Disclaimer: The Characters of Due South belong to Alliance Communications. No copyright infringement is intended.
I originally started this back right after I saw Call of the Wild. Unfortunately, I lost the story disk and never found it again. It also had two completed Sentinel stories on it. Sigh. As I've mentioned before, I'm totally museae driven, and when I got up this morning...okay, when I woke up this morning, this was waiting for me.
Much to my surprise, this is a prequel to 'Ray's on First'. It wasn't planned, but there you go. The ending, by the way, was a surprise to me. My musae do have odd senses of humor at times. I think Many and Varied may be responsible for this one. I know for certain that it wasn't Dark and Gloomy, although, I suppose, it could have been Sweetness and Light. I'll let you decide.
Again, and as always, I do not own the characters of Due South, nor do I make any monetary profit from writing these stories. Also, as always, I am grateful to those men (and women) of genius who did create them and the actors who brought them to life. I also thank the owners of the intellectual property I borrow for their forbearance in not suing me for their use.
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They'd been out in the late winter tundra for nearly two months, now. In that time, Stanley Raymond Kowalski had gone from an extreme tenderfoot almost to 'sourdough' status. He had learned to cook on an open fire, perhaps not great cooking, but at least edible, and he'd learned to mush. Now, for instance, he was on the runners of their sled, the dogs trotting along (he'd learned that, contrary to popular belief, sled dogs generally didn't run everywhere, mostly, they trot) and Fraser snow-shoeing off to the side. Ray was still rather clumsy on snowshoes, but he had gotten better. He was also in the best physical shape of his life. He'd actually gained weight, but looked thinner, as every ounce on his frame was lean, strong muscle. Working muscle, not muscles built from 'pumping iron', real muscles.
Fraser had said the night before that spring was almost here. Ray still couldn't tell the difference. It had snowed the day before and they'd taken shelter against some rocks to break the wind. They'd put their tent up and pulled all the dogs in with them. Diefenbaker had been miffed the first time that happened, despite Fraser's explanation that they needed the body heat from the other dogs to keep Ray warm. The dogs loved Ray. He was always giving them bits of pemmican for treats and they had quickly learned to stick close to him and come immediately when he called them, as they never knew when he'd give them something. Fraser would chastise him that he was spoiling the animals and Ray would always reply that they were living, breathing, caring beings and entitled to a little attention. Fraser would always look thoughtfully at Diefenbaker and concede the point. Twice, it saved their lives.
The first time, Ray was just learning to mush. He'd grabbed hold of the handles of the sled and stepped up onto the runners. Shouting "Hike!", the dogs took off. He hadn't been as prepared as he thought he was and the dogs broke into a run, leaving him flat on his back in the snow. Many a musher had died because their dogs had run off. Ray simply whistled and the dogs turned back, hoping for a treat. He'd given them each one. Fraser was impressed.
The second time, was now.
Fraser was moving along on his snowshoes, when he suddenly fell through an invisible, snow covered crevasse in the glacier. He yelled in surprise as he fell, but hit his head on something as he landed.
Ray turned to see what Fraser was yelling for and didn't see him. "Whoa!" he shouted to the dogs, who immediately stopped. Setting the snow brake, Ray headed over to where he'd last seen his partner. He had learned to be cautious. Besides, he wasn't wearing snow shoes.
He spotted the break in the smooth surface and went immediately to his hands and knees, crawling to the edge of the hole. It wasn't a big hole, nor was it very deep, thankfully. However, about twelve to fifteen feet down, lay Fraser. There was a red stain of blood spreading around his head and he was unconscious. It was too far down to just jump in. He'd never be able to get them back out, particularly not if he had to carry his partner. Standing up, he returned to the sled.
"Okay, puppies. We got to turn around. Haw! Hike! Haw! Hawhawhaw!" The dogs turned left and circled back to the hole. "Whoa!" The dogs stopped. Ray had lined up the sled with Fraser's position, perfectly. "Down," he told the dogs, who immediately sat or lay down in their traces. He took their hundred foot length of climbing rope and tied it to the sled, low, near the runners. He didn't set the snow brake, as he intended to use the dogs to pull them out, if necessary. He did remember to pack some snow over and behind the runners so his weight going down didn't pull the sled and the dogs after him.
