by Maxine Mayer 9/11/99
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It's spring. Here in Chicago the air is fresh and fragrant. Trees are greening. Flowers are opening. The sky is a bright light blue. The sun is shining nearly every day.
There is a lull between cases so Ray Kowalski and I are not working around the clock. Ray decides to take some vacation days, as have I, and he chooses to spend his off hours with me.
We do not leave the city. Ray picks me up every morning and we breakfast together and he doesn't leave my side all day except for the few hours we sleep separately.
Halcyon days. Smiling days.
I have what I wanted - Ray Kowalski, heart and soul. Day after day, that wonderful man keeps me company. Every waking moment of our days.
I should be happy but I'm not. Not happy at all.
Ever since that night when Ray told me the truth about his attraction to me I have been sad.
Oh, at first there was a moment of euphoria when I realized that I would not lose Ray since he is attracted to me, wants to be with me.
Then the downward spiral began, occasionally halted for short periods by work, always work. But never truly stopped. Never reversed.
Memories creep into my consciousness when I least expect them. At odd times. Ordinarily, I remember and think about people from my past, incidents in my youth or childhood friends only when I am alone.
Now, I am so distracted by such memories that Ray notices.
He doesn't inquire about what is bothering me. He is clearly walking on eggshells with me since that night when he told me about his sexual preferences, his sexual attraction to me. He does not pull back from our friendship but I can sense how concerned he is, how worried that what he told me has affected our relationship adversely after all, despite my protestation that I was fine with it.
He is wrong if he thinks that. I am gratified that he finds me attractive. I am pleased to know that his sexual orientation does not preclude a… physical relationship with me, however unlikely it is to transpire.
But he is correct, also.
The fact that I am keeping vital truths about myself from this man whom I love is wearing me out. Depressing me.
For some time now I have been missing Ray Vecchio. Missing the… straightforwardness of our friendship. Its simplicity. His brotherly love for me and mine for him.
I miss that - sorely.
I feel like there's a mountain inside my chest. Pressing against my heart. Suffocating me.
Day after day Ray Kowalski and I drive aimlessly through the streets of Chicago, until he stops at a diner and we have something to eat, or he stops at a movie theater and we go inside and watch a film, or he rents a video and we watch it in his apartment. I never expected to know his home so intimately.
He doesn't try to talk to me. Doesn't try to cheer me up.
He just waits patiently for it to be the right time for me to tell him what is on my mind.
Just as he promised the day we met, he waits.
I turn my head a little so it might appear as though I am looking at something through the window on the passenger side. But really, I do this to hide the tears that well up in my eyes.
I swallow repeatedly, hoping to keep the tears at bay.
What memories bring me so close to weeping?
I miss Mark Smithbauer. I miss him terribly.
Not the grown man. The boy. That wonderful, happy, enthusiastic, energetic, ambitious and so very talented boy I loved so deeply when we were both thirteen.
I miss that boy. Whom I loved with such passion that I was driven to recognize that my feelings were not… normal. That my entire… being was not normal. That I was… unnatural in my desires.
Mark was never my lover although he loved me, too, back then, as a teammate and a friend and a… brother, I suppose. The way any of us loves an admirer whose attentions are flattering and confidence-building, and welcome for those reasons alone. I have often been on the receiving end of such attentions myself so I know what it's like.
When we are children we welcome those attentions because they make us feel good about ourselves and give us courage when we are afraid.
It is not until we grow older that we perceive moral questions about engaging in such simple relationships. Questions about good faith. Questions about taking advantage of another person's vulnerability. Questions concerning temptation, corruption, damnation….
Only when we grow older do we begin to fear those attentions and reject the… unequal relationships we are offered. If we are wise, that is.
But when we are thirteen we welcome them.
I was very young and so was Mark.
I loved him and he accepted my love with a pure heart.
And I discovered that my heart was not pure.
The shock nearly killed me, before I finally came to terms with it.
