. We're gonna chill the fuck out, order
a pizza, rest our weary bones. Plus that way I can keep an eye on
him, in case he starts speaking in tongues or nodding out into a coma.
|We stop by the Consulate so that
I can check on Dief and change my clothes. Ray dogs my every step--I
really must have scared him this afternoon, and for that I am sorry.
||Fraser wants to stop by the Consulate
to check on the wolf and wash up, which is fine but I ain't lettin' him
out of my sight. Thank God, he doesn't argue with me about it.
|I should have considered his feelings.
He's my partner.
||I think he's sorry about it.
Well, he damn well oughta be.
|I pack a few things and then reach
for my jacket--which hurts. Ray sees it, but he just rolls his eyes
and says nothing.
||He changes into jeans and a shirt,
wincing a little as he puts on his jacket. Well, gee. Why am
I not surprised?
|I lock up the Consulate, and we
return to the car. Ray drives us home, and he must feel better, because
he's humming softly.
||The car feels like halfway home,
and my spirits lift. I look across and Fraser's there, banged up
but okay, and that helps, too.
|Upstairs, in his apartment, Ray
orders a pizza and then goes to change his own clothes. I drift to
the television and flip it on.
||I order us a pizza and then go off
to wash and change my clothes. In the living room, I can hear Fraser
|He calls to me from the bedroom,
his voice oddly muffled. "Anything good on?"
||"Hey--anything good on?" I
yell to him as I pull a clean t-shirt on over my head.
|I consider the question as
I search. "No. Not really."
||It takes him a moment to answer.
"No. Not really."
|He's smiling as he wanders out of
the bedroom,, and he takes the remote control from my hand. He flips
his glasses onto his face and stands there, majestic, working his way up
||I grin to myself--god only knows
what that means. I go collect the remote control so I can see for
myself. Maybe Fraser can jump off buildings, but I'm still king of
the remote in my own house.
|Ray stops at 19 and gives a little
exhalation of delight. I glance at the television and see John Lennon.
||Hey! John Lennon: Behind
The Music--a two hour special, yet. Nothing on--well, what does he
|The man was a wifebeater and a heroin
addict. Hardly a role model.
||Triumphantly, I throw down the remote
control. Case closed.
|Still, it makes Ray happy, so we
sit down on the sofa to watch it. Three slices of pizza later and
I'm full and surprisingly groggy.
||We sprawl out to watch it, and when
the pizza comes I drag it over to the television, so I don't have to miss
|Lennon's reedy voice keeps lulling
me nearly to sleep--I keep catching myself, though once I was nearly napping
on Ray's shoulder.
||But Fraser's nodding in and out--and
that ain't good, not yet, not so early. He keeps sliding onto my
shoulder, and then snapping awake.
|I awake again to find the room quiet,
and Ray glaring at me.
||Sighing, I flick the television
off, and give Fraser a shove.
|"You can't sleep yet, Fraser."
||"You can't sleep yet, Fraser."
|"Yes, I know," I admit guiltily.
||He looks embarrassed. "Yes,
|"I need you awake to see if your
brain's working right."
||"I need you awake to see if your
brain's working right."
|"Yes. I know. I'm sorry."
||"Yes. I know. I'm sorry."
|Ray looks at me thoughtfully and
I feel terribly guilty. He's my partner, and I've been such a burden
||I stare at him and consider the
problem. TV's putting him to sleep--I need to keep his brain engaged
for a while.
|Suddenly he quirks a smile, snaps
his fingers, and gets up. He disappears into the bedroom, and I sit
up, my interest piqued.
||Wait--I got it. If it's still
there. I think she left it--now where did I see it? Closet.
Bedroom closet. Top shelf. Dusty but useable.
|He returns carrying a battered game
||Scrabble. So okay. Let's
see what he's got.
the couch, but I wake up the next day earlier than he does. The couch
is narrow, and I'm more than a bit cramped, but all and all I'm glad it's
me out here instead of him.
||I dislocated my shoulder once, and
I know he'll be feeling it this morning, whether he shows it or not.
Bastard thing hurts like a motherfucker.
||I try to stretch out, but I'm jammed
into too small a space. It's time for wakey-wakey, so I heave myself
up to my feet and stretch and then I feel better.
||I go for a pee and that helps, too.
I peek into my room on the way back, and yeah, Fraser's still zonked out,
one arm draped across his chest. At least he looks comfortable.
||I glance at the clock on my way
to the kitchen--it's just a little past seven, so I can give him another
half-hour or so. I set the coffee going--cause I can't even make
it out for coffee before coffee--and then pad over to the kitchen table
as the warm, coffee smell fills the room.
||Now this is where I freak out.
||I'm--like--a hundred percent sure
that we left the Scrabble board as it was at the end of the game.
Full, and with all those dumb words on it: laicize, genera, antic.
Except now, the center of the board has been cleared away--except for two
||HELP BENTON. Or maybe it's
BENTON, HELP! Either way I don't like it, I really don't like
it, not least of which because I can't for the life of me figure out how
it got there. I mean, yeah, sure, Fraser could've maybe gotten up
in the middle of the night and spelled his own name out, wanting to see
it in lights or something. But that don't strike me as likely.
And then why--HELP? HELP isn't a bad word per se, a good four letter
one and nine points--plus it's on a double letter for the H which brings
it up to thirteen. In fact, wait--BENTON is on the center star,
which means double word, so the whole thing actually comes out to twenty-nine--not
bad at all, really. Though of course it would have taken two turns
to get down.
of my father. At least I think it's a dream. He's standing
in the snow, wearing his casual uniform, the mountains of the North ranging
behind him. He looks oddly worried, almost imploring. His lips
are moving, though I hear no sound, which is strange. Normally I
can't not hear him, even
when I don't
want to hear him. But now he looks like
he's trying to tell me something urgent, something very important indeed.
"Dad, I can't hear you," I say, and I step closer to him, hand cupping
my ear. Snow crunches under my boots. "Dad? Dad, I'm
sorry. I can't hear you. I can't--"
||Which doesn't at all answer the
question of how it got there, or what the fuck it means. HELP BENTON
or BENTON, HELP!--either way it's scaring the pants offa me. I've
never been much for that oujia board crap, or the Psychic Friends' Network,
but somehow--like--I'm sure this ain't coming from Frase or me. And
that's freaky---freaky, freaky, freaky. I mean, I know Fraser's good
and all, but he's gonna be really overworked if he has to start being Supercop
in both this world and the next. And if it's the other way--the HELP
BENTON way--well, how the royal fuck am I supposed to do that? I
reach out, and pick his name off the board. It puts me into a panic
just seein' it there.
|When I wake up, I can't remember
where I am for a moment. Oddly, it's my nose that provides the answer:
this bed smells like Ray, ergo it's Ray's bed. I realize that I can
really stretch out on this gigantic mattress, and so I take advantage of
the opportunity and do. It feels good to move my sore muscles, and
just as I'm enjoying that sensation, my nose reports in with further information.
Ray's making coffee. I've never been a coffee drinker, but then again,
I've never smelled freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning.
It does smell most delicious. Perhaps I should have a cup, in the
spirit of things. I get out of bed and rub carefully at my shoulder,
which still aches badly. Perhaps a hot shower will help.
||I pick through the letters, now
piled in one corner of the box, and pull out an O and a W. HOW? I
spell out, hooking onto the H from HELP. Cause that's the question,
ain't it, either way--"how can he help you?" or "how can I help him?
In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I got another question--so I search
through the letters till I find the other H and then add that and a Y onto
the board, too. There. That's about all I can do at the minute,
unless I'm gonna call a medium or something, which I ain't gonna do quite
yet. There's a little noise, now, from the bedroom--Fraser's up,
I guess. Part of me wants to tell him about this, but a bigger part
of me don't, so I guess I'll keep my big mouth shut for the moment.
|Ray's standing by the kitchen table,
looking tired and a little lost. I presume he hasn't had his coffee
yet. Ray doesn't do very well until he's had his morning cup of coffee.
"Ray? Do you mind if I use your shower?"
||When I look up, Fraser's standing
in the bedroom doorway in his boxer shorts and undershirt. I step
away from the table and try to look as normal as possible. He asks
me if he can take a shower, like I'm gonna say no.
|"Sure, man. Help yourself.
