Author's Website: http://www.mrks.org/~viridian/
Disclaimer: All things _due South_ belong to Alliance no matter how much I want Ray K to belong to me. Ray sings along with a snip of "Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode. No infringement intended. Suing me would be a waste of time. Besides, I'd just kick you in the head.
Author's Notes: Thanks to LaT and Kass for read-through.
Story Notes: Bitty spoilers for "Victoria's Secret," "Mountie and Soul," "Mountie on the Bounty," and "Odds."
Sequel to "Wings" and "Nonsense" in the Fear of Falling series.
"Why do you give a damn anyway?" the purse-snatcher moaned as Detective Dewey led him away. "You're Canadian!"
The man had knocked a frail elderly woman to the ground in his lust to rob her, so I answered in my most superior voice, the one that could drive my Rays insane, "My country is the world and my religion is to do good."
"You must be eating yer Wheaties this morning, foiling robberies and quoting Thomas Paine this early," Ray said as he walked up to the desk. "'Morning, Fraser."
His walk had changed. His footfalls seemed at once heavier in a physical sense and lighter in an emotional sense. He glowed. "Have you done something different today?" I asked.
Ray leaned against the desk in an exaggeratedly casual manner. "Why no. Why d'ya ask?"
"Your walk, your attitude--" I looked down. Ah. "Your boots."
Ray sat and propped his feet up on the desk to display them. "I've been wanting a pair of steel-toed for the longest time."
Dief jumped up a bit to see them, then licked Ray's hand to show his approval. "Thanks, guy, but they don't make any for halfwolves," Ray said.
"What stopped you from getting a pair before, Ray? Forgive me, but you tend to go out and just do the things you want to do."
A shadow briefly passed across Ray's face, and I knew its shape and name. However, he didn't invoke her, merely saying, "There was something I needed more at the time than a pair of kick-ass boots."
I didn't want him to think of her. "Yet you have them now."
"Yeah." Ray brightened a little. "Almost the same ones. They feel real good, and they've been a breeze breaking in so far."
"May you what?"
"Get a closer look?"
"I dunno." Ray's mouth curved up. "They might not be able to earn the Mountie seal of approval, and then I'd be broken-hearted."
"If they don't I won't tell you."
"So if you say nothing, I'll know you hate 'em."
"It's okay, it's okay. I'm yanking yer chain. Investigate to yer heart's content, but don't even think of licking them."
Did such a thing as "heart's content" truly exist? I doubted it, but I crouched beside the desk to get a closer look at Ray's boots.
My eyes briefly closed as I savored the heady scent of fresh leather. It gleamed, richly black. The boots were constructed of good, whole leather instead of pressed-together scraps, which made me want to rub my face against them to feel the texture. Though I would not. They were still stiff, having had no chance yet to conform to the shape of his feet and legs. Their thick, sturdy soles would support and protect him. The metal at the toes would... no doubt be injurious to anyone who stood in his way whom he didn't want there.
Did he really inhale deeper as I swept my hand up the left boot from his ankle to its top edge on his calf? I did it only to feel the grain of the leather, I told myself. The fabric of his pants leg skimming the top of my hand and his warm skin brushing my fingertips before I stopped my motion provided only a pleasing bonus.
"They are a beautiful pair of boots." Yet I could not enjoy them the way I did his older boots, the ones that had stretched and shrunk and bent to perfectly accommodate him.
"My boots thank you. Now we have to get to hoofing it on the Costello case. I think there's something going on with the warehouse."
"I hate waiting. This guy isn't gonna show, not tonight," Ray said as he sipped his coffee. "I'm wasting the best minutes of my life waiting for a guy who isn't gonna show." He shifted in his seat again, out of impatience or an attempt to make himself comfortable, I'd imagine.
"What would you be doing right now if you weren't here?" I asked.
If I weren't here, I wouldn't be suffering from the scent of new leather that permeated the car's interior from Ray's boots. It tormented me incessantly, straining self-control that always faltered when I was enclosed in a small space with him for hours. It still amazed me that I survived being in that submersible with Ray plastered to my back.
"Sleeping. Hey, get that look off yer face."
"It's too dark for you to see if I have a look on my face. Which I don't."
"I can feel the look on yer face. And sleeping is great."
"I'm hardly disagreeing with that statement. Sleep is good. Necessary as well. One Yukon--"
"Fraser, the next 15 minutes waiting for the Duck Boys to relieve us are already gonna be some of the longest of my life. Please don't tell me an Eskimo Joe story when I'm at a point where I might leap across the seat and throttle ya for it. 'Cause then you'd be dead, and I'd feel awful about it."
"You think you could take me?"
"You never got to feel the full, awesome power of my annoyance. It's a fearsome thing."
"Understood. So, how shall we pass these 15 longest minutes?"
"We 'I Spied' everything to see in this alley, and I'm not doing any more word association. You always ask me to associate a word with 'closet.'"
"And you always give the same answer."
