COMING TO TERMS
Set immediately after Victoria's Secret.
Ray is at the hospital waiting for news of Benny's injury and reviewing just what he did to his friend.
A pre-slash story.
Written: April 2007. Word count: 5,644.
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
AS YOU LIKE IT - ACT II SCENE VII
JUNE 1995. ACT I, SCENE I
Ray Vecchio sat huddled in a chair; at least he did when he wasn't pacing the hospital waiting room.
Three hours ago the doctors had rushed Benny into surgery. Three hours and no one had come to tell him what was going on. But then why would they? What rights had he? He was only the bastard who had shot Benny.
The words reverberated over and over again in Ray's mind.
He had shot his best friend. Shot him in the back. He had at best landed Benny with a long hospital stay, and at worst . . . At worst he'd either paralyzed or even killed him.
His fellow detectives had been full of sympathy. They had even treated Ray as if he was made of china. They had reassured him, had told him that Benny would be okay. And they had reminded him of how nothing ever stopped 'the Mountie'. Before anyone knew he, he'd be out of there, back at the station, annoying the hell out of Ray.
There would be no problem with IA, Lieutenant Welsh had assured him, no problem at all. Ray had aimed for, and shot at, Victoria. He had shot at a fleeing felon; a murderess. A cold, calculated murderess who had also threatened, blackmailed, and put Ray's job in jeopardy. The same woman who had also shot a defenseless animal. In spite of himself Ray allowed a faint smile to cross his face; Diefenbaker defenseless? Not really. But still, he was an animal and Victoria had shot him – deliberately. And on top of that there was a small matter of robbery; Welsh was certain that he could come up with even more charges.
One woman. So many crimes. And Ray had tried to shoot her. Had tried to shoot her because he thought she had a gun aimed at Benny.
That is what IA would be told – had been told. That is what everyone assumed.
That is what was wrong.
Ray had not been aiming at Victoria when he had pulled the trigger. Had not hit Benny by mistake. Hell, he was a trained marksman. He had known exactly what he had been doing.
He had aimed at and shot Benton Fraser.
He, Raymond Vecchio, had deliberately and cold bloodedly shot his partner. His best friend. The man he both loved and was in love with.
Shot him to stop him from leaving.
As Benny had laid on the ground with Ray bending over him and the other detectives milling around, he'd said the words that Ray had known were coming. "I should be with her."
When Welsh had asked Ray what Benny had said, Ray had lied. He was getting good at it.
He had nearly killed, had possibly killed, Benny, and he wasn't sure how he could live with that knowledge. He had been jealous from the moment Victoria had re-entered Benny's life, had disliked her, even before he'd met her. And yet, he'd tried to help her.
Because Benny had asked him to. Benny asked him to do a lot of things. Most of which Ray didn't want to do. But he always did them. He always did them because Benny asked. So when Benny had asked him to help Victoria, Ray had invited her into his home.
She had known; he knew that. She had known that he was in love with Benny. He was just surprised she hadn't taunted him with it; maybe he just hadn't given her time.
He had warned her that he would kill her if she hurt Benny, and he had meant it. And he would have done it. Would still do if Benny died.
He would kill her.
And then he would take his own life.
He was cold, icy cold, shivering; and yet he was sweating. Again he relived the chase through the train station.
Benny had risked his life for his friend, and what had Ray done in return?
Why hadn't anyone realized that at first Benny had been standing still, and then suddenly he had started to run? What had they all thought he was running for?
They all thought he was running to bring Victoria to justice, because that's what Mounties do. But Ray had known. Known that Benny was running to go with her. And Ray couldn't let him do that.
He hadn't told Benny how he felt about him. He couldn't. He didn't know how to. He wasn't even certain if he wanted to.
Until Victoria had turned up, Ray would have sworn that his friend didn't even know about sex; well, maybe not quite, but he hadn't thought that Benny was really aware of it.
He didn't know what it was that had made him fall in love with Benny; he just knew he had done so. Benton Fraser was easily the most aggravating, most manipulative man, that Ray had ever come across. But he loved him. It was almost pathetic. He loved Benny's good looks, the way women all but fell at his feet, his easy charm, his innocence, the fact that everyone mattered to him. Hell, he even loved the way Benny had him wrapped around his little finger.
Suddenly, with startling clarity he knew why. It was because Benny did it all, the manipulating, the wrapping Ray around his little finger, the being so attractive to women, all without realizing it. He honestly didn't know the affect he had on people in general, and on Ray in particular.
