Part 1

As he stood tentatively in the doorway of the hospital room, he could feel the knot of fear twist in the pit of his stomach as he recalled those long moments.
Why was it so difficult for her to let someone love her? He knew it was his fault that she lay in the bed before her, pale. IV's dripping slowly into a lifeless form.
Slowly, he made his way towards her, quietly, lest he disturb her and she realize that she wasn't alone. Though part of him wished she'd wake this instant so he could tell her how sorry he was, that it was all his fault. That everything would be all right if she'd just open her eyes and never leave him again.
Worrying the brim of his hat between strong hands, he quietly lifted a chair closer to the bed and sat, perched on its edge. He didn't really know what he was doing there. Certainly he'd be the last person she'd want to see if... no, when she wakes. Yet, something compelling bid him to her side as if his very life depended on it. He couldn't leave her. Wouldn't. He had to make certain with his own eyes that she'd be all right. She had to be.
Dare he touch her hand? Hold it securely in his? It was a tentative bond, but it was all he had. Carefully, so as not to bump the IV needle, he wrapped his fingers around her thin hand, breathing a small sigh of relief that it was warm to the touch. She looked so otherworldly that he feared... No! He wouldn't even think it.

She had to get better. She *would* get better.

He wasn't sure how long he'd sat in that chair, unable to move. Waiting. Every once in a while, a nurse would come in and check her vital signs, but she didn't stir. No one questioned his right to be there, and for that he sent up a prayer of thanks.
When she did start to move, he looked at her dumb-struck. Surely God hadn't answered his prayers? He wasn't worthy enough. He stood shakily and leaned over the bed. "Margaret?" he whispered, though his voice sounded loud to his own ears after the long hours of silence.
Slowly, she opened her eyes, blinked a few times, but didn't seem to focus on him.
"Meg?" he asked again, hoping for, and dreading, a sign of recognition from her. Her mouth moved but no sound came forth. When her tongue darted out to moisten cracked, dry lips, he quickly grabbed the cup from her tray which the nurse had filled with ice chips, and spooned a few into waiting lips.
After a few moments her face scrunched up and she started to sob. He quickly wiped the tears away with his thumb as he leaned closer, whispering to her that she would be all right. That he wouldn't leave her. That she needed to rest, assuring her he'd be there for her when she woke again.
He wasn't sure how much she understood, but after a few moments she fell back into a fitful slumber, and he sank into the chair relieved.


Days passed and Margaret didn't seem to be getting any better, though according to the doctors she was making marked improvement. He always made certain that no one else was visiting when he arrived, though that didn't appear to be a problem since she didn't seem to have many friends in Chicago.


He didn't have to turn to know who'd entered the room. He'd been avoiding Ray for days. Avoiding everyone. If he had to hear this 'wasn't his fault' one more time, he swore he'd go mad.
He could hear Ray move farther into the room and sighed as he sat straighter.

"You're a hard man to track." Ray said as way of an opener.

"Apparently, not hard enough." Ben, uncharacteristically replied.

Ray studied him for a moment, then slid another chair up to his. Sitting down with a sigh, folded his hands, his elbows on the arm rests, and waited.
"You look like shit." Ray stated without pretense.
When Fraser didn't answer, Ray decided to wait him out. For the first time since entering the room, since finding his friend safe after days of worrying, he was able to focus on Thatcher. The other times he'd come by looking for Fraser he'd barely paid attention to her. Not that he didn't care, he reminded himself, but at least he knew she was safe. No one had seen Fraser since she'd been taken by the ambulance.
Thatcher seemed a mere shell of herself. Of course, the accident could have been worse. Much worse. Not that he would have admitted it to anyone, but if she were to sit up and give him hell for dragging Fraser off on another hair-brained scheme, he'd feel a whole lot better. Ray knew it was his fault she was in here. 'No wonder Fraser's been avoiding me', he thought as he watched his friend watch her.
"Everyone's been worried about you." Ray stated, "Dief hasn't even been trying to steal my food. He just whines all day long."
'That seemed to get his attention'.

"I'd forgotten all about him." Fraser guiltily admitted, wondering just how many people he'd managed to let down.

"I wouldn't worry too much. Frannie's been pampering him like he's a baby. She's figuring you're going to pick him up eventually, and she's making all these crazy plans. I told her to leave you alone though."

Ben didn't appear to hear him at first, but then he muttered a 'thank you kindly'. Ray figured he could have told Fraser Canada had just been invaded by dentists and his reaction would have been the same.

"You should get some rest." Ray stated, but again, was met with only silence from the Mountie. "When was the last time you slept?"

Though he hadn't answered him, Ben was aware of the questions Ray asked. When was the last time he'd slept? It had to have been before the accident. How could he be expected to sleep when she was in here? He wondered. No, when he'd *caused* her to be in here, he corrected himself.
He tried not to think about the argument they'd had. A stupid argument over requisition forms. At least, that's the way it had started out. Up until that point, he'd tried everything he could think of to convince her to give him a chance. That protocol didn't factor into their feelings for each other. At times, she seemed to waver. Seemed to want a relationship just as much as him. But then that shell would close over her again. She'd be as distant as ever, giving him a menial task to do as she made her escape to the safety of her office. That's what he'd assumed the boiler was. Another way to keep him out of her way while she put more distance between them.

Ray couldn't stand the silence any longer. "Look Benny, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking of anyone but myself again, and because of that, Thatcher's in here. If I could take it back again, I would. Despite what you say, I know you have feelings for her."

Ben stared at him, then blinked. Had he heard him right? "Ray…"

"No, let me finish. I know you had things to do at the Consulate. And all I was doing was checking out a perp. I could have done it alone. But I didn't want to. Ok? I…" Making the confession wasn't easy for him, and the Italian stood and started pacing as he talked.

"Ray, it wasn't your fault." Ben assured him, astonished that he'd even think such a thing.

Ray stopped and turned to look at him. "Then who's fault was it? I'm the one that dragged you out, telling you that it was important and that I needed your help. It didn't matter that you told me you had to check out the boiler. What did I tell you? It wasn't going anywhere? That it 'wouldn't take long' ? Who else am I supposed to blame?"
Ray's rant was cut off when Fraser quietly spoke.


Stunned silence followed the simple confession.

"What? How could you think this was your fault. You weren't the one who-"

"I was the one who didn't follow an order from my commanding officer. And because of that, she's laying near death in this hospital." His voice raised with the self loathing he felt.
"I wasn't there for her. I'm a disgrace to the R.C.M.P." he stood and stared at Ray hard, then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Knowing what he had to do, he opened them and turned towards Meg. Leaning over, he placed a chaste kiss on her forehead and gently caressed her cheek.
"I'm sorry, Meg. Sorry for a lot of things." He whispered. After a moment, he stood and started to walk out of the room.

"Where do you think you're going?" Ray asked, not sure about the change he'd seen in his friend.

Ben looked at the stetson in his hand, then decisively placed it on his head. "To turn myself in."