We're parked at the side of the highway, on the gravel shoulder. The sky above is deeply blue, scattered with a few white clouds but otherwise bare and blasted by the sun. On one side of the road there is a fence and then a field of half-grown, waving grain. On the other side is a line of trees; I can't see what might lie beyond them.
Ray has the hood open and his tool box on the gravel at his feet. He is leaning over the engine grille to peer at the ticking jumble of metal within.
"Well, I can fix it," he says finally, straightening up. He wipes his hands on a grease-stained rag, then begins to unbutton his shirt. I don't realize I'm staring until he shrugs, gives me a rueful smile and says, "Hey, it's new."
I cough, forcing my eyes away from his hands. "Of course," I say.
Ray hands me his new shirt and leans over the engine again, his arms braced on the metal frame. He's just wearing his sleeveless undershirt, now, along with his good trousers. There is a single drop of sweat on the skin of his upper arm, rolling slowly down over the smudged blue ink of his tattoo.
I clear my throat. "I'll just...put this in the car," I say.
Ray makes an incoherent sound. His attention is focused on the engine.
Gravel crunches beneath my feet as I walk back to the driver's side window and drape Ray's shirt over his jacket, where it hangs on its hook in the back of the car. It seems somehow cooler over here, away from the overheated engine. Away from Ray. I close my hands on the window's edge and stand quietly for a moment, breathing. The grain ripples like a body of water, stirred by the hot, scant wind. "Fraser," Ray calls, "I need uh...an extra pair of hands, over here."
I sigh. So much for peace.
Ray is wiping his forehead with the back of one bare wrist. His hair looks oddly wilted from the heat. "Okay," he says, "Grab that flashlight right there and get some light down under this thing." He points, and I comply. He squeezes in next to me, ducks under my raised arm, pauses to flash me an apologetic, over-the-shoulder grin. "Sorry about the close quarters, buddy."
I clear my throat. "Think nothing of it," I say. Ray's left hip is pressed against my right one. He is balanced on his toes, leaning much of his weight on the body of the car, and seems to need to...wriggle a great deal, to maneuver himself into position. I attempt to ease away from him but there simply isn't room. I squeeze my eyes closed, but he grunts, says, "Fraser, hey. Pay attention where you shine that thing."
His back is all smooth-rolling muscle and sharp lines of bone. He has a second tattoo on his left shoulderblade, one that looks like it might have been made with ballpoint ink and a safety pin. Just where his trousers are slipping low on his waist, his undershirt is riding up, revealing the band of his underwear, a sliver of paler skin at his lower back. Every time I draw breath, my lungs are filled with him. The things I want to do to his body are unconscionable.
"Hello-o! Earth to Mountie! I need the light right here, okay?" Ray glances back over his shoulder again. "What, are you staring at my ass or something?" He wiggles it, grins at me.
I swallow hard, but fortunately Ray has already turned back to his work.
Half an hour later, we're on our way again. Ray, grease-smudged and smelling of sweat, is singing along with a tape he's playing in the stereo. The hand he isn't using to hold the wheel is resting on the edge of the open window. The music is aggressive and loud. I can feel the bass line with the whole of my body. Every time Ray shifts a little, I get a fresh wave of his scent.
"What's the matter, Frase? You don't like the music?"
I force myself to stop sniffing the poor man, fix my gaze on the road outside my own window instead. "The music is just fine, Ray," I say.
We've just participated in an out-of-town court case, and we are sure that our testimony is going to help put the defendant behind bars. So naturally, Ray is in a celebratory mood. I would be, as well, except that spending twelve hours in Ray's company--much of it right here in his car, an arm's length from the warmth of his body--has been almost more than I can bear.
Normally, I can sublimate my body's urges into our work, or some other activity. But these past weeks, I have been finding it increasingly difficult--and today, it's been impossible. Perhaps it is a combination of the heat and Ray's intoxicating proximity. Perhaps it is the long hours spent with nothing to do but think and think and think. But whatever the reason, I am honestly not certain that I will be able to stop my hands from touching him if I have to spend much longer beside him.
And of course, he is determined that we should celebrate together this evening. "Come on," he tells me, pulling smoothly ahead of a car in the right-hand lane so that we can make our exit. "It's a beautiful evening in Chicago, my friend. The game is on and the beer is cold. You can't tell me you really want to go back to the Consulate by yourself instead."
