Fraser strained against his bonds. He had to get out of here. The rope chafed against his wrists as he tried to free himself.
“Keep him quiet,” the dark-haired man snapped.
The other man looked uncertainly from Fraser to the man who had spoken and back. He unfolded a package of white powder on the table and he gripped Fraser’s head tightly before he pushed his face right into the layer of white.
It was already really late and the crowd at the club had thinned considerably when Ray finally found some time to wipe the bar down.
“How long does the shift of a bartender at this establishment last?” The voice sent a sudden heat wave licking at Ray’s heart. Jesus!
He raised his head a little too fast and found Fraser seated at the bar watching him with an intimate kind of smile. It wasn’t any smile Ray had ever seen before on his partner and after a second it hit him that this was probably one of Fraser’s flirty smiles.
“Uh, I couldn’t really say. It’s my first night on and I’m not sure how long they’re going to keep me,” Ray explained, desperately groping for his equilibrium. He saw Jack moving closer from out of the corner of his eyes.
“I was thinking about staying a little longer. But,” Fraser took a long sweeping look around the room. “I’m not sure if it will be worth it. What do you think?”
Jesus, Ray thought. Jesus. He couldn’t meet those blue eyes when Fraser was coming on to him—supposedly coming on to him, Ray amended hastily. Fraser was just doing his low-key communication thing again. They should’ve settled how they wanted to wrap this thing up before they went in. It would make sense to take Fraser back home… bring Fraser back to the Consulate… but Ray honestly had no idea how many hours more they would keep him.
“It looks like tonight is almost over already,” Ray said with a shrug, hoping he looked casual. “You probably won’t miss anything—” Ray said, thinking that Fraser wouldn’t be mad at him for having to walk home.
“No, stay. I’m sure we can spring Stanley early tonight—it being his first night and everything,” Jack suddenly appeared at Ray’s shoulder with an easy-going smile. Fraser returned the smile. “I’m glad to hear it. I might just take another look around. You’ll probably find me somewhere over there,” Fraser told Ray, pointing towards a row of cozy tables in the back of the club.
“Yeah… sure…” Ray mumbled, watching Fraser leave.
Jack elbowed him in the kidneys. “Are you insane? Eye-candy here almost slipped through your fingers.”
“Eye-candy?” Ray intoned with a disbelieving look.
Jack grinned. “Man, you don’t turn a guy like him down. Let’s face it: you and me? We just aren’t in the same league as him. If a guy like that wants to take you home you better jump at the chance.”
Ray felt heat creeping up his neck. This was Fraser he was talking about—his partner! The guy Ray saw everyday of the week, every week of the year. And now Jack thought that he and Fraser were…
“You can thank me next time. The way Philly is smiling you’ll be back to work the bar.”
“Thanks, Jack,” Ray said for lack of a better response.
Half an hour later Philly congratulated Ray on his new job and allowed him to call it a night. Ray ambled over to where Fraser was sitting, primly sipping water from a tall glass. He felt his heart beat faster and immediately felt foolish. This was Fraser and Ray was only driving them home—just because it looked to Jack as if Ray was taking Fraser home for a fuck didn’t mean that Ray had to go all high school about it.
Appearances, Ray thought, keep up appearances for another 5 minute and then you’re outta here.
“Hello again,” Ray said and he was damned if his mouth was dry. “I understood you’d be willing to get out of here?”
Fraser smiled at him. “I’d like that very much.”
Ray swallowed. He had had no idea how unnerving it was to have Fraser flirt with him. More importantly, Ray reminded himself, there was no flirting going on. It was all just pretend.
He jingled his keys. “I could help you with your get-away.”
Fraser raised his glass and drained it in one long swallow. “Lead the way.”
The talk on the way back was strictly business. Ray felt too shaken up to discuss his first ever foray into the gay scene or how all the guys thought Fraser was the hottest thing they’d seen in ages or how Ray had felt mostly all right with being in a gay club.
One thing you could count on, though, was that Fraser loved talking work. All Ray had to do was prompt him and Fraser filled the whole drive to the Consulate relating to Ray what he had picked up over the course of the night—which wasn’t much. There was no reason to assume the club dealt in drugs. That was about the same conclusion Ray had come to.
Ray pulled up at the curb of the Consulate. “You ready to go there again tomorrow?” Ray asked.
Fraser nodded. “Well, given a few hours of sleep beforehand; it should fortify me for another night out,” he said with a smile and Ray wondered if Fraser had just made a joke.
“Do you think you’ll get any sleep?” Ray glanced at the dark Consulate windows. Somehow he couldn’t see how Fraser managed a good night’s sleep in his office.