He got their first aid kit and both of their sleeping bags from the sled and strapped them to his backpack frame and hoisted it onto his back. Tying the loose end of the rope around his body, he cautiously backed to the crevasse and eased himself over the edge and down.
He was a bit surprised to see, buried in the snow, a pile of rocks. Fraser had hit his head when he landed and was bleeding profusely from the cut on his jaw, and the swelling on his forehead bespoke the force with which he landed. Ray winced in sympathy and hoped that his friend's jaw wasn't broken. He ran his hands over Fraser's body, looking for other injuries, not an easy task in the bulky insulated suits they both wore. Finding no other apparent injuries, he pulled off his pack and got out their sleeping bags. He didn't want to move him any more than necessary until he woke up. Unzipping both bags, he then put them together. Without the dogs to keep them warm, he was going to have to use his own body heat to keep Fraser from going into shock and freezing. Setting the bags behind Fraser, he gently rolled him over, mindful of any possible neck injury. He tugged the zipper closed on that side and set about taking care of the gash on Fraser's chin.
It probably could have used a couple of stitches, but he got the bleeding stopped and used butterfly bandages to hold the edges of the gash closed. He then applied some antibiotic ointment and some gauze, with some tape to hold it in place. When Fraser regained consciousness, he could decide for himself what more they should do. It was cold and Ray shivered. He wasn't ready to lie down, however. He was curious about the rocks Fraser had landed on. It seemed strange to find a pile of rocks like this at the bottom of a crevasse. He went to look more closely at them.
He was warm. That was nice. His head hurt, and his jaw ached. He wondered who had hit him? Ray? No. They hadn't fought, well, not physically at least, since the Robert MacKenzie incident. There was a warm weight on his chest. He wondered, at first, if it were Diefenbaker, then realized that it was too big, and too heavy. Shifting slightly, he realized it was human. Ray? Why on earth was Ray sleeping with him? Deciding to find out, he opened his eyes.
Ah. He remembered. He'd fallen through a covered crevasse. Obviously, Ray had come down to help him. He could see the night sky above, and the first, faint flickerings of the Northern Lights. He shifted slightly and Ray awoke.
"Hey, you were out a long time, Benton-buddy. How you feelin'?"
"Like you punched me, Ray."
Ray chuckled. "Yeah, well I didn't do nothin' to you. Besides the headache and the sore jaw, how you doin'?" He shifted away from his friend and looked closely at him in the darkness.
Fraser shifted around and was satisfied that he was otherwise unhurt. "I'm fine, Ray."
"Good. That's good. Uh, I gotta ask you somethin'."
"What's that, Ray?"
"What do we do if we find that Franklin guy?"
Fraser was taken aback by the question. "I hadn't given it much thought, Ray."
"Well, think about it. What would we do?"
"Why are you asking this Ray?" The odds of finding Franklin's 'reaching out' hand were less than infinitesimal. They were more likely to be struck by a meteor.
"Just answer me, okay?"
"Look. Why are we here?"
"I beg your pardon?" That was a rather esoterical question from his friend.
"Not that. Here. Now. In the snow. Why did we come here?"
"You wanted an adventure, Ray."
"What about you?"
Fraser was silent for a minute, thinking. "I wanted to be home, Ray. This is my home. I wanted to be here."
"You didn't need me to be able to stay here, Frase." Ray found himself needing to know the answer. "If we found it, the hand thing, I mean. What then?"
"Then our adventure would be over, Ray." Fraser was surprised by the pang that created.
"Uh huh. Then what would you do?"
"I suppose, I'd see if I still have a job with the RCMP, Ray."
"If you did, where would you go?"
"Wherever they send me. Ray? What about you? What will you do when our adventure is over?"
"Go back to work. I got plenty of leave saved up. The department's real glad I'm burnin' some of it off. They hate it when somebody retires with a lot of saved annual leave, 'cause they have to pay it out all at once. Besides, when I called and asked for the time off, Welsh asked me to come back and work fer him when I was ready to go back to work. He's gonna let me stay at the two-seven." He smiled, a bit shyly, at that. It had made him feel good, that the lieutenant wanted him back, even if he didn't have to cover for Vecchio any more.
