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