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow. “There is a meeting with a company representative at around 8 AM, but I am sure I will manage sufficient sleep until then.”
Ray frowned at his watch. Bullshit. No guy could function properly with that little sleep. And he didn’t care if Fraser made do with 30-second power naps walking down stairs; he’d done good work and sacrificed his night for it and he would have to do it again tomorrow— the least he deserved was a couple of hours of decent sleep.
“That’s it,” Ray exclaimed and turned the wheel to take the car back onto the road. He supposed he was making a major mistake here and wondered if this was just another effort on his part to prove that they were still buddies, but he was doing it anyway.
“Ray, where are we going?”
“We’re going back to my place so that you can get a decent amount of shut-eye.”
“I’m not putting you out of your bed,” Fraser said, in a tone that sounded as if he was trying to forestall a later argument.
“Who said I’m letting you into my bed?” Ray grinned like a wolf and this time Ray had the pleasure of seeing the discomfort on Fraser’s face at the unintended double-entendre. “Relax, you can take the couch if you want to be all noble about it.”
“Thank you,” Fraser said softly and Ray felt another pang at what little creature comfort Fraser was used to. Fraser’s picture was next to the dictionary entry for ‘to make do’ and that unleashed a short burst of anger on his friend’s behalf.
“You don’t need to thank me for it,” Ray mumbled as he concentrated on changing lanes.
Seeing Fraser get comfortable on Ray’s ratty old couch made him smile. It felt like a sort of victory.
“Good night, Frase,” Ray murmured.
“Good night, Ray.”
Later that night, Ray stumbled out of bed to take a leak. When he came back from the bathroom he remembered that Fraser was sleeping on his couch. He only hesitated a second before he slid closer. He only wanted a quick look at him. Fraser slept on the couch as if it were a narrow cot. Ray shook his head. Somebody had to teach Fraser to indulge a little now and again.
His features were relaxed and one hand was half tucked under his pillow, sort of cradling his face. Ray smiled.
Quietly, he moved back and turned around to go back into his bedroom. At least he could now tell Jack what Fraser looked like when he slept, Ray thought with a grin.
Something was seriously wrong with him.
The next night, Ray was already installed behind the bar by the time Fraser arrived. Still, his entrance was kinda hard to miss… or maybe Ray was just attuned to the whereabouts of his partner. A faint smile played over Fraser’s lips when he caught sight of Ray.
The Saturday night crowd was much like the one from last night; bit rowdier maybe. A good night’s sleep after a week of busting your ass could do that to you. Ray tried to keep an eye on Fraser, but it was the hardest part of the job, what with the club being so packed and everyone dying of thirst and Ray simultaneously trying to listen in on what people were talking about around him.
He did manage to spot Fraser now and again and Fraser seemed to take this ‘talk to people’ part of the assignment very seriously. There was always some guy attached to him and Ray wondered again how Fraser did it. Like some kind of freaky magnet.
“Seen something you like?” Jack asked, amused, right next to Ray’s ear.
Ray snapped his gaze away from Fraser. “Hardly,” Ray shoved past Jack.
“Aw, c’mon, you can’t fool me. Your eyes have been following him around ever since you clapped eyes on him yesterday. Can’t say I blame you.” Jack studied Fraser and the guy that seemed to be draped all over him. Jack made a sympathetic sound. “I’m guessing last night didn’t work out then?”
He should feel lucky that his keeping watch over Fraser was taken for interest, Ray supposed. It only made him angry though.
“Last night was fine,” Ray pressed out.
Jack made a commiserating noise. “Yeah, I’ve been there… don’t take it too hard, okay? Guys like him aren’t looking for anyone to settle down with.” Jack patted him on the shoulder and moved past Ray to the next waiting customer.
Ray watched him go. Bullshit. That wasn’t like Fraser at all.
But the longer Ray thought about it the harder the question came back to him: Wasn’t it?
He washed a cocktail glass in the sink and pondered Jack’s comment. Fraser sure as hell wasn’t settling down in Chicago. But that was because Fraser wanted to go back to Canada at some point. That thought always felt like a piece of shrapnel hiding somewhere near his heart and taking vicious stabs at it. Did Fraser even have a life to go back to there? Really?
Ray tried to get his head back on track. The job, focus on the job. But try as he might he didn’t notice anything that looked like a drug deal. One word, though, jumped out of the murmur of conversations. ‘The Push.’
And Ray might not have paid it any attention if people on Friday hadn’t also talked about it. But people talking about ‘needing a push after a slow week at the office’ or people ‘getting a little push’ on a Friday night hadn’t seemed all that strange to Ray. Hey, he’d been there. Especially right after the divorce. He’d been looking for something to push him through it all, something to take the edge off his misery.
