The Pizza AU

They Eat Pizza, Don't They?

by brooklinegirl

The main thing about pizza, Ray has learned over the years, is timing. You can make the perfect dough; season the sauce with the ideal mix of spices. You can shred and sprinkle just the right amount of cheese and even come up with a topping that no one has ever thought of before, but is mouth-wateringly good. You can do all that and still, if you take it out too early, all that wonderful taste is just mush in your mouth. Or if you leave it in too long, everything is too burned and crispy to even taste.

Ray whistled a little as he slid around with the mop, making the floor of his pizza shop gleam. Fraser, Ray figured, was settling in, still. It'd been rough - the whole thing with his father getting killed and the mob being involved and all that other stuff. Ray still didn't have the whole story - just mostly what he'd picked up from Gardino. You'd think Gardino, being the one who was in charge of the case, and Ray's buddy, that Ray would have the whole story, but - well, truth be told, Ray was sort of playing it close to the vest where his thoughts about Fraser were concerned. And Gardino was a goof, sure, but he knew Ray well enough - a little too well, actually. That's what Ray got for following through on the whole friends-thing after the two of them broke up - anyway, he knew Ray well enough to figure out if Ray showed too much interest in the case, then he was interested in more than just the case. And the last thing Ray needed was Gardino's big mouth screwing this whole thing up.

Not when Ray had been so good about the waiting. Being patient. Things that did not come naturally to a hot-blooded guy such as himself.

Ray gave the kitchen a quick wipe-down, shut off the last few lights, and shrugged into his leather coat. From what he heard, Fraser was back in town to stay, and Ray - while he wasn't exactly letting himself hope for anything - figured that he'd get a chance to see the guy again sometime soon. Still, Fraser's whole world was in upheaval, so Ray told himself sternly, as he walked carefully across the still-damp tile, that this wasn't the time to push. He let himself out the front door, turning to lock it behind him. He just had to take it slow. Let it simmer, let it rise, let it do whatever the fuck else sad-ass cooking metaphor he could come up with. He headed around the corner to where he'd parked his GTO. He had to just wait and see. Chicago was a big city. You never could tell what was going to happen.

There was a minor crisis occurring concerning three pizza ovens and the fact that he had only two hands, and Ray was cursing under his breath and flailing for a wooden spatula when he heard the bells tinkling on the door. "Turnbull," he bellowed.

Turnbull had been back in the freezer, and he raced out agreeably towards the store front. Ray snagged two pizzas out of the oven, dumped them on the cooling racks, and spun around to grab the third, just as he heard the sound of - what was that the sound of? He set the third pizza down and strode out to the front counter. Okay. That had been the sound of Turnbull managing to overturn an entire straw dispenser, tip over a pile of pizza boxes, and apparently managing to somehow tip himself over, as he was on the floor, looking flushed and dazed, and - oh. Fraser was there, helping him to his feet.

Ray gave his hands a quick wipe on the white apron that was tied around his waist and came around the counter. "Fraser," he said, grinning, and Fraser looked over at him. "Welcome back."

Fraser blinked several times in a row, smiling real big. "Ray," he said warmly. "It's good to see you again."

"Yeah," said Ray, pleased. See? Timing was everything. "Same here." Ray turned to where Turnbull was still standing, rubbing his shin and gazing stupidly at the Mountie. "Turnbull." Nothing. Ray sighed, and snapped his fingers in front of Turnbull's face. "Turnbull."

Turnbull jumped, blushing, and, never removing his gaze from Fraser, said breathlessly, "Ray! Constable Fraser has returned from the Northwest Territories."

"Yeah, I can see that." Ray took Turnbull's shoulders and turned him bodily towards the kitchen. "Go get those pizzas boxed up and delivered, okay?"

"I - yes, I can certainly -" Turnbull was looking back over his shoulder at Fraser and it wasn't until he actually walked into the doorjamb that he turned to face forward. "Ow, ow, ow," Ray heard him mumbling quietly to himself as he rubbed his forehead and disappeared into the kitchen.

Ray turned back to Fraser, who was holding his hat and wearing that red uniform and looking even better than Ray had remembered.

"I've actually returned only from Toronto. I’m afraid I never made it as far as the Territories," Fraser said. His smile twisted, just a little; if Ray hadn't been watching for it, he'd never have noticed.

Territories? Where the hell was Fraser from, anyway? That didn’t even sound civilized. "Yeah," Ray said, putting his hand on Fraser's shoulder and guiding him toward a table. "Yeah, I heard about…everything."

Fraser looked at him. "Ah. The news organizations were…meticulous in their coverage of the events."

"Yeah." Ray scratched the back of his head. Ray gathered that Fraser wasn't real welcome up in Canada nowadays; turning in one of your own was - well, Ray had heard stories from Gardino about what happened when cop went against cop, and it was nothing good. It was probably better for Fraser's health that he had an international border between him and his fellow Mounties.

"Yes, well." Fraser kept his shoulders straight and firm, but he was gazing behind Ray a little vacantly, suddenly looking like Turnbull for a moment. "Ah, Ray, I apologize. I told him to wait outside."

"Who?" Ray looked back curiously just as Diefenbaker jumped up on him and started happily licking his face, his neck, any part of him he could reach. "Dief! Hi! Welcome back to you, too, buddy! Now get off of me." He enunciated carefully, scrubbing at Dief's ears for a second before pushing him off. Fraser insisted the wolf was deaf, but Ray had his doubts - it seemed like more of a selective thing. Dief leaped back up on him without hesitation, and Fraser said, "I apologize for his behavior, Ray. We were only gone a little while, but really, he talked about your pizza the entire time."

"Hey, the wolf's got taste. He's welcome anytime, but listen: paws off, buddy." Ray pushed Dief back to the floor, and Fraser gave the wolf a stern look that Dief ignored, heading off to explore whatever there was to be found under the table in the corner.

"Thank you, Ray," said Fraser. "For the welcome, as well as for putting up with my ill-mannered companion."

"Hey, you got Dief to contend with, I got Turnbull. I figure that makes us pretty much even."

Fraser was still standing by the chair Ray had steered him towards, and Ray realized he was waiting for Ray to sit down first. Ray rolled his eyes and took a quick look around. A couple of teenagers at one table, eating pizza and arguing about a television show, and Mrs. Epstein in the corner window two-seater booth, sipping her coffee and gazing out the window. Turnbull was taking care of the deliveries, and the phone wasn't ringing for once, so - "Come on, take a load off," said Ray, grabbing a chair and reversing it, then swinging his leg over to sit down and lean his arms on the back.

Fraser nodded, looking pleased, and sat down, straightening his lanyard and laying his hat on the table.

"So what's been going on since you been back?" Ray asked curiously. "You full-time over at the Consulate now? They find a place for you?"

"Yes," said Fraser, and there was no obvious change in his tone, but he just sounded a little tired, to Ray's ears. "Well, more or less. I have a position there, but I am also officially set up as liaison to the Chicago Police Department, 27th Division."

"Hey, that means you'll still be working with Gardino." That was good. That gave Ray an in. "Gardino, he's a good guy. He'll take care of you, show you the ropes."

"Yes," Fraser said, smiling faintly. "I've enjoyed my friendship with Louis thus far. He was extremely helpful in the search for the killers of my father. He's -" Fraser paused, eyeing Ray, as though weighing something. "His skills as a detective are…unusual, but effective."

Ray grinned widely. "He still getting yelled at by that lieutenant of his every time he turns around?"

Fraser nodded, wincing a little. "He does seem to be quite adept at provoking Lieutenant Welsh."

Ray shook his head, laughing now. "Not just Welsh, Fraser. He does that with pretty much everyone. But he has, you know -" Ray tapped his chest. "A good heart."

"That he does," Fraser agreed solemnly.

"He been helping you out? You find a place to live yet?"

"Ah, well, Louis is currently involved in the pursuit of a -" Fraser hesitated.

"Suspect?" Ray asked.

"…woman," Fraser finished, "And he seems to be rather focused on it, going after his goal, as it were, to the exclusion of all other things."

"Oh, he found himself a girl, huh?" Gardino made the lane change back to women pretty frequently. More frequently than Ray, anyway. Ray had - when he dated, which wasn't much - pretty much stuck to guys ever since his marriage fell apart. He'd spent a lot of time - too much time - trying to cram himself into the right-sized cutout that Stella would approve of. Seemed like all women reminded him of her, and he figured he had a right to be a little standoffish when it came to them.

Someone like Gardino, well - Ray figured that saying about beggars and choosers stood true, with Louis, and he wasn't gonna turn down anyone. Besides, he really did seem to like everyone who liked him. Ray knew what a big, big turn-on somebody wanting you could be. Maybe that's all it took for Gardino.

"Yes," Fraser was confirming. "Her name is Rita, and apparently she frequents a drinking establishment down by the waterfront. Louis has been spending rather a lot of time there."

"Yep." Ray nodded. "Beer plus women - what more can he ask for?"

Fraser seemed to be thinking about that sincerely, his brow furrowed, and Ray quickly interrupted that train of thought. "But you found a place? Where you living?"

"Two twenty one West Racine Street," Fraser said, his smile becoming suddenly more real. "It's a very nice place, plenty of room for Diefenbaker and myself."

"You found a place that allows wolves?" said Ray, glancing at Diefenbaker, who had wandered back from his investigations and was curled up on the floor under the table now. "Must be some place."

"It is indeed." Fraser leaned forward. "You are entirely welcome to come visit, if you'd like to see it." Diefenbaker, under the table, made a snuffling noise, and Fraser sat up straight again, the tips of his ears turning as red as his uniform. "I mean - you are under no obligation - I certainly didn't mean to indicate that…"

"Hey, sure," said Ray easily, trying really very hard not to grin. "Maybe I'll bring you and the mutt a pizza sometime, yeah?" He nudged Diefenbaker with the toe of his boot. "Bet you're a pepperoni freak."

Diefenbaker lifted his head and stared intently at Ray. Ray laughed out loud. "I'll take that as a yes." He turned his gaze to Fraser. "What about you?" he asked, going for innocent. "Blubber and lichen more to your liking?"

Fraser tilted his head consideringly, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Only if it's well-done," he said seriously.

"Nothing worse than underdone lichen," Ray agreed with a grin as the door opened and a couple walked in. Was Fraser flirting? This felt like flirting. Ray got up and reversed the chair again, pushing it neatly under the table. "I gotta get to work," he said, heading back behind the counter. "You hang out for a while. You want anything? Soda?"

"No, thank you kindly, Ray." Fraser got up as well, tucking his own chair neatly under the table. Diefenbaker heaved himself to his feet with a sigh. "I should be off, myself."

"All right, then." The customers were studying the menu board, and Ray got his order book ready. "But don't forget," he called out, just as Fraser opened the door. "I owe you a pizza."

Fraser opened his mouth, his objection clearly written all over his face. "As a house-warming gift," Ray cut him off.

"There's no need -"

"You trying to offend me?"

Fraser's face lightened. "Indeed not. One pizza it is. Let's go, Diefenbaker."

"Later, Frase," Ray called out, then turned to his customers. "What'll it be, guys? We got lichen on special today." They looked at him, confused, and he did a little soft-shoe behind the counter. Life was good.


The first time Ray had seen Benton Fraser had been during a Tuesday lunch rush. There was a line at the counter; both Turnbull and Sandor were taking orders quick as they could, and Ray had been up to his elbows in dough when Gardino stuck his head in the back. "Hey, Kowalski, you slacker."

Ray didn't even look up. "Gardino, you wasting the people's tax money again?"

"Hey, I'm just looking for a quick slice for me and my buddy here."

Ray glanced up from the dough, and standing obediently behind Gardino had been this guy who was tall, dark, and handsome like you read about. It was funny, though: all Ray saw at first was the uniform. Bright red wool and the straps all over like he was from a bondage club, only more classy, and Ray hadn't even really focused in on the guy behind it all. Till Gardino jerked a thumb over his shoulder, and said, "This here is Fraser."

And Fraser leaned past Gardino with a smile that made Ray's knees weak, holding out a hand and saying, "Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police." Which was a mouthful if Ray ever heard one, but that didn't stopped him from reaching out a floury hand and shaking Constable Benton Fraser's (big, square, strong) hand.

Fraser didn't even seem to mind the flour.

Ray didn't have time for chitchat, and Gardino and his pet Mountie were in a rush anyway. Ray came out from the back with a fresh-baked pizza just in time to see Fraser's broad red back disappearing out the door, the bell tinkling merrily as it swung shut behind him.

The second time Ray had seen Benton Fraser had been a couple of days later.

It was a Wednesday night, after the dinner rush, and the place was dead. Ray set Turnbull to work cleaning up the back, and Liz, his part-timer, was out on a delivery. Ray wandered out to the floor himself to get the sweeping up done before closing. He stopped dead in his tracks as he came around the counter because - no red, this time, no wool - just a guy who looked pretty damn tired, circles under his eyes, hand up by his forehead, reading a book. It was Fraser, all right, but he wasn't as put-together as he had been last time Ray'd seen him. He was wearing a light brown dress shirt that was wrinkled, the sleeves rolled up. The brown uniform coat that went with it was hung neatly over the back of his chair, and he was still tall, still dark, still handsome, but looked a little more…real. Maybe even a little more approachable. And if Ray's felt maybe a little too eager as he headed towards Fraser's table, well, he thought he hid it pretty well.

"Hey," he said, casually sweeping his way over to the table.

Fraser looked up, not at all startled. "Ray Kowalski. Good to see you again." He reached up as though to tip his hat, the big round number that was sitting on the table in front of him. He caught himself, and instead rubbed his thumb over his eyebrow. "I hope you don’t mind me lingering here. Your assistant was kind enough to serve me a cup of tea." Fraser had taken a sip from a - where the hell had Turnbull come up with a china teacup? And did they even serve tea? "He was very, ah, attentive."

Ray grinned. "Turnbull? Hope he didn't scare you. He can be a little much when you first meet him."

"No, not at all." Fraser smiled. "I have met my fair share of eccentrics where I come from. It takes all kinds."

"Yeah," Ray said, then told himself to stop staring, started working his way around the room with the broom. "It sure does. You here all by yourself?"

"Yes - well, that is, no, but I left my wolf outside."

Ray blinked, leaning on the broom. "You got a wolf?"

"Well, yes, but no worries - he's a very polite wolf. He'll be of no concern to your patrons."

Ray felt a smile spreading across his face. "You got a polite wolf."

"Well. Yes." Fraser leaned forward over the table. "He's not naturally that way, but he can be convinced to at least put on an aura of civility."

Ray couldn't help laughing. This Benton Fraser was a piece of work. "Okay. Let's just go with that then. You got a polite wolf out front, you got a nice cup of tea at my pizza shop, and you're reading - what is that you're reading?"

"Ah." Fraser flipped the book shut. "My father's journal."

"Oh. That's got to do with the case you got Gardino working on, right? He mentioned that - something to do with your dad, he said?"

"Yes. My father was murdered." Fraser was sitting very straight but he looked, if anything, even more tired than before. "The trail of his killers has led me to Chicago."

"Man." Ray watched as Fraser ran his finger lightly over the edge of the leather-bound journal. "That's bad, I'm sorry. You guys - were you guys close?"

"Not particularly so." Fraser looked at Ray.

The bell on the door jingled cheerfully as Liz swept in with the empty delivery bag. She waved at Ray, giving Fraser an appreciative glance. "I'm gonna head out, if that's okay, Ray?" she called as she headed to the back.

"Yeah," Ray called back. "Make sure the back is locked up when you go." He turned back to Fraser. "Sorry about that. Uh. Your dad, he was a cop, right? Canadian one?"

"Yes," Fraser said. "He was an officer of the law."

He'd looked so down that Ray followed up quickly with, "Well. You have Gardino working with you. So - you'll get them. The guys who did that to your dad."

Fraser nodded tiredly. "I'm certain we will."

"Yeah." Ray fidgeted with the broom a little, sweeping over the same spot he'd just done. "You, uh. I haven’t eaten yet. You want to have a slice with me?"

The smile Fraser gave him was big and sincere and grateful. "I'd like that very much."


Ray had gone back and forth about this in his head a lot, and even now, as he drove with the pizzas steaming on the seat beside him, he wasn't sure if it was a great idea or not. The thing was, he didn't have Fraser's number. He could have tracked down the number to the Canadian Consulate, sure, but then he'd be calling Fraser at work. Which was pretty awkward. And also, if he did the whole calling thing, then it would end up feeling like an actual date, and Ray wasn't at all sure that's what this was even supposed to be.

It was usually easier to tell with guys, but this was Fraser, and Fraser was Canadian, so the vibes Ray was getting could maybe be just polite vibes and not the queer vibes he was hoping they were. Because, really, Ray'd lived in Chicago his whole entire life. He hadn't had very much experience with polite.

So the way Ray worked it out was this: he had Fraser's address, had scribbled it down on his order sheet as soon as Fraser was out the door that day last week. He figured he'd make him a nice, simple pepperoni pizza (and an extra one for the wolf) and head over there. If Fraser wasn't home, well, then Ray'd have dinner to take home with him. If Fraser was home and busy then, whatever. Ray was a pizza delivery guy. What was more normal for a pizza delivery guy to drop off a couple of nice hot pizzas and then go on his way?

And - this was the third possibility that Ray was doing his level best not to count on - if Fraser was home, and not busy, and seemed glad to see Ray, then maybe Ray'd get invited in for pizza. And then they could relax, eat pizza, talk, and - who knew? Anything could happen.

