Chapter Three: Before the Storm
The day dragged a little for Reggy, although he kept thinking back to the previous night which made it more bearable. They were almost at the end of their shift when a call came through requesting urgent assistance at a major traffic accident and Greg immediately hit the sirens and accelerated through the streets.
A scene of carnage awaited them at the scene on the highway. At least ten cars were involved in the pile-up, some of them barely recognizable; just twisted pieces of jagged metal. Reggy and Greg got out of the car, realizing they were the first on scene, and ran to check for survivors. The air was filled with the stench of gasoline and there was an eerie silence, broken only by the distant sound of approaching sirens.
The first car Reggy checked had a single occupant who was clearly dead. He grimaced before running to the next car, relieved to see a woman who was alive but unconscious, pinned in her seat by the steering column. He opened the passenger door, the only one that wasn't crumpled inwards, and a whimper from the back seat drew his attention to a five or six year old girl who had a nasty gash on her head.
"Hey there," he said softly so as not to frighten her. "What's your name?"
"Bella," the girl replied quietly.
"Hi Bella," he said gently, "I'm Reggy and I'm a police officer. We're gonna get you out of here okay?"
"What about my mom?" she said, beginning to cry.
"We're gonna get your mom out too Bella, I promise," Reggy said as Greg joined him.
"There's at least five dead," he whispered to Reggy. "Three others have managed to climb out with just a few scratches and bruises and there's a couple of people trapped in cars further down but I can't get to them."
"Okay," Reggy replied quietly. "Stay with them and wait for the other emergency services to arrive, I'll stay here."
The sirens were getting louder as he spoke and a screech of tires heralded the arrival of several ambulances and fire trucks.
He turned back to the little girl as Greg left and said, "It's okay Bella, help is on the way."
"You know, we've really got to stop meeting like this," a voice said beside him.
He turned to see Kriss starting to check the woman in the front seat as Brad went around to the other side to reach her more easily.
Reggy grinned, very happy to see him despite the horrific circumstances. "Bella?" Reggy called, "this is my friend Kriss. He's gonna make you and your mom feel better."
Kriss let Brad take over in the front and smiled at Reggy briefly before turning his attention to the little girl. "Hello Bella, that's a very pretty name." Bella managed a small smile. "Can you tell me where it hurts honey?"
"My head and my leg," she said, her bottom lip wobbling.
"It's alright," Kriss said gently. "I'm gonna climb in to get a better look at you, okay?"
"Hey Kriss," Brad called warningly. "There's a hell of a lot of gasoline leaking out underneath the car. You should wait for the fire service."
Kriss popped his head out of the car briefly as Reggy looked at the leak for himself. The firefighters were trying to free the people trapped in cars further down and putting out small fires which had sprung up in the twisted wreckage.
"They're busy at the moment and we might not have much time," Kriss said beginning to climb into the back seat but Reggy put out a hand to stop him, looking worried. "I'll be fine Reg," Kriss reassured him gently. "Let me go help Bella."
Reggy reluctantly loosened his hold and watched nervously as Kriss made his way over to her.
"Right Bella, I'm just gonna take a look okay?" Kriss said, waiting for her approval before examining her head wound then working his way down her body. When he reached her leg, which was pinned by the crumpled door, she let out a cry of pain.
"I'm sorry honey," he said sincerely, "I promise I'll make it better."
He turned to Reggy who was still watching closely. "Can you pass my kit please Reg?"
Reggy looked around and grabbed it, passing it over carefully. Kriss thanked him and quickly took out what he needed. Reggy grimaced when he saw him remove a needle, which didn't go unnoticed by Kriss who smiled slightly as he prepared an injection.
"Right Bella," Kriss said gently, "you're gonna feel a sharp scratch on your arm but it'll make the pain in your leg go away, okay?"
Bella nodded and looked away, scrunching up her face as Kriss quickly injected the painkiller.