Towels in the closet."
||"Sure, man. Help yourself.
Towels in the closet."
|Ray waves me toward the linen closet
and I fetch myself a towel. The shower is hot, the pressure excellent,
and the stream of water against my shoulder really eases the pain.
I think again of my foolhardy desire to acquire a wife, and realize that--if
I'm honest--Ray Kowalski is the real reason I like Chicago so much.
Sometimes I tell myself that he needs me, but that is a lie. He doesn't
need me--it's me who needs him. I've never had such a friend before,
and I doubt I'm likely to have another like him. Whereas he--well,
he'd do just fine without me, I think. Better, perhaps.
||He goes to take his shower and I
get a cup of coffee. I chug the first mug and pour myself a second, and
then decide to just skip the shower and get dressed--and then I look down
at the Scrabble board and fucking drop the fucking coffee, which fucking
shatters and splatters but who gives a flying fuck! BENTON LOVES
DEATH, it says, and there ain't no way I can convince myself it's the opposite,
though DEATH LOVES BENTON don't give me the warm fuzzies neither.
I strike the table so hard that the pieces leap off the fucking board,
which is fine, good, great by me.
|I hear a crash and quickly switch
off the faucet. "Natural Bullshit!" Ray is yelling, rather inexplicably.
I call out to him. "Ray? Are you all right?" For a moment
there is no answer and then he yells, "I'm fine, I'm fine!" I listen
closely for another second but I don't hear anything, so I switch the shower
on again and quickly rinse myself.
||FUCKING SUPERNATURAL BULLSHIT! and
then damn, I hear his voice and realize that I've been yelling this crazy-ass
shit aloud. "I'm fine, I'm fine!" I yell to him and then I realize
that my socks are soaked with coffee, which is everywhere, plus pieces
of mug and what the fuck does that mean--BENTON LOVES DEATH?
|I dry and dress myself, then rapidly
gather my things. Ray may want the use of his bathroom some time
||I grab the Fantastic and some paper
towels but goddammit, my hands are shaking. Get a grip, boy.
Get a grip.
|I find Ray crouched by the kitchen
table, scrubbing at the wood floor with a wad of paper towel. "Everything
all right?" I ask him.
||A minute or two later, Fraser appears
at the door again, this time dressed and carrying his gear, though his
hair is wet. "Everything all right?"
|"Yeah, fine, I dropped the coffee."
He stands up, tosses the sodden paper into the trash, and puts down the
spraybottle of cleanser. Then he looks at me. "Fraser.
Leave your stuff here."
||I stand up and mumble, "Yeah, fine,
dropped the coffee." And then suddenly my mouth's goin' someplace
without letting my brain know and I blurt, "Fraser. Leave your stuff
|For a moment I can't think what
||He looks back at me, puzzled.
|"Your stuff. Leave it here.
Come back tonight." A moment later he's moving forward, bouncing
on the balls of his feet like a pugilist. "Rematch, buddy.
You and me, here, tonight. I'll give you a second bite at the apple,
||"Your stuff. Leave it here.
Come back tonight." Suddenly I realize how totally weird that sounds,
but wait, I got it, I'm there, I got it. "Rematch, buddy. You
and me, here, tonight. I'll give you a second bite at the apple,
|Oh. He means Scrabble.
Yes, I would very much like such a rematch.
||He smiles and I'm near-woozy with
relief. Benton loves death. Help Benton.
|I can't wait.
has certainly done very well for himself, but I'd be more inclined to appreciate
his lakeview property if I didn't suspect that he'd acquired it through
graft, greed, and multiple murder. The man himself looks like the picture
of gentility, soft and pampered, but there's a steel glint in his eye that
warns me not to take the surface picture as a given. There's not
much this man isn't capable of.
||Turns out we
need God's help more than I could ever have anticipated. Latham lives
in this huge fucking house on the lake, all iron fences and landscaping
and huge glass windows lookin' out on the water. The house is decorated
with more gold leaf than I ever saw outside of St. Mary's Church, and Latham's
clothes cost maybe a thousand bucks, unless he shops discount, which I
|However, he preserves the niceties
smoothly enough, offering us our choice of carved wood chairs, tea or coffee.
Ray shakes his head and then begins to ask him questions, easily, elliptically.
||He invites us to sit down, offers
us coffee, which we turn down. I decide to go at the thing in a roundabout
way, sorta dodging and weaving and sliding up to it. Some bases you
|I rather enjoy watching Ray play
"dumb cop." He's scratching his head and flipping back and forth
through his notebook like he couldn't remember his questions unless they
were written down. Finally, he gets near to the heart of the matter:
EZ Delivery, The Country Kitchen.
||So I play dumb and ask him if he
owns a company called EZ Delivery, like I don't know that already for sure.
He says he thinks he might, like he's not sure he remembers, and I say,
"Oh? Yeah? Well, see, a couple of guys from EZ Delivery killed a couple
of guys at The Country Kitchen."
|Mr. Latham doesn't bat an eye, which
I think is suspicious in itself. He offers, however, to pull his
business records, and Ray agrees before I have a chance to--
||No response, not that that means
anything. Latham just shakes his head and offers to give us his business
files. Yeah, sure, I say, and he moves to his desk--
|I leap up and interpose myself between
Latham and Ray. The gun is huge, chrome-plated and shiny, an antique I
||Fraser's on his feet and forward,
he's gotten it before I did, but he's still not fast enough and now Latham's
got a gun.
|Latham looks at Ray and growls,
"Move and I'll shoot him."
||My hand's on my gun when Latham
says, "Move and I'll shoot him."
|I sigh and shake my head, then extend
||I freeze, still clutching the handle.
|"Mr. Latham, if you would give me
the gun." Latham sneers at me, lips curling, and I recognize the
look--it is the look of a hunter. Latham thinks he's the hunter,
thinks that Ray and I are the prey. He's wrong, of course, but his
ego may be something I can use against him.
||My stomach falls onto the floor
as I hear Fraser calmly ask for the gun. I can't see Fraser's face
but I can see Latham's face, and this guy won't give it up, this guy's
the real deal, arrogant and egotistical and thinks he can get away with
shooting two nothing cops like us.
|The key thing, I find, is to keep
perfectly calm. This will show him that he can't win.
||Benton loves death. Benton
loves death. Like a flash, I get it, I don't want it but I get
|Even if he shoots me, Ray will drop
him in a matter of mere sec--
||This isn't work for him. On
some level, Fraser's looking to get killed.
|Suddenly I'm blind--I've got blood
in my eyes--and I drop and roll for cover, scrubbing furiously at my face.
My hands, I see my hands, I can see my hands now, and they're red, bloody,
red with blood, smell the blood--am I shot? I look around wildly
for Ray, my heart exploding, and see him standing there, calm as anything,
holding his gun in both hands.
||I jerk at the bang even though I
know it's me. For a second I think I've got it wrong though, because
Fraser's on the ground first, and I'll eat my gun if I've shot him by mistake.
But no--I see it now--Latham's got a big fucking hole in his chest and
he's crumpling. I look down at Fraser, whose face is spattered with
blood, but it's Latham's not his own.
|Christ, I love him, I love him,
I love him!
|Ray reholsters his gun and then
comes to help me up. I'm dizzy, the world is spinning, I can barely
find my feet but his arm is strong. A few deep breaths and things
steady a bit, though the adrenaline in my system makes everything bright
||When I go to help him up, Fraser's
shaking, but he's not shaking for the same reasons I'm shaking, I don't
think. Fact is, some part of me's wonderin' if he's come in his pants.
This is more than
loving death, this is fucking death, for
|He holds me till I come down.
God, I adore the fucking ground he walks on.
||"Fuck" isn't in the dictionary unfortunately,
but if it was, it'd be worth 13 points.
|I put on my
sleepwear in order to send the message that I am not up for an extended
conversation. In fact, I've even lost my desire to play Scrabble
||He comes back
from the shower wearing his boxer shorts and t-shirt, hair wet and slicked
back. For a deranged, jilted lunatic with a death-wish, he looks
|I practice the words in my head:
I'm very tired, Ray. Perhaps some other time.
||Me, I'm a guy with no plan.
