The Good Husband
Written 13 August 2002
This work is not to be reproduced in any way or archived
anywhere without the express written permission of the author
Fear, like pain, looks and
sounds worse than it feels.
Rebecca West, 1892-1983
"Son, have you ever thought about children?"
I looked up from the report I was signing my name to and shook my head. "No Dad, I can't say I have."
"Perhaps it's time."
I stare at him as if he's grown two heads. "Dad. I "
"Having them, I mean. Having children."
"I want no such thing, Dad."
"You could find a woman "
I sit up straighter. "Dad, I'm not going to "
" someone who will be a good helpmeet "
"Do you ever listen to yourself?"
" someone who can bear you some fine children. A grandson would be wonderful, Ben."
"Dad, I'm not "
"Ah well, you never did want to make me happy, did you?" My father sighs and sits down across from me.
"That's untrue, and you know it." I feel my throat close up. I loved my father. And he should know it.
He looks at me sadly and takes off his hat. "Yes, I know. I'm just it's just I guess death doesn't become me."
"I'm not sure that death becomes anyone, Dad."
"I'm turning into an emotional old fool," he says, standing up and placing his hat on his head. I breathe a sigh of relief that perhaps this conversation is actually over when he looks at me and says quietly, "Think about it, Son. I should have been a better father than I was. Maybe you could be a good father by learning from my mistakes. You could settle down with a nice woman, be a good husband. I wouldn't even mind an American too much."
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When I reopen them, my father is gone, and so is the day's sense of peace.
Do men have biological clocks? Because one thing I've never really felt the need to do is reproduce. It's not that I think children are the horrors of civilisation (well, most aren't, anyway) but I've never wanted a child. I've wanted a lot of things in life, but can truthfully say a child is not one of those things. I have thought on occasion what it would be like to be a good husband. I think I would be. I have always desired someone to love and to love me in return. I could be a good husband.
Glancing up at the clock, I see that it's almost time to turn in these reports, and I busy myself with them. Time for ruminations later.
As I scan and sign the last report, I sigh. Of course now I can't keep my mind off my father's words.
I try to ignore them and think of the evening Ray and I have planned.
Due to Ray's encouragement and my own need for my own space, I have leased an apartment. It's a nice one-bedroom apartment with central air conditioning and Dief really enjoys it. In fact, he refused to accompany me today because he enjoys watching television while I'm at work. He insists I'm greedy when it comes to television watching, that I never let him watch what he wants. Not hardly. Ray gifted Diefenbaker with the television as a moving in present. He gifted me with a new bed.
The way Ray mocked my decision to sleep on my cot still stings a bit, but I must admit I truly enjoy sleeping in the bed he picked out.
Tonight he's coming to pick me up and we're going to my apartment for the evening. We're going to have dinner I'm making pork chops, one of his favourites, and we'll play monopoly or cards until the wee hours of the morning, no doubt. Thank God we have tomorrow off.
It hasn't been as hard to get back into the routine of being in the city as I feared it would be. Ray's a big part of that, I admit. When we got back from our adventure, I felt discomfited but he grinned at me and hugged me and said softly, "I'm glad ya came back."
Hearing him say that well. It eased my mind and my heart considerably.
Gathering up the reports, I take them into Inspector Carleton's office and leave them in his in box. He's gone early today. I suspect he's seeing someone.
Constable Spivens is playing a video game on his computer and I walk past and nod. He nods back.
"Fraser?" Ray calls from the doorway. I turn, a smile on my face and notice Ray's leaning against the doorframe in a peculiar way.
"Ray?" Concern colours my voice.
He starts to step towards me but falls flat on his face, leaving a red smear on the doorframe.
I blink, stunned, then rush over to him. Kneeling on the floor, I run my hands over his body. "Ray. Ray. Ray." When my best friend doesn't respond, I look up at Constable Spivens. "Call 9-1-1, please."
"Doing so now, Sir." He already has the phone to his ear.
