By C.L. Finn
I'm rubbing at it again. I can't seem to help it. It's an unconscious habit that I can't seem to break, even now, three weeks after having it done. The tattoo is completely healed, and the slightly raised flesh where I can feel the design is now very faint. I'm not entirely sure it's not my imagination at this point.
Three weeks ago I said goodbye to Ray on the tarmac of the Yellowknife airport. Two hours after his plane took off, I walked into a tattoo shop in downtown Yellowknife. I had to sketch the design myself from memory, but it was easy to recall in detail from the few times I'd had a good glimpse of Ray's bare arms. I had the artist put it on my left hip, just above the hip-bone-- the spot that still felt warm from Ray's hand.
We spent two months on our adventure. It didn't take Ray
long to acclimate to the arctic and we spent the majority of those two
months out on the ice together, Diefenbaker, Ray and myself, our only
company that of the dog team. However heavenly it was, the end was
inevitable. I ran out of vacation time and Ray ran out of savings and
couldn't afford to continue paying for his empty apartment in Chicago.
The artist-in-resident was about ten years older than me, but he looked as if he'd seen quite a few rough roads in his life. He was Metis, and he was heavily tattooed, face, arms, neck. He had metal and bone pierced into almost every bit of skin that protruded enough to hold a piercing. But he was friendly and he was gentle. He didn't ask any whys or wherefore when I sketched the Champion logo for him and told him where I wanted it placed. He seemed to sense the need I had for ritual and he remained silent as he inked the design into my skin, leaving me alone with the buzz of the needle and its fiery path across my skin.
Now, sitting in my office, my fingers tucked up under my jacket, inside the waist of my pants, tracing the red and black lines, I don't regret the impulse. But I do recognize the futility of it. I marked myself with the memory of Ray, but it has done nothing to bring me close to him. It has not alleviated the fact that I am alone. And it is my cowardice that keeps me so far away, that stops me from signing the transfer papers that sit in the top drawer of my desk-- the papers that would take me back to Chicago.
A scratch at the back door pulls me out of my meditation and I get up let Diefenbaker in. We are alone on office duty today, after having spent the past week on patrol. I haven't been able to decide which activity I find more dull. Diefenbaker seems to find plenty to amuse himself no matter where we are. How I envy him some days. The things I used to love, that I missed when I was in Chicago, have lost their allure for me.
Refilling Dief's water, I return to my desk and the
reports I have been attempting to type and file. Dief slurps noisily,
his muzzle dripping water across the floor when he is done. He noses
around the floor near the mini-fridge and Constable Anderson's desk,
then jumps up onto the bench he has made his own in the past weeks,
where he can watch the activity in downtown Tuktoyaktuk.
While I'm in the back, I hear Dief yelp, then start whining in excitement, his claws clicking on the wooden bench. He leaps off the bench and runs a circle around me when I come back up front. Very few things get Diefenbaker worked up like this, and when he hops back up on the bench and presses his nose to the window like a puppy, I can't help laughing.
"Honestly, Diefenbaker," I say, opening the front door to see what has him so excited, "what could possibly be so…"
Ray, standing in the road looking up at us, his pack
slung over his shoulder as if he'd never left.
"These are the new digs, huh?"
"But your job…"
"Job wasn't the same anymore." He wanders around the office, picking things up randomly and setting them down, doing anything but look at me.
"But what, Fraser?" he asks, in that voice I've come to associate with his frustration level being extremely high.
"I'm sorry, but I still don't understand why you're here when you just went home three weeks ago."
"I uh... missed the snow and the sky. And I missed
Dief." He shrugs and looks out the front window, burying one hand in
Dief's fur, the other hand tapping against his thigh nervously. "And...
"I just… wanted to be here. You know, Fraser…" he says and turns to look straight at me finally, "here."
And somehow, I get it. The look on his face, the tone of
voice, his body language, I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's just
the fact that we have come to know each other so well. Whatever
language he is speaking, it is one I understand perfectly.
"Well, okay. Good." Ray relaxes suddenly, the defensive stance gone in an instant.
He looks around at the office more carefully now, as if he's actually seeing it this time. "Tell me you don't have a cot stashed here somewhere."
"Ah, no. The RCMP has provided a house not far from here. It's a bit more than Diefenbaker and I need, but it came partially furnished, and it's quite convenient. My shift is over, actually, so we can head over there now if you'd like." I stop talking, realizing that it's nerves making me babble, and mentally run through the list of things that must be done before I leave. Ray simply watches me in silence as I lock the back room and shut down my computer. His scrutiny makes me suddenly nervous.
