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This is just a ramble. Several people are berating themselves over an incident

Guilt Trip


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This sucks. I suck. How could I have been so stupid? Yeah, I know, I wasn't the only one there. But I can't talk about what anybody else did, just what I did. Or in this case didn't do. I know what everybody's saying. But it's not true. Well, not from where I stand, anyway. From where I stand, I screwed up. Not the Mountie, not the lieutenant, not the SWAT Team, not anybody else. Just me. I blew it. If I'd just... but that won't change anything, will it? Nah, it won't. Because I wasn't watching carefully enough, my partner got shot. Figures, hell, he practically has a 'shoot me, I'm wearing red' sign on him. He is such**an easy target. He shouldn't have even been there. Lucky for him he spotted something in time to start moving. Not enough, of course, but at least he ain't dead. Didn't miss it by much, though. If only I'd'a...

"We got three gunmen in there. SWAT is set up and waiting for clear shots, but are under orders not to shoot until they can take out all three of them at the same time. Keep your eyes open, people." Lieutenant Harding Welsh hated hostage situations. They weren't one of his best abilities. He just wasn't good at negotiations. Not as good as he thought he should be. Unfortunately...well, actually, he considered it a fortunate thing, he hadn't had a whole lot of experience with them. There were professional negotiators on the way, but his gut told him that they probably wouldn't have any more luck than he had. He looked around at his men and the uniforms holding the perimeter. They were well placed. No one could get out of the building without one of his guys spotting them. Unfortunately, he hadn't set anyone to specifically watch the roof. When the mountie arrived, hell, that red coat just screamed out 'shoot me, I'm an easy target.' And one of their gunmen had gone up to the roof and no one had spotted him. No one spotted him, and when Big Red had arrived, the slimeball on the roof had taken a potshot. The Canadian must have the reflexes of a cat, was all Welsh could figure. He'd apparently spotted the gunman, shouted "GUNONTHEROOF" and tried to get out of the way. He almost made it. Almost, but not quite. Luckily, he was going to be just fine in a few weeks. Still...if he'd been more careful...One of the snipers had taken out the gunman on the roof, and the other two decided to cut their losses and surrender. He'd been hard pressed not to let his guys tear the two surviving crooks apart. Especially Kowalski. The little guy might be scrawny, but he could really pack a punch. The only thing that had stopped him was the fact that the Mountie is his**partner. Fraser calling out to him stopped him in mid-swing. Never seen anything like it, before. He just froze, glaring at the suspect, his fist less than a foot from the man's face. He just stopped cold. He shivered, then took a step back, turning to his partner. I never knew the kid had that much self-control. Maybe, though, it was the Mountie.

He looked across the room at his pacing detective. Shaking his head, he leaned his head back against the wall and continued waiting, his eyes closed. He could easily imagine the kid's thoughts, blaming himself for Fraser getting hurt. Sighing, he opened his eyes and stood up, crossing over to his nervously pacing detective.

"It's not your fault, you know."

Ray stopped his silent self-recriminations and turned. "Oh? Why wasn't I watching good enough, huh? If I'd...."

"Ray, if you want to blame somebody, blame me. I'm the one who didn't have anyone assigned to watch the roof."

"You weren't in charge of the SWAT guys, sir. Maybe if...but 'what ifs' ain't gonna help Fraser, now. The Ice Queen is gonna have my guts for garters." Ray slumped down into a chair.

"You been hangin' with the Mountie too much, detective."

"Nah, that was one of the things my Dad used to say sometimes. What did she say when you talked to her?"

"I didn't. She was in a meeting, so I left a message with Turnbull." He was startled when Ray leaped up and headed for the door.

"Shit, in that case, she don't know, yet. I gotta call her. If the doc comes out, get what you can and I'll be back as soon as I can." Without a backwards glance he was gone, searching for the nearest pay phone since the use of cell phones was prohibited in the hospital.

Welsh sighed and settled back down in a chair to continue waiting. For the type of wound it had been, it sure seemed to be taking them a long time. He hoped that nothing was wrong...

Ray went to the nurse's station and asked for directions to the nearest pay phone. They were kind enough to let him use theirs. Dialing the number for the consulate, he waited impatiently, jigging slightly in place. When Turnbull answered, he interrupted him before he could get even half-way through the English portion of his spiel.

"Turnbull, I need to speak to Thatcher."

"May I say who is calling, sir?"

"It's Ray, Turnbull. I gotta talk to the inspector."

"May I have a surname to go with that, sir?"

Ray removed the handset from his ear and stared at it for a moment, then, shaking his head; he replaced the receiver to his ear and spoke. Just as he drew breath to try again, he froze for a moment. With a slow smile, he spoke into the mouthpiece. "Constable Turnbull, I have an important message for Inspector Thatcher, if you do not connect me immediately, I will come down there and arrest you the second you step foot outside the consulate for obstruction of justice. An arrest of this sort will not go over well with your superiors, nor will it look good on your record. Do you understand me?" He'd done his best to sound like Fraser, if Fraser ever spoke harshly to anyone other than him, that is.

"I-I'm sorry, sir. I'll see if she's free, please hold." Turnbull certainly sounded flustered.

"Who the hell is this, and what did you say to Turnbull? He's blithering!"

"Sorry Inspector, it's Ray, Ray Kowalski." He heard a muffled groan, "Look the lieutenant tried to call you but you were busy and he left the message with Turnbull. Did you get it?'

"Message? Why...no, I don't see it here. What is so important that you deemed it necessary to terrorize my constable?"

"Uh, it's Fraser."

"What about him? He got off duty over two hours ago. If he hasn't contacted you, I'm sure I can't tell you where he might be..."

"Uh, Inspector?"

There was something in his tone that froze her blood; she waited, holding her breath, expecting the worst.

"He got shot about two hours ago. He's still in surgery. I'm at the hospital, waiting for word. It didn't look all that bad, but you can't ever know, and it's taking them so long. I just thought that you might want...that you needed to know, so you don't wonder why he doesn't come back to the consulate, tonight. I'm sorry, he shouldn't'a been a target, but we had these three guys holed up with hostages and one of 'em...."

"I'm on my way, Detective. Thank you for calling."

"If you want, I can come and get you." Ray offered.

"Thank you, but I can drive myself."

"Yes, ma'am. We're up on the second floor surgery waiting room. I'll watch for you."

"Thank you, detective. I should be there in half an hour."

Ray made his way back to the waiting room. It had been an hour and a half since Fraser had been brought in. Yet, they'd heard absolutely nothing, yet. He didn't even acknowledge his lieutenant when he got back, simply looked worriedly at the door and returned to his place by the windows and started pacing.

"Did you get a hold of her?"

"She's on her way. Anybody come out, yet?"

"No. I can't figure out what's taking so long," Welsh admitted, concerned. Ray just nodded, his eyes on the floor, again berating himself silently for what had happened to his friend.

Half an hour later, Inspector Thatcher walked in. Spotting Ray leaning against the window, staring outside, she turned to find Welsh standing up to greet her.

"Any news yet?"