Ray moans and rolls over onto his back. "Fuck, Fraser "
I carefully pull Ray's blazer to the side and wince. His white shirt is blood red now on his right side. I pull his shirt open, and see a stab wound. I hold my hand over it, feeling his warm blood ooze between my fingers.
"They're on the way, Sir," Constable Spivens informs me.
"Please. Get me a towel."
He rushes to the restroom and brings back one of the new white towels that we just purchased for the consulate, but I don't care. I hold it to Ray's side and murmur his name over and over.
Finally, Ray's eyes open and he looks up at me and croaks, "Pennichelli, Fraser."
"Understood." At Constable Spivens' confused expression, I mutter, "A malfeasant we have been looking for."
"Understood," Constable Spivens says, carefully stepping over Ray and opening the door to peer out. "I'll just pop outside to keep an eye on the paramedics, Sir."
"Very good. Thank you."
Ray's staring at me. I stare back, lost in the silver-blue of his eyes. When he starts to close his eyes, he murmurs, "Look in my inside pocket."
I scrabble at the front of his blazer and finally, my bloody fingers fasten around a thin box. I draw it out of Ray's pocket, staring in bemusement at the brightly coloured, gaily-wrapped box and he rasps, "Happy Birthday Fraser."
"Thank you kindly, Ray. But "
His hand fastens around mine and he whispers, "Don't feel real good."
"I know, Ray."
"Got a headache."
"Did he hit you on the head?" I demand.
"Uh yeah Fraser I came Diefenbaker pot pies Fraser "
His sentences become disjointed and his voice slurred and I feel a very real fear that I'm going to lose my partner.
Ray's mumbling and muttering and moving restlessly under my hands.
"Ray, please, lie still," I plead.
"Purple car Stella love Pennichelli Ben "
Just then the paramedics rush in and I move aside to let them get to work. "He said he was hit on the head also," I inform them. They nod and continue to work.
I stand there, numb, watching them work on Ray when I feel my father's hand on my shoulder. "He's lost a lot of blood, Ben."
"Do you know where he got hurt?"
"He had to park two blocks away."
I feel a surge of anger. Pennichelli is a small-time hood that we were looking for in connection with a pawnshop clerk's murder.
"Calm down, Son. I know how it feels to see a partner hurt. Once, Buck and I "
"Dad, not now."
If he continues to ramble on, I don't notice it. As they take Ray away on a stretcher, I turn to see Constable Spivens with a mop and bucket of sudsy water. "I'll just clean up, Sir. I've already rung a taxicab to take you to the hospital."
"Th thank you," I stammer and go to the restroom to wash up, the present he gave me still clasped in my hand.
Ray's my partner, he's my friend, that's why I'm worried. That's all. I won't let myself think on why I took this posting in Chicago after being offered a posting at home.
Damn it. I'm fooling no one, least of all myself. I love Ray. I'm just too scared to admit it to him. I've been in love with him for a very long time. I never wanted to tell him because I'm afraid. Afraid of being left alone.
I put the present on the edge of the sink and wash my hands until all the blood is cleaned away and then I pick up the present and carry it to my office while I change into civilian clothing.
I'm waiting outside in front of the consulate when the taxicab arrives. Before long we're at the hospital, and I'm waiting. Ray's in surgery.
I finally realise I'm still clutching the present in my hand and carefully, I unwrap it.
Two tickets to see La Bohème. He knows I've wanted to see it, but the tickets for this weekend were sold out. Yet, somehow, he managed to get tickets to see an opera that I know he has no interest in. For me.
I stare down at those two tickets for a moment then place them back in the box they were in. I close my eyes and resign myself for a longer wait.
I look up at a weary surgeon and surge to my feet, fear in my throat. "Is he "
"He's fine. Looked worse than it was. He's in recovery now."
"No permanent damage. I expect him to make a full recovery."
I sit back down, relieved beyond measure. Ray will be fine. Ray will be fine, and I will tell him how I feel about him, no matter the cost.
