"Catch and Release"
RATING: R; Fraser/Kowalski. If m/m interaction bothers you, dance on by.
SPOILERS: "Strange Bedfellows."
SUMMARY: Fraser tries to help Ray without helping himself.
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, as long as you ask me first.
FEEDBACK: Hell, yes. Feedback can be sent to Viridian5@aol.com.
DISCLAIMERS: All things due South belong to Alliance no matter how much I want Ray K to belong to me. No infringement intended. Suing me would be a waste of time. Besides, Iíd just kick you in the head.
NOTES: My first due South fic.
The boys were doing something a lot like their Not Looking at one another but to me, refusing to tell me anything but giving me hints. It was all full of meaning while articulating nothing. A long conversation with Te helped me get them going. She also once said of Ray K: "Heís a wriggler. A jitterer. A foot tapping finger snapping Tiggerboy." So, hail Te! Praise Te! Thanks to Tirinar too for beta.
"Catch and Release"
"Home sweet consulate, Frase."
"Please come in with me for a moment, Ray."
Ben looked at his partner. He knew that Ray hadnít slept at all last night, and tonight looked like it would be a replay of the last. Prior to meeting Ray, Ben hadnít thought a person could be that tired and still be sparking with nervous energy, an energy that only seemed to drain him further but not enough to lead to healing sleep. Irritable and manic, he had fidgeted, drummed on the steering wheel, and snapped his gum all through their stakeout. He smelled like frustration and despair.
He looked like he was burning alive from the inside in a blaze that would devour him until only ash remained.
Passion, his hopeless yearning for his ex-wife Stella, had left Ray like this. Ben remembered the torment Victoria had caused him and knew he couldnít leave his partner in this state. Couldnít leave him alone to suffer.
"I want to ask you something." //I want you to sleep. I want you to be well.//
"You canít ask in the car?"
"No. Please, Ray."
"All right, Fraser. Iíll come in."
Ben felt the consulateís calm quiet, the peace and gentility conveyed by its solid dark wood and old-fashioned construction, enfold him the moment he entered the foyer, but it didnít seem to touch Ray at all. He still crackled, making Ben wonder yet again if his blond hair stood on end from styling or innate electricity. It gave him a sudden image of him rubbing his partnerís head against the wall and watching it adhere through static.
It seemed that Ray wasnít the only tired one here.
Ben had a plan. It was time to start it.
He stopped at the desk and turned on the radio, keeping the volume low. The soft, slow music brightened the night a little. Ray closed his pale eyes and moved a little in time in slow, graceful back and forth steps, hypnotic and beguiling. It focused his energy in a trajectory, a change from the way it usually whipped out randomly. A fragile veil of peace settled over them.
Ray stopped, opened his eyes, and tore it with, "What did ya want to ask me?"
Ben tried to find a graceful way to ask but failed. "I wanted...." No, that wouldnít do at all. "That is...." Not that either. He stifled a sigh. "What I mean is...."
"Yer killing me here."
Finally, he just did it. "Would you keep dancing for me, Ray?"
"What?" Ray looked self-conscious now, caught.
"I wasnít doing nothing. I was just swaying. Iím tired, Frase."
//And it breaks my heart to see you tired like this.// "Then would you dance for me now? Please? You were so good dancing--"
That didnít do at all. "I hoped to see you do it again." Ben remembered the joy on Rayís face as heíd danced with his ex-wife and wanted to see it again. He didnít know if Stella or the dancing or both had given Ray that look of transcendent happiness, but he wanted to give it a try.
"I charge more fer a lap dance, Frase."
"I donít know what--"
"ĎCourse you donít." Ray ran a hand through his spiky hair. "I couldnít do it with you watching me. That would be too freaky."
"If you would be so kind as to dance with me, then?" Even better, if it worked.
"And thatís not freaky? What am I saying; yer a freak, so of course you ask for freaky things. I donít know what you think yer doing, but Iím not buying it. You think I just--"
Ray could go on for a while if not stopped immediately. "Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray."
"I donít have anything Ďfreakyí intended. This is a completely innocent request." It was. He just wanted Ray to relax a little; he could keep his more selfish thoughts under control. He sighed. Time to bring out the secret weapon. Ben tried to keep his face blank. "Thereís an Inuit story that--"
Rayís expression looked exasperated and affectionate all at once. It warmed Ben to see. "Geez! Is there one for everything?" Ray asked. "Look, Iíll dance with ya if I get to skip storytime, okay?"
