by Sel

He's touching me.

From the first moment I saw him, he's been touching me, getting under my skin, making himself comfortable, and there's not a thing I can do to stop it. Nearly four decades of being alone, untouched, unwanted, and then Fate in all her whimsical fancy gives me the gift of this man. This intense, energetic, vibrant man with beautiful hands and graceful movements who is, to all appearances, still in love with his ex-wife. Agony and ecstasy in one fell swoop, and completely, utterly unattainable. It would be amusing if it didn't ache so deeply.

Ray. The new Ray. *My* Ray. Whom I want, whom I *need*, and cannot have.

The torment is exquisitely balanced. During the day, when we are working, I can tamp it down, submerge the raging desires and hide within myself. It lends a certain stiffness to my character, which he interprets as natural rigidity, but it can't be helped. I dare not let my guard down, even for an instant, or I will eat him alive. Even a casual touch his hand on my shoulder, the brush of his fingers against mine has the power to bring me to my knees. No-one has touched me in a very long time. I have not touched anyone for what seems like forever.

Ray is always touching me. If he knew how dangerous such acts can be, he would not. He *should* not. I don't know how much longer my control will last.

His smile was the first thing I noticed. Open, inviting, totally focused on me. The warmth of that lean, tall body against mine a definite shock to my system. I don't think I ever recovered from that first, all-over hug. I developed a taste for Ray in that instant, and it has not yet been assuaged. Which is why I am here, in his apartment, sitting on his couch drinking tea as if it is an everyday occurrence. I am no longer in control of myself. Ray is the one driving me forward, even if he doesn't know it. He's so far under my skin, touching me so deeply, that he doesn't even have to be near me anymore. He's just there, inside me, and I know I'll never get him out again.

He looks at me now, sitting sideways facing me on the couch, and he's curious. Even though it's late at night and we both have an early start tomorrow, he's not tired. I can see the questions forming on his lips before he voices them.

"So," he begins, carefully casual, "Janet."

"Yes, Ray."

"You ... liked her, huh?"

"I yes. Yes, I did. She's a fine woman."

He scowls a little, unimpressed. "That's not what I mean."

"What *do* you mean, then?" Should watch that snippy tone; it's not a good sign.

"I mean ..." He flutters his hands in the air in a gesture that should be feminine but isn't. "You *liked* her. A lot. Right? And now you're feeling bad coz she's gone."

My eyes widen as it hits me. He thinks I have had feelings for Janet. He sensed the connection between us and naturally assumed it was of a romantic nature. The thought causes me to smile.

"No." It is the truth.

His eyebrows twitch upward. "No?"

"No." I relax a little, sink into the couch, feeling the warmth of his body less than three feet away. "I liked Janet, yes. But I don't feel anything deeper towards her." There let him make of that what he will. I'm too tired to hold back everything tonight.

"Really?" He seems puzzled. "Well, that's that's good, Frase. That yer not upset, I mean. About her leaving. I'm glad."

He's stumbling over his words, sounding more like me than himself. Now I am the curious one, raising an eyebrow of my own.

"Thank you kindly, Ray. For caring."

"Yeah, well ..." He grins at me, quicksilver, eyes bright. "That's what partnership is all about, right?"

Partnership. The word sounds different tonight, somehow. As if it means more than simple friendship, and a good working relationship, and all those other 'ships' that are covered by the word. I ponder it lazily for a moment, then realise it's not the word that's different. It's Ray. Something has changed in him something important. I'm so attuned to him by now that the slightest anomaly is noticeable.

"Right you are, Ray." I maintain my veneer of stoicism, unsure what to expect. He grins again, something undefined in his gaze. Something that makes me nervous.

"Am I?" he asks, his voice softer than I've ever heard it. "Wonder what else I'm right about ..." And he trails off, looking at me as though I should have a clue as to what he means. But as usual, I'm a beat off-balance, a step behind, when it comes to ... interpersonal relationships.

"Excuse me, Ray?" He narrows his eyes at me. "I'm sorry, I don't quite ..."

He takes a deep breath and shifts a little closer, his knee brushing my thigh. The contact is thrilling for all its brevity. But he's talking again, so I try to pay attention. "I'll make it easier, Fraser." His eyes hold mine, not letting go, trying to consciously dig deep inside me. "Why didn't you and Janet get it on?"

I can feel the red flush sweep over me, receding just as quickly. He can see it too, so he knows he's struck a nerve. I try to follow his thoughts, but I can make no sense of the question.

"I I told you, Ray. I don't ... feel ... anything for Janet. In a romantic sense, that is. There's no great mystery about it." I shrug, feigning nonchalance. "There was no spark, that's all."

"No spark." He nods, falls silent again. A moment later, "What about Frannie?"

"I beg your pardon?" I'm confused again; where is he going with this? "Francesca? What do you mean, Ray?"

He nudges me with his knee. "You got the hots fer her? Or the Ice Queen, maybe? Or are you still stuck on that Metcalf bi woman?"

