My head hurts. Got a big bump where that asshole hit me. Still can't believe I was stupid enough to get caught snooping around. Not only caught, but cuffed and gagged. That sucked.
I don't know if I've ever been more scared in my life. You try waking up handcuffed to the floor of a boat…ship…whatever. You can't move, there's water coming in under the door, and you know you're gonna die. And it's gonna be a slow death, one that you can see coming.
No one should have to see their own death. It should just happen, ya know? Never know it's coming, be oblivious and happy right up till the end.
I thought I was gonna die. Death by drowning. That's gotta be up there with death by choking. Any type of death that involves loss of oxygen is not good. Used to have nightmares about smothering when I was a kid. Would wake myself up gasping for air and wanting to call for Mom, but I never did. I never did because big boys don't run to Mommy and cry. Dad said so.
You'd think I would be pissed at Fraser for sorta guilting me into this whole thing, but I'm not. Not really. He's my partner and he was there when it counted. Saved me from a watery grave at the risk of joining me.
Don't know if I'll ever be able to tell Fraser how glad I was to see him opening that door. I was freaking out, yanking on the cuffs trying to get the hell out of there. My wrists look all fucked up. No way I'm telling the Mountie, he'll get all guilty. I don't think they bled, not much anyway. Hurt like hell, too. I'll patch myself up when we get back to Chicago.
Think I might take swimming lessons. This is what, the third time Fraser and me have ended up in water? First time was the day we met. Performance arsonist, my ass. Psycho nut job, I say.
At least I don't have to drive that thing Vecchio calls a car anymore. Called a car. It's at the bottom of the lake they call Michigan, keeping the fish company. And considering Fraser's track record for getting into shit, swimming lessons just might be the ticket.
I've done things these past three days that I've never done before. Getting trapped in a sinking ship, shooting out of the water with a fire extinguisher strapped to my back.
Getting frenched by the Mountie as he saves my life.
I'm not stupid. I know buddy breathing doesn't involve tongue. I know this. I also know that I really didn’t mind Fraser's tongue in my mouth. It was one of those…enlightening experiences. Wouldn't mind giving it another try. I'm not afraid to try something new. Never have been. You can miss important stuff if you never try. 'Course, I was close to drowning at the time. I'd need another go at buddy breathing to decide if I really liked it. Dry this time, with no water in sight.
We did the whole 'stop the bad guys' thing too. First time I ever slid down a rope onto a pirate ship. That was scary as hell, too. Damn near pissed my pants. I told Fraser that I wasn't ready, but he ignored me. We've pretty much got the whole partnership thing worked out now, although I figure there's going to be times where stuff like that is going to happen. I landed fine and we saved the day, so no harm done.
Was worth all the hassle, though, to get Frase back. We’re a duet, a winning team. And you don’t split up a winning team, no matter what. Besides, I woulda missed him. I know he would've missed me. Fraser's tongue in my mouth proved that. Even though he said it didn't change anything, I knew better.
So now here we are, heading back to civilization. The ship brought us back to Sault St. Marie and my car. Me, Fraser, Turnbull, Welsh, and the Ice Queen got off. Welsh wouldn't let me drive. I must look as tired as I feel. S'okay, I didn't want to drive anyway. What I did want was to ride shotgun. But no, Thatcher damn near knocked me down getting there first.
Didn't have to put up with the wolf though. Huey and Dewey met us at the dock and Fraser sent him back to Chicago with them. Don't know why the rest of use had to go in my car. Near as I can figure, Welsh and Thatcher want to keep an eye on us.
Lucky me, I get to be the meat in a Mountie sandwich. Feels okay, though. Feels safe. I kinda need to feel safe right now. Let me tell you, getting squished between Turnbull and Fraser is another one of those enlightening experiences. Fraser and me are almost much the same size, but he has a weight advantage over me. Turnbull must have some kind of mutant genes in his family tree as big as he is. Stuck between these two is the safest place for me to be right now.
No one's saying much of anything. The Ice Queen comments every once in a while about how fast Welsh is driving. She gets a grunt and one of his looks for an answer. I got one of those looks before we started the trip back. Means I'm in for a talking to when we get back. Can't wait for that.
Man, I'm tired. Think I'll close my eyes for a sec. I hear Fraser suck in a quick breath as I wriggle around trying to find a comfortable position. Probably getting him all flustered. Wish I had the energy to think about what Fraser getting excited by me rubbing up against him means.
I lean my head back against the seat and the bump on the back of my head announces itself. I wince a little and shift around again until the ache goes away. Not sure where to put my arms, so I cross 'em in front of me.
Little nap will do me good. My head still hurts and so do my wrists. Can't wait to get back to Chicago and sleep in my own bed. Be nice to wear my own clothes, instead of some pirate reject's hand-me-downs.
I close my eyes and let myself relax for the first time in days.
I'm not surprised at how quickly Ray fell asleep. In fact, I'm amazed he hung on for this long. It is hard to reconcile the sleeping man beside me with the Ray that I see every day. He is usually so active, always moving, always reacting. When he sleeps it is as though someone flipped a switch and shut him off. One second Ray is awake and the next sleeping so deeply that it would be worrisome had I not known how exhausted he was.
I am not without my own exhaustion and injuries. Nothing that would require medical attention, just painful bruises and bumps. They do make it slightly uncomfortable to sit, but I'll manage. I always do.
Ray hadn't been pleased when the Inspector took the front seat. I suspect his goal had been to recline the seat and sleep more comfortably. But Ray is nothing if not adaptable. He has done an admirable job of settling in, flanked on either side by a Mountie.
I must admit, when Ray was moving around trying to situate himself, it was rather disconcerting. To have him in such close proximity is…intoxicating. Even now I must restrain myself from leaning in close to him and inhaling the unique scent that is Ray Kowalski. There are days when all I want to do is hold him to me tightly. So tightly he will know how much he is…loved.
I do love him. That is the one thing I know for sure any more. What I don't know is what to do with this love. Do I offer it to him, as I did with Victoria? Should I risk my heart like that again? Do I dare? Would my heart survive a second break if my feelings were not returned? Victoria took the love that I offered and crushed it with her hate for me. Hate that I caused by turning her in after she begged me not to. Victoria didn't understand that it was my duty. Does Ray understand?
I do not know. Some days it feels as though duty and honor are all that I have left. I know that Ray doesn't always understand why I am so insistent and I have been unable to explain it to him. That is why my love for Ray remains hidden although he probably knows I feel something. This is most likely due to the fact that I have behaved indecorously. It shames me to admit my lapse, but I must.
I cannot stop thinking of that moment on the Henry Allen. That moment when my tongue touched his for the briefest of seconds. I am stuck in that moment, replaying it over and over in my mind, savoring every second. It was electrifying, that touch. I…wanted more. Wanted to taste more of Ray.
I both saw and felt his shock. Ray's eyes opened wide and he struggled a bit, relaxing only after I gave him breath that saved his life.
I told Ray that nothing between us had changed.
Once again, I am ashamed. For me, everything has changed. I have tasted forbidden fruit and found myself wanting more. Knowing that Ray may be unwanting or unwilling to give me more does nothing to slake my thirst for him.
The time spent in the mini-sub was torture. Ray was pressed so close to me I could feel his breath on my neck, his chest against my back. As I recall that moment, I feel my control, now, slipping. My pants are becoming increasingly tight but I don't dare shift position for fear of waking Ray. He is exhausted, as am I. But I am unable to relax enough to allow sleep to claim me. Perhaps I have too much on my mind.
I risk a glance over at Ray. His head has fallen to the side and is resting on Constable Turnbull's shoulder. As I continue to watch, Ray stirs slightly and snuggles closer to Turnbull. 'Snuggles' is the only word for it. He presses his face into Turnbull's serge covered shoulder.
For a moment, I am suddenly and insanely jealous of my subordinate. Why can't it be *my* shoulder? Why couldn't Ray have snuggled against me? Why can't I tell Ray how I feel about him? Why…
Constable Turnbull is looking at me, almost apologetically. He appears embarrassed that Ray is using him as a pillow. If he only knew what I would give to be him right now.
I'm staring now. Incredibly rude, I know. It's just that Ray looks so peaceful as he sleeps. All the lines of worry are gone, leaving him looking young and vulnerable. I want so much to gather that slender frame in my arms. I know he would fit perfectly against me.
I tear my gaze away, telling myself to look anywhere but at Ray. But the scenery does nothing to distract me. I close my eyes and try to force away the image of holding Ray in my arms. I cannot; instead I fantasize what such an embrace would feel like. Pure heaven, I would imagine.
My mind's eye creates a picture that burns into my brain. I see myself holding Ray close to me. His long arms are wrapped around my torso and his head is resting on my shoulder. I bring my hand up to cradle the back of his head. My other arm encircles him and draws his body fully against mine. I lower my head and kiss his neck.
It is pure heaven.
Wake up with a headache and look around. Takes about two seconds to remember that I got hit on the head. Try to stand up but get stopped by the cuffs on my wrists. What the hell? Guess they didn't believe the line about being drunk. Can't reach my keys, which is no big deal, because I can't rememerl if my handcuff key is here or back in Chicago. Would yell for help, but the bastards gagged me.
None of this shit woulda happened if Fraser wasn't so damn stubborn. Always has to 'right the wrongs'. It's a good cause, but he takes it too far. He needs to realize that sometimes there's stuff that you can't fix. It wouldn't be fair to Fraser to say that he drags me along, because I go with him willingly. He's my partner and I have to back him up. Doesn't mean that I always agree with him, far from it. Fraser just has this way of making me feel obligated to help. Don't know if that's a Mountie thing or a Fraser thing.
I'm a cop; it's my job to do this kind of stuff. But if I get killed that means there's one less person helping tomorrow, next week, next year. Can't make Fraser understand that. One of these days the Mountie's going to get hurt bad over something stupid. Maybe even killed.
Get so wrapped up in being pissed at Fraser that I don't notice the water seeping into the room. This is not a good thing. Understatement of the fucking year, I know. Try to stay calm and think this through, but drowning is not how I want to go out. Sucking water into my lungs and slowly dying does not sound like a fun time.
First glance it looks bad. I'm handcuffed to the floor of a ship; can’t reach my keys, can't yell for help. As much as I hate to say it, now would be a good time for Fraser to show up. And he might. Last minute rescues are his specialties.
So I wait.
I hate waiting.
Fuck staying calm. Start yanking on the cuffs, ignoring the pain. Cuffs don't budge of course. Give up on that and start yelling, or trying to yell, for Fraser to come and help me. If he would just show up like he's supposed to, I could tell him I'm sorry for hitting him.
If he showed up, I could tell him I'm sorry.
All I can do is watch as the water gets closer and closer to me. Gotta get outta here, gonna drown. Never going get a chance to tell Frase I still want to be his partner. He's always rescuing everybody. Where is he now?
The water's waist deep now. Start trying to push one of the cuffs off my wrist. Don't think I can squeeze my hand out but I try anyway. All I end up doing is scraping a bunch of skin up. Hurts like a son of a bitch.
Where's Fraser? I need his help. Know I told him that I don't need him, but I do. I take it back. Didn't mean it. I didn't mean any of the things I said.
Oh, shit. Chest high now. The water just keeps on rising and rising. I don't want to die. I don't. Not like this, never like this. People are supposed to grow old and then die in their sleep. God, I don't want to know I'm dying.
How come Fraser isn't here yet? He said I was his friend. I distinctly remember hearing him say he was my friend. Friends save friends, right? So where is he?
I can feel it right under my neck now. Hard to keep my head above water. At this rate, I'll be breathing water in a couple of minutes. I'm not a fish. I don't have gills. This sucks.
Oh, God. I'm gonna die. Where's Fraser? I don't want to die on a ship! Where's Ben? Does he hate me for hitting him? Is that why he's not here? How come I always fuck stuff up?
Please, Ben. I didn't mean anything I said. I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry.
Please help me.
I don't want to die. I'm not ready. I got things to do. Who's gonna take care of my turtle? She likes it when I sing to her. Who's going to sing to her if I die?
Who's gonna take care of Fraser? Someone needs to watch his back. God knows he never watches it. He needs…
Take one last breath before I go completely under. Is this how it ends? Is this how I die? It's not fair. I had plans, things I wanted to do. Things I never got to do. Like thanking Fraser for saving my ass from going to jail. Like watching the sunrise on a beach somewhere. Always wanted to do that, heard it was real beautiful.
My air runs out.
Surprisingly, the first lungful of water doesn't hurt. Neither does the second. I can feel my body shutting down. This is where it ends. This is where Ray Kowalski dies.
Is that Fraser's voice? Sounds like he's saying my name. But that can't be right because Fraser never showed up to save my life. And now it's almost over.
Close my eyes and drift off. It's better this way…
I sit bolt upright, gasping for breath. Can't see anything but water for a second. Could swear I'm still on the Henry Allen, handcuffed to the floor, dying.
Slowly things start to come into focus. I see Welsh and Thatcher looking at me over the front seat. Both of them have this identical weird expression on their faces. It could be worry, which I expect from Welsh, but why would the Ice Queen be worried about me?
I realize a couple of things. One, we're not moving. And two, I'm rubbing my wrist. The same wrist that I scraped about a yard of skin off of in my dream. Look down and find that all my skin's there, but both wrists look mangled. Guess I must have hurt 'em worse than I thought. Tug my sweater down quick to cover them up.
Everyone's staring at me now. Greatness. Hope I didn't yell or nothing. Best defense is a good offense, so I go for it. Maybe if I get a little rude, they'll back off.
"What?" I ask, all annoyed-like. "What are ya all looking at? Why'd we stop?"
"Ray," Fraser says my name softly, like he's afraid I'm gonna freak if he talks normal. "You seemed to be having some difficulty breathing, so the Lieutenant pulled over."
Shit, worse than I thought. Not gonna be easy to convince them all that I'm okay. "Yeah, well, I'm fine now. So pitter-patter there, sir."
