Disclaimer: Character's owned by Alliance (we think, we're new to Due South, so give us the benefit of the doubt, okay?). Written for therapy, not profit. No harm done, don't sue us, we're financially challenged slackers.

Rating: A hardcore NC-17 for m/m S&M sex, violence and language.

Warning: If you can't handle Fraser beating Ray(K), you don't want to read this. We'd label this one "Dangerously dsyfunctional dominance and submission." Hope that gives you a good idea of what you're getting into. -:)

Dedication: For Melissa.

When The Whip Comes Down

By Zen&nancy

He answers my knock still mostly in uniform, although I know he's been off duty for hours. Okay, it's not knocking, it's pounding. He's still in his boots and black pants and belt, but the red serge must be hanging neatly in the closet. I can see the base of his neck above the white collar, and navy blue suspenders over the bulky undershirt; more of him than most of the world sees. The Dragon Lady's gone home for the night, and since Fraser's the one to answer the door, I can safely assume Turnbull has, as well. It's late, way too late for me to come up with any credible excuse for being here. Usually, I can come up with some kind of cockamamie reason for waking him up after he's been asleep for a good four or five hours, but tonight, I come up dry. That's what I am, high and dry and just about to catch and burn like a forest fire, outta control. Control I tell myself grimly, stepping into the dark hallway without a word.

He doesn't look all that surprised, or especially happy to see me, either. He doesn't give me any kind of indication of how this is going to go until we get down the hall and back into his little room, into the light. He starts talking as soon as we're through the doorway, before he turns around to look at me. When he does, he stops short, and asks a different question.

"Ray, I thought we agreed that this wasn't going to happen any- why are you dressed like that?"

Not quite what I want, but more reaction than I was expecting. I watch him through my lashes, squinting at him aggressively, intentionally jutting out my chin and leaning back just a little to even out the height thing, and look him directly in the eye. We're almost the same height, but not exactly. In his Mountie boots, he's got an inch and a half on me. I have to think about how predictable that is, how infuriatingly accurate a metaphor it is for this whole entire thing. He's always just a little taller, a little smarter, a little faster, a little bit more smug when he's right, and a little bit colder when he's wrong. He's got me, got my number coming and going, and he fuckin' knows it. Uses it, too, in a bad way, every chance he gets, every chance I give him.

So I just tilt my head back and squint my eyes and watch him take in the faded-to-shreds-and-rags skin-tight blue jeans, the lack of t-shirt, the black leather jacket and the sweat and arousal pouring off my body. Even I can smell it; I know he can. I catch him taking one obvious little sniff, and smirk at him, hoping like hell that it's going to cost me as bad as I think it's going to cost me.

It does, big time. He takes two steps towards me, and grabs me by the collar of the jacket with both hands, fists curling up in leather on either side of my throat.

"What do you think you're doing? What are you doing, out at night like this? Answer me!"

All kinds of ugly shit that's been tearing me up inside, all the way through this rotten day, caves in inside me, burns a hole through my stomach and chokes up my throat. I feel like I have ashes in my mouth, like I'm being burned to death from the inside. I make myself stare right into his eyes, spitting the truth out at him. This is my last-ditch effort, the only way I know how, and he better well fucking realize it. He knows why I'm here, but he wants to hear me say it. I take a deep breath and start talking.

"I fucked up, again. I was wrong. We shoulda' gone with your plan. You know it an' I know it and I can say it till I'm blue in the face, but it's not gonna do any good. It's not gonna stop you from being pissed off and treating me like dirt for the next couple a' weeks and reminding me of it every chance you get. It's not gonna change what happened out there today, or last week, or last month or last year. I wanna even the score. I'm here to pay up... Just like always."

That last shot was well planned-- he doesn't like being reminded that we have a history going here, that this isn't the first time I've come to him to get what I can't get anywhere else. Every time, he forbids me from showing up here again, Every time, he says it's the last. I know it's never going to be the last time, not while I'm alive and he's here, available, easy. Not as long as he needs it, too.

