by Speranza

Author's Note:  For the second (Make-up) challenge on DS Flashfiction.  Thanks to Terri, who betaed and made this a helluva lot stronger a story than it would have been without her keen insight.  Thanks also to Terri for the title!!

The bar was sticky, okay, but all in all the scene wasn't half as bad as he expected. No porn movies on the TV, no beer steins that fogged up with naked women whenever they got cold, none of those horrible ashtrays that forced you to commit rape every time you stubbed out a cigarette. Just a normal dark room with normal draft beer in normal fucking glasses. Normal cheap tin ashtrays scattered around on the normal rickety tables.

All in all, pretty endurable, especially if you were smashed, which he planned to be for most of it.

Ray knocked his fingers irritably against the sticky bar and waited for the bartender to give him another normal beer. Behind him, it seemed like the music was getting louder; the voices were certainly getting louder. "Come on already!" Ray called over the pounding music. "While I'm young!"

The bartender turned and slopped a pint of dark brew onto a thin paper coaster. "Here you go—"

"And a club soda, where's the club soda?" Ray picked up his beer and slurped the foam off the top as the bartender put another glass onto the bar and filled it from the hose. "Right, okay," Ray said; he took that glass in his other hand and then stopped short. "You got lemon?"

The bartender picked a wedge of lemon out of a white plastic bucket and dropped it into the glass.

"Okay, good." Ray turned and carried both glasses toward the back room, moving carefully around the empty tables at the front of the bar. The voices got louder still as he approached—and then there was a thunderous drumming of fists on tabletops, cheers and wolf whistles and—

Oh, fuck. Strippers. He shoulda figured for strippers.

Ray sighed and paused at the entrance to the back room door, holding a glass in each hand, and watched as the three women wearing fringey orange mini-dresses danced in the center of the room, their fringe shaking wildly as they shimmied. And then two of them clustered around Tommy, (a pig in shit, grinning stupidly) reaching out for him, stroking his hair, pulling at his tie, sitting on his lap and—

Ray turned and saw that Fraser was standing way back against the wall, half turned away.

The third stripper was making the rounds of the other male guests, shaking her ass in their faces. Ray saw Dewey grin stupidly and then reach up with a hand to touch her breast—and then suddenly, all as one, the strippers stepped back and yanked at their outfits, and now they were wearing orange fringe bikinis, and the floor shook as the cops stomped and hollered.

Ray grimly took a long swig of his beer and then made a beeline for Fraser. Maybe he should have gotten Fraser a beer, too, and forced him to drink it. You couldn't survive something like this on club soda—

—and then suddenly there was a roar of laughter and the scrape of chairs and fuck!—stripper number three had got Fraser! Her long orange nails were clutching at his uniform and she was laughing and pulling him away from the wall— and Dewey, that fuckhead! was egging her on! Fraser had gone all red-faced and shocky—like he was torn between wanting to push her away and not wanting to even so much as touch her—

—and Ray looked wildly around for a place to set down the glasses, totally enraged, totally planning on taking Dewey's scrawny ass outside and beating some fucking sense into him. He managed to offload the glasses onto a table top between two guys and turned to shove his way through the crowd of laughing cops—

The bastards. Those bastards. They knew Fraser would hate this, they knew that he'd—

—and the stripper was rubbing herself up against Fraser now, all up and down Fraser, and Fraser had gone utterly still, utterly withdrawn, like he was covered in roaches, in spiders, in mean, stinging insects—

—absolutely hate it, because that was the fucking joke, wasn't it? The joke was on Fraser, and those bastards were enjoying watching Fraser flip out—

—and the stripper clearly wasn't in on it, or maybe she was and she didn't give a shit, because she was touching Fraser's face now, mussing his hair and touching his face and smearing her makeup all over him—

"C'mon, quit it!" Ray yelled; he felt angrier than he'd ever felt in his life. "Lay off!"

