Disclaimer: due South and all its shiny contents belong to Alliance and assorted Pauls, not me. This is probably a good thing.
Notes" This was written for ds_flashfiction's ds_match Challenge. I was on Team Romance, and had the prompt "I don't know why you're so upset." ds_match is made of AWESOME.
“I swear I don’t know anything else!”
Ray gives the owner of the nasal, whining voice a jaundiced look over the rim of his paper coffee cup. The weaselly man, hair straggling damply from his receding hairline, gives him what Ray guesses is supposed to be a pleading look.
It makes him look constipated.
“Please, I swear, man. If I knew anything else, I’d tell you. Jimmy, he jus’ says that he wants to use the warehouse for a coupla days and he gives me two gees upfront. Two grand buys a whole lotta looking the other way, right?” The question is immediately followed by a wince as Arnie Fletcher catches sight of Fraser’s expression.
Looking sideways at Fraser, Ray can understand this: a stink eye, Canadian style, is as intimidating as hell. Said Canadian just spent the past forty-five minutes lecturing Arnie (and Ray) about the legal, ethical and moral implications of assisting in the illegal trade in wild animals, so Ray’s really not surprised that Arnie’s confessing. Five more minutes and Ray would be confessing.
“Yeah, right.” Ray flips one hand at Arnie then jabs a finger at the piece of paper and pen on the table. “Statement. I’m sure you know the drill.”
Ray takes the opportunity to finish his coffee in relative silence. Arnie pulls a variety of pained faces as he battles with the written word (with limited success). It’s a mark of how pissed Fraser is that he doesn’t start his usual walking dictionary crap.
Statement finished, Ray gladly hands Arnie over to a couple of uniforms and escapes to his desk. Fraser follows along behind him like he’s made entirely of rusty hinges.
“Hey, you okay?”
Fraser doesn’t answer; he’s coasted to a stop next to Ray’s desk and is staring blankly down at an open file that Frannie’s left there. Ray glances down and stuffs the photos spread across his desk back into the file, before shutting it with an angry thump. Neither of them need to see the pictures; they spent the better part of the afternoon in the god-awful warehouse, surrounded by corroded and piecemeal cages, the floor littered with shit and the corpses of the birds that hadn’t survived the journey.
“I’m sorry, Ray.” Fraser blinks and Ray can see him shrug back on his polite mask. “I am perfectly fine, I assure you.”
“Yeah, right.” Ray snorts and pulls his char away from the desk. “Come on, furface, we’re busting out of this joint early.”
Dief emerges from the footwell of the desk, wags his tail and gives both Ray and Fraser a wide berth before looking expectant.
“Really, Ray, that’s hardly an exemplary work ethic,” Fraser complains.
“Fraser, coming back to the station and interviewing that creep straight from the warehouse instead of running home and climbing into my shower for three years to get rid of the stink of bird shit is beyond exemplary.” Ray waves at himself and then Fraser. “There is only so much Frannie with wet-wipes and air freshener can do. I smell worse than Dewey.”
Diefenbaker yips in what sounds suspiciously like agreement.
“That’s hardly charitable, Ray.”
Ray merely raises both eyebrows and plucks Fraser’s hat off his in tray and hands it to him. He’s gotten good at reading Fraser, so he can hear the almost-amusement in Fraser’s voice.
“True, though. Come on buddy, pitter patter.” Ray jerks his head in the direction of the door. Then, when Fraser doesn’t seem too inclined to move, Ray slings a companionable arm over his shoulders and propels them in the correct direction. Dief bounces to attention and trots ahead of them. Walking past Frannie’s desk earns Ray a blast something overpoweringly floral from a can.
“I hope you’re going to get changed and stop stinking up this place,” Frannie says in a somewhat muffled voice. Most of the lower half of her face is obscured by a mask.
Frannie glares threateningly at Ray and brandishes her aerosol can. “Some brother of mine decided to stink up the pig pen.”
“Whatever, it still stinks worse than usual.”
Another blast of Oriental Rose makes Ray back up a few steps, hands held up. “Okay, jeez. We’re going already. C’mon, Fraser.”
Ray has to bump Fraser’s shoulder to get him moving again. He seems more distracted than usual.
“What? Oh, of course.”
The double doors leading to the corridor bang closed behind them, not quite cutting off Frannie’s shout of, “And don’t come back until you’ve bleached yourself.”
“Everyone’s a comedian,” Ray mutters to himself. “So, Fraser. I’m voting for stopping at the Consulate for a change of clothes for you, hitting up that new Thai place for takeout and then abusing my shower.”
Fraser starts slightly and finally manages to drag all of his attention to the here and now as Ray rushes them onwards. “I’m sorry?”
“Shower, you know? Warm water falling from above? I get first go, though.” Ray shakes his head and digs around in his pocket for the keys to the GTO.
