Even after two years of hearing the sound, a smile still bloomed on Fraser’s face each time he caught the noise of Ray’s key in the lock.
“I’m back,” Ray called, unnecessarily.
“I’m in the kitchen,” Fraser replied. The soup in front of him simmered amicably. The recipe was probably as old as his grandmother. For Ray, comfort food consisted of pizza and beer. For Fraser, soup was a reminder of home and of being taken care of as a child. Today had been a rather trying day and Fraser could do with a little hominess.
Warm hands reached around to hold Fraser and a slender body pressed up behind him. “Smells good,” Ray’s voice was warm. “I did the shopping,” Ray whispered smugly into his ear.
Surprised, Fraser turned around in Ray’s embrace. “You did?”
Ray rolled his eyes. “Don’t look so surprised. I get the groceries… now and again.”
Yes and Ray’s definition of ‘groceries’ couldn’t be found in any dictionary. It was appalling what Ray considered edible.
Expecting to find bags of candy and frozen goods, Fraser looked next to him at Ray’s shopping bags.
Was that an— “Ray, did you intend to buy an artichoke?”
Ray shuffled a little. “Uh… yeah… I was in the mood for—” Ray’s eyes lingered on the offending article for a moment, trying to find the right word for it, “vegetables.”
“I see.” Something was going on here. “Any particular reason you bought something you’ve claimed might kill you?”
“It’s—see, I’m an adventurous guy, okay? I do the wild thing once in a while. You said it tastes good and I said I’d try anything once,” Ray’s fingers did most of the talking.
…and sometimes, Ray went out of his way to incorporate Fraser’s sort of comfort food into his menu. Fraser’s smile deepened and the laugh lines around his eyes got more prominent. “We can put it together with potatoes and cheese in the oven. I assure you it will taste delicious.”
Dief grumbled next to him and Fraser cheerfully ignored his complaint. Diefenbaker was eating far too much fast food as it was.
Dinner was a challenge in self-control, Fraser reflected. Because Ray kept giving him these smiles and he didn’t stop teasing and Fraser’s hearing was very astute and Ray’s timbre was almost half an octave deeper than usual.
“How’s the, uh, you know, the green stuff?”
“Very tasty. You should do the shopping more often.”
Ray’s tongue came out to wet his lips. “Yeah? Are there any benefits to the job?”
Ah. After all this time with Ray he should’ve seen where this was going the moment Ray brought an actual vegetable home.
Fraser allowed himself a slow smile. “I’m sure we can work out some kind of arrangement. Is there any specific form of recompense you had in mind?” Fraser asked, tongue firmly in cheek.
It was so, so easy to play into Ray’s hands. Fraser could already make out the speed-up in Ray’s breathing.
“You’re the smart one, Ben. I’m sure you can figure something out.”
Fraser bit his lip and pushed away from the table. He reached for Ray’s hand to pull him out of his seat. When Ray was pressed flush against him, he leaned forward to murmur into his ear. “I’m afraid I only have Canadian currency on me at the moment.”
“Sorry,” Ray swallowed hard. “I don’t accept any funny money.”
“Well, in that case I think I will have to pay you in kind.”
The kiss was languid and Ray all but melted against him. Ray’s body was all sinewy muscles and barely contained wiry strength; holding him was like trying to keep water in one place. Ray’s mouth opened effortlessly underneath his own and Ray’s hands gripped his sweater tightly, pulling Fraser even closer.
With sure steps, Fraser began walking them backwards in the direction of their bedroom. This was a comfort they both needed.
Fraser had never thought of sex as a matter of stress-relief, but it had taken him less than a month with Ray to figure out that for Ray those two were synonymous– not that Fraser was complaining. Fighting Ray for dominance was the most invigorating thing since he had broken into Pete McCormak’s ice fishing hole at the age of 8.
…and in moods like this, Ray only needed the fight to surrender. Fraser shuddered with a sudden longing to have Ray naked, spread out on the bed. Yes, Ray was a genius when it came to matters of stress-relief, among other things.
And when it also got Ray to eat healthy now and again then they might even grow old enough to make the most of it.
