Pairing: Ray/Brad, kid
Word Count: 10,000+
Disclaimer: None of the following is based in fact.
Notes: This legit wouldn’t have gotten done without meeks00 and her magical powers of awesomeness.
Summary: Ray has a daughter and never joins the Marines. He ends up meeting Brad anyway (of course!).
A hand squeezed.
Born Dec. 26, 6:47pm, 6lbs 8oz., ruff of dark hair, blue eyes.
Pronounced dead. 7:15pm.
Brown eyes sad. Torn by grief and joy. Holds baby for the first time at 7:15:30 p.m. They both cry.
Ray doesn’t let the baby go for four days straight. Holds on tight during the funeral. She sleeps in his arms while people walk by giving their condolences; nobody seems to know what to say. And then he cries with her when neither can sleep. Just waiting for things to get better. Praying things will get better.
“What do I do?” Ray asks the baby as he rocks her, hoping nobody can hear him ask, wanting someone to answer him.
They hadn’t been married, he and the mother, but they had been dating for a while. The baby wasn’t planned or anything, both of them only out of high school by a couple of years. But Ray knew he would do right by them any way he could, the baby he hadn’t met yet, and his girlfriend.
This, however, he didn’t think he was ready for.
“How the fuck do I raise her?” he asks his momma late at night.
“Routines, routines, and more routines,” she tells him. “You get up, shower, eat, feed her, dress her, love her, go to work, come home, play with her, sleep by her. It’s the only way to get on with your life. Just start movin’.”
So he does.
He gets a better job, a real job with insurance and shit, quits any drugs he was even thinking about doing, and grows the fuck up.
The first two years are the best and worst of his life. He loves Samantha more than he’s ever loved anyone before, but people weren’t kidding when they said raising a kid was hard. There were times when he didn’t sleep for days, didn’t eat, and hardly showered, but Sam was there happily snuggled against him, sleeping, laughing, helping to keep Ray going.
When she’s three and starts daycare, Ray cries. Not pussy-ass tears either, manly tears that make him look badass, or at least that’s what he tells himself. After he drops her off the first day he doesn’t know what to do with himself until work. Ray remembers his momma’s words, “just start movin’,” so he does.
Two miles into his first run he throws up behind a bush, cursing himself out loud for not thinking that he’d have to run back to his house too.
It gets better though, like everything does.
The air here is so fucking light, Ray thinks as he breathes it in and pushes it out of his lungs.
Even though he’s lived in California for years he still remembers growing up in Missouri and how the air there can feel like it’s suffocating a person sometimes. ‘A day without humidity is like a cat with two butts; just doesn’t make any sense,’ his momma used to say to him growing up. When he first moved away he had called her to tell her that California feels like a sea of double-assed cats.
Ray is about to cross the street when the car coming his way doesn’t stop at the stop sign. He has to hop backwards to not end up in one of those Blood on the Pavement Driver’s Ed. videos they show in high school.
“Watch where you’re going you goddamn sister-fucking dick-suck,” he yells at them as the roll past. “Just because you’re drivin’ a motherfuckin’ SUV doesn’t mean you can’t stop fucking your dog four ways ‘til Sunday long enough to stop as a fucking stop sign.”
He’s shaking his head when he turns to see a man staring at him with this amused expression on his face. Ray points at him and starts speaking again.
“Did you fucking see that, Dude? That was some fucking communist horseshit right there. I bet they fuck their cousins for fun. Shit I’m from Missouri and we don’t even do that there. Well… okay yeah they do do that some places in Missouri but not where I’m from…except for that one guy but he was a total fucking psycho.”
Ray looks over at the man who is still standing there letting him ramble on. His mouth is lilted up on one side.
“Am I right?” Ray finishes.
The man’s chest moves a little with laughter. “Absolutely,” he says. “Only people who fuck their mothers for fun, video tape it, and send it to their grandmas run stop signs.”
Ray lets out one of those high-pitched laughs that tend to bother whoever he’s around, the one that only pops out when he’s surprised and amused at the same time. “It’s about time I ran into somebody in this place who has as much sense as I do.”
When he gets to the other side he sees the man still standing there looking at Ray with his head tilted a little to the side. Ray just shrugs, smiles to himself and jogs on. He has that affect on people.
Three days later Ray runs into him again. Literally. That morning Sam had thrown a fit while he was dropping her off; she didn’t want to stay, she didn’t want him to go, the usual. Still, it was distracting him.
He is running one of his usual routes when he runs smack into a wall that turns out not to be a wall at all.
“The fuck?” Ray staggers to the side but is caught by a pair of arms. Walls don’t have arms, Ray thinks.
“I’m thinking maybe that car wasn’t at fault when it almost took out your whiskey-tango ass the other day,” the wall says.
Ray looks up to see that the wall with arms isn’t a wall at all, but the very tall, very blond man who he had seen two days before.
“I don’t know what ‘whiskey-tango’ means, but it didn’t sound like a compliment, Viking,” Ray says, looking at him with defiance.
“Point. I’m Brad,” he says, finally moving one of his hands that were still holding Ray up to shake his hand.
Ray is a little surprised because he hadn’t realized this strange man was still holding onto his arms even though he wasn’t in danger of falling any longer.
“Ray,” he says, nodding, taking Brad’s hand in his and shaking it in kind.
“And try and watch where you’re going next time,” Brad says. “I might not be there to catch you and then nobody would be able to tell your harrowing tale of terrible misfortune.”
Ray scoffs, “I’m like a fucking cat with ninja reflexes, Brad. You’re the one who ran into me.”
Brad scowls at him, rising to his full height and puffing out his chest. Ray think that it’s pretty impressive, but he’s got a three year-old at home and nothing scares him anymore.
“Nice try,” he says. “But let’s just agree to disagree here.”
“Just try to use some common-fucking-sense in your situational awareness, Ray,” Brad scolds him.
Ray looks at Brad, tilts his head as he squints his eyes, looks him up and down, figuring Brad out. “You’re military, dude!” Ray yells like it’s some great discovery. “The way you speak, the posture, the hair cut.”
“Don’t mock the hair,” Brad mumbles. “I’m a Marine.”