"You're obviously not fine, Detective." Thatcher's using that tone on me. The 'All hail the ice queen for I know better than you' tone. Doesn't piss me off too bad, but when she uses that tone with Fraser, I see red.
"How the hell would you know?" I shoot back. "Why should you care if something was wrong?" Thatcher opens and closes her mouth a couple of times. Ha! Lookit that! I made the Ice Queen speechless.
Welsh decides to throw his two cents American into the conversation. "Vecchio! Knock it off. Inspector Thatcher is right, you're not okay."
"Told ya, I'm-"
"Fine. So you said. Now why do I get the feeling that you're being less than truthful with me, Detective?"
Open my mouth to tell Welsh I'm fine, but whatever energy I had drains out of me. All of a sudden, I'm exhausted. Too tired to argue any more. If they want to know, fine. "Look, I just had a…dream 'bout being back on the Hank Aaron."
"Henry Allen." Fraser corrects me immediately. Knew he would do that, Mountie can't help himself. I wonder if he knows if I do that on purpose sometimes? I like listening to his voice, whatever, sue me.
"Yeah, whatever." Hope that'll be the end of the discussion. Really don't want to talk about it.
Just when it looks like everthing's A-okay, Turnbull has to open his big mouth. "What sort of dream would give you difficulty breathing, Detective Vecchio?" He sounds all concerned like. I give him my nastiest glare and he shrinks back. Serves him right, none of his business.
Only problem now is they're waiting for an answer. I really, really don’t wanna talk about it. Can't they see that? Do they care? If I wasn't so damn tired I'd give a Ray Kowalski pre-packaged smart-ass reply.
But I am tired, and the truth slips out instead. "If ya gotta know, I was dreaming about…almost drowning trying to get out of the ship." I mumble the last part and hope for the best.
Silence. Then everyone except Fraser starts talking at the same time. 'What do you mean 'almost drowning'?' 'Why the hell didn't you tell me you almost drowned?' 'Can’t you swim, detective?'
I don't even try to answer. Just lean forward, resting my aching head in my hands. Close my eyes and wish for quiet. Maybe if I ignore them, they'll go away. Yeah, I should be so lucky. Just wanna go back to sleep, nightmares and all. Anything is better than talking right now.
After a while, they quiet down. Must of figured out I wasn't saying anything. Good. Quiet is good. Doesn't make my head pound so bad. I'd kill for an aspirin right now. I'd kill just to be alone. Frase could stay though. Yeah, Fraser could stay and take care of me. He doesn't seem to mind patching me up.
Someone puts a hand on my back. It's warm and big. Must be Fraser. Swear to God that man's body heat could fuel Chicago for years. He's always warm, even underwater. Don't know how he managed to stay warm in that lake. I froze my skinny ass off and I'm still cold.
Fraser's hand starts rubbing circles on my back. Feels good. Don't think anyone's done that since I was a kid. I let myself relax a little. Frase will take care of everything. He's good at stuff like that. Must be a Mountie thing.I hear him start to explain what I meant by 'almost drowning'. Hearing him say it out loud hits me hard. I almost died. Died as in dead, finito, lights out, the big sleep. As in Ray Kowalski is now part of history.
I almost died.
Gonna hurl if he doesn't shut up. Stop telling them about it, Fraser! Shit, just keep it together Kowalski, just keep it together. Just till you get home and then you can lose it.
To see Ray like this, so exhausted he does not even have the strength to maintain a conversation, appalls me. How could I not have noticed? Was I once again thinking only of my duty? Part of my duty includes taking care of my partner, does it not? This man entrusted me with his life. A life that was very nearly cut short had I not found Ray in time. He would not be sitting in this car beside me nor would he be there for me to love from a distance. I would have lost the chance to tell him how I feel.
But how can I expect him to love me now? After all that I have put him through, all the times that he trusted me? How could he love someone that had to be persuaded to trust his instincts? I am his partner, I should not have questioned. Moreover, this is the man I love. I should have trusted. Has Victoria damaged that as well? Has she ruined my ability to trust in others?
My hand reaches out of its own volition and comes to rest on Ray's back. I feel him trembling. Dear God, I had not realized he was so deeply affected. My guilt increases tenfold. I begin to rub my hand in soothing circles on his back, as my mother did for me when I was a child.
Have I broken that trust? Have my careless actions cost me the possibility that Ray might return my love? I truly hope not. For I have resolved to tell Ray how I feel about him when we return to Chicago. I cannot go on, knowing that I could lose him in the blink of an eye and he would never know how I feel.
I hear myself calmly explaining the events that led up to me finding Ray handcuffed and gagged in the hold of the Henry Allen. I do not tell the others how terrified I was, terrified that I might not find Ray in time. Knowing that it was my sense of justice that got Ray into the mess in the first place. When I think of the numerous times I argued with him or contradicted him, I find no good reason for my actions. Perhaps I was releasing my frustration at not being able to be with Ray as his lover.
I have had male lovers before. I wonder if Ray would be shocked to hear that. Would he be disgusted if I told him that I'm gay? Perhaps he would ask about Victoria. I know that he read the file. I would explain that Victoria was an anomaly, a 'one-time deal'. I don’t know what attracted me to her and I still don’t to this day. I do know it was a mistake, one that will never happen again.
The shivers wracking the slender frame underneath my hand increase as I continue to detail how I had to shoot the cuffs off and the subsequent travel through a sinking ship. Ray's trembling increases as I tell of our attempts to navigate through the underwater passage.
"Fraser," Ray's voice is hoarse as he looks up at me.
"Yes, Ray?" I leave my hand on his back to reassure him that I am here. That he is not alone.
"Fraser." This time said with urgency. I look closely at Ray, checking for any sign of….anything. "Lemme outta the car."
Let him out of the car? Why would he want out of the… Oh dear. All this talk must have made him nauseous. I meet his eyes and we communicate silently. The normally bright blue eyes are dull with exhaustion and something else. Pain? Ray's eyes seem sunken and dark circles ring them. His face is pale and drawn.
"Fraser, move!" This time he half-yells and the others wince at the loudness.
"Oh, sorry!" I grope blindly for the door handle, all the while looking at Ray. Our eyes are still locked on one another, and I can now see urgency in his gaze. He really is going to be ill. The door finally opens and I immediately step out, followed closely by Ray. One bony shoulder bumps into me as he brushes past. I follow instinctively, wanting to be there for my partner in any way that I can. Fortunately for Ray, the stretch of road that Lieutenant Welsh pulled over on is relatively flat with shallow ditches.
Ray stops and bends over, resting his hands on his knees. His eyes are closed, his breath coming in short gasps. As I approach, he extends a hand, palm out, in my direction, wanting me to stay away. "Just give me a sec, Frase," he says softly.
"Of course, Ray." I hope my voice sounds normal and that the hurt I feel cannot be heard.
"Nothin' personal, Fraser. Just don’t wanna upchuck on your shoes."
I breathe a sigh of relief. He did not want to push me away. "I assure you that my boots are washable, Ray. If you were to 'upchuck' on them, that is."
Ray turns his head to look at me, flashing me a lopsided grin. "Yeah?" The slender shoulders shrug, "All right then, approach at yer own risk."
In no time at all, I am standing beside him, again placing my hand on his back. Ray sighs and drops his head lower. I reach out with my free hand and gently grasp his arm, feeling the tremors that still travel through his body. "Perhaps you should sit down." Before you fall down, I want to add, but refrain.
He sighs again, heavily. "Good idea. Nothing in my stomach to throw up anyway."
I hesitantly slide the hand on his back lower and allow my arm to encircle his waist. Ray stiffens slightly and I freeze, but then he relaxes against me. He allows me to lower us both until we are sitting on the hard ground. I leave my arm where it is, lightly holding Ray.
The sounds of car doors opening and gravel crunching underfoot remind me that there are other people here besides Ray and myself. It was so easy to forget, even just for a moment. I can hear the Lieutenant and the Inspector speaking, but can only make out snatches of the conversation. "…work it out themselves…" The sound of their voices gradually fades as do the footsteps. I turn to look and see the three of them walking along the side of the road.
We sit in comfortable silence, both lost in our own thoughts. Even though the sun is warm, Ray shivers. Without thinking, I tighten my grasp on his waist and pull him closer. He does not resist, even though I pull him so close that he is firmly pressed up against my side. I am not surprised he allows me to handle him in such a way. I have observed that Ray maintains distance from nearly everyone except myself. I invade his personal space and he lets me, without complaint.
"Sorry, Frase." The whispered apology breaks the silence that has surrounded us.
For some unfathomable reason, Ray's apology irritates me. What does he have to be sorry for? I coerced him into boarding the Henry Allen, and he nearly died. "What do you have to be sorry for?" Inwardly I cringe--my voice sounds harsh, even to me.
Ray says nothing, but flinches as though each word were a separate blow and tries to pull away from me. I hold on tighter. I almost lost Ray once; I will not lose him again. "I-I'm sorry. That was rude of me."
Ray moves and for a moment I think he is trying to pull away again, but he is shrugging his shoulders. I hold him so tightly against me that he has limited movement. It must be uncomfortable, but Ray isn't complaining. "Hey, you've had a busy coupla days. Even Mounties get to be rude after no sleep."
That he can excuse my behavior amazes me. I shake my head. "It is no excuse to be rude to my best friend."
"Am I? Your best friend, I mean?" The uncertainty in his voice nearly breaks my heart.
I turn to look at Ray and see that he is gazing in the other direction. His whole posture speaks of rejection. I want to tell Ray of my love for him, but sense that now is not the right time. Right now he needs to be reassured that we are still friends.
"Ray, please look at me." He does, a miserable expression on his face. I can't help but wonder if Ray is still worried about our partnership. We talked about it on the Henry Allen, but perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough then. "I am honored to call you my best friend and partner." I wish I could call him my lover.
Ray stares at me searchingly; as though looking for any sign that I am lying. I make every effort to show my feelings openly. This is hard for me; I am used to hiding behind an expressionless mask. But Ray needs to know, to see the emotion I feel.
After what seems like a long time, though it must be only seconds, Ray nods his head once. "Thanks, Frase. Means a lot to me." He shivers again. "…cold…"
"We should get back to the car." I wish we didn't have to leave. I could sit here and hold Ray all day, but the others are waiting. I hear footsteps behind us, Turnbull from the sounds of it.
"Constable Fraser? Is Detective Vecchio all right?" Most likely, the Inspector has sent Turnbull to find out why we are taking so long, but I can hear real concern in his voice. Ray has worked his way into the hearts of many people without knowing it. The fact that he has no idea he has done so makes it all the more endearing.
"Ray was feeling ill, but I believe he is better now." I look to Ray for confirmation. He nods slowly, flashing a lopsided grin at Turnbull and myself.
"Very good. Ah…Inspector Thatcher and Lieutenant Welsh wished to know when you would be returning to the car."
"Please inform them we will be another few minutes." Turnbull salutes and returns to the car.
"Ya still got him thinking you're royalty? What would the queen think?" Ray's tone is not reproachful, merely teasing.
"She will never know and I would thank you kindly never to tell her." I am heartened that Ray is teasing me. It is a sign that he is returning to his old self.
"Your secret's safe with me."
"I never doubted that for a second." A few more minutes pass, silent save for ducks flying overhead. "Ray, I think we should talk once we're back in Chicago." There, I said it. Now I hold my breath waiting for his response.
The answer surprises me. "Good idea, Fraser."
I had not expected him to agree so readily and I stammer over my next words. "I-ah…good. Good. Perhaps we should get back to the car?"
"Yeah, the Ice Queen is probably throwin' a hissy."
I don't pretend to understand what a 'hissy' is and decide not to ask for an explanation. "No doubt," I reply.
With much reluctance, I let go of Ray's waist and stand up. He remains seated on the ground, knees pulled up to his chest, arms resting atop them. I extend my hand to Ray, knowing that he will need some assistance. He studies my hand for a moment, then takes it, allowing me to pull him to his feet.
The sleeve of Ray's borrowed sweater slides back to reveal a wrist covered with cuts and abrasions. Some of them are deep. Surely they must have bled. Ray's whole wrist is swollen and looks very painful. Infected, some of the wounds could be infected. The polluted lake water must have contributed to that.
Ray tugs on his hand, but I tighten my grip and reach for his other hand.
"Fr-" He starts to speak, but I cut him off.
"Hush, Ray." He tries to keep his other hand out of my reach, but I am faster. I manage to snag his other sleeve and push it up. Ray's other wrist is in the same condition. The cuts are inflamed; lines of red snaking down his arms. "Why didn't you tell me about this?"
He says nothing, only turns his head to the side.
"Ray? Why-" Ray has never been one to announce the fact that he is hurt but he is my partner, I should have noticed. I should have seen that he was injured.
I feel the guilt welling up inside me and realize that this is why Ray never told me. He knew that I would react like this. I've said nothing about my own aches and pains, but there is no reason for Ray to feel guilty about those. No, the guilt lies with me. I told Ray the story of the Henry Allen, knowing how it would affect him. I wanted him by my side. I didn't want to lose my partner. I didn’t want to lose Ray.
Dammit! I knew this was gonna happen. Should've tried harder to hide my wrists. Stupid me wasn't thinking, as usual. Now on top of everything else that's gone down, Fraser is feeling guilty. The man deserves a 'Guilt Badge' or something.
We're both standing here like a couple of dorks, neither of us saying a word. Fraser's still holding onto me, can't get him to let go. He tried to ask me why before. I guess he meant why didn't I tell him about me being hurt. I don't wanna explain to him that I kept quiet 'cause he'd feel guilty. That'd just make things worse. I give a good pull and get him to finally let go of my arms.
I'm still tired as hell. That little snooze couldn't put a dent in three days of no sleep. Fraser's gotta be just as tired. Even Super Mounties have to close their eyes once in a while. He's just standing there, looking down at his boots, squeezing the crap out of his hat. Clear my throat and he looks up at me. "The hat piss you off or something?"
Fraser looks lost for a minute. His blue eyes are sad. Pretty but sad.