"Ray..." He shuts me up as soon as I try to interrupt him, clamping one hand down over my open mouth, hard, sealing off the air. I don't let myself breathe through my nose for a long time, until he stops talking. The instinct is to bite down on his hand, hard, sink my teeth into flesh and force some action. I knew when I came here that I might have to. Might have to get violent with him to get what I want out of him, but I'm willing to take that risk. I hold out, forcing myself to listen to him. Sometimes, he sends me away. He freaks out on me and kicks me out and I feel like a real bastard for not giving a shit about how much it screws him up; but mostly, I just feel like a piece of trash for needing it so bad in the first place. If he tries to pull that shit on me tonight I'm gonna kick him in the fuckin' head.

"I understand what you're saying, although I'm by no means convinced that you do, at this point. However, none of that does anything to explain your attire. Where have you been?"

I let out a grunt of frustration around his hand that says you gotta let go if you want me to talk, asshole. He does, giving me that tiny, tight nod of acceptance that says he knows I'm right and he's gonna hold a grudge about it. I must see that little nod five or six times a day. I lick my lips, slowly, tasting the salt of sweat on my upper lip, rough stubble and grit, and hit him with the cold, calculated truth.

"Out cruisin' the leather bars on Halsted, looking for somebody to give me what I deserve, what you don't wanna give me. Got turned down a buncha times, so I thought I'd come over here. How does it feel to be last on my list, Frase?"

Bang; bull's eye. His left hand is still curled up in the collar of my leather, he grabs the other side, choking me to hold me still while he cracks me across my cheek with the other hand, harder than I've ever been slapped in my life.

"Not a smart course of action. Get those rags off your legs." He's not letting go of my collar, the leather is tight against my throat and I'm getting really irritated about it. About the fact that I'm still on my feet, and it still hurts a hell of a lot more on the inside than it does on the outside. None of this is happening fast enough.

On the other hand... I may have to give him timing. As soon as my hands go up he punches his fist right into my throat, and I land on my ass faster than I can think. Just boom, impact; no air, my ass smacks the floor.

"Keep your hands below your waist. Are you going to get out of those things or am I going to have to cut them off you?" Man he sounds furious. I think I got him where he lives this time.

"Uh-huh." I mumble in total agreement, twisting my hips violently to struggle out of the jeans. I don't touch the leather jacket, I can't get it off without raising my hands unless I do some serious contortions and look like fish flopping around on the floor. If he wants it off he can take it off himself. I'm not wearing underwear; I kick off my sneakers and socks without being told to.

"Up!" A solid kick lands in my stomach, and my hands smack the floor, the only way to keep myself from following the natural urge to raise them and cover myself. "You have five seconds to get yourself on your feet and laid out over that desk. One. Two. Three. Four."

The desk is covered with papers and folders and a blotter and all kinds of shit, but I don't dare to sweep it onto the floor. The very idea of destroying all his neatly organized piles is insane. If I push outside the boundaries, I won't get when I want out of him. So I just lay down on top of everything, hoping that I don't ruin any of his papers while he's beating the crap out of me. There's a glass paperweight that's cold and uncomfortable against my ribs.

Buckles and snaps pop behind me, and I hear his belt being yanked through loops, and finally, I can be sure I'm going to get it. Relief floods my bloodstream, mixing with the andrenaline, and for the first time all day, I relax. He's not going to give me a second of warning, the mean bastard. Not a word, not even the hint of a way out of this beating I'm about to take. That's good, that's what I came here for, but there's still a part of me that's resentful, that wants him to say something, to acknowledge that he wants this just as badly as I do. I must be out of my mind. Fraser, admitting to weakness? To anger? To the desire to make me hurt, to get a piece of me, to prove once and for all he really is bigger and stronger and a better shot and a better cop and a better man? I must be whacked.