"That's good, Ray."
"Where would you want to go?"
Fraser thought about it. Honestly, for a change. He'd missed the territories and the clean, empty, snow-covered spaces. However, of late, whenever he actually thought beyond the next few minutes (usually at night while Ray slept and he wasn't yet ready for sleep himself), he had thought about what he would do next. If he was honest, and he always prided himself on his honesty, he had to admit to missing the hustle and bustle of Chicago.
"Well, yeah. Honestly." Ray was afraid, but he needed to know.
"Well, honestly, I rather miss Chicago, Ray."
Ray laughed. Fraser frowned, concerned. Ray patted his chest in reassurance. "Oh, man. That is greatness. You think they'd let you go back to the consulate?"
"I don't know, Ray. I suppose I could ask."
"Yeah, you should do that."
They lay quietly for a few minutes. Then Fraser returned to his earlier question. "Why do you want to know what we would do if we found the hand of Franklin, Ray?"
"Well, should we take him back to civilization? Or just forget him? Or what? What would you do if we actually found him?"
He'd never considered the idea. Intriguing, actually. "I hadn't actually considered it, Ray. Why are you asking?"
"Well, consider it then," Ray insisted, not explaining why it was so important to him.
Fraser thought about it. "Well, I suppose I'm rather adverse to disturbing a grave, Ray. On the other hand, it would be a great find. Of course, the odds of our managing to find a three-hundred-year-old unmarked grave is rather infinitesimal, you know."
"Yeah. I know." He was silent, waiting. When Fraser didn't say anything more, he asked. "Would we need to take back proof that it's him, d'ya think?"
"That would be prudent, I suppose. I do have a sextant and a good watch, Ray. I suppose we could take a sighting and get the coordinates."
"We got a GPS, too, Frase. Wouldn't that be easier?"
Fraser was surprised. "I suppose so, Ray." He'd forgotten that Buck had given them the GPS as a going-away present. He certainly had no need of it.
"So, d'ya think one of his journals would be proof enough?"
"Journals, Ray?" Fraser was wondering if he was more seriously concussed than he at first thought.
"I suppose a journal written in his own hand and perhaps self-identified as his would suffice. Again, Ray, why are you asking this?"
"Well, you hit your head on a rock, you know?"
Fraser was losing patience. Besides, his head hurt. "So?"
"So, it wasn't just a rock, Frase. It was a pile of rocks."
"Like an inuk shuk?"
"No. More like a cairn."
Fraser lay there, silent for several moments, then sat bolt upright and turned to look for himself. Yes, it certainly looked like a cairn. It was a bit short for a man's grave, but then he remembered that men three hundred years ago were somewhat shorter than now. He could see by the light of the Aurora that the rocks had been disturbed.
"And his hand, is it reaching out?"
"Yeah." Ray's voice was subdued. "The right one. Looks kinda like they buried him right where he fell. I started movin' the rocks, cause I was curious. I didn't realize what a cairn really was, then I remembered, just about the time I uncovered him." He sat up as well, unzipping the sleeping bags. "I found this." He pulled a leather-wrapped bundle from his pack and handed it to Fraser.
He looked at Ray, frowning, then took the bundle and carefully unwrapped the brittle leather. Inside, was a book. The pages looked to be parchment, the original kind, made of sheepskin. It was really too dark to make out the writing, but if Ray said it was Franklin's, he wasn't about to disagree.
"I know that I told you that we were retracing his route backwards, Ray. But that route was never verified. I...well, I lied to you, Ray. I never...I never thought there was any chance..."
"I know. You didn't answer, by the way. Why are we here?"
"I wanted to be home, Ray."
"And why am I here? You certainly didn't need me. All I did was slow you down."
Fraser smiled and looked up without lifting his head. "But you wanted an adventure, Ray. You wanted an adventure here, in my home. Not a city adventure. You were willing to stay and come with me." He paused, gathering his thoughts.
