Tender is the Night
Author's Notes: Many thanks to Arrow for a fantastic beta, and for shoving me ever so gently in the right direction.
Story Notes: Sequel to my previous F/K story "Two Solitudes." A bit of a porn without plot, although there are plotty bits.
SequelTo: Two Solitudes
Tender is the Night
When Fraser woke early that morning, he thought he was still dreaming. Ray's voice, his tender promise, I'll keep you safe, had echoed in his head, and he thought he had imagined the warmth of Ray's body curled next to him in the bed. But when he heard the shower running, and an off-key version of "California Dreamin'" filtering out of the bathroom, he had to roll over and bury his face in the pillow to hide his smile.
The shower shut off and Fraser listened to Ray towel himself down and then pad back into the bedroom. He anticipated hearing the scrape of drawers and the shhhhush of fabric as Ray dressed, but instead he felt the bed dip and Ray's warm hand on his back.
"I'm trying to decide." His voice was muffled by the pillow. "What time is it?"
"About six. You gonna call the Consulate?"
This forced him to bring his head up. He knew he must look ridiculous: hair mussed, pillow creases on his face, unshaven stubble darkening his jaw. Yet Ray looked at him as though he were...beautiful.
Ray nodded and nudged him over so he could lie down on the bed. The loose towel Ray had wrapped around his hips threatened to slip off; Fraser eyed it hopefully. Ray's chest was still damp, the sparse hair there streaked dark with moisture. He licked his lips.
"Yeah. It's Friday. You got a shift in an hour, right?"
Dear Lord. He jerked upright and would have bounded out of bed were it not for Ray's restraining hand on his chest.
"Fraser, hang on." Ray's hand was firm yet gentle; his thumb was making a small sweeping motion just above Fraser's nipple, and Fraser fought the urge to close his eyes and relax into the touch. "How about we call in sick today?"
Panic. Sheer panic. It was the only word for the feeling that paralyzed him so thoroughly. His hands grew numb and sweaty and he jerked back from Ray's touch, his head thumping against the headboard. He opened his mouth but all that came out was a noiseless huh?
Ray folded his arms across his chest and squinted, scratching absently at his tattoo. "Look, I know it's not something you'd normally do, but if you called in sick today we'd have the whole weekend to figure this out." He waved at the air between them. "I figure we could use the downtime. And stop looking like I just asked you to break into the Queen's house and steal all her silverware. It's just a sick day. One. And you probably have plenty of those coming to you."
"Eighty-seven, actually," he said, and then shivered at his unthinking response. "No, ninety-six."
"There you go. So call in sick." Ray was staring at him. "I feel like, if I let you walk out that door, we'd just go back to the way things were."
Fraser wanted to deny it. He could never go back to that place of brutal loneliness and insecurity, not after having spent a night with Ray, not after having felt Ray thrust and tremble and spill himself against him. Not after having kissed Ray and fallen asleep in his arms. How could anything ever be the same?
But then he'd made that error once before. The last time he'd spent the night with someone, he'd thought nothing could change the way he felt. That nothing could take him from her again. And he had been so terribly wrong.
Ray frowned and, for a moment, looked unbearably sad. He couldn't know of Fraser's internal argument, could only hear the silent seconds tick by between them. "You're looking pretty freaked out there, Frase." Ray's voice was calm and steady, but there was pain there, too, running like a silver vein just below the surface. "Second thoughts?
"N-no," Fraser swallowed. His mouth felt so dry. "I don't regret any of it. Quite the opposite, in fact."
"Greatness," Ray said quickly, his smile broad and confident. Fraser felt a sudden stab of deep affection for him. Ray was so determined to make this work despite Fraser's clumsiness. 'Quite the opposite?' He was stunned by the depth of his own reticence.
But Ray seemed willing to brazen it out. He did not raise his voice or demand further explanation of why Fraser was so hesitant. He simply fixed Fraser with a level stare and said, "So call in sick."
"Ray, you can't honestly believe that if I walk out that door today I won't want to continue this--" he hesitated. What to call it? Their 'relationship'? Was it that much already? He hoped so. "--this liaison?"
Ray shook his head. "Maybe. I don't know. Maybe you'll get back to the Consulate and start thinking about all those reasons why you can't have the things you want."
Fraser's mouth dropped open. "That's rather presumptuous of you."
The bed dipped as Ray folded his long legs up under himself and sat. His new position pulled at the towel, and Fraser kept his gaze fixed firmly above Ray's navel.
"Yeah, probably. Does that make me wrong?"