Somewhere down the line the Italian American cop had fallen in love with the Canadian Mountie. But he'd always known he'd never say anything to him. How could he? Especially not now.
So everyone had assumed that Benny had intended to catch Victoria and bring her to justice.
Everyone but Ray.
Ray had known the truth.
And he'd also known that couldn't lose Benny. Not even as a friend.
So he had waited.
Waited until the last moment.
And then . . .
And then . . .
And then he had fired.
Unfortunately for Benny, at the very last microsecond his conscience, the one that he thought he'd buried long before the damned Mountie entered his life, came into play. And that is why Benton Fraser had a bullet in his back, rather than in his shoulder; the place Ray had intended to put his bullet. The minute pause had almost killed Benny, and it would have made Ray, might still make Ray, a murderer.
ACT I, SCENE II
"Detective Vecchio?" The voice, efficient, calm, cool and yet not uncaring, cut through Ray's thoughts.
He jumped to his feet in a state of mild panic, and stared at the nurse in front of him. "Yes," he answered.
"Detective Raymond Vecchio?"
Christ, it wasn't as though Vecchio was a common name. Not like Smith or Jones or . . . "Yes," Ray replied, his tone getting more curt by the minute.
The nurse didn't seem to notice. Instead she smiled at him, an efficient, calming smile. It made Ray shiver. Oh, God, no, he thought. He'd seen that look before.
"Why don't we sit down, Detective?" the nurse asked, moving towards Ray.
Ray felt his whole world start to close in on him. He groped behind him for the chair. He was vaguely aware that his eyes had blacked over, and the pounding in his ears was so loud, he could not hear.
When he regained his senses, he was sitting in the chair, his head between his knees with the nurse sitting next to him, talking to him. "Detective Vecchio. Detective Vecchio, are you all right? Is there someone I can call for you? No, keep your head down." Ray felt a warm hand on his shoulder, as the nurse continued to speak in the same calming voice.
Gradually he realized that he could both see and hear again. He raised his head and met the nurse's blue-eyed - just like Benny's - stare. He felt a cup of water being pushed into his hand and he was urged to drink.
He sipped the cold liquid, and as he felt it slide down his throat, he almost gagged. It was then he knew. Knew he would never be warm again.
"Can I see him?" he finally asked.
"Not at the moment, Detective," the nurse replied. She continued to look at him.
"No. I mean when . . . After . . . When you've . . . Did he . . . Oh, dear God." His hand went to his throat, and his fingers found the gold crucifix he always wore. But rather than comfort him, it mocked him. With a savage movement he broke the chain, yanked the cross free, and threw it on the floor.
He was aware that the nurse had spoken again. "I'm sorry," he said, his tone weary. "I didn't hear you."
"I said, Detective -"
"Call me Ray," Ray interrupted. He wasn't going to be a cop after this fiasco was over; he might as well start to get used to it.
"Ray," the nurse acknowledged. "I think you may have misunderstood my reason for being here."
Ray shook his head. He couldn't cope with this. "I don't think so, nurse," he said. "You've come to tell me that Benny . . . Benton Fraser," he amended. "Is dead." It was strange; the word was so easy so say. So simple. Four letters. One syllable. Easy. A child could say it.
"Dear God, Detective Vecchio, Ray, no. No, I haven't. Mr. Fraser is still in surgery. It's still touch and go, but. . . Oh, you poor man, hasn't anyone kept you up to date with his progress?" She reached out and touched Ray's shoulder.
Suddenly Ray felt faint and sick again. This time he lowered his head of his own accord.
A minute later the anger, fear and self-hatred rose to the surface. He pushed away the comforting hand and leaped to his feet. "No one," he said, beginning to gesture wildly. "Has been the fuck near me for over three fucking hours. Ever since they took him into surgery. No one has been here. But why should they? After all what rights do I have? I'm only the fucking bastard that shot him. I shot my best friend. Did you know that, nurse? I shot my best friend. Now how the fuck do you think that makes me feel?"
Ray stopped shouting as quickly as he'd started and began to breathe quickly, almost hyperventilating. "I'm sorry," he finally said. "It's not your fault. I'm sorry," he repeated, and sank back into the chair.
The nurse went on as if his outburst had never taken place. "Ray," she said calmly, "As I understand it, you were aiming at a fleeing felon, and Mr. Fraser got in the way."
Yeah, well that's what everyone thinks, thought Ray. He just nodded.