The belt comes down on my bare ass and impact cuts off my breath; flat, hard, faster than I expected it and pushing me up a good two inches on the desk, the corner of a book digging into my belly. No warning slap, no build up, no petting or foreplay, just the belt, as hard as he's gonna give it to me. That's my Fraser. Fraser will never toy with you, he will never bullshit you or cushion the blow. He'll give it to you straight, every time, even if it kills you. Pain blooms and spreads like fire, my skin prickling and swelling with the burn as he lays into me. I start counting, breathing and counting and rolling my shoulders. I let myself howl after ten, I really have to.

He's totally focussed; every blow is exactly the same, the same strength, the same speed, the same ear splitting crack of leather on my skin. Pain that builds slowly, each individual strike perfect and accurate, like the begining of a symphony. He doesn't give me even one breath between them, and when I get to thirty-five I have to stop counting and concentrate on keeping my body from sliding down the desk, keeping my feet planted on the floor and my knees from buckling. I'm starting to get scared, to think that he's got a lot more rage in his right arm tonight than I've got burning through my gut, that he can probably outlast me any day of the week. I'm choking on the air I get between blows, snot running out my nose and blood in my mouth, my face pressed so hard to the wood grain of the desk that I can't see anything.

He doesn't stop, or even pause to switch hands, and I'm screaming, sobbing out wordless declarations of pain and repentance while he whales away on my ass. I think I can feel blisters forming, the skin getting tighter and tighter until it's going to split. I lose track of my count, of who's hitting me, of everything. I howl for the sake of hearing my own voice, the pain starting to spread out inside me under the surface, the poison in my gut dissolving as the blows continue. It's getting better again, getting to that place where I like it, where I know I can take it. I wonder if he's aware of the ups and downs I go through while he's beating me, how much it actually takes for me to stand still for this, to stay on my feet. I have the sneaking suspicion that if he does know, he doesn't care.

I'm thinking too much, and I try to tell myself to focus, to just take what I need and stop wishing for more from him, for things I'm never gonna get. It seems like it's going to go on forever, but finally, I hear his voice behind me, grunting a little with the effort he's putting into this.

I realize he's counting, finishing it for me. "98... 99... 100."

I don't stop yelling when he stops hitting me, because it takes me a while to realize it's over. He waits behind me, doesn't say a word. I'm not going to get up until I'm ordered to, mostly because I know I can't; if I try to peel myself up off this desk I'll pass out. There are a number of unidentified objects poking me in the chest and stomach, and my arms are numb, stretched out over my head and hanging on to the far side of the desk, my fingers curled around the edge. Pain is rolling through my whole body in crashing waves, my head is so light I can't believe it's still attached, and my hearing is intently focussed on him panting behind me. At least I wore him out a little, that's something.

"Can you get up, Ray?" He asks me quietly, in a monotone, revealing nothing.

"Not just yet." I force the words out, giving it everything I've got left in me. I manage to sound something close to normal.

"Then let me help you." He grabs me by the back of the collar and hauls me to my feet, holding me up until I get my balance. I stand there, swaying and trying to get my eyes to focus on him. He's blurry. I feel so many things when I look at him that I can't even figure out which thing I want to feel; adoration, jealousy, longing and hate. Wanting him to want me more than he does, and wishing that I didn't need this at all. He's so gorgeous like this, breathing hard, red in the face from the effort he put into me.

"Do you feel better, Ray?"

"Yeah. Are we even?" I don't even know why I ask. We're never going to be even, and it's obvious that neither one of us wants it to be. I just wish to God he could let it be a little more personal, a little more me and him together instead of him against me and me against him.

"Do you want us to be even, Ray?" He asks me, sounding like he already knows the answer. We've been through all this shit before.

"Nah..." I'm going to fall. I don't know if he reads me, or if it's just nice timing, but he barks out "Knees!" just before mine give, and sinking to the floor in front of him turns into doing what he tells me. That's good. I'm not ready for any more of his discipline yet.

"Don't ever think that you can get this from anyone else." He grabs a handful of my hair, jerking my head up to look at him. I'm panting, my face is a mess and I can't feel anything but my blistered ass throbbing, and I feel like I'm gonna explode. Just explode with victory and joy and satisfaction, because I can hear it, how bad he needs me to need him, to submit to him and only him.

