This story is for Beth H., who invited me to the slope of slash in the first place. For Kalena, who cheered me on as I stood on the brink. And for fantastic betas Sihaya Black and Purna, who gave me the push.

This is a sequel to Loss.

Slippery Slope

Shay Sheridan

I'm dreaming. I know I'm dreaming, but that doesn't make it easier.

There are all these balloons, shiny whatchamacallits, Mylar, in silver and black, and they're surrounding me, kinda smashing against me, and I can't catch my breath, and there's this smell in the air, helium, I guess, a weird, bad smell, and I'm really having trouble breathing now, because the balloons are covering my nose, my mouth, and it's like I'm drowning in them, gasping for air, panicking, and no matter where I go the balloons follow me, pressing in on my face, and then they pop, and it's like gunshots, BAM! BAM! BAM! It scares the fuck out of me, it's like a knife stabbing me in the head over and over again, and then I see the guy from that painting, you know, the screaming guy, holding his face like the kid in Home Alone, but then I'm the guy, the one screaming and holding my head, because it feels just like one of the balloons, ready to pop, and I suddenly know I'm gonna puke, but just before my head explodes--

--I'm up and out of the bed, staggering, trying to make it to the bathroom before I puke all over myself. The knife's still stabbing my head, but I grope my way to the toilet and I'm puking my guts up until there's nothing left but dry heaves and the taste of battery acid, but Stella's there, thank God, she's got her cool hand on my neck, and--

--no, not Stella, the hand on the back of my neck is cool, but it's too big and too rough to be hers, and the voice saying "It's okay, Ray, you'll be all right," is too deep and too male, and--

--oh yeah.

Too Fraser.

Somebody, must be Fraser, shuts the lid and flushes the toilet, and gets me over to the sink to rinse out my mouth, and sits me down and wipes my sweaty face with a cold, wet washcloth, which right away makes me feel a little better.

Not enough better. "Oh, jeez, fuck me," I groan, and drop my head into my hands, which is not a good idea, as it turns out, because it changes back into an exploding balloon. "Ow, shit." The big hand is rubbing my back now in steady circles and I'm trying to remember how exactly I got to feel so bad. The sharp pain and the furry tongue pretty much clue me in that this is one mother of a hangover. I'm not a detective for nothing.

"You should go lie down, Ray," Fraser's voice says. That hand is under my arm, and I'm too busy being a mess to argue about being pushed around, and anyhow, this way I don't need to open my eyes, so I just go with the flow and let him steer me back to bed.

"Here, take these."

I open one eye a crack and see three aspirin tablets in front of me in one blunt- fingered hand, and a glass of water in the other, so I take them and drink all the water, which helps the taste in my mouth, though the fur lining remains. I see enough to register that the windows are just starting to get not-dark, then let gravity have its way with me.

Lying down is so much easier. Fraser says something else, but I don't really hear him, because the sleep wave is taking me under again. I just hope those balloons don't come back to smother me.

When I break the surface, still hurting but much more alive, there's light in the windows and a familiar smell nearby.

"Coffee," I say, and when I pry my eyes open there's a steaming cup of it on the nightstand. There's a bottle of Pepto Bismol and some tomato juice, too.

That last thing is not appealing at all, but the coffee is calling, not too loudly, thank God. The blankets weigh a ton, and my head twice that, but I manage to get untangled and swing my legs out of bed. I slurp the coffee, which burns my mouth, but feels okay going down.

Some saint must have left this here.

"Ah, you're awake."

--And there he is, Saint Fraser, standing in the doorway. "I didn't know if you'd want juice or coffee, so I got both."

"Coffee. Massive amounts of coffee." I look at the nightstand again. "The Pepto is a nice touch, though."

"I thought it might come in handy." There's not even a hint of sarcasm.

"What time is it?" I could look at the clock, but my eyes aren't up to the whole focus thing yet. So far I've got smell and taste back under control. Sight can wait.

"After eleven a.m. Could you handle eating something?"

There goes my stomach again. "That's a joke, right?"

"Well, you should try to drink some of the juice, or eat some toast, at least. It'll help you recover from the hangover quicker."

I raise an eyebrow at him. Even that hurts. "Oho. This is something you know for a fact?"

In response, he does his own eyebrow thing, the one where he tries to erase it with his thumb. "Well, I. . ."

"Come on. You've never been hung over." He doesn't even drink. I snort a little, which makes me burn my tongue on the coffee. Serves me right for mocking a saint.

"Well, once," Fraser says, and goes red.

"Really?" That gets my attention.

"Er, yes, at the Queen's birthday party, in 19. . . well, the details aren't important."