Except I did get Chinese food, which is something at least
|But when I come out of the bedroom
there's no sign of the Scrabble board. Ray's sitting on the sofa,
eating Chinese food off the coffee table. He looks up at me and waves
me over. "I got you that--whatever. That stuff. With
the vegetables." I sit down next to him and he pushes a paper carton
||"I got you that--whatever.
That stuff." I know perfectly well what it's called--fuck, I ordered
the shit over the phone--but sometimes it don't pay to seem too smart.
"With the vegetables." Fraser comes over, looks at the food, and
instantly sits. I can see he's damn hungry--I think I made the right
|And then, to my surprise, Ray nudges
an open bottle of beer toward my plate.
||Lemme try to make it two for two.
I slide a beer over toward him; it glides on a wet spot.
|"Ray," I chide. "You know
I don't drink."
||He frowns at it. "Ray, you
know I don't drink."
|"I know," Ray replies, grinning
at me. "I just think you should. So Fraser--this is a beer."
He waves his hand. "Beer, this is Fraser."
||"I know." And I do, but like
I said, sometimes it don't pay. "I just think you should. So
Fraser--this is a beer. Beer, this is Fraser."
|The formal introduction is quirky
and odd and funny and makes me smile despite myself.
||He looks down at the beer, up at
me, and then suddenly he's smiling. I'm two for two.
|Ray laces his fingers, leans toward
me and says, "Fraser, I been beatin' my brains out about how to help you
but I ain't got a clue. I wish I did but I don't. I just got
this one thing to offer you, and so here it is: I think you'd be
happier if you drank more. Day you've had today--I'd drink a lot.
So I figure we'll start you with a beer and maybe next week--martinis.
How does that sound?"
||This is my best shot, right here,
so I take it. "Fraser, I been beatin' my brains out about how to
help you but I ain't got a clue. I wish I did but I don't.
I just got this one thing to offer you, and so here it is: I think
you'd be happier if you drank more. Day you've had today--I'd drink
a lot. So I figure we'll start you with a beer and maybe next week--martinis.
How does that sound?"
|I take it for what it is--a comic
turn. He's sweet to do it, and it would be churlish not to reply
in kind. So I smile and I nod and I reach for the bottle, taking
a swig and then wiping the foam from my lips with the back of my hand.
||He gets it, he's smiling, we're
cool. Then--whoa, boy--Fraser reaches for the bottle and puts it
to his lips and tilts up--and I got this weird, tingly feeling all over.
Like Fraser probably gets when somebody's about to blow his head off.
|Ray grins at me and he's tense,
taut, feral. I can picture him holding his gun and I shiver.
||He's slowly wiping his lips and
looking at me and, damn, if Fraser only did guys--
|I wonder, idly, if I could take
||Now there's an idea.
|I'm 20 pounds heavier but he's tough
and he's quick and he's cagey--
||Fraser, old buddy, I could blow
your head off in a whole new way.
|So maybe. And maybe not.
||I swallow. My throat is dry--hurts.
|"Benton," Ray says, and his voice
is soft and sort of dangerous, "I really think you ought to go on a bender
every now and again."
||"Benton," I say, (Benton? Where
the hell did that come from?) "I really think you ought
to go on a bender every now and again."
|A bender? I laugh a little:
the word is charmingly quaint. I grant it might be fun, under the
right circumstances, to go on a "bender" with Ray.
||I'm saying "bender" but I'm
thinking: You ought to get laid, Benton. In fact, come to
think of it, you ought to do it with me.
|Ray's grin is growing, and he's
getting that gritty cowboy look I love so well, that suits him so.
||I shot a man through the heart today.
I communed with the dead via Scrabble board.
|I'm totally unprepared for what
he does next.
||So what the fuck. I grab him
and lay one on him.
|Oh My Dear
God. Ray-- He-- I-- His mouth is-- His hands are-- He's
got my-- I can feel his--his-- Oh
shit, what the hell am I supposed
to do about this?
||Bang! he freezes,
he stiffens, it's like kissing a freakin' wall. Still, whatever,
I do my bit, I move my mouth against his, mainly because he tastes so fucking
|Finally Ray pulls away, and smiles,
and shrugs, like this was a totally normal thing to have happened
between us, like this is something he does every Thursday evening.
||When I pull away he's staring at
me like he's never seen me before, which I guess maybe this part of me
he hasn't. Okay, well, whoops. He's totally straight.
|God, does he do this every
||I guess I shoulda stuck with the
|Maybe he does--he's so damn casual
about it! "Hey, sorry," he says. "Just an idea, never mind."
||"Hey, sorry," I say, wincing a little;
oh, this was top ten stupid. "Just an idea, never mind."
|Just an idea?!? What
kind of idea is this?
||I pull away from him, try to give
him some space.
|He's backing away from me--wait,
wait, not so fast, cowboy. I reach out and fist his shirt with my
||But he grabs me, stops me, holds
me in place--so hey, I get it, this is what they call "arm's length."
|I find I don't know what to say.
"No, I just...I never...I didn't...I hadn't considered...it didn't occur
to me that..."
||He's entered the babbling stage.
He never thought, he never dreamed, he's never had a gay thought in his
pretty little head.
|Ray groans softly. "Yeah,
I can see that, Fraser."
||Just my luck, too. "Yeah,
I can see that, Fraser."
|"You were married," I hedge.
||He looks so confused. "You
|"Right." Ray's squirming,
he looks miserable. "So I take you've never...uh..."
||"Right." I should just stick
to killing people. It's easier. "So I take you've never...uh..."
| I can't look at him. "No."
Honest to God. "Never even..."
||"No." Fraser's flushed and
staring at his lap. "Never even..."
|Ray's voice is kind. "Yeah,
well, it's okay, forget it."
||I try to let him off the hook.
"Yeah, well, it's okay, forget it."
|"It was --um--a nice thought."
God, I sound like an idiot.
||"It was --um--a nice thought,"
Fraser says politely.
|"Yeah, well, I'm just that kind
||"Yeah, well, I'm just that kind
|I don't want to hurt his feelings.
"Just that I never--"
||"Just that I never--" He's
still trying to explain.
|"Really, I got it, Fraser.
||"Really, I got it, Fraser.
|"It never even occurred to me that--that
you and I--that you and I could--"
||"It never even occurred to me that--that
you and I--that you and I could--"
|It never occurred to me. It
never occurred to me. And even now, it's as if I'm not letting
it occur to me, as if I'm refusing to engage the question. It has
never occurred to me that Ray and I--that we could--well--have sex together.
Make love together. Be sexual together--carnal, even. Ray would,
I'm sure, be carnal. I--do like that thought. Rather a lot.
I think--I think it's occurring to me.
||I suppose I'll just have to let
him talk it out. I guess it's a trauma for him. Which I suppose
I can see--you're hanging out, eating your sauteed string beans, and your
best friend comes on to you. Makes a guy question some things.
Not me, of course. When it happened to me it made my whole life make
sense. Or as much sense as it could make, being that it's my life
and everything put together.
|And I do--I do love him. I
knew that already; that was already a conscious thought. So
if I love him, if I do love him, and I do love him, then--
||Suddenly I tune into what he's actually
saying. Fraser is staring at me and he's murmuring, "I do love you,
I do so love you..."
|I move my face close to his and
close my eyes.
||I hold my breath and go very still.
|I pin him with
my weight so that he's still. All I have on Ray is 20 pounds, so
I figure I'd better use them now. I trap him against the sofa back
and lean in close. I smell his breath, his hair gel, his shaving
cream--good, strong smells now that he's near. I can't stop myself,
I lean forward and trace his face with the tip of my tongue. Tastes,
textures--the bristle of beard disappears as I move up his cheek, the thin
skin of his nose, more softness and hardness and roughness on the other
||When he comes
back, and pushes me hard against the sofa, I figure that we're gonna do
some serious necking here, which is fine by me. But he doesn't--he
just brings his face close and stops, and then suddenly he's trailing the
tip of his tongue all over my face. A wet streak glides up my jaw,
across my cheek, up over the bridge of my nose and down the other side
of my face. I'm fucking gasping from it, my dick is rock hard and
pounding in my jeans, my muscles twitching with shocked delight.
|He gasps, a sweet sound. It
draws me back to his mouth. He's panting, now--I can feel his breath
on my lips. I breathe him in, knowing that he's taking my breath
in return. I open my eyes and look at his mouth and feel a shock
of desire--truly shocking. I never thought of this, and yet--how
wonderful, how perfect it all is. I lean forward, wetting his lips for
||The cool air dries the traces of
him across my face as he comes back to my mouth. Now! I'm thinking.
