M/M, Drama, Rated R
This is based on a real-life incident that my retired Mountie friend John Religa told me late one night, when we were shooting the breeze about his days as an RCMP constable in Newfoundland. I started thinking...what if it had been Fraser and Ray? What if...?
Here is the result. I'd like to thank John for his invaluable help on RCMP procedure and Canadian geography, climate, and customs, and Joseph Bearwalker and StarrHawke for their information on the subject of shamanism.
For while there are times when taking off one's clothes is a prelude to pleasure, in this case it would be, literally, a life-saving measure. Would Ray's fear of the one prevent his doing the other? Would Benny's knowledge of Inuit shaman magick be enough to save them both from certain death? Or would it happen that even in a squeeze-or-freeze situation, Ray's culturally ingrained homophobia would overrule his survival instinct to tell him...
"You really should stay overnight, you know."
Corporal Pascal Cartier of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Morden, Manitoba, pointed to the sky outside the window of the small detachment building. Although it was two o'clock in the afternoon, the sky was darkening in the east, threatening snow.
RCMP Constable Benton Fraser acknowledged this statement with a polite nod. "I realize that there's a blizzard warning for later tonight, Corporal, but we really do need to push on to Emerson as soon as possible."
"Like now," Detective Ray Vecchio added. "We'll stop overnight in Emerson so we can talk to the Customs officers on your side of the border about the two suspects we just questioned. And then we need to get back to Chicago El Fasto to arrange for their extradition to the States."
"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you." Corporal Cartier shrugged. "Do me a favor--call when you get to Emerson, so we'll know you got there safely."
"We'd be delighted to, Corporal," Fraser said, polite as always. "Thank you kindly."
After handshakes all around, Fraser and Vecchio left the building and got into the Riv. Ray sighed with satisfaction as he swung the car on to the highway that would take them out of Morden to Emerson. "A job well done, Benny."
"Yes, indeed, Ray. Of course, it was rather less than intelligent of Pierce and Willett to try to hold up that grocery store in Morden after they ran the border at Emerson and crossed into Canada illegally."
"Yeah, they wouldn't win the Nobel prize for stealth, that's for sure," Ray agreed. "Still, we got them to talk, they're safely locked up in jail at Morden for the time being, and as soon as we get home we can go over all the evidence we have and give it to the District Attorney. Just think, Benny, we'll be home tomorrow. I hate being out of town this close to Thanksgiving, anyway."
"I wonder how Diefenbaker's doing. He's staying with Willie, so I know he's all right, but he'll be anxious to hear about how things are in Canada. I didn't get a chance to really talk to him before we left. Look how dark it's getting, Ray. The other cars have their headlights on."
"Yeah, it sure looks like...hey, Benny, is that a snowflake?"
"Now that you mention it...it looks like more than one snowflake, Ray."
"Do you think the blizzard's about to hit a few hours early?"
"Considering that the sky is continually getting darker as we drive east, I'm afraid that might be the case."
As they continued to drive toward Emerson, the drifting snow and gathering darkness forced Ray to slow down.
"Look, Benny, the wind's picked up so much it's driving the snow right against the windshield."
"It's getting heavier, I agree. It may be desirable to stop somewhere, Ray--"
"Stop, hell, Benny! We gotta get to Emerson while we still can."
But even with the headlights on low beam, driving was becoming increasingly difficult and Ray was forced to proceed at a crawl. Fraser peered through the passenger side window at their surroundings, trying to get a sense of where they were.
After a few minutes, Ray swore. "Damn! Look at the water gauge!"
"Ray...does that mean the car's overheating?"
"Damn right. I'm going to stop and see what's wrong. Benny, look in the glove compartment
and hand me that flashlight, will ya?"
Ray stopped the car, pulled his woollen cap down over his ears, and took the flashlight Fraser handed him. As he opened the door of the car to get out, the wind nearly tore the door handle out of his hand. In the few seconds before he closed the door after him, the wind blew a thin film of snow over the dashboard and the driver's seat.
Noticing that Ray was having difficulty popping the hood of the car, Fraser got out, fighting the same wind-driven snow, and made his way to Ray's side. Together, they tugged the hood open and looked underneath in the beam of the flashlight Ray held.
"Broken fan belt," Ray said. He stared morosely at Fraser. "How are we going to get around this?"
"Ray, I don't want to alarm you, but even if we could rig up some kind of temporary fan belt, we wouldn't be able to go anywhere. The snow is coming down too thick and too fast."
