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Palliative Care

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By the time Ray comes home, I've been sitting at the kitchen table for what seems like hours, although rationally I'm sure it can't have been that long. I don't hear the front door—miraculous, considering that nothing we've done so far has eradicated the ear-shattering squeak its hinges emit—or the punctuated murmur of the football commentary Ray turns on immediately upon entering the house these days, so I'm unreasonably startled when his hands descend on my shoulders from behind. I jump slightly, and he eases his grip immediately and shifts his hands, stroking lightly from my shoulders down my arms to where my hands are clenched around my CPD mug. One long finger tests the mug's surface, and behind me he chuckles a little ruefully. Only then do I realize that the tea I brewed to comfort myself is stone cold and the color of mahogany. Good Lord. Maybe I have been here for hours.

Ray brings his hands slowly back up my arms, massaging gently as he goes. I tilt my head back against the comforting scratchiness of his sweater-clad abdomen and close my eyes, luxuriating in his warmth and scent and nearness, feeling the muscles in my arms relax minutely under his touch. When he reaches my shoulders, he increases the pressure and begins to knead in earnest, digging into the muscles where my neck meets the top of my shoulders. Working my volunteer shifts on the juvenile ward inevitably knots these muscles, and the knots are particularly bad this afternoon (this evening?). I try hard not to moan as Ray works them out, leaning his weight into the task and grunting with the effort, but a small sound escapes me despite my best efforts, and then another, until I am whimpering in pleasured pain.

I am so grateful for the distraction—for the immediacy of my physical need and Ray's response to it—and so far removed from where I was when he came home that I return to myself only when I realize that Ray has eased out of the massage and, without taking his left hand away from my body, has come around to kneel up in front of me. He lays his right hand along my face, wrist brushing the point of my jaw and fingertips stroking gently through the hair just behind my ear. The metal of his bracelet burns cold against my skin, and the contrast between that chill and the warmth of his hand makes me shiver, once and then again. Ray is still, kneeling there between my feet, watching me closely. The silver in his stubble glints in the light from the kitchen fixtures, and his eyes never look away from mine.

Finally: "Lost another one, didn't you," he says.

It's not a question, thank God, so I don't have to answer him. I don't have to explain anything to him—the progress of leukemia in juveniles, the three telltale signs that a bone break was inflicted deliberately, the details of a drive-by shooting. I don't have to direct him to the nurse's station or help him fill out paperwork or escort him out of the building. I don't have to console him, comfort him, be strong for him, hold myself together and in and under control.

It's such a fucking relief.

I'm searching for the words to say this to him when the hand that's been cradling my face slides down across it and the fingers come to rest on my mouth. I raise an eyebrow at Ray, unsure what he has in mind, what he wants me to do, what he wants to do with me. Anything, Ray. Anything you want. Just...help me.

"You don't need to say anything to me, Fraser," he tells me. "I know. I know you. I know what's going on with you, what you're doing to yourself. And I know what you need. What we need," he adds, smiling at me, anticipating the protest I might have made.

And I probably would have, at that. I keep a close rein on my more selfish impulses—I never want to do anything Ray will not like or does not want, anything that might risk driving him away. But my desires are so strong, and even after all this time I'm afraid that if I don't control myself I'll offend him, or alienate him, or, worse, hurt him. Rationally, I know that this is unlikely, that Ray is mine for good—he's told me so enough times by now, with words and without. But...

"Hey," Ray says, cuffing the side of my head affectionately and bringing me back to myself once again. "Quit with the thinking already. I told you, I know what we need. I got you. C'mon." He braces himself on my knees to stand and uses the forward momentum to lean in and kiss me quickly, flicking his tongue over my lips. My tongue steals out just a second too slowly and he laughs at me affectionately before holding his hands out to me and, when I grab his wrists, pulling me up into a typical Ray hug—strong, hot, fiercely protective. I tighten my hold on his wrists to bring him closer to me, and he pulls back just far enough to raise a knowing eyebrow.

"Now you're getting with the program. Took you long enough. But it's what you need, I'm right about that, I bet."

What in the world is he— oh. Oh. Oh, yes. Oh, Ray, please. Please.

I don't realize I've said it out loud until Ray's hips stutter into mine, his breath blowing hot against my face as he laughs on a groan. "Like that idea, do you? Thought you would. Yeah, Frase, yeah. Anything you want, any way you want it."

Anything I want...well. That's fairly simple, really. I want Ray. I want him now. I want him on his knees, on his stomach, with his legs spread and his ass shoved up towards me. I want his mouth, I want his hands, I want him begging me to fuck him and screaming my name when he comes. I want—

When I finally remember to breathe, the strength of my naked, uncontrolled desire has dried my throat so thoroughly that I nearly choke on the inhale. I can feel the flush that's arisen in my face, the blood pounding in the pulsepoint at the base of my throat. I've gone from cold and overwhelmed to ragingly hot in what seems like an instant, my time sense thrown off once again by nearly uncontainable emotion. I suddenly realize that I'm excruciatingly erect within the confines of my jeans, not least because Ray has continued to grind his hips into mine, creating a constant friction that is almost unbearably arousing. He tugs at his hands, grinning lasciviously at me when the motion presses our groins even closer together. Instinctively, I tighten my hands still further around his wrists, something very close to a growl escaping me, and his eyelids flutter as he moans.

"Yeah, Fraser," he says again, more breathlessly this time. "Whatever you want, I'll give it to you. Let's get on with it, though, hunh? I'm dying here!"

Ray's impatient need, mirroring my own, burns away the last of the fog that has held me in its clammy grip, infusing me with heated purpose. Very well, then. First things first. I bring his hands, wrists still firmly held in my grasp, around in front of me and push him, stumbling a little, until his back hits the refrigerator with an audible thump. I pin his wrists to the smooth, cold surface above his head and, when he gasps, take his open mouth with mine and kiss him as hard as I can, driving my tongue deep and twisting my hips rhythmically against him, using every trick I've learned from him in our time together to urge him to the brink. In short order he's keening almost constantly, pulling at my grip on his hands and thrusting against me, and I can feel a fine shiver running through him wherever our bodies touch. I pull back slightly and bite at his lips, once and then again, and he groans deep in his chest.

"God, Fraser, you're killing me. Do it, do it, just do it already..."

Oh, no, Ray. It's far too soon for that, far too soon. I release his wrists and sink my hands deep into his hair, angling his head for one more searching kiss, turning us as I do so that it is my back that is supported. Then I pull away slowly from that sensual, swollen mouth, ignoring his protesting whine, and tighten my hands in his hair until he opens his eyes and meets mine. I lick my lips, watching him mirror my movement, and tell him what I want next.

"Suck me off, Ray."

*****

Aw yeah. Fuck yeah. Fraser hardly ever actually asks for this—he loves it, sure, what guy in his right mind doesn't, but like so much else around sex it's hard for him to say—so it cranks me up even higher to hear those words come out of that beautiful mouth. Plus he's got his hands buried in my hair and he's, oh God, pushing down on my head, making me go, making me do it. Shit, that's hot, that's so fucking hot. Yeah, Fraser. Push it, push me, make me do what you want me to do.

Before I know it I'm sliding down his body—mostly on purpose, though my knees are a little weak from the treatment Fraser just gave me—raking my nails over his nipples through his Henley on the way and getting a growl and a hip thrust for my efforts. As I'm unbuckling and unzipping and pushing his boxers down far enough to get at his cock, it occurs to me that neither of us has taken off so much as a boot, which means I was about ten seconds away from coming in my fucking jeans. Jesus, that just makes the whole scene we've got going on here even hotter. Maybe, if I'm really good, Fraser'll fuck me with his jeans still on. His choice, right—this is his show here—but hey, hoping never hurt anyone.

Meanwhile, I got some business to take care of here. And a pretty piece of business Fraser's cock is, too—uncut, which I love (all the more to play with), long enough and thick, hard and red and wet and yeah. I put my tongue out and lick a circle around the head, close to drunk already on that first taste of Fraser turned on. Turned on by me, by what we've been doing—you'd think I'd be over the amazement by now, right, but it still does something to me, knowing I have that effect on him. His cock twitches in front of my eyes and his hands tighten in my hair again, pulling a little, making my eyes water. I fist the root of his cock, closing my fingers around him, and then open my mouth for the rest of it, sucking hard and clicking my tongue against the underside. The way he's holding my head means his palms are hot and sweaty over most of my ears, but I can hear him grunt clearly enough—feel it, too, like the sounds he's making are coming from deep in his body.

Which reminds me of something, so I reach in under his cock, the back of my hand brushing the wet spot in his boxers where he was leaking, work my fingers under his balls and start kneading them just a little. I get another grunt, which is good, but it's not what I'm shooting for, so to speak. Fraser's got this thing about making noise, which considering that he spent the first umpty-seven years of his jerking-off life with absolutely no privacy is not what I'd call surprising. So when he does make noise, it's the hottest thing ever, a sure-fire signal that he's let go another little piece of that baggage. And yeah, I know, tonight's about Fraser taking control. But I told him I knew what he needed, and I do—and I'm about 99 percent sure that he also needs to lose control, but good. I pull back so my lips just cover the tip of his cock and nudge at that sweet spot under the head with the tip of my tongue. That gets me a whine through what sounds like clenched teeth, so I'm about to do it again when from somewhere he gets it together enough to actually form words.

"Ray— ah! Oh, Christ, yes. Ray. Ray, move your hand, move your hand now. I want— oh God. I want to fuck your mouth."

And God, that gets to me like nothing else we've done so far tonight, to the point that when I yank my hand off him I have to grab the head of my own cock through my jeans and squeeze hard. Tasty little pain, backs me off just enough to concentrate on opening up my throat, which is good; we've done this before, but not too often, since that same damn control thing of Fraser's usually stops him from asking for it. Me, I love having Fraser use my mouth, feeling him way deep down in my throat, my lips all the way up against his body, swallowing around him, trying to drive him right straight out of his mind. And hey, what do you know, that's what Mr. In-Control Mountie over here seems to want right now, too, and how happy am I to oblige? I lick my lips once, tasting Fraser's pre-come on them, and then just dive right in, moving up and down on Fraser's cock, slurping and sucking for all I'm worth and scraping my teeth on him every once in a while just to surprise him. Days like this, you gotta know I love my work.

I've still got the other hand tucked in under his balls—I can't quite reach his asshole from this angle, even with my fingers stretched out, but it doesn't look like either of us is what you'd call bored, so I'm not sweating it. Plus they're a pretty handy early-warning system, what with the tightening up towards Fraser's body meaning he's just about to come his brains out. Yep, there they go, plus by now we've got actual moans, which is always a good sign.

I'm gearing up for the big finish when he surprises me, pulling out of my mouth with a wet pop and unclenching his hands sort of unsteadily from my hair. His face is red and sweaty and he's breathing like he just ran a three-minute mile, and he doesn't seem to be able to keep his hips still; his cock wants back in my mouth, even if the Fraserbrain's got a different program in mind. Mine not to reason why, though, so I sit back on my heels, swipe a hand across my mouth—whoa, sensitive—lick my lips and grin up at him. What next, Maestro? I'm all yours. Whatever you want, you got it.

The next second I'm back up on my feet, shoulders held tight in his big strong hands, while his tongue explores my mouth like it's the first time and there might not be a next. I let him in, let him taste himself and me mixed together, let him take what he needs from me. I can feel the head of his cock burning wet and hot against my belly, and his heart's pounding hard enough to shake his hands where he holds me still for his mouth.

"Bedroom, Ray," he finally says, voice thick and rough and a million miles away from his usual smooth politeness. "Get into the bedroom. I'm going to cuff you to the bed, and I'm going to stretch you open, and then I'm going to fuck your ass until you scream."

And you'd think by this time I'd be enough on top of things to just go where he pushes me already, that I'd have a little control myself. You'd think so, but you'd be wrong. Because that voice is like sandpaper and velvet along the length of my cock, and the words he's saying just make it worse—better? I'm way past being able to tell the difference—and suddenly I'm coming right fucking there, hanging from his hands, my cock jerking and pulsing against the denim and something a lot like a sob coming out of my mouth.

Fraser gets a hand down and cups me hard through my jeans, pushing his palm into me and massaging my cock, and I groan and kiss him as good as I can manage given my current come-dazed state. Can't figure out whether to be grateful or ashamed, but it turns out not to matter: Fraser's got a goal, as per usual, and he's not about to give it up for one wrung-out Ray. He kisses me back, all sharp teeth and tongue, and shoves his hand against my cock one more time—reminding me who's running this scene, maybe, like I might've forgotten or something. Then he turns me and pushes me towards the bedroom, following close enough behind me that I can feel the heat coming off of him.

Thank God our apartment's not that big, so we get there before my legs give out completely. Fraser stops me with a hand on my shoulder just short of the bed and turns me to face him again.

"Clothes off, Ray. Now."

Whoa. Mr. In-Control Mountie, large and in charge. My cock should really be too tired to react to that, but apparently it doesn't know any better, because I can feel it twitch inside my wet jeans. This is not what I'd call comfortable, so I strip as fast as I can, throwing my clothes as far away as I can get them without any actual aim being involved. I'm kind of expecting Fraser to strip as well, and he does, partway, pulling the Henley up over his head with one hand and toeing off his boots and socks. The jeans, however, stay on; at some point he pulled them back up over his ass, but he didn't bother to rezip them or to pull his boxers all the way to his waist, and the head of his cock is clearly framed by the open vee of the zip. My cock twitches again at the sight, which is a little painful but mostly a happy thing. I look at him inquiringly; I'm pretty sure I know what comes next, but like I said, it's his show, and we've got enough of that second-guessing thing going on with our work that I'm not real interested in bringing it home.

"Get on the bed, Ray. Lie spread-eagled, face-down."

Well, damn. Guess I was right about where this is going, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a very good thing. I do what he says—like I usually do, when it comes right down to it—hissing a little when the supersensitive skin of my cock rubs up against the nubby fabric of the bedcover, and stretch my arms and legs out as far as they'll go. It's a weird feeling, being naked when he's not, my back to him, my legs spread, unprotected and open for whatever he wants to do with me. But we've been here before, Fraser and me, and if this is what he wants, I'm more than game.

I can feel the clank of the chains where they're hitting the bedframe, and that reminds me of something I've got just about enough brain cells to appreciate, which is that it looks like we never even got the cuffs put away from the last time. That matters, I know it does, but since now is not the time for deep analysis I file it away with the rest of the clues I'm picking up from Fraser tonight and get ready for the good stuff. Sure enough, a couple of seconds later I feel the shearling of the cuff lining around my left wrist, and then the sound of the catch sliding home as Fraser fastens it securely. I shiver, and my cock twitches again where it's caught between my belly and the bedspread. I hear Fraser breathing as he walks around the bed to get to my other hand—he's calmed down some from when I was blowing him before, but his breath isn't quite as even as I bet he'd like to think. Another shiver, stronger than the first one, runs through me when he closes the second cuff around my right wrist, and for just a minute he links his fingers with mine and squeezes hard. Then he's straightening up from his crouch and giving me the next order.

"Get up on your knees, Ray."

God, that voice again. That voice just does something to me. His voice is always different when we do this. Even compared to all the other voices he has—the polite Mountie voice, sure (and God, does that one get a lot of use), but there's the Teacher and the Uncle (Frannie's littles love that one a lot) and the "Ray, we've been through this a thousand times" and a whole bunch of other ones. And about half of 'em get me hard before he finishes a goddamned sentence, because I'm wired like that where Fraser's concerned (all I can say is, it's a good thing we don't actually share an office, because no actual work would ever get done if we did). This one, though...this one's wilder than any of the others. Less controlled, less pretty, less about anyone else and more about him and what he really needs, down deep where he just about never lets anyone see, not even me. When we do this and Fraser's talking to me, telling me what he wants and what he's gonna do, I hear this voice and I think maybe he actually believes me when I tell him that I won't break, that the rough stuff works for me just as much as him, that that's what safewords are for. When I tell him that I trust him with my fuckin' life, and always will.

In some ways, this kind of scene is when we're the most honest with each other.

And yeah, that's deep, and it bears some thinking about. Especially because this hospital-volunteer thing he's doing is tearing him into tiny pieces, and pretty soon I'm gonna need him to trust me enough to tell me why.

But not now. Right now I'm just gonna do what the Mountie wants me to, thank you kindly.

I draw my knees up under my chest, stretching my arms out a little more above my head. My cock's already starting to fill again, which has got to be some kind of land speed record. Back to front, so I can't see what he's doing until he does it, so I gotta rely on him to tell me what's coming next. So he can control it. Yeah. The snick of the cuff around my left ankle makes me groan, and when the second one clicks into place I can't resist shoving my hips down and humping the sheets, even though I'm still supersensitive. For that I get a quick slap on my ass, which sends another pulse of pleasure down my cock. God, Fraser never forgets a kink—the man's got a memory on him like you would not believe. Just in case I needed another reason to hang on to him for good.

"Spread your legs, Ray. As far as you can."

The way he's got me chained gives me a fair amount of play, so by shifting my knees I get myself pretty open to him. I can feel the stretch in my thighs and shoulder muscles, feel the air over my exposed asshole. My cock bobs in mid-air, not quite all the way hard but getting there damned fast. In this position I can't see much, so I push my hearing instead, trying to figure out what Fraser's up to. I hear faint rustlings and clickings, but it's not enough information to keep me from being surprised when one slick finger hits the base of my spine, draws a line right straight down and pushes into me up to the first knuckle. Burns, but in a good way, and for a minute my body can't decide which direction to move. Fraser solves the problem for me when he drizzles more lube down the crack of my ass and then uses a second thick fingertip to work it into me, stretching and twisting just a little impatiently. God, that's good, that's so good, and I can't help pushing myself back onto his fingers over and over, chains clanking each time I impale myself. When he adds a third finger the burn ratchets up, and for a minute I have a little trouble getting my breath. But Fraser, master of distraction, solves that problem for me, shoving his fingers farther in and crooking them to rub against my prostate, and I forget about the burn and just yell his name, voice cracking in the middle and a gasp at the end.

We spend a few more minutes like that, him with his fingers buried deep in my ass—somewhere in there he adds a fourth one and the finger-fucking gets even a little more intense—and me with my face buried in the pillow, yanking against the cuffs on my wrists and getting louder by the second. By the time he pulls his fingers out and kneels up behind me, my cock's leaking a trail of pre-come all the way to the bed and my knees are threatening to give out yet again.

"God, Fraser, fuck me, fuck me. Put it in, put it in, put it in!" I'm practically chanting at this point—I'm not even sure I'm speaking English, if you want to know the truth, I just want his cock in my ass now, damn it. I can feel him back there, feel the scratchiness of starched denim against the skin of my thighs—so he is gonna fuck me with his jeans still on!—but he's teasing me, holding his cock in one hand and just rubbing the head around the rim of my asshole.

"Beg me, Ray," he says, his voice amazingly steady for somebody who's been on the verge of coming for, like, hours by now. "Beg me to fuck you, and I will."

Yeah. Oh, yeah, I can do that. "Please, Fraser," I say, and Jesus, my voice sounds like I've been screaming at the top of my lungs for those same damn hours. Which probably I have, come to think of it. "Please fuck me. Please."

And apparently that's the right move, the right stuff, the right thing to say, because the next thing I know Fraser's got his whole cock rammed so far into my ass I can feel the metal of his zipper against me, the wiry brush of his pubic hair, his pulse joined with mine where he's all the way up inside me. And then he's moving, thrusting, just shoving into me, fucking me with everything he's got. I brace my cuffed hands against the headboard and hang my head, trying to stay on my knees, trying not to let the force of Fraser flatten me completely. He's pounding into my prostate with every stroke, which is probably more accidental than anything else but is shooting jolts of pleasure through my entire body anyway, so no worries there. I'm dying for someone's hand on my cock, stripping it hard and fast in counterpoint to Fraser's thrusts, but the cuffs keep my hands too close to the headboard for that and I'm thinking Fraser's not gonna step in here any time soon, being as how he's maybe just a little bit busy at the moment.

*****

yes Ray yes Ray yeah yeah yeAHHHHHHHH...

*****

I've completely lost track of time by now—I'm a little distracted myself, as you might imagine—so it catches me by surprise when Fraser slams into me one last time and stays there, as far into my ass as he can get, cock pulsing over and over and over again as he comes for what seems like hours. That's enough to set me off; I shoot all over the bed beneath me and then collapse, Fraser's weight heavy on my back, trying to decide if breathing's worth it or if I should just give up and die happy right here.

"Ah, God. Fraser. Jesus. Love you." Man, I am wiped. I am down for the count. I am toast. I am well and truly fucked, in the best possible sense of the word. That was amazing. Which I kind of think I should make sure Fraser knows, even though hey, what with the writhing around and the shouting and screaming and the coming all over the place he's probably gotten the message by now. But still, it'd be polite to tell him, and it only takes an extra second, blah blah blah. So I lift my head, which feels like it weighs a metric ton, and turn it to look at him and open my mouth to say something sex-dazed and dumb and maybe suggest that he might want to, y'know, take his fucking jeans off now.

And then I'm getting myself the hell out of the cuffs, thanking God for long fingers and Fraser's proper preparation when it comes to bondage gear. Because Fraser's face down with his head buried in his hands and the rest of him shaking like he's freezing to death, and this is where we needed to go tonight, all right, but it's not gonna work if he doesn't know I'm there, can't feel me around him, keeping him safe so he can get it out, whatever it is that's killing him here.

*****

God. God. That was— it was— I don't know how to— I can't— I can't—

And then Ray has me. He's dredged up enough energy from some unknown reservoir to hit the safety catches on the arm cuffs, and he turns me, he's got me, he's holding me against his heart (I can hear it dimly through the drumming in my ears, pounding like the pulse in his throat) and rocking me slowly. And I'm shaking, shuddering from head to toe, and I try everything I can to stop it but I can't, damn it, why can't I stop, why can't I stop it, they're just children, they don't deserve this, there has to be something I can do...

"...Ben. Ben. Ben."

Ray's leaning up over me, his face inches from mine. He's turned me onto my back and pressed himself along me from knees to shoulders as close as he can get, one arm behind my neck cradling me, the other thrown over my chest, binding me to him. His hand is once again carding through my hair, petting me, soothing me.

My face is wet, and my head is pounding, and my hands hurt where I've clenched them into fists I can't release, try as I might. It feels as though every muscle in my body is in revolt. I try to breathe in the midst of this chaotic mass of reactions and suddenly hear myself speaking, almost without volition.

"Juwan died today."

Ray's face crumples a little, mirroring the pain that must show in my face. "One of the long-term kids. The one whose mom left him there to get him away from her crack-headed crook of a boyfriend."

Thank God, once again, for my partner and his prodigious memory. "Yes. Juwan. The hospital did what they could for him, but she'd brought him in too late, the AIDS was full-blown by then, and there simply wasn't a great deal that could be done. He's— he'd been there for about four months and had been doing surprisingly well, but about two weeks ago his pneumonia stopped responding to the drugs and he began to decline quite rapidly. Since he'd been abandoned, DCS had signed over next-of-kin rights to the hospital. They took him off life support this morning, and I stayed with him until he stopped breathing. And then I left."

I take another deep breath, ridiculously proud when it catches only once.

"He was— he was six. Six, Ray. Five when they brought him in—five and a half, maybe. Six when he stopped breathing, when he died. I— I— " My throat closes abruptly, painfully, and my hands tighten again. Apparently that's all I'm going to be able to say about Juwan tonight.

But that's enough for Ray, I can see it in his face. He hears me. He's got it. He'll help me.

And he does, somehow, with his own particular brand of scattershot wisdom.

*****

"Fraser, listen to me. I know spending time with these kids, watching 'em go downhill and not being able to fix it, I know that's hitting you hard. I listen to you talk about what you do—like today, sitting by that kid's bed, Juwan, and watching him die. And I'm pretty sure that when you do that kind of thing, which you do all the damn time, there's a part of you that figures if you watch close enough and you work hard enough and you do everything you can for everyone around you, you'll be able to keep him breathing. If you keep it all under perfect control—if you do it all just right—you'll make it all better. You'll save his life.

"And I totally get that. I do.

"But it doesn't work that way, though sometimes I wish it did. These kids are hurting, Fraser, and a lot of them are dying, and that's a rotten damn deal, but that's the way it is. And you twisting yourself into all kinds of knots trying to pull them back from that edge? That doesn't work, Fraser, it's not right. It's not the thing you've got to give them. When you go take care of these kids—you read to them, you play weird Canadian games with them, whatever, you deal with their parents and their paperwork and the rest of the whole shitty hospital thing—you're doing everything you can for them. Everything anybody could do for them, pretty much. It's not about saving them solo, all by yourself. It's about making whatever time they've got left the best it can be. It's about letting them go gently into that good night—not fighting it, not willing it away, but making it as easy and as loving as something that tough can be. That's what you're there for, Fraser. That's what you're doing for them with all this time and energy and strength you put out there. And that you can do it at all without it killing you, let alone do it with everything you've got like you always do, just fucking amazes me, it blows me away. But you gotta let a little of it go.

"Look, Fraser, life's about a lot more than just breathing. Any idiot can do that, can take in oxygen and let out carbon whatever-it-is and fool everyone into thinking there's a real person in there. But that's not real life. Real life's what you do with your breath, and your heart and your mind and all the rest of it. Real life's what you do with the time you have, however long it winds up being. That goes for the kids, for Juwan and Estrellita and David and the rest of them, the ones that don't make it and the ones that do. And it goes for you just as much. You put your whole big heart on the line for these kids, you work your tail off to make sure they know there's somebody there for them. That's a lot, it's a huge deal. You gotta let it be enough. You gotta accept that you've done everything you can and then let them go. And that's okay, it's all right, it's the right thing to do."

*****

Oh, God, that hurts.

But he's right, of course—about me, about the children, about the unworkable bargain I've been trying to strike. It's odd, really. I've told myself much of this many times before, but somehow hearing it from him—from outside my own head, from inside his heart—makes it hit home in a way none of my lectures to myself ever could. I suppose that's because in some ways...in some ways, I trust him even more than I trust myself. I trust him to know what's right, to know what's worth doing even when it looks impossible or hopeless or without purpose or point—to be able to find hope in those shades of grey he sees when my own starkly black-and-white vision of the world leaves me stranded in darkness, and to share that hope with me. And he always does, always.

Wrapped in Ray's arms, I feel truly warm for the first time since arriving at the hospital this morning. I feel— I feel the way I hope Juwan felt, the way I hope every child on that ward feels: comforted, safe, loved. I feel...home.

*****

And like that he's asleep, as though whatever I said to him gave him, like, permission to just check the fuck out for a while.

Good. He deserves it—no one deserves a rest more than Fraser, crazy man that he is, spending all day every day trying to save the world from the bad guys and most weekends trying to save sick kids from the world. Plus putting up with his equally crazy partner, although after this long together I think I can safely say he gets some pretty good stuff out of that deal. And vice versa, for sure. Not just in the sack—which yeah, don't get me wrong, obviously we still light each other up big time, more than I'd've thought would be true at this point, but—it's not everything, the sex. It's not even the biggest thing. There's a lot more to us than that. Always was, or we'd never have gotten here, sticky with come and sweat and tears and one step closer to understanding each other from the inside out.

I'm too tired and wrung-out to even think about showering—and hell, it's the weekend, it's not like we're going anywhere any time soon. I wouldn't mind getting out of the ankle cuffs—Fraser bought 'em, so they don't chafe, it's just that I'd like to shift my legs a little. But I'd have to wake Fraser up to untangle myself, and it's so not worth it; he needs this as bad as he needed to fuck me, and I'm right there with both halves of that. So I just lie still and look at him, watch his face as he sleeps, willing him to stay that way and just let himself heal for a while. Two hundred pounds of Mountie lying there on top of my arm, both of his arms wrapped around me tight enough to make my ribs creak, plus a leg thrown over mine to make extra sure I won't go anywhere. His patented security-blanket hold. Don't get this one too often, but I can see where he'd react that way tonight, given the shit he went through today and the way it hurt him to let it out. And that's okay with me. I'm not going anywhere. I'm right where I want to be.

I lay my head down on his chest and start the long slow slide towards sleep myself. Tomorrow, after we get me out of the ankle cuffs (Fraser apologizing right, left, and center, no doubt), we'll see what's the next thing we can do with this hang-up Fraser's got about the one true way to save the world. But tonight?

Tonight, we're done. We're good. We are, in fact, greatness.

~FIN~