I stiffen slightly at the mention of Victoria; from remembered anger and bitterness, mostly, that I allowed myself to be so blind. "No. None of the above." I meet his gaze again, questioning now. "Why, Ray? What does this have to do with anything?"

He looks serious. It's not something I've seen in him often, so it strikes an alarm in my brain. Surely he doesn't suspect. I've been circumspect, discreet, almost overly careful in my behaviour towards him. He *can't* know. He can't.

"You ever get it on with Vecchio, Frase?"

The flush again, quicker this time, leaving a trace of anger in its wake. "No, Ray. I've never felt that way about Ray Vecchio. Or Constable Turnbull, or Buck Frobisher, or anyone else you might care to name. I have no romantic inclinations towards anyone of our mutual acquaintance. There. Are you satisfied now?" Embarrassment is burning my cheeks, making me dangerously vocal, skirting close to the edge. I pull back, breathing a little heavy, surprised at myself. Surprised at Ray, for this deliberate inquiry into my feelings. It's unlike him to be so ... tactless.

He has the grace to be ashamed, if briefly. He ducks his head, then brings his gaze back up to mine, brilliantly blue. "Sorry, Frase. I guess that was a little out of line." He doesn't blink, his face gets more intense. "So ... you're not overly demon ... touchy-feely with yer friends, izzat right?"

Too late, I see where he's headed. I try to cut him off before it gets too dangerous. "It's getting late. I should be going" He beats me to the door, standing in front of it, almost six feet of blond-haired blue-eyed temptation that I cannot touch. He might as well be a live cobra wrapped around the doorknob.

"Where ya goin', Frase?" he asks, his voice getting husky now, his face challenging me to stay, to endure, to let go. One slim, long-fingered hand reaches out and sifts through my hair, ruffling its too-neat appearance. "Ya haven't answered my question yet."

I close my eyes, swallow hard, remind myself to keep breathing. Control. It's all about control. "I no, Ray. I'm not ordinarily a demonstrative person, physically or emotionally." I feel stripped by the acknowledgement. Ray doesn't seem to notice my distress, or maybe he's focusing on something else. His eyes rove over my face, looking for something. I stand still, unsure what to do, knowing only that I must not relax, even for an instant, or the craving inside me will tear free, and that will be the end of us both.

Even as I think it, my body stirs, demanding release. I subdue it ruthlessly, but it's too late; he's seen it, seen the truth I cannot hide, and it seems to switch on a light inside him. Another smile, but this is not one I've seen before; I have no frame of reference for it. This is not a Ray-is-happy smile or a Ray-is-defiant curling of lips this is deeper than that.

"Demonstrative. Right." He nods, considers, looks me up and down with a lightning-fast glance I feel all the way to my toes. "So then, Frase," he nearly drawls, his voice low, "you wanna explain to me what the hell's going on here?"

Once again he's managed to totally confuse me. "I-I'm sorry?" I'm drowning in the innuendos, the half-sensed questions, wishing he'd just come out and say what he means, and dreading that same thing because of what he might say. He steps in even closer, straining my control to its very edge.

"It's like this, Frase." He sounds almost conversational now. "Ya say yer not a physical kinda guy. I get that. I can see that ya probably didn't get a lot of that growing up. So yer not the sort of person who's comfortable with people hanging all over ya all the time. That's cool." He blinks, looks at me, sighs. "Must drive women insane ... Anyway. Ya got this thing about personal space, right? Nobody gets too close. Not Frannie, not Vecchio, not the Ice Queen. Nobody." Checks again for a reaction. "So I need to know ... if yer not the kinda guy that lets just anybody close to ya then what the hell is this, right here, right now?"

I'm overwhelmed. He's blindsided me, and it was so easy I'm almost embarrassed. He knows, knows everything, and I can't hide behind my stiffness anymore. It's gone, vanished into thin air, leaving me aked and exposed and vulnerable in a way I haven't felt in years. But even through all of that, I don't step away from him. I can't. He's like a part of me; where I go, he goes.

"Ray ..." His name is a sigh on my lips. I dart out my tongue to wet them, and watch his eyes get darker. Startled, I glance down his body to see arousal? a miracle, thrusting against the confines of his jeans. He sees me looking and smiles again, that same new smile with a hungry twist, and suddenly I know what he wants, what he intends, and it scares me more than anything else I've ever faced in my life.

"Yes, Ben?" Just like that he undoes me completely, just by saying my name. He's not even touching me, and already my body is trembling, desperate to break through this iron wall of distance I've enforced upon it, take what it needs, has needed, for so very many years. Desire, pure, honest and open, promising satisfaction, relief, things I've never had before. He wants me; I can see it in his eyes, in the way he devours me without laying a finger on me, and the pain is so delicately beautiful that my knees almost give way. Almost. But such control, honed over such a long time, does not dissolve so easily. And sometimes it seems safer to hold onto what is familiar rather than to reach out for something new.

"I-I should go." As soon as the words are out of my mouth, he shakes his head, moving closer again, still between me and the door.

"Uh-uh. No way. I gotcha now, and I'm not letting ya outta here until this is over." He's determined, single-minded in that way he gets when he's in the middle of a case and we've got a solid lead. To have that sort of concentration focused on me is astonishing. I never expected this.

