Ray had always liked getting presents.
Sure, he didn't get them often as a kid, because Pa, rest his soul, tended to drink the money away and once even managed to put Ray’s fire-engine into hock. These days Ray could almost do that, the whole "bless his soul in heaven" thing and cross himself, without wincing. At least, he could do it without wincing on the outside. When you get down to it, Pa was just a little monster, forever trying to ride on the tails of the bigger monsters, the Zukos and the Warfields and even the bookmakers down at the track...
...and most bookmakers didn't make it very far up Ray's measure, his monstrosity scale. They were small fry too and his father even smaller fry for leaching off them. Trying to get lucky with guys who rigged the game and always knew the odds. Other bookmakers, bookmen, the Bookman... now they were large monsters and made Ray’s father by turns overjoyed, ecstatic and then, very, very, afraid.
Armando Langoustini was a man of resource. He could get the Families anything they wanted, Russian nuclear submarines included. And the Families had a lot of blood on their hands and needed a lot of church time and priests...
There are some really beautiful churches in Vegas. Proper ones, not little karaoke Elvis wedding chapels with neon lights and complimentary peanuts while you wait; real churches with blessed virgins dressed in Italian silks and bejewelled with real gold. Piety doesn’t come cheap, but then, that’s the safety of your immortal soul that the you’re paying the Bookman to pay for. And let’s face it; with everything in life and especially death, it comes at a commission, a price.
And in Vegas, there’s a price for everything, and often it’s in blood, or limbs, or life. Or, most precious and terribly, the price comes in innocence. Because in Vegas you can buy anything, even dreams. And with those dreams come nightmares.
Pa had been very happy at first. This had been what he’d wanted out of life, and at the very least, he could now enjoy it in death, watching his son laze by the pool drinking buttermilk cocktails with long limbed women trying not to disarray their finery in the water. That was the dream, one with buttermilk cocktails that were paid for with ulcers, and blood, and eternal damnation. Ray had found his father very distracting, the way he’d scream when he put bullet after bullet into some double-dealing cappo. Neither Ray nor the Bookman could stand distractions, both of them had to concentrate fully on what they were doing. Numbers had to add up, you know, just like the Bookman had to add up himself.
It's not difficult to buy an exorcism, from a priest who has already made a dozen little compromises, worse little compromises, in the name of the church roof fund. And who would believe that the roof was still leaking so much? Or that a new set of kit for the altar boys was quite so dear? In Vegas, though, nobody asked questions, even of the priests. No cases of “I killed three men today, is this wrong?” Vegas was a city of certainties and secrets.
And Ray needed both these things. And to his amazement, he got them; it was like the city had an aura, something that permeated him down to the bone. Only, once he got away, it was as if he quit getting his regular transfusions, and they came back in spades. It was like giving up cigarettes. Those little voices and those little doubts attached to everything. Just like cigarettes tied themselves to breakfast, coffee breaks, and sex.
See, being the fibbies’ guy, exonerated of any wrong doing in the line of duty, coming home to his ma crying and getting the shoulder of his overcoat all wet; that only dealt with one thing. He still had all the stuff on the inside, that little voice he so wanted to shut the fuck up, to remind that he had been on the side of the fucking angels after all. That none of it was real, when really everything he said about it was a dream, and the nightmare was the reality. And that little voice sounded so like Pa, talking about his monsters, when he was half-drunk and loose with things, talking about them with a mixture of admiration and dread. Telling terrible little truths. And thing was, when Pa got drunker, he always went looking for something to hit; and Ray made sure that the something was him. Ray knew that the little voice wasn’t just reminding him of his sins, but warning him that something was going to happen and it wouldn’t be nice.
The voice made him flinch more than the screams of his father ever did. More than the soft thwump of the bullets as they shattered flesh and tore bone. More than every time Nero proffered him another buttermilk with a quiet little, “here, boss, take your mind off things.”
Only Ray couldn’t now, take his mind off things, and he wanted to lose that, lose himself, lose everything. The way it all, Vegas, Langoustini, his father, made him think too much, too hard, and gave him ulcers. And he knew it wasn’t the ulcers that made him feel the world like a lead weight on his shoulders.
So, the greatest thing he can gain is escape. It can’t be permanent, because Ray isn’t like that, good little Catholic boy that he is. He just wants to fly for a while, escape for a while.