“Well, Semper Fi like a motherfucker, G.I. Joe,” Ray salutes, turning to run on before Brad can razz him about calling him G.I. Joe.
“Fuck off, Ray,” Brad yells after him. But Ray doesn’t stop, he laughs as he runs, mind thinking back to those arms that kept him from falling.
They see each other nine more times that month. It becomes one of those rituals where they cross paths, spend ten minutes insulting each other’s intelligence and breeding, and then part ways. Ray never wants to leave. He wants to spend another hour with Brad, talking, laughing, and trying not to notice how blue his eyes are.
This was the fifth time they had run into each other in a week and a half. They both had to know by now that this wasn’t happening on accident anymore. Well, Ray knew it, he was just wondering if Brad did.
“Where do you start?” Ray asks because he always meets Brad by ‘accident’ somewhere in the middle of his route.
“Around Fifth St. usually,” Brad says. “Why?”
Here goes nothing, Ray thinks. “I just figured since we always end up running together anyway, why not just start from the beginning.” His tone seems light enough, but he can hear the tension in his own voice, the insecurity.
Brad turns to him, slowing down so they can talk more easily. “Only if you can keep up. I won’t have your short ass holding me back.”
Ray doesn’t hold him back. He almost throws up twice with all the added miles, but he keeps up. When Brad mocks him about it Ray tells him how after Sam’s schedule changed he started running regularly and threw-up on his first run. Brad looks at him with a slightly blank expression. Ray ignores it, choosing instead to race Brad the last 100 yards.
“All I’m saying Brad, is that if Saddam invested more in the pussy infrastructure of Iraq, there wouldn’t be any fucking strife in the Middle East.”
“That is so fucking retarded. Were you dropped on your head as a baby? If not, can I drop you on your head now?
The two of them ran together regularly now at least three times a week, sometimes more. Ray found that he was looking forward to seeing Brad more and more each day. Sometimes Brad would look at him like he wanted to reach out and touch him, to close the gap between their running bodies. He never does, but Ray doesn’t miss the signs. Ray doesn’t miss anything.
“It’s true!” Ray protests. “If you don’t like that one, homes, I can give you one about NAMBLA. Fucking NAMBLA is secretly running the White House.”
They’re turning a corner when Brad gives up.
“Fine, Ray,” he says. “Do you keep all this bullshit built up just to harass me with while we run? Why don’t you punish Sam with this utter-fucking-nonsense?”
Ray stops dead in his tracks. “What? Why the ever-loving fuck would I tell a toddler about gettin’ some? Shit dude, if it was up to me she would never ever be touched by a man. Oh god, I don’t even want to think about that as a possibility. Nananananananaan I can’t hear this, nananananananana.” Ray has his fingers in his ears and his eyes closed blocking out the world even though it was him speaking.
When he opens his eyes Brad is staring at him like he’s grown another head. His face is a little flushed. “You mean Sam’s not your, you know…,” Brad waves his hand around filling in the blank.
“I thought you were a Recon Marine,” Ray says, looking at him like he’s lost it. “Sam’s my daughter.”
“Oh, so you don’t have anyone?” Brad asks. Ray can hear him tip-toeing around this conversation. It’s almost ridiculous how uneasy Brad looks. And also kind of hot if Ray is being honest.
“Well I have Sam, but she goes to sleep at seven and doesn’t like porn so much, but that’s it. Jesus Brad, what kind of double-ass cat air have you been breathing?”
They start running again. Brad’s so silent next to him that Ray keeps glancing at him to make sure he’s there. Fuck. Ray didn’t think of the fact that he never explained who Sam was. He just kind of thought Brad knew. Brad always knows everything. Ray doesn’t know what to say, how to make sure this is alright, this, whatever it is between them.
“All I’m saying,” Ray starts, unsure of how Brad is going to act now. “Is that when you look at the whole goddamn picture, pussy really is the root-fucking-cause of all global instability.”
Brad’s mouth curls up in that half smile Ray loves, and he knows that the moment is passed.
“I had no idea a sister-fucking hick like you would know the phrase ‘global instability,’” Brad says, never looking away from the road in front of him. “Plus, it’s not really pussy that’s on my mind right now.” And then he’s speeding up, leaving Ray behind.
Ray’s trying to figure out if he just heard that right, but first he’s got to haul ass to catch up with Brad.
“You might be the messiest human being in the history of time,” Brad tells Ray as they lean against a tree in the shade. Ray’s water was gone, so Brad offered Ray some of his. He got a couple mouthfuls in before the taste hit him and he spit the water out, most of it landing on his shirt.
“What the fuck is that? Donkey piss mixed with blood? Shit dude, I think my life is flashing before my eyes right now. Plus I’m all wet,” Ray says, looking down at his shirt.
Brad rolls his eyes, a common practice Ray has noticed over the past four months. “Just spit with your teeth Ray.”
“I do spit with my teeth, see.” Ray spits, it lands on his pants, and Brad’s point is practically made for him.
“You spit with your lips,” Brad says, his eyes resting momentarily on Ray’s mouth. “If you spit with your teeth it won’t get on both of us, because trust me, it’s getting on both of us.”
The way Brad looks at Ray’s mouth when he’s speaking makes his pulse speed up, heat flushing his body. If Brad’s health drink wasn’t so disgusting Ray would have begged for another drink, but even he has standards even if most the people he meets don’t believe him.
“There’s nothing wrong with the way I spit, Colbert.”
“So are you saying you prefer to swallow?” Brad’s face is completely serious as he asks this. If it is possible Ray’s mouth gets even drier (probably because his mouth is hanging open a little bit).
“You kinky motherfucker,” Ray says, eyes wide staring at Brad. “You wish you knew if I liked to swallow,” Ray jokes to hide the truth. “Now give me a drink, I need to wash down the bile rising in my stomach.”
Ray reaches for the bottle in Brad’s hands, but it’s too far out of his reach as he holds it above his head. Brad’s height makes it impossible for Ray to get anything that Brad is holding unless Brad wants him to have it.
“Come on!” Ray whines. “You would deny your oldest friend Ray a drink?!”
Brad turns around so that he’s jogging backwards now. “Hurry up, Ray,” he bellows, taunting Ray with his bottle. He’s not even turned back around yet when Ray sprints toward him, giving everything he has into jumping onto Brad in order to reach the bottle.