“…Ben…” Ray gasped; fingers hot and firm on Fraser’s shoulder.
Ray’s hands moved lower, following Fraser’s spine downward. Fraser stiffened without meaning to when Ray’s fingers came close to the old scar from his bullet wound. He tried to distract Ray with a deep kiss, but Ray had already noticed. His fingers moved into safer territory again and Fraser relaxed slowly.
Making love to Ray… sometimes Fraser still couldn’t believe it. Lips, and teeth, and fingertips, Fraser devoted himself to his task. Ray’s body was an unspoken answer to the question Fraser’s body was asking.
Partners in every sense of the word. Ray’s fingers dug harder into Fraser’s arms. The bracelet was clinking quietly and Fraser bent his head to the side to take it between his lips. Sweat. Metal. Fraser’s tongue flicked between the beads.
“Ahh… God… Ben…”
Ray’s body moved like a dancer’s; as if Ray never had to think about how to move with Fraser. And he probably didn’t. And with Ray guiding them, Fraser didn’t have to think about it either.
The sweat on Ray’s chest was slowly cooling as Fraser pushed his face close to Ray’s, nuzzling along his jaw line. Languidly, Ray stretched. Like this, Ray always reminded him of molten metal. Usually so headstrong and wired, but when he was like this he was calm, full of slow smiles, and husky murmurs.
“I love you,” Fraser confessed into Ray’s skin.
Ray’s graceful fingers pulled his face closer to meet him for a kiss. Slowly, Ray’s tongue invaded his mouth, sated and leisurely. Fraser felt drunk when Ray pulled away. “Love you, Ben,” Ray said with a smile in his voice.
Fraser laced their fingers together and closed his eyes. He could feel Ray’s chest rise and fall against his own and he couldn’t even begin to say which leg belonged to whom. Ray’s arm was slung over his shoulder, just holding him, and Fraser soaked in the feeling of being as close to Ray as was humanly possible. With his eyes closed, he couldn’t even tell where his own fingers ended and Ray’s began… it felt as if they simply merged into one; it was the most liberating feeling Fraser knew.
Fraser’s breath escaped on a low moan as Ray’s tongue sneaked out to draw a pattern on his collar bone. Apparently, Ray had rested enough. Sharp teeth worried the soft skin where throat met shoulder and Fraser shivered. Sleep, he thought, was overrated. With an underhanded move, Fraser pushed Ray flat on his back and returned the favor. Ray’s husky moan made Fraser’s blood sing. Yes, there were better things than sleep.
Fraser was on his way to the break room to get a coffee when another headache made itself known. He pinched the bridge of his nose and swallowed a sigh. He was prone to headaches lately. He had attributed them to the changes in weather, but it had been rather bracing and cool all day.
As long as he didn’t need a pill it was manageable. But it was rather distracting, he thought, dismayed.
But after their break a call came in reporting a mugging and that kept them busy enough that Fraser successfully forgot about his headache. When they finally returned to the station, Fraser was glad to call it a day… not as glad as Ray, though, who hadn’t stopped complaining once since he had been doused with stale beer at an Irish pub– it hadn’t been Fraser’s fault that he had correctly identified the raised voices coming from inside for a robbery in the making.
“How come you look just as spotless as you did this morning, huh?” Ray grouched.
“I really couldn’t say, Ray. I hadn’t planned for this to happen when we took cover behind the beer barrels.”
“That’s what you always say,” Ray pointed out.
Yes, well… he never did it on purpose, after all.
Ray went into the men’s room to get cleaned up, followed by a string of rude remarks about showing up at work drunk from Detective Dewey. Fraser winced. He would have to offer some kind of compensation to Ray tonight. Fraser thought about that for a moment. This could turn out interesting. He tried to keep his smile in check as he sat down to fill out their report.
He was almost finished when he lost his grip on the pen. Bewildered, he reached for it again only to find out that he appeared to have problems holding it. He must’ve sprained something when they had dived for cover. There were only a few points missing in his report so Fraser switched hands. His penmanship with his left hand wasn’t what one might call elegant, but compared to what Ray passed off as hand-writing most of the time Fraser didn’t think the Lieutenant would take offence.