And so what if, on what was supposed to be a simple pizza delivery, he'd worn his nicest jeans, the ones that were worn in perfectly, and the black t-shirt that - in an on-going study confirmed over the years - got him a lot of play whenever he wore it? He'd spent a little more time than usual on his hair, too, but that was mostly because it needed a new dye job, and Ray figured if his roots had to be showing, then at least his style should be impressive.

Not that he expected Fraser to notice any of these things.

Ray pulled up Fraser's block, found a space not too far away from 221. Sketchy neighborhood. Apparently they didn't pay much at the Consulate. Or maybe the exchange rate was just bad. Ray took a quick look in the rearview mirror, taking off his sunglasses and patting the spikes of his hair, and then he grabbed the pizzas and headed in.

The inside of the building was even sketchier. Ray glanced at the mailboxes, almost all of which were missing doors, or hanging open, or overflowing with crumpled mail. He scanned the wall, and there was only one box that was closed firmly. Looking closer, Ray saw it had a broken hinge that had been neatly repaired with a length of wire, and printed in firm, square script on a piece of paper taped to the front was: BENTON FRASER, APT. 3-J.

Ray grinned to himself, bypassed the buzzer where it was hanging half out of its socket on the wall, let himself in through the broken security door, and loped up the stairs.

He didn't let himself hesitate when he got to the door marked 3-J, just knocked in what he hoped was a jaunty manner. The door opened as though Fraser had been standing right there waiting for someone to show up, and the smile on Fraser's face was broad when he saw it was Ray. "Ray! What a nice surprise."

Ray felt a surge of - well, relief or lust. Maybe both - and held out the box to Fraser with a grin. "Pizza delivery," he said as Fraser took the boxes and stepped back to let Ray in, closing the door behind him. "I, uh, was out of blubber, though, so you just get pepperoni," said Ray, thinking to himself the blubber joke was getting old real quick and having a mild moment of panic - what did you talk to Canadians about if not blubber, anyway?

"Ah," said Fraser, opening one of the boxes. "It smells delicious."

Ray hadn't known what to expect, really, but Fraser out of uniform - and he was, not that Ray was noticing the snug fit of his jeans or how he somehow made a plaid flannel shirt look sexy - seemed more relaxed that Ray had seen him before. Fraser lifted a slice right out of the box, and took a bite. He shut his eyes for a moment. "Delicious," he said. He chewed for a moment more, then swallowed. "You used a mixture of regular and whole-wheat flour? And…" Fraser stopped, thought for a second. "Olive oil, and a touch of oregano. Also cornmeal on the bottom, for crunch."

Ray blinked. "Uh, yeah," he said. "That's what makes my crust special. How'd you know? Did Gardino spill the beans?"

"No, I just tasted it," Fraser said, carrying the slice with him as he got out plates and glasses. "I have an exceptional sense of taste."

"Must be nice," Ray said, not thinking about Fraser's tongue.

"I'm glad you came. It was good timing, as I hadn't yet started dinner for Diefenbaker and myself."

As if on cue, the wolf suddenly jumped in through the open window by the fire escape and bounded over to Ray, abruptly changing direction halfway there to head towards the pizzas.

Fraser intercepted him. "Humans first," he said sternly, looking down at Dief. He handed Ray a plate, and a glass of - milk? People drank milk with pizza? - and then said, "Would it be all right if I gave him a slice? It's a particular favorite of his."

Dief woofed loudly in agreement.

"Sure," said Ray easily, "That's why I brought two. Enough for everyone."

Ray was patting himself on the back for the way he'd handled this. They ate pizza and talked about sports (Fraser was all about the hockey, which was cool, Ray was too.) and Ray fed the wolf almost all the pepperoni off his slices.

Of course after dinner, when they got up from the table, Ray noticed that Fraser's apartment had - well - nothing in it. No TV. No couch. Not much by way of furniture at all, actually. It was mostly one big room, with a weird sort of half-wall between the kitchen and bedroom area. There was just the bed - a single - with a trunk next to it, a neat oval rug beside that, and, man, that was pretty much it. The table and chairs - which, though totally clean, were beat up and definitely worse for wear - were the main pieces of furniture in Fraser's possession, it looked like.

But - even dimly lit and sparsely furnished - Fraser's apartment had this warm feel to it, like it was home, or the closest thing Fraser was likely to get to it in Chicago. It was odd, because Fraser was obviously not settling in, settling down, buying furniture and all. It was more like he was just sort of squatting here, biding his time, waiting until he could go back home. And that should have made it feel temporary, but instead it sort of felt like it was Fraser, boiled down to his essentials. Everything there was what he needed, the bare minimum to get by. There was something weirdly intimate about that, about seeing what was important enough to someone to trek down to a whole other country with.

Ray wandered around the small apartment, patting his jeans pockets and wondering what the hell they were going to do now.

When he turned around, Fraser was sitting on the edge of the bed, petting Dief and watching Ray. "I'm glad you came over tonight," Fraser said. "I haven't had time to make very many friends in Chicago as yet."

"Yeah, well." Ray felt excited, and stupid to be feeling excited, because he had exactly no way of knowing what was going to happen here, or if anything was going to happen here. It was - he was doing that thing that Stella always accused him of, putting the cart before the horse, and thinking things were going one way and not figuring it out till too late that they were headed someplace else entirely. "Any friend of Gardino's…"

Fraser smiled. "He's a fine friend to have. Are you two very close?"

"Uh." Ray scratched the back of his head. "We used to be. For a while. After my divorce." And during his divorce. And maybe a little bit before the divorce, but he wasn't proud of that. Stella never said she knew, but she probably had. The fact that she didn't care - about Ray, and who he was, and what he did, and who he did it with - was the driving force behind the first time Ray had let himself think it was all right to fool around with Gardino.

Fraser leaned forward a little, resting his elbows on his knees and watching Ray. "I didn't realize you'd been married."

Ray shrugged. "Well, yeah, you know. Two careers, she was a hot-shot lawyer at the State's Attorney's office, it just didn't work out." He really couldn't think of one thing he'd rather be talking about less than Stella right now. He wondered, uncomfortably, what Gardino had told Fraser about him. If Fraser had even asked. He probably hadn't had to; Gardino had kind of a big mouth. Which meant - huh. That meant Fraser probably knew all this already. Fraser was - was Fraser fishing?

Fraser nodded slowly. "Well." He hesitated, watching Ray, and Ray made an active effort to quit drumming his fingers against the pockets of his jeans. He really didn’t like talking about Stella. Fraser cleared his throat. "You're no longer as…close to Louis as you were?" He was looking at Ray, really looking at him, waiting for confirmation. Fraser did know about him and Gardino. That was a polite - but pointed - question. Which hey, meant that Fraser was interested in who Ray was close to. Ray gave Fraser a slow grin. "Nah. We're just buddies, now."

"Ah." Fraser looked quietly pleased, and Ray grinned wider.

"So," Ray asked, turning around and leaning back against the windowsill. "This everything you have? Right here?"

Fraser nodded, getting up from the bed. "Everything I brought with me, yes. My father has - had - a cabin up in the Territories. It's mine, now, and I left some of my things there." His mouth curved into a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Even if I don't go back for good, I figure they'll have to at least let me back to visit. Even Americans get to go visit." This last part he offered with a tilt of his head and a more sincere smile in Ray's direction, and Ray took a step closer to him without even thinking about it.

"You miss it," Ray said. He could feel how much Fraser missed it.

"Yes." Fraser's voice was low and he took a step closer to Ray. There was suddenly no room between them, and Ray's breath caught in his throat. This was the moment, put up or shut up, and Ray had a feeling that a whole lot balanced on how he handled this. "I, uh -" He swallowed and just looked at Fraser for a handful of seconds. He felt like even if nothing else happened, even if they never even touched, that just looking at Fraser, like this, was more than most people got.

"Ray," said Fraser, real soft, and Ray slid his hand to the back of Fraser's neck, and leaned in, and kissed him. There was the inevitable moment of confusion, adjustment, but even through that, Ray's whole body felt like it was thrumming with yes yes yes. Fraser made a small sound in his throat, tilted his head just a little, and - God, yeah. They - the two of them, because Ray could feel it happening to Fraser too - just sank into the kiss. It was good, it was so, so good, and it had been ages since Ray had been close enough to anyone to touch, to kiss. When Fraser made that tiny sound again and opened his mouth against Ray's, Ray felt like he was shaking a little as he slid his tongue into Fraser's mouth.

God. God.

Ray was dizzy when they finally broke apart, and he had no clue how much time had passed. He was dizzy and he was hard, seriously fucking turned on from just that one kiss. Fraser was looking at him, his lips wet, panting, and when he smiled, Ray had to close his eyes for a second. Jesus, Fraser was the hottest man he had ever seen in his life.

"Frase," he managed, forcing himself to take a step back, because if he didn't, he was going to jump Fraser right there, he really and truly was. He slouched down, leaning against the windowsill. "I didn't mean to - I mean." He coughed, and tilted his head to the side, the cool glass of the window feeling good against his temple. He could see the dark city and its lights out of the corner of his eye. "I'm just the pizza guy."

Fraser laughed, laughed right out loud, and not in a mean way. In a happy way, like it was a relief. "Ray," he said, his voice thick with amusement. "I don't just like you for your pizza, you know."

Ray, still leaning his head against the window, smiled slowly, watching Fraser watching him. Man, it wasn't since he was a teenager that he'd been able to feel the weight of someone wanting him, just through a look. "Hey, there something wrong with my pizza?" he said, trying to sound offended.

Fraser shook his head and stepped forward quickly, laying his hands on Ray's shoulders. "Oh, no, certainly not. I never meant to imply that." Fraser did fake-serious better than Ray. If it wasn't for the crinkles in the corners of his eyes, Ray would have bought it. "It's just that I like you first- " He leaned in and brushed his lips against Ray's. That was all, just brushed them there, so lightly Ray could barely feel it, and yet he was suddenly standing up straight, his hands wrapped tight in the front of Fraser's shirt, "-and your pizza second."

Dief, forgotten in the corner, woofed quietly.

Fraser's mouth tilted up at one corner. He leaned close and whispered in Ray's ear, so close that his lips brushed against it, "Diefenbaker's feelings are rather the reverse. I apologize for that."

"No, that's - " Ray felt like he was strangling, like there wasn't any air in the room at all. Fraser's soft puffs of breath against his ear were turning him on more than any quick and easy blowjob ever had. "That's really okay with me. I mean, I like Dief and all, but I'm kinda more interested in you."

"Ah," Fraser said. "Good." His hands were on Ray's hips, and Ray helplessly followed as Fraser tugged him forward towards what was the biggest piece of furniture in the room, the bed. The single, very solitary bed, big enough for only one person. But that was okay, since Fraser pushed Ray gently onto the bed and then just climbed on top of him. And, okay. Ray - though he hadn't really thought this out, hadn't really let himself think of a whole lot else past just delivering the pizza and seeing what happened from there - Ray had sort of in the back of his mind had Fraser pegged as one of those guys who was good-looking and didn't even know it. Which just served to make him that much more attractive. And somehow, Ray had sort of - well, not really planned on, but sort of expected Fraser to be shy, maybe? Innocent. The guy came from really far north. What was even up there for him to have experience with?

But this - Jesus, this was something Ray had not even considered. He was sprawled back on Fraser's bed, and he was hard, really fucking hard. And Fraser was on top of him - Warm. Heavy. - not holding him down, just sort of draped there, kissing him. Just that, just kissing him, but deep, intense, and it was so hot, it was like making out in the backseat, it was ratcheting Ray up fast.

"God," he said, gasping a little when Fraser finally lifted his head. Fraser had slid his arms under Ray's, and he had them just curled around Ray's shoulders, holding him close. One of his legs was between Ray's, and Ray pressed up against Fraser - God, he could feel Fraser's hard-on there. Fraser was as turned on as Ray was, and Ray felt half-crazy with it. He wanted to just move, to flip Fraser over and climb on top of him and hump him till they both came.

Only they were on this little narrow bed, and Ray wasn't even entirely sure he could move Fraser off him if he tried. Not that he really wanted to; it was sort of exciting - sort of hot - to only be able to lie there, all of Fraser's weight on him, Fraser's breath warm against his face.

Fraser was blinking down at him, and his cheeks were flushed and his eyes were hot, looking at Ray. "Ray," he panted, and when Ray shifted under him, just a little, Fraser closed his eyes and bit his lip.

"You're breathing kinda hard," Ray said, grinning, a little breathless himself.

Fraser huffed out a laugh and dropped his head to Ray's shoulder. His voice was muffled as he said, "I have excess lung capacity, I'll have you know." He sighed, and lifted his head again to look at Ray. His normally perfect hair was all messed up. "You just seem to - being around you seems to push my limits."

"Huh," said Ray, "I push your limits. That sounds like fun." He tugged Fraser's head back down and then they were kissing again. Fraser was rocking against him on the narrow bed and Ray hadn't been kissed like this in - he couldn't remember the last time he'd been kissed like this. It was making him crazy, and he was loving it, loving it, and he just wanted - he wanted -

"Fraser," he gasped against Fraser's lips. "Jesus, Fraser."

Fraser lifted his head again, looking slightly wild himself, and with a regretful sigh, he shifted himself off Ray, scooting over to lie beside him in the few inches of room there. "Ray, I - " He looked - what was that? Embarrassed? Shy? This guy was shy, after doing what he'd just done to Ray?

Ray grinned at him - Ray himself was not feeling at all shy, not even sprawled here on Fraser's bed, with his shirt untucked and his hair a mess, not to mention a hard-on that his jeans - no matter that he wore them loose, thank God - in no way hid. Ray shifted to one side a little, giving Fraser a little more room to work with. "Fraser," he said, letting one hand drift down Fraser's side and land on his hip. He paused for a moment there, noticing that Fraser wore his jeans a lot more snug than Ray did and that looked mighty painful at the moment. Ray brought his eyes back up to Fraser's face, where Fraser himself was looking a little worried. "Hey," said Ray, squeezing Fraser's hip a little. "Hey, we're good, we're cool."

Fraser slid down a little, resting his head on his hand, his elbow sloped out above him on the bed. "I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, Ray." He was frowning.

Ray blinked at him. "Do I look uncomfortable?" He made a sweeping gesture down his body, lying easily on the bed. "I am a comfortable guy, Fraser, right here."

"Okay." Fraser was still frowning.

"What?" Ray propped himself up on his elbow. Dear God, Fraser was one of those people who over-thought every damn thing. Couldn't just stick with "kissing is good." He had to start thinking of implications. Ray tried never to think about implications when it was something good like this.

Fraser sighed and laid down on his back, staring at the ceiling and lacing his hands over his chest. "My door doesn't lock."

Ray stared at him, bewildered, trying to figure out if this was weird Canadian slang for some sort of sex thing. "I, uh - wait, what?"

"My door." Fraser waved his hand irritably towards his front door. "It doesn't lock."

Ray craned his neck around to stare at the door which was - yes - without any sort of visible locking mechanism. He still didn't get quite what this had to do with the current situation, but - "You live here without a lock?" The man was a nutcase.

Fraser tilted his head to look at him. "It's a nice neighborhood, Ray." He sounded slightly hurt. And a little insane, if he thought this was a nice neighborhood. Where the fuck had he been living that this looked nice? Harlem, Canada?

"Yeah, Fraser, uh, sure thing, but you can't just go around leaving your place wide open!" Jesus, what was Gardino thinking, letting Fraser get situated all on his own?

"I do have a wolf, Ray," Fraser explained.

"He's a deaf wolf, Fraser," Ray said back patiently.

Fraser sat up. "He's got very good instincts. He always lets me know when someone is coming." They both looked over to where Diefenbaker was snoring on a rug in the corner, obviously down for the count. Fraser frowned thoughtfully. "I think he must feel the vibrations."

Ray groaned and rubbed his hands over his eyes.

"People, when they walk, cause minute vibrations in the floorboards, which is apparently something to which Diefenbaker is attuned…"

"Yeah, Fraser, I get it." Ray let his hands drop and pushed himself up to a sitting position. "So no lock, huh?"

Fraser sighed. "No," he said. "And I fear that Mr. Mustafi next door isn't always circumspect with regard to waiting very long after knocking."

"Your neighbors just walk in?"

"Well, he did allow me to borrow his vacuum."

"That means he's allowed to interrupt you having sex?"

Fraser's eyes went hot again. "Is that what we were going to do?" He pulled Ray close, kissing him. When Ray finally managed to pull away, he found himself half on top of Fraser, their legs wound together. Fraser licked his lips and said, sadly, "Still no lock."

Ray looked around the room consideringly. "You got chairs. We wedge a chair under the knob, and voila - instant lock!"

Fraser coughed. "I actually, er, thought of that. The chair backs are too short."

Ray frowned. "We could put the wolf out front to stand guard?"

"Well," said Fraser, looking down at his hands, "I would hate for the neighbors to think that I'm being unwelcoming."

Ray sighed. "You think you might be able to install a lock any time in the near future?"

Fraser looked back up at Ray. "It wouldn't be as large a problem if I had started out with a lock, but to put it on after the fact…" He was practically pleading with Ray to understand.