“Fraser, buddy, you sound zoned out, you sure you’re okay?” Ray pauses in front of the GTO, keys in hand, and gives Fraser a worried look.
“I admit I may be somewhat distracted by the case, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.”
“If you say so,” Ray says dubiously as he unlocks the driver side door and gingerly slides into the seat, leaning over to unlock the door for Fraser. “I’m going to have to detail the hell out of the Goat after today.”
Dief bounces into the back seat and fidgets around as Fraser gets in the car and shuts the door.
“Yes, thank you. We can do well without your observations,” Fraser says sharply.
Diefenbaker whines and lies down with both of his front paws over his nose. Fraser twists around in the car seat as Ray indicates and pulls out into the street, and gives the half-wolf a stern look.
“You’re indulging in melodrama.”
Ray sighs to himself and wonders, vaguely, as he makes a left turn, when having a Mountie and a wolf arguing in his car became such a normal event.
Four days, no new leads and the most boring—and longest— stakeout ever known to man, and Ray is done. Dot him, file him, stick him in a damn box and seal the lid. Trafficking in endangered birds, while apparently enough to be the preserve of really nasty characters and monumentally piss off the Mountie like Ray’s hardly ever seen, is not something that attracts much in the way of police manpower. This has lead to Ray and Fraser doing pretty much all of the work on their own, since they were the ones lucky enough to haul in Arnie in the first place. Ray’s so tired by this point that he’s fairly sure that he could actually sleep in a box, if one was handy.
He compromises by making it as far as his couch before passing out.
Inside Ray’s dream—he’s not sure how he knows it’s a dream, but he does—everything is white. White and bright. This doesn’t bother Ray in the slightest. It’s actually kind of relaxing, just hanging around in this peaceful white place. Ray imagines this is probably what Fraser has in mind when he starts going on about cognitive dreaming. If he’d realized that it could actually be kind of cool, Ray would have made the effort months ago.
Kicking back off his feet, Ray takes up a seat in mid air and is really getting into this whole thing when gravity makes an unwelcome appearance. Ray barely has time for an undignified yelp before he hits the fluffy whiteness of what has suddenly decided to be the floor. And then he has plenty of time for a whole lot of yelping and swearing and ricocheting to his feet like someone’s stuck a firework up his ass, because the fluffy white stuff? Is snow. Really fucking cold snow, and Ray’s mind has seen fit to dress him only in boxers.
Ray’s so busy inventing new swear words (the Inuit having forty words for snow is nothing, Ray can think of plenty more), that the sudden inclusion of a log cabin about two feet to his left goes unnoticed until he trips over the steps and ends up sprawled on the weathered wood of the porch.
Fraser can take cognitive dreaming and cram it up his ass.
The porch isn’t the snow, and so is marginally warmer, but ‘marginally’ still equates to ‘having a thousand and twelve needles of ice hammered into every square inch of skin’, so Ray barely thinks before scrabbling at the door he’s so conveniently landed in front of and half crawling, half collapsing through it.
Inside the cabin looks like something from the Grizzly Adams school of interior design, but there is a large log fire and that is all Ray is focused on at the moment. He shuffles across the floor to it on his knees, ignoring the possibility of splinters (although this is a dream, so things like splinters shouldn’t be possible. On the other hand… he’s just fallen, mostly naked, into a snowdrift the size of Canada) from the floor boards, and making pathetic grabby-hands motions.
“Well, you certainly took your time getting here.”
As close to the fire as he can get without actually sitting in it, Ray stuffs his hands into his armpits and turns around for the source of the voice.
There is a silver-haired man sitting behind a desk on the far side of the room (although, in a cabin the same size as some garden sheds Ray’s been in, this is not far at all) giving Ray a faintly disapproving look over the top of a piece of thick paper.
“It says here, quite clearly, that I have you booked from 11pm onwards.” The old man looks pointedly at the pendulum clock hanging on the wall. It shows the time to be 11:47. “Tardiness is not an admirable trait.”
“Uh, sorry?” Ray offers confusedly.
“Never mind, you’re here now.” The piece of paper is placed on the desk and Ray suddenly finds himself the object of the old man’s attention.
“Where is here?”
“My cabin,” the man says, as if it’s something that should be perfectly apparent to anyone with eyes in their head. “I was hardly going to request that this meeting occur elsewhere, was I?”
“No…?” Parts of Ray’s brain offer up the lame answer while the rest tries to warm itself up.
“Of course not. Now, we may as well make ourselves comfortable, there’s no sense in making too much of a chore about this.”
Ray just sits and steams faintly as he watches the man putter around the cabin, doing strangely domestic things. One of those things involves dropping a large blanket that smells sort of like mothballs and sort of like the inside of the Goat after Dief’s been with them on a stakeout on Ray’s head, and several more have to do with the arcane positioning of tea kettles and the brewing of tea. At the end of this, the old man is sitting in a wingback chair on one side of the fire, Ray is wrapped up in the blanket on the other side (and, incidentally, feeling like he’s five again), and they both have tin mugs of tea.