It was Saturday now and this was the second day in a row that the word kept popping up and let’s be honest there weren’t that many people who’d call a night out or a one-night stand ‘a push.’ Which got Ray thinking that maybe they were talking about something else.
Ray was distracted by Jack, flinging open cupboards and looking into the fridge as if it held the answer to life itself. Ray took in the harassed look on his face and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“What’s up?” Ray asked. Jack glanced nervously around.
“I forgot to stock up on the imported champagne,” Jack admitted.
Ray didn’t get it. “So?” He asked with a frown. “Can’t we just go and do it now?”
“You don’t know Philly… he’s going to have my head. I was supposed to do that before we opened tonight and I simply forgot. If he catches me—after he specifically told me to take care of it—boy, I’ll lose my job.”
“Aren’t you exaggerating a little?” Ray asked with a glance at Philly’s smiling profile at the back of the club.
Jack shook his head energetically. “No way. You don’t get to make mistakes here. The last guy got fired because he sliced a lemon the wrong way.”
“Isn’t that a bit extreme?”
Jack shrugged. “Might be, but with the kind of money they’re paying they can afford it.”
Ray spent a wistful moment thinking of the paychecks made out to one ‘Stanley Smith’ that Ray would never be able to cash.
“Let me get it,” Ray said. “I’m good at this kinda thing. Just tell me where to find it and what I’m looking for.” Besides, Ray needed a look around and this seemed to be his ticket for a free tour.
Jack bit at his lip and then he nodded—as Ray knew he would. What choice did he have?
“Okay, there’s a storage room downstairs at the back of the garage. Just go through the doorway with the black curtain and walk right through until you reach the stairs. Here’s the key—you can’t miss it. The crates are black and gold; they’re stacked right behind the door.”
Ray nodded. Time to take a look around; please follow the man with the red umbrella. Ray shouldered an empty cardboard box and moved into the hallway that led to the backrooms. A private toilet and three more doors greeted Ray. He glanced around and tried the first one. Okay, so Ray had found the storeroom for the empty bottles. He pulled the door closed again and moved on.
Bingo, Ray breathed as he came to the next door. The simple brushed metal doorknob was locked with the help of a small panel demanding a PIN code. This might be worth investigating a little more closely.
The last door gave way to a crowded office. Shelves with thick folders and stacks of order forms filled the whole claustrophobic room. There might also be something in here, Ray supposed, but he didn’t know how he should find the time to look through all this stuff.
Smuggling all of it out was equally preposterous. Ray closed the door again and followed the corridor to the stairs at the end. Right at the bottom of the stairs were two doors. Ray tried the one to his left and found the room he should’ve been looking for.
The crates Jack had mentioned were easy enough to find. Ray transferred the bottles to the box he had brought with him and left the room again. He thought he knew where the other door would lead, but opened it anyway just to make sure. Yep, the garage. And if he judged correctly from what little he could make out the entrance of the garage led up the street along the right-hand side of the club.
He shifted the crate to his other arm and reached out to open the door again when he heard a loud ‘thump’ followed by shuffling feet.
“Ahhh,” a man cried out. “Do you always have to be so rough?” The same voice demanded. More scribbling against a surface followed before another voice replied. “Yeah, because you love it.”
Ray’s heart rate sped up as he realized what those two must be doing. He looked around wildly and then he saw them, half-hidden behind the red sports car on the far side of the garage. He saw the look of pained concentration on the face of the dark-haired man as he leaned over someone with a slighter frame who was trying to brace himself against the hood of the car. Ray swallowed. The sound of flesh on flesh was almost obscenely loud in the echoing darkness of the garage.
Away, he had to get away here, Ray thought wildly. He turned around, unable to tear his gaze away, and promptly stumbled into a half-empty trash can.
The metal clanged loudly when it connected with the concrete wall behind him and Ray cursed as the sound echoed around the room.
“Go, go, we need to get out of here.”
Ray could hear the hasty rustling of clothes and in a flash two dark figures stumbled towards the mouth of the garage. Ray took a deep breath and collected himself. So what, he had just caught two guys fucking. What was the big deal? More than one of Ray’s buddies had boasted about similar adventures with girls. He smoothed down his shirt and moved back up the stairs.
When Ray came back up he found Jack looking worriedly at him and then back at Philly who had sidled up to the bar.
“Stanley, I don’t think I pay you for your absence,” Philly said with a silky smile.
“You’d rather people use your garage as a public darkroom?” Ray shot back. He let the crate slide down his arm and pushed it underneath the bar without taking his eyes off Philly.