"Nothing," Welsh said quietly.

"What happened?" Thatcher matched the lieutenant's tone in deference to the obviously upset Ray.

"Hostage situation. Fraser, I guess, tracked down where Ray was and came up. I missed the guy that had gotten up to the roof and he leaned over the edge and shot him. I think he musta seen the movement, 'cause he had time to tell us we had a shooter on the roof and started to move as the guy fired, if he hadn't moved, he'd be dead. As it is...he still got hit, and he's been in surgery for a couple of hours, now." Welsh was concise, but Thatcher could tell that the American was blaming himself.

She sighed. "Sometimes, I think that man has a target painted on him. He can get into the most peculiar situations."

"Well, I kinda figured that that red coat just was too easy to miss. As it was, the snipers managed to get the guy, and the other two guys decided to give up. But I still can't figure out what's takin' so long, ya know?"

"How's Kowalski taking it?"

"He blames himself. Fraser was lookin' for him, I guess, like he usually does in the afternoons after he gets off work." Welsh stopped, thinking. "Maybe he needs to change before he comes in. That coat..."

"He's working a split shift. Four hours in the morning and four in the evening. It's not exactly convenient for him to change, but I can probably get him to do so, in future, if you think it will help," Thatcher said.

"Well, that might help. Or maybe if he wore the other uniform, it's not as flashy, you know?"

"Understood." Thatcher looked over at Ray. He hadn't moved, still leaned against the window, his forehead pressed against the glass, an expression of misery and worry on his face. Gesturing towards the detective, she asked, "What's wrong with him?"

Welsh looked at her in surprise. "What's wrong with...hell, his partner got shot and is still in surgery is what's wrong with him." His voice had gained in volume, enough that Ray heard him and flinched.

"I suck." Ray shifted up from his position against the glass. Turning towards them, he refused to look up at them, but softly spoke. "It's my fault. I'm sorry. If I'd'a just been payin' attention better, this wouldn't have happened." His shoulders were slumped and his head was down.

"I really don't see how it can be your fault, detective," Thatcher said, sharply. "Unless you were the one to pull the trigger, you are not to blame."

"I shoulda seen somethin'. If I'd just...but it's too late for that, ain't it." Still refusing to look at them, he headed for the door, his steps accelerating in his need to escape before the doctors came and told them that he'd gotten his partner, his friend, killed.

He almost made it to the door, only to have it open in his face. He had to scramble to avoid being struck. His eyes still on the floor, he backed away, afraid to look. The doctor looked around and his eyes settled on Welsh.

"Lieutenant Welsh? You're here for Fraser, right?"

"Yeah, this is Inspector Thatcher, she's his boss."

The doctor looked at her and smiled wearily. Before she could say anything, the doctor addressed her, "Well, Mr. Fraser is very lucky. The bullet struck him in the left gluteus, pierced the muscle and lodged in the hip joint. There were no fractures of any bones, but he's going to be having a hard time sitting for a while," the man chuckled as though it was a good joke. "The reason it took so long was we had some trouble controlling the bleeding. He's in recovery, now and should be in a room in about an hour and a half. Somehow, he woke up on the operating table and started struggling. I gotta tell you, that was not fun. Anyway, I'll have the nurse come by and let you know when you can see him."

Ray had listened closely. When the doctor laughed about Fraser's wound, his head came up and he glared at the punk kid. Doctor or not, Fraser was hurt and he had no business laughing about it. As the young doctor headed for the door, he was stopped by a dangerous looking man whom he hadn't really even noticed when he came in. The man's glare made him step back in fear. "Uh...if you'll excuse me, I need to..."

"You need to apologize is what you need. You got no manners, you know? How dare you laugh at my partner gettin' shot. An' what do you mean, he 'woke up on the operating table'? And just how much blood did he lose?" Ray's head was down and he was looking up from below lowered brows, one of his most intimidating positions.

"What are you talking about?" the doctor asked in confusion. Surprised by the vehemence in the blond man's attitude.

Welsh stepped in. "I gotta agree with the detective, I'm not real pleased with your attitude, either." He growled.

Thatcher joined in, "Yes, your attitude is rather cavalier, considering that a police officer was shot."

The doctor was surprised, he hadn't expected such a response to his announcement about the injured man. Hell, the guy got shot in the butt! That was supposed to be funny, wasn't it?"

"I wanna be with him when he wakes up," Ray suddenly insisted, his glare intensifying.

"I'm sorry, but hospital policy only allows for family to..."

"He's Fraser's brother," Thatcher insisted.

"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Fraser, I'll..."

"It's Kowalski," Ray corrected. Seeing the doctor's confusion, he realized his mistake and rushed to correct it, "He's my half-brother. Different fathers."

"Oh, of course," the doctor replied, recovering. "Let me check with the nurse and I'll try to get you in to see him in recovery."

"Don't try. Just do it," Welsh growled. The doctor turned and scurried out the door.

"What a jerk," Ray muttered. Then, glancing shyly at Thatcher, he said, "Thanks for tellin' him I was Fraser's brother."

Thatcher looked closely at him, seeing the deep concern in his face, she reached out and touched his arm. "He's going to be fine, detective...Ray. You heard the doctor."

"Yeah, I heard him. They had trouble stoppin' the bleeding and he woke up on the table. And the jerk laughed at him." Ray turned back to the window. "I shoulda..." he made an abortive punching move, grunting once, then relaxed and shook his head.

"Kowalski, forget it. You did what you could. I'll have a word with the head of surgery. I agree with you on that punk's attitude. You did a good job of keepin' your head, there. With any luck, Fraser'll be able to go home in a day or two."

Thatcher looked up, frowning. "He won't be able to stay at the consulate, however. We don't have the facilities to care for him." She didn't want to point out that the cot in his office would hardly be comfortable for the injured man.

"He can stay at my place." Ray immediately responded.

Welsh nodded. "You want on night shift for a while? That way, maybe someone else can watch him at night...or, I suppose I could put Francesca on night shift, let her watch him during the day."

Ray glanced at the inspector, a questioning look in his eyes. "I'll figure somethin' out. If I need to change shifts, I'll let you know."

"Good, that's good. Now, go on and find your partner."

Ray left.

"He was right. That doctor's attitude was abominable."

"Yeah, let's go find someone to talk to. Maybe we can get something accomplished before Fraser wakes up."

"An excellent idea, Lieutenant."

Ray sat uneasily beside Fraser's gurney. His friend lay face down, his head turned to one side, pale and unmoving, Ray stared at his friend. Unable to remain still or silent, he started talking.

"I'm sorry Frase. I shoulda seen him in time. It shoulda been me layin' there, not you. I am such a loser, Frase, I wish...but wishes don't mean anythin'. I'm sorry, Frase." He reached out uncertainly to gently push Fraser's hair out of his eyes. He quickly withdrew his hand when the unconscious man took a sudden, sharp breath. "You're gonna be okay, Frase. They say that you lost some blood, like we didn't know that, right? It's still drippin' back into you, along with some antibiotics and stuff. I guess that you freaked them out pretty bad when you woke up on the operating table. Just what did you do, anyway? I'm sorry you got hurt. I just wish...there I go again, wishin'. Man, I suck."

