Poem For A Winter's Night

Story VII in the "Alchemy" Series

by Caroline Alert

Deep in the darkness of a cold winter's night, Ray Kowalski stirs. His body heavy with the weight of sleep, he knows only that he felt a touch. He's not awake enough to open his eyes, though. Not at first. But then a large, warm hand trails over him in a long, slow, leisurely caress, from chest to belly, then back over the curve of his

Ben. Ray smiles drowsily. He wakes a bit, waits for another touch. Maybe even a kiss.

He hears a whisper instead: " 'You should've loved a god; I am but dust.' "

Ray blinks sleepily. It's Ben's voice, low and soft. Somethin' about God, love, and dust. Dunno what it means, but it sure as hell sounds good, the way he said it. And it feels even better when the whisper is followed by a tender, lingering kiss on his shoulder. A delicious little shiver runs through him at the soft touch of his lover's mouth.

Okay. Now I get it. He wants more, he thinks, not at all averse to the idea. Though they fell asleep after making love earlier, Ray is never against the idea of more of that with Ben.

So he stretches a little. Wakes a bit more. Enough to hear the rush of wind spattering rain against the window. It sounds like eerie little fingers tapping, tapping to get in. But Ray isn't worried. Those fingers are outside, out there in the cold. He's inside, in Ben's bed. Warm. Safe. Secure. Waiting for Ben to make love to him again. It doesn't get any better than that.

Ben falls silent for a moment, as if he, too, is listening to the rain. Enjoying the fact that they're sheltered from it. Then he slips his arms around Ray from behind, enveloping his sleepy body in an embrace. He whispers against his shoulder.

" 'Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!' "

Snap! Ray's eyes open wide. He's fully awake in a second. Worried. Jealous. I'm his love! And I'm here, in his arms, in his bed! So what was that if? What the hell does that mean? Is he thinkin' 'bout somebody else?

"What was that, Frase?" he gripes.

Another kiss warms his shoulder. "What was what?" Ben's voice is tender, and so is his mouth.

But this time, even the kiss and Ben's low, sexy voice aren't enough to distract Ray. "What you just said! What was that?"

A brief pause, then another, even softer, kiss. "It's... poetry, Ray," Ben whispers shyly.

Kowalski blinks, temporarily diverted from his jealous suspicions by that unexpected answer. "Poetry?" he echoes. He's gotten used to a lot of freaky things since becoming Fraser's partner: deaf wolves, dirt licking, and the phrase "Thank you kindly." But poetry in the middle of the night? That's a new one, even for Fraser. It's hard to take in.

But he's forced to, because Ben answers, "Yes." He doesn't even try to deny it.

Ray blinks again. "What the what time is it?"

"3:02 a.m.," the Mountie answers promptly. Not that he looked at a clock or anythinghe didn't even move or turn his head. But he doesn't have to. Ben's got some kind of weird internal clock, which never seems to be wrong. So Ray doesn't doubt him. Well, his sanity maybebut not the time.

"That's nuts!" Ray snorts. He doesn't mind being wakened to have sex, but for poetry? "What the hell're ya doin', spoutin' poetry at three in the friggin' mornin'?"

Ben suddenly gets very still behind him. He doesn't answer.

"Well?" Ray demands, still suspicious.

Another pause, this one even longer than the first. Then, just when Kowalski's about to repeat the question, Fraser says quietly, "I don't know. Forgive me, Ray. I didn't mean to wake you. Go back to sleep."

But that's impossible, because Ben lets him go. Pulls away from him. Ray feels cold, even though he's under the covers. In that instant, he knows he made a mistake. Knows for sure that there is something going on, but that it isn't what he thought it was; and that with his clumsy questions, his suspicions, he hurt Ben somehow.

Ray turns over. As rain rattles the window again, he props himself up on an elbow and looks down at Ben. His eyes have started to adjust to the darkness, so he can see his lover's large, pale, muscular figure. Ben's lying on his back, and Ray can see the whites of his eyes, looking up towards the ceiling. His eyes don't look happy, and Ray knows it's his fault.

" 'S okay, I'm not sleepy," he lies. He reaches out and touches Ben's shoulder lightly, his voice much gentler now. "I just meant ya know is somethin' wrong? I mean, are ya okay?"

For a moment, Ben doesn't answer. Then he says quietly, "No. Yes. I just... The rain woke me. I couldn't sleep."

Ray's gotten a lot better at reading between Mountie lines in the last few years. So he knows there's something hidden behind that prosaic admission. Something important. He wonders why Ben doesn't want to tell him what it is. Worries, again, that he might be thinking about someone else.

