Thanks: Many many many thanks to Serial Karma for wonderfully betaing all of these, and being incredibly patient with me as I wibbled.
Notes: The first two parts of this are flashfictions (the first for the Naked Without Sex challenge, and the second for the Challenge challenge). The title of the third part is from an Ani DiFranco song.
Fortunately, Ray takes the request casually. He probably thinks it's a typical Canadian past-time, or a quirk of Fraser's unusual upbringing that Fraser would be interested in such things. (The latter may well be right.) He simply squints at Fraser for a moment as though to make sure it isn't a trick. "Sure," he says, finally, curling his fingers into loose fists between his thighs. "Uh, you wanna do it here?"
"Well, the couch isn't really suitable. Traditionally one would use a specially designed table or a—" Fraser nearly says bed, but interrupts himself just in time. "—squab on the floor. We could improvise." They both stand up, and Fraser collects the cushions from the couch, constructing a makeshift mattress on the rug (the one that hides the carefully marked out dancing footprints). As he does so, he says, "I appreciate this greatly, Ray. I've studied several manuals, but, as I'm sure you're aware, theory can never replace practical experience."
"No problem," says Ray. He's standing to one side, watching, his limbs loose and graceful. So much so, that Fraser wonders whether this whole exercise is redundant. However, closer inspection reveals a taut energy running through him, a tension skillfully disguised. Fraser is reminded for the thousandth time that Ray is a gifted undercover police officer. He lies for a living, and he does so with his whole body. Fraser wonders, briefly, what Ray's body would say if it was compelled to be truthful.
Ray's hands are now hiding deep in his pockets. "Do you—?" His shoulders come up in a half shrug. Apparently this is a difficult question. "Is this like a—?" Words fail him, and he extracts his left hand and plucks at his t-shirt eloquently.
Fraser nods. "Just your shirt, if you don't mind." He turns to his coat to find the oil he's brought. This also provides a convenient excuse for him to face away until his blush subsides. Fraser's fingers close around the plastic bottle, and he hears the whisper of Ray's thin cotton shirt falling onto the cushionless couch, and then the louder sounds of Ray kicking off his shoes.
When Fraser turns around, Ray is lying face down on the cushions, his torso bare and pale and marked with bruises from apprehending Solly Coltrane's accomplices on Tuesday. There's a long shallow scrape down his side where he skidded and fell during a pursuit a week ago, but it's nearly healed.
Ray's head is turned towards him. He's watching him. Ray's hands are by his sides, tapping – restlessly? nervously? – at his thighs.
Fraser cracks his neck and opens the bottle, spilling some of the sweet-scented oil onto his hands and rubbing them together to warm them. As he walks towards Ray, Ray's eyes close and his hands still. Fraser is humbled by the trust implicit in the gesture — in the whole enterprise, for that matter — but also distracted by his own heartbeat, which takes this opportunity to pound out the 1812 overture.
He realizes he hasn't properly thought this through: he sincerely intended merely to develop his massage skills, and he asked Ray because, well, who else could he possibly ask? But he has failed to take into account his growing attraction to his friend and the awkwardness that will inevitably descend upon them if he reveals himself. This is a mistake.
Ray opens his eyes again. "Frase?" he says.
Fraser blinks. It's too late. Ray is lying, semi-clothed, on cushions on the floor at Fraser's request. He trusts Fraser. The scent of oil fills the air. It's too late for either of them to back out now.
Fraser kneels on the floor next to Ray's waist, and holds his hands a few inches above Ray's back, feeling the heat radiating from him. Fraser's mind goes blank, all the lessons he's learned from Massage for Beginners and the Illustrated Essentials of Musculoskeletal Anatomy dissolving in the immediacy of Ray's physical presence. Oh dear. He has no choice but to proceed anyway, and he slowly lowers his hands until they rest against Ray's shoulder blades.
Ray inhales suddenly, and turns his head so he's facing away from Fraser.
"Sorry," says Fraser.
"It's nothing." Ray's voice is muffled.
Fraser swallows. "Shall I, ah, continue?" He's so self-conscious that he half hopes Ray will say no.
But Ray nods a little, his cheek scratching audibly against the cushion, and doesn't say anything. So Fraser slides his fingers slowly and firmly up Ray's back, easing pressure over a particularly painful-looking bruise. The oil makes the move a warm, almost frictionless slide. He curls his hands around Ray's deltoids and squeezes, kneading his thumbs into the tight muscles at the base of Ray's neck, feeling them gradually loosen.
The tiny hairs there look soft, and Fraser stops kneading for a moment and strokes them with one thumb. His fingers are still wrapped around Ray's shoulders, and when Ray's muscles suddenly flex down his back, tightening up like a hedgehog about to curl, it brings Fraser back to his senses.