"Okay, Benny. Then there's only one thing to do."
Together, the two men--one grunting and swearing in English, the other in Inuktitut--pushed the car onto the shoulder of the road as the snow stung their faces and the wind whipped around them. "What now?" Ray asked.
"I did notice some type of structure off to the side of the road, Ray, in the car headlights. We could try to make for it to take shelter for the night."
"Okay, Fraser, we've got no other choice. Here's the flashlight--lead the way."
"Very well, Ray. Follow me."
An hour later, fighting the wind every step of the way as they walked, bent almost double under the onslaught of the stinging snow, they arrived at a wooden cabin in the middle of a field.
"Doesn't look occupied," Ray said as Fraser shone the flashlight onto the door and windows.
"At this time of year, it's very unlikely that it would be, Ray."
"The important thing is, can we get in?" Ray sounded almost cheerful, as if he were visualizing a fireplace, furniture, a stove, emergency supplies, possibly even a shower with hot water.
Fraser felt above the door lintel for a key. "No key. All right, we'll have to kick the door in if it's locked."
The door yielded to the force of two pairs of booted feet kicking against it. They stumbled inside, into cold, musty-smelling darkness.
"Here's a stove." Fraser shone the flashlight around the woodstove.
"But is there anything to burn?"
The flashlight beam traveled around the room, looking high and low. There were twin beds, a table, two chairs, some blankets. A bookshelf holding books and magazines swollen with damp and smelling of mildew. A kerosene lantern. The cupboards over the kitchen sink held not a single can of food, although assorted saucepans and frying pans stood on the stovetop. All the electricity was off. Fraser turned on the tap, to find that the water also had been cut off. A search of the cupboards under the sink yielded no kerosene for the lantern; a search of the room revealed no wood, no coal, no matches: in short, there was nothing with which to make a fire or generate any external heat.
"It's cold in here," Ray said.
"Yes." Fraser had taken the flashlight and was examining the cabin walls, to see if it might be possible to prise any wood away...but even so, neither of them had matches.
"This is the only time in my life I've ever wished I was a smoker," Ray said. "At least we'd have a lighter, in that case. Or a matchbook."
Fraser sighed. "I have a magnifying glass, but that won't do us any good in the dark. You can't focus the sun's rays onto a piece of paper when there isn't any sun."
"So." In the darkness of the cabin, Ray's voice was quiet. "This means we'll be dead by morning, right? We're gonna freeze to death in this stinkin' lousy cabin. Aren't we, Fraser?"
"By no means, Ray. I can think of several things we can do."
"All right, name one, wise guy."
Fraser exhaled the breath he'd been holding for the last thirty seconds. "Well, the first way is one that you're not going to like at all."
"What way is that?"
"Remember what I suggested to you when we were locked in the freezer at the horsemeat-packing plant? That we take off our clothes and warm each other with our body heat?"
"That's out, Fraser. Absolutely out."
"Well, think about it, Ray. Did you ever do the experiment with two glasses of water?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You take a glass and put an inch of water in it. Then you take another glass and put two inches of water in it. Then you put them in the freezer and a couple of hours later, check to see which has frozen first."
"I guess you're trying to say that the inch freezes faster than the two inches."
"Exactly. Which is why we ought to--"
"For the last time, Fraser, it's out of the question!"
"Well, there is another way, Ray. We could use the power of our minds to make ourselves warm."
"The kind of powers that Inuit shamans have, Ray."
"Shaman? That's like some kinda witch doctor, isn't it?"
"That's not a very nice name for it, Ray. A shaman is a spiritual healer, highly respected in his or her community."
"You're a shaman?"
"Not exactly," Fraser admitted. "The time that I nearly died, when Dief pulled me out of Prince Rupert Sound, I had an NDE--a near-death experience. After I recovered, I thought I was supposed to do something to serve humanity in return for being saved from drowning, so I went to study with a shaman in a Tsimshian village. He did start teaching me some things, but after a couple of months he told me that his power animal had appeared to him and said that I wasn't to continue."
"Why not? Weren't you good enough?"
Even in the darkness, Fraser could sense that Ray was starting to shiver. "It wasn't a question of whether I was worthy or unworthy, Ray. My teacher, the shaman, told me that my path lay in the daylight world, not the Otherworld. If I'm to make a difference to my fellow creatures, it will be on the earthly plane rather than the astral plane."