"I need to apologize to you, Detective. I was led to believe that someone had been keeping you informed about Mr. Fraser's condition. After all you are listed as his next of kin."
Ray blinked, and bit back his immediate reaction. When had Benny done that, and why? Actually the why was simple: who else was there? The when? Who knew? But why hadn't Benny told him? Not that he minded. In fact he was more than a little touched, but . . .
Suddenly he was aware that his silence had gone on for long enough, and that the nurse was looking at him curiously. Oh, God, he thought. She thinks . . . The irony of it. It was enough to nearly make him laugh out loud.
Instead he swallowed and said, "Yeah, well, there isn't anyone else. I mean his mom and dad are both dead. He's Canadian. He first came to Chicago on the -" He broke off suddenly, aware that he was about to launch into Benny's story.
He shook his head and went on. "He came to Chicago as a Deputy Liaison Officer for the Canadian Consulate. He and I work together on various cases. We've become friends, good friends. He hasn't got anyone else in Chicago." He hasn't got anyone else anywhere, he suddenly thought. "My family and I have kind of adopted him, I guess."
He stopped talking, suddenly aware that he was saying too much. So what's new? It must sound as though he was trying to convince her that he and Benny weren't . . . What the hell did it matter if she thought they were? It might be better that way. He might be able to . . . Except not for Benny. The last thing he wanted was for Benny to wake up and find the nurses treating Ray as his lover. Damn.
"So there is no one else you can call about his condition. No one else who should know?"
That sounded ominous. "No," Ray forced himself to say. Then he added, "Well, not unless you count Diefenbaker. Oh, God, Dief should know. He'll want to know." He started to pull out his cell phone, and then paused as the nurse spoke to him.
"Would you like us to call Mr. Diefenbaker?" she asked. "Maybe he could come and be with you. Is he a relation, or just another friend?"
"Dief's a wolf," Ray said, as if it explained everything.
"A wolf?" the nurse's voice went up an octave.
"Well half wolf, actually. He'll want to know. But how . . . ? I can't leave the hospital. I promised Benny that I'd be here when he woke up. I'll call him . . . No, I can't do that. He's deaf," he said, finally addressing the nurse, who was staring at him in wide-eyed confusion.
"Detective?" She sounded hesitant. But that was okay, of course she would be. She couldn't understand, because Ray hadn't explained it properly.
"Dief," Ray said." He's deaf. That's why I can't call him." It was perfectly logical. After all Benny spoke to the fur ball all the time, and Dief always knew what Benny was saying. He even seemed to know what Ray was saying. Secretly Ray wasn't totally convinced by Dief's deafness; who had ever heard of a lip-reading wolf? But Benny believed that Dief was, and who was Ray to contradict his friend.
"Detective. . . Ray," the nurse said again, rising to her feet. "Maybe you should go home, and get some sleep. We can fill out the form later."
Ray shook his head. "I can't I promised Benny I'd stay. He hasn't got anyone else. Elaine!" he suddenly said, and once again pulled out his cell phone. He had heard nothing since the words, ‘go home.'
"Elaine?" the nurse asked. "Is she Mr. Fraser's girlfriend?"
"What? No," Ray shook his head, as he searched through the address book to find Elaine's number. "Elaine's just a friend. She can bring Dief here."
"I can't allow a wolf to come into the hospital, Detective." The nurse's voice became firm.
Ray frowned. Why the hell not? Dief was clean. Ray had yet to meet a cleaner wolf. Of course, Dief was the only wolf Ray had ever met (and the only one he wanted to meet), but if Dief was a dog, then he was the cleanest dog Ray had ever met. But now was not the time to argue.
"No, I meant she can bring him to the car-park and I can tell him. He'll want to know." Finally he located Elaine's number. "I wonder if he's well enough to be let out?" Ray asked, as he pushed the number, cursing silently as all he heard was the engaged tone.
"He's still in surgery," the nurse replied.
"Mr. Fraser, he's still in surgery. Detective, are you sure that you shouldn't go home? Is there anyone I can call for you? Your family," she said brightly.
Ray shook his head, "They're away. And I'm talking about Diefenbaker, not Benny."
The nurse blinked, and raised her eyebrows, and then smiled what was clearly meant to be a reassuring smile. She obviously thought that Ray had flipped.
He needed to convince her that he was sane. The last thing he wanted was to be thrown out, or subjected to the shrinks. He took a deep breath and proceeded to explain. "Dief was also shot," he said. "We got him to the doctor's and he's okay now. Well, he will be."