"I need you, Fraser." I wheeze up at him, hacking a little when I try and get a deep breath in my lungs.

"I know, Ray." He turns his back to me and I realize the hands hanging limply at his sides are shaking. "We're even. Now get out. Go home, Ray."

He's pissed; really, truly furious. He only shakes like that when he's mad, if he's scared he holds real still, tightens up like a spring ready to pop. What if I don't wanna to go home now? What if it doesn't feel like this is over, what if it feels like it's just the beginning?

"Whatsa matter, Frase? Did you lose a little control there? You a little freaked out?" I've never taunted him with it like this before. I usually just pull my pants up and let him walk me to the door while I'm staring at my feet, like a dog with it's tail between it's legs. Not this time. This time, I'm gonna get to him as bad as he got to me, even if I have to destroy this entire messed up relationship to do it. He's never gone that far before, I usually can't get more than twenty good smacks out of him. Tonight, he let go, and now it's my turn.

"Maybe you're just not man enough to admit how much you like whaling on my ass. I guess you're just a screwed up closet queer. A fairy who doesn't have the balls to take what he wants when it's right here in front of him. I shouldda figured." If my voice sounds just as defensive as it does furious, it's because I've been here too many times before, with too many men, men who didn't even care about me as much he does. I'm sick to death of being forced into this place where I feel like a monster, like the sick, twisted catalyst that causes all this denial and pain.

I dislike hate rhetoric just as much as he does, and he knows it, but it's working; I'm pushing his buttons, big time. I can see it even with his back turned; the way his shoulders slump and his head drops down. Oh yeah, I'm getting to him. Why do I gotta do this to you, Fraser? Why do you gotta make me hurt you so bad just to get what you want? Just who's the fuckin' masochist here, anyway?

"Ray, get out. Go home. Put some disinfectant on that before you go to bed. I broke the skin." He sounds weary, exhausted, like if he has to deal with me for another minute it'll be too much for him.

He broke the skin. Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. The man has a beautiful arm. "I think you should do it for me. After all, yer the one who did the damage."

He lets out a sound of exasperation, and then he's spinning around, hauling me to my feet by a fistful of the collar of my leather and some of my hair. I stand there with my hands behind my back, rubbing my blistered, throbbing asscheeks and staring him down.

"Very well, as you wish. Lay down on the cot, I'll be right back."

I don't have much time to wonder if this is a mistake. He's back as soon as I get myself settled on his bedroll, with four little square white packets in his hand. Alcohol wipes, from the first aid kit. What the fuck is wrong with Neosporin? This isn't exactly what I had in mind, and I start to tell him so, but he just sits down on my thighs and pushes my face into his pillow.

"Shut up, Ray. I don't want to hear it."

I bite into cotton and feathers and howl enough to wake up the wolf, asleep in the corner by the filing cabinet. Dief just looks at me like I'm out of my mind, and puts his head back down on his paws again with a huff.

"Owwwww! Ow! Ow! Ow! Shit-fuck-ow!"

My yelping doesn't seem to have any effect on him. He drags the wet alcohol wipe over my welts rougher than he needs to, without saying a word about it. I can feel the heat radiating off his body on top of me, I can feel his rage, but unless I can figure out exactly which button to push, which way to lean, that's about all I'm going to get of it, and I want more. Even if I'm not sure I can handle more of what he's got boiling over in there, I want it. He leaves me so alone.

"Quit complaining. You asked for it."

He's got me there. I sure did. Now if only it worked that way all the time; ask and ye shall receive. Not with Fraser, not unless I'm real careful about how I ask. Getting him to clean me up was easy, I had guilt going for me there. Getting anything else out of him tonight isn't going to be that simple.