I suffered greatly when I realized how different Mark's love for me was from mine for him.
Yet nearly twenty-five years later I think about Mark.
And I discover as I look out the car window with eyes filled with tears, that my love for him - the love of this boy for that boy - still burns in my chest, a bright flame which will never be extinguished.
Suddenly, Ray presses his foot to the gas pedal, speeds around a corner, races to the empty parking lot of a closed supermarket and stops abruptly. I am thrown forward in my seat, nearly hitting my head on the windshield.
"Get outta the car, Fraser," Ray orders, opening his door and getting out himself, then turning around to check whether I'm obeying. "Out. Now. Pitter patter." Not a hint of humor though his words are the familiar ones with which he often teases me.
I get out. Dief follows me, and I close my door.
Ray and I look at one another across the top of his car.
I wait, this time.
He paces back and forth then rests his elbows and forearms on the roof, making fists. He bangs his knuckles together repeatedly.
"Ya gonna tell me what kinda bug ya got up yer ass, Fraser? Ya ready ta tell me, yet?" I don't speak. "No? Okay, no, yer not ready. So - " he runs a hand through his hair - "so, I gotta wait some more?"
"Ray -" I try to answer him, but my throat closes. I don't want to cry but if I speak, I am sure I will cry. So I don't go on.
"Becuz, Benton-buddy, I am goin' stark ravin' outta my mind, here, with you not talkin' and not talkin' and keepin' on not talkin' til I'm about ready to throw myself into the Lake they call Michigan!"
"I'm sorry, Ray -"
"Do not say that! Do not be sorry! I ain' complainin' about your mood - even though it's so bad it oughta be illegal ta be in such a bad mood fer years on end! But I am not complainin' about dat! I am complainin' because I don' know why yer so miserable!"
I summon what fortitude I can manage and assure him, "It's not you. Not your fault. Nothing you've done, or said, or -" I look around, at a loss for more to say. I finish lamely "- or anything about you, Ray."
"I am gettin' that loud and clear, pal. I know I ain' done nothin' so bad in my whole life to qualify for the Benton Fraser Black Mood Award! Ya gonna tell me what it is, not what it ain't? Or am I gonna hafta pop ya one?"
"Please, Ray -"
"S'okay, Fraser. I won' do it. I'm tempted, but I won' do it."
Then all the energy drains from his body. He drops his weight onto his arms on the roof of the car as though he can't hold himself up any longer without support. His eyes don't leave my face. His expression is so full of pain that I cannot look at him. I turn away.
"I can't tell you, Ray." That's all I find to say.
"Ya don' trust me? Izzat it?"
"Not that. It's not you. It's me. I - I don't trust myself. There are things about me that you -"
"Yeah?" Half encouragement, half belligerence are in his tone.
"There are things about me that I don't want you to know."
He turns around in place for a moment, then walks a short way from the car. He stops and stares at nothing, then comes back to the car.
"How 'bout, how 'bout, some of it?" he asks hopefully. "Like, not the real nasty parts, jus' the easy stuff?"
"There is no 'easy stuff,' Ray -"
"Come on, Frase, gimme somethin' ta work wid, here."
"Ya remember when I promised to help wid it? Wid whatever it is ya don' like about yer life?"
I'd forgotten until this moment. "Yes. I remember."
"I can' help if ya don' tell me nothin' - ya can see that, right?"
"It's hopeless. I feel… hopeless." My eyes fill despite my determination not to cry, and I pass my hands over them, then wipe the corners with the back of my hand.
Ray comes around to my side of the car. His alarm for me is like a tangible thing - I can feel it. "Come on, let's siddown. No, not in the car. Over there, by dat pole."
He puts his arm around my shoulders and squeezes once, near my clavicle. He takes hold of my jacket sleeve at the wrist with his other hand and gently steers me over to a small rise of grass where we sit, Ray a little behind and beside me, on higher ground. He rests his hand on my shoulder once more. The weight of it is slight, too slight to be a burden, too slight to be affectionate or sexual.