Whoa! Where the hell did that come from? Since when do I, Ray Kowalski, think Benton Fraser's eyes are pretty? They are. Pretty, I mean. But I don't make a habit of looking at them on a regular basis. I'm a guy. Guys don't look at another man's eyes and think 'pretty'.
Christ, I wish I wasn't so tired, maybe I could figure this out.
It hits me that Frase hasn't answered me. That isn't good. "Fraser," I start to say, but he cuts me off.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me you were hurt?"
I know my mouth drops open. I never heard Fraser swear before so it can’t be a good thing. Those blue eyes aren't sad any more, they're angry. Kinda scary to see the Mountie angry. I shrug and do everything possible to avoid looking at him or in those accusing eyes. "Forgot."
"You forgot." He doesn't believe me. I can tell that from his tone of voice. I shrug again, hoping he'll just drop it.
No such luck.
I can feel Fraser's eyes on me. Takes every ounce of willpower I got left to keep my eyes on the ground. "Ray, I find it very hard to believe," he begins in that superior tone of his that makes me want to pop him one, "that you forgot you were injured."
Now that pisses me off. I really did forget. At least until we got on board the ghost ship. I did what I do best; ignore the pain. Been doing it for years. Physical pain, emotional pain, whatever. I just…make myself numb. Numb is a good place to be, place I wanna be right now, in fact.
"In case you hadn't noticed, Fraser, we were kinda in the middle of something. Now let go of me." I'm trying to control my temper, which isn't easy, tired as I am.
Fraser drops my arms so fast you'd think I was on fire. "You should have told me anyway." He's got the 'I'm a Mountie and therefore I am right' look going on. I hate that look.
If Fraser wants a fight, he's gonna get one. I'm tired, sore, and hungry. My head feels like someone's pounding on it and my wrists are throbbing in perfect rhythm. Feeling like shit doesn't do a whole lot for my attitude, so I tell Fraser exactly what I'm thinking. "Not like you would've heard me anyway!"
Probably shouldn't have said that. All the anger just…drains out of his face, leaving him looking as empty as I feel. Fraser opens and closes his mouth a few times like he's not sure what to say. "I-what do you mean, Ray?"
"Never mind, Frase." We need to get off this topic fast. The little switch in my brain that controls the 'Stuff Not To Say' section is on the blink. I need sleep.
"Tell me." He's not gonna take no for an answer.
"Drop it, Fraser. I mean it." Please, Fraser? I don’t want to hurt you.
The Mountie doesn't listen. He moves closer to me, gets right in my face. I can't help but look at him. "Tell me, Ray. Now." It's not a request.
I swallow and close my eyes, suddenly dizzy. "Frase, ask me later. Please." If he asks again, I'll tell him. Then we can both be miserable. Misery loves company, right? I feel his breath on my face; he's so close. Funny how that don't bother me. Fraser's always in my personal space, but that's okay because it's Fraser. The dizziness gets worse and I take a deep breath, trying to stay on my feet.
Something must have clued the Mountie in, 'cause he moves even closer and those big arms of his grab me just as I'm about to kiss the dirt. I let myself fall against him. Fraser's solid. I know without a doubt that he can hold me. That he will hold me. He's never come right out and told me, I just know. We both know.
Still dizzy as all get out, but Fraser's got me now. I rest my forehead on his shoulder, feeling his arms tighten around me. I'd hold him back, except my arms feel like they weigh twenty tons each. Bet we make quite a picture. Me slumped against Fraser, him hanging onto me for dear life. Mental note to self: laugh about this later.
Can't laugh now, too tired. Don't really want to sleep, though. What if I have another nightmare? I shiver at the remembered dream.
I'm vaguely aware that Fraser is saying something, but it sounds like he's really far away. Which can't be right because last time I checked, my head was on his shoulder. No doubt getting a button impression on my forehead. Fraser is definitely the one holding me 'cause I feel safe and protected.
No time to decide that, 'cause the next voice I hear is the Ice Queen. Can't understand what she's saying, but she doesn't sound angry. If I didn't know better, I'd say she sounded almost…worried. But she hates my guts, so it must be Fraser that she's worried about.
Fraser! I have to tell Fraser that it's not his fault. So tired, though. I give myself a mental slap in the head since there's no way I could manage the real thing. Get it together, Kowalski! Just tell the Mountie it's not his fault. Three little words, that's all you gotta say.
Huh. Sounds like Welsh and Turnbull are getting in on the action, too. Can I help it if I'm such a wanted man?
Another mental note to self: Stop getting hit on the head. It hurts and it fucks with your mind.
Okay, I can do this. Just have to say 'not your fault'. How hard is that? Feels damn near impossible, but I'll say it even if it kills me. There aren’t many people in this world that I would die for, kill for.
I'd die to save him.
I'd kill for him.
Seems to be a day for revelations. Never realized I felt like that before. Those are some heavy-duty thoughts.
The voices around me are fading. Better work quick. There's a moment where I feel like I'm floating and it takes me a second to figure it out. Fraser picked me up. Didn't throw me over his shoulder, didn't have anyone grab my legs. Just…swept me up into his arms like I didn't weigh a thing.
My head falls onto Fraser's chest. I can hear his heartbeat. Feel someone grab the arm hanging at my side and rest it in my lap. S'nice, being held like this. Carried now. Heading towards the car, no doubt. It'd be so easy to just let go right now. Just let go and let Fraser take care of everything.
But I have to tell him that it's not his fault. I'm so tired I don't know when I'll wake up, so I gotta take this chance.
First thing to do would be to open my eyes. That takes a few tries, feels like each eyelid is glued shut. I manage to pry them open and I see red. Fraser's uniform. Okay, progress, this is good. Next step. Get his attention. How to do that? There's no way I can reach up and touch his face, but maybe I could grab that rope thingy on his uniform. Lan-something or other. Lanyard, that’s it!
I impress myself when my fingers wrap around his lanyard. I even manage to tug on it a bit. Amazing what you can do when it really matters.
Fraser stops and looks down at me. At least I think he looks down at me. Couldn't move my head if I tried. Open my mouth to speak and a croaking sound comes out.
"Ray?" Fraser knows I'm trying to say something.
Swallow and try again. "…not…your…fault…" Someone, maybe me, tilts my head back and I make eye contact with Fraser. He looks shocked. And guilty. Should of known my few words wouldn't help. Still, I said what I wanted to say. For now. I'll say more later, that's for damn sure.
So tired. Don’t think I've ever been this tired before. Fraser and I are still looking at each other, but he starts to fade before my eyes. I think I see his mouth moving, but can't hear him. Let my eyes close and imagine I can still see him looking at me. I'm not worried; Fraser will take care of things. He'll take care of me. He always does.
The guilt I am feeling turns into anger. Anger at myself for not noticing he was hurting. Anger at Ray for not telling me he was injured. I suppose there is no one to blame but myself. A hard pill to swallow, true, but a necessary one. What right do I have to be mad at Ray? Why should he trust me enough to confide in me?
When Ray says that he 'forgot' about his wrists I know he is lying. Lying to protect me. I don't deserve such a friend. I confront him and he lashes out, saying I wouldn’t have heard him anyway.
That remark cuts me to the bone. Ray is exhausted and hardly in complete control, I should have left well enough alone. When I asked for an explanation, he refused. I demanded an explanation and he refused. Still I pushed for an answer.
I was not expecting the whispered 'ask me later, please.' Indeed I was not expecting Ray's eyelids to start fluttering, his body swaying dangerously. I stop his fall by simply catching him and holding his body against mine.
I can’t believe that I have again failed my partner. I didn’t listen to him; I didn't see how ill he was. This is exactly what Ray said was happening. We were getting stale. Or rather, I was getting stale. Long ago, I realized I am a very single-minded man. Duty and justice have always been of great concern to me; I stop at nothing to achieve them. A heavy price has been paid, though. I am no longer welcome in my own country because I turned Gerrard in.
This single-mindedness is no longer affecting just me. This aspect of my character is hurting the people around me. Hurting the people I love. Hurting Ray.
That is unacceptable.
Ray's body leans into mine, a dead weight. His head rests on my shoulder, unmoving. If I turn my head slightly, the blond hair brushes my cheek. A shudder runs through his body and I pull him tighter against me. "It's all right, Ray," I murmur this over and over in his ear, unsure if he can hear me.
Even though I hate myself for it later, I take a moment to savor the feel of Ray in my arms. He feels so right, so perfect. As if he was made to fit against me. Perhaps he was. My eyes are drawn to Ray's neck. More specifically, the juncture where neck meets shoulder. I am unable to stop my head from dipping down and breathing in Ray's scent.
As is my habit, I unconsciously catalog every smell. Lake water, sweat, Ray's shampoo, his hair gel. Underneath all the other scents is Ray.
I am almost at a loss to describe it. Ray smells like freshly washed sheets, clean and warm. This brings up thoughts of Ray sprawled across his bed, nude, smiling lazily. I curse myself silently. My partner is hurt, leaning against me for support. He does not need to feel my erection pressing into his leg.
I take one more deep breath, forever imprinting Ray's scent in my mind.
The Inspector's voice sounds behind me. "Constable, what happened?" I am surprised at the concern in her voice. I'd always thought she disliked Ray.
I tell the truth, even if it means that Ray may soon be taken from the protective circle of my arms. "Ray is unconscious, sir."
"I can see that, Fraser!" she snaps at me. "Why is he unconscious?"
"When we were aboard the Henry Allen, Ray was hit in the head, knocking him out. In addition to a possible concussion, he has also sustained injury to his wrists." I report all this calmly, showing none of the turmoil I feel inside.
The Inspector moves so that she is facing me. She looks worried, her forehead wrinkling into a frown. "His wrists? How did he hurt his wrists?"
Now my failure as a partner will be revealed. I will no doubt be asked why I never noticed the injuries. "As I explained before, Ray was cuffed to the floor in the Henry Allen. By the time I found him, the room was half filled with water. I can only assume that the cuts on his wrists were caused by Ray pulling on the handcuffs."
"What the hell is going on? What's wrong with Vecchio?" Lieutenant Welsh has joined us, along with Turnbull.
Turnbull gives me a look that I can't decipher. Disappointment? Anger? His voice is neutral as he inquires about Ray. "Is Detective Vecchio all right, sir? Do you require any assistance?"
Before I can reply, Ray begins to slide out of my arms. Welsh and Turnbull both move toward me, gesturing that they will take him. I shake my head, not wanting to lose contact with my partner. Both men look at me oddly, but I don't care. Ray is my responsibility. Ultimately, the blame for his condition rests on my shoulders.
Under the circumstances, there is only one solution. I turn Ray to the side, sliding my arm under his. The other I position under his sagging knees. Only a small grunt escapes when I lift him, he's lighter than I thought. It's not surprising, I very rarely see him eat.
Ray's head comes to rest on my chest, his right arm across his stomach. One of them, the Inspector, I think, grabs Ray's left arm and places it in his lap. I hear gasps of shock when they see his abused wrist.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will detour to a hospital once back in Chicago. Ray will have no choice in the matter; I will insist. As will Lieutenant Welsh, who I suspect cares more for my partner than he will admit. He may yell at Ray, but I have also observed the affectionate arms thrown over shoulders or both of them laughing at a joke. If I cannot coerce Ray into going, Welsh can order him to.
I shift Ray around a bit so that he is more secure and start walking to the car. Behind me, Inspector Thatcher is repeating what I told her to the others. They follow, discussing the quickest way to Chicago and the closet hospital.
Hugging my precious bundle closer to me, I try to remember when Ray became so important to me. When did his happiness begin to outweigh my own? Was it that first day we met? The hug he forced on me? The snide comments on 'How to Become a Canadian'? No, in retrospect, I think I fell in love with him in the crypt.
My thoughts are interrupted by a slight tugging sensation on my lanyard. I stop walking and look down to see Ray's left hand curled around it. He makes a small sound, then falls silent. "Ray?" Is he waking up?
What I hear is enough to cut me to the bone, slice through my heart.
I hear how Ray struggles to get those words out, how he must have pulled himself out of the depths of unconsciousness. He somehow manages to tilt his head back enough to look me in the face.
His blue eyes are half-closed, glazed with exhaustion and pain. Pain that he wouldn't share with me. Pain that I deserve. If I could take that pain into myself, I would. "Ray?" I say his name again, hoping to bring him more awake. "Talk to me, Ray." He doesn't seem to understand my words. His eyelids flutter for a moment and then fall completely closed.
I feel as though I am frozen, unable to move. Unable to speak or breathe from the emotion constricting my throat. Ray truly has a beautiful soul. A too forgiving soul. If he cannot blame me for my careless actions, then I will do it for him.
"Fraser? What's wrong?" Lieutenant Welsh is suddenly behind me, a big hand resting on my shoulder.
I shake my head, still not able to speak. I fear he knows that I have failed my partner and been forgiven. There is no honor in that. No honor at all.
Welsh sighs and tries again. "Constable, let's go." The hand on my shoulder propels me forward and I allow it, welcoming the help. "Let's get Ray back in the car and to a hospital." I let myself be steered to the open car door, moving like an automaton.
Because I say nothing, do nothing; the Lieutenant takes Ray from my arms, telling me to get in the backseat. I do as he says, all the while feeling like this is happening to someone else. I come back to myself when the Inspector's sharp voice barks at me.
"Sir!" Silently I thank her for realizing I need something to ground myself to. Duty has always been that for me. Something to hold me steady, to take over when I am lost.
"Move over, Fraser." Inspector Thatcher looks both concerned and exasperated at the same time.
"Move over? Why-?"
"Ray's going in the backseat too, Constable," The Lieutenant this time. My confusion must be apparent. "Move over so he can put his head on your lap. The rest of us will squeeze in front."
I comply as quickly as I can, helping Lieutenant Welsh slide my partner across the seat. It is not an easy task as Ray's arms and legs flop in every direction. After several minutes of pushing and pulling, I have a lapful of Chicago detective. Ray looks decidedly worse than he did before. This would have happened sooner or later, but our conversation helped speed up the process.