I hate this. I'm not up to the fight and I know it, and I don't want to lose tonight. I wanna win. I don't want to get sent home like I'm a kid that's getting kicked out of school for the day now that I've taken my licks. If I were smarter, better with words, I could handle this; I could make him give it up for real, but I'm not. I don't know how to deal in anything but plain words, direct demands and submission, a winner and a loser, a right and a wrong. Fraser doesn't want it that way. That would be way too fuckin' simple for him; too honest. Maybe even too kind. He only wants a slice, not the whole pie. He wants to be able to excuse these bizarre night visits; kick me out when he's done whaling on me, and sleep safe and untouched and alone on his cot on the floor. He probably doesn't even let himself jack off after I leave.

"Ya got one hell of an arm, Ben. I gotta give ya that."

"Thank you." His answer is tight and clipped, trying to discourage me from further conversation and letting me know he's not all that happy about the familiarity of the 'Ben'."

Yeah, well, maybe I feel like taking some fuckin' liberties. I deserve it. I just let him crack me over the ass with his Sam Browne a hundred times, I think that puts us into first name territory here. Actually, he always calls me 'Ray', like he's gotta convince himself that's who I am. I'm the only one who's expected to stick to the macho, last-name-only cop thing. Well, that's okay with me, I get what I need out of 'Fraser', and I'm self-aware enough to admit that I wouldn't even know where to start with Ben.

It hurts like hell, what he's doing, but it's over fast. There's a long, awkward moment where he doesn't move and I don't move and I'm waiting for him to touch me but he doesn't. I'm buzzing on the burn, and I'm exhausted, and I'd rather take anything he can dish out than have to pick myself up and shuffle down that long dark hallway and make that long, dark drive back to my apartment. I've been here before in my life, plenty of times, but I've never felt it as sharply, like a knife in my gut; I got nothing here to lose. I guess that's why I start talking.

"You know somethin'?"

"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me."

"We're like a couple of sponges, suckin' up each other's anger. It goes back and forth but it never goes anywhere. Why is that, Fraser?"

"Perhaps because you don't want it to." Is the cold, snotty, sarcastic answer I get. Man, he can be a bastard when he wants to be, when he's putting up all his walls, protecting his fury. Ice prince of the frozen tundra.

"What the fuck does that mean? What does that mean-- because I don't want it to?" I couldn't be in a more helpless or more vulnerable position. I'm naked, I'm in a hell of a lot of pain, and he's on top of me. I'm not ready for this, but if I don't push now it's never gonna happen.

He springs up off me like a shot, and I make myself roll over so I can at least look up at him. It's a matter of pride. I know what kind of pain is coming when my welted, burning skin touches his rough blanket, but I tell myself it's worth it, that I gotta be able to see his face. Forcing my body to move, I clench my teeth and my fists, getting ready for it. It's ugly, my eyes water and I let out a groan, but on the next breath I take a good shot at looking up at him attentively while he shouts at me.

"It means, Ray, that you will take what you need under any circumstances. You'll get what you need and damn everyone else to hell."

Holy shit, he swore. I don't think I ever seen him this close to poppin' before. A thrill runs down my spine, and I get reckless.

"Ain't that the pot callin' the kettle black? Who's the selfish bastard here, Fraser? You're the one that kicks me out. You're the one who can't handle it. You're a fuckin' mess."

"I'm a mess? Look at yourself! Look at yourself, Ray!"

His whole body is shaking now, and I'm a little unsure about the territory here. I might have been pushing the wrong buttons, after all. He looks like he's about to have a nervous breakdown. Come on, Frase, don't crack up on me; just take a good look at it and stop hating yourself and me and everything so much. It's not that bad, I seen worse, I seen people in more unhappy situations than us. At least we like each other half the time. At least we have that partnership thing that sneaks up and kicks in on us when we're not trying so damn hard. When we're not pretending I'm somebody else.

For a whole minute, we just stare each other down. His face is harder to read looking up at him from the floor. I don't know what else to say, how else to get it out on the table, and I feel like I'm losing, like it's about to cave in on me all over again. I hate him for this, for making me feel this bad for needing him.

"Answer me one question, Ben."

"Will you get out of my bed?"

It's always a bargain, it always costs. I get nothing from him for free. "Yeah, I'll get up."

"Fine. Ask."