Now he's gotta kiss me. But again he doesn't--again, he comes close,
but he stays away, an inch away. He's so close I can feel his breath,
feel him inhaling me, exhaling against me. His tongue comes out,
hot, heavy, and warm, and strokes across my lips.
|He leans forward--hm! cheeky, aggressive,(unsurprising,
really)--and quickly I pull back, denying him. He wants me to kiss
him, I think. But I won't yet. Right now I have another goal--to
coax the tongue out of his mouth.
||I lean forward--I want it, I want
it in me--but he tilts back, doesn't let me close the distance. I
stop, and he leans forward again, and again stops short. His tongue
darts out again, this time to nudge and caresses my lower lip.
|Come on, Ray. Come on.
me have it.
||I-- I-- God, wait, I
get it. He's inviting me to play.
|Finally he understands and pushes
his tongue out of his mouth, sending it to meet mine. The feel of
that muscle arouses me deeply--its strength, its slick heat, the profound
intimacy of the gesture. I think this act arouses him as well;
his tongue caresses and provokes, licks and teases. It's almost too
much pleasure to bear. I tighten my hand on his shoulder, and beneath
my fingertips I can feel him--
||So I play, I slide my own tongue
out of my mouth to touch his--and Fraser moans a little and shudders.
Christ, this is the hottest thing that I've ever done in my entire life--we're
licking each other, playing tongue-hockey, out in the open air.
With my eyes closed, I can feel nothing but his tongue against mine, his
hand tight on my shoulder holding me back and still. His tongue is
muscular, hot, wet, and I--
|Ray is shaking; trembling; dear
God, he's close, I can feel it. But he's fighting it, fighting
trying to beat it down by sheer--
||I won't make it if he plays this
way, if this is how he plays it, 'cause I'm fucking throbbing now,
my dick is throbbing, jerking--
|It overcomes him and his face contorts,
agonized, beautiful. He tries to turn from me, tries to hide
from me, but he doesn't understand.
||I gasp and squeeze my eyes shut
and turn my head away, turn my face away, cause I don't want him to see--god,
I'm sick with myself--
|I need to see this.
|I seize his shoulder, seize his
face in my other hand, and turn it toward me. That look--it's pain
without pain, transcendence without suffering. It asserts life without
threatening death--the involuntary contraction of the muscles, the release
dampening his jeans. He is in the grip of climax, and it makes him
||He grabs me hard, his fingers like
steel, and I can't look at him, I can't open my eyes, I can't believe this.
Hot, wet jerks in my pants, I'm soaking my pants, and I wanna kill myself,
kill him, kill somebody. I feel his hand on my face, he's
cupping my face--god, please leave me alone, don't make this worse than
|I speak his name. Ray.
|And he--actually apologizes
to me. "I'm sorry, Ben--I'm so--"
||I can barely form the words.
"I--I'm sorry, Ben--I'm so--"
|I pull our bodies together and press
my mouth to his--and this isn't a dare now, or a game. This isn't anything
but want. I want to go to the place that he's gone.
I want him to go with me, to be there with me, to live there with me.
I want to feel his body, his heat, the life force raging in him.
||And then he's everywhere, he's all
over me, hot and everywhere and pressing me up against the sofa back, driving
into my mouth. He's kissing me--more than kissing, he's devouring
me, eating me alive. He kisses me like he's fucking starving, and
I'm stunned, limp, spent, just soaking it up.
|I want to push and have him push
||His actions bring me back, call
me back to front and center.
|I want a lover. I want an
I kiss his ear and whisper:
||He moves his mouth to my ear, bites
gently, and whispers to me:
|"I liked seeing that. I want
to see that again."
||"I liked seeing that. I want
to see that again."
Fucking fantastic. Want more, not enough, he's still wearing
everything. Can't feel. Can't touch. He's still moving--stop
moving, Ray, damn it, I can't touch you. Lift your arms,
lift your damn arms already.
he's be worn out but no--Fraser's high on momentum, high on adrenaline.
I've seen this before but it's never been aimed at me. He's practically
ripping my arms out of my sockets trying to get my t-shirt off over my
|Yes, finally--neck, collarbone,
chest, salty-sweet and delicious. Tiny brown nipples, tight and hard
and not like a woman's at all. Hard, but I can make them harder,
I can tweak them with my tongue, arouse him further. Oh yes.
Ray is carnal.
||Then whuff, I'm flat on my back,
and his tongue is skimming over my chest. He finds a nipple, and
fuck, Fraser's good with nipples, he's a veritable nipple-meister,
tonguing and lapping and tugging and--Christ, can I possibly be hard again?
|If I push him he will push back.
||I'm nearly forty. I ain't
no spring chicken or nothing.
|He lurches upward, pushes me back,
and tugs my shirt off. He looks at me, then dives down and kisses
my chest, sucking and biting his way downward. Yes, Ray.
Do it harder.
||But the night is young, even if
I ain't. I heave upward and knock him off balance, then I sit up
and shove him down. I yank his shirt off and fling it onto
the floor, then I'm on him. Chest, nipples, everything.
|He does it harder, and I have to
steady myself. It's wonderful, brutal, unendurable. The world
is full of bright colors and sharp angles, and I can't trust my hands--I
would hurt him, I would rip him apart from loving him so.
||He flings his arms out to brace
himself, one hand clutching the sofa back, the other grasping the arm.
This gives me access to God's Country, Benton Fraser from neck to knee,
and I don't need to be told twice. I am so there.
|Ray loves me as I wish to be loved--with
rough, irrational passion. His hands grip me and his mouth mauls
me and that's what I want, that's what I've always wanted. He's moving
lower, though, and that scares me, exhilarates me, embarrasses me.
I can't--I can't let him do that to me. But I can't move, I can't
breathe, I can't say no.
||I feast myself on all that hard-soft
skin--so white and soft, and rock hard underneath. I can't get over that
he's letting me do this to him, that his arms are spread and he's letting
me do this. An' it's just my nature to push things, so I drop lower,
slide back, and drop lower, till I'm half on the floor and my head's near
his lap and I gotta have his cock, I just gotta.
|Ray doesn't even hesitate;
he just curls his hand around me and begins to fellate me. It feels--fuck!
I don't have words for how it feels. I can't hold my hand back;
I bury it in his hair and suppress the urge to thrust.
||He's still half-hard; I take him
into my hand, pull his cockhead into my mouth, and begin to suck.
He groans above me, and I take him deeper. His hand cups my head,
and I think: yes, yes, make me, show me.
|But despite the sensation, and--yes--the
charge I get from seeing his blond head in my lap, some part of me is sobering,
coming out of it, growing cold. I--there's something not right here.
I'm not--enjoying it.
||I work him carefully, wanting it
to be good for him; it's sure as hell good for me. He's lovely,
luscious, stiffening in my mouth--but the rest of him is stiffening too,
tensing up, and not in a good way.
|I try to tug his head away; I want
him to stop. "Ray, stop, wait--I don't like it."
||"Ray, stop--wait." Suddenly
Fraser's pulling my hair and gasping. "I don't like it."
|He stills for a moment, then he's
lifting his head, letting go of me. The air feels cool on my erection,
but now that Ray's looking at me I don't feel so cold inside, up here where
I live. "I love it," Ray says quietly, and he's meeting my
eyes but his face is reddening.
||Reluctantly, I let his cock slide
out of my mouth. Benton Fraser must be the only guy in the world
who doesn't like getting his dick sucked. I look up at him and blurt,
"I love it," and that's the truth, too. I love sucking cock, love
the thrust of meat into my mouth.
|Oh dear, I didn't mean to imply--
"No, I like it, I do--it's just--it's cold."
||Fraser stammers to explain, looking
upset. "No, I like it, I do--it's just--it's cold."
|Ray looks puzzled. "Cold?"
||"Cold?" That's a new one on
|How can I explain? "You're
too--far away. You're not here enough, you're--"
||Fraser nods quickly.