"'Fraser, why are you obsessed with closets?' Well, I shan't stop until I get a real answer out of you."
"Don't hold yer breath. Why are you obsessed with closets?"
"See, I can do it too. Not as much fun being the ah-ee is it?"
"As opposed to being the ah-er?"
I had to smile. "No, it isn't."
"There you go. Admit that you do that to yank my chain, like you were yanking that guy this morning. Are Canadians even allowed to quote Thomas Paine?"
"Perhaps we could pass the time with a quote game."
"Nah, I have enough trouble getting my own words out, let alone using other people's. 'Sides, I doubt we'd know each other's quote people."
"It could be illuminating."
"It could be frustrating."
"You do make your point known, Ray."
"I'm more of a deeds guy. It's hard to misinterpret a kick to the head."
"You'd be surprised."
"I so don't wanna know."
"We might as well try the game. What else do we have to do with our last..." I looked at the car clock, "12 minutes?"
"12? Damn. All right. Hit me."
"'The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave.'"
"That's Paine again. You don't have to go that easy on me."
"Okay, okay, I got one. 'Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.'"
"Is that a comment regarding my inspection of your boots this morning?" I asked, though he sounded more amused than anything else.
"Nah, that was fine. If I don't like something, I complain. Loudly and often. I don't mind you feeling me up."
"Ray!" He had to be joking.
Ray laughed. "Is this yer way of trying to get around the fact that you don't know my reference?"
"Mae West. Intriguing choice." Sometimes I wondered if he felt as I felt. Sometimes I wondered if he knew....
"I like to keep folks guessing."
"Indeed. Here's my next one. 'Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.'"
"Mmmph. I know this one." Ray leaned back, and I think he closed his eyes. "Keats, Yeats, Keats, Yeats...." He moved his right fist, then left fist, then right, then left... as if he had a poet in each hand. His right fist came up, his fingers unclenched, and I got the impression that his eyes opened. "Keats. It's Keats."
"I always mess those two up. Weird mind thing with how close their last names are. I think you'll like this one: 'We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising.'"
"Who is that?"
"Yogi Berra, philosopher-poet of the self-evident but usually overlooked truth. You have to love a guy who'd say, 'You can observe a lot by watching.' Though I'm still trying to figure out 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it.' I'm kicking yer ass, Fraser."
"I shall have to go a bit more obscure then. 'Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.'"
"Figures you'd have a quote like that on tap. You got me."
"Mmm. If the _Miracle Worker_ has any truth in it, Keller sure helped develop Annie Sullivan's character. Okay, I got another one for ya. 'Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.'"
"That's beautiful, but I don't know it."
"It's Anais Nin."
"Anais Nin?" I knew Ray to be far more well-read than he let on, but this seemed out of character.
I found it arousing.
"Yeah, Fraser. I went about expanding my mind to impress the Stella once upon a time, and Nin was a Stel fave back when. Guess some of it stuck."
"Yes, but Anais Nin?"
"Man, should I find yer reaction entertaining or insulting? Jury's out. Hey, she said some cool things, like 'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.' I like it. Hey, Huey and Dewey are here. Looks like yer game worked."
"Ah, yes, Ray." Ray would never know how often I was thankful that my tunic was so long.
"Hey, Fraser, you okay?" Detective Dewey asked as he reached our rolled-down window. "Looks like your stomach is bothering you."
Stomach trouble. Should I be horrified or grateful that I could look at Ray with affection and lust and have Ray and others think it indigestion? "I'm fine, thank you."
"Nobody's asking about my stomach?" Ray asked.
"Nobody wants to know," Detective Huey answered. "You can go home now."
I didn't voice my own relief even if I did desperately need a respite from Ray.
Ray leaned back in the chair, his booted feet crossed at the ankles on his desk. To ignore how invitingly he sprawled, I paid attention to his old boots. Heedless of my uniform and dignity, I knelt beside the desk and rubbed my face against the left one, wallowing in leather grain and the roughness of wrinkles where it had flexed with Ray's foot. The acrid but fading scent of the mink oil he used to waterproof them still clung.
The boots hugged his feet and calves perfectly, and I wished I could wrap myself around him so closely and precisely.
I looked at the full expanse of him, his pants a size too large, his shirt shrunk a size down, his holster straps framing his chest at the shoulders, his hair up and as independent-minded as he was.
My hand, having also gained a mind of its own, stroked up his calf to his thigh and moved higher. He'd once told me that I was not to touch his calf or inner thigh, but now he shifted himself closer into my touch, especially when it reached his fly. I felt hard heat waiting for me there.
Too fast. Far too fast.
I abandoned his boots in favor of crawling under the bridge of his legs. As I did so, he parted his legs to let me settle on my knees in front of him, then wrapped them around my waist, pulling me in closer. His feet stroked the backs of my thighs. The heat of him burned against my abdomen.
We were so close. Not as close and precisely fitted as his boots were to him, perhaps, but I hadn't been wearing Ray very long.