It was a fair point. How would the morning unfold if he left before beginning to explore the possibilities of what he had found here, with Ray? Would he lock himself away in his uniform and shackle himself to duty? Would he fall asleep once again in his lonely office in the Consulate, and wake from lost dreams of warmth? Fraser knew his own mind well enough to suspect that, after donning the serge and returning to the Consulate for a full day of idle filing and sentry duty, whatever small misgivings he struggled with now would magnify a thousandfold once he began to entertain them. By the day's end he might even dread seeing Ray again.
Ray held out his hand.
"Just give me three days with you, okay? Three days to prove this is a good idea."
Fraser considered Ray's offered hand. It looked so lonely there, extended towards him in the midst of the rumpled bedclothes. And Ray was so very brave even to ask.
"All right," he said softly. He took Ray's hand. "I'll call."
Ray's answering grin was nearly enough to convince him that he had made the right decision.
They spent most of the day in bed, and Fraser was astonished at how it felt, at the age of thirty-nine, to make love over and over again, to rise at two o'clock in the afternoon and be dragged back to bed only an hour later by a willing and rather demanding partner.
He felt the strangeness of it when Ray, after coaxing him to full hardness with his clever lips and tongue, shifted onto his back and drew his knees up in simple, undeniable indication of desire. "Please. I want you to."
Fraser stroked the side of Ray's face. They had already spent hours bringing one another to the shattering brink with their hands and mouths. Why this? Why now? He had no experience with any of this. What did Ray's extraordinary offer mean?
"Ray, are you sure?"
Ray's nod was little more than a quick bob of his head. "Yeah, I'm sure. I want you inside me, Fraser."
He closed his eyes and waited for the panic to recede. I want you in me, Ben. She'd said that to him, whispered it to him in the darkness of that first night. And he had taken her, and trembled within her. But it hadn't meant anything.
Ray let go of his knees and leaned up to cup Fraser's jaw. His hand was large and rough with calluses, and he stroked Fraser's cheek with unaccustomed tenderness. But then that was Ray, Fraser realized. Beneath the tough city attitude and the rapid-fire energy Ray was fundamentally a gentle soul.
He leaned forward to kiss Ray, working his tongue into Ray's mouth with slow deliberation, one small act of penetration preparing them both for the next. And Ray's mouth blossomed beneath his: he accepted Fraser eagerly, hungrily. When he leaned back on the bed this time, and drew his knees up, Fraser did not give himself time to reconsider. He grabbed the tube of lubricant Ray had set out on the bedside table last night and squirted some onto his palm, studying Ray's face.
The hunger in Ray's eyes hadn't diminished. He wanted this.
Ray drew a sharp breath when Fraser pushed his finger inside. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. He waited until Ray's body eased, relaxed, and opened. With a small sigh and a soft groan of pleasure Ray slid his hips forward, the movement almost enough to wreck Fraser's hard-won composure, and reached up to press an awkward, sweaty kiss to Fraser's cheek. "'M good," he murmured, settling down on his back. "C'mon."
Fraser met Ray's eyes. His expression was so soft and tender, so trusting, that Fraser smiled, and he bent down to kiss Ray as he pressed forward, working his finger deeper into Ray's body. The two points of connection made his head swim; he could not quite believe that he was here, finally here, so close to Ray in this hot, heady seal of intimacy.
"More," Ray gasped, and Fraser obliged, adding a second slippery finger. Ray was so incredibly hot there, and he imagined for a brief moment that Ray was actually hot enough to burn. Perhaps when he withdrew his fingers from Ray's body they would retain that heat, be seared by this moment, marked by this act. The thought made him ache and he kissed Ray again, the contact a brief, hungry press of flesh to flesh. Ray shook his head and arched forward, sending Fraser's fingers deeper inside of him. He jerked and instantly stilled.
"Hang on a sec." Ray was panting; it seemed to cause him considerable effort just to speak. "Just, do that again, okay?"
"This?" Fraser asked, inching his fingers forward. Ray spasmed again.
"God, yes, that's it, that's it--"
Fraser scissored his fingers together inside Ray's body, and Ray jerked, then opened his knees wider. "Oh fuck," he gasped. "No idea. I had no idea. That's--that's amazing, Fraser."
Fraser could not take his eyes off Ray, spread open beneath him, knees wide, hips tilted, skin flushed and sweating. "Yes," he allowed, leaning back on his knees a bit to better gauge Ray's reactions as he continued to stroke and tease that spot inside Ray. "Yes, it certainly is amazing," he whispered.
Ray wiped his forehead with his wrist. "I think I'm ready, if you're ready."