"Sorry," he says, stopping again. "Perhaps this isn't—"
"'Sfine." Slowly, as though by effort of will alone, Ray's back unclenches. Under Fraser's index finger, Ray's pulse is racing, but his musculature doesn't betray this. Fraser nods inwardly, and plays along. There's no alternative at this stage, after all.
He runs the heels of his hands firmly down Ray's back, noting the contours of Ray's ribs, and the strength of his lean torso, and it's as though, through the movement and the contact and the sweet oil smell, Fraser has shifted into a dream space. He is carried away with the intimacy, that Ray will submit to this. He abandons all pretence at professional — or amateur — detachment.
Ray's jeans are loose and low on his hips, and Fraser surrenders to impulse and continues down till his wrists brush the rough fabric, until they push against the waistband, tugging at it, revealing the curve of Ray's backside. Ray stops breathing.
"Ray?" Fraser's voice is an alloy of concern and arousal. He clears his throat.
Ray straightens his neck so his face is burrowed into the cushion. His hips rolls slightly to the right. "Could you, uh, gimme a minute?" he says indistinctly.
"Of course." Fraser takes his hands away, and waits to see what will happen.
Ray doesn't move. "Just, I dunno, turn around or something."
"As you wish." Fraser climbs to his feet, and takes a few steps towards the dark window, intending to look out into the Chicago night. But the illuminated room makes a mirror of the glass and he can't resist. He chooses not to resist. He lets himself focus on the reflection, sees Ray lift his pelvis from the makeshift squab and delve a hand into the dark space beneath him, into his jeans for just a moment.
"Okay," says Ray, settling down onto the cushions again. "You can come back now."
Fraser can't move. He absent-mindedly rubs his thumb against the tips of his fingers and watches Ray's pale reflection, as he wonders whether, in granting Fraser's favor, Ray too has failed to take certain factors into account.
After a long minute of silence, Ray props himself up on his elbows. "Fraser?"
Fraser rubs the oil between his thumb and his fingers, his eyes fixed on Ray's ghostly reflection in the dark window. He's paralyzed by the impossibility of returning to the physical intimacy of the massage—his hands tending Ray's warm skin.
It is impossible. Fraser could more easily jump off a 100-foot cliff into raging whitewater in pursuit of a criminal—and indeed, has done so several times without hesitation. Those leaps were dutiful and defensible, but there is no such justification for breaching the parameters of his relationship with Ray, risking everything.
Fraser's posture tightens until he can't move. Until the words tumbling through his brain cease to mean anything but Run!
"Fraser." Ray rolls off the cushions on the floor, and stands up, looking taller than usual. His chest and feet are bare and pale. They draw the eye. He should seem vulnerable, half-naked as he is, but he has an air of unselfconscious bravado that more than compensates for his lack of clothes.
He walks toward Fraser, his reflection growing rapidly, and Fraser searches for a pretext to leave, to excuse himself and disappear. He even reaches for the window latch in preparation for a speedy escape.
But Ray is onto him. Ray catches Fraser's hand before it touches the latch, and the contact is like an electric shock through Fraser's entire system. Dear God. "Everything okay?" says Ray, and the words are deliberately casual, measured out in coffeespoons, and Fraser can't think. For the first time in his life, he has vertigo. He needs to disappear before—
He pulls back. "I should go," he says to Ray's reflection. He doesn't recognise his own voice.
Ray releases Fraser and folds his arms across his chest. Fraser watches Ray's mouth in the dark window, determinedly avoiding looking at his eyes or his chest or his crotch. Ray's mouth is full and kind, even as he lopsidedly purses his lips and considers Fraser. "We're in the middle of something, here, Fraser," he points out. "You gonna leave?"
Fraser draws on years of stoicism and hard-won self-control, on his RCMP parade training, on all his resources. He pulls himself together, forces himself to breathe calmly. "I think I—must," he says. "I've done enough." He risks a glance at Ray's eyes, and sees a spark there, though he's not certain what it signifies.
Ray tilts his chin up, and asks, "Scared?" And Fraser can't begin to contemplate the cost of just that single word. That Ray is prepared to admit there is anything to be scared of, is willing to enter into a conversation where the undercurrents seething between them are acknowledged.
He considers denying it. He wants to deny it, to return to solid ground, but that would be doing Ray a grave disservice. Ray who trusts him, who is sticking his neck out. So Fraser turns and meets Ray's gaze head on. "Yes."
Fraser takes a step backwards, and walks around Ray, away from him. He collects his coat. He has no doubt that Ray has turned and is watching him go, nor that Ray wants to talk more, to confess what Fraser now understands to be their mutual attraction. But Fraser's equally certain that to talk would compound this evening's mistakes.
