Autumn Breeze

He closed the door behind him, hearing the click in the silence; secure, comforting, the door-without-a-lock standing strong against the world. For a moment he simply stood there, seeing the room around him, noting that nothing had been changed since afternoon. Then he walked forward, placed his hat carefully on the table, followed it with the acrouments of his uniform. He never thought of them as accessories, as irritations meant to make his working life more miserable (phrases he remembered now fondly, coming from Ray's mouth, as his friend catalouged the distressing vestiments Ray felt he had to endure). The uniform was himself, showing the world who he was, and none of it was extra trappings.

But now he shed it, placing each piece gently down, folded neatly for the time when it came to put them on again. He watched his hands moving slowly, and he was aware of their moving; brushing against fabric, telling him the texture of leather that had recently been cleaned, feeling impressions of the buttons.

He left his uniform on the table, crossed the room in his undergarments. Briefly he noticed where Dief had lain down, sleeping already. He wished him pleasant dreams, and stood before the window. The air was cooling fast, and he propped the window open wide. The outside air came suddenly around him in a breeze, he felt his skin prickling in gratitude, memories of chilled biting northern winds swirling about him in the gentle city breeze. Closing his eyes, he waited; the temperature of the surface of his skin slowly dropped, and it was like a weight gradually disappearing.

He inhaled deeply, and felt the cool air fill his body. The odours and smog stole the refreshment he might have gained from it; tonight he didn't care. Inhaling again, he let the cooling night settle deep within him. He moved away, shedding the rest of his clothing as he went. Crisp sheets greeted him when he lay down, the bed still cold from a shaded day in an unheated room. Soon the bed would warm from his body heat; then he would move to the floor and let the wooden boards steal the unneeded warmth away. For now he lay on the soft, thin mattress and let the waning evening gather around him sweetly, like a grandmother come to tuck him in at night.

He moved a hand to his head, brushing fingers through his hair, pressing fingertips into his skull in brief massage. Then, tracing down, he moved both hands down the sides of his neck onto his shoulders, kneading gently. There was no tension to be freed there, but it felt so good to touch himself; he left his hands in place, resting, warming cooler hands from warmer shoulders. With a outward breath he drew his hands down, onto his chest. Briefly he stilled the motion, then with a tiny smile he began to trace lightly fingertips over the areas of his chest, across peaking nipples and through chest hair.

He breathed in cool air and exhaled, feeling the smooth texture of his skin, the warmth of his belly, the ridges of his ribcage, the tiny bumps surrounding his nipples. He felt the sudden tightening of the muscles throughout his body; small shivers coarsed down his legs. He brought one hand to his face, feeling the curve of his jaw and slight stubble of his beard. With the other hand he touched his mouth, first tracing the lips then pulling on finger inside, sucking gently and licking. He traced the wet finger along his cheek, towards his ear and down the back of his neck. The night air found the moist skin and breathed like fire onto it, chilling him.

For a moment he lay still, folding his hands across his stomach and listened to his body. All his senses seemed to have heightened, waiting with breathless anticipation. He found himself grinning at the uncaring ceiling, as he made himself wait. Then he stretched his legs, placing each foot on the bed sole down. The sheets were smooth under the bottoms of his feet, he stretched his toes wide as if gathering in the still coolness of the untouched cotton.

Knees bent, he reached out and placed his palms on his thighs, then drew them slowly down. When they touched his hips he drew them out, caressing his hipbones, teasing himself and making every nerve ending flare. With a lick to his lips, he drew his hands together and placed them upon his genitals; for the first time acknowledging the firm arousal there.

At first he kept his touches soft, as he'd touched his body elsewhere. One hand cupping his testicles, the other stroked along the shaft of his penis. He stilled the one hand and focused his strokes on the penis, feeling the foreskin slip down, exposing sensitive skin beneath. After several strokes he stilled that hand and moved them other, rolling the testicles in his fingers, tugging gently at each one.

He heard his breathing- ragged in the silence of the room; the slight chill had apparently fled. Clenching his jaw, he let his upper body relax nearly limp; his legs were pressed against the mattress, pushing and holding his body still.

He let the moving hand cease its motion, leaving it cupped in place. He reached out now with the other hand, bringing his hand upwards to touch the tip of head with his thumb. Barely touching the now-throbbing organ, he moved his thumb back and forth, against and then along the slitted opening. As he moved his thumb down he felt his body shake; stiffening his arms he kept himself from responding with tumulted force. He moved his first hand, though, in concert with the one tracing his head. He tenderly dragged his fingernails across his testicles, and then maintained the motions until every muscle in his body quaked, and orgasm rushed upon him.