Fraser went still. A wave of raw need and hunger washed through him, and it was so powerful he felt rocked by it, battered by it. He grabbed at his cock, squeezing tightly. He wouldn't last long if Ray kept offering invitations like that.
He pulled his fingers out of Ray's body, which elicited a soft groan from Ray, and fumbled in the bedside table for a condom packet. He ripped it open with his teeth the way a dog tears at a piece of meat, his movements sharp and almost brutal as he split the foil open. Ray leaned up on his elbows to watch as Fraser rolled the condom down over his erection. Ray's torso was slick with sweat, and as he breathed it caught the light and reflected as a dull sheen that made Fraser long to lean forward and lick at Ray's chest. His hands were stupid and unsteady as he fumbled with the condom, and Ray grinned.
"While we're young, Frase," he suggested, and Fraser willed his hands to shop shaking. Finally he succeeded in getting the damned rubber on, and nodded gravely as Ray handed him the small tube of lubricant. Ray put his hand over Fraser's, and Fraser looked up to meet his steady gaze. Ray's eyes were dark in the dim light.
"I'm glad we're here," he said, simply, and patted Fraser's hand. He eased himself back down onto the bed, and let his legs drop open. Fraser swallowed and moved to position himself between Ray's knees.
When Fraser first pushed inside that tight ring of muscle, Ray cried out and began to struggle violently. His body twisted back and forth along the point of connection. Fraser's heart stopped, and he froze, all the passion and pleasure of the last few hours dying immediately in the face of the fear that he had hurt Ray.
"Ray? Ray, are you all right? I'm so sorry, God, Ray, please, tell me--" He longed to touch Ray's face, to stroke his cheeks, to cup his jaw so that Ray could feel, in some small way, how terribly sorry he was. But his arms shook with the effort of holding himself above Ray's thrashing body, and he could not risk shifting his weight and sinking deeper in, or pulling out too quickly and hurting Ray further.
Ray was still struggling against him, hips flailing, the movements too much for Fraser's overheated flesh. He longed to surge forward and thrust deeply into Ray's body but Fraser kept his hips locked, biting the inside of his cheek. He squeezed his eyes shut and thought of nothing but the reminder to stay still, keep quiet, to not even breath. He wrote DO NOT MOVE in large red letters on the inside of his mind, just as he did on sentry duty when every muscle ached and trembled with the effort of remaining still for hour upon hour. Everything in him screamed to move forward but he could not. He would not. Any movement at all would only bring Ray more pain, and hadn't he already caused him enough of that?
But Ray was saying something, acute desperation piercing the fog of Fraser's fear and panic. He was still surging and writhing against Fraser like an angry sea battering the shore. His distress was raw and almost palpable. The sounds Ray made tore at his heart.
"Need-" Ray gasped, clutching at him weakly, the movements of his hips still wild and insistent. "Need you. Closer," he panted. "C'mon, Fraser. Need you in me. Need you now."
Fraser heard these words faintly, like the peal of a far-off church bell. It was all right? Ray wanted to be closer, closer than this? He drew in a breath, those tall red words DO NOT MOVE fading slowly into black.
"Are you sure? I--" He squeezed his eyes shut as Ray undulated against him once more. His control was so ragged: all he could think of was the musky, sweaty scent of Ray's arousal, Ray's heat, the desperation in Ray's voice as he begged to be fucked.
"Fraser, please." Ray punctuated this with a long roll of his hips that made Fraser's head swim. Ray curled his fist into the sheets, drew in a long, deep breath, and pushed slowly up onto Fraser's body.
Ray was okay. He wasn't in any pain, apparently, and Fraser felt his heart begin to beat again. He could move.
As soon as Fraser began to ease forward again, Ray's insistent thrashing stopped. He lay back down on the bed, hips surging upward to meet Fraser's downward thrust, and he tightened his legs around Fraser's sides. Ray's desperate moans and grunts transformed into cries of ecstasy. His yelps of--joy? surprise? repletion?--echoed in Fraser's ears as he moved deeper and pushed down into the most luxurious heat he had ever known.
Ray was all around him: his voice, his scent, his touch, his strong arms locked around Fraser's neck, his legs clasped around Fraser's back. Ray's breaths were coming short and hot against Fraser's mouth. With every puff of air he whispered, "Fuck," "yes," "now," or "please" in rhythm to Fraser's thrusts. Fraser kissed him and felt Ray's pulse thrumming in his heated lips: that same pulse surrounded his cock in that slippery-warm place. They were a loop, now, joined and tangled together. Finally inseparable.