They almost over-correct as Brad regains his balance with Ray hooked around the front of him trying to reach the container in Brad’s hand. They’ve never been this close before. Ray can feel every muscle in Brad’s torso and arms flex underneath him. He tries not to shift a lot because he doesn’t want to rub up against Brad too much, to make his inner arousal well known on the outside too.
Ray’s no longer struggling to reach the canister now. Brad has dropped that hand down so that Ray’s hand is cupping it along the side opposite of Brad, their fingers grazing. Ray brings it to his mouth for a drink, but keeping his eyes on Brad’s the whole time. Both of their breathing is a little sped up and the air seems thicker between them. There’s no way of knowing how long they stay like that before Ray tells Brad that he can put him down if he wants. Brad’s eyes shift away from Ray’s in order to concentrate on his own body. He’s got one arm curled around the back of Ray; his hand and forearm cradling Ray from underneath so that Brad supports most of his weight.
“Oh,” Brad breathes out, slowly moving his hand so that when he releases Ray and he slides down his body, they’ll both be able to feel it, the way their muscles flex against one another. And they do. Ray’s breath catches in his throat as Brad steps back from him, licking his lips.
“Come on,” Brad’s voice comes out rough. “We’re not done here.”
Ray doesn’t know if Brad is talking about their run, which admittedly they still have a few miles left before they’re finished, or the act of public depravity that was almost enacted on the sidewalk. Either way, Ray doesn’t think twice about following him, and he doesn’t think he ever will.
The change between them is subtle. Their routine is the same, meeting, running, talking about everything and nothing at the same time, but their relationship shifted after Ray set him straight about who Sam was. Ray started noticing it two weeks ago. Brad’s usual shoves when Ray is being an idiot started lingering, moving from his arm to his back. Sometimes Brad would urge him forward if he started lagging by placing one of his hands in the small of Ray’s back. Ray keeps his mouth shut though. He’s worried that if he mentions it that Brad will stop, become self-conscious of his movements.
Brad’s not exactly alone in this either. Ray doesn’t want to ever stop touching him. He takes to trying to swing an arm around Brad’s shoulders when he meets him every morning. “Did you miss me?” he asks lightly, reaching up to try and go for that relaxed arm-around-your-shoulders look that he can never pull off because of the height difference. In reality it just ends with half of his body being plastered to Brad’s as he leans against him. Sometimes Brad laughs at him, shoving him away. Other times he pretends not to notice and tells him that it’s “impossible to miss someone that won’t leave me the fuck alone,” while trying to shake him off.
Ray always holds on tighter when that happens.
“You’re a menace to society, Ray,” Brad tells him after a particularly long story about how Ray had woken up late, rushed Sam all through their morning, and only just made it to her Day Care on time.
“Yeah but you should’ve seen it, man, it was beautiful,” Ray says. “I was the fucking ninja of the fathering world this morning. Nothing can get in my way,” he yells as he jumps dramatically over a crack in the sidewalk.
Brad stops beside him, “Nothing but, oh I don’t know,” he starts, reaching over to run a couple fingers along Ray’s neck, near his ear. Ray stops breathing; he can feel that touch shoot straight down to his crotch. When Brad pulls his fingers back there’s something on them. He smells it, and then sticks his fingers in his mouth. Ray finds it obscene and fuck if his dick isn’t stirring.
“Mmm,” Brad says, removing his fingers from his mouth. “Banana.”
Ray tries to think back through is fog of lust to figure out when it got there. Sam must’ve had it on her hands when he picked her up and ran them out to the car. At least it’s not more than a day old. But that’s all pushed aside by the predatory smile that’s tugging at Brad’s mouth. Ray wants to sway toward him, wants to taste that smile. Instead he settles for staring at Brad’s lips, his tongue flicking against the corners of his mouth to wet it.
“Fuck,” Ray says to him, not even trying to conceal the want in his voice. “And you call me a menace.”
This is starting to get old, Ray thinks to himself as he’s on his way to meet Brad after dropping Sam off. At least four times a day during their runs Ray visualizes himself shoving Brad up against a wall and kissing him until neither of them can breathe. Then there are the ten times a day he thinks about Brad in his house, having him stripped naked and taking up the entirety of Ray’s bed.
When Ray finally pulls up Brad is leaning against his bike waiting for him. Fantasy fifteen of the day usually involves being on the back of Brad’s bike, his body wrapped around Brad from the back. None of them happen of course because somewhere along the way Ray turned into a total girl about these things, and Brad, well, who knows.
“Let’s do it!” Ray says as he jumps of his car, hopping up and down like a boxer.
Brad’s next to him stretching his arms up over his head. Ray doesn’t notice the line of Brad’s hips peeking out from behind his shorts, and he also doesn’t notice the way you can sometimes see the outline of his dick when he wears the dark blue ones.
“I’m ready when you are,” Brad says, stepping up onto the curb.
Ray takes Wednesday afternoons off because he likes to take Sam to the park on those days. He’s always thought that if you did something fun in the middle of the week, then the weekend wouldn’t seem so far away. So they go every week. Sometimes Ray lets her run around the playground, doing what she can reach on her own. Most of the time though they play together; he pushes her on the swings, helps her down the slide, sometimes they just chase each other.
Today there is some sort of picnic happening on the north end of the park, so he and Sam stick to the other side. He doesn’t want anyone stealing his baby. Ray knows how people are; he does watch To Catch a Predator after all. And even though Sammie’s not holding a laundry basket or offering Iced Tea, he still thinks he ought to be careful.
But that’s not important now because Ray is chasing Sam around the park pretending to be a monster.
“GRRRRR! I’MMA EAT YOU LITTLE GIRL!” he growls at her, causing a fit of laughter to rise from her chest. “Prince Charming, save me!!” she yells just as Ray scoops her up. “I already ate him, nomnomnomnomnom.” Ray mimics eating Sam’s belly while she squirms in his arms. He twists her around so he’s half bent over, grabbing her ankles and hanging her upside down by them. “You’ll never escape,” he crows in his best evil witch voice.
Sam is shaking with laughter when Ray looks up and sees Brad standing off to the side of the group of picnickers staring at him. Even from this distance Ray can see the amusement in his eyes.