Fraser had just stapled the pages when Ray returned with still slightly wet hair. “Fraser, I stink like a whole brewery. Can we please call this a day so that I can grab a real shower?”
“Of course, Ray.”
Fraser followed Ray outside. “You know, Ray, beer has often been used as a hair-softener—”
“Fraser, you sure it didn’t soften your brain?”
Fraser chuckled quietly. When they were safely inside of Ray’s car, Fraser reached over and mussed Ray’s damp hair. “I’ve been told I give a rather decent head massage,” Fraser offered.
Ray grinned at him. “The guy who told you that must’ve been a very wise one,” Ray quipped. “Don’t think I’ll let you weasel out of it now that you offered.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Fraser replied earnestly. From the back seat, Diefenbaker barked.
Fraser looked into the rearview mirror. “No, I’m afraid the weasel was purely metaphorical.” Dief looked mildly disappointed.
Morning was not Ray’s favorite time of the day. He groaned as the beeping of the alarm kept grinding against his eardrum. Blearily, Ray blinked awake.
“What the…” Ray mumbled. He never heard the alarm. Mr. 5-AM-Equals-Morning was always up at least 5 minutes before the blasted thing even had a chance of going off. Maybe Fraser had forgotten to turn it off when he grabbed a shower?
Yeah, Ray snickered, as if Fraser ever forgot something. Ray turned around. No, Mr. Super-Mountie was still out for the count.
Cool, Ray grinned. Nothing gave you the feeling of being Superman more than putting Fraser into a sex-induced coma.
Ray’s day was brightening considerably. Well, he wouldn’t rub it in… much. Ray dragged his ass into the shower and by the time he came out Fraser was at least up– awake would be exaggerating.
Ray frowned. “Hey, Ben, everything all right?”
Fraser rubbed a hand over his forehead. He nodded and gave Ray a small smile. “Thank you, I’m fine. I must’ve overslept.”
Ray grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “That’s what can happen when you have sex with yours truly. Sorry, should’ve come with a warning sign,” Ray said, unrepentant.
Fraser’s lips twitched. “Ah, I see. Consider myself adequately warned.”
By the time Ray had dropped Fraser off at the Consulate and started on his open cases at the 27th he had almost forgotten about the incident again. When Fraser showed up to help him with his paperwork on the Donald-Duck-Bank-Robbery– and no, Ray still hadn’t figured out why the guys had opted for Donald Duck masks to conduct their heist in the first place– Ray had enough on his plate to forget about teasing the man.
But Ray remembered it again when Fraser kept on frowning at nothing in particular. Ray followed the direction of Fraser’s gaze and came face to face with the withered plant on the filing cabinet behind his desk. Fraser could not have taken offence at his treatment of plants at this juncture, could he? …juncture… oh God, he was spending way too much time with Fraser.
“I know it looks bad,” Ray began jokingly, “but I swear that this thing is not my responsibility. Frannie dragged the thing in here so she’s gotta be the one to take care of it.”
Fraser looked bewildered for a moment. “I’m sorry, but what on earth are you talking about?”
Ray pointed at the dead plant. “You were giving poor droughty here the evil eye and I just wanted to make sure you knew it wasn’t me.”
Fraser finally noticed the plant. “Oh. No, I wasn’t thinking about the Philodendron. Though now that you mention it, it is in a really appalling state—”
Ray looked stricken. Great, did he have to start Fraser on plant rights now of all things? He did not want to discuss plants. Nu-uh.
“Okay, got it. Be nice to the green stuff. Why do you keep on frowning then?”
“Oh, it’s nothing really. I simply seem to have a rather persistent headache and I was trying to repel it with a mental exercise,” Fraser explained.
Huh. “You never get headaches,” Ray accused.
Fraser’s brows drew together. “Don’t be silly, Ray. I’m human. I get headaches and I get hungry, or sad, or tired,” Fraser said, annoyed.
“Yeah, but it never shows,” Ray answered calmly. “So if you make a face because of a headache that one’s got to be the size of Canada.”
