Chapter 17

Ray was mute. All the emotions and words stumbled upon each other so that nothing got out, no sound of intellect. Fear and relief fought each other, and only the touch of those two living creatures kept him anchored. He had been close to death before, he had been injured before, if it was only death or pain he could face it... but to lose his life while he still was breathing, that was something he hadn't been prepared to. To be helpless, to be in mercy of others for not only some time of recuperation, but maybe for the rest of his life... To be useless.

To be nothing.

He gasped, on the verge of shattering to pieces. He wanted... he wanted to be left alone. That was it, he wanted to be left alone. Nobody would bloody hell see him break. Not him.

"Go" he managed to grunt, pushing Bodie's hand away. It was hard to breathe. But his hand was again in a warm grip. "Go. Bodie... leave me alone." He felt the hand hesitate, and then slowly let go.

He couldn't see a thing, his eyes were burning so he squeezed them shut, using all his willpower to breathe in and out, and try to hold on to... to what? Pride? Dignity? Self-respect? His gasp for breath was a wail.

Two pairs of eyes were fixed to him in total silence, both knowing they were not wanted, yet unwilling to leave their partner. But the animal instinct was not burdened by human doubts. The tiny tabby understood his companion hurt, and this hurt, great pain came from somewhere very deep, and it could make his companion go away to hide... leave his group, vanish. So step by step, letting out short, frightened meows, almost like muted cries, the tabby most carefully lowered himself on man's arm to avoid the ribs, and slowly crept by his mate, calling him as he had in vain called his mother, trying to reach into the hurt, to maintain the bond, to not be left alone again. He was scared to approach the man, but that fear of being clawed or bitten was overcome by fear of being left again. And shaky, horrified kitten sneaked beside the man's chin, pleading, calling, until he finally turned his gaze to the other man to ask for reassurance.

That look from the eyes of wordless little kitten was like a cry, and it drilled into the quiet man, hurting, resonating with his own feelings. Bodie swallowed and turned away. He would be hated, yeah, either by Ray or by himself. Not many choices to pick from.

After a long moment his voice made it to Ray's consciousness. "Sorry mate. I can't. I just can't." And Ray felt warmth come back, closer, until he realised he was held gently. "I can't go." The quiet whisper swept away the rage he tried to muster. "You see, Doyle, Georgie and me... we... shit..." Ray heard Bodie swallow and clear his throat. "We need you. I need you."

And Bodie's head was right next to Ray's. "Guess I need you more than you've ever needed me. Don't close the door on me, Ray. We're a team. We've seen all shit. I... I can't make this undone, Ray, but don't close the door on me. I'm your mate. And you're the best mate I've ever had... best friend."

In silence they felt Georgie shift slightly between their heads. He had stopped his heartbreaking calls and was now silently and tensely waiting what would happen with his giant companions who were now so close. His instincts told him to be ready to run for safety... and suddenly he felt Ray's body tense.

It took a while before Ray was able to speak again. Georgie was trying to dry his cheek, and Ray was thankful the little kitten was blocking Bodie's sight to his tear-marked face. Not that it would make any difference anymore, and he just was too tired and exhausted to really care. Bodie was warm and steadfast against his side. Ray was so tired... more tired than ever before. He only wanted to shut his eyes and shut this day and the entire world out.

Bodie listened to Ray's silence. It had been terrifying to witness his mate breaking down... and Ray would probably hate him for it. But Bodie hadn't flinched. And somehow he knew that this probably had been the worst. Yes there would still come hard times for his curly-haired mate, when fear and frustration would sweep over him. And there would come times when Ray tried to push Bodie away, but yet Bodie was sure that none of those would be as hard to tackle than what had just passed – as if Ray had collapsed inside. And all that Bodie could do was to hold him.

And Bodie understood Ray. He knew his mate well enough to know that immobility was for Ray even worse thing to bear than threat of dying. Yet somehow Bodie would have to find the way to get his mate fighting again, if not otherwise, then really kicking Ray's arse. That was the one thing he was really good at: irritating Ray. Once they would be out of this cottage, and Ray would be safe in hospital, Bodie would do all in his power to get his mate's eyes flash again. But he would have to be careful so that it wouldn't backfire.

Georgie had now done all he could dealing with the salty cheek and moved back. Bodie noticed that Ray looked tired and he pulled the quilt up again. "Have a nap, mate. A bit more sleep will do us both good. I wake you up at 8 for breakfast if I'm awake myself. OK?"

" 'kay" came quiet reply. Bodie settled himself comfortably next to his mate, earning purr from Georgie who now was convinced nobody would get clawed or vanish, and was able to relax again in the warmth of his two companions. Both men managed to doze off in that comforting sound.