"Rude, huh?" Ray slid to his feet. "Wouldn’t want to be rude." He grimaced and adjusted himself in his pants without thinking about it. "Uh. Okay. So - " He looked down at where Fraser was still sitting on the edge of the bed. "Maybe we could - uh, I mean, next time. Sometime - " Way to get ahead of himself, there. Maybe it was the lock, maybe it was Fraser slowing things down a little. Ray didn't want to push the guy, though man, sitting there all tousled, he looked like a guy who maybe wanted to be pushed. "You could come over my place? We could watch the game, eat something other than pizza, and hey, even lock all five of the locks I got on my door." And Ray lived in a relatively good neighborhood.

"Yes, Ray." Fraser was up and off the bed, was crowding Ray over against the door, pinning him there and kissing him and Ray went from "calming down" to "incredibly fucking hard" so fast it made his head spin. Fraser's fingers were looped in his belt loops and Fraser was gently, but insistently, tugging at him in a rhythm that was going to have Ray coming in his jeans if it went on much longer. By the time Fraser released his mouth, Ray wasn't sure if his knees worked. "That sounds like a fine idea. When?"

"Uh." Ray's brain wasn't up to thoughts. Or ideas. Sentences and stuff like that. "I'll call you. Soon." Tomorrow? "Soon," he said again. One-syllable words were pretty much the best he could do at this point.

"Okay." Fraser looked at him for a moment, then leaned in for another kiss - a quick one, thank God. Ray needed to be able to drive. Or even, you know, walk. Ray took a deep breath and closed his eyes, groping for the doorknob and rolling himself off and around the sadly lock-free door. "Good night, Fraser," he said, pausing with the door half-shut between them.

"Good night," said Fraser. Then, "Ray," he called out as Ray was tugging the door shut.

Ray leaned back in. "Yeah?"

"Thank you for the pizza," Fraser said, his tone completely serious but his eyes twinkling.

"Fraser, my friend, it was my pleasure," said Ray sincerely, then closed the door quickly - and firmly - between them. He sighed, turned, and banged his head against the hallway wall a few times, straightening up quickly as all the doors down the hall opened up a crack and suspicious eyes peered out. He headed down the hall, the doors slamming shut ahead of him as he went, and murmured to himself, "My place next time. Definitely my place."

Way before they hooked up over a pizza delivery, Ray had learned a lot of things about Fraser. Gardino had been bringing him by Ray's place from the very first day Fraser ever set foot in Chicago. (Gardino was addicted to Ray's pizza and ate lunch there most days of the week, and dinner there on Fridays when Ray made gnocchi with marinara.) So Ray knew that Fraser was polite about tasting all sorts of things on pizza, but when left to his own devices, he really preferred it pretty simple. Ray knew that Fraser took off his big round hat the second before he stepped through the door and never put it back on till the second he stepped back out. He knew Fraser rarely, if ever, drank beer; when he did, it was to be sociable, and Ray'd never, ever seen him finish a whole glass.

Ray had watched Fraser from behind the counter a whole lot. He'd seen Fraser sitting there, listening intently to Gardino's stories, and seen him smile politely, obviously not getting the punch line, while Gardino laughed uproariously. He'd seen Fraser tell weird-ass stories of his own, usually involving caribou and the Inuit. Ray'd learned more about native Canadian culture than he'd ever wanted to know, leaning there on the counter with his chin resting on his hands, watching Fraser's mouth as he talked.

And he'd seen Fraser sitting there alone, long after Gardino had left for the night, quietly taking up a table in the corner, reading and re-reading the limp leather journals that had belonged to his dad. When he was in the red uniform, he never slumped ("The collar," he'd explained to Ray once, when Ray had teased him about his perfect posture. "It has a tendency to cut off one's air supply if one doesn't have perfect posture." He'd smiled just a little, tugging at the collar. "I'm not entirely certain if that was a planned effect, or just a happy coincidence."). But once or twice, he'd been there late in the evening, in jeans and flannel, and he'd just looked tired. He'd read like he was trying to understand something, like he was translating a foreign language as he went along. His shoulders would - well, okay, he'd never really slump - but his shoulders would bow a little, like he was carrying something heavy.

On those days, Ray would nudge Turnbull and make him bring Fraser a cup of the tea Ray had started keeping in stock, and Turnbull would do his adoration routine, slipping the mug quietly in front of Fraser, nudging the pitcher of milk towards him, and then darting away quickly, blushing madly, before Fraser could do anything more than call "Thank you kindly, Renfield" after his rapidly-departing back.

So Ray had seen a lot of Fraser, though usually from behind the counter or the broom. And he'd learned a few things, tucked away some knowledge, but he hadn't let himself hope. Really hadn't. Hadn't even intended to flirt at all, until suddenly there he was, flirting away, and there Fraser was, responding to it, and really - Ray was only a guy. He could not possibly be expected to stop it then.

What Ray found out after the flirting and the personalized pizza delivery and the making out on Fraser's bed was - well, it was way more interesting than stories about caribou and the Inuit. Sure, he got those too - Fraser seemed to have one for every occasion, and he couldn't seem to stop himself from telling them. But there was more.

For example, Ray found out that Fraser never mixed business with pleasure. The first time Ray came to pick Fraser up at the Consulate after work, a couple of days after the personalized pizza delivery night, he got there ten minutes early - anxious much, Kowalski? - and they were the longest minutes of his life, it felt like. Because the guy he was talking to sure didn't seem like the guy who'd pushed Ray down on the bed and covered him with his hot, heavy body and kissed him like he'd never want to do anything else ever.

No, all of a sudden, Fraser was this uptight, buttoned-up stranger - as stiff and polite as he was when he held open doors for little old ladies. He politely greeted Ray, politely asked him to wait a few minutes while Fraser finished his paperwork, and politely offered him a seat.

Which Ray accepted - really fucking politely - but he could only sit in it for a minute or two because he was so jittery he felt like he was going to shatter into a million pieces if he stayed still one more minute. He jumped up and tried to wander around without catching Fraser's attention or distracting him or touching anything or making any noise. By the time the clock finally chimed five - polite chimes - Ray was ready to punch a wall and wondering how the hell he'd manage to spend the entire evening with this guy who he felt like he'd never seen before in his entire life.

Then Fraser was up from behind the desk - Weird, like Ray behind his counter, only cleaner. Less flour. - and he brushed against Ray on his way to lock the door. Ray was too miserable to even get a tingle from that. Even though one of his Things To Know About Fraser was that he never did anything by accident. Ray had his hands stuffed in his pockets and was staring moodily at the portrait of the Queen on the wall when Fraser came up behind him and put his hand on the small of Ray's back, steering him down the hall. "Fraser," said Ray, trying for breezy but managing to sound only twitchy, even to his own ears. "Listen, if you're busy or something tonight, I can just -"

He broke off as Fraser led him into - was this a storage closet? There were boxes of files everywhere, and a tiny desk crammed into one corner, and there was Diefenbaker hanging out under the desk. "Hey, Dief," said Ray, or really, it was more, "Hey, D-mph," because then Fraser - who had closed the door behind them - took him by the arms and backed up. He leaned against the desk, tugged Ray between his spread legs, and kissed him so hot and so long that Ray thought he might pass out from the sheer whiplash of change.

Fraser released him with a sigh, and pushed a hand through his own hair, rumpling it just enough that Ray caught a glimpse of the guy who had made out with him on his bed. "Hi, Fraser," Ray said, grinning what he was sure was an entirely dopey grin and totally not caring.

"This door," said Fraser softly, "has a lock." He tugged Ray back into another kiss, and Ray went happily, licking his way into Fraser's mouth, slouching up against him, smelling wool and leather and - man, that plus the taste of Fraser's mouth was enough to get Ray hard as anything in about ten seconds.

So Ray learned that Fraser wouldn't fuck around at all while he was working, but would certainly fuck around once the day was over and the door was locked. Ray learned that Fraser liked it a little rough, liked it when Ray tugged on his hair, and bit his neck, and held onto his hips so tight that Ray spent the whole next day wondering if he'd left marks. Ray learned that Fraser-at-work was one thing, and Fraser-after-work was something else entirely, but that both Frasers never missed a trick.

It had crossed Ray's mind that they should take this slow. It seemed like a pretty good idea, actually. Because, you know, building a relationship or whatever, well, that took time. Or so he'd been told. Which is why there were like two years between the first time he and Stella had kissed and the first time they had had sex. And okay, now, looking back from his mid-thirties, riding that edge of teenage desperation for wanting something - anything - on his cock (A mouth, a hand, her pussy. Anything warm and willing.), well, yeah, that was hot.

But the thing was, being a guy, a thirty-five-year-old guy, who had been through a whole hell of a lot of shit in his life and learned some things and knew what he wanted - well, that was the kind of guy Ray was. And Fraser - Fraser was a grown-up too. Fraser knew what he wanted. Ray knew what he wanted. The two of them? They had things pretty much together. So there was really not much point in waiting, was there?

Ray hadn't known for sure. Maybe they did things different up in Canada. Fraser sure seemed like a - well, a courting kinda guy. A guy who courted. Like, flowers and kisses and waiting and frustration and all. A guy who held out. Which maybe seemed like a contradiction in terms and all, but Fraser was, himself, sort of a contradiction, and Ray was ready for anything. Or, okay, just not expecting anything to go in any normal direction.

He figured what he'd do would be to wait for a signal. Wait for it to be sure. Because he didn't want to fuck things up. This wasn't a bar pick-up. He hadn't dated anyone - really dated - since Gardino, and wow, you just so very much could not compare Gardino to Fraser in any sense of the word. Never mind apples and oranges - this was more like apples and anchovies. Gardino was as down-to-earth as they came. A guy's guy. He dressed bad, he shaved bad, and he had kind of this aura of dumb guyness around him. Even though, when you got right down to it, he had a pretty okay brain. He just sort of operated on a different level than the smart guys. A real basic level, and he always spoke before he thought. The thinking part came minutes - and sometimes days - after.

Which made it a pretty sure deal that his swapping between guys and girls came fast and furious - much like his break-ups. Because, man, if there was ever a guy who should stick to his own kind, it was Gardino. No apology in the world would make up for the tactlessness that was so very much a part of who he was that he should have claimed it as a trademark. Gardino had that kind of dorky clumsiness that was cute for maybe the first date and a half. After that, it was only based upon the patience of who he was seeing before he was thrown out the door, which was then promptly shut in his face.

Gardino was a good guy to have as a friend, and he had been really surprisingly good in bed - in a guy way, which Ray himself very much appreciated. Good at telling what he wanted, good at giving back on the same level, and good at falling right the fuck asleep approximately eight seconds after orgasm.

Not a bad trait, Ray had sometimes reflected, watching Gardino snore in the darkness. Frankly, he'd rather have that than a girl who wanted to plump up the pillows, sit back, gaze at each other, and Talk.

But still, yeah, there had been Stella for Ray, and the bar pick-ups after Stella, and then Gardino. (Who had been a bar pick-up himself, but one that worked out better than most). Mostly because being with Gardino had been the easiest sort of relationship there was. Pizza, beer, sex - those were the things Gardino was about. The thing that made him different was his ability to listen - weird, but true. There'd been the nights where somewhere along the pizza-beer-sex timeline, the two of them would slouch back on the couch and get into these long conversations. And while they hadn't been by any stretch of the imagination deep, they were sort of interesting, and thoughtful. Sitting there, peeling the label off his beer bottle and casting half-looks at Gardino as the two of them discussed those they'd loved and lost - well. It had been good enough for Ray to decide to call Gardino every once in a while. And weirdly, even after the how-'bout-we-just-be-friends talk, they were still able to do that, hang out together. It was the one time the whole friendship-after-dating thing had actually worked out, and Ray was pretty glad about that.

Fraser, though - Fraser was from a whole different world. A whole different world than Ray and Gardino both. Ray had no way of predicting anything about Fraser except that whatever he did would be - yeah - completely unpredictable.

So he figured he'd have try to keep a lid on his expectations, kind of. Feel his way forward. Take it a step at a time, and follow Fraser's lead. Bad idea, maybe; he knew from Gardino's shaken testimony that Fraser had a habit of jumping off of roofs.

Ray was figuring that out a little now, pinned against the inside door of his prized GTO. He'd figured on this being a date. He'd taken Fraser to his favorite Chinese restaurant in the city (and sure, Fraser had talked Mandarin to the waiter, but otherwise, it had gone pretty much as expected). He'd taken Fraser out to the pool-hall afterwards (it had been busy there, but Ray's favorite bartender had been working and had cleared a table for him - after throwing him an admiring look, with a subtle nod at Fraser), where Fraser had surprised Ray by being startlingly good at pool. (He claimed to never have played before, which, okay, but after eyeing the stick, balancing it, selecting a different one, and then crouching down to check the levelness of the table, he'd proceeded to clear the table on his first turn - the first turn which Ray had generously offered him.)

Ray, leaning on his own cue, had decided to just roll with the punches, bought them another round of sodas, and accepted Fraser's offer of a rematch. After all, he'd figured to himself, watching Fraser rack up the balls, at least he got to watch Fraser - all casual in his jeans and flannel and boots and hotness - bending over the table. About a dozen other people in the place (guys and girls) were noticing as well, but Ray's glares kept them from offering Fraser drinks, at least.

Ray lost the second round, too, but beat Fraser - fucking finally - on the third, by paying close attention and making about four extremely tricky shots that very much tested his own reach. Fraser had grinned at him widely, congratulating him on his win. Ray's heart had skipped a beat and he figured the choice was wrap the evening up there and take Fraser home like a good boy or jump him right in the bar in front of God and everyone.

It had all been a good plan - date, home, goodnight kiss. He figured he'd drop Fraser off and that would be that.

Only the goodnight kiss had gotten completely - totally - very far away from Ray's control. He didn't - he couldn't - Fraser was all over him, had slid all the way over to Ray's side, was half on top of him in the car, kissing Ray and moaning - God, these fucking desperate moans - into Ray's mouth, and humping up against him, hard, so fucking hard.

Ray was going to die. He was going to die, because he couldn’t breathe, because he couldn’t stop kissing Fraser for love or money. He was going to die right here in the car, pinned under Fraser's heavy, wonderful weight, gasping for breath and moaning like crazy, and loving every single solitary minute of it.

"God, Fraser," he gasped desperately against Fraser's mouth. "Just - fuck, fuck." He tightened his hands on Fraser's hips, his fingers digging into the denim and dragging Fraser closer against him. "Jesus, you have to - I gotta - Fraser -"

Fraser was the one who had the strength of will, Fraser the one who finally pulled his mouth out of reach and panted, "Ray - can we - Please, Ray." He shut his eyes and pressed his forehead against Ray's own. "Take me home. Take me to your place." He pulled his head back and Ray blinked his eyes open.

"Your door does have a lock, correct?" Fraser asked, and Ray broke into open, helpless laughter, his whole body shaking with it.

"Yeah, Fraser," he said, kissing Fraser's lips again - and again. "It does. Yes. Okay." One kiss. One more. Okay. "Yeah. Let's go." He said it against Fraser's lips, and felt Fraser nodding fervently. "Let's go."

Which was how he ended up bringing Fraser back to his place on what was, okay, what was probably one point five dates in. And it seemed just - it seemed really okay, it seemed really right. Fraser was still a guy - okay, a different guy than the Gardino-type of guy, but a guy just the same.

Ray spared maybe a moment or two on the ride over, while he was trying very hard to not pay attention to Fraser breathing only about six inches away from him, thinking about the state of his apartment, and about how it wasn't dirty, but it was definitely messier than Fraser's place. He kept it relatively clean - it had become second nature, after living with Stella for so many years, and besides, his mom still dropped by when he wasn't home. So it wasn't that bad. But he had more clothes, more junk, more stuff - way more stuff - than Fraser did, and he worried that the clutter, the city feel would bug Fraser.

But man, the way Fraser had been all over him before - not a whole lot about Ray seemed to bug Fraser. Ray's body thrummed just thinking about it, and he tightened his hands on the steering wheel and concentrated on guiding them home.

And then they were at his place, and somehow got up the stairs and in the door and had their coats off before their control slipped and they were all over each other again, like animals - animals who had doors that locked, Ray thought to himself, his tongue in Fraser's mouth even as he reached behind himself to fumble the locks closed. Jesus, Fraser was hot. Fraser was hot no matter what; Fraser was hot on a normal day, standing there all clean and pure in his uniform. But Christ, he was even hotter here, backing up against Ray's forward push, fumbling to tug Ray's t-shirt up and over his head - Ray lifted his arms obligingly - and panting for breath, his own shirt half-undone.

"God, God," Ray muttered against Fraser's mouth as they hit the bedroom doorway and Ray flailed for the light switch, fearing they might not even hit the bed otherwise, and he'd end up fucking Fraser on the floor. Not that that was a bad thought; he'd like to fuck Fraser on the floor, have him stripped down and - God, no, now there was a bed, go for the bed.

And Fraser - Fraser had skills that were way more than just getting along in the wilderness. Fraser was a focused guy, Ray found out, and he had Ray naked so fast Ray's head was spinning. Fraser's own shirt was still hanging off his shoulders, and his jeans were undone but still on, but Fraser couldn't seem to stop putting his mouth on Ray long enough to get rid of the rest of his clothes. He'd somehow managed to get the boots off his feet somewhere between stripping Ray down and pushing him back on the bed, and then he just crawled on top of him. His mouth was everywhere - hot and wet and pushy, Fraser was pushy in bed, and how fucking great was that? Pushy in a good way, letting Ray know what he wanted. A give and take type thing. Ray was good with that. Ray was really good with that.