Yes they are. That is one story I will have to hear. Later, when I can appreciate it. In the meantime, I really should say--

"Thanks, Frase." I manage a wussy little hand gesture at, well, everything. "For, you know."

"You're very welcome, Ray." He's looking at me skittishly all of a sudden, and it clicks in my brain that this whole situation feels a little weird. Not bad, just weird, and I'm not sure why.

"So. . . what exactly did I do last night?"

All I have in mind is to reconstruct the crime, but it suddenly looks like I've really alarmed him. He screws up his forehead and pulls himself up from the doorframe into his usual erect posture. Funny. I hadn't even noticed he was slouching until he stopped doing it. "Don't you. . . don't you remember, Ray?"

"Not too much," I admit. "Where was I and how did I get home?"

There's a bit of a pause before he answers. "You -- well, you were at a tavern over on the South Side. Logan Boulevard. And, ah, I brought you home. You weren't in any condition to drive." He looks positively stiff now, like he's reporting to the Ice Queen. "Your car is fine, if you were worried."

"Fraser, the way you drive, I have no reason to worry about the car, unless it got impounded for imitating a turtle." I push up with a small groan and get to my feet. He starts to move, as if he's going to come over and help me, but he stops himself. He looks very uncomfortable, like he suddenly doesn't want to get too close, and since he was perfectly willing to be up close and personal when I was driving the porcelain bus, his hesitation doesn't seem normal. I get that funny feeling again, that things are a little hinky. "I'm just playing with you, Frase," I say gently, shuffling toward the bathroom. "Thanks for the ride. And everything."

"Anytime, Ray."

He sounds like he means it. But when I finish brushing the fur out of my mouth, he's still fidgeting by the bedroom door.

"Logan Boulevard, huh. Why in hell would I go back there?" I head for the living room, coffee in hand, and ease myself down on the couch. That seems to be about the limit of my exercise capability for the moment. Man, I would kill for a cigarette, even after ten months of not smoking. Except. . . the craving's pretty bad today, so I must've been smoking as well as drinking last night. Shit.

Fraser follows, looking uncertain. "Don't you remember going there after work, Ray? You had a lot to drink, because, well. . . anyway, I went looking for you, and, uh, we talked. . ." He trails off. He's moved over to the armchair and his hands are clutching the back of it so tightly his knuckles look white.

We talked. . . Wait. "I remember."

And suddenly, I do. All of it, Stella, the anniversary, emptiness, guilt, tears . . . Discovery. Confession. Oh. Hey. No wonder things feel a little. . . different. "Yeah. I do remember."

When I check back at Fraser, he's doing his entire repertory of nervous tics: eyebrow erase, collar tug, ear rub, lip lick. I can see through him clear as a pane of glass, and I get him right away. He's really nervous -- like "can I believe what my drunken partner said last night when he was shit-faced" nervous. Poor guy looks like he expects the worst. For almost the first time since I've known him, he looks breakable. Oh God, I really do love the guy.

It hits me with a jolt, literally, and I spill coffee on my leg. "Ow."

"Ray, it's okay. I understand."

What's he saying? "Listen, Fraser--"

"Don't, Ray," he says, and he's gotten control of his face again and -- what the fuck?! -- slipped it into neutral. "You don't have to. You were feeling vulnerable, and I happened to be there. Really, I understand."

I hate that. I hate that he's doing that.

"You understand shit, Fraser." My face gets hot, and I don't know whether to smack him or take pity on him, but my head hurts enough for me to lean towards smacking. "Don't tell me you understand before you hear what I have to say."

Then get it over with, he doesn't say, but he broadcasts it all the same.

"Fraser, you are so --" I bite back the rest of that sentence, because it's not gonna do either of us any good if I call him an idiot. "I meant what I said last night, all of it. Do you understand me now? Do you?"

I'm shouting at him.

He's nodding, but his face is not convinced.

"Oh, crap." I make myself get up and stagger a few steps to where he's still squeezing the life out of my innocent chair, and I put my hands on his shoulders and look in his confused face and say, "I. Meant. It."

He's staring at me now, and Fraser, the real Fraser, is coming back, but it's too slow and it's still not enough. I have to spell it out for him, or hit him over the head, because he may be smart, but about this he's being D-U-M-dumb. "Fraser. Read my lips. I love you." I wait a second or two, and I think he finally gets it, because the corners of his mouth start to turn up. "Sorta insecure there, Mountie?"

"Yes, Ray." He looks embarrassed. "Very, if you must know."

"Yeah, well, don't be, okay? Insecurity is my thing, and I'll 'thank you kindly' to keep your Canadian paws off it."

"Yes, Ray." Okay, I made him smile. That's good. I give his shoulders a little squeeze. Good. So. . .

So now what, I wonder.