He kept himself from screaming by biting at his lower lip; a sharp exhale released it silently. He kept his hands moving as the energy drained from him; touching himself even as his erection softened. Legs splayed on the bed, still shaking, he remained otherwise still, placing his hands over his genitals, feeling the heat like the summer's noon sun.

Breathing deeply, he listened to his heartbeat pounding. His vision cleared, though he did not know what it was he'd been seeing. He felt the last of the energy die away as he breathed again deeply. The sheets he lay on radiated heat; he pushed himself away, rolling onto the floor. The cold wood greeted him sharply, as he dropped, contented and relaxed. The cooled night air flowed back in to surround him.

As he fell asleep he heard the sirens calling, and smiled.


~Epilogue~

Meanwhile, across the city Ray found himself hunkered down behind a broken wall; staccato sounds rattled through the alley one man fired a semi-automatic weapon into the night. Red and blue lights flared, lighting the street as cops pulled in, only to fling themselves behind engine blocks and steel building supports. Ray cursed once under his breath, but didn't really mean it. With the adrenalin flowing through his body and the shouts of backup so close by, he felt as if his body were on fire. He smiled, and waved to catch his cohort's eye.

With a quick motion, he indicated his intention; a nod from the other cop assured him the other understood. With a deep breath and a quick prayer that somebody- should it be necessary, look after his family, he shoved himself away from his protection and ran. Weaving through the piles of trash and tumbled walls, Ray reached the edge of the building they had surrounded; none of the bullets had come closer than mere inches. But now he could look up and see the two men crouched by windows, high on the rasied second floor.

One man suddenly disappeared from view; the other remained beside broken panes, firing unending rounds at the police below. Ray didn't waste time trying for a shot-- they both knew he couldn't reach the man still firing. Instead he turned his attention to the probable actions of the man who'd gone, and held his pistol ready. They'd seen him arrive and knew he was there-- the question remained, who would get the first shot.

Ignoring the motions of the friendlies around him, Ray watched for movement, above, beside him, wondering where the man had gone. Part of his mind focused on the likelihood of actions, making its guesses as to the man's new location. Suddenly Ray made his prediction and turned his head; his pistol came up before he registered the shape he saw, and fired.

Three bullets slammed into the shadow, and it fell forward, dropping a mini-Uzi. Ray swore again, this time with more feeling, and he moved forward. Above him bulletfire ceased for a reload, and he heard the echoes of a shouted demand for surrender. With the man's partner dead or apparently so, the remaining shooter fired again, wildly, aiming at nothing and everything. Answering fire came from across the building where the police had finally manuevered into position.

As Ray stood above the corpse he'd created, ensuring it was in fact deceased, he heard the silence regain the alleyway. With one last look around, he holstered his weapon and waited for those others to join him. He felt the cold night air surrounding him, and he smiled.


Winter Gale

The door slammed, and he was pleased to hear a resulting crash. Ma had always yelled at him for slamming the front door, ever since he was five years old and tall enough to push it that hard, for just that reason. He did feel his conscience enough to hope it hadn't been something valuable and unreplacable, but of course it was too late to care. He was just glad Ma wasn't home.

As he headed for the kitchen, he realised from the unusual silence that *nobody* was home. A delighted grin spread across his face; a rare occurance that just begged to be indulged. He yelled at the top of his lungs that he was home and raiding the fridge before dinner. No one complained.

Laughing, he did just that- finding something wrapped in foil which, delight again, proved to be lasagna leftover from last night. He'd missed dinner last night of course, having spent the evening chasing men with guns through city streets. It was too cold to be outside, the snow was thick and dirty and made even walking treacherous. Naturally that had induced the thieves to take to the sidewalks and alleyways, dragging their pursuer to his feet. Wasn't fair- the heater in the Riv had finally been working for the first time all week.

He'd complained about it all the way to the station, all during the paperwork, and all the way home-- nobody listened. Nobody *ever* listened anymore, but that was ok. Someday, just to be perverse, the world would listen and fix something he complained about, and then where would he be?

