It always started with the flashing zigzags of light, and a little ameba looking thing on one side of his vision. Once they appeared Ray knew he had maybe half an hour until his day went to shit. Now that he was paying attention he already could feel a slight dull pain on the left side of his brain. Yanking open his desk drawer, Ray snagged his bottle of pain meds he kept in there just for such instances. Popping two into his mouth, he washed them down with a wince, the coffee he had left over from this morning somehow managing to be both cold and lukewarm. It wasn’t going to stop the oncoming pain but the pills would hopefully temper it slightly. He had been prone to migraines since he was a teen, they were a part of his life, a miserable, painful part of life, but still they were never a complete surprise.
In spite of the looming migraine, Ray doggedly kept working on his report, even though he knew continuing to squint at the small type was doing him no favors and in fact was probably ushering in his headache at a rapid pace. He had one all consuming goal for himself today: to get out of here as quickly as he could manage and go pick up his partner Benny at the consulate.
They had plans.
The two of them were going out to eat for their anniversary at a fancy restaurant that had just opened up. Now normally such an upscale place wasn’t in their budget but Ray had wanted to splurge a little for such a special occasion, plus any excuse to get Benny into that suit of his, was a good one. The man looked damn fine in the three piece number that Ray had talked him into buying a couple of years ago.
But as the aura on the right side of his vision got larger Ray knew that it was highly unlikely he would be going anywhere except to their bedroom and not in a fun way like he’d planned. And didn’t that just piss him off; Ray had worked overtime, his off days and then had even traded in on favors owed just to get the next forty-eight hours of vacation time. He had run himself ragged to make this weekend happen, now it seemed that very little sleep, taking extra shifts, and eating on the go were becoming a perfect migraine cocktail. It practically took an act of congress to get any kind of extended time off together and now a quirk of biology was going to eat up a good chunk of it.
Pulling the report from his typewriter, Ray grabbed a manila envelope from his desk and shoved the papers into it and walked quickly over to the captain’s office. Seeing through the office window that Welsh was currently ripping Huey a new one, Ray tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as he placed the report in the Captain’s inbox. He quickly turned to make his escape, hoping that Welsh was too busy making Huey wish he had never been born to call him back. Then thanks to the loss of vision on his right side Ray ran smack into Elaine.
The quick movement to the side caused a spike of pain to ricochet through his head, wincing Ray kept moving forward but called back in apologetic tone, “Sorry ‘bout that I didn’t see you.”
Elaine called after him anxiously, “Are you okay?”
Ray gave her a halfhearted smile and kept walking. He appreciated Elaine’s concern, but all he really wanted was to leave. He was going to have to fight Chicago traffic all the way to the Canadian consulate and if he didn’t start soon his migraine would be so bad he couldn’t drive.
Ray hastily threw the Riviera into park before throwing open the car door as waves of nausea rolled though him. With his hands on his knees, Ray bent over waiting as his stomach waged a battle with his will to see if he was going to throw up or not. Finally…thank god… his determination not to vomit in public won out and he was able to stand back up.
He had barely made it to the embassy.
It had taken all of his willpower to get there, because the longer he weaved the Riviera through Chicago traffic the worse his head had gotten. Staring into the setting sun as he drove had felt like someone had stabbed Ray in the head with an ice pick and then left it there. Thankfully the gigantic spot blocking his vision had cleared up shortly before he had gotten into his car otherwise he had considered calling a cab. As he continued to take in giant gulps of air trying to settle his stomach, Ray couldn’t help but think that maybe he should’ve anyway.
Walking gingerly through the embassy’s front door, Ray resisted the urge to hold the left side of his head as a way to ease the pain and instead he tried to saunter in with his usual swagger willing himself to project a sense of wellbeing that he just didn’t feel. If the expression on Constable Turnbull’s face was any indication he failed miserably.
“Detective Vecchio, how may I help you?”
Turnbull’s boisterous tone was a bit loud at the best of times, and right now it felt like he had a megaphone piped directly into Ray’s brain causing Ray to give in to his earlier urge and grip the side of his head. He whispered, “Shhhhhh…I’m here for Benny.”
The scraping of Turnbull’s chair across the floor as he stood up almost brought tears to Ray’s eyes. “Detective, what happened?” Turnbull’s voice boomed out next to him.
Ray’s ability to function and process information was going downhill fast so he had to make this quick. Closing his eyes against the piercing August sunlight streaming through the windows, Ray with effort forced the words out through clenched teeth, “Migraine…here to pick up Benny…please just go get him.” Ray had added the please at the end because he was becoming truly desperate, he hadn’t been in this much pain since he had been shot.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Ray risked a peek at the other man and he truly did look contrite. Ray murmured “It’s alright I just need Benny.”