Ray is pretty sure he’s hallucinating just like every other time he thinks he sees Brad somewhere like the grocery store, or walking into his shop. It’s only when Brad nods at him, a slight upturn at the corner of his mouth, that Ray knows it’s real.
If Ray loved him a little less he might be able to just wave and go back to playing with Sam. As is, he swings her up onto his shoulders and walks over to him.
“Well Brad,” Ray says, deciding to begin like it’s not making his heart beat in his throat to see Brad here. “I didn’t think you liked other human beings enough to partake in something as nineteen-seventies hippy as a picnic.”
“There are those rare exceptions,” Brad tells him, his eyes moving between Ray’s face and the girl on his shoulders.
“Daddy can I go play with those girls,” a tiny voice comes from above Ray’s head, tapping him to make sure she has his attention.
Ray glances over at a group of young girls chasing bubbles; they’re only a few feet away so Ray allows it. He raises her off his shoulders, never looking away from Brad. “Don’t run off,” he tells her as she does just that.
“The fuck, Iceman,” a man says as he comes around Brad. “I invite you to come here with my family and you find the first white motherfucker you can to congregate with? No offense,” he tags on, looking at Ray.
“None taken,” Ray says. “I am white, and I am a motherfucker. Just ask Brad’s mom.” Waggling his eyebrows it elicits a scowl from Brad and a firm handshake from the man, who introduces himself as Poke.
“Don’t encourage him, Poke,” Brad says, finally finding his voice again. “Once he knows you can hear him speaking he’ll never leave you alone.”
Ray feigns being punched in the chest. “Ouch Brad, you’ve wounded me.” Brad is telling Poke that Ray is beyond Special Olympic retarded when Ray sees Sam trip and fall over a root.
“I’ll be right back,” Ray says, touching Brad on the arm as he turns to leave. Ray only realizes it when he’s walking away and his fingers are warm from the touch. He glances back at them as he’s wiping the dirt off of Sam’s skirt catching the way Poke is looking at him. He can’t hear what they’re saying, but he figures it’s probably best.
Poke starts walking back toward his family when Ray returns. “Later, dawg,” he says with smile.
Brad’s less tense when Ray stops next to him. “She okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, just the shock of it more than anything else,” Ray tells him. “She could trip on a pillow and think she just got bit by a shark.”
Ray turns his gaze back to Brad who smiling at him with a softer, more private smile than before.
“She looks like you,” Brad’s voice low. “The way she moves, it’s just like you.”
They end up just standing there watching her play with the other children. “Sam loves the park,” Ray says. “Wednesday is her favourite day.” Somewhere in the middle of all this Brad shifted closer to his side. Ray can feel the heat radiating off his body. “I try to do right by her, you know? But shit, I worry I’m fucking it up.” Ray looks at him, knowing that he’s letting Brad into a part of his life he hasn’t even seen yet.
“You’re going to be fine,” Brad says, running his hand down from the center of Ray’s back, coming to rest right above his jeans. “She’ll be fine.”
Ray knows Brad pretty well at this point. He’s seen him on good days, bad days, days when he won’t stop singing Gordon Lightfoot under his breath, and days when he would go from thunderous to smiling by the time they were done running. Today is like none of them. Brad’s quiet beside him; no insults, no trying to keep Ray in line when he goes off on some tangent, and no touching.
Basically, Ray doesn’t like today. He doesn’t mention it, he just runs on, a steady presence next to Brad. Turning to him sometimes, Brad looks like he wants to speak but doesn’t know what to say. Ray goes with it, one foot after the other, keep movin’ just like his momma told him. Brad does it too.
They make it all the way back to where they’re parked before Brad speaks.
“Ray,” is all he says, reaching out and taking a hold of Ray’s arm. His eyes are darker blue than normal, a darker color than Ray has ever seen them before.
“Are you okay?” Ray asks, not even pretending to skirt around the issue, grasping Brad’s shoulder with his free hand.
Brad sways forward like he’s moving to rest his forehead against Ray’s. “I have to go,” he says before their heads touch. “I’ll see you.”
Ray can feel the panic rising in his chest. “What the fuck are you talking about Brad?! You’ll see me?” he yells, but Brad is already on his bike and halfway down the road.
The cold feeling settling into Ray’s stomach doesn’t go away all afternoon.
Ray is putting a video in for Sam when the doorbell rings. “You stay here Sugar Plum Fairy, I’ll be right back,” he hits play on the DVD Player as he walks to the front door.
There are a lot of people he’s expecting it to be, but standing there in jeans and a white t-shirt is the one person he is not expecting to see.
“Brad?” Ray steps out, closing the door behind him. “What are you doing here? Wait! How did you know where I live?”
Brad shrugs like it’s obvious, “I have connections.”
“Connections my ass,” Ray says as he leans back against the siding next to the door. “Just admit you’re stalking me.”
“A stalker never reveals their secrets,” he tells Ray, moving further into his space.
Ray wants him close, as close as possible, but Brad was acting fucked up this morning and he wants to know why. So when Brad is within a comfortable distance of him, Ray places his hand on Brad’s chest, stopping him.
“Are you going to tell me what this morning was all about?” he asks, trying with all his might not to slide his hand up over Brad’s chest to his shoulder and close the distance between them. Ray can feel Brad’s heart beating beneath his hand and his inhale of air at the question.
Brad closes his eyes, leaning against Ray’s hand. “I’m being deployed,” spills into the space between them. Ray’s arm that’s holding Brad buckles slightly with the feeling of panic that surges through him. Brad grabs his forearm and covers Ray’s hand still on his chest with his own, holding the contact.
Sure Ray had known Brad was a Marine, but he just didn’t think. The thought of deployment hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“When?” Ray asks, his voice not as strong as he wishes it was.
It feels like someone has punched Ray in the gut. He wonders how long Brad knew about this and didn’t tell him. It’s not as if Brad’s obligated to keep him up to date, but fuck, he kind of is. What the fuck is Ray going to do now?
He only realizes he said that all out loud when Brad starts answering him. “I’ve only known for a few days. I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you this morning but I fucked it up.”