"No, Ray. The only time I've ever seen you suck, was when you were drinking through a straw." Fraser's voice was rough and slurred, but it was the best thing that Ray had heard in a long time.

"Hey, Benton-buddy. How you feelin'?"

"Like I've been shot, Ray." Fraser attempted to shift and sit up, but immediately fell back down, grunting in annoyance, his face screwed up in pain.

"Easy buddy. You're not gonna be movin' around for a while. They say the bullet ended up in your hip, but that it didn't break any bones. 'Course, it tore up the muscle some, and they cut it up some more gettin' the bullet out." There was no levity in his voice.

"Nothing permanent, I take it?" Fraser asked.

"Nah. They say you'll be fine in about a month. 'Cept that you're gonna have a hard time sittin' down for a while." Still no humor in his voice.

Fraser chuckled. "No, I imagine that sitting will definitely be a problem for a while." He was silent for a moment, looking at his partner as best as he could manage from his prone position. "Ray?"

"Yeah, Frase?"

"You don't suck. Why are you so upset?"

"I shoulda been watching better. If I hada, I might have seen him in time and kept him from shootin' you."

"Ray, you can't have known that one of the suspects would go to the roof, and you certainly couldn't have known that he'd try and shoot anyone. And you definitely could not have known that I would be his target."

Ray looked at him. "Fraser, you wear that bright red coat and you can lay there and tell me that I couldn't say you would be a target? Give me a break. That uniform of yours is like a flag... It just screams 'Here I am, shoot me!'"

"Now don't be silly, Ray, my uniform is hardly a target..."

"Oh? Really? Why do you think they stopped paintin' the fire engines red, went to that puke yellow-green and white? It was because drunks would drive into them when they were on the scene of a fire."

"I hardly think that chartreuse fire trucks have anything to do with drunken people running into them."

"Fraser, I got a copy of the article that went with the change. You want to try and convince me otherwise, go right ahead. That bright red coat, it just sticks out. Trust me on this one, Frase."

Fraser opened his mouth to rebut...and stopped. There actually was an excellent possibility that his coat had been the reason that the suspect had chosen him to fire at. Instead of arguing, he should just be grateful to be alive. Glancing at his friend, he saw the taunt, haunted look on Ray's face. "You may well be right, Ray." He craned his neck to look around. "I suppose I'll be forced to stay here until I'm released for duty?" His voice gave away his dismay at that thought. He really did not like being stuck in the hospital.

"Well, when and if they release you, you'll be stayin' with me until you can go back to work. The Ice Que..." He saw the disapproval on Fraser's face and changed his mind, "Thatcher said you wouldn't be able to stay at the consulate while you heal. She said that they don't have the facilities. And, having seen that cot you sleep on, I gotta agree with her. So, you can stay with me."

Ray, I hardly think..."

"You'll get the bed. I sleep on the couch more than I do in the bed anyway. It's a king size, so you'll have plenty of room. And Dief will, too. That way you don't have to worry about anything."

"What about your turtle?"

"He'll cope."

Fraser looked up at Ray's determined expression. He wasn't stupid, by any means, so he wisely said only, "Thank you very kindly, Ray."

Ten days. They had kept him for ten days. They spent a lot of time worrying about Fraser's hip, but finally gave up and agreed to release him. The ride to Ray's apartment was terribly unpleasant. Even though Ray had driven slowly and carefully, every small vibration was agonizing to his damaged muscle and joint. He kept his teeth clenched, not wanting to worry Ray. When they finally arrived, Fraser was more than grateful.

Ray was perfectly aware of just how unpleasant the ride had been for his friend. He'd tried his best, but there was no way to avoid the rough sections of pavement, or changing directions. Or, not hitting the brakes. He did his best, but still. As soon as he pulled to a stop in front of his apartment, he jumped out and ran around to assist Fraser from the car. He'd already collected Fraser's clothes from the consulate, so all they needed to do now was get him inside and settled.

Fraser wasn't foolish enough to try to do everything himself. He gratefully accepted Ray's assistance in not only getting out of the car, but also to help him across the sidewalk and into the building. Normally Ray didn't take the elevator, but this was an exception. Even with all his weight on his good leg and leaning heavily on Ray, the jerky movements shot stabbing pains through Fraser's hip.

"Sorry, Frase. I don't know what to do about the elevator," Ray muttered, annoyed and blaming himself that he couldn't even manage to get this right.

"Ray, it's not your fault. After all, we're all in this together. You don't necessarily have control of every little thing, you know." Fraser saw the guilty look on Ray's face. Sighing in exasperation, he tried to lighten the mood. "Are you sure you want to be saddled with me for another two or three weeks? That's a lot of inconvenience for you to put up with."

Ray stared at him, seeing the exhaustion and pain in the lines of Fraser's face, but also saw a glint of humor in the gray-blue eyes. "Well, I could always take you over to the Vecchio's...or maybe I could get Frannie to come over and take care of you here...would you like that, better?"

Fraser shuddered. "No, thank you, Ray. Your apartment is much quieter, thank you kindly."

Ray grinned, his first real smile since Fraser had been shot. "Okay, then. Come on in and relax." Unlocking and opening the door, Fraser was surprised to find Diefenbaker waiting for them, whining and with his tail wagging excitedly.

"Dief, leave him alone. He's still hurt, so you be good and let him get comfortable. Frase, you know where the bedroom is...why don't you go lie down while I fix us some lunch."

"You're going to cook, Ray?" Fraser asked in surprise.

"Well, yeah. Unless you'd rather I order in something?"

"No, certainly not. You really don't have to go to any trouble for me, you know."

"No trouble. I'll put on some water for tea, okay?"

Tea? Ray didn't drink tea..."Thank you, Ray, that would be very nice." Fraser gingerly made his way to the bedroom. He was surprised to find a suitcase with his clothes open on the dresser. Looking around, it was obvious that Ray had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure his friend would be comfortable there. There was a set of sweats laid out on the bed, which had already been turned down in anticipation of his arrival. With a sigh, he pulled off his jacket and began to unbutton his shirt. Unfortunately, he was unable to comfortably bend or squat down to untie his hiking boots.


"Yeah?" Ray was there immediately.

"I, um, I can't reach my shoes, Ray. Would you mind untying them for me?"

"No problem, Buddy," Ray crouched down and untied the shoes, then helped him get them off.

Fraser blushed, annoyed at his helplessness, but it hurt to bend and stretch the damaged muscle. "Thank you, Ray."

"You're welcome, Fraser." He seemed about to say something more, but the teakettle chose that moment to start its scream. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes with your tea." Ray turned and hurried from the room.

Fraser sighed and finished changing into his sweats. Bending his good leg, he knelt on the bed and used leverage from that to ease his damaged side into the bed. With a sigh, he settled face down in the comfortable bed. Ray's bed was much more comfortable than the hospital bed, and the pillow was much softer, as well. He was lightly dozing when Ray came in with his cup of tea. His nostrils twitched in surprise and he lifted his head, staring at Ray in surprise. "Ray? Is that...?" No, it couldn't be.