"Take the high road, son. These things never end well," says a gruff voice in his ear, and Fraser growls "Go away" even though the advice matches his own beliefs. He keeps moving toward the door, collects his hat from the hook. When he turns to say goodbye, there's no sign of his father, just Ray standing by the dark window, his thin reflection echoed in the glass.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Fraser says, awkwardly, wanting a sign that the damage done is reparable.
Ray ignores this inanity, and instead walks across the room with a set look on his face. "You've sentenced yourself to a life in solitary. God knows why. I sure as hell don't know what your crime is." He shakes his head, holds up a hand. "I'll tell you this. I'm lodging an appeal, Fraser. I am lodging a fucking appeal. I'm gonna spring you."
Fraser's hands tighten on the brim of his Stetson, bending the felt. His whole body is tight. He can barely move his throat to croak, "On what grounds?"
And now Ray is close. He bounces on the balls of his feet for emphasis, his hands are clenched. Fraser almost wishes that Ray would punch him, as he did on the lakeside, and get it over with. But then Ray speaks and the words hit Fraser harder than knuckles ever could. "In the name of justice, Fraser. You're so big on that. In the name of you and me."
Fraser stops dead, transfixed by this insight. His hat falls to the floor. Ray is right. How could Fraser not have understood? They are both essentially good people, they've both suffered, and it's just that, if they want to, they be together.
This is a 100-foot drop, this space between them. Fraser doesn't know if he can swim these rapids. He doesn't know whether the fall will kill him. But that's not important: there are principles at stake. He takes a breath, a step forward, and he jumps.
Fraser steps forward, and his oiled hands slide onto Ray's warm bare shoulders. Ray's eyes close and his breathing quickens, and Fraser's temperature rises in response, his body clamoring for more.
"Fraserfraserfraserfraserfraser," breathes Ray as he leans forward and puts his hands on Fraser's chest, his fingers tangling in Fraser's sweater and tugging him closer. He seems to be struggling for self-control, but Fraser wants the truth of Ray's body now. Fraser's free-falling and he wants Ray to fall with him.
"You and me," says Fraser, as though he is toasting their good health, and he closes the gap between them, parting his lips against Ray's. The kiss overwhelms him immediately, dizzying and urgent, and for a while he's sure he's going to die from it and he doesn't care. Ray opens up to him, puts his arms around him and holds him close, and Fraser's hands clutch at Ray's back, fingering the muscles he smoothed with massage oil so recently.
Their bodies shift, mapping and moulding each other, and Fraser feels a fierce joy building inside him. He grunts, and is embarrassed by the sound, but Ray's hands are on his face now, and Ray's mouth is taking all that Fraser has to give. Fraser relinquishes any need for dignity, and falls further, harder.
He breaks off, gasping, and says, "I didn't know."
Weaving his long fingers through Fraser's hair, Ray holds him close enough that Ray's breath brushes his lips. Ray looks at him with heavy dark eyes. "Huh?" he says, as though he's no longer capable of speech.
"How much I need this." Fraser grasps the hems of his sweater and undershirt, and pulls them up, stripping his torso in a single movement. Before he's even freed his head, Ray's running exploratory fingers over Fraser's pectorals, thumbing his nipples. Fraser groans and drags the clothing over his head, tossing it aside. He covers Ray's hands, pressing them to his own chest. Ray licks his lips in anticipation, and Fraser's breath hitches in his throat.
They kiss again, wet and hungry. Fraser tastes Ray's sweet, dark mouth. He licks inside him and slides his arms around Ray, pulling him ever tighter, until Ray forces a hand between them and pushes back. "Can't breathe," he mutters, and he grins, a flash of humor so beautiful that Fraser starts to shake. There are no parachutes, no safety nets. Ray's smile fades, replaced by earnest desire.
Fraser closes his eyes for a moment, leans his head against Ray's forehead. He wants this more than he'd believed possible. His penis is uncomfortably hard inside his jeans, and Ray is rubbing Fraser's neck and shoulders, driving him to distraction. Fraser steps back and reaches for his belt, and when Ray sees this, he mirrors the action without hesitation.
It only takes a moment, and Fraser is amazed, as always, that the border between normality and nudity can be so easily crossed. He is falling fast.
At the sight of Ray's long legs kicking off his jeans, and of his obvious arousal, any remaining shreds of self-consciousness dissolve. Everything is about the two of them, about their bodies and mouths and hands. About what they are doing to each other.
Ray leads him to the couch cushions, still arranged on the floor, and pulls him down on top of him. Fraser stumbles, clumsy with desire, and lands on Ray more heavily than he'd intended, though he uses his arms to try and soften the fall. Ray grunts, smacking Fraser on the shoulder, but complaint quickly turns to compliance as their bodies move together. So much skin it's almost unbearable. So much heat. Fraser is nearing terminal velocity.
