Shay Sheridan

Sincere thanks to Nancy for beta.
Marcella Polman has written a lovely sequel to this story, called Quits.

"This way," he says. For the thousandth time you ask yourself why you're doing this, and for the thousandth time your answer is, I can't help myself, so you simply nod and follow him inside.

The room is featureless, no personality anywhere, though why you thought it might reveal something to you other than bed, sink, bathroom, you really couldn't say. There's no reason the room should say anything about the man standing at the foot of the bed; he may have done this a hundred times before, with other men, but it's just a hotel room, not his apartment. You tell yourself to stop being a policeman for once, because you need to stop seeking something here you'll never find. What did you expect? Did you imagine you'd find clues to his life -- car magazines, a string of chili-pepper lights? Faded red-leather bar stools, a turtle in a terrarium? No; that's Ray's apartment, and this isn't Ray.

But who he is doesn't matter, because he looks like Ray. Oh God, he does look like him, from the spiked dark-blond hair to the cant of his hips. He has Ray's long fingers, Ray's lips. And you could swear those are Ray's eyes sweeping over you, his dusty lashes lowering, but Ray would never look at you like that, with lust, even if it's just the practiced lust of a hustler. Though you've prayed for longer than you can remember for Ray to do exactly that.

The man shifts restlessly before you; he wants to get things going, get to what you're here for. And then get paid and get you gone.

There's a shiver hovering at your back, though the room is warm, too warm. Your shirt clings to you, and there's fresh sweat under your arms and on your upper lip. You want this, perhaps too much. But you're loath to begin, because beginning leads to ending and ending means the fantasy will be over.

"So. . ." the hustler says. "Whaddya want? Want me to suck you? That it?"

"No," you stammer, "I want, I want to. . ."

He grins, and it's Ray's grin, and once again the world tilts on its axis. You close your eyes against the vertigo. He chuckles, low, dirty, like Ray would. "Wanna fuck me? You want that? You can. Cost you extra, though."

"I'll pay whatever you want," you say, forcing your eyes open, trying to remember it's not really Ray, but losing the battle against the evidence of your senses. "I want you to. . . fuck me."

"Okay," he says, and maybe it's your imagination, but for a moment it seems real hunger flares in his eyes.

It's all business, though, the way he strips off his tee shirt and skins off his jeans, kicks his shoes into the corner. He's not wearing underwear -- expedient, you think, for one in his line of work. You take your time removing your shoes, your shirt, your jeans, your underwear, folding everything with deliberate slowness, placing each article of clothing just so on the stained armchair before removing the next. Your slowness is a test you've imposed on yourself, and it's meant to counteract the blood that pounds through your veins and fills your penis, that makes it throb with urgency. And when, finally, you're blissfully, terrifyingly naked before him, then at last you turn to look.

He lies on the threadbare sheets, stroking himself, his erection slowly growing. His eyes flicker over you, coolly assessing your body, your genitals -- your cock, to call it what he surely would. He would be coarse about such things; it's his job, after all, to turn you on, turn a profit, and then turn you out of doors when you're done. No doubt he's done that with every trick he's brought to this room. You're just one of many.

But now is your time, and you're paying for the right to make him do what you want. To make him into anything -- anyone -- for however long you want, as long as it's just tonight.

Naked now, you lie next to him, afraid to look him in the eye. You feel him move, and then he's leaning over you, his face huge. Your eyes catch a glimmer of light and drift downward to find the source -- a silver ring piercing his left nipple. It fascinates you, the thought of such a thing. Surely it must hurt to have a nipple pierced? Yours are sensitive, so much so that even wearing a shirt beneath it, the serge rubs and stimulates them, sometimes almost beyond bearing. You've always imagined, in your more vivid fantasies, Ray licking and sucking you there. How would this man react, you wonder, if you tugged gently on the ring? How would Ray react?

"So," he's saying, "You got a favorite position or anything?"

You know what you want -- you've thought of it often enough. "Face to face," you say, in a thick voice.

"You're the customer." He slides down, those long-fingered hands moving on your thighs, preparing to lift your legs, but your hand reaches out, clutches a tanned forearm to forestall movement.

"Please. Touch me. Please touch me."

"Sure," he says affably. At least he doesn't seem bored, which you feared. One hand moves to cup your testicles, circling, weighing them. The other slips along the flesh of your belly, which contracts with the sensation. His hands are warm, dry, confident. The hand on your stomach travels upward, reaching, finally, your nipples, to ghost lightly over them with the skill of long experience. He pinches one, forcing a soft moan from you. His smile mocks you gently. "Like that, huh?" He doesn't wait for an answer. His red lips follow his fingers, and his wet mouth closes on one rigid nipple, licking, sucking, finally biting gently at it. You gasp with the sensation and his head comes off your chest. "Yeah, I guess you do."

"Yes," you breathe. "Oh. Yes." He bites down again and you panic. "But it'll be over too soon, if you--"

"Don't worry. I won't let you come," he retorts, supremely confident in his abilities. "Not yet."

It's such an arrogant remark it takes your breath away. Surely speed is important to his business; it's quantity as much as quality that he requires. But he seems in no rush. His mouth leaves your nipples, however, to trail wetness down your skin, down to your groin. He doesn't touch your cock. His hands are back on your legs, and he's lifting one, placing it on his shoulder. "You do this a lot?" he asks.

Yes, in your imagination. "Not often, no."

"Okay, then. I'll go slow. Unless. . .you want it rough?"