"Okay. But why the poetry thing? Never heard ya do that before," he says, wishing too late that he hadn't been such a jerk about it. That he hadn't bitten Ben's head off before he could say some more of it. Cuz maybe he could've figured out what he meant by it if he had. Besides -- it wasn't really all that bad. Sounded kinda cool, in fact.

Ben is silent again, for what seems like forever. Rain throws itself against the window even harder, shaking the frame. It's a cold, lonely sound, but Ray ignores it, intent on his lover.

But Ben doesn't answer his question. "Do we really have to talk about this, Ray? Can't we just go back to sleep?"

Ray knows that tone of voice. It means, "Forget it, Ray, you couldn't jolt it out of me with a cattle prod." He frowns, disappointed at Ben's refusal to explain his 3 a.m. poetry. "Sure. Fine. Whatever," he says, flopping down onto his back again with a frown. He hates it when Ben closes himself off like this, when he hides behind his inner walls. It makes him feel rejected, even when they're in bed together. Hell, especially then. But what he really hates is knowing that Ben's withdrawal is his own fault, that he wouldn't have done it if he hadn't snapped at him.

He sighs softly, regretting it, and the sigh mingles with the sound of the rain.

A few minutes go by in silence. Ray closes his eyes again, thinking Ben is going to go back to sleep without another word, and without having sex with him again, either. Damn. Damn the rain, and poetry, and his own tendency to shoot off his mouth without thinking. If he'd just kept quiet, Ben would probably be making hot, passionate love to him right now, instead of lying there doing his best impersonation of a big Canadian iceberg.


Then Ben says softly, "It's the rain. When I first came to Chicago, rainy nights seemedwell, I found them depressing. I missed the snow. I couldn't sleep when it rained, so I would read poetry to distract myself."

Ray hears something in Ben's voice he's heard before, and he reads between the lines again: homesick means lonely. He has a mental image of the Mountie sitting by a window sheeted with grey Chicago rain. Sitting all alone late at night, holding a book of poetry in his large, strong hands when he really wanted to be holding a lover.

It gives him the shivers. Now that he knows what Ben's doing up at this crazy hour, he's doubly sorry he gave him a hard time about the poetry, before. He's also sorry that he didn't know him back then. On those rainy poetry book nights. If he had, Ben wouldn't have needed poetry booksor minded the rain, either. Cuz he wouldn't have been alone.

"Love poems," Ray says quietly. "Ya read love poems, din'tcha?"

Another slight pause. Then Ben says cautiously, "Yes. Sometimes."

Ray has the distinct feeling that Ben usually always read love poems, not just sometimes. But he's awake enough, now, not to say so.

"How did you know?"

Ray shrugs. "Figgered ya were missin' Victoria."

Ben shoots him a quick glance of surprise. "Back then, yes. I was."

Ray doesn't miss the careful qualification. It warms him a little, but he still has a tiny seed of doubt. "And -- tonight?"

Ben freezes again. Just for a second. Then he shrugs. Rubs his eyebrow three times, in quick succession. Cracks his neck.

Ray's become an expert in Mountie Body Language in the last few years, too. Knows all those nervous little moves are sure signs that Ben's really upset or embarrassed. Which just makes him all the more determined to find out what's up with him.

"What? Whatsa matter?"

"I just... you'll think it's silly, Ray," Ben says, still hesitant.

Ray moves closer to him, leans over and kisses his neck. His dark eyebrows. His lips. Very gently, the way you'd soothe a frightened animal. "No I won't. I promise," he breathes, whispering it warm against Ben's mouth. Shutting out the night, and the rain, and everything but their love. "Tell me..."

Ben's eyes shine in the dimness. His mouth softens, and his hands come up to settle on Ray's shoulders. "All right. If you must know... I love poetry, and I wanted to share that with you, but I thought that you might think it was foolish, so I was reciting it while you slept," he says in a rush.

Aw geez, Ray thinks, touched. Ben was thinking of him in a sweet, romantic way, and wanted to tell him but couldn't, for fear that he wouldn't get itand he hadn't. He'd snapped at him like a jerk. Open mouth, insert foot. Dat's me.

"It's not silly," he says, trying to make up for it. "No way. Truth is, I wasn't sure if ya meant me. With the poetry, I mean. Dat's all."

Ben makes a little sound, halfway between exasperation and laughter. "Ray, Ray, Ray "

" 'Kay, so I'm an idiot," Kowalski admits, smiling. He sees a white flash beside him, knows that Ben is smiling too, and he doesn't mind being one. Cuz he's Ben's idiot, which is better than being anybody else's anything.