Just the right pressure to be brotherly.
Ray Kowalski is not like Ray Vecchio. He is not brotherly at all, ordinarily. But he is trying to be what he thinks I need.
His instinct, as usual, is accurate.
I need a brother.
I have no brother.
I will never have a brother.
It's hopeless, hopeless.
I get nothing I need.
I will never have what I need, on any front, with anyone.
I cannot resist Ray's importuning any longer. I decide to try to tell him something of what is causing my pain.
Because the sun is shining and I love him, even if I do not want him to be my brother.
Because Dief is stretched out at my feet, alive and alert and intent on my face.
Because I know that I must.
"Some time before you and I met, an old friend from my childhood came to Chicago… on business, and we ran into one another."
"Who is she?" Ray asks.
"Not 'she.' 'He.' His name is Mark Smithbauer."
"The hockey player?"
"So - you and he pal aroun' while he was in town?"
"Not exactly. Ray Vecchio and I helped Mark with a problem."
"I read about his… troubles, in the papers."
"Yes. Well. We don't need to explore that at this juncture."
"Seeing Mark again was… difficult for me."
"Brought back memories, huh? Not all a dem good?" Ray asks perceptively.
"In a way."
I know how I must sound. Distant and unforthcoming. Closed off. I cannot help myself. This is hard for me, so hard….
"Ya said ya knew him when you were kids," Ray prompts.
"We knew each other as schoolmates from the time we were very young. But we only became friends when we were older and played hockey together. I hadn't seen Mark since we were thirteen. Even as early as that, it was clear he would be a great player, a professional. It was all he ever wanted. He was so good at the game. It was a joy to play on his team. I was so proud of him. I admired him so much -"
Ray's fingers clamp on my shoulder. Incredibly, Ray… shoves me over the difficult part. I feel his energy spike as he exclaims, "Thirteen. Puberty. Like ya called it with me and Stella. You were in love wid him!"
I am startled by Ray's intuitive leap but I answer him truthfully. "Yes."
"In love wid each other? Both a ya?"
I reply impassively. "No. Mark didn't know."
"Je-sus, Fraser! Up der in da boondocks! Ya poor kid!"
"I don't know what you mean -" I begin stiffly.
I don't have the spirit to fight him. I sigh. "You're right, of course, Ray. When - when the lightbulb went on over my head I was a textbook case. I wondered if my… perversity showed on my face. I wondered if I walked oddly. If anyone knew how I felt, what I was."
"I can tell ya dat, Fraser. Nobody knew. Nobody guessed. Nobody cared enough about ya to guess."
"Right you are, Ray. I was alone with it. For four years."
"Then ya met a guy, got it on. Found out you weren't the only one."
I'm quiet for a while, remembering. I smile. "Can you guess what the worst thing was, Ray?" I glance up at him, then down at my feet. My clever Ray has guessed all the rest….
"The worst thing?" He chuckles. "Ya kept on bein' crazy for girls, too. Enough to drive any kid nuts. S'like livin' in a horror flick - The Dick That Won't Quit."
I laugh out loud.
There's a whisper of pressure on the top of my head and I realize that Ray is kissing my hair.
"Ya musta been one sweet kid, Fraser. I wish I'd known ya back then."
"I was insufferable in ways you cannot imagine, Ray," I reply with a grin. "I've worked nearly all of the kinks out. But - if you think I am a smartass now, you are quite, quite mistaken. I'm soft, compared to then."
"Tryin' to give me a heart attack, Fraser? 'Smartass?' Didn' think ya knew that word."
"I've been told there is an excellent photograph of me next to that word in the dictionary."
Ray laughs. "We'll update yer photo next time we're at the mall."
Then Ray asks seriously, "But yer all right wid it now? All of it? The men, the women? It don' bother ya no more, to be this way?"