"You're too--far away. You're not here enough, you're--"
|Ray reaches up and presses two fingers
to my lips. For a moment, I think he's shushing me--but he isn't,
he's offering them to me. I kiss the tips and open my mouth, and
instantly he pushes inside, invading and caressing my tongue. I bite
down gently, and then massage them with my tongue--the smooth sides, the
bruised knuckles, the sweet tender webbing where the fingers meet.
||Suddenly I'm havin' a brainstorm--I
get what's wrong; I know
just what he means by cold.
I test it out by reaching up and pressing two fingers to his lips.
Fraser takes them instantly--just opens his mouth and takes them.
First he bites down so that I can feel the hard press of his teeth, and
then he sucks, tongue twining round my fingers, sliding and caressing everwhere,
up and down.
|I love his hands. Strong hands,
yet tapered. Graceful and scarred from work. I have the entire contradiction
of him in my mouth.
||Can we say oral fixation, ladies
and gentleman? That mouth ain't happy unless it's within' reach of
something. I want it to be me.
|He pulls back too soon; I
don't want to let him go, but I must.
||I tug my fingers back and Fraser
moans, sucks harder, looks disappointed.
|Ray grips my hand. "Come on,"
he says. "Something else--but not here."
||"Come on," I murmur, taking his
hand. "Something else--but not here."
|Ray tugs my
arms, pulls me off the sofa, pulls me to my feet. My boxers are half-on,
half off, and I tug them upwards, unthinkingly. And then I realize--Ray
still has his jeans on. We're both shirtless, we've both achieved
climax once, and Ray still has his jeans on. I groan inwardly--clearly,
I'm an incompetent lover.
||I grab his
hands and yank, and he comes up, off the sofa, stumbling a little.
His boxers are down around his thighs, where I've pushed them, and he pulls
them back up so that he can walk. Then he looks at me, and I can
feel his eyes moving over me--my chest, my arms, my groin, my legs.
God, I hope he still wants me.
|I reach out to undo his top button;
it's suddenly imperative that I have the jeans off him. Ray shoves
my hands away, but playfully, and then he grabs my boxers and tugs me forward,
towards his bedroom.
||He still wants me--he's reachin'
out and fumbling with the waistband of my jeans. I half fight him,
batting his hands away and pulling him backwards--not here, not now, wait
till we get to the bedroom first.
|I cut the Gordean knot by unworking
his jeans and pushing him back toward his bedroom at the same time.
This makes the task somewhat more difficult, but it's worth it, because
Ray is laughing.
||He gets the message and starts driving
me backwards even as he's still undoing my pants. They call this
multitasking, I guess, and it's fun even if it is sort of nutty awkward.
Plus it tickles.
|Damn this button. Damn this
zipper. Ray always claims that my uniform seems complicatedly constructed,
but it is simplicity itself compared to this. I try to keep my hands
steady--if the zipper jams, I'm going to have to rip the fucking thing
right off him. Finally it gives and I push the heavy denim down his
slim hips. Ray's not fighting me any more--he's helping now, moving
so as to ease the process. I can feel his body shivering under my
hands; he wants this as much as I do, I think. Ray wants it, too.
||He's got the button open and the
zipper down by the time the back of my legs hit the bed. Fraser shoves
my jeans down, and I help him--I want them off, too, and fast, like yesterday.
Inside, I'm fucking dancing that he still wants this, that he's still with
me. Cause after all, a hand job is one thing, and getting a blow
job--guys might do that, now and again--but when a man's pulling your pants
down, well, you gotta assume that he knows you've got yer own dick in there,
and that he don't mind too much.
|Finally Ray's jeans are down, puddled
on the floor. I can't help myself--I topple him backwards, onto the
bed, so that I can look at him. He looks up at me, surprised, from
where he's landed--but then he understands. He sees what I want.
And his lip curls into a grin and he shows me.
||Finally the jeans are down and off
me. I'm about to grab him for a kiss when he shoves me, sorta hard.
I lose my balance and fall onto the bed--and I'm just wondering whafuck?
when I see his eyes. Fraser's standing above me, naked, face intense--and
I get it, he wants to see me.
|He's terribly lovely. Wiry and hard
and muscled all the way down. Strong limbs, a touch of light brown
hair on his abdomen, thickening down to his groin.
||Well, sure, he can see me if he
wants. I let myself sprawl back, let my arms and legs relax.
See anything you like, Fraser? You can have anything you want.
|His erection curves out and up onto
his belly. It's blood-dark and beautiful, smooth-hard and slightly
scarred at the tip, where they've cut him. If I squint I can still
see faint tan lines across his abdomen and legs, and I can imagine what
kind of swimsuit he wears.
||Best part is, I get to look back.
Dark hair, but unbelievably pale skin, pale all the way down, like he's
never seen sun. Makes his skin fuckin' gorgeous, though, unlike mine,
since I did the baby oil and mirror thing back in the seventies, a bad
idea but not nearly my worst.
|He's golden, shades of gold from
head to toe. He looks like--summer.
||Turned me half to leather, but he's
glowing white, like snow by moonlight.
|When Ray breaks the silence, his
voice is surprisingly hoarse. "Well? You seen enough?"
||"Well?" I say finally, and my voice
comes out all thick and scratchy. "You seen enough?"
|"No," I say without thinking, and
then I catch myself. "I mean, yes. I mean, for now. I--"
||"No," Fraser replies vaguely, and
then he starts. "I mean--yes. I mean, for now. I--"
|Ray half-sits up and reaches out
for me. I've never seen anything so appealing. "C'mere."
||I prop myself up on my elbow and
reach for him with my other hand. "C'mere."
|I take his hand and he tugs me down
onto the bed, onto his body. I shudder--we're skin to skin, now.
His hand cups the back of my head and he pulls me down to his mouth.
||He gives me his hand and I yank
him down on top of me--he's warm, heavy, smooth, wonderful. I pull
his head down to mine and kiss him hotly. I want him, I love him.
|His kiss is--masterful, purposeful.
||I want him to suck me.
|Ray's hand is in my hair now and
he's yanking, pulling, wanting to move me. I let myself be moved,
I like submitting to him, to the force of his will. His throat is
long and pale and beautiful, and I suck it roughly, wanting to mark him
||I make a fist in his glossy dark
hair and tug his head down to my neck. He goes willingly, and sucks
my throat hard enough to leave marks. Man, I like that--I really
fucking like that--but I want more, I want that suction someplace else.
|But Ray pushes my mouth off his
neck and pulls my hair again, making my scalp tingle. Downward, he's
forcing me downward--and now I understand, I know what he wants me to do.
But I've never--done anything like this before. The idea is frightening,
and also thrilling. His erection seems huge, threatening--a gigantic
dare--will I really do this thing? Will I really put my mouth on
a man's penis?
||I tug his head downward, to my groin,
waiting to see if he'll revolt. But I suspect--nah, I know--that
Fraser will obey if he understands. He's come this far, and he's
put grosser things in his mouth than me, right? Plus Fraser is, like,
really, really teachable--more so than I ever suspected. It'll scare
him a bit, but he'll love it--Fraser loves being scared, he responds to
pressure like nobody else I've ever known.
|Ray's hand is hard on my head--pressing,
pushing--and suddenly the question changes. Will Ray make me do this
thing? Will I succumb to his desire for it? Let him move me?
Let him use me as he likes? The thought sends a jolt of desire through
me--oh yes, I will, I most certainly will.
||So I press him. Fraser kisses
my stomach and then lets me force him lower. He hesitates there,
though, and for I moment, I think I'm wrong, that he won't do it, doesn't
want it. But then he relaxes, and the pressure of my hands moves
his head forward until my cock is touching his lips.
|Ray's erection is brushing my closed
lips and I think about resisting, just for the sake of resistance.