Giving no thought to who might see, I reach down and brush several strands of hair off of Ray's forehead. They immediately fall back into the same position, making me smile. Ray's hair is like his attitude: defiant. I let my fingers trace the ridge of his brow, the curve of his cheek, the outline of his lips.
I want so much to be able to kiss those lips as a lover would. I want to feel Ray's body moving under mine. I want…
Therein lies the problem. I want. Not what Ray wants, not what anybody else wants. But what I want. "I'm sorry," Softly, so as not to alert the others and certainly not to wake Ray.
I needn't have worried. Ray is unconscious, chest rising and falling with deep breaths. It would be so easy to lose myself just looking at him. I have done so many times.
The way Ray is positioned on my lap looks very uncomfortable. I shift around until I am sitting sideways on the seat, my back pressed up against the door. I lift Ray up and maneuver him so that his head and shoulders rest on my chest. Even in these motions, there is selfishness. Ray is more comfortable, yes, but I can't help reveling in the feeling of his body against mine.
Quiet voices murmur from the front seat. Inspector Thatcher is sitting in the middle, between Lieutenant Welsh and Turnbull. I can tell that they are making concerted efforts to keep their voices low in deference to Ray and me in the backseat. Even if they were speaking at normal volume, I do not think I would hear them. The only sound I can hear, that I want to hear, is the sound of Ray's breathing.
My whole being is focused on Ray. I can't let go of the idea that I could have lost him, that I might never have seen him again. The only thing that reassures me is the sound of his breathing and the solid weight of him against me.
Ray shivers; I feel it through his entire body. I wrap my arms around him; doing the best I can to share my own considerable body heat. It works and the shivering stops, followed by an unintelligible murmur. Not for the first time today I long for the time when I can hold him like this while he is awake.
I find my attention being drawn to Ray's hands, resting limply in his lap. They are the most attractive hands I have ever seen on a man, long-fingered and elegant. I've had a fascination with them since Ray was accused of murder and I arrested him. I know I held onto him longer than necessary, but he said nothing. Now, under pretense that those hands must be cold, I cover them with my own. I hold them, stroke them, squeeze them, forgetting for a moment where we are.
Turnbull's voice breaks my reverie. "How is Detective Vecchio doing, sir?"
Reality comes crashing back. "Still unconscious, I'm afraid."
"We're almost there, Constable," Lieutenant Welsh meets my eyes in the rearview mirror. "I can see that Vecchio and I are going to be forced to have a conversation on what is considered 'fine'."
"Indeed," I say, not quite knowing how to reply.
"He's going to be okay, Fraser." The concern in Welsh's voice touches me. It is almost as if he knows my feelings regarding Ray. I don't doubt that he does, not much escapes the Lieutenant's sharp eye.
I can only nod dumbly, my emotions too close to the surface to speak. The conversation over, I return my attention to Ray. Leaning my head down, I whisper in his ear. "I love you, Ray."
It will have to be enough for now.
Don't like being out of commission. Don't like being knocked out, handcuffed, gagged. None of that stuff turns my crank unless I want it to.
I sure as hell don't like passing out in Fraser's arms. He feels guilty enough as it is without me adding to it.
No clue how long I was out, but I woke up being wheeled into an exam room. Fraser was nowhere around and I kinda…panicked.
Okay, so panicked is the wrong word. Freaked out is better. Yeah, I freaked out when I couldn't find my Mountie. My Mountie. Should sound funny thinking that, but it doesn't.
I couldn't help it. When I passed out, Fraser was there to catch me. And even though I wasn't awake, I knew he was there. Sounds stupid, but I just knew. So when I half-woke up and he wasn't there…
Gave the docs and nurses one hell of a scare. I know I started yelling for him, fighting against hands that weren't his. Hands that tried to hold me down. That just made me fight harder, no way in hell was I gonna be held down again. Had enough of that on the Henry Allen.
Them trying to keep me still was a mistake. Pretty sure I punched someone. All I know is that somehow I ended up falling off the gurney and meeting the floor all personal-like. Couldn't hardly see, they had that damn room so bright. All I could see was a bunch of shapes coming towards me.
That's where it gets kinda hazy. Somehow I ended up in a corner of the room, hitting out at anything that came near me. Hollering for Fraser the whole time.
He showed up, too. Just like I knew he would. I remember his voice saying my name over and over. Took a while for him to get through to me. Think I said his name but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that he touched my arm and just like that everything was okay again.
When did Fraser start having the power to make things okay? When did I start depending on him so much? How come when he's not around there's an empty space? I never felt like this about Stella. Loved her, sure. Still do love her, but I never needed her like I need Ben. And when did Fraser become Ben? I've never called him Ben out loud. Maybe I'm afraid that he won't want me to call him Ben.
This feeling stuff confuses the hell out of me, but I'll figure it out later. Right now I just want to sleep. Fraser's got his arms around me now, holding me close, my head on his shoulder. Just like before. I've never felt this safe, this loved. Makes me wanna cry. This time my arms work and I grab onto that big body and hold on for dear life. Can't squeeze near as tight as I want to, my wrists still hurt.
He's rubbing my back again and sort of…rocking me. Like I was a baby or something. Feels good though. Fraser turns his head so that his lips are right by my ear and just starts whispering, "It's all right, Ray. Everything is all right. I'm not going anywhere."
Aw hell. Now I am crying. Bury my head in his shoulder, praying that no one notices. Fraser does though and just hugs me tighter, still whispering in my ear.
"I'm here, Ray. Everything is okay. I'm here. Just let go. I'm here."
And I do.
And it's the best feeling in the world.
I sit here next to Ray's hospital bed, tired but unable to sleep. I am afraid he will wake up again and panic as he did earlier.
The image still haunts me. Hearing my name screamed over and over again, running down the hallway and bursting into the trauma room, seeing Ray huddled in a corner, arms lashing out at anyone who dared get too close. His eyes were shut tight, the bright light of the room blinding him.
Ray had stopped screaming my name when I entered the room. Almost as if he sensed I was there. By the time I spoke his name, lightly touching his arm he had taken to chanting "FraserFraserFraserFraser…" I was scared, both for him and for myself. Until now I hadn't realized how much Ray needed me. Or how much I needed him. I truly believe that I can no longer live without him.
He looked so frightened, crouched in the corner, arms wrapped tightly around his body. I reached out and gathered him in my arms, awkwardly pulling him into my lap. I don't think he was even aware of it. Just like before, he put his head on my shoulder, face turned toward my neck. His arms came up and hugged me tightly.
I rubbed his back again, remembering how it had relaxed Ray before. I started to rock him back and forth gently, soothing his panic as best I could. "It's all right, Ray. Everything is all right. I'm not going anywhere." The words fell from my lips without thought. Ray needed that assurance.
He starts to cry, hiding his face in my shoulder as best he can. My only response is to hold him tighter, letting him know I am here for him. That he can let go. That I will always be here.
The tension melts from his body almost instantly. Ray's breathing slows, signaling he is falling asleep. I continue to hold him until I am sure he will not wake up. Only then do I allow the hospital staff to take him from me.
I refuse to leave the room. After what happened before, no one challenges me.
Now I wait, half-dozing in a hard plastic chair next to Ray's hospital bed. I expect he will be asleep for a while longer. The combined effects of no sleep and the sedative he was given make that possible. I am seated as close as possible, one hand holding Ray's. He will not be alone when he wakes up this time.
To the doctor, Ray's injuries are 'minor'. I held my tongue when he said that. A concussion, bruised and abraded wrists, dehydration, and exhaustion are certainly not 'minor'. Not to mention the infection that has developed due to the polluted lake water. The nurse put an IV in to help with the dehydration. In my pocket are prescriptions for painkillers and antibiotic cream. Every four hours the dressing on Ray's wrists must be changed and I will be there to make sure it gets done. I will be there to apply the cream to soothe his wounds. The pain pills are to be taken as needed and I know that Ray will not take them unless he is made to. I've yet to tell Ray that I will be staying with him for the next few days. He will most certainly argue, but I will not let him push me away. There is too much at stake to risk that.
A small sound from the bed jars me out of my stupor. Ray is moving restlessly, whimpering softly. He must be in the midst of another nightmare. I get to my feet quickly, knocking my chair over. I sit on the side of the bed and pull Ray into my arms as his whimpers become louder. He quiets almost immediately, pressing his face into my chest. I run my fingers through his hair, soothing him as best I can. Ray's only reaction is to make a slight humming noise and press himself closer.
After a long while Ray's breathing deepens, signaling he is once again asleep. I gently ease him back onto the bed, taking care to move slowly. The last thing I want is for Ray to wake again. He needs to rest and regain his strength, as do I.
I bend down and right the chair, once again taking my place at Ray's side. Where I should have been all along. The guilt nearly overwhelms me but I push it down. My partner will be my only concern for now. The rest I will deal with later.
I take Ray's hand in my own, squeezing it gently. Satisfied now that he will be fine, I allow my eyes to close. I am unable to fight the heavy pull of sleep and give into it, letting it take me into a blessed oblivion.
No freaking out when I wake up this time. First thing I see is Fraser's head lying on the hospital bed. He's got a death grip on my hand and he's got the other arm under his head. Looks mighty uncomfortable, but I know he'll never say a word. My hand is numb, but you won't hear me complain.
I lay here and watch him sleep. He looks peaceful, relaxed. God knows Fraser needs to relax every once in a while. Never lets his guard down much, always wears the 'Mountie Mask'. If I had to work with the Ice Queen I'd probably have a mask, too. But sometimes I get to see the real Fraser. From what Huey tells me, Fraser's a lot less uptight than he used to be. More of a real person, not a cardboard cutout.
Whatever drugs they gave me are starting to wear off and my body's reminding me that I ain't twenty years old any more. Everything hurts. Head's pounding, wrists are stinging. Looks like I tried to off myself, they got so much stuff wrapped around 'em. I feel the bump on my head with the hand Fraser's not hanging onto. No stitches, thank God.
Still tired, but not like I was before. Before even my bones were tired. Now I just feel like I need a good night's sleep or three. Guess chasing after a Mountie on a mission for justice will do that to a guy.
It's not that I didn't agree with Fraser. Just that I couldn't figure how it became our problem to solve. But when he started telling me all that stuff about those sailors…how the hell was I supposed to say no? Glad I said yes, though. It was worth almost dying to get him back.
But just because I got Fraser back doesn't mean that practically buying the farm didn't fuck me up. Every time I close my eyes I see the water rising and me not able to get away from it. Can solve that real quick. I just won't close my eyes. Yeah, right, Kowalski. Keep saying that and you just might believe it.
What time is it? No clocks around this damn place. Must be a reason for it, but right now I don't give a shit. Fraser's still sound asleep, even snoring a little bit. Even Mounties got their flaws. They don’t have many, you gotta look close.
I'm starting to remember yesterday, bits and pieces coming back. I remember that I had one hell of a nightmare. I remember Fraser being really pissed that I didn't tell him about my wrists. Then I passed out and he carried me to the car. Haven't been carried like that since I was a little kid. Somehow the fact that Fraser was doing the carrying makes it okay. Not even gonna pretend to try and make sense of that.
I also remember what happened after that. Can feel my face getting hot. Just had to freak out and scream for Fraser, didn't I? Still not sure of all the details, but I know for sure that I ended up in his arms again. Two times in one day, must be a record.
Could use a glass of water right about now. My luck it's on that roll-away table thingie they always have in hospitals. Looks like I'm gonna have to stretch for it. I sit up a bit and reach for a glass.
First I get fireworks exploding in front of my eyes. Then my wrist joins in. Half-yell "Shit!" before I can stop myself. Which, of course, wakes Fraser up.
I immediately awaken when I hear Ray's pain-filled expletive. I sit up straight, unsure of what has happened. "Ray?"
He is half-sitting up in the bed, left arm cradled against his chest, an odd expression on his face. "Nothing, Frase. Go back to sleep." He does not look at me.
"What's wrong?" I will not be dissuaded this time.
"Told ya. Nothing"
"Ray," I say warningly.
This time he does look at me, angry expression not quite able to mask the pain in his eyes. "Goddammit, Fraser! Do ya have to know everything?"
His words hurt, but I don't let it show. "When it concerns my partner, yes." Realizing I am still holding his hand, I squeeze it gently, trying to get my point across.
Ray seems to deflate before my eyes. The anger is gone as quickly as it came. He flops back on the bed and stares up at the ceiling. "Sorry. I just--you know. I…hurt." This admission seems to take the last of Ray's energy, leaving him looking tired and defeated.
Before I can reply, a nurse hurries into the room. She is carrying a tray with several small paper cups on them. Ray's medication, I assume. Seeing that he is awake, she begins to fuss over him, tucking the blankets around his slender frame. I hide a smile, knowing that Ray hates to be fussed over. Ray swallows the pills given to him with no comment. A definite sign that he is in pain.
The nurse leaves and Ray turns to me, a disgusted look on his face. "She think I'm five or what?"
This time I do smile. "Perhaps she thought you needed to be tucked in." Someday I would like to be the one to tuck Ray into bed. Our bed. It may never happen, though, and I need to be prepared.
"Mmm," is his reply, eyelids drooping. The pain pills are either very fast-acting or Ray is still exhausted. "Fraser?"
"I'm gonna take swimming lessons soon as I get outta here."
Ray turns so that he is lying on his side facing me, the flimsy hospital blanket slipping off him. I immediately let go of his hand and pull the blanket until it is up around his shoulders. He gives me an odd look but says nothing. As soon as my hand is unoccupied, Ray reaches for it and holds it tightly in his own. He is about to speak when someone knocks on the door.
Lieutenant Welsh enters Ray's room. There is a mixture of relief, worry, and anger on his face as he strides toward the bed. Our clasped hands give him only momentary pause. "How you doin', Vecchio?"
Welsh looks thoughtful for a moment. "Would this be the same kind of 'fine' you were right before you passed out?"
Ray has the good grace to look embarrassed. "Oh, that."
"I, uh, forgot."
"You forgot? Just how do you forget something like that, Vecchio?" The Lieutenant's voice takes on an incredulous tone as he moves closer to the bed.