Because it suddenly occurs to me that I'm standing here in my living room, still hung over, wearing just my underwear, holding onto a fully-dressed Canadian who I just told I love him, and who I know loves me back, and if that isn't surreal, I don't know what is. It's like I'm the star of a reality-TV show. Maybe I'll win the million dollars. Then again, maybe I'll wind up crashing head first into a cement mixer without a helmet, with just a case of Turtle Wax as a consolation prize. Could go either way. Hell of a feeling.

But it's not a bad feeling. In fact, it's good. Strange but good. Better than good, I'm pretty sure. And I think that maybe this moment should be commemorated in some way.

I should kiss him.

I'm going to kiss him.

"I'm going to kiss you, Fraser." Yeah, think it, say it, that's me.

He lets out a big breath. "Oh. Good." His voice is shaky, but his eyes are relieved.

Cool. He likes the idea. Okay, I'm gonna do it.

I am.

Here I go.

I'm going to kiss Fraser.


I'm going to kiss Fraser.

I don't move.

I'm thinking about this way too much. I should just do it. But now my pulse is kicking up. A wave of panic's looming over me like. . . like some gigantic looming thing. I'm kinda queasy. That Pepto may come in handy after all.

I guess he notices I've pretty much frozen in place. "Ray?"


"Is there a problem?"

"No. Well, maybe. I don't know."

"You don't know?" Can't tell if he's ticked off, but he's definitely a little confused.

Me, I'm totally confused. My anxiety level has gone from zero to 100 in like, three seconds, and on top of that, the balloons are back, crowding me, pushing against me, and I can't breathe again -- and just what the hell do they mean anyway, balloons? I mean, clowns, okay, they can be scary, sure, I mean, I get the red nose, but what's with the big feet? And the pants -- what's so funny about big pants? Sure, clowns, but balloons? I must be nuts, am I nuts? Possibly I'm nuts, or maybe it's just--

"--Ray? Ray!"

"What?" Shit, I zoned out. Who knows how long I was stuck in Kowalski Nightmare Land. I've let go of him, and now he's got me by the shoulders. Must have been a while.

"Ray," Fraser says, and now his voice is very soft, and he's studying me very carefully. "Do you. . . want to kiss me?"

"Yes," I answer really fast. Maybe too fast.

"Then what's preventing you from doing so?"

Good question. Because honest to God, Fraser has a great mouth, wide and pretty, not feminine, though, and a little shiny because he's nervous and keeps licking his lips. It's a beautiful mouth, and lately I can't stop thinking about it. I can feel myself being drawn to it, and I want to go there, but. . .

His mouth is frowning.

Shit. Focus, Ray. Take a deep breath. Take another. "It's just that it's. . . kissing, Fraser. Kissing. Me and you kissing. And kissing seems so. . ." I sound like a sixteen- year old girl, which is not what I want to sound like. But it's hard to explain this, even to myself. "It's just, I -- well, I guess I didn't really think it through this far. Not this part. Not the physical part. I love you, Fraser, don't get me wrong. And I know, people in love kiss, and they do stuff. Other stuff. And yeah, I say I'll try anything, but I've never -- Listen, if I kiss you, that makes this real in a whole different way, you know? I want to kiss you, Frase, I want to, but if I do, what does that mean? it's . . . it's like starting down the, what do they call it--"

"The 'slippery slope'?'"

He knows what I mean. He knows. "Yeah! The slippery slope, to, I don't know what. I mean, I know what, but I just never--"

Fraser takes a step back, looks at me and says, "Hmm."

Okay, I may love him, but I do not like that "hmm." Never have.

"So you're saying if you kiss me, it will lead to sexual relations."

"Jesus, Fraser." I cannot believe it; I'm blushing.

"Ray. I need to know what you're thinking."

Deep breath. "Well, yeah, that's what I think. I mean, that's what you do when you're, you know, so I figured--"

"--And I disgust you."

"Disgust? No, I did not say that. Christ, Fraser, you ever look in a mirror? You're beautiful, uh, not like girl beautiful, I mean you're handsome. Like, like the guy in the Arrow shirt ad, but without the eye patch. How could anything about you disgust me?"

"Then the idea of sex with a man disgusts you."

"No! That's not it. I've looked at a few guys in my life, Fraser, and thought about it, every guy has, and those that say they haven't are fucking liars. Okay, I admit I'm kinda nervous about that stuff. All right, very nervous." Am I insane? This guy loves me and I love him. Why can't I just shut up and kiss him? Am I the world's biggest loser, or what?

But now my mouth is off and running, and I'm being dragged behind it. "And what if I kiss you and you don't like it? What if I don't? What if we start messing around and it messes US up? What if we start something that ends up really bad? What if we're not good together? What if we find out we don't really love--"Aw, shit, shit! "What if it's just a really bad idea," I finish. Loser, loser, loser. I'm jittery, shaking, and I can't stop.