But I can't resist, and almost certainly Ray knows that. He's leaking
onto my lips and I want to taste it, taste him.
||I nudge his closed mouth gently--christ,
I want this, I want this so bad. Finally, he gives in and licks my
cockhead, sending sparks flying through my dick and up into the rest of
me. I hope my hair doesn't catch fire.
|When I open my mouth he pushes forward,
and I think--yes, yes, please, do it. He's holding his erection
steady with one hand, pushing my head forward with the other--and it's
wonderful, so fucking good--
||I reach down and grab my cock and
guide it into his open mouth. God, he takes it, he just opens up
and takes it, and it's better than I ever--I never--I can't believe how--oh,
shit, oh fuck, Fraser, Fraser--
|The hot thickness of him on my tongue,
the explosion of tastes and textures, and yes--yes, damn it--the hard pressure
of his hand on my neck, the complete submission this requires. Yes,
Ray--do it, use me, make me.
||I can't stop myself, I've got my
hands on his head and I'm fucking his beautiful mouth. I must stop
myself. This wasn't the plan--this wasn't entirely the plan--but
it's good, it's so good, it's so fucking, fucking, fucking--
|Give it to me, harder--harder--
||Gotta stop, can't stop, gotta--
|Ray rolls sideways, but I wrap my
arms tight around his thighs and roll with him, hanging on. He's
gasping, shifting, moving--I don't know what the fuck he thinks
he's doing but I. Don't . Care. I'm not letting go of him,
not letting go of this. I pull him closer, deeper--his body is so
wonderfully warm. I feel his blood pulsing, pumping just beneath
the heated skin, the vein throbbing against my tongue.
||I shove Fraser onto his side and
he goes, rolls, still sucking me furiously. Christ, I can't think,
gotta think, brain no work no more--but I wanted--this together--me and
him--together, reciprocate--something something. I turn myself, I
reach for his legs, trying to rearrange us--pull--move!--set us
up to sixty-nine. Fraser's pliable but focused--fuck, I've created
a monster, he won't let go, he won't stop.
|Suddenly my own erection is engulfed
in wet heat and I understand now what Ray was trying to do-- clever, wonderful
Ray. It's like a circuit, the heat and power cycling from him to
me and back again, him to me, me to him, him to me, round and round and
spinning and building, fucking amazing, so fucking fantastic! My
hips are moving helpessly, thrusting into him as he thrusts into me.
I'm plugged into life, I'm encased in hot flesh--I'm alive and whole for
the first time in my entire goddamned life.
||But I'm there now, I can curl myself
around him and get to him, pull his dick into my mouth. It's beautiful,
hard and smooth, and I try to concentrate on it. I want this to be
good for him, I want him to know how good it can be. I work at stimulating
the head, flicking it fast with my tongue, and--god, Fraser's good, he's
amazing, he's blowing my freakin' head off. I can't--fuck, I'm thrusting
again--not good, too much, too rough, too fast for a first time.
This is all much too much for a first time.
|God, yes, it's building, we're
building--yes, yes, please, now--
||This is out of control. Out
of-- Christ, I'm gonna come--Fraser,
|He's shuddering, jerking--yes,
Ray, yes, yes, yes--and dimly I feel him release me, hear his voice,
don't care, not listening, want it, give me, give me--
||He's not stopping, and fuck, I'm
lost, I'm trembling, he shouldn't swallow. "Gonna come, coming--Frase,
let go! You don't--! You don't have to--god, Fraser!"
|Christ, he's flooding my mouth,
spilling over my tongue, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, I've got you, I've got
you, let it go, let me have it, give me everything!
||I convulse and he's got me, he's
taking it, sucking me through the sweet, sharp agony pains of it.
He's the sweetest, bestest, most fucking wonderfulest--
|Ray takes me, sucks me, loves me--coaxes
me to let go. And I want to let go of of everything; I want
to fall hard.
||I turn my head and take his cock
back into my mouth, sucking in time with my own desperate surges.
|Want to, want to, make me--yes!--nearly!--fuck!--Ray!--
||Love you, baby--let me have it,
let me have you--
|Yes let me yes take it yes yes
||His cock jerks and spurts in my
||When I wake
up it's dark, and I'm cold everywhere I'm not pressed up against Fraser.
I lift my head and squint at the clock--it's three in the morning, and
there's the two of us, naked, on top of the covers, curled together and
please--don't go. I'm cold, come back.
I grope, but I find only air beside me, and must open my eyes.
||Carefully I disentangle myself from
his limbs, which is hard, he's holding me pretty tight. He moans a little,
but eventually lets go-- Fraser, shh, wait, I'll be right back, I swear
|Ray is moving in the darkness, naked
skin glowing white in the light from the window. He goes to the closet,
stretches up, then returns, his arms full of blankets. I lean
up for a better look.
||I go to the closet and pull the
extra blankets off the shelf, the soft heavy ones. Carrying them,
I return to the bed--and he's moved, he's awake, he's leaning up on one
elbow and staring at me.
|"Hey," Ray whispers, and I can see
his warm smile even in the dim light. "You're awake."
||"Hey. You're awake."
I'm sorry I woke him, but I'm happy to see him. Sprawled out on my
bed, he looks like a dream.
|"I'm awake," I confirm.
||He smiles at me, nods. "I'm
|"I brought extra blankets.
We should get under the covers: it's cold."
||"I brought extra blankets.
We should get under the covers: it's cold."
|I nod and get up, pulling the blankets
back and crawling beneath them. Ray spreads out the extra bedclothes and
gets into bed with me. He gets into bed with me, and it's so deliberate,
so intimate, so very exciting. I can't help myself--I reach for him,
pull him close to me. I could get used to this, I honestly could.
||Fraser nods and obeys, ducking under
the covers. I unfurl the blankets I've brought, drape them over the
foot of the bed, and get in beside him. He pulls me close and I wrap
my arms around him--he's still so warm. My traitorous cock freakin'
to attention--whoa, down boy! You've had yours for the
|I don't intend--I don't intend to
presume upon him, but as I pull him close I feel his penis brush my abdomen.
He's hardening. He kisses my cheek and I feel my blood start to burn
||I kiss his face cause I can.
I rub his back, the base of his neck, cause I can. Sex is good, but
it ain't everything, I remind myself. This is nice, too. Cuddling
and kisses and--
|I nudge my own erection into his
hip and hear his quick, sharp intake of breath. Maybe this isn't
such a presumption after all.
||Okay, whoa, wait, hold the presses--cause
Fraser's turning toward me and he's sporting wood, I can feel it.
Let's rethink this.
|Ray is breathing hard, now, and
that gives me the courage to ask the question. "Is there...something
else you would want?"
||Our eyes met and his are dark, dilated.
"Is there...something else you would want?"
|He doesn't answer immediately, but
I can hear his heart pounding. "Haven't you had enough for one night?"
||Is he kidding?! Christ, I
for him! "Haven't you had enough for one night?" I ask him, just
to be perverse.
|Enough? Of this? "No,"
I manage to say. "I --don't think I'll ever have enough of this."
||He looks confused at the question.
"No," Fraser says finally. "I--don't think I'll ever have enough
|His hands tighten on me and I shiver
with lust and anticipation. Ray's mouth tightens too, and then he
hisses, "Fuck me, then."
||A jolt of lust slams into me.
If that's the way he feels, then fine. "Fuck me, then," I whisper,
and Fraser trembles in my arms.
|I can't speak; I want him
so badly it hurts. "I--yes. But I don't know how."
||"I--yes." He said yes.
said yes, he said yes! "But I--don't know how."
|"I know. It's okay.
I'll show you."
||"I know. It's okay.
I'll show you."
|I wake up not
only before Ray, but on top of Ray--and I quickly roll off him. It's
a wonder I haven't smothered him, but he looks fine, tranquil in sleep,
face and body utterly relaxed.
|In the early morning light, it all
feels like a dream. Especially--what we did in the middle of the
|I stare down at his face and think:
I've made love to him, I've been inside of him, I've actually--ejaculated--within
him. It seems impossible, but I know that the surging emotions I
feel are real. And if the proof of my feelings were not proof enough--well.
My penis is--um--very, very sore.
|I don't think I can go to work,
today. I don't think I can confront other people. I feel as
if three layers of my skin have been ripped away, stripped away.
I feel naked, vulnerable--entirely new.
|I wonder if Ray will stay home with
me. I wonder if I can stay here, in Ray's home. Perhaps I should
get an apartment, so that I can have a real home to which I can invite
Perhaps he'll consent to split digs with me--
|Perhaps I'm rushing things a bit.
|Oh hell--who cares?! I can't
seem to stop myself, in any case. My brain is spinning with plans
and possibilities. I've never felt like this--well, perhaps I have,
but not for years. I feel very, very young this morning--like
my entire life is still in front of me. It's been a very long time
since I felt this much--hope.
|I think it's hope.
|Hope that Ray will live with me.
