Imagine a story in which Benton Fraser, alone, moves back to the Yukon and lives his normal ordinary Mountie existence. It is simple and quiet and missing something very simple: Ray.

One day he is asked to travel into Toronto for a week, to perhaps oversee the training of some new recruits, or pick up the latest constable assigned to his detachment.

Being back in the city is a shock for Fraser, and he finds himself thinking more and more about Ray, due south, all the way down in Arizona (a reaction to the cold on the adventure, Benton secretly believes, although it’s been three years).

He finds it difficult to sleep again, back to the noise and restlessness of Chicago, and so at two am most night finds himself strolling around the city.

He explores the darker parts and performs various acts of heroism, saving a young girl from being mugged; an old woman who is almost knocked over by a drunk driver. He tells them ‘You shouldn’t be out in the city late at night. It isn’t safe for a lady,” and sends them on their way.

Then, one night, halfway through his stay, he finds a man in an alleyway. He’s been beaten up, is bleeding, is a prostitute, is almost the spitting image of Stanley Raymond Kowalski. He is called Billy, and Fraser doesn’t know this, but he used to work in a band until someone else recovered from heroin addiction and Billy was booted back over the border.

Fraser sets him on his feet, wipes his face with a red handkerchief, gives him some kindly advice, goes home and lies in the dark thinking about his mouth.

The next night Fraser goes back to the same spot, but Billy isn’t there. He is there the night after, in fact, a Friday, buying cigarettes from a street vendor. Billy and Fraser both assume that he is there to lecture Billy on his lifestyle, and so they are both surprised when Fraser enquires about prices, of all things.

Just normal curiosity, though, Fraser tells himself, and makes a swift getaway.

He is back the next night, and happens to have the exact cash needed for a particular act, and Billy gives him a cynical look and blows him in an alley round the corner. Benton can’t help but notice, even as he is coming, that Billy is painfully thin, still has a black eye, and that the waste in this alleyway isn’t anything ordinary, but seems to be toxins escaping somehow from one of the factories nearby.

The next day he reports the dangerous leak to his superiors, and doesn’t think about coming in Billy’s mouth, or muttering the word “Ray,” as he came.

He does, however, go back that night. Saturday this time and the streets are buzzing. It doesn’t occur to him until he turns the corner that it’s likely he might find Billy with a client. Luckily, however, he spots Billy in a café, hands cupped around a mug of warm tea; bruises fading.

He buys Billy scrambled eggs on toast, and they sit in a booth. Billy doesn’t talk, but Fraser does, telling him about home, about the RCMP, about how Billy shouldn’t use that alleyway anymore, at least until they’ve sorted out that leak. Billy gives him an odd look and says he’ll “bear that in mind.”

Billy has tired rings under his eyes, and after he’s eaten walks out of the diner without a word, Fraser following him. He blows Fraser in a different alleyway this time, although that was honestly not Fraser’s intention upon seeking him out, it was simply to warn him about the toxins in the alleyway. Fraser does, however, have the correct amount of cash tucked into the brim of his hat.

The next day is Monday; Fraser is leaving in the afternoon. He is supposed to be spending the day stocking up on supplies – winter is coming – but instead he spends it walking around Billy’s neighbourhood asking people whether they have seen him.

He doesn’t have any luck for the first hour, until at last a lady who runs a grocery store on a nearby street and chain-smokes tells him in her croaky voice that she rents out a room to someone of that description, but isn’t sure she can remember which room it is.

A crisp bill from Fraser’s hat helps with her memory, and for the first time in a long while Fraser is thankful for some of the unwitting training in bribery he received while in Chicago.

Billy opens the door scowling, bed-head messy and creases down one cheek. Fraser steps inside without an invitation – a piece of rudeness he is secretly quite proud of – and offers Ra—Billy $500 if he comes back with him for a month. Fraser is expecting a fight, but Billy just shrugs, yawns until his jaw cracks, and says ok, but money up-front.

Fraser explains that that is impossible, the money is kept under his bed in his cabin. Billy leans over the sink and takes a drink of cold water directly from the tap, and then wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. “Ok,” he says. “A hundred up-front.”


