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Author: Tatau (kaffeewespe_la@yahoo.de)
Fandom: Due South
Pairing: Fraser/RayK
Rating: PG
Words: ~5.700
Disclaimer: Due South is the property of Alliance Atlantis. Written for fun not for profit
Summary: Ray is finally allowed to go home but it’s still a long way to recovery. Fraser’s there with him for every step of the way… but he’s busy battling his own demons 
Part 9

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“Home sweet home, jigety-jig.” Ray had never been this glad to come back to his own apartment. He already dreaded the next appointment at the hospital; at least it was still a week away.

Fraser came in a second later, followed closely by Diefenbaker, and closed the door quietly behind them.

Ray turned around. “You sure it’s alright if you stay with me for the next two weeks?”

“Absolutely.”

Diefenbaker gave an approving yip and Ray smiled at the wolf.

“In fact, I think they were slightly relieved at the consulate that I’m finally taking a few of my sick days. Apparently my amount is a bit more than is considered average.”

Ray grinned. “Holidays, huh? They just pile up when you’re not looking.”

“Indeed Ray.”

Ray snorted and shook his head. Freak, he thought affectionately.

“Still, ‘m glad that you agreed to babysit me for the next few days – imagine my mum taking over?” He shuddered.

“I am not ‘babysitting’ you, Ray. I am merely on hand should you need assistance in case your condition deteriorates – which it won’t. This is really a simple precaution; a necessary one, though. Head wounds should not be underestimated.”

Ray nodded along with this. Fraser had already delivered this particular pep-talk when he had asked him this favor and the doc at the hospital had also given a similar speech – maybe they were all hiding something from Ray and he was really going to drop dead in a few days and that was why they were all trying to make him feel good?

“Good, so what now? You wanna go get something to eat?”

Fraser’s expression was sympathetic.

“Ray I think it would be best if you lie down for a bit while I prepare something to eat.” He smoothed his knuckles over his eyebrow. “It might be better to wait with walks around your neighborhood for another day or two.”

Ray sighed. Sheesh… he was going to die a vegetable if everyone kept up their mantra of keeping him bedridden. But there was no way in hell that he could persuade Fraser to go against any direct recommendation of the doctor – of course, if it were Fraser himself he would probably already be back for guard duty… but try telling the Mountie that.

“Fine, fine. I’ll go and lie down –again!” Ray flung his hands up in an exasperated gesture.

At least Fraser had the decency to look guilty. Diefenbaker apparently felt that it was his duty to keep him company which Ray found rather nice of him.

But it seemed that the short drive to Ray’s apartment had been more strenuous than he had thought. After a few minutes of listening to Fraser puttering about in the kitchen Ray fell asleep even though he hadn’t even felt tired when they had entered his flat.

“Ray?” A soft voice penetrated Ray’s sleep-fogged mind. He blinked and Fraser came into view, a slightly anxious look on his face that slowly relaxed the more Ray came awake.

“How long have I been asleep?” He yawned.

“Maybe an hour,” Fraser replied with a small smile. “Dinner is on the table.”

An hour? Ray couldn’t even remember falling asleep and he hadn’t dreamed either, which was probably a good thing.

Fraser had made some kind of stew which was even tastier because it was so much better than the hospital food they had tried to force down his throat the last few days.

Ray took another bout of painkillers after dinner to keep his headache in check and he knew the exact moment when they started to kick in because his eyelids started to feel like lead.

Fraser ushered him back to the couch and Ray dozed while a mindless game show on TV provided a soothing background noise. Fraser started to collect the plates to do the washing up but once he had everything in the sink and the water running Ray groaned quietly—it could have been a simple, comfortable grunt but it might have been in distress and— and Fraser felt a burning urge to check up on him, just to make sure everything was alright.

He put the plug into the sink and added dish liquid to let everything soak till later, wincing a little at the voice of his grandmother in his mind reprimanding him for neglecting his chores, and went to the couch where Ray was still moving restlessly in his sleep.