Ray says nothing, only looks down at our intertwined hands.
"I'm waiting for an answer, Vecchio."
When it becomes apparent that Ray isn't going to say anything, I answer the Lieutenant. "In Ray's defense, sir, he didn't have much of a chance. There just wasn't time." Ray sends me a grateful look. He will not get off so easily, though; I plan to discuss this with him later.
Welsh nods, still staring at Ray. I can see that he is still concerned. "I'll accept that excuse for now. You got the next week off, Vecchio. We'll have our talk when you get back."
"Thanks, sir," Ray mumbles, still not meeting Welsh's eyes. His gaze follows the lieutenant out of the room, a small smile on his lips. "Seems I got some time off, Frase. Ya wanna do something?" Ray turns his smile on me and I can't help but return it.
"You will be doing exactly what the doctor tells you, Ray." He may have forgotten the doctor's diagnosis of extreme exhaustion but I have not. Ray scowls at me, opening his mouth to protest, but I cut him off. "You've had almost no sleep for three days and you were injured. I've no doubt that you are still tired."
"Do not give me that crap, Fraser. You've had just as little sleep as me. The Ice Queen better give you time off too or she'll be hearing from me."
"I can assure you, Detective, that Constable Fraser will also be taking some time off."
Surprised, I let go of Ray's hand and stand at attention. I know Ray hates it when I do this, but I cannot help it. The Inspector is my commanding officer and is therefore entitled to respect. "Sir."
"At ease, Constable." She has changed out of her dress serge and is once again in a business suit. "I trust you are well, Detective?"
"Me?" Ray seems shocked.
"Yes, you. Are you feeling better?" Inspector Thatcher's voice holds a hint of amusement.
"Uh, yeah. I'm fine. So you really giving Frase here time off or are you yanking his chain?"
"Fraser, could you give us a few minutes?" I am reluctant at first, but the smile I see on the Inspector's face assures me that Ray is in good hands.
"Of course," I answer, enjoying the trapped look on my partner's face. "I'll just go on down to the cafeteria and get something to drink."
Ray makes a face at me behind the Inspector's back. "Get me some coffee. And some M & M's." I try in vain to hide my expression of distaste, but he sees it and smiles widely.
"As you wish. Though, I will have to check with your doctor to make sure you can have coffee."
I close the door on his plaintive "Fraser!" and head in search of coffee and Ray's doctor.
Damn Mountie! Leaving me here at the mercy of the Ice Queen. She's just standing there smiling at me. She never smiles at me. I get the 'pissed off/annoyed' look a lot, but she doesn't smile at me a whole lot.
"So," I say, hoping that she'll just say her piece and leave.
"May I sit down?"
Leave it to a Canadian to make me feel like I'm being rude. "Yeah, sure. Whatever you want."
She sits down in Fraser's chair. I can't think of it as anything but that, he's been sitting in it so long. Make an attempt to sit up, but fail miserably. She's quick to grab the bed controls and move me into a half-sitting position. "Thanks," I mumble.
"Not a problem. Now how are you really feeling, Detective?"
The Ice Queen doesn't waste any time. "Call me Ray." Can't stand being called 'Detective' all the time. I'm an informal kinda guy.
She nods. "Only if you call me Meg."
Call her Meg? Call the Ice Queen by her first name? "Okay, where's the real Meg Thatcher and what did you do with her?"
She kind of giggles at that. Never knew she giggled, didn't think she had it in her. This whole conversation is weird as hell. I can count on one hand the times that we've had a one-on-one talk.
"I'm the real deal, Ray."
"Great. So, what'd you want to talk about?" Quicker I can get her out of here, the sooner Fraser can come back. And the sooner I can start figuring out just how I feel about him.
"I wanted to apologize for what happened earlier."
"Apologize? What the hell for?"
She blushes and starts picking at her sleeve. "I wanted to apologize for giving you the wrong impression of me."
"Wrong impression? How do you figure?" She has me totally confused now. Or maybe it's the pain pills. Either way, I'm lost.
"Apparently I've done something in the short time we've known each other to make you believe that I wouldn't care if you were hurt or not."
What the hell? "Look, Ins-Meg, you'll have to clue me in here. I was kinda out of it, ya know?"
She looks me right in the eye, like she's trying to figure out if I'm fibbing. "When you had the nightmare and we pulled over it was obvious you weren't fine. You asked me why I would care anyway."
Oh, that. Forgot about that. "Yeah, look, I'm--uh--sorry about saying that to ya. Didn't mean it."
"You do mean it or you wouldn't have said it. I just wanted to apologize for making you think that I wouldn't care." She sighs. "I'm afraid that I made a snap judgment about you, Ray. I was expecting you to be as grating as your predecessor. Despite our differences, I think you're a fine detective." Meg puts her hand over mine and kinda squeezes it. "Do you accept my apology?"
"Umm, sure. Even though you got nothing to be sorry for." Feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone or something. Thatcher saying she's sorry for not caring? Who apologizes for something like that?
"Thank you, Ray. Now, how do you really feel?" She can see that I really don't want to tell her, but she keeps bugging me. "I promise not to say anything to Constable Fraser."
Since she promised not to tell Fraser and Canadians never lie, I decide to tell her. "My head hurts and so do my wrists. I feel like I could sleep for another week and not catch up."
"Are you in a lot of pain? Should I call in the nurse?"
Great, she sounds like my mother. Don't need another one of those. "Nah, the nurse came before you got here and gave me something." My last word comes out as a yawn and I feel my eyelids getting heavier.
"I should go," She stands up to leave, but I grab her arm.
"Could you stay? Just until Fraser comes back?" No way I want to be alone just yet. Hate to admit it, but I'm still freaked out. Having someone around seems to help. She's no Fraser, but she'll do.
"Please, Meg?" That's got her. Throw in a 'please' and the puppy dog look I learned from Dief and she can't resist.
Meg nods and sits back down. "All right. I'll stay until Fraser gets back."
Give her one of my killer smiles, which probably isn't so killer right about now. She smiles back and pats my hand. Know I'll be embarrassed later, but I grab her hand. Never thought the day would come that I'd want to hold the Ice Queen's hand. But then again, I never almost died before. Things like that will change a man.
"Just until Frase gets back." Her face is the last thing I see as I close my eyes. Before I drop completely off, I decide that maybe Thatcher isn't as bad as I thought she was.
I stop at the nurse's station to make sure that Ray is allowed to have coffee. His nurse tells me he is, but it must be decaffeinated. She also informs me that Ray will be released as soon as the doctor can see him.
The elevator ride down to the cafeteria seems to take an eternity. People get on and off yet I feel as though I am alone. I try not to wonder what the Inspector and Ray are talking about. It is none of my concern. I'm sure that if either one of them wants me to know, she or he will tell me.
The cafeteria is busy. Doctors sit here and there, some sleeping, some sitting with other doctors and nurses. I see many worried faces that can only belong to friends and family members. Only hours ago, I was one of those worried faces. Now that Ray is awake I am less concerned, but I cannot stop thinking that he could have died. That I would have been the cause of his death.
I pay for the coffee and Ray's chocolate that he insisted on. Sometimes I think he does things just to annoy me. Or perhaps to tease me. But I've never minded being teased by Ray.
The ride back up takes just as long as the ride down. When I step out of the elevator Diefenbaker greets me. He barks excitedly and is quickly shushed by Constable Turnbull who stands right behind him. The fact that Dief is here comes as no surprise. He has an uncanny ability to charm his way into anything.
Dief jumps up and plants his paws on my chest. I quickly hand my purchases to Turnbull and resign myself to a thorough face-licking. "Yes, Dief. I missed you too. Ray is going to be fine. You want to see him, I suppose. I'll see what I can do."
The minute I open the door to Ray's room, Dief squeezes past me and bounds into the room. I shake my head ruefully. I knew that would happen. I was surprised at how quickly Dief accepted Ray. But he has always been a good judge of character.
I enter the room to find the Inspector sitting next to Ray's bed, holding his hand as he sleeps. Dief has jumped up next to Ray and is looking him over. He whines softly as he presses his nose against Ray's cheek. Getting no response, Dief settles himself carefully against Ray's side and closes his eyes.
Inspector Thatcher turns to look at me. "He wanted me to stay until you came back." She releases Ray's hand and stands up. Over her shoulder I see Ray's eyes open and a panicked expression cross his face. I move the Inspector out of the way as gently as I can and hurry to the bed.
"I'm right here, Ray." He visibly relaxes at the sound of my voice. Diefenbaker sits up and licks Ray's face. He is not surprised to find a half-wolf in his bed and scratches Dief's head. Ray grins at me as Dief shows his pleasure at having him back by bathing Ray's face.
"So who snuck the wolf in?"
"I'm afraid that I am the guilty party, Detective. I told the receptionist that Diefenbaker was a seeing-eye dog." Turnbull flushes red when all eyes fall on him. "I knew Diefenbaker would be overjoyed at seeing both you and Constable Fraser safe and sound."
Ray waves a hand in Turnbull's direction. "Don't sweat it, Turnbull. If you'd got caught Dief woulda just charmed his way up here. He's good at that. Right, Frase?"
For a moment I can't speak. When Ray waved his hand at Turnbull the bandages around his wrist were in full view. And even though his wounds are covered, it takes only one second to remember what they look like uncovered.
I clear my throat. "Quite right. I have so far been unsuccessful in breaking of that habit." Diefenbaker gives me an exasperated look before going back to licking Ray's face. "Dief, I think you've licked Ray enough, don't you?"
"Ah, c'mon, Fraser. The wolf's just happy to see me. Isn't that right, Dief?" Ray punctuates his last sentence by slinging an arm around Dief and squeezing,
"Having a party, Detective Vecchio?" Ray's doctor is standing in the doorway, a bemused expression on his face.
"We were just leaving." The Inspector grabs Turnbull and pulls him out of the room, sharing a smile with Ray as she does so.
"Thanks, Meg," Ray calls as the door shuts.
Meg? Why is Ray calling the Inspector 'Meg'? Surely it means nothing?
I put that thought aside for now and pay attention to Ray's doctor.
"Detective, I'm Doctor Kelly. I treated you when you were first brought in."
Ray frowns. "Don't remember you. Sorry."
Doctor Kelly smiles. "I'm not surprised. You were quite disoriented. Barring any complications you should be able to go home today. Is there someone who can help you with changing the bandages on your wrists?"
"I will, Doctor." I volunteer quickly before Ray can say he doesn't need any help.
"And you are…?"
"Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP."
"Good, good." If Doctor Kelly is curious about my presence, he doesn't show it.
Ray starts to speak, "Fraser, you don't have to-"
"Yes, Ray. I do."
I turn my attention back to the doctor as he explains the different medications and how to properly change the bandages. I can feel Ray's eyes on me and it takes all my strength not to look at him. When we are safely in his apartment, Ray and I will have our talk. I know that once I tell him how I feel he will reject me and I want to postpone that for as long as I can. Worse to put off the pain, but it gives me the chance to spend more time with Ray. He may not want to see me later but that is a risk I'm going to take.
I have to.
I'm not really listening to the doctor. I know Fraser is and he remembers everything. Read somewhere that most people only use something like twelve percent of their brains. Fraser uses all of his or pretty damn close to it so I'm not worried.
Wonder what Fraser meant when he said he 'had to' help? He's probably neck deep in guilt and figures this is the only way he can make it up to me. It's gonna be hard making him understand that it wasn't his fault.
I tried to tell him before, don't know if he heard me or not. Bet he did though, Fraser has ears like a bat. Must come from spending all that time in the tundra. Or is that 'on the tundra'? Can you be 'in' a tundra? Could these drugs make me a little more fucked up?
"Ray? Are you ready to go?"
Shit, I must've fallen asleep or something. The doctor is gone and it’s just me, Fraser, and Dief. I wanted a dog something awful when I was a kid, but Mom always said no. She gave me a turtle instead. It’s nice to have Dief around even if he does slobber all over me. He's lying on top of my legs right now. Playing at being a blanket I guess. Not that I mind. Can't seem to get warm after being in ice-cold lake water.
"Ray?" Fraser sounds worried now. He always answers people right away so something must be wrong with me, right?
"Doctor Kelly has released you. A nurse will be here with a wheelchair momentarily. Are you all right?"
Oh goody, I get to do the wheelchair thing. Any other time I would put up a fuss, but not today. "I'm fine."
He gives me a look that says I'm lying my ass off. Fraser won't come out and say it, of course. Looks are like pictures for him. Worth a thousand words and all that. For all his talking he doesn't say a whole lot. Sure Fraser knows damn near everything about how to survive in the wilderness, but try to get him to tell you how he feels? Forget it.
"I said I was fine, Fraser."
"So you did."
"You think I'm lying?"
That gets a raised eyebrow. "I never said that, Ray."
If I wasn't still tired I would yell in frustration. Fraser is a master at saying everything and nothing with one sentence. "Whatever."
"Hey, where are my clothes?" No way am I going home in one of these gowns that show my ass.
"I had Turnbull pick some clothes up for you." Fraser holds up a duffle bag.
"You let Turnbull into my apartment? Nothing better be less dusty than when I left it."
"Ray, I assure you that nothing was disturbed. Everything is just as it was before we left."
He's talking to me like I'm two or something. I give him a glare. "It better be. Gimme my clothes."
I reach for them, but Fraser won't hand them over. "Give me the clothes, Fraser. I'd like to get dressed sometime today."
"You know, it only takes--"
An extra second to be courteous. Yeah, I know." He's gonna make me say it. I can tell from the expression on his face. I roll my eyes at him. "Can I please have my clothes? There. You happy now?"
Fraser smiles at me. Always like it when he smiles. Makes him into a totally different person. More Ben Fraser, less Mountie. "Quite," he says and hands the bag over. It's kinda heavy so I know Turnbull must have put shoes in there too.
Push Dief off my legs and sit up. Easier to do this time. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and just sit there for a little bit. Still dizzy and more than a little shaky. Hope Frase doesn't notice. But he will, he always does.