Ray looks cautiously down into his tea. It looks like sump oil.
The old man harrumphs, sips at his tea, gives Ray an uncomfortable look and then sips at his tea again. “Well,” he says eventually—after another round of throat clearing and tea drinking. “I can’t say that this is exactly what I planned on spending my twilight years doing, nor that it’s exactly a joy to me to have another Tiberius in the family, but I suppose that it should hardly be a surprise, given how similar to Tiberius Benton is in other regards.”
“Which is, of course, why I requisitioned you for the evening. Benton can hardly be trusted to sort this out for himself, as past events of this nature show, and while grandchildren are most certainly going to be out of the question, I would at least like him to stop moping about quite so much. You would not believe the grumpiness I’ve had to put up with the past week. Work stress, he says. That’s all well and good, I told him, but that’s no need to completely over-react to a simple bit of home improvement.”
Eyes glazing over slightly, Ray risks a taste of the tea and almost strangles himself trying to swallow the mouthful down, rather than spit it into the fire. The old man continues talking. Ray’s not entirely sure what about: It’s like one of Fraser’s boring-ass Inuit stories, but with about 99% less snow.
“Time was, to a man who’d been out on the harshness of the tundra with nothing but his dog team and a pouch of pemmican to keep him sane, the simple sounds of a wood saw through pine would have been like the voices of angels.”
Scratch that. Fraser can take cognitive dreaming and cram it right up his ass. Under the cover of the blanket, Ray starts pinching his arm, trying—with no success—to wake himself up. He flushes slightly as he realizes that the old man is watching him.
“Yes, well.” The old man clears his throat and puts his mug down on the floor. “Introductions on my part would not go amiss. Robert Fraser, formerly of the RCMP. I already know who you are.”
Ray blinks and tries to arrange the events of this dream into some kind of sense. It takes several attempts, but he finally comes up with snow + tea + long words + RCMP = Fraser’s dad. Which still doesn’t make that much sense, but it’s all Ray’s got (apart from his boxers, the blanket and the tea). When in doubt, wildly accuse.
“Yes, well, I did say ‘formerly,’” Fraser’s dad says in a testy tone.
“You’re haunting my dream!”
“I think you’ll find that I’m sitting in my cabin, as are you, and that you are the revenant, for want of a better word.”
“I’m a what now?”
“A ghost.” Fraser Senior vents a long suffering sigh that’s so identical to Fraser’s it’s freaky. “You are also remarkably good at changing the subject.”
“What subject? I’m not seeing any kind of subject! A whole lotta snow, yeah; tea that could clean engine parts, yeah; the dead ghost of my freaky Canadian partner’s dad, hell yeah— but not any kind of subject.”
“Benton was right, I see.”
“Right about what— you talk with him?” Ray can’t stop his mouth falling open.
“Of course I do. He is my son, after all. He… well, ‘confides’ isn’t exactly the right word, but I certainly observe things. That dog of his isn’t above sticking his own oar in and filling me in on any details I may have missed, either.”
“Well, if you can call it that. One of the disadvantages of being dead, that is, being able to understand the soulless beasts of land and air. Well: that and the deplorable lack of good fishing.”
Ray finds himself nodding along in agreement. It’s probably hypothermia.
“Which leads me on to the actual topic of, ah, interest: Benton. As I mentioned, it’s not like he’s going to, well, do anything without… sufficient prompting.” Fraser senior pauses and looks at Ray, who’s beginning to feel like one of those bobble-head dogs you see in the back of cars owned by people who believe flocked plastic is the edge of cool. “So, I’m providing the initial impetus for the prompting. Police work is— as I well know— demanding, but the Field Museum is currently holding a special exhibition on the culture and history of the First Nations people. The demonstrations of traditional weapons manufacture are fascinating.”
“Yes, and one can never go wrong with a good meal out, I feel. There was this one time when—”
A shrill ringing cuts through the air, drowning out whatever Fraser’s dad is about to say.
Ray jumps violently and all of a sudden finds himself sitting bolt upright on his couch. The green smear of the VCR display informs him that it’s 12.17am. The shrill ringing hammers into his ears again and Ray realizes that it’s his cell phone. After fighting to extract the damn thing from where it’s got stuck in the pocket of his jeans, Ray flips it open and barks, “Yeah?” into it, because even rescuing Ray from being haunted by Fraser’s dad is no justification for calling at this time.
There’s some rookie dispatcher on the other end of the line. Ray listens— with an amazing amount of patience— as she stumbles through relaying information about a bust down at the docks turning up a complete lack of crack cocaine, but an over-abundance of turtles, breed unknown.
“Right, right, fine,” Ray groans into the phone. “I’ll be there in twenty.”
It looks like it’ll be an even longer night.
