Thanks: Heaps of floral and green leafy thanks to sageness and sprat for beta, and vaudevilles for knowing about drag queens so I don't have to
Notes: For Mergatrude, for her birthday, with love
Gloria dropped her white lace hanky on top of the clutter of the dressing room counter, pulled on her pink satin robe, and sat down to peel off her eyelashes. The place smelled like a cross between a locker room and a cosmetics factory. Half the lightbulbs were out, but with the piles of lingerie and feather boas, and Deidre's sparkly dresses draped over every spare surface, it still had enough glamour to satisfy her. She studied herself in the mirror and reached for a handful of wipes and the cold cream. Her powder had worn off a little and the glittery sparkles above her eyes had faded, but her cheeks glowed with the excitement of performing. She couldn't help humming her signature tune (There Are Worse Things I Could Do from Grease) under her breath as she peeled the wax from her eyebrows.
Judy ran in, her platform heels clomping on the bare wood floor. "Forgot my fucking Toto," she said. She grabbed her stuffed dog and her basket, and rushed out again in a flurry of gingham.
Gloria grinned to herself and worked more quickly. She didn't want to miss Judy's finale. She wiped away the powder and foundation, carefully not letting herself notice the size of her nose, or the thick eyebrows revealed now she'd removed the wax. She started on her street makeup. She was beautiful. She was a lady. She—
There was a polite knock on the open door, and she looked over—
—and felt the blood drain from her face, her triumph turn to nausea. She tried desperately to appear nonchalant and cool, but—
"Ray?" Fraser's forehead was creased, his hat clutched in his hand.
"Gloria!" She wrapped her robe higher at the neck.
He was out of uniform, at least. She supposed she should be grateful for that much. He was wearing his leather jacket and, underneath, a blue cotton sweater than set off his eyes. She looked back at herself in the mirror and picked up her eyeliner to finish her makeup even though she hadn't taken her Sandra Dee wig off yet, but her hand was shaking and she lowered it back to the counter. There was no way she could draw a smooth line now.
Fraser watched her solemnly. "May I buy you a drink?"
She couldn't tell what he was thinking. She took a deep breath, feeling the tight bind of her bra around her ribcage. "Yeah. Okay. I'll meet you by the bar in fifteen minutes." She didn't look at him again.
After he left, she buried her head in her hands, her jaw smooth against her palms. She'd dreamed about this before, about Fraser finding out; she'd just never known whether the dream would turn out to be a nightmare.
She panicked over what to wear for a good ten minutes. She couldn't breathe properly. She wondered if she was going to faint. In the end, she left the suit and tie on their hanger and chose a demure little black dress with a long split up the side. It made her look like Cher going to a funeral, so she paired it with a long black Cleopatra wig.
She tore her stockings when she was coaxing them over her knee and had to open a new package. She wondered what Fraser was thinking. She was half an hour late to meet him, her makeup shaky, and she was wobbling on her heels for the first time in years.
By mutual agreement, they went to a late night coffee shop three doors down where it was quiet enough to talk. Judy saw her leaving in the middle of Over the Rainbow, and waved, her expression avidly curious. Gloria didn't date much.
The diner was quiet, and Gloria started to turn back into Ray. She stared at her press-on nails and willed herself to stay feminine—because Jesus, what could be more humiliating than being Ray in full drag sitting with his partner in a coffee shop at a quarter to one in the morning? Nothing that Gloria could think of. She kept her voice soft.
Fraser looked at her and his eyes were dark and unreadable. He waited until the waitress had brought the coffee before he said, "It was a wonderful show. How long have you been performing?"
Gloria smoothed her hair and leaned her elbows on the table, clasping her hands. "Since just after Pop died," she told him. "I met some of the girls when I was working Vice, and finally realized I could do whatever I wanted." She pressed her lips together. "How did you find out?"
"I followed you." He smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry, Ray. I thought—I was worried you were in trouble."
"Yeah, well, I am now." She stared out the window at the old queens and their consorts. "I'm good at this, at keeping it under wraps. Five years and no one ever found out. No one knew. No one even suspected. And now it's over—"
"No. Ray— Gloria, that is. I wouldn't—"
She cut him off with a gusty sigh. Who was she trying to kid? "Ray's fine."
"Yes. He is." Fraser held her gaze, his cheeks a little pink. "And I've very glad to make your acquaintance, too, ma'am."
"Fraser—" She didn't know what to say. Her eyes were stinging, but she was not going to cry. She put sugar in her coffee and stirred it. "Thanks, Benny."