He licks Ray's neck, savoring the taste of desire, and then explores further. When his teeth close on Ray's shoulder, Ray moans, and edges sideways out from under Fraser, so Fraser is sprawled half-on and half-off him, both of them balanced precariously on the narrow makeshift squab. Fraser sucks hard on Ray's shoulder, then pulls back and grimaces. The massage oil he spread there earlier doesn't taste anywhere near as good as it smells. He swipes his tongue along his own upper arm, and manages to lose the worst of it.
Ray is twisting into Fraser, his hips working as much as they can under Fraser's weight. Ray's eyes are shut, his head turned sideways, flexing his neck. His moans send deep shivers down Fraser's spine. Ray sweeps a hand firmly up Fraser's back and tugs his head down again.
Fraser ducks so that he can lick Ray's collarbone, which is clean of the oil. Once on that path, he heads further down: chest, nipples, ribs. There is a world to explore here, but need drives him on. Ray's hands are on his shoulders, are pushing or pulling, trying to get him to do something, but Fraser is so absorbed in the scent and taste and feel of Ray's stomach against his mouth that he barely notices. He slips one hand between them and grasps Ray's erection, which is hot and unevenly smooth, and then he instantly regrets it. His hands still bear traces of the oil—sour with metallic traces—which he has now no doubt transferred to Ray. Damn.
He's distracted from this train of thought when Ray lets go of Fraser's shoulders and stretches up to grab a nearby table leg for leverage. Ray braces his heels on the floorboards and thrusts into Fraser's fist. The movement pulls Ray's stomach deliciously tight, and Fraser abandons any plans to taste Ray further. He needs to hold him. He needs to see his face as he comes.
The table scrapes toward them in increments as Ray pulls on it. Torn envelopes and several pens drift and clatter to the floor. Fraser hardly notices.
He moves up and winds his free arm around Ray, and licks along his jaw. Ray responds with a moan and a flutter of eyelashes, and then captures Fraser's mouth for a brief breathless kiss.
Fraser's penis is lying along the crease of Ray's thigh, so that when Ray pushes up, Fraser feels Ray's slick sweaty skin press tight against him. Fraser's knuckles brush his own erection, too. But what excites him most is Ray's arousal—his physicality. The way he's biting his lip and exhaling through his nose, again and again, almost hyperventilating. The uneven f-f-f-f- as though he is trying but unable to say fuck or Fraser. The feel of him hard in Fraser's oiled hand.
Ray gives up on the table as anchor, shoves it away so it sways and topples with a crash, and grabs Fraser, and hangs on. "Oh! Oh, god. Fraser!" he gasps and tenses like a bowstring, and comes hot and hard between them.
Fraser watches him possessively. Sees his eyes scrunch tight, and a frown—of concentration, or pleasure too exquisite to stand, perhaps—line his forehead, where his hair is damp with sweat. Fraser waits for Ray's breathing to steady, waits until his eyes open, and then takes his head in both hands and kisses him thoroughly, earning a hum of pleasure.
He keeps pressing against Ray, taking over the rhythm that Ray started. As they kiss and rock together, a dark red heat coils in the pit of Fraser's stomach. He is falling so fast now that he's burning. He clings to Ray, crying out in broken syllables as the heat spreads lower and harder, lower and harder.
When it comes, the impact breaks him wide open, shatters and scatters him across miles of wilderness. He can't see. He can hardly hear. The only way he will ever fit back together is in Ray's arms, hearing Ray's voice repeating his name.
Fraser flops down, exhausted and hot. Their bodies are plastered together, and Fraser wants never to move. But Ray rolls Fraser onto his back, off the cushions and onto the cold hard floor. Fraser's eyes fly open in protest, nerves shocked, to find Ray studying him as though memorizing this moment. Fraser wonders whether perhaps some gesture or declaration of intent is needed, but the floorboards are warming quickly, and all he can do is cup Ray's cheek and smile as his eyes droop shut again, worn out.
Ray turns his face into Fraser's palm, and kisses it, then makes a disgusted sound. "What is that?" he says. "It tastes gross."
Fraser pulls Ray into his arms. "Oil," he says, and he runs his hands up Ray's back, remembering. "For the massage."
"Oh yeah," says Ray. "The big favor. You know, Frase, no offence, because I am not complaining here, but you could use some more practice in the massage department. I'm pretty sure they're supposed to last longer than two minutes."
"It can take years to become proficient," says Fraser sleepily, trailing his thumb over Ray's thoracic vertebrae. "Many years." And when Ray drops his head onto Fraser's shoulder, Fraser can feel his smile.