Ellen requested a Meggie/Ray V pairing. Not often done.
Rated G, the only warning is to Meggy/Benny shippers – be aware that a couple of bits might not butter your muffin.
Margaret wasn’t sure where she was when she first woke up. What she felt first was the heaviness around her right leg. She oriented. There was a cast on her right leg. She was in a hospital in Bayfield and she had a broken ankle. Somewhere else in the hospital were Ray and Harding. And Fraser, of course. Fraser was the reason they were there at all.
Late, late last night, or rather earlier this morning, some nurse had steered her to an empty room and helped her into a night-gown retrieved from the suitcase that was supposed to have served her for her week's vacation with Fraser and the Americans. Then the nurse had forced a pain pill and a sleeping pill into her and tucked her in.
Margaret sat up in the bed and considered her next move. She could press the button beside her bed and ask for help, or try to wash and dress on her own. The decision was made for her when a passing nurse glanced into the room and saw her sitting up. She came in. Her name tag said 'Ms. Kennedy'.
"You up, honey?"
Margaret stiffened a little as she always did when addressed as honey, sweetie, darling or any such. Then she forced herself to accept this wasn't the time and place for political statement, any more than it had been yesterday when she and Jane were busy saving Fraser's life. The nurse meant only to help her and Margaret had to admit she'd be glad of the help. It would be all right to admit to needing help maybe just this once, Margaret figured. She'd been hurt in a plane crash and she'd had the experience of pawing through her deputy's guts only hours ago. For once, maybe, she could let go of the 'dragon lady' image under these unusual circumstances and no one would think any the less of her for it.
Ms. Kennedy didn’t make small talk, and for that Margaret was grateful. The nurse helped her with all the necessities with a professional lack of fuss and shortly Margaret had dealt with her bodily functions and was clean and clothed.
"Your constable is out of recovery and doing fine. He's still doped up. You may as well have breakfast,"
said the nurse told her, "Do you want a tray in here or do you want to go sit with your friends? They're in the cafeteria."
It was the first time Margaret ever heard Harding and Ray called her friends, and she liked the sound of it. They had laboured together to keep Fraser alive, sat vigil while he was operated on, waiting together to see if he would live or die. She and the Americans were more than friends now. She wanted to be with them.
"I'll go eat with the others," Margaret said and then realised the physical act of going wasn’t going to be all that easy with a broken ankle. She looked around the room and, sure enough, a pair of crutches were leaning against the wall, just outside of her reach. She pointed to them and asked the nurse. "Would you mind getting me those?"
"Sure, honey. But let me just . . . " Ms. Kennedy went out into the corridor and returned shortly with a wheelchair. Again Margaret faced the decision of whether to accept this or not. The nurse saw her pause. "Let me take you over. It'll take you a while to get used to the crutches." There was no condescension in her tone; it was a simple statement of fact so Margaret accepted to be settled into the wheelchair. The nurse handed the crutches into her lap and pushed her out into the corridor.
It wasn't a very large hospital. A small room with only a few tables served as cafeteria, and it was empty except for Harding and Ray sitting at one of the tables. Ray's broken right arm was in a sling and he was struggling to shovel scrambled eggs into his mouth with his left hand, without spilling too much. Harding had a half-eaten muffin in front of him. They looked up as Ms. Kennedy wheeled her in and Margaret saw in their expressions that they were actually happy to see her. The nurse set her at their table.
"I have to get going. One of you gentlemen please go tell them in the kitchen to make her something." With that, she was off. Her orders hadn't been necessary. One of the kitchen staff had seen Margaret enter and came out to ask her what she wanted.
What she really wanted by now was to see Fraser, to assure herself that he was alive and in one piece. But Ray and Harding seemed perfectly calm so Fraser must be fine. She controlled her impatience and downed bacon, eggs, toast and coffee.
"Let's go check on Fraser," she said to the Americans when it seemed everyone had finished eating.
Harding got up first, made sure her crutches were safely in her grasp and then matter-of-factly steered her while Ray walked along beside. Again, she had the impulse to protest and again stifled it. They were fellow police officers. They weren't passing any judgement or accusing her of weakness.
The three of them paused at the door of Fraser's room and looked inside. He was still unconscious. Margaret's look went first to his chest. It rose and fell slightly under a sheet. Fraser was breathing.