"Bark tea, Yeah. I remember you sayin' you like it, so I got you some." He realized how difficult it would be for Fraser to drink the tea while prone. His brow furrowed in consternation for a moment, then he grinned. "Here, I'll be right back." He handed Fraser the cup and hurried out. There was the sound of him rummaging in a drawer in the kitchen and he soon returned with a solution. A straw. Fraser smiled and accepted the straw and gingerly sipped the hot tea. He was surprised.

"It's perfect, Ray."

"You sure? It's not too strong?"

"No, it's perfect. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Uh, I was gonna make some grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. That okay with you?"

"It sounds fine, Ray. You don't have to go to any trouble."

"It's no trouble. I'll let you know when it's ready." He could see the weariness of his friend, just from the trip home. "Uh, would you rather take a nap, first? I can whip up soup and sandwiches in just a few minutes, if you would rather?"

Fraser was relieved. "Well, actually. Yes, Ray, I think I would rather take a nap, if you don't mind. I'm afraid the trip here took a bit more out of me than I expected."

"Not a problem. You go ahead and go to sleep. I got some stuff I need to do. If you need anything, just holler, I'll be in the living room."

Ray watched as Fraser carefully set his empty cup on the nightstand and relaxed, sinking down into the bed. He released a breath in a sigh and settled down into sleep. As soon as Ray could see Fraser's breathing deepen into slumber, he closed the bedroom door part way and moved into the living room to sit down on the couch. He'd borrowed a laptop computer from the station so that he could do his work from home. He had a pile of reports to work through and hoped that there was enough to keep him busy long enough for Fraser to heal. Not to mention clearing his desk of the backlog.

It took him a while to figure out how to use the laptop, but soon he was inputting his reports. He would never be as fast as Fraser, but he was at least capable of doing the job. He'd been working for a couple of hours and had begun to see the dent he was making in the reports when he heard Fraser stir. Saving the current document, he shut down the computer and went to check on his friend.

He stood in the doorway and watched to see if Fraser needed any help. He couldn't help the slight grin at the crab-like way Fraser had to get in and out of bed, but when he was finally upright and turning around, there was no sign of it on Ray's face. "You okay, Frase?"

"Fine, thank you, Ray. I just need," he gestured towards the bathroom.

"Okay, I'll go start the soup and grilled cheese." He wanted to ask how he managed to ....well, it had to be pretty hard, what with that hole in his butt. But there was no way he was going to ask. He might just get more information than he wanted. Instead, he turned and headed for the kitchen to make lunch.

When Fraser came out, the soup had begun to simmer and the grilled cheese sandwiches were nearly done. He sniffed appreciatively as he leaned against the bar that separated the kitchen area from the rest of the room.

Ray ladled two bowls full of what smelled like vegetable soup, set them on a pair of plates which already had a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches on them. He put spoons in the bowls and carefully carried them to the table, where he set them down. He glanced at Fraser, and began diffidently. "Uh, I know that it's hard for you to bend and sit, but the hospital gave me one of those horseshoe shaped cushions. So you can maybe try and sit." He pulled out a chair to show Fraser the device.

Fraser looked at it doubtfully. "I don't know, Ray," he began.

"Well, it ain't good for you to stand all the time, either. I know it's hard to bend, but the therapist said you need to start at least trying to bend the joint, or it might not heal right. So, give it a try?"

Unable to resist the almost pleading quality in his friend's voice, Fraser sighed and gingerly sat down. The opening in the cushion actually did prevent any pressure to his injury, and he was pleased to note that, although uncomfortable, it was quite acceptable, considering. He smiled up at his caregiver. "Thank you, Ray. It does seem to do the trick."

"Good. Now, eat up," Ray said, sitting down across from him and taking up his spoon.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Then, "This is quite good, Ray. Is the soup homemade?"

Blushing slightly in embarrassment, Ray replied, "Yeah. I made it last night. I figured it would be pretty good by today. It's easy, and it's pretty good for you, you know?"

"Yes, and quite tasty, as well. What kind of cheese is this?"

Ray glanced down at his own sandwiches, "Uh, well, I use different kinds of cheese. These are Provolone."

"They're very good. You used real butter," he noticed.

"Yeah. It tastes better, you know?"

"So it does." Fraser went back to eating, impressed with the unexpected culinary abilities of his friend.

They finished their meal in companionable silence. Fraser hadn't realized how much he'd missed food that had flavor, while in the hospital. Finishing, he leaned gingerly back, pleased that the special cushion provided support without putting any pressure on his injury. He was also pleased that Ray, at least, had made no jokes at his expense over the location of his wound.

"You want anything more?" Ray asked.

"No, thank you."

"How about some more tea?"

"Well," he didn't want to be a bother, but...

"I got Earl Grey, if you don't want the bark stuff," Ray offered.

"That would be very nice, Ray."

With a flash of a grin, Ray stood and gathered their dishes to take into the kitchen. He placed them in the sink and filled the teakettle, setting it on the burner to heat. As the water warmed, he ran the sink full of hot water and soap to wash their dishes. He had left the soup on the stove to cool and when the dishes were done and drying in the strainer, he placed the now cool pot of soup directly in the refrigerator, placing the lid on the pot. Noticing that Fraser was watching him, he grinned and explained. "I don't have a big enough bowl to put it in, at least, not one with a lid; so, I just put the whole pot in the fridge. Of course, that also means I don't got to wash the pot more than once." He winked at his friend, who smiled back.

"That makes perfect sense, Ray," Fraser replied.

As the kettle whistled, Ray had already reached to turn it off. Taking a teapot, which he had warmed with hot tap water, he dumped it out, then took a tin of tea from the cupboard. Using his fingers to measure, he put the tea in the diffuser, placed it in the pot, and then poured the just off the boil water over it. He put the kettle back on the stove and put the cover on the teapot. Fraser was surprised that Ray, whom he thought drank only coffee, should know how to properly brew a pot of tea...or, for that matter, that he even owned a teapot.

Ray brought the teapot to the table, then went back for cups, saucers, and spoons, as well as a tea caddy for the diffuser. "You want anything it your tea, Frase?"

"No, thank you. Black is fine," came the reply.

Ray nodded and brought over the rest of the supplies. Taking out the diffuser, Ray placed it on the caddy, then poured the cups full of the fragrant brew. Fraser took up his cup and inhaled deeply of the steam, the scent of bergamot tickling his nose. He took a cautious sip. Smiling, he set his cup down to cool a bit more.

"Excellent tea, Ray."

Ray looked surprised, "Yeah? Uh, I mean, thanks. My grams taught me how to make tea. Said that every boy should know how to make a proper cup of tea. Said it was 'civilized' to be able to." He grinned impishly. "I think she was hoping I'd take the hint."

"She taught you well. Was she English?"

