“Are you sure of this?” Marcus asked, having heard what Reis wanted after they had dinner.
“Positive”, Reis answered, and he was indeed. Without an argument, Reis made a phone call after a long online search, and made it official. He was to check in on his Saturday off, one day away.
The fennec fox was with him in the waiting room, which had pale-blue walls, metal chairs with cushions, and a coffee table of magazines. Marcus wore a black shirt and beige slacks. Reis wore a grey t-shirt and black jeans. The whole time of waiting, the couple held hands, which eased Reis partially of nervousness. That nervousness raised exponentially when he stood up, letting go of Marcus’s hand, upon hearing, “Mister Northcote” from a female voice. The receptionist led him in the short hall, and to an office, where someone already waited.
In the chamber, a tan two-seat couch, a desk chair, and an empty coffee table were arranged on a floor covered by a white carpet, the walls grey-blue. Against the wall behind the desk chair were a bookcase and a file cabinet. Next to them was a plain desk with a computer. Occupying the desk chair was a female cat, who had yellow-orange eyes and grey fur, save for the white hands and white neck, and wore a white suit and sky-blue shirt. She spoke, “You must be Reis Northcote.”
Sitting down the wolfdog replied, “That’s me.”
The cat added, “I’m Doctor Marlowe.”
Reis commented, “Nice to meet you.”
“I’m given to understand that this is your first time.”
Reis corrected, “Technically, no. I’ve spoken to other psychiatrists issued for police, but they were just listening ears. You’re my first real one.”
The cat said, leaning forward, “Okay. Well, as a way of getting to know you, I’ll show you a series of cards”—she placed her notebook and a stack of cards on the coffee table— “and you tell me about them.” Reis leaned forward as well. Upon lifting the first card, the cat asked, “What do you see in this?”
The first ink blot was an easy one. Reis answered, “Marcus. My husband.”
That card is put aside and then the cat lifts the second, asking, “What you see now?”
“Wrestling”, Reis answered bluntly.
On lifting the third card, the cat asks, “What about here?”
That one was hard to determine, but the cat was patient about Reis’s perception. He said, “Chains.”
The cat said nothing when showing the fourth card, and Reis went with it, his answer being, “A house.” Then on the fifth, something came back to him, and he was honest with it. “A body sprawled on the floor.” That didn’t phase the cat at all. She just lifted the sixth card, and upon a long examination, Reis said, “A heart.”
Pushing away from the coffee table, Marlowe spoke, “Care to tell me about your husband?”
“His name’s Marcus Laramie. He’s a fennec fox, works at a law firm a city away.” Reis then paused, expecting a further question, but the cat was quiet. So, he went on to tell of their history together: from them getting to know each other in grade school and being the best of friends throughout middle school and high school, to Marcus helping him overcome a drug addiction, to them becoming boyfriends, even the break from the relationship, to them being married for almost as long as Reis had been a cop.
“This has been interesting”, Marlowe stated, not looking up from her notebook. “But let’s pick up on your relationship later.” Finally looking up at the wolfdog, Marlowe requested, “Tell me about your job. What’s it like for you?”
“My feelings about it change a lot. Some days are stressful and some days are slow. Other days are somewhere in between. Kinda like working a restaurant… Something to both make days slow and stress me is the reason I’m here: the crime scenes. I’ve told about them to psychologists issued at the station because I don’t want my partner in the unit or my husband to worry about me.”
“And what makes you want to not be vulnerable?” Marlowe inquired.
Reis huffed before he explained, “I’ve kept to myself for a long time, even when I did drugs. I guess I isolated for so long that I’m used to having my walls up…” He looked away when making that statement. “But I let Marcus break a hole in that wall and I tore down the rest. Every fight that I get in when in uniform, I always want to win. I’ve taken bludgeons and cuts, but never a bullet. Even those fights, I told to no one.” Focusing on Marlowe again, he continued, “I still make sure that my colleagues don’t know of my old drug addiction. Cops have a habit of gossiping, you know, and when I know they talk about that, every will get all judgemental and I’ll eventually be provoked to a fight before aggressively quitting. The rookies might not care that I’m not the same as I was in high school.”