“You didn’t fuck anything up. I’m not…,” Ray moves his hands to cup Brad’s face. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Brad nods almost imperceptibly, “Good.” And then he’s wrapping his arms around Ray, their mouths opening to each other instinctively. Brad kisses like breathing isn’t a necessity. His mouth is hot on Ray’s as Ray chases Brad’s tongue back into his mouth with is own. One of Ray’s hands slides up into the slightly longer hair on the top of Brad’s head and tries to hold on because that’s all he can do at this point.
The hold Brad has on Ray tightening with each moment. He’s insinuated a leg in between Ray’s thighs to afford them a little more support.
Ray moans into Brad’s mouth, hips moving reflexively as Brad levers them up against the side of the house.
A crash from within jolts them back to reality as they take notice of their position on the porch. They rest their foreheads together, each panting, trying to regain some semblance of composure.
Ray tilts his head, kissing Brad chastely, just tasting him. Brad shudders against him, chills racking his body.
He breaks the kiss, moving to run his thumb along Ray’s bottom lip. Ray kisses it when it passes over the seam of his lips.
“Stay Frosty, Ray,” Brad says, turning and walking to his bike without another word.
Ray stands on his porch watching Brad turn around in the street to head back out. “Goodbye,” he says to nobody but himself before tuning and going back inside the house.
Ray’s life doesn’t end when Brad leaves. He’s not a 16 year old girl after all. But it does change.
He still gets up, takes Sam to daycare, runs, goes into work, picks her up from daycare, plays with her until her bedtime and then does anything around the house that needs to be done. There is a difference though. It’s so small that nobody notices it except during those terrible hours of the day between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. when nobody does anything other than watch one another.
“Is there something on your mind, man?” they ask him at work.
“No more Ripped Fuel,” he tells them shrugging as he watches them laugh and float around the shop, touching things, pretending to look busy. Ray doesn’t care though because who the fuck wants to work in the middle of the afternoon, the dead hours.
Sam turns four after a couple months and the party leaves Ray’s house looks like someone opened a bottle of Pepto Bismol and sprayed it on everything. But he loves her, so he lives with it.
Life goes on.
Ray is chasing Samantha around the park when he sees him again. It’s a day just like any other day that he’s been there in the past year, except now Brad Colbert is there. He’s standing underneath the trees that line the side of the playground. His face is half obscured by the shade of the trees and how the light is slanting in, but Ray knows it’s him. Brad.
“Why don’t you go swing for a while, babe,” Ray says, scooping Sammie up into his arms so that they’re face to face. Sam smiles at him, her blue eyes growing larger as she squirms out of his arms.
Ray’s heart starts beating faster, louder, as he approaches him. He didn’t know Brad was back. Hell, he didn’t know if Brad was even still alive. And now he’s standing in the park like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Ray has the urge to run over to him but that would be a cliché, so he settles for walking just a little faster than normal.
Even from this distance, Ray can see a difference in Brad. He’s thinner, he’s not as tanned — no that’s not it. He’s tanned in a different way; a rougher way. But it’s still Brad, and still he makes Ray’s mouth go dry.
The expression on Brad’s face when they’re face to face is something Ray will never forget. It is like every emotion possible passes through his eyes: pleasure, surprise, hunger, relief, and something else that maybe he is too hopeful to think about. Ray couldn’t look away if he wanted to.
Ray just stares at Brad. He feels like if he blinks, Brad’ll disappear again.
“Ray,” Brad’s voice sears through him as he reaches his hand out to Ray. Ray slides his hand along Brad’s. His fingers are rougher than last time they touched. Ray imagines that sand and living in a war zone will do that to a person. Someone passing by would think they were old friends shaking hands, but they’re not letting go, not looking away.
One of them needs to speak. “So…” Ray starts, but Brad speaks as well.
“What are you doing here?”
“How are you?”
They ask simultaneously.
A smile. A pause. Those blue eyes Ray could never forget if he tried.
Ray let’s his head drop, the warm feeling he gets when being around Brad comes gushing back. He motions Brad to follow him over to a bench so he can watch Sam. “Not so high, Orange Blossom,” Ray yells the distance to Sam who is trying to be the first three year-old in space by the way she’s swinging.
Brad raises his eyebrow at him in a way that Ray knows means he’s amused and wants to ask questions while mocking you mercilessly, but isn’t.
“Don’t go there, Brad,” Ray warns, his eyes saying something different than his voice though.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Brad says, almost no emotion showing except for the way his leg slides a little closer to Ray.
“Fine.” Ray’s just waiting for the ball to drop.
“Good.” Brad says with is eyes closed, face leaning up towards the sun. “So, is it official?” he asks.
Ray has no idea what Brad is talking about now. His forehead scrunches as he shifts his face to Brad. “Is what official?”
“You tell me, Orange Blossom.”
This motherfucker, Ray thinks, making him swing his leg a little to close the distance between where their legs are resting.
“You’re such a motherfucker, Colbert. Yeah, I changed her name is Orange Blossom because I’m some fucking holier-than-thou celebrity who feels the need to name my kid some shit like ‘Paper Tree Jones,’ or ‘Jesus Hawk Person.’ It’s not like we’re fucking Mexican, dude. She’s just into Strawberry Shortcake these days. What can I say.” When Ray finishes speaking, Brad is giving him an open amused look. “Now, you going to tell me why your Viking ass is creepin’ around the park in the middle of the day?”
Brad shrugs, trying to look completely innocent, and Ray realizes how much he’s missed this, the little ways Brad moves, small gestures that Ray knows means more than Brad wants to let on. Plus it’s fucking impossible for a man of his size to look innocent doing anything.
“I was out for a run.” Brad says it simply enough, like the last time he spoke to Ray hadn’t been about the fact that he was about to be in Iraq trying to save the whole fucking world with his own two hands. But Ray lets it go.
“And…” Ray prods, moving his hands in an effort to get him to continue. “Stalking me and my baby comes into this how?”
“Baby? Is there another one around here I didn’t see?” Brad asks slight tension in his voice hidden underneath his jest.
Ray rolls his eyes and puts on his best you’re-ten-seconds-away-from-getting-in-t
“Like I said, I was running underneath those trees,” Brad nods with his head back to where they were standing before. “And I stopped to take a break,” he finishes, obviously no committing to anything.