Ray sighed. "Get over here."
From the very first time he had met Ray and seen all that sparking energy, Ben had wanted to touch him, see if the electricity could be felt too. He soon found out that it could. He felt it in little jolts now as Rayís hand settled at his waist and took one of his own. It hummed and crackled even through the leather of Rayís jacket underneath Benís other hand. Once again he wondered how a body could contain it all without exploding.
Their first move together had them wrestling in a clash of limbs instead of dancing. "Fraser, youíre trying to lead!"
Oh. "Iím used to--"
"I know, but we canít both lead; weíll just mess each other up."
There was something profound in that. "Of course."
"You asked me to dance, so Iím doing you a favor." Ray smirked, but it warmed his eyes. "So I lead. Get it?"
"Good. I lead, you follow."
Given the circumstances, Ben had half-expected Ray to move desultorily, humoring the Mountie, but he seemed to be giving it all. Maybe he couldnít help himself.
The song ended and changed to something faster, a samba Ben didnít recognize. Ray started to move, forward, back, with a rhythmic swaying of denim-clad hips. Leaning in to Ben, then away. Heat and presence, then air. Ben wanted to yank Ray close and stop him from escaping, but that would scare him. Ben rarely let himself touch people, because it always made him want to hold tight, to make sure they could never go.
If you held something too tightly, you always broke it.
Following his lead felt odd at first, backward, like learning to write with your other hand, but Ben soon realized that he could feel muscle cues from Ray on where to move next. Heíd never been good at dancing, but under Rayís direction he felt grace settle over him, as if he became an extension of his partner. He felt something like this only occasionally with either Ray, and he had never disliked it.
Actually, heíd craved it.
And he shouldnít. When you wanted something too much, it was taken away from you.
"Doing good, Fraser. Now we speed up."
"I was going slow so you could get used to it. You sure you wanna do this?"
Ben wondered about that himself, but he knew he didnít want to sever the connection or lose the grin on Rayís face. "Iím ready."
The changes in movement came faster now, and their footwork devoured more floor space. A tenor voice sang of love, but that seemed to be the usual topic of such songs. Sometimes Ray reeled Ben all the way out until only a handclasp kept them connected before pulling him back in. The first time felt awkward, but the next one was better as Ben let himself just go with it, just a little.
Away, then back. Each "away" felt so wrong, but not as much as it could have if he hadnít known that he would be reeled back in.
It was a bit like his life.
//Let him spin you away temporarily. Youíd scare him otherwise. You can find the control; you always do.// Ben knew that the first Rayís abrupt departure hadnít helped him at all //I was going to tell him I--// but clutching the second Ray wouldnít help or change that.
It amazed Ben that both men were considered to be opposite to him but were also considered opposite to one another. It should have been impossible. Instead, it only showed how imperfect labels could be. They all shared traits like loyalty, decency, honor, and a thirst for justice. How could they all be opposites?
It did relieve Ben that his second Ray had so many differences from the first. It let him know that he wasnít just accepting and reacting to a copy Ray. That would be appallingly disrespectful to both Rays.
It was warm in here and getting warmer from their exertions. Rayís blond hair had started to darken at the roots from perspiration. Above all the scents of all the products city people used to enhance or disguise themselves, Ray smelled of clean heat and sugar, the last from two packs of gum used over seven hours. Blindfolded, Ben would still know him in a crowded room just from scent.
Ben wanted to get closer, desperately wanted to taste Ray too. You couldnít begin to understand something until you experienced it with all your senses. Ben wished he didnít know how Ray felt about him licking things, because then heíd be able to--briefly, very briefly--run his tongue down gleaming pale skin with a clear conscience.
No. This wasnít productive at all. It couldnít happen, so he shouldnít think about it. He moved on to other thoughts.
It felt good to move after hours in the car, after all the time heíd spent here in Chicago. Having roamed his homeís vast wilderness all his life, he sometimes felt that being in the city was like being trapped indoors. Or in a cage.
Seeing Ray now, Ben had to wonder if this was Rayís home, these moments of directed movement. He glowed with happiness and confidence; his grin blinded. Lost in his own space, he had his eyes half-closed. Fraser had never met a man who somehow took up so much space, yet now Ray seemed to be everywhere, like sunlight. His energy currently warmed instead of jolted. Ben basked as much as he could let himself.