The temperature seemed to have dropped even further while they were talking, so much that when Ray next spoke, his teeth chattered. "W-what about m-making a difference to m-me, Benny?"
"All right, let's start now. Let's sit down on the bed."
Ray shone a trembling flashlight on to the twin beds, then pounced. "B-blankets! One for you, one for me. And look, two on the other bed, too! W-we'll take them all."
After both men had wrapped themselves in the blankets, they sat side by side.
"First, we'll have to put ourselves into a medium-deep trance," Fraser said. "Even then we'll recognize that we're in a trance state, and we'll be able to suggest to ourselves that we are not feeling cold, or hunger, or pain. After that, we should go into deep trance. We'll still be able to have our eyes open without affecting the trance, but we'll be able to control our body temperature, our heartbeat, even our blood pressure."
"Are you s-sure?" Even shivering, Ray seemed wary. "It s-sounds like voodoo to me."
"Ray, Ray, Ray," Fraser said, anxious to put his partner's mind at rest. "Voudoun is a completely separate religion, although it does, of course, have elements in common with shamanism--"
"N-never mind! Get on with it, Fraser!"
Obediently, Fraser began issuing instructions in a low monotone. Under the influence of his own voice, he slipped easily into trance by way of the deep breathing exercises the Tsimshian shaman had taught him. Vaguely aware of passing through the mist-gates into an altered state of consciousness, he felt himself growing warmer and warmer, more and more comfortable. He slowed his heartbeat and respiration, then, having relaxed completely into the shamanic state of consciousness, concentrated on helping his friend. He was determined to control the situation in which he and Ray found themselves and not give way to panic. "How are you doing, Ray?"
"I'm d-doing lousy! I c-can't get the hang of this s-stupid voodoo crap, Fraser!" Ray shivered violently.
"Oh, Ray. If only you didn't have this prejudice against skin-to-skin contact, it wouldn't matter that you can't get the hang of this, this ' voodoo,' as you persist in calling it."
"Fraser, I'm t-telling you this v-voodoo thing isn't working."
"It did on me. Feel! No, I'm serious, feel my hand!"
"Christ, Fraser, your hand is hot!"
"Of course. The rest of me is too."
"So, that means if I w-wanna stay alive, I have to g-go along with y-your skin-to-skin deal. Oh, all right. I'm s-so cold I'll try anything."
"Look, Ray, if it'll make you feel better, we'll forget all about this after it's over and we're back in Chicago. No one ever has to know about it except you and me."
"Y-you'd better b-believe we're going to forget it. I c-certainly intend to!"
Fraser stood up. "I have an idea. Let's make the table into a kind of sweat lodge. We'll drape the sheets and a couple of the blankets over it and crawl inside. I'll drag one of these mattresses under the table first, though."
In a few minutes, the table had been draped with sheets, anchored by the two chairs up-ended on top; underneath, Fraser and Ray lay on the mattress facing each other, with all the blankets over them, and their clothes piled on top of the blankets.
Fraser moved closer to Ray, wrapping himself around the man's long, lean form. Compared to himself, Ray seemed very cold: he still shivered violently from time to time, but the time between shivers was lengthening.
"You are very hot, Benny," Ray said into the hollow of Fraser's neck. "It's nice. I think I'm starting to warm up."
"Hold on to me, Ray, squeeze me as hard as you want. Don't let go. Take all the heat you need."
"You sure no one's gonna get after me for squeezing the shaman?"
"There's no one else here, Ray, so how could anyone possibly object?" Fraser answered patiently, but the thought crossed his mind that Ray might be on the verge of hysteria.
"Never mind, Fraser. I keep forgetting that you didn't grow up watching American TV commercials."
There was silence while Fraser concentrated on sending his own heat into Ray's body. How good Ray felt in his arms: the man was hard-bodied, lean, like a wolf that lived in the wild and fed only occasionally. Carefully, he fitted himself against Ray, groin to groin, thigh to thigh, shin to shin, so that they mirrored each other. He could feel Ray's body relaxing--the shivers had almost stopped.
"There must be somethin' to this shaman business. It seems to work with you, at least."
"Heightened powers are often a byproduct of an NDE, Ray."
"Tell me about it, Benny. Did you go through the tunnel to The Light?"
"Yes." Fraser spoke slowly. "I don't want to talk too much about it, but after I came back, my whole attitude toward life changed."