This Fraser has, and so he agrees, saying he’ll wait while Billy packs; they need to go immediately. Billy says he’s got nothing to take, and so they walk out empty-handed, Billy not locking his door behind him, Billy not wearing a coat or scarf.

Fraser takes him back to his hotel and makes him put on a vest, two flannel shirts and one jacket. The sleeves hang down over Billy’s wrists, and it gives Fraser a pang to see Billy without his shirt. A good hearty stew, everyday, Fraser thinks, planning meals. They’ll need to stock-up in Whitehorse, he realises, as he’s left it too late today.

They travel in near-silence and don’t touch each other. The new constable gives them puzzled looks until Fraser explains Billy is an old friend who’s coming to stay to recover from Meningitis. This is the same story he tells people in Whitehorse, and then again in the closest town to his home, and the place where the detachment is based, Carmacks.

He takes Billy back to his cabin, and makes him take a bath while Fraser kills some rabbits for supper. They eat in silence, sitting on the couch, Billy unsure at first about the food and then devouring it hungrily. Fraser is unnerved at how much it arouses him to see Billy so eager, and quickly finishes his own plate, moving away to rinse it.

When he goes back for Billy’s he stands in front of him and holds out his hand for the plate, but Billy sets it on the coffee table behind, and instead begins to unbuckle Fraser’s belt.

Fraser wants to protest, he really does, but instead he simply closes his eyes and steadies himself with a hand on Billy’s shoulder.

Afterwards, Billy says “Who’s Ray?”

Fraser isn’t expecting this; Billy has barely spoken for the past 24 hours, and so is caught off-guard. He counters with “Who’s Joe?” – a name Billy was muttering in his sleep on the plane.

Billy scowls and slams into the bathroom, and Fraser can hear him washing out his mouth. He is hit by a pang of guilt so huge that he actually – and he privately thinks, rather melodramatically – staggers, and when Billy comes out of the bathroom he finds Fraser setting up a bed on the floor between the couch and the coffee table.

“You want me to sleep on the floor?” Billy asks, glaring.

“No,” Fraser states, not meeting his eyes. “This is more than sufficient for me. You take the bed.”

***

The next day Fraser picks up Dief from Mrs. Holloway who was watching him, and Dief complains all the way back to the cabin, stopping only when he sees Billy. He and Billy scope each other out, and then both seem to decide it is best to ignore the other.


Dief does exactly that, and Fraser tries to ignore the disapproving sniffs he gives every time Fraser— every time Billy— every time there is contact between them.

***

They settle into an uneasy pattern. Fraser leaves for work early in the morning and Billy sits around the cabin in sweats and a t-shirt bearing the RCMP logo until Fraser comes home.

Sometimes Billy sleeps all day, and then he’s awake all night and Fraser can’t sleep for awareness of him.

Fraser doesn’t touch him, ever, but every evening Billy initiates some contact between them, whether sexual or not, and Fraser is almost always completely passive. The only active decision he makes is to keep his mouth closed. To not say “Ray.”

At weekends they move peacefully around each other. Billy doesn’t mention the grossness of Fraser skinning rabbits for supper and Fraser doesn’t mention the din from the radio that Billy constantly has blaring. He only turns it off if a band Fraser believes is called “Jennifer” comes on, and then he broods for the rest of the afternoon.

Fraser wonders if Billy once loved a girl called Jennifer. He wonders why Billy got the tattoo. He wonders how old Billy is. He wonders.

Fraser wants to broach the subject of Billy’s old life, of what happened to him, but whenever he shows any interest, Billy scowls and broods or mutters about Why doesn’t Fraser keep any alcohol around here, huh? so Fraser tends to keep quiet on the subject.

It isn’t until one night, two weeks in, that Fraser doesn’t come home. It is unintentional, and is only the fact that he is stabbed in the ribs by a hunter he cornered trying to collect wolf pelts that causes him to be so irresponsible as to leave Billy without an evening meal or someone to light the oil lamps and stoke the fire.