"I have got it under control, Ray, so to speak," I reply wryly. "Unfortunately."
When did I begin to view the tight rein I keep on my feelings as… not a good thing? As - a stranglehold?
"Yeah, unfortunately," he quips ruefully.
"It is for the best, to keep such… differences quiet, Ray."
"You said it," he agrees. Then after a moment he asks, "So why didn't ya tell me about it when I tol' you, Frase? An openin' like dat don' come aroun' every day."
"I - I couldn't."
"It's - complicated."
I shake my head quickly, an instinctive response.
Ray is being very kind, very understanding and accepting. He is a good friend. That is why I must not speak about the rest of it, the love I feel for him. To know would only hurt him because he cares for me. He would feel a sense of obligation, and guilt that he cannot return my more intense feelings for him. My love for him. It is wrong to repay his kindness with pain….
When I don't speak, Ray does. "That's the part ya don' wanna talk about yet. The part yer not ready to tell me."
"Yes, Ray, it is."
After a moment he asks, "Ya interested in my… speculations, Frase?"
I am disconcerted. "You must not speculate about this, Ray. It would be wrong to do that. Harmful. Please, try not to think about it."
"I can' help it, Frase. I got eyes. I got instincts. I got good instincts -"
"You do. I know that," I say unhappily.
"Ya wan' I shouldn' tell ya, then?"
"No. All right. No. Yes, you can tell me." I take a deep breath.
Why am I so sure that Ray's speculations will be correct?
"It's never been really equal wid you - an equal toss between men and women," Ray asserts in a quiet monotone. "The women pull ya fer an hour, a day. The… the romance of it, pulls at ya. But yer never comfortable. Never feel at home wid dem. Not like with men."
"Ray -" How can he see so clearly into my soul? It is his gift. He is often wrong, true. But when he's right, that spotlight he shines pierces the darkness….
"They're comin' at ya, all the time, pushin' in, tryin' to get ta ya. The men, the women. An' ya wanna be normal, an' yer real happy when a woman turns yer crank, 'cuz it means yer still normal. Ya try ta believe dat. But the men, they creep up unner yer guard, get ta ya when ya least expect it. Blindside ya."
"Ray -" The pain of these truths he's laying out before me is… excruciating.
"An' then ya feel lost. Because there ain' no denyin' it, when that happens. When that happens, it's like yer bein' hit over da head with it. 'I ain' normal. I don' fit. I'll never fit.' It's like dat, ain' it, Frase?"
"Ray, please -"
"Dontcha go worryin' that yer wearin' a sign or nothin' dat says 'Screwed-up Mountie.' It ain' nothin' like that. Ya do pretty good. Ya even had me fooled, fer a while."
"What did I do to give myself away?" I ask. I am not merely curious. I am frightened.
"Ya worked wid dat guy - the Witness Protection weird guy, Bruce. Ya bonded wid him pretty good. Couldn' miss it, if ya got eyes, an' yer lookin' hard. I got eyes."
The memories are fresh. "He was so alone, like a lost child. So alone and needy -"
"Didn' hurt none that he looked like me, neither. I felt it, too, Frase. 'There but fer the grace a God, goes me.' Ya give me the same kinda comfort, when ya think I need it. I recognized it right away."
"That's what you see?" Apparently, Ray still hasn't guessed that what I feel for him is different…. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.
"We only been together a couple months but I never - repeat, never - seen ya do dat with a woman. Connect like ya did with the little fella. Or wid me."
"As usual, Ray, your instincts are sound. I never do - not with women. I have the greatest sympathy for them. I am often attracted to them in various ways. I nearly always admire them. As I told you, I was in love with a woman, once, to the point of distraction… I was nearly insane with love for her…. But the connection you describe…. No. I've never experienced it with a woman. Only with men. That is true."
I wonder whether Ray will ask again whether I find him attractive, now that he knows I am equipped to answer that question after all.