"How was your trip, Ray?" I ask, moving toward the front door.
"Long," he answers simply. Instead of gathering up his pack, he leans back against my desk, legs stretched out in front of him, and crosses his arms over his chest. "On the plane- the third one- I was thinking about that caribou story. The one you told me when we were camped outside Alert, about the caribou on the ledge that you tried to rescue, but he was afraid and kept moving further and further away so you couldn't get to him in time. You know the one?"
"Yes, of course. I was thirteen at the time. It's a very vivid memory."
"Yeah, well, I was thinking about it. You went all the way up that mountain in the cold and snow, but you could only go so far, right? That caribou, he had to do his part. He had to come down the mountain part way before you could get to him. But he was scared, so he screwed himself over, ya know? All he had to do was make the right move. The stupid thing was..." Ray stood up and looked straight at me, his next words very careful and distinct. "There was nothing to be afraid of."
Oh. I am apparently the caribou in this story. Ray came all this way to lay things on the line. I'm reminded of the last time we stood on this precipice, locked together in a tiny submarine under Lake Superior. My father's words to me come back very clearly.
"Buck Frobisher and I didn't speak for three years. Then there we were, face to face across the raging waters of the Nahanni River; criminals bearing down on us. He had a rope; I, a grappling hook. The only route to safety was to meet in the middle. You got to trust your partner, son. Otherwise, nothing will go right."
"Sometimes you just have to leap."
"Right!" Ray exclaims, pointing at me, then moving forward to stand almost inside my personal space. "Now you're gettin' with the program."
"Yes, I... believe so." And I can see now, in his eyes, in the welcome of his body, that there is nothing to be afraid of. Dear lord, we have wasted so much time.
But how do I take that step?
I hear my father's voice in my head again, "Suck it up, son. Be a man." Taking a deep breath, I move forward, closing the gap. Ray grins and nods his head just before I place both of my hands on his face, hold him, and lean forward to meet his lips.
The first kiss is soft and chaste, an experiment. But it is also akin to freefall and I find myself holding onto Ray for dear life. He apparently feels the same as he wraps his arms around me and holds on tight. The second kiss is completely different. It is deep and passionate, desperate and exultant at the same time. When Ray finally pulls back, we are both grinning.
"So, this house of yours? It have a bed?"
"Yes," I say nodding. "Yes, it does. A double, in fact."
Ray is suddenly in motion, grabbing his pack, opening the front door. "What're we waiting for? Hustle, Mountie."
"Right you are, Ray."
Before I've even closed the door, Ray grabs me by my Sam Browne and spins me around against the wall, kicking the door closed with his boot. He plasters himself up against me and claims my mouth with a ferocity that takes my breath away. He feels incredible, and tastes even better, but this is all moving a bit too fast for me.
"Ray, Ray, Ray," I gasp when his mouth moves to my neck, while his fingers fumble with the fastenings on my belt. "Ray!"
"What?" he asks, distractedly, taking his mouth off of me long enough to look at me. "I love this uniform, did you know that? The red is cool and all… but this… this is just… hmmm," he makes that little grunt combined with a bounce that generally refers to a good thing in Ray's lexicon.
"Well… um… thank you, Ray."
"This, however," he says, yanking at my Sam Browne, "is a pain in the ass. Get it off."
"Ray, shouldn't we… aren't you…"
Ray steps back and I feel bereft of his warmth suddenly. "Fraser, do you want this?"
"Yes." There is no question of my answer and I'm pleased that it comes out that certain.
"Good. So, no more talking. Stripping, kissing, fucking. Not talking."
An excellent plan. Leaning forward, I fuse my mouth to Ray's again while making quick work of the buckles on my Sam Browne and then the buttons of my jacket. Ray steps back just long enough to pull his sweater and t-shirt over his head together and then he is back, and his hands are on my shirt, deftly opening the buttons and pushing it off my shoulders. He hasn't unbuttoned the cuffs and the shirt traps my hands. Ray growls and yanks at them and before I can manipulate my hand to allow the fabric to slip free, I hear a button pop. The other sleeve slides off with more ease.
Ray starts pulling my t-shirt out of my waist-band, but all I care about is his mouth. I miss it already, so I lean forward, twining one hand into his hair and pulling him to me. He tastes incredible and I wonder briefly if it would be possible to consume him. Ray groans and I can feel the vibration of it in my mouth and in my chest where he is pressed against me. Needing more contact, I buck against him, our groins pressing and rubbing, trying to find a satisfying pressure, an easy rhythm.