Ray stuck the lasagna in the oven and began hunting for more leftovers. There was no bread nor any makings for a salad, but there was a slice of chocolate mint mousse hidden behind a jug of milk. Well, he'd *tried* to find something else, hadn't he? Of course he had. Wasn't his fault he was forced to eat the mousse. He found a fork and decided that waiting for the lasagna to heat was too long to wait for dessert.

A split of Merlot joined him, and for a half hour he sat in the middle of his kitchen, eating wonderful homemade food (Ma had put mushrooms and spinach in the sauce, just like he'd always loved and Frannie always complained about) and drinking semi-expensive wine, and grinning at the fact that someone had left the heat on. His toes were beginning to mumble thanks. He sat for a moment when the food was gone, and closed his eyes. Silence, heat, full stomach.. what more could a city boy ask for?

Well, one other thing. He jumped to his feet and, leaving his dishes in the sink, he took the wine upstairs. Another nice thing about having the house to himself was it meant he had the *bathroom* to himself. No other way to have a long hot shower except to have it without interuptions. He shucked his clothes in the bedroom, and wrapped a robe around him. The silk robe slid over his skin as he walked to the bathroom, the slight coolness of the floor reminding him of the frigid air outside.

He wasted no time turning the water on, and leaned back against the laundry hamper to wait for the room to fill with steam. He refilled his wineglass, and rubbed one hand over his face. After the shower he'd head for his pillow for a long night underneath three heavy blankets, and then tomorrow.. tomorrow the same thing all over again, chasing crooks who hadn't the sense to stay inside nice warm cars. Sighing, he stretched one arm overhead, then switched the wineglass to the other hand and repeated the motion.

He really needed that hot shower. Good thing there was one right in front of him. He set the glass down within reach but out of the spray, and doffed his robe. Stepping into the shower before he had time to feel cold, his body shook at the first moment of immersion. The hot water raised goosebumps-- something he'd never understood but always enjoyed. He turned slowly, letting every inch of skin get soaked, then stood still and let the hot water soak through his skin to his muscles, bones, and whatever else was still shivering from the cold. He let out a deep breath, and moved his face under the stream.

The water poured over his eyes, down across his mouth and onto his chest, rivulets of water tracing the curves of his body as they fell. He swayed his lower body back and forth, catching the water and letting it heat him through. Turning to let it cover his backside, he tilted his head so the water got the top of his head, and he felt his scalp prickle as the heat soaked into the last few untouched spots. Groaning, he reached over for the soap.

It was an excuse to run his hands over his body and he knew it; his body knew it too, as his heart beat stirred slightly. Rubbing the unscented stuff across his palms, he lathered his hands and set the soap back in its dish. He began with his face and neck, closing his eyes and spreading soapy hands everywhere. He turned, then it was down his back as far as he could reach, then along his sides; he picked up the soap for more lather, and soaped the rest of his back. Breathing deeply, he ran his hands down, feeling the muscles relaxing under the water's and his touches. He rubbed at his neck as the water rinsed him clean, letting his head fall forward with another groan.

When his back was clean and warm, he turned and felt the water heat his chest again. He ran soapy hands quickly up and down, the touch of his skin changing ever so slightly as the sweat and dirt washed away. He rubbed his body again when his torso was clean, his hands the same temperature as the rest of him for the first time since he'd climbed out of bed. He felt good, and his body seemed to be ready for more.

Laughing at himself, he picked up the bar of soap. As if teasing a lover he continued to wash, running his hands almost impersonally over his genitals and buttocks, not quite lingering here, not quite rubbing there. When more than water had imparted its heat, he leaned forward, washing his legs. Then he stood still, letting the water rinse him clean.

When he had only his feet to go, he sat down in the tub and brought one up. He soaped it with a heavier hand, loosening the tired muscles. He moaned again unintentionally, he hadn't realised his feet were so sore. He rubbed harder, up the ankle and down the top of the foot, pressing and gently kneading until he could wriggle his toes without a twinge. He gave it another rubover, then did the same to the other foot. This time his body shook-- appreciative of an indulgence he gave himself often, which didn't diminish the way it felt, the way his entire body let go when his feet were massaged.

Leaning back in the tub, he closed his eyes and let the water cascade over him. It still felt hot, but he was no longer quite so desperate for it, warmed now and beginning to melt through the ceramic. Thoughts of the outside had almost entirely drifted away, with one touch they disappeared completely. He rubbed himself now, easily, as if not trying to arouse himself further. As he knew it would, it had only that effect, and soon he had to grip harder. His breathing had quickened and his legs tensed against the sides of the tub.