"Well done," he said a moment later. "You know, you're braver than a lot of grown-ups I've treated. We'll have to tell your mom that later won't we?" She gave him an answering smile and he pointed to the bear she was clutching. "Who's this?"
"Charlie," she said quietly.
"Ah, and is Charlie hurt anywhere?"
"I think he bumped his head like me," she said, cuddling the bear closer.
"Well, I'll have to put a bandage on him too then, won't I?"
Reggy smiled as he watched Kriss expertly handle Bella, taking her mind off the situation, and felt his admiration for him grow considerably.
The firefighters had finally begun to free Bella's mother from the front, under the watchful gaze of Brad who was monitoring her vital signs closely. They were unable to use anything which would create sparks due to the leaking gasoline and that slowed the process down considerably. A loud boom sounded when one of the other cars went up in flames nearby and they all jumped.
"Okay guys," the fire chief said loudly to his crew freeing the trapped woman, "we need to hurry this up." He looked at Reggy, who's heart rate had increased considerably. "Can you move everyone back to a safe distance officer? We can handle it from here."
Reggy looked back at Kriss, plainly torn between his duty and his need to stay by Kriss's side.
"I'll be fine Reg," Kriss said firmly. "Go on."
With a pained expression Reggy got out of the car and walked away, hating his feeling of complete helplessness.
Reggy stood with Greg, holding the crowd of curious onlookers back, and felt sick to his stomach as the seconds ticked by, wanting nothing more than to run back to the car and drag Kriss out of there. Greg noticed his agitation and tried to reassure him but without much success; all of Reggy's attention was focused on the crumpled car and the huddle of firefighters surrounding it. They had managed to free Bella's mother, who had been rushed by Brad to a waiting helicopter, and were now working on freeing Bella. She was the last survivor in the line of mangled wreckage; all the other people who had been trapped in their cars had already been taken to hospital.
There was a sudden buzz of activity around the car and the crowd behind Reggy and Greg pushed forward slightly to get a better look. Reggy felt a surge of relief as Kriss finally emerged, carrying Bella, and quickly made his way to a nearby ambulance to let another team take over while the firefighters made the crash site safe.
"Greg...," he began.
"I got it," Greg assured him. "Go."
When Reggy saw Kriss, Brad was talking quietly to him as they watched the ambulance speed off. Brad noticed Reggy approaching and murmured something to Kriss which made him turn and smile but before he could utter a word, Reggy had pulled him into a hug.
"Hey, I'm fine," Kriss said gently, his hands automatically moving up to return the embrace as Brad stood looking uncomfortable.
"Just humor me for a minute," Reggy murmured, closing his eyes and refusing to let go.
Brad cleared his throat loudly after a few moments and Reggy reluctantly stepped back, smiling sheepishly at Kriss who smiled back softly.
"Oh sorry," Kriss said abruptly, looking between them, "I haven't properly introduced you two have I? Reggy...Brad,Brad...Reggy."
"Hi," Reggy said, holding out his hand with a smile.
Brad reached to shake it unenthusiastically. "Hey." Reggy saw him narrow his eyes slightly, as if trying to work him out, before he turned to Kriss and said, "I'll be in the ambulance okay?"
"Man, he really doesn't like me does he?" Reggy remarked, shaking his head in amusement, as Brad walked away.
"Oh don't mind Brad," Kriss said reassuringly, waving a hand, "he's just a little over-protective, that's all. I'm sure he'll love you once he gets to know you."
"Mmm, I wish I shared your optimism," Reggy sighed, then remembered the little girl. "Hey, is Bella gonna be okay?"
"Her leg's badly broken and she's got a slight concussion but she should be fine."
"And her mom?"
"I don't know," Kriss replied grimly, rubbing a hand across his face wearily. "She suffered severe crush injuries to her abdomen. They won't know the extent of the damage until they can get her to hospital, but she has a good chance....she's in the best hands now."
"Just like Bella was," Reggy said sincerely, taking hold of Kriss's hand and rubbing it. "You know, you were great in there."