He was sprawled back butt-naked on the bed and Fraser, half-dressed on top of him, was showing him just what he wanted, by putting his mouth every damn place he could. He kept kissing Ray, then wandering away, nudging Ray's head to the side so he could suck at his neck, like he was searching for just the right spot - oh. He found a spot that made Ray's toes curl and seemed to know it. Maybe it was Ray's moaning that clued him in - he was a cop and all. He sucked at that place on Ray's neck hard, harder, Christ, that was going to leave a mark, and Ray didn’t care, didn't care at all. Hell, if Fraser kept doing it for one more second, he was going to come from it, and he moaned again, frantically, just as Fraser released him, licked at the spot lightly with an, "Oh, dear - I apologize for the, ah, mark."

"S'okay, it's okay, Fraser, just - just -" Ray didn’t even know what he wanted, but Fraser did. Fraser knew things Ray never even knew about himself. Fraser took hold of Ray's arm and lifted it above his head, holding it down against the bed while he - man, he was a freak, but apparently Ray was too, because he liked it, what Fraser was doing, pressing his face into Ray's armpit and sort of nuzzling him there, then moving down, licking in a way that should have tickled but instead set Ray's whole body on fire. Ray was trying to move, trying to do something for Fraser instead of just letting Fraser take him. But Fraser was all over this, this seemed to be what Fraser wanted.

Ray thought, dizzily, that it was weird that Fraser was so good at following orders, when really, he should have been in business for himself. "Good…instincts," Ray managed to pant out, then groaned as Fraser's mouth slid over to his nipple. Ray didn't even usually particularly care about his nipples played with - it didn’t usually matter to him one way or the other. But it was like all his senses were in overdrive, here, and Fraser - God. He wasn't even doing that much, just running his tongue lightly over it, again, again, and then Jesus Christ, he bit down lightly, and Ray lurched up off the bed. "Christ, Fraser, Jesus."

He'd made it from the car, but now, he really was going to die here. Best sex of his life, and he was going to die here in bed with the Mountie, because obviously 35 was entirely too old for his poor heart to handle Fraser in the sack. Dear fucking God.

He pushed at Fraser, trying to get his limbs to work right when his entire body was thrumming with the need to move - do something - fuck - anything. Fraser rolled to the side quite willingly, panting and flushed and watching Ray expectantly, clearly waiting to see what would happen next. Like he had a plan, but if Ray wanted something different, that was cool too, and Ray fucking adored Fraser right then.

He fumbled to push Fraser's jeans further down before leaning in to kiss Fraser, letting his hand sink again into Fraser's hair, and sliding his other hand across the front of - wow, he really should not be surprised that Fraser was crazy enough to starch his boxer shorts. Besides, the important thing was that Fraser was hard himself behind that stiff cotton, and Ray stroked the wet spot his cock had left. Fraser moaned into his mouth and thrust hard into Ray's ready hand.

Ray slid his hand all the way into Fraser's boxers and got his hand around Fraser's cock, and it was hot and silky and damp and perfect in his hand, and they had to - they had to just - Ray needed, he needed -

Fraser's hand, which had been clutching tightly to Ray's naked hip, slid its way back to Ray's ass, holding onto him tight as Ray stroked Fraser's cock. There was the tiniest hesitation (and really, Ray wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to anything besides stroking Fraser's tongue with his own, and keeping his hand moving on Fraser's cock, which was leaking so hard it was leaving streaks on Ray's wrist), and then Fraser's finger slipped back further, just barely sliding in between his cheeks and brushing against him right - God.

Ray froze, his eyes closed, his hand going still, his tongue slipping out of Fraser's mouth so he could brace his forehead against Fraser's. Just - okay - yeah - Fraser knew stuff. Fraser knew more than the sort of simple Northern boy that Ray had kinda been thinking of him as. Jesus, just that, just the barest brush back and forth of Fraser's fingertip right there was so fucking - fucking -

Fraser stopped moving, and Ray forced his eyelids open, to find Fraser watching him anxiously. "Is - do you …?"

Ray swallowed, trying to wet his throat enough to talk, and moved his hand back to Fraser's wrist, encouraging him keep moving. "It's - God, yeah, it's - actually, hang on a second." Fraser dutifully stopped, and Ray leaned back to the bedside table, fumbling in the drawer for the tube he knew - it had to be - yeah, there it was. "Here," he said softly, thumbing the top open and nudging Fraser's hand. "Just - yeah." Fraser offered his fingers - plural, the guy was with the program. Ray squeezed some lube onto them, and snapped the lid shut, dropping it behind him as Fraser put his finger, without hesitation, right back where they had been, and pushed.

"Oh Christ, oh Christ, oh Christ," Ray chanted, low. It had been a while, it had been too long, he was ready for it, yeah, he needed this, he wanted this, and from the way Fraser was panting like an animal in heat, he wanted, needed this too. Fraser's finger sank in slowly, carefully, and Ray couldn’t help himself, he twisted back against it, and it went all the way in. And Jesus, he felt frantic, he was rocking forward against Fraser, wanting it all, wanting everything. He felt like a live wire here, again like he would die if this didn't - if he didn't -

He rocked back and Fraser added another finger, and Ray felt his eyes roll back in his head. He couldn’t even breathe, this was so good.

Fraser was panting against him, and Ray got his hand on Fraser's cock again, wanting to give Fraser the same pleasure Fraser was giving him. But he kept losing his rhythm and any coordination he might have once had was lost in the feel of Fraser's fingers in him, deep now; fuck, Fraser had long fingers. And Fraser tugged him closer, so all Ray could do was hang on as Fraser curled his fingers and put his mouth on Ray's neck at the same time, and bit down lightly as he found -

"Oh, God, yeah, Fraser." Ray was writhing, twisting himself against the sweaty sheets, wanting to hold on, needing to just hold on. But Fraser's fingers were relentless, finding that spot with perfect accuracy again and again, and his teeth were on Ray's neck like Fraser needed something to hold onto, too, needed to ground himself. Ray, cursing out loud, thrust himself forward, back, desperate and aching, and God, God - he groaned loudly when he finally came, jerking desperately, all over himself and Fraser and the sheets.

He was panting, his eyes still screwed shut, when Fraser tugged his fingers out of him and pushed him onto his back. Fraser was fumbling his own boxers down, his jeans still half on, his shirt still half on, rolling on top of Ray and sliding his cock through the slippery mess on Ray's stomach. He was panting against Ray's ear, and muttering Ray's name over and over again. "Ray, oh, Ray, you're - " He reached for Ray's hands and Ray met him, let him wrap his hands around his wrists and pin him down the way he seemed to need to, seemed to really need to, and Fraser held him down tight and drove down against him on the mattress, and came about five seconds later without Ray having done much of anything at all.

One of the things Ray liked about running a pizza place - in addition to not having a boss, not having to answer to anyone, and the customer not always being right - was the fact that there was rarely the chance of serious physical injury in a day's work.

Sure, there were the occasional burns - Ray actually had marks all over his forearms from accidental skin-to-oven contact - but that was to be expected, that was nothing. Ray hardly even felt it anymore.

And, okay, so he did still have that scar on his thigh from the time Turnbull did a truly spectacular trip-and-fall right into Ray. It hadn't been the first time it happened, and it sure wasn't the last, but the thing that made this one different from all others was that Turnbull happened to be holding a knife when he fell. And - due to Turnbull's vast store of the very worst of luck at all times - he ended up, in reaching out to break his fall, driving the knife directly into Ray's thigh.

That had been fun: blood all over the kitchen and a trip to the emergency room. The emergency room visit would really have been more of an annoyance than anything else, only Turnbull had clambered into the ambulance with him and spent the entire ride clutching Ray's hand so tight that Ray couldn’t shake him off no matter how hard he tried, and weeping. Ray had exchanged pained glances with the EMTs and did his best to just concentrate on the pain in his leg instead of the guilty laments of his employee.

So, yeah, there were chances of minor injury. Sure, he could reduce those chances by getting rid of Turnbull, but when it came right down to it, he really was the best driver Ray had. And besides, they were never - well, hardly ever - life-threatening.

Fraser, on the other hand, seemed to find danger and go shake hands with it. On what seemed to be a daily basis. Ray figured the RCMP stuff was sort of just a formality, that Fraser wasn't really in a dangerous field of work (they were in Chicago, for God's sake), but when Gardino and Fraser came in for lunch one Wednesday, Fraser had a black eye that was so recent Ray thought he could actually see it getting darker, and a cut on his forehead that was still oozing blood a little.

"Jesus." Ray quickly wiped his hands off on a towel and came around the counter to them. "What the hell happened to you?"

Fraser blinked, looking surprised. "Why, nothing. We just came in for lunch."

Ray looked over at Gardino, who shrugged and rolled his eyes. "He stopped a mugging."

"A mugger did this to you?"

Fraser carried around a pristine white handkerchief, the only purpose of which seemed to be for incidents like this. He kept pressing it to the cut on his forehead, staunching the blood flow. "No," he said. "I -"

"I thought you were supposed to be the cop," Ray interrupted, glaring at Gardino.

"I am." Gardino glared right back. "It's my fault that Mr. Bat Ears here can detect a mugging from three blocks away?" He shook his head, glancing at Fraser, who was looking a little pale, but determined. "He took off before I could stop him or call it in."

"You're supposed to go after your partner, or at least that's what I've heard, officer." Ray put his hand on Fraser's elbow, planning to guide him to a table to at least sit down. Fraser stood firm, though, and shook his head, and Ray sighed in frustration.

"I did go after him." Gardino sounded insulted. "Only he runs really fast." He tilted his head, looking at Fraser. "Your eye is getting worse," he pointed out.

"Ah." Fraser looked wholly unconcerned.

"Wait, back up," said Ray, narrowing his eyes at both of them. "If a mugger didn't do this, then who-?"

"The, ah, elderly woman whose purse the mugger, as you say, was endeavoring to appropriate." Fraser dabbed at the cut again. "She felt she had control of the situation herself, and when I attempted to intercede, she struck me with the very item that the thief was after."

Ray paused for a moment, working through that sentence in his head. "The old lady smacked you with her purse?"

Gardino nodded, rocking back on his heels. "Yep. First the purse, which had a clasp on it the size of Arkansas." He waved his hand at the cut on Fraser's forehead. "Then with her fist."

"She punched you?" Ray shook his head. Fraser did not get Chicago one little bit.

"Myself and the mugger, actually." Fraser looked over at Gardino. "She was, apparently, able to handle things without my involvement."

Gardino nodded. "Little old ladies can be tough. Anyway," he said to Ray, "he wouldn't let me take him to get cleaned up or checked out -"

"It's merely a flesh wound," Fraser said evenly.

"- but he agreed, at least, that being beaten up by an old lady was reason enough for a lunch break."

Ray sighed, and put his hand on Fraser's cheek, tilting his head to the side so he could see the damage to his eye more clearly. "Come with me," he commanded. "I've got to have something back in the freezer we can put on this before it gets much worse."

"I'm fine -" Fraser started.

"We're not arguing about this." Ray grabbed his arm and steered him firmly into the back. "Grab a seat, Gardino. I'll get you guys a slice as soon as I'm done with this dumbass."

Gardino waved them off as he wandered over to the case to get a soda.

"Yo," Ray said to Turnbull. "Go watch the front, will you?"

"Yes!" Turnbull stood up straight, his fingers twitching like he wanted to salute or something. He looked at Fraser, then, and his eyes widened. He took several steps forward. "Constable, you're injured!"

Ray stopped Turnbull with a hand to his chest - the hand that wasn't still maintaining a firm hold on Fraser, who, while he wasn't actively trying to pull away, seemed to be in a state of readiness to escape should the opportunity arise. Seeing as how he was perfectly fine, despite the head injuries. "Out front, Turnbull. Go feed Detective Gardino."

"All right." Turnbull turned slowly towards the front, casting anxious glances back over his shoulder at Fraser.

Ray shook his head. His whole life was full of escapees from the loony bin. Jesus.

"Okay, now," he said, letting go of Fraser's arm only after giving him a stern look. He opened the door to the walk-in freezer in the back. "I know I've got something in here we can put on that eye before it swells completely shut."

"Ray," said Fraser, trailing behind Ray into the freezer. "I fear that you are worrying about me unnecessarily. I'm fine." He dabbed one last time at the cut on his forehead, which seemed to have finally stopped bleeding, and carefully folded the stained handkerchief, tucking it into his trouser pocket.

"Yeah, yeah." Ray waved at him dismissively with one hand while he hunted among the shelves. "Nah, dough'll get soggy too quick, and I don't think that - ha!" He grabbed a bag of frozen spinach. "This should work." He turned back towards Fraser, shivering a little in his t-shirt in the chill of the freezer. "C'mere."

Fraser said, "Ray…"

"You don't get it, do you?" Ray shook his head. "Jesus, Fraser. I sit here making pizza, and you're out there running into alleys and attacking muggers." He tugged the relatively clean towel out of the apron that was tied around his waist and wrapped the bag of spinach in it. "I mean, this time, it was an old lady, sure, but…" He pulled Fraser towards him, and Fraser stepped forward without a struggle. Ray sighed, and tilted Fraser's head a little, and gently laid the improvised cold pack over Fraser's eye. Fraser winced just the tiniest bit. "Next time it could be… Hell, how many times in the past has it been a guy with a gun?"

"Ray," said Fraser again, softly. They were standing really close and Fraser had his hand on Ray's waist, steadying himself. Fraser's eyes - well, the one that wasn’t covered by frozen spinach - was steady and soft, and his cheeks were red with the cold.

Ray swallowed and held the bag steady on Fraser's face, his other hand still resting on Fraser's cheek. "Chicago's a mean city, Fraser, or at least it can be if you don't know how to watch out for yourself."

"I know how to watch out for myself, Ray," Fraser said with quiet certainty.

"Yeah, in the northern reaches of nowhere," Ray said heatedly, jerking his chin upwards to indicate the Canadian wilderness. "You've been here for, what, a few months? You've been here for no time at all. There are bad people in this city, Frase."

"There are bad people everywhere, Ray." Now Fraser's other hand was on Ray's waist, too, and Ray was leaning forward helplessly. Fraser's lips were hot against his and his arms were wrapped entirely around Ray now, tugging him close as Ray let the frozen pack slip away from Fraser's face and let himself sink into the kiss. It was freezing in here, but everywhere Fraser was touching Ray was warm, warm. Ray's nose, his cheeks, were cold, but when Fraser slid his tongue into Ray's mouth, Ray forgot about everything except this: kissing Fraser, and Fraser settling even closer against him, sinking completely into the kiss.

"God," he breathed, his eyes still closed, when Fraser reluctantly pulled away a little. "God."

"You're freezing," Fraser murmured, his huge hands rubbing warmth up and down Ray's bare arms. Ray was still clinging to Fraser, the uniform rough under his fingers. His back was freezing, but Fraser was breathing warmth against Ray's lips, and his hands, still stroking Ray's arms, were hot. Every stroke was sending a jolt of heat through Ray's body that seemed to be going directly to his cock, which was hard, so hard, pressed up against his zipper where he was shoved up against Fraser, as close as he could get.

"I'm fine," Ray said against Fraser's mouth. He felt Fraser's lips curve into a smile, and Fraser kissed him again, lightly this time.

Ray sighed. "Just - okay, I know it goes against your fucking nature, but be careful. Or try to be. Okay?"

"I'm always careful," said Fraser with all seriousness. Ray could see his breath as he spoke.

Ray wanted to bang his head against the wall. He wanted to smack Fraser's dumb mouth. He wanted to fuck Fraser senseless, but - not in the freezer. He was willing to risk chapped lips, but he wasn't going to even think about frostbite on certain areas which were pretty damn important to him. "C'mon," he said. "Let's get you some food."

"All right," said Fraser agreeably, bending to scoop up the frozen spinach where it had fallen to the floor.

"And get that cut cleaned," Ray added, nudging the door open all the way so they could head out.

Fraser nodded, reaching towards his belt. "I have a concoction I made from the mucus membrane of a pregnant…"

"Ah!" Ray held up his hand. Freak. This guy was a freak. "I have ointment. Nice, normal antibiotic ointment."

"Well." Fraser frowned. "All right."

"C'mon," said Ray, slinging one arm around Fraser's shoulders and leading him out to the front. "We'll get you cleaned up, get you some food. You ever had pineapple pizza?"

Fraser looked startled. "I don't think - "

"You'll love it," Ray assured him.

God, it was great, it was really great. It was better than it had any right to be, really, and Ray was trying not to think on it too close. Because it sounded like a truly terrible romance book. Or maybe a sitcom: Canadian Mountie Falls for Chicago Pizza Maker! Wackiness Ensues!

Only it was more like Sex Ensues. A Lot of Sex Ensues. He and Fraser would have these serious discussions about how they were moving really fast and should maybe slow down and there'd be a lot of agreement on both sides, and then - and Ray was never one hundred percent sure how this happened - there'd be sex happening. Like, Fraser sprawled back on the couch - the couch where they'd been having their very reasonable conversation just moments before - with Ray kissing him, and kissing him. And when he pulled back, really intending to stop and get back to the talking about it, well, Fraser would be all relaxed, and his lips would be red and sometimes he'd just be in jeans and a t-shirt and he'd be barefoot. That would be really enough - more than enough - for Ray to have to just reach forward and thumb open the button on his jeans.

And Fraser would be staring at him all heavy-lidded, looking at him through his eyelashes, and he'd do this thing, a sort of all-over body relaxation thing, and slouch just the tiniest bit more.