Hope that Ray will love me and make love to me. Hope that Ray will
stay home from work with me, and do to me this morning what I did to him
|Suddenly I'm laughing out loud--my
life has changed completely. In less than 24 hours, yet. Incredible.
I look down at Ray's face, and notice he's staring up at me with his blue,
blue eyes. This, I'm afraid, only makes me laugh harder.
||I wake up to
the sound of Benton Fraser laughing his ass off, which is the nicest thing
in the whole entire world, it seems to me.
|"Hey, you're in a good mood."
Ray eyes crinkle when he smiles.
||I stretch and pose a bit for him.
"Hey, you're in a good mood."
|"Well, yes, Ray," I say very correctly,
in my best voice, "you do have to admit that I have every reason to be
in a spectacularly good mood this morning."
||"Well, yes, Ray," Fraser says blithely,
being very Fraser-ish, "you do have to admit that I have every reason to
be in a spectacularly good mood this morning."
|Ray bursts out laughing, and that
starts me going again. I fall onto the bed beside him and giggle
into the pillow like--well, rather like an idiot, really, but who cares?
The pillow smells like us, and that is enough.
||I stare at him for a moment and
then I'm hooting with laughter. He laughs, too, and collapses down
onto the pillow beside me. His hair's mussed, his face flushed, and
he looks very un-Fraser-like, very Ben-like.
|"Wow, Ben. I didn't know you
could put it on like that." Ray's grinning at me
||"Wow, Ben," I say, trying it on
him. "I didn't know you could put it on like that."
|"I can, yes," I confess, smiling
back. "It's rather like your dumb cop routine, really."
||"I can, yes," Ben admits with a
smile. "It's rather like your dumb cop routine, really."
|Disconcertingly, Ray's grin
fades and he lurches upwards. "Holy shit, what time is it?"
||Oh, hell--you mean that thing I
do for a living? "Holy shit, what time is it?"
|I stop him; it's now or never.
"Ray, I--I had been thinking--"
||To my surprise, Ben grabs my arm.
"Ray, I--I had been thinking--"
|"I--well." I take a deep breath
and blurt, "How many sick days do you have?"
||Ben blushes and looks away.
"I--well. How many sick days do you have?"
|We eat, we
clean up; we digest and wash ourselves. All the time I'm thinking--how
to put this, how to ask?
||He waits till
after breakfast, after the dishes, after we've each taken our morning shower--to
spring it on me.
|Finally, I decide that in this case,
actions might be more eloquent than words. Especially considering
that while I seem to have no problem
thinking the word "fuck", I
have a rather difficult time getting it out of my mouth.
||Actually, he doesn't so much spring
it on me as spring on me--jumping me and throwing me down onto the bed.
Thank you, God--thank you, so, so much--you're a real and total pal.
Though you know, if Fraser keeps it up like this, I'm gonna end up in the
|So I kiss him, and bite his face,
and worry his earlobe, and drive my erection into his hip.
||He's fucking mauling me. Who
do I have to kill to get this every day for the rest of my life?
|"Yes, yes, okay," Ray blurts finally.
"Anything you want--just tell me what you want."
||"Yes, yes, okay," I gasp finally.
"Anything you want--just tell me what you want."
|Ah. Well. Here we go.
"I want," I begin, and then I just spit it out. "I want you to do
to me what you let me do to you. Um, last night."
||He lifts his head, and I can see
him struggling for words. "I want--I want you to do to me what you
let me do to you. Um, last night."
|Ray looks rather shocked.
"I--Ben, are you sure?"
||I just stare at him; I can't
believe this. "Ben, are you sure?"
|"Yes. Very sure," I reply,
and then I kiss him again and start pulling his bathrobe off.
||"Yes," Ben says calmly. "Very
sure," and then he's on me again and trying to rip my clothes off.
|"Wait," Ray gasps. "Wait,
wait, wait--" But I just can't wait.
||"Wait! Wait, wait, wait!"
He won't wait, though--he's unstoppable.
|He makes me wait, though--he tenses
and throws me off him. I fall onto my back, shocked and gasping.
||This time I gotta stop him though,
so I wrestle with him and flip him off and across the bed.
|"Now look," Ray says, and his voice
is oddly sharp, "if you're serious about this you've got to give me a minute."
||"Now look," I tell him, wanting
him to get that this is no joke, "if you're serious about this you've got
to give me a minute."
|I give him a minute, because I am
very very serious.
||He nods, all contrition, looking
like Fraser again.
|Ray gets up, goes over to the nightstand,
and checks the bottle of lubricating gel that we used last night.
It apparently meets inspection, and then Ray opens the table drawer and
fumbles inside. Apparently, he can't find what he's looking for,
because he shoves the drawer shut, gets up, and disappears into the bathroom.
||I check to make sure we have enough
lube, which we do, and that's important, cause it's Fraser's first time
and he's gonna need a lot of stretching. Then I look in the drawer
for condoms, but I swear to God there's everything in the world in that
drawer except condoms. I hope there's some in the medicine cabinet.
|He returns, looking pleased, carrying--I
can't tell what. "All right, here we go, now we're cooking."
He tosses his prize onto the bed and I look down at it. TROJAN LUBRICATED
||There are--a whole strip of them--and
I return to the bedroom relieved and triumphant. "All right, here
we go," I say, flinging them onto the bed. "Now we're cookin', now
|Condoms. Dear God. But
I didn't--last night I didn't--
||That's when I catch the new expression
on Fraser's face.
|"Ray. I didn't use a condom
last night." God, what was I thinking? How could I have
such a thing?
||"Ray," Fraser says, and his voice
is agonized. "I didn't use a condom last night."
|Ray just shrugs, looking confused.
"Course you didn't, Fraser--I didn't tell you to. And why should
you? I'm sure you're clean. It's me I don't know about."
||"Course you didn't, Fraser--I didn't
tell you to." I don't get what he's all upset about. "And why
should you? I'm sure you're clean. It's me I don't know about."
|I feel like there's an icy hand
clutching my heart.
||Shit, he looks like he's about to
have a heart attack.
|"Don't get me wrong, Fraser--I'm
sure I'm fine," Ray says quickly. "Just I'm not risking your life
over it, okay?"
||I hurry to assure him. "Don't
get me wrong, Fraser--I'm sure I'm fine. Just I'm not risking your
life over it, okay?"
|I don't know what to say.
No, it's not okay?
||I can see from his face that it
ain't the least bit okay.
|There are things I want to know,
things that are none of my business. But I have to ask. "Ray?
Have you been with a lot of men?"
||"Ray?" Fraser asks finally,
looking like he'd rather die than ask the question. "Have you been
with a lot of men?"
|Ray sighs and sits down on the edge
of the bed. "Depends what you mean. By your standards--yeah.
By regular standards--no, not at all." He's not meeting my eyes and
that scares me. "Look--I may have given you the wrong impression.
I'm--pretty deep in the closet, Fraser. For, like, obvious reasons.
An' just every so often, the pressure builds up. An' I go out and
do something stupid."
||My knees give way and I sink down
to sit. "Depends what you mean. By your standards--yeah.
By regular standards--no, not at all." I take a deep breath and decide
that I'd better have it all out. "Look--I may have given you the
wrong impression. I'm--pretty deep in the closet, Fraser. For,
like, obvious reasons. An' just every so often, the pressure builds
up. An' I go out and do something stupid."
|I do understand; perhaps better
than he thinks. "Like jumping off a building," I say quietly.
||His voice is gentler than I expect;
and kinder, too. "Like jumping off a building," Fraser murmurs.
|His head jerks up. "Yeah,
exactly. Except my buildings are people."
||"Yeah, exactly," I say, surprised.
"Except my buildings are people."
|"I understand, Ray."
||"I understand, Ray."
|"Glad one of us does, cause I sure
||"Glad one of us does, cause I sure
|I have two more questions.
"Ray, is there--someone in particular I should know about?"
||"Ray." His voice is serious.
"Is there--someone in particular I should know about?"
|He quirks a smile and shakes his
||Know about? I don't even know
most of their names. "No."
|"One more question."
||"One more question."
|"Are you happy?"
||"Are you happy?"
|His smile widens and he blushes.
