by s.a.

Ray ran a hand over his hair. He knew he'd spend the next couple of days doing just that, getting used to the sense of lightness, softness at the back of his head that came from getting his hair cut. He did it pretty often--every couple of weeks--but only when it was getting too long to put into the good kind of spikes. The bad kind of spikes stood up about an inch too long and took half a bottle of gel to get 'em looking that way, and then when he walked outside some punkass kid with a chartreuse mohawk would compliment him on his style. Then he knew it was time to head out to the hairdresser.

He'd never let on that he went uptown to one of the fancy hair places, in Highland Park. It was damn expensive, but if he bought the cheap cereal for the next couple of weeks he could almost justify the cost. In all the times he'd "experimented" with his hair, he'd never found anyone better at the snip than Marv.

Marv was so out of place in the joint it wasn't even funny. He had a short buzz that would put almost anyone off, and usually wore flannel and jeans to the others' well-pressed pants and funky shirts. The girls were all over him, though--Ray figured it was some kind of father-figure thing, seeing as Marv was on the short side of sixty. Not that he'd admit it. But he was the best damn hairdresser there, so everybody gave him a kind of grudging respect.

It usually took the better part of an hour; so Ray went on his lunch break. Usual pleasantries, then into the sink he went. Marv used some kinda minty smelling shampoo that made his head spin, in the good way. A towel was thrown over his head, and he rubbed his head swiftly with the terrycloth, making his way over to the chair. He settled himself in, lifting his chin for the apron thing Marv clasped around his neck, leaned his head back a little, and closed his eyes.

The first thing he felt was a heavy metal comb going through his hair, and then shortly after that the sound of scissors. "Not too short," he muttered, getting a thwap on his shoulder from Marv and a grunted "I know, dumbass." He had let a smile quirk the corner of his lips up and drummed idly on the chair arm.

Swipe, snip. Swipe, snip. It was a lulling sound, and Ray felt himself slipping deeper into a half-awake rest, the occasional lock of hair falling softly against his face. Before he knew it, there was the click-buzz of the razor, and then the soft pressure against the back of his neck. He felt Marv tilt his head forward some, and he relaxed his shoulders to accommodate for the movement. After a few careful lines up the back of his head, the razor was turned off, and the next thing he heard was a bottle being shaken and goop squeezed out. "You gonna use that pomade stuff, or the gel whatsis that smells good?" he asked casually. "Gel," was the gruff reply, and then fingers were in his hair, kind of massaging his scalp, and he thought that if he weren't already so far gone, he'd probably fall asleep under the attention.

Last thing was a fine spray that enveloped his head--Marv's extra strong hairspray. That shit could hold together buildings. After that was a quick wipe with one of those brush thingies, and the cape thing was pulled off. Drowsily, he opened his eyes, fumbled with his glasses, and looked in the mirror. His hair was spiky, of course; closer to his head, and a little more haphazard than he usually tried for. But he figured that was the style. Marv was always up on style. He brushed his hand against the back of his neck, his fingers rippling on the short, soft hair back there.

He grinned, gave Marv a short word of thanks and slipped him a ten before going to the counter to pay the desk chick, who gave him an appreciative smile. "Same time next month, Ray?" she asked him, and he nodded in reply, pocketing the little card she gave him before walking--no, strutting, out the door to the car.

He walked into the bullpen, munching on a sandwich he'd grabbed from the machine and reading the sports section of the Trib. He plopped down into his chair, propping his feet on an open drawer. When he looked up, there was a Mountie giving him an intense look right across his desk. "What, I got egg salad on my face or something?" he asked, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Ah--no, Ray," Fraser said softly. Ray watched as a shaking hand reached out to pet his head. "You cut your hair."

Ray nodded, feeling the tips of his hair brush across Fraser's palm. His eyes fell closed, and when he opened them again, he saw the glitter in Fraser's stare and slowly gave a grin that covered his whole face.


When he was nervous, he tugged at his bracelet. Stuck two fingers under the thick chain, and ran his thumb along the links. The sheen was worn down from that familiar track, so that this thin line on one side of the chain stood out clearly against the otherwise shiny metal.

It was big enough that it slid down his forearm when he raised his hands, and settled loosely over his wrist when he put them back down. He could hear the metal slide softly against his skin. It'd never caught on the hair of his arms, and its soft weight bumped the fleshy part of his palm when he shoved his hands in his pockets.

He started wearing it again after she left; something to distract him from the sudden hole in his life. It worked pretty well, clinking against things and generally getting in the way, a focus for his repressed anger in the form of cheap jewelry.

He left it on because after awhile he'd gotten used to the clinking noises. And he kind of liked them.

So when Fraser lifted his hand, pulling it closer and closer to those wetted lips, Ray desperately wanted to run his thumb over the worry mark he'd made in the metal the last couple of years, but he couldn't. Because Fraser held the bracelet in place over the pulse in his wrist, and moved his mouth closer until he was kissing Ray's wrist, soft, wet tongue running over skin and metal and making no clinking noise at all.


He got into his car, his heart pounding, and clicked the lock to let Fraser into the passenger seat. No Dief today, so he'd taken the car to be cleaned that morning. It smelled weird, not like him, not like his scent and Fraser's scent and Dief's scent. He didn't realize how much he'd become accustomed to that smell in his car, but he found he missed it when in its place was a horrible strawberry aftertaste.