Ray would be sitting there panting, and they'd barely even done anything yet, he wasn't even touching Fraser, just sitting there next to him, watching, and Christ, he could see Fraser getting hard, see it through his jeans, that top button opened, that t-shirt rumpled against his belly.

Sometimes, instead of jumping him, Ray would exert some very serious self-control and just reach forward, cover Fraser's hardening cock with his hand. Just that, but it would be enough to make Fraser's eyes flutter closed, for a soft moan to come out of his parted lips, and how could Ray be expected to do anything, anything other than get on the floor between Fraser's legs and ease his zipper the rest of the way down? Fraser - helpful, always helpful - would lift his hips so Ray could tug his jeans and shorts down. And when Ray leaned forward to lick the wetness already formed on the head of Fraser's dick, Fraser's whole body would tighten up, and Fraser would moan, again, louder. His hand would come to rest on Ray's cheek, and he'd say Ray's name, real quiet.

Ray had no choice but to suck him off, right there, right then. There was no stopping it then, and God, sucking Fraser's cock was something he wanted to do all the time. He wanted to always be doing this. Fraser had this way of moving himself against Ray that was the hottest thing that had ever happened to Ray ever. Ray would stop sucking and just hold as much of Fraser in his mouth as he could, and Fraser would shift his hips a little, just enough to rub the underside of his cock against Ray's tongue in the rhythm he wanted.

Sometimes Ray would suck him messily, really move, get into it, let his hands wander all over, tracing lines over Fraser's stomach, his hips, letting one hand drift down to smooth over Fraser's balls, slide back behind them and play with him there. But to finish, nine times out of ten, Ray would just hold Fraser there in his mouth and Fraser would moan and slide his cock back and forth over Ray's tongue, and that was when Ray could feel him trying not to come. Fraser, wanting to hold onto this, the edge of that moment where he couldn’t stop, couldn't, and then he'd gasp, loud, and his hands would clench into fists, and he'd come right there in Ray's mouth.

It was hot, it was so hot, and there would be no more conversation that night, because all that Ray could do then was crawl up onto Fraser's lap and kiss him some more.

But he wasn’t complaining. No complaining here. The sex was great, it was unbelievably great. Fraser was busy a lot, but so was Ray. So they saw each other when they could, and that pretty much meant, for now at least, Wednesday nights at Ray's place to watch the hockey game and then rub off against each other in Ray's bed, and afterwards Fraser would have to head on home, because of Diefenbaker and also because of having to be to work at some ungodly hour of the morning. And weekends, well, they usually tried to plan on Saturday nights after the shop closed, and that would easily roll into Sunday morning (sleepy morning sex), and Sunday noon (coffee and muffins and kisses that tasted like butter), and then - no, really - Fraser would say to Ray, regretfully, "It's high time I should be getting home."

And Ray would nod, and say, "I'll drive you."

They'd go back and forth on that one, every time, but Fraser mostly ended up agreeing to a ride. Sometimes Ray would have to make up an errand he had to run anyway, and add on a, "I could use a hand, if you have a few minutes."

Fraser would always quickly agree, and Ray would have some company for picking up his clothes at the Laundromat, or going to get his car washed. (Who knew a car wash could be hot? Not Ray, not really - he'd never known that that could be a kink. But riding through the autowash, on a Sunday afternoon, with the water coursing over his GTO, the brushes going, the soap creating this completely closed-off feel to the whole world, just him and Fraser hidden away - well, it turned him on harder and faster than he knew he could get turned on, and he'd pushed his way over to Fraser before he even thought about it, and kissed him over Fraser's protest, and had Fraser moaning into his mouth and humping up against his leg before they even hit the rinse cycle.)

The thing was, they'd get back to Fraser's place, and half the time Ray would be jittery and half-hard and Fraser's neighborhood had too many people around for making out in the car and so mostly Ray would follow Fraser upstairs with the excuse of giving Dief a snack or something, and mostly by the time they got up there, it was all he could do to wait till the door was closed behind them before shoving Fraser up against it and sliding his tongue into his mouth.

("This is a goodbye kiss," Ray explained.

"Understood," Fraser said breathlessly, sliding his hands down Ray's back and into the back pockets of his jeans.

Ray buried his face against Fraser's neck and licked against the soft skin there. Fraser shuddered against him, and pulled his hands out. "Only a goodbye kiss," he said seriously, and turned Ray around, pressing him back against the door. "Because my door still has no lock," he said, sliding to his knees in front of Ray.

Ray made the tiniest of moans in the back of his throat, and Fraser looked up at him sternly. "So you have to be extremely quiet."

Ray nodded unevenly, and raised his hand so he could bite down on his knuckle as Fraser got his jeans open and sucked him into his mouth.)

After weeks of scenes like this, Ray's hand was starting to have permanent marks and his throat was hurting from biting back on moans, and by the third weekend, Fraser was listening to his suggestion of bringing a change of clothes and the wolf with him when he came by on Saturday nights so he could stay through till Monday morning.

Monday mornings, Ray was half the time whistling while he went to work. His life wasn't anywhere near half bad, and he was knocking wood every chance he got that it would stay that way. This Monday in particular followed a fucking great weekend. He'd taken Fraser with him to the garage that he borrowed from his buddy Sean when he needed to work on his car. Fraser knew a little bit about engines, and was a quick study, so Ray had him help out with the oil change. By the end of an afternoon of Fraser getting progressively sweatier and dirtier, Ray had been worked up to a fever pitch and pushed Fraser up against the hood of the car, opened up his jeans and stroked him off right there, just so he could watch his face as he came.

Today Ray had himself scheduled for the night shift at the store. He did that most Mondays, giving himself some recovery time. He didn’t know how Fraser managed it, getting up at the crack of dawn to be at the Consulate in time to open it. He'd turned down a ride from Ray, too, and while Ray had totally meant his offer, it was probably best that Fraser had hoofed it, given that Ray hadn't been able to open his eyes or really pronounce his words too well. So it wasn't until around two in the afternoon that Ray swung in to the pizza place, whistling.

"Hey," he called out to Turnbull, who was struggling with a stack of what Ray really hoped were empty pizza boxes, given the way they were teetering in Turnbull's arms. Help seemed to make Turnbull more clumsy, not less, so Ray just carefully sidestepped around him and left him to it. In the back, Ray - still whistling, and he tried to put a stop to it, though then he suspected that just resulted in him grinning like a lunatic - hung up his leather coat, grabbed a clean apron, washed his hands, and set to work on making the pizza for the order slip that was hanging on the order rack.

He was busy for a little while - getting the pizza in the oven, doing a little bit of inventory work while Turnbull was still there, greeting Sandor when he came in the back - before heading out front to see how business was doing.

"How goes it, Turnbull?" He checked the till, and shook his head a little. "Man, I'm never going to get rich in this business." Eh, it was okay - steady for this time of year, and so long as he was the one working his own overtime, he made enough. Not that he was rolling in it by any means, but enough, and really, for the sake of being his own boss, that was pretty okay by him.

Turnbull was wiping down the counter with a slightly glazed look on his face, his tongue stuck between his teeth. Ray swung around and - yeah, there was Fraser. Ray made a sincere effort to keep his own face from going as goofy as Turnbull's (Poor kid. He had such a crush on Fraser, and such respect for Ray. Ray hadn't figured out a way to tell him yet that Ray and Fraser were an item. For now, he was just letting it ride; it wasn't like he and Fraser were going around holding hands or anything. He'd figure out a way to break the news to Turnbull gently sometime soon.)

Ray narrowed his eyes, trying to casually peer into the corner, where Fraser was deep in conversation with Gardino and some other guy. Guy looked familiar, just from the back of his head, the way he held himself, the way he gestured. He was balding, but kept his hair cut short, so it looked sort of like he meant to do that - a little classy. Not trying to hide it. And he sat loosely in the chair - involved in the conversation, sure, but more like he was leading it, and he had both Fraser and Gardino leaning in like he was the important one here. He was dressed in a sharp suit and - in the middle of the day in a pizza shop, for God's sake - he made it work, like he was there to lend something to the surroundings, and Ray's Pizza should be lucky to have him for decoration.

Ray was staring and trying not to, gnawing on his lip, trying to figure out where he knew this guy from and what he was doing there with Fraser and Gardino. That was when the guy slung his arm easily over the back of the chair, turning slightly, and - oh Christ. Ray'd recognize that nose anywhere. What the fuck was Ray Vecchio doing in his place?

The three of them seemed to be at a stopping point - Fraser and Gardino had leaned back, and Gardino was flipping back through the notes he'd been taking in his little notebook - when Ray walked over; it was his fucking place, dammit, might as well greet the clientele. He grimly tucked his towel into his apron. "Hey, Fraser. Gardino," he said, then turned his glance towards Vecchio. "Vecchio. You slumming?"

Vecchio grinned up at him, and rocked back in his chair a little. "Yeah, Kowalski. I gotta see how the little people do it every once in a while. Get back to my roots, you know?"

Ray shook his head sadly. "Vecchio, your roots are down way lower than this. I got a dumpster out back though, that should make you feel right at home."

Vecchio's grin widened, showing all his teeth. "Nice," he said, nodding. "Real nice, Kowalski."

Vecchio, Ray thought, looking down at him, was an ass. He ran the real nice, real popular Italian restaurant across town. You had to have reservations a month in advance to get in, and even then, if Vecchio didn't like the look of you, he wouldn’t seat you. His place was all done up, with cloth napkins and expensive wine and - Ray hated to admit - some of the best food in the city. Really nice, really expensive dishes, and if Vecchio liked you - or wanted to impress you - he'd cook it himself.

Vecchio was one of those guys who could take one look at you and tell you what you wanted. Never mind what you intended to order, what you told him. He'd wave that away and head off to the kitchen, and emerge later with the most mouth-watering, luscious entrees that you never knew you wanted, but couldn't get enough of. He was good; he was that good. Ray hated that.

As well as being a good cook, Vecchio was also a big-time mobster. One of Frank Zuko's guys. Real high-up, real dangerous, and if the rumors Ray heard were true, and he was pretty sure they were, the catering end of his restaurant business was a front for hits. You want real good pesto, you want to-die-for chicken parm, you want someone to actually die, real quiet, real neat, a bullet in the head and no one ever saw who held the gun? You called on the services of Ray Vecchio's place.

He'd never been caught, or even looked at too close, but everyone knew. Everyone knew. What was he here with Gardino for? What the fuck was Gardino taking notes on?

Vecchio got up smoothly, slipped on his long coat, held out his hand to Gardino, who shook it, distracted, staring down at his notes, with a mumbled, "I'll be in touch."

Vecchio apparently tightened his grip, because Gardino looked up, startled. "Don't be in touch," Vecchio said, real low, real gentle. "You just take care of it, Detective Gardino. Capisce?"

"Yeah," Gardino said, yanking his hand out of Vecchio's. "Got it, I got it."

Fraser got up, too, and extended a hand. Vecchio smiled at him, a smile that actually reached his eyes, and took it slowly, holding it more than shaking it. "Constable Benton Fraser," he said, his eyes gleaming. "It was a pleasure to meet you."

"It was a pleasure for me, as well, Mr. Vecchio," Fraser said with all politeness, looking Vecchio directly in the eye.

"Ray," said Vecchio, still holding onto Fraser's hand. "You can call me Ray."

"Ray," said Fraser, with a nod, and Vecchio slowly let go of his hand, and turned to face Ray, who was still standing there waiting for this pond scum to leave his place.

"Kowalski," Vecchio said, tucking his hands into his trouser pockets and rocking back on his heels. "A pleasure, as always."

"Vecchio," Ray said grimly, tilting his head. "You know where the door is."

"Why, Ray," Vecchio said, widening his eyes in mock surprise. "Is this the customer service you offer? No wonder this place is doing so poorly." He shook his head sadly, and Ray gritted his teeth. He really fucking hated this guy.

"Well, Ray," he said in response, "If I had the…special services you have, I might be doing better. But then - " He paused, going for thoughtful, "But then, I'd never get my hands clean, would I?" He pulled the towel out of his apron and tossed it to Fraser. "Wipe your hands off, Fraser, there might be blood on 'em."

Vecchio's grin twisted a little, and then he had Ray up against the wall, his hand knotted in Ray's t-shirt, his face right up close to Ray's. "You gotta learn some manners, Kowalski. Didn't your mother ever teach you anything?"

Ray laughed. "She taught me not to hang out with scum like you."

Vecchio lost the smile entirely, staring at Ray grimly. Ray raised his eyebrows. "Oh," he said, and then head-butted Vecchio right between the eyes and shoved him away hard, slamming him against the counter with Ray's arm pressed up against his neck. "She also taught me this."

Vecchio growled at him, and then Ray was being yanked off him. Vecchio lunged forward, but not far before Fraser had his arm around Vecchio's chest with Vecchio's arm held around behind his back. Ray struggled - that had to be Gardino holding him back - but Gardino's hold tightened, and Fraser swiftly turned Vecchio around and managed to rearrange his hold on him so he was guiding him towards the door with an arm around his shoulders. "Mr. Vecchio - Ray," he said, sounding completely calm and totally friendly and Ray was so mad he could have spit. "We appreciate your help today, and I do hope you know you can call upon me should the need arise. Thank you."

And then the door was open and Vecchio was on the other side of it, angrily straightening his coat and staring as Fraser politely waved at him through the glass door.

Which Ray thought was fucking fantastic, and Vecchio apparently thought was bizarre enough that he just rolled his eyes, waved back, then turned his back and headed off up the street.

"What was that about?" Ray angrily shrugged Fraser off - he was trying to peer into his eyes. "Quit that, I don't have a concussion. My head is the least of my worries."

Fraser released his hold on Ray's shoulders and stepped back a little. Gardino was chewing on a toothpick and steadily gazing out the window. Ray looked back and forth between the two of them. "Well?"

Fraser cleared his throat. "Merely business, Ray."

"You doing business with Vecchio, Gardino? What the fuck?" Ray demanded. This was fucked up, this was fucking dangerous. Gardino didn't know what he was dealing with here.

Gardino shrugged loosely and stood up, stretching his arms and not looking at Ray or Fraser. "It's a case, Ray. That's all. You know I can't talk to you about it."

"I don't care what it is," Ray spat out. "You shouldn't be involved with him, and you really shouldn't be dragging the Mountie in on whatever 'business' it is."

Fraser cleared his throat again. "Gentlemen," he said. "If I may interrupt?" He took Gardino by the shoulder and guided him away. Ray threw up his arms and flung himself back against the counter, leaning there tensely and glaring at the two whackjobs who thought they could take on Zuko's boys.

"Louis," Fraser was saying, edging the two of them smoothly towards the door, much like he had done with Vecchio. "Perhaps I could meet you back at the station house? I have to collect Diefenbaker from the Consulate en route, anyway, and this would enable me to protect your car from yet more wolf-hair on the back seat."

"Well." Gardino shot a look out at his most prized possession, a 1972 Chevrolet Vega. Yellow, with a green racing stripe. It kind of hurt to look at, and it always made Ray's stomach feel vaguely queasy. There was no - no - accounting for taste. "Yeah. Okay. You sure? It's like - " He waved in the general direction of downtown. "A whole lot of blocks."

"Thirty-two, to be exact, but that's quite all right. Both Diefenbaker and myself could certainly use the exercise." Fraser stood politely at parade rest, obviously not going anywhere soon. Which was good, because Ray had words to have with him. A lot of words. Way more than thirty-two, even.

"All right." Gardino moved the toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other with his tongue. He looked at the two of them, and then pointed at Fraser with his pinky and forefinger. "You, I don't want to know what you say to him. And you - " He moved his hand and what Ray guessed was supposed to be his tough-guy look to Ray. "You keep your mouth shut about whatever it is the Mountie does or doesn't tell you." His gaze softened a little. "You were always pretty good about that."

Ray showed him a smile. "You can trust me."

Gardino shook his head. "Not even a little bit." He headed out the door. "See you at the station," he called back to Fraser.

"All right," said Ray to Fraser. "You come with me. Turnbull!" he called back, and there was a loud clatter from the kitchen, then Turnbull appeared behind the counter. "Watch the front. I'll be out back for a bit."

"Yes, indeedy," said Turnbull, his eyes never leaving Fraser. "I'll be right here."

Fraser smiled at him, and Turnbull's face turned so red Ray thought it might ignite. "C'mon, Romeo," he muttered at Fraser, grabbing his arm and dragging him through the kitchen and out the back door to the alley outside.

"Okay." Ray turned and folded his arms, giving Fraser what he thought was his best tough-guy look. "Spill."

Fraser gazed at him steadily. "Mr. Vecchio is merely helping us out with some information."

Ray's eyes narrowed. "Vecchio's a snitch? Huh."

"I didn't say that," Fraser protested.

Ray waved his hand at Fraser. "Yeah, yeah, whatever, I'm a quick study. Go on."

"That's all there is," Fraser said, and moved to stand at parade rest, which really pissed Ray off. No way did Fraser get to play the dumb Mountie game with him, not when he'd seen Fraser naked and sweaty and begging for it - seen that this very morning, actually. He knew Fraser. Fraser did not get to put up fronts with him.

"Listen," Ray said sharply, crossing his arms over his chest. "I know Vecchio. Vecchio is connected, do you get me? Vecchio is not a guy to take lightly. He's smart, and he's dangerous."

Ray wasn’t sure how it was possible for Fraser to stand any straighter, seeing as how he already looked like he had a stick up his ass, but Fraser managed it. "Ray," he said quietly. "I know what I'm doing. This is my job, and Detective Gardino's job."