“Excuse me?” The black man said with narrowed eyes.
“I just moved a crate of empty bottles into storage, thinking it doesn’t look so good if the bar is cluttered with empty stuff. And when I came out I heard two guys getting it on downstairs,” Ray narrated as unfazed as he could. “When I opened the door to the garage I found them having a nice horizontal discussion on a red sports car.”
Philly’s eyes widened with dread. “A red one you say?” Heh, Ray thought. He guessed he had just found the owner of the abused car.
“Yep. I thought you probably wouldn’t want news to get out that the garage of your establishment is used as a meeting place for sex so I sent them packing.” Well, he had done that… if not intentionally.
Philly nodded with tightly pressed lips. “I don’t want to find you missing from your post again. I’ll be right back,” he sniffed.
Ray watched Philly go and grinned at Jack who thumped him on the shoulder. Hard.
“For real? Two guys fucked on Philly’s beloved car? God, he’ll probably pop a vessel if he finds a handprint.”
“He can count himself lucky if he doesn’t find more,” Ray said with a dirty smirk. “They sounded… thorough.”
Jack cackled and opened the box Ray had brought up with him. “Stan, you are really something else.”
Ray winked at him and turned around to open the fridge. He looked up and found Fraser watching him intently. Ray couldn’t read the look and he had no idea if Fraser had witnessed the banter between him and Jack or if Fraser had found some information and that was the reason he was studying him so closely.
Ray raised his eyebrows at him and Fraser was startled out of his observation. A small smile flitted over his lips and he shook his head the tiniest increment before he moved away, vanishing into the crowd again.
When the club was beginning to empty, Fraser thumbed his nose and followed a few others out of the door. Ray sighed a little, another night of work almost done.
“What? Are you still hung up on him? Boy, you’re a hopeless case.”
Ray jerked and looked at Jack with a confused frown between his brows. He looked back in the direction of the exit when his mind finally caught up with him.
“It’s not what you think,” Ray explained truthfully.
Jack looked thoughtful for a second. “Tell me, what is it about him that fascinates you so damn much – besides the good looks, I mean one would have to be blind not to notice. God, that ass alone—and those shoulders?”
Ray was momentarily startled. He had always considered Fraser good-looking, but he had never fixed that to tangible attributes… let alone giving Fraser’s ass much consideration.
“Uh,” Ray scratched his head. “He’s just… he’s got all these ideals and he lives up to them even when life proves him wrong and… you know, he’s one of those people that make you wanna be a better person. Around him I feel like…” Ray shrugged a little awkwardly. “Like I belong.”
Jack’s grin softened as Ray talked.
“You got all of that from one night?” He shook his head with a hopeless smile. “Sounds like you’ve got it bad,” Jack assessed with a half-smile. “Okay, c’mon. Let’s get this mess cleaned up and then we can go home as well.”
Ray ambled in the direction of the Goat and was halted in his tracks when he caught sight of Fraser, leaning against the side of the car.
“Hey,” Ray said, surprised. Fraser’s smile was like a flash in the dim lighting of the alley. “Thanks for waiting.”
“My pleasure. Shall we?” Fraser motioned at the GTO.
Ray navigated them through the more or less quiet streets. Should he offer Fraser another night on his couch? Fraser could sure as hell use the sleep and driving to the Consulate was a detour anyway. Besides, Ray was tired and if Fraser slept at his place the sooner he could crash. Ray’s mouth was dry. It wasn’t as if he was offering his bed or anything… and Fraser didn’t have any interest in him like that, he’d know that.
Maybe Ray just wasn’t attractive for someone who was into chicks and guys? But Fraser had said he found him attractive… but that had just been Fraser being polite, right? Although… Fraser didn’t lie. Still—
“I think I might have found a lead tonight,” Fraser interrupted Ray’s train of thought.
“Huh? What? Shoot.”
“It might be advisable to continue this conversation tomorrow. We are almost at the Consulate and I wouldn’t want to keep you awake,” Fraser said, sounding regretful.
“You could crash at my place again? I could make coffee and you could talk?” Ray was not asking him up for coffee, he was not. This was just being buddies.
“I’d be happy to, if you are quite sure that I am not inconveniencing you,” Fraser replied earnestly.
“Don’t be stupid. There’s nothing more than turtle waiting for me back home and even turtle is probably glad to see another face every now and again.”
Fraser’s lips twitched. “Understood.”
Once settled on Ray’s battered couch, Fraser summed his evening up.
“People have been very careful about what they say, but I have been asked – on multiple occasions, mind you – if I was able to give them a ‘push’.”