"To answer your question, Ray. I am here because this is my home, and I've missed it. You are here, because you are my friend and were willing to share my home, as I was willing to share yours."
Ray nodded, satisfied. "Well, in the morning, we can take the GPS reading and write it down. Then, I guess, our adventure is over."
"Are you sorry Ray? That it's over? Of course, we're still at least a week from the nearest settlement, but for all intents and purposes, the adventure is over."
"I'm not sorry. Not about any of it. Well, the adventure stuff, that is. I learned a lot. I'm never gonna be a hunter of any kind, though." He shuddered, thinking about the times Fraser had hunted for food. Yes, he accepted that they needed the meat, but it didn't make him any happier to see the dead animals.
"I wondered about that, Ray. You're so phobic about anything dead, why is that?" He'd always wondered, but had never felt comfortable enough to ask, before.
"My dad worked in a meat packing plant, Frase."
"I knew that, Ray."
"When I was ten, we had this school assignment, to go to work with our dads and find out what they do. My dad took me to the meat packing plant. I, uh, had to watch them kill a cow, slit its throat and watch it bleed, then they hooked it by the hind legs with this big chain thing and it picked up the cow and took it into the building, where they skinned and gutted it. One of the guys who worked there pushed me and I fell into the pit where all the blood and insides were...I started screaming and my dad had to come in and get me out, 'cause it was too deep for me to get out on my own. Besides, I was so scared. It was all hot, and it stank, and it felt..." He started to shiver uncontrollably.
Fraser was horrified. He remembered when he'd hypnotized Ray one time, that he thought that Ray had been abducted by aliens when he was ten...being shoved into an offal pit would certainly traumatize anyone. He was surprised that Ray ever ate meat at all. Come to think of it, he rarely did.
"What happened, Ray?"
"They laughed. Well, most of 'em. They thought it was funny. My dad, he was mad. I was bawlin' like a baby. He took me into the next room, where they hose off the dead cows and had them hose me off, too. The pressure was like a fire hose, and it knocked me down. That only made 'em laugh more. The foreman, though. He was pissed. He yelled at them and took me into his office to dry off. I don't think I ever stopped bawlin', though. I ain't been real big on meat ever since. I like the processed stuff, okay. But I like my meat real well done. I don't want no blood oozin' out." He shuddered again. "Pemmican's okay, though."
"I'm sorry, Ray. I never thought..." Fraser frowned remembering, when he'd killed a caribou about a month earlier, how Ray had acted just like he did in the morgue. "Is that why you hate the morgue so much, too?"
"Nah. Had a captain, once. He thought everyone should see an autopsy. I was the last one standin'. Everyone else ended up hurlin' or faintin'. Me, I made myself stand there and take it. Then, after shift, I went home and bawled like a baby. Me and Stella were still good, then. She never did find out what was wrong. I also didn't eat anything for about a week. Almost went totally vegetarian. Couldn't even look at tomato sauce." He laughed, but it wasn't from amusement. "So, I'm not big on dead stuff, you know?"
"Understood." He certainly did, now. "Um, how did you react when you uncovered, uh, Franklin?"
"Well, I had just sort of figured out what I was doin', when I found him. He's face down, by the way. Not exactly how I'd have thought to bury somebody. Anyway, he's pretty well preserved, I think. His hand looks like old, brown leather, and I had to almost touch him to get the book out from under it. I took a look at the book to see what it was, then I wrapped it back up and put it in my pack and put all the rocks back. Seemed kind of fitting, you know?"
"Yes. It does." He was proud of his friend. "I don't suppose you remembered to take any pictures?"
"Yep. Did that, too. Course, I forgot to take the first ones, before I started movin' the rocks, but I got pictures of the body, and the journal, before I moved it."
"Very good, Ray." Ray grinned at him. "What time is it, Ray?"
"Only about nine, Frase. You were out a long time. I was really worried."
"I can imagine. Would you like to try and get out now?"
"Don't you want to see him for yourself?"
"That's not necessary, Ray. You have the photos and the journal. That is more than sufficient, for me."
"Well, if you're sure. Here." Ray dug the GPS out of his pack and handed it to Fraser. "You do this. I don't know how."