"The things that used to matter to me didn't matter any more. After all, I had hovered on the brink, Ray, between this world and the next. I almost didn't come back, but at the last minute I changed my mind. I felt that I still had work to do in this world. But I saw that climbing to the top of the ladder in the RCMP didn't matter; making a lot of money didn't matter; owning a lot of things meant nothing. Only one thing matters."
"What, Benny?" Ray shifted in Fraser's arms. "What matters?"
Fraser tightened his hold around his friend. "Love, Ray. One has to have love for one's fellow beings. One has to live with the knowledge that we are all connected, each of us is part of the other, in a great web of being."
"That's...that's beautiful, Benny." Ray sounded respectful.
For a short time there was silence, and then Ray spoke again. "Benny." This time, however, his tone was quite different, and somehow the darkness made the change seem more dramatic.
"Yes, Ray?" Fraser spoke softly. Perhaps he could encourage Ray to fall asleep. Sleep would lower Ray's heartbeat and respiration, preserving his body heat so that he would survive, like a bear in hibernation.
"You've got a hard-on."
Forget about the possibility of Ray's going to sleep: Fraser could sense that a scene to end all scenes was about to begin. "I know, Ray."
"Why have you got a hard-on, Benny?"
"Because my body recognizes something my mind doesn't want to admit."
"Which is that I'm in love with you."
"In love with me!" Ray's voice popped with excitement, making Fraser think of exploding fireworks. "Fraser, are you serious? You can't be! Are you really? You love me?"
"Yes, Ray, I am in love with you. Yes, I am perfectly serious. Why can't I be in love with you? Do you not want me to love you, is that it? Do you hate me for saying this?"
There was another short silence, but this time it seemed charged, as if Ray were gathering strength to blast him with a stream of Italian invective. Fraser wondered if Ray would be too busy yelling at him to notice if he let his hands drift lower down his back, say from the base of his spine to those enticing globes usually hidden from view by the loose Armani trousers Ray favored. Then he became aware of a highly interesting fact. "Ray...."
"Yes, Benny?" Ray's voice was breathless, neither angry nor pugnacious.
"I don't want to upset you in any way, but I feel it incumbent on me to point out that, er, you too have an erection."
"Yeah, Benny, I know. So what are we going to do about it?"
Fraser gasped. Ray wasn't about to kill him? Was there...could there be...did the possibility exist that...? "The question is, do we want to do something about it?"
"Yes, we do. At least, I do. You?"
"Yes. Oh, yes, Ray."
"Okay. So do something, Benny."
Fraser could not see Ray's face in the darkness but he could hear the soft exhalation of his laughter, feel the wind of it against his face. He felt his spirit soaring like a bird in joyful flight: swiftly he passed back through the mist-gates, into his ordinary state of consciousness, like a swimmer shooting up from underwater to the surface. He wanted to be fully aware of making love to the man of his dreams.
"Ray, are you feeling warmer now?" He rolled over on top of his lover and began to feel him all over, the better to ascertain the ambient temperature of the surface of Ray's skin.
"Not just warm, Benny. Hot. Hot temperature-wise and hot sex-wise."
Fraser felt Ray's arms go around him, and sighed with delight. He began dropping small kisses all over Ray's brow, then going lower, to the marvelous nose, the wide, generous mouth.
"Ah, Benny, Benny...I never knew." Ray wriggled beneath him, evidently making himself morecomfortable under Fraser's weight. "I had no idea you were in love with me."
"I've felt this way for a long time, Ray, but I was afraid to say anything. You don't seem to care much for the idea of men together."
Ray sighed into Ben's ear. "That's because I'm afraid of myself, afraid of my own feelings. That's why I resisted your proposal in the frozen meat locker. I knew if we were skin to skin I wouldn't be able to control myself and you'd know how I really feel about you. I've loved you for a long time, Benny, but I thought you were beyond my reach."
"I'm not. Not at all, Ray. Now, could you be very kind and stop talking so I can demonstrate the intensity of my feelings for you?"
"Ooh! Did I give you permission to put your hand down there, Mr. Mountie man?"
"No, Ray, but I'm going to do it anyway. And I am going to stop you talking."