"Do you require assistance getting dressed, Ray?"
I don't answer Fraser, 'cause I'm not sure if I want his help or not. Unzip the bag and start pulling out clothes. Underwear, socks, jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, and boots. Good old Turnbull. He must have remembered I dress in layers. I get cold real easy, always have. Mom used to say it was 'cause I was too skinny. She's probably right.
Fraser's just standing there, staring at me. "You gonna leave the room or what?"
He runs a thumb across his eyebrow. Means he's a little nervous. Probably he just realized that he's in a small room with me and I don't have any underwear on. I might be a little nervous about that, too. I'm pretty sure Fraser has a thing for me but do I want to encourage it?
"Ah, no. I think it would be better if I stayed. In case you need any help."
Figures. "Um, okay." I learned a while ago that sometimes it's just not worth arguing with Fraser. He just keeps at you until he gets his way. Reach around to untie the gown but the damn thing is in a knot or something and my fingers feel all tight and swollen. "Little help here, Frase? Can't get the damn thing untied." Hate not being able to do this myself. It sucks that I have to depend on my partner to get me out of a stupid hospital gown when I should be able to handle it on my own.
He's got that deer in the headlights look now. Guess he didn't think I'd really ask him for help. Fraser walks over and stands real close to me. So close that I can feel his breath on my neck when I turn so he can get to the ties. I shiver a bit, enjoying the sensation of warmth flowing across my neck and scalp. This is what Fraser is to me, a spot of warmth in the coldness that's become my life since Stella left.
Jesus, Kowalski, save your deep thoughts for when you can understand 'em. These pain pills pack a wallop. Should know by now that any ideas I get now are gonna be a bit off.
Having Fraser this close to me, breathing on me, touching me makes me feel something. Something that I haven't felt in a long time. I don't know if it's love or lust. Hell, could be both. I've never felt like this over a guy. Never had much of a chance to, though. Met Stella when I was thirteen and never looked back. Sure, I dated a few other girls when me and her were on the outs, but nothing ever came of it.
I feel Fraser's fingers brush across the skin of my back and shiver again. Can’t help it; I can feel the heat coming off his hands. Clear my throat and look back at him. "The knots giving ya trouble?" Stupid thing to say, but I have to say something.
He looks up at me and blushes. "No--ah--that is..." This isn't a good sign. When Fraser starts stammering like that it means he's really nervous. And guess who's making him nervous? The guy he might have a thing for. The guy who was too stupid to call for a nurse instead of making his partner freak out.
"Spit it out, Fraser." Two times now I've told him that. Course the first time he was eating arsenic.
Fraser smiles too; he must remember the same thing. "No, Ray. I'll have you out of this in a jiffy." He starts working at the knots again and I hear him mutter, "Or I could use my knife."
Luckily he doesn’t have to. A nurse comes in with the wheelchair and gives us both a nasty look. I glare right back but Fraser lets go of my gown like it was a hot potato. Dief makes himself scarce, darting into the bathroom.
"You're not dressed yet." Her nametag says Sunshine Minor but she's nothing close to it.
Her whole attitude pisses me off. Probably I'm on a short fuse right now. "Did ya figure that out all by yourself?" I shoot back, just as snarky.
In two seconds she has the gown untied and halfway pulled off. "I got it from here, thanks." Push her hands away and reach for my t-shirt. "You mind?"
"You don't have anything that I haven't seen before." Nurse Sunshine crosses her arms and stands in the middle of the room. Don't look like she's moving any time soon. I shoot Fraser a look and he comes to my rescue.
"Detective Vecchio is rather shy, Nurse Minor. I'd be willing to help him get dressed if you were to wait outside." Fraser's doing his super-polite Mountie act. Always gets the job done and this time is no exception. She smiles widely at him, glares at me, and then leaves the room.
"Damn, who pissed in her Cheerios?"
Fraser laughs. "That's a very colorful expression. I don't believe I've ever heard that before."
The bathroom door creaks and Dief pokes his head out. He makes sure the coast is clear before hopping back up on the bed.
"What, they don’t have Cheerios up in Canada? Let me guess, breakfast in the Yukon involves blubber and lichen?" Maybe I can get out of this without either of us getting too uncomfortable. "Look I can handle everything except my jeans and shoes. Can ya help with those or you want I should call Miss Sunshine in?" Shoelaces and button-flys are not something my fingers can manage right now and the last thing I need is a nervous Mountie fumbling around in my jeans.
"That would probably be a good idea, Ray. If Nurse Sunshine were to help you with your jeans, that is." I can almost see the relief in Fraser's face.
Me and him, we’re gonna need to have a serious talk when we get back to my place. If Fraser has a thing for me, I want to know. I need to know. If I know that he has feelings for me it might help me figure out if I have feelings for him. Then I can figure out if having those kind of feelings for Fraser is a good thing or a bad thing.
Grab for my underwear and Fraser turns around and gets real interested in the wall. I can't help but smile. There must be some written rule that when you go to the hospital they have to take your underwear. I pull mine on quick as I can and reach for my t-shirt. I get the damn thing halfway on before my wrists start hurting again. The grunt of pain escapes before I can stop it and before I know it, Fraser's there helping me again.
I turn my back as Ray begins to dress himself. How does one tell his partner that he loves him? Should I just tell him? Do I simply say 'Ray, I love you.' and hope for the best? I don't know what his reaction would be. Maybe he would smile at me and say 'I love you, too.' Or he might tell me to get out of his sight. As far as I can tell, Ray has dated no one since he and Stella have divorced. From what he told me in the crypt, I gather that he has only ever been with her.
I don’t like Stella. She had Ray's love and threw it away. I cannot imagine such a thing. If I had Ray's love I would cherish it. I would cherish him. I want to cherish him if he'll let me. But will he let me? Would Ray let me love him as he deserves to be loved? Would he care that I am a man? I don't know for sure and I won't know unless I tell him. If I tell Ray I love him I may lose him forever
The soft grunt of pain from Ray gets my attention quickly. I spin around to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, tangled in his t-shirt. He has his boxers on, thank God. "Do you need any help?"
A muffled sound that could have been a 'yes' comes from somewhere inside the t-shirt. Moving quickly, I carefully ease the sleeves past Ray's bandaged wrists. Next I pull until his head pops through the neck of the shirt. Ray's hair is tousled, sticking in every direction and he is scowling.
He looks edible.
I continue to tug on the t-shirt until it covers Ray's torso. In doing so, my fingers brush against his sides. I gasp at the contact. It feels as though I've been struck by lightning. It feels right.
Ray inhales sharply and I try not to notice that his nipples have hardened underneath his shirt. I tell myself that it's only because Ray is cold. I will not allow my hopes to get too high for the fall is one that I might not survive.
As if he can hear my thoughts, Ray looks up at me. His blue eyes are slightly glazed, an effect of the pain medication I assume. "Thanks, Ben," he says softly, laying a hand on my arm.
For a moment, I am taken aback by the use of my first name. Ray rarely, if ever, calls me 'Ben' or any variation on 'Benton'. "You're welcome." I pat his hand notice that it is nowhere near as warm as it should be. "Your hand is cold. Are you warm enough?"
Ray grins and reaches for his sweatshirt. "Yeah, well, that lake water wasn't exactly warm, ya know? Once I get this on, I'll be snug as a bug. Plus, I got a fur coat sitting right next to me." He nods his head at Diefenbaker, who has moved so that he is nearly sitting on top of Ray.
I can’t help but grin back. Ray has a very infectious smile. "Indeed. Shall I help you with that?" Without waiting for an answer, I take the sweatshirt out of his hand and help him put it on.
"This is what Turnbull picks out?" Ray is looking at his shirt in disbelief. "The one lousy time that Mom buys me a souvenir and he finds it."
Taking a closer look at the sweatshirt, I see what he is talking about. There is a sign posted to a tree with a bear standing next to it. The sign on the tree reads 'Please do not feed the bears'. The bear is wearing antlers and holding a small sign that says 'I am not a bear'. At the bottom of the shirt are the words 'Trust me' and 'Yellowstone National Park'.
"It's very nice. What do you think, Dief?" I offer, holding back laughter. The slogan is rather witty. Dief softly barks his agreement.
"Sure, if I was twelve. What I want to know is how the hell did Turnbull find it? Thought for sure that it was buried in the back of the closet." Ray narrows his eyes at me. "I thought you said he left everything the same."
I fear that Constable Turnbull may have seen the state of Ray's closet and been unable to help himself. "I'm sure he did. Perhaps Turnbull just did a bit of tidying up."
Ray makes a face at me. "Can't you Mounties leave a mess alone? I had everything just like I wanted it. Now my system is all messed up."
"He means well."
"Yeah, yeah. God save the Queen and all that." Ray shifts on the bed and reaches for his jeans. "You wanna call the nurse in here so she can get some job satisfaction?"
I can tell that Ray is making an effort to be casual. We are both doing an admirable job of hiding our relief that this awkward moment is almost over. I want nothing more than to help Ray with his jeans, but I am afraid he will realize that my actions are not selfless. The last thing I want to do is hurt Ray more than I already have. "Of course." As I walk towards the door, I can feel his eyes on me. I dare not look back for fear that I'll not be able to leave him.
Fraser leaves and my favorite nurse comes back in. We glare at each other for a bit then get down to business. She helps me get my jeans on and my socks and shoes too. Can't imagine what it would have been like to have Fraser help me. Pretty damn embarrassing is my guess. It's just better if I don't get too close to Fraser while I'm trying to figure out what's going on in my head.
I'm still tired. Gonna be great to get back to my apartment and sleep for two or three days. Once I recharge I can tackle this thing between Fraser and me. I don’t know what else to call it but a 'thing'. Feelings, maybe. Or attraction. There's no denying that he's good looking. Better looking than me, anyway. I'm no dog, but Fraser has me beat by a mile.
"Time for you to leave our happy family, Detective." Nurse Sunshine is standing behind the wheelchair and smiling. She must be just as happy to get rid of me as I am to get rid of her.
"Great." No way I'm going let her know that I really do need the ride. The distance between the bed and the wheelchair doesn't look like much, but when my feet touch the floor it looks like a mile. My legs must still be tired because I can't get them to move.
She figures out right away that I'm not gonna make it on my own. Her arm slides around my waist and she helps me into the chair. I sit down heavily, thankful that Fraser wasn't here to see that. It'd just be another thing for him to feel guilty about. The nurse grabs my bag and drops it into my lap and off we go. I hear Dief's toenails clicking on the floor as he follows us.
I look for Fraser the minute the door opens. No Fraser, but Turnbull's waiting in the hall. He gives me that dopey grin of his and takes my bag. Where'd Fraser go? Shit, did I hurt his feelings or something? Maybe he really did want to help me and I just went and screwed whatever it is we got going up. Now what? My disappointment must show, because Turnbull loses the grin and gets serious.
"Constable Fraser went down to the pharmacy to fill your prescriptions, Detective. He advised me that he will meet us at the car." The nurse starts pushing me down the hall and Turnbull keeps pace, explaining that Meg ordered him to make sure that I get home safely. I nod in all the right places, wondering why it made my heart hurt to think that I might have screwed things up with Fraser. Is this a new thing or has it been there all along?
Before I know it, we're outside the hospital and Turnbull is standing in front of the consulate car, holding the door open. Dief jumps in and woofs at me to hurry up. At least I think that's what he meant. Fraser's the only one who can speak wolf. Try to push myself out of the wheelchair only to feel pain shoot through my wrists. Dammit, Kowalski, what the hell is wrong with you? Can't even get yourself out of a wheelchair.
One second I'm sitting in the chair and the next second I'm standing up. Sort of standing up, that is. Takes me a few moments to realize that Turnbull just lifted me up and out of the chair. Just grabbed me under my arms and lifted. Shit, he's a lot stronger than I thought. What is it with Mounties picking me up? Second time this has happened in as many days. My ego doesn't like it much.
"Uh, thanks." Turnbull's face is inches from mine; we're standing that close. He's still hanging on to me, but he has a hold of my upper arms now.
"You're quite welcome. I saw that you were having some difficulties getting out of the wheelchair."
I nod. "You suppose I could get into the car anytime soon or are you going to hold me up all day?"
Turnbull looks shocked. "Oh dear! I am terribly sorry, Detective Vecchio." Say what you will about the guy, but he's damned efficient when he puts his mind to it. Turnbull gets me situated in the backseat, apologizing all the while. I lean back against the seat and keep one eye on the hospital doors. Fraser should be coming out any minute. Starting to feel sleepy but I want to see him. I need to see him. Just need to stay awake a little longer…
After getting a few last minute instructions from Ray's doctor, I fill his prescriptions. My mind is already playing out how I can make Ray take the pills. It will be difficult, *he* will be difficult about it. Ray doesn't like to be perceived as needing help. In that, we are the same. I never wanted help, if I could not do something on my own, then it was not worth doing. A foolish attitude to have and a dangerous one as well.
Turnbull has gotten Ray situated in the back seat. He is already asleep, his head leaning against the window. I want to move him to a more comfortable position, but I don't want to wake him. Ray needs his sleep. I wish I could sleep too, but there will be plenty of time for that later. My main concern is getting Ray safely home where I can make sure he will be all right.
The ride back to Ray's apartment is a silent one. Turnbull and I say nothing, neither of us wanting to wake Ray. Several times during the drive I check on him, needing to make sure he is still there. I can't help it. Ray's face still has a pinched, tired look. I'm sure I look the same way. We've both missed too much sleep in the past week. I am grateful to Inspector Thatcher for giving me time off. I would not have asked for it and she knew that. Diefenbaker is doing an admirable job of watching over Ray right now. I half-smile at the sight of Dief resting his head on Ray's lap, looking up at him. One of Ray's hands in buried in Dief's fur, frozen in the act of petting or scratching, I suppose.
The feeling that I am being stared at brings me out of my thoughts. We are no longer moving and Turnbull is looking at me expectantly. A quick glance out the window shows me that we have arrived at Ray's building. Now I only have to get Ray out of the car and up the stairs. "Thank you for the ride, Constable Turnbull."