“I understand. Some of us forget about judging others for their images. You’re right: you can be judged for your past as well. Does your partner on the force know?”
“About my drug problem? Yes.”
“Please, go on. Give me a crime scene that got to you.”
Reis told about one of the latest crime scenes that he kept civilians away from until the clean-up crew was on it. However, he couldn’t stop at one. He told about several, including the aftermath of the fight in that apartment.
After a long series, Marlowe gave a long exhale before speaking, “This has been quite interesting, Reis, but we’re just out of time.” She checked her watch to confirm that.
Reis asked quizzically, “Really?”
Marlowe answered nonchalantly, “I know you want to talk more about what you’ve seen, but I have another patient waiting.”
Reis shrugged. “Time flies, I suppose.”
Marlowe inquired, “Will there be another appointment for a trial run?”
Reis answered, “Definitely.”
“Well, then, I recommend that you book within the next two weeks.”
Standing up, Reis responded, “I’d like that.” He stretched his body before heading in the hall.
Reis went right to the receptionist, to make another appointment, but whispering to her when he wanted to see Marlowe again, and he made sure that it’d be on his next day off.
Reis was the one behind the wheel of Marcus’s car. They were on the road when Marcus finally asked, “So, how did it go?”
“Quite well”, Reis answered.
Looking at the card that Reis had given him, to know the day and time of the next appointment, Marcus asked, “What did you tell her?”
Not looking at the fennec fox, Reis said monotonously, “Just the short version of the long story on our relationship, followed by crime scenes that I needed to talk about.”
Marcus turned to his husband, asking, “And which subject did you focus more on?”
“The crime scenes, of course”, Reis answered. Just having Marcus in the corner of his eye, he explained, “She asked how I felt about them, of course, and I was fine with that. I wasn’t done my list when we ran out of time, but she knows I wanna focus on them.” He inched a turn of his head, to add, “Frankly, I feel a little lighter. I was more thorough than I’d ever been.” He focused on the road completely when finishing that statement.
Marcus inquired, “Were the past psychologists, psychiatrists, whatever, at the station all men?” Silence. That was still an answer to the fennec fox, who muttered, “I see.” He let Reis be quiet for the rest of the drive home.
“There’s something different about you”, the grey and black lion stated as a greeting once Reis took the driver’s seat of their issued car.
Reis asked, staring at his partner, “You can tell?”
“It’s from the years of knowing you”, Karma answered plainly.
Reis focused on the road, responding, “Well, if you wanna know, I saw a psychologist on Saturday.” The day was Monday. “And I plan to have another appointment.” Karma was silent. So, the wolfdog asked, “Not gonna comment?”
“I see no reason to tease about it.”
Reis added, “And if you really wanna know, Marcus and I had sort of a magical night last night. Just relaxing together.” That prompted something. “By the way, do you often make time for cuddles?”
“Mostly when we turn in.” He shrugged. “What’s the point in sharing a bed if you don’t cuddle?”
Reis stated, “In TV in the sixties, they weren’t allowed to show two people in the same bed.”
“How stupid”, Karma commented.
“Very much so”, Reis replied. “But that was a rule in the media then. I wonder if shows following said rule didn’t age well.”
“That’s just one fact to judge on”, Karma pointed out, quite literally, raising a finger for a moment.
Reis admitted, “Yeah, there are bigger things and few other small things to bear in mind…” That got him thinking of the one topic that he didn’t feel like talking about.
After the roll call, Reis and Karma were among the many officers to get a copy of the reference book of what was expected on the promotion exam, both the written and the oral. Both of them packed their copies of the reference book, to start at the end of the day. Reis ended up eager to get at it, all the more when knowing that he and his partner were to work into the evening.