Instead, he asks in a light tone, "So, ya feelin' any better, buddy? 'cuz if yer not, I just wasted a whole truckload of that woman's intuition I inherited from my mum."
I smile. "Oddly enough, I am feeling better, Ray. Thank you kindly."
"Better enough ta pick up Chinese, head back ta my place, pig out, and watch TV?"
"I think so."
"Good. Let's go."
Before he stands Ray touches the top of my head, where he kissed me earlier. Smooths down my hair in that spot. Then he mutters, "What the hell," and kisses my head again.
It takes me a full minute to get my body's reaction back under the control of my will.
Then I stand and follow him and Dief to the car.
My soreness of heart lingers but with nothing like its previous intensity. I am quite relaxed. I have learned to feel at home in Ray's apartment. With Ray.
We eat dinner sitting on the sofa, watching a film both of us have seen before.
Ray is unusually quiet. I reflect that it is a measure of my improved emotional state that I even notice such extraordinary behavior. A few hours ago, I wouldn't have paid it any mind.
When the movie is over he removes the tape from the VCR, puts it away, then wanders off into the kitchen without speaking.
I'm concerned when he doesn't return immediately with drinks for each of us.
"Ray?" He doesn't reply. "Ray, are you all right?" I call out a little more loudly, still not following him into the other room. Lassitude is the legacy of my depression. Something more than mere concern would be needed for my will to be strong enough to push my body.
Therefore, I am relieved when Ray returns to the living room carrying a beer and a bottle of spring water. "I'm okay, Fraser," he tells me as he hands me the water.
But his face, his entire body belie his words.
"Are you?" I ask.
"Yeah, I'm good." He shrugs. "You about ready ta turn in? After ya finish yer water, 'course."
I'm startled by the question. In all the time I've known him Ray has never asked me to leave. Which is what he has just done.
"I - certainly, Ray." I stand, put down my drink and pick up my Stetson. "Dief, come!"
"I ain' kickin' ya out, Frase. I'm jus' real tired. Ya mind walkin' home? Or if ya wan', ya can take my car…. "
"No, I can walk -"
"Maybe we can get breakfast a little later tomorrow? Like, about ten 'steada seven? Dat okay wid you?"
I look at him carefully, then. Telltale signs of pain are visible in his stance, his lined brow, his tight mouth. He is more than tired. He is suffering. I berate myself for having passed along my depression to my dear friend.
"I'm sorry, Ray. I wasn't thinking. You've been… carrying me for a long time. I didn't intend to pull you down with me -"
"Ya ain' pullin' me down, Fraser," he retorts angrily. "I'm jus' tired. Like I said."
"Are you sure?"
"'course I'm sure! What? Ya think I don' know when I'm sleepy?"
"Very well. Ten tomorrow, then."
"I'll be there."
I walk half of the distance between Ray's home and the Consulate before I am able to push away my hurt and think clearly once more.
Ray lied to me.
Flat out. Expertly. And automatically, as though it was his only option.
He called his suffering by another name - fatigue - and rather than do anything to help, I accepted the lie. Took offense at his defense….
My beloved is suffering and I walked out on him.
But a fact.
"Dief!" I call my wolf and he stops to look at me. "We must return to Ray's apartment. I'm sorry to drag you around in circles but it cannot be helped."
He trots to my side and whines once.
"I agree, this was hardly my finest hour. It took long enough for my will to awaken."
Dief barks, then bounds ahead, towards Ray's home.
"Thank you kindly for your understanding, Dief. You are a loyal friend."
I make short work of the distance back to Ray and run up the steps to his floor. In my anxiousness to see him again I don't bother to knock. I left his door unlocked and he didn't lock it after me.
"Ray!" I call out, going into the living room. He isn't there. "Ray?"
"Jeez, Fraser, what is it? I'm in here, in the john!" he replies, coming out of the bathroom, a towel in his hand, his face wet. He is still wearing his jeans but has already removed his shirt, shoes and socks. "I was gettin' ready for bed. Whatsa matter?"