Ray swallowed his sudden exasperation at the thought that it was probably a wonder Fraser had even caught on to this what with all the offers he was getting thrown in his face.
“I know this could have been a simple euphemism,” Fraser continued and Ray looked blankly at him for a second, forming the word ‘euphemism’ in his mind.
“However, over the course of the conversation I established that it was in fact not intercourse they were looking for.”
Ray choked on his coffee. He coughed until he had enough air to ask, “You established that, huh?”
“Well, at least that was not their primary focus. I think most people were actually seeing a connection between intercourse and getting ‘pushed’.”
“Could you please stop saying ‘intercourse’?” Ray snapped. Bad enough that he was sitting on his couch with Fraser talking about the people who came on to him, no, Fraser also had to do one better and call it ‘intercourse’— Ray shuddered inwardly.
“Of course, if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“It doesn’t make me—hell, just forget it. So what is it with this ‘Push’? Because I also heard people discussing it all night. And it’s definitely nothing we have stocked behind the bar.”
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow with an unhappy look on his face. “I can’t be sure on this point; however, it seemed to me that it gets distributed by the guests of the club, which would explain people asking me if I knew where they could get it.”
Ray wasn’t so sure if it wasn’t more the fact that people were just hoping Fraser would screw them afterwards, too.
“How I understood it this drug, if that is indeed what it is, numbs most of the nervous system offering a feeling very much like floating while enhancing certain, ah, stimuli—which would explain why most people I talked to seemed to consider inter—sex the other half of the experience.”
People wanted a drugged sex adventure with Fraser—Fraser! Who didn’t even drink alcohol. But what did Ray know? Maybe Fraser only didn’t drink around him. After all Ray hadn’t thought Fraser was picking up strangers for one-night stands, but from the way things were looking this was only true in Ray’s fairy tale book.
“Okay, so we know what to ask after now. Let’s see if we find someone who sells the stuff the next time.”
“Exactly my thoughts, Ray,” Fraser smiled at him.
Ray took another sip of his lukewarm coffee and they were both quiet for a moment.
“Ray,” Fraser began carefully, biting his lip. Ray sighed into his coffee mug. All good things came to an end.
“You seem very much at ease with our current assignment.”
Ray shrugged. “Why shouldn’t I be?”
“If I recall correctly you had some misgivings about frequenting this kind of establishment.”
The coffee mug made a soft ‘thump’ when Ray placed it back on the table. “Listen, I said I was okay with this and I am. It’s just new to me, is all, and I was nervous about it, all right?”
“And, are you still nervous?” Fraser asked gently.
Ray made a so-so gesture with his hand and laughed ruefully. “Nah, I’m good with this. It’s just a lot of stuff I never thought about and I’m… kind of a curious guy so it trips me a little.”
“I see. I’m glad you’re adjusting so well. I was… I was afraid it would change things between us.”
Ray shook his head fondly. “Hey, we’re partners. I’m just learning to look a little differently at things… how did you, uh, figure it out?”
“That I’m drawn to men?”
Ray felt Fraser’s blue eyes on him and felt nervous all over again. Fraser was so casual about this while Ray’s brain was on overdrive coming up with a million ‘hows’: how would it feel to kiss a guy, touch a guy, fuck a guy?
“Yeah,” Ray licked his dry lips.
Fraser shook his head with a small smile. “It was just always there. If you grow up in communities as small as my own the men are usually in the majority so you tend to notice them. I never thought it was strange. I just caught myself imagining how it would be to kiss Innusiq and then other boys and men later.”
“Is it different?” Ray blurted.
“Kissing a man?” Fraser asked, puzzled.
Fraser’s smile was inward, directed at some fond memory that Ray had no access to.
“Yes, yes I suppose it is. It’s difficult to describe,” Fraser raised his shoulders in apology.
Ray wanted to reply, but instead of words a yawn forced its way out.
“I suppose this means we are long overdue for a good night’s sleep,” Fraser murmured, amused.
Ray nodded in approval, forcing another yawn down.
Ray dreamed he was kissing Stella and her hair was longer than it was now, like it was when they were younger, the way it was when they got married. He pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, but her hand pushed him away and she frowned at him, telling him he was doing it wrong.
Before he could ask her what she meant, she pulled him close again. Only then it was all different because he was falling and suddenly there was water everywhere and he wanted to tell her that he was about to drown, but when he opened his eyes Fraser was right there in front of him and he pulled him close with the same gesture Stella had used a moment ago.
And then Fraser was kissing him and all of a sudden Ray could breathe again which made no sense because Fraser’s tongue was still in his mouth and they were still underwater.