He was reassuring himself, as much as anything. He couldn't lose Dief, not as well as Benny. Funny how he automatically assumed that he would look after the wolf if anything should happen to Benny. He who hadn't even particularly liked dogs, he who moaned about the hairs on his clothes, the footprints on his car seat, the. . . He forced his mind back to the present.
"He and Benny . . . Mr. Fraser, are . . ." He broke off, what term could he use to describe Dief and Benny's relationship? "Dief belongs to Benny. He saved his life once."
"Mr. Fraser saved the wolf's life?"
Ray shook his head. "No, the wolf saved Benny. They've been together ever since. He works with us."
"Detective Vecchio, are you telling me that there is a wolf wandering around the city streets, working with two cops?" The nurse sounded incredulous.
In spite of himself Ray couldn't blame her. "A Mountie and a cop actually," he said.
"Benny's a Mountie, not a cop. Royal Canadian Mounted Police," he clarified. He thought, he was sure, he'd already told her that. But maybe he hadn't. Maybe he'd just assumed that she'd just know.
"A cop, a Mountie and a wolf?" the nurse said, her tone one of disbelief.
Ray nodded, and tried to smile. "Anyway," he went on, with false brightness. "Dief was shot. Not by me," he added, hurriedly. "By Benny's . . . " He broke off. He didn't want to call Victoria Benny's girlfriend, because in his book she hadn't been. He finally settled for, "Another friend of Benny's shot Diefenbaker." The nurse was staring at him in total disbelief.
Ray went on. "The woman who shot Dief, was the woman I was aiming at when I shot . . . When I shot Benny. She had a gun on him. I fired at her to try and . . ." he broke off and looked at the nurse. "You don't believe me, do you?" he asked. "I don't blame you," he added, when she didn't speak. "I wouldn't believe me either. But it's true, every word of it." Well almost, he amended.
Heavy silence penetrated the room as Ray sat and looked at the nurse, who in turn just stared at him.
"Now," he said briskly. "Is there anything else, nurse? Because I really have to call Elaine to ask her to go and fetch Dief and bring him here so that I can tell him about Benny."
"The form," the nurse said, clearly taking refuge in safe everyday matters.
"Form?" Ray asked.
"The next of kin form. I need some details about Mr. Fraser. That's why I came to see you."
"Oh," said Ray. It all seemed a terribly long time ago since the woman had walked into the room. "Can you leave it with me? I'll call Elaine again and then I'll fill it in, or do you need it now?"
"I really should take it with me Detective," the nurse said. "It won't take more than a few minutes."
"Okay," said Ray, in a resigned tone and pushed the cell phone back into his pocket.
The form indeed only took a few minutes. Ray was secretly amazed at just what he had remembered about Benny.
Name; address; date of birth; place of birth; were easy enough – although Ray wasn't too keen on giving them Benny's address, so he gave them his own. After all, he reasoned, when Benny was let out of hospital he'd be going back to the Vecchio house to recuperate. There was no way that Mrs. Vecchio, let alone Ray, would allow Benny go back to that slum he insisted on living in.
Occupation was another easy one; as was previous illnesses/operations, or at least Ray hoped it was easy. Benny had never mentioned having any, not even his tonsils out as a child. When it came to allergies, Ray had to admit defeat and confess that he didn't actually know. However, he hadn't come across anything that Benny seemed to be allergic to, and he felt certain that with the amount of odd things his friend put in his mouth, if he was the allergic type, something would have shown up by now. He however omitted the constant licking and tasting things from the information he gave the nurse. Somehow he didn't think she'd understand. He didn't understand and he saw it!
The final question really threw him though: Medical Insurance. Ray blinked, and thought hard; hastily running through his ‘Benny file'. Then it came back to him. He remembered, Canadians did not have or need medical insurance. But Benny wasn't in Canada, he was in America, and Americans did have and did need medical insurance. Ray was certain that Benny wouldn't have taken any out since coming to Chicago, because he never got ill. Would the Consulate pay? Ray didn't know; he'd have to find out. But in the meantime . . .
He dug out his own medical card. But the nurse shook her head. "I'm sorry, Detective, but Mr. Fraser is not a member of your immediate family."
"I'm his next of kin," Ray tried, knowing that it was in vain.
"Have you added him to your insurance?"
Ray shook his head, of course he hadn't. He hadn't thought about it. Somehow he'd gotten used to thinking that Benny was invincible. But he wasn't. Or at least, thanks to Ray he wasn't.