I can barely meet his eyes, because I've just depressed the hell out of myself, and I'm scared, really scared that, what with the hangover and the jitters and the tension, I'm gonna start bawling. I can't do that again. I can't do that to him again.

Fraser thinks for a minute, his eyes searching my face. Then his mouth makes a little "oh" shape. "Ray, are you looking for a guarantee?"

"No! Of course not, I . . ."

But that is it, isn't it, it's not about sex, it's about love. I want a guarantee, a whole bunch of guarantees, money-back, heart-repairing guarantees that I'll like this and he'll always want me, and my heart will never get broken. Not again. I'm shaking really hard now and I wonder if I'm gonna stay upright, so I walk back over to the couch and drop down. "I'm stupid, I know."

He's looking at me with the tenderest expression I've ever seen on anyone's face, and he follows, sits down next to me, not touching. Five minutes ago he was freaking out and I was the calm one, and now he's steady as a rock and I'm losing it. Up, down, inside-out. Love sucks.

"You're not stupid, Ray. Believe me, I want someone -- Fate, Fortune, God, the Powers That Be -- someone or something in authority, to tell me that everything will be all right, that things will go as I want them to, that there will be a happy ending." His voice has gotten rough, and when he looks up at me through those dark, dark lashes, his eyes are sad, though his mouth is twisted in a half-smile. "So far, none of them have been very obliging to me in that regard."

"No, they haven't." I think about that woman, Victoria something, who I read about in Vecchio's file, and my heart does a little flip flop. No, Fate hasn't been fair to Fraser. That thought, almost more than anything else, makes me start to choke up.

He reaches over, and just puts his hand on mine, looks at it. "In fact, Ray, I dare say that I have never had reason to believe in happy endings." His face comes up, and there's a smile trying to break through. "But lately I've begun to live in hope."

"You have a hell of a lot of faith in me, Fraser. I could disappoint you."

He pauses, and he's considering it, and I think, No! No! Please don't believe that! "Yes," he says, after a little while, "I suppose that's possible, though I doubt it, Ray. I doubt you could." He gives my hand a little squeeze. He's being awfully touchy-feely, for Fraser, and I don't mind at all. In fact, feeling his hand, nice and warm, on my cold one, actually stops my shakes. "But nobody knows for certain what will happen. So we may very well be on the brink of a slippery slope."

I'm totally overwhelmed. "This is. . . a big deal to me, Fraser," I say, really quiet.

He leans toward me, his face serious. "Ray. You have no idea how nervous I am."

"Yeah, I do." In those big honest eyes it's easy to see his nervousness, but there's also warmth and friendship and, well, love. But what comes out of my mouth is, "Danger. That's it. That is where kissing leads."

"We've faced danger before," Fraser says right back at me, and you know, thank God one of us is brave. He's facing down his own nerves as if they were the bad guys, and he's doing it without a gun, on sheer guts alone, looking them in the eye, his voice steady, as patient as the universe, waiting for them to surrender to him. It's familiar; somehow that soothes my nerves a little, because just like always, he's got my back. "We've always faced it together, Ray."

There's a pause, not uncomfortable, just us two guys sitting on my couch, same as always, except not the same at all. Then he looks at me and cocks his head in the way that makes me think of Diefenbaker.

"On the other hand," Fraser says, "I suppose we could choose to believe that a kiss is just a kiss."

"Yeah, and a sigh is but a sigh." I can't help it.

He smiles at that. "Exactly."

"So. . ." Let me get this straight. "You're saying, maybe we could just kiss, and not get our shorts tied up in knots, not take our fear on the road. Just see what happens. Because we're a couple of hard cases and we can face danger."

"You are a poet, Ray," he says, straight-faced, which makes me snort. "I think that would be acceptable." He pauses. "But only if you agree."

I love this guy. I love Fraser. I really, really do. He's telling me he won't push me into anything, we'll take it casual, and that if I get weirded out, he'll let it go. Let me go. And that does it for me. The door in my head that leads to crazy shit like killer balloons shuts, at least for now, and at the same time something tight loosens inside. And I don't stop to think. I don't stop to stop myself.

My free hand, the one not under his, moves to his chest, grabs hold of his flannel shirt, and pulls him in and holds on to him. "I agree," I say to him; it's just a kiss, I say to myself, and then my mouth is on his.

Kissing. We're kissing. I am kissing Fraser.

And it's not weird. Well, okay, it is, but only for a second or two, before my out-of- practice lips remember how to kiss, and how good it feels to kiss, and my shell- shocked brain stops thinking partner, guy, Mountie, Fraser, and just starts going good, warm, soft, wow! His lips feel good against mine. Way good.

