Thanks: Thanks to Brynn for beta
Notes: For dragonflymuse
The music playing through the minimart sound system was distinctly middle Eastern, and Fraser found himself distracted by it as he stood in the bulk food aisle staring at the square black speaker inset high on the wall, next to the security camera. When he realized he was staring, he smiled politely at the camera, and turned back to the shopping list Ray had made for their six-week anniversary dinner. Cashew nuts. There were bound to be some of those in the bulk bins.
Before he found them, Ray came over with a garishly colored box. "I don't believe this!" he said loudly. "Would you look at that? It's insulting. It's a corn travesty!"
Fraser's mouth twitched. "A corn what, Ray?" He took the box and examined it. It was pancake mix, one of the many items that Fraser found bewildering. Pancakes only required four ingredients: why on earth would anyone need an instant mix for them.
That didn't seem to be what was bothering Ray, though. "A travesty," he said firmly. "Look what it says there." He pointed to the ingredients list on the back of the box. "Imitation corn syrup flavoring. Imitation!"
Fraser scanned the list. "It also appears to contain imitation butter, egg substitutes and an astounding variety of food coloring, emulsifiers and anti-caking agents." He tilted his head. "It's certainly a nutritional travesty."
"That's not the point, Fraser. This is America." Ray moved closer, snatching the box out of Fraser's hand and gesturing wildly with it. His shoulder brushed Fraser's, sending sparks of excitement coursing through Fraser's body. "America, where we put corn syrup in everything, just like how the Inuit make everything out of whalebone and blubber."
Fraser shifted his weight and leaned subtly against him. "There's actually a surprising variety of resources available to dwellers in the Arctic — the pelts and bones of various mammals, of course, and—"
"Whoever heard of imitation corn syrup?" Ray interrupted. "Jesus! Corn is as American as apple pie. More American!" He left the pancake mix on the lid of one of the bulk bins and drew Fraser down the aisle to the refrigerators, still ranting. "What was the FDA thinking when they approved this stuff, that's what I want to know."
Fraser took milk and a small block of hard cheese from the fridge and added them to Ray's basket. "Perhaps they don't feel it's a matter of national identity."
"Well, they're wrong." Ray poked him in the ribs. "I mean, how do you feel about maple-flavored syrup?"
Fraser scratched his eyebrow before he could stop himself. "I admit, I don't really see the appeal."
"See? See?" Ray took the list from Fraser's hand and perused it, tossed an over-priced packet of cashew nuts into his basket and led the way to the cashier. "We're not that different, you and me. Two sides of the same border." He grinned.
Fraser met his gaze warmly. "As you say."
In the car on the way to Fraser's apartment, Ray seemed distracted. When they stopped at the lights, he shifted in his seat and said, "Maybe it's a sign."
"A sign of what?" asked Fraser cautiously. He thought they were still talking about corn syrup, but Ray's thought processes could be wide-ranging and unpredictable.
"A sign about me." Ray stuck his jaw out pugnaciously and scowled at a driver who cut in front of them. "About being the real thing."
Fraser rubbed a small stain from the brim of his hat. "I don't follow you, Ray. In what way aren't you real?"
"You know." Ray turned into Racine, and then glanced at Fraser, but since Fraser had no idea what he was getting at, all he could do was raise his eyebrows. "Because I haven't—" said Ray.
Fraser waited while Ray parked, and then prompted him. "You haven't—?"
"I haven't let you." Ray took the keys from the ignition and looked across the car at him. "You know. Maybe I have imitation gay flavoring."
Fraser couldn't suppress a smile. "Ray, that's ridiculous."
"You deserve the real thing," said Ray firmly, and got out of the car before Fraser could stop him.
"Ray." They met by the trunk and gathered up the groceries together. "I'm perfectly happy — I'm indecently happy with our relationship as it stands." He caught Ray's arm and forced him to meet his gaze. "I'd hate for you to pressure yourself into any act you were averse to in any way," he said seriously.
"I know." Ray smiled at him, his eyes warm, and then pulled away and they started up the stairs. "That's the thing, Benny. I'm not averse to it. I'm not averse at all." They both held their peace until they made Fraser's apartment. Ray shut the door behind them and leaned on it. "I'm just scared."
"That's completely understandable," said Fraser promptly. "Not everyone finds it pleasurable. And I honestly have no complaints with how things are."
But Ray just shook his head and took his load of groceries over to the old stained counter. "It's not even that," he said, without looking at Fraser. "I don't even care if it hurts, so long as it's with you. No, it's like — what if it changes me."
Fraser put his own groceries on the table and took Ray by his shoulders. "You are who you are, Ray."
"What if it makes me less of a man." Ray looked at him, his expression open and vulnerable, and Fraser's heart throbbed.
And then Ray's words sank in, and the logical conclusion like a shadow passing before the sun. "Is that how you think of me?"
"No!" said Ray at once, startled. "Jesus, no!" He pulled Fraser into a tight hug. "See, that's how we're different, you and me." He nuzzled Fraser's cheek. "You can do anything, absorb anything, and you're still you. You're— you're incredible, and infuriating, and immutable, Benny, and anyone who says differently can shove a flagpole up their ass. Nothing you do could make you less of anything."
Fraser pulled back and looked at him soberly. "Even when I — made mistakes? How can you say that didn't diminish me?"