He began to shake slightly, and he reached down with the other hand and pulled gently at his testicles. Head back and moaning, he continued the motions until every muscle in his body convulsed, once, twice, then his hips canted forward on their own, thrusting into the air and hot falling water. His hand moving quickly now, he answered the need of the thrust and he came, with a deep drawn-out moan. His body shook again, then again with lessened force; then every bit of energy drained away with the water and he lay limply in the bathtub.

He kept his eyes closed, smiling as the water poured over him, washing away the semen on his stomach. He traced his fingers through it, brushing himself until he was cleaned. With a huge grin he sat up and turned the water off and asked himself, as was his habit, if he would walk or crawl to his room.


Spring Cyclone

Tomorrow it would be raining. It wasn't the scent of approaching thunderclouds, nor the weight of the increased humidity that warned him of the imminent storm. If he'd cared to notice he could have easily read those signs. Standing here, alone, window propped open wide the signs were there to be read. He wasn't reading them; he knew about the storm, though. It was inevitable- the afternoon had been spent washing the Riv, twice soaped and thrice waxed and buffed.

It had to rain.

Even he knew enough about the perversities of weather to predict rain for the morrow; he didn't regret the afternoon, though. Couldn't, and not for the expected reason that had they not washed the car it would not rain, thereby making it necessary to wash it later, after which it would rain... Had the clouds been curling up overhead when they got out the rags and chamois he still would have encouraged the activity.

For, though early spring and still not quite warm, washing a car led to shirtlessness and laughing play. Stripped down to shorts, he'd had nearly two hours of unrestricted indulgence-- staring, lusting, even the occasional bear hug as the thrown rags and stealthily directed hose got them to wrestling and jostling for the upperhand. He had been casual, oh so casual about it all. Never groped openly for any of the more enticing bits, but contented himself to friendly grabs, here and there.. a hand sliding down bare chest and across shoulders, once even grabbing those legs, as he'd crouched by the wheel with a brush.

He smiled. No, he'd not have missed washing the car for anything, short of a tornado-- and it'd have to have been next door to convince him to stop. Sighing now, he remembered the feel of his friend's skin beneath soapy fingertips. He shivered as he thought of fingers slipping across his body, in other circumstances, in other places. How easily he could slide his fingers down, around.. He gave himself a shake and opened his eyes.

Not to stop the daydream, but rather to move now, sit while his legs could still carry him. He found a seat in the chair behind him, away from the window where he could not quite look out; but then he didn't need to look out. What he wanted was inside, and he closed his eyes again. Bare skin, pale from winter and looking oh so delicious. He wondered what it would taste like.

It wasn't something he could conjure up. No matter, there were plenty of other things to enjoy, to indulge in, to distract him... Once this afternoon he'd looked up to see a soaked chamois trailing over his shoulder, plastered against his back, the dark gold setting off the pale white, and the dark brush of hair scattered across his friend's chest. His fingers had curled around his own cloth, wanting to peel the chamois away and run his hands through that dampened hair. Then he'd had to look down, quickly; now he imagined his fingers going towards the cloth, pulling it down, letting it fall to the ground at their feet.

The trail of soap bubbles along his forearms would be brushed away, smoothed into the skin as he kneeded his fingers along his lover's arms. Turning to the side, bringing his lover with him, he'd push them both against the shining fender of the Riv, the smell of fresh wax filling his lungs.

The scent of the soap, too, and the fresh spring aroma of trees and grassy lawns struggling to find themselves in the sun, all of it masking the smell of his lover's arousal; he'd lean forward then, and place his nose right into the crook of his lover's neck, and breathe deeply. The lack of detail in his dream didn't bother him, the fact that he'd be standing there, pressed so close was enough. He'd bring his hands down his lover's sides, until he found the soaked waistband of his shorts.

There he'd let his hands rest while he.. while he.. he wasn't sure what to do next. Kiss him? Look at his eyes? He could feel his erection nearly full, sitting here alone in his room. What did he want? He searched his memory, his imagination, feeling nothing strike sharply at him. The smell of the wax came back to him, and he wondered.