Fraser may be nervous, but he's not showing it now. His mouth moves, and all of a sudden he's sucking my lower lip into his mouth, licking it, and that flips some switch in my brain that tells me open up, Ray, which is what I do, and I can't help but think it's a good thing I brushed my teeth, because now that I've kick-started this, I won't settle for the kind of kiss you give your grandma. I want an open-mouthed, sloppy-wet, tongues-engaged, tooth-knocking, moaning-with-desire kind of kiss.

And, guess what? That's just what I get. Fraser's tongue is in my mouth, and I'm sucking on it, and then mine is in his, tasting him. Fraser's mouth is just as amazing on the inside as the outside, as it turns out. He tastes a little like tea, which I've never liked, but it tastes just perfect on him. It might just end up being my favorite drink.

It's only a matter of seconds before my mouth is doing a happy dance with his, a dance where everybody gets to lead. His tongue is lambada-ing under my lip, two-stepping over my teeth, polkaing on my palate, which, by the instant tingle, evidently is an erogenous zone for me, who knew? And I'm tangoing toward his tonsils, which makes him shiver under my clutching hands, 'cause yeah, I'm clutching him now, holding on for dear life.

I lean back against the couch arm, and Fraser leans forward, and we keep leaning until he's half on top of me, which is a strange feeling, to say the least. Even when Stella would get all aggressive and jump me, she weighed nothing; she was soft. Fraser's got mass, hard muscles and about twenty pounds on me. I'm a little short of breath again, but I don't know if it's the pressure of Fraser on my chest or the fact that it's Fraser on my chest. Whatever it is, what's going on feels so good, that I decide breathing is overrated. What the hell was I thinking a couple of minutes ago?

But there must be something wrong with me, really wrong, to go from panic to tonsil hockey in the space of a few minutes. I must be really, seriously damaged to do this, to have these major mood swings so fast, one after another. Up, down, inside out -- is this love, or am I psychotic? Maybe I have multiple personality whazzit. Maybe I'm having a nervous breakdown.

I start to hyperventilate, I guess, because Fraser pulls back and looks at me. "Is everything all right, Ray?" He looks really worried for a moment, then says, "Oh!" and sits up. "I'm so sorry, Ray. I wasn't thinking. You've had a hangover, and nothing to eat -- shall I make you some toast?"

Toast? He wants to make me toast? Now? Is he insane? My eyes have come back into focus, and all I see is this flushed, tousled, horny and now guilty-looking vision, and he's babbling about toast, for Chrissakes! Apparently mental meltdown is contagious. Maybe it's even normal under the circumstances.

Well, that's a relief. I decide not to have a nervous breakdown. I just need to stop thinking.

"No, no toast, Fraser. Everything is greatness," I pant, and to prove it, I reach up and put my hand behind his neck, and he smiles, his eyelids lower halfway, and when I see that, it's like a bolt of lightning zapping me with electricity that just about stops my heart. He comes back in to kiss me again, but stops short and I feel his breath on my lips. It's hot, winding me up until I'm ready to leap out of my skin. Then his mouth is back on me, and at first he's soft and gentle, then harder, and rougher. I like all of it, which surprises me, and makes me nervous all over again. Am I the kind of guy who likes things rough? What else am I gonna like?

There's a funny prickle against my face -- his chin. Shit, I must be ripping up his face with my two-day-old stubble. He doesn't seem to care, though. He scrapes against my cheek, across my jaw, down my neck and under my ear. When he starts sucking on my earlobe, not thinking is suddenly very easy to do.

He hitches himself up more onto the couch, which means more onto me, gets his lips back on mine, and I don't know when it happens, but suddenly this kissing thing is a total body experience. The tingle that started in my lip is down in my groin, and my dick is getting very happy. It wants in on the party, and far be it from me to stand in the way, so I wriggle around under Fraser until his thigh is on my crotch, and Hello! I'm hard and getting harder, the more I rub up against that muscular thigh, and I start making noises that even Dief would be embarrassed to make, but I don't really give a shit.

Because Fraser is making noises too.

For some reason, that is the most erotic thing so far, that Fraser, the cool, calm and, let's face it, square Mountie has been turned into a hot-blooded, needy, greedy kissing machine. By me. Me, Ray, "I'm Such A Loser," Kowalski. But I'm not a loser, not to him. And the rock-hard dick pressing into my hip is his, and I know I did that, made him hard, just by kissing him.

Knowing that just about fries my brain and sends me into some kind of feeding-frenzy. I am Piranha Boy. I am a great white shark. I fasten my mouth on him and I am not letting go. Ears, neck, chin, lips, whatever comes in range, I gotta kiss it, lick it, suck it.