His back is warm and smooth against my hands and his tongue is sweet and fierce. But it is still not enough and it is clear that Ray agrees as he pulls away with a growl.
"Jesus, Fraser. Jesus."
All I can do is nod at the sentiment and feast on the sight of him standing here panting, hair wilder than usual, lips swollen and red. He is watching me with the same rapt attention and I realize I have licked my lips only after he licks his own. That movement breaks him out of the trance. He grins and drops to his knees in front of me, reaching forward to undo my pants, steadying himself with a hand on my hip.
My hip. The same spot he touched in Yellowknife. The spot that now bears a tattoo.
I freeze, suddenly embarrassed. I do not want him to see it, to view my folly.
"Wait…" I push his hand away and try to step sideways, away from him and the wall. He stops me, holding me in place by that same hip and looks up at me, the heat and humor gone from his face. Now he is serious and pleading. I could easily push past him, but I can not resist his face.
"Don't," he says quietly, but it has the force of a command. "Not now, Benton. If you bolt now, we're both in trouble."
He is right. I can't stop this. Not now.
"I…" My voice fails me. I don't know how to explain this. But I think… no, I feel that he won't laugh at what I have done. Perhaps he will even be able to understand it. I finish what he has started, unzipping my pants and dropping them, pushing my boxers down enough to reveal the tattoo. "I did something foolish when I was in Yellowknife."
Ray's eyes grow huge when he sees it. He reaches forward and gently traces the black and red lines, just as I have done for the past three weeks.
"You… you got inked?"
All I can do is nod in answer.
"Yes, I…" I try to find the words to explain, but he interrupts me impatiently.
"Yeah. Yeah, I get it." He reaches behind himself and touches the knife that hangs on his belt-- the knife I bought him in Inuvik before we left on our adventure. "I haven't taken it off. Needed you with me. But this… wow."
He is silent for a moment, looking up at me, then back at the tattoo, then, "It's permanent."
He looks up at me then, makes eye contact and I can see that he gets that too. It is a different question and answer altogether. Of course it is permanent. How could it be anything else?
He nods and leans forward, kissing the tattoo softly, tracing it with his tongue. Goosepimples rise on my body and I shiver at the sensation.
And suddenly I am desperately hungry again, unable to draw a deep breath, feeling I could never get close enough to him to satisfy myself. I grab him under his arms and pull him to his feet, smother his protest with my mouth. Wrapping my arms around him, I start walking him backwards toward the bedroom. After two steps I have to release him with one hand in order to stop my pants from falling down around my ankles. I can feel his smile against my lips and the vibration of his laughter, and I laugh myself as I guide him into the bedroom.
Ray laughs out loud when I give him a final shove, the backs of his legs hitting the bed, knocking him off balance. Grinning, he shimmies back and stretches out on the bed, bouncing a bit.
"Much better than a cot," he says with another deliberate bounce.
"It came with the house."
"Remind me to thank the RCMP."
"Of course. Right after I thank them myself," I answer and pull my t-shirt over my head, tossing it into a chair.
"C'mon, c'mere," Ray says impatiently. "Pants off."
I start to comply with his request and then realize there is a problem. I look down at my feet, then at Ray's feet. "Boots."
"Damn. You take care of yours, I'll take care of mine."
Sitting down on the end of the bed, I lean over and set to work on my laces, but I am distracted almost immediately, watching Ray. Instead of sitting up, he has brought his foot up within reach and is yanking at the laces, pulling off his boot and tossing it and his sock away before shifting to do the same with the other.
He is so lithe, so… limber. With a growl, I yank off my second boot and drop it, standing up and dropping both pants and undershorts. I step out of them and turn to find that Ray has stalled in getting his own jeans off. He is staring at me now, hands on his open fly.
The look on his face has me blushing, but I have a mission now and I will not be deterred. Grabbing the bottom of Ray's jeans, I yank them off, then the long-johns he is wearing, tossing both aside. I am so hungry for his skin that I can't even take the time I want to look at him.
There is no other word for it, I … pounce… on him, bringing our bodies together, head to toe, and kiss him. He laughs and then moans, pushing up to increase the skin on skin contact. He wraps his arms around me, strong fingers digging into my back, and spreads and lifts his legs slightly, creating a cocoon where our groins meet. It is… astonishing.
I want more. I want… everything. All of him.
Leaving his mouth, I move to his neck and chest, tasting, sucking everything I can reach, mapping him with my hands and devouring him with my mouth, paying a few minutes of attention to the tattoo on his bicep. Ray groans louder and shudders when I get particularly overzealous, and bite down on the soft skin of his underarm. The scent of him is stronger here and I breathe it into me, feeding my hunger. He tastes salty and warm, and I go in search of more.