Fraser turned down the volume of the TV and covered Ray carefully with a blanket, hardly touching him at all. Ray’s tossing quieted down and his breathing turned deep and steady. Fraser sighed in relief and took a seat in the armchair next to him with a book open in his lap.

Although he couldn’t really focus on the words printed on the pages if he was honest. All too often his gaze strayed to Ray’s now calmly sleeping form and would remain there for a minute or two before his eyes wandered back to his book at which point he had always forgotten what he had read a minute ago so he had to start again at the last paragraph only to find his eyes drawn to Ray yet again.

Diefenbaker followed the spectacle with a quiet whine and Fraser sighed before he reached down to scratch his ears in reassurance.

In the ordinary setting of everyday life that Ray’s apartment provided Fraser could finally admit a thought he couldn’t allow himself before, when Ray had still been at the hospital: Ray could have died.

He could have died because Fraser had left him alone with a criminal who had sworn murderous revenge and who had already demonstrated a tendency toward desperate behavior. Fraser should have foreseen this.

Even worse, Ray could have died because Fraser had let Paul McKinnley take a hostage in the first place; because he had put them all in jeopardy by losing control over his emotions when Ray got shot.

He had miscalculated the situation and he had only himself to blame. That Ray had been hit and the fact that he had only survived due to the strategic foresight on his part to wear a vest was more than enough proof how badly Fraser had misjudged the situation.

…Ray could have died…

Fraser’s knuckles turned white where he was gripping the book. It had all been his fault. He knew that he was prone to let emotions cloud his judgment and yet… he had not been able to fight them.

Even if Ray could forgive him, how was he supposed to make excuses for himself when he knew very well that he could have prevented all of this from happening if he had just kept a tighter rein on his emotions!

Ray stretched and Fraser almost jumped from surprise. A look at the clock showed that almost two hours had passed since he had sat down.

“Ray you should go to bed. The couch isn’t a suitable place to sleep with your injury.” Fraser said almost automatically.

Ray yawned. “I’m all over that. What about you? I’ve got a spare blanket stashed somewhere in this dump and I’m sure I can hunt down another pillow.” Ray started to scratch his head when he encountered the spot where he had received the blow.

He flinched when his fingers connected with naked skin and he pulled them hastily away.

Fraser smiled sadly. There were no words that could express the extent of his regret.

“That won’t be necessary Ray,” he forced the smile into a firmer, more reassuring one. “When I retrieved Dief I also brought my cot and I can assure you that it is very recommendable for a good night’s sleep.”

Ray shrugged; he was too tired to argue about this now. “You’re unhinged.”

Fraser smiled a real smile at Ray. “Sleep well.”

And Ray was indeed more than a bit thankful to sleep in his own bed again. It was a delicious feeling and the sheets were cool against his skin. He dropped off to sleep in a matter of minutes.

Fraser set up his own bed and got settled. The quiet ticking of the clock was the only sound besides his own steady breathing – even Diefenbaker was utterly quiet on his spot in front of Ray’s bedroom door.

Tick … Fraser turned onto his other side. Tick… It was ridiculous. Tick… He almost felt expectant but he couldn’t have said what it was exactly that he was expecting to happen. Tick…

He closed his eyes again and tried to even his breathing, to clear his mind of all conscious thought – it was a well practiced technique and he had never had any trouble with it before. Tick…Tick…

Fraser tried not to think of anything and the ticking of the clock continued with its steady rhythm. And Fraser was still waiting— sitting in one of the uncomfortable little chairs in the reception area of the hospital, the plastic creaking softly with every shifting of his weight.

And he remembered the clock, appearing to tick in slow motion. Tick… … Tick… Tick… in exaggerated slowness.

They pushed Ray straight into the emergency room and a nurse had asked him to wait outside. And the clock ticked on as if the world was simply continuing, as if nothing had changed.