"Why do you do it?"

"Why do I do what?" It's like a natural thing for him, instinctive, this denial. Backing away from me at every step, refusing to admit even the littlest, most innocent things, like being in synch and knowing what the hell I'm talking about without me having to spell it out for him. He makes me explain, every time.

"Why do you beat me?"

"Because you need it."



"Fraser, I been bent all my life. I known a lot of Sadists and a lotta people that thought they were. You can't teach somebody to hit the way you hit me. You can't make somebody like it. They either do or they don't. You hit me because you like it, and you're damn good at it. And that freaks you out, so you kick me out as soon as you're done and you blame it all on me and you pretend like it never happened. That's not healthy, Fraser, it's not healthy at all. But you know somethin'? You want the bottom line here? You're right, I don't care. I don't care if you do it because I'm not Vecchio and you're stuck here with some whacked out guy who makes you nuts, I don't care if you do it because you can't get off or because I'm just an easy, available target. I don't care. But you do it, Fraser, because you like it."

"Are you finished?" He asks grudgingly, looking down at me pointedly on his bed.

"Yeah. I'm movin'. Yeah, I'm done." I mumble, more to myself than to him. Pushing myself up on my knees, I let out a groan, breaking out in a fresh sweat from the pain.

I'm surprised when he sticks his hand out, offering help. It's just a hand up, but it means a hell of a lot to me.

"Thanks." I give him my hand and let him pull me up on my feet.

"You're welcome."

I'm dizzy, having a hard time finding my balance. There's a strong hand under my elbow, keeping me on my feet when I stumble.


"Yes, Fraser?"

"You're right."

He says it like he hates it, and somehow he makes me feel like I lost, even though I won.

"Yeah, I know."

"I hit you because you're not him."

There it is, the one thing I don't want to hear, the truth. Shit, it hurts.

"Yeah, I know, Frase." I say it again; it doesn't seem like there's anything else to say.

"Why do you let me, if you know?"

I give him a smile that feels like an apology. "Cause it doesn't matter, Fraser. I still need you."

"I'm sorry, Ray."

"Fraser, don't, just don't."

We're lost. More lost than we were in that baby submarine swimming around in the dark water. Neither one of us has any idea where to go from here. I don't want pity, just his strong right arm and his belt and his rage. I don't want to be Ray for him; I don't want this to have anything to do with everything else. I want this to be just about me and him, but it's not. Vecchio's smack dab in the middle of it, and there's no sense in either one of us denying it anymore. If it weren't for Ray Vecchio, I wouldn't be here, that's the bottom line. Cut your losses, Kowalski. Put your pants on and pull yourself together and salvage what you can salvage and go home.

"Thanks for being straight with me, Frase."

"You're welcome, Ray."

"Yeah, well, I appreciate it."

The hard on that was so easy not to think about when I was lying on my belly is painfully obvious now that I'm standing in front of him, but I don't try to cover myself. It's not like it's the first time he's seen me naked. I walk stiffly to the other side of the room, where my jeans and socks and shoes are piled on the floor.

"Ray... wait."

"Okay." I tell him, standing next to my things. I turn to face him, my hands behind my back.

"Don't you want to do something about that?" He asks me softly, nodding at my dick, standing straight up against my belly.

"Here? Now?" I know I sound like a moron, but I'm pretty well baffled. I feel like I just walked into an entirely different movie than the one I was watching five minutes ago.

"Yes here, yes now... Unless you'd rather not?"

I feel like I've already been through the blender and now he's hit frappe. "I'm a little confused here, Fraser, and I'm not all that good with choices, either." I remind him, 'cause I'm pissed off about being given options to begin with. I don't do real good with free will and sex; it tends to get me into a whole lot of emotional shit I can't handle, and he knows it.

"Very well. Stand still, put your hands behind your head, interlock your fingers. Stay silent, I don't want you to say anything, and I don't want you to make any noise.

"Understood." I give him a cocky smile, 'cause I'm scared shitless.

He comes and stands right in front of me, his face only an inch from mine.