How wonderful it was, Fraser thought, to feel so alive, in every cell of his body. How delicious to explore Ray's tongue, how wonderful to lick the long column of Ray's throat, trail kisses into the wiry chest hair, gently tug at each nipple with his tongue and then suck it. As he returned momentarily to Ray's mouth, he could feel the metal of the cross Ray wore around his neck digging into his own skin. Feeling greedy, wanting, needing to grab Ray's warm, willing flesh, he rolled on top of his love, kissing, stroking, caressing. Oh, the delightful curve of those globular buttocks, like...like...twin peaches. Fraser felt so charged with sexual tension that his body screamed for satisfaction: like an arrow poised for flight, he was loaded and ready for release.
Meanwhile, his lover's hands were far from idle. Evidently Ray was determined to squeeze the shaman as much as possible; he kneaded the skin of Fraser's back with his fingertips, wrapped his arms around him and squeezed his chest, wrapped his legs around Fraser's ass and squeezed some more. Fraser gasped as Ray reached down to stroke his cock, and then groaned as excitement began to build inside him to a crescendo. Kissing and writhing, hardness rubbing against hardness, Fraser finally exploded in bliss, crying out his lover's name even as the music of Ray's moans banished the silence inside the cabin, while outside the silent snow continued to fall.
He collapsed on top of Ray, feeling the wetness of their consummation cooling stickily on his stomach and groin. He wrapped his arms and legs around Ray again, to keep the heat going for both of them.
"Benny," Ray said, his mouth close to Fraser's right ear. "That was wonderful. I love you. I love you forever."
"Ray, Ray, my love..." Ben trailed kisses over Ray's face again, from forehead to nose to cheek. "Hearing you say that means so much to me...this is the best night of my life."
"Yeah, well," Ray said, pulling away slightly and enunciating clearly, "I hope it's not the last night of your life."
"It's the first night of the rest of our lives together. Go to sleep, love. I'm hot enough for both of us. Things will look better in the morning."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The daylight woke him, as always: Fraser scarcely needed an alarm clock. Opening his eyes, he gradually came back to consciousness, taking in the unfamiliar sight of the rough planks of the underside of the table under which they had spent the night, the unfamiliar smell of musty blankets blending with the scent of warm, musky flesh, the soon-to-be-familiar (he hoped) feeling of waking up with the man he loved in his arms.
As well, his abnormally acute hearing detected a welcome sound carrying through the snowbound silence of the world outside: a snowplow making its painful, noisy way down the road some half-mile distant.
Gently disentangling himself from Ray's grasp, Ben wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, then went over to the window and looked out. Light snow was still blowing outside, but through the dim grayish light he could see the welcome sight of a snowplow making its way toward the cabin. He did a few rapid mental calculations and then crawled back under the table to wake up Ray.
"Um, unh, what?" Ray opened one eye and gazed blearily upward. "Whatsa matter, Benny?"
"Get dressed, Ray, quickly. Help is on the way."
Ray woke instantly. He crawled out from under the table, grabbed his clothes, and began to dress.
"Who is it, Benny?"
Ben, half-buttoned into his uniform shirt, looked out. "It's the Mounties."
"They always get their man, right? Just like you got me."
"That's not really the RCMP motto, Ray, the real one is--"
"Yeah, Benny, I know. I'm just teasing you. Hey, Benny, about last night--"
Ben turned to look at his friend. Ray wore a swarthy stubble of beard, and he looked tired, but his green-hazel eyes were shining with an emotion that Ben, feeling his heart constrict with happiness and wonder, identified as love.
"Yes, Ray? Last night?"
Ray slipped his arms around him. "I don't want to forget it, Benny. I want to remember it the rest of our lives. I want to relive it tonight, and tomorrow night, and the night after that--"
Ben dropped a kiss on the hand that was touching his face, then looked at Ray. "Does that mean you want to continue with this new direction in our relationship?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
The sound of the snowplow was now very loud. Fraser, looking through the window again, said, "I believe it's Corporal Cartier."
"We didn't call, so he must have suspected the worst and come out to look for us at first light."
"Just think, Ray, in a couple of hours we might be having hot food."
"And a hot shower."
"And then we'll go home."
"Hey, we could be home by tonight, Benny! If we make it back by say, seven, we'll have dinner somewhere nice. I'm buying."
"And afterwards I'll invite you to my place for some hot coffee."
Ray grinned. "What about inviting me to your place for a hot time?"
"That too, Ray."
There was a shout outside the door. "Hello! Anybody there?"
Fraser opened the door to admit Corporal Cartier and another officer.
"Good morning, Constable, good morning, Detective. Brrr!" Corporal Cartier glanced around and shivered. "It's freezing in here. How did you manage to survive the night?"