"Oh, my," he says, as my tongue goes in his ear, and then "Oh, God!" And then he's rubbing against me in overdrive.

Fraser's no saint. Not now.

Maybe he never was.

I'm learning a hell of a lot of things right about now, like I love the way that hard body feels on top of mine, that Fraser's sweaty skin tastes great, all slick and salty, and that it's safe to say I'm not as straight as I thought I was. I'm just beginning to think I get that licking and tasting fixation of his, when something wrong goes into my mouth. Soft. Fuzzy. Not-Fraser. Shirt. I'm sucking on Fraser's flannel shirt, because I've run out of skin. I have to get more skin, or I am gonna die.

Not that I object to playing bottom boy here (and who the fuck ever thought I'd say that?) but I need to do something about getting more of Fraser out in the air, and I need to do it fast, so I start pushing on him, trying to flip us over. He's got the weight, but I move faster, and I can wriggle around easier on my couch because I'm just in boxers and a tee shirt while he's in flannel and jeans. Besides, he's not fighting me; in fact, he seems pretty happy to let me do whatever I want with him. In a couple of seconds I'm on top, unbuttoning his shirt while humping his leg and biting and licking and sucking my way down his neck to that place where it joins his body. Oh yeah, he likes that. He likes that a lot.

His arms go around me and he's holding me so tight, crushing me, really, that I start to see little specks jumping around in front of my eyes. More important, I can't get his shirt off if he holds me this close, so I pull up from his neck with a slurpy sucking sound. "Fraser!" I pant, trying to get air into my lungs. "Work with me here, will ya?"

"I thought we were working well together, Ray." He's panting himself. "At least I seem to be functioning perfectly w--"

Aaagghh! "Yeah, Fraser, your dick works, I can tell. I just wanna get at it, you know?"

His eyes open up wide and he stills underneath me. He blushes even pinker than he already is. "I see."

"Yeah, I'd like to see, too, Fraser, so help me out here. Take off your pants."


"Just lean forward so I can get your sleeve--"


"Your zipper's still up. C'mon, c'mon."


I stop pulling at his clothes. "Something wrong? I hurt you or something?"

"Ray." His face is very still, though flushed. "I feel I need to point out. . . we're not just kissing anymore."

"Frase, you don't have to point that out. I kinda know it."

"Well, Ray, as you were. . . concerned about things before, about where kissing might lead, the 'slippery slope,' as it were, I just wanted to make sure this is still okay with you." He's searching my face, trying to read me, which is sort of sweet, if completely nuts.

"Fraser," I say, and my voice is all crackly with wanting him so much, "Take a look around. I am trying to rip your clothing off you, I have a raging hard on, and if I don't get to touch you soon I am going to die from frustration. By the looks of you, Benton buddy, you ain't in much better shape. Now, I may be nervous, and I may not know what the hell I'm doing, but I am not doing anything against my will. So far, so really fucking good, okay? I do not, I repeat, not want to stop." And then I do stop, wondering where this came from. "Unless. . . you're saying you want to."

"Good God, no!" He says that with real feeling, and runs a hand through his sweaty hair, which makes it stand up almost like mine. I can't help but smile at him.

"Okay then. Okay?" He nods. "Then take off your pants already."

"I had no idea you were so demanding," he murmurs into my hair as he kicks off his shoes and finally unzips.

"I had no idea you were so easy," I answer, sliding to the end of the couch to yank his jeans off.

"Neither did I." My hand brushes his back as I take off his shirt, and he shivers. "I never have been before."

That stops me. "Sorry, didn't mean--"

"Please take it as a compliment."

Damn it, he's gonna make me choke up again. "I do, Frase. Believe me."

As I lean over him, he reaches up to kiss my throat, and I growl. Great. Now I remind me of Dief. "Are you comfortable on the couch?" He looks at me, all innocent, but I know better now.

"Uh. . ." My voice cracks, but my eyes flick over at the bedroom.

"All right, Ray." Like it was my idea.

Fraser stands up and takes a couple of steps towards the other room. Then he comes back because I haven't moved. "Ray?"

"Right, right," I mumble. Froze again. No thinking. There will be no thinking.

He's already straightened the blankets and pillows and smoothed out the bottom sheet. Neat freak. Can't help it, I guess.

He stretches out and turns to me, and I finally get a good look at him sprawled there, leaning back against the pillows, pale skin, dark sweaty hair, tank top undershirt, boxers that are tented up by his erection. His mouth is open a little, his lips wet, and his eyes are doing that half-mast thing that turns my crank. It's high noon outside in the real world, but in here it's fucking midnight. He's not posing for effect, but no matter who you are -- man, woman, gay, straight, or somewhere in between -- looking like this, Benton Fraser is everybody's living wet dream. And he's looking at me -- me! -- with such heat I'm practically drooling.