He had put his head into his hands and tried not to watch the hand on the dial, fearing that every minute that passed made it more likely that Ray’s condition was much worse, that it took so long for the doctors to find the best approach because the wound was much more severe.

After what seemed like hours the doors opened again and there was Ray, still so very pale, still unconscious being pushed into another room and he had stood up—had made a move toward him, just to take his hand or to whisper some reassuring words to Ray but the nurse shook her head, asking him again very nicely to remain seated.

So Fraser had dropped back into his plastic chair again, listening to the unnatural loud ticking of the clock in the almost empty waiting room.

When the nurse reappeared with a couple of CT scans in her hand Fraser stood up again. This feeling of utter helplessness, of simply sitting around waiting, not able to do a damn thing was pure agony.

The nurse took one look at him with pity in her eyes before she schooled her features into an encouraging smile. And Fraser wanted to shake her, tell her that she didn’t have to sugarcoat the truth for him but he refrained from giving in to his baser impulses and asked her – as calmly as he could – what was happening to Ray.

She took one look at him and seemed to debate with herself.

“I’m sorry. There isn’t much I can tell you so far. You just have to be a bit more patient please. I know this must be difficult for you,” she said with a kind smile.

Fraser ground his teeth in frustration.

“I know, I—please, could you just tell me if his condition is critical?”

The nurse bit her lip.

“Your friend was very lucky that he received medical attention almost immediately. The doctor is still deciding if he will need surgery – but that is no cause to be alarmed, this is mostly a precaution with head injuries. I—I’ll get a doctor to speak to you as soon as possible.”

“Thank you kindly,” Fraser took a deep breath and took his seat again.

He was almost sure that the clock had stopped working it was going so slow, the minutes trickled by with what felt like an hour at a time.

“Constable Fraser,” the doctor looked up from his clipboard with a polite smile.

Fraser stood up again; hope and anxiety made him feel jittery so that it took him a second before he managed to reply.

“Ah, yes, that would be me. Are there any news?”

The doctor extended his hand. “I’m doctor Hersey and Mr. Kowalski’s attending doctor. Mr. Kowalski suffers from blunt head trauma; however, since he was brought here almost directly his chances are very good to make a full recovery.”

“But you don’t know that yet.” Fraser rephrased it.

The doctor’s smile turned sympathetic. “No, we can’t say that for sure at the current moment. The CT showed an epidural hematoma, that’s a—”

“A blood clot, I know.” Fraser interrupted.

“Ah, I see you are familiar with head injuries then. Yes, the procedure to alleviate the pressure caused by that is called a craniotomy. After that we can give you a more definite prognosis. This is going to take a while longer though, so if you’d like to go home and—”

“I’ll stay.” Fraser interrupted again, wincing slightly at his rudeness but unable to stop himself.

“Very well. We’ll let you know once he is back from surgery.”

The doctor vanished again with a flourish and Fraser resumed his seat with a sigh.

It might have been hours later or maybe only a few minutes when the doors of the hospital slid open to reveal Lieutenant Welsh.

“Fraser,” the quiet tenor was soothing to Fraser’s ears.

“Ah, Leftenant. I should have called, I don’t know how I could forget—“

“Don’t worry yourself. When everything blew up it didn’t take long for word to get around. And I make it my business to know about my detectives.” He looked grim and Fraser felt warmed by Welsh’s interest in Ray’s well-being.

“So what’s the verdict Constable?”

Fraser cracked his neck before he straightened up.

“The doctor is very hopeful that Ray will make a full recovery. He’s still getting treated though—“

Before he could finish the sentence Francesca came running into the waiting area as fast as her penny-sized heels would carry her.

“Frasier!” She flung herself at him, renewing the tear tracks on her cheeks. Fraser swallowed. He was afraid, he was tired, he felt out of sorts and unwelcome in his own skin and he couldn’t deal with this, with her, with her own sorrow and fear and her interest in him, not now, not at this very moment.