Fraser licked his lip. "You know, there are many cultures in the world where gender is treated as fluid, or where society is constructed around more than two—"
"Aw, don't do that! Don't try to put me into some kind of social, cultural, historical context so you can feel okay about this. If it's freaking you out—" Ray shrugged one shoulder, feeling his dress pull against his fake boobs. "—then just say so, and we can deal with it."
Fraser adjusted his hat on the table top between them. "On the contrary—"
"On the contrary what? On the contrary, we can't deal with it or on the contrary, you're not freaking?" Ray felt a familiar frustration, which was reassuring in a weird kind of way. Here they were in the worst scenario Ray had dreamed of—Fraser had found Ray out—and they were bickering like they were disagreeing about a case.
"I'm not freaked out," Fraser said.
Huh. Ray raised his eyebrows and waited.
"In fact—" Fraser stopped and adjusted his hat again.
"What?" Ray drummed his fingernails on the table top. One of them came loose, and he pressed it back in place.
Fraser sat up straight and looked directly at him. "May I ask you a personal question, Miss, ah, Gloria?" he asked in a polite undertone.
"Ray," he said. This was Fraser, after all. "Yeah, sure. Shoot."
"Do you—that is, are you—Ray, do you have—homosexual inclinations?" Fraser went red just from asking and Ray's face heated up, too. Was this a cultural-social context kind of question, or— Not that it mattered. There was only one answer he could give Fraser and that was the truth.
"Do I like guys? Yeah, sure. Some guys. Some girls, too. Depends on the guy or the girl." He wished he could take off his wig, take off his makeup right now, and they could be having this conversation, Ray and Benny. Sometimes Gloria just made things complicated. "How about you?"
Fraser's hand hovered over Ray's, brushed it lightly, then pulled back. "One guy," he said. "Very much."
Ray's stomach dropped into his pantyhose. "You—you mean that?" he asked faintly.
Fraser licked his lip and nodded, holding Ray's gaze the whole time.
Ray tilted his head, his long nylon hair brushing his exposed collarbone, and pinned him with his gaze. "And when did you decide this, Fraser? Was it before or after you walked in the door of the Pink Ladies' Club tonight?"
"It wasn't a matter of deciding," Fraser said, stiffening slightly like his honor was in question, "and I've felt this way since shortly after we met. I'm sorry to have imposed my feelings on you, though, since you clearly don't—"
"Hey, wait a minute." Ray grabbed Fraser's retreating wrist, and stretched out his leg and pressed his foot against Fraser's calf for good measure. "Who said I don't? I'm just—I got a lot at stake here, you know? I need to know where I stand. You could ruin my whole life like that." He snapped his fingers in Fraser's face. "Now, I know you. I trust you. I know you wouldn't do that. But you gotta make some allowances for me here, okay?"
Fraser thought about that for a second, then relaxed. "Okay, Ray."
"Good." Ray stood up and Fraser followed. Ray didn't argue when Fraser paid for their coffee, and he waited until they were out of the door, in the sharp night air, before he asked, "So you want to go somewhere a little more private and figure this thing out?"
Ray went back to the Club and changed into his guy clothes, and then they walked the couple of blocks to the parking garage where Ray had left the Riv. Ray drove them to Fraser's apartment. Fraser made polite small talk on the way, asking about the Club, the girls, Ray's shoes.
When they were stopped at some lights, he leaned over and breathed in. "That perfume," he said. "I thought you must be seeing someone."
Ray glanced sideways at him. "You thought I had a girlfriend I wasn't telling you about? How could you think that? You're my best friend."
Fraser touched his arm. "I'm sorry, Ray. I didn't know what to think."
Ray ducked his head. "Yeah, well, I guess you weren't too far off the mark, after all. There is a girl."
"Ah." Fraser fiddled with his hat. "I see. In that case—"
Ray shoved his arm. "I mean Gloria, stupid! She's the only woman I got."
Fraser blew out a gust of air, a short breathy laugh. Ray turned onto West Racine and found a parking spot outside Fraser's building.
Dief was asleep in the corner. His tail twitched when they came in and he cracked one eye open, but when he saw it was just them, he buried his muzzle under his paws and went straight back to sleep.
"So." Ray draped his coat over the back of a chair and dropped his gloves on the table. "What now?"
Fraser cracked his neck. "We, ah—I can offer you tea, milk or water. No juice, I'm afraid." He went to the kitchen counter and filled a glass from the tap.