He holds out his hand, inviting me into my own bed. A shiver runs down my spine. "Come here," he says, in a gravelly voice that's pure sex, and I do.

I'm hypnotized. I kneel next to him, then crawl up his body until I'm straddling him, my hands framing his shoulders, my knees outside his, our faces inches apart. The heat's coming off him in pulses. Time just stops, while I look at him, and he looks back.

There's nothing but two layers of cotton between Frase and me, and if I touch him, soon there won't be anything at all. But I don't touch him. The whole world is going topsy-turvy on me again, and maybe it's not good that he stopped things a minute ago, because my brain is fighting my dick for control. Maybe this is when I really should be panicking, because I'm past the point of being able to stop. I won't be able to, ever. This is way, way more than just sex.

My knees wobble on the mattress. I feel dizzy. It's showtime. Now or never, and I can't live with never.

Don't think, Ray.

But I am. Thinking. I can't do just a kiss. I can't make this casual. I said I could, but I can't. It's too much, Frase. It means too much. This has to be for real. This has to be for keeps, because I can't stop. Please let it be that way.

I don't say it.

He's looking at me carefully, seeing that I'm stuck again. He exhales a little puff of warm tea-and-Fraser on my face, and smiles with that perfect mouth, and raises a hand to touch my cheek. Time starts.

My hands move by themselves, diving under his shirt, feeling the solid chest beneath, searching around until I find hard nipples. He likes that, and breathes out a moan that sounds like my name. I pull the shirt aside with my teeth and my hands and bring my mouth to him. More skin to suck, to lick. He arches up into me and the moan this time is almost a sob.

His hands are on my back, stroking, grabbing, fondling, and then one hand is under my shirt, hot, rough palm against my back. And the other -- God! The other is finding its way under the waistband of my shorts, and is traveling down, down, until it's cupping my ass.

Jesus Christ. His other hand joins the first and his fingers tighten on my ass. When one finger strokes down between my cheeks, my head comes off his chest and I jump so hard I practically fall off the bed. His hands clutch, hold me in place, and start rocking me against him. My dick, which had calmed down a little bit, jumps back up to full attention again. Oh yeah, this is much better, much closer. I can feet the whole length of his cock hard against me beneath the thin cotton of his boxers, and from the sounds he's making as I push against him, I know he feels mine.

His face --! Polite Fraser is gone, and in his place is this sex-crazed horny guy who looks like Fraser, but my brain is having trouble connecting those dots, connecting "Fraser" with this guy making animal noises and thrashing around on my bed like he's got his own private earthquake going on. A guy with muscles and strong hands that let go my ass long enough to grab the edge of my shirt and pull it over my head so rough that the neck catches on my nose and almost rips it off. Not that either of us gives a rat's ass right now. I have to touch him, so I reach into Fraser's shorts and finally, finally get my hands on him.

Wow. Fate was unfair to Fraser in many things, but not here.

I don't have time to take measurements or window putty impressions. This new, wild Fraser is rubbing -- no, pinching my nipples -- oh Christ, so hard he's got me moaning, too. His hands are everywhere, stroking over my ribs, trailing down my sides, squeezing my arms, my neck, then back to my ass, and then they're on my shorts and the next thing I know my dick is free. I don't know how, it's gotta have something to do with math or geometry or magic, but somehow my boxers are out of the way, and so are his, and -- Holy Shit! -- one hand's kneading my ass while the other one's wrapped around my dick and his thumb is rubbing the head, getting it all slick because I'm leaking like crazy, and I'm panting, "God, Fraser, oh God, do you know, do you, damn, what that feels, oh God!" and then a whole bunch of stuff that doesn't sound like words. I don't think I've ever been so fucking turned on in my life, even that first year with Stella --

Shit. I do not want to think about her. I want to think about the sweaty guy I'm humping, who's jerking me off pretty damn expertly, which tells me Fraser's had some practice here, alone or with a partner, that is, a partner before me -- Oh, Christ! I hope it wasn't Vecchio, no, don't think about him -- Fraser's hand is moving on me and okay, fine, fine, I'm getting past the point of thinking, thank God. I've got a hand squeezing my ass hard enough to leave marks, holding me in place as I rub against him, and the other stroking me while his dick thrusts up against me and my hands and mouth are full of his skin and I can't, I can't hold on any longer and damn, it's not long enough, it isn't nearly long enough. I've got that sweet pain building in my balls, and everything starts to spin out of control and my brain turns inside out and I'm shouting, "Fraser! Jesus!" and I'm coming all over him in long, hot spurts.