Two Days Later
"I want to go home," Ray grumbles, flipping irritably through a magazine.
"I'm sure the doctor will allow you to leave soon," I say, trying to soothe him.
He stares down at a glossy page in the magazine and then mutters, "You like your birthday present?"
"Yes, thank you so much, Ray. I'm quite looking forward to attending it. Will you be able to attend it with me?"
He looks up, looking shy and hopeful. "You really want me to?"
He shrugs. "Sure, if you want me to." He puts down the magazine and says, "I don't know Italian."
"That's all right, Ray. They have subtitles in English."
He runs his fingers across the white woven blanket that covers his legs and then mutters, "You could take someone else, you know."
Shocked, I stare at him. I finally find my voice. "Ray. There is no one I would rather have with me than you."
His face lights up. "Really?"
"Really." I'm finding it impossible to tell him I love him. I keep putting it off and putting it off.
Ray sighs and leans back against the mountain of pillows. He stares at me and I stare back, silence between us.
Finally he looks away. "You ever get tired of being a cop, Fraser?"
"I do," he admits.
"You do?" I lean forward a bit and pour myself a glass of water and take a drink.
"Yeah. I get tired of it. I'm thinking thinking about quitting."
I lower the glass and stare at him. "Why?"
"Because," he winces as he shifts. "I'm getting old, Fraser."
"You're injured, Ray." I pat his leg. "You'll feel better in no time."
"Fraser, if he'd've killed me "
I snap, "Don't say that."
"It could happen, Fraser," he says quietly, looking at me. "It could happen." When I don't say anything, he continues. "If he'd've killed me, would you miss me?"
My eyes widen. "What kind of question is that?"
"I'm just saying there's more to life than risking life and limb on a daily basis, Fraser." He shrugs. "I'd like to try living another life, one without constant danger and criminals."
"I see." And regretfully I do see. No need to tell him I love him when he's leaving me. No need at all. "So you'll be tendering your resignation?"
"Yeah. I will. I wanted you to know first." He looks over at me and asks quietly, "What will you do?"
"I I go on like I have, I suppose," I say quietly. "Yes. Well, thank you for being my partner." I start to rise to my feet and he looks confused.
"Where're you going?"
"Home. I thought I would go home." I can barely think right now.
"You don't wanna stay?" Ray looks at me and I see bewilderment in his eyes.
"I thought "
Ray's expression changes from bewildered to furious in an instant. "You mean you only want to be my friend if I'm a cop? Is that it?"
I frown. "No!"
"Then why're you leaving?" A frown mars his face and I sigh, sitting back down. "Why, Fraser?"
I look down at my knees, feeling unaccountably weary and tired of hiding what I feel. "Because I love you, Ray."
"You love me."
I sneak a look up at him and he doesn't seem to be angry. I nod.
"So you're leaving me. Because you love me." He grabs the glass I was drinking from off the table and finishes the water in one swallow.
I say nothing.
He stares at me for a moment then puts the cup down on the table with a 'thunk'. "Are you leaving because loving a man freaks you out? You homophobic?"
"I no. No, Ray, I'm not."
Ray stares at me, his voice harsh. "Then what? Explain it to me, because I don't understand."
"I just thought I wouldn't see you anymore," I say quietly, looking him full in the face. "You're quitting, I thought you were moving on."
"I don't leave people, Fraser. They leave me." Bitterness laces his words and pain floats in his eyes.
"I, too." I clear my throat. "I don't want to be left alone, Ray. And I've loved you for a long time. I never told you because I was afraid you'd leave me."
"So you tell me then offer to leave. Makes no sense."
"Love rarely does, Ray."
He laughs, a small, sad laugh. "Yeah, I know."
I glance up at the clock. Visiting hours are over. "I should would " I take a deep breath, feeling out of place and uncomfortable in Ray's presence, not sure what to say or do. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
He looks at the clock and looks disappointed. "Yeah, sure."
I draw his curtains closed he hates the light shining in his windows at night and then I put my hat on my head and start to leave.