Ray squirms under me and I have to hold his hips down before I can nuzzle him, burying my face in his warm groin. Hair only slightly coarser than that on his head and soft, warm skin surround me, his scent here even stronger, and different, earthy and animal. His erection is hot and hard in my hand and it twitches when I lick it, when I suck the head into my mouth.
"Frase… wait… I…" Ray gasps, grabbing my hair and pulling at it frantically. "I'm… come *here*," he pulls harder until I release him and move up.
"Just…" He is flushed, panting, wild-eyed. He is beautiful. "I want…"
Apparently unable to complete his thought, he pulls me down, his fingers still buried in my hair, and kisses me hard, actions speaking much louder than words, as they so often do with him. He is passionate and frantic, wrapping an arm around me, bringing my whole body back down in contact with him, pulling me down to blanket him. My hand is still wrapped around his penis and he pushes up into it. Finally understanding what he wants, I settle over him, reveling in the kiss, and begin to move my hand. Before I can get a good rhythm going he shudders, then goes rigid under me as his penis jerks in my hand.
Incredible. The sight of him like this… sweating, panting, coming… it is an incredible gift. I am overcome… astonished, euphoric, grateful. And it only feeds my hunger. Releasing his penis, I settle into the cradle of his hips, unable to wait any longer, and rock against him, my head buried in his neck, his hairline tickling my nose. It feels so good, this warm wet cocoon that he holds me in. I want so much, unsure exactly of what. I am… frantic with it. Distantly, I can feel his hands sweeping across my back, soothing me, gentling me like an animal as he whispers nonsense in my ear.
"Fraser. God, Fraser. Here, wait," he says, pushing against me, pushing me over onto my back, almost against my will. "Let me."
Then he is above me, kissing me again, straddling my hips, touching me, licking his way down my body, taking me inside his warm mouth. This, I think just before I shatter and fly off into a million directions, this is what being devoured feels like.
When I can think clearly again, I reach out for Ray. He is curled around my legs, his head pillowed on my belly, fingers tracing my hip-bone. He raises his head and looks up at me when I touch his hair. He smiles softly, a new smile, intimate and open.
"Thank you, Ray," I say, thinking that it doesn't come close to what I want to express.
"Oh sure, buddy. Anytime. I live to serve." His smile changes to smug, mischievous. Then he turns, laying a soft kiss on my belly, his hand stroking my hip and thigh lazily. More soft kisses are followed by licks, and I am content to stay like this, enjoying his focus as I pet his hair. Eventually his attention returns to the tattoo and he licks it, tasting every inch of it before pulling back and staring down at it.
"This is so fuckin' hot, Fraser," he whispers. "I cannot believe you did it." He kisses it again and I have to wonder if this spot on my hip is destined to become a powerful erogenous zone. "I wish I could have been with you."
"Ray…" I can't stifle a short, sharp laugh. "If you had been with me, I wouldn't have done it."
"Yeah, but if I hadn't left…"
"It doesn't matter. You're here now."
"Yeah, but…" I interrupt him again, a terrible fear gripping me at the thought of him leaving.
"Don't leave, Ray," I say before I can stop myself. I want to take the desperate words back, but I can't. He looks up at me with a question. "Or… I can go back to Chicago. Whatever you want, just…"
"Hey, buddy," he says, moving up to stretch out next to me, half over me, holding me in place, against him. "I got no intention of going anywhere." He kisses me, one hand still resting over the tattoo, and there is somehow a promise in it, an answer to the question I was trying to ask.
When he pulls away, he yawns and drops his head to my shoulder, his body relaxing against me. When he shivers, I move both of us enough to pull the blankets up around us, then pull him against me again. "Thanks," he mutters, and reaches down, curling his hand over my hip. "I might have to get a new one," he says after a few minutes of silence, "a polar-bear, or maybe an RCMP crest on my ass."
He chuckles at his own joke, and I laugh with him, but as ludicrous as it is, the image is… alluring. He snuggles in closer to me and breathes deeply, his body growing heavy. "I know a guy in Yellowknife," I say as I feel him begin to drift off, and he answers only with a sigh that sounds a bit like "Yeah."
I stay awake for a few hours, delighting in his warmth and the smell of him and sex. My body is still humming from it, and I drift dreamily from one idle thought to another. I am content like this. No, I am… happy. I fall asleep finally, that thought bright in my mind, my fingers instinctively tracing the lines of Ray's tattoo.
Because Beth told me to.