“It’s not as bad as you make it out to be,” Fraser started one of his long explanations, and Ray knew that it would involve a lot of big words that he couldn’t memorize anyway, and when Fraser was finished Ray would’ve completely forgotten what the issue had been to begin with. He was really good at Fraserish nowadays, Ray thought with a smirk.
“Fine, have it your way,” Ray interrupted. If Fraser didn’t want a painkiller far be it from Ray to force one down his throat. “But tell me when it gets worse, all right?”
But, of course, Fraser didn’t say anything. Ray sighed. That man was as stubborn as a brick. Even though Ray had noticed that Fraser must have been really suffering from his headache – hell, Ray had even seen him fiddle around with the pen in his hand, his concentration had been that bad.
It would be a lot easier to help Fraser if he would just let Ray help. Well, he did let Ray help– just as long as it didn’t appear as if that’s what Ray was doing. Fraser was a very proud brick.
It wasn’t even pride, not really, Ray knew that. It was just that Fraser had these ideas about self-sufficiency and independence and all that stuff and getting it into that thick skull that it was okay to need someone once in a while was like the story of the last Mohican – a noble cause and a worthy goal, but it didn’t impress the guys with the firearms and the cannons all that much.
Good thing that Ray had outgrown Western movies a long time ago. Instead, Ray had spent all of his teenage years reading spy novels. Figures that it would pay off when he had to deal with a Canadian. The best way to get past a brick was to sneak up on it, appear as harmless as a feather, so that it wouldn’t know what hit it when he got the hammer and the chisel out. Ray was the king of the underhanded maneuver.
“Frase… let’s go home,” Ray had stepped up way too close behind Fraser, just like he had always done. His murmur held just the right amount of urgency to make Fraser sit up and take notice.
“Shouldn’t we at least finish the report for the—”
“No,” Ray’s murmur was almost tangible against Fraser’s skin. “If we stay any longer we might get arrested.”
“For what?” Fraser asked, but Ray saw the lip-lick and knew he had won.
“Public indecency, c’mon.”
Ray reined his smile back in as Fraser started gathering the remaining paperwork in his arms with startling efficiency.
Back at home, Ray dimmed the lights and put on some mellow soul number. He ordered Fraser out of his uniform and when Fraser finally sat down on the couch in some comfortable clothes, Ray moved behind him to massage the tense muscles.
Fraser groaned gratefully and let his head hang forward. Ray smiled to himself. He would gladly help Fraser any which way– and if he could do it so easily he didn’t mind deceiving Fraser a little in his fantasies about self-reliance.
It took a bit of dedication, but finally, Fraser was relaxed and apparently not hurting anymore. The loose smile on his face looked good on him, Ray thought with an affectionate smile of his own. Ray brushed his lips against Fraser’s temple.
“Let’s get you to bed…” he murmured.
Fraser woke up with a start as the bathroom door fell shut. He gasped with the sudden onslaught of the same headache that had been haunting him for most of yesterday.Intrigued, Fraser stared at his right hand. It tingled: a strange mixture between warmth and numbness. This, Fraser had to admit, wasn’t very promising. Calm, all Fraser had to do was keep calm. He had hoped that it would recede by the time Ray came out of the bathroom, but to no avail.
Ray took one look at him and immediately dropped to his knees in front of him. “Hey, what’s wrong? You look white as a sheet, Ben.”
“It’s the headache again,” Fraser admitted. “It’s making me feel nauseated. I’m sure it’ll pass in a few minutes.”
“Fraser, I think we should see a doctor,” Ray said firmly.
‘We’, Fraser wanted to shake his head and smile. It was so Ray to speak of Fraser’s own health issues as their shared problem. Fraser was about to say that Ray was overreacting, but his hand started to tremble and it took every bit of control not to let Ray notice. He didn’t want to worry him; Ray always cared too much for his own good. Maybe Ray had a point.
Muscle spasms weren’t exactly in the same league as a simple cold. It couldn’t hurt to have a doctor check it out.
Fraser managed to get into the shower by himself while Ray went into the kitchen to prepare something for a quick breakfast.
The sensation of washing himself was odd since his right hand had lost almost all sensation and now that Fraser was concentrating on it he realized that his left hand was also numb in a few spots. Seeing a doctor might really not be untoward at this point, Fraser thought.