Fraser picked up an instinctive rhythm, lost in Ray's tight, hot body, and Ray met him measure for measure. Ray howled and arched off the bed, sometimes bending in half to meet each one of Fraser's thrusts. His fervent mutterings filled the space between them when their bodies were briefly apart. The words drifted in and out of Fraser's range of hearing: one moment he could think of nothing but the raw pleasure that surrounded him, filled him, set his nerve endings on fire. And then he would fix on Ray's face, or listen to the sounds he was making, and he could think of nothing but the beauty of the man who twisted and thrust against him, this whirlwind of glorious heat and energy and life.
Fraser's orgasm began as a long, low tremble that seemed to curl upward from his toes. His arms and legs shook uncontrollably and he pressed Ray down into the mattress, as wild as Ray had been earlier. He plunged forward mindlessly, his thrusts short, ragged, utterly lacking in finesse. All he could do was press against Ray's agile, sweat-dewed body and shove himself closer and closer and deeper and in in in. This was heaven. This was the point of it all, this act of loving, this driving, all-consuming need to spill himself in Ray. Their smell--earth, musk, sweat--filled his nostrils, driving his need higher, and Ray's voice in his ear, chanting, "Yes yes yes, I love you, I want you, come for me, Ben, come for me," washing away everything else.
He stiffened against Ray, going utterly still as his cock throbbed and he came deep inside that wonderful, luxurious heat. He felt Ray's orgasm, a splash of shockingly hot liquid against his belly, just as he dropped to lie pillowed against Ray's chest.
"Nugh," Ray muttered, cupping the back of Fraser's head with one hand. With the other he stroked Fraser's shoulder. His touch was unbelievably light and soothing compared to the intensity of his earlier desperation, and Fraser arched into his massaging hand like a cat.
"All right, Ray? Are you comfortable?" He couldn't quite shake the earlier fear, that stark terror that he had somehow hurt this man he cherished.
"Frase-er," Ray mumbled, elongating the last syllable as he did when he was particularly frustrated. Fraser smiled and licked salty-sweet beads of sweat off Ray's collarbone. "I'm going to kill you, Fraser."
"Not today, I should think."
The grey stucco ceiling wavered, wavered, held. He must have fallen asleep: he was on his back now, every limb weighted by his own repletion. He could not move if the Queen herself burst through the bedroom door and demanded his protection.
Ray was beside him, still awake. And, apparently, feeling playful. Ray was puppyish. He crawled across Fraser's body and nuzzled at his nipples, investigated his armpits, pushed his nose into sweat-drenched skin, wrapped his palm around Fraser's soft cock. Ray was clever--he had already dealt with the condom, though when exactly he had done so Fraser could not recollect.
"What are you doing?"
Ray paused in his exploration of Fraser's body and grinned at him almost shyly. His hair was tousled and dark with sweat at the temples. His face shone with a delicate happiness that made Fraser's breath catch. "Checking you out. Making sure you're still alive. That was some show you put on there."
"Oh?" He felt himself blush. Ray's shy smile grew wider.
"Yeah. Never figured you for being noisy in bed. Thought you'd be quiet. Y'know. Contained."
"And you are certainly noisy enough for the two of us."
Ray's bark of laughter made a bubble of hope swell and expand inside Fraser. Laughter meant Ray was happy, satisfied, relaxed. Laughter meant he wanted Fraser to stay, just as he'd said.
"Yeah, I was always a talker. You don't mind?"
Fraser shook his head. "Not at all," he said, dragging Ray closer. He shivered and flushed when Ray tilted his mouth up for a kiss, the action already so natural that Fraser had to close his eyes as he met Ray's lips. "I like to hear you, Ray."
He pressed their bodies closer together, and started a bit at the hot wetness of Ray's cock as it brushed against his belly. "Ah."
"Yeah," Ray said, nibbling at the corner of his mouth. "Ready for round two?"
Fraser licked his lips. Remarkable man. "More like round six. And I might require a slightly longer refractory period," he admitted. Ray chuckled, the sound as warm and sweet as his touch.
"Don't start falling behind. I've got plans for you," Ray said, sliding his hand around to slap Fraser's buttocks. The stinging sensation sent a spike of arousal shooting through his body. He caught at Ray's free hand and drew his index finger into his mouth, watching Ray's face as he sucked and licked at that slender, beautifully-formed digit. Ray's eyes drifted closed, and his breathing slowed, deepened.