"It's quite simple, Ray. You simply...."
Ray insisted they wait until morning to try and escape. Fraser was uncertain how he planned to get them out. There was nothing but smooth ice walls. Ray grinned. He took the rope that he'd kept tied around his waist, and tied it around himself closer to the middle of the rope. Then he tied the loose end around Fraser's waist, hoisted his pack and called out.
"Okay, guys, HIKE!" The dogs, who had waited patiently the entire time in harness, stood and leaned forward into the traces. Taking up the slack, they dragged the sled, which then pulled on the rope, which tightened around Ray, and lifted him up the side of the crevasse. When he got to the top, he called out again, "Whoa!" and the dogs stopped, allowing him to loosen the rope around his middle and get out, then he called for the dogs to go again, and when Fraser was safely out, called the dogs to come. Fraser insisted on resting for the day and letting the dogs out of their traces to rest. Ray agreed, and also gave each dog an extra serving of meat as a reward. For once, Fraser made no comment about Ray's spoiling the dogs.
When they got back to 'civilization', such as it was, a tiny Inuit village six days south, Fraser borrowed a phone and made several calls. Within two days, Buck Frobisher was there with a truck to take them 'home'. When Fraser spoke to his superiors, they were at first uncaring about his 'supposed' find, until Buck told one of his friends, who happened to be an archeologist, about the journal Ray had found. The furor that raised brought Fraser once again to the attention of those high up in the force. This time, however, they were willing to give him what he wanted. They were amazed that he wanted to return to Chicago, but readily granted his request. Their arrival was unheralded, except by Turnbull, who was so happy to see Fraser that he reminded both Ben and Ray of the way the sled dogs had fawned over Ray, begging for treats. Inspector Thatcher was cool in her greeting of the men. She frowned at Ray, with his long, shaggy hair and scraggly beard. Fraser was, as always, clean shaven and looked positively starched, despite having spent the preceding forty-eight hours on the road, and the ten weeks before that on an 'adventure'.
For now, he would again be welcome to stay at the consulate and resume his former duties. However, Thatcher insisted he move to a somewhat larger office, and turn the small room he'd used before into an actual bedroom. Fraser, of course, agreed. Even to the point of purchasing a real bed.
Ray spent a few days settling back into his apartment. He'd talked to his landlady from Canada, before leaving on his adventure, asking her to take care of his turtle while he was gone. She'd been more than willing, especially when he sent her a check for three month's worth of rent. He still had a couple of weeks before it would be due again. Plenty of time to adjust back to the city.
He was surprised to learn that Vecchio had come back. He'd thought for sure that he'd take the medical retirement, but he'd been surprised. Of course, when he heard that Stella and Vecchio were an item, he was at first hurt, but then realized that he didn't feel that stab of jealousy he always had before at the idea of The Stella seeing anyone. He examined his feelings and realized that, thanks to Fraser and their adventure, he no longer cared about what Stella did. Sure, he still loved her, but he was surprised to find that he'd gotten over her. How weird was that? He'd called the lieutenant to let him know he was back and ready to go to work whenever Welsh wanted him to. Welsh was surprised to hear from the kid. Vecchio had returned the preceding week and needed a partner. Kowalski would be perfect. Of course, he didn't tell Ray his plans. Just told him to report the following Monday, giving him an entire week to reacclimatize to being back in the city.
His first night back in his apartment, the noise nearly drove him crazy. He hadn't realized how loud it always was in Chicago, or maybe he'd just gotten used to the quiet of the northern wilderness. He had been tempted to call Fraser, but hadn't. At two a.m., when his phone rang, he was still awake and answered it before it rang a second time.
There was a moment's surprised pause, then, "Why, yes, Ray. I'm sorry to disturb you, but..."
"Too noisy for ya there, huh? I never realized how loud it is, here."
There was a gentle sigh. "Yes. Exactly. I'm afraid I'm having difficulty readjusting to the city, Ray."
"You're not thinkin' of goin' back, are you?" That was a real concern.
"Oh, no. I just wondered, well, if you can't sleep, either...."
"Perhaps we can 'not sleep' together? Sounds good. You want me to come get you?"