When he finally does make it home, early next morning, he is dropped off by the constable, and finds Billy wrapped up in sheets shivering. Billy glares ferociously when Fraser walks through the door, and doesn’t notice Fraser limping.

Dief is lying on the bed with Billy, and that is enough to surprise Fraser into silence as Billy launches into a tirade. “Where the fuck have you been?! It’s fucking freezing here, me and Dief are starving, there’s no light, what the fuck—?!”

It is only the sight of Fraser hobbling carefully over to the bed, clearly in pain, that cuts off this diatribe.

“I apologise, Billy,” Fraser says. He thinks it might be the first time he’s said that name. “I was detained at the local hospital. I tried to get them to send a messenger to you, but they were run off their feet.”

“What happened?” Billy asks, warily eyeing Fraser’s ribs where he’s pressing his hand.

“Stab wound, I’m afraid. Unavoidable.”

Billy winces. “Here,” he says, crawling out from between the covers. “Get in the bed.”

“No, no,” Fraser protests, heartily. “I’m perfectly fine now. I’ll quickly rustle us up something to eat.”

Dief growls at this and, amazingly, Billy ruffles his fur. “Don’t be a dick and get in the fucking bed,” Billy also growls.

Fraser feels so exhausted he can’t even find it within himself to protest the language, and so lies back on top of the sheets. Billy carefully takes off Fraser’s boots, his trousers and jacket, leaving him in just his long johns, and then tells Fraser to explain how he “gets this stupid fire lit.”

Fraser takes him through the steps with his eyes closed, and can’t quite remember finishing the explanation before he falls asleep. When he wakes up the cabin is toasty warm, the sun is low, and Billy and Dief are both asleep as well. Dief is perched along the edge of the bed with his head on Fraser’s thigh, snoring gently, and Billy is between Fraser and the wall, face relaxed in sleep, one hand just brushing Fraser’s hip.

Fraser watches Billy’s face for a while and marvels that he ever thought he looked like Ray. There is an uncanny similarity, that is true, but the force of Billy’s personality is so strong that after a while it obliterates every trace of Ray to be found. Fraser surprises himself by not minding.

“You gonna teach me how to cook, now?” Billy is awake and watching Fraser.

Fraser smiles slightly and shifts in the bed, wincing at the sudden pain in his side. Billy frowns. “I warn ya, I ain’t skinning any rabbits.”

“That’s fine, Billy,” Fraser says. “There is some leftover stew in the larder. It just needs to be warmed through.”

Billy nods and gets to work in the kitchen, Fraser watching him through sleepy eyes. It is a rare moment of peace, and Fraser drifts in and out of sleep, hearing the fire snap, the clank of pans, the occasional swear-word.

They eat well, “Yeah,” Billy says, “I’m a whiz at heating shit up,” and then afterwards they lie on the bed and talk. Billy unbends a little for the first time, and plays a lazy game of fetch with Dief – throwing an old rubber ball around for Dief to bring back to him – while telling Fraser all about “Hard Core Logo”, a life Fraser finds it almost impossible to imagine.

“It was pretty fucked, I guess,” Billy says into the silence. “But after a while it’s your world. Anything else just seems… scary and impossible.”

Fraser tells him about Chicago and Ray, and Billy confesses to a rather confused relationship with his best friend, Joe, who apparently shot himself.

“There’s a movie about it. Like a documentary,” Billy says sardonically. “Just $3.99 at the local rental store and I can watch my best friend shoot himself every night.” He scrubs his face angrily. “Ah, fuck it. Joe was a dick. We’d probably never have spoken again after that night anyway.”

There is a pause in the conversation, and Fraser listens briefly to Dief gnawing at the ball in the corner. He realises he’ll need to sweep that corner tomorrow; there will be fluff everywhere.

Billy has closed his eyes, and Fraser can’t help himself; he leans in for a kiss. Billy jerks back, eyes wide open now, and Fraser babbles into the silence “Another $500. If you let me kiss you.”

Billy frowns and Fraser cannot for the life of him tell what Billy is thinking, until eventually Billy leans in and presses his lips to Fraser’s.