An alarm went off, resonating through the hold of the ship, and he was pretty sure that it wasn’t a good thing, but it didn’t really matter because Fraser’s arms were around him and then Fraser pushed him back and Ray went with the momentum, he fell back—
—and was startled awake as he fell to the floor next to his bed, the alarm on his night stand blaring its monotonous warning that he had to get up.
Jesus. Ray wiped a hand over his face. Jesus.
Looking Fraser in the face wasn’t the easiest thing Ray had ever done. He couldn’t remember how the kiss had felt, but the visual more than made up for that. Ray had never thought about kissing a guy before… well, okay there had been that slight crush on Steve McQueen, but Ray hadn’t imagined kissing him. Just that, well, that it looked kinda good when Steve kissed a girl or that he looked really fit. Fraser had looked really good in his dream, too. Was still looking good this morning, just like he always did.
“Is something wrong with my face?” Fraser asked, concerned. He touched his jaw as if he thought he had missed a spot when he shaved, but couldn’t find anything out of place.
Ray shook his head and hoped his face didn’t look as hot as it felt. “Uh, no, sorry… I was just… staring into space,” he mumbled.
The thought didn’t let go of Ray all week. While Fraser fulfilled his role as secretary, Ray tried to find more connections between the people who OD’ed on synthetic drugs, but it was more depressing than fruitful.
So while Ray pulled some strings with his old snitches from when he had worked for narcotics, and visited some haunts to talk to people, he tried to notice the men he saw on the street, tried to imagine what kissing them would be like.
He wasn’t above admitting that a man was attractive, but thinking about kissing any of them was just plain weird. Mostly he ended up thinking of his dream and of kissing Fraser… which should’ve been even weirder, but it didn’t freak Ray out as bad as he had thought.
Ray was shocked to realize how normal the Skydeep felt by now when he came in for his shift on Friday night. He almost felt like a part of this scene, a regular, and maybe it really didn’t make all that much of a difference.
It was before midnight and there was a little lull at the bar when Ray broached the topic with Jack.
“The Push?” Jack looked a little uncomfortable and he quickly glanced in Philly’s direction before his gaze focused back on Ray. “Listen, there are drugs dealt in every club, okay? It’s not something we offer, it’s just impossible to nail someone selling it. Me? I keep clear of shit like that. But…” Jack hesitated again before he stepped closer.
“Listen, remember when ‘poppers’ were really popular in the 70s and 80s? This stuff is similar, okay? You get this rush of warmth and weightlessness and it makes you almost dizzy with pent-up sensations—apparently the sex is spectacular with it— I wouldn’t know, but that’s it. People use it to have a good time.”
Ray nodded. It also fit the scene. Poppers had been immensely popular in the gay community, something about the increased heart rate sparking sexual arousal and the stuff apparently relaxed the muscles, made everything go lax.
But people didn’t OD on poppers – at least not as a rule, not with this frequency – and they sure did now.
“So it’s not dangerous?” Ray asked even though he knew the truth.
Jack shrugged. “As far as I know it isn’t. Guess you can take too much of anything, though—wait—you’re not thinking about trying it, are you?”
“Maybe… who would I ask?”
Jack contemplated Ray for the fraction of a second and Ray saw the suspicion in his glance. He could almost see the question written on his face ‘why the sudden interest’?
“I have no idea man and I don’t want anything to do with it.”
“Sure, no harm done. I just thought I could…” Ray shrugged and nodded in Fraser’s direction. “Make it more interesting.”
Jack’s eyes followed Ray’s gesture and his eyes widened slowly. Then he laughed and shook his head. “I really don’t believe you. Tell you what: you want to get his attention? There’s a guy sitting over there at the tap that’s been tracking your every move. I’m sure he’d be interested in more than just looking. Maybe a little competition is all that Baby Blues needs.”
Ray grinned. “Thanks for the sage advice, buddy.”
Jack patted him on the back. “You need all the advice you can get,” he chuckled and moved on to strike up a conversation with one of the other regulars at the bar.
Slowly, Ray flicked a glance over at the tap. Sure enough there was a blond man watching him. He wasn’t even bad looking, a little younger than Ray maybe, and a bit too smooth around the edges. His name was probably Steve and he had been the best pupil in his class in high school and he enjoyed tennis in his spare time or something.
Steve smiled at him when he noticed Ray’s attention. Okay, so the smile was nice.
Ray flicked a glance at Fraser and found him in conversation with yet another guy. He must’ve talked to every man in this club, Ray thought a little bitterly.