"That won't be necessary, Ray. I'm at the twenty-four-hour mini-market down the block from your apartment."
Ray was silent a moment in surprise. Then, "Took a walk, huh?"
"Yes, hoping it would relax, or at least tire me out."
Ray laughed. After the preceding two, almost two and a half months, the idea of a stroll around town didn't strike him as tiring at all. "Come on up, buddy. I've got a pack of cards, and there's always the tube."
"Thank you kindly, Ray."
They ended up doing neither. Ray had held onto Franklin's journal, despite all the various offers for it. Even the Canadian Government had requested it, but the lawyers said it rightfully belonged to the man who found it, so for now, at least, Ray still had it. He had it out on the kitchen table when Fraser arrived, and they had moved to the living room where Fraser had taken it and started to read the journal aloud. Thirty minutes later, Ray gently shifted Fraser so he was lying stretched out on the sofa and pulled an afghan over him. He gently placed the journal on the table and turned off the lights. Dief didn't even look up at him as he passed, heading for his bedroom and some sleep. Somehow, having them in the other room made it easier to go to sleep. Maybe it was just habit. Of course, he did miss the dogs. Maybe he could ask his landlady if he could get a puppy.
Ray helped Fraser paint his former office and provided a few things to turn it into a real bedroom, not just a makeshift place to sleep. They also learned the reason Thatcher was so amenable to Fraser living at the consulate. It seemed that while they were off on their adventure, some vandals had broken in and trashed the place. It was suspected that one of the rabid animal rights groups had done it to protest the seal harvest. They had come in and splashed blood everywhere and painted 'murderers' on the walls. Fraser had been appalled at the news. Particularly since the method of harvesting the seals that had been depicted in the graffiti was now illegal.
They'd ended up slowly weaning themselves from one another's constant company, which proved rather difficult for them both. By Friday, however, they agreed that they needed to take some time to be alone and get used to being back in their own skins. It wasn't as difficult as they expected it to be. Ray went to visit his parents, who hadn't been aware that he'd returned, so his time was well occupied. Fraser went to the library, where he immersed himself in several books and magazines that he'd missed while they were away. Thatcher did, however, impose upon him on Saturday evening. She had a function to go to, and her date canceled at the last minute. She asked him to accompany her. Then, asked him to wear a tux, instead of the dress reds. He reluctantly agreed.
When he was introduced, one woman perked up. "Benton Fraser? The one who found the hand of Franklin? That Benton Fraser?" She sounded excited, and Ben blushed a bit in embarrassment.
"Well, I suppose, although, my partner was the one who actually found him. I was, uh, rather unconscious, at the time."
The woman laughed, much to Thatcher's dismay. Suddenly, her escort was more popular than she was. She decided, seeing the fear in his eyes, that he was still just as uncomfortable as he'd always been when in the spotlight.
"So, how, exactly, did you stumble on the grave? My dad's Jacob Jennings. He's an historian, who is now on his way to see the site for himself. Along with probably a dozen others."
Fraser frowned, remembering Ray's question of what to do. He really didn't approve of molesting the dead. He now wished, hearing that people were planning on 'studying' the grave, that they hadn't taken the GPS reading. He sighed, dismayed.
"Quite literally, I'm afraid." He went on to explain how he'd fallen through the snow into the crevasse and Ray's rescue of him. He still had the fresh scar on his chin, and the woman seemed fascinated by it. All he was, was embarrassed. Thatcher, however, was fascinated. She'd shown no interest in what he'd done while on his holiday, assuming it was some idiotic thing like his last vacation, spent chasing a litterer across thousands of kilometers. She found herself fascinated, hearing about Franklin's journal. She'd have been interested in seeing that.
"So, where's the journal, now?" The flirtatious young woman asked. She'd been steadily encroaching on Fraser's space and he was getting ready to bolt.
"At the moment? I do believe that Ray has it, still. He's made a few copies for various historians and other interested parties."
"Ooh, I'd love to meet him and see it." She was practically pressing against him, now. He attempted to shift back from her yet again, and found himself pressed against the inspector.
"Ah, I don't, I mean, I'm not..."