Ray huffed out a laugh. "And not mine, right? I’m just the pizza guy."

Fraser thumbed his eyebrow. "You are not 'just' the pizza guy, though you are, of course, indeed a pizza guy, but that is neither here nor there…"

Christ, the guy sounded like Turnbull when he got rattled. "Listen to me, will you, Fraser? That guy is bad news. I don’t care what information he's feeding you, it's about as good as his linguini." Which, okay, was pretty good, but that, as Fraser would say, was neither here nor there. Ray was making a point. "Mafia, Fraser. You get that? The guy's a mobster, and you're trusting him?"

"I know what I’m doing, Ray," Fraser said patiently.

"Oh, 'cause you have experience with this, right?"

"Well -"

"You got, what, the Eskimo mob up there, is what you're telling me?"

"They would be Inuit, and no, it - "

"They're walking around beating people up with frozen fish sticks and shaking people down for cuts of their iceberg?"

"Now you're just being silly, Ray."

"Do not do that, Fraser, do not call me silly when I'm talking about your life here."

"You were, in fact, talking about fish sticks, Ray."

"Fraser, just - dammit." Ray hit the brick wall with the side of his fist. "The point is this, Fraser. The point is you're new here. You don't know this city like me. You don’t know what Vecchio can do to you."

"Ray," Fraser said slowly, just watching as Ray shook out his hand and sucked on his scraped fist. "I understand your concern. I need you to trust me that Ray Vecchio is acting in such a manner that I have reason to believe his intentions are true."

"You expect me to believe that. How do you expect me to believe that?" Ray was going to kill him before Vecchio even got a chance to. What was Gardino thinking, letting Fraser get mixed up in something like - whatever it was that Fraser was mixed up in, which he didn't even know what, since Fraser didn’t trust him enough to tell him jack. Even Gardino knew he could keep his mouth shut when he had to. Fraser didn’t know him enough to even know that, but was asking him to trust him on this?

"I'm asking you to," Fraser said steadily.

"You want me to just stand back while you get your ass killed? Fine." Ray flung his arms out to the side. "You go, you walk your thirty-two blocks to get your wolf and you just -" Ray was vibrating with sheer frustration, and if he hadn't already learned (The hard way. Twice.) that you broke your hand if you punched a wall straight on, he'd be pummeling the fuck out of the brick here in the back alley.

"All right, Ray." Fraser regarded him for a moment, then turned away, lifting his hat to put it on his head. Ray shot forward and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him around. Fraser's hand on his wrist was strong enough that Ray knew that Fraser could have shaken him off without breaking a sweat if he chose to, but he didn't. Ray pushed up against him and kissed him roughly, right there in the alley. A whole war of emotions was going on inside his chest, but fear seemed to be the number one force in there, and he'd lost too many fights with Stella to risk having Fraser walk away. He kissed Fraser, feeling Fraser stiffen up and then relax just the tiniest bit. That's all Ray needed; just the smallest suggestion that this whole thing wasn't going to fall to pieces with one fight.

He let Fraser go slowly, patted his uniform jacket back into place. He wasn't going to apologize - he had nothing to be sorry for - but, "Go on," he said, taking Fraser's hat out of his hand and centering it carefully on Fraser's head.

Fraser nodded carefully. "All right," he said again, but he put one hand on Ray's shoulder for a moment before turning away and heading down the alleyway. That was something. That was enough.

It was funny - sort of. Later. - that Ray had been thinking about Fraser being the one to get in trouble. Funny in the "oh, yeah, wow, I'm an idiot" sort of way. Because Ray was the one who'd lived in this city his whole damn life; Ray was the one who should have known better. Thought he did know better. He was stupid and he was distracted and he didn't see it coming.

It was Thursday night at the shop and Sandor shrugged into his jacket and let himself out the front with a, "See ya tomorrow, Ray." Ray was giving the counter one last wipe-down, and then he was going to sit and have himself a beer and listen to some music before heading home. He wasn't paying attention - he was thinking about being on the couch with Fraser the night before and how he'd played Iggy Pop for Fraser. Fraser had lain there with his head on Ray's lap, listening intently, like it was some sort of cultural experience.- and when the bell on the door rang, he just glanced up. "Sorry, we're closed," he called to the guys coming in.

There were two of them, and one of them turned around, but he wasn't leaving. He was turning the lock on the door. Ray dropped the cloth he'd been wiping the counter with and came around the counter. Fuck. Oh, fuck. "Sorry, guys, the ovens are off," he said pleasantly.

The guy who had locked the door came forward. He had a broad, flat nose that looked like it had been broken more than once. "We're not here for pizza."

Ray's hands were curled loosely at his sides, and his whole body was tense. He was in trouble here, and he was furious at himself for not locking the door right behind Sandor. He'd been held up here once before, he should have known better. He forced his tone to stay easy, quiet, as he said, "Oh, what, you heard about my linguine?"

The other guy stepped forward now, flanking Mr. Broken Nose. He was thin, and jumpy - he kept tapping his fingers on his thighs and bouncing a little on the balls of his feet as he stared at Ray. Ray gave them both a broad smile, his hands clenching into fists now. "I make a mean linguine," he offered.

Half the lights in the place were off, and Ray didn’t even glance at the window, because there was never a cop around when you needed one. Never, not once, not even the member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that he was currently fucking. The doors were locked and it was just him and these two guys and he was so fucking screwed.

Mr. Broken Nose smiled faintly at him. "Oh. You think you're being funny. I get it." He looked over at the thin guy, who moved faster than anything, and even though Ray had been expecting it, the punch to his gut hurt like hell. He doubled over, trying to remember how to breathe, and felt a hand grab his hair, tug his head up. "Was that funny?" Mr. Broken Nose asked.

Ray wheezed, "Kind of?" then lurched forward into a punch at the guy's face. He missed, of course, but he forced his body to keep moving, turning the forward motion of the punch into a swivel that let him knee the skinny guy in the nuts. "Not as funny as that, though," Ray managed, as the skinny guy fell over. He grinned at Mr. Broken Nose just before a fist came smashing into his face.

Things got blurry after that. They beat the shit out of him, but they weren't going for the kill, which Ray guessed he should maybe be grateful for? They emptied his register and trashed the place some and left Ray there on the floor behind his counter. And - Chicago being Chicago - not one fine citizen saw a thing through the dimly lit windows of his shop, not one cabbie driving by called it in. Ray crawled over to the wall after the guys left, heaved himself up to the phone, and forced his fingers to move, called Gardino's cell.

And see, the difference between Ray and Fraser was that Ray wasn't stupid when it came to certain things. He let Gardino cart him to the hospital. He let the gash in his forehead where he had fallen and hit the edge of counter get sewn up. He let the medical professionals probe around and figure out his ribs were bruised, not broken. He let them be the ones to clean him up, tell him he'd live (though he wouldn't be happy about that for a few days).

He let Gardino take him home. When they got to Ray's building, Gardino let them in with the keys to Ray's apartment that he still had on his ring. Ray vaguely remembered being carted to his bed, remembered Gardino lowering him gently to the mattress. He tilted his head carefully to look at the clock on his bedside table. Four o'clock in the fucking morning, and he maybe should have waited, but fuck it, you know? He was trying to be the smart one here, and he'd have fucking killed Fraser if he got in trouble and didn't let Ray know. "Gardino," Ray asked quietly, "Will you please go get Fraser?" A phone call would have been fine, if Fraser had been normal enough to have a phone.

"Sure, Ray. No problem," Gardino said, rocking uncertainly on his heels.

Ray closed his eyes and thanked god that he was on enough drugs right now that he didn’t feel as pathetic as he could have.

He lay there, trying to stay awake till they got back, but the pain (his chest, his stomach, his head, his eye) drowned it out and he closed his eyes against the light of his bedside lamp and tried to just breathe.

He didn’t know how long it was until the mattress dipped a little and he moaned before he could stop himself. He gritted his teeth and forced his eyes open. Fraser was sitting beside him, staring down at him worriedly. "Ray," he was saying, but his voice seemed very far away, "Ray, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." He laid something cold against Ray's cheek and Ray hissed, then settled down, the cold leeching the pain from his face.

"Fraser," he muttered. Fraser was sorry? For what, for Ray being stupid? "Fraser, it happens. S'all right. S'Chicago." He forced his eyes open a crack, peered up at Fraser. "You lock the doors?"

Fraser nodded at him, his eyes terrible and bleak. "Yes, Ray. I locked the doors." He put his hand gently against Ray's cheek, so gentle it didn't even hurt. "Rest, Ray. I'm here."

Ray turning his face into the pillow, drifted, Fraser's weight and warm safe beside him. He was okay. They were okay.

Or it should have been. Or maybe Ray was just stupid for thinking it was. He'd thought he was good at reading people. Maybe there was some Canadian translation that was missing, though, because he was completely off-balance here. Something was fucked up and it was more than just Fraser hanging out with mobsters.

Even though, after the robbery, they went on as they had been. Fraser was a little careful with him - god, opening doors for him like he was a goddamn cripple instead of just another Chicago businessman who got robbed. He was real distracted, too, but Ray figured there was stuff going on with the Vecchio end of things. When Ray'd been married to Stella, she'd only been a law student, first, and then a lawyer, but he'd figured out real quick that there were things she wouldn’t talk to him about, cases and privacy laws and blah blah blah. He'd had to get used to that. Stella, though, she was a tough chick. She was little and blonde and all, but she had two older brothers and packed a mean left hook. But more than that, she'd grown up in Chicago. Sure, on the safer side of town than Ray had, but still, she knew the city. She knew how to take care of herself, and how to avoid trouble, and that was one thing Ray knew for sure that Fraser did not know how to do. He kept proving it, so how was Ray supposed to just stand back and let him get hurt? How the fuck was he supposed to do that?

Fraser didn't seem worried about any of that. Not about mobsters or getting hurt or any of that. Fraser, man, was all about Truth and Justice for All. Fraser, the man in red to the rescue. Saving kittens from trees for little old ladies, and oh, yeah, also working to get mob boss Frank Zuko indicted on murder charges, with the help of Gardino's snitch - and Zuko's right-hand man, by the fucking way - Ray Vecchio.

Besides, Ray had a little bone to pick with Vecchio. It didn't take too long to occur to him that that "robbery" had come a little too close in time to the throwdown he and Vecchio had had. Vecchio didn't let much go, that much Ray was sure of.

Ray needed information here. Sure, he was just the pizza guy, but one thing he had plenty of were exes. He had Stella, who - well, okay, Stella wouldn't tell him much of anything at all, when he got her to meet him for coffee at the small shop around the corner from her firm. Not even when he sucked it up and told her the Mountie who was involved in this case (Like there were any other Mounties he had to make sure she wasn't getting mixed up over.) was the guy he was seeing. The astonished look she shot him when he told her that wasn't too flattering. "You went from Gardino to him? Mister Tall, Dark, and Overeducated? Huh."

He smirked at her. "Problem? Jealous?"

"Not hardly," she sniffed. "I find him annoying."

Ray showed her a slow grin. "I don’t."

She waved her hand at him. "I don't, do not, need to know any details there. So what, Ray, he's your boyfriend. That doesn’t mean I break confidentiality agreements." She watched Ray for a second, her eyes dark and unreadable, even for him, who had shared her bed almost every night for twenty years. "The guy jumps off buildings and in front of cars, and on a fairly regular basis, from what I've seen in Gardino's case files. Never gets a scratch." She crossed her legs. "He can take care of himself, Ray," she said quietly. "Better than you, apparently," she added, gesturing at his still-astonishingly bruised eye (it looked worse as it got better), and the still-healing gash on his forehead. "What happened to you anyway?"

Ray shook his head. "Hazards of the business," he said.

Stella raised an eyebrow. "Someone beat you up over pizza?"

"Hey, what can I say, I make a damn fine crust," he said, pushing back from the table. "I got rivals." He got up, tucking the chair neatly under the tiny table. "Thanks anyway, Stell." He was past getting into stuff like this with her. He was the bigger man here. He bent forward and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "See you."

"Ray," she called after him, but he pretended not to hear her. He had other sources, and they were easier than Stella.

Louis Gardino was easy as anything. Louis Gardino, Ray thought, maybe still had the tiniest of things for Ray, or at least enough good memories of enough hot nights together to fold when Ray leaned on him a little. Despite the fact that Louis was the one with the gun, Ray was the one who walked away with the information he needed. Ray was a persuasive guy.

Vecchio was feeding Gardino enough information that they could build a case to bust Frank Zuko, and the tradeoff was a trip out of town and a whole new life. Vecchio claimed it was a case of conscience - his wife had left him years ago, but he still had an elderly mother and a kid sister to think about. Claimed he didn't want them stuck in the middle of all the danger just because he ended up mixed up in it. That was the story he was feeding Gardino, but Gardino told Ray he thought it hit a little closer to home even than that.

Gardino grinned around the toothpick in his mouth as he informed Ray, "Vecchio's got a sister to think about, sure, but it's Zuko's sister. It didn’t take a whole lot of digging to find out Vecchio's been sniffing around Irene Zuko's skirts for ages now."

Ray raised his eyebrows. He didn’t like Vecchio, but he'd pegged him for being smarter than that. "Not an idea that's going over real swell with Zuko?"

"Not so much," Gardino agreed. "I don't really care what's driving Vecchio to give us the information, but I gotta say, Vecchio's gotta have a real good reason to get out of town, and I’m betting Zuko's sister's got a whole lot to do with it." Gardino shook his head. "Women," he muttered. "They'll do it to you every time."

"You think Zuko knows what's going on with Vecchio and his sister?"

Gardino frowned and sat forward in his chair, like he suddenly realized he maybe shouldn't be talking about this. "Hell, I don't know nothin'," he said, eyeing Ray. "Nothing at all. It's all under control, no worries."

"No worries," Ray murmured, his gut twisting, thinking of Fraser involved in this very messy situation. He didn't want to say anything to either Fraser or Gardino about his suspicions about Vecchio being involved in the robbery at the shop. Fraser had enough issues with putting himself in harm's way as it was. "Right."

Not that it mattered whether Ray worried or not. What happened to Vecchio didn't matter. What happened to Fraser did, and what happened to Fraser was bad. Seemed like Zuko had caught on to the deal Vecchio was trying to make with Gardino, and Vecchio's witness protection had to go into action a little bit early.

Ray, of course, was out of the loop on this. Ray didn't know squat other than Fraser was late meeting him at the apartment. A half hour late, at first, which was when Ray started to worry, because for Fraser, punctuality was the next best thing to the law. An hour late, and Ray called the Consulate. No one there had seen him since he left at one in the afternoon to go liaise, whatever the fuck that was, with Gardino. Ray called the 27th precinct, and couldn't even get past the woman at the front desk. He called Gardino's cell phone, no answer.

No Fraser, no Gardino, and he was useless, fucking useless here.

He couldn't just sit there, he couldn't. Chicago wasn’t such a big a city that a Mountie could disappear without a trace, right? Two hours later, he'd been to Vecchio's joint (Closed. On a Friday night. Not a good sign.), to the Consulate just in case (locked up tight, and not a light on in the place), and broken into Fraser's apartment (that wasn't tough, what with there still being no lock). No place, Fraser was no place, and Gardino wasn't picking up his cell phone no matter how many times Ray called him.

Ray swung back to his apartment to check the messages on his machine before heading over to the precinct proper. Nothing, just three hang-ups, and he was almost out the door when the phone rang again. He froze in the half-opened door, staring grimly at the phone, the ball of fear that had been building up all night tightening deep in his stomach. When it rang again, he took two steps over to it, but he couldn’t make his hand move. He just stared at it for two rings, three, before finally reaching out slowly and lifting the receiver. "Kowalski."

"Ray." It was Gardino. "Listen, Ray."

All Ray could do was listen.

"Fraser's okay, but -" There was a flurry of noise in the background, and Gardino covered the phone with his hand and yelled something to someone, and Ray was really, really going to punch him in the face next time he saw him. "Ray, sorry. Zuko's people got hold of him. I was right behind him, I swear, but we had to get Vecchio out, he's our whole case, and Fraser was hot after Zuko's guys, and - he got beat up pretty bad."

Ray clenched the phone so tight his hand hurt.

Gardino covered the phone again, yelling, "Yeah, yeah, gimme a minute." He came back on the line. "Listen, Ray, the other thing is, you're never gonna believe what Vecchio said as we were hustling him away. He asked me about you, asked how business was." Gardino was silent for a second. "It had to have been his guys that night at your place. I wanted to punch the guy out myself, Ray, I swear to god."

"Fucker," said Ray tightly. It'd been Vecchio. He'd known it'd been Vecchio behind the robbery. "Did Fraser hear him say that?"

Gardino said, "Yeah, he was there, it was right before we split up and he got jumped."

Ray just breathed and clenched the phone so tight that his hand hurt. "Where is he now?"

"Here, we're at the 2-7, but I'm taking him home."

"Is that safe?"

"What do you want me to do here, Ray? He's a grown man. I'm taking him home. Or," Gardino hesitated. "Should I take him to your place?"

Ray shut his eyes. "I don't - did he tell you to call me?"

There was silence on the line, then Gardino breathed out a sigh. "No. He told me not to."

Ray pressed his lips together. "Then take him home."