"Oh, fuck," he whispered. Fraser smiled around Ray's finger, nibbling at the knuckle before soothing it with his tongue in apology. The searing heat of Ray's erection against his belly threatened to distract him from this task, but he had fantasized for so long about Ray's elegant yet oddly-jointed hands. It seemed almost miraculous that he could lie here, sated and relaxed in a bed with Ray where they had just made love, and lick and suck at his fingers to his heart's content. He could touch Ray any way he liked, he realized. And if he wanted to guide those moist digits, wet with his own salvia, down his body and direct Ray to open him with his fingers...well, that was a possibility, too.
Instead he gently tugged on Ray's wrist, kissing his fingertips as he withdrew his hand, and settled back against the pillows. He curved his palm over Ray's tattoo, the dark red and black ink vanishing under his hand. Ray's eyes were closed and he swayed slightly on his knees, hard cock straining from its nest of blond curls. "Shall I..."
"Oh yeah." Ray opened his eyes and rolled over onto his back. His penis strained towards Fraser as if already seeking his mouth, and Fraser smiled. He bent low and traced the head with his tongue, noting with no little sense of satisfaction the way Ray curled towards him and murmured, "Fuck."
Ray's penis tasted salty and slightly musky, and Fraser licked at him eagerly, chasing the taste, enjoying the heat and weight of Ray in his hand. He brushed his lips along the head of Ray's cock, teasing again, and Ray tightened his fist in Fraser's hair. He took that as his signal, and opened his mouth and swallowed Ray down.
Late on Friday evening Ray made them omelets for dinner.
Ray danced around the tiny kitchen, his hips undulating and shimmying as he collected eggs, salt, cheese, olives and green peppers. When he handed the ingredients to Fraser he bumped their hips together, muttering about something called "the hustle." He was humming, too, although Fraser could not identify the song. Every so often he would pause in the midst of his happy motion, glance up at Fraser, and smile.
The low-slung pair of sweats Ray wore showed off the notches of his hipbones and the sparse path of golden hair that traveled down from his navel to dip below the waistband of his pants. That hair had felt rough under Fraser's tongue, and he could not look at Ray's belly without feeling his palms start to itch. He returned Ray's dumb, happy smile with one of his own, and realized that the warm glow expanding in his chest had nothing to do with arousal.
They ate the omelets cold.
When he wasn't cooking, Ray made the circuit from the bathroom to the kitchen to the bedroom naked. Much as Fraser liked to see Ray's bare chest and golden skin contrasted against the deep navy blue of the sweats, he admired Ray's election to remain nude as much as possible. He watched from the bed or the couch or the floor as Ray strayed into bands of sunlight or moonlight, and appreciated the play of light on Ray's bare skin, the smooth swell of his buttocks, his beautiful, lean body that moved with such fluidity and grace.
Fraser found he could not abandon propriety so easily; he could not step from the bedroom without his boxers, and Ray teased him mercilessly about it.
"You got nothing to be ashamed of there, Fraser," Ray told him that night, watching him from amidst the tangle of sheets as Fraser returned from a trip to the bathroom. "Let it all hang loose."
Fraser slipped into bed beside him and arranged the sheets primly over his lap. "I wouldn't want to catch a chill, Ray."
This made Ray hoot with laughter and he drew Fraser close for a hug, his arms settling around him easily, naturally. "Crazy Mountie. Weren't you born in an igloo?"
"Conceived, actually," he corrected, and felt Ray shake with renewed chuckles, his laughter whiskey-soft and rough in his ear.
"That's a pretty fine distinction there, Frase," Ray said, still holding Fraser tight, his chest pressed to Fraser's, his face tucked into Fraser's neck. His answer was muffled. "But maybe you're right. Maybe the whole nudity thing would be dangerous."
"Oh? How so?"
With a final tight squeeze Ray pulled back. His grin was wicked. "Well, if you walked around like that I'd be required to fuck you senseless all the time. You wouldn't be able to get much done. Dief wouldn't get walked, the mail would pile up, Thatcher would have a fit--"
"Are you suggesting that our lovemaking would prevent me from fulfilling my duty?" He said this lightly and without hesitation, keeping to the spirit of Ray's warm humour, but inside he felt a chill expand. Fear gripped him and he tried to shake it off. He tried to focus on Ray's suggestive grin.
Ray shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe I could work out a time-share plan. The RCMP get you weekdays, but you're mine at night. And weekends too. Clothing prohibited."
His voice dipped on this last bit, and his hand, which had been gently stroking Fraser's side, slipped down to cup his penis possessively. Fraser recognized the impulse. He could not contain the desire that surged through him constantly like a drumbeat. He must put his hands on Ray's skin; he must have Ray's cock in his mouth. The thought of being apart, of being unable to reach out for Ray and touch him whenever he wanted, was anathema.