What *did* he smell like? When he was an hour out of his shower and the scent of soap had worn away, yet before he'd had a chance to work up any kind of sweat.. what did he smell like? He thought back-- had he ever been close enough to discover? Smelled and not quite noticed the aroma he was breathing? Would he taste the way he smelled, would they both be salty or sweet or tangy, or would one and the other not match, thereby giving him twice the discovery to anticipate?

He could see himself, walking behind him, bending close to the back of his neck and touching the skin with the tip of his tongue, taking a long, deep sniff to compare. He knew what his friend would do-- turn around, looking at him like he'd lost his mind, for what sort of person-- lover or not, targets the back of a man's neck?

He'd just smile, and move to another spot-- his hands, next, taking each one and giving them the same comparing treatment, a lick and a sniff. Then his thighs-- not high enough for the scent of his groin to distract him, then up to the small of his back, inspecting, learning, enjoying.. He shivered again at the thought of so much freedom, and then let himself move on in his dream. Pressing his face close to now-aroused genitals, not yet touching, then standing slowly and tasting his mouth for the first time...

He wanted it, he wanted so badly... he squeezed his eyes closed as he came, hands gripping the wooden seat of the chair, gritting his teeth so he would not cry out. It was only when he relaxed, felt his body trembling in aftershock, that he realised he'd never touched himself. He smiled. 'If you can do that to me in my dreams, love, what will you do for me when I touch you for real?'

Taking a deep breath, he stood up and went for a washcloth, lightly tracing his fingers along his stomach. He smiled in mellow consideration of his dreams. Would he have the courage to really do those things, if he ever found himself with the chance? Or would he be overcome with the need to feel, and press their bodies close, reaching for orgasm before either had the time to do more than register the fact that they were together, naked, making love?

Maybe he'd have the courage. Maybe he wouldn't. Maybe he'd never find out. Maybe he'd have years to work his way up to it, celebrating an anniversary by indulging in daydreams. Maybe he'd only indulge in daydreams.

Maybe next week, they could wash the car again.

Two men, two rooms, two single beds. Lying in the darkness falling asleep smiling. One dream.


Summer Simoon

He knew for a fact his heart wasn't beating. Well, actually that wasn't quite true-- if anyone had asked, and he hadn't been distracted by wondering why the hell the person was asking such a weird question in the middle of.. Well if he'd been asked he'd say for certain it wasn't beating. But he was only looking at the closing metal doors and fighting back a scream of rage.. or was it fear? Maybe they were the same thing, when you got right down to it. Screaming, sure, that he knew he could do. But pumping blood? Breathing? Not a chance.

He didn't pull forward because some part of his brain had already registered the presence of a restraining hand; he'd pulled against it once and found not even an inch of give. So he stood still, waiting, being a good boy and not protesting, not even trying to break free. And wanting to scream. There might have been sounds, sirens or voices or something, but all he heard was the resounding thud of metal on metal, huge and thick and solid and unlikely to open again in time for...

"Ray?"

This time he knew his heart wasn't beating. He spun, jaw dropping and knowing that yes now he could scream, so would the vocal chords please come online? Or wait a minute, maybe there was something else to do first..

"Benny? You're out?"

It sounded like a stupid question, considering that the man he was talking to, looking at, wanting to grab ahold of and run away with was in fact standing in front of him, well outside the locked metal doors. But his friend forgave him, probably because he could tell that Ray's mind had frozen with his heartbeat, standing still because this.. this just wasn't happening, was it?

"I'm all right, Ray."

He felt another hand on his arm, the first one fell away and probably its owner walked off but really, the only one he saw was Benny. Standing there. Here. Outside.

"Benny?"

His voice didn't sound quite right. He wondered if Benny could tell.

"I wasn't in the van, Ray."

"You're.. you're not in..you're.."

Benny just stared at him. That was fine, because there wasn't much else he could deal with. Questions, moving, all of it not on the schedule. Couldn't be, since it would just go undone. He stared, seeing eyes and a face and a person he'd sworn had just gone to his death-- long and painful, baking and suffocating in a strong box no one would be able to open for two days, well after the 95 degree heat and airtight walls had done their work.

They'd been warned, just that morning, about the danger. Everyone had volunteered to stay clear of it, then Benny had had to go and be a hero and jumped on the van which the accidental murderer was driving, trying to get away, trying to avoid a fate worse than death-- did he know? Was it an accident? Ray didn't have time to wonder about the frightened man's motives because he'd seen Fraser jump onto the van and struggle inside the cab, and then he'd seen it roll into the overgrown vault after which the door swung closed and everything had just stopped.