Ray pushed passed the others and stood close to his partner's head. Harding wheeled Margaret in and the two of them stood a little behind Ray, allowing him his rightful moment as Fraser's closest friend. Margaret noticed the gentleness with which Ray touched his friend's brow and the total lack of embarrassment as he let tears fall. She thought back on the day before. Ray's assigned "job" had been to hold Fraser's hand and watch over him. He'd done this with such devotion that Margaret, even in her deep concentration on the make-shift surgery, had been touched by it. Perhaps this was because he was Italian, an emotional people according to the stereotype. But Margaret knew that wasn't it. He simply loved Fraser, as a partner and a friend, and was not afraid to show it.
Then Margaret realised she was there to look at Fraser, not Ray. She wheeled herself closer and Ray stood aside to let her look at the man in the bed. This certainly wasn't how she was used to seeing her deputy. His arms lay limp at his sides in the short-sleeved hospital gown. She'd always shivered at the sight of those impressive arms, the odd time she had seen them exposed. The arms looked different now, long white helpless lumps. Fraser's face, unconscious, was also disturbing. His eyes fluttered half-open, rolling up horribly under their lids. His lips hung just a little apart and spittle glistened in the corners of his mouth. She felt just a twinge of revulsion and then caught herself and felt guilty for the feeling.
So she focused her attention back on Ray. Margaret envied him his ability to show his affection without fear of being thought weak. Ray's eyes, very nice green eyes, glowed with affection. A less secure man would be afraid of his open caring being misinterpreted.
Fraser wasn’t going to be conscious for many more hours, so after they had been there just looking at him for a few minutes, continuing in his role as unofficial leader, Harding announced that they had better start making some plans what to do next. Margaret allowed her self to wonder just why she had let Harding assume a position of dominance, both yesterday and today. Perhaps it because he was the only one unhurt. Or perhaps he was simply the oldest and most experienced of the group. Again, she found herself surprised at her own acceptance of this.
Harding decided they'd better find some kind of administrative person or other, who could get them in touch with whatever resources they would need to do whatever they were going to decide to do. They found a door that said "Administration". A woman inside recognised them at once as three of the cops that had come in the night before and sat them down in her office. The sign on her desk said 'Ellen'.
"I was just going to go looking for you three. Dr. Wallner came by earlier this morning and asked me to fill you in on the situation. She's sure he'll be all right, but she doesn't want him to be moved for a few more days. After that I suppose you'll want to arrange transport for him back to Chicago."
"Dr. Wallner?" asked Margaret.
Ellen smiled. "Yesterday when you talked to her you called her Jane."
"Does everybody in the hospital know about yesterday?" Harding wanted to know.
"Everybody in town. We'll be talking about it for years, probably." The she got down to business. "I guess all of you have medical insurance?"
They spent some time filling out forms.
"Now, there's a commuter flight from Bayfield to Chicago but it won't leave until much later this afternoon. We don't usually keep guests here, of course, but under the circumstances if somebody wanted to stay with him for a while . . . "
"Benny shouldn't wake up to a bunch of strangers!" Ray announced. "I'm staying."
Margaret was ashamed he was the first to say it. She should have been the one to make that declaration. Something about seeing Fraser sprawled out so ungainly and helpless had unsettled her even more than seeing him bleeding and near death the day before. Yesterday had been all drama and somehow unreal. Today everything seemed down-to-earth and her own reactions confused her. Was she really that shallow as to care for Fraser only when he was standing tall and looking good?
"I think you should," agreed Harding, his voice breaking into her thoughts, "but I think I'll head back. Margaret?"
They had been on a first name basis since the crash. It didn't seem to make sense to be too formal when they had both been elbow-deep in Fraser.
Margaret now found herself in a difficult situation. She was almost ready to go back now that she was assured Fraser was out of danger. But it would look so bad, so bad. "I'll stay too, I guess."
The Americans caught her tone, or rather lack of tone, and looked at her with surprise. "Won't we be the jolly threesome," commented Ray.
Harding left as planned later that afternoon. There was cable TV and good supply of reading material at the hospital but Margaret was too wrapped up in reality to be interested in anything made-up. Ray apparently was feeling the same and they spent the better part of the day talking – about Fraser.
"You know, Ray, I never did learn much about what happened with that Metcalfe woman. Fraser was arrested for murder and later found to be framed, that much is in the reports. And then, of course, the shooting." They both grimaced.
"Yeah, it all happened just before you came. And then you fired him," he added. "right after he got shot and then hurt in a plane crash. I never understood that."