It was comforting to know that Ray felt the same the dangerous, gnawing kind of desire. The mutuality of it stunned him. He had been so alone, always, even with Victoria. Alone with his private fears and longings and unrecognized desires. But here with Ray, they were both damned and blessed simultaneously. They were subject to one another, teased and tormented by the same sweet pain of need.
Ray's need, apparently, had no regard for intervals of sleep. Ray had woken him at four in the morning on Saturday, his erect penis pushing against Fraser's buttocks, and he was already sliding one slick finger into him before Fraser had even fully woken. Fraser--relaxed, sleepy, his body slowly growing accustomed to the demands of near-constant lovemaking--had opened to Ray easily. He hooked his leg back over Ray's and let Ray work him open, grunting and sighing in murmured pleasure as Ray's long fingers stroked him. When he was ready he pulled Ray's arm up across his chest and laced their fingers together. Ray kissed the side of his neck and slowly pushed into him, breathing a long hum of satisfaction into Fraser's ear.
They fucked with slow deliberation. The desperation of their first joining--Ray's manic energy and need to be closer, deeper, surrounded by Fraser--was not present here, in the sleepy warmth of the bedroom. Ray set a slow, languid pace, moving with steady, shallow thrusts that brought his penis into regular contact with Fraser's prostate. Fraser drifted on the low intensity of that pleasure. This was passion's twin, ease and pleasure replacing the whirlwind of desire. It bore him aloft on a soft, gentle breeze and he sank into it like a stone.
When he began to climax it was as light and effortless as jumping from a great height: no thought, only the surrender of freefall and the knowledge that the end was rushing up to meet him. He took hold of his penis with the intention of finishing himself off, but Ray surprised him by dropping a soft kiss on his neck and closing his hand around Fraser's. Together they stroked him until he came, closing his eyes against the rightness of the feeling, of Ray's hand on his own.
Ray's orgasm was sudden and intense, and almost unexpected. The slow pace of his lovemaking did not stutter or shift into higher gear; he continued to mouth gentle nothings into Fraser's ear, his arms a warm band around him, and then went suddenly still. He thrust once and Fraser felt him shake, tremble, and still again.
"Huh," Ray said, and laughed. "Wow."
Afterward they drowsed comfortably in each other's arms, drifting in and out of sleep, sometimes talking, sometimes not.
Fraser had known people did this. He'd known that it was possible to lie quietly next to someone you had just made love with and talk to them of all the things you couldn't say when clothed in broad daylight. But he had always lacked the imagination necessary to slot himself into that role.
And yet here he was, sharing a pillow with Ray Kowalski and listening to his friend describe an exotic childhood spent in the Chicago tenements.
On Saturday Ray spoke of long, hot summers redolent of rotting garbage and the thick tang of gasoline. "No public pools, not there, not for us. Sometimes a guy would come along with a big wrench and open up a hydrant. We'd play in the water 'til our moms started yelling at us to come in. Once the streetlights came on it was game over. Everybody's mom had the same rule."
Fraser smiled and reached for Ray's face in the dark, stroking his stubbled cheek. He hadn't even seen a streetlight until he was eighteen years old when he attended Depot in Regina. He couldn't imagine what it had been like, to spend a lifetime in the same sixteen block radius. The way Ray described it, the narrow streets bordering his childhood neighborhood had comprised his whole world. The landscape of Fraser's childhood had been vast. Endless.
And yet they shared the same pillow, now.
"I always liked to dance. Stella and I shared records and we watched American Bandstand and Soul Train to get the steps. Didn't know at the time how lame that was, how it wasn't really dancing at all. It was all disco when I was in high school. Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta. The music sucked but that was dancing, y'know? Stella and I must have seen that movie a hundred times. We worked out all the steps, practiced and practiced. And shit, we were good."
Ray spoke with his hands, moving them to draw rough sketches of his words in the sodium-tinged darkness. His bracelet skipped and skidded along his wrist, flashing silver like the belly of a fish as it cut through water.
Fraser didn't know what to make of the odd, disjointed stories that dropped from Ray's mouth like ripe fruit. He devoured them as though he were starving, swallowing the details without tasting them first. He kept hoping to find a way in. Ray's stories about hot summers and music and friends perplexed him. He had no reference point for much of what Ray told, sleepy and low-voiced in the dark, and he felt vaguely embarrassed by his inability to offer any such similar stories.
And Stella. Ray's stories of Stella were difficult to listen to. Ray always spoke of her with such love and devotion, and she always hovered there, at the periphery of Ray's tales about college or his time in the academy. Her presence suffused everything because she had, to be fair, been at the centre of Ray's life for more than twenty years. All of Ray's stories looped back to her in some way.