Ray is somewhere out beyond tired, floating in the faintly twitchy realms of the terminally caffeinated, and the report he’s trying to fill in has either been printed in Cantonese, or his eyes are on strike. Fraser, when Ray squints at him sitting on the other side of the desk, looks like a red cubist octopus, so it’s probably Ray’s eyes.
“Hey,” Ray says, leaning back in his chair and stretching, making his back crack.
“Chelonians, Ray,” Fraser says absently, rubbing at his face with one hand as he leafs through a fat file of photographs.
“Chelonians. At my estimate there were at least fifteen different species of turtle contained in those cages. The preliminary report from Animal Control supports this. There seems little point in listing all fifteen breeds in your report, so the substitution of the word chelonian is both practicable and acceptable.”
“Except that I was going to suggest that we find some lunch, not asking for help from the Canadian dictionary.”
Fraser glances up at Ray, a hurt expression fleeting across his face before he blinks and concentrates his attention on the file in his lap again. “I apologize, Ray.”
“Aw, jeez,” Ray sighs and scrubs at his face with his hands. “Sorry. Lack of sleep. Lack of food. Too many turtles.”
“Understood.” But Fraser’s expression changes from imperturbable-Mountie smooth, to faintly-amused smooth and he puts the file on Ray’s desk. “Lunch is a fine idea. There’s a new Mongolian restaurant near to the Consulate that I’ve heard great things about.”
“Nuh uh.” Ray jumps to his feet as quickly as a man running almost entirely on caffeine can and shakes his head. “I have a plan, gonna be a surprise.”
“Indeed?” Fraser looks interested as he puts his Stetson on.
Ray ignores the question and jangles his car keys in the air as he strides towards the doors. “Yo, Dief!”
There’s no response. The only thing looking remotely canine in the 2-7’s bullpen at the moment is the high school football mascot currently cuffed to the chair in front of Huey’s desk. The costume is bright green, furry, and is either supposed to be a dog or a terminally surprised otter, Ray hasn’t entirely decided which.
“I think he’s asleep under Francesca’s desk,” Fraser has to raise his voice as Fluffy the Otter begins drunkenly confessing by the means of cheers.
“Right, well, you snooze you lose.” Ray speeds up to escape the chanting and bumps his shoulder against Fraser’s. “Don’t know how anyone could sleep in there, though.”
“Diefenbaker is deaf, Ray.”
“And I’m a chelonian.”
After a brief argument when they reach the GTO (“I thought you were too tired to see straight, Ray; maybe we should walk?” “I am never that tired, Fraser.”), they get underway quickly.
Despite his assurances to Fraser, Ray feels like the inside of his skull has been lined with grit and he keeps on getting these strange little flashes of something, maybe a dream, and he also feels partly like he’s become unglued from reality.
Thankfully, Fraser seems to be almost as zoned out as Ray (and maybe it wasn’t buddies to wake Fraser up as well, but they were partners and Ray definitely needed the moral support to deal with what turned out to be five shipping containers full of assorted very illegal species of turtle, a bunch of really pissy DEA agents, and a pair of Animal Control fruit loops who had the mistaken belief that everyone was interested in the colour of turtle shit). This means that Ray can, casually, keep an eye on Fraser out of the corner of his eye. Being able to do this gives Ray a funny warm feeling low in his chest, something that he tries to concentrate on in favour of the fact that he’s doing this partly because a ghost told him too.
Fraser’s expression when they park near the Field Museum, and Ray walks towards it, is confused.
“Pitter, patter, Benton buddy.”
“Ray, what on Earth are we doing— oh.” Fraser stops as he catches sight of the large banners advertising the First Nations exhibit.
“Museum bakery’ll do me,” Ray says, aiming for casual. “My treat. Figured you’d want to take a look at—” expressive arm gesture, “—stuff.”
“I—yes. Thank you Ray.” Fraser looks partly stunned and partly pleased. Ray chalks this up as a victory for his side and propels them into the museum, avoiding the large groups of noisy school children.
Another night, another warehouse stakeout. Ray groans and slouches as low in the driver seat as he can. He and Fraser completely exhausted topics of conversation (hockey, turtles, Inuit story about sled dogs, the Field Museum, turtles, story about poaching, turtles, and a—supposedly—Inuit story about turtles) nearly an hour ago and Ray is desperately trying to stay awake.
“We could take it in turns to nap,” Fraser offers quietly, after the fifth time that Ray has to jerk himself awake.
Ray starts to protest but Fraser shakes his head. “It makes sense.”
“Yeah, okay. Wake me up in an hour if nothing shows up?” Ray shifts himself from side to side, trying to convince himself that the Goat’s driver seat is more comfortable than it is. Fraser’s agreement seems to come from a great distance as Ray is almost immediately asleep.
Inside Ray’s dream, there’s snow. Again.