"I'm not thirsty." Ray smiled. It was reassuring to know Fraser was nervous. It reminded Ray that he was the experienced one, the one who held all the cards. Fraser was a small-town boy from the outer suburbs of the middle of nowhere. Ray had grown up in Chicago. He went over and got in Fraser's personal space.
But far from backing away, Fraser stared at him, clearly fascinated. It was the first time they'd been in good lighting since the coffee shop. "You—" Fraser's voice was low and warm. "You've still got makeup—"
Ray had trouble keeping his breathing steady under that intent gaze. He had taken off his makeup, but he must've done a lousy job of it. "Yeah, well, I was in a hurry. Didn't want to keep my date waiting."
Fraser put the glass of water down and raised his hand, and Ray managed not to flinch while he ran the tip of his pinky finger along the skin under Ray's eye. Then Fraser held up the finger like he was doing an inspection. It bore a dark brown smudge of eyeliner.
"Okay, you got me," Ray joked, and then realized how true the words were, and repeated them, serious this time. "You got me."
Fraser's lips parted and Ray saw the opportunity and took it. Kissed him. They were standing close but not touching, their lips their only point of contact, and then Fraser cupped the back of Ray's head just as Ray buried his hand in Fraser's hair, and they both leaned in, tongues sliding over lips and teeth, tasting makeup remover and sweet coffee. Fraser's chest brushed Ray's, setting Ray's skin tingling, and Ray wrapped his arm around Fraser and pulled him right up against him. And then everything blurred together. They were kissing hard, grappling with each other, desperate to taste and explore. Fraser yanked Ray's tie off impatiently, tore open the top couple of buttons of his shirt, and feasted himself on Ray's throat, while Ray leaned his head back, eyes shut, gasping, and hung on. "Oh yeah," he moaned. "Christ, yeah."
He shook with desire, so turned on he was getting dizzy, and when Fraser loosened his hold to shove Ray's jacket off his shoulders, Ray staggered back, nearly braining himself on the kitchen cupboard. Fraser caught him in the nick of time, and drew him over to the bed.
Ray hesitated, momentum lost. He looked at Fraser, all heavy-lidded dark eyes and lips red from kissing, and said, "You sure? You gonna be able to do this and still work together, pretend we're just pals? Because I'm not throwing over what we got for this." He fisted his hands in Fraser's sweater, and brought him close. "Don't get me wrong—I want this like crazy. Want you. Christ, I'm dying here. But you're my best friend, Benny. I can't lose that."
Fraser touched Ray's cheek. "You won't," he said, and he sat on the edge of the bed to untie his bootlaces.
Ray wanted to ask if that was a promise or just wishful thinking, but his dick was hard and Fraser was sitting back on his bed looking at him hungrily, and goddamn it, Ray could worry about the logistics tomorrow. Right now, they wanted each other and if Ray didn't get some relief soon, he was gonna start humping the furniture. He undid his belt and got to work on his shirt buttons, but even before he'd got his shirt off, Fraser had him by the hips, positioning him between his knees, and Fraser was undoing his fly.
Ray gulped, and his fingers fumbled on the tiny white buttons, and then stopped. Fraser was going to—Fraser's hands were deft and sure, pushing down Ray's pants to pool at his feet, easing Ray's briefs over his dick, touching him.
Ray swallowed. "You done this before?"
Fraser looked up at him, innocence and temptation all rolled into one gorgeous package, and smiled. "No, though I've passed many a long evening thinking about it." He bent his head and licked a stripe up the underside of Ray's dick.
"Jesus!" Ray wobbled, and grabbed Fraser's shoulders to steady himself just as Fraser sucked Ray's dick all the way into his hot, wet mouth. That mouth, that tongue— Ray had been trying not to fantasize about them for months now. And those big hands were everywhere, touching him, rubbing his ass and his balls, strong thumb pressing into the side of Ray's hip to keep him upright.
Upright was overrated. Ray gripped Fraser's wrist, and said, "Jeez, Fraser, I—I can't—Gotta lie down." And then the world tumbled around him and Fraser had him on his back on the bed, the bed that smelled of Fraser, and Fraser was hovering over him, propped on one elbow. He kissed him, tugged Ray's shirt open and smoothed over his chest through his undershirt. Scraped Ray's nipple with his fingernail. Ray arched up, and scrabbled at Fraser's sweater to tear it over his head and get the damned thing out of the way. He threw it across the room and let his hands roam.
Dief yipped indignantly, and Ray and Fraser both stopped and looked over. Fraser's sweater had landed half on him. "Go back to sleep," Fraser enunciated clearly, and Dief nudged the sweater aside, yawned, and settled down again.