He lays his head on the Canadian's chest. Ben's arms go around him automatically. But even that isn't enough. The next thing Ray knows, Ben gathers him close, pulls him over so that Ray's lying on top of him.

"Mmm," Ray murmurs happily. Cuz it's good and it's warm and it's so, so right. To be here with Ben, skin to skin in the darkness, heart to heart, safe and cozy in his strong arms while the cold winter rain falls outside. Ray doesn't have words for how right it is.

But Ben does. Ray's always known he was good at talking, and God knows he's got a photographic memory too, so it's no real shock that he likes to recite poetry. Ray was never into that himself, of course. But what Ben was saying when he woke up that was nice. And that deep voice, filled with tenderness, well... He thinks it was probably made to say things like that. Suddenly, he wants to hear more. It's probably not a guy thing, not macho or anything, but he doesn't care. It's not like there's anyone else there to make fun of it, after all. Might be kinda sexy, he thinks, to lie here in the dark listenin' to him talk poetic.

"Say some more," he urges, lying with his cheek on Ben's broad chest, where he can feel his heart beating strong and sure beneath it.

"Poetry, you mean?" Ben's hand moves gently through his hair, but he sounds surprised. In a good way. Pleased.

Ray smiles, thinking he just made up for being stupid before. "Yeah. Love stuff," he tells him. "Sappy as ya want. Lay it on me. I can take it."

He feels Ben smile. "As you wish."

There are a few seconds of silence, broken only by their breathing and the angry deluge of the rain outside. Then Ben says quietly,

" 'I try to think of some one lovely gift
No lover yet in all the world has found;
I think: If the cold, sombre gods
Were hot with love as I am,
Could they not endow you with a star
And fix bright youth forever in your limbs?' "

Somewhat to his surprise, Ray understands what the poem means. What Fraser is trying to tell him. If he could, he'd gimme a star. Make me young forever. Wow. For a time, Ray is speechless. When he finds his voice again, he murmurs, "Dat's beautiful. Izzat how ya feel about me?"

He doesn't really need to ask. Ben's hand is stroking his hair, Ben's heart is beating steady and true against his, and Ben's arms are wrapped tenderly around him. It's been that way for two years now, and Ray knows Ben isn't going anywhere. Still, it's just good to hear the words sometimes.

"Yes, Ray. That's exactly how I feel. I love you very much," Ben says quietly.

It's very, very good to hear the words. It's the best. Ray is suddenly glad that it's dark, so Ben can't see that he's squeezed his eyes shut against a sudden, unexpected rush of tears. Nobody, in his whole life, has ever said things like that to him. Ever recited poetry to him, or used such beautiful words to say "I love you". Words so wonderful that even he, Mr. 62 average, can feel their power. For a minute, he's got such a lump in his throat, he can't say anything.

"Me too," Ray whispers at last. It's all he can say, though he wishes desperately that he could do better. Wishes he had his lover's photographic memory, so that he could quote something just as beautiful back to him. Take his breath away, use magic words to tell him how much he loves him. But it's hopeless. He's never been good with words, and he doesn't know poetry from his elbow. Besides, he's so choked up that he couldn't have spouted any if he did.

"What you said that goes for me, too," he says again. "Love ya just as much." Then he winces, because compared to the beautiful things Ben said, it sounds stupid.

But Ben doesn't seem to think so. Ray feels a soft kiss on the top of his head. Feels Ben's arms tighten around him just a little. Feels Ben smile happily in the dark above him. So maybe there's some magic in the way he said it, too. Or maybe it's enough for Ben to know he means it maybe he doesn't need any fancy words to go with it. The thought warms him.

"Know any more poems like that one?" he asks.

"A few," Ben admits.

Ray smiles to himself. Wonders if that means a few hundred, a few thousand, or pretty much every love poem ever written. With Ben, you never knew.

"Is there any one in particular that you'd like to hear?"

"Nah. You pick one," Ray says, to cover the fact that the only poet whose lyrics he knows is named Springsteen, and he only writes about women.

"Very well," Ben answers. "This is called, 'The Indian Serenade'."

Ray isn't sure what he expects. Stuff about teepees and arrows, maybe. Whatever, it's nothing like what Ben begins to recite.

" 'I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright.
I arise from dreams of thee,
And a spirit in my feet
Hath led me who knows how?
To thy chamber window, Sweet.' "

It doesn't seem to have anything to do with Indians, but Ray doesn't care. "Pretty," he mutters, interrupting. "What's

that? Shakespeare? 'Romeo and Juliet' or somethin'?"

"No. That's a good guess, Ray, but it's actually a poem by Percy Shelley. Like Shakespeare, he was an English poet, but a nineteenth century one."

"Oh. Okay. Izzat all of it?"

"No. There's more:

'O lift me from the grass!
I die, I faint, I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
On my cheeks and eyelids pale.' "

"Rainin' kisses," Ray smiles. "I like dat."

"So do I," Ben murmurs.

Which gives Ray an idea. "Like this?" Ray asks. He moves up a little and kisses Ben's cheeks, then kisses his eyelids closed gently.

"Mm hmm," Ben whispers, almost purring. "I think that's exactly what Shelley meant, Ray."

"Cool." Ray smiles, and lays his head back down again happily.

"There's more, Ray," Fraser goes on:

" 'My cheek is cold and white, alas!
My heart beats loud and fast,
Oh! Press it close to thine again,
Where it will break at last.' "

Ray's quiet for a minute, thinking about the words. "First part was cool, but that last bit, hmm. I dunno. 'S pretty, but kinda sad, don'tcha think?"

Ben laughs, a wry little huff of breath that Ray feels on his hair. "Perhaps. That was a favorite of mine in the wake of Victoria's departure, so"

"Gotcha," Ray cuts in hastily. He doesn't like talking about her much, knowing what she did to Ben. And the thought of him reading about dying of heartbreakdwelling on thatafter she left him, gives him the creeps. He presses his lips to Ben's chest, kisses him softly, trying to soothe away some of that old hurt.

"It's all right, Ray," Ben says. "It doesn't hurt anymore. Not anymore." He strokes Ray tenderly, showing him why.

Ray smiles a little. "Good. But uh, ya got somethin' a bit happier?" he murmurs against his skin.

Ben strokes gentle fingers through his hair, traces warm circles on the nape of his neck as he thinks about it. "Here's something," he says. " 'The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink, and somebody to love you.' "

Ray grins. "Can't argue with dat. Who wrote dat?"

"Brendan Behan."

"Smart guy. But it's not exactly poetry, is it?"

"No," Ben admits. "It does, however, have a certain poetic simplicity."

"I hear ya. Got any more?"

"Yes. How about:

'Music I heard with you was more than music,
and bread I broke with you was more than bread.' "

Ray nods. "Oh, yeah. I am all over dat idea! I ever tell ya that everythin'I mean, everythin'pizza, Chinese, even vegetables tastes better when I eat it with you?"

"No. I don't believe you ever did," Ben says.

"Well, consider yerself told then," he smiles.

Ben strokes his shoulder, and Ray can tell that he's touched. Happy to know that his chow mein and pineapple pizza go down smoother when they eat it together. Sure, it's sappy. But it's also true. Couple o' wacked out romantics, that's what we are, Ray thinks, not minding it.

Then inspiration strikes him. " 'Kay, now it's my turn. Here's somethin' I heard about love: 'If it's yer time, love will track ya down like a cruise missile.' "

Ben laughs out loud, the vibration rumbling through his chest. "Where did you hear that?"

Ray grins. "Comedy Channel."


Ray lifts his head, and looks down at the smiling Mountie. "Like it?"

"Yes. It's very funny, Ray."

For a minute, they both grin at each other. But gradually, Ben's face changes. Ray's vision has adjusted enough to the darkness by then for him to see his smile fade away, and the sudden hunger that replaces it.

" 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,' " Ben quotes, his voice low and husky as he reaches out to trace Ray's lips. " 'For thy love is better than wine.' "

I can take a hint, Ray thinks. He bends his head. "Dat's hot," he breathes against Ben's lips. Hovering over them, just waiting to kiss him. "Who wrote it?"

"King Solomon. It's from the Bible, actually"

"Jeez. Who'd'a thought the Bible could be so sexy?" Ray grins. Then he covers Ben's beautiful, lush, poetic lips with his, and kisses him passionately.

When he finally lifts his head, he can feel Ben's heart beating faster, and they're both a little breathless. "Do some more," Ray says, greedy for more beautiful words. Enthralled by how Ben's voice seems to wrap around him magically in the dark while he recites them. He kisses down Ben's jaw tenderly, to encourage him.

" 'O lyric love' ," Ben murmurs, caressing his shoulders. " 'Half angel and half bird, and all a wonder and a wild desire.' "

Ray blinks, knowing Ben's talking about him, and amazed all over again at how Ben thinks of him. Like a bird. Like an angel. Wonder and wild desire. Wow! "Nice," Ray murmurs, licking and sucking his way towards a sensitive spot on Ben's throat. " 'Wild desire'... I like dat."

Ben strokes his back, and Ray can feel him getting hard. "Do you, Ray?" Ben asks breathlessly.

"Oh, yeah," Ray says, meaning it. If he'd had any idea how sexy it would be to lie in Ben's arms on a rainy night, listening to his tender, expressive voice reciting love poems, he'd have had him do this long ago. He's getting hard himself, just listening to him. He lowers his head, searching for the little spot on Ben's throat that always drives him nuts.

"Ohhh!" Ben's little gasp tells him that he found it.

"Don't stop," Ray whispers as he settles on it, working it with tongue and teeth.

"Uh, how about 'O lover of my life, O soldier saint,' " Ben says.

The words vibrate deliciously against Ray's seeking mouth. "Dat's nice," he smiles breathlessly, "but I'm no saint." To prove his point, he takes Ben's hardening cock in a firm grip, starts fisting it with practiced hands as he kisses his throat.

"Thank God!" Ben breathes fervently.

Ray grins. "Keep goin'," he tells him, amused by the way it's getting harder and harder for Ben to concentrate on the poetry, with his busy hands all over his cock, and his mouth equally busy up higher.

"Yes. Right," Ben pants, biting his lip. There's a long pause, but Ray doesn't relent. If anything, he strokes harder, until he feels pre-cum leaking from his lover's swelling penis. He traces lazy circles on Ben's neck with his warm tongue, until he feels him shiver.

" 'L'amor... che move... il sole'oh, God!-- 'e l'altre stelle'," Ben finally gasps.

Jesus! Now he's doin' poetry in foreign languages, Ray thinks. He doesn't understand the words, but he's intensely aroused by their musical sound. He bends his head and licks Ben's already hardened nipples, bites at them gently until Ben moans, low in his throat, with pleasure.

"You know... poetry... in Italian?" Ray asks, amazed, his own breathing getting ragged as he rubs his thumb over the head of Ben's cock again.

"Some. Yes," Ben gasps. "Oh... yes. Just like that --"

"What's it mean?"

Ben is panting openly now. His fists knot in the sheets, and he has to visibly fight for breath enough to answer. " 'Love that -- moves the sun,' " he gasps, " 'and the other -- stars.' Ohhh..."

Ray smiles. "Dat's good."

Ben is arching under him now, moaning helplessly with pleasure. Almost whimpering. Ray knows he's just inches away from coming. But he's enjoying the poetry way too much to let him quit now. He wants to make him come while spouting poetry, so he speeds up the rhythm of his hand on his lover's cock. "Don't stop," he says wickedly.

"Ray, I can't-- OH! -- Can't think," Ben pleads hoarsely, writhing. "I'm... sorry!"

His cock is hot, hard, and twitching in Ray's hands. Still, he persists with his plan. "Come on," he urges, bending to kiss and lick hotly at his neck. "Do one more, just for me. It's soooo hot"

"Mmm," Ben groans, biting his lip again, his eyes closed, his cock now throbbing in Ray's sensual grip. "Uh, ohh, yes, Ray! YES!"

But Ray stills his hand. Leaves it on Ben's cock, but stops moving it. He grins as he kisses across his collarbone instead. "Poetry, Ben," he insists ruthlessly, keeping his lover poised torturously on the very brink of climax. He knows Ben will probably pay him back for this later, but he doesn't mind. Ben can torture him all he wants later, as long as he gets what he wants right now...

"Oh, God," Ben groans, pushing himself against Ray's hand, almost weeping. "All right then -- 'Twice or thrice... had I loved thee...' "

Ray kisses him and starts moving his hand up and down again, squeezing him lightly. Slowly. Not quite fast enough, or hard enough, to make him come. Not before he finishes the line he's reciting.

Ben moans, almost sobbing. " 'Be -- before I knew -- thy face -- or name,' " he chokes out, shuddering.

"Dat's good," he breathes against Ben's mouth. "Very good."

Ben cries out, "Please, Ray! Just a little faster !"

Ray takes pity on him at last. Ben gave him what he wanted, now it's his turn. "I can do better 'n that," he says, and his smile has a wicked tinge. He slides down Ben's shaking body, and takes his weeping, pulsing cock into his mouth. Sucks at the head, then swallows it deep.

Ben buries his hands in his hair, trembling. He cries out, his hips arching up off the bed, and comes almost instantly. Ray watches him. Ben's sweaty. Breathless. Wild. Beautiful. His come is hot and salty-sweet in Ray's mouth, and he takes it all. Drinks every last drop of his lover's essence, like it's a fine wine.

When he's done, he smiles blissfully. Because he can't imagine anything better than the sight, the feel, and the taste of Ben Fraser, coming.

It's pure poetry.

The End

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© Caroline Alert 1998