I examined him at close range. Sometimes he could look ludicrously young, but today his face showed some of its rightful wear in laugh lines, smile lines, and worry lines, conforming to the shape of his soul. I had to kiss him, so my lips started to press insistently against his, my tongue stealing out to tease his skin, kissing and kissing. He breathed against my mouth, flowing under my lips and hands, wanting me as I wanted him.
We were so silent, and it disturbed me. Neither of us said anything, as if we had nothing more to say or do but this. Fate. Inevitability. It was so final, and it made me feel utterly exposed. I had no words to cage or define this moment, no way to pin it down to be analyzed later. This moment, what we were doing, just was, here and primal.
Ray nuzzled my face, then broke the silence. "Yer as serious as a heart attack, Fraser. This is supposed to be good times."
I realized then that I was dreaming. I could control this.
I could end this.
I pushed closer, harder, and felt the chair start to tip back. Ray laughed as we tumbled, then moaned as our slide rubbed us together. The chair jolted us as we hit the floor, and Ray's body bucked under me, his changeable eyes taking on a diffused look as he came, breathing my name.
Gasping, I awoke in a large wet spot. Same old, same old, as Ray would say.
He'd been starring in my dreams far too often lately.
To think, not so long ago I'd wanted my dreams to be blatant.
Dief sighed at me.
"I know. I do. But I can't simply sniff then mount him. Human beings don't work that way. Yes, it would show my desires plainly, but there are cultural issues in play here that you're not grasping. It would be much easier if we weren't so noseblind. Everything is... complicated. I'm not taking advice on relationships from you. Well, you're a wolf; there are differences. I don't inquire into your lovelife. Don't look so smug that at least you have one. I thought it rude to ask you about your dealings with Ante. Gentlemen don't tell. Do not disparage my grandparents in such a manner."
It looked like I would be facing another long night.
"You okay, Fraser? You don't look too good," Ray said when he saw me the next morning.
He should have seen me last night. "I haven't been sleeping well," I admitted before I had a chance to think. I really was tired. I sat across from him.
"More whimsical dreams?"
"I suppose you could call it that."
"I don't see what the problem is with 'whimsical,'" Ray said as he scratched Dief's ears.
The problem is that I want to slide across this desk and lick you all over, Ray. "I simply want things to make sense," I said instead.
"Make sense? We really do live different lives. Like, I had this dream three nights ago where I had these silver toe and finger cymbals welded on, but I was supposed to be quiet. But every time I moved or fidgeted, I made noise. Nobody was threatening me or nothing, but I knew that if I made a sound, something terrible would happen to me. But I couldn't stop making sounds."
That did sound disturbing. Ray hadn't mentioned this to me. "Did something terrible happen?"
"I woke up first. Or maybe I just woke up. Dunno. Teach me to watch that Arabian nights movie before I go to bed, but that doesn't explain it all. Thing is, sense has nothing to do with us, Fraser. We jump through glass and off of buildings. We get actual pirates, hook hand and all. If you think our lives make sense but yer dreams don't... well, I just shudder to think about it, y'know?"
As a measure of how tired and fuzzy I felt, I had no answer to defend myself on that.
That apparently worried Ray to no end. "But if there's anything I can do now, you'll tell me, right? You know, any way I can help? Fraser?"
A large part of me wanted to suggest exactly how he could help, but I retained enough control to stifle it.
I must have lost a few moments, because suddenly he was crouched at my feet, looking up at me and waving his hand in front of my face. "Yer zoned, buddy. Yah!" He suddenly fell forward, almost into my lap. If he hadn't grabbed the arms of my chair, he would have had his face against.... I couldn't think about it. Ray glanced behind him and yelled, "Dief! Yer nose and my ass are two things that must never ever meet, got it?"
Looking at the half-wolf grinning behind Ray, I snapped, "I don't need your help." At Ray's hurt look, I clarified, "I was speaking to Diefenbaker."
"You need to go home and get some shut-eye, Fraser. I'm worried about you."
"A few nights of interrupted sleep shouldn't be debilitating me so."
"A few nights? I'm taking you back to the consulate and putting you back to bed. If I have to tie you down myself, I will."
I would not let my thoughts drift in that direction. "We have another stakeout today. I could take a few brief naps--" In the car. Mere centimeters from Ray. Drowning in his scent and presence, having them influence my sleeping mind. It might end up being exactly like that dream I had in which I had an erotic dream while sitting stakeout in the car with Ray. Only I doubt the real life Ray would react to my unconscious moaning and writhing by waking me with his mouth around my-- "No, that would be dereliction of duty."
"Bed, Fraser. We're going."
"Ray, I don't need--"
"Not taking no for an answer." Ray steered me to my feet, grabbed my coat, and yelled, "Lieu! Fraser's not well, so I'm driving him to the consulate. Be right back."
Lieutenant Welsh looked out of his office. "Were you raised in a barn, Vecchio? Next time, come in and talk to me."
"Fraser was born in a barn, so I'm gonna ignore you using it as a slur, sir. Be right back."