Turnbull smiles widely at me. "Oh you’re quite welcome, sir. Do you require any assistance with Detective Vecchio?"
I open my mouth to refuse, but stop. For once I listen to what my body is telling me. It's telling me that my chances of helping Ray upstairs while he is half-asleep are not good. I would have managed, I always do, but there is no shame in asking for help. "I might at that."
"…don't need help…" comes a groggy voice from the backseat.
Both Turnbull and I turn to see Ray slowly sitting up, scrubbing a hand through his hair. He yawns and stretches as best he can in the car.
"How are you feeling, Detective Vecchio?" Turnbull asks, a question that I was planning to ask myself in the privacy of Ray's apartment.
"Like I got run over by a truck." Ray yawns again and grabs his bag. "Thanks for the ride, Turnbull." He starts to get out of the car, stopping when he sees that I have not moved. "You coming, Fraser?"
"Yes," I say, surprised that Ray hasn't argued with me about helping him. "Yes. I'm coming."
"Oh, sir? I brought some clothes for you as well." Turnbull gets out of the car with us and opens the trunk. He pulls out my pack and hands it to me. "I hope you don’t mind, but I assumed that you would be staying with Detective Vecchio."
I look over at Ray to see what his reaction is but he and Dief are already walking toward his building. "No, I don't mind. Thank you." I sling the pack over my shoulder and hurry to catch up with them. As I walk away, I hear the car door slam and the sound of the car driving away.
Ray is waiting for me at the entrance to the building. "I hope you got my keys, 'cause if you don't, then they're at the bottom of the lake."
"I have them." I've had Ray's keys since digging them out of his pocket on the Henry Allen. The desperation I felt when I discovered there was no handcuff key comes back in a rush. I do my best to hide my feelings from Ray, now is not the time to talk about it.
"Thought you might."
I pull the keys out of my pocket and reach past Ray to open the security door. My arm brushes his and we both shiver at the contact. "There we are." I say, too cheerfully, when I get the door open. "After you." Diefenbaker bounds inside and heads up the stairs.
Ray mumbles something that sounds like 'thanks' as he walks inside. He stops in front of the stairs and looks up at them. Hearing me behind him, Ray sighs. "I forgot about the stairs."
The exhaustion in his voice is evident. I wrap my arm around his waist as I did by the side of the road. Ray looks as though he might protest, but doesn't. He sighs again and I feel his arm slide around my waist. We make our way up the stairs slowly, both of us hanging on to each other firmly.
No words are spoken until the stairs are conquered. Both of us are breathing hard by the time we arrive at Ray's door. Dief is waiting patiently for us and whines as I unlock the door and push it open. "No, Diefenbaker, Ray doesn't have any doughnuts for you."
He's right, Dief. How bout we order out instead? " Ray laughs at the excited bark he receives. "Chinese okay with you, Fraser?"
I wait until we are both in Ray's apartment before answering. "It sounds fine." My eyes follow Ray as he wanders around the living room stopping here and there to examine something. He looks lost. "Everything all right?"
Ray jumps at the sound of my voice. "Huh? Oh, yeah. Everything's fine." He drops his bag on the floor and turns to face me. "Just…you know…happy to be home."
"As am I." Something is wrong. Ray seems uncomfortable around me. "Ray, is-"
"So. Chinese. Lemme just go order."
He is in the kitchen and on the phone before I can say anything more. I try not to be hurt by his abrupt exit. There will be plenty of time to talk later. The weight of my pack pressing into my shoulder reminds me that I have been wearing the same uniform for several days. "Ray? I'm going to change clothes." I raise my voice, making sure he knows where I'm going.
Ray walks out of the kitchen, the phone cradled between his shoulder and ear. He waves a hand in my direction, letting me know he has heard me. As I head into the bathroom, his voice follows me, ordering enough food to feed an army. My stomach growls at the thought of food, the last I ate was on the ship. I don't think Ray ate anything at all; he was too busy scouting around.
Thankfully, Turnbull has included a jogging suit. It feels wonderful to get out of my uniform and relax. Relaxing is something that has never come easy to me. My time spent with Ray Kowalski has helped that immensely. I don't have to be perfect with him; he doesn't expect that from me. Ray doesn't need to see Benton Fraser, RCMP, every day. He would rather I just be myself.
If Ray Vecchio were to come back now, I think he would be surprised at the change in me. A change fostered by the man who has replaced him. I had carefully built myself a wall around me, around my feelings, around my soul. Ray Kowalski has been breaking down those walls from the moment we met. He has the most irritating ability to get under my skin and stay there. With Ray I can do and say things that might not be considered 'Mountie-like' by others. He gives me…freedom.
I *will* tell Ray how I feel about him. It does no good to sit and mope around wondering if he feels the same way. Action is needed. I need Ray to know how much he means to me. And if he will let me, I will show him as well.
Fraser looks sort of relaxed when he comes out of the bathroom. Relaxed for him, anyway. Maybe now that we're at my place he'll get the steel rod out of his spine and relax completely. I'm not gonna hold my breath or anything. Fraser looks good in sweats, not that he doesn't look good in his uniform. I just like to see him take a break from being the Mountie and just be Benton Fraser.
Fraser walks over to the front door and for a minute I'm worried he's going to leave. But he just sets his boots down by the door. "Ray, may I hang my uniform up?" He nods at the serge draped over his arm.
Figures. "Yeah, sure Frase. Bedroom closet." Hope he doesn't blush when he goes in there. "Food's on the way." I'm not that hungry, but I should eat something. I'll get a lecture from Fraser on nutrition or something if I don't. The man likes to lecture. I bet if his dad hadn't been a Mountie, Fraser would have been a teacher. I can see it now, Professor Fraser in a tweed jacket with those patches on the elbows. Every girl would be drooling over him. Some of the guys too, I suppose.
I hear hangers hitting each other as Fraser hangs up his uniform. In my closet. Fraser is hanging his uniform in my closet. Next to my so-called wardrobe. Wonder if he stuck it next to my dress uniform? Haven't had call to wear that lately. I never go to any of the formal functions anymore because who wants to go alone? Not me. The thought of Fraser's red serge resting against my blues is… Well, it's okay. I don't mind at all.
"I'm glad to see you have your uniform covered in plastic, Ray."
Fraser's voice brings me out of my thoughts. "What? Oh, yeah. I don't wear it much." Truth is, the damn thing doesn't fit anymore. After me and Stella broke up I stopped living for a while and lost a bunch of weight. Haven't gained it back so the uniform is too big and I don’t feel like going in to have it fixed.
"Really?" Fraser sounds surprised. Of course he would be, this is a man who wears his dress uniform every day.
"Yeah, really. There just isn't a whole lot of call for it these days." I shrug, feeling the muscles in my shoulders twinge a bit. Must be from yanking on the cuffs. Just what I need, *more* aches and pains showing up. Sometimes doing the right thing sucks.
Whatever he's about to say is interrupted by a knock on the door. Dief barks once and I know that it has to be the Chinese food. Fraser beats me to the door and pays the guy for the food. Hell, I didn't even get off the *couch* and he was at the door. Looks likes my body is rejecting my brain's commands to move. Not that I blame it. Fraser takes the food into the kitchen and starts dishing it up. When he sees that I'm about to get up and help, he just points at me and then at the couch. Like I'm his fucking wolf or something.
But I don't move. Maybe it's easier to let Fraser take care of things right now. Maybe it's nice to have someone care about me again. Maybe I missed this kind of stuff. This having dinner with someone, this having someone be concerned for my health, this feeling of being wanted in someone else's life. Being *needed* in someone else's life. Is that what I am? Does Fraser need me? Does he want me around? Do I want him around? Do I want to see Fraser every day and have him tell me some Inuit story that means nothing?
Jesus, I'm playing Twenty Questions with myself.
Fraser makes a plate up for the both of us and a bowl for Dief. If I turn just right, I can watch him out of the corner of my eye. Dark head bent over, concentrating on dishing out the food. Sweatshirt sleeves pulled up, wouldn't want them to get dirty. He's got nice hands. Strong hands. Strong arms too. Strong enough to carry me back to the car. Strong enough to make me feel safe when I was in the middle of freaking out. How long has it been since someone else has been the strong one? Never, that's how long. The guy's supposed to be the strong one, right? He's supposed to protect his wife. What happens when after years of being the strong one your wife doesn't want that anymore? What do you do when she leaves, when she walks out the door without a good-bye?
Who's strong for that guy? Who's strong for me?
"Ray? Ray, Ray, Ray!"
Shit. Fraser's standing there holding two plates and two bottles of water. Hell of a balancing act, but Fraser's good at everything. He looks worried and annoyed at the same time. I know he hates it when he can't get my attention. "Sorry, Frase."
"Quite all right, but could you…?" He waves the plates in my direction. Apparently he's not as balanced as I thought.
"Yeah." I grab a plate and a bottle of water. The food smells great but there's gotta be some rule that says you can't drink water with Chinese food. "Lemme go grab a beer." Start to get up, but Fraser stops me.
"Sorry, Ray. No beer with your antibiotics."
Well, fuck. "Aww, c'mon Fraser. Just this one time." I know I'm whining, but so what? I'm tired, Fraser's tired, the wolf's probably tired, who cares if I want to whine?
Fraser stays firm. Just like I knew he would. "No, Ray."
After that, things get quiet. All three of us dig into the food, going for seconds--guess I was hungry after all-- and, in Fraser's case, thirds. Makes senses, I suppose. He's an active guy, probably takes a lot to keep him going. Me, I run on sugar better than I do carbohydrates.
I don't quite make it through my second helping of Kung Pao chicken and I give the rest to Dief. Fraser gives me a look, his usual one that's especially reserved for me, but doesn't say anything. I just smile and reach for the remote. It's late and there's not much on but the news. Guess what the top story is? There's footage of Gilbert Wallace being led away in handcuffs. He's yelling about Canadian conspiracies and psychotic Mounties who tried to kill him.
Look over at Fraser and see that he has a satisfied expression on his face. I'm pretty satisfied too, come to think of it. We did a good job. One of these days I might tell Fraser he was right. Maybe. He does have a nice profile. Everything goes together, matches just right. There's no denying he's a good-looking guy. Wonder how long I can stare at him before he notices?
Not long. Two seconds later Fraser turns his head and looks right at me. I don't look away and we sit there for a long while, just staring at each other. Neither one of us says anything, but I could swear we're talking anyway. I've heard the expression 'sparks flying' but never thought much of it until now. There's this…energy or something between us. Sizzling, crackling energy that runs through me, turning on light bulbs as it goes. One of those bulbs that lights is the one that shows me my feelings for Fraser. It explodes when I realize that I want him as more than a friend. I want…I don't know what I want. No, wait, I do know. I want Fraser, but I have no idea what to do or how to do it.
He starts to move closer to me and I hold my breath. Something's going to happen, the right thing. The perfect thing. The thing that I didn’t even know I wanted two seconds ago. If I stay perfectly still, Fraser will do something. I don't know what, but he'll do something and then it'll be okay. He's so close now; all I can see is his face. All I want to see is Fraser's face. Jesus, he better do something before I die of waiting.
My brain picks the wrong fucking time to want oxygen. I yawn hugely and that's that. The moment's broken in a heartbeat and Fraser's on the other side of the couch before I can blink. He jumps up two seconds later and hustles into the kitchen, mumbling under his breath.
And all I can do is sit back on the couch and be shocked. God, we were so close…I was so close to something that scares me to death yet makes my heart go a million miles a minute. All I can do is sit here and pray that wasn't our only chance. The idea that it might have been makes me feel hollow inside. Kinda like when Stella left. I don't want to lose Fraser like I lost Stella. I don't want him to walk out on me.
But I fucked up. I fucked up and now I'm probably never going to get another chance. And I want another chance. God, do I ever. The worst part is that I don't have clue one on how to get another chance.
Way to go, Kowalski. Screw up the last good thing in your life.
Damn, damn, damn! What was I thinking? Taking it slow does not entail pouncing on one's partner. I was seconds away from kissing him when he yawned. Reality came crashing back, leaving my soaring spirits landing in a messy heap. Pretending not to see the confusion and hurt in Ray's eyes was hard to do.
"Son, you need to go back in there."
I took a deep breath. This was not what I needed right now. "This is a bad time, Dad. Go away." He picks the most inopportune moments to decide I need advice. The afterlife must be boring. I busy myself getting Ray's pills ready to take to him. Ignoring Dad has never worked before, but there is a first time for everything.
He moved to stand beside me, looking with interest at the pill bottles. "Good."
Never a moment's peace with him around. No time for me when he was alive, but now… "Good what?" I demand quietly, turning to look at Dad. He looked the same as he always does. Dead.
"You're taking care of your partner." He nods towards the couch, where the top of Ray's head is barely visible. "Fine man, the Yank. You're good for each other."
"No, Dad. He's hurt because of me."
Dad raises his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh really? Your fault? Did you twist his arm and make him come along?" At the negative shake of my head, he continues. "No, the Yank came along because he wanted to, Son. Don't blame yourself. He doesn't."
I know he's right. Ray doesn't blame me for this. If he did, I would already know. Ray is not one to keep dissatisfaction to himself. "What now?"
"What now? Now you get back in there and finish what you started." Dad gives me a pat on the shoulder and disappears.
Finish what I started.
What did I start? Those last few minutes spent staring into Ray's eyes have given me hope. Hope is something I haven't felt in a long time. There might very well be a chance for us. I gather up Ray's pills and the things needed to tend to his wrists and make my way back to the couch.
Ray is staring at the TV, not watching the program, but staring through it. He has a dejected look on his face that doesn't change when I sit down next to him. "Your pills." He says nothing, but turns the TV off as I sit down next to him. "The bandages on your wrists also need to be changed."
He stays quiet, only holding his hand out for the pills. I drop them into his hand and watch as he swallows them, mesmerized by the line of his throat. I long to touch him, to trace the features of his face, the contours of his body.