Ray mutters to himself. At least this time he’s popped into existence on the porch, not five feet above a snow drift. And he’s dressed. Clothes are good.
The door to the cabin’s unlocked and Ray pulls it closed behind himself.
“Ah, on time I see.” Fraser’s dad is standing next to a pile of ropes, wood and fabric on the floor and is wearing an entirely ridiculous raccoon skin cap.
“Well, who else were you expecting?” Fraser’s dad picks up a snarled mess of ropes and picks at it. “Make yourself useful; help me with these dog harnesses.”
Ray sidles across the room and helps himself to a piece of bright yellow rope that turns out to be tied into about five others.
“You have dogs in the afterlife?”
“Hmm, well. I’ve put in a requisition form, but there’s a backlog.”
“Hey!” Ray drops the tangled harness and points accusingly at Fraser’s dad. “You said you’d requisitioned me the other night. What the hell is that about?”
Fraser’s dad raises both eyebrows. “It’s hardly like I could arrange to meet you in the park or on the lake front.”
“Yeah, but you can’t just order up people like take out. People aren’t like snowmobile parts.”
“Horrible dirty things. Much prefer having a steadfast dog team to rely on. You know, this one time, Buck Frobisher and I were eleven days out on the ice, chasing a group of would-be gunrunners. We had sled dogs and they were on snowmobiles, tracked them by the oil leaks as much as anything. A child could have done so. We finally caught up with them when they ran out of fuel. Nearly blew us all up: turned out that they’d tried to use stove oil as a substitute.”
“Did you have a point?”
Fraser’s dad sucks air through his teeth and looks ruminative. “Paraffin is not a substitute for petroleum,” he says. “Environmental pollution is a crime that should carry more severe penalties.”
“If I wanted— Greenpeace— I coulda just littered in front of your son, I didn’t need to come to the bum end of nowhere. I’m supposed to be sleeping because whoever the fuck it is we’re after is being all covert and making us practically live in my car on stakeout and as much as Fraser’s my best friend, he’s going to be the first person ever with ‘Inuit Stories’ on his death certificate— and the freaking less said about the wolf’s gas problem, the better.” Ray waves his arms around to emphasize his point.
Fraser’s dad puts down the harness he was inspecting and gives Ray a disapproving look. “Presenting information in a colloquial fashion allows it to be assimilated in a different fashion.”
“Christ, you sound just like him.”
“Of course. I taught him everything he knows.” Fraser’s dad holds a slightly puffed-up pose for a moment then deflates slightly. “Well; some of what he knows. Most of it taught post mortem, so to speak.”
“That explains a lot.”
“Quite.” The metal clips on the dog harnesses jingle together as Fraser’s dad sorts through the pile. “He’s also dissembling.”
“I—what?” Ray rubs the back of his neck with one hand. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way but when you, y’know, died, did it involve head injuries?”
“Hmmph. That was the answer to your earlier question. It’s also why Benton persists in telling quite so many of those stories of his: He’s dissembling.”
“Trying to change the subject, son.”
“I know what you meant!” Ray flares making Fraser’s dad raises both of his hands in a pacifying gesture.
“I never said you didn’t. You’re just not the most observant individual. Spunky, though. And I thought that Caroline made my life exciting.”
“Spunky?” Ray screws up his face and tries to add up facts again. Okay, so: snow + dog harnesses + Fraser’s dad + genetic Canadian freakiness = ?
“Is there a problem?” Fraser’s dad asks mildly. “It’s not like it’s a negative assessment, and like I said the last time, it’s not like Benton would ever—” some vague hand waving, “—on his own, so I took the opportunity to intervene, as it were, and also meet you.”
The big question mark in Ray’s head has changed into something else. Genetic Candian freakiness + anecdotes + references to parental love life + vague hand gestures = Meeting the Parents. Despite the parent being Casper.
The afterlife thinks him and Fraser are—
“What the fuck?” Ray jerks forwards and narrowly avoids smashing his face into the GTO’s steering wheel.
Another jerk—like he’s having a fit or something—and Ray find himself looking at Fraser, who’s leaning towards him and being all concerned and Canadian and has apparently told his dead dad that they’re dating.
“I’m fine!” Except for the whole climbing-up-the-car-door thing. Ray forces himself to sit back down and at least be undercover about being relaxed and casual and not at all like he thinks Fraser’s maybe about to leap over the gear stick ravish him and— ravish? Some freaking bits of Canada have got stuck in his head or something. Ray squeezes his eyes shut, shakes his head and really tries to wake up because otherwise he’ll be drinking tea and praising the high nutritional content of dried crap-in-a-bag.
“—Ray, Ray.” Fraser sounds exasperated and Ray realises that he’s probably spent too long having a freak out.
“Hi, yeah. I’m fine.” Ray coughs loudly, willing himself to look like he believes what he’s saying. “Just a bad dream. You know, one of those freaky ones where you’re, uh, chased—” which calls up a whole set of really very bad mental images and makes Ray produce a spluttering sound while he desperately tries to haul his mind out of the gutter, “—by turtles!”