"No." No you don't. You want it tender, and you want it loving, but love's not on offer. This is all you get. But you want to keep the illusion going as long as possible and Ray wouldn't be rough. Not unless you wanted him to be.

His hands are back on you, and they're cool and slippery now. You look down the bed and see a small tube on the turned-back sheets. Your mind, ever cognizant of clues, tells you he must keep the lubricant nearby. There's a condom on the bed, too, and you watch as, one-handed, he rolls it onto himself. You have a brief moment of dismay; in your fantasies you and Ray never use condoms. But that's more proof that they are fantasies. This is the real world you have in front of you, and this is what life requires. You banish the regret.

The man with Ray's face looks up at you, his hand still stroking himself lightly. "Hey. Relax."

"All right." But it's an empty promise. The air is charged around you, and it builds in static as one cool finger pushes into you. You can't help but draw in your breath as you relish the long-sought sensation. His finger warms quickly inside you, moving, stroking, sliding, probing. You fight to keep your eyes open, but the sensations are too great.

"That good for you?"

"Yes. Very. . .very. . ." You struggle for control over your eyelids; you're eager to keep his face in front of you, to prolong the illusion. Your stuttering breaths elicit another grin. Clearly he takes pride in his work.

One finger thickens into two. He's opening you up now, though in truth your body is eager to embrace him, and it yields to his fingers willingly. "Yeah, you like that all right." The fingers withdraw, but not before flicking over a spot deep inside you that sets you ablaze. "You ready, buddy?"

Buddy! What prompted him to call you that, and to do so in a voice so like Ray's? Perhaps he calls all his johns by that name. He never asked for yours; you never asked for his, for that matter. Maybe it's his usual name for the strangers who fill his bed.

"Need more?"

"No, I'm quite. . .I'm ready." You're ready. You're waiting. You've been waiting for this since the first time Ray Kowalski embraced you, since that first thrill of desire. "Please. Now."

"Sure thing," he says, a smile playing on his lips. He strokes your cock once, and then you feel the blunt presence of his condom-slick erection pressing into you. His cock, his dick. At your hole. In your ass. All words, clinical and crude, are swept away as he pushes forward. Yes, there is momentary pain, the reminder of the relative size of the male organ to the male anus. But then he presses harder, further, and he's sliding in all the way, sliding home, and yes, oh, gloriously, you feel as if it is home to you, to have him inside you, to have Ray inside you. You cry out, but not with pain, as he withdraws and presses in again. The fire of your arousal burns higher. His hand is on your cock now, but you push it away, fearing completion will come too soon. He grunts his understanding.

He feels impossibly large inside you, though he didn't seem that way to look at, but you don't care if he splits you open, because you have what you came for. It's your fantasy made quite literally flesh, perfect, except for--

"Kiss me," you groan, "Kiss me, please, kiss me--"

He stills, agonizingly halting your rush to climax. "I don't kiss," he says firmly. "I don't--"

"Please," you whisper. It's a prayer as much as a plea. "Please, Ray, please."

He is silent a moment longer, but then his lips descend on yours, and his tongue is in your mouth, and his cock resumes its shattering rhythm inside you. Your mouth devours him, just as your body does; his tongue mirrors each relentless stroke. And now it is complete, your fantasy. It is Ray, within you, around you, consuming you, being consumed. Without a single touch to your cock, you crest and spill your seed between you.

A stroke -- two -- three -- a loss of rhythm, a fervent groan. He shudders to climax and falls heavily onto you.

And the fantasy ends.

You leave the money on the table. He dozes, unaware of you as you dress, or perhaps just feigning sleep. You close the door quietly behind you.

Just a fantasy. Your emptiness is complete.

The next morning when you walk into the bullpen, you find you're fearful of seeing him, Ray, the real Ray. Though you try to compose yourself, when you see him sprawling loosely at his desk, the same as he always is -- your partner, your buddy, just that, not your lover, never your lover -- the very sight of him bent over his desk squinting at papers brings you up short. You can't help but remember the feel of his doppelganger's flesh against your own. Can't stop the shadow fingers on your skin, in your mouth, pressing inside you. Can't separate the man in front of you from the man you paid to be a fantasy for just one night.

And then he looks up at you, grinning, the Ray you know, not the man in the seedy hotel room. Just Ray Kowalski. And just like that things are back to normal -- in fact, they never left normal, as far as anyone knows.

"Mornin', Frase," he says. He cocks his head and smirks. "Man, you look bushed. What -- you out dancing with the Ice Queen last night?"

Gentle, usual mockery, because he knows it's not true. "No, Ray."

"Damn, I'm tired," he says, stretching and yawning hugely. "Had a big night."

"Would you like some cof--" you start to say, and then stop, your breath leaving your body, because as Ray raises his arms above his head to stretch, his tee shirt pulls tightly across his chest, clearly revealing the outline of a ring piercing his left nipple.

Your eyes rise to hold his. He grins. The world, your world and all you knew, tilts once more to an impossible angle.

No. No.

Oh, Ray, you think, despairing, you take too many chances. Surely he hasn't forgotten your arrangement: the fantasy ends when it must, when you come. When one of you departs. And then nothing between you except camaraderie and friendship, until the next time, when it is you in that room, and he who must buy your favors.

There is no place in your real lives for this. If fantasy were to become reality, what would happen? What would you become?

What more would you need from him, that he could never give you?

To contemplate such a thing is madness. You've made a pact between you -- you are only permitted this much. It is too dangerous to contemplate otherwise, to fantasize anything more.

And yet. . .

redchance @
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