Ray had thought that Fraser able to at least feel the hand vaguely in this one spot was a good thing and that it would follow that he would soon be able to regain his feeling completely.

But two days had already passed and nothing had changed. Fraser was out of it for the most time – which was probably a good thing.

Ray had given up counting how many different drugs Fraser was getting. Anti-spasmodics, anti-emetics—a lot of stuff starting with ‘anti’ and the morphine drip that was merrily dripping away.

And Ray couldn’t count how many meals Fraser had regurgitated. He winced. No wonder what with all the meds he was getting.

For the short amount of time Fraser had been awake he had been calm and composed… well, as composed as one could be under the circumstances, Ray figured. Frannie had come in and sat with him in between so that Ray could get cleaned up, and she had also thought Fraser was holding up rather well.

When Ray came in on the morning of the third day, he instantly knew something was up. Fraser’s tight-lipped, brooding expression spoke volumes. Ray’s heart stuttered to a stop for a second. Oh God… what had happened?

“Frase, are you—” and Ray was damn tired of asking if he was all right. Of course he wasn’t and it was stupid of Ray to keep asking him that. But what else was he supposed to say? “How are you feeling?”

Fraser licked his lips in a very controlled fashion. Ray’s heart was trying to run an obstacle course in ground-breaking record time.

“I don’t feel anything, Ray. Nothing at all, just like yesterday, and the day before. At least, nothing that isn’t pain. My pain is up and about like a prized Caribou, thank you kindly. And I can assure you that prodding my leg or poking it does not yield different results. Neither do I feel electric shocks or differences in temperature. Apparently, everyone in this hospital believes that I wouldn’t notice if I could feel my legs again or that I simply neglected to mention it if I could.”

Ray’s mouth hung open. Fraser? Bitchy? Never on his watch.  “Hey…” Ray sat down on the edge of Fraser’s bed. “They said it might take up to a week, right?”

“Yes, they also said I should be able to feel something after three days. And they also said that I might never regain the feeling in my legs.”

“You will,” Ray interjected. “Just—give it time, okay? The doc said this kinda surgery is traumatic and that—”

“Yes, that the spine almost immediately goes into shock when the scalpel touches the nerves. I have been there for the briefing,” Fraser said humorlessly.

Ray winced sympathetically. He thought Fraser was doing rather well. Ray would’ve already kicked someone in the head were he to endure two days almost motionless in bed.

“You got something to bitch about your hands as well or are they behaving at least?” Ray teased softly.

Fraser looked sternly at him before his lip twitched. “Still numb for the most part.”

“Hey, I always wanted to be able to stub out a cigarette in my hand, trade you?” Ray offered with a little-boy’s-grin.

“Why on earth would you want to put out a cigarette in your hand?” Fraser asked, confused.

“’Cause it’s cool… well, it was when Mickey O’Neill did it in 10th grade, anyway,” Ray laughed.

“In this case I think it’s better if I stay saddled with the numbness for a while longer. At least I don’t add mutilation to the list.”

“That’s the spirit,” Ray grinned.

When Fraser was asleep again, a state that was mostly the rule, Ray did allow himself to worry. It was true; he had also expected Fraser to get better quicker than this. Fraser always bounced back—he was Superman in a way. Nothing could stop him. He jumped off buildings, onto vans, and out of airplanes and always without a hair out of place. Yeah, Ray had been sure Fraser would be the model patient. Out of there in no time.

It had been such a long time Fraser had almost forgotten how much he abhorred hospitals. The constant medication made him feel sick and not like himself and Fraser didn’t need two dozen tests each day to tell him that he didn’t feel a thing.

He couldn’t even move; he just lay there all day. The sterility of the room itself drove him up the wall. He wanted to be outside, he wanted to breathe fresh air, he wanted to see a real tree and not something someone had sold in a pot.

Of course, Fraser had never harbored the idea that his stay would be quick or that the healing would be fast. But waiting… waiting to know if he would ever be able to walk again… that was agony. He didn’t have any recollection how he had gotten past the uncertainty of his situation the last time, but he assumed that he had simply been… preoccupied. With his partner shooting him. At least he could explain that, and he was glad that Ray Vecchio had prevented him from leaving with Victoria.