“Turtles.” Fraser looks skeptical.
“Yeah, big ones. With, um, knives. And guns.”
Ray stares fixedly out of the windshield at the darkened front of the warehouse, aware that he’s flushing with embarrassment, and mutters “yeah,” again.
Thankfully, Fraser drops the subject and silence descends on the car for the rest of the stakeout during which nothing happens at the warehouse and Ray very unsuccessfully tries to forget that the word ‘ravish’ exists.
Archie Fletcher, who will look in any direction that anyone pays him to, turns out to have really good peripheral vision. Especially after Ray threatens to kick him in the head.
“Okay, so, maybe Jimmy, he’s been driving around in new transport.”
“I’m listening.” Ray leans back in his chair and twirls one finger in the air. “Any kind of description, or is this just your regular magic carpet type of deal?”
Arnie slouches and looks resigned. “Black delivery truck, I think it’s a Ford. Side’s all painted up for some import company, uh, something beginning with ‘I’.”
Ray flicks through the file on the table in front of him. “Indigo Spice?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. So, uh, since I’ve helped with your inquires, I get something in return, right?”
“Tell you what, you can have my coffee,” Ray says over his shoulder as he stands up and walks over to the door to Interview Three to pull it open. “I’m a generous guy like that. He’s good to go.” That last is directed to the uniform standing in the corridor.
The door swings shut on Arnie’s loud complaint as Ray strides along to the bullpen. Thankfully, the Ice Queen pitched a fit about Fraser not doing enough filing or statue duty at the Consulate, so Ray’s been almost Canadian-free for the past two days. This is beyond good, because it’s given him a chance to come to terms with the whole ghost dad thing.
Which— initially, yeah, Ray was doing a whole lot of freaking out because being haunted by a Mountie is bad enough, but being haunted by a Mountie who’s trying to hook you up with his son? Not buddies.
And maybe, when Ray had first started this whole Vecchio gig and first met Fraser, thoughts of the hooking up kind had floated through his head—kind of a lot—but Ray wasn’t a complete idiot. Jumping his new partner about five minutes into the gig would have blown the whole thing out of the water and besides, there was still a whole lot of post-Stella reeling going on.
So Ray kept his hands and eyes (but maybe not his thoughts) absolutely to himself, and then he noticed that Fraser was really like a rock. Most people—practically all people—Ray could get some kind of ping from, even if it was of the not you again, loser variety, but not Fraser. Fraser was like a rock, or more like a big old stack of wool: something that just absorbed vibes of all kinds and pretty much left a guy like Ray without any kind of clue. Which put him even more in the don’t look, don’t touch category.
As they got to know each other better—and Ray realized that driving a burning car into Lake Michigan wasn’t a one-off occurrence, but an example of what pretty much every working day of his life would now be like—Fraser got shoved ever more firmly out of the way of any kind of vibe thoughts that Ray might ever have because, Christ, he was the most irritating damn person on the planet sometimes.
Almost no looking, definitely no touching. Ray was good with that: he looked sometimes because, honestly, who wouldn’t? Especially when he realized that he and Fraser were practically living in each other’s pocket’s and being shot down by the Stella lost even the perverse attraction that had been pretty much all that was keeping them together in the end.
And now? Now it seemed like Mr. Big Old Stack Of Wool did know what vibes were after all, but he only seems to respond to them in a completely freakish and quite possibly Canadian way and managed to get to ‘Ray is my boyfriend’ without any of the fun bits, or even the telling Ray bits. It’s almost enough to make Ray want to punch him in the face again.
Ray’s not going to do that, though. Not like it worked the first time, after all. He does have a plan, and waiting while Frannie digs up the files on Indigo Spice is just what he needs to put it in motion.
“Benton once got hit in the face with a dead otter, you know.” Ray opens his eyes to find Fraser’s dad looming over him, an interested expression on his face.
“… the hell?”
“You just turned up in my dog shed,” Fraser’s dad explains. “I really wasn’t expecting you. I was minding my own business, checking the ceiling joists when you suddenly crashed into existence, as it were, with that interesting bruise coming up on your forehead.”
“Fucking ow. What hit me? Why am I here again?”
Ray squints at just where here is and gamely tries to sit up. Everything tilts at crazy angles as he tries to balance. He’s sitting on the wooden floor of a shed. The light’s being provided by the open door (view of endless white) and an ancient looking lamp that’s hanging from one of the wooden beams that make up the ceiling. Fraser’s dad, bundled up in what looks like at least three coats, is standing next to him, holding a hammer. “Was it you?”