If he seemed contrite before the man was now downright crestfallen as he whispered, “That’s why I am sorry. Benny…” Turnbull looked aghast before continuing his face turning a bright red, “Excuse me…I mean Constable Fraser was sent out on a last minute errand for Inspector Thatcher.”
Ray swayed on his feet at the news, the pain was building up to a constant drumbeat in his head. He had used up all his energy and determination just to get here and now that Benny wasn’t here he wasn’t sure what to do.
Turnbull shuffled a bit closer and gingerly took his arm, which Ray leaned on gratefully, and whispered, “Detective if I may offer up a suggestion, my mother used to get acute migraines and really the only thing that seemed to help was a dark silent room. There is a couch in one of the windowless storage rooms that you could lie down on, the room is down a seldom used hallway so there would be very little noise. You could wait for Constable Fraser there if you would like?”
He wasn’t sure which would hurt more nodding or speaking but Turnbull’s plan was a sound one, anything to make the pain less. He finally croaked out a strangled sounding ‘okay.’
Turnbull then lead them slowly down the hall. Ray placing his trust in the other man shaded his eyes with his other hand trying to block the light and get some relief. They walked on for a few minutes until Ray heard a door open and looking up he saw Turnbull illuminated only by the hall light pulling a sheet off the aforementioned couch. Ray feeling overheated in his suit jacket started to shrug it off when Turnbull quickly ran over and helped him out of it, draping it over a chair next to the couch.
“If I may make a suggestion? You would rest better…with your tie at least loosened…a bit,” Turnbull stammered nervously.
Ray saw the wisdom in that suggestion and tried to follow through but his fingers wouldn’t cooperate, they were clumsy and uncoordinated.
“Here allow me.”
Ray dropped his hands and allowed Turnbull to gently unthread his tie and pull it from around his collar. Ray was in so much pain now, that he could barely see straight, but it was the unexpected act of compassion from a near stranger that finally managed to bring Ray to tears. They both ignored how suspiciously wet Ray’s eyes had become as Turnbull tucked the tie into Ray’s jacket pocket.
Ray sat down on the couch and then borrowed a phrase from Benny and whispered, “Thank you, kindly.”
That made Turnbull give him a broad pleased smile. “Glad to be of service, Detective. I will be at my desk if you need anything else.”
Ray lay down on the couch and closed his eyes in relief as he heard Turnbull walk away. When the footsteps returned he saw the other man had a small garbage can. “Just in case.”
Ray tried to whisper a thank you in return but Turnbull was gone before he could form the words around the pain. The room was pitch dark and blissfully silent, and at first it only seemed to heighten his awareness of how much pain he was in. Curling onto his side, Ray placed an arm over his head, the weight and the pressure giving him a momentary illusionary sense of lessening pain. As he waited for his partner to return a constant litany ran through his head: please please please just stop…
He never managed to go to sleep, which he knew from experience was really the only thing that could help him at this point. Ray did eventually lose track of time as he rode out the waves of pain and queasiness, so he wasn’t sure how long he had been lying there when he finally heard voices talking outside of the door.
“…he says it is a migraine. I’ve tried to keep it as dark and quiet down here as possible,” Turnbull said.
“Ah that explains the lack of any discernible light in this hallway,” Fraser returned sounding a bit bemused before he continued in a more serious tone, “Thank you for taking care of him in my absence.”
From just hearing Fraser’s voice Ray felt a wave of relief sweep through him.
Ray heard the door open and then the footsteps he knew so well hitting softly against the hardwood floor. Opening his eyes, he saw Benny crouched down next to him. As his blue eyes traced Ray’s features, he could feel his concern rolling off of him in waves.
“Hey Benny,” Ray managed to croak out his mouth dry.
Fraser placed one hand on the crown of his head running a thumb gently through the stubble there before whispering, “How are you feeling?”
Swallowing thickly as the queasiness that had abated somewhat rose again, Ray stuttered out, “Not good…” Then the roll of nausea he had been trying to stop for the last two hours overtook him and he jerked violently up and rolled off the couch barely making it to the garbage can sitting next to it.
When he finally was able to stop, he gasped out abject misery in every syllable, “Migraines are from the Devil.”
“Yes Ray,” Benny said softly, placing one hand on his back in support before magically producing a water bottle from somewhere. Ray took a gulp of water gratefully, swishing it around his mouth and spitting it out into the garbage can.