He didn’t feel all that relieved at the thought. Not like he thought he should.

…he was glad, wasn’t he?

Back then, thoughts of her had consumed everything else. He hadn’t thought much about himself or his future. He didn’t have one at that time—he couldn’t get past her. He couldn’t comprehend how he had let her go again… he couldn’t comprehend how he could still want her… still love her. And to this day he couldn’t understand why she had done all that. They could have been happy. It could have been simple.

And if it had been solely for revenge then why had she wanted him with her?

“Hey, I brought you another book,” Ray’s voice cut through the storm in his head. “This is my choice, okay? It’s got dead bodies in it so you can’t complain, but the hero makes it out of there alive, all right?”

Fraser smiled. Ray had a rather singular opinion of his reading material. Fraser received the copy of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon with raised eyebrows.

“What? I survived high school with this,” Ray shrugged.

Ray sat down next to him and placed the bag with fresh clothes and the book in Fraser’s lap.

“Your hand is ice-cold. Have temperatures dropped that far already?” Fraser asked, surprised.

“No, I got a coke from the—” Ray stopped and stared at his hand. His hand that was resting on Fraser’s leg.

“Ben…” Ray murmured breathlessly. Ray’s hand caressed Fraser’s leg and Ray’s eyes tracked his expression.

Fraser began to smile. “I can—I can feel that.”

Dignity be damned. Ray threw himself at Fraser and pulled him close for a kiss. “I knew it,” he crowed. “Told you it was going to get better,” Ray sounded like a victorious schoolboy.

For a moment, Fraser wanted to believe him. And with Ray almost wrapped around him and his joyous voice in his ear it was almost too simple to do just that.

For one evening, Fraser’s heart felt light again. The doctors were cautiously optimistic– not going so far as to entertain the thought of a complete recovery, but at least they considered the success of the surgery.

Fraser could still see Ray’s smile so vividly in his mind’s eye. The doctors had said that he might be able to start physical therapy in about two weeks if there were no complications and Fraser wanted so badly to believe that this was true.

He was twice as glad when the doctors decided to cut back on the painkillers. It wasn’t that he was overmuch afraid of getting addicted; he just preferred to be able to tell what his body was feeling. Admittedly, he wouldn’t have managed to get through the last two days without them, but the sheer potency of them was about to eat through his stomach lining, or that’s what it felt like at least.

The nurse told him to just let her know if it got too bad and she would give him something for the pain, but Fraser assured her that this wouldn’t be necessary.

“You just wait and see,” Ray told Dief a day later. “He’s going to be up and walking in no time.”

Dief wagged his tail.

“Just give him another day or two and then you can come visit him,” Ray ruffled his fur, but Dief began whining.

Ray looked crestfallen. “No—no, I swear, he wants to see you,” Ray smiled. “It’s the room, you know? That has to be really watchamacallit—doused with sanitizer?”

Dief growled and Ray held up his hands in a pacifying gesture. “Hey, I don’t make the rules. But if that’s what it takes to get Frase on the mend again then that’s what we’ll do, ‘kay? Okay, I gotta run. He’s usually awake by now and I don’t want him to be alone… he’s overthinking things as it is.”

Dief yipped in agreement.

Ray had just pulled the door closed behind him when he froze. He had just had a conversation with a wolf. A deaf half-wolf, which somehow didn’t help his case. Ray shook his head as if he was trying to dislodge water from his ear. This did so not bode well for his sanity. Fraser must’ve been rubbing off on him and since he wasn’t here to talk to Dief it was Ray’s turn now. No one, Ray reminded himself, had to know about this besides him and Dief. He shrugged a little and bounded down the stairs.

By the time Ray arrived at the hospital Fraser was indeed already awake.

“Hey there, did Frannie stay with you?” Ray asked with a look around.

“Yes, she had to drive her niece to her piano lesson about half an hour ago. I assure you, Ray, I’m fine on my own.”