Putting up a playful half-smile, Ray approached the blond man. He wasn’t really going to do this, was he? It was just part of a role, an act, and there was nothing wrong with indulging in a little harmless flirting. Maybe Steve even knew something about this Push business… You keep making excuses if it makes you feel better, Kowalski, Ray thought.
“You look like you’re waiting for something,” Ray addressed Steve with a smile.
“Yes, your attention,” Steve answered and Ray could count the teeth of that smile it was so bright.
“You got it. So what can I do for you?”
Steve’s lips twitched. “You could tell me your name.”
“It’s Stanley and who are you?”
“I’m Matt, nice to meet you.”
Matt, Steve, where was the diff?
The way Matt looked at him, the way his gaze zeroed in on Ray’s mouth, Ray figured he could find out how kissing a guy felt. Ray also figured he was too old to play chicken with himself, but that had never stopped him before either.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Ray asked, his heart already jumping around in his chest with nervousness.
“A beer would be nice. Is there one you can recommend?”
Ray grinned. Time to play. “Sure.”
He filled a glass from the tap and put it in front of Matt. Before Matt could drink, however, Ray raised the glass to his own lips and took a deep gulp. He set the glass down again and smiled at Matt. “It’s good. You want to try it?” Ray leaned forward the tiniest bit, bringing his face closer to Matt’s.
Eagerly, Matt leaned in as well and raised his hand to cup Ray’s head.
This was really happening, Ray thought with a twitch in his gut.
“Excuse me, I’m terribly sorry, but is it possible to order something to drink here?” a flat voice interrupted.
Ray jerked back and his head snapped in the direction of the speaker. Fraser was looking at him with a serious expression on his face.
“Sure,” Ray croaked, rattled. “What’s it going to be?” Why did he feel caught red-handed?
Fraser took a long look at the beer in front of Matt and Matt looked from one of them to the other and slid off the barstool with a mumbled ‘later’.
“I’d like a beer.”
Ray stared at Fraser. “Uh, sure.”
While Ray was busy pulling a pint, Fraser sidled a little closer. “Ray, there is some connection between this club and the distribution of the drug. Some people have been missing for hours or even a day after coming here and all of them have been known to take this drug.”
Ray put the beer in front of Fraser with such force that it sloshed over the rim. How dare Fraser act like it was just business as usual? Why had Ray even let it get to him?
“And that’s why you interrupted me?” Ray accused.
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware I was interrupting anything. You had already fulfilled that man’s drinking order when I spoke.”
Ray didn’t buy it. Not one bit. Fraser was the man with the bat ears and he had known very well what he was interrupting and now he couldn’t even own up to it.
“Do not do this, Ben,” Ray hissed. “I think I have work to do now,” Ray pressed out and left Fraser standing at the counter.
What was that? Fraser had to know that he was about to kiss Matt… so why had he stopped him? Jealousy, Ray thought with a short fierce burst of heat. But that was ridiculous. What else was there? Maybe this had been some sort of chivalric response, Fraser was weird like that. Maybe he had thought he was protecting Ray.
“And? Did it work out?” Jack asked while he opened the fridge.
Ray shrugged. “No idea, really.”
Jack shook his head. “You have a real masochistic streak falling for that guy, you know that, right?”
“Yeah,” Ray sighed. “Seems that way.”
It came with being Fraser’s partner. So what was new?
An hour later, Philly came up to the bar.
“Hey, Stanley. It’s quiet tonight. Why don’t you go home early?”
“Sure,” Ray said, relieved.
He looked around and saw Fraser half-hidden behind the guy that had been talking his ear off for the better part of the last hour. Ray took his time cleaning the counter in front of him when he finally saw Fraser’s guy leaving for the can.
“I’ll just go grab my stuff,” Ray said to Jack who nodded. He left the bar at the farther side to pass Fraser on his way to the back rooms.
When he reached Fraser he dropped the key for his locker and spoke while he bent down to pick it up again. “Frase, let’s call this a night,” Ray said as quickly as he could. They had what they came here for and Ray for once could do with a little sleep.
“Right you are,” Fraser agreed in a murmur.
“I’ll just talk to Johnson again and then we can leave, all right?”
“Of course.” Ray moved to the back and grabbed his coat. He went back to the bar and settled the details for tomorrow night. By the time he turned to leave, Fraser’s companion had already returned.
He had just been about to signal that they could leave when Ray caught sight of Fraser. Kissing the living daylights out of the guy he’d been talking to for the last hour.
A jolt went through Ray, powerful enough to nail him to the floor like some sort of gravitation field. He felt his jaw drop open, but there was really little he could do about it. He just couldn’t look away—it was the proverbial accident waiting to happen.
