A thousand thanks to betas Beth H. and Kalena

Ritual

Shay Sheridan


Two men, one mirror.

"Fuck."

"What's wrong, Ray?"

"Nicked myself again. I hate shaving."

"Maybe you should grow a beard, then."

"Er . . . I can't."

Fraser paused the straight razor half way through the up stroke under his chin. "Ray. I've seen the stubble. I've felt the stubble. You grow a beard."

Ray sent an insolent stare back into the mirror, then shook his head, scattering little bits of shaving foam onto the sink, himself, and Fraser's naked chest. "Yes, duh, Frase, I grow a beard. Just not all over." He wiped away some of the foam. "See? Right here?" His hand, still holding the disposable razor, traced a small circle low on his cheek. "Smooth as a baby's butt. Grows everywhere else, but I got this one weird area. Hard to tell when it's just stubble like this because it's sorta blond. Tried the beard thing once; believe me, looked like I had mange."

In the bedroom, Diefenbaker whimpered sympathetically.

"Okay, now we know he's not deaf," Ray said.

"He could be reading your lips in the mirror."

"At this distance?"

"He's deaf, not blind." Fraser reached down to wipe an errant glob of foam from his nipple.

"Stop distracting me. The beard idea is out."

"Hmm," Fraser said.

"It's a little early for a 'hmm,' Frase. Give a guy a break." He went back to shaving, but a moment later flinched. "Ow! Shit." He stuck his finger on the new nick to stop the bleeding.

Benton looked thoughtfully at Ray's reflection. "Perhaps the problem is your weapon of choice."

Ray wiped at the blood. "Say that again?"

"Perhaps you need a different razor."

"Yeah, this one's had it. But I forgot to buy a new pack." He watched Fraser's refection shake its head. "What?"

"Ray, that plastic monstrosity is no way to shave." Fraser rinsed off his razor and held it up. The blade caught the light from the fixture over the sink, and what with the reverent look on Fraser's perfect face, the whole scene suddenly reminded Ray of a church painting of a saint hoisting a holy relic. All the tableau needed was some organ music.

He felt a little breathless for a moment.

"Yeah, it's pretty, all right," he said, breaking the mood to reach for a square of toilet paper. "But no way is a straight blade coming near the neck of Mrs. Kowalski's only son." He slapped the paper onto the still-bleeding nick, where it stuck. "Shaving sucks, it will continue to suck, but if I can cut myself with this thing --" he waved the safety razor "--Trust me, I do not need to risk slitting my throat with something like that."

"Ray," Fraser persisted, still meeting his eyes in the mirror, "Shaving does not have to 'suck.' With a finely honed blade such as this one, it can even become a pleasant ritual. It can be the part of the day where a man is completely focused on himself, communing with his inner nature. It can be one of the few times that he is content to be who he is, alone in . . ."

"Would you like me to leave you alone with your inner nature, then, Frase, so the two of you can get it on?"

"No, Ray, no, I didn't mean. . ." Fraser narrowed his eyes. "You're making fun of me."

Ray put up his hands in denial, and summoned his most innocent expression. "Me? Make fun of you? Never." He looked in the mirror, rolled his eyes at the ludicrous sight of toilet paper glued to his face, and pulled it off. The nick had stopped bleeding, and he picked up the plastic razor again with a resigned sigh. "But, honestly, that stuff about 'peasant ritual'--"

"'Pleasant.'"

"Whatever. Nothing personal, but that is a load of bull. You cannot tell me you really like shaving, because nobody likes shaving. It's just something you gotta do, which is why I do it as little as possible, for as long as I can get away with it."

"Ah, but you're wrong, Ray," Fraser said, smiling. "The use of a straight razor is not only safe, but enjoyable, and when used in the proper ritual of shaving, it can have unexpected side benefits."

Ray snorted. "Such as?"

"Here, I'll show you." Fraser gently put down the razor and picked up the cup of shaving cream. Ray's eyes followed the sure, slow movement of the strong hands as Fraser stirred the cream with a brush. "Shaving," he intoned in his resonant voice, "in many cultures, both western and native, is a symbol of transition from boyhood to manhood. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to give the process the dignity and the time it surely deserves."