Margaret searched Ray's face for signs of reproach. She was surprised not to find any, considering how protective he was of his unofficial partner and the caring she had seen in the last couple of days. She concluded that Ray was quite the diplomat when he chose to be.
"At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I don't think I can really explain it." Margaret told him, thinking how lame it sounded.
Ray let the matter go. She appreciated his tact. In the months since telling Fraser, obliquely, that he would be allowed to stay in Chicago, she had tried to analyse why she had been so hostile back at the beginning. The truth, once she looked it in the eye, hadn't been pleasant but she never shrank from unpleasant truths. She was attracted to him right away, his looks, his strength, his composure, his "perfect Mountie" façade. So of course she had to get rid of him.
Margaret asked for the detailed story of those times. The detective launched into the tale about Victoria, the shooting, Fraser's recovery, and the vacation Ray and Fraser had attempted to take afterwards. They had plenty of time for story-telling. Fraser was still doped to oblivion.
"So in that other plane crash it was Fraser that was hurt worse. Just like yesterday. That's so like him," mused Margaret when Ray got to the part about Fraser's concussion and loss of the use of his legs. "With all his physical strength and agility, you'd think he'd . . . " She dropped the end of that thought as she noticed the quizzical look Ray was giving her. "Well, he is a little impractical sometimes, you have to admit. He ran into a burning building to get my laundry, for Heaven's sake!"
Ray's studying of her made her squirm.
"Maybe he does stuff like that for you for some other reason?"
Margaret didn't like where this might be going so she called a halt to it. "It doesn't matter the reason. It was irresponsible. He's a police officer."
"Mmm hmm." Ray's tone gave no hint as to his meaning. It was right then that a nurse they hadn't met yet came up to them and told them Fraser was expected to wake up within the hour and would they like to go sit with him now and wait? Ellen had been right - everyone knew about them.
Margaret was using the crutches exclusively now and, as they walked down the hall to Fraser's room, she suddenly realised that Ray had managed to match his walking pace to her slow hops without giving the outward appearance of adjusting his stride in any way. He just made it look natural that he should amble along at a snail's pace. There was none of the deliberate slowing of step that one often fell into without thinking when accompanying a mobility-challenged person. She could understand why Fraser liked this American so much. He managed to be kind without any fuss and without making you feel obliged. Then she caught herself. Certainly this man had his own issues. She'd have to be careful not to admire him too much.
They sat chatting about inconsequential things and watching Fraser for signs of waking up. Eventually he groaned slightly and twisted his head. He opened his eyes a little and then shut them tightly against the light.
Ray jumped up and stood beside Fraser's head. He held his open palm in front of Fraser's eyes, fingers together, shielding his friend from the light. "It's okay now, Benny, I got you covered."
Margaret smiled at this inadvertently literal assurance.
"Open your eyes slow now. That's good. I'm opening my fingers a little bit at a time." Ray spread his fingers, held them for a few beats and then drew them slowly away from Fraser's face.
It wouldn't have occurred to Margaret to do something like this.
Fraser grunted and looked around. Ray was standing closer so he saw his partner first. "Ray." It was more a groan than an actual word.
"I'm here. And so's Margaret."
Fraser looked around for her and saw her standing at the foot of the bed. "Sir."
Fraser's eyelids fluttered and he drifted away again.
"It's good to see him awake," remarked Ray, although it wasn't quite accurate to think of Fraser's present condition as in any way wakeful. "I've been so worried," he admitted.
The long hours spent in conversation with Margaret were giving Ray a whole new view of this woman that Benny was so stuck on. He saw the attraction. The looks were impressive, for sure, but he'd always perceived her as the 'dragon lady', out to make poor Benny's life miserable. Now he was feeling her real warmth and getting to know her quick mind. It was a pleasure to talk to her. Ray began to have feelings toward her that were just a little bit inappropriate for the woman he knew his best friend carried a torch for. He'd have to keep it platonic for Benny's sake, but, damn, it was going to be hard.
They sat in Fraser's room the rest of that day and all the next morning, so as to be there on the odd occasion he drifted into consciousness. But for the most part he stayed asleep and they had all that time to talk. Finally they decided to get some air. A walk around the hospital grounds seemed as much as they wanted to undertake, considering Margaret's ankle and their unwillingness to be too far away from Fraser.
Around the back of the building, just beside a loading ramp they came upon a lone rosebush. They stopped to consider it.
"Look at this," said Ray, "This poor thing is all by itself here, just being all sweet and pretty where you wouldn't expect it."