And this was no innocent goodnight kiss either. Oh, hell no, Mister. Fraser had the other guy up against the wall, fingers splayed over his face, holding him there and that was one open-mouthed, wet infiltration by the Canadians. America never stood a chance. And it didn’t seem to care either judging by the grip the guy had on Fraser’s arms, as if it was all he could do to stay upright.
Surrender seemed to be one hell of a sweet deal.
Fraser was kissing a guy. Fraser. Kissing. A guy. Ray’s brain repeated the memo, but it didn’t make any more sense on the second run-through. And boy did Fraser enjoy it. Ray’d always thought Fraser just didn’t like all of the bodily stuff, too messy, too emotional, too uncontrolled. Well… think again, Detective. Because this kiss looked plenty physical.
And, yeah, he knew that Fraser had said he was also looking at guys once in a while. Ray wouldn’t call this looking, though. Not if looking also included tongue, teeth, lips and both hands. Fraser kissing. God, it baffled his brain.
How many guys had Fraser kissed so far? Was he getting off on it? Sheesh, of course he was, why was anyone ever kissing anyone else? Heat pooled in Ray’s groin. Fraser was really into this. And the guy he was doing it to could hardly stay upright Fraser was doing such a thorough job of it.
Ray wondered again. What was it like, kissing Fraser? Terrifyingly mind-blowing probably, just like everything else that man did. He had great lips; Ray had to give him that. How did one learn to kiss when one lived among the igloos? Who had Fraser’s first kiss belonged to? Had he kissed any guys when he’d been a teenager or had it been only wishful thinking?
Unconsciously, Ray’s tongue came out to wet his lips. The kiss seemed never-ending. Fraser always dove right back in and the other guy hardly let him get further away than an inch. This just buttered Ray’s muffin. You turn your back on the Mountie and the guy goes off, sticking his tongue down some stranger’s throat. Just great.
Didn’t Fraser think of Ray? And really, he didn’t even know the guy he was playing tonsil-hockey with. It could be some crazy maniac, some gun-wielding lunatic. Even guys wearing ‘The Clash’ t-shirts could be whack-jobs. And Fraser had nothing better to do than getting acquainted with his bronchia.
Fraser probably wasn’t thinking. Because if he were then he wouldn’t be kissing some stranger. Least of all some guy he had just met in a bar.
Ray walked past them and bumped the guy’s shoulder a little harder than necessary. “Oh, sorry,” Ray muttered with a glare in Fraser’s direction before he continued on his way to the exit.
Two minutes, Ray promised himself, he would give Fraser two minutes to make it out to the car or he would leave without him. Fraser made it with 10 seconds to spare.
Ray flung the car door open and got in and Fraser followed suit after a moment’s hesitation.
“Ray—” Fraser began.
“Oh, no, don’t you ‘Ray’ me,” Ray snapped, stabbing in his direction with two fingers. “Tell me, are we at this club to pick someone up, huh? No, we’re not. We’re there to work and what you did was not even on the same planet with work, you got that?”
“In point of fact you had just ended our shift a few minutes earlier in case you had forgotten. So I wasn’t working anymore,” Fraser bitched back.
“Ohhh, of course, so it’s okay for you to go around sticking your tongue down someone else’s throat, but I don’t get to make a move, is that it?” Ray hit the steering wheel with his open palm.
Fraser was quiet for a second before he answered.
“This isn’t about preventing you from doing anything. However, since our assignment has taken us into a gay club I would think it is a moot point to discuss whether you would theoretically be able to do the same—which you are free to do.”
“Damn it!” Ray snarled. “I’m—” But it was useless, he couldn’t bring himself to admit to Fraser that he had been thinking about kissing a man. “Fine,” Ray infused the word with more venom than it deserved. “I hope you enjoyed yourself.”
“I don’t understand why you are so mad at me, Ray,” Fraser said mildly.
Neither did Ray, really. It was just that seeing it had made it much more real—or maybe it was just because Ray hadn’t been too successful earlier and was using Fraser to get even. It just—it was unfair! Fraser was not supposed to kiss another guy when Ray was right there… argh… and that wasn’t at all what Ray had meant.
Or maybe it was… maybe he was just jealous because Fraser was his partner and in some way Ray felt as if he should have dibs or that if any guy had the right to kiss Fraser it should be him. He sure as hell deserved some consideration in this equation!
God, the hole he was digging for himself got deeper with every passing day.
He didn’t really want Fraser like that, did he?
“Just forget it,” Ray mumbled and turned the key in the ignition.
“Can we please not talk? Just… let’s just get home, okay?”
Fraser was silent for a beat before a small sigh escaped him. “As you wish.”