While I continued to make some token protests, for the most part I left myself in Ray's hands. Once he had something he wanted to do, it could be almost impossible to stop him, a challenging task even when I was at my best. Seeing as how I wasn't and Ray had gone into full protective mode, I let him drive me back to the consulate.
I truly wasn't at my best, because only as we parked did I remember that I would have to pass through the gauntlet to get to my room. "I'm feeling much better now, Ray."
"You don't look it." Ray snorted. "If the Ice Queen has anything to say, I'm gonna let her have it. And don't 'Ray!' me. You don't call sick in, like, ever, so yer due."
The last time I'd called in sick, it had been to spend the day with Victoria. "I'll be fine." How apt that lasciviousness had led me to this again.
But he already had the car door open and an iron grip on my arm, dragging me out. He was much stronger than he looked.
"Welcome to Canada, Detec-- Oh dear. Let me help you, sir," Turnbull said as we entered.
I must have been a sight indeed, a conjecture confirmed when Inspector Thatcher walked in, looking fully prepared to challenge me until she took a better look at me. "Take him to his room, detective, and make sure he rests."
Ray bristled a little at being commanded, but he said nothing. He soon had me seated on my cot as he stripped off my coat and started on my uniform. I tried to push his hands away. "No, Ray, I can do this myself."
"No, you can't, because yer about to fall over, and I don't think you'll be too comfortable trying to sleep on all these belts and lumps and do-dads. I did this before, put it on and took it off; I can do it now. 'Course, I had Turnbull helping me put it on and you helping me take it off...."
His blond hair brushed my chin as he moved in close to try to unfasten my lanyard. The crisp, recently cut ends sensitized my skin. How apt that his hair was at once soft and prickly. Before I knew it, I was rubbing my face into it from how good it felt, inhaling the scents of hair gel, shampoo, aftershave, and leather. Ray stilled for a moment, then returned to his task, muttering, "Give, dammit," to one of my buckles once in a while.
In my fatigue, I actually resented his coat for hiding him from my view. I wanted to see the curve of his neck move into the curve of his back. Madness. But perhaps if I saw him as geometry I could ignore the feel of his clever fingers taking off my uniform. I didn't need him to find any surprises once he removed my tunic.
Ray hummed a tune I couldn't identify as he undid my buttons. "Ray," I said softly.
The top of his head hit my chin, rattling my teeth, as he looked up. "Ow! Yeah, Fraser?"
"Could you remove my boots first, please?" No need to expose myself any longer than I had to.
Ray gave me his "you're a freak" look, but he moved back and went to work on my boots. The zinging sound of laces moving through eyelets entranced me. I tried to ignore the way Ray's tongue peeked out against his bottom lip as he focused on his task.
I closed my eyes, but that sent me drifting away to somewhere dark and pleasant. His hands at my ankle anchored me until I felt something give with a loud popping sound and a thump, followed by low cursing. I opened my eyes and saw Ray lying on his back, knees and hands in the air, looking a bit like an overturned turtle. My boot was across the room.
"I'm all right; I'm all right. Almost launched myself into orbit getting yer boot off, but the only thing hurt is my pride. The other one isn't going to catch me napping the same way."
I must have started napping, because the next thing I knew, the lack of constriction about my shoulders and chest told me that my tunic was off, I was lying on my cot, and someone was tucking me in. Ray, by the scent of him. My eyelids too heavy to lift all the way, I looked up at him through my lashes. My fatigue had given me this opportunity to be handled by Ray but also taken bits of it away from me. It seemed deeply unfair.
He started to stroke my hair, and I turned my head into his hand, wanting more.
I heard him saying something about staying to keep a watch on me, but I managed to mumble, "You have the Costello case to work on. You're so... close. Do... your duty, Ray." I sounded so disconnected.
Although he didn't say a word, I could almost hear his internal conflict, his protective instincts for me warring with his sense of duty and bloodhound's dedication to the hunt. I said, "Go. Bring him in." I couldn't help smiling. "You could do it for me."
Ray cackled. "Yer transparent when yer this tired. Okay, but I'll tell Turnbull to keep an eye on ya. And I'm telling Dief to rip yer tongue out if you try to get out of bed today for anything other than a trip to the can. Since no tongue means no talking or licking things...."
"I'll be back."
As his hand left my hair, I descended into sleep.
Feeling rested, I opened my eyes to a world almost as dark as the sleep I'd left behind. How long had I been under? At least I had been free from dreams.
I heard soft snoring and knew it couldn't be Dief, whose snoring sounded like a lumber company chopping down an entire old growth forest. I tried to adjust my eyes, but I had almost no night vision, a deficit of mine.
As I moved to get off the cot, I heard, "Freeze, you-- Oh, damn. Sorry, Fraser."
I smiled. "I didn't mean to surprise you, Ray."
Ray turned on the light and faced me, one side of his hair flattened. His mouth twitched. "My hair looks funny, doesn't it? I can tell from the look on yer face."
"I wouldn't say 'funny.'"