—even though Fraser had his eyes shut and looked like he wanted to be a million miles away from there, a million zillion fucking—

"You lay off," Dewey retorted—and actually shoved him. "We're having a good time, so don't go giving us any of your bad fucking attitude—"

Ray grabbed him by the collar, yanked him close, hissed, "You've never seen my bad attitude—" and headbutted him as hard as he could. Dewey reeled backwards and Ray turned to the stripper and grabbed her by the upper arm, yanking her off Fraser. The men around them kept chanting, "Do it! Do it! Do it!"

"Scram, lady," Ray told her, roughly shoving her away. "Go do someone else."

She stumbled back a little on her heels and looked confused for a moment before pasting on her glamour-girl smile and going back to work, falling into the lap of a guy two tables down who yelled out in joy at his good luck. The other guys' eyes and bodies followed her, but Ray followed Fraser— who'd melted, the second he was released, back against the wall into the very darkest corner of the room.

"You okay?" Ray murmured.

Fraser wasn't looking at him; Fraser wasn't looking at much of anything, it seemed. His head jerked in a quick nod.

Ray licked his lips nervously. "You want a drink?"

Fraser shook his head, still not meeting Ray's eyes.

"I think you should have a drink," Ray said, more firmly.

"No." Fraser half-turned his body back toward the wall. "Do you think we could...go now?"

"Yeah," Ray said instantly. "We can go. Let's go."

Fraser nodded and began to walk stiffly toward the front room, and Ray followed him. They walked out through the empty front room of the bar and pushed through the swinging wood door into the cold night air, onto the empty sidewalk.

"Car's this way," Ray said, jerking his head.

Fraser nodded and followed him to the GTO; Ray unlocked Fraser's side, and then went around to open his own door and slide in. Fraser was belted into his seat and staring fixedly out the window; Ray could see that Fraser's face was flushed red, like he had a rash or something, and there was a smear of what looked like orange lipstick on his cheek.

"You sure you're okay?" Ray wanted to touch that orange stain, to rub it off with his thumb.

Fraser didn't look at him. "I'm all right," he replied.

His hand seemed to be moving with a mind of its own, reaching for Fraser's face. "Fraser. It's okay to be—"

"I'm angry," Fraser said quietly, and Ray yanked his hand back. "I'm really quite angry."

Ray put his hands on the steering wheel and gripped tightly. "That's okay. That's totally okay."

"And...humiliated." Fraser's body seemed to go even more rigid, there in the passenger seat. "That was...very humiliating."

"I—" Ray felt his own rage rising again. "Yeah. I know."

Finally, Fraser's head turned; finally, Fraser looked at him. "Is that...typical?"

"Pretty much, yeah," Ray told him; and he was starting to feel sort of mad at Fraser now. "Better than some, in fact."

Fraser looked away again. "I don't want to know."

"No, you probably don't." Ray's voice sounded brittle and hard to his own ears.

Fraser nodded slowly, staring out the window. "Ray, how do you...?"

"You pretend, okay?" Ray said shortly, and then he reached for the key and flicked the engine on, wanting to hear it, wanting to feel power in the pedals beneath his feet. "You chug a bunch of beers and you fake it. You do not drink club soda—"

"I drink club soda," Fraser said quietly.

"—and you do not hang out in back, because it makes you look like the big fucking target that you are!" Ray slammed his hand hard against the wheel. "Look—it is what it is, all right? You do what you have to, cause if you don't—surprise!—you might meet up with an accident, okay? Somebody shoulda taught you the facts of life before now!"

And he thought that Fraser was reaching across the car for the keys, to turn the engine off, because even he knew, in some dim part of his mind, that driving while infuriated was a bad idea. But instead Fraser's hands were closing on him, fisting his jacket, clutching him rhythmically, roughly, tightly, and Fraser was kissing him. Ray wrapped long arms around Fraser and kissed him back, sucking and licking Fraser's face, gently biting Fraser's jaw and stroking and groping the powerful, hard body against his until the girl-smells of lipstick and powder were overpowered by the sharp boy-smells of wool and leather, sweat and come.  

The End

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