Fraser pushed Ray's undershirt up so it was rucked under his arms, and kissed his way down Ray's body, sucking and nipping and making Ray squirm. Fraser might be working from theory, but it was damned fine theory as far as Ray was concerned, and he seemed to have a natural gift for putting it into practice. Still, Ray wanted to get them out of the rest of their clothes, skin on skin. But just as he moved to interrupt Fraser's trail of kisses, Fraser's hand closed around his dick and started stroking firm and fast. Ray's arm fell slack to the bed and he slumped back against the pillow with a groan of surrender. Fraser was kneeling between his legs, pinning Ray's pants—still tangled around Ray's ankles—down so he couldn't move his legs. Ray struggled to free his feet for a moment, and then gave up, throwing his arm across his face to muffle his groans. Fraser licked and sucked him, sending shivers of pleasure coursing through him till he was shaking and sweating and he didn't know which way was up anymore.
Christ, this was more than he could've dreamed. Fraser sucked cock with a kind of matter-of-fact intensity that blew the top off Ray's head and left him strung-out and helpless, gasping for breath. He tried not to thrust up—didn't want to throw Fraser off his stride—but then Fraser did something with his tongue and Ray lost it and started humping Fraser's mouth. And even that didn't seem to faze Fraser. He just clamped one forearm across Ray's hips to hold him down, and with his other hand, he reached up and twined his fingers with Ray's. Oh Christ, oh Christ. Ray could feel it building. "I'm gonna—Benny!"
Fraser squeezed his hand, and a wave of sharp heat rolled through Ray and he came hard, his body twisting with pleasure under Fraser's weight. Fraser moaned, and swallowed, and Ray's eyes stung with how good it was, how right, to be with him like this, close and sated.
Fraser leaned up on his elbows, moving up the bed to kiss Ray, and Ray finally got his pants free enough to kick off his shoes and slip his ankles free. He wrapped his legs around Fraser's and held him tight, kissing him while Fraser rocked against him, still hard. Ray shuddered, and pushed his head up so he could see his face. "You got any lube?"
Fraser flushed, but he nodded and went over to dig it out of his army trunk.
Ray took the opportunity to shuck off his shirt and undershirt while he was at it. He rolled over and turned his head to the side so he could watch Fraser walking toward him, naked now, with a tube of lubricant and a condom packet in his hand. Ray smiled at him, not trying to hide anything of what he was feeling—wonder and gratitude and satisfaction—and drew one leg up in invitation.
Fraser sat on the side of the bed and leaned down to kiss him. "That's not very ladylike," he said, deadpan.
"Yeah, well, that's probably 'cause I'm not that much of a lady." Ray rolled onto his side and sat up to kiss Fraser's shoulder. "You want to fuck Gloria, I can maybe set you up, but right now—what you see is what you get."
Fraser nodded, a smile teasing the corner of his mouth. "I like what I see." He caught Ray's mouth and kissed him deeply, without hesitation.
"That's a hell of a relief, considering," Ray said, when he finally pulled away. "Now, come on. I thought you were gonna—" He plucked the condom packet from Fraser's hand, opened it, and gave Fraser the condom.
Fraser looked at the condom and his cheeks got red again. "Ray, I—I wouldn't want you to think, just because I—"
"What?" asked Ray, rubbing his chin against Fraser's shoulder. "You're worried that just because you have some condoms, I'm gonna think you're running a knocking shop? Come on—I know you better than that."
Fraser licked his lip. "I wasn't expecting—I—"
"Hey, I know. I know that." Ray sat up and pulled Fraser around to face him. "You were a boy scout, right?"
Fraser nodded. "Yes, though it was a very small troop, with only the three of us: Innusiq and June and I, and—"
Ray touched his jaw to calm him down. "So you're being prepared. It's okay, Benny. We're adults. We—" He gave up on words and kissed him hard instead, trying to tell him. Ray didn't know when Fraser had bought the condoms, or why. Whether they'd been meant for him or for someone else that'd caught Fraser's eye, or whether they were just standard Mountie issue. None of that mattered now. What mattered was this warmth between the two of them, like happiness bubbling through Ray's veins. Maybe like love. And Ray was already getting hard again.
Fraser ran his hand over Ray's stomach and lower, and Ray smiled against his mouth. "Oh, no, Benny. It's your turn." He pulled away and looked meaningfully at the condom in Fraser's fingers, and then watched as Fraser rolled it onto his dick. Ray's stomach clenched and he was aware of his own dick, of the hunger building up in him again.