Thatcher decided to rescue him. "I'm afraid the detective isn't quite willing to share his find, just yet. A great many people have made any number of offers for the book. He's taken it under advisement. I understand that Sotheby's has even offered to hold an auction for it." She smiled sweetly at the annoying young woman and lay her hand possessively on Fraser's arm.
The woman backed away, recognizing the proprietary look on Thatcher's face. Then she frowned. "Detective?"
"Yes. Ray is a detective with the Chicago PD." For some strange reason, the woman seemed to immediately lose interest in him, much to his relief, and Thatcher's.
"Hmmm." Fraser murmured, watching the young woman walking away.
"Hmmm," Thatcher agreed. "That was odd."
"Yes. She seemed to be very interested in the journal and us, until she discovered that Ray is a detective." He frowned, "Perhaps I should give Ray a call?"
"Good idea. You may use my cell phone."
"Thank you, sir."
Ray was surprised, but not particularly worried. He'd placed the book in his safety deposit box the day before, so even if anyone came searching for it, it was no longer available. Ray was rather surprised, however, to learn that anyone might be interested enough to try and seduce Fraser, and right in front of Thatcher, to boot. When Fraser told him about the scramble to get to the grave site, Ray couldn't help but grin.
"I'm afraid they're gonna have a hard time findin' it, Benton-buddy."
"I think not, Ray. The GPS coordinates will lead them directly to it."
"Yeah, they would, if I had written the numbers down right." Ray's grin widened as he listened to the silence.
"You wrote the numbers down wrong, Ray?"
More silence. "Why did you do that, Ray?"
"'Cause I figured that everybody and their brother would head out there and dig him back up. He don't deserve that. I got the journal and copies for anyone who wants 'em. There's nothin' more to find, Frase. Only a grave. There's no reason to go disturbin' him any more, you know?"He could sense Fraser starting to smile on the other end of the line.
"That was brilliant of you, Ray. How did you change the numbers?"
"Oh, a three might be a five or a two. Just a number or two off. I wrote down the right number, too, in case you ever wanted to go back. We got our proof. If they can't follow directions, what can I say?"
Fraser chuckled. "Thank you, Ray."
"You're welcome, Benton. That's what buddies is for."
"So they are. I shall have to inform the inspector, I'm afraid."
"That's okay, Frase. Oh, and if she wants one, she can have a copy of the book."
Fraser's eyebrows went up in surprise. Ray had been very stingy with giving out copies of the journal. To offer one to the inspector was a great kindness, indeed. "Thank you kindly, Ray. I shall inform her. Well, I really need to rejoin the function, I'm afraid. I'm going to be rather busy most of next week, settling back in at the consulate, work-wise, you know."
"Yeah. Me, too. One more day of freedom." He was silent for a moment. "I'm glad to be back, though."
"As am I, Ray."
I'm...I'm glad you came back with me, Frase."
Fraser smiled. Yes, he was 'home'. Odd, he now had two homes, each missed when he was away, but the second always calling him back. "I'm glad I came back, too, Ray."
"I'll see you next week, sometime, then."
"If you need me, don't hesitate to call."
"You too, buddy."
"'Bye, Frase. Try and have a good time. Don't let the Ice Queen bug ya too much."
"Ray..." But there was no real annoyance in his voice.
Ray chuckled. "Just yankin' your chain, buddy. Anyway, I'll see you later."
"Yes, Ray. I'll see you later." He was smiling as he disconnected. Inspector Thatcher was watching him from the doorway. She'd guarded the room so he could make his call in private. She raised an eyebrow in question.
"The journal is in his safety-deposit box, and quite safe."
She signed in relief. "That's good news, then."
"Yes. Ah, he said that I should offer you one of the copies, if you'd like?"
She was surprised by the offer. She had thought her dislike of the man was mutual. Perhaps it wasn't? Interesting. "That is very kind of him. I'd love to see it."
"I'll procure one for you, then." They were silent for a bit, then the inspector shook her head, coming back to the here and now.
"Yes, thank you, and him, for me. Shall we go back to the party?"
"You know, I absolutely cringe every time you call me 'sir'," she murmured. "Particularly at times like this."