Small beads of sweat ran down Rayís hairline and neck. They made Ben so strangely hungry. Ray would be pulling him in again soon, and maybe he would find a way to get close enough to--
Ray stopped suddenly, completely, and Ben jerked off balance. "Ray, what--"
Ray looked upset and deeply uncomfortable. "Why are ya doing that, Fraser?"
"Staring at me like that."
It hit Ben that Ray thought heíd done something wrong to get that stare. It would never occur to him that someone would be... what? Adoring him?
Even more than usual, this situation needed the truth. Anything else would hurt and disturb Ray even worse. Relief hit Ben as he realized that it had been taken out of his hands; he had to reveal himself now.
"I wanted to get closer to you," Ben said. "Youíre... beautiful to me, Ray."
Ben had seen Rayís expression once on a man whoíd gotten hit on the head with an oar. Ray trembled. "Oh. Oh...." He turned to flee.
Everything in Benís soul screamed, No! He tightened his grip on Rayís wrist and felt Rayís pulse pounding awayawayaway under his fingers. Panicked, Ray still had good instincts. Seeing that he couldnít run, he sprang at Ben instead, prepared to punch his way loose if necessary. Ben managed to catch his other wrist and felt his heart hammering through both hands. As he tried to rip his way free, his energy seemed to arc in waves of sparks at his captor.
Rayís reaction was worse than heíd ever imagined it could be. "Ray. Ray," Ben said in as calming a tone as he could. "Ray, Iím sorry. Iíll let you go if you--"
Ray stilled, as much as he ever could. Breathing hard, he asked softly, "Why díya have to say that shit, Frase?" He sounded deeply hurt.
"I meant it."
"You couldnítíve-- Is this about Stella? Some kind of pity thing?"
"I donít lie," Ben replied, confused.
"Yeah, but yer polite, and polite can be lying. In a way."
Ben tried to figure out exactly what Ray was accusing him of and thinking. Then a possibility hit him. It horrified him. "Iím polite, Ray, but I donít take it that far."
"I know what I am. Iím not beautiful. You couldnít possibly have any interest in me as-- No."
Benís heart sang. Ray would welcome "interest"? Ben realized that his thumbs were trying to stroke calm into Rayís pulsing wrists. He didnít stop. Looking like a trapped animal, Ray breathed raggedly at him, prepared for something awful.
Then he was in for a surprise. //We both are, actually.// "You are. I do. Let me show you."
Seeing it was his turn to lead, even as he felt some shock at his own forwardness, Ben brought Ray in close and kissed him. He tasted of sweet and salt, with an overtone of coffee. His soft lips yielded instantly to Ben, who needed to get a taste of the inside of his mouth too, the feel of smooth teeth. Their hearts now pounded almost in synchronization. Ben let go of Rayís wrists and just held him gently, in a way that could allow him to escape if he felt he had to. Ray didnít go, just trembled and held Ben too.
When Ben finally broke the kiss off, Ray put his head against the serge-clad shoulder and gasped, "God, you...." Ben did what heíd wanted to do for so long and tasted Rayís skin, this time his partnerís neck, glorying in the warm, salty smoothness against his tongue and the vibration of something that was almost a purr coming from his partnerís throat. When Ben started to stroke his hair, Ray opened his darkening eyes to reveal a look of overwhelming love, lust, and confusion.
If Ben wanted to, he could have Ray right now. Lead him to the room, fling him onto the cot or floor, and pounce with no protests. Ben wanted to, more than anything. But he also knew that Ray was too tired to think and still suffering from days of being near Stella again. What word did Americans use? Rebound? It would be taking advantage. He didnít want to do that.
If Ben clutched tightly now, Ray could wake up the next morning regretting the night as an example of temporary insanity. Might decide that their whole partnership was a mistake. If Ben held him loosely, gave him time, they might have a real chance.
"Ray, you donít have to--"
A fevered kiss stopped Benís words. Ray said, "I know."
"It would be taking advantage."
Ray looked at him with dazed eyes, yet he somehow looked... primal. "Do you want me? You said you did."
"Then let me take advantage of you, would ya?"
One last try. "Ray, youíre tired, youíre--"
Ray drove Ben back against the wall and pinned him there. "This look tired to you?" Ray moved in close. "You really werenít just teasing, were ya?"
"No, I would never tease you about something like that."
Maybe this time Ben could get what he wanted and keep it. At the very least, he could fight for it.
The next story in the Steps series is "The Moose and the Caribou."