"I - I was worried about you, Ray," I say haltingly. "I'm sorry I left without ascertaining the cause of your… tiredness."
"Without - what? 'Ascertainin' the cause a my tiredness?' Ya wanna know why I'm tired? I'm tired becuz I been up since six and we been draggin' our asses all over Chicago all day!"
"Is that all it is?" I ask.
"Yeah, dat's it!" He dries his face and tosses his towel behind him into the bathroom. "Wanna make somethin' of it?" He stares me down.
He is posturing.
Posturing as he might with a stranger, or a criminal.
My heart hurts at the knowledge. I've told him… such things about myself. And now he looks upon me as a stranger….
"No. No, of course not, Ray. I am just worried about you -"
"You seem more than simply… fatigued."
"Yeah, well. Well. What if I am?"
"I'd like to help, if I can. If you'll permit it."
"Nothin' ya can do ta help, Fraser." I don't say anything. He goes on. "Well, there's somethin' but ya won' do it - I dunno why not, but ya won' and that's okay. It bothers me. But -"
"What bothers you, Ray?"
"I mean, when I thought ya were straight - okay - like I said, I don' make converts. But now -"
I stiffen, not with resistance but resolve, like a soldier coming to attention. I cannot bear to witness his pain. Feel his pain.
If Ray needs the kind of mindless sexual relief he once described to me, relief he has found in the past with strange men…. If he needs the casual sex which it pains me even to contemplate, then -
Then, I am at his service….
"Ya don' like me, izzat it?" Ray asks, arriving at the wrong conclusion. I know I have steered him there…. "'cuz it ain' that ya don' like men…."
"I do like you, Ray. More than I should."
"What's dat supposed ta mean?"
"Nothing. It doesn't mean anything. There is no meaning." I keep talking as I remove my Stetson and my jacket, followed by my boots and socks. Talking, as if to gentle a nervous horse.
Because Ray's eyes widen as he watches me disrobe. And he moves back and away from me in nearly imperceptible increments.
I approach him carefully, touch his arm, take his hand. "I do like you, Ray," I repeat like a mesmerist. "You must never doubt that. You are my partner and my friend and I care for you deeply. Come."
I lead him to his bedroom. His hand feels boneless in mine.
There is some light from the window - the city never sleeps - so I don't turn on his lamp. That would frighten Ray, I believe. Any sudden move would.
There is one thing I must do which I am sure will frighten him but it cannot be helped.
I take off the rest of my clothes with economical motions, dispatching the final article of apparel - my undershorts - quickly. Ray stands next to his bed watching me, his eyes widening like a shell-shocked soldier.
I cover the few feet between us slowly, cautiously, as before.
I reach my hand up and touch his throat with my fingertips. He swallows. He is trembling. I expect him to move away again but he holds his ground.
"Please take off your clothing, Ray," I say quietly.
He complies, his eyes never leaving my face, although I'm naked before him and I can only believe he would find pleasure in looking at my body as well as my eyes.
I certainly find pleasure when I look at him. He is… beautiful. Even if I didn't love him, I would find him aesthetically pleasing. Perfect.
I harden my heart. I must do this for Ray but he must never realize that there is anything more than friendship and sexual attraction in my touch.
I vow that I will allow nothing of my true feelings to escape me, save appreciation for his beauty and desire for his body. He will not know that I am in love with him.
Thus will I protect him.
What he does not know he cannot regret. What he does not know he cannot feel guilty about.
This is the challenge. I must succeed.
I realize that, if ever there was a moment when I needed all my control, every ounce of my training and strength, to keep my wits about me, this is that moment.
I stroke Ray's throat again, slip my hand around his neck and pull him towards me. I lean in and kiss him.
I slide my hand from his neck down his back to his hip and bring our bodies together at the groin.
We are neither of us hard yet but the warmth of his cock against mine, the rough tickle of his hair against the skin at my pelvis, the feel of his hip under my palm bring me to fullness quickly.