"It won't matter for a few days anyway," the nurse said. "If he comes through surgery, he will need to be in intensive care initially. But after that, he can be moved to one of the free wards."
"Under a different surgeon," Ray stated, grimly, it was not a question. Not that he had anything against those doctors, they worked very hard, often against the odds. And although he knew that they were good doctors, he wanted the best for Benny. Not just because he was his best friend, not just because he was the one who had shot him, but because he was Benny. And Benny, in Ray's mind, deserved the best.
"I'll pay for his care," he said, before he had time to think further.
The nurse stared at him. Again Ray guessed what she was thinking. Again he didn't blame her. After all, you don't just offer to pay the hospital bills for someone who is just a friend.
"I'll need you to sign a form to that extent. You'll need to guarantee the payment. Detective Vecchio, you do realize that Mr. Fraser could be in the hospital for a number of weeks, months even?"
Ray nodded, and reached for the form and signed it. It didn't matter. He'd already mortgaged his home for Benny; he'd simply borrow further against that, and/or sell the Riv, anything. Benny was going to get the best care that Ray could organize.
He handed the form back to the nurse. "Is that all, nurse?" he asked, "because I really need to call Elaine about Dief."
"Yes, Detective Vecchio, that will be all, for now. Although, I do advise that you go home. Mr. Fraser will not regain conscious for at least another twenty-four hours. If . . ." she broke off, and Ray saw the conflict on her face.
"If he regains it at all," he said softly, meeting her eyes and daring her to argue.
When he saw her tilt back her head to meet his gaze, for the first time he realized that she was at least six inches shorter than he was, he become conscious of the fact that he'd closed the gap between them. With a murmured apology, he moved backwards a step or two, but his gaze did not waver.
He dared her to lie to him.
He begged her to lie to him.
He had to know the truth.
He wanted to hear a lie.
What she read in his gaze he did not know. However, he did see her swallow hard, before she spoke. "He is very badly injured, Detec- Ray. He. . . I'm sorry," she said.
Ray closed his eyes and nodded once. "So am I," he said, softly. "Thank you. Will you, will someone," he amended, "keep me informed?"
"Yes," she answered. "I'll make sure that the next shift knows that you are still here, and who you are. But I really do think . . ."
Ray shook his head, "I'm staying," was all he said. The tone he used was one that no one ever argued with. No one except Benny, he amended.
He couldn't go home. He simply couldn't.
Even if he hadn't been responsible for putting Benny in the hospital.
Even if Victoria had shot Benny.
Even if Benny had just tripped and fell, Ray couldn't go home. That wasn't how it worked.
Benny was in the hospital.
Thus Ray was at the hospital.
It was his role. The part he had to play in what had become a drama.
She nodded, and turned to go.
As she left the room Ray pulled out his phone and again called Elaine's number. This time she answered.
ACT I, SCENE III
Ray sat in Benny's hospital room, watching him sleep. He was exhausted, but he had no intention of leaving until Benny opened his eyes.
The hospital personnel must have finally become tired of him haunting the corridors, all but frisking everyone who went into Benny's room, and then demanding details when they left, because after thirty-six hours of relentless pacing and questioning, he was finally allowed into the room.
He had been there for twelve hours. And still his friend had not woken up.
His eyes felt gritty and heavy, his head ached, he was strung up from too much caffeine and not enough food. He needed a shower, a shave, and his suit had seen better days. But he refused to go home.
That wasn't how it worked.
That wasn't his part.
The only exception he made to leaving Benny's side, was to visit the men's room, and then only when it became absolutely necessary. And then only when he could coerce some poor nurse into promising to fetch him, no matter what, if Benny so much as blinked.
But nothing, short of an arrest, or the world ending, was getting him out of the hospital until Benny opened his eyes. Not that Ray was sure that Benny would want to see him, and if he didn't. . .
Well if he didn't, Ray could, would, understand that, but at least he'd know that Benny was okay. And that was all that mattered.
He shifted in the chair and tried to arrange his long limbs more comfortably. He'd dragged the chair over next to the bed so that he could watch Benny, without having to strain his already over-tired, over-stressed eyes. Watch him and watch the drips, all those things that went in and out of that firm, hitherto indestructible body.
But more than watch, Ray could touch. And touch he did. As long as he was alone, and he'd quickly worked out the schedule of nurses coming into check on their patient, he could hold Benny's hand And he did.
