Fraser was wondering how Ray’s visit would go over after their phone conversation yesterday. He wasn’t sure if Ray might not still be mad at him. Ray’s outbursts were usually worse if he couldn’t vent them the moment they were caused. Maybe sleeping on it had reminded Ray of all the things he had wanted to confront Fraser with?

Ray appeared almost as soon as visiting hours allowed it. One look at Ray’s face made it clear that there was indeed something pressing on his mind. That probably explained his impatience to see Fraser.

Fraser took one more look at the storm he could see brewing behind Ray’s eyes and steeled himself for the imminent rush of words, scattered with expletives, and held together by mangled grammar, with which Ray usually vented his frustration.

“Fraser—” Ray said in a rushed voice followed by a frown.

“Hello, Ray,” Fraser tried to keep his voice light, but it was clear that Ray was a powder keg ready to blow no matter how Fraser played his cards.

“Ben—” Ray started again and Fraser could almost see the words building up in his mind, ready to create a tempest that would enable him to voice his body’s restlessness.

Suddenly, Ray reached for Fraser’s shoulders, holding him in place and Ray bent down—looking him in the eye with the same brooding expression on his face—and then he closed the distance between them and captured Fraser’s lips in a kiss.

Soft… so soft… Fraser couldn’t remember the last time Ray had kissed him with so much tenderness. Their lips came together again and again, hardly letting go at all in between, and Ray’s tongue gently probed to be let in and Fraser gladly met him halfway.

He had always known that Ray would be a great kisser, right from the very start, before he had even consciously considered kissing in the equation. How could anyone with such a mobile mouth, with such a sharp tongue, and with such an oral fixation be anything else?

But maybe Fraser had forgotten it over time… had he at all thought about kissing him since he had been in the hospital? …how could he have forgotten… this?

Oh… Ray drew Fraser in, rubbing their tongues together and then it felt like falling. Or breathing… or both. Ray’s hands wandered, stroking his neck, gripping his hair, angling his head so that he could deepen the kiss.

Urgent… hungry… heated…

How could he have forgotten how this felt?

The kiss held so much promise… more than Fraser could bear believing in… too many hopes; Ray put too many hopes in this… but, god, Fraser wanted to believe his kiss.

Ray pulled away gasping for breath, but his lips were back a second later for another kiss. When he released Fraser’s lips again he smiled crookedly.

“You have no idea what I wanna do to you when we’re back home,” he croaked. His thumb smoothed over Fraser’s lips. “God… I know we can’t, like, get athletic or anything,” Ray grinned, “but I’m a really resourceful guy.”

Fraser had no voice to speak. Everything inside of him was frozen from one heartbeat to the next. Oh dear.

“Mhm…” Ray kissed him again. “I want to touch you so bad… I dreamed you were fucking me, Ben,” and the four letter word fell almost tenderly from Ray’s lips. “Wanna feel that again… feel you again… god… I’m gonna make you feel so good…”

Fraser’s fingers clenched around the armrest of the wheelchair. He tried to say something, anything, but no words would come.

Frowning, Ray drew back a little to peer at Fraser’s face.

“Hey… you look like a statue all of a sudden—what’d I say?”

Determined, Fraser stared over Ray’s shoulder. He had to tell him. “I… I can’t…” he whispered.

The puzzled expression on Ray’s face deepened. “Huh? I thought they said you could go home—did something happen? Sorry, shit, I should’ve asked first. Is—”

“I can go home,” Fraser managed to get out in a strangled voice. “I just… I can’t… I can’t… that, I can’t do that…” The doorframe above Ray’s shoulder suddenly seemed the most fascinating thing Fraser had ever seen.

Ray’s frown cleared and he smiled flirtatiously. “Sure you can, think you’ve forgotten how to in a few weeks? Don’t worry,” he murmured and leaned in again. “I can show you how.”

Before his lips could touch Fraser’s, Fraser used Ray’s body to push the wheelchair backwards, putting some distance between him and Ray.

Bewildered, Ray stared at Fraser.

“Ben?” he asked confused.

Fraser licked his lips and tried to look anywhere but at Ray. He hadn’t… he hadn’t thought about his… problem… in a while… He felt the blush creeping onto his cheeks as mortification blazed a hot trail through his chest.

“I’m not…” Fraser took a deep breath. “I’m not functional…” he said quietly, trying not to meet Ray’s eyes.

The silence stretched into an eternity from where Fraser was sitting. He could almost hear the particles in the room expanding.

“What do you mea—oh,” Ray stopped mid-sentence. The next instant, Ray’s face filled Fraser’s vision as Ray took his face between his hands.

“Don’t listen to me and my big trap, okay? Jesus,” Ray let his head hang. “I’m sorry… I didn’t—I didn’t know… how could I be so stupid?” Ray asked himself. He stood up again and began pacing.

“I mean, you had surgery done and it was all so close to the spine and—shit, I—I didn’t want to… god, I’m so sorry…” Ray muttered, distressed.

Ray came to a stop in front of Fraser again. “Listen, it doesn’t matter—”

“Of course it does,” Fraser said softly.

Ray’s expression turned stubborn. “No, it doesn’t. I want you back home with me—I want to sleep next to you and I want to be able to touch you—and we can still do all of those things.”

Fraser looked up at Ray then and smiled sadly. “Yes, but it’s not enough.”

Ray snarled. “What—you think I’m just in it for the sex?” As if realizing where he was Ray threw a glance over his shoulder and lowered his voice. “I’m not with you to get laid!” he repeated.

“Ray,” Fraser tried to explain as patiently as he could. “You are a very physical person, you—”

“What? Now you’re holding this against me? I don’t believe this—”

“Ray, I’m not using anything against you.” Didn’t Ray understand this? That this might be permanent? That it wasn’t a question of patience or good behavior? Didn’t Ray see what he might be giving up?

“I-I might…” God, this was hard to say. “I might never be able to, Ray.”

And Ray looked so proud and so determined when Fraser’s words registered.

“I don’t care,” Ray said… as Fraser had known he would. But this was the heat of the moment and it spoke for Ray’s caring heart that this was his immediate reaction… but time would work on him. Months would pass, and then years… this wasn’t a competition about who could go without sexual gratification the longest, where you could mark each day with a red marker in the calendar until a pre-set day X.

Ray would have needs… and sooner or later… just being together wouldn’t be enough anymore. He didn’t want to put Ray through the guilt and the torment of acknowledging these desires.

“…Ray…” Fraser’s throat felt tight.

He didn’t get more than that one word out, though, before he had his arms full of Ray again. The kiss was soul-searching and desperate and Fraser pulled Ray tighter. He didn’t want to give Ray up… He just wouldn’t be able to make him stay.

But for the moment he would treasure the feeling of Ray in his arms. For as long as he would get to have this.

Fraser fell asleep sometime in the afternoon so Ray took Dief for a walk. He scribbled a hasty note explaining that just in case Fraser woke up and thought he had left.

Dief and he walked along the paths of the hospital garden.

He couldn’t stop thinking about their conversation… god… why didn’t he simply shoot Fraser himself and spare him the pain? Shit… it all came back to the same thing: he should’ve thought of this. But it hadn’t occurred to him.

Aw, hell. Sure he had thought of sex. But he hadn’t thought about it in a medical way, not in an anatomical-function-kinda-way or anything. And with the kidney thing, and Fraser losing weight, and the possibility of him being stuck to a wheelchair this simply hadn’t made Ray’s list.

And somehow, when Fraser had started using the wheelchair and the catheter had come out and everything, Ray had simply assumed that everything was fine now. He hadn’t thought about this problem at all.

Why hadn’t Fraser said something? Why had he let Ray ramble on and on about it at all? Ray wanted to kick something, but the hospital park was spotless which only made Ray madder. Yeah… all right… he knew why Fraser hadn’t told him. He didn’t think he would have had the guts to do it either. Damn, he’d made such a fool of himself. Fraser must think him a real ass.

Maybe that was why Fraser hadn’t wanted to come home? So that he wouldn’t have to tell Ray? He sighed and Dief yipped next to him. Ray smiled down at the wolf.

“You know, this would be much easier if you spoke human. I bet this all looks pretty straight-forward to you, huh?”

Dief barked in what might’ve been agreement. Ray shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. Now Fraser had him talking to the wolf in public, maybe Ray should lie down for a while, too.

He supposed he should consider the possibility that he might never have sex with Fraser again. It just seemed too surreal to think about it—and he couldn’t imagine not being with him for any one reason. What was Ben expecting? That Ray should just say ‘oh, in that case, sorry, I’d better find someone who’s able to fuck me’? Ray winced. That was just dumb.

They would come home and then Ray could prove to Ben that they were still an item, still partners. All they needed was a bit of privacy and maybe Fraser needed another look at his old life to figure that it was worth getting back… at least, Ray hoped that it was.

Ray knew that he was pinning a lot of hopes on this coming-home-plan, but he figured he needed something to look forward to; he just couldn’t do it without a glimpse of hope. Fraser might be good at not looking past today, but Ray needed a little bit more than that to cope with everything.

And from what the nurses had told him he could expect it to get easier—they’d all said that a familiar environment and a bit of daily routine might help Fraser’s progress along.

Ray’s thought circled back on itself and he came again to their current problem. Was that why Fraser hadn’t kissed him—had even been touching him less and less— over the last weeks? Because it made him uncomfortable that he, you know, couldn’t?  Maybe Ray shouldn’t have kissed him like that this morning… he hadn’t wanted to make Fraser uncomfortable. He’d just… he hadn’t been able to find the right words and… it had been a knee-jerk-thing, he hadn’t really thought about it. He’d just been thinking about kissing him for such a long time…

Dief and he ambled back to Fraser’s room. They hadn’t even been gone all that long; Fraser would probably be surprised that they were back already.

Maybe Dief was just as worried as Ray?

They arrived back at Fraser’s room and Ray opened the door without knocking, just in case Fraser was still asleep.

“Dief—you’re draggin’ half the park inside!” Ray hissed as he saw the dark paw prints on the otherwise pristine linoleum. The chief nurse would have his head on a platter for this. Ray entered the room and frowned at the unrepentant half-wolf. “What am I supposed to do—”

There was a loud crash and something that sounded like “shit”—but Ray wouldn’t swear to that, it was just too improbable.

Like a flash, Ray turned in the direction of the noise. All color left his face. “Ben! What happened?!” Ray exclaimed, crossing the room in a few quick strides.

Fraser was lying on the ground, two or three feet away from his wheelchair that was leaning against the wall. “Are you okay? What the hell were you thinking?” Ray snapped at him as his hand closed around Fraser’s biceps, trying to help him up.

“I’m fine,” Fraser muttered irritably. “I’m fine!” he repeated, annoyed, when Ray tried to half-carry him back to the wheelchair.

“I can—I can do this on my own,” Fraser glared at him and reached for the side rails.

So that was what he had been doing, Ray thought. Fraser had practiced getting out of the wheelchair with the help of the railings.

He didn’t know if he should be proud of him or angry.

He helped steadying Fraser, who had managed to keep himself upright with a strong grip of the side rails, and reached out to draw the wheelchair close. Ray helped him into it, frowning. “Are you all—”

“I’m fine!” Fraser almost shouted.

Ray raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Easy!” He cocked his head and considered Fraser for a moment. “You’re the most stubborn man I know, Benton Fraser.”

Fraser looked at him with irritation clearly written in the tight line of his mouth. Ray started to grin. He couldn’t help it. Fraser hadn’t hurt himself, he was all right. And, hell, he was trying—Ray had no words to describe how happy that made him, just knowing that Fraser hadn’t given up—not yet.

Fraser’s lips relaxed into something like a small smile.

“Did you hurt anything?” Ray asked a little more softly.

“No, I don’t think so. You surprised me—I wasn’t expecting anyone to enter the room.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Ray answered dryly.

Hesitantly, Ray covered Fraser’s hand with his own and squeezed. It would be all right. Between Fraser’s pig-headedness and Ray’s inability to let go he thought they had it covered.

Fraser woke with an unpleasant feeling, cold, wet, and… sticky. He made a dismayed face.

“Oh for the love of…” Fraser muttered, reaching out to the night stand to grab a tissue. This hadn’t happened to him in, well, years, really. His hand came up with empty air and Fraser finally opened his eyes to take in his surroundings.

Dear Lord. Shocked, Fraser flung back the blanket to stare at the wet patch of his sleeping gown. He reached for the handle above his bed to pull himself up a little and get a better look.

But he couldn’t… produce an erection…? But if he was able to produce nocturnal emissions then…

A smile enveloped his features with lightning quickness. He was uncomfortable, he was wet—he’d never been happier in his life.

Relieved, he fell back onto his pillow. The relief lasted only for a second, though.

“Good morning, my we’re up bright and early today.” The nurse came bustling in for the morning routine. Reflexively, Fraser threw the blanket back down and gripped it tight. She reminded him of his grandmother—he couldn’t let her—no, it was out of the question.

“Ah, good morning,” Fraser cleared his throat.

“Well, shall we get started?” She asked brightly, reaching for the sheet.

Fraser’s grip tightened. “That, ah, won’t be necessary.”

“Nonsense,” she exclaimed laughing and made another move for the sheet.

“I’d really rather you wouldn’t,” Fraser stated.

With a puzzled frown, the nurse stepped back to consider him over the rim of her glasses. “I’ve been a nurse for almost all of my life, I’m sure there’s nothing I haven’t seen yet.”

Be that as it may, Fraser thought.

“I’d really prefer it—” sudden inspiration struck him. “Couldn’t Ray do it?”

“Oh, of course, my dear. If it’ll make you feel better,” she smiled at him. “I’ll let him know when he comes in.”

“Thank you,” Fraser said, still not happy with the solution. Ray really shouldn’t have to bathe him… and he would still have to let Ray know why.

But his discomfort was a very strong motivator, Fraser reflected. He really hoped Ray would be early again. This was getting rather unpleasant rather quickly.

It wasn’t long before Ray’s head appeared in the door frame. Ray grinned at him with an endearingly puzzled frown on his face.

“Morning… listen, that nurse—the one that always looks at me like my English teacher back in high school, all ‘don’t slouch’ and ‘don’t swear’— actually a lot of things that start with ‘don’t’? Anyway, she asked me if I minded washing you—”

“Yes, I would very much appreciate it,” Fraser interrupted. He really needed to get rid of this sensation. He would be far happier about this revelation if he could do it in dry underwear.

Ray looked just as confused as a minute ago. “Sure, let go of the blanket and we can get started,” he said with a grin at Fraser’s safety grip on the sheet.

“Ray, I,” Fraser pulled at the collar of his hospital gown. “I didn’t ask without a reason. I’m afraid this is a rather embarrassing situation,” he explained.

Ray rolled his eyes and made a quick dash for the blanket. He still held half of the blanket in his hands when his eyes got wide as he stared at the patch on the front of Fraser’s mint-colored gown.

Embarrassed, Fraser folded his hands in his lap and Ray finally managed to draw his eyes away. “Is that—?”

“Ah, yes…”

Ray’s surprised laughter rang through the room for a moment before he dropped the blanket to pull Fraser close for a kiss.

“I know I wasn’t awake for most of high school, but it’s gotta be working to do that, you know?” Ray explained cheerfully.

Fraser bit his lip and tried to keep from grinning. “Yes, I know that, Ray.”

Ray made a greedy-hand-motion. “So, do I get to clean you now or not?”

“If you would be so kind, I’m afraid it’s itching almost beyond the scope of human imagination.”

Ray cackled and set to work.

It was oddly exposing to let Ray do this. Ray brought a playfulness to the otherwise clinical task of hygiene that made Fraser keenly aware that this wasn’t just a wash for practical reasons. Ray was enjoying himself and Fraser was consciously aware of his own vulnerability.

Ray didn’t comment on his burning cheeks, though. Instead, he leaned in now and again to kiss an inch of exposed skin or he stopped to rub Fraser’s legs a little to help with the circulation.

They had both fallen quiet at some point and they smiled at each other as Ray helped Fraser into a fresh gown.

“I’m really glad that you can come home with me tomorrow,” Ray said, busying himself with smoothing the blanket out again.

Fraser was afraid that Ray wouldn’t like it for long.

Ray felt like some high-up-the-ladder general involved in some sort of tactical maneuver with possible military repercussions. In reality, it was ‘just’ the debriefing on what to keep in mind once Fraser was an at-home patient.

Ray scratched his head and hoped to hell that he could remember all of this. See, he had kind of been thinking of the practical side of things for this gig.

After rediscovering Fraser’s libido – ha, he hadn’t forgotten the stupid word – yesterday morning, Ray had gone back to the apartment to get it Fraser-proof.

The apartment looked scarily empty now that Ray had removed as much clutter as was humanly possible. He’d rediscovered an old closet in his bedroom and had piled everything that looked like a possible wheelchair-obstacle into it.  He couldn’t do much about the way the kitchen cupboards were arranged or anything of the sort, but he had at least put a few of the ordinary things onto lower shelves so that Fraser would be able to get to them and he had moved Fraser’s clothes from the closet to a drawer that Ray thought he should be able to open out of a wheelchair.

See? Ray had been mighty practical. Well… Ray tried not to blush; he might have gotten distracted a little when he had pushed the couch to the side so that Fraser would have space to maneuver. For underneath he had found a few pale blue buttons that Fraser had been looking for at one point, but that had never reappeared again– who the hell moved a couch around?

And, boy, did Ray remember how the buttons had ended up there in the first place. He wasn’t sure why, and Ray would almost bet money that they had been having an argument, but somewhere in the middle they must’ve found something better to do with their mouths than bicker.

Ray could still see how urgent it had suddenly been to get the other out of his clothes and Ray had gripped the lapels of Fraser’s shirt and pulled—scattering half a dozen buttons around the room—and—god—the sound Fraser had made then, this deep growl… they had made love on Fraser’s already ruined shirt, right in the middle of the living room for what seemed like hours.

Pity, Ray couldn’t remember what the argument had been about. Might’ve been worth taking up again.

Afterwards they had laughed and hadn’t been able to stop; Ray could still picture Fraser’s breathless grin. One of the few times when Ray had really gotten Fraser to grin like a maniac. They hadn’t even gotten up from the floor. They had just lain there, touching almost everywhere, doing—no idea, maybe they had talked, maybe they hadn’t. But it had been a magical moment.

Ray put the buttons into his pant pockets.

And Ray had really thought he had considered everything there was to watch out for when Fraser came home. Yeah, showed what he knew. The doctor had quite a different take on what was important. He didn’t seem to care much where Ray kept the plates while Fraser was in a wheelchair; to him it was more important which pill had to be taken when.

The red one had to go after the orange one—but it would be fatal if he took the one with the red dots on it after he had had the white one… at least, that’s what the explanation sounded like to Ray. Of course, they gave him notes and all the pill bottles had a reminder on them of when and how many Fraser was supposed to take, but Ray was really a little scared that he would screw this up.

At first, he had put his faith in Fraser—he never forgot anything. Ray could simply ask him if he wasn’t sure. But for one reason or other the doctor seemed to think it was more important that Ray got this instead of Fraser.

And later, when one of the nurses showed Ray all of the moves to help with the wheelchair, and what to do in case of muscle spasms, they also provided helpful advice on what to do if Fraser didn’t take his meds. Huh. So that was why Ray had to keep track: so that Fraser couldn’t wiggle out of it.

Though with the stuff that could occur when he didn’t take them Ray couldn’t imagine why Fraser should try to get by without the pills. They sounded as if they made sense:  pills to keep the muscles relaxed and others to prevent those spasms, that didn’t sound like such a bad idea to Ray.

Dief seemed glad to go back home again and Ray was glad that he could stop explaining to people that Fraser didn’t want any visitors. The only thing that had kept Frannie in check was that Turnbull seemed to understand Fraser’s wish and he also apparently never tired of explaining it to Frannie again, who could be surprisingly stubborn for a woman her size. Or maybe because of it.

Ray wasn’t so sure about Fraser’s state of mind. He had been comparatively subdued all morning and Ray had been afraid to ask—precisely because he thought Fraser was having second thoughts about this plan.

“Well,” Ray said as he pushed open the door to their apartment. “Here we are, home sweet home.”

Astonished, Fraser looked around the apartment. Ray had gone through all that trouble for him?

Ray didn’t seem able to stop grinning at him and his surprise and Fraser was so touched he didn’t have words to express how much this meant to him. Never, in all their time they had been together, had Ray been able to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Fraser’s addition to Ray’s apartment when he had moved in with him had consisted of one box of personal belongings and one knapsack of clothes.

And since then he hadn’t accumulated much more. A few books, granted, but he had even installed a bookshelf for them to keep them nice and neat and out of the way.

There was so much space suddenly… Fraser looked around a little wistfully. He hadn’t had anything against Ray’s personal touch cluttering up the apartment. Fraser had always associated it with their home and with Ray’s whirlwind ways. Now it all looked so… neat. Spartan.

Ray orchestrated a little tour around the apartment, showing Fraser the things that had changed location so that Fraser could do at least a modicum of things by himself.

“Thank you, Ray,” he whispered before he had to clear his throat.

If anything, Ray’s grin got even bigger. His happiness was almost catching; Fraser smiled back.

Over the course of the day, however, Fraser began to feel like a guest in his own home. Ray was tripping over his feet trying to be helpful and come evening it was very clear that things were not back to normal.

It wasn’t even the fact that Ray had to help him through his bathroom routine… which was already embarrassing enough if someone asked Fraser. But when they finally made it to their bedroom they both stopped in front of the bed looking unsure of how to proceed now.

“Uh, so, how do you sleep?” Ray asked, unsure.

“On my back, mostly. I can’t really lie on my side,” Fraser explained. Ray nodded as if this was a very sensible idea.

“Okay, then,” Ray pulled back the cover and reached down to help Fraser out of the wheelchair. They had had a couple of tense moments this afternoon when Ray had tried to lift him out and Fraser had wanted to do it by himself so that they now had a rather awkward mixture of both in which Ray helped with the initial push and then steadied the wheelchair with one hand so that Fraser could slide over by himself.

Once Fraser was settled in, Ray went back to his side and got in as well. Ray’s hands didn’t seem to know what they wanted to do as Ray tried to come up with the right words. “You, dunno, need anything else? Some water? Or—”

“I’m fine, Ray,” Fraser repeated for the umpteenth time. He was at home, he could get himself a glass of water… he frowned. He could at least ask for it himself; he hadn’t lost his voice after all.

“Good, sure, greatness,” Ray mumbled and switched off the light.

It was the most awkward moment Fraser could ever remember being in with Ray. Even out on the trail, even on that first night when they had to share a sleeping bag, even before they had even acknowledged that there was anything more to this than buddies preserving body heat, they had no problems fitting together.

Fraser had zipped the sleeping bags together, Ray had slid in with him and just like that they had lain half-wrapped around each other and promptly fallen asleep.

Now, Fraser could hear Ray’s breathing next to him; too uneven to be asleep. After what felt like forever, Ray moved closer and reached a hesitant hand out to place it on Fraser’s chest. Ray was lying on his side, close, but only just touching, when he spoke.

“Is that all right?” his voice was a mere murmur.

“Yes,” Fraser’s own hand closed over Ray’s, pressing it to his heart.

Maybe it was the tension of all the unvoiced expectations that kept flitting around Fraser’s mind or it was the strange bed—how sad to think of one’s own bed as ‘strange’, but after almost a month in the hospital the bed at home really felt like the unknown one—but Fraser woke in the middle of the night because his leg was having another spasm.

He tried to keep it as relaxed as possible, but it didn’t really matter any which way. There was nothing he could do to stop it, he would just have to grit his teeth and wait for it to subside again. He’d had them now and again—he should be glad, at least he was getting a reaction from his legs. But he couldn’t control the spasms.

No matter how hard he tried to keep his leg still, he still kicked out, and it didn’t take more than a minute or two for Ray to wake up.

“Wh—” he slurred when Fraser accidentally kicked him. In the hospital there had been no one lying next to him who had to suffer with Fraser through these attacks.

Ray rubbed his eyes and reached for the lamp on the night stand.

“Frase… what’s going on?” he asked blearily and before he had even finished speaking his eyes grew wide as he noticed Fraser’s shaking leg.

“Oh,” he said eloquently. “Wait, they showed me this… this grip…” Ray sat up and reached for Fraser’s leg. He pulled Fraser’s big toe up as far as it could go and held it. Gradually, the spasm died down.

Ray smiled. “See? All good,” he patted Fraser’s leg and snuggled back underneath the covers.

“Thank you,” Fraser said, defeated.

“No problem,” Ray yawned with one hand reaching for the light switch, already half-asleep again.

Ray stood underneath the spray of the shower and sighed unhappily. This was harder than he had thought. It had been three days now that Fraser had come home and if anything Ray felt he was doing even worse than before.

He just…

The water kept pouring over him; the rushing sound of it unable to drown out his thoughts. The hot water helped to ease the tension in his shoulders and Ray let his head fall forward, offering his neck to the merciless beating of the water.

Ray hadn’t thought Fraser would feel so resentful about his help. Dammit, he was only trying to help! Should he let Fraser break his neck in the attempt to do everything by himself even if it was something as unlikely as getting into the bathtub on his own?

Hell, he got how frustrating this must be for Fraser, but it wasn’t as if they had any choice. Fraser would start physio by the end of the week and things would get better after that.

The way Fraser acted one might think he was trying to get used to a life in the wheelchair.

Ray furiously rubbed the shampoo into his hair. And so much for recapturing the moment or anything. Fraser at the hospital had nothing on distance when it came to Fraser at home. God… he missed Ben… Ray held his head under the spray again to rinse the shampoo off.

Maybe Fraser was so angry at him for trying to help all the time… or it was just that Fraser thought Ray was pushing to get something going between the sheets now that they knew that Fraser was indeed functional… Ray frowned. But he hadn’t made any moves. Not even a shadow of one.

All he wanted was to hold Ben now and again. Share a kiss. He wasn’t trying to get into his pants—hell, he had promised Ben that he wasn’t in it for that and that he didn’t want him home just to do unmentionably wicked things to him.

Ray shut the water off. It was almost as if Ben had fallen back into his depression. But why should he have done that? He was back home, he was about to start physio—he was about to get better for crying out loud! That was no reason to be depressed, was it?

He reached for a towel and swallowed another growl of frustration.

He shouldn’t get mad at Ben… wasn’t as if he did it on purpose, Ray got that. It just—argh—Ray threw the damp towel on the floor only to stoop and snatch it up again with another curse a split second later when he remembered that Fraser couldn’t pick it up and wouldn’t be able to maneuver the wheelchair with it lying on the ground.

He was trying so hard and Fraser was moody and sulky and no matter what Ray tried it always ended up being the wrong thing to do or say.

Ray got dressed and tried to master his frustration while he worked on his hair. Even his hair was being irritable, Ray thought with a frown after his third failed attempt to make it stand up. A bad hair day, of course, why should it have been anything else?

He sighed and then he squared his shoulders and reached into his pockets.

Since he had found them Ray had been carrying the buttons from Fraser’s shirt around with him. Initially, he had simply thought of throwing them away; Fraser had long since replaced the buttons, there was no reason to keep them.

Instead, he had found himself transferring them to each new pair of jeans he wore. Stupid, really, like some kind of lucky charm. But touching them always reminded him of the two of them lying on the floor, naked and laughing, and it… it helped, a little, to remember that.

He emerged from the bathroom and found Fraser in his customary spot at the window, apparently engrossed in Ray’s Hammett book.

“Finished it yet?” Ray asked with a smile.

“Ah, no, not yet,” Fraser explained with a rub of his eyebrow.

“Who’d you think killed Miles?” Ray grinned. Fraser had probably already figured it out. Ray had been really surprised at the end of the book to find out who the murderer was. Then again, that was kind of the point of a detective novel.

Fraser frowned as if he tried to remember something. “Apparently, Miles was shot by his partner,” he said finally.

Now it was Ray’s turn to frown. “Uh, you know that my attention span isn’t all that much to look at and you bet it wasn’t any better when I was a teen, but…” Ray rubbed his neck and looked sideways at Fraser. “You do realize it’s only the police framing Spade for that? I mean his partner gets shot—what? Somewhere on the first five pages, right? You don’t honestly think it was his partner who was responsible, do you?”

Fraser smiled shyly. “Ah, no… I was just—yanking your chain, as you would call it.”

Ray crossed his arms in front of his chest and gave Fraser his best cop stare. “Ben, this book has all of 200 pages… I’d take a wild guess and say that you haven’t read further than page 10.”

For a moment, Fraser looked about ready to deny it, but then he sighed resignedly and shook his head. “No, I haven’t.”

Ray made a frustrated gesture in the air. “For god’s sake why should you pretend to be reading a book?”

“So that people leave me in peace!” Fraser snapped back with an angry frown on his face.

It took Ray a second to do anything but stare at Fraser. People? He was ‘people’ now?

“I’m sorry that people,” Ray flung the word back at Fraser like something rotten, “care. Have it your way, I’ll leave you in peace.” Ray shrugged, but it came across like the movement of a boxer about to spar, the distanced equivalent of bumping someone in the shoulder as you walked by.

Fraser’s mouth tightened angrily, but he didn’t say anything and Ray stormed past, grabbed his keys and slammed the door behind him.

Dief whined disapprovingly.

“Oh, not you, too,” Fraser said with a frown.

The half-wolf got up from his spot on the couch and moved haughtily into the vicinity of the bedroom.

“Suit yourself,” Fraser muttered, turning back to the window.

On to the next part