They kiss for a long time, until Fraser is leant over Billy, ignoring the constant pain in his ribs and clutching fiercely at Billy’s waist, hips. Billy’s hands are in Fraser’s hair, hips tipped towards him, and Fraser doesn’t allow himself to speculate whether Billy is enjoying it or not.

Billy pushes Fraser onto his back and then takes off their clothes, straddling Fraser’s hips and pulling the patchwork quilt over them completely, even their heads, making a shadowy canvas for them to hide under, heating it with hot panting breaths.

“So Dief can’t see,” Billy whispers, and slides down to Fraser’s cock, thoroughly wetting it with his mouth, before shifting back over him and sinking down onto it.

Fraser gasps and feels like he can’t breath under the blanket, his vision is filled with Billy’s face and he can taste Billy’s breath in his mouth, feel his heat all around him.

“Fuck,” Billy gasps, and Fraser has an irrational moment in which he almost says “I concur,” but then Billy starts to move properly, rocking above him, and Fraser has to close his eyes.

The bed creaks and Billy moves, and the blanket tips off them slightly, letting in a rush of cool air. Billy pins it down with one hand, gasping and pressing hot kisses to Fraser’s neck, moving faster and faster until, with a cry, Fraser clasps Billy’s hips, holding him tightly and coming inside him. The sensation triggers Billy’s orgasm, and Fraser feels a flood of warm wet hit his belly, a knot he had been ignoring inside him loosening at the sensation.

Billy groans and pushes his head into Fraser’s shoulder as Fraser pulls the blanket off them both, exposing their sweaty bodies to the cooling air of the cabin. It is dark outside, and through the window Fraser can just see a few flakes of snow falling. The normality of the scene contrasts harshly with their rough breathing, their slick skin and messy hair. Dief is asleep on the couch, and Billy is breathing evenly and gently against Fraser’s neck, his weight uncomfortable and right.

Fraser’s side feels sore and abused, and he may even have torn some stitches, but as he falls asleep he finds he can’t regret it.

***

When the month is almost up, Fraser ponders ways to get Billy to stay. He doesn’t really have any more money, but doesn’t want Billy to stay for that, anyway. He wants Billy to want to stay, although he is disgusted at himself for his naivety, and can imagine if Ray knew what he was thinking, how heavily Ray would roll his eyes.

He thinks about Ray less and less these days, Fraser realises with a slight start. More and more his days are consumed with feeding Billy and clothing Billy and teaching Billy how to chop wood, and learning how to make Billy laugh. He watches Billy play on Fraser’s old acoustic guitar, and is amazed – and slightly envious of – his raw talent.

He spends the nights fucking Billy, and sucking Billy, and learning his tastes and smells all over, and learning what Billy likes and what he loves, and how Billy will actually keen like an animal if you fuck him from behind, and how his knees give way if you find the correct angle. And he spends his time learning to do all this all the time so that Billy won’t want to go back to the city.

***

Fraser expects the impending deadline to be something huge between them, so is amazed that Billy seems the same as always, no great tension or awareness to him, is just laughing as usual at Fraser strapping on all that uniform paraphernalia and teasing him about, well, the difficulty of performing certain sexual acts at work – which much to Fraser’s irritation makes his face heat.

However, it is a true pleasure to see Billy lying their, relaxed, naked and almost wanton in what Fraser has come to think of as their bed, grinning wickedly up at him as Fraser pulls his lanyard over his head, pulling him down for a kiss before Fraser leaves. Billy has filled out with regular meals, is now broad and stunning rather than emaciated and simply beautiful. He looks more like Ray, although this doesn’t occur to Fraser.

That evening he changes into jeans and a shirt, and Billy proudly displays the meal he has cooked – no skinning involved, Billy points out – and they eat it on the floor in front of the fire. Three more days, is spinning in Fraser’s head, and he knows he needs to say something now.

“So…” he starts, and then trails off when Billy’s eyes meet his. He doesn’t know how to say what he wants to. “In three days— I mean, you don’t have to— I would very much like it if you would— although, of course, I understand if you don’t want to.”