So much ended up on the wolfdog’s mind. He couldn’t wait to spill out to Marlowe again, but he wanted to make time for his husband even though he would study away. Furthermore, Marcus’s birthday was approaching, and Reis wanted to make that day memorable for his husband. Marcus had always been the one to give, and Reis would always try his best to give back. He just hoped that he could do that for Marcus’s birthday.
It was a slow day for the two officers in uniform. They only busted a few perps, but also issued a few tickets for traffic violations, though the latter was very likely out of boredom. The wolfdog and large feline were so restless that they kept alternating seats. Late in the afternoon, the wolfdog chose to bite. “When you signed us both up, did you actually consider taking the exam yourself?”
The lion quietly sipped his tea from the paper cup. The partners had each bought two caffeinated teas that day. “I thought only of you”, he answered.
“Because I think you deserve it.”
“Okay, let me elaborate: you may think that Marcus deserves a detective for a husband, but what if Massak wanted you to take it?”
Reis drank from his paper cup as he waited on an answer. Karma turned to him, looking tender, his ears droopy, and admitted, “My first choice was really a sergeant promotion. I have the experience, and I’ve had rookies turn to me for some kind of wisdom.” Silence flooded back, threatening to drown the partners when they couldn’t keep their heads above the surface anymore. Then, the lion continued, his ears perked up, “Massak has known for some time, my consideration to move up, but as we wanted to never leave a good relationship behind, I want you and me to move up together. I am sorry I didn’t ask you first, but I’m glad you’re willing to go through this.”
Reis gave a subtle smile. “You know, I’m glad I got to connect with someone I knew years ago, we got to show how we’ve grown. You’re a good friend.”
The moment of letting the words sink in was long enough before Reis’s ear bent to the side, and he placed his paper cup in the holder as he tilted his head and bent an ear, listening for something to follow a suspicious sound. That was something to keep the partners busy for a moment.
The late dinner was eaten in silence as Marcus was tired and didn’t want to cook anything until Reis got home. For that, they had a simple ramen. While Marcus had the TV on for background noise as he went over cases that he was on, Reis started reading the reference book, and was so busy with it that he didn’t know what time it was until his first yawn. Checking his watch, he ended up in a rush to turn in for the night.
In the morning that followed, Reis was in as much of a rush to start the day. He had to skip the shower, to have time for breakfast, and their silence didn’t last long. As Reis gobbled up his omelet and bacon, and guzzled his juice, Marcus commented, “You should pace yourself.” He might as well have been whispering, for Reis kept hurrying. Marcus then stated, “I hope everything’s okay.” That was when the wolfdog paused, to catch his breath, at least three quarters of his plate empty.
“I’m just trying to get as much as I can”, the wolfdog replied.
Knowing what Reis meant, Marcus reasoned, “Cramming so far ahead or so close wouldn’t be healthy. You’re already pushing yourself hard; you need at least a rest period.”
Reis sighed before he continued with his breakfast. After washing down another mouthful with juice, he said, “You’re right. But I don’t always work nine to five.”
“Neither do I”, Marcus retorted. That prompted the wolfdog to just quietly shrug as he finished up his plate and glass.
By the time Marcus was in his full black suit over a vermillion shirt and lavender tie, both he and the wolfdog heard the familiar horn honking. Reis, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, had his duffel bag in hand when the fennec fox approached him, to say, “Be safe, Love”, and kissed him, Reis hunching over, to reach him.
Karma was irritated that he had to wait for Reis, showering in the locker room of the station, and muttered to Reis, clad in his cop uniform, “Been a long time since you ran late. I hope you’re not like this again.”
Reis spoke, “Sorry, Karma, but I can’t assure to always be on time. I don’t like the early morning shifts, but someone has to patrol at that time.”
Karma responded, still not looking back as they headed for the bullpen, “It’s at least good that you weren’t up all night.”
There was silence between the partners as the chief gave out the specific assignments along with where the other units were to be stationed. The lion and the wolfdog took their assigned position in stride, that being outside the mall one town west.
Over the following days, Reis read through the exam handbook at least one chapter each day, both during lunchtime on duty and after dinner. Then, the day came for Reis’s next appointment with Marlowe. As promised, he got to tell her about other crime scenes that bothered him, which he described in gruesome detail, and yet the cat before him seemed unphased.