"All right," said Gardino hesitantly. "Ray, are you -"

"Thanks for the call," said Ray shortly and hung up. Fuck. Just - fuck. It wasn't like they were anything; he and Fraser weren't married. Fraser didn't owe him anything at all, and Ray himself sure wasn't responsible for any dumbass moves on Fraser's part. Gardino said it: Fraser was an adult. Fully half the arguments from Ray's marriage were about Ray getting in the way of Stella's life, and here he'd known Fraser, what, a few months? Ray was the fucking dumbass, letting himself get this hung up this quick. Ray was the one who needed his head examined.

He didn't know how long he sat there on his couch, his head bowed, hands clasped around the back of his neck, but he finally shook his head, got heavily to his feet, and grabbed his coat. Fuck it.

He hardly ever smoked anymore, but he leaned over after he started the car and dug an old pack of cigarettes out of the back of the glove compartment. He drove over to West Racine slowly, looping his way through the dim, dirty streets, smoking two stale cigarettes on the way and a third after he parked the car, leaning his head back against the seat and watching the streetlights as he blew the smoke out. He finished the cigarette slowly, and got out of the car, locking it behind him and leaving it on the unsafe streets of Fraser's neighborhood. He let himself in through the door with the broken lock in the lobby, up the stairs that weren't dirty only because Fraser swept them himself every Saturday, and there was Fraser's apartment down the end of the hall. Ray walked down that unlit hall slowly, his hands in his pockets. He got to the door and turned the knob, and it swung open - no locks, per usual.

Fraser, sitting on the floor by his bed, looked up, startled. "Ray," he said softly. Diefenbaker was beside him with his ears pricked. Dief had known Ray was coming, but Fraser - Fraser was surprised. Fraser hadn't noticed Ray's footsteps or Dief's alertness, and fuck, Fraser, fuck, if there was ever a time to be careful, it was now.

Ray stood in the open doorway, leaned his shoulder against the jamb, and regarded Fraser. His mouth was bruised. Ray could see it even in the dim light from the oil lamp. His mouth was bruised, and so was his cheek, and he had a cut on his forehead. His whole face was fucked up, probably even worse than it looked from here. He was sitting there wearing only his red long johns, open to the waist, and his ribs were wrapped carefully. Someone had helped him with that, though Ray would have bet twenty bucks - American - that Fraser hadn't let Gardino take him to the hospital.

Worse than all of that, really, was just how fucking tired Fraser looked. He looked beat, done, exhausted and gone. The circles under his eyes made them shadows, and even now, he just sat there and looked up at Ray.

Ray stood there a moment more before pushing off the doorjamb and closing the door quietly. He shrugged his coat off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor behind him. Fraser and Dief both just watched him, silently. Then Diefenbaker nosed Fraser's chin and padded away. Fraser slowly - painfully - levered himself up from the floor to sit, slightly hunched, on the side of the bed

Ray's heart was beating fast and he wasn't angry anymore, he wasn't scared anymore, he was just, just so fucking… He took two quick strides forward, and he was kissing Fraser, pushing him back on the bed. His hands were shaking, but Fraser immediately turned his head up to him, gave him his mouth, sank back on the bed beneath him with his hands in tight fists in the back of Ray's t-shirt. Ray groaned into Fraser's mouth, pressing down against him. He needed to hold on, needed to hold Fraser down, needed to, he just really needed -

He couldn’t stop moving, his hands fumbling at Fraser's stupid, stupid red long johns, pushing his hands inside the warm, soft fabric, clutching at Fraser's hips, holding on. Fraser was hard, Ray could feel him, hard and shoving his hips up against Ray, and murmuring quietly at him, but the roaring in Ray's ears was too loud for him to hear anything clearly at all. All he could do was keep kissing Fraser, as hard as he could, and hang onto him, grab at his hips and kiss him, taste him, have him there, hot and hard underneath him.

"Ray, God, Ray." Fraser's murmurings finally broke through, and Ray pulled his mouth away, panting, let his head drop, the skin of Fraser's cheek hot against the side of Ray's face. "Ray…" Fraser's hands were tracing the edges of Ray's face, and Ray tilted his head, pushing his face up against the warm, solid weight of Fraser's hand. "We're - the door is still… Anyone could…"

Ray shut his eyes tight and dropped his head to Fraser's chest. "Fraser," he said, because Fraser, here, Fraser was Canadian, and a Mountie, and stupid, Christ, Fraser was so fucking stupid that Ray could die from it. Because Fraser was ready to live like this, unlocked, unguarded, open to every crazed psycho mobster in the world, because that was his fucking way. "Fraser," Ray said again, raising his head and keeping his tone level and even, because fuck, fuck, Ray was the dumb bastard who loved the crazy Mountie, "I do not care about the fucking door."

Fraser blinked up at him in the darkness and licked his lip. "Okay, Ray. Just…" Then Fraser's hand was threaded into his hair and tugging his head down, and Fraser's tongue slipped into his mouth.

Fraser was beat-up, bruised, and exhausted, but he begged Ray for more. Ray had Fraser facedown on the bed, the covers and sheets twisted up under them. Fraser's back was beaded with sweat, and he was moaning softly into the pillow. Ray, draped over him, was tasting his back, licking him, as he worked his fingers into Fraser's ass. Ray was moving his hard cock gently against Fraser's side to the rhythm of his fingers, and Fraser shifted continuously on the bed. Ray knew every move had to hurt, had to, but Fraser wasn't asking him to stop, and Ray wasn't sure if he even could. His heart was beating in this throat and he swallowed, and twisted his fingers in Fraser's body.

Fraser's hands clutched at the sheets, and the moan he swallowed vibrated through his body. Ray was panting like an animal and his cock was leaking now, sliding against Fraser's hip.

"Fraser," he said, and his voice sounded broken, like he'd been screaming. He swallowed again, and pressed his forehead against Fraser's back. "Fraser," he said again, gently, insistently, and moved his fingers.

"God," Fraser breathed into the pillow, so low Ray could barely hear him, "Ray…" Fraser was trembling, shaking under him, and Ray was so hard he could barely breathe. He pulled his fingers all the way out slowly, slowly, and Fraser hissed under his breath. Ray moved, his limbs feeling heavy, clumsy, but when he draped himself over Fraser's back, Fraser made a low sound in the back of his throat, and murmured something. Ray bent his head forward towards Fraser's mouth, and what Fraser was muttering against the pillow was "yes" over and over again. Ray kissed the corner of Fraser's mouth helplessly and pressed his slick cock against Fraser's body, sliding in as slowly - slowly - as he possibly could.

He felt dizzy with it, sinking into Fraser, holding his hips down to keep him from rocking, from moving, from hurting himself more than he already had been. Fraser's hands were clutching at the sheets rhythmically, and he was making a quiet, "Ah," sound with every inch Ray pushed into him.

"Jesus," breathed Ray against Fraser's ear when he was fully in, all the way in, entirely in Fraser, in Fraser. "I - Fraser." And then he moved his hips because he had to, a slow thrust, and Fraser's head bowed deeper into the pillow. Ray gasped, and gasped, and pressed his lips against the damp back of Fraser's neck as he fucked him slowly and steadily, the room silent except for their desperate breathing, and the occasional creak of the bed, though it was very sturdily made and didn't make much sound at all.

Afterwards, when Ray leaned forward to brush his lips against Fraser's sweaty cheek, Fraser was murmuring soft words into the pillow, with his eyes closed and his lips barely moving. It sounded like praying.

The thing was, Ray reflected as he spread shredded mozzarella across the pizza with a deft and steady hand, the thing was this: he didn't know what he was doing with regards to the whole Fraser thing. But then, he had experience with that. Ray rarely knew what he was doing, but he did, as Stella had tended to observe tiredly, do it with enthusiasm. Having a set plan, a blueprint, a guideline; that just wasn’t how Ray worked. He went with his gut. Instinct was everything, and if, okay, he didn't always end up where he thought he would, well, maybe where he did end up was the right place to be.

He considered the pizza in front of him for a moment, added another handful of cheese, scooped it up on his worn wooden spatula, and pushed it into the oven. Instinct. Because, sure, he hadn't known he'd end up owning his own pizza place. He'd just know for sure that he didn’t want to end up working at the meat-packing plant like his dad, coming home exhausted every day and stinking of blood and never getting paid anywhere near what he should. Heading out to the front of the store to wipe down tables and do a quick sweep of the floor while they were between rushes, Ray glanced down at himself. And, okay, sure he sometimes came home covered in sauce, but hey, that was fine with him. And he sure didn't get paid anywhere near what he should, either, given the amount of time he poured into this place, but that was how it was, being your own boss.

When he came home tired, it was an honest, clean sort of tired. It was his instinct that led him here, and maybe he hadn't known that was where the path of no college/no meat-packing plant was leading, but he wasn't unhappy with it.

He could say that about a lot of his life, more than most people could. Losing Stella had hurt, but - and it had taken him years to get to the point where he could admit this to himself - it wasn't the worst thing in the world. They were friends, mostly, and sure, he had loved her to death, loved her more than she wanted him to, frankly. He wondered, sometimes, if that had anything to do with him clutching grimly to the particular end of the scale that meant he liked women best. Because - as current events had shown once and for all - Ray, in his middle thirties, seemed to be definitely tipping towards the guy side of things.

And again, he thought to himself as he wandered over to the jukebox and put on some music, he couldn't regret that. That was the thing: he went with his gut, and he just could not bring himself to not trust that. You stop trusting your gut, that's when you got in trouble.

Like Fraser. Man, Fraser wanted proof and pie charts and logic and all that crap. He made it all even crazier by living by this ideal where doing unto others meant they'd do unto you the same way back. Which was maybe how it worked up north, but down here in what Ray liked to call reality? Not so much.

Fraser wanted streets to be cleaner than they actually were, wanted to see gold where there was trash, seemed to believe that people, at heart, were for the most part good. Or maybe he just believed he could make them good, make everything in the goddamn world better, just by providing a first-rate example.

Ray himself believed that people, at heart, were in it to make a buck, but hey, he was just the pizza guy, what did he know?

Fraser hadn't been by in three days, not since that night at his apartment. He hadn't called, either, but then, the guy didn't have a phone. Ray had called the Consulate, but after the second time of being told that Fraser wasn't there when he called, Ray had made the - what he considered very adult - decision to not push. To be patient. Zen-like. That was what he was going to do, and the reason why was that his gut was telling him it was the right thing. Fraser saw things different than he did, and he thought a lot. Possibly more than any guy Ray'd ever known. So. Give the man time to think. Ray had time. Ray had nothing but time.

Ray trusted his gut, and it was only about four or five hours later, just after closing time, when everything was in order and Ray had already sent everyone else home, that he heard a soft tapping on the door and didn't even have to look up to know it was Fraser. He swung his feet off the table - he'd been relaxing and sipping a beer and being zen - and walked over to where Fraser was standing straight and stiff outside the door in the dark with Dief panting at his feet. Ray turned the lock and held the door open for them. Fraser let the wolf trot in first before following behind.

"Ray," he said softly.

Ray closed and locked the door firmly, then turned to look at Fraser. "Have a seat," he said, gesturing grandly at the table where he'd been sitting. "Get you a beer?"

"No, thank you." Fraser sat down, setting his hat carefully on the table. Diefenbaker trotted off to peruse the perimeter of the shop, doing a careful search for any possible pieces of pepperoni that Ray's broom might have missed.

Ray stayed standing, arms crossed over his chest. "Tea?" he said.

"No, thank you kindly, I'm quite all right."

Mm. Fraser's face was a sight. After three days, the bruises on his forehead, cheekbones, chin had all darkened to an alarming shade. Ray had watched him as he sat down, and he knew from very recent experience that all those beaten muscles had stiffened up bad by the day after the beating, and his ribs wouldn't be feeling too good either. But hey, the guy said he was fine, who was Ray to argue? Maybe Fraser went with his gut sometimes, too.

Ray reversed a chair and sat down in it. Fraser had his hands resting flat on the table and was studying them like they were the most interesting things in the world. He had a deep cut high on his temple, closed with a butterfly bandage like Ray used to use when he got hurt boxing. Ray reached out and snagged his bottle of beer from the table, took a swallow. The room was quiet; the noise from the street just outside his window seeming far away. "So," Ray said at the same time Fraser looked up and said, "Ray -"

"Go ahead," said Ray expansively, leaning his chin on his hands. "I'm listening."

Fraser took a breath. "Ray, this isn't working."

Ray frowned, considering. "Says you," he said finally, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes," said Fraser, his brow furrowed. "That is what I said. We are very different people, Ray -"

"I'll say," Ray interrupted with a snort.

"…and I can't possibly do this," Fraser continued doggedly, "do my job, if I have to worry about you worrying about me."

"Nice," said Ray, admiringly. "Turn it around on me, that's really playing mean, Fraser, that's a shot to the gut right there. And here I thought you Canadian guys were supposed to be kind or something."

Fraser looked up at him sharply. There you go, Fraser, pay some attention here at least. "Ray, I mean it. I have enough - I have too much going on in my life to have to worry about you, as well."

That stung, 'cause Fraser was looking right at him, and Ray could see Fraser meant it. Sure, he meant it. That was part of the whole relationship deal; that was one of the hard parts. Where suddenly keeping someone else whole and happy was just as important as keeping yourself that way. Fraser wasn't good at that, and Ray knew that was because Fraser wasn't used to that. Fraser was one solitary guy, or had been, till Ray came into the picture. And the thing was, Fraser didn't care too very much even about himself. Fraser was more than willing to put himself at risk for anything. Fraser put everyone else first. But what happened when he had someone else who needed Fraser to come first? To be safe? That was a regular puzzle, all right, and Fraser, man, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place and was hoping to slip through a crack.

"Fuck you, Fraser," Ray said easily, taking a sip of his beer.

Fraser blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"You should be," Ray shot back. "You fucking should be." Ray shook his head. "You're trying to weasel your way out of this, and I admire that, I really kinda do. That's a big deal, you know, to push away happiness with both hands like that."

Fraser blinked again, and put on a stolid Mountie face. "Ray," he said gently. Gently. Fuck that shit. "I need you to understand…" He stopped and stared down at his hands some more, and Ray was damned if he was going to offer the guy a lifeline out of this mess. He just bit his tongue, tilted back in his chair, and waited for Fraser to hang himself.

"I can't change, Ray, to be with you." Fraser's shoulders were bowed. "I can't be anything less than what I am, what I was brought up to be."

Ray snorted. Bull. Shit.

Fraser looked up at him, his eyes shuttered, showing nothing. When it came right down to it, Ray bet Fraser could be a hell of a poker player. He was fronting all the damn time as it was. "My duty comes first," he said. "You are asking me to set that aside, to put my feelings for you before it…"

Ray raised an eyebrow. "I'm not asking you for anything, Constable."

"You want me to be careful, you want me to not take the risks that, in my line of duty, are necessary."

"Oh." Ray let his chair slam forward. "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't care about you. Got it, Fraser. Sorry, I missed that part of the deal the first time around."

"No," said Fraser, and his voice was grim, "You shouldn't ask me to care more about you than I do about duty. They are one and the same, Ray, if you would only understand that."

Ray nodded slowly, took a long sip of his beer, and got to his feet. "Well." He smoothed down the front of his apron. "Got it, Fraser."

Fraser stood carefully, stiffly. He lifted his chin, picked up his hat from the table. "I'm glad we could -" His voice broke, and he cleared his throat. "I’m glad we could straighten this out. I hope you do well, Ray, in any future endeavors." He held out his hand, and Ray sighed, and shook it, and opened the door for Fraser, exchanging a look with Dief as they headed out.

Fraser could hurt himself worse than any beating from a mobster ever could. Ray should have figured that out by now.

Fraser was stubborn, Fraser was so damn stubborn. Even though he'd seen this coming, Ray was still astounded by how stupid Fraser was making this, how much harder than it should be. Duty before selfishness, what a crock. They'd been going back and forth on this practically since they met; this wasn't anything new. That wasn't what was driving this. Everything in Fraser's world was fucked up - the guy had no dad, no home, no nothing. All he had here was his duty - Ray would bet money that that was what Fraser had been grimly holding on to since he came to this country: that it was temporary, that it was like taking your medicine. Hang in there, do your duty, make the whole world - or at least Chicago - a better fucking place with your own two hands, and eventually it'll all realign itself and you'll be back where you belong.

Which was, apparently, alone up there in the freezing snow. Ray had seen maps. Fraser didn't just come from Canada, he came from very far up in Canada. There couldn't be much up there, and Ray couldn't help wondering why Fraser was so all-fired interested in getting back to it.

Fraser - not that Ray was thinking about it, because he wasn't, no way - Fraser was withdrawing. You know, sort of circling the wagons and, hey, maybe this was a little bit of what Ray had been trying to make him see: you couldn't just go out and take chances and trust that it was all going to work out for the best. That's all he wanted, he just wanted Fraser to think a little, take a fucking glance before he leapt.

But Fraser, man, Fraser was stubborn. Fraser wanted to go it alone. Fraser apparently had a lot of practice at that, and Ray himself was the king of being alone, so he could do this.

He wasn't going to wallow, wasn't going to make Fraser the end-all and be-all. Ray had been fine before Fraser and he was going to be fine now. Hell, the first two nights, he just enjoyed coming home, watching TV and flipping around as much as he wanted, sprawling so much he took up the whole bed, and getting enough sleep for the first time in what seemed like forever. That was greatness, and he woke up in the morning and stretched and didn't think about Fraser at all, not one bit. He didn't have to worry about not having any food in his fridge for breakfast (all Ray needed for breakfast was coffee), and he didn't need to worry about using too much hot water in the shower. He turned it up bit by bit and let it pound down on him and used the conditioner that had to sit in his hair for five full minutes. His skin was red by the time he got out, and his hair came out perfect when he styled it.