God alone knows why he mentioned any of this to Kowalski, even the part about his father, which he’d never even told Benny. And let’s face it, if you thought one of those two was going to be tolerant and understanding of crazies, that would be Benny. Just had to watch him walking down the street talking to bag ladies and bums to realise that. Ray would bet his bottom dollar Benny was behind Mad Annie’s wigwam thing; damn it, the whole colony of wigwams on the disused lot next to the Canada Mill on the waterfront.
Kowalski had just made a little noise, nodded, and smiled. Like it was a totally normal thing for partners to talk about. And since then, Ray Vecchio had been getting presents, perfect little presents. Sometimes there wouldn’t be one for weeks, but Kowalski always knew when Ray would… appreciate one. And it wasn’t as if they ever talked about what Ray wanted or needed or anything at all beyond Ray’s situation; yet, Kowalski always knew and so did Benny.
And now, he had his present, or maybe it was a sacrifice, for his sins. All wrapped in red serge and somehow at once as innocent and guilty as Ray ever has been. There’s still a ghost Ray doesn’t even dare name still hanging over Benny's shoulder, and caressing that place near the small of his back where muscle and bone are still churned up under smooth scarred flesh. Her dark hair smells like pine-needles, snow, and diamonds; yet it never quite overwhelms the scent of Benny, it’s always there, a tinge, an undercurrent between them. Ray’s never asked any questions, not just because it’s an old habit learnt in Vegas, but because he doesn’t want to know the answers. He doesn’t want to know that Benny is just as broken as him, or why he feels the need to do this, or whether it was him or Stanley that came up with this thing that is just momentarily his alone.
Ray starts with his present, pulling at the velcro and tugging the lanyard free and laying it on the bed behind him. All this was watched by a blond haired, blue eyed angel, already naked and just holding himself there like some fractured innocent.
And Ray pushes the suspenders down off those broad shoulders, slowly dragging his hands down Benny's arms, forcing them close to his body, even though he'll have to move them upwards to free them from the confines of the henley...
Ray looks into Benny’s eyes, and there's something there, something serene and eager. And most of all, accepting, accepting of whatever Ray might do, or want to do...
So Ray decides, fuck the henley, it's staying. He wants to get on with fucking Fraser, and in the grand scheme of things, the henley is not important, he can always cut the back open with that knife he knows Benny keeps in his boot.
Bad Benny, carrying a concealed weapon. Might get you arrested, spend the night in jail without your uniform, because there are so many places to hide things, in a cell in just your starched shorts and undershirt... and damn, if that isn't making Ray hotter, pulling him further away from what he wants to escape and into the eternal now.
And Ray doesn't know whether Benny reads his mind or something, whether they still have that whole thing going for them, but Benny moves, breaks all the unspoken unarticulated rules, and braces himself against the bed like a suspect. Ray just moves in tight and presses himself up against Benny's ass, feeling the way he fits and the way Benny at once tries and tries not to thrust back. And he reaches around and unbuttons and unhooks those pants, proving maybe that he does this a little too much, almost turns away to fish Benny's handcuffs out of the tangle of the Sam Browne only to find that Kowalski is handing them to him.
He still has that thing, the badda bing badda boom; only so does Kowalski and it's going all the time now, like a three part harmony. It might be the light, but Kowalski's almost leering at him; he's into this, Ray knew that already, but yes, he's into this so hard. Ray looks down. Yes, so very hard. And ready to take whatever Ray leaves, or maybe even share, but it’s Ray’s choice. It’s a perfect little world they’ve built for themselves here, sure, none of it is real, and it all falls apart in time for the next day. But right now, Ray is in his perfect world, where he’s in charge, almost the Bookman; but none of this is real, nobody gets hurt, and in the end it’s just a dream.
They're working together now, out there beyond the world, but it's never like this. They're like a well oiled machine, like Benny's handcuffs, shiny and smooth and well loved and worshipped with oil and polish. And Kowalski pulls Fraser's arms back, and Benny falls onto the mattress with a satisfying thump, as Ray locks them around Benny's wrists. The one thing keeping Ray together now is that Benny's further gone than he is, further gone than Kowalski is, his breathing already ragged before he has the breath knocked out of him.