I sigh and take his mouth again, sucking on his lower lip, pushing with my tongue against his teeth until he opens his mouth and my tongue meets his.
I suck hard, then release his mouth.
Because Ray's hands are against my chest and he is pushing. Gently, but pushing. Me. Away.
I drop my hands and move back a step.
"Ray, please get on the bed," I request in a quiet voice.
"What are ya doin,' Fraser?"
"Just, please - get on the bed."
"What I've asked. For you to get on the bed," I repeat patiently.
He sits on his bed as I've requested, and looks up at me. "No. What do *you* want?" he asks me again.
Token compliance. Actual rebellion. Essence of Ray. I can almost taste it….
"To give you pleasure, Ray," I reply.
"I don' need pleasure," he tells me dismissively.
I am puzzled. "Of course you do -"
"I can get that kinda pleasure any place, Fraser. I don' need it from you."
"But you want it. You want me to give you… pleasure -"
"An' ya do - every time ya open yer mouth. Every time ya walk down the hall wid me, wid dat 'I'll always be true ta ya' walk a yers. Every time we work a case together, like two pieces a the same machine." He pauses but I can think of nothing to say. "This kinda pleasure -" and he gestures at his naked body, then at mine, "- I don' need from you. I don' know why ya think ya gotta… overcome, ta please me. Fact is, I don' give a rat's fuck why. Ya don' love me. Yer forcin' yerself to fuck me, even though ya don' love me. That ain' you, Fraser -"
"I - I'm sorry."
"Shuddup. What yer doin' - it ain' you. I don' need it. I don' wan' it." I'm about to speak but Ray holds up his hand. "I tol' ya, don' interrupt!" I nod. "What I do need, is you," he says, pointing at me. He shakes his head. "Not some fuck like a hunred I could pick up off the street any day a da week."
He stands. I watch him pace. "Ya tol' me things - a lotta things. Not jus' today. Since we been together - workin' together, friends - ya been tellin' me things. I know ya never tol' none a dem to nobody else." He stops and looks at me. "Am I right?"
"Yes, Ray. You're right."
"That's what I need. What I wan' from you. That's pleasure. Lasts a lot longer than the other kind." He smiles. "It's like the dreamcatcher."
"Is it?" I murmur, stunned by what Ray is saying.
"Yeah. A piece a yer soul. I got lots a little pieces a yer soul. An' I'm gonna get more, right?" A rhetorical question which I don't attempt to answer. Ray has my entire soul. "Ya ain' in love wid me, Fraser. But ya love me. An' that's good enough fer me. I know ya ain' into sex wid people ya ain' in love with. If I let ya do this, even though ya ain' in love with me, well, maybe technically I ain' rapin' ya, but it's as good as. If I let ya rape yerself, fer me."
I breathe deeply, lick my lips. Swallow.
I close my eyes.
This man. This incredible man! Every glimpse into his soul that he grants me teaches me to trust what I sensed from the first about him. His moral sense is true, although the compass he employs to determine where he must go is his heart, not his intellect.
Indeed, when it matters, he's less likely than I am to make a mistake because he rarely allows his ego to sway his judgment.
Tears slip down my face but I don't try to hide them and I don't wipe them away.
Ray stands. He walks back over to me and puts his hand on my forearm. "Ya okay, Fraser?"
I nod. I cannot speak.
"It ain' that yer not pretty, ya know," he tells me in a confidential tone. "Yer beautiful."
I cannot help it. I burst out laughing.
After a moment, Ray joins in.
He throws his arms around me as he did that first fateful day, and hugs me. Apparently operating from the theory that what works once will work even better the second time, he repeats in my ear, "Yer really pretty, Fraser."
Again, he's right.
I'm still laughing but now I manage both to return his hug and to say, "So are you, Ray. So are you."