"Until what is over?" My voice sounds bewildered, but I know exactly what he means. "Ray ... there's nothing to ... to discuss here. I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do." He gets right in my face, up close where I can't block him out. "I'm talking about you, and me, and this thing we got between us that you're trying to pretend ain't there. I'm talking about them walls you got set up around you that don't let anyone close, and about how I managed to get in anyway, without you knowing about it. I'm talking about you holding me off all this time, and me shutting up about it because I didn't know till today what was going on with you." His gaze narrows, and he nods again. "But now I know. Yer not cold, Fraser. Yer just scared of getting close to someone. That's why yer always so polite and formal, and why ya never let anyone get near ya. 'Cept me. I noticed it today, Ben." Something deep inside him flares up, showing in his eyes. "I finally noticed. It's me. Ya never pushed me away, never avoided me, never stepped back. Even now, when I bet yer so scared ya wanna run like hell and never look back. Yer still standing here, right here with me, because ya can't make yerself let go."

Defeated, fair and square. My eyes close in silent acknowledgement, and I feel myself slump a little. It's almost a relief, now that he knows. But then he speaks again.

"Ya want me. Ya need me." A tilt of his head, so achingly endearing. "Ya love me, dontcha, Ben?"

I'm doomed. So is he. He's managed to crack my immovable walls, split them straight down the middle with those few words. I feel lightheaded. "Yes, Ray."

"Yes, what, Ben?" He's prodding me now, still determined, wanting his victory to be complete. Grabbing the tiger by the tail. "I wanna hear you say it." Shifts closer still, presses himself against me from shoulder to thigh, feeling how my entire body is shaking and shuddering with the insane need. Wraps his arms around me, pushes his face into my neck, tilts his pelvis into mine until I'm surrounded by Ray on all sides. "Say it, Ben," he whispers enticingly. "Tell me what ya got hidden inside ya."

The feel of his breath on my skin is more than I can stand. A low growl escapes me, my arms come up to hold him tightly, and then I put my mouth over his and cast us both into the midst of the storm.

Licking, sucking, wildly struggling to get closer, get inside his skin, breathe him in until I can't tell where he ends and I begin, till we're almost the same person. He doesn't fight me, just draws me as close as he can, shoving clothing haphazardly aside until we're both naked and his smooth skin is against mine and his tongue is deep inside my mouth and somehow it's all ... perfect. I want to taste him, feel him, bury myself inside him and never come out. But he asked me for the words, and I have to tell him, before we fall so far that we can't find our way back.

I stop kissing him, draw back, gasp in enough air to form words. He's nuzzling my neck, scraping his teeth over my collarbone, sucking fiercely on the spot between neck and shoulder, making me quiver in his hold. But I manage to hold back, at least for a moment, till I can get the words out.

"Ray ..."

"Yeah, Ben?" Voice a deep rasp now, and I can feel it when he talks, we're so close.

"I ..." I swallow, start again. "I love you."

He freezes. Goes completely still in my arms, as though I've just doused him in cold water. I begin to worry that I've said too much, gone too far, that he was only joking when he asked me to say it. I start to draw back, away from him, but he clamps down hard with his hands on my back and keeps me right where I am. Then I feel a deep shudder travel through his body, and his hot arousal against my hip somehow becomes even hotter, harder, and his arms tighten with bruising strength.

"Ya mean it?"

"Yes." He looks up at me with eyes dark and dazed, but still seeing me, still sharply aware of what's going on beyond the physical. "I mean it, Ray. I love you. You are everything to me. I can't envision my life without you. I need you to make me human." The admission is painful, but true. "And dear God, Ray I want you. So much it nearly kills me."

That does it; he's nearly melting in my arms, and I can hardly believe this is me, Benton Fraser, actually managing to speak from the heart and get the response I've been dreaming of since the day we met. He pulls me back down for a dizzying kiss, and just like that we're flung back into the maelstrom, and suddenly his bedroom is the most attractive place in the world to be. We stumble through and fall onto the bed, rolling until Ray is resting on my chest, sprawled over me like a blanket, his mouth and hands everywhere at once. It's too much, too fast, and I'm gasping for air, needing him to slow down but not wanting to lose a moment of feeling these things that I've never felt for anyone. This is for Ray, only Ray, and I want to savour them, linger, but my control is completely gone and I feel helpless in the midst of my desire for him. My body has had enough of abstinence; it knows what it wants, and it wants it *now*, and damn the consequences.

Ray's yelp of surprise when I flip him over onto his back is shortlived; my mouth is back on his in an instant, ruthlessly devouring his taste as my hands travel over every inch of his body, exploring  uncharted territory for the first time. That chest, so sleekly defined, the long, elegant arms and hands; the hard stomach with muscles that ripple at the lightest touch ... and there, nestled in surprisingly soft blond hair, is evidence of Ray's need for me. Gentleness compels me, and I take him lightly in my hand, treasuring this moment, the eye of the storm. His gasp is gratifying; I begin to stroke him, testing angle