Debra Fran Baker

"A man can only take so much, you know, Benny?" Ray sat on Fraser's bed, his eyes still red. For that matter, his shirt still red.

"I know, Ray. It has been a hard week for me, as well, and you have lost far more than I." He leaned against the bed frame, holding a book of matches from that restaurant. Ray remembered the restaurant. He remembered Louie laughing, and how it felt to hold Irene in his arms again. And how dark Frank's eyes looked across the room. And, later, how brightly his car burned.

"Funny how priorities are."

"Indeed." Fraser clearly did not see, but he was being polite. Right now, Ray would take polite. He'd take anything from Benny, if Benny only knew it.

"Couple weeks ago, I'd have said I'd never get over losing another Riv, but right now I can't feel anything. I mean, I can't even feel much about Louie or...or them, let alone a stupid car. Do you know how it feels to feel nothing?"

"Yes. Yes, I do. It's not like a hand falling asleep. It's more like frostbite - it's numb but it hurts and it creeps. And you don't think you'll ever feel warm again." Fraser turned around so he was on his knees facing the cot. "And then you do feel again, and it hurts more than the numbness, but it's still better."

"I'm numb, Benny. I'm covered in frostbite. I need...I need..." Ray didn't know what he needed, except whatever it was lay deep in Fraser's eyes, and he couldn't stop looking for it.

"I know. And if you'll allow me, Ray, I'll help you as much as I can." Fraser smiled softly.

His lips looked warm. And with that thought, Ray knew what he wanted, and what Fraser meant and for that moment - if only for that moment, it was right and good. He leaned forward.

Fraser's lips were warm. And gentle. And Ray could feel himself thaw and melt into Fraser's arms.

Copyright 2001 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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