For some reason Ray can’t help but let out a small laugh, nerves probably because it’s not really funny. He can see that look on Brad’s face, the one where he’s about to call you a string of names that have never been thought up before, so Ray cuts him off before he can bust Ray’s balls about laughing at him.
“Sorry, sorry. We ran together for how fucking long and you hardly even broke a sweat, and now you need a break. How very fucking human of you, Brad.”
“Fuck off,” Brad starts. “It’s not like I’ve been hanging out in the goddamn Garden of Eden for the past six months working out for sport.”
Ray’s head snaps up, opening his mouth like he’s about to apologize, fuck, anything to make him feel like he didn’t just offend Brad. But then Brad is putting up a hand to stop him, waving him off. “Like I said,” he continues. “I was jogging, I stopped. And low-and-behold, but the elusive Ray Person is chasing his indefensible Baby Orange Blossom around the sand pit,” Brad says with a smile.
As if on cue they hear Sam yell from the swings, “Back off, Chump!” at this boy trying to shake her off the swing.
Ray probably shouldn’t be laughing, but he looks over at Sam, the young boy sticking his tongue out at her as he runs away, and just can’t help it. She sure is his fucking daughter all right. He turns back to Brad just in time to see a full smile break across his face, making Ray’s smile even bigger with fatherly pride and all that.
“I shudder to think at what you’ve taught that child, Ray.” Brad’s tone relaying anything but.
“Suck it, Colbert,” Ray says, still laughing. “I brought Sammie up fine. Just me, her, and all the fruit snacks she can handle. That’s the only way to do it.”
They’re sitting on a nearby bench, watching the kids, the trees, each other.
“I like that,” Brad’s voice cuts through Ray’s thoughts.
“Sammie,” Brad starts. “It suits her.”
Ray gives Brad a small smile, trying to remember that forever because a compliment about his daughter always stays longer than anything that’s said about him.
“Thanks. She likes Sam usually, you know. Samantha. But when the mood strikes you’ve got to go with it, so sometimes it’s Sammie, Shammy-whammy, Sam-o-rama, whatever.” Ray realizes he’s rambling, like he ever does anything else. “She’s getting into this phase where all she wants is to play with fucking Barbie’s and watch Disney movies. Is just one thriller is that too much to ask? I mean I know she’s only four but shit, dude. How long you been back?” he blurts out at the end.
Brad shifts at the abrupt change of subject. “About a week. I wanted…,” he begins and stops, looking at Ray, glancing around, trying to find the right way to word whatever he wants to say. Ray puts him out of his misery by interrupting him, a thing Ray prides himself on. He even taught Sam that interrupting cow joke to get her started early.
“What are you running through the park for?” Ray blurts out, only to notice that there’s a red blush running up the back of Brad’s neck, reaching just below his hairline.
Brad’s mouth quirks up. “It’s Wednesday.”
“No shit, Sherlock. But you don’t run in the park, remember. I believe it was you who said the people who run through parks are nothing but ‘pussy-ass liberal motherfuckers who couldn’t find their way if they were running on a map.’” Ray stops for a breath. “So what does it matter if it’s Wednesday or not?”
“You come to the park on Wednesdays,” Brad says staring off into the sky again, like it’s an every day occurrence for him to remember some mundane detail Ray told him about his life a million years ago.
Ray is staring at him, and he can feel it, the draw that’s trying to pull him back to Brad. The one that made him run an extra three miles every day just so he could spend more time with him. It’s all bubbling back to the surface. Brad looks back over at him, saying nothing, but Ray thinks he can feel it too.
“Your name is Sherlock?” A tiny voice says from next to Ray. He drops his head to his chest, doing his damndest to hide his smile.
“Sam,” he says after making sure he has a straight face. “What did I tell you about sneaking up on me?” Picking her up and setting her down in front of him.
“You said… umm…” Sam looks back and forth between her dad and Brad, suddenly shy. “That you never know when someone is talking about your birthday presents, so always announce yourself unless you want your life ruined.” She says it perfectly, because Ray said it to her every time she snuck up on him for three months.
Brad snorts from beside them. Ray ignores him, smiling down at Sam, scooping her up into his lap.
“Sam, say hi to Brad, one of daddy’s friends.” Ray voice trips over the last word, like calling them friends is inadequate somehow. But he goes with it because telling your daughter to say hello to a man you used to know, who you would give anything to have his mouth on you again, doesn’t sound quite right. So friend it is. He knows Brad hears it as well. From the way his eyes catch Ray’s it’s all there between them.
“Hello, Brad, I am pleased to meet you,” Sam says, reaching her hand out to shake his.
Brad smiles at her, taking her small hand in his, giving her his full attention.
“Pleased to meet you too, Sam. You have very good manners; did your father teach you that?” Brad asks.
“No,” she says without hesitation, no further explanation given.
Brad looks at Ray, he can see the sign of a little help please, on his face, but Ray just shrugs and shakes his head. He knows better than anybody that if she doesn’t want to explain something you’re shit out of luck.
In the end, they just sit there, enjoying the afternoon. None of them speak as Sam curls up in Ray’s lap, her little hand wrapped around his neck. The arm he has around her almost grazes Brad. Ray can feel his desire to lean to the side, close that distance too, but he doesn’t.
“I have to get back to the base,” Brad whispers, not wanting to break the still of the air. “Do you…” he hesitates, “do you still run?”
Ray can feel the heat coming off of him. “Every day.”
Brad is there waiting for him when he pulls up. The way he smiles at Ray makes his whole body flush for a split second. Brad has smiled more at Ray in the past day and a half then he did the whole time they were running together before. Ray likes it.
“You think you can keep up?” Brad stands there, his chest puffed out in a challenge.
“Fuck you, Colbert. I could run circles around your devil dog ass.” (Not that ray has been thinking about his ass or anything).
Brad comes up along the side of him shaking his head. When he puts his hand on Ray’s back to urge him into the run Ray feels himself lean into it, his eyes closing momentarily, before jogging on.
The routine is the same but it feels different. They fall into each other’s rhythms easily, not speaking, just breathing and moving forward.
Left, right, breathe, left, right, breathe.
Occasionally their arms graze one another, the sweat smoothing the way. They run like that until occasionally is a thing of the past. The contact never broken.