Billy glares, and it is the fierce, angry glare that Fraser hasn’t had directed at him for over a week.

“What are you saying, Fraser?” Billy asks, and Billy hasn’t called him anything but ‘Ben’ for over a week, either. “You wanna continue fucking me? You got the money for that?”

Fraser can tell that Billy is really angry, but can’t quite figure out why. “Well, I was hoping—”

“Because I’m an expensive fuck, you know that Fraser. What is it you owe me now? A thousand?”

“Well, I—”

“Look, I’m not—” Billy cuts himself off. There is a heavy pause. “I’m going to bed,” he says eventually, pulling himself up.

***

Billy goes back to the big city, and Fraser goes back to being a normal, vaguely asexual Mountie figure.

This lasts about three weeks. Three weeks of Dief berating him for his behaviour, three weeks of cold showers and largely sleepless nights, until eventually Fraser gives in and hands Dief over to Mrs. Holloway again, catching a lift to Whitehorse, and a plane from there.

Billy isn’t on the street so Fraser goes to his apartment. There is no answer, and it is so late that the Grocers downstairs is closed.

He waits on the top step of the staircase for Billy to get home, and the longer it takes the more worried he gets; what was he thinking? Billy can’t live this kind of life! He’ll just have to go back with Fraser. No choice in the matter, that’s the key.

Eventually, Fraser hears distant, echoing footsteps, and a blond head comes into view. Billy looks almost the same as when Fraser last saw him, but much more tired, and when he sees Fraser he glares, but without much venom. It seems rather resigned.

“Hey,” is all Billy says when he reaches the top step. Fraser has stood, and is clutching his hat carefully. “C’mon in.”

The room is as bare as ever, a few clothes strewn around a few dirty plates on the floor by the bed, in various degrees of decay.

“Tea?” Billy asks, but Fraser can tell he’s being facetious. There isn’t a teapot in sight, let alone a kettle or running water.

“Billy, I—”

“Look, Fraser,” Billy interrupts, sitting on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry.” Fraser feels a pang in his gut at the anticipated rejection. “I’m—I should have told you, right at the beginning. I don’t think it’s—it’s not fair of me to be pissed at you when, really, I should have set you right, right away. Up front. You know?”

Fraser scratches an eyebrow, “Well, not really.”

“I’m—I’m not a hooker. I’m just an out of work guitar player who… doesn’t like to wash-up.”


Fraser stares. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you—”

“You just assumed! I was getting mugged, and you assumed that it was because of that, and I could see you thinking it, and I didn’t bother to correct you; it was funny, I guess. You were all upright and noble and shit. And then you left and I figured I’d never seen you again. And then, there you were when I was buying fags and you asked me about prices, which was just too funny, so I made something up. And then… there you were again, and I kinda wanted to anyway, and it seemed, not funny exactly but, well, I figured ‘why the hell not’ and took you round that corner. And then you kept coming back. I wasn’t—I’m not very… happy. So when you asked me to go with you I just thought… I don’t know what I thought, but I couldn’t be bothered to say no, anyway. And then I got comfy and—I didn’t expect to get pissed at you. I didn’t expect to resent what you thought. But I did. I’m—I’m sorry, I guess.”

“I see,” Fraser is shell-shocked and stands by the window, looking out onto the street where it is raining. “I’m glad I was amusing to you.”

“Oh don’t start that shit, I didn’t even know you then. I was depressed and pretty fucking aimless and alone and then you took me out into the middle of fucking nowhere and I hate the fact that I wish I was still out there, chopping wood and drinking bark tea of all fucking things—”

And then Fraser doesn’t care about anything before, doesn’t care about false assumptions or jokes or mistakes or anger or anything, and tells Billy to pack all the old flannel shirts he left with, because they’re going back. He simply won’t take no for an answer.

So they go back to the Yukon and live together in happily unwedded bliss, and Dief gets fat from all the meat Billy feeds him, and Fraser forgets completely that he used to think Billy looked like Ray, and, as Billy puts it, they sleep and fuck and eat and live the fucking simple life.


The End