"What would you prefer me to call you, s...Ma'am?"
"Margaret would be nice." She surprised herself; and realized that she had surprised him as well.
"As you wish, Margaret." He smiled shyly at her. She found herself returning the smile. He gallantly offered his arm to her. Raising her head proudly, she took his arm and allowed him to escort her back to the party, where she found, much to her surprise and amusement, that Fraser was an excellent dinner companion, with a droll wit and whose innocence caused great consternation when one of their hosts told an off-color joke. She nearly burst out laughing when Fraser frowned in apparent confusion at the double entendre of the joke, and their host blushed and scrambled for an excuse, settling for an apology.
She caught the glint in his eye and realized that his innocence was, at least in part, an act. She winked at him, and his expression turned to one of surprise, then calculation. She decided to forget about the fact that she was his superior and simply enjoy their date. It turned out to be the most enjoyment she'd had at one of these functions in years.
Fraser was surprised, but pleased. The ins...Margaret, had turned out to be a delightful companion. He was uncertain what had changed, but she was treating him like a man, not an employee. He couldn't help but think back to a certain incident, and wondered if he dared try and repeat the occurrence?
He drove her home and, naturally, escorted her to her door. He accepted her keys from her and unlocked the door and opened it. As she turned on the light, he allowed his eyes to check that nothing appeared to be amiss. Satisfied, he prepared to leave.
"Fraser...Ben," there was something in her voice that both of them recognized. He looked at her in surprise and, perhaps, hope. Taking a deep breath, she stepped close to him and raised her face to his. To his own surprise, he tilted his head down to kiss her. Her arms slid up around his neck, pulling him down closer. His arms, seemingly involuntarily, wrapped around her body, pulling her close to press against his.
The kiss went on forever, and in an instant, was over. Fraser, with and expression of shocked embarrassment, backed away, looking ready to bolt. She, just as surprised, held him with a hand lightly touching his arm.
"I-I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't..." he stammered.
"Of course you should, Ben." Her voice was husky and she swallowed, not wanting to scare him away. "Would you like to come in for some coffee? Or, tea, perhaps?"
He knew he should decline, but..."I-I'd like that." He followed her in, closing the door behind him. In the kitchen, she told him to sit while she put the kettle on to boil. He sat at the breakfast table, at attention.
"You know, I still haven't really heard about your holiday. How was it?"
Good. A safe subject. "Most enjoyable."
"Tell me about it. It sounded like you had quite an adventure."
He smiled, recalling the new memories. "Yes. It was." Seeing her genuine interest, he started talking, telling her how green Ray had been. How he'd had to do all the work for the first week, almost, before his partner got up enough courage to want to help.
They talked for hours. She laughed at some of his tales and frowned in worry over others. Obviously, he had survived, none the worse, more or less. When he finally finished telling her everything, she realized that it was daylight. They had talked the whole night through. She could tell by his eyes that he was tired and in no shape to go home; and she was in no better shape. She wasn't quite sure how it happened, but she insisted he sleep there. He reluctantly agreed. She led him to her spare room and opened the door. She felt him close behind her and turned, looking up into his face. His expression was one of confusion and uncertainty. Her heart started pounding, realizing that he was just as interested in her as she was in him. Frowning for just a moment as she gathered her courage, she asked, "Would you like to sleep with me?"
He blushed and his heartbeat accelerated. "Yes," he whispered.
"Then come with me." She slid past him and led the way to her bedroom. His hands were shaking as he unzipped her dress for her. Hers shook just as much as she helped him with his tux. Like teenagers, they were nervous and uncertain. Down to their underwear, Fraser stared hungrily at her, then pulled back. She frowned.
"Are you sure?' He had to ask. He didn't want to make a mistake, here.
She smiled. "No. Not at all. This may be a mistake. However, I find myself willing to take the chance. You?"
"Yes," he whispered again, reaching out to take her hand in his. Stepping into his embrace, she lifted her face to his, for a kiss.
Yes, this might be a mistake. Then again, it might be the best thing that ever happened to either one of them.
Told you the ending was a surprise. I know that it certainly surprised me!
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