Kriss smiled, both at the compliment and the open gesture of affection, and shrugged. "Part of the job."
They stood smiling at one another for a moment and Reggy found himself getting lost in Kriss's gaze, his body unconsciously shifting closer. Then he noticed Greg walking over out of the corner of his eye and groaned, knowing he couldn't put this meeting off any longer.
"The crowd's dispersed now the excitement's over and our shift has officially finished," Greg told Reggy with a grin as he reached them, aware that he'd interrupted an intimate moment. He ignored Reggy's scowl and looked at Kriss with interest.
"Hi I'm Greg, Reggy's partner....on the police force that is," he smirked, holding out his hand as Reggy looked resigned to the inevitable embarrassment.
Kriss shook his hand firmly. "Kriss," he said, glancing at Reggy's expression and grinning, "I guess that makes me Reggy's partner off the force. Hey, does that make us some weird kind of threesome?"
Greg snorted and said to a flushed, open mouthed Reggy, "I like him already."
"So tell me Greg, does he always get embarrassed this easily?" Kriss asked, eyes twinkling in amusement.
Greg shrugged and grinned evilly. "Only when he's around someone he really likes."
"Okay, that's enough you two," Reggy said firmly, having turned a nice shade of red.
Greg and Kriss burst into laughter. "Sorry Reg," Kriss said, putting an arm around him, "I just couldn't resist."
"So Kriss," Greg said, noticing the smile Reggy couldn't keep hidden, "does your shift finish soon? We could all go out for a drink."
"I'd like that but unfortunately I've still got a few more hours," Kriss replied with a sigh, "and I really should get going. Another time though."
"You bet," Greg grinned.
Kriss picked up his kit and put his hand on Reggy's arm. "I'll call you later, okay?"
Reggy nodded. "Sure."
"It was nice to finally meet you properly Greg," Kriss smiled and Greg called, "Likewise," as Kriss walked away, glancing back over his shoulder with a grin and a wave.
As Reggy watched him climb into the ambulance with Brad, Greg clapped him on the back and said, "You've found a good one there Reggy. Don't let him go."
"I don't intend to."
Saturday couldn't come soon enough for Reggy. He'd spoken to Kriss on the phone several times since the day of the accident but it wasn't the same; the simple fact was that he missed him. He woke up early on Saturday morning and jumped out of bed enthusiastically. This was a rarity for him as he was most certainly not a morning person but he couldn't help being excited at the prospect of an entire day in Kriss's company. He had arranged to pick Kriss up from his apartment, since he already knew where it was, and then they were going to have a picnic in a park a few blocks away and just hang out. Neither of them wanted to do anything too taxing on their day off as they were both exhausted from a difficult week.
He arrived at Kriss's apartment a little early and felt the familiar flutter of nerves as he knocked on the door.
"Just a second," Kriss's voice called and Reggy's heart lurched at the sound.
He also heard barking then Kriss growl, “Mokka! Shut up!” but the barking continued, Reggy couldn't help but to smile.
A few moments later the door opened to reveal a casually dressed Kriss who was smiling brightly. "Hey Reg, I just need two minutes okay? Come in. Mokka, for the love of god!" He proceeded to disappear into another room as Reggy hesitantly stepped inside and closed the door.
It was a nice apartment, the decor of which seemed to match Kriss's personality; warm and inviting. As he looked around curiously, and there in front of him was a medium size dog, sand colored fir and amused brown eyes seem to be studying. There was graying about the dog's nose and it's ears were perked head tilted slightly to the left. The tail that curled upward was moving side to side even so.
"Hello," Reggy said as he bent down slowly. The dog stood there not moving 'cept ever so of it's tail.
Kriss quietly peered at them, “It is okay, Mokka. He is fine.” Kriss said with a smile as he came back in, pulling on a sweater. The dog, Mokka jumped slightly at the unexpected voice of it's master, but went to Reggy and let him pet her. "Be warned, she will love you forever now. That right, Mo-mos."