“Of course not,” Fraser’s dad sniffs. “I told you: I was checking the joists. You’re not particularly good as listening, are you? As for why you’re here, I surmise from the injuries to your head that you’ve been knocked unconscious by something—probably something alive, given the scratches—and your subconscious elected to bring you here as something familiar. The weak-willed often have difficulties with astral travel.”
Ray groans and sinks his head into his hands. He’s really not up for a lecture from any kind of Mountie right now.
“So I’ve been knocked out?”
“Precisely. Although, if I’m any judge, I think you’re about to wake up.”
“How do you know that?” Except that Ray’s suddenly lying on the floor next to a pile of sacks that are steadily leaking peppercorns over him, his head hurts even more than a moment ago and something is scrabbling at his neck. “Oh.”
“Ray!” Fraser suddenly pops up next to him and begins checking him over before Ray can protest. The scrabbling thing is removed and Fraser rocks back on his heels. “Thankfully it doesn’t appear to be injured.”
“I—what? My head is killing me Fraser.” Ray struggles upright, growling as peppercorns cascade off him, and glares at Fraser.
“Yes, you have some nasty contusions, I’m sure I have some alcohol wipes for you to use somewhere, but their shells are surprisingly fragile at this young age. It’s a miracle that it’s unharmed.”
Ray’s face screws up with confusion and it takes several blinks before he focuses on what’s in Fraser’s hands. A turtle, no more than three inches across gives him a belligerent look.
“It’s a Tunisian spur-thigh tortoise, if I’m not mistaken, Ray. Rather rare, and you need to hold a special license to import them.”
Ray looks around at the crowded spice warehouse, which is crawling with police and agents from more governmental bodies than Ray knew existed, and packed in equal amounts with grey market spices and decidedly black market animals. “I don’t think licenses were at the top of this guy’s list, Fraser.”
“True, true.” Fraser lets out an exasperated sigh. “Bad enough to be avoiding import laws and taxes for the spice trade, but to sink to animal smuggling as well.”
“Uh huh,” Ray agrees in a rather dazed fashion. “So, where’s Jimmy?”
“Ah.” Fraser looks embarrassed. “I’m afraid I didn’t notice that you had been rendered unconscious until just a moment ago, Ray. Mr. Chalwari is already in custody and on his way to the precinct. I deemed it best to get him out of the way before the federal agents started disagreeing about jurisdiction.”
“Damn straight.” Ray gives up on balancing and leans back against the pepper sacks. More peppercorns spill down onto him. “We’re the one’s that had to chase the bastard all over Chicago and freeze our asses off on stakeouts.”
“Quite.” Fraser hands Ray the turtle, which he accepts confusedly. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll track down an EMT to take a look at you: you could be concussed.”
“It’s only a little turtle.” Ray holds it up to demonstrate, and it promptly bites his finger. “Mother fucker.”
“And perhaps someone from Animal Control as well,” Fraser says diplomatically before vanishing off into the warehouse.
Ray holds the turtle at eye level and tries to match it glare for glare. “I hope your head hurts worse than mine,” he tells it.
Ray is feeling good. He’s actually had nearly a week where he’s gotten some sleep in his bed, rather than the front seat of the Goat; the State’s Attorney has politely told the suddenly-interested federal agencies to take a back seat, so the whole Indigo Spice thing is firmly Ray and Fraser’s collar and they’re both extremely popular with the higher-ups; Turtle has a new tankmate in the shape of the Tunisian whatever that concussed Ray (he’s thinking of calling it Godzilla). Oh, and Ray’s been keeping a very close eye on Fraser and has decided that not only does Fraser get vibes, he also gives them.
All in all, life is good and Ray is a happy man. He’s even cool enough that the thought that the start of this whole get Fraser to notice vibes campaign that he’s been on for the last week was originally given to him by a dead man is absolutely fine.
Fraser seems strangely off-balance. Ray hopes this is progress and, hey, he is kind of laying it strong on the guy. So far this week they’ve been to see the Black Hawks lose spectacularly (Ray has an informant who knows a man at the rink), been to dinner at an honest-to-God restaurant that doesn’t do take out and has real silver flatware, and even had a picnic in one of the parks bordering onto the lake (Ray made s’mores, Fraser brewed tea and told Inuit camping stories, Dief chased seagulls). If Fraser can get to ‘boyfriends’ without telling Ray, then Ray can sure as hell do the dating thing without telling Fraser.
All’s fair in love and war, and all that.
Still, Ray’s not exactly a… patient… person, and once he started allowing himself to look at Fraser, he very quickly moved onto wanting whole bunches of other things, most of them not involving clothes. Fraser, while being off balance, is still apparently clueless, and Ray’s not sure what else to do.
He’s actually on his way over to the Consulate now to pick Fraser up (some art exhibition and, hey, Ray can do that) and is really thinking about just jumping all over him as soon as he opens the door. Ray’s so caught up with imagining this that he’s five steps out of his front door before he realizes that something’s really… hinky.