“It—it’s not that. I just… I don’t want you to be bored,” Ray seemed to be fascinated by the non-existent pattern of Fraser’s white bed sheet.

“And I appreciate it,” Fraser said with a little sigh.

Ray had to smile. Yes, setting Frannie on Fraser might not be fair play, he had to admit that. It couldn’t be all that entertaining to listen to her chatter for hours on end. But it was better than Fraser’s own cinema of the mind… well, Fraser probably didn’t have a movie going, it was probably someone reading aloud or something. Some kind of story with lots of doom and despair in it, no doubt. No, Frannie’s bubble-gum and shopping talk was way safer for Fraser to listen to.

A nurse bustled in and Fraser’s eyes strayed to the stand next to his bed with a frown. Ray looked at the blanket that was draped over it and then back to Fraser, about to ask what was wrong, when Fraser smiled apologetically.

“Ah, Ray, would you mind doing me a favor?”

Ray had been prepared for something else. “Uh, sure, what do you need?”

“Could you get me a cup of tea from the cafeteria downstairs? They have a rather nice blend of Earl Grey and I don’t want to call the head nurse yet again. I’m sure she has other patients to see to.”

“Yeah, no skin off my nose. Be right back,” Ray answered with a confused little frown and a glance at the nurse.

As soon as Ray had vanished, Fraser closed his eyes and relaxed back into his pillow with a small sigh.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, my dear,” the elderly nurse said with a smile as she unveiled the bag for Fraser’s catheter underneath the blanket.

A blush rose to Fraser’s cheeks. “It’s, ah, it’s not embarrassment,” Fraser explained. But how was he to tell her that he didn’t want Ray to see him helpless like this? He couldn’t even move – let alone walk by himself – he didn’t want Ray to see that he couldn’t even relieve his bladder himself anymore. Fraser didn’t want to see the pity in Ray’s eyes… or worse, to find that Ray thought of him as a burden, a responsibility.

The nurse just smiled knowingly and had just left the room when Ray returned with a fresh cup of tea for Fraser.

Ray handed him the cup and their fingers brushed. “Is everything all right?” Ray asked quietly, but with only barely concealed concern.

“Of course, Ray,” Fraser replied, self-assured.

Ray sat down heavily next to Fraser on the bed. “You’d tell me if something was wrong… right?” Ray stared at his graceful, gentle fingers that were rubbing over his jeans-covered thigh.

Fraser put his hand firmly on top of Ray’s. “I don’t know anything that you don’t, I promise.”

Ray looked up at him and smiled softly. “How did the test this morning go?”

Fraser’s look became more solemn. “It was—”

“And don’t say ‘good,’ okay?” Ray pleaded.

Fraser bit his lip and placed the tea cup with overmuch concentration on the table next to his bed. “The reception in my right leg is less pronounced than in my left. However, they were able to monitor a response to electric stimuli in both legs, and I could discern differences in temperature in most of my left leg.”

Ray beamed at him. “That’s great!” Ray squeezed his hand and leaned in for a soft kiss. Fraser lost himself in the gentle slide of Ray’s lips. It was such a simple thing and he missed the simplicity of their shared intimacy. He couldn’t even lean into the kiss, the only thing he could do was pull Ray close and that he did.

He missed feeling Ray underneath his hands, the fine nuances in heat, the prickle of stubble on his jaw, the soft inside of his wrists… He could still touch him, of course, but it was muted. Like hands that were forever reaching out of a dream.

He didn’t feel Ray’s wiry body pressed against his hip– not the way it should feel. Fraser couldn’t wrap his legs around Ray to pull him close—he couldn’t even move. Dancing. Suddenly, Fraser thought of dancing with Ray. Of the way Ray had guided him smoothly over the floor with no other light than the soft, red glow from the chili-pepper-lights… and the soft music that had filled the nightly apartment… and Ray humming softly under his breath.

Fraser’s fingers tightened their hold, burying themselves in Ray’s hair, gripping the material of his shirt tighter as he realized that he might never dance with Ray again. Oh Ray…

Because what he hadn’t told Ray… what he couldn’t have told him… was that the tests had fallen below all expectations. The doctor had been sympathetic, but he had let Fraser know nonetheless that they had expected much more responsiveness of his nerves after the surgery.

There was still the possibility of making a full recovery, but they had cautioned him not to be too optimistic. How could he tell Ray that? When it was so painfully obvious how important it was for Ray that he got better? When Ray had so much faith in him?

Ray’s breathing had speeded up and Fraser felt his own heart soar to match it. Ray bit at Fraser’s bottom lip, a sharp, welcome sting.

Ray would never accept it if Fraser told him… and… if he was really honest with himself he didn’t want Ray to stop believing in him. He needed Ray’s faith, his unshaken trust that it would be okay. Fraser didn’t want to see the doubt in Ray’s eyes or hear the well-meant platitude that it would be all right when Fraser could feel that Ray was just humoring him.

“Ben…” Ray gasped and pressed his brow against Fraser’s, trying to catch his breath. Slowly, Ray opened his eyes and looked at him. Ray’s eyes were so full of emotion and Fraser felt the familiar tug inside of him, of wanting to drag Ray off to the bedroom like he would have done had this been normal.

But it wasn’t normal. He was sitting in a hospital bed with no feeling in his legs to carry him home, no strength in his arms to pull Ray along, and no movement below the waist that would explain what he wanted to drag Ray into a private corner for anyway.

Softly, Fraser’s thumb traced the corner of Ray’s lips.

“I’m glad you’re here.” His voice was hoarse.

Ray grinned and leaned in to press another kiss to Fraser’s lips. “Sure, where else would I be?”

Sleep eluded Fraser. With a groan, he tried to relax. Finding a spot to sleep in when you couldn’t move anything below the waist was torture.

His back ached… Fraser sighed and tried to turn a little to the left. If anything the dull ache got more pronounced. Defeated, Fraser dropped back into his original position.

The backache grew worse over the course of the day. Fraser thought he should’ve expected that, now that they had cut down on the painkillers. The discomfort was manageable– and Fraser preferred the less drugged state of mind.

And there were moments when Fraser hardly noticed the pain. Only when he was alone and had nothing else to concentrate on but his own body did the pain really become hard to ignore. He reprimanded himself; he had survived much worse. Whining did not become a Mountie.

With a little pang of regret did Fraser remember his dad’s visit to the hospital the last time he had needed surgery. At that time Fraser had hardly appreciated the visits and his father’s well-meant lecture to stop feeling sorry for himself. But Fraser wasn’t moping this time.

They had prodded his legs again this morning and his right leg had unexpectedly been more responsive than the day before. The nurse had congratulated him and he hadn’t been able to help the small surge of happiness at the tingling feeling in his leg.

In the evening, the nurse even came and asked him if he had any pain. It only took him a second to decide that the pain wasn’t that unbearable that he wanted to go back on pain medication. So he smiled at her and told her that he was coping all right.

The night was really less then comfortable, Fraser had to admit. At one point he had been just about to press the button to ask for some painkillers anyway. But the pain passed with a little patience and Fraser was able to relax again. But his night was restless and he woke almost as tired as he had gone to sleep.

When he woke up his side hurt as well. He couldn’t decide whether the pain was simply radiating from his back to his flank or if it simply hurt there as well. Fraser leaned to the left as much as his movement allowed him and smothered his groan in the pillow. He pushed the blanket a little way down. This was stifling. The pain was making him feel dizzy, at least Fraser thought that it was more difficult to concentrate on his surroundings than it should be.

It didn’t take too long, though, before he fell again into an exhausted sleep.

“Fraser, did you know that you can borrow as many books as you want from the library? There’s, like, no limit or anything. Weird.”

Fraser had asked Ray – well, more that Ray had demanded to be helpful – to get a few books for him from the library. Apparently, Ray had never crossed its threshold before.

Ray was already in the tale of his quest and how he had managed to track each of Fraser’s books – despite the villainous librarian who had apparently tried her utmost to prevent Ray from achieving his goal – when he suddenly stopped mid-talk.

“Do you feel hot, Ben?” Ray asked, puzzled.

“A little,” Fraser admitted a little sluggishly. Ray frowned at the beads of perspiration that shone on Fraser’s brow.

Fraser looked about ready to fall asleep again and Ray really didn’t want to keep him awake if he didn’t have to. The doctors had all told him that sleep was healthy and that it was a good sign if Fraser could sleep peacefully.

But this looked like Fraser was suffering from a fever. Gently, Ray reached out to feel Fraser’s sweaty forehead.

Sizzling was the word Ray would’ve used. He had already opened his mouth to call for someone—anyone—somebody with a medical degree had to do something about this! But then the door opened and a nurse appeared as if Ray’s panic had summoned her.

Fraser’s eyelids were drooping and the nurse smiled.

“I’m just here to change the bag of the catheter,” she explained to Ray who looked confused for a moment. Bag? What was she talking about? Didn’t she want to do something about his fever?

She was already flinging the blanket away from the stand next to the bed when Fraser stirred. “It’s really not—” he started to say, but he didn’t get any further. Because the moment the nurse saw the bag on the hook she wheeled to look at Fraser.

“Mr. Fraser, have you been experiencing backache lately?” She asked him with a serious expression.

Ray felt left out of the loop. Fraser had had spinal surgery, surely it was normal for him to have backache, what kind of question was that? And why was she glancing to the bag hanging on the stand all the time? The bag that had kind of red flecks floating inside of it… Ray frowned. Come to think of it, the whole thing looked like it was filled with liquid rust. He was no doctor, but he was pretty sure that it wasn’t supposed to look like that.

Wasn’t this the thing that Fraser needed to pee? Because of something or other with the kidneys? Ray hadn’t given it much thought and it seemed to make Fraser uncomfortable to draw attention to it. But if this was the bag then the red stuff in it was… Ray paled as his head swiveled around to look at Fraser.

“A little since yesterday,” Fraser murmured. “But I expect this comes from the reduction of painkillers in my medication,” he went on.

The nurse looked sternly at her patient. “Mr. Fraser, you should’ve let us know immediately if you were experiencing any discomfort.”

“I assure you I can deal with the pain. Spinal surgery needs time to heal, I am well aware of that.”

“The pain was in all probability caused by your kidneys. I’m afraid you seem to have contracted a kidney infection. If you had told us about your pain immediately we could have acted much sooner. There are traces of blood in your urine. I’ll send for the doctor this instant,” the nurse explained.

She didn’t seem very impressed with Fraser’s I’m-a-Mountie-I-can-deal-with-pain-attitude and Ray was rather glad that she seemed to be cross with Fraser as well because he sure felt like popping him one.

But Ray was too scared to work up any real anger. Fraser looked surprised and maybe also as if he regretted not having said anything and that was good enough for Ray at the moment. He was sure that Fraser knew what that meant, a kidney infection, but he was afraid of asking him in case it was something really bad.

Ray suffered from a strong case of déjà vu when the testing began anew. Blood samples, urine samples, everything had to be tested for one thing or other and when they got their results back everyone kept talking about antibiotics and finding one that fit.

Fraser seemed to be in a lot of pain and his skin was blazing and Ray wasn’t sure what was scarier, watching Fraser like that or not really knowing what was happening.

They said the problem was finding an antibiotic that would work because Fraser had apparently already been on broad spectrum antibiotics and whatever this new thing was must’ve been some kind of supervillain under the bugs or something because it shouldn’t even have been able to develop or form or whatever it was these bugs did.

They had also said that this was fairly common, but somehow Ray didn’t think that made it sound any better.

At least the pained grimace left Fraser’s face once they put him on painkillers again. Ray couldn’t really make much sense of what Fraser talked, but he assumed that it was probably better that Fraser wasn’t all there for this.

The only thing Ray knew was that he didn’t like the way Fraser was looking. He seemed so frail… and Ray felt as if he could see Fraser losing weight. He had no idea if that was from all the water they kept forcing down his throat or if it was the fever or the pain or if Fraser’s body was simply not capable of handling anything else, but Ray was really getting antsy that they wouldn’t find a correct antibiotic in time before there was nothing left of him. How could anybody waste away over the course of a few days? Ray simply couldn’t understand how this could’ve happened so quickly. Fraser had seemed on his way to getting better and now—all of a sudden—this… shit, Ray knew that the kidneys were vitally important, but did he have to see the living proof of it every time he looked at Fraser?

He couldn’t even do anything. Just sit at the bed and hold Ben’s hand. And most of the time Fraser wasn’t even awake. The kidney thing—infection—or whatever this was seemed to sap all his strength and Ray had the desperate urge to create a dam with his hands to stop the power from leaking out of Ben, but instead he was damned to sit impotently next to Ben and watch him suffer.

Fighting this took everything Fraser had for he talked less and that scared Ray even more than the physical stuff. Even when they found the right antibiotic—god, Ray could’ve wept he was so relieved. The stress seemed to lack an outlet or something and Ray thought about asking one of the nurses if there was a heavy bag to hit somewhere around the hospital. He just feared that once in front of one he wouldn’t have any energy left to hit it.

The guys in the white frocks all congratulated themselves and the nurses went back to relaxed mode, but Ray couldn’t see what the relief was all about. Had any of them even looked at Ben in the last few days?

There was no strength left, no fight, no—no iron-will, no nothing. Ben was only lying around and what progress he had seemed to make looked like it had vanished in a trickle of blood through a catheter.

Ray sighed and tried to rein his temper back in. It was their job; the nurses and the doctors couldn’t spend their time worrying about every one of their patients, Ray got that. They couldn’t afford it and according to their dictionary, Fraser had come through it all right. He wasn’t dead after all.

Ray moved a hand through his hair distractedly. He just wished that he could share their relief… but looking at Fraser Ray didn’t feel all that optimistic.

Ray wanted to help so desperately, but he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to do that.

“night’s only temporary,” Fraser murmured as if explaining something to some invisible visitor. Hoarsely, laughter chased his words through the quiet of the room. His laughter subsided as quickly as it had come. Fraser winced and turned his head to the side.

It was sunny outside. He could hear the low murmur of other people. There was life behind every window.

But he didn’t want to watch what was going on behind any of the windows. He had learned his lesson, hadn’t he? Did he ever learn? For a moment, a frown appeared on his face before his face smoothed back into a blank surface. Disinterestedly, Fraser watched as, next to the bed, the morphine dripped into his blood.

Fraser heard the door open.  He closed his eyes.

Ray entered Fraser’s room, but Fraser was asleep again. He did that a lot lately. Ray supposed it was the best Fraser could do, get some rest and give his body a chance to recover, but Ray would’ve felt better to see the expression on Fraser’s face, maybe talk a little.

But that was selfish; Ray cringed like someone getting caught. He should be glad that Fraser was resting. He probably couldn’t sleep through the night yet if the dark shadows under his eyes were anything to go by. Ray hurt with tenderness. He felt it bleeding out of him, reaching out for Ben, but he didn’t want to wake him.

He settled into the chair next to Fraser’s bed and fell back into his usual routine. Ray had never been good with silences and this was no exception. So he filled the sleeping Fraser in, telling him what was going on at the 2-7 and with everyone else outside this hellish place.

Ray was trying to save his vacation days for the time when Fraser would be able to go home so that he could help him. He hadn’t told Fraser yet; he wanted it to be a surprise. So that when the doc finally told Fraser he could go home if he had someone to take care of him Ray could grin and say “sure, he has” and then Ben would be all surprised, and hopefully happy, maybe even smiling, so Ray was maybe saving that moment a little.

And with Fraser sleeping most of the time anyway Ray thought work might provide a welcome distraction.

…yeah, okay, so he wasn’t working a regular shift. So he often worked nights to be there for Fraser first thing in the morning and then went back to work the following night with hardly more than a nap in between… so what? He could deal. And it wasn’t forever. Just for a few days. The doctors had said that Fraser would recover from the kidney infection. Anytime now Fraser would be able to resume working on getting his legs back in working order. And then he would be able to go home with Ray.

Ray rubbed over his eyes and was surprised at the scratch of stubble as he moved his palm over his cheek. When had been the last time he had been home for a decent shave? Ray frowned. That day when… well, that one… recently. Ray let his head fall back against the head rest. He was so tired. But he couldn’t leave Fraser alone. There was something in Fraser’s eyes that hadn’t been there before and it gave Ray the same feeling he’d had when he fell down that crevasse.  He was just worried that something would happen when he wasn’t there and then Fraser would feel alone.

Fraser hadn’t wanted any visitors. He’d said that he was asleep for most of their visits anyway and that he’d prefer it if they came once he felt a little less under the weather. Ray could understand that. It probably wasn’t fair to get visited by your superior or your colleagues when your ass was hanging out of a hospital gown and you weren’t even awake enough to care.

Fraser had always been about proper appearances and he must’ve been finding this very undignified. Of course, he hadn’t said as much. Fraser hardly complained, but then again, his silences said more than enough sometimes.

But Ray didn’t want to leave Fraser alone either… so here he was. Tired after another long shift and too worried to go home and sleep. Sometimes he slept in the chair next to Fraser’s bed—but he tried not to. He didn’t want Fraser to worry about him in return. Because then Fraser would lecture him on taking proper care of himself and then Ray would probably lose it and snap at him.

Ray probably needn’t worry so much; the times Fraser had been awake he had appeared rather normal. Sure, he had talked a little less, but Ray figured everyone had the right to be a little subdued after such an ordeal.

There had to be something he could do to cheer him up. And then it hit Ray. Time to reunite the family.

He was prepared to kick some heads in order to get Dief allowed inside of the hospital. Turned out, one of the nurses from way back remembered him and helped Ray to sneak him in. By the time they reached Fraser’s room Dief had made at least 5 new friends amongst the nurses. Ray smirked. That wolf really knew how to work the charm.

And there it was—even if it lasted for just a moment—a smile on Fraser’s lips at the sight of Dief. Ray left them alone to do some catching up or whatever they did and got himself a coffee.

When he came back, Fraser even had the book by Hammett open on his lap. Ray hadn’t known how heavy his heart had been until he felt the weight slide aside.

“Hey, you’re still awake. Did they stop the time while I was downstairs?” Ray tried to joke.

“I’m not tired,” Fraser replied simply.

“That’s—that’s good, right?” Ray smiled hesitantly. Fraser had had the same impersonal tone of voice yesterday and Ray had thought he had imagined it, but here it was again and Ray didn’t know if it was something he’d done or if Fraser was just pissed because he was stuck inside.

“What difference does it make?” Fraser asked wearily after a moment’s pause.

Ray frowned. “What difference? C’mon, that’s gotta be a good sign, right? It probably means you’re getting your strength back.”

“Yes, probably,” Fraser said with the memory of a smile.

Ray took Fraser’s hand into his own.

“You can feel that, right?”

“Yes,” Fraser agreed slowly.

“And this—what about this?” Ray inquired, stroking his hand up and down Fraser’s shin.

“I can feel that as well,” Fraser intoned dutifully.

“See? Very soon you can come home with me, okay? No one wants that more than I do, trust me on this. Sleeping is not the same without you next to me. I’ll even let you hog the bed,” Ray tried to grin; they both knew Fraser never hogged the bed. If at all, Ray tried to pretend he was twice his size. But since Fraser usually slept wrapped around him that worked out rather well.

“That’s… very funny, Ray.”

“That’s me, a comedian in my spare time—oh wait, that’s the Duck Boys, sorry. “

It might have been a smile on Fraser’s face. Might.

Talking to Fraser these days felt the way Ray usually felt when he was searching for the right word. Only he wasn’t even looking for a word and yet he still felt as if he hadn’t found the one he should’ve used.

On to the next part