Ray looked at him in surprise. "No. Polish. Both my folks are first generation Polish, Frase. Neither of my grandmothers could speak English hardly at all. My grandfathers spoke with a real thick accent, although, my dad's dad died when I was little, so I don't remember him so well. And Grams died when I was twenty-five. Grampa died when I was ten, and Gammy is in a nursing home in Florida."

"You still have a living grandmother?"

"Yeah, she's got Alzheimers. Last time I saw her, she thought I was Grampa...she tried to..." he blushed in embarrassment, "Well, I ain't been back, since. The docs figured it would be better for her if I didn't come around. I guess no one goes to see her any more."

"That's very sad, Ray. Perhaps you might try again on one of your vacations?"

"I don't know. I mean, the last time, about three years ago? She grabbed my..." the blush was back, even more intensely, "Well, it freaked me out pretty good."

"Did she hurt you, Ray?"

"Uh, no. Just spooked me pretty bad. You don't think of your grandmother as ever lookin' at you that way, you know?"

Fraser abruptly understood. "OH! Uh, no, one doesn't generally..." He took a gulp of the still hot tea, nearly scalding his entire mouth in the process, then coughed. Ray watched him closely, in case he needed any assistance.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to put you off, Frase," Ray said, contritely.

"Not your fault, Ray. It was just...well, surprising, I suppose."

Ray grinned. "Yeah, it was. You shoulda been on my end when it happened."

"Actually, I've had a few similar instances." Fraser blushed.


"Yes. I'm afraid so. Although, my experiences were with complete strangers." Seeing Ray's startled expression, he tried to explain, "Occasionally, while standing guard duty at the old consulate building. It was right out on the street, not fenced, as it is, now, so on occasion, women would come up and...well, grope me, I'm afraid."

Ray regarded his embarrassed friend. "You know, that could be fun," he said, reflectively.

"Ray! I hardly think..."

"Yeah, you're right," Ray interrupted. "Who wants total strangers doin' that? It was bad enough with Gammy." He shook his head. "So, you want to watch TV? Play cards? Go back to sleep?"

Fraser was grateful for the change in subject. "I'm not tired any more, so either of the other choices would be quite pleasant."

"Up to you. Uh, I got some books, but I don't know if they're anything like what you'd want to read, but you're welcome to, you know. Whatever you want."

He'd become accustomed to his current position, and didn't really care to move, just yet. "Cards, perhaps?"

"Sure," Ray agreed. He got up and pulled open a drawer in the bar. Rummaging around inside, he paused for a moment. "Hey, d'you know how to play Pinochle?" he asked, looking up hopefully.

"Not really, but if you'd care to teach me, I'm more than willing to learn."

Ray's grin lit up his entire face. "Coolness." He pulled out a Pinochle deck and brought the cards and a pad of paper and a pencil over to the table. Sitting down, he pulled the cards from their box and spread them out, face up. "OK, so, d'you know anything at all about the game?"

"I've seen a deck before and noticed that they only go from nine through ace, and that there are two of every card."

"Right, 48 cards. Now, when you play two handed, single deck..."

It took nearly an hour before Fraser was able to play without needing assistance. He still had to use a cheat sheet, but was able to figure out his own hand without help. They settled down to play an actual game and Fraser was pleased to find himself able to be competitive against his much more experienced opponent.

Two games later, Ray had noticed that Fraser was getting tired. "You want to lie down, Frase?" he asked after the last hand. He had won, but it had been hard. Fraser was an excellent player.

"Yes. I think perhaps I should." He used his hands on the table to help straighten up, allowing the backs of his knees to push the chair away. He wavered a moment, which brought Ray to his side to offer a steadying hand. He smiled his thanks, got his balance and limped towards the bedroom.

"What would you like for supper?" Ray asked, keeping just far enough away from his friend to not appear to be hovering, yet still close enough to assist if needed.

"Anything is fine, Ray."

"Well, I got a chicken all thawed out. You want it fried, roasted, baked, or boiled?" He came closer as Fraser made it to the bedroom door.

"I really have no preference, Ray. I'm sure however you prepare it will be fine."

Ray sighed. "Fraser," his voice sounded a bit exasperated. Fraser stopped and turned to look at him.

"Yes, Ray?"

"You're a guest, here. How do you want your chicken cooked?"

Brows furrowing down in puzzlement, Fraser looked at his friend. Taking a breath to speak, he paused to think, realizing that his answer would not be welcome. "Well," he finally began, thinking, " What kind of recipes are you talking about, Ray?"

"Fried. Cut into pieces and dipped in a coating, cooked in grease. Boiled, just that, can be made with dumplings or spaetzel. Roasted...stuffed like a turkey. Baked, dredged in seasoned flour and put in the oven, either by itself, or with cream of mushroom soup." He saw his friend trying to decide. "Fried, served with salad and either rice or potatoes. Same for roasted. Boiled, salad on the side. Baked, the plain with salad and rice or potatoes, with cream of mushroom soup, salad, rice, potatoes, or pasta."

Fraser was surprised at the variety. He'd had no idea that Ray could cook. Generally, he thought his friend lived on take-out. Obviously, he had been mistaken. "I think, perhaps," he thought about it. "The baked, with cream of mushroom soup with pasta, thank you."

"OK, you got it. Now, go take your nap. It's at least a couple of hours before dinner. I got a TV in there, if you want to watch it. It's only a 13 inch, but it's okay for in there."

"Thank you, Ray. I'm not really very much into television. You mentioned that you had some books?"

"Yeah, most of 'em are on that bookshelf over on the other side of the bed."

Fraser walked around the bed and leaned over slightly, in order to see the titles. "You have an interesting selection, Ray." He was impressed with some of the titles. He smiled and reached for one of the volumes. With his selection in hand, he moved back around the bed and eased himself down, sliding cautiously beneath the covers. Lying on his stomach, he adjusted the pillow so as to be able to comfortably read.

"You relax, if you need anything, just holler," Ray said, leaving the room and closing the door part way. He headed back to the kitchen and prepared the chicken and placed it in the oven to bake. He'd bought a bag of green salad mix, so he didn't have to do much there, except cut up some tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions to go in it. He did so, placing the items in separate covered bowls in the refrigerator. Then he cleared off the table, washed their cups and the pot. Finally, once everything was ready except the pasta that he would boil when the chicken was done, he set the laptop back up and went back to work on his reports.

Fraser read quietly for a while; then, lifting up a bit, he slid the still open book under the pillow to keep his place and lay his head down to rest. He fell almost immediately to sleep, the light sounds of Ray tapping away on the laptop in the other room providing a peaceful background noise.

Several hours later, he awoke to the tantalizing smells of dinner. He lazily lay there for a few minutes, listening to Ray in the kitchen. He was still confounded by the idea that his friend could cook, and do it well. His stomach rumbled and he eased out of bed and made his hesitant way into the living room. Ray turned at his entrance and smiled.

"Sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you. Although, considering how much of the day I've spent sleeping, I do wonder how I'll be able to sleep tonight." He sat back down at the table, the use of the special cushion making his movements somewhat easier.

"Well, you're still healing. You'll probably sleep just fine. You want something to drink, or anything?"