I tap my fingers on my knee. "Diefenbaker--"
"Is fine with Turnbull." Ray pulls up to a red light and turns to look at me. I keep my own eyes fixed on the road ahead, but I can feel his gaze on the side of my face. "Come on," he says softly, after a moment, and good god, that voice of his is like a drug.
"Ray," I say, and clear my throat.
I feel myself start to smile, in spite of everything. "The light is turning, Ray," I say, and somehow he knows he's won.
"Atta boy," he says, pulling into the intersection. "Here--you order the food." And he tosses me his cell phone.
Ray heads straight for the refrigerator when we reach his apartment. I pause in the hallway to lock the door and remove my shoes. A moment later, Ray emerges from the kitchen with a beer for each of us. He is already drinking from his, in fact, long thirsty pulls that make his throat work and his adam's apple bob.
He lowers the bottle eventually, wipes his mouth with the back of that hand and then grins at me. "You...uh, you must be pretty thirsty, Fraser," he says. "You look like you're about ready to pass out, there." He sets his half-drunk bottle on a small table near the door, moves in closer. I take a quick breath, but when his hand comes up, it's only to steal my Stetson. He props that on his own head, presses the other beer into my hand. "You want the first shower?" he says.
I have to swallow twice before I can speak. "Go...ah. You go ahead."
Ray grins again, and backs away a little, and I take a deep breath and lift the beer bottle to my lips.
He leaves the door open. If I didn't know better, I might have thought he was deliberately torturing me. As it is, I am having a difficult time keeping myself from believing in the existence of a particularly malevolent god. I drink a few more sips of beer, but beer is not what I want. I turn the television on, but nothing holds my attention. I pace to Ray's window and peer out at the street. It is quiet and tree-lined. There are colourful chalk-drawings on the pavement. Not one single crime appears to be in progress.
Our dinner arrives. I pay for it, nearly tipping the man twice what the food is worth in my distraction. As I am shutting the door behind me, I hear the shower turn off.
"Dinner's here," I call, setting the bulging paper bag on Ray's table.
"Good," Ray says. "'Cause I am starving." There are muffled sounds coming from the direction of the bathroom, now. Bare feet on damp tile. The rustle of cloth against skin. I close my eyes.
"Hey, Fraser, you okay?"
I open my eyes again, and god, god--it was a mistake to come here, to think I could do this, maintain my control. Ray is standing a few short steps away from me now, a towel wrapped loosely around his waist. His hair is standing up in damp spikes all over his head. His skin is still sprinkled with water. My hands itch to touch him, to feel his hipbones beneath my palms, to dig my fingertips into the curve of his behind. I take a deep breath.
"Fraser?" Ray says.
"Ray, I...I need to go." But I don't go. I don't move. I just stand where I am and stare at Ray's skin, watch as a flush spreads slowly down his neck, as his chest moves, then moves again.
He wipes one palm against his towel-covered thigh. "Do you?" he says, and his voice sounds as rough as my own must, or nearly. My eyes lift, startled, to his face. He licks his lips, but he meets my eyes and the corner of his mouth tilts up into a crooked grin.
I stare at him for a heartbeat more. And then my body is moving without me.
My hands have him first. They close around his upper arms, push him back against the wall behind him. I hear his body make a dull thud at impact, but he only laughs, breathlessly, and I find that in any case, I can't really make myself care. Because my body is pressed against his, now, and his arms are around me, and one of us makes a muffled noise like a gasp, and then my mouth has covered his.
He opens to my tongue immediately, like he pulled me closer immediately, like he has been waiting for this, knew it was coming, was perhaps even wishing it would. I kiss him hard, thrusting my hips into him, and my tongue, and he takes it, lets me, moans into my mouth.
I pull my lips from his. "You've been flirting with me," I say.
He's got his mouth on me, lipping hungrily at the skin beneath my left ear, so I can feel it when he smiles. "Hell, yeah," he murmurs. "For weeks, Fraser." He works my shirt free of my trousers, gets his hands on my skin. "Wanted to see how long you'd...uh, hold out." His fingers brush my bare waist and I feel it everywhere, like an electric shock.
I slide my hands up to cup his face, push him back against the wall. He grins at me again, that challenging, teasing grin, and lifts his chin. "Gonna make me pay for it?" he says.