After a selection of scenes described to her, the cat, clad in a teal suit and glossy orange shirt, asked, “Let’s go back to your past. You were influenced by your parents in a poor way, correct?”
“Correct.” Reis explained, looking aside, leaning over, “My drug problem came from the path taken by my patients. I barely remember my dad as he OD’d when I was five. My mom was both a junkie and a criminal, already arrested multiple times over my childhood. So, I was with my aunt most of the time. My mom passed on while I was abroad and Marcus was in university. I wasn’t so close to my aunt; just the occasional holiday card.”
“And Marcus was there throughout all that. Based on how close you were to him, his parents must’ve treated you like their own.”
Reis scowled to her, responding, “I didn’t hang with Marcus because of his parents’ fortunes. We were legitimate friends since we knew each other. His parents were just very nice.”
Marlowe clarified, “I didn’t imply such. But without either of your own parents, you needed them.”
Reis sighed, “You’re right. I guess, without my real parents around, I wasn’t really social… Marcus got me to come out my shell, but none of my other friends stayed with me…” He then explained, “I remember through high school, I was social with the girls, but not romantic toward them. I didn’t join the wrestling team to impress them. Most interactions I’ve had with men is the times I got in fights. That must’ve led to my…”
Knowing where the wolfdog was going, she asked, “And Marcus helped you through that?”
“I only remember being on the brink of madness; I don’t even care to remember that, but it just makes me glad to have him…”
“Reis, what”- Marcus was interrupted by a long kiss following the slamming of the front door upon getting home from the psychologist’s office.
When the wolfdog pulled back, he looked tenderly in his husband’s eyes, ear bent back, and uttered lowly, “I just wanna express my love.” Marcus didn’t protest as Reis leaned forward slowly, to give him another long kiss. After another tender stare, the fennec fox and wolfdog headed to the bedroom, holding hands.
When near the bed, Reis eagerly unfastened the buttons of Marcus’s shirt, but had it slowly slide down Marcus’s arms. Reis then had a paw against Marcus’s now bare chest as the two exchanged a series of kisses. Before long, Marcus lifted Reis’s t-shirt, which he took off, and the wolfdog pushed away slightly, to get a breeze, before the tongues continued to lap in each other’s muzzles.
Slowly, the wolfdog slid his large paw down his husband’s chest and midsection until he heard a moan of surprise, and then one of pleasure, as the hand went down the fennec fox’s khakis, without undoing the belt or unfastening the pants. Managing to keep in synch, Marcus extended that courtesy by unbuttoning and unzipping Reis’s jeans. Now having a reason to, Reis slipped both the pants and underwear off his husband.
The wolfdog took in Marcus’s fully exposed body before he finished stripping himself as well. With only a light push as Marcus followed the lead, the fennec fox backed up and lay slowly on the bed. Reis moved to lay atop of him, and they both wrapped their arms around each other. The two had already gone off the edge, but they made the long time in the abyss worth remembering.
The couple had the blankets over their lower halves as they had their chests pressed against each other’s, Marcus holding onto Reis’s shoulders, Reis having his arms around Marcus. The fennec fox had to comment. “I know you’re passionate, Reis, but damn, you make sweet love.” Even though he was tired, he was able to grin.
Reis hadn’t forgotten the times of Marcus wearing him down, to have Reis shag him. For the one used to being topped, Marcus was the dominant one in the relationship. That all seemed to change when Marcus ceased his games of persuasion. Reis didn’t know how to reply at the moment. He just gazed lovingly at his husband, lightly kissing his nose.
Marcus then asked, “Any particular reason for such an occasion?”
Still having that loving gaze, the wolfdog replied, “Sometimes I need to be reminded how lucky I am.”
Marcus said wryly, “You were always a smooth talker.” It was still late afternoon. So, there was time to think about dinner later. For the time being, Marcus just wanted to cuddle with his lover.