They run on.
Three miles later they’re soaked, breathing hard, and struggling to keep quiet as they stand pressed against each other in an alley. Ray’s hands are pulling Brad’s hips against his so hard there’s nothing but the wall and Brad holding him up. This is nothing like their last (and first) kiss. Brad’s got Ray’s face in his hands, mouth hungry and searching.
And Ray’s right there, blow for blow, his tongue sliding along Brad’s, not letting go either. Brad’s body is leaning flush against his, their height difference practically non-existent by the way Brad is pulling Ray into him now.
Ray lets out a low groan when Brad cups him through his shorts. Fuck. It’s been a long time since someone touched Ray like that. Since anyone other than himself touched him, actually. Even through two layers of clothing it’s almost too much.
“Brad… Brad,” Ray pleads, wanting him to stop until they’re some place more private, but not wanting Brad to ever stop touching him, needing more.
“What is it Ray?” Brad says through puffy lips, his eyes half-lidded. It’s fucking sinful. They’re too close; he’s missed Brad too much. Ray closes his eyes to compose himself, trying to even out his breathing when he feels Brad’s mouth grazing his ear.
“I know you want this,” he says, hand pushing slightly harder against the line of Ray’s dick. “And you know I want this. Fuck. I’ve wanted this since the first day I met you.”
Both of them are breathing hard now. The way Ray is thrusting into Brad’s hand feels better to him than the last time he had sex.
“I know,” Ray pants. “I’m a total DILF.”
And then Brad’s mouth is on his, biting and sucking. His hand busy pushing, squeezing, and making Ray gasp for air as he thrusts against Brad’s palm.
“I want you to come for me Ray. I want you to feel yourself covered in sweat and cum, and know that soon you won’t feel anything except for my body against yours.” Brad licks into Ray’s mouth as Ray pushes hard into Brad hand and comes. Ray’s entire body feels wired as he jerks, his fingers digging into the back of Brad’s neck, deepening their kiss.
They stand there kissing slowly, each catching their breath.
“Brad,” Ray says when he knows his voice will be level. “You have five minutes to figure out how to get us back to my place as soon as humanly-fucking-possible.”
The way Brad smiles at him makes him feel like he’s about to be eaten alive, heat pooling deep in his stomach.
“I can do it in three.”
Ray has Brad’s shirt off before they even get into the house.
“But what will the neighbors think,” Brad mocks as he backs Ray towards his front door.
“You kiddin’ me? They’re probably happy I’m finally gettin’ some. Now inside and pants off.”
“Yes, daddy,” Brad answers, plastering himself to Ray’s back.
“Fuck.” Ray grinds back into Brad’s crotch before leaning his head up to Brad’s mouth. It’s an awkward angle but Ray feels amazing with Brad wrapped around him from the behind.
Brad laughs low in his chest. “What? You’re the one who called yourself a DILF. And if we can ever make it inside I am going to fuck you.”
Ray somehow manages to concentrate enough get the door open with Brad mouthing his neck. He’s not even sure how he found the right key.
Brad’s kicking the door shut when Ray shoves him back against it, dropping to his knees in front of him. Ray didn’t think it was possible for Brad to look bigger, but kneeling in front of him, his hands grasping the elastic of his shorts, he looks like a giant.
The taste of Brad on Ray’s tongue isn’t what he was expecting. He thought since they’d been sweaty, running, dirty, that behind the thrill it’d be musky, but Ray thinks he tastes like the sun (which is pretty fucking gay, but considering what he’s doing he lets it slide).
“Jesus Christ, Ray,” Brad mutters. “You’re so fucking… shit… get up here.”
Ray’s stands quickly, half picked-up by Brad. His legs wrapping around his Brad’s hips as Brad slams them into the wall.
Ray moans, arching his sweat slicked back.
“Oh fuck, Ray.” Brad chokes out behind him, and then he’s right there, pushing into him.
They had been teasing each other for an hour; both are covered in sweat, lube, god knows what else, and sticking to every surface they touched: the wall, some Barbie’s that will have to be disinfected, the tables, and only recently the bed.
But it was all coming to a head now.
With each thrust Brad fills him, both of them gasping. Ray feels like he’s going to explode, the pleasure burning through every nerve in his body.
This is how Ray has wanted it; it’s more than he ever thought he’d get. His hands are gripping the top of the headboard, his knees digging into the sheets, and Brad strong behind him, holding onto Ray for dear life as he leads them both over the edge.
“What time is it?” Ray asks later. His head has been lying on Brad’s arm for the past hour, neither of them willing to break the contact.
“I think it’s a little past two,” Brad tells him, shifting to the side a little so he can look at Ray. “Is there some place you need to be?”
Ray shrugs, “I just figured I should clean up some of the fucking Hurricane Colbert that ripped through this house earlier before I have to pick Sammie up.”
Brad nods next to him but says nothing. Ray glances over at him, trying to read his face. Sure Brad knew ahead of time about Ray being a single dad, but knowing and experiencing it all are two different things. Closing his eyes, Ray exhales and turns to face Brad. If they’re going to have this talk, they’re going to have it before it goes any further.
“Listen Brad,” Ray starts, trying not to sound like he’s already defensive. “I want you. But I need to know now whether or not you’re cool with Samantha. I’m not saying you have to fucking be Mr. Mom to her, in fact I’d probably cut your balls off if you tried to boss her at this point. But I don’t just fuck people at random, and I sure as hell don’t bring them into the house.”
He pauses and stares at Brad, who’s looking at him openly, like all of him is right there listening and not thinking about bike or guns or fucking Air Supply. So Ray goes on and hopes for the best.
“Like I said, I want you here and I’m pretty fucking sure you want me. All I’m asking is that you come for dinner tomorrow night - just me, you, and Sam - because I’m not going to keep doing this if you can’t handle me being a dad.” Ray pauses, suddenly getting worried that Brad will just walk away, that now that he’s seen her that it’s more than Brad really thought through, so he tries to backtrack.