Work was good too - he didn't have to worry about taking a lunch break or getting out early. He did inventory and helped Liz clean the kitchen until it sparkled, and he let Turnbull go early. He hadn't worked a double shift in forever, and it felt good, it made him remember that his heart was in his pizza place and anything else was just a side gig. He played the Clash on the jukebox as he cleaned up at the end of the night and he was so tired by the time he got home (a good kind of tired, the kind of tired that went with a day of hard work well done) that he just had a beer and then crashed so hard he didn't even notice how empty the bed was, or how the pillow on the right side still smelled like Fraser.

The thing was, after a week of enjoying the peace, it got boring. And he wasn't thinking of Fraser, he wasn't, but if he was, he was hoping Fraser had put the lock on his apartment door like Ray had suggested. But whatever, it didn’t matter to Ray, Fraser could take care of himself. Ray was concentrating on his own life. Only he kept getting distracted. Stupid things were distracting him. Stupid things were, more to the point, making him hard. Walking into the freezer at work. Flannel shirts on passing construction workers. The jingle of the bell on the door of his pizza place, even though it was never Fraser who was coming through.

Stupid things, like his body couldn't learn to let it go. Couldn't stop wanting. Ray did everything he could - kept busy with the shop, with the car, with going out with Gardino. He did that a few times, going out to the bar with Gardino, having a couple of beers, watching the game, not talking about Mounties or Canada or anything like that at all. Just Ray and his buddy Gardino, and if Gardino found a way to work it into the conversation that Fraser was doing all right, was still alive, hadn't been the victim of a mob hit yet, then that was just conversation.

And if Ray made his way home slightly buzzed at the end of the night and lay in bed, jerking off thinking about hockey and Fraser, well, that was his problem.

It was the sex he couldn't get off his mind, the sex he couldn't be zen about. He missed the way Fraser smelled, like peppermints and wool. He missed the way Fraser would lick his lips like he didn't even know he was doing it, didn't even know that the sight of his tongue would make Ray hard. He missed making out with Fraser, missed having Fraser there to kiss, having Fraser there in his bed, having Fraser there to suck his cock. God, could Fraser suck cock. Fraser, who looked innocent and pure, like he'd never had a dirty thought ever in the world. Fraser, who had an oral fixation that could not be beat, Fraser who wanted to suck cock so bad he'd take chances Ray never thought he would.

Fraser had sucked Ray off in the foyer of the Consulate right after closing once, just pulled Ray in when he knocked, shut the door behind him, and got to his knees on the hard marble floor. Ray went from zero to hard in the time it took Fraser to get his pants open, and Fraser's mouth was so sweet and hot, and his tongue so talented, and Ray came about six seconds later.

Fraser had sucked Ray off in the front seat of the GTO, when Ray had driven him home. He'd touched Ray's shoulder, directed him to pull into an alleyway that was dark and abandoned and had no windows that looked down on it and the lamppost nearest it was out, and fuck, Fraser had been scoping out places to blow Ray, and that was hot, that was so fucking hot.

Fraser loved doing that, loved giving blowjobs, and when they weren't in a hurry, when they were at Ray's place and had all the time in the world, Fraser could spend ages on his knees on the soft carpet in Ray's bedroom, Ray sprawled back on the bed, clutching the sheets in his hands and being hardly able to even breathe. Fraser would do it slow, do it crazy slow, take his time, take Ray to the edge again and again, always pulling back before Ray could get there, always keeping him riding that edge hard, till Ray was lost in it, crazy with it, babbling and begging and not caring.

God, God, it was the sex he couldn't get past, he missed it in a million different ways, he couldn't stop thinking about it. Thinking about Fraser's face as he went down on Ray, all soft and intent, thinking about Fraser's hands, soft on Ray's hips, thinking about how afterwards Fraser would be in bed beside him, all hot and huge and taking up way more than his fair share of space. How he'd lie there and wrap his arms around Ray and kiss him, and kiss him, and murmur things to him there in the dark that should have been silly, only they weren't. Fraser meant them, he meant every damn word of love he gave to Ray there in the dark, and Ray - Ray had meant every word he'd muttered back to Fraser, every word he'd said against Fraser's lips, against the side of his neck. He'd meant it. He'd meant it.

This was hard. This was really, really hard.

Ray gave it a while. Ray gave it more time than he had originally counted upon, but Fraser held a lot of things close to the chest, and was apparently more stubborn than even Ray had known. Ray had spent two solid weeks determined to let Fraser play it out in his head, determined to let Fraser spend night after night with his damned honor, just to see how warm that would keep him. Ray had experience with these things; Ray had years of experience in knowing when to admit that he was stupid, that he was wrong. Ray knew when to fold.

Fraser, however good a bluffer he was, apparently did not know when to fold.

It was one thing to have zen and let Fraser's episode run its course, but there was no use being a damn fool about it. Lucky thing Ray had a lot of experience in being the first one to bend. He brought the GTO to the smoothest of stops in the open spot right in front of the Consulate, and really, that was a sign right there that his instinct to come here was right. Enough was enough. And when he got to the door, he didn't bother with formalities, just tugged it open and went on in. There was a guy in red manning the front desk, but he wasn't Ray's guy in red. Ray was tempted to just move right on past and find Fraser himself, but hey, you know, what was it Fraser was always saying? Only takes a minute to be polite.

Ray had waited this long. He figured, they were on Canadian ground right now, least he could do was act the part.

"Hey," he said to the guy at the front desk, who looked up at him, full of his own self-importance.

"May I help you?" he asked, his expression making it obvious that he in no way wanted to help Ray with anything, pretty much ever.

Ray gave the guy his best smile. Win 'em over, get Canada on your side. "Yeah, I'm looking for Fraser."

The guy merely blinked at him. Huh. Ray had been sure that was his best smile. "Benton Fraser?" he tried. "Tall, dark, and, uh, Canadian? Dresses a lot like you?" He really turned on the smile. "You guys shop at the same store or what?"

"Constable Fraser," said the guy, and wow, Kowalski, you are losing your charm in your old age, "is, at present, engaged in a matter of importance regarding the Consulate and cannot be interrupted."

Ray rocked back on his heels slowly. "Huh," he said, peering down at his watch. "Your clocks run different the way your rulers do? Because I got five o'clock here, and seeing as how it's Tuesday and I'm pretty sure that’s when Fraser's shift ends…"

The guy was looking at him with an expression of stiff boredom on his face. Somewhere down the hall, a clock chimed, and the guy stood up. "Now it is five o'clock. If you'll please excuse me." He pivoted on one heel and headed swiftly down the hall.

"Yo," called Ray at his retreating back. "Hello, where's Fraser?" Hell. Canadians were assholes just like Americans were. They just used more words to tell you to fuck off.

"Ray." A door off the foyer opened, and there was Fraser, all decked out in his reds and looking - well, looking like crap, but still like the best thing Ray had seen in a long time. "What are you doing here?"

"You and me, Fraser," Ray said, striding forward. "We gotta talk."

"We have talked, and we decided -"

"No, Fraser, you decided. I didn't decide nothing, except for this zen thing, which worked pretty well for what it's worth, but now, it's you and me. Talking."

Fraser stood up straighter and didn't move.

"What, you wanna do this here?" Ray spread his feet wide, crossed his arms over his chest."Fine by me, Fraser, you want me to start?"

Fraser grimaced and looked pained. "Ray -"

"You got someplace here we can talk, Fraser, you better show it to me real soon."

Fraser sighed, and rubbed his eyebrow and gestured down the hall. "The meeting room."

"Right," said Ray, hooking his fingers through the leather strap across Fraser's chest and tugging him along as he headed down the hall. "Let's go."

Fraser followed him - sullenly - down the hall.

Fraser, Ray thought, could be a tool sometimes.

Fraser directed him to a room with a giant conference table and fancy pictures of flowers on most of the walls and a giant-ass portrait of some lady who looked like she had a stick up her butt who just had to be the Queen. The important part, though, was that there was a sturdy door between them and the rest of Canada.

Fraser closed the door and turned towards Ray, obviously having himself all pumped up with a speech and everything. "Ah!" Ray stopped him, holding his hand up in the air. "No. Stop right there." Ray leaned back against the edge of the table, arms across his chest. "You said a whole damn lot last time. This time? My turn."

"Ray, I told you, I just - this isn't something that we can work out -"

"This isn't something that you can work out." Ray's heart was pounding. He had to win this one, and that was going to be tough, here on Fraser's turf.

"Ray." Fraser's voice was gentle - letting him down easy, was he? - and it made Ray want to kick him in the head. "You don't know me, really. We hardly know each other."

Ouch. "You really think that?" Fraser, apparently, let total strangers fuck him. Sure.

"I don't know anything. I wish you would try to understand, Ray. I'm in Chicago, thousands of miles away from everything I know, everything I love, and -"

Fraser wasn't pulling even one punch, was he? Asshole. "And what, you want to be alone here with that? You want to handle that all on your own because - why, Fraser? Why? It's that much fun to suffer?"

"No, Ray, just - you don’t - how can I do this, how can I do my job, do my duty? How can I do what I have to, what is part of me, what is who I am…"

"Fraser," Ray interrupted sharply, because this could go on and on and someone had to call Fraser on his bullshit. "What happened to me at the store. That was because of two things: that was because of me being stupid, and because of Vecchio being dangerous."

Fraser's back stiffened, and Ray sighed. Here we go. "Listen to me, buddy, that wasn't the first time I been held up at the shop, and I bet it won't be the last. It was Vecchio's guys this time around, but hell, last time it was neighborhood punks. It happens.

"Ray, you're misunderstanding me. If you cannot see that honor must come first, then how can I possibly-"

"Oh, see, this is what I love about you, Fraser. That real positive everything's-going-to-work-out-fine kind of attitude. It really butters my muffin."

"It’s not about you, it's how I was raised," Fraser tried desperately.

"Do not, do not try the 'it's not you, it's me' thing with me, Fraser," Ray said, holding out a warning finger. "I have been there, I have done that, and that is bullshit, coming and going. You think by walking away, you can protect me. Fraser, " he said, his lips curving into a mean grin, "Fraser, this is Chicago. You can't protect me from being stupid. Hell, no one can protect me from that."

Fraser slumped. Just a little, but it was there. "Ray, what do you want?"

"You. I want you." Ray stepped forward, while Fraser stood there frozen near the door, like he needed an escape route back to solid ground. He put his hands on Fraser's shoulders, let his thumbs trace down Fraser's neck. "Fraser," he said, and Fraser closed his eyes. "We met for a reason. We can't throw that away, that's something that you know, and I know."

Fraser shook his head miserably. "How do you know, how can you say you know something like that?" He asked it like a real question; he asked it like he really fucking hoped Ray knew the answer. Like he wanted to be convinced; like he needed to be convinced.

Ray rested his forehead against Fraser's. "I got a feeling. It's a hunch; it's a feeling."

Fraser kept his eyes closed, and his breath was hot and fast against Ray's face. "Yes, but there's absolutely no reason why - "

Ray shook his shoulders just the tiniest bit. "Look, Fraser, just this once. Just this once. I trust you. Every single time, every single time, I got to trust you. Just once, you trust me."

Fraser was silent for a lot longer than Ray liked. Ray's heart was beating so hard he thought he was going to maybe keel over, but he was pretty sure the Mountie manual taught them all about CPR, so at least he'd get, what, some sort of help, some sort of buddy breathing from Fraser before he broke it off for good.

Fraser took a breath. "Yes, but if we -"

"No." Ray shook him again. "No ifs, ands, or buts. Just…you gotta trust me on this."

Fraser opened his eyes and looked at Ray. "And if I do?" He sounded desperate, like he really wanted Ray to give him an answer he could believe.

"Fraser," Ray said, grinning tightly. "Look around. What the fuck have you got to lose?"

Fraser pressed his lips together, and this was hard for him, Christ, this was really hard for him. But, "All right," he was saying softly. "All right," he was saying, again, against Ray's lips. And then they were kissing, right there in Canada, in front of the Queen and everybody. Fraser was dragging Ray close up against him, and Ray didn’t care about zen or instinct or anything at all except that Fraser was back, Fraser was back, he finally had Fraser back.

Friday nights were crazy busy at Ray's place, and he spent all night racing to keep up with the orders, and trying to keep Turnbull focused, and getting the deliveries out on time and keeping all the customers happy (Including Mrs. Milner down the block who always ordered a small, plain pizza at the busiest time on Friday nights and got very seriously pissed off if Ray wasn't the one to bring it to her door. Bad, bad timing, but she was really sweet to Ray. And no one else would deliver to her, after the third driver had come back stunned about the curses that could come out of an old lady's mouth - not that Ray had ever seen her be anything but sweetness and light. But he believed his guys, especially after they staunchly refused to go back, even when Ray threatened to fire their asses.) So Ray tucked his apron up and shoved his coat on, grabbed the pizza and yelled at Sandor to keep an eye on things while he jogged down the street and up five flights.

Mrs. Milner gave him a pat on the cheek and a fifty cent tip, but she'd been his very first customer when he'd opened the joint, and so what, he was a softie. He gave her her pizza and a grin and headed on back to the store.

The rest of the night was more of the same: a lot of running around, but that was fun, it was cool. The food was good, the jukebox was up loud, the customers were happy, and Ray joked and sparred with the guys. And when Fraser came in, things were winding up just enough that Ray could stop to catch his eye, toss him some quarters from the register, and tell him to pick some music. Dief wandered back to take possession of the underside of a back booth, and Fraser spent quite a long time considering Ray's jukebox selection. Ray looked around, and everyone was fed, so he called out, "Yo, Frase."

Fraser held up one finger, intent on making his last careful selection, then turned to Ray with a smile. "Yes?"

"You hungry?"

Fraser considered it. "I could eat."

"Good. I'll put together something special for us."

Fraser eyed him. "Not like last time…"

Ray held up his hands, wounded. "Have a little faith, Fraser. I never make the same mistake twice. Not when it comes to pizza." So okay, fine, maybe the tator tot pizza had been a bad idea. Trial and error.

Fraser's eyes crinkled as he tried not to grin. "I have faith in you," he managed seriously. "Surprise me."

"I always do." Ray spun on his heel and headed off to the kitchen to put together a pizza for them. He got it in the oven just as Liz was closing the door behind the last customer and turning the lock with a sigh. "Busy night, boss."

"It sure was," said Ray, coming out from the kitchen. "You make good tips on deliveries?"

Liz shrugged and grinned. "Not bad at all."

"Good deal." Ray clapped her on the shoulder, and looked over to where Sandor was sweeping the floor. "Tell you what, you two head on out. I'll take care of the last of the clean-up."

"You sure?" Liz said hopefully.

"Yep," said Ray. "Besides, Fraser here will help me out, won't you, Frase?"

"Certainly, Ray," Fraser said solemnly.

Liz eyed Fraser at the table, then exchanged a look with Sandor. "Yeah, I'm sure you guys will be all set," she said, grinning at Ray.

"All right, all right," he said good-naturedly, tossing his towel at her head. "Get out of here already."

She laughed. Sandor snagged their coats from the back, tossed hers to her. "Have a good night, Ray," he called as the two of them headed out.

Ray locked the door behind him and flicked off half the lights so it was pretty obvious they were closed. He went over to where Fraser was sitting, relaxed. The jukebox was playing a slow number that made Ray want to move his hips, and Ray didn’t know when Fraser would have ever heard that tune before, but then again, there was a lot he didn’t know about Fraser. A lot he was looking forward to finding out.

"Good music," he said, leaning up against the table where Fraser was sitting. Fraser, in his un-Mountie outfit of jeans and a worn, off-white sweater that had seen better days, but was well-loved, apparently - Fraser had to love it to keep wearing it with its torn collar and worn cuffs. It looked soft.

Ray swayed with the music. "C'mere," he said, holding his hand out to Fraser.

Fraser took it and let Ray pull him to his feet. "I don’t dance," he said, laughing a little as Ray spun slowly in front of him and leaned his back against Fraser's chest.

"Fraser," Ray explained, as he spun himself back out, then looped his arms around Fraser's neck. "You don’t have to dance." He shut his eyes as Fraser put his arms around Ray's waist and tugged him close. Ray murmured, "Just move with me."

"Mmm," Fraser said, tightening his arms and dropping his head to Ray's neck. "I can do that," he said quietly, his lips moving against Ray's neck, and Ray made a soft sound of pleasure, draping himself up against Fraser. Fraser moved his mouth slowly up Ray's neck, over his cheek, before kissing him, his tongue sliding warm into Ray's mouth. Ray felt a moan rumble through Fraser's chest and thought to himself that this right here? This right now? This was one of those moments. One of those moments where you knew, you knew, just how happy you were, how lucky you had it. The music pulsed within Ray, and he moved in slow circles across the floor with Fraser in his arms, across the worn linoleum floor of Ray's Pizza Place at 35th and Michigan.


"I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more."
- Richard Lovelace, To Lucasta, on going to the Wars

- Gardino's car (a 1972 Chevrolet Vega) looks like this: Image hosted by

Only picture it with a green racing stripe. Awesome. (thanks to c_regalis for finding the picture.)

- The song Ray and Fraser are dancing to at the end is "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," downloadable here.

leave a comment on my LJ

Back to brooklinegirl's
Due South Page.