Reggy grinned and continued to stroke the dog as Kriss grabbed his keys. Then bent down beside, Mokka turned her attention to Kriss, as he spoke he pet her head, “We will be back in a little while, you be good. Couch.”
Mokka's ears were down and regarded them for a moment, turned and troded to the couch. She paused before jumping onto it her chin resting easily on the seat, looking at them sadly.
“Mokka, don't do this. I will bring you back a treat. Now get up there.” Kriss waved his hand.
Mokka's ears perked at the word and jump up and promptly laid down, “Ata, girl.”
"Okay, I'm all yours," Kriss smiled at Reggy.
Reggy was still lost in the very human characteristic of the dog and the display between them. Mokka understood Kriss in a way that went beyond dog and owner but dad and daughter.
Before Reggy realized that he was in the hall he was immediately pulled into a kiss. "Hi," Kriss said with a smile as he pulled back.
"Hi," Reggy grinned, part of him wishing they could just go back into the apartment and stay there all day.
Kriss smirked, almost as if he'd read Reggy's thoughts, and gestured forward. "After you."
It turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing day; certainly the happiest days off Reggy could ever remember having. He didn't usually like sitting around and doing nothing, being the sort of person who preferred to keep busy at all times, but when he was with Kriss it didn't seem to matter. It was enough just to chat and laugh together in their own little world, oblivious to everything around them.
By late afternoon they were both lying on the picnic blanket contentedly, Kriss's head resting on Reggy's chest, and watching the clouds drift by, seeing what shapes they could make out.
"Elephant," Reggy said, pointing to a fat, lumpy one.
"Mmm. That one looks like a train," Kriss murmured.
"Hey, those two clouds are mating," Reggy exclaimed, watching two medium clouds merging to become a larger one.
Kriss snorted. "If that's true, I don't even want to think about what rain actually is." He felt the rumble of laughter vibrate through his head and grinned.
"Hey look, that one's definitely a dragon," he said, pointing to a particularly fluffy cloud right overhead.
Reggy squinted at it, tilting his head. "No, it looks more like a bear."
"Oh come on, it doesn't look anything like a bear. What sort of a bear has wings, hmm?"
"A dead one?" Reggy said with a grin.
Kriss laughed and looked up at him. "Nice try, but it's clearly a dragon."
Reggy shook his head firmly. "Bear."
"Right," Kriss said, sitting up abruptly and turning to face him, "this calls for drastic action."
Before Reggy could ask what he meant, Kriss had launched an attack and was tickling him mercilessly. Reggy shrieked and tried to grab his hands, giggling uncontrollably.
Kriss quickly discovered that Reggy was most sensitive on his sides and concentrated his efforts there with a grin. "Aha, I've found the chink in your armor officer," he said triumphantly. "Do you surrender?"
"Never," Reggy managed to gasp and, summoning all his strength, he pushed Kriss sideways onto the ground and pinned him down firmly, their faces inches apart.
"Nice move," Kriss smirked, his eyes sparkling, as Reggy tried to catch his breath.
"Now what are you gonna do?" Reggy challenged.
Kriss chose to answer by lifting his head and kissing him firmly. Reggy responded eagerly, pressing him back down, and Kriss pulled his hand free and placed it on the back of Reggy's head to hold him in place. Reggy was unable to suppress a moan as Kriss opened his mouth, their tongues meeting and entwining, loving the taste of him. If he thought their last two kisses were good, this one blew them out of the water.
Some time later, Reggy pulled back in a daze and looked down at Kriss's smug expression.
"Okay," Reggy said with a smile, "you win that one."
Reggy was happier than he'd ever been before; his relationship with Kriss was going from strength to strength. They'd been on several more dates since the picnic a week ago and Reggy now felt comfortable showing his affection more openly, knowing Kriss always welcomed it. They hadn't gone any further than kissing yet; both agreeing that their relationship was too important to ruin by going too fast. Reggy wasn't sure how much longer he could take the go slow approach though; Kriss lit a fire within him which was difficult to control.