Ray ruffled his own hair to fluff it into his idea of respectability. "How'd you sleep?"
"Well. I feel much better. What time is it?"
I was appalled.
"You must have needed it," Ray said. "And now I know why yer obsessed with closets, since yers keeps muttering stuff on and off. I can't find any muttering thing in there, though, and I sure as hell looked."
I winced. "What did it say?"
"I couldn't make out most of it, but I did hear something about bad influences. Oh, and 'When I told you to find someone sturdy this wasn't what I meant.' I'm losing it. Not even Canadian closets talk."
I would have to have a talk with my father, and I didn't look forward to it. "The closet itself doesn't talk. I believe that you're hearing something from another room." I wasn't lying to Ray. Not really.
"If you say so. Ya know, we got Costello today."
"Excellent work, Ray."
"Yep. It was tough, though, since I was worrying about you." Ray... sauntered over--it couldn't be described any other way--and crouched down next to my cot. His smile seemed darker somehow and infused with sex. I shifted and tried to hide my immediate reaction.
"Thank you for your concern, though I apologize for its necessity."
"My concern. You have all these quotes about how the stuff that's really worth it doesn't come easy and how you have to fight for it, but you thought, what, I was too hard? In a manner of speaking, ya know."
I stayed behind my mask. "I don't know what you mean."
"I know I'm not Canadian, but I doubt they use hair nuzzling as a between-friends thing up there."
I had done that, hadn't I? "Ah."
I could accuse him of stroking my hair, but then he'd accuse me of pressing my head into his hand while he did it.
I had so many reasons for not getting romantically involved with him--all involving his mental and emotional safety and mine--but I knew he'd refute every one. He believed in the all-encompassing power of love. After all, look how long he'd retained hopes that he and Stella would reconnect.
I also knew love's power, but I understood its capacity to damage and ruin. Yet I was weak and so tired of fighting it, while he crouched near me looking so inviting, glowing like a child anticipating the gift hidden beneath the pretty wrappings.
Ray said, "I've noticed you looking at me lately, though I wasn't sure if it was wanting me or heartburn on you, but I figured you were waiting for the right time, or maybe you thought I'd deck you if you said something. 'Cause I'm saying something now, and it scares me too, but I figure that if it doesn't turn out well I'll tell you I'll pretend the hair nuzzling never happened if you pretend I never opened my big mouth. But I'm here and I'm liking the thought of us and I'm not decking you, and yer still not saying anything. So I was wrong, and it was heartburn?"
Seeing his hurt, once I untangled his words I answered, "It wasn't heartburn."
"But it's not something you want."
"What I want...." I stopped. "I'm very serious about these things."
Somehow, Ray understood what I meant. "Hey, I'm not casual guy either, not in love stuff. I mean, look how long I followed Stella around, and, wow, that really wasn't something I should have mentioned here."
"I haven't had much luck in these endeavors."
"I just mentioned Stel."
He did have a counter-argument for everything. Despite my certainty that this next step would start the downward slide, I said, "I do want you." I was weak and selfish.
"You make it sound like such a bad thing." He tried to sound light, but I saw hurt in his eyes.
Nothing I said meant what I wanted it to. "Sometimes, Ray, words fail me as well." Then I kissed him.
I'd done this so many times in my dreams, but reality, as always, was different. No dream would let me taste the bitterness of old coffee on his tongue or feel the prickling of heavy stubble, his always growing in so much faster than mine. His lips were chapped, dry and slightly rough. I could smell the long, hard day he'd gone through in his sweat and the hint of blowback on his hands. I would have to ask him the circumstances later, at which time I would also worry about him and berate myself for having slept while he'd needed someone to watch his back. The tips of his hair, fine and charged with static, clung to my fingers and moved with them. No dream could have provided this kind of sensory data or these surprises. I pulled him onto the cot with me, and he made a sound that seemed to combine surprise and laughter.
Ray and I both turned to face the closet, suggesting that he had heard my father too. "You hear something?" Ray asked. He shook his head. "Maybe we should take this elsewhere."
It took a moment for the fog of lust to clear from my head, but returning logic made me answer, "I think that would be a good idea."
Ray rolled off me so I could dress to go out. As I picked up my jeans, I became more aware that Ray's eyes followed my every move as he leaned indolently against the wall. "Ray."
He gave me a disbelieving look, then sighed but complied. "This isn't buddies. I let you watch me dress."
"After Mason Dixon knocked me around the ring so you could get the information you wanted from Devlin."
The banter provided a welcome touch of normality. "Truthfully, your pummeled condition had me averting my eyes as you dressed. I watched you more with pity than desire."
"Hmmph. At least Dief still loves me."
"You feed him."
"I can feed you too." Even with his back turned, his smirk was visible. "Or give you something else to do with yer mouth. If yer up for it." Ray slapped his forehead. "I'm being way too forward, right? Sorry."
"I'll tell you when you're too forward." And said nothing further.
"Gotcha. Are you decent yet?"