"No, thank you, Ray." Fraser found that he was even able to lean back in the chair. Yes, there was an ache, but no worse than when he lay prone, well, not much worse, at any rate. He glanced at the laptop still set up on the table and the pile of files beside it. "You're catching up on your paperwork, Ray?"

Ray glanced over, "Yeah. These are some old open files. Every once in a while, we got to go through them, see if anything new has come up. Generally, they stay open forever, unless we get real lucky and someone brought in for a new crime tells us about one of them. Of course, once in a while, the guy going through the files will catch something that produces a lead that may or may not solve the case. But whenever we got time, we're supposed to go through and update the files. Just in case somebody asks."

"Ah. And, this can be done from here, instead of having to go in to the station?" Fraser asked, realizing that Ray, who hated paperwork, had volunteered to take on this onerous task in order to care for him. He found the gesture touching, and a confirmation of their friendship.

"Yeah. It's pretty boring, but it's gotta be done. This way, I don't gotta take no leave, and I can still be around in case you need anything." Ray took the pot of pasta from the stove and drained it. He then piled two plates high with the noodles and spooned the sauce from the chicken over them.

"Which pieces of chicken do you want?" Ray asked.

Looking up at the expectant expression on his friend's face, he almost answered 'any would be fine, Ray,' bur remembered in time how Ray reacted to his earlier similar comment about how to prepare the chicken. "A breast would be nice, Ray."

Ray smiled as he put the chicken on the plates. "Just one piece?"

"For now, thank you kindly."

Ray nodded and continued to dish up their plates. He had the bowl of salad already on the table, along with the bowls and cutlery. There were also glasses of milk waiting for them. Bringing the plates to the table, Ray set them down and then sat. "Eat up."

Fraser leaned forward, scooped some salad into his bowl, and chose the bleu cheese dressing to go with it, from the three bottles on the table. Ray went for the ranch dressing., pouring a liberal amount on his salad. They ate quietly, neither man having much to say.

Fraser was wondering how Ray was going to manage the enforced confinement of caring for him. He knew that the high-energy man must have been going stir-crazy, already. He'd been there less than a day and, had it not been for learning to play pinochle and the book, even if he'd slept away half of the day, he was suffering from boredom. What must the hyperactive Ray be going through?

When dinner was finished, Ray again cleaned up the kitchen, then, looking uncertainly at the laptop, then at the living room, finally settling his sights on Fraser. "So, you want to watch some TV, or what?"

"Television is fine, Ray. I don't want to put you out." Although, he felt that he already had. He'd put Ray out of his bed, out of his job, and out of his normal routine. He didn't like the way he felt he was being a burden on his friend.

"No problem, Frase. You're not putting me out."

"But what about Diefenbaker. Surely, he's causing you a bit of trouble?"

"Nope. He says he has to go out, I take him out. We come back in, he goes and watches you sleep. He's been real quiet. Hasn't even tried to mooch anything. Of course, that may be because of the dog food I got him."

"What did you get him?" Fraser asked, wondering what could possibly make the wolf prefer it to people food.

"I got a bag of that dry dog food for big dogs, and some canned stuff. I've been keeping his dry food dish full, and he gets a can for breakfast and another for dinner."

Fraser stared at Ray, then turned to look at Dief, who gazed soulfully up at him. "No wonder he's not begging. You're overfeeding him."

"I am?" Ray seemed surprised.

"Yes, Ray, he only requires three cups of kibble per day. If you supplement it with canned, you should remove one cup of dry to balance it. He certainly does not need more than one can per day, either in the morning or at night.

Dief whined in protest.

"You're just being a glutton," Fraser admonished.

Ray looked chagrined. "I'm sorry. I didn't think it seemed like a lot. I only been having to refill his dry food every couple of days." Looking over at the wolf, he sighed, "Sorry, Dief. You heard him, he knows what's best for you." The animal huffed in annoyance and turned away.

"It's all right, Ray. You didn't know."

"Well, I read what the labels say? I was just following the instructions."

"No harm was done, Ray. It's just that living here in Chicago, he doesn't get nearly enough exercise. I try, but there just aren't enough hours in the day to properly care for him. I've thought numerous times about sending him back to Nunavut, but he doesn't want to go. I suspect that it's primarily due to the easy living he's gotten used to here."


"Yes, Ray. The Northwest Territories has been divided in two. Diefenbaker is from the area now known as Nunavut."

"Oh." Ray looked thoughtfully at the wolf, which lay watching them. "You know. I don't think he stays because of the food."

Fraser looked surprised. "Oh? Why not?"

"I think he stays because he loves you."

"Don't be silly, Ray," Fraser scoffed.

"I mean it. You say he saved your life, right?"

"Yes, and he's been making me pay for it ever since."

"Well, maybe, but I think you gotta know that if he didn't care for you, he woulda taken off. Like you said, food's easy for him to get, here. He's gotta be sticking with you for a reason."

Fraser looked down, his gaze finding Dief's warm, brown eyes on his. He recognized the question in the animal's eyes. Smiling, he reached his hand towards his friend. Diefenbaker bounded to his feet and bounced over to allow Fraser to stroke him. Taking Dief's head between his hands, he ruffled the dog's fur, then smoothed it back in place. Diefenbaker wagged his tail enthusiastically and licked his hands.

"See?" Ray asked. "If he didn't care about you, he wouldn't be mopin' around all day, waiting for you to give him some attention."

"You may be right, Ray." Fraser continued to stroke his pet's head. With a final pat, he leaned back and watched as Dief turned away, stopping by Ray for a good ear scratching before returning to his place beside the sofa where he once again lay quietly, watching the two men.

"So, how about some television?" Ray asked, going back to his earlier question.

"Television is fine, Ray," Fraser agreed, standing. Oddly enough, it seemed easier. Perhaps the cushion had something to do with it, or maybe it was simply the fact that he was using his hip, the use loosening up the joint.

"You better take the cushion, if it's helping, that is," Ray suggested.

"Good idea. It does seem to help. "

Ray grinned as he cleared the table. He went over and turned on the television and cable box, handing the remote controls to Fraser. "Discovery Channel is 12," he suggested. Fraser smiled and tuned in to channel 12. He was pleasantly surprised to find them showing an episode of Wild Discovery on polar bears. He happily settled down to watch it while Ray again cleaned up after their meal.

After the episode on polar bears, there was a second episodes on wolves. Both Fraser and Ray watched and made comments on how much Diefenbaker either did, or did not match the profile.

"Well, you know, Ray, he's really only half wolf."

"Yeah? Which half?" Ray teased.

"The obnoxious half," Fraser replied, chuckling. Ray snickered and reached over to ruffle the animal's fur.

The next show was one on forensics. Fraser watched avidly, although, Ray tended to look away when they showed any graphic gore or violence. The information was up-to-the minute, but he just didn't find it comfortable to see certain things.

After several hours of television, both men were having trouble keeping their eyes open. Fraser announced that he was going to go to bed and Ray agreed with the idea, Soon, the apartment was silent as both men and wolf slept.