As his own did to Victoria. He tried not to consider that point too deeply.
"What was it like?" Fraser asked late on Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of a pause between rounds of lovemaking. Ray was flat on his back, drifting in and out of a light doze. His head rested against Fraser's belly. He watched Ray rise and fall, rise and fall, as he breathed.
"Being married. Being with someone for so long. You met her when you were twelve years old."
Ray didn't open his eyes. He shrugged, caught at Fraser's hand, and stroked the webbing between his thumb. The skin was smooth and unbroken were Fraser should, by all rights, have a firing callous.
"It was good." Ray's grip tightened when Fraser tried to pull away, as though he had been anticipating the withdrawal. "Not saying that to hurt you."
"Of course not." His cheeks burned. "You're simply stating the truth as you see it."
"As I see it, yeah. Maybe if you asked Stella she'd tell you something different."
This time Ray did let go of Fraser's hand. He rolled over onto his belly, his stubble-soft chin tickling Fraser's navel. His face was so serious, his green-blue-gold eyes lit by the late afternoon sun. Fraser thought of the Bering Strait in August. "We were kids, Fraser. The good part of our marriage was over by the time Stell and I hit our mid-twenties. But we stayed together for ten years hoping to get back to the good part. Some nights, a weekend sometimes, I thought we'd found it again. And then it was gone for good."
Ray dipped his head, his forehead just grazing the skin of Fraser's belly. "Stella got pregnant. Miscarried."
Fraser felt a sudden sharp ache low in his chest. He hadn't known, hadn't even guessed.
"Something like that changes you. We'd picked out names, got a room ready, the whole shebang. But it wasn't meant to be. Neither was the marriage, really, but it took a long time for us to face up to it. Too bruised, I guess. I don't remember much about it. We were both kind of out of it for a while. I kept thinking we'd try again, but--" Ray scratched the back of his head. "It never happened. And then one day the fog lifted and Stella wised up. Asked me to pack a bag."
He sighed raggedly and flipped himself around until he snugged up close to Fraser, their bodies flush with one another, one lean arm extended over his chest. The perfect ninety-degree corners of Ray's tattoo stretched out of alignment, the Champion logo distended by the pull of his golden skin.
"So that's me. Jeeze, you must have heard my whole life story by now. I don't think I've talked about half that stuff with anyone." Not even Stella, he didn't say, but Fraser could hear it there, her ghost hovering between them again. The end of Ray's marriage had been conducted in silence, then. How awful to know someone for twenty years and have nothing to say to them at the end of it.
He hugged Ray a little tighter.
"So what about you?"
"There's very little to tell, Ray." A poem drummed in his mind but he ignored it, as he ignored the low-grade ache in his back that never truly faded.
Ray trailed a line of kisses along Fraser's collarbone. "What, no epic love story? I'm sure there was someone, Frase." He was gentle as he said it, light and teasing, and Fraser found that there was no explanation he could make that would justify the inevitable shift in their dynamic if he were to tell that story. Ray's playful relaxation would evaporate, and he would be moved to pity, to try to offer some comfort for something that had happened so long ago.
During that long-ago week of madness with Victoria he had felt drugged, sex-stupid and completely intoxicated with his love for her. And pathetically, humbly grateful she seemed to return that love. But with Ray...with Ray it was different.
When he drifted to sleep curled around Ray, or lay pillowed against his chest, he felt that difference in his blood and his bones, and in his heart, and never questioned it. It simply was. He had loved Victoria with a depth and passion that still stunned him: like the love of God it passed all understanding. But what he felt for Ray was sane, rational and real.
And it was high time he learned to trust the tangibility of those feelings.
The fear he had nurtured for so long drained out of him and he felt that warmth again, the warmth that expanded in his chest until it suffused his whole body. He was safe. With Ray, he knew who he was and what he would, or would not, do.
"I have loved someone before, but it wasn't...it wasn't like this." He looked at Ray's golden body, at his flaccid sex, which lay dark and heavy against his leg. There was so much trust in this simple moment, in these long, quiet talks of explanation and discovery. Ray trusted him, and Fraser trusted Ray. That simple equation had never been a part of his dealings with Victoria. Why hadn't he seen it before?
"What happened?" Ray's voice was so very tender.
"It didn't work out," Fraser said simply, massaging Ray's back. "And I think the way it ended made it very difficult for me to believe that I could ever be with anyone again."
Ray nodded. "Yeah," he said into Fraser's neck. "I get that. I do. After the divorce I figured I was finished. Scary, isn't it? To think you'll always be alone?"