"As much as I'll ever be."
He turned and gave me a warm, lingering look, stopping at my lumberjack boots. "I keep meaning to ask if yer too cool to tie yer laces or something."
"I think I tie enough laces for my jodhpurs and uniform boots."
"True. I had a pair of Docs once that went up to my fucking knees. Took forever to lace 'em up, but they were seriously bad-ass."
I took a moment to imagine it, then felt stupidly guilty. I must have had less control over my face than usual, because Ray said, "We haven't done anything but kiss yet, and yer already getting regrets? I mean, it was a good kiss, but you should save yer energy for the really big stuff."
I'd gone too far to go back now, so I kissed Ray's nose, to his amusement. "I'll try."
"Good. You hungry? If so, I'll feed you for real and then we could go... elsewhere. Or we could eat at elsewhere, meaning my apartment. If you don't get so many regrets through dinner that I have to pounce you and make you stop brooding on it."
"Dinner would be wonderful."
"All right then. We have the start of a plan here. Go out to eat or come back home with me? I don't have the groceries to make anything fancy, so it would be soup de la can, but I can heat things up with the best of them."
"You cook, Ray?"
"Sure I cook. I'd be real offended by you assuming I can't if I didn't know that you always see me doing takeout. It's just no fun to cook just for myself. I never eat all the leftovers, so it's depressing and a waste. We going?"
We walked out in silence, but Ray's happiness shone in the jaunty air added to his usual rolling gait. Diefenbaker was obscenely pleased that I'd made a move at last, and I had to bite my tongue on any retorts I might make. Ray would surely misconstrue anything I said.
As we drove to Ray's apartment, though the radio provided some sound, with Ray softly singing along, "We're flying high / We're watching the world pass us by / Never wanna come down / Never wanna put my feet back down on the ground...." He drummed lightly on the steering wheel in time, then interrupted himself to ask, "You brooding?" Dief whined a similar question.
"I don't think so."
"You don't know?"
"I suspect that your definition of 'brooding' is far more expansive than mine." I suspected that Dief's would be as well.
"Yeah, and that never gets you into trouble."
"We've reached your building."
"That's convenience for you." Ray shook his head. "You know I'm not gonna let this go. I'm like a dog with a bone once I get something between my teeth. Grr. I don't let go." Then he glanced back at Dief. "I didn't mean it in a derogatory way. It's a good thing: persistence, stick-to-it-iveness. When did you get so politically correct?"
I hadn't heard Dief say anything, yet Ray had been doing this lately. I wondered if he actually heard anything or simply pretended to but doubted I'd get a straight answer if I asked. "You're not encouraging intimacy with that analogy."
Ray coughed a laugh. "I don't bite. Unless you want me to. I'm not a black widow spider, and I don't take trophies."
"On that note, I think it's time to leave the car."
"Yer such a chicken."
Ray just about bounced, nearly dancing, as we walked to his apartment. His good mood couldn't help but infect me a little. Dief bounced behind me as well, giving me the feeling that I'd joined some odd, celebratory parade.
Ray unlocked and opened the door with a chiming flourish of keys and dramatic gesture. He tossed his coat at the couch as he walked to the kitchen, but I caught it in mid-air and hung it in his closet, along with mine.
Smirking over his shoulder at me, he surveyed his pantry closet and rummaged through it. "How about minestrone? Seeing as how I'm Italian and all."
"That would be fine."
"Coolness. Fresh from the can to the pan." He opened two and poured them into a large pot. As I reached for the cupboard myself, his spoon smacked my wrist at lightning speed, too fast and surprising to dodge. "Yer a guest. Sit down and be a guest."
"As you're being kind enough to cook, I feel it's only fair that I set the table."
Ray sighed. "If it makes you happy.... Use the moo plates."
I'd been in Ray's apartment many times before, as evidenced by my knowledge of where he kept the cow-patterned dishes, but it felt different tonight. This time I felt an itchy but highly pleasurable anticipation. Parts of me still saw this ending in sorrow, but I'd moved too far to back down now. My feelings in the open, the first move made, I had no choice but to follow through. It was a relief actually.
And, of course, I wanted him.
"Where do you keep the silverware?" I asked him.
"Second drawer down from the countertop near my right hip."
Opening it put me at his back, my arm nearly brushing his thigh. "I'm simply wondering why you never let me see your silverware drawer before."
"Yer kidding right? Yer not kidding." Ray stirred the soup, his metal spoon making a deep scratching sound as it scraped the bottom of the pot. "Well." Ray paused dramatically, then let out a sob. "The sad truth is that I'm a big klepto, and I steal forks every time I go out. I got a king's ransom in silverware in there. I couldn't bear to let you see my secret shame."
"Do you think these lines out and store them away for the right moment, or are they spontaneous?"
"Spontaneous, of course, just like the rest of me. Didn't tell you where the silverware is before. Jeez. Is it like some kind of Canadian relationship test or something? 'I love him, and he's sexy as all get-out, but he won't volunteer the location of his silverware drawer. Dang, it wasn't meant to be.'"