He sucked in a deep breath and turned on the car, gratified by its low rumble and thrumming purr. His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly and he kept his eyes focused forward, vowing not to look at the flushed man sitting quietly next to him.

He pulled out onto the road, slowly increasing the pressure on the pedal until they were speeding along the residential backroads of the long way to his apartment. On a high traffic day, like today, this route took less time, and Ray was all for less time.

He moved into his driving zone without really realizing it; that concentrated focus on the road before him that blocked out the rest of the thoughts in his mind. He loved that, loved that intensity. He loved driving, because it was something he did well. He'd done some drag racing in high school, and even now his feet itched to slam the pedal to the floor. His hands tightened their grip on the wheel, holding on to the tenuous control that was really, really necessary right now. He let his speed creep up another couple of miles per hour, and stole a glance at Fracer who was angled toward the window, but not really looking at anything.

The sight of Fraser's body humming with the vibrations of the car made his breath catch, and he resisted the urge to kick the car up another notch because it was a back road and there were probably kids but damn that was a beautiful sight and he really struggled hard to wrench his face back to the windshield.

A stop sign, and the car came to a screeching halt. He gave a quick, jittery glance down either side of the street, then took off rolling again. He wanted to get back now, wanted to be there now, and about as close to now as he could get was five minutes from now, which of course meant breaking the speed limit by about twenty miles per hour. Yay badge.

He was one street over from his building when he heard a sigh from the other side of the car, but he didn't let himself look. He just picked up speed, again, almost crashing into a old green Corvair as he pulled into his space, and slammed the breaks before wrenching the key from the ignition, mumbling anxious words of thanks to his car for being in such damn good condition. He looked over at Fraser, who was looking over at him, and he watched Fraser hold his breath when he reached his arm across the passenger seat to pop the lock on the door. "We're here," he whispered as he pulled back, watching Fraser nod.

He got out of the car, running his fingers along the metal of the trunk as he went around to the other side to open Fraser's door.


He was in the kitchen and Fraser was sitting on the couch. He fumbled around, looking for food and ending up with a menu for Chinese which he promptly handed to Fraser along with the phone telling him to call in something good. While Fraser was occupied he went back to the kitchen, reached in one cupboard for a glass and another for a bottle.

He poured himself a shot of Jim Beam and threw it back into his throat, swallowing reflexively and wincing slightly at the smart. It burned a trail of fire down to his stomach, and he didn't mind it really. Liked it even. Nice little reminder that there's the bad with the good. He poured a bit more into the glass and sipped at it this time, holding the flavor in his mouth until he couldn't taste it anymore and swallowed. He liked alcohol, he mused, looking at the bottle in his hand.

He liked the strong, sharp smell; the way you could always smell it on a person, and if you were good, taste it on them too. He liked how there were hundreds of different kinds, and no two exactly the same. He liked trying something new, but still having his old favorite.

He liked walking into a bar and having his drink at his chair before he even sat down. He liked knowing that he could handle himself, and he liked pushing his limits. He liked that fuzzy feeling he got after just one drink too many, and he liked the way his limbs loosened up after a couple of drinks.

He liked the feeling that his stomach was in hell, and that his blood was on fire. He liked the confidence, false as it was, and the loss of his inhibitions. He liked what it did to him, how it made him feel.

So he poured another glass, drank it down, and went into the living room to show Fraser he'd been good.


Around one in the morning he opened the window and climbed out onto the fire escape. He pulled his sweatshirt on and leaned back against the rough brick, tugging his hair out from where it had caught for just a second.

He drew the pack of cigarettes from his jeans pocket, flipped open the top and pulled out one, clamped it between his lips and struck a match and lit it before sucking in a deep breath. He waited a second before letting it out in a thick stream of smoke. He watched the light gray dissipate into the night sky, flicking his ashes against the wrought iron before pulling the cigarette back up to his lips.

He didn't do this so often, now. He slowly gave it up when he started the Vecchio gig, 'cause Vecchio didn't smoke. He didn't try the patch or the gum. Just kinda...stopped. Or at least, bought less. At one point he was up to a carton a week. Now it ranked more like a pack a month, which was pretty good, he thought.

He started to be cool, continued because he was addicted, kept doing it because it secretly pissed Stella off, and he liked to know he affected her, and then didn't give up because sometimes it felt like a smoke was the only thing between him and becoming a head case.

He got stressed, now, and there were days when he only felt sane when he snuck out back for a cigarette. But there was another stabilizer in his life, now, and it wore a big red jacket.

He still liked smoking, though. He figured nowadays he did it because he liked something in his mouth--and who had the oral fixation now, huh?

He liked the scent of burning tobacco, of his particular brand of it. It didn't ring acrid in his nose, like so many of the popular brands did now. He didn't bother bumming cigarettes off of people any more, because he always found something wrong with the taste or the paper or the burn.

Cigarettes gave a mellow edge to his brain that nothing else really accomplished. He sucked in another deep breath, and then held the smoke in his mouth before letting it escape through his lips. He knew Fraser didn't like it, that he looked disapprovingly whenever he saw Ray heading out the staircase door. But what could a guy do, huh? When there was a craving, there was a craving.

He was down to the filter when Fraser stuck his head through the window. "Come back to bed, Ray," he murmured to Ray's neck. Ray shivered and nodded, tossing the butt of the cigarette over the balcony to the ground before climbing back through the window.


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