“Let’s get you home,” Benny said quietly.
Getting out to the car was painful, but doable with Benny’s arm around his waist to steady him.
As they walked past the desk, Turnbull jumped up and held the door open for them saying softly, “I hope you feel better soon.”
Hand shielding his eyes, Ray wanted to say thank you but he was too afraid that if he did he would vomit again. He settled for what he hoped was a friendly wave of his hand and decided then and there they would have to have Turnbull over for dinner one day, as he seemed like a good guy.
It took them only twenty minutes to get back to their house. Most of the drive home was a blur as Ray attempted to doze, the exhaustion that was par for the course with a migraine, was starting to hit him full force.
When they had made the decision to live together they had compromised because there was no way Ray was living in the god-awful apartment that Benny had been staying in. And although they both loved and were loved by the Vecchio family they knew what they really needed was space of their own. The two of them managed to find a brownstone that was close enough to the consulate that Fraser could walk there on fair days and when Ray couldn’t drive him. The house also had a backyard with a garden that was Ray’s pride and joy.
Although now Ray barely noticed any of that, as Benny guided him inside and straight into their bedroom. Fraser basically undressed him until he was down to his undershirt and boxers; because although Ray tried to help he couldn’t make his limbs work right, as all of his energy was just gone. As Fraser tucked him in, Ray squinted up at him and whispered, “I’m sorry, I ruined our evening.”
Gently running a hand over Ray’s shorn head before he placed a kiss on his forehead, Benny said softly, “You have nothing to be sorry about.” Ray thought about protesting that, but between his exhaustion and Benny’s gentle movements of his fingertips over Ray’s head he was out between one breath and the next.
Ray rolled over onto his back and opened his eyes to a pitch black bedroom. He held still for a moment worried that a wrong move would send a shot of agony through his brain, but when nothing came he realized with relief that his migraine was gone. Now though, his brain felt slightly bruised and sluggish, like all of his thoughts were trying to make their way through jello. He always felt exhausted after a migraine and it usually took a day or so until he was back to normal. Turning his head and glancing at the clock, Ray saw it was three in the morning. His stomach gave a rumble as though reminding him that he hadn’t eaten more than a stale croissant and too much black coffee the day before. Getting up, Ray walked out to the living room guided by the light coming from a lamp sitting on a side table. Ray paused in the doorway and smiled at the sight before him.
Benny was asleep on the couch in his thermals, his bare feet crossed at the ankles and his arms intertwined across his chest. Diefenbaker was lying sprawled next to the couch, when he noticed Ray he raised his head and started to wag his tail enthusiastically. When it looked like the wolf-dog was going to bark Ray put his finger up to his lips in a shushing motion. Ray then turned and walked into the kitchen, and he could hear Dief padding softly behind him, probably hoping for an extra meal.
Looking through the fridge, Ray settled on an omelet as something quick and easy. He was right, it didn’t take much time at all until he was sitting at the dinette table with Dief’s head in this lap, with the wolf trying to guilt him into sharing. He may have slipped a few bits of egg to the mooch but that was between the two of them. After the last bite Ray sat back with a sigh finally feeling human for the first time in twelve hours. Starting to feel the tug of sleep again, Ray forced himself to get up and rinse off the plate and put it into the dishwasher.
He was filling the pan with water when a familiar set of arms encircled his waist. Turning off the faucet, Ray settled back into the embrace and tilted his head to the side as Benny brushed his lips up the side of his neck before placing a kiss just behind his ear.
“How are you feeling?” Benny asked his voice rough with sleep.
Turning in his arms, Ray said, “Better…my head feels fuzzy but I think a bit more sleep will cure that.”
Fraser looked relieved and then said with a slight smile, “I called the restaurant and was able to switch the reservation for tonight if you feel up for it.”
Ray felt ridiculously happy at the news and wondered how he got so lucky. He leaned over and gave Benny a grateful kiss that his partner returned enthusiastically. When they broke apart Ray rested his head against Benny’s shoulder just savoring the feeling of the two of them swaying slightly as they stood in their kitchen in the middle of the night. There had been a time when Ray had thought he could never have this and now he was happier than he had any right to be.
When he yawned deeply Fraser gently steered him out of kitchen and back into their bedroom. They climbed into their bed and quickly settled next to each other. Benny wrapped his arms around Ray and drew him back against him. Ray in turn gave a deep sigh of contentment. It had been a rough evening and it definitely hadn’t turned out like he expected but any day where he got to fall asleep in his partner’s arms was still a very good day.