by Gilda Lily
Author's Website: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Gallery/8741/jmgarden.htm
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, Alliance does, more's the pity.
Author's Notes: This series continues in a slightly AU universe: Ray Vecchio never left his Benny to go undercover, and Ray Kowalski joined the 27th Precinct as himself and soon got involved with one Renfield Turnbull, to our delight. :)
Story Notes: Pairings: Renny/Ray K., Benny/Ray V.
Categories: Drama, Hurt/Comfort.
Rating: NC-17 for a few steamy scenes.
This story focuses on the Kowalski/Turnbull pairing but guest stars Fraser/Vecchio.
Of crystal blue.
"GET OUTTA TOWN!"
"Mmm, you taste so good."
"Thank you, Ray. So do you."
Ray giggled. He rubbed up against the sturdy Mountie body, his cock poking the pink flesh. His slender fingers stroked through the tiny silken hairs on Renny's chest. He rubbed his cheek against that chest and began kissing the delicious skin.
"Mmm, wanna lick ya all over."
Renny blushed. "I...I'd like that, Ray."
"'Course ya would." Ray looked up and a crystal-blue eye winked.
Renny moaned as Ray's tongue performed magic on his flesh.
Hot fingers grasped his cock and began to pump, the wet tongue lapping at his nipples. Blood rushed to his penis as he gasped for air.
Oh, yes. Oh, my. Oh, dear!
Renny woke up in a sweat, his limbs trembling as he stared wide-eyed out the bedroom window. He pressed a hand to his stomach. He was feeling a little queasy. Swallowing, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and rose, intending to get a drink of water to settle things down when he swayed. Sitting abruptly back on the bed, he blinked and then tried again more slowly.
Oh, dear. He was definitely wobbly. He put out a hand against the wall, carefully making his way to the kitchen. He filled a glass of water and drank it down, his parched throat feeling a little better.
Replacing the glass on the counter, he walked back to the bedroom. He glanced at the radio clock. 5: 04. Well, there was no use going back to bed. He was usually up by 5:30, anyway.
He dragged an arm across his eyes, frowning at the itchiness. He decided to take a shower.
He was extremely careful in the shower, enjoying the hot water. After he was finished, and was towelling himself off, he suddenly stopped. Hanging his head, he felt a little wave of depression. Ray was out of town for the rest of the week and possibly the weekend. He missed his lover. They had been spending more and more time together lately, and they went back and forth sleeping at each other's apartments.
Renny missed waking up with Ray curled up around him, his spiky blond hair tickling his chest. He missed the dinners he would cook for Ray, and riding in the GTO back and forth from work. He missed Ray's laughter and teasing and compassion.
Oh, you silly twit. He's only gone for a few days. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Renny coughed. His throat was a little scratchy. Maybe he should drink more water. His stomach was still feeling queasy.
He dressed slowly after shaving and sipped some water when he was in the kitchen. He decided to skip breakfast and took an apple with him for lunch. Perhaps he would feel better after he had been working all morning. He slipped the apple into a brown paper bag and started his walk to the Consulate.
He arrived at the Consulate ten minutes later than usual. He had been distressed to learn that he could not push himself as fast as he was accustomed.
Once at the Consulate, he walked slowly up the winding staircase. He said good morning to Jasmine and went straight to his desk. Ordinarily he would have gone to the kitchen and put his lunch in the refrigerator, but he had decided against bringing any food today since he was still a little queasy.
Back at his desk he started the day's duties. Everyone was going to be quite busy. Inspector Thatcher and Constable Fraser were away, and it was up to him to make sure that things were running smoothly. Actually, it was up to him to help Ovitz make sure things were running smoothly. The Inspector didn't trust him to have charge of the whole Consulate.
Ovitz was on the telephone and ignored the Mountie. Renny started his first task.
The morning went fast. Ovitz was swamped with work, and Jasmine answered the phone every five minutes, or at least it seemed that frequent. Renny was making some headway with reports and rubbed his throat. He went into the kitchen and got a glass of water, bringing it back to his desk.
The quiet was shattered by the telephone ringing. He almost knocked the glass over as he picked up the receiver.
"Thank you for calling the Canadian Consulate. This is Constable Renfield Turnbull speaking. How may I help you?"
"Hi, Canadian Consulate."
"R..." Renny immediately lowered his voice. "...ay!" He canted his body away from his colleagues.
"What, ya didn't think I'd call after goin' outta town? What kinda guy do ya think I am?"
"A nice kind of guy." Renny blushed. How bland was that reply?
"Bet yer blushin' as red as your uniform."
Delighted laughter spilled over the phone wires. "S'okay. So, whatcha doin' tonight?"
"I thought I'd spend a quiet evening at home."
"Yeah? I'm stuck in this crummy hotel room. Lemme tell ya, Ren, Cleveland in January ain't my idea of fun. Hey, how about I call ya tonight?"
"That would be fine, sir." Renny sensed a presence approaching.
"Oh, I getcha. Ice Queen?"
"No, sir, but you're close."
Chuckles. "'Kay. I'll call ya at eight."
"Thank you kindly, sir. And thank you for calling the Canadian Consulate."
Renny hung up and looked up at Ovitz. "Can I help you, Mr. Ovitz?"
"Who was that?"
"An American who wanted to ask a few questions about Canada."
"Hmph. Listen, I want you to type up these letters. I need them done by tomorrow morning. Do you think you can handle that?"
"Yes, sir." Renny took the letters while thinking of that special call tonight. "How many are there?"
"Twenty-three." At the look of dismay on Renny's face, Ovitz smirked. "I got a, um, a little behind." He went back to his desk while Renny sighed and squared his shoulders. He had the time. He could do this and be ready to leave at five o'clock.
Four hours later, Renny's back and neck hurt, his head was throbbing, and his throat felt closed up. He rubbed his watering eyes. The letters were dancing on the computer screen. He still had five more letters to type.
Ovitz shrugged into his coat. He walked past Renny's desk and Jasmine stopped by on her way out.
"Everything okay, Turnbull?"
"Oh, yes, fine, Jasmine."
"Good." She smiled sympathetically and added, "See you tomorrow," as she left.
Renny was left alone in the silence. The other Mounties and secretaries had gone home, and now he was the last soul left in the building. Rubbing the back of his neck, he sighed and resumed his task. After all, it was his own fault that he was still not finished. If he hadn't made so many mistakes, and he hadn't been so slow doing the tasks that Ovitz had handed him throughout the afternoon, he could have left with the others, too.
He kept typing, glancing at the clock, wincing as the hands slowly read 5:00, then 5:30, then 6:00. If only he could concentrate! He was making far too many mistakes. He decided to get up and walk around for a few minutes, work the kinks out.
When he stood he nearly fell over. Gasping, he grabbed the edge of the desk until the dizzy spell passed. Oh, dear. This would never do!
He walked around with careful steps, then returned to his desk.
One hour later he was finished. He saw that the time read 7:12. He could walk home in fifteen minutes, take a quick shower, and be ready by 8:00. If he hurried.
He was about to leave the Consulate when the phone rang. He hesitated at the door. Technically, the Consulate was closed. Business hours were over. But what if someone needed his help? He sighed and picked up the receiver.
Renny forced himself to walk slowly, otherwise he might just end up face first on the sidewalk with the good citizens of Chicago stepping over his body. He resolutely kept his sleeve pulled over his watch. The last time he'd checked, it had read 7:50. He was going to be late. He could feel it!
At his apartment building he opted for the elevator, uncertain that he could successfully traverse the stairs. He reached his apartment at 7:57 and nearly slammed the door behind him. He just made it into the living room when the phone rang.
"Ray!" he said breathlessly.
"Hey! Ya all nice and comfy/cozy on the couch? All showered and in your jammies?"
"Settle yerself in. We got a lotta talkin' to do."
Renny stifled a sigh. He was bone-weary and had wanted to take a shower and change into something comfortable to enjoy this talk. Instead he sat on the couch still fully dressed and concentrated on the conversation, which lasted two hours. After hanging up, he let his head drop on the back of the couch and closed his eyes. He was so tired. The chat with Ray had been wonderful, but he really needed to rest now.
Renny sat bolt upright on the couch. He rubbed his scratchy eyes and looked at his watch. 10:00! He groaned. He was still fully dressed! Wearily he began undressing and didn't even bother with a shower. He tumbled into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
"C'mon, Renny! Spread those yummy legs!"
"I'm trying, Ray! I'm so tired."
"Just do it, for cryin' out loud!" Ray's blue eyes were piercing him. "Ya gotta try harder."
"I am trying, Ray. I'm sorry." Renny felt his body shake. He could see Ray's disapproval. He grunted as he tried to move his legs. They were so heavy! Like cement. He felt a tiny spark of panic. Why couldn't he move his legs? He struggled to get up and see if something was holding him down. He froze at the look of disgust on his lover's face. "Ray, please..."
Ray gestured and slid off the bed. Renny tried to grab him but couldn't stretch far enough. Desperately he pleaded, "Ray! I can't move my legs! I'm sorry!"
Ray walked away, never looking back. Renny cried as he realized that his greatest fear was coming true...
SHOWING THE FLAG
Renny moaned. He slowly opened his eyes and felt his sore throat close up. Ray was not next to him. He remembered that Ray was out of town. He rubbed his eyes. Well, it was just a bad dream. He'd had bad dreams before. Time to get to work.
He was relieved to see that he had not overslept. He shivered as he sat up, the blanket falling away to reveal his torso. His pajama top was unbuttoned. That must have happened during the night. He blushed a little but swiveled his legs out of bed. He tried to rise and fell back down to the bed.
Well, he had to get to work and stop this nonsense. He got to his feet and managed to shower and dress without collapsing. Putting his Stetson on his head, he started the walk to the Consulate.
Renny tried to catch his breath as he ascended the Consulate steps. He grimaced at the long, winding staircase that he would have to climb to get to his desk. He took a deep breath and started the climb.
By the time he reached the top he felt a dizziness. He moved carefully to his desk and nearly tumbled into his chair.
He breathed in and out, ignoring the sharp pains in his chest. He blinked as he looked down at his desk. The letters! Where were the letters he had worked on yesterday!
His heart stopped pounding as he remembered that he had placed the letters on Ovitz's desk, and that the executive assistant had said that he should mail them out. He went over to the desk and picked them up, promptly dropping them all over the floor. Sighing, he bent down and nearly passed out. Grabbing the corner of the desk, he waited for the spell to pass, then resolutely gathered up the letters. He would have to go to the corner mailbox and mail them.
He glanced over at Jasmine's desk and remembered that she had the day off. It was Friday and she had wanted a long weekend. The other civilian officials and their secretaries were working upstairs, and there were the Mounties who had to be supervised. He had no illusions of being able to do any supervision, but he was the senior officer left.
He went out on his errand and came back, swallowing a groan as he faced the staircase again. He threw his shoulders back and marched up. It was rather ridiculous, this namby-pambying. Why, just because he was a little under the weather was no reason to act like a baby. He would get through this day like every other day and do his duty.
Satisfied at this self-pep talk, he began his tasks, wondering if he should take a shift at guard duty. Had anyone been assigned? He bit his lip. It was bitterly cold out there. He disliked even suggesting to anyone that they stand guard duty on such a day.
An idea formed. After he had gotten some of his paperwork done, he would go out and stand guard for about an hour. That would show the flag and satisfy the Inspector, and no one would have to suffer in the cold. Pleased at the resolution of a potential problem, he busied himself with his work.
Throughout the next hour he coughed off and on, sipping water to cool his raw throat. He squared his shoulders and kept focused on his task, his body shuddering at irregular intervals.
He blew his nose and hurried to the bathroom when he thought that he might get sick, but he was fortunate.
Emerging from the bathroom, he decided it was time to stand guard. Fresh air would do him good. A stern voice in his head said, "Stop your whining. Be a man. A little sore throat and coughing is not the end of the world. Your whining disgusts me."
Swallowing hard, Renny wound a scarf around his neck, then remembered that he was supposed to be regulation. Scarves while standing guard duty was a no-no. He reluctantly laid it aside and buttoned his dark-blue pea coat, pulling on gloves. At least they were allowed. He held onto the railing as he descended the staircase and went outside.
The cold wind whipped down the canyon of the street, biting through his clothes. He grimaced as another sharp pain sliced through his chest. He stepped over to the customary place for guard duty and arranged himself in perfect posture.
Renny tried to stop trembling as the wind blew against him. His extremities were quickly growing numb. He flexed his fingers and toes and fixed his eyes on the big clock on the tower of a nearby building. Just one hour. That was all he had to endure. It was his duty to make sure that his country was properly represented.
The cold seeped into his bones as he stood perfectly still, shivering now and again as the wind cut through him like a knife. He thought of Ray and was instantly warmed. How fortunate he was to have such a lover! Ray's patience was him was really quite astounding. Ray had little patience for anybody but seemed to have quite a bit of it when dealing with his Canadian lover. Renny just loved him all the more for that.
And Renny did love him with all the fierceness of a heart that had known such little love. He would literally do anything for Ray. He was the empty vessel that Ray filled, and he was more than happy to oblige Ray in anything he desired.
How could he do less? Ray was kind, considerate, and endlessly patient. Renny still waited for the day when Ray would blow up in anger at him. It was inevitable, that day, but he would relish the kindness for as long as possible. While it would behoove him to prepare for the day when Ray's patience would snap, he wanted to enjoy what he had now and not worry so much about the future. He didn't want to think about his bleak, empty future now. No, he'd much rather think of golden light and laughter and bask in his Ray of sunshine's warmth.
He was so pleased with this imagery that he didn't even notice his lips turning blue, or his body stiffening to icicle hardness. He finally bestirred himself when the clock rang the hour, and he bit back a moan as he tried to move. He felt like the Abominable Snowman. With great effort, he walked back into the building.
Renny gasped as the warm air hit him, sending stabbing pains through his chest and legs. He tried to warm up but couldn't stop shivering. He sat down at his desk after removing his gloves and coat and still couldn't stop the shaking. His teeth chattered and he tossed his head like a nervous horse.
This was stupid. He had work to do. He never got sick. He just never did. So this...discomfort...would have to be overcome.
With a determination that was firm, Renny continued with his tasks.
As the minutes ticked by, he could feel fire burning through his limbs, alternating with an icy coldness that set his teeth to chattering. He gasped as a sharp cramp in his stomach doubled him over. No, this couldn't be right. He was merely being a wimp, that was all. No Mountie...no Turnbull...would ever succumb to such a little thing as this stomach discomfort. He returned to his work, his feverish head in his hand as he scratched out words on his requisition forms. When the letters began to dance in front of his eyes, he put down the pen. A tiny flash of fear went through him but he ignored it. He resumed his task and when lunchtime came he allowed himself a fresh glass of water, wincing as he drank a few sips. He rubbed his throat. It was quite painful to swallow. Too painful to eat, even if his stomach could have stood food.
The afternoon dragged endlessly, but finally it was a quarter to five. He briefly thought of doing his usual Friday closing chore but knew he barely had the energy to walk home. No, he would have to let it go this time and come in early on Monday.
He began to tidy up his desk, then remembered that he hadn't placed Constable Fraser's mail in his office. He picked up the pile of mail and unlocked the office door, walking in and placing the mail on the pristine desk.
Dizziness assailed him, and he grasped the corner of the desk. He edged around and sat in Fraser's chair. He was certain that the Constable would not mind him taking the liberty.
The peace of the office soothed his jangled nerves. He had always liked it in this office. At first the office had been painfully Spartan in its lack of decoration, then gradually items had begun to appear that made the office a reflection of the occupant's personality: a poster of the Northwest Territories, a plastic Mountie statue on the desk, a book on Inuit art on top of the filing cabinet. Other small touches included a toy Riviera on the desk next to the Mountie, and a miniature basketball.
The personal touches had begun to appear early in the Constable's relationship with Detective Vecchio. Now the crowning point was the gold-framed photograph on the desk: it showed the two men smiling, their arms around each other's shoulders. Renny had deduced the picture's background to be Navy Pier here in the city. Both men were wearing casual clothes. The light in the photo looked like summer.
He sighed. He was so glad that Constable Fraser had found someone to love. He sensed that the Constable had been very lonely before coming to Chicago and meeting this special American.
And now he, Renfield Turnbull, had a special American, too.
Renny smiled at the thought, a few tears slipping down his cheeks as his heart wished that he could keep his American for a lifetime as his fellow Mountie was destined to do with his Yank, but he knew that life was different for him. He brushed away the tears and slowly got up from the chair, a slight groan escaping his lips. He was achy all over. Well, a good, brisk walk home would help, and perhaps some hot tea when he got there.
Renny checked all the windows and doors in the Consulate and then finally stepped out into the bitter cold, shivering hard as he bent his head against the wind. He doggedly walked to his apartment building, the twenty-minute walk stretching into forty as his pace was slow and he had to stop several times to lean against a wall or press a hand against his chest. Pain was shooting through his lungs every time he took a breath. Coughing harshly, he finally managed to stumble into his building and rode the elevator up to the third floor instead of his usual custom of taking the stairs.
Once inside his apartment, he doffed his coat and Stetson, carefully placing them in their proper places, then he slowly undressed. His teeth were chattering uncontrollably as his limbs shook. The dry, hacking cough hurt his throat and chest. The tea would help once he got it boiled. He dragged a robe on and suddenly sat on the bed. His weariness crashed in on him and he lowered his aching body to the bed. Perhaps he could just rest a minute. Yes, that would be a good idea. He would get up and make the tea after resting.
Renny closed his eyes, his face flushed and his body racked with coughs as shook.
The room was dark as he shivered, a soft moan escaping him as he started to float. The room began to spin, its darkness nauseating him. He grabbed the edges of the bed, his heart pounding as pain sliced through his chest.
He was so scared. The darkness folded around him like a heavy blanket, suffocating him. He cried out, the pain slicing through him again. He cried for help, his voice a croak from his parched throat.
He tensed as he sensed someone...something?...nearby. Blackness oozed in gray charcoal, the smell of contempt sharp and biting. Endless recrimination loomed over his bed.
"Worthless piece of..."
He winced, shrinking down under the covers.
"No Turnbull ever gets sick. Even in this, you can't get it right."
"I'm sorry," he said in a small voice.
"You always are." Disgust dripped from the icy voice. "Stay alone in your own mess of stupidity."
"No, please! Don't go! I'm afraid! I'll be good! I promise! Please! Oh, please!"
He could hear the door shut, and then the whispers from the darkness began. Terrified, he threw the covers over his head as the tears slid down his face...
He could hear the ocean roaring.
His body was tossed on the seas, nauseating him. Icebergs loomed as he was tossed past them, shivering as icy shards pierced his skin. The black sky stretched out forever.
The icebergs burst into flame and he moaned. He fought for breath, weakly crying out for Ray. Had Ray already left him? No, please, not yet! He wanted to love his Ray a little longer. Just a little longer, please, before he went away? He'd be good. He would work without complaint and not mind anyone laughing at him if he could just please have Ray a little longer.
He cried out as seawater burst over him and he began to fall, deep into darkness...
He crawled out of the darkness, stiff and sore. Small spaces, small places. He felt the hardness of the floor on his bare knees as he huddled against the wall, listening for the sound of footsteps on the grand staircase. He tried to hard to breathe.
A creak whipped his head around, and he saw a sliver of light from a door at the end of the hall. A long hall. He began to crawl, whimpering with pain and fear.
He was only a few feet away from the door now. It began to open wide, a bed coming into his vision. The smell of sickness was strong here. The fear rose up in his chest, starting to burst...
He hurt all over. His lungs were screaming. He winced as he heard a loud beeping. It was giving him a headache. He forced his eyes open.
Panic fluttered in his sore chest. Where was he? White walls, a wooden door with a steel handle, a bed with steel side guards...
The panic flared. He started to sit up, or at least tried to. He was so weak, but he had to get out of here!
"Whoa! Renny! Where are you goin'?!"
He was so terrified that he didn't recognize the voice. He struggled to get out of bed.
"I...I have to...get out! I...can't...stay!"
His voice was a cracked whisper and he began to cough, the pain racking his ribs. Strong hands pushed him gently back against the pillow.
"Ya can't leave."
The owner of the voice finally registered in his overheated brain. He squinted at the figure beside the bed. "R...Ray?" he croaked.
"Yeah, the one 'n' only. Jeez, Renny, what the hell do ya think you're doin'! I come home to find ya burnin' up with fever in your own bed, and then once the crisis passes, ya try to skip the first minute ya open your eyes!"
Confused, Renny asked, "You're here?"
Ray sighed. "Yeah." He put his hand on Renny's forehead. "Your fever's down. Damnit, Renny, the next time ya get pneumonia, call a guy, willya? And if that guy's outta town, call Fraser or Vecchio! Jeez Louise!"
"Yeah." Ray's worried eyes regarded Renny. "You were real sick, Ren."
"I..." Renny shook his head. "I'm never sick, Ray."
"Trust me, you were sick."
Ray looked with shock at his usually-timid Mountie. Renny had never raised his voice to him in all their time together. In fact, he couldn't recall Renny ever raising his voice to anybody before.
Renny looked shocked himself. "I'm...I'm sore-ry, Ray. I don't know what happened." He began to cough violently.
"It's okay, Renny." Ray anxiously hovered over his lover. "Should I call a nurse?"
Renny shook his head. "N...No, Ray." Ray grasped his hand. Renny finally stopped coughing. The warmth of his lover's hand calmed him.
"Lay back and rest," Ray ordered.
Renny's hands fluttered nervously on the blanket. "Ray, can I go home?"
"Go home! Renny, you've been sick! With pneumonia! Ya gotta stay 'til you're well."
Misery was Renny. He coughed and looked ready to cry. Concerned, Ray gave him some cracked ice, lifting him off the pillow with an arm around broad shoulders. He frowned slightly as he felt the trembling. Laying Renny back, he smiled.
"God, it's good to see you." He pushed down his own fears, determined to be upbeat. "The doc says you're amazing, Renny. You were suffering from advanced pneumonia by the time the ambulance brought you in."
"Yeah. I went over to your apartment, Ren. I found ya sick as a dog. I called for an ambulance. I figured I couldn't get you in the GTO by myself. You're a big guy!" He smiled to hide his anxiety.
"Sick?" Renny seemed dazed.
"Yeah." His good intentions flying out the window, Ray leaped to his feet. "Damnit, Renny, what were ya thinkin', lettin' it get that bad! Ya musta felt something happening! Why didn't ya go to the hospital?"
Renny stared at Ray wordlessly in his misery. Ray kicked himself mentally for being so insensitive when Renny was barely in recovery.
"I'm sorry, Renny. Listen, you ignore me, 'kay, and just rest."
"Please, Ray, I want to go home," Renny said in a small voice.
Ray bit back his exasperation and made a joke instead. "What? And have that First Sergeant who calls herself a nurse get on my case?"
Renny didn't smile or chuckle at the joke. He just kept worrying his blanket with unsteady fingers. Puzzled and worried, Ray began stroking his arm. At least that seemed to calm his lover. Eventually the exhausted man fell asleep. Ray was glad. He had a lot of thinking to do.
"Hey, Ren, what's up?"
Renny's pale face lit up at the sight of Ray Vecchio and Benny. He ducked his head shyly and said, "Not much, Ray."
Ray Kowalski suppressed a scowl. Despite his friendship with Ray Vecchio, it still made him a little uncomfortable to hear his Renny call the Italian by his first name. Damn, that green-eyed panther seemed to be able to pull in Canadians in his peach-assed wake.
The two visitors settled into chairs by Renny's bed and chatted with him. Their were flowers from Jasmine, Welsh, and Jack Huey in the room, and a special bouquet of red roses from Benny and Ray V. Renny loved the flowers and already written out thank-you notes to the senders, Ray making sure he wrote only note per sesson so as not to get overtired.. Ray wondered if Welsh knew about them, because he had given Ray a look that had made his insides flutter when he had come to visit Renny. Welsh had been exceedingly gentle with the recovering Mountie. Ray had fleetingly wondered if Welsh played for his team as he watched the tender way the Lieutenaut had smoothed out the blaneket for Renny and helped him drink some water, an arm around his shoulders. Ray guessed that Jasmine knew, and Jack probably suspected.
Renny tried hard to keep up a good front but his hands were nervous and he kept glancing at the door every few minutes as if expecting someone to come in. Ray had noticed that habit and had dearly wanted to strangle his lover, who was driving him crazy in a lot of ways. He pretended to be cool and calm but when the visit was over, jumped up and offered to escort Ray and Benny down the hall.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Ray V. fixed his fellow cop with a green glare. "What the hell is wrong with him?"
"Ya got me," Ray K. snapped back. "He's been jittery as a buncha Mexican jumpin' beans since he came out of it. He can barely breathe sometimes, he doesn't eat, and he's always lookin' at the damn door."
"Could someone be bothering him?" Benny asked thoughtfully.
"I've asked him that but he says no."
Ray V. frowned. "Well, something's wrong. Did he tell you why he didn't come to the hospital when he felt sick when you were away and let it get as bad as it did?"
"No. He just says he 'dislikes' hospitals." Ray K. snorted as he ran a hand through his experimental hair. "That's an understatement. I gotta tell ya, it scared me outta my pants the night I came home and went over to his place and found him half-dead in his bed. He was like 200 degrees and soaked in sweat! I could hear this awful rattlin' noise in his chest." Ray K. screwed up his face and shuddered. Benny patted his back sympathetically.
Ray V. crossed his arms, his mind busily working. "I know that you Canadians are perfectly perfect, Benny, but would you have any idea why Ren's so damned stubborn that he nearly died before he'd go to a doctor?"
"I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that, Ray."
Ray V. wished that Benny had even the inkling of a clue. He disliked seeing the vulnerable, shy Renny so upset, but he wisely refrained from voicing that opinion. Kowalski was tired and frustrated and Ray knew that was a dangerous combination with his sometimes-partner. Getting protective over the endearingly klutzy Mountie would send Kowalski off like a rocket if he misinterpreted his concern.
"Uh, Frase, could ya get me some coffee? I'm just about wiped out," Ray K. asked.
As soon as the Canadian was out of earshot, the blond turned to his semi-partner. "Listen, Vecchio, I gotta ask ya a favor."
"Shoot." Ray grinned. "Though not literally, okay?"
Kowalski laughed. "Yeah." He sobered and said, "Listen, you know how Fraser and Renny are. Stiff upper lip and all that crap." Vecchio nodded. "I want ya to promise that if I gotta go outta town again in the future, you'll keep an eye on Renny." At Ray V.'s faint puzzlement, Kowalski explained, "Fraser would probably think that Renny not goin' to the hospital is a good thing, ya know? Like I said, stiff upper lip. You'd scope out the situation better and you'd get Renny to a doctor if he needed one."
Understanding dawned in emerald eyes. "Gotcha."
Ray K. nodded, satisfied that his fellow American understood.
"Here's your coffee, Ray."
Ray Kowalski made a decision. The next time the doctor came to check on his nervous patient, Ray followed him out into the hall and said, "Doc, I'd like to ask: can Constable Turnbull go home?"
Dr. Everett Fisher frowned behind his wire-rimmed glasses. He was tall and slender, with thick, salt-and-pepper hair. "Detective Kowalski, your partner is still very weak. In fact, I'm thinking of ordering intravenous feeding for him." He jabbed a finger at the chart he held. "He's not improving."
"Yeah, and it's because he really, really doesn't like hospitals. No offense," he added hastily. "Still, if he went home and had some care, he'd improve faster. I just got a feelin', and when you're a cop and you got a partner, even a sometimes one like Turnbull 'n' me, ya just know these things."
Fisher frowned again. "I suppose you may have a point. He certainly isn't doing well, and he's as nervous as a cat every time I see him."
Fisher considered. "Detective, we'll give it another day or two. If there is no improvement, I'll release the Constable. It's risky as he is extremely weak, but if he can improve at home...however, who will care for him?"
"I'll arrange things with friends of mine. He won't be alone."
Pleased at the turn of events, Ray went back into the hospital room.
"No! Please! I'll be good! Please, don't leave me!"
"Ren! Renny, wake up!"
Ray shook his lover, who sat bolt upright in the hospital bed. Looking around wildly, he saw Ray's face and nearly collapsed like a balloon.
"Oh, Ray! I'm so sore-ry!"
"Don't be." Ray rubbed Renny's chest. "Ya just had a nightmare, is all."
Renny gulped. Ray gave him a glass of water and he gratefully drank it down. He burrowed back down under the covers as if still afraid. Ray talked to him soothingly, aching to discover what was troubling his lover so much. He had tried to find out, but Renny had always said he was fine, just tired.
It's almost like he's ashamed of bein' sick.
The door to Renny's room opened and he jumped slightly. Dr. Fisher walked in and began a cursory examination of his patient, employing a pleasant bedside manner that was lost on the tense Renny. The Mountie's knuckles were white as he clutched the blanket.
"Well, Constable, I'd say I'm inclined to release you."
Renny's face lit up and he struggled to sit up, both Ray and the doctor pushing him back down with a gentle shove.
"Really, Doctor! Oh, I'd be so grateful!"
"Yes, but listen to me, young man: you're to do as I and your partner here says, do you understand?"
Renny nodded his head vigorously.
"Good. Then you'll be discharged tomorrow morning."
Renny was so excited he looked ready to bounce, but a stern look from Dr. Fisher settled him down. "Thank you kindly, Doctor," he said meekly, but he was all smiles at Ray.
Once Fisher had left, Ray smiled back and said casually, "I got some help from Fraser and Vecchio. They'll manage to stay with ya when I can't, and if they can't, either, your landlady is happy to do it."
"Oh, I like Mrs. Featherby."
Ray nearly laughed. Leave it to Renny to know someone by the name of Featherby!
"Yeah, well, she's happy to help out." Ray leaned over and took Renny's hand, then kissed him lightly on the lips. "Just don't let her get too chummy, huh?"
"Ray! She has to be sixty years old!"
"So? She's no fool. She sees your great bod and all of a sudden is 'happy to help'."
Ray laughed at Renny's blush. Yeah, teasing his Renny was fun, and he was glad his Renny was still around to tease.
Ray was determined to keep his Renny safe.
"NO WONDER DIEF LIKES HOCKEY PLAYERS"
Renny was a model patient. He did everything that was asked of him without complaint, though he worried about "putting people out". When Ray heard that, he calmly replied that Renny should start worrying about "putting out, period", and grinned when his lover blushed.
The caretaking schedule worked out well. When Ray was unable to stay with Renny, either Fraser or Vecchio did, sometimes together as they always seemed joined at the hip, Ray K. observed sarcastically, earning a flip of the finger from his fellow Chicagoan, and Mrs. Featherby was as good as her word, staying with her tenant when needed.
Ray was hopeful that being home would make Renny less nervous, and it did work, yet Ray still sensed an uneasiness in his partner. He wished that he could get Renny to open up and talk about it, but Renny said very little about his own emotions. He had only spoken about his past lovers when he thought that Ray was dumping him. Ray was still furious over Renny's treatment by the men he'd been involved with, and resolved to do some serious head-kicking if he ever met up with either one.
Ray voiced a few of his concerns to Benny and Ray V., and on a day when he was pursuing a hot case, his sometimes-partner stayed with Renny.
Ray Vecchio watched Renny sleep as he sat in a comfortable chair by the bed, a book open in his lap. The four of them were quite a quartet, he thought with a quirk of his lip. He loved Benny with all his heart and would never cheat on him, but he knew that he was attracted to Stan. There was a spark between him and Kowalski that neither could deny, yet they could do nothing about it. Ray knew that if he wasn't involved with Benny, he and Kowalski would have hit the sheets already. They were not in love with each other, but they had grown fond of each other and worked comfortably when Welsh paired them for certain cases. Ray had been quite adamant that Benny was his partner, but he understood why Welsh wanted to team him with Kowalski now and then. And he knew that he and Kowalski would have enjoyed some great hot monkey sex, he thought with a smile. No strings, no declarations of love, just hot, sweaty, fuck-your-brains-out sex.
Now, Renny, well, that was a different story. He still called him 'Renny' in his mind, careful never to do it aloud. Kowalski would not have been pleased to hear his nickname for his lover used by his partner. So Ray kept it to himself.
Renny screamed 'vulnerability' and 'fragility' to him. Oh, sure, he was six-foot-three and out-weighed even Benny, was strong as an ox and impressive in those Mountie dress reds, but Ray felt protective toward him. He wondered if the bullies in Toronto had been as vicious as the ones Ray knew growing up in Chicago. How had Renny survived, because bullies would have zeroed in on the boy for sure.
Ray knew that Benny's childhood had been barren in many ways. His family did not believe in showing emotions, or giving children praise for what they were expected to do, anyway. Benny didn't know how to take a genuine compliment, and he had been so starved for touch and expressions of love that Ray had wondered if he would ever be able to satiate those needs for his partner. Happily, Benny was becoming more accustomed to praise and physical affection.
Kowalski? He was estranged from his family, though starting some dialogue now. He'd had the typical macho relationship with his father, but his mother had been warm and caring.
Himself? Well, his old man had been a no-good, abusing drunk, but at least he'd had a mother and sisters who'd loved him and told him so. His childhood may have sucked in many ways, but it hadn't been a total loss. He had good memories, too.
He wondered about Renny, though. He knew very little about his background except that he'd grown up in Toronto, his father was still living and was some big-shot politician, and that his mother had died when Renny was eight, only a few years older than Benny had been when his mother had died.
The similarities between the Mountie were pretty eerie, Ray thought. Both had been only children, and Ray guessed that emotions were pretty tightly controlled in Renny's house as well as Benny's. Both had lost their mothers at early ages, and had fathers who had been famous in their professions. Both had trouble with social relationships and never gave themselves enough credit or stood up for themselves. Both had great taste in American lovers, Ray thought with a smile.
He sobered as he wondered why Renny never defended himself against verbal attacks. And what about the physical? He shivered. Yes, Renny could be a whirlwind when defending someone else, but what about himself...?
Ray impatiently urged the Mountie at his side to hurry up. They had to get back to the Precinct and Kowalski and Benny had the Riv, which he should have gotten his head examined over before letting them take it. He and Renny were walking and Ray was grumbling all the way about his baby when they heard a cry for help from an alley. Renny took off like a shot, and Ray muttered that all Canadians were the same but he followed as he always did. He figured he was trained like Pavlov's dog to follow red serge now.
A middle-aged woman was being mugged by two twentysomething street punks. Renny called, "Stop in the name of the law!" and lashed out with a powerful leg and kicked one punk in the stomach. The other man flashed a knife at Renny's abdomen but Ray batted his hand away at the last second, and they fell to the sidewalk in a struggle. Renny and the other punk were fighting in earnest now, but well-placed kicks and punches from the Mountie had his man defeated in minutes. He turned to help Ray but a third man came from the end of the alley and Renny calmly dispatched him, too, while Ray subdued his man and cuffed him.
"Great job, Ren." Ray was truly impressed.
"Thank you kindly, Detective Vecchio, but it was nothing a red-blooded Canadian boy wouldn't have done."
Ray grinned at the little joke and his captive's groan at its corniness.
Ray had told Kowalski about his lover's prowess, and when he'd discussed it with Benny, had seen new respect his lover's eyes for his fellow Mountie.
It had always puzzled Ray that his kind, considerate lover had been so abrupt with Renny. In fact, once Ray had gotten over his initial "Is this guy for real?" stage, he had always been gentle and kind with the shy, stuttering young man who tried so hard and failed so often. Ray understood that feeling. But Benny had been impatient with him, a strange reaction indeed when you considered that Benton Fraser was patient with winos and drug addicts and all kinds of annoying people but couldn't keep a rein on his irritation with his colleague.
And then Ray had realized: perhaps Renny's shy, uncertain ways hit too close to home for Benny? Ray had decided to try and get his lover to see how unfair he was being, and since Benny was Benny, he had slowly come around to the realization that he was truly unfair to his fellow Constable. Now he was infinitely patient with Renny, appreciated his talents, and defended him to Inspector Thatcher and anyone else who delighted in hurting the sensitive Mountie.
Though to be honest, Thatcher didn't take delight in yelling at Renny. She was just exasperated, and Renny gave her cause to exercise her vocal cords at high volume at least twice a week.
Ray knew that he had to be careful around Renny. One, he would never hurt Benny, and two, Kowalski would kill him if he ever put the moves on the Mountie. Just as he would if the situation was reversed. But he knew that if he wasn't very, very careful, he could easily fall for this gentle, vulnerable young man. Ray's protective streak always kicked into overdrive around him.
Maybe it was because he was beginning to suspect a few things about Renny's childhood.
"Oh, Ray. I didn't know you were my babysitter today," Renny said in a sleepy voice.
Ray chuckled. "Yeah, I got the short straw, kid." Renny smiled, knowing that Ray was only teasing. "So, feel good after your nap?"
"Yes, but I wish that people wouldn't fuss so. I'm fine, really," Renny rasped. His throat was so sore that he could barely speak.
"Uh huh. Pneumonia always leaves people feeling 'just fine'."
Renny flushed. "I wasn't sick, Ray. I was just...under the weather."
Ray laughed. "Creative way of putting it, Ren." He saw the look on Renny's face and felt his stomach flutter. Omigod...!
"Uh, Ren, how's Kowalski doin'? Feedin' you right? He isn't cooking himself, is he?"
Renny smiled. "No, Ray. He gets take-out but does make me some soup and sandwiches."
"Good. I'd hate to see you have a relap...uh, get under the weather again." Ray rose from the chair. "Want some tea?"
Ray automatically set out to make the imported Canadian tea, his mind still reeling. He would have to cover until he could talk to Kowalski and Benny tonight.
He returned with the tea and handed Renny the cup.
"You're having tea, too?"
"Yeah, I guess you and Benny corrupted me." He smiled at Renny's laugh. It was a sound too rarely heard.
"Well, you and my Ray have corrupted Benton and myself as to coffee. We are quite addicted now."
"No kiddin'? Jeez, Benny never said. Probably didn't want me to ditch all the tea from the cupboard."
"Like the patriots throwing it into Boston Harbor?"
Ray laughed. "Yeah, like a bunch of wild Indians."
They both laughed, then Ray began chatting about news from the Precinct, Renny offering little tidbits from the Consulate, and somehow the conversation got onto the neighborhood and Ray growing up in it.
"Yeah, it was okay for a kid. I mean, back then, you didn't have to worry about other kids with guns. Some might have knives, but it was never a big deal. We knew about the wiseguys, of course, because they didn't exactly make a secret of it."
"So the Mob was open in your neighborhood?"
"Yeah." Dark, laughing eyes in a handsome face suddenly floated in Ray's mind's eye. His fingers tightened around the handle of his teacup. There were tiny sprigs of pink roses patterned on the china. Better not examine that memory too closely. He and Benny sure knew how to pick first loves. "Uh, you want a cookies or some crackers, maybe, to go with that?"
"A Tim Horton's doughnut?" Renny asked wistfully.
"Ha, I know what that is! No wonder Dief is such a sugar junkie. You guys have one of those shops on every corner, according to Benny."
Renny beamed. "Yes, and we Canadians love them because Tim Horton was a fine hockey player and now his company makes fine doughnuts."
"You're really proud of being a Canadian, huh, Renny?" Ray asked softly.
"Yes." Renny nodded. "Aren't you proud of being an American, Ray?"
"Sometimes." Ray shrugged. "I was never good at math but I did okay in history. Lots of stuff they taught us in school just ain't so."
"Oh, you mean about the Indians and things like that?"
"Yeah, among other things." Ray sipped his tea. "It's a whole long laundry list: Dallas, Vietnam, Watergate, and so on. Sometimes bein' an American isn't easy, Ren."
Renny nodded and they fell silent, then Renny brightened as Ray suggested they play some cards. While they played, Ray casually asked, "What about you, Ren? Toronto must have been a cool place to grow up."
"Oh, it was." Renny smiled in fond reminiscence as he played a hand. "The weather was much easier to take than Benton's Territories." He giggled at Ray's snort. "And it was lovely all year round, whether it was high summer or cold enough in winter to skate on the ice pond."
"You played hockey, I suppose. Seems all you Canadians skate before you walk."
"Yes. I had a lot of fun on the pond on the...on the pond."
"So, you and your buddies skated until it got dark, I suppose?" Mark Smithbauer and Benny had done that. Ray still didn't like Smithbauer. He always had the feeling the guy had a figurative hand in Benny's pants. Maybe he'd gotten the chance at the literal deal, and Ray would have liked to have taken a hockey stick and whap that hand, among other things.
"I...uh, well, I wasn't allowed out that late."
Ray had seen the shadow cross Renny's face. He suspected he knew the cause. His heart went out to the timid Mountie.
"Hey, gin!" Ray declared.
When Ray Kowalski and Benny arrived, they found the two of them still playing cards. Benny immediately offered to fix dinner and Ray volunteered his help. Ray K. sat down in the chair Vecchio had just vacated and regaled Renny with tales of his derring-do during the day.
Dinner was a pleasant affair, and Renny sat at the table with them, eating small portions of the roast chicken, green beans and whipped potatoes. Ray V. winked at him as he sampled the cold pasta salad. An Italian always had to have pasta!
There was ice cream for dessert and to soothe Renny's throat.
Renny grew tired after sitting with them in the living room for an hour after dinner, coughing frequently, and Ray K. packed him off to bed. Benny snuggled up to his Ray on the couch, Ray's arm warm around him, then Kowalski returned and sat on Benny's other side.
"Good thing I didn't catch you guys playin' strip poker," Ray K. grumbled, and Benny laughed. Ray V. smiled, then said, "Listen, I got some observations to tell you guys about."
"Observ...what are you talkin' about, Vecchio?" Blue eyes glittered. "Hey, you don't mean observin' my Renny's bod, do ya?"
"Hey, he's got a great one, but no, that ain't it, Kowalski." Ray stroked Benny's arm as he talked. "You know that he refuses to admit that he was sick?"
Ray K. sighed. "Yeah. I couldn't believe it when I first heard it but like I told ya, it's gotta be a Mountie thing."
"I don't think so."
Sharp blue eyes pierced green. "What's up, Vecchio?"
"I got a feeling about this. What do you know about Ren's father?"
Ray K. shrugged. "He's some big-shot politician in Ottawa."
"A politician?" Benny sat up. "It couldn't be...Senator Charles Turnbull?"
"Who's he, Benny?"
"Just a very important Senator, Ray." Benny settled back against his lover. "My goodness, I never knew that."
"Yeah, Renny never talks much about him." Ray K. scowled. "In fact, he never talks much about his background, period."
"For some reason, Ren refuses to admit he was sick, and I don't mean it's because he was Mountie-stubborn." Ignoring Benny's protest, Ray V. continued: "It's almost as if he was...afraid...to admit it."
"Yeah." Ray K. leaned forward, mind furiously working. "Crap, he was jumpy as a guy with itchin' powder in the hospital. He nearly died because he wouldn't go to a hospital. Damn!" Ray K. looked at his friends. "What's got Renny so fucked up in the head?"
"It's a mystery," Benny said.
"Maybe not." Ray V. shrugged. "If you find out more about his family, Stan, you might find some answers."
"Yeah." Ray K. propped his chin on his hand. But how was he to find out without snooping?