A week went by in this manner. Fraser sleeping less and less as he healed. Spending more and more time up, taking Diefenbaker for at least one of his walks each day. Ray had gotten through all the cold cases, completed his own reports, and had run out of work to do. Fraser insisted that he didn't need constant attention and sent Ray back to work. He was quite recovered enough to care for himself, even if he was still unable to return to his own job until the hospital released him.

The first day, Ray called several times, just to make sure that Fraser was doing all right. After the third such call, Fraser, in exasperation, told Ray that he had been fine, every single time he called and that barring some highly unlikely occurrence, he would remain so. Ray apologized and didn't call again.

Hanging up after his tirade, Fraser felt remorse. After all, Ray had spent an entire week caring for him. Only leaving the apartment when Diefenbaker needed to go out. Remembering his embarrassment at needing Ray to change the dressing on his injury...well, he felt badly about the way he'd just spoken to his friend. To make up for it, he decided that having a hot meal waiting when Ray returned would be a good idea. Checking out the freezer and the cupboards, he realized that Ray had been cooking complete meals every single day and had not once gone to the market. Looking through the cupboards, he realized that groceries were in order. Deciding that he could walk down to the market, Fraser called to Dief to go with him. Ray had given him a key so he could lock up the apartment whenever he took Dief out for a walk, so he felt that there would be no problem going down to the market.

Unfortunately, it was six blocks to the nearest market. Fraser hadn't walked more than two blocks in total since he was injured. Half-way there, his injured muscles were protesting. Once at the market, he had to use a shopping cart to help support himself. He made his purchases, careful to limit them to what he felt he could carry. Enough to prepare dinner, at any rate. Even so, he had to take several breaks on his way back, to rest. What he had thought would be a short half-hour round trip turned into a two-hour self-induced torture session.

He just hoped that he would make it back to the apartment before Ray got home.

Ray had forced himself to not call again. He knew he was hovering, but he was concerned that Fraser might try to overexert himself. When his shift finally ended, he again refrained from calling, even though he wasn't certain whether or not he'd mentioned to Fraser that he needed to go to the store. He'd pretty much depleted his pantry during the previous week. He'd cooked more in the past eight days than he had in the past six months.

He hurried through his shopping. The freezer was empty of everything but a couple of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and about a pound of whole bean coffee, so he stocked up on meat and frozen vegetables. Bread, milk, butter and cheese. A 10 pound bag of potatoes, a five pound bag of rice, and another of sugar. Pancake mix...garlic salt. Cruising up and down the aisles, he soon had everything he needed to restock his kitchen. He hoped.

He wrote a check and let the box boy load the groceries in the trunk. It had been a long day, two robberies and a homicide had landed on his desk, all unrelated. Of course, it felt good to be back in the field. Still, he had missed Fraser and Dief. He could definitely get used to having them around. Not that they'd want to stay any longer than they had to. He knew he was a pain to live with. At least, Stella had convinced him of that idea.

When he got home, he was surprised by the silence. Dief met him at the door, whining and making short charges towards the bedroom. Setting his load down on the counter, he followed the wolf to find Fraser sprawled across the bed, still in his jacket, one shoe off, and one shoe still on. He rushed to his friend and called out, "Frase? Fraser? Hey, Fra-zur!" His voice went up with each repetition of Fraser's name. He placed a hand on his friend's back, then leaned over to get a clear look of his face. He was pale and perspiring. "Fraser?" Ray shook him. Finally, he received a response. A soft moan escaped Fraser's parted lips. "Frase? C'mon, buddy. Wake up and tell me what happened. Fraser? Benton? Come on, buddy, don't do this to me." He was starting to panic. He *knew *he shouldn't have gone back to work so soon. Fraser still needed him. Obviously. From what Ray could tell, it looked like his friend had taken Dief out for a walk and been overcome by...exhaustion? Maybe he slipped and fell? He had no way of knowing until he could get his friend conscious.

He moved away long enough to go to the bathroom and get a wet washcloth. Gently, he pushed Fraser over onto his side. He couldn't see any obvious sign of injury, but that didn't mean anything. Bathing Fraser's face with the cool, damp cloth, he was pleased when, after a few minutes, he showed signs of regaining consciousness.

"Hey, Frase? Buddy? You awake, yet? C'mon, Fraser, talk to me, here. Frase?"

"Ohhhh," Fraser groaned. "Ray? Are you home already?"

"Already? What time do you think it is, Frase?" Ray asked, concerned.

"Uh, I'm not certain, but I believe it was about four when I returned."

"It's almost six, Fraser."

"Oh." He glanced down at himself, realizing what had happened. "Oh, dear."

"So, what happened? Dief run off on you and you had to chase him down or something?" Ray sat on the corner of the bed beside his friend.

"Uh, no, Ray, not exactly."

"What 'exactly', then?"

"Well, after our last telephone conversation, I decided that you've been taking care of me for the past week, and that I should at least prepare supper for us, tonight. However, when I went to the kitchen..."

"You found that the cupboards were pretty bare, right?"

"Well, yes. There were still some leftovers, but not enough to make a real meal from."

"So, you...what? Decided to go to the store?" Ray stood up, his annoyance expressed in his need to move.

"Well, yes. I only planned on buying enough for a simple meal, but..."

Ray interrupted him, "Fraser, it's six blocks to the nearest store. It's almost a mile, you know? You're still recuperating. You're still supposed to be taking it easy." His voice became low and intense, "You know that you're still gettin' over bein' shot, right? What the *hell *were you thinking?"

Fraser wouldn't meet his eyes. He knew that Ray was right, but he'd thought, only a couple of miles, an easy walk...at least, it should have been. It had been, just three weeks earlier. Now, however....

"I'm sorry Ray. I just..."

Ray slumped down beside his friend. "I know. You're used to being 'super-Mountie'. You still are. You just got to wait until you finish healing, you know?" Ray looked closely at his friend. "You okay? You kinda scared me. It took a while to wake you up."

"I'll be fine, Ray. I just overexerted myself and when I finally got back, I put the groceries away and came in here. I planned on lying down for just a few minutes, but, well..."

"Yeah, you keeled over like an overcooked noodle, right?" Ray smiled and patted his embarrassed friend on the shoulder. "It's okay. I'm sorry I got mad, an' I'm sorry I kept calling you and annoying you. But, you gotta promise me that you're not gonna do that again. Okay?"

Fraser looked up at him in surprise. A slow smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "All right, Ray. I'll try."

"That's all I ask. Hey, I'm surprised you didn't get mugged, to tell you the truth."

"I had Dief with me."

Ray turned to the wolf. "Why didn't you stop him, hairball?" Dief whined and hid his nose under one front paw. "Yeah, you're right. He doesn't listen too good, sometimes. Next time, you drag him back, you hear me?" Dief took his nose from under his paw and gave a yip of agreement.

"Well, now that that's settled. How about I order us in a pizza? I'm not in the mood to cook, and I'm pretty sure that you're not up to it either, right?" At Fraser's nod, he grinned, slapped his friend on the shoulder and stood up.

"Okay, what do you want on it?" Fraser rose and followed him into the living room, where they discussed which toppings they wanted, eventually settling on half combination, and half combination with pineapple.