“I mean you don’t have to if you don’t want too. We did some fucking hot ass shit in front of those dolls and I don’t think some of them will ever look at me the same way again. I mean Dora’s into chicks anyway, but that fucking Map that hangs out with her was looking at your dick the whole time, dude. And you don’t want to fuck a map; the paper cuts alone will make you not even want to fucking touch yourself for a week. But I guess you could make a game out of it and tell Dora to follow your cum around the bridge and through the spooky forest in her never ending quest for that damn baby jagua… ”
“Shut the fuck up, Ray,” Brad says, putting his hand over Ray’s mouth, looking down at him with this amused look on his face. “I‘ll be here.”
Ray smiles behind Brad’s hand. Brad smiles right back, a small personal smile, one that Ray thinks not that many people ever get to see. Ray shifts up against him, rolling his hips to meet Brad’s as he lies half on top of Ray. Brad closes his eyes, his hand still covering Ray’s mouth. His eyes glint as he dips his head to bite one of Ray’s nipples, Brad’s other hand pressing Ray down into the mattress. Ray wants to fucking use his mouth, wants Brad’s on his, wants it everywhere on Brad. So he licks the palm of Brad’s hand, back and forth, pressing, biting, playing. Ray can feel Brad getting hard on top of him and raises an eyebrow at Brad, challenging him to move his hand.
“If I move my hand are you going to be quiet?” Brad’s breath is catching as he moves to straddle Ray.
Ray narrows his eyes, slowly shaking his head no.
“Good,” Brad says, removing his hand and moving it so it circles both he and ray before he snaps his hips forward. “I want to hear you scream.”
There are going to be bruises for a week.
The next night Ray is actually bustling around his house picking up toys and cheerios that have somehow ended up behind pillows and kicked underneath the coffee table. Sam’s in her room picking up dolls, which Ray bribed her to do with the promise of ice cream after dinner, but it’s worth it to get her to stop with the questions.
“Who’s coming over?”
“Why do you smell good?”
“Are we having a party?!”
When the doorbell rings Ray is in the kitchen checking on the food. The rice is fluffy, the steak is fucking perfection, and Sammie’s chicken nuggets are, well, chicken nuggets.
Ray prepared for a lot of things tonight. He’s ready for Sam to freak out about any random thing that happens to her, for Brad to realize he’s not ready to sign up for this life, and for himself to quietly blow Brad in the living room after he puts Sam to bed. He is not, however, prepared for how Brad looks when he opens the door. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about Brad’s outfit, jeans, boots, and a white button up with the sleeves rolled, but on him Ray thinks that it would cause a riot in a nunnery. He lets his eyes slowly move down Brad’s body looking at the way the shirt pulls at the shoulders, the way the jeans tug and hang in the right way. When he meets Brad’s eyes he wants nothing more than to drop to his knees right there.
“Ray,” Brad says, breaking Ray’s strain of thought. “Are you going to let me in or are you going to stand there eyefucking me on your porch all night?”
“Don’t tempt me,” Ray says low as he moves just far enough out of the door so that Brad can get inside. As Brad steps up into the house Ray is still right there, in his space holding onto the door. Ray can feel the muscles of Brad’s chest as he slides past him.
“Well I suddenly feel very under-dressed,” Brad says from behind Ray as he closes the door. Ray looks down at himself. He doesn’t look as good as Brad in his black v-neck t-shirt, but he doesn’t have Viking blood pumping through his veins either.
“What are you…?” he asks as he turns around, only to see Sam standing there with her Snow White costume dress pulled on over her regular clothes.
Ray rolls his eyes, shaking his head at himself for even buying that thing for her.
“I thought you were cleaning your room,” Ray says to her, not even trying to hide his smile.
“Is it time for the party?” She asks, looking back and forth between her dad and Brad.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid remind their parent to use a napkin before,” Brad says after dinner as Ray hands him a beer.
“Don’t be jealous. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the Person gene.” Ray boasts as he sits down on the steps next to Brad.
Dinner had gone fine. Ray spent the majority of the time with his eyes flicking back and forth between Brad and Sam that he missed his mouth a few times. “Why the fuck do you think I wear black so much,” he joked, only to be scolded for using an ugly word. “Kids,” he said, rolling his eyes with a look to Brad. The warm smile that greeted him made his heart beat faster, sure Brad could hear it.
But now, out on the porch with Sam tucked in her bed, Ray couldn’t hear anything except their combined breathing and the sound of bugs.
“It’s weird being out here in the dark with no radios buzzing in my ear,” Brad whispers.
“Was it ever silent,” Ray asks, wanting to know what it was like, but not wanting to ask directly. He hates when he reads stories in the news and people are asking questions like, “Was it scary?” “Did you see people die?” “Were you scared?” “What was it like?” because simplifying it seems degrading.
Brad stares into his half-empty bottle. Ray shifts closer, just letting Brad know that he’s there, that the world is still spinning.
“Sometimes it would be so quiet you thought you had died without realizing it,” Brad stares into the trees, and Ray can feel himself shiver inwardly.
“No chance of that in this house,” Ray says, trying to break through the sense of heaviness that has taken over Brad.
When Brad turns, meeting his eyes, Ray can see it all there. The desert, the time, the strain, but pushing from behind he can see other things too – a challenge and life.
“Tonight was,” Brad starts. “Dinner was great, Ray. Sam’s great.”
They’re close now. Ray thinks he lost some time because suddenly Brad is only a couple inches away, his eyes shining from how the lights from the house are hitting them.
“You two have the same eyes,” Ray says lower than a whisper before Brad’s mouth is grazing his.
Their lips are slow, lazy, against one another. Pressing. Holding. Ray’s hand is resting on Brad’s thigh proving to him that this is all happening. That Brad is here and not going to leave. They break the kiss, both of them breathing hard even though it was barely more than their lips touching. Ray can feel all of Brad coursing through him. He moves their beers out of the way, climbing to straddle Brad’s legs as he’s spread out on the stairs beside him.
“Will you stay?” Ray asks, settling his weight down onto Brad’s thighs.
Brad’s hands start at Ray’s legs, running up his thighs, over his hips, before sliding up underneath the back of his shirt forcing him to lean against him chest to chest. Ray’s heart is beating out of his chest; he can feel Brad’s beating solidly against him.
“Yes,” is whispered into the space between them, half dissolved from the disturbance of Ray crashing his mouth against Brad’s, sealing the word between them.