"Yes." Fraser traced the long groove of Ray's spine, dipping his fingers into the hollow of the coccyx. He planned to kiss that spot later. "It's terrible."
"You worried about that right now?"
"No," he murmured. He noted the low dip in Ray's voice and the way he had tensed, slightly, under Fraser's fingers. Fraser briefly wet his fingers in his mouth, and then brought his down again to gently part Ray's cheeks. Ray stiffened against him and pressed his forehead into Fraser's shoulder, shifting his legs apart to give Fraser better access.
"You gonna worry about that when our weekend is up?"
He closed his eyes, focusing on his exploration of Ray's body. His fingertip drifted over the wrinkled muscle of Ray's anus and he pressed inside, Ray's hot, tight body opening for him without any hesitation. He stroked one finger lightly into the hole, and felt Ray grunt and shiver.
"I don't think so, Ray," he said, shifting Ray away from him so he could slide down to the foot of the bed. Ray rolled onto his belly. "You meant it, didn't you?" He kissed the triangle of bone at the end of Ray's spine, just as he had intended, and then licked a long, wet swipe downward. Ray shuddered.
Fraser parted Ray's cheeks with his hands, half-wishing there was more light in the room so he could see Ray like this, open and wanting, waiting for his touch.
"That I can feel safe with you. That you won't let me get lost." He brought his head low and touched his tongue to Ray.
Ray bucked beneath him. "Jesus!" he yelped, and then settled immediately. Fraser licked him slowly, thoroughly, listening to Ray's staggered moaning and cries of, "God!" and "Fraser!" He swirled his tongue around, feeling Ray relax and tense with the deliberate movements, and when Fraser dipped his tongue into that opening, Ray's whole body shook and he cried out.
Ray thrust his hips blindly into the mattress, seeking friction, and Fraser finally relented, pulling away to flip Ray onto his back and take him into his mouth. Ray's surprised, "What are you-?" broke off abruptly as Fraser licked and sucked at his cockhead, tracing that elusive taste of salt. Ray--all of Ray--felt wonderful on his tongue. And Ray's fingers in his hair, tugging and pulling to guide him or signal when he did something particularly worthy, also felt sublime. There was so much good in all of this, in fact, that when Ray shoved him away Fraser felt thoroughly put out.
"What?" he snapped, and Ray simply winked at him and tackled him down onto the bed. His tongue thrust deeply into Fraser's mouth and Fraser bit back a groan, stroking his tongue against Ray's, allowing Ray to chase out the mixed tastes of himself there. They kissed for a long, breathless moment, and when Ray pulled away Fraser's mouth felt bruised and swollen. Ray's lips were shiny with saliva: the moisture gleamed there in the dark, like the flash of his bracelet or the quicksilver glint of his smile.
"Lie back," Ray directed, and Fraser did as he asked. He sank among the soft pillows, wondering what Ray was up to, and his eyes widened when Ray turned himself around and threw one leg over to straddle Fraser's chest. It took him a moment to understand what Ray was requesting.
"This okay?" Ray asked from above. Fraser nodded, which brought Ray's hard, heavy penis into closer proximity to his mouth. The instant he wrapped his hand around Ray's cock to guide him into his mouth he felt Ray's lips close around him. Fraser jerked, thrusting upward instinctively, and Ray squeezed his leg.
Ray pulled off enough to mutter, "Careful. Go slow," before resuming his task, and this time Fraser managed not to buck as Ray swallowed him. He focused on Ray's penis, now even harder and leaking from the tip, and wrapped his mouth around the head, using his other hand to work the shaft. Ray moaned in approval, and the vibration of the sound made Fraser shiver. They were a loop again, Ray's pleasure intensifying and feeding back into his own, making him harder and more desperate, more eager to please Ray. He opened his throat to take more of Ray into his mouth, and with his free hand he reached up to smack Ray lightly before digging his fingers into Ray's hip.
Ray understood his cue and began to thrust deeply into Fraser's mouth, and Fraser closed his eyes to better focus on the feeling of Ray's hand and lips sliding over him, and the way Ray felt in his mouth, the weight of him on Fraser's chest. He felt surrounded, held, cherished, even in the midst of this primal act. Ray's orgasm, when it came, filled him with a white-hot pleasure that sparked his own.
And when Ray pulled out of his mouth and rolled off of him, Fraser wrapped them together in the blankets and whispered, "I love you," into Ray's ear.
Ray smiled, and they slept.
They nearly missed the alarm on Monday morning.
End Tender is the Night by Nos4a2no9
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