I put my lips to his bare neck and murmured, "That's just silly, Ray."
He leaned back into me a little, but still said, "So's judging a guy on how open he is about the location of his spoons."
He seemed genuinely upset. "Please forgive me," I said.
"Nah, yer bantering. It's a good. 'Sjust that it's a bit of a sore topic for me. I had her keep the plates and silverware, because they were hers--what she picked out for us, all understated elegance like she is--but some of the forks managed to creep into my boxes anyway. Couldn't give 'em back somehow. I don't like thinking about it so I try not to."
His sense of devotion warmed and chilled me all at once. "All of the mismatched ones are Stella's?"
"The ones with the rose are. I still have a few from Mum too, when she worried that the cafeteria wasn't feeding me right. That was college. So I have some museum quality Tupperware from years back too. Really should think about returning that stuff at least, though I'm keeping Mum's forks."
"You truly have commemorative silverware."
"Yeh. I'm an American, which means I have things, lots of things, and those things mean... uhm, stuff." His fingers clenched around the spoon. "Dammit. Me talk real good someday."
"I think I understand."
"But, y'know, we all come with stuff in our past. I keep getting the feeling that some of the old stuff you carry around is making you think that the two of us together isn't a good thing."
I put my hands around his waist and let him lean back further. "I'm trying." It amazed me how good this felt, how cozy. I held him and listened to his slow stirring, enjoying the delicious scent of cooking vegetables and the warm solidity of him in my arms.
"You really like this domestic stuff?" he asked.
"It's exotic to me."
"I know from experience that it can get old real fast."
"I suspect that I can find a subject to train my boredom on."
I heard the TV turn on, then the clicking of changing channels. Ray turned his head to see me better. "Dief learned how to use the remote?" he asked.
"You're a terrible influence on him."
"Oh, c'mon. Use of tools is evidence of a mentally advanced species."
When the channel clicking ended, I could hear moaning and a wailing saxophone soundtrack. Ray asked, "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I pray not."
We walked into the living room together. There we found Diefenbaker very absorbed in his chosen show, and he gave me significant looks every two minutes, saying that it was educational programming. The sight, sounds, and suggestive, rhythmic motions had the expected and unwanted effect on my body, which hardly needed any more encouragement.
"Educational?" Ray asked. "Guess you could call it that. Fraser, yer dog's watching softcore porn on my couch."
"It would seem so, yes. Dief, I can assure you that I don't need any pointers. I intended to at least eat first, an urge I know you understand. It won't look quite like that anyway." I noticed Ray watching the screen with his head cocked a little to the side, mirroring Diefenbaker. Ray leaned forward over the back of the couch, his sweater and undershirt riding up a bit to expose pale skin as he bent, thrusting out his.... Soup seemed very far away and unimportant.
But if I let Dief direct me so, I'd never hear the end of it.
"Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray...." I put my hand under his sweater and stroked up his spine.
He shivered most gratifyingly and, blinking, came to. "Uh? Oh, hi." Ray grabbed the remote and changed it to the Discovery Channel. "No HBO for you. This is educational and wholesome fun, right? Don't give me that look." He twirled the remote in his hand, then put it in his back pocket. "Be good." Ray mouthed, "Remember that I'm the guy who feeds you, so stop ticking Fraser off."
"I could read your lips, Ray."
"So? I have no shame."
"I'm becoming ever more aware of that."
"It'll come in handy later, trust me." Ray smiled at me in a highly provocative manner.
I shifted. "We have the soup to think of."
"Soup was, is, and ever will be, Fraser. It's not going anywhere, so if yer good to go now, that would be beyond fine. And they have this thing on stoves that you can use to turn 'em on or off--"
"You astound me."
"I try. So it's up to you. I'm hungry, and I'm hungry, so I can go either way. In a lot of stuff, it looks like. But if we're not having sex just because Dief wants us to have sex, I'll be pissed."
Ray flung up his hands and walked back into the kitchen. "Okay. It's soup. You get the spoons."
"You will get satisfaction later."
"I better, and, let me tell you, I'm not easy to satisfy."
He leaned against my arm again as I rummaged through the drawer and pretended to ignore him. Happily, I saw none of Stella's roses amongst the spoons, although I did see some daisies, no doubt from his mother. Disliking the idea of reminding him of his parents at this time, I chose two of the abstractly patterned ones that matched the rest of his set and seemed to be his.
By the time I had place settings done at his table, Ray had finished heating the soup and begun to bring it over. Soon we sat together with crackers and a bowl of minestrone each. Domestic, as Ray had said, but I liked it.
"You know," Ray said, "I'm glad you chose the soup over me."
I flinched until I saw the teasing light in his eyes. "I'm glad you approve."
"Because... this is damned good soup." Ray appeared to be savoring the spoonful in his mouth with an overblown, nearly erotic pleasure, before removing the spoon and licking it clean in long, hungry strokes. He opened eyes that were far too intense and pinned me with his gaze. "Mmm-mmm."