Ray gripped Fraser's neck and said quietly, "Even when you were going to run out on me and leave me in the shit so you could be with her, Benny. If anything, that made me love you more. I got to see you — how much you need." He pulled their foreheads together. "Not that I'm encouraging that kind of behavior."
Fraser's heart eased. He closed his eyes, strong in their connection. "I couldn't leave you now. I won't."
"I know," said Ray easily. "And that's what I mean. You're true like you've got a compass inside you."
Fraser's lips twitched doubtfully, despite himself. "I hope I'm worthy of your trust."
Ray pushed him back so they could look at each other again. "I know you are. And I want to be worthy of yours, too."
"You are." Fraser kissed him gently. "Without question."
Ray pulled him close and returned his kiss, harder, deeper, until they were both aroused. "So that's settled," he murmured into Fraser's ear.
Fraser blinked his eyes open, dazedly. "What is?"
Ray snorted. "Haven't you been paying attention? I want you to — you know. Do me. I want you inside of me."
Fraser's body heated at the words, at the attendant images that flashed in his mind and the anticipated sensations. But Ray's defiance wasn't right. "Do you want that because you want it, or because you feel you need to prove something to me?"
Ray shrugged his suit jacket off and hung it on a kitchen chair, then shoved Fraser toward the bedroom. "I want it 'cause I can't stop thinking about it, and I'm sick of being too afraid to take what I want."
"Oh." They stopped by the bed and stared at each other, smiles growing on both their faces. Fraser reached for Ray. "You're sure?"
Ray shook his head and loosened his tie. "Would you stop making such a big deal out of this?"
"I—" Fraser protested instinctively, and then he caught Ray's eye, the love and determination there. "All right." He took Ray's tie from him and laid it safely out of the way. "Tell me what you want. We can stop any time."
Ray sighed and yanked him close. "I don't want to stop," he said against Fraser's mouth. "I'm not made of glass."
"I know," said Fraser, and kissed him hungrily.
"Good." Ray grinned at him fiercely. "Take your clothes off."
Fraser hastened to comply, casting his shirt and jeans and shorts onto the floor without a care, wholly focused on Ray, his body, the quick graceful moves with which he undressed. As soon as Ray was naked he pulled back the blanket and lay down, and opened his arms in invitation. Fraser went to him, lay with him, grateful and glorying in their union, and they moved together, kissing and caressing as their breaths came fast and loud.
Ray thrust his erection against Fraser's belly, where the skin was slick with sweat, and Fraser lay over him, kissing his mouth, his neck, and down his chest.
"Benny," said Ray, "that's not what—"
Fraser raised his head from Ray's navel. "Patience," he said firmly, and returned to his ministrations, determined to work Ray into a pliable and feverish state before they proceeded. It wasn't easy — Ray was taut and demanding, using his hands and voice to urge Fraser back up into his arms, and it took all Fraser's self-discipline not to succumb — but he knew it would be worth it. He reached under the bed for the small bottle of lubricant they kept there and wet his fingers, and then rubbed into Ray and licked and sucked him until he was ready, spread out on the bed groaning and cursing, begging Fraser to fuck him.
Fraser moved back up his body, then, and kissed him deeply. "Yes," he said. "Yeah." And he hooked Ray's leg over his arm and guided himself inside, pressing past that first resistance, pausing when Ray grunted.
"Do it," Ray panted, and he hooked his ankle around Fraser's calf and dragged him down, catching him off balance so he almost fell on and into Ray. The pressure and heat were intoxicating, but no more so than the sounds Ray was making, the way his hands shook as he grabbed onto Fraser and held him close, rocking up to meet his slow careful thrusts. "Christ, that's—" He seemed lost for words.
Fraser held him close and moved slowly, rhythmically, in and out, overwhelmed by a sense of protectiveness and responsibility. Was this how Ray felt when their positions were reversed, this tenderness that suffused everything? Fraser pressed his face to Ray's neck. I love you, I love you.
Ray's grip tightened, and he pushed Fraser up a little. "Squashed," he explained. His face and chest were beaded with sweat, his expression was tight with concentration, as though his attention was entirely directed to the place where they were joined. Fraser sped up his strokes involuntarily, and Ray winced slightly, but only said, "It's good. Jesus, Benny, I didn't know."
Fraser shivered, drenched with heat and pleasure, and reached between them to grasp Ray's erection and stroke him. He himself was close to orgasm, and he wanted Ray to come first. Ray gasped at the first slide of Fraser's fist down his cock, and his groans grew louder. It wasn't long before he came, clenching around Fraser, pushing the pressure and intensity up and up, until Fraser couldn't hold back anymore. He buried himself deep in Ray and came hard, his breath stolen and the world dizzying and far away.
Fraser pulled out carefully and collapsed beside Ray, pulling him close and kissing him again and again. He felt moved, speechless, as if he were a balloon and Ray the only thing tethering him to earth.
Ray licked a drip of sweat from Fraser's cheek and stroked the hair back from his forehead. "Nothing beats the real thing," he said, blurrily.
"You were always the real thing," Fraser told him. "Never doubt it." He ran his hand down over Ray's ribs. "Was that— was it all right?"
"You kidding?" Ray was almost slurring his words, and he seemed to be having trouble keeping his eyes open. "I think you burned out all my braincells. I had no idea." He smiled sleepily. "I'd demand a repeat performance right now but I don't think I got the juice."
Fraser pulled the blanket over them and pulled him close. "There's time, Ray. Plenty of time." He closed his eyes and felt Ray's body grow heavy as he drifted off to sleep.