Our laughter subsides slowly. Ray's arms are still around me and I hold him tightly, comforted by his presence, his warmth and his touch.
Overwhelmed by his words. And by something new I have learned about him.
There is meaning. There is always meaning.
Ray's generosity is its own meaning.
Such an odd thing - love.
I am in love with Ray and he doesn't know it.
He is in love with me and he doesn't know that, either.
But I know it. And that is more than enough.
The truth sets me free.
I relax completely as I caress his back. I'm gratified to feel his body sink against mine.
I am blissfully happy when his cock hardens and lengthens until it is pressing into my belly.
He sniffs the skin at my neck. I swipe my tongue along the skin of his shoulder. He tastes good. Delicious.
We move into a kiss….
I don't know the exact moment when my sweet joy darkens and deepens into passion. I know only the moment when we fall on Ray's bed, holding onto each other in a death grip while we rock and rub our bodies together in a vain attempt to become one body, as I believe we are already one soul….
I come in a cataclysmic rush, bucking against Ray with every inch of my body. I recognize his release moments after mine. The noise we make is deafening.
We don't let go of one another.
We roll, instead. First, I land on top of Ray. Then, when he pushes, I move quickly until his body is covering mine. Finally, we settle side by side, arms still around one another as they were when Ray hugged me.
I feel splendid. Connected. Anchored by the universe. Utterly benevolent. Protected. Protective. Happy.
Some time later I speak. "No," I say clearly.
"No. Don't move."
"I wasn' gonna move," Ray says lazily.
"You were about to go into the bathroom to get a washcloth to clean us up," I assert.
"No I wasn'."
"Yes, you were."
"Well, if ya wanna be sticky, I'm all over dat," Ray tells me with a grin.
"I do. Want to be sticky."
"Suits me," he quips and settles against me, his lips touching my forehead. I feel his breath in my hair.
"Are you cold, Ray? Shall we pull the covers out from beneath us?" I ask. If we fall asleep like this, without a blanket, he might catch a chill.
"Knock yerself out, Frase. What ya can do widout lettin' go a me is good. Anythin' else - ferget about it."
I am equal to this task. I work the blanket with my body and feet until it's at the bottom of the bed. Then I lift Ray and myself to a sitting position, bend, grab the edge of the cover with my hands and pull it up to our shoulders. Then I lay us down again.
"Ya done good, Fraser," Ray tells me, his voice muffled against my head.
"Thank you kindly," I reply with a grin.
"So, I take it ya ain' goin' back ta the Consulate ta sleep tonight?"
"Right you are, Ray," I reply, nearly singing the words.
"So - what's the deal?"
"The deal is that I'm not sleepy. So there is no need for me to go anywhere to sleep."
"Yer not sleepy -"
Suddenly, I recall how tired Ray told me he was, earlier. I say, "You should sleep, though, if you are tired."
"Why would ya think I'm tired?"
"Do you mean, apart from the fact that you told me you were?"
"Yeah, apart from dat. I wasn' tired, just - ya know."
"Yes, I do," I reply and my voice sounds husky even in my own ears.
"So, we gonna jus' lay here an' not be tired an' not sleep? Dat da plan?" Ray asks. Something in his voice makes me look up at him. I cannot mistake the hunger in his eyes.
I lick my lips, inadvertently running my tongue across the hollow beneath Ray's Adam's apple. His cock jumps at the touch. Mine has been hard all along.
I don't know yet how to tell him what I feel or what I need.
"Are you bored, Ray?" I ask recklessly.
"Nope. Jus' impatient."
"Good things come to those who wait," I say confidently, hoping he will ignore my words.
"Yeah, I can see dat," he says, rocking against me again.
"You liked that, did you?" Certainly, I am on solid ground here.
"What was yer first clue, Sherlock?"
"We can try it again -"
"Inventive bugger, ain'tcha?" he teases.
I'm learning. "Or we can try… other things."
"I'm all over dat."
And I am "all over" him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ F i n i s ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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