I kiss him, let him suck on my tongue for a moment before I pull away. "Hell, yeah," I tell him then, and the startled laugh he huffs against my chin is gratifying. So is the gasp he makes a moment later when my teeth close on the tendon at the joint of his neck and shoulder, when my hips jerk and pin his to the wall. "God," he says, and there is another thunk as his head hits the wall as well. I suck and bite my way down his neck, keeping his hips still with the solid pressure of my own, sliding my hand down the length of his right arm until it circles his wrist. The steel of his bracelet is cooler than the rest of him. His adam's apple bobs when I close my fingers tight, and when I press that wrist against the wall beside his head, he moans aloud, hoarse and low.
"I thought I was losing my mind, Ray," I murmur, into his heaving chest. I kiss my way lower, across the scatter of light-coloured hairs, and pause with my lips just brushing his nipple. His arm jerks in my grip but I hold him firmly. "I think it's only fair that I should get a little revenge." I let my tongue flick out, just a quick, fleeting touch. Ray's whole body moves beneath mine.
"You are evil," he says, breathless and admiring. I smile. Then I close my lips on him.
He comes off the wall with a groan. I push him back. Suck hard, then lift my lips away so I can tease him with my teeth. He says my name and I bite him, gently. His other hand moves up to grab a fistful of my hair, and the towel slides off his hips and pools on the floor. I slide one hand down the length of him and close my fingers around his bare hip. It fits into my palm exactly as I imagined it would. I stroke his lower belly with my thumb.
"Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Fraser." He sounds rather desperate, now, all the teasing gone. I smile, kiss my way to his neglected nipple, lap at that with my tongue. Keep up that small, steady stroking with my thumb. He is pulling my hair quite hard now, and eventually I allow him to move me where he wants me, up to eye-level again. He pulls me in hard, kisses me, open-mouthed and wet, and his leg moves up to hook itself around my hip and he presses his erection into mine. This time, it's my turn to groan. I thrust against him, move my hand from his hip to hold the side of his head, my fingers combing into his damp hair. For a while there is no sound at all, save that of our wet lips and our desperate breathing. Then finally he pulls his mouth away from mine, presses his lips to my cheek, mouths me there, blindly. "Bed," he gasps, "God, Fraser. Bed, naked, now. Please."
And I can see no earthly reason not to do as he suggests. I use my grip on his wrist to pull him off the wall and he puts his hand on my shoulder, propels me ahead of him. I tug my shirt off as we are walking, fumble with the fastenings of my fly. In the dimness of his bedroom, he attempts to assist me, but we only manage to bunch my underwear and trousers around my knees before we forget what we are trying to accomplish and pull each other into bed instead. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Ray stretches naked on the rumpled sheets and pulls me down on top of him, and my cock slides along his cock, and he moans into my open mouth. Our hands are everywhere. My mouth is full of him. For a long while, we kiss and thrust and kiss some more, and then I am moving lower, licking my way down across his body, holding his hips into the mattress with with my hands. He moans and strokes my hair, wordlessly pleading, and I kiss the head of his leaking cock, lick it clean, suck him in.
His fingers tighten painfully in my hair and the sound he makes is more breath than moan. I slide my lips down, once, and then back up again. His back arches off the bed and I swallow, swallow, do it again.
Eventually, his frantic breathing slows and his fingers loose their deathgrip on my hair. I kiss his hip and his belly and his chest and his lips. He pulls me closer, kisses me more thoroughly. Slides his hands down my back to dig his fingertips into my ass. I gasp into his mouth, squeeze my eyes closed as my hips jerk sharply into his. He moans and brings his legs up to circle my waist, pulling me closer, holding me there as I thrust my cock into the hollow of his hip. I kiss his cheek and rest my lips against his temple, panting and thrusting, feeling his fingers stroke my hair. "Anything, Fraser," he murmurs, sleepy and eager. "Fuck me, if you want."
And my eyes squeeze closed as I groan and come into the hot damp space between us, and he laughs softly and kisses my cheek, pulling me down when I collapse, holding me there against him.
A long while later, I regain my sanity enough to know that I must surely be crushing him. I roll to one side. He lets me, but then he props himself on an elbow beside me, strokes his fingertips across my chest, making me shiver. His eyes are half-lidded, his face smiling and soft. I let my own eyes fall closed, and he leans down to kiss me.
"Well, that was fun," he says, eventually.
I smile with my eyes closed. "You are a wicked, wicked man, Ray Kowalski."
He kisses me again. I can feel his smile with my lips. "Well you know what they say," he murmurs, and licks my chin. "Whatever doesn't kill you is just gonna make you stronger."