I walk over to his bed and he grins up at me, puckering his lips.
I stare down at him, astonished.
He sighs irritably, reaches up, fists his hands in my shirt and pulls me down to him, capturing my lips with his. My hat tumbles off my head, falling to the floor opposite, and my hand cups his cheek as we kiss.
When he deepens the kiss, sliding his tongue into my mouth, I whimper. He pulls away from me then and looks at me with affection plain on his face. "Oh yeah. We'll do good together."
I just look down at him, bemused. My penis is throbbing and I realise I dare not move.
"You okay?" He peers up at me with a small smile.
"If I move, I'll orgasm," I confess.
He laughs and I grin at him as I wait for my erection to subside. I feel at ease with him again and am very thankful for that. When I can move again, I go get my hat and kiss his cheek, promising to see him tomorrow.
The Next Day
"How's Dief?" Ray asks as I assist him out of the taxicab into my apartment building.
"Quite addicted to soap operas and Animal Planet," I tell him as we step into the elevator. "Thanks to you."
"Me?" He looks at me with innocence in his eyes and I shake my head.
"Yes, you. I wouldn't even have a television if you "
He presses against me and mutters in my ear, his breath hot on my skin, "You wouldn't have a bed either, Fraser. Were you going to fuck me on your cot?"
Every drop of blood in my body heads to my groin and I shiver. "No, I I, ah, never think about fucking you."
Ray steps back, blinking. "You don't?"
It's my turn to move close to him, pressing my groin to his and whispering, "No. I don't." He slumps back against the wall of the elevator and I step back. As the elevator doors open, I look at him and say quietly, "I think about making love with you."
His shy, pleased smile warms my heart. He grabs my elbow and hurries me to my apartment.
As we get the door open, he slams the door shut and moulds his body to mine. His mumbled greeting to Dief is lost in my mouth as I kiss him hard, my tongue twining with his, and we, still holding onto each other, our hands under each other's shirts, sidle along the wall to the bedroom, attempting to remove clothing without removing our hands from each other's skin.
Finally, we give up, jerk our clothing off and he climbs into my our bed. He trembles as I lay down next to him. Not from fear, no from the desire and need and love that I see glowing in his eyes.
How could I have ever feared this?
I slid my hand down his chest, down his flat stomach, careful not to hurt him, caressing his hip before reaching for his penis, hard and leaking.
Still, he lies still, looking at me with trust and I kiss him again, scattering kisses across his skin as well as words of love. He suddenly rolls on top of me and begins to kiss me, his hands in my hair as he undulates against my skin, pressing into me, causing me to buck against him.
Before long, the only sound in the bedroom is our skin sliding against each other, our harsh breaths, and the words of love we cannot seem to stop speaking to each other.
He orgasms with a low, soft cry, and I follow after, holding him to me tightly, my lips on his cheek as I orgasm.
"Never gonna leave ya," he gasps.
"Nor I you," I promise, hugging him tightly. "Never."
"Let's move home. To Canada."
I nod, squeezing him tight. "Whatever you want, Ray. Whatever you want." I think back on my conversation with my father. I guess two out of three isn't bad I will be a good husband, and I have chosen an American.
He smiles at me and snuggles close, his long legs tangled around mine, and we hold each other a long time.
Sixteen Years Later
We have been married for sixteen years now. Sometimes, in moments of complete exasperation, I wonder how we've made it this far without killing each other, but quite honestly I cannot picture my life without Ray Kowalski.
He completes me, I complete him.
Truly a duet.
I watch as he repairs our snowmachine, his curses travelling far in the crisp clean air, and I smile. Despite the years, some things never change.
Our love is borne of the hard times, the good times, and the times in between.
At night, curled around each other, we whisper our love for each other against heated skin, me sliding into him as sure as coming home, our bodies bespeaking of the love we say with words and thoughts and deeds, and I know surely that I could never, would never, live without him.
He says the same, says I'm a good husband.
I don't know what I was so afraid of.
I really don't.