Ray concentrates on that and finds some calm control in some dark and lucid place in his mind. There are no doubts here, or fears, or any voice except his own in his head. A silken voice not even talking about pleasure, and need, and want. He's achieved almost what he set out to do, but he isn't thinking about that right now, exorcising the little voices. All he thinks of is just how beautiful Benny will look with his jodhpurs pooled around his knees and legs spread as far as they can go and Ray's fingers...
Ray's fingers are stroking just behind Benny's balls, pushing Benny closer and closer to the edge, only barely brushing where Ray really wants to touch, where Benny wants to be touched.
Something cool starts to dribble past Ray's eyes and into the cleft of Benny's ass. It burns within Ray, Benny is meant to be his right now, everything is in his control, and damn, Stanley, he wasn't ready for this yet.
And then it fades, fizzles out, as Ray slips a finger in so very easily, makes Ray wonder what Benny's been doing these days and that doesn't make him angry so much as set another fire alight within him, to take him. Benny is his, after all. And Ray is the one in control here, as he plunges another finger in, hard and ruthless, twists until he hears Benny gasp and pulls out quickly.
Benny tries to follow the fingers back, thrust back hard enough to keep them, but his leverage is broken; he just rocks, cants, and struggles. Ray finds it somewhat cute, and pulls himself back further, leaving Benny's ass up in the air and desperate, making needy little thrusts, his thighs slowly pulling the bedspread down the bed and onto his booted feet.
Ray watches Benny for a moment, draws it out as long as he can, before he grabs Benny's hips at the high point of their little arc, and holds them tight. He doesn't have to look, but he knows that under the leather of those boots, Benny's calves are twitching with the effort of keeping this position. He doesn't have to look, but he knows Kowalski is watching so closely, his myopic eyes watching his every move like a marksman.
And Ray thrusts in, and does his best to keep Benny's hips still, is grasping so tightly, just as Benny is so tight around him. Still he knows which of them will have the bruises tomorrow. Doesn't even care right now, how Benny will deal with them in the morning, praying for sentry duty over paperwork and visa applications. Because it doesn't matter, nothing matters except his, the steady hard thrusting rhythm he's setting himself.
Frustrated at his inability to move with the rhythm or drive Ray into him harder and harder and push himself beyond all this and into the white crackling space beyond, Benny clenches tight around Ray's cock.
And Ray stills. It's killing him, but he knows Benny will give in first. The only problem is holding Benny without the anaesthesia of sensation. Benny’s heavy and Ray’s grip is only so good. Kowalski moves from his distant crouch and gets by Ray's side and slips his hands under Ray's and presses those long fingers in and takes the weight. Benny knows what's happening, but it doesn't stop him struggling to turn his head to see.
Ray tries to say something, make him stop before he does himself an injury and finds that he's forgotten the words. Instead, Kowalski speaks with a voice like a thousand cigarettes and a back seat blow job, "Nothing to see, Benton-buddy, you relax and Vecchio will start again, and then you won't care who the fuck's hands these are."
Maybe Kowalski's overstating things, but that's fine. Benny should know these things by now; know to follow the cues to get his share of the fucking pleasure. Not that Ray has any plans to let Benny get off, not until Kowalski has had his. You'd think Benny would be good at this; he's so good at following Mountie rules and regulations, except he's not even good at that when you think about it, runs rings around them all. Benny never so much breaks rules, as bends them, except for those times he wilfully ignores them, sure of a decent payoff.
Ray doesn't want Benny running rings around him, he's quite specific about what he wants, and ring running isn't in the picture, or even the ballpark, as Ray begins thrusting again in that tight warm space, quickly picking up to a hard fast rhythm that encompasses the whole of his world. Kowalski’s thigh brushes against his own, the hair there tickles something electric. It should be distracting, but it feels so good.
Everything is hot and tight and fast and there's this taste of power in his mouth that he hasn't tasted since Vegas.
The next thing Ray is aware of is exploding light and the sound Benny makes when Ray collapses on top of him. Ray always thinks that sound should go with the puffin face and doesn't know why.
And then, there's Kowalski, long hands caressing his back and then, helping him ease slowly upright. Somehow, there's a washcloth. Then, Ray's sitting at the head of the bed, watching Benny breathe like he's run half a marathon, his face red and yes, like a puffin. Ray doesn't even care what the fuck he looks like as he watches Kowalski kneel beside Fraser and run his hands down his spine to that terrible place, somehow keeping his balance even as the bed lurches under his weight. And all Ray feels is freedom.