"Yeah, sure. You know--my share. Okay, not really."
He leans close and murmurs against my lips, "I am now."
||An' that's fair, I guess.
"Yeah, sure. You know--my share. Okay, not really."
Then I lean forward and whisper into his mouth, "I am now."
kisses me then, and his mouth is warm and very sweet. I pull him
close, wanting his body against mine. Ray's kisses are suffused with
tenderness, and I find that the driving lust of the last twenty-four hours
has abated. I also find I don't mind.
||I push forward
and kiss him, and Fraser pulls me down on top of him. It's been a
long time since I've done this kind of necking--not hot and nasty but real
loving and sweet. It's nice, actually--plus it feels great.
His body feels great, his mouth feels great; it's all good.
|Eventually I feel sleep sneaking
up on me. Which isn't surprising: last night has left me well-nigh
exhausted. It seems all right to drift off, and so I do; Ray
is beside me, holding me tightly, and I feel loved and safe.
||We sort of settle in together and
then we're dozing. I'm holding him--or maybe he's holding me, I ain't
quite sure about that. But I'm happy to go off for a bit--I need
the sleep, I think. He's totally zonked me.
|I sleep and dream of whale music,
I'm not sure why. At some point I wake up and feel compelled to share
this with Ray, even though he's well asleep, and so I kiss his forehead
and whisper into his hair some words I love: "They say the
sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all, and the wildest,
the most urgent." Ray snuffles a bit and I kiss his head again
before continuing. "And they rock, and they rock, through the
sensual ageless ages on the depths of the seven seas, and through the salt
they reel with drunk delight and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods." The words lull
me back into the deep.
||We must both be really dead because
we basically hang in bed for a good couple of hours. Mainly I think
we're both sleeping at the same time. But once or twice I wake up
and get a good look at Ben, who's lying heavy in my arms, totally conked
out and breathin' deep. An' while I think I might've dreamed it,
I've got this weird memory of waking up at some point and Fraser kissing
my hair and whispering something to me. Something rhythmic--some
kind of poetry, maybe. Except I seem to remember that it was about--well,
I think--which is just so weird that I really must have dreamed that part.
Though I remember that the words were kinda nice.
|I wake to find Ray lying beside
me, watching me, and I instantly decide that I want to wake up this way
as often as possible in future. I smile at him, and he smiles back,
and I feel somehow healthier, like I've been sleeping in the sun.
||Eventually I wake up and Fraser
stirs a second later, which means that me and him are finally gonna be
conscious at the same time. He's all Ben-ish again, mussed and sleepy,
and he smiles up at me as he comes awake.
|"Hey," Ray says.
||"Hey," I say.
|"Hey," I echo, trying on the word.
||"Hey," Ben says, and it's weird
to hear him say hey.
|"Guess we needed that, huh?"
||"Guess we needed that, huh?"
|"Yes, very much," I reply.
||"Yes, very much," he replies.
|"I'm always beat after heavy exercise,"
Ray says, and winks at me. "Hey, are you hungry at all?"
||"I'm always beat after heavy exercise."
I wink at him and he grins.
"Hey, are you hungry at all?"
|"For food?" I ask in my blandest
||Fraser goes all wide-eyed.
|Ray's eyes crinkle; he isn't
buying it. "For anything."
||That innocent look don't fool me
none. "For anything."
|"Well..." I begin, and then I grow
serious; this is a serious request. "I still want to--you know.
What I asked you before."
||"Well." He gets that "this
is hard to say" look on his face again. "I still want to--you
know. What I asked you before."
|Ray's face grows serious, too.
"And I'm gonna ask you again, Fraser: are you sure about that?
Cause you really don't have to--no one's keeping score, least of all me.
I'm really happy with what we got going here, Ben, just the way it is."
||Yeah, I know--but now I'm thinking
that it ain't such a good idea. It's all been too fast. An'
Fraser's, like, an essentially competitive guy. I try to tell him
he doesn't have to, that this ain't tit for tat. I could be real,
real happy with what we've already got.
|I'm happy, too, but I want all of
it--everything. "Ray, I want to."
||He's already shaking his head.
"Ray, I want to."
|Ray sighs and throws up his hands.
"Okay, fine--so let's do it."
||Stubborn Mountie. I hope I'm
doing the right thing, here.
me. He pushes his long, slim fingers inside of me. It's uncomfortable.
It's wonderful. It aches. I'm aching. He's being so careful.
He's touching me with such care.
God, I gotta be so careful here. Everything else has been so fast,
but this can't be fast, this has gotta be as slow as I can make it, as
I can take it. I gotta do this right.
|I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
Ray looks up at me and murmurs, "Relax, Ben. Breathe. In and
||He's lying there, all tensed up
and breathing in tight little gasps. Not good. "Relax, Ben.
Breathe. In and out."
|I breathe, and Ray rubs my leg reassuringly.
I ache, and I'm sweating. Ray's hand is cool against my fevered skin.
Ray's other hand is--
||Nearly there--hang on, buddy, you're
okay, you're doin' great. Nice and slow, breathe deep, it'll be better
soon, it'll be good soon.
|--slowly moving inside me, caressing
the inside of me, and my breath catches. The ache fades and pleasure
rolls over me like a wave, engulfing me.
||There you go, nice and slow, and
you're loose now, and slippery, and god, so beautiful. Easy, I'm
not gonna hurt you. Just let yourself feel it.
|Ray's fingers slide into me, impossibly
deep, and then I'm blinded by white-hot ecstacy. "Ray," I gasp.
"Ray, Ray, Ray--"
||I'm fuckin' him with my fingers,
but I still haven't hit the money spot. I try again and Ben jerks
wildly--okay, there we go.
|In my head I can hear Ray's voice,
hoarse and trembling. There! There! Right there!
||He's closed his eyes, and he's gasping
and trembling around my fingers. My god, he's beautiful.
|I understand, now. I want
||He's trembling under my hands.
|"Ray..." I call for him and
open my eyes, and Ray is staring down at me, his face strangely pale.
"Please. Do it--I want you." Ray touches deep again, and I
||Ben opens his eyes and looks at
me, still shivering from it. "Please. Do it--I want you."
I stroke his prostate again, just to watch his face when I do it.
|This is so different, not at all
like our frenzied couplings of earlier. This isn't explosive, this
is implosive. A different kind of death--held underwater to drown.
||He wants me. And god knows
I want him. But I just can't--I'm freaked, I'm overwhelmed, he's
so fucking beautiful. I don't think I could get it up or keep
|"Ray, please," I beg.
||He's begging for it. "Ray,
|Ray's face is pained. "I can't.
I can't. I'm too freaked out."
||I pull my fingers out of him.
"I can't. I can't. I'm too freaked out."
|I gasp for breath and try to get
my bearings as he withdraws from my body. "Ray, come here."
I reach for him, pull him down beside me, and kiss him for a while, trying
to soothe him as he's soothed me. Slowly he hardens in my hand.
||I feel like makin' a run for it,
I'm so freakin' embarrassed. But Ben grabs my wrist and pulls me
onto the bed. He kisses me deep--sucks my tongue and strokes my cock,
both together--and I start to get hot again.
|By the time I've gotten him adequately
sheathed and lubricated, Ray is fully aroused. Ray in full arousal
is a wonderous sight to behold--chest heaving, cock erect and straining,
nipples tight and dusky with blood. My hands shake as I smooth the
lubricant onto his shaft.
||An' then he puts the condom on me.
He puts the condom on me. He just leans over me and tears
open the packet and rolls it down. Then he reaches for the
lube and--and it's the sexiest thing anyone's ever done to me, ever, ever.
I'm just desperate for him, now.
|I don't know what to do, now.
"How...do you want me?"
||Ben's looking pretty desperate himself.
"How...do you want me?"
|"I-I don't know," Ray replies.
"How do you want it?"
||"I-I don't know," I stammer.
"How do you want it?"
|"I don't know. But I do, I
really do--please, now--"
||"I don't know. But I do, I
really do--please, now--"
|Ray takes my shoulders and pushes
me down onto my back, and he's heavy, and strong, and inside of me, penetrating
||I push him back and get on top of
him--and I musta done a good prep job, because I slide inside of him easy