Thanks: aerye and mergatrude both gave the first draft a thorough going over, and aerye continued to hound me for a couple more rounds. I am vastly grateful.
An unfamiliar blue sweater lay rumpled on the seat of one of Fraser's kitchen chairs. Ray handed it to Fraser with a grin. "Housekeeper didn't come this week, Benny?"
He sat down and leaned back, stretching his legs out in front of him and feeling fine. Any day that didn't involve rooting through dumpsters for evidence or wading through sewers after armed perps was a good day. He examined the toes of his shoes and smiled. Not even scuffed.
Fraser was turning the sweater over in his hands with an oddly regretful look. "It's Mark's." He folded it neatly and placed it on the shelf by his bed. "He must have left it here. I'll have to send it to him."
Ray looked up. "Smithbauer's?"
Color rose in Fraser's cheeks but he met Ray's eye, and when he answered his voice was calm. "Yes, he—he stayed over two nights ago, before he went home."
Ray sat up. "He stayed over," Ray repeated. "Again? What happened this time—his hotel blew up?"
"No, nothing like that. As you know, he's an old friend—a close friend—and we—" Fraser came back to the table and sat down. "It's—it's all over now." He smiled sadly and reached for the takeout menu, as though there was nothing more to be said.
Ray nearly choked on his own spit. From Fraser's blush and his sad smile, it was plain as day what Fraser was implying. Ray snorted. This was ridiculous. It had to be a prank. No way was Fraser a queer. He was a guy. He was a Mountie. He didn't even dress that nice when he wasn't in uniform. But here he was, folding his arms on the table and bending his head over the menu without so much as a glimmer of mischief.
As deadpan as the time he told that little old lady he'd driven a car to Africa. "I don't believe it," Ray decided, shaking his head. "Are you trying to tell me you spent the night with him together?"
He was sure Fraser would laugh then, joke played out. But he didn't. He raised his head. "Yes, Ray."
Ray's stomach plummeted. Jesus Christ, he meant it! "In the same bed?" Ray squeaked.
Fraser licked the corner of his lip. "Yes, we—"
"I don't want to hear it." Ray couldn't help glancing at the bed in question. Fraser's bed, neatly made. Was it big enough to hold two guys? Strong enough to support their weight while they—He stood up and moved away, a twist in his stomach that he didn't understand. "I don't want to hear it."
He went to the window and stared out at the rubbish blowing down the street, and tried to figure out why this was getting under his skin like it was. Fraser and Smithbauer, guy and guy. He turned around and faced Fraser. "Okay," he said, his voice shaky even to his own ears. "Why are you telling me this?"
Fraser was watching him. He raised his eyebrows. "You're my friend, Ray, and you asked," he said simply, as though it made perfect sense to spill the beans without a word of warning just because they were friends.
Ray looked at him. He looked vulnerable and brave, and more alone than Ray could ever imagine being. Gone was the Mountie mask, the air of self-sufficiency. He might as well have been naked. The sight made Ray shiver. "So show me," he said, when he could speak.
Fraser frowned. "What? No, Ray. I don't think—"
"What don't you think? You think I can't take it?" Ray put his hands on his hips and stuck his chin in the air. "You think I don't love you as much as he does?"
Fraser stared at him across the room for a moment, lips firm. "Mark and I have—we were saying goodbye, Ray." He frowned. "I'm not a toy for you to experiment with. And you're not—"
"You don't know what I am," Ray interrupted, hardly knowing what he was saying. "Hell, I don't even know what I am. But I know I'm your best friend. You can do it with him, you can do it with me." And this was crazy. He couldn't believe he was saying it. He just knew he had to stake his claim, that he needed to matter to Fraser more than anyone else did.
Fraser got to his feet, the chair scraping loudly on the bare floor. "Ray, think," he said urgently. "Is this really what you want?"
"I don't know," said Ray honestly. "I don't know what this is." And then he couldn't speak anymore, because Fraser had let down his last defenses, let his heart show through his eyes.
"Ray." It was a sigh, and then Fraser was right in front to him, hope and desire plain on his face, his hands on Ray's arms. All of a sudden Ray made sense of the way Fraser usually looked at him, the way Fraser hung around, always there to help. The way he got in Ray's face. Infuriating him, saving him, being his friend. Fraser wanted him.
Ray swelled with tenderness. "Yeah."
Fraser put his hand on the side of Ray's face, big hot fingers firm on his cheek, and he leaned in and pressed his mouth softly to Ray's.
Ray closed his eyes. His body was vibrating like a bell that'd just got rung. He put his hands on Fraser's hips and kissed him back, opening his mouth and sliding his tongue between Fraser's lips. Fraser made a small noise, and captured Ray's lower lip between his teeth, sucking softly.
Ray trembled and pulled back gently. "Is this what this is?" he asked, keeping his eyes shut. "I didn't know. Is this what we are?"
Fraser didn't answer right away, not in words. His hand left Ray's face, and a second later he was crushing Ray to him. Ray could tell he was turned on, and it wasn't scary like it should've been. It was exactly what Ray wanted.
"I hope so," Fraser murmured in his ear. He kissed the side of Ray's neck, scraping the skin with his teeth.
Ray felt a shock of desire and pressed closer, sliding his arms around Fraser's broad back. How could he not have known this? All these months of chasing Fraser around, putting himself on the line for him, and wanting to get close, how had he never figured out he wanted to get this close? This close was incredible.
Just as he thought that, Fraser pulled back. "We—" Fraser's voice was rough. He cleared his throat and tried again. "We should slow down, Ray. It's not—It was only two nights ago that I—"
Ray blinked his eyes open and looked at Fraser, trying to understand why he was putting the brakes on all of a sudden. His lips were red from kissing, but there were worry-lines on his forehead. Right. Because Fraser was not the kind of guy who could go from one guy to the next with a snap of the fingers.
Ray touched Fraser's jaw—the hint of stubble—and then clasped the back of his neck in a friendly gesture he'd done a hundred times before. "Sure," he said softly. "We can take our time. I'm not going anywhere."
Fraser's shoulders relaxed, and yeah, Ray got it. Don't mess this up. Take it slow. He pulled their foreheads together. "It's okay, Benny. We're okay. This is what it is."
Ray smoothed his hands over Fraser's back for a moment, then pushed his desire aside and stepped back. He could wait if he had to. They'd get there in their own sweet time. "Come on," he said. "Get changed and let's go eat. I'm starving."
"Thanks, Ray." Fraser's look was practically a kiss all on its own. And okay, so Fraser wasn't ready to leap into bed yet (which was fine, because Ray was a little nervous about that part), but the kissing—and the fact that Ray's hands were still tingling from stroking Fraser's back—these things were giving Ray ideas. Maybe after dinner, once Fraser'd figured out Ray wasn't going to go running for the hills, they could make out some more. Ray could hope, now he knew what it was he was hoping for.