“Oh god, please tell me he is alright? Is he fine? When I heard—dear Lord, will he be alright?” She sniffed and Fraser heard himself answer in this calm, professional voice as if someone else was speaking: “He’s getting surgery right now. It is only a precaution to prevent pressure to build in his brain. He’ll be fine, the doctor is very confident about his condition.”

The other part of him stared in shock at his controlled answer – knowing full well that it wasn’t a good sign that they wanted to perform surgery on Ray while he was still unconscious, that this meant his wound was indeed critical if they thought they were risking too much if they waited for the next day. And he knew just as well that it wasn’t a good sign in any medical book that Ray had still not woken up.

He knew all this and yet… he fed Francesca the soothing parts, reassuring everyone else no matter how it looked inside of him. It was as if one part of him had detached himself to dread the next talk with the doctor, and to be miserable and afraid while the other part of him stayed calm and in control and knew exactly what to say instead of simply burying his head in his hands and wanting to be left alone.

“Oh, I hope you’re right Fraser… I’m sure he’ll come through alright, he’s tough as nails, you know?” She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief and gave him a wobbly smile.

And he smiled encouragingly at her and nodded as if he was just as sure that all would go well. This was the misery of hospitals all around –everyone in there lied to everyone else until no one knew the truth anymore.

The Lieutenant clapped him on the shoulder and they all sat down again. They must have talked during their visit, Fraser was sure of that. But he couldn’t recall a single word they might have said to each other.

He had a vivid recollection of the ticking of the clock and of watching Welsh pace from time to time and he knew that Francesca had sipped on a cup of tea at some point but everything else was drowned out. All he could remember hearing was his own voice repeating over and over in his head: Please, let him be fine; please let him be fine.

When the doctor finally approached them it must have been the early hours of the morning.

“I’m glad to be able to tell you that Mr. Kowalski came through the surgery alright. He is still in the recovery room though, so we will have to wait with further tests. We were able to remove the blood clot though and his condition is stable now.”

Francesca squealed and hugged Fraser again but all he could manage in response was a tired smile. This wasn’t bad news but it wasn’t good either. In fact, it only meant that they still didn’t know how Ray was – if there was any permanent damage or any damage at all, if his nerves had suffered from lack of oxygen or if the pressure of the blow had hurt an area of the brain. They didn’t know so they simply said that everything was ‘stable’, that he had survived the surgery.

At least it was something. He was alive. His heart was still beating.

“You can visit him tomorrow. The anesthesia is still in effect so he won’t be able to tell if you’re here right now,” the doctor hinted kindly at their exhausted state.

Fraser filled in the blanks for himself. He was unconscious when he went under, how do you know if it’s only the anesthesia working? How do you know he won’t wake up at some point in the middle of the night?

How do you know everything is going to be alright tomorrow?

The Lieutenant nodded and offered to drive them all home. But Fraser couldn’t leave. Not before he knew if Ray was going to wake up and be… himself. Alright. Safe.

Welsh looked intently at him before thumbing his nose almost imperceptibly. Francesca was torn between following Welsh and staying with Fraser but he assured her that he wouldn’t stay much longer –another lie—and that they would visit Ray tomorrow together –something else that wouldn’t come true.

She nodded bravely and followed the Lieutenant to his car.

Fraser sat there alone again, engaged in his own one-on-one battle with the clock and his own thoughts. After another hour he started pacing, he knew that he must look like hell.

Dirty from the factory and the long day they had had, dark circles under his eyes from anxiety and lack of sleep, ruffled hair from all the times he had run his fingers through it in distress and distinct stubble on his cheeks.

The same nurse from before passed him again in the hallway, she must have started the night shift when they arrived. She passed him with a frown before rounding the corner.

She came back a minute or two later – or whatever the clock passed off as minutes around here.

“You won’t leave no matter how long it takes for him to wake up, hm?”

He shook his head, smiling sadly. “I can’t,” he said quietly, his voice rough with the long time he had been awake and too little fluids over the course of the day.

She chanced a glance at the clock.

“Do you think you will be able to catch a few hours of sleep if I let you see him?”

His head shot up and his lips moved into a grateful smile. “I don’t want to get you into trouble.” The moment the words left his lips he already regretted them. What if his politeness had cost him his chance to see him, what if she withdrew her offer?

But she only smiled at him. “Don’t worry about me. You seem to have enough on your plate already. I’ll let Lisa know – she’ll take over my shift in a few hours—so that she can get you out of the room before the doctor makes his morning round. Come on.”

Fraser was standing before he had even willed his legs to move. She walked ahead of him, leading him two corridors further down before she stopped in front of a door, “He was moved out of the recovery room when he moved from the anesthesia into normal sleep. He’s the only one occupying this room so far; it was a quiet night.”

He nodded and swallowed dryly. All he wanted was for her to open this door, the faster the better and yet he was afraid of what might await him. But everything was better than to listen to this damnable clock ticking away minute after minute without knowing what had happened to Ray.

Tick… Tick…

Fraser groaned quietly. He didn’t want to be thinking about the horrors of waiting in the hospital. Ray was fine now; he was back at home – only one room away in fact.

He pushed himself up and went to the far side of Ray’s living room to snatch the clock off the wall. He flipped it upside down in his hands and took the batteries out. The ticking died instantly.

Fraser sighed relieved and hung the clock back on the wall. He moved back onto his cot and willed himself to sleep. It still took a while but at least he wasn’t haunted by his own memories anymore.

He woke up a few hours later, groggy and not very rested. At least the sun was already up and it looked as if it had been for a while already. Fraser took Dief for a long run and it really helped. He felt calmer, more at ease and certainly more in control of himself than he had last night.

Each step that echoed on the concrete made him feel a bit lighter, as if he could outrun his burden. He drove his body further than he had intended, Dief’s tongue was hanging out and Fraser’s thigh muscles burned when they reached Ray’s apartment again. He panted for air when he let himself into the flat.

But Ray was apparently still asleep – at least the door to his bedroom was still closed. Very quietly Fraser opened the door a little. Ray was indeed asleep, a tangle of limbs in the golden morning sun, his muscles twitched now and again and Ray snuggled further down under the sheets.

Fraser smiled softly and closed the door again. He took a shower and went to start on some breakfast. His lips pressed into a thin line when he saw the dirty dishes from the evening before. Well, there was nothing for it he would have to do them now.

He pulled the plug out and waited for the water to drain. Scrubbing the pots and dishes didn’t take all that long and he was rather pleased with himself when everything was restored to its clean state. Fraser started to rinse his hands, washing the rest of the dishwater away.

Suddenly his eyes were drawn to the suds that were running down his hands. He stared fascinated, seeing for a moment the stainless steel sink of the hospital, the dried blood on his hands from tending to Ray’s wound that he was scrubbing away from his hands as if ridding them from this blemish could make it all undone again.

Fraser shook his head forcefully. Enough! His behavior was truly appalling. He was supposed to be a member of the RCMP; his conduct was embarrassing at best. He would stay focused and controlled and not give in to these waking nightmares. He was a Mountie.

He focused on his hands until the bloody images vanished and Ray’s clean, if chipped, sink came into view again and all he could see were rests of soap and water running down the drain.

The scrambled eggs were almost ready when Fraser heard the bedroom door open. Ray emerged and came into view half a minute later, a slight frown on his face that broke into a smile once he took a deep breath.

“Frase, that smells mouthwatering. And here I thought I couldn’t get any food into me this morning.”

“Is it your headache again?” Fraser asked softly.

Ray made a little affirmative sound and danced around Fraser to have a look at the frying pan.

“Your medication is on the table, Ray.”

“You’re a saint, Fraser.”

“Hardly,” he muttered but it was too quiet for Ray to catch who was already rummaging around on the table.

“Hey what are those purple ones for?” Ray interrupted his thoughts.

“Ah, those are anticonvulsants – to prevent seizures. It’s only for a few days.”

They were almost finished with breakfast when Ray looked at Fraser with a peculiar expression on his face.

“I don’t feel so good Fraser…” he gripped the tabletop lightly and Fraser’s brow creased.

“In what sense Ray?”

“Kinda off balance… dunno, feels a bit as if the chair I’m sitting on is unsteady.”

Fraser’s face cleared. “That would be the Neurontin, the anticonvulsants. It might take a while to figure out the right dosage. The doctor warned that this might be a possible side effect.”

“Great…just great,” Ray muttered frustrated, pushing the remains of his food around on his plate.

“Ray I—“

“No, it’s alright. This sucks, ‘s all.” Ray’s fingers twitched and told more about his nervousness than his outburst had given away.

Fraser tried to explain how sorry he was; he opened his mouth, fully intending to apologize to Ray but no sound came out. What could he say? And what good would it do?

He felt even worse when he caught Ray diligently mapping the bald spot around his wound a little while later when he thought Fraser wasn’t looking. Ray’s look was pained and his fingers were touching the naked skin very softly. Fraser bit his lip and looked away.

How could he ever redeem his debt?

An hour more passed before Fraser was unable to remain scooped up inside of Ray’s apartment any longer.

“Ray, I’m going to take Diefenbaker out for a walk. Would you like to accompany me?”

And Ray tried to suppress the motion but didn’t quite manage it. His fingers were halfway up to touch the bald spot before he remembered his move and settled his hand on the back of his neck.

“Uh, thanks Fraser. I-I think I’ll pass for today. Maybe tomorrow? Give me a bit of time to get back some energy, you know?”

Fraser nodded mutely, the smile frozen on his face.

Outside, Dief turned in the direction of the park.

“Dief, we’ll have to make a little detour today, I’m afraid.” Dief looked up puzzled when Fraser led them toward the city center.

He returned to find Ray balancing on a swivel chair to reach a box on top of his wardrobe.

“Ray!” Fraser exclaimed and managed to catch the box Ray was trying to retrieve before it crashed to the floor.

Ray cursed silently and held his head.

“You shouldn’t be lifting anything for the next few days,” Fraser said reproachfully.

“Yeah, yeah,” Ray snapped. “I’m not an invalid, okay? Besides, it wasn’t all that heavy.”

Fraser compressed his lips into a thin line and refrained from arguing. He understood Ray, he really did, and he had the utmost sympathy for Ray’s difficulty to handle his own helplessness.

“I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with the weight of the box,” he said placatory. “But a swivel chair is really the least ideal support to use when trying to retrieve something from some other location,” Fraser looked at the case in his hands. “May I ask what it is you were trying to retrieve?”

“CDs,” Ray rubbed his head in embarrassment. “Thought I might get to do some dancing since I can’t do shit otherwise.”

Fraser’s lips parted involuntarily at the thought of Ray dancing.

Ray settled down on the rug in the living room to rifle the contents of the cardboard box. Fraser left him a bit of privacy for this task and went to the kitchen to prepare something to eat for dinner.

If he stayed with Ray in the living room he was only bound to stare, to constantly reassure himself that Ray was indeed alright. He opened the door of the fridge and remembered again that he should thank Francesca for coming in and preparing everything before Ray had been released on the next day.

“Hey Frase, whatcha doing?” Ray called out from the living room.

“I’m preparing dinner,” he called back.

“Why? It’s only—“ Ray’s answer was left hanging when he looked at the clock in confusion. “Huh, weird.”

The same instant Ray stood up to have a look at the clock Fraser remembered that the clock had stopped – because he had taken the batteries out around half past three this morning.

He came into the living room when Ray was already flipping the clock over to change the batteries. His hands stopped in the middle of their movement and Ray frowned at the empty battery compartment.

“Ah, I took them out,” and when that didn’t seem to satisfy Ray by way of an answer he elaborated with a crack of the neck, “the ticking was distracting me so I removed the batteries to be able to sleep.”

Ray nodded thoughtfully. “Sure, knock yourself out. I’ll just—“ he gestured with the clock, “leave this as it is then.” He put the clock back on the wall.

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

Ray’s gaze followed Fraser’s retreating form as he went back into the kitchen. Trouble sleeping? That man can sleep through an avalanche without any problems!

He sat down again, turning one of the CD cases around in his hands while he pondered Fraser’s strange remark. He was pretty sure that Fraser hadn’t been lying… but Fraser had a way of lying where he stuck so close to the truth that it was mostly a lie in disguise because usually the lie was simply in the stuff he left out.

Ray puzzled a little while longer about it but Fraser had seemed fine otherwise and dinner was a comfortable affair and also gave no reason to doubt Fraser’s simple statement. Maybe the Mountie was simply a little on edge as well. Ray could get that the last few days – hell, since this assignment had started – hadn’t been easy for him either.

After dinner Ray swayed a little bit around the room to Ella Fitzgerald while Fraser pretended to read. Ray’s hips moved softly from side to side, his feet moving in a basic box step, his arms hanging loosely at his side, and Ella’s sweet, mournful voice in the air.

Fraser was mesmerized. He tried not to stare too much but Ray had his eyes closed and seemed to be dancing more for his own relaxation than any need to impress so Fraser watched him guardedly over the edge of his book.

Ray was so very beautiful like this. All this wiry strength compressed into his light frame and all that manic energy kindled down to a warm glow that turned his limbs into liquid and made his movements effortless, fluid and graceful.

Ray hummed quietly along now and then, skillfully avoiding the couch table, and his lips relaxed into a soft smile.

God… Fraser thought. He had never been this in love with anyone ever before. It was terrifying… too precious.

The tracks moved fluently from one to the next and Fraser had lost every feeling of time. When the last notes fluttered through the speakers Ray’s dancing stopped. He smiled satisfied but he was breathing hard and Fraser had a brief moment of guilt, should he have stopped Ray’s exertions? Reminded him not to over-exert himself?

But Ray looked tired and happy and Fraser was glad that he had been too immersed in Ray’s dancing to interrupt him with rational thought and medical advice.

Ray came to a halt in front of Fraser, his blue eyes filled with merriment.

“Sleep in the bed tonight?” He said clearly. Ray was so calm about this and Fraser was amazed how Ray could simply come out and ask something like this. Panic rose up inside of him. He couldn’t—no, he couldn’t. It was dangerous and… his self-control was feeble as it was and… no, he would say no.

“Please,” Ray’s smile was shy and a little sad.

Fraser’s insides cringed at the sight. Never did he want to make Ray sad but… no, this was risking too much, asking too much of him and—

“Not to do anything… just…” Ray shrugged self-consciously, his shoulders moving in a fluid arc, “just to sleep,” he finished softly.

Fraser briefly closed his eyes. It was impossible to deny Ray this small wish— after everything he had done, after all the sorrow he had caused, Ray was entitled to ask for much more than this.

And yet this felt like the beginning of a slippery slope, like the first transgression that might lead to more.

“Yes,” his voice shook slightly on these three little letters.

“Greatness,” Ray whispered with another one of those soft smiles.

And Ray kept true to his words. They lay in bed, side by side and it didn’t take more than a few minutes for Ray’s features to relax, giving in to the pull of sleep.

Fraser continued to watch him, the steady rise and fall of his chest, the jaw slack and the lips softly parted. His hand was mere inches away from Ray’s and yet he didn’t dare to touch him. What if this was all an illusion? He spread his hand flat over the bed sheet and closed his eyes, lulled to sleep by the regular sound of Ray’s breathing.

On to Part 10

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