"Hey, do you wanna come to a barbeque at my place this weekend?" Greg asked as they worked through a large pile of paperwork on their desks. It was nearing the end of their shift and Reggy was counting down the minutes, looking forward to meeting Kriss after work.
"I dunno Greg," Reggy replied, "it depends what Kriss's plans are."
"Well I was referring to both of you," Greg said, rolling his eyes. "Come on, everyone's dying to meet him."
"Mmm, I don't know," Reggy said dubiously.
"Well I'll just ask Kriss then," Greg said cheerily, looking over Reggy's shoulder towards the door.
Reggy turned in his seat and looked momentarily shocked as he saw Kriss make his way through the crowd, still in his uniform.
"Oh, he's cute Reggy," Kip said, appearing out of nowhere and staring at Kriss.
"Hey, hands off," Reggy growled, giving him a warning look.
"Take it easy man," Kip said, holding up his hands, "it was just an observation, that's all."
"Hey," Kriss smiled as he reached them. "I was in the area so I thought I'd meet you here; saves traveling all the way across town and back."
"You don't need to convince me," Reggy grinned, trying to ignore Kip who was bouncing excitedly next to him. Figuring he might as well get it out of the way, he said, "Kriss, this is my friend Kip....he's been dying to meet you."
"Hi," Kriss smiled, holding out a hand which Kip grasped firmly.
"Nice to meet you Kriss," Kip said, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "We're all so happy Reggy's found you. You know, he's not nearly so grumpy now."
Reggy looked indignant and Kriss chuckled, "Glad I could help." He moved to perch on the edge of Reggy's desk, next to his chair, and heard Reggy muttering mutinously under his breath as he continued to work. Reggy's left hand automatically moved to rest on Kriss's leg, instinctively needing the contact.
"Hey Kriss," Greg interjected, "we're having a barbeque at my place this Saturday if you're interested. I couldn't get a straight answer out of Reggy."
Greg noticed with a small smile that Kriss was absentmindedly entwining his fingers with Reggy's as he replied, "I'll have to check my shifts but sure, sounds like fun."
Reggy snorted as he finally finished the last of his paperwork and stacked it neatly. "You won't be saying that when they're all interrogating you on Saturday."
"Well, I've had some practice dealing with interrogation so I'm sure I can take it," Kriss grinned and Reggy looked up with a smile, squeezing his hand as he remembered their first date.
"Great," Greg said, clapping his hands together, "it starts at four. It'll only be a few friends and neighbors." He noticed Kip's expectant expression and added, "Yes Kip, you and Kenney are invited too."
"Okay," Reggy said, abruptly getting to his feet and putting on his jacket, "I'm all yours."
"Damn straight," Kriss smirked.
Greg and his wife Piper owned a large house in the suburbs of Harris where it was quieter and less congested. Reggy knew that their choice of location had a lot to do with the fact that they planned to start a family in the not too distant future.
It was a perfect day for a barbeque; sunny, warm, and not too breezy, but Reggy would have liked to give the whole thing a miss. For one thing, he wasn't keen on sharing Kriss with everyone and wasting precious time off together but mostly it was because he knew they were going to tease him mercilessly. Kriss was looking forward to it though so he accepted his fate with good grace.
When they arrived, Piper opened the door and smiled; immediately pulling Reggy into a hug. "Hey Reggy, it's been too long."
Reggy couldn't help but return the smile. He'd known Piper almost as long as he'd known Greg. She was a genuinely caring kind of person, the sort of person you could talk to about anything without fear of being judged, and had been very supportive when he'd finally admitted he was gay. Everybody loved Piper, it was almost impossible not to, and she was absolutely the perfect person for Greg. Although he'd never admit it, Reggy had been very envious of their relationship when he'd been alone. That seemed a long time ago now.
He returned the hug and replied, "It's good to see you Piper; looking as gorgeous as ever I see."
She smiled at the compliment and turned her attention to Kriss. "And you must be Kriss."