"Close your eyes, Ray."

I do it, but I'm asking myself if he wants me to so that he doesn't have to look at me, or because he doesn't want me to see him.

He's never touched me, and he makes me wait a long, long time for it. Minutes tick by, and I fight the urge to open my eyes, the argument running in a constant loop in my head.

I jump when he touches me. Not my dick, my face. His hands touch my cheeks, cupping my face in his palms; his thumbs brush back and forth over my cheekbones. He couldn't have rattled me any more if he'd knocked me flat on my ass. I won't open my eyes, no matter what, and I'm very, very glad that he told me to close them.

Very slowly, his hands slide down my body. There's another long minute of waiting before he wraps his hand around me, and I can't tell with my eyes closed if it's hesitation or if he just likes making me wait. Oh, but it's great when he does. He does touch me, he does stroke me and squeeze me and pump it so nice and smooth and sweet. Ah, shit, Fraser, you knew what you were doing when you told me not to talk. I should be grateful.

I'm standing stock-still, execution style, getting the nicest handjob I've ever had in my life, and something horrible clicks inside me, like the hammer falling on a .45 It just hits me, how horrible it is that I can't look at him and he won't look at me and still he's going to touch me this gently, making it feel so good, so good that I'm not even sure if I'm gonna come or just pass out on him. Faster, Fraser, please, oh god-fuck-shit-yeah. I'm holding out on him, but it's not for lack of trying. I'm hyperventilating, my eyes are squeezed up so tight I'm seeing bright flashes of colored dots behind the lids, and I can't come. Not like this, not blind and silent and alone.

"Come." He whispers it, soft and persuasive and as far gone as I am I can still tell from the way his breath hits my face that he is very, very close to me. A fraction of an inch and his lips would be on my mouth. Swallowing the kind of sounds that are trying to come out of me hurts worse than the rubbing alcohol did. I need more, and I can't tell him and it almost sends me into a full-scale panic, but somehow he can see what's happening, and he slaps me across the face. Nice and hard and very, very personal. His lips hover against my ear, "Come." One more sharp, stinging slap is all it takes to send me right over the edge. I gasp and wheeze and try as hard as I can not to make any noise, but in the end a high, keening wail comes out of me as I erupt in his hand.

As bad as I wanted to open my eyes when he was touching me, that's how bad I don't want to have to now. When I finally force myself to, he's standing next to the desk, cleaning off his hand with some kleenex.

"Ray, I think you should probably go home now and get some sleep." His voice is shaking, and he's still got his back to me. I have a feeling he's not going to turn around until I put my clothes on.

I shake my head, hard, trying to get myself together. There's not much left of me to pull together, period. I feel like I'm in shreds all over his floor. I watch his shoulders, so tense and I can see the tension all the way down his spine. I've gotten really good at reading his body language over the last few months, and now, I think, he wants me to stay. But he won't ask for it, not ever, and maybe it's better that way. Or maybe I'm just a selfish bastard after all, but I'm too tired and too sore and too exhausted to try to make him talk to me again. So I gather up my jeans and socks and shoes and move to the corner to get dressed. I wonder what this really means about us; that after he beats me and I come for him we're left standing with our backs to each other without a word.

"You don't have to see me out." My voice is too loud in the silence.

"Goodnight, Ray."

There's so much pain in his voice that it literally makes me stagger back a step, but I keep moving, slowly, towards the door.


I shuffle down the dark hallway, still picturing him standing so tall and stiff and scared next to his desk. Somehow I know he hasn't moved an inch, he's still standing there, listening to me. I feel a hell of a lot better than I did when I walked in here tonight, but I don't know how many more of these late night visits either of us can bear. Somewhere, somehow, something's gotta break. All I can hope is that whatever's left, when it does, will be worth keeping.


Yeah, some called me garbage

When I was sleeping on the street

I never roll

And I never cheat

I'm filling a need

I'm plugging a hole

My mama's so glad

I ain't on the dole

When the whip comes down

When the whip comes down

When the whip comes down

When the whip comes down

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