I watch him try. I watch him fail. Again.
I’m standing on the sidelines at the training camp. It’s been three months since the shooting. Five days since his re-qualification began. And Ray is…struggling.
He’s 90% the old Raymond Doyle. But that missing ten percent won’t get him back on George Cowley’s elite CI5 Squad.
I’ve stood by in helpless frustration all day. Watched as his time on the two-mile run fell short of acceptable. Watched as he stumbled more than once on the obstacle course. Watched as he struggled with push-ups and pull-ups. Watched as he missed targets on the run. Watched as red paint blossomed on his leg, shoulder and chest, his reaction times too slow in Dead Man’s Alley.
I see the air of defeat hanging over him like a dark cloud. It’s as if his scars have mentally convinced him he’s broken. Even though his body has healed.
He catches my gaze and I see the old fear reflected in his expressive eyes—that he’ll lose me if we’re no longer partners. Even though we’ve become so much more than that. Even though I’ve told him it’s not the job I love, but him.
It’s hard to watch him out there alone. I’m so used to being right next to him—
I curse loudly as it hits me. How could I have been so bloody stupid? But it’s not too late. Now that I know, I can fix this. Fix Ray. And get my partner back.
I chuckle at the look of surprise on his face the next morning when I join him on the training grounds, dressed in my fatigues.
“You didn’t think you were going to go through this alone, did you, sunshine?”
I can’t even begin to describe the myriad of emotions that cross his face, but one stands out more than the rest— unconditional love. It makes my heart skip a beat and warmth flood through me.
Then for the first time I see a different emotion settle in his wide eyes—determination.
I raise an eyebrow at him in question. “Ready, mate?”
He meets my gaze squarely. “I am now.”
And just like that, we’re off and running. It may have been three months since we’ve worked together but it feels like it was just yesterday. We’ve always been a well-oiled machine and we fall back into our partnership without hesitation.
We tackle the two-mile run, the obstacle course, the calisthenics, the target range and Dead Man’s Alley. I give him no quarter. I can’t afford to. I refuse to let Ray falter and he refuses to let it happen. Throughout it all he never misses a beat, keeps up with me stride for stride. He doesn’t fail. Not once.
And somewhere along the way the dark cloud dissipated to be replaced by a smug, chip-toothed smile that I dearly love.
The old Ray was back. My Ray was back. Because I figured out what was going on in that curly-haired head of his. I figured out the missing ten percent was me. He couldn’t do this alone because we’ve always been better as a team.
I can’t express how that makes me feel. Knowing that he needs me to feel complete. And I him.
At the end of the day his face is streaked with dirt and soaked in sweat. He’s exhausted, but holding his head high, full of confidence for the first time in three long months.
He curls his hand around mine as we leave the training grounds.
Side by side.