"Benny?" He could tell his voice was softer that time. Maybe he believed he was seeing the man before him. Maybe his brain just couldn't find the energy to devote to nuisances like volume.

"Ray? I'm all right."

This time he heard concern instead of.. what was it he'd heard the first time? It was something he knew well, oh yes. That voice that said 'I know you're going to scold me for doing something I had to do, which I'll do again, so you may as well get your yelling over with and we can get on with things'. That tone. As if everything were perfectly normal.

Ray wanted to grab him tightly and not let go until someone came over and said 'reports due by five'.

"Ray, you're crying."

The whisper didn't quite register. But Benny had moved closer and that was perfect. Something brushed his face and it felt a lot like fingers wiping away tears- his mother had done it enough times when he was very young, one of those things you never forgot even when you're too old for such maternal ministrations-- for Ray that had been age seven, but only because one of the other kids had teased him. But Ma wasn't here, so it must have been something else.

"Ray?" The concern was back, sharp enough that he was able to wonder why. Was someone in trouble? He wasn't sure he could deal with that because that would mean Benny'd leave, go off and rescue whomever it was and leave him here. He grabbed on, finding a sleeve crumpling beneath his fingers. It didn't feel right, stiff and gritty; he blinked and looked down. Benny was covered in mud, dirt, and who knew what else.

"You're dirty."

"Yes. I leapt off the van and rolled. Ray, what's wrong?"

Ray only stared. Another stupid question. But Benny looked so concerned, so worried. He hated it when Benny looked like that.

"I love you."

He stared at Benny, seeing now the dirt on his face, the grime covering up features he knew too well. Maybe he should wipe it off? Perhaps he had a handkerchief or something. His moved his hand and only his fingers wiggled. But Benny was frowning at him and he wondered what was wrong.

"Oh."

Benny took his hand and pulled at him, and they went somewhere and sat down. A car, sitting sideways with the cardoor swung wide open; funny he could see that and not figure out whose car it was. He liked its colour, he'd had a car once this colour. Hadn't he? Benny put a blanket around him and it occurred to him that being wrapped in a blanket in the middle of July wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever done. Before he could say anything his hands were being brought up, placed around a thermos lid. He took a drink.

"It's coffee."

"Yes, Ray."

That tone again.. wasn't it? No, it wasn't. He looked at Benny, crouched now beside him, looking up at him as if waiting. Patiently, if he knew his Benny. Always waiting so patiently.

"Benny?"

"Yes, Ray?"

Yeah, it was that tone. The tone he liked best, the one he sometimes wished he could ellicit whenever he wanted, except he hadn't learned the trick of it yet. Didn't know what made his friend sound quite that.. whatever.

"Are you ok?"

Benny grinned at him and he knew what that tone was called. "I'm fine, Ray. Just fine."

"Good. I thought you'd been killed." Hadn't he wanted to scream? He couldn't remember now. Didn't matter, because Benny's hand was on his knee, holding him still. Holding which of them still? Surely Benny could balance on his heels without holding onto something.

"I know. I'm sorry, Ray."

"As long as you're ok. I don't mind, as long as you're ok."

He really didn't. Even though he scolded a lot, he knew Benny wasn't going to listen to him. It wasn't why he scolded; he didn't mind Benny playing hero. He was rather proud, in fact. But only so long as Benny wasn't hurt. That was the deal. Benny could rescue anyone and anything he wanted, as long as he didn't get hurt. Who had he bargined with? Had he asked God? Or had he asked Benny? Someone who knew how to keep promises and their end of bargins.

"I think I'd best take you home."

Benny pushed his legs, turning him sideways to sit in the car. He waited as Benny shut the door, and got in beside him, in the driver's seat. Did Benny know how to drive?

"Benny?"

"Yes, Ray?" Yeah, that was the tone. He smiled. Maybe he didn't have to trick Benny into sounding like that, because here he'd done it three times.. four? and he hadn't had to do a thing to make him do it. He smiled.

"Ray?"

He looked over and grinned. Benny was driving his car. "Yeah?"

"I love you, too."

How could a face look like a tone of voice? He didn't know, but someday he'd ask. Benny probably knew, probably read a book or heard an Innuit story or some such Canadian Super Mountie thing. He turned back to watch the streets, and count how many stopsigns they didn't run.

"Cool."

What happened?