Ray watched as Fraser took that time, concentrating intently on his task. The mellow voice settled into a soothing pattern. "Boyhood becomes adolescence; adolescence melds into maturity, and with the inexorable passage of time, man begins to contemplate his own place in the universe."

Ray started to feel heavy-lidded, mesmerized by the rhythmic motion and the warm baritone voice.

"As he matures," Fraser continued, his textured voice nearly a purr, his hand still moving on the brush, "a man comes to realize his own mortality, and, if he is wise, learns he should savor every action, every moment, every ritual of his life, because his lifespan is not infinite. That is, he understands all this if he has gained wisdom, and not just a hairy pelt."

Ray's trance lifted a little as Fraser turned back to him, shaving cream frothing on the brush. "Tilt your head up, Ray," he said quietly.

Ray lifted his chin, his eyes on Fraser's. The wet warmth on his neck was a bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one. "Mm, this is nice, Frase," he said. "Tickles a little."

Fraser smiled. "Quiet, Ray. Now we need quiet to achieve the maximum effect."

"The maxi--"

"--Sshh."

Ray let his eyes follow the movements as Fraser slowly, deliberately, put down the cup and reached for the razor. Ray felt a moment of anxiety, following in the mirror as the straightedge approached his throat. It crossed his mind to toss off some remark, to remind Fraser to be careful, but he tamped down the impulse. The sense of hypnotic trance was creeping back, and down deep he knew--

"--Don't worry, Ray," Fraser was saying in a low, measured tone. "I won't slit your throat. I won't even nick you." How just like Fraser, Ray mused, feeling warmth grow in his chest. Sometimes he wondered if the man could actually read his mind.

And then the cool razor was sliding effortlessly up the underside of his chin, slowly stroking up again, gently, painlessly removing the golden stubble there. He could hear the faint scraping sound, and for some reason that sent an electric current up his spine. He struggled to remain still, but a thread of excitement remained, the thrill at the ever-so-slight possibility that something could happen, that Fraser might press too hard, or he himself might quiver slightly and cause the razor to slip. The thought made his heart beat a little faster, and the warmth inside him intensified and spread.

Fraser was intent on his task, and as he continued, the tip of his impossible-to-resist tongue appeared, coming out to rest between his lips -- lips Ray knew to be soft and pliant. It was Fraser's "concentrating" face, and it was extremely arousing to be the center of such a focused effort. Fraser paused to rinse off the blade, his eyes met Ray's in the mirror, and he smiled. Ray felt his knees go soft.

Fraser nodded, perhaps a little smugly, and gently pushed him until he felt the cool tile wall against his back. After an agony of suspense, the silver razor returned, sloooooowly stroking up his chin. Ray watched in the mirror, rapt, as Fraser continued to shave him. Each stroke felt both cold and hot to him now, and the track of the straightedge seemed directly connected to his groin. He bit back groans of pleasure as the blade stroked beneath his cheekbone. . . around his mouth. . . in the little hollow under his jaw.

And when it was gone, and Fraser was wiping the last bit of shaving cream from his face, Ray was as hard as he'd ever been, his breath coming in short, urgent pants. "So," Fraser said, regarding his handiwork in the mirror. "That's what it's like."

"F-Fraser," Ray stuttered, heat suffusing his entire body. "That's some, some ritual, all right. I gotta, we gotta -- Jesus, Fraser, do me right now!" He reached out to grab Fraser's hand and shoved it against his own throbbing erection. "Any way you want, anything you want, just do me!"

"Certainly," Fraser said, quite obligingly. He turned away from the mirror to look directly into Ray's eyes. Ray moaned a little, shivering into the touch of his lover's hand stroking down his newly smooth face and neck. They remained still for a moment, two men connected by an image in a mirror, connected by the touch of skin on skin. And then Fraser was leaning forward, chuckling gently, and whispering into Ray's mouth, "Like I said, unexpected benefits."


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