Holy Mother of -- My whole body is one mass of nerve endings. And I'm still rocking against him, feeling the last pulses as I start to come down, trying to make it last. I'm not sure, but I think I maybe die for a second or two. At least I think I stop breathing for a while. Probably should have had that toast.

My last two working brain cells hear Fraser howling like a wolf or something wilder, and he jerks against me and then there are more warm splatters on him and me and I just fall forward onto the wetness, onto Fraser, becoming my own puddle of nothingness, and hang on until the heat in my brain slowly cools down and the world stops spinning.

Later, there is toast.

Later than that, and after eggs and coffee, still in bed, I find myself on my back, Fraser curled around and over me. Not quite sure how I got here.

I feel the rumble of his voice against my chest.

"How's your headache?"

Huh, didn't even notice. "Gone. Must be all the, uh, dolphins."

"I'm fairly sure you mean endorphins," he murmurs.

"Uh-huh." He can't see my face, so I smile. I knew he'd correct me; that's why I said it wrong. You can't spend as much time as I have around a boxing ring and trainers without knowing the right word, and yeah, I can even spell it, sort of. But it gives me a kick to hear his teacher voice, so sometimes I do it on purpose. If I'd had teachers like him back in school, maybe I would have made it through college. Then again, maybe I'd have gotten kicked out for making out with the prof.

Because I can't see his face, and he can't see mine, I go on, say what I have to say. "So I guess I was right about the kissing thing. Where it leads, I mean."

He makes a sound, something like "Hmphl," which could mean anything.

I have to ask. "Fraser. . . you've done this before, right? I mean, with a guy."

"Ray," he says, kinda muffled, but clearer now. "I. . . yes, I have. I mean, some of it."

"Thought so." Not a saint, not really.

"It was some time ago, with--"

"Please, Frase, no. Don't tell me. Not yet. Okay?"

"As you wish."

"So why'd you say you're nervous?"

"Because." He lifts his face. "Because this is you, Ray."

An answer, and not an answer. But we're both hiding stuff.

I wait until his cheek goes back down and he settles himself against me, my stomach this time. Can he feel the butterflies? "Fraser, I lied."

"Lied?" Fraser shifts, and his cheek rubs against me. From this angle I can only see the top of his head and his nose, but I can feel his eyebrows scrunch up a little. "About what?"

"I can't do it."

"Mm, I think we already did, Ray."

"No. I mean I can't do casual. I said I could, but I can't. I have to do this for real."


"I want you, Fraser."


"And not just your body, though God knows it's unbelievably great and the sex is incredible -- I mean, I coulda used CPR back there. I mean, I want you. I want all of you. I want--"

"Ray. Please shut up."

"I. . ." I close my mouth.

He turns over and props himself up on his elbows so he can really see me this time, and he's got this look that's like half fed up and half laughing and half serious, which is too many halfs, I know, but whatever. "Ray. You have me, for real. I'm already yours, entirely yours. Don't you know that?"

I just stare at him.

He's laughing silently at my expression. The Mountie is laughing at me! "Sort of insecure there, detective?"

I roll my eyes. "Get your own material."

"And they say I talk too much."

"You do."

"Well, you may be right there, Ray."

"Shut up."

"Make me."

"I love you, Ben."

That gets him, but just for a moment. "Ah," he says softly, almost a purr. He looks at me another second, his eyes getting shiny, then he sighs and plants a kiss on my navel.

I know what that really means, and I finally relax all the way.

Fraser is tracing his finger along my left knee, looking at it like it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, like it's the Mona Lisa of knees. And then he moves down, and his tongue flicks out and licks along the old scar there, the scar that goes across the whole kneecap in a sort of upside down smile, the scar I got sledding, long, long ago on the only hill in Logan Square. And though I'm mellow and loose and exhausted and wrung out from everything that has happened, from coming so hard, from being with Fraser, from the up and down and inside out emotions, I'm flying, and I don't ever want to stop.

And it's just like back then, rushing down the hill on our sled train, taking the slope at the speed of light, feeling the terror and the thrill together, not caring if Billy Solenko let go the rope, not caring what waited at the bottom. So what if I went into the parked milk truck at the bottom of Logan Boulevard and busted my wrist and sliced my knee open down to the bone, it was worth the hundred stitches, worth the fear, worth the pain, because for those seconds, coming down the icy slope, for that infinity of time, I was flying.

I want to fly like that, with Fraser, as long as I can, as long as he'll have me, no matter what happens. Maybe I'll crash and splatter myself and my heart all over Fraser Boulevard. Or maybe we'll both keep flying down this slope, feeling the rush, and won't ever hit bottom. There are no guarantees. But I have to push off and go with the feeling or I'll never know. I have to know if it goes on forever.

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