Ray offers his wrists to me and I set to work. The gauze has stuck to his wounds in several places and has to be pulled off. Ray bears it all silently, a sharp inhalation his only concession to the pain. The welts and deep cuts on Ray's wrists look better, the antibiotic cream must be working. I spread more on the wounds gently as I can. I wrap his wrists again, resisting the urge to bring his hands to my lips and kiss them.
Ray gives me an odd look as he gently pulls away. "Ray…" I start, knowing that my thoughts must have been clearly visible. He puts up a hand and shakes his head.
"I'm beat. Gonna turn in." Ray stands and stretches, heading for his bedroom. He comes out a moment later carrying bedding and a pillow. "For the couch." He thrusts the linens into my hands, refusing to meet my gaze. When I don't reply it gets his attention. "You--uh--ya are staying, right?" Even though he tries to hide it, I can hear the undercurrent of worry in Ray's voice.
I reassure him quickly. "I'm staying." That brings a lopsided grin and a slight nod. "For as long as you need me," I add, watching as Ray's eyes widen at my words. He knows I am telling the truth. I don't think I could ever deliberately lie to Ray nor would I want to. Relationships are built on trust and love. You cannot have one without the other.
The lopsided grin turns into a wide smile. "Good." Ray ducks his head, suddenly shy. "Anyway. Um, good night and, uh, sleep well and all that."
"Good night, Ray."
Ray heads back into his bedroom, Dief close on his heels. I almost call Dief back, but decide not to. At least one of us will get to sleep with Ray. He shuts the door halfway and I hold my breath, listening as he disrobes. A few muttered expletives can be heard but nothing more. The bedsprings creak as he lies down. A secondary, smaller creak is no doubt Diefenbaker making himself at home on Ray's bed.
Confusion reigns in my mind. Does Ray want me in the manner that I want him? Or am I simply imposing my will on him? A frightening thought, but I don't believe that Ray could be made to do anything he doesn’t want to.
So I am left to lie awake on Ray's couch, staring at his ceiling in a desperate search for answers that are not forthcoming.
Let's recap. I got feelings for Fraser, meaning I like him in *that* way, he's got feelings for me. So what the hell just happened? We're staring at each other, I feel something I never felt before and I know Fraser felt it too, then he's gone. Running into the kitchen without a word. Did I do something? Shit, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm fucking lost here.
Not like I got a lot of experience to draw on either. There's just Stella and look how that turned out. Fraser's probably just as in the dark as I am. Don't seem like he's the type of guy to have a fling. Neither am I. Gave half my life to Stella, would've given her the rest of it too, but she didn't want that. Or maybe she just didn't want me. And if someone like Stella didn't want me what chance in hell do I have with someone like Fraser? He's almost perfect.
God, I hate this. I do this all the time. Gotta question everything. Can’t just accept that Fraser has a thing for me. I wish I could just accept things at face value; it would make my life a whole lot easier. I never second-guess what I do at the 27th, so why do it at home?
ay Fraser and I decide to do something about this mutual attraction? What then? I never dated a guy before. Wonder if Frase has? *Could* I date a man? Kiss a man? Make love to a man?
Okay. Not just with any guy. But what if it was Fraser? What would it be like to kiss him? Would it be like kissing Stella? Nah, that's stupid. Why would kissing your partner be like kissing your ex-wife? The basics are the same, lips and tongue and all that, just that it would be Fraser's lips and Fraser's tongue.
Wonder if he kisses as politely as he talks?
Gotta say that I never thought I'd be laying in my bed with a half-wolf next to me and imagining what it would be like to kiss Benton Fraser. The way my boxers are tenting tells me that my body likes the idea, likes it a lot. Can't argue with my dick. If it's interested, stands to reason I am too. I'm tempted to take care of business, but jerking off seems like too much trouble right now and I'm pretty sure that I should be taking it easy on my wrists. Plus Dief is sleeping next to me, talk about your mood killer.
One of those pills Fraser gave me must have been a painkiller, 'cause sleep is sounding real good about now. Before I go completely under, I decide that me and Fraser are going to have a long talk tomorrow whether he likes it or not.
We're gonna figure this out.
I have to find him.
I have to find Ray.
He is on this sinking ship somewhere and I can't find him. He has to be here.
I run up and down the corridors opening doors and finding nothing but rooms half-full of water.
What if I don't find him in time? What if I lose Ray before I ever get the chance to have him?
No time to think of that now. My only concern must be to find him and make him safe.
The water gets deeper and deeper as I search. Knee high, then waist high. I'm not going to find him in time.
I'm going to fail Ray. I'm going to fail him and he's going to die and I'll never see him again. Why can't I hold onto the people I love? Why do they always leave? It has to be me. What else can it be?
I grab at a door handle and wrench it open, not expecting the rush of water that slams me into the wall.
Oh God, I've found Ray.
My partner is dead.
Ray is dead. Handcuffed to the floor and gagged. Killed because of me.
I go to him, kneel down beside his still, still body. His hair plastered to his head and I run my fingers through it, wanting to see the Ray I remember. Not this Ray, this dead Ray, this Ray that I don't recognize.
He is so cold. Cold and still.
Would this were a fairy tale I could wake him with a kiss.
I try it anyway. A gentle pressing of lips to his cold cheek that brings nothing but a mocking voice in my mind.
"Foolish man. Now you are alone."
I wake on the floor of Ray's apartment, breathing hard and entangled in the blankets. The nightmare playing in my mind still.
I almost lost him. The man I love nearly died before I could tell him how I feel. And then I ruined a second change tonight by hiding in the kitchen.
Truly, I am foolish.
A consideration for another time. Right now, I have to see Ray. I have to see that he is all right. Logically I know that he is in his bedroom sleeping, but I need proof. Every time I close my eyes I see his body, lying lifeless on the floor, dead eyes staring up at me. The urge… No, the *need* to make sure that Ray is still alive is overwhelming.
Decision made, I untangle myself from the blankets and stand up. Just a quick look, a quick touch, and I will be able to go back to sleep.
The wolf snores.
At least, that's my excuse for being awake right now. Managed to get a couple of hours sleep and had that nightmare about drowning again, so bye-bye sleep. Isn't like I don’t *want* to sleep. I'm tired as hell, but I can't go back there again, not even in a dream.
Nightmares, yeah, but Fraser is keeping me awake too. Thinking about him, that is. Kissing him. Touching him. Maybe even loving him a little bit. Or a lot bit.
Either way, sleep doesn't want to be my friend tonight.
So I turn the bedside lamp on and stare at the ceiling while Dief snores and I try not to think. Doesn't help. Never has for me. The more I try not to think about something, the more I think about it.
And the not-thinking leads me to wondering what Fraser looks like without the uniform. Bet he's got a body from hell. All that running and jumping and hey, he sure does that lip-licking thing a lot, doesn't he? Maybe he's been flirting with me all this time and I never noticed?
But, nah. He's done the lip thing in front of other people, so it just ain't me.
Interesting that Fraser always gets real nervous talking to chicks, but not to guys. And especially not with me. If anything, I think he's more himself when we're together. A lot less formal and that's fine with me. I never did like formal.
Back to naked Fraser.
I like the picture that brings to mind. All pale skin that I bet it really smooth and soft, just begging to be stroked. I could stroke Fraser.
He could stroke me.
We could stroke each other.
Mmm, definitely. My dick likes the idea. A lot. A whole lot. I reach down and slip my hand inside my boxers and go to town.
I probably shouldn't, what with Fraser not twenty feet away, but I do anyway. Just close my eyes and pretend that it's Fraser's hand getting me off.
His hands are big. Soft and warm where they touch my body. Light, soft touches that leave me wanting more. Begging for more. "Fraser, please," I say. "Please." Asking for something and I don't know what it is.
"Yes, Ray," he whispers, lips and hands seeming to touch me everywhere at once. I arch into his touch, still begging. Still needing him. Always needing him.
Finally, finally, my dick gets sucked into a hot, wet mouth and I lose it. I come harder than I ever have before…
Right into my own hand. And my boxers. Never let it be said that I don't have a good imagination.
I can feel that post-orgasm tired coming on, so I grab my t-shirt off the floor and wipe up best I can.
Maybe this time I won't have bad dreams.
The door to Ray's bedroom squeaks as I open it. It sounds so loud in the silence and I freeze, knowing that Ray is going to wake up and catch me lurking about.
But he doesn't and I stand in the doorway for long moments, listening to him breathe. It means he is alive. That he is not dead because of my pride.
Still, it is not enough. I have to touch him, feel the warmth of his body and know that he hasn't left me. Even now, I am still afraid that it was more than a nightmare.
Stepping into his room, walking towards his bed with a stealth that would have made Innusiq proud. Diefenbaker senses my presence and lifts his head, whining softly. Ray is on his back, one arm flung out to the side and the other resting on his bare chest. Lower body covered only by boxer and a thin sheet.
This feels like a dream. Am I really here, shushing Dief and sitting lightly on the edge of Ray's bed? Am I really seeing him, illuminated in the soft light from a lamp on his bedside table, turned on to chase away his own nightmares? Am I really reaching out to touch his arm?
Not a dream, then. Ray's arm is warm and soft, muscles lax with sleep.
He is alive. My eyes close as the remnants of my nightmare fade away. I can sleep again.
"Fraser? What're you doin' in here?"
Ray's voice, rough with sleep, startles me out of a half-doze. I'm still sitting next to Ray, a firm grip on his arm. How can I explain this? What do I say? "I-- Ah, that is--" I don't know what to tell him.
Ray doesn't move, only cocks his head to the side. "You all right?"
I don't deserve him. "I-I'm fine."
He snorts. "Yeah, sure you are. Isn't lying against the Mountie code? Seriously, though. What's wrong?"
"I had a…dream." I look away from him and instead stare at my hand on his arm.
"Bad one, huh?" He sounds sympathetic. No doubt his have been worse.
"Yes. You… I…" Should I tell him?
"Spit it out, Frase."
"I dreamed that you… That I didn't find you in time." Now that I've said it aloud, I start to shake, the possible reality of the dream hitting me hard.
"Jesus, Fraser." Ray sounds stunned. "You know it was just a dream, right? I'm still here. Still alive and not planning on going anywhere."
"I know." I say, and even I can hear the uncertainty in my voice.
And then Ray is sitting up and pulling me into his arms and I let him hold me close. I wrap my arms around him and rest my head on his shoulder, finally letting going of my fear.
Ray is alive.
Never seen the Mountie lose it like this and it's scaring the hell out of me. I freaked for a second when he started to shake, did my best to reassure him, but it wasn't enough.
Now I have my arms full of Fraser and the only thing I can think to do is rub his back and say "It's all right, it's all right. I'm here."
I was right. His skin is really soft and this seems like a dream come true. Fraser's here, in my bed, in my arms and there's all this soft skin in front of me and I want to kiss it.
So I do. I kiss his shoulder, his neck, his jaw. And it feels right. It's right that we should be here like this. It's me and Fraser together and there's nothing wrong with that.
Fraser's arms tightened around me at the first kiss and now he's barely breathing. But he isn't telling me to stop so I don't. I just keep kissing.
Fraser sounds a little confused, but a lot interested. "Yeah?"
"What are you doing?"
"You really want me to answer that?"
"Yes, Ray," Fraser sits up and holds me at arms length. "I want to know what you think you're doing."
If he tries to give me a lecture on sex ed… "I was kissing you, Fraser!"
"I know that." Patient tone of voice. "*Why* were you kissing me?"
Dammit, he's making me stop and think and I didn't want to do that. I just wanted to go with the flow. "I--damn. Look, I *like* you, Fraser."
"And I you, Ray."
I roll my eyes. "Not like a friend, like…something more."
"And I you, Ray."
"I know you probably don't feel the same way, but…" Wait, did he just say what I think he said? "What did you say?"
Fraser smiles, bigger than I've ever seen, and touches my shoulder. "I said that I like you as something more, as well."
Well, shit. "This is a good thing, right?"
Another huge smile. "A very good thing, Ray." And then Fraser's leaning in and kissing me like I've never been kissed before.
I was right, it's not like kissing Stella, it's not like anything I ever could have imagined. Lips, tongue, the whole shebang. Tastes like Fraser and toothpaste.
And over way too soon. Fraser pulls away and this disappointed little noise slips out before I can stop it. He smiles again and brushes his thumb across my lips. "We need to talk, Ray."
"Nah, we need to kiss some more." I say, trying to hold down the panic that's starting to rise. What if I screwed up? What if he doesn't want me now? What if he thinks I'm a horrible kisser?
"No, we need to talk."
Fraser's using that tone of voice that means he's made up his mind and nothing is going to change it, so I better just deal with it. "All right, all right. What do you want to talk about? The hole in the ozone layer? The fact that your wolf snores really loud?"
"Ray," Fraser sighs. "I want to talk about us."
Hot damn, so he *does* want me. "I can do that. I like you. You like me. There, all talked about. Kiss me."
"Ray." I think Fraser's getting annoyed.
"Fine. We'll do it your way." I shift back until I'm resting against the headboard of my bed. "Talk."
Fraser moves a little closer and takes my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. "Ray, I want this with you. I want us to be together. But, I think we should take it slow."
Slow? I can do slow. I wouldn't want fast anyway. "What you wanna, like, date and stuff?"
"Yes, exactly." Fraser looks relieved. Must have thought I wanted to get right down to it or something.
"Works for me. I *like* slow." I leer at Fraser and laugh when he gets all embarrassed like I knew he would.
"Yes. Well, now that's been decided--"
Fraser looks like he's going to get up and leave, so I grab his arm. "Stay?" I ask hopefully. "Please?"
I get another big grin for that and a hug. "Of course."
We end up having to send Dief to the floor, which he isn't happy about until I promise him jelly donuts for a week. It's a little awkward between me and Fraser at first. Neither of us are sure how to sleep. Finally, I turn on my side and he kind of spoons up behind me. I've never been the spoonee before. Always been the spooner. It’s…nice.
I'm on the edge of sleep when something occurs to me. "So where are we going on our first date, Frase?"
"Anywhere you want, Ray. Anywhere you want."