A second week passed, and Fraser was recovering well. He'd begun physical therapy, and after a few sessions had convinced the hospital that he was able to care for himself and get enough of the proper kinds of exercise. Ray, however, insisted he stay with him until he was fully released to return to his job.

"Ray, I'm perfectly capable of caring for myself, now."

Ray started to argue with him, then stopped, his eyes dropping to the floor. Of course he was. "Fine. I'll drive you back to the consulate, then."

Fraser had expected a fight. Ray had been a wonderful caretaker, making sure he was comfortable, well fed, and entertained; but surely he was tired of his company, wasn't he? He'd been imposing on him for two weeks, taking over not only his bed, but his entire life. He looked consideringly at his friend. "Ray?" he asked softly.

"It's okay, Frase, I get it. I got on your nerves, right?"

Fraser was shocked. "Not in the least, Ray. I've had a very pleasant visit, particularly under the circumstances. However, I feel that I've put you out long enough. I just thought that you'd like your home back, without myself and Diefenbaker always underfoot."

Ray looked up in confusion. "I figured you were tired of me."

Enlightenment dawned. "Not at all. I thoroughly enjoy your company, Ray. However, I will eventually have to return to my place. Well, not mine, exactly, but where I stay. Not that it's the same as having my own place, but...." He shook his head in self-reproach. "But that's another matter. I really should try to find an apartment of my own, I think. Then, perhaps, I could return the favor and have you come and visit me."

Ray, managing to follow his friend's rambling, smiled, looking up from beneath lowered brows. "You are a freak, Fraser."

Fraser looked at his friend, seeing the amusement in his eyes. "Well, yes. I suppose I am, Ray." He paused a moment, "It takes one to know one, I believe is the saying?"

Ray's smile widened, "That it does, Benton-buddy, that it does. So, you still want to go back tonight, or do you want to wait for the weekend?" His tone was hopeful, he'd gotten used to having them around and realized that he was going to miss them when they went back to their own lives.

Fraser looked at his friend and recognized that Ray was just as lonely as he was. "The weekend is fine, Ray, thank you kindly."

"Greatness." Ray smiled back at him, also understanding. "So, how about some Pinochle?"

"Sounds good, Ray. Shall we order in, or cook?"


"Chinese is fine. My treat." It was, after all, the least he could do to show his gratitude for his friend's care of him through his recovery.

Dinner was quiet, but companionable. Conversation was light, Fraser asking how Ray's day had gone at the District House, and Ray regaling him with a tale of a stupid crook who had foolishly attempted to steal someone's champion show dog.

"Why are you laughing, Ray? What happened?"

"You shoulda been there, Fraze. This guy broke into the house, wanting to get this really expensive dog, planning on holding it for ransom. So, he gets into the house and starts lookin' for the dog. The dog was kept locked up in a couple of rooms in the house, right? So he opens up the kiddy-gate, and reaches for the pooch." His laughter got the best of him and he couldn't speak for a few minutes while he laughed. Fraser waited patiently, wondering what could possibly be so funny.

"A-anyway, he reaches for the dog, only the dog don't know him, and starts to tear him a new one."

"What kind of dog was it, Ray?" Fraser asked, picturing a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler.

"It-it-it w-w-was a-a Chihuahua!!" Ray doubled over, laughing. "Almost tore his hand off. Then, the little bugger wouldn't let him leave. When the owner got home, there he was, cornered in the kitchen with this little monster snarling and snapping at him. You shoulda seen it. The owner couldn't even call her dog off, so she called us. The uniforms first on the scene couldn't get near him, either. That little mutt just was determined to chew anyone and everyone to shreds. By the time I arrived, the poor thief was screaming for help, wanting someone to shoot the dog to rescue him."

Fraser was confused, "Did you have to call Animal Control?"

"Nope." Ray had finally recovered, but was still grinning. "I guess Dief is wearing off on me or somethin'. I walked in and the dog took one look at me and came over, wagging her tail like I was her best buddy. I picked her up and handed her to her owner, who put her back in her room. The uniforms couldn't even cuff the guy, he was so tore up. They just transported him to the hospital while I went ahead and took the report." Ray took a sip of his soda, "Seein' that little two pound dog holding four uniforms, her owner, and the thief at bay...You shoulda been there."

Fraser's mouth stretched in a slow smile as he pictured the scene as painted by his friend. "I would have liked to see that." He cast a sly glance at Ray, "Why do you suppose the dog came to you?"

Ray shrugged. "I don't know. She just did."

Dief chose that moment to come over and began to 'vacuum' Ray with his nose. When he reached Ray's left front pocket, he whined and pawned at him, looking up with his best soulful, begging expression on his face. Curious as to what the wolf wanted, he reached into his pocket and emptied out the contents. Dumping his handful of items on the table, he stared for a moment, then burst once more into laughter. Lifting up one of the objects, he held it for Fraser to see. "I don't know when I picked this up, but I think I know why that dog came over."

Fraser looked at the item and began to laugh. "Where on earth did you get that?" he asked.

Ray shrugged. "Don't know. Here, Dief." He tossed the chew-stick to the wolf, who caught it in the air and headed for the kitchen to work on it, having learned that Ray wanted him to make any messes on the linoleum.

Finished with their meal, Fraser insisted on doing the clean up while Ray watched the news. Later, they watched some television. It was late, and Ray had dozed off. Fraser looked at his friend and smiled. He gently shook him awake and suggested they turn in for the night. Ray simply grunted, toed his shoes off and stretched out on the couch. He was immediately sound asleep, never having really awakened. Shaking his head, Fraser picked up Ray's pillow and slid it beneath the tousled blonde's head. He then took the blanket and covered his friend before locking up and turning off the lights. Preparing for bed, he thought about his friend. He still felt guilty for having imposed on Ray for so long, but also recognized their mutual need for companionship. Diefenbaker peered up at him and made a questioning sound.

"I suppose, Dief. Ray certainly doesn't seem to mind." The wolf jumped up on the bed and settled beside him, his head resting on Fraser's legs. "Perhaps we should seek an apartment of our own, Dief." His suggestion was met with a grunt of agreement. "I wonder if there are any vacancies in this building?" The idea of having his own apartment near his friend pleased him. He'd check with Ray, in the morning, and see what they could find. They had managed well as temporary roommates and he wondered if they could succeed as well as neighbors? Only time would tell. Hopefully, Ray wouldn't mind him being around more. The idea of being near his friend did a great deal to alleviate the loneliness he was prone to, and that he suspected Ray also suffered from. With a pat to Diefenbaker's head, he smiled and decided to make the suggestion in the morning. With the smile still on his face, he quickly drifted off to sleep.

Unreal. The Mountie wanted to find his own place? And nearby? Wanted to keep spending time with him? Even after three weeks stuck with Ray as a roommate, he wanted to stick around, still. Looking uncertainly up at his partner, he saw the hope in the man's eyes. A slow grin spread across his face.

"Greatness, Benton-buddy. That would be total greatness."

The End

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