He lay down, knee crooked up, and shivered as the mattress shifted beneath him, Fraser coming to straddle his legs. Fraser lubed himself up, and then lay down behind Ray and ran slippery fingers down from the base of his spine, further down until Ray shuddered and pushed back. "Yeah, yeah, do it."
"Ray," said Fraser, like he couldn't keep it in. "God, Ray—" He rested the head of his dick against Ray's ass, but didn't move forward.
Ray groaned and pushed back, but he couldn't get it. Fraser was holding back. "You want this?" Ray panted over his shoulder.
"Very much," said Fraser. He bit Ray's back, just shy of too hard. "I don't want to hurt you."
"It's good. It's—Trust me, just—" And hallelujah, Fraser took him at his word, his dick breached Ray, pushing in, the hot burn and slide, and Christ, Fraser, Fraser inside him. Ray reached over his head and braced his hands against the wall, and pushed back to meet Fraser's thrust. They stilled there a moment, catching their breath, and Fraser slid his arm around Ray, pulling him against his chest and holding him there. Ray could feel a pulse in his ass—his or Fraser's, he didn't know, didn't care. Christ! He twisted around and could just meet Fraser's lips with his own, and then Fraser drew back and pushed in again, stealing Ray's breath, and he had to untwist, bury his face in the pillow and hang on.
Fraser's control broke like a cord snapping, and then he was up on one arm, leaning over Ray, and driving in again and again, his sweaty face pressed hard against Ray's shoulder. His hand gripped Ray's hip tight enough to bruise.
Ray shook under him, loving it. Christ, it hurt so good. He cried out into the pillow and pushed back, hungry for more. Fraser's body was hot and hard behind him, rubbing up against him relentless and desperate, and Ray's heart was full, just knowing that Fraser could find release with him like this.
He waited until Fraser's movements sped up even more, fraught with urgency, before he wrapped his hand around his own dick and jerked himself off. It didn't take much, he was so wired, overwhelmed with the smell of sweat and sex, and the beauty of it, how easy it was with Fraser.
Fraser stiffened and clamped Ray tight to him, his breath stuttering as he came inside him. Ray moaned and sped up his strokes till he came, too, onto his hand and the sheets. He closed his eyes and collapsed, pulling Fraser with him to sprawl on top of him. Ray's mouth was dry, his heart hammering against his ribcage. He couldn't move. He just lay there, reveling in Fraser's weight on top of him, the tight band of his arm around him, the sound of his breath in Ray's ear.
After a few minutes, Fraser sighed deeply—what Ray hoped was a sigh of satisfaction—and kissed Ray's shoulder. "Ray."
"Yeah." Ray turned his head and grinned, too worn out to twist around properly. Fraser started to pull out, but Ray grabbed his hip and held him close. "Not yet," he said. "Just—not yet."
Gloria was fixing her makeup after her show when Judy rushed in looking for her Toto. "I swear, one of these days I'm just going to sew him to my fucking dress," she said, breathlessly. She grabbed the dog and the basket, and dashed for the door.
"Hey, Gloria," she called from the hallway. "Your boyfriend's here again."
Gloria put the finishing touches to her lipstick, and looked up smiling. "You don't have to come to every show. You do know that?"
Fraser smiled and handed her a large bunch of tulips and delphiniums. "I know. I want to. You were wonderful, and the other patrons are very friendly."
"They better not get too friendly!" She put the bouquet on the counter, on top of the clutter of makeup and loose sequins. She reached up and pressed a kiss to his cheek, leaving a red smear which she wiped off with her thumb.
"You'd better watch out, or I'll put you in the show," she told him, and laughed when he looked horrified.
"I don't think—no."
She turned back to the counter.
"I prefer to watch," he added softly, meeting her gaze in the mirror. His hand rested on her bare shoulder for a moment, his thumb brushing her collarbone, and she leaned back against him, her heartbeat suddenly strong at the base of her throat. Jesus, all it took was a touch.
She cleared her throat. "Okay, well, if you want to buy me a drink before we get out of here, you're gonna have to give me a minute, or no one's going to believe I'm a lady. Go on, I'll meet you out front."
He smiled. "As you wish." But before he could leave, she took his hand for a moment, squeezing it.
"Thanks," she said. "For the flowers and—everything."
He bent down until their heads were side by side in the mirror. "It's my pleasure," he said, and it was plain as day that he meant it, every word.
"Yeah," she said. "Yeah, Benny. Me too."