Blinking, Ray looks around. He’s standing in the middle of Fraser’s dad’s cabin. Ray spins around and catches sight of his apartment through the front door, which is swinging shut. He leaps for it with a curse, but it clicks shut just as he gets there and wrenching it open gets him a face full of howling blizzard.
Ray slams the door closed and stares at it, shivering, as bits of snow begin to melt in the warmth of the cabin and drip onto the floor.
“Hey! Hey, Fraser’s dad!” Ray yells. “Where the fuck are you?”
There’s no reply and Ray prowls the perimeter of the cabin, glaring at the simple furnishings and the roaring log fire as if it’s their fault that he’s here. “I don’t fucking believe this,” Ray mutters to himself as he completes the circuit of the cabin. He’s about to continue past the front door when he notices that there’s no longer the sound of the storm coming from beyond it. He stops and leans close to it, a scowl on his face.
There are voices, muffled, on the other side of the door, and the sound of footsteps. Ray tries the door handle, but the damn thing is jammed and won’t budge an inch, so he compromises with leaning against the door and trying to hear who’s talking.
“I really cannot believe that you’re telling me this.” Fraser’s voice, sounding really pissed.
“I don’t see why you’re so upset.” Fraser’s dad. Ray wonders where in the hell the door lets on to.
“Dad!” Thudding sound of pacing feet. “You’ve just admitted that you’ve spent the past month haunting Ray. What on Earth possessed you?”
“I’m a spirit, son. I don’t think it’s possible for me to be possessed.”
“You’re changing the subject.”
More bumping sounds and a series of whines and yips.
“And I would thank you to keep your delusions to yourself, Diefenbaker.”
“The dog has a point.”
“He has a weakness for donuts and a predisposition for melodrama.”
An offended bark.
“Now, really, Benton, is that any way to have your pet speak to you?”
Something that sounds remarkably like a fart. Seconds later, Ray is wrinkling his nose and squinting as the noxious odor seeps under the door and into the cabin.
“Diefenbaker’s not my pet, Dad; he just chooses to stay with me.”
“And fumigate your office, apparently. I’d get him checked out. That’s not healthy.”
“Ray unfortunately fed him pineapple pizza at lunchtime. Which brings me back to the point: What on Earth possessed you?”
“As I said, as a spirit I’m not entirely sure—”
Diefenbaker whines and there’s a scraping sound, like someone’s moved a chair.
“Hmmph. Well, far be it from me to blow my own trumpet. I simply thought that you needed some—how shall I put it?—assistance. The Yank certainly seemed amenable, once I got him to actually pay attention.”
A thump. “What have you done?”
“I’m dead, not blind. I’ve seen how you mope around, and the dog certainly isn’t backwards about supplying information about you. I’d have some serious words with him on the subject of loyalty, if I were you.”
“So you thought you’d—”
“Encourage the Yank in the hope that he’d, well, encourage you. He seems to have been doing admirably, so now I find myself precisely in the position that I was trying to bypass; having to talk with you.”
“I wonder why that was.”
“Because I knew you’d be unreasonable like this. And you always were contrary as a child.”
“What, exactly, are you implying?”
“You like the Yank, don’t you?”
“Ray and I are good friends.”
“Which is a good start, I must admit. Your mother was my best friend before I married her.”
“What I may, or may not, want is hardly any of your business, particularly in view of the unlikelihood of it occurring.” Ray winces at bitter tone of Fraser’s voice.
“Well, I can see that you’re all set to mope around and be singularly unappreciative of others trying to help you.” A disgruntled sounding bark. “Precisely. Maybe you’ll have better luck getting through to him.”
The door handle turns and Ray scrambles backwards to avoid being hit in the face by the door as it opens. Through the open doorway he can see Fraser’s office-cum-bedroom. Fraser’s sitting at his desk, his head in his hands, as Dief sits near to the bed and indulges in something that actually sounds like it could be a speech. There’s no sign of Fraser’s dad, but the air immediately in front of the doorway ripples, like a heat haze and the old man solidifies out of nothing.
“Good Lord, whatever are you doing here?”
Ray points accusingly at Fraser’s dad. “You tell me. I just walked out my front door and ended up here.”
“Well, this is most unprecedented.” Fraser’s dad steps fully into his cabin and turns around to look back out at Fraser. “I suppose you heard our conversation?”
“Some of it, yeah,” Ray admits grudgingly. “You’re a pain in the ass.”
“There’s gratitude for you.”
“Dad, what are you blithering on about?” Fraser raises his head and freezes as his dad steps to one side, revealing Ray, who resists the urge to give an embarrassed wave.
“Ray?” Fraser has gone pale and looks as if he’s about two seconds from nose diving into his in tray.
Ray steps forwards, hesitates for a moment on the invisible threshold that Fraser’s dad had appeared on, grits his teeth and steps across. Without any kind of ceremony at all, he’s standing in Fraser’s office, