by Caroline Alert

"Didn't I tell you? Didn't I say, 'Shut yer talking hole'?" Stanley Ray Kowalski gritted through clenched teeth, straining ineffectually against his bonds.

"No. Actually, Ray, I believe your exact words were 'Shut up, you..."

"Fraser--!" Kowalski shut his eyes and threw his whole body into an effort to get his hands around the annoying Mountie's neck. Unfortunately, since they were both bound tightly in chairs, back to back, his wild struggles only resulted in tightening the ropes around his chest until they cut off his breath.

"Ray!" Fraser chided primly. "Please don't do that. You're wasting energy, as well as tightening these ropes to the point of strangulation."

"That's the point, Fraser!" Stan hissed, livid. Just to drive it home, he surged against his bonds a second time, snarling, until the effort (and the lack of oxygen) made him see stars. But it was worth it, because they were tied so tightly together that his struggles had the same effect on his partner. For a moment, one blessed moment, Fraser actually shut up.

In that wonderful resulting silence, Stan collapsed in his bonds, head hanging, and just concentrated on breathing. He could hear Fraser gasping a little behind him, and that made him smile a bit. But the moment was too good to last.

All too soon, the Mountie got his breath back. "So I take it you blame me for our predicament?" he asked, sounding distinctly hurt.

Not as hurt as he'd be if I could get my hands on him, Stan thought, unrepentant. "Yes! Absolutely! You win the prize," he snapped, trying to flex his hands because the ropes were cutting off his circulation.

"Well, I'm not sure that's entirely fair, Ray," Fraser began.

Fair? They were locked in a dirty, musty old closet in a warehouse full of rats, trussed up so tight they could barely breathe, with at least six armed and dangerous thugs outside-- and they hadn't even had lunch yet. I'll show you fair! he thought. He clenched his hands into fists. "Oh, no? Whose idea was it to go to Finelli's for lunch today?"

"Mine," Fraser admitted. "But you could hardly expect me to know that we'd run across an armed robbery in progress at a nearby jewelry store on the way there," he added, so calmly that Kowalski almost hated him. "I'm not psychic, Ray."

"Who was the one," Stan went on darkly, "who insisted on pursuing those three armed clowns here, instead of waiting for backup?"

He felt, rather than saw, Fraser lift an eyebrow. "Well, they are criminals. They did commit an armed robbery. And we are sworn to uphold the law..."

"Who's the one," Kowalski asked, relentless, "who refused to listen when I said, 'Fraser, don't go in there! That warehouse may not be as empty as it looks.' Huh?"

Fraser shrugged, despite their bonds. "How was I to know we'd pursued these felons to their lair...

"Or that it'd be full of more felons with guns?" Stan finished for him grimly. "Whaddaya think I was tryin' to tell you!"

Fraser was silent for a second. Then he said mildly, "There's no need to shout, Ray. There's nothing wrong with my hearing."

Kowalski shut his eyes, set his jaw, and counted to ten. "Okay," he said finally. "All right. So maybe all that's not your fault. I could maybe live with all that. But what gets me is, I go in after you, to protect you because you're not packin' any heat, we both get captured... And then you gotta open yer yap and point out the maximum number of years those guys could get for this! While they got their guns pointin' right at us! That is your fault! That is definitely your fault! Didn't it occur to you that that might piss 'em off?"

Fraser tried to shrug again. "I felt they should understand the consequences of their actions, Ray."

Kowalski slumped in his bonds and shook his head. It was beyond him, it was beyond human comprehension, how a guy as smart as Fraser could be such a moron at times. He couldn't deal with it anymore--it was making his head hurt. I shoulda' known better than to try to point it out to him anyway, he grumbled to himself. That was just askin' for trouble. He could talk me under the table any day. Hell, he'd talk me to death if I let him! And then while they buried me, he'd still be yakkin' at my coffin, tryin' to explain things!

Despite their dangerous situation, the thought made him smile. He had to admit, if the circumstances had been different-- like, if those thugs had tied them up face to face, for instance-- he wouldn't have minded this so much. Fraser might be a moron sometimes, but he was his best friend, and the hottest moron Stan had ever seen. Those broad shoulders, clear blue eyes and that mouth... When he wasn't fantasizing about killing him, he was usually fantasizing about kissing him senseless, then stripping off that uniform and--

Stan looked down at his waist and groaned at the sight of his own arousal. Great! That's all I need. Maybe it's a good thing they tied us up like this after all. At least Fraser can't see this. Because much as he wanted him, he'd never let Fraser know it. After all, he'd read Vecchio's file, he knew about the mess Fraser had gotten them both into over his obsession with that Metcalf woman... What were the odds a guy like that would ever want another guy? Even his own partner?

About a snowball's chance in hell, he reflected glumly.

Fraser tested the strength of the ropes that bound him to his partner for the tenth time, a bit stung by Kowalski's angry accusation that the situation was all his fault. It reminded him all too painfully of similar situations, and complaints, with his first Ray. But he had to admit, the points Stan had made were valid: he had chosen the place they'd eat, a choice that had placed them at the scene of the crime; he had insisted on pursuing the criminals involved without waiting for backup-- and he had informed them of the likely jail sentences that would ensue once they were caught. In retrospect, he supposed that had been a trifle unwise of him. Because before that, the robbers had merely been holding him and Stan at gunpoint. But once he'd imparted that information, they'd hit them, tied them up and shoved them in this dingy closet.

So while he hadn't foreseen the robbery's occurrence, he did bear at least some responsibility for the fact that they'd wound up trussed up like hogs on their way to market as a result.

The realization was distinctly uncomfortable. This wasn't the way he would've chosen to get close to Stan Kowalski. Actually, he never had been able to figure out a way to do that. He was too much his father's son. The words just never came easily to him-- or at all. Besides, he didn't think Stan would welcome learning about his feelings for him. He seemed a dedicated ladies' man, he'd been married and he still chased women whenever he got the chance. So Fraser had always been scared to admit that he wanted him, though his new partner's wild thatch of blonde hair and intense blue eyes fascinated him. He'd been harboring a secret but very powerful urge to run his hands through that thick, spiky hair for months now-- an urge he'd restrained with difficulty.

That time on the Henry Allen, though, when he'd turned to find Stan hanging limply in the cold water behind him, eyes closed, on the verge of drowning, he'd had the perfect excuse to touch him. He'd been forced to, actually. So he'd done it, and he'd never been able to forget the result. He'd put his hands on that angular face, felt the rough blonde beard stubble that always shadowed it, then pulled Stan's limp body towards him and kissed him. Parted his limps firmly and dove inside, warming those cold lips with his own as he breathed air into him with a caress.

It had been one of the most illicit, exciting moments of his life. Necessary for altruistic reasons, yet utterly selfish and erotic as well.

And ever since, he'd been tortured by a question: had Stan actually responded? Because for just a second, before his blue eyes flew open in a look of wild surprise, he could've sworn that the passive lips pressed to his had come to life and caressed him back, moved sensually against his mouth.

Fraser blinked, forcing the vivid, tantalizing memory away. Forcing his thoughts back to the present. He couldn't think about that now, he had to concentrate on other things. An apology to Ray was in order first-- then he had to see about getting them out of here. Because if he didn't, they'd both probably get killed, and his question would never be answered.

He tested the ropes again, frustrated, but they were tied far too tightly for him to break free by any conventional method. Which meant that he'd have to employ an unconventional one. He set his jaw, knowing what that would mean. Even for him, joint rearrangement wasn't a pleasant prospect. But if it would save Stanley R. Kowalski, alias Ray, alias his best friend, he would.

I'm a Mountie, he chanted to himself. I can do this. But God, it was going to hurt!

Fraser moved a bit restlessly behind him. "I am sorry, Ray," he said quietly. And there was something in his voice-- a hint of awareness that they just might not make it out of this one, and that he felt bad about dragging him into it after all, criminals or no-- that dispelled Stan's anger.

"'S'okay, Frase," he said. "But we gotta do somethin', ya' know? What if Welsh doesn't find us soon? Or what if they change their minds about keepin' us as hostages?"

Fraser shifted again, and Stan felt their ropes tighten. "I am aware of the risks. And I've been working on the problem of getting loose..."

He gasped suddenly, and Stan felt their ropes across their shoulders give a little. He turned his head as far as he could, trying to see his partner. He had a bad feeling about this. "What're you doing?"

For a second, Fraser didn't answer. And when he did, his voice sounded strange-- distant, almost faint. "I'm dislocating my shoulder, Ray."

Stan blinked. "Oh. Right." Then he caught himself. "Yer what?" he hissed, straining even harder to see him. But he couldn't crane his neck far enough around to get a good look. Still, he couldn't have heard him right. Not even Fraser would be that crazy. Stan had dislocated his shoulder by accident once, in a football game when he was fifteen, and he'd never forgotten the searing, off-the-scale agony. It hurt so bad that he'd cried. No one would do that to themselves deliberately--

"No, don't!" he breathed, not wanting him to do that. Not even now, not even to save their butts.

But it was too late. Stan heard something pop, and an agonized huff of breath.

"There," Fraser gasped.

At that instant, the ropes moved again, gave way a bit around Stan's shoulders. He felt Fraser shifting somehow within the slack, and he winced, knowing what he'd done. "God dammit,


The Mountie didn't answer. Maybe he couldn't. But Stan could feel him squirming around behind him. He moaned under his breath as he moved, which didn't surprise Stan. The only thing that surprised Kowalski was the fact that he wasn't screaming. I would be--

"You're going... to have to help me, Ray," Fraser said hoarsely then.

"Anything. Just tell me how," he said instantly.

"Can you move... your left arm?" his friend panted. "Shift it forward... a little."

Stan understood instantly. Fraser needed more room to maneuver. He complied, pulling his arm forward as far as he could, straining against the ropes. His heart was pounding, filled with equal parts hope and empathy for the pain he could hear in Fraser's harshly controlled voice.

"Good," Fraser hissed. "A little... more..."

Several long, seemingly endless minutes ensued in which Stan could hear the slight scratching of fingernails against flesh, and he knew Fraser was working at the ropes binding his hands. Though how the hell he was doing that with a dislocated shoulder, he had no idea. When it had happened to him, he'd been immobilized by the pain. Most people would be.

But he'd realized long ago that Benny wasn't most people. He was so different that when they'd first met, Stan thought he was a freak. He still thought he was weird, but he never used that word to describe him anymore, because Fraser was weird in good ways. He was smart, kind and strong. He'd just never realized, until that moment, how incredibly strong and stoic he really was. And the fact that Fraser had made such a sacrifice, had deliberately hurt himself like this partly to save him, moved him.

I get outta this, he thought, I live through this-- and I'm gonna kiss him for it. I don't care what happens.

The silence, and Fraser's strained movements and rough breathing, seemed to go on forever. Finally, Stan couldn't stand it anymore. "Hey, Frase! You okay?"

"Yes... " Hardly even a moan, more like a gasp.

Still, as usual, Fraser had done it. Saved their bacon. Stan suddenly felt the rope around their waists pulled upwards. The one around their shoulders followed right after. He took a deep, appreciative breath, glad to be able to expand his chest comfortably again. Then Fraser bent over and started working on the ropes that bound their legs. In a short time, they were pulled down too. But Stan still couldn't move, since his hands were bound to the arms of the chair.

"Here." Fraser jumped up, pulled his knife out of his boot, and began hacking away at the ropes that bound his left hand. But as he bent over him, Stan noticed that he was very pale, even paler than was usual for him. And that he was using his left hand, not his right, because his right arm hung uselessly at his side.

"Shit," he muttered, feeling a twinge of sympathetic pain in his own shoulder as the Mountie laboriously freed him. As soon as he did, he threw off the rest of the ropes and pushed Fraser back down into a chair. He tried to avoid looking at his shoulder, which looked weirdly misshapen even under his thick uniform. "Okay. Now put it back," he said, worried. "Your shoulder, I mean. You do know how to do that, right?"

"Yes. But Ray, we really don't have time for..."

"Now," he ordered. "Yer not killin' yerself on my watch."

Either he sensed his determination, or else he was just in too much pain to argue about it for once, because Fraser gave in. Swallowed, and looked down at his limp right arm for a second. Then he set his jaw, lifted his left hand, gripped his right shoulder tightly, and shoved hard.

"Arrrggghhhh... ."


Suddenly, Fraser's eyeballs rolled upwards. His face went white as a sheet, and he slumped back in the chair.

"Jesus," Ray breathed. Fraser had reset his shoulder all right, but he'd passed out from the pain!

Forgetting all about the armed, dangerous criminals outside, Stan caught the Mountie in his arms, and lowered him gently to the floor. Unbuttoned his uniform jacket and slipped it off him, rolled it up and put it under his head for a pillow. "Frase?" he asked softly, more than a little in awe of what he'd just seen him do.

But Ben didn't respond. Stan touched his forehead, and it felt cold with sweat. He could only imagine the pain he must've been in while he'd worked to free them both, and he shook his head, feeling a twinge of guilt at the way he'd screamed at him for getting them in this mess. It was hard to stay mad at a guy who'd do something like this for you.

In fact, the emotions that gripped him as he stared anxiously down at his unconscious friend's face had nothing to do with anger. His heart beat faster as he noticed how incredibly long Ben's eyelashes were, lashes most women would kill for. Nice, straight nose, square jaw, perfect full lips... He looked like one of those marble statues in the museums, only better, because he was warm and real. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat off of his face. Found his hands lingering over his high cheekbones, and dangerously near that gorgeous mouth. "Fraser?" he asked again.

No reply.

"Hey, Frase! Frazoor! Benny!" he called.


Then Fraser sighed softly. A slight, soft inhalation of breath that parted his lips--

And Stan remembered. I get outta this... I live through this, and I'm gonna kiss him.

He swallowed hard. It had been a crazy thought, sure, and they weren't exactly out of danger yet, but...

It wouldn't be fair. It would be like copping a feel, he told himself sternly. He's unconscious.

But he was also really close and really, really tempting. Sleeping Beauty, in a white tee-shirt and those silly black riding pants...

Before he could stop himself, he bent over him. "Benny," he whispered, warming those gorgeous lips with his breath. Then he covered them with his mouth. Gently, softly. He ran his tongue over them, tracing their shape, savoring the taste of him.

Fraser moaned into his mouth.

Stan jerked back as if he'd been shot.

Big blue eyes opened and frowned into his. "What happened?" Fraser whispered, his eyes traveling past his shoulder to scan the room in a worried look.

Thank God, Stan told himself. He doesn't know... "You passed out resetting your shoulder," he explained. "But the good news is, you got it back in okay. The bad news is, the bad guys are still out there, and they've still got my guns, plus a few hundred of their own. So we're still stuck in here." He put out a hand and helped Fraser sit up.

Fraser looked up at him strangely. "No. I meant why were you kissing me?" he asked, flushing.

Stan felt himself blushing too. "Kissing you?" he echoed, trying to sound incredulous. "I wasn't..."

Fraser got to his feet and cocked his head at him, frowning. "I could've sworn that you were. And that you called me Benny..."

Stan shook his head hard. "Kissing you? Ha, that's a good one, Fraser. And callin' you Benny? You know I never do that, that was Vecchio's little pet name, not mine," he lied. "You must've been hallucinating. No, that was just... you know, that buddy breathing thing," he blurted, so disconcerted that he was babbling.

Fraser frowned harder, took a step towards him and looked him right in the eye. "But we're not underwater," he pointed out, sounding distinctly suspicious.

Stan rolled his eyes, feeling increasingly desperate. Trapped. Cornered like a cheap pervert in the back of an adult bookstore. "No, I meant CPR. Mouth to mouth," he lied frantically, trying to sound casual. "I was givin' you mouth to mouth, 'cuz I was afraid... Well, you looked like you weren't breathin'."

Fraser's head came up. "Oh," he said blankly. Then, "Hmmmm." Then he turned away and picked his jacket up off the floor without another word.

Stan winced inwardly. He hated that Hmm thing, just hated it. It was like some kinda secret Canadian Morse code or something that Fraser used every time he was thinking something important but didn't want him to know what it was. Stan wondered just what the hell he meant by it this time. He watched him closely as he shrugged back into his jacket, unsure if he'd bought his line or not, or what he was feeling. When he'd lied that the kiss was just mouth to mouth, had he heard a trace of disappointment in that usually even voice? Seen something in his eyes that looked like regret?

"I mean... Remember that time we were on that sinking ship, the Henry Anders..."

"Allen," Fraser corrected automatically, as he redid his buttons.

"Okay, the Henry Allen... That's what you were doin' to me, right? Just underwater CPR, that's all?"

Blue eyes lifted to his in a wide-eyed, innocent expression that must've taken Fraser years to perfect. "Why, of course, Ray. That's all it was."

Stan set his jaw to cover his disappointment. He'd just imagined that flicker in those blue eyes, then; the quiver in that always calm voice. Or had he? Two can play at that game, Big Red! He forced a smile. "Then you understand. I was just doin' the same thing. CPR, to save you. That's all it was."

"Right," Fraser said.

"Right," he nodded.

They stared at each other for a long moment, blue eyes into blue, two tough guys giving nothing away.

Then Fraser said, "'Nuff said."

Stan nodded. "Yeah. We gotta figure a way outta here. I'll check the door."

"I'll check the back wall," Fraser agreed.

But as Stan jiggled the doorknob just to make sure it really was locked, Fraser shot a look of total disbelief at his back. "CPR, my eye," he muttered under his breath.

As Fraser turned to run his hands over the back wall of the dusty closet, searching for a way out, Stan snorted to himself. "Buddy breathing, my ass!"

"What?" Fraser asked.

"Nothing," Stan said.


The End

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© Caroline Alert 1998