Something in his tone made Margaret suspect he was talking about more than the flowers. She blushed and Ray saw it.
"Of course, something about this flower. It doesn't mind showing us how sweet it is." Ray continued. Maybe he could get her to admit to liking Benny. Maybe this was their big chance. She saved his life. Maybe she felt protective. This could be it.
"Flowers are lucky," Margaret said softly.
"Because. . . ?"
"Because people expect them to be sweet. Nobody thinks they're weak or . . . " She stopped.
pressed on. Benny and his boss would be an item just as soon as his Mountie
friend recovered enough to itemise. "Maybe people shouldn't worry about
things like that," he suggested, "Maybe people should admit how they
"Like you do," said Margaret.
Margaret summoned her courage. "You're a very sweet and very caring man, Ray. And you don't mind showing it. I admire that."
Ray deliberately tuned out the obvious.
"Nothing to admire. Just comes from living with my mother too long."
"No, I mean it. These last couple of days, well, I think I see what it is about you Fraser likes so much. You're a genuinely good person."
Ray was getting uncomfortable now. The tuning out wasn't working very well, the signals kept getting stronger. He had to get this conversation back to being about Fraser somehow. "Well, as somebody we both know would say, thank you kindly."
Margaret bent down and touched one of the rosebuds. "No, thank you for being such a good friend."
him, you mean."
"Not necessarily." As far as Margaret was concerned, she'd committed herself this far, she was going to force Ray to understand, even though he clearly wanted to nip this in the bud.
It was Ray's turn to blush now. "Look, Inspector . . . "
"Margaret," she corrected.
"No, for this I have to call you 'Inspector'," Ray cleared his throat. "I'm flattered, I mean I really wish I could . . . but Fraser's my best friend."
"There's nothing between Fraser and me."
"Not now, but there should be. You can't believe how much he wants there to be. I can't do something like this to him."
"Something like what?"
Ray lost his control there and then. "Something like this." Their kiss was a little awkward, working as they were around her crutches and the cast on his arm. But such was their motivation that overcame these obstacles.
Jane, otherwise known as Dr. Wallner, allowed them to transport Fraser home two days later and one Mountie found himself in another hospital and one Mountie found herself behind her desk again, but visiting her deputy every day after work. Ray was there every evening too.
As Fraser improved they chatted more and more with him and less and less with each other. But when visiting hours were over, they left together. One night they went for coffee. One night they went for a late dinner. The third night they went back to her apartment. Thereafter they went to her apartment every single night right from the hospital, there being no more need for pretence – except in front of Fraser.
There was a Thursday evening when Margaret had to attend a diplomatic function and couldn't come to the hospital. Ray went alone and had his usual pleasant and meaningless conversation with his friend. But Fraser seemed distressed.
"What's wrong Benny? You've been twitching all evening."
"I don't twitch, Ray."
"Call it something else then. But I never saw you shift around like this, in or out of the hospital. What gives?" Ray had an inkling what gave but kept it to himself, hoping he was wrong.
"You're very astute, Ray."
"I'm a detective."
"You're more than that, you're my best friend." Fraser seemed to be picking his words carefully. "Ray, I want you to understand that I understand that you are my best friend."
"I mean, I know you are my friend, even if you are doing something that some people might think a friend wouldn't do."
"I don't follow you," Ray lied.
Fraser cleared his throat. "I never declared myself to the Inspector. She completely free to . . . go where her heart leads her, if you understand me."
Ray sat for a moment, trying to take in what he was hearing.
"Benny, I never meant to steal her or anything."
"I know that, Ray." Fraser sighed. "I can't say I'm not a little disappointed. I guess I'd always hoped . . . But, it couldn't work. She's my superior officer. I think, maybe, deep down I realised that."
Ray wanted to hug him, but had only one good arm, so he just stood near and put his one good arm around his friend.
"I couldn't help but notice. The way you look at each other when you think I'm not watching. The way you leave together every night."
"I realise you are both adults," Fraser continued, "but if it should prove your intentions are . . ."
"They're honourable, Fraser. I'm going to ask her to marry me as soon as I get up the guts. Tell you what. Her parents are both dead. How's about I ask you for her hand right here and now."
Fraser smiled. "Do I get to be best man?"
Ray smiled back. "Or Miss Fraser can be the bridesmaid."
Fraser's smile fell away instantly. "Ray! You never told her about that did you?"
"I wouldn't do that to you, Fraser. I'll never let her know your legs are better than hers."