I refused to succumb to such blatant and overdone manipulation. "I didn't notice." This would teach me a good lesson in the perils of vanity, which had made me wear my tightest jeans to come here. They were a good deal tighter now and very uncomfortable.
"That's one of yer problems. Sometimes you have to stop and savor the good stuff. Make it last. Like this soup. It's just too good to rush through." Ray nibbled a chunk of potato from his next spoonful in small, delicate, yet nearly savage bites. Very feline, in execution as well as sadism. "You don't mind if I take my time eating, right?"
Past time for a counter-attack. "Ray."
"You have something at the corner of your mouth. Right here." I slowly licked my bottom lip.
Ray's eyes went glassy, then narrowed as Dief sighed loudly. "Sorry we're boring you, Dief."
The hell with it. "Ray."
I stood, walked over, grabbed him, and kissed him soundly. "I don't think I have the patience for very good soup." Though I did enjoy the taste of it in his mouth.
He must not have had the patience either, because he stood as well and kissed me back, muttering, "Finally." With all the kissing, touching, and movement, I must have lost track of things, because the couch suddenly caught me at the knees and dropped me down onto it. At least Dief had vacated it first. Ray straddled my lap, facing me. "This is a very good lap," he said, then laughed.
"Laughing at my own terrible sense of humor. I was just thinking I'm in the lap of luxury right now. I could live here. You charge rent?"
"In a manner of speaking." I kissed him again, thoroughly, starting at his mouth and traveling toward his neck. "I would need a deposit and at least the first month's rent in advance."
"Taking me for a spin first, as in a kind of renting couch thing? Is that legal?"
"And you still owe me that air...."
"Which yer going to suck out personally? Yer welcome to try."
"I could make it part of my investigations," I said as my hands went under his sweater and undershirt to trace his ribs before stroking down to his waistband.
Ray shuddered. "Investigations?"
Ray rubbed himself against my erection, making me groan. "My credit's good," he said.
I unbuttoned his fly and reached into his boxers to grasp him, stroking the wet head with my fingers. He did want me. "Prove it."
Ray let out a laugh that seemed to be more breath than sound. "Or what? You'll take my dick as collateral?"
His eyes glittered as he unzipped my fly, giving me much appreciated relief. "You ever give these bad boys a chance to breathe? Do you have any idea what it's like walking behind you when yer in yer civvies and being able to just about see yer pulse because yer jeans are just about painted on you?" His hand felt every bit as good on me as I'd expected. Good strong hands, long fingers, the roughness of calluses on the fingertips....
"I try to give a good show."
"Is Dief watching? 'Cause I have to say that there are a lot of things I'd do for you, but renting porn for your dog isn't one of them. If he wanted to watch porn we got for ourselves now, that would be something else."
It certainly sounded like Ray wanted this to be a long-term arrangement, as I did. "That sounds more than acceptable. As for Dief invading my privacy... well, I can't say for sure since I wouldn't notice while I was... involved."
Ray smiled. "Then let's get you involved and put on a show."
We made a tangle of hands, legs, and kisses as we moved, rocking, stroking, jerking. I had my hands moving all over him, trying to memorize him by touch, trying to imprint him. Only fair, since his hands roving across my flesh seemed to brand me as his.
I'd waited for so long, but now I found myself incapable of waiting any further. "I don't think I have the patience for very good sex right now, Ray," I gasped. "I'm too close."
"So we'll have fast, mediocre-by-comparison, mind-blowing sex," he said in a low, rough voice. That and a particularly effective twist of his fingers brought me to orgasm, moaning out my pleasure into the warm, sweaty skin of his neck. When I licked the spot under his ear, Ray shuddered and came, crying my name.
As we rested together, forehead to forehead, breathing hard, I happily breathed in our mingled scents and stroked Ray's back under his clothes. We hadn't even taken the time to undress. He even wore his boots still. "I wanted to take more time with it," I said.
"That'll teach you to get stiff-necked about soup. Waited too long."
"I did enjoy your deposit though."
Ray laughed, then melted against me, almost plastered to my upper body, his head at my shoulder. As his hair tickled the side of my face, he said, "And you didn't even redeem yer IOU on that air yet."
"I think I can take some time now."
"Not too much time, I hope."
Dief yipped in agreement with him. I had to teach Diefenbaker some manners someday. And perhaps I could get hell to freeze over as well. At least Ray didn't seem to mind having a nosy wolf involved in his life.
Perhaps... perhaps this could work out. "Not too much time. Not anymore."
For now, more Viridian5 stories can still be found on Tripod in
The Green Room at
No-frames but no-frills access to The Green Room available at http://members.tripod.com/~drovar/viridian/Viridian_side.htm
Fandoms represented: due South, Hard Core Logo, Twitch City, X-Files, Once a Thief, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Angel, Two Guys and a Girl (was Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place), X-Men, Doctor Who, Fight Club, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine