Walking into the room Fraser could see that something was wrong. True, Ray was seated at the desk with his back to him, but the tension in his body was unmistakable.
Unbidden, a memory resurfaced in Fraser’s mind, this day fifteen years ago, Ray’s last suicide attempt. There had been another, soon after their ill-fated voyage on the Henry Allen, when all the tension that Ray had been holding inside suddenly flooded over. Somehow he had got Ray through, holding him, telling him over and over that he was wanted, that he was loved. That had been the start of their romantic relationship, tentative at first, both afraid of hurting the other, but it had been a good start.
Their Canadian adventure had, Fraser thought at the time, exorcised all of Ray’s demons, but the return to Chicago had not gone the way he had hoped and when Ray tried to kill himself the second time, Fraser had felt his own soul giving way under the strain. He had barely made it to Ray in time and he still had nightmares about that. Afterwards Fraser had insisted on counsellors and he had also insisted on moving the Fraser-Kowalski household to Canada. A fresh start, he’d said and Ray had seemed eager for the change.
It had gone well. No more suicide attempts, far fewer nightmares and Ray, for over a decade now, had been calmer and happier than Fraser had ever known him to be.
What had happened?
“What is it?” Fraser asked the question but he hung back, could he really do this all again?
When Ray turned towards him, he could see the man’s face was white.
Fraser obediently moved closer to the laptop screen. He pushed his reading glasses onto his nose. There was an obituary notice on the screen and Fraser, after reading the headline, reached out and grasped Ray’s shoulder.
“I haven’t thought about him for years.” The look on Ray’s face was scaring Fraser. “After... after that last time when he... when he... he just disappeared. And now.” Ray gestured at the screen.
Fraser put an arm around his husband, for once he had no words. He had been trying now for twenty years to keep Ray safe, never sure that Cleeves wouldn’t be waiting around the next corner, never being able to forget the deal he had made for Ray.
“Reading this.” Ray was doing his best to smile. “He sailed through the rest of his career, don’t know why I thought he wouldn’t.”
“You miss him?”
“No.” Ray’s tone was absolute. “He was a mistake, a glitch, a...”
“Yeah.” Ray grinned. “One of those. I’m glad he’s dead.”
Fraser released his hold on Ray and then reached out and took the man’s hands. “I think there’s something I need to tell you...”