For the first few hours he'd talked to him, but finally even Ray Vecchio ran out of things to say. Or rather he ran out of things to say to a man he no longer could necessarily assume to be his friend. And he did tire of the sound of his own voice.
So for the last few hours he'd sat in silence, just watching the pale face, the chest that went up and down, the drip, drip, drip of the various drips. He sat holding the too cold hand, watching the eyelids for the first sign of life.
So far nothing.
ACT I, SCENE IV
"Detective Vecchio, don't you have a home to go to?"
His name being called jolted him awake, and he jerked his head up, feeling his neck crick. The nurse who had been Benny's nurse for the last six hours was standing there. Ray had clearly fallen asleep, Benny's hand still in his. He swallowed and nonchalantly released it, trying to make the movement look as if he hadn't been holding on.
But she had seen, the look on her face told him that. But she just smiled at him. "We don't know for sure how much unconscious people can hear, sense or feel. There have been studies that have proved that the person hears and remembers, even if that memory is hidden deeply within their subconscious, once the regain consciousness, everything that is said to them. There are people who have come out of a coma and recited things that they did not know before, things that their loved ones had said to them. There are people who claim that they knew when someone was touching them, bathing them, stroking them, holding them. All of this is why we try to treat a patient who is in a coma in the same way as we'd treat them if they were conscious. We tell them what we are doing; we try to retain as much dignity as possible when bathing them, changing them, tidying them up. Most people respond far better to love and kindness than to hatred and bitterness, so we try to give them this. It doesn't matter where the love comes from, only that it does."
Ray found his throat grow tight. She was telling him that it was okay to hold Benny's hand. Okay to talk to him. Okay to. . . "We're not lovers," he blurted out, and immediately cursed himself. Why had he say that? Now she'd think he was ashamed of being thought of as Benny's lover, or something.
But she smiled, and touched his shoulder. "Does that matter?" She asked. "Would you care for him anymore if you were?"
Ray felt his mouth drop open, and his eyes filled with scalding tears. Damn, he wouldn't cry. One fell over the edge. "He's my best friend," he finally said, fumbling for his less than clean handkerchief.
"And you love him." It wasn't a question.
Which was just as well, because Ray couldn't answer.
"Detective Vecchio, let me ask you a question. If Mr. Fraser was Ms. Fraser, still not your lover, just your friend, would you mind so much holding her hand? Being caught holding her hand?"
Ray shook his head. "I'm not ashamed, if that's what you think, nurse. It's just . . . I just . . . I didn't want you to think . . . Not for me, but for him." Because like it or not, no matter how much society had thought it had improved, homosexuality, even the faint hint of it, still shocked so many people. Too many people. Far too many people.
A man holding another man's hand would automatically be considered to be gay, by many. And as such something, someone, less worthy.
They all fulfilled them. Day in, day out.
Victoria was a criminal.
Ray was a cop.
His role was to catch her.
Hers was to evade him.
Benny was a Mountie. He saw good in everyone. He had loved Victoria. Therefore his role was to try to help her.
But she was evil. Dark. Bitter. Bad. So she tried to hurt Benny.
And Ray couldn't allow that.
Suddenly it all seemed so simple. He had done what he had to do. Because there was nothing else that he could have done.
The nurse spoke again, interrupting his thoughts. "Detective, we see many things, we hear many things. Not much shocks us. Nothing that is good for the patient bothers us. Nor is it wrong. Do you think that Mr. Fraser would be upset because you held his hand? Because you care?"
Ray shook his head.
"Then why try so hard not to show it?"
"Because I don't know if I have the right anymore." There it was out and Ray felt as though he'd gone ten rounds with Joe Bugner.
"Because you shot him?"
Damn it, did they all know? Ray nodded.
"And you don't think he'll be able to forgive you?"
"No. Why would he?"
"Detective Vecchio, if Mr. Fraser, lo- cares for you even half as much as you clearly care for him; he will forgive you." And with those words, she smiled at Ray, touched his shoulder, and left the room.
With her words ringing in his ears, Ray settled back down to wait.
He tried to force away the pain, the heartbreak, the knowledge that when Benny regained consciousness, assuming that he did, that he, Raymond Vecchio, had lost his best friend, and every hope of a happy future.
Instead he forced himself to remember the words the nurse had spoken.
He tried to believe in them.
He tried to believe in her.
He tried to believe in Benny.
He tried to believe in their friendship.
He tried to believe.
But in the meantime?
In the meantime all he could do was to wait. Wait and see how the next act of the drama played out.
Holding On is the sequel to this story.
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