"Guilty as charged," Kriss grinned, accepting a hug also. "It's nice to meet you."
"You too," she smiled. "You know you've made quite an impression on the boys."
"A good one I hope," Kriss replied and she laughed, putting an arm around him and guiding him through the house to the backyard. Reggy followed the two of them, smiling as he listened to them chatting as if they were life-long friends.
The backyard was filled with about twenty people or so, standing in huddled groups and chatting, most of whom Reggy knew albeit not very well. Piper led them both outside, introducing Kriss to anyone he hadn't already met.
"Hey Kriss," Greg shouted in greeting when he saw him. He was standing next to the barbeque, wearing an apron which said "Danger: men cooking."
"Nice to see you too Greg," Reggy called good-naturally.
"Well I see you everyday," Greg shrugged. "I only get to see Kriss when you're not monopolizing him."
Reggy looked indignant and Kriss put an arm around his waist, unable to suppress a smile. Kenney and Kip walked over to join them, handing them each a cold beer.
"Hi Kriss," Kenney said warmly, holding out a hand, "I'm Kenney."
"Nice to meet you," Kriss smiled, shaking his hand. "Are you a cop too?"
"Yeah, I'm Kip's partner. I apologize for him in advance."
"Hey," Kip exclaimed, shoving him sideways with a mock glare.
"What?" Kenney laughed. "You know you're gonna question him to within an inch of his life."
"Well, Reggy won't tell us anything," Kip said defensively, "and I need details."
Kriss took a sip of beer, watching the pair in amusement. "Okay, fire away."
Kip looked triumphant. "Well, first of all, how exactly did you two meet?" he asked eagerly.
Reggy groaned and Kriss glanced at his lover with a grin, "Well....Reggy threw coffee over me."
Kenney, Kip, and Piper all burst into laughter as Kriss grinned and Reggy rolled his eyes.
"Wow...very subtle Reggy," Kip gasped once he'd brought his laughter under control. "I'll have to remember that one."
"Okay, I need to hear this," Greg called, wiping his brow and making his way over to stand next to Piper who was wiping her eyes.
"It wasn't like that," Reggy replied exasperatedly. "It was an accident; neither of us were looking where we were going."
Kriss grinned and shrugged. "Well he certainly made an impression."
Greg snorted. "I'll bet."
"Anyway," Reggy continued loudly over the guffaws, "we got talking and the rest is history."
"Oh, that's so romantic," Kip gushed, holding a hand to his heart. "Who asked who out?"
"I did," Kriss smirked. "I would have been waiting months if I'd left it to Reggy."
"Hey!" Reggy protested, playfully nudging his shoulder and Kriss laughed. "Well I would have; I could see you were bottling out so I had to make the first move."
"I would have asked you out eventually," Reggy grumbled.
Kriss squeezed him gently, "I know, but think about how much time we would have wasted." Reggy smiled in spite of himself and gave him a quick peck on the lips.
"Ahh," Kip sighed, "aren't you two the cutest."
Reggy glowered at him and Kip grinned cheekily.
"Well, I'm very happy for you both," Piper said warmly. "Everyone needs someone to share their life with." She looked at Greg tenderly and he kissed her lovingly.
"Um...Greg?" Kenney frowned, looking over Greg's shoulder, "your burgers are on fire."
"Fuck," Greg cursed, rushing to try to salvage them. Piper shook her head and went over to help.
"And that's why I ate before we came," Reggy smirked.
Despite the charcoaled food, Reggy had to admit that he enjoyed himself. He was relieved and a little proud that everyone had taken such a shine to Kriss; wholeheartedly approving of his choice. They all seemed fascinated by Kriss's job, asking endless questions about his most bizarre and memorable cases, but Kriss didn't seem to mind talking constantly. Reggy stayed by his side all evening, happy to finally have someone to call his own. He'd always tried to avoid social gatherings in the past, fed up with the constant questions about when he was gonna settle down but now he was thoroughly content.