Fraser toweled himself off and made his way back into the bedroom to get dressed. He was almost through the door when the bed in front of him blurred together with the wardrobe. Surprised, Fraser stumbled, but his vision still didn’t clear.
Fraser swallowed hard for a second and kept perfectly still. He closed his eyes. Keep calm, he reminded himself again. He had been blind once already. He found his way to the bed with a little care. He opened his eyes again and was relieved to find that the room had come back into focus.
He took a deep breath. Good, now he could proceed with getting dressed without any obstacles.
Fraser pushed away from the bed– and almost fell. His right leg wouldn’t support him. He tried getting up again, but it was useless.
“Ray!” Fraser called, trying to keep his voice in control. Fraser winced when he heard the nervous tremor in his own voice.
In an instant, Ray appeared in the doorway with a worried look. Apparently, Fraser really hadn’t been successful at keeping the distress out of his voice. A headache, Fraser might have waved aside. Even an involuntary muscle spasm, a one-time occurrence, would have been no reason for concern.
But Fraser had read enough medical books to know that there were only two regions in the human body that could control nerve endings in the limbs as well as the optic nerve. The brain. Or the spine.
And Fraser had a bad feeling that he knew which one this was.
“I’m afraid something is not quite right,” Fraser managed to get out, breathing heavily.
Ray’s fingers were touching his shoulder in a reassuring grip. “It’s okay. We’ll get you to a hospital. Tell me what’s wrong.” Ray looked serious and determined.
Fraser laughed. It was a sound like dust over rusted metal. “Well, in addition to a splitting headache I seem to be losing control over my extremities and my eyesight.”
Ray set his jaw and refused to be intimidated. “I’ll call an ambulance. And then we’ll get you dressed. I’m right here with you, buddy. It’ll be all right,” Ray said in a remarkably calm voice despite the fact that his cheeks had lost all color.
He’s a police officer and well-acclimated to shock and people in distress, Fraser reminded himself. Still, he knew how much Ray cared for him and he felt a wave of gratitude that Ray portrayed nothing but calm and control even though Fraser could clearly see from the tight line of Ray’s lips that it cost him.
With another reassuring caress, Ray left the room to get the telephone. He was back a moment later.
“Good, let’s get you dressed. We have ten minutes.”
Ray was pretty sure that his feet would have trodden a dent into the gray linoleum floor in about 5 more minutes. No one was telling him anything. If somebody asked him one more time if he was family he would forget himself and people would get to meet the most unlikely Canadian ever to greet the face of this earth. And if he had to be Fraser’s weird cousin who crawled out from under an igloo when he was 12 he didn’t care—if no one told him what was going on in the next 5 minutes he would—
“Yeah?” Ray whirled around. The small nurse looked taken aback.
“You can go in now,” she said and she didn’t even manage to get ‘if you want to’ out before Ray had already stormed past her.
“Fraser?” Ray called as he opened the door.
“I’m here, Ray,” Fraser said from the bed. Of course, duh, where else would he be?
Ray was waiting for one of Fraser’s usual stories about something his dad had said or someone he knew from kindergarten had done that was similar to his own experience– at least that was similar according to Fraser. Mostly, Ray didn’t see the similarities.
But Fraser just kept on smiling this vague smile and Ray’s heart dropped like a stone.
“And? What did they tell you?” Ray asked when he couldn’t take it anymore.
Fraser smoothed out the bed sheet while he answered. “I don’t know yet. The test results aren’t back yet.”
Ray relaxed a little again. He would never reach 50 this way.
“Did you hear anything? As to what they think happened, I mean,” Fraser asked quietly. It kind of freaked Ray out that Fraser was so calm. If it were him in that hospital bed he would be trashing the place and hollering the roof down… and Fraser wasn’t a very quiet guy. That man could talk your ear off if he set his mind to it… okay, he could make something else go off just by talking, too, but that wasn’t the point here. The point was that Fraser had an opinion on everything and he always told everybody all about it– to the often strained patience of his audience. Ray almost smiled against his will.
He sat down next to Fraser and took his hand. He traced a smooth circle with his thumb over the back of Fraser’s hand and smiled at Fraser.
“No, they wouldn’t tell me anything. I’m not family—”
Fraser opened his mouth to protest, but Ray shook his head. They’d had this conversation before. “No, according to the law I ain’t and whether we agree or not doesn’t change a thing. Trust me, I tried, but no one stayed long enough to kick’em in the head.”
That coaxed a smile on Fraser’s face.
Ray had used his time waiting to go through countless possibilities, though. But he didn’t want to worry Fraser.
They hadn’t been in any kind of accident over the past few weeks – which was a miracle in itself – and Fraser hadn’t hit his head either – another thing that Ray had marked with a red pen in his calendar. Ray wasn’t stupid; he knew that the brain could go cuckoo just from sitting at home, but ever since Fraser had said that he couldn’t feel his legs anymore Ray had thought of that bullet in his back. Lodged right next to the spine.
Ray had read Vecchio’s files. They said that the bullet was found in the T8 vertebrae, the thoracic region. Ray had had no idea where that was or what that meant, but he had looked it up and there was a lot of talk about ‘spinal nerves,’ and getting a bullet there could not be a good thing.
If he had read Vecchio’s file correctly then Fraser could be glad to be alive… that he had made a full recovery… god, thinking about it made Ray want to beat Vecchio to a pulp—no, he knew, God, he knew the story… maybe he would’ve reacted the same way. He had no idea.
Vecchio loved Fraser like a brother, they were best buddies. If Vecchio could’ve done this without hurting Fraser than he would have. But… god, it made Ray mad.
And now Fraser was having problems getting his legs underneath him, and he said his hands were feeling numb, and the damn headache Fraser had brushed aside…
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Ray murmured, squeezing Fraser’s hand once. They had come so far, they would get past this as well. Hell, they had survived looking for the hand of Franklin—they had survived nuclear submarines, nerve gas, ghost ships, and voodoo—they would get through something as ordinary as a hospital stay.
There was a knock on the door and the next moment Fraser’s doctor appeared in the doorway.
“Ah, Corporal Fraser, how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, thank you ki—”
“He’s not freakin’ fine,” Ray interrupted. “You’ve left us waiting for hours! How do you think he feels?”
The doctor looked surprised at Fraser’s volatile visitor. After a short glance at his notes the doctor’s face cleared. “You must be Detective Kowalski. You brought him here if my information is correct.”
“Yeah, I did. So what’s the deal? Is he going to be fine?”
“Detective Kowalski, I’m afraid this is strictly confidential and something I should discuss with Corporal Fraser in private,” the doctor began his apology.
Ray was bristling, but before he could erupt, Fraser was already answering. He squeezed Ray’s hand back.
“I would like him to stay if it’s all the same to you. It will save me repeating myself and Ray can inform my superior officer as well as my colleagues at the 27th precinct.”
The doctor didn’t look particularly happy. He sighed and fixed Ray with a long-suffering look. Ray smirked. Oh, no, Mister, you’re barking up the wrong tree, Ray thought vindictively. Politeness was not Ray’s middle name. Tenacity on the other hand…
“I’m afraid that it’s serious,” the doctor stated.
Ray felt the color drain from his face. Fraser kept on looking inquisitively at the doctor, but Ray could see the tension running through him underneath the calm exterior.
“The bullet in your back has shifted towards the spine. It’s now wedged against nerves that control your extremities. If we don’t remove the bullet those nerves might die completely. Nerve damage is often permanent and if the bullet does not get removed with surgery then I can guarantee you that you will lose all movement– possibly more, it’s hard to say which nerves will be affected in the long run.”
Ray’s eyes flicked from the doctor to Fraser and back again. Ben… oh god… this couldn’t be true… dammit, he’d kill Vecchio as soon as the bastard got back from his honeymoon with Ray’s ex-wife. Ray squeezed Fraser’s hand again to—hell, he didn’t know—but he had to do something, hadn’t he? There had to be something he could do to help?
“I see,” Fraser’s voice was devoid of emotions and Ray hated it, hated it already. He didn’t want Fraser to sound so matter-of-fact—he didn’t want Fraser to sound so dead.
“I was told the wound was inoperable; surgery was too risky,” Fraser stated.
The doctor nodded gravely. “Yes, and I can’t tell you that the risk has gotten any less. I’m sorry. There is a risk that the surgery will damage the spine—”
“—which would paralyze me as well,” Fraser interrupted and Ray tasted the tang of copper on his tongue.
“Yes, it is a risk you will have to take. The alternative is a slowly-approaching loss of control over your arms and legs with no chance of recovery.”
“I understand,” Fraser said with a frown.
Ray felt – maybe for the first time in his life – completely empty. There were simply too many emotions, like a black hole. It was too much chaos and it all got sucked inside, leaving a predatory void gaping inside of him, like the huge jaw of some malevolent beast. He wanted to rage and he wanted to cry and he wanted to demand that someone do something and he wanted to rant about the unfairness of it all– but all he could see was Fraser, sitting in the white hospital bed, with that brittle smile on his lips.
“There has to be another way,” Ray finally managed to get out. He had wanted to sound tough, to infuse his voice with confidence to be strong for Fraser. But his voice came out small and hoarse.
“I’m sorry, Detective Kowalski. I assure you if we had a choice we would do our utmost to avoid surgery. As it is we can only try to prevent the nerves from taking any more damage.”
Fraser’s voice cut through the room like a shot. “You mean you can’t guarantee a full recovery even if you operate.”
Ray gaped. “That—no—no, right? If he has the surgery he’ll be all right… right?” Ray realized that he was moving up on the soles of his feet: his posture for interviewing a suspect. He had even taken a step towards the doctor. But the doc seemed sympathetic, not scared.
And that made Ray feel even worse. If this was so bad that the doc wasn’t even intimidated because he was feeling so sorry for them then… this was really bad.
The doctor cleared his throat. “We can’t guarantee you that the surgery will be successful in restoring the mobility and the level of sensation you have already lost. You have to understand that nerves don’t grow back. They may heal with time, but there’s no guarantee.”
No guarantee. Ray couldn’t hear it anymore.
“I need to think about it,” Fraser said slowly.
The doctor nodded. “I would advise you not to spend too much time thinking about it. The sooner we can remove the bullet the better your chances are for recovery.”
“Thank you kindly.”
The white coat vanished through the door and the door fell closed with a final-sounding ‘click.’
Ray stared at Fraser.
“You’re not considering skipping the surgery, right?” Ray asked loudly, too loud for the small room. Fraser winced.
“Listen, he said you can make a full recovery if you get the blasted bullet out—that’s good, right?”
“Yes, but the surgery might damage the spine and I could end up paralyzed,” Fraser said bluntly.
Ray looked taken aback. “You won’t,” he said firmly. “And he said your chances were next to none if you didn’t get it out—any chance is better than no chance, don’t you think?”
Fraser was quiet. His stare seemed to go far away.
“Frase… Ben… talk to me, buddy,” Ray said in a small voice.
“Yes, I don’t seem to have much choice…” Fraser lapsed into another silence.
“Ben, it’ll be all right. Trust me on this, you’re gonna be fine,” Ray tried to reassure him. God, he had never felt this stupid and helpless ever before. There had to be something he could say that hadn’t been said in every bad movie already, hadn’t there?
“And what if I won’t, Ray? I appreciate your faith in my recovery, but it is a very real possibility that I won’t make a full recovery. I might end up in a wheelchair.”
Ray flinched and Fraser almost smiled.
“See, it’s not so easy to think about it. One week from now, I could be a cripple with no use of my legs and severely limited sensation in my hands—”
Ray’s hands clamped like a vice around Fraser’s shoulders. “Stop talking shit, Fraser. You’ll get the bullet out and then we will see to it that you’ll get better,” Ray said with conviction.
“No, Ray. You have to entertain the thought that I might not get better again,” Fraser’s voice was hard and Ray frowned.
“Ben, we’ll figure something out, okay? Endangering our lives in wildly bizarre ways might be difficult in a wheelchair, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to do it,” Ray tried to lighten the mood.
“I’m not talking about my job,” Fraser exclaimed– but Ray saw the pain flit over his face as he said it and thought that maybe Fraser had been trying not to think about that aspect.
“About what then?” Ray asked confused.
“About you, Ray. I’m talking about you and that you will have to consider the possibility that the surgery won’t be successful.”
“So what, Ben? You’re still you. I don’t see why that should change anythi—”
“Of course it would change things, Ray,” Fraser snapped at him.
Ray reared back. Fraser’s blue eyes looked cold and full of pain. Impulsively, Ray grabbed Fraser by the neck and crushed their mouths together. It was an angry kiss, hurtful and punishing, but Ray reveled in the desperation Fraser put into it. Finally some real emotion behind that stoic façade.
After a moment, Ray spread his fingers over Fraser’s cheek, cupping his face. He gentled the kiss, smoothing over Fraser’s cheek bones, until Fraser’s arms came around to hold him close. Ray pulled an inch away, breathing heavily. “You’re an asshole, Fraser.” He kissed him again. Anything was better than the calm Mountie-mask. Fraser never let himself go around anyone else and Ray kind of got a kick out of it that Fraser seldom, very seldom, but at least he could, lose control around Ray.
A little while later, the doctor reappeared.
“Have you come to a decision?” He asked seriously.
“I will consent to the surgery,” Fraser said quietly and Ray smiled proudly at him.
The doctor seemed relieved. “I’m glad to hear it, Corporal Fraser. We are still waiting for a few test results and once we are satisfied with those I’ll try to schedule your surgery as soon as possible. I only have a few general questions about your symptoms and then we can discuss your stay here.”
Fraser nodded. Ray was still hovering at his side, pale but determined. He felt as if he hadn’t slept in days and he still wasn’t sure if everything that had happened was actually real. It simply seemed too weird to be true. It couldn’t really be happening to them, could it?
“Did you experience any problems while urinating lately?” The doc looked at his check list.
Ray was already mentally shaking his head when Fraser quietly answered. “Yes, now and again.”
Ray’s head snapped around to him.
“Was that a recent symptom? And was it accompanied by traces of blood?”
“Fairly recent, a few weeks I think. And no, no blood. Urinating itself was simply rather painful.”
The doctor nodded again in a way other people would agree that the weather really was bad at the moment.
“We will have to face the possibility that your kidneys have been affected. I will schedule another test for tomorrow morning. Is there someone who could provide you with a few necessities for your stay here?”
“I will,” Ray said before Fraser could answer.
The doctor almost smiled. “Very well. I will leave you to discuss this then. Corporal, someone will inform you as to the date of your surgery– should we find anything else tomorrow that would cause us to delay it. I’ll send a nurse in to hook you up to a catheter, Corporal. Detective,” he tipped his non-existent hat and vanished in a billow of white coat.
“What the hell, Fraser?” Ray exclaimed. “You’ve been having problems for weeks and you didn’t even tell me?” Ray didn’t want to sound hurt, but it was kinda hard to keep it out of his voice.
Fraser sighed. “I didn’t want to worry you, and a little discomfort when relieving the bladder can have a lot of harmless causes. It is hardly the cause for an international broadcast. Had it persisted I would’ve seen a doctor about it.”
“Yeah… right,” Ray snorted with his arms crossed over his chest. “That’s not partners, Ben.”
Fraser had that stubborn set to his mouth that Ray knew from experience. It meant that Fraser was 100% sure that he had acted reasonable and in the best common interest. It was a lost cause. God… sometimes Fraser was the most infuriating man on the planet.
“I didn’t know that you put quite so much interest in my bowel movements,” Fraser replied snippily.
Ray rolled his eyes. “It’s not about that and you know it…” Ray sighed. “I don’t wanna fight with you about this … anything special I should get you from home?”
“No, I don’t think I will need anything in particular. I would appreciate a book, though.”
“A book, gotcha. I’ll try to bring Dief, but it might be best to wait until after your surgery.”
“Okay, I’ll—I’ll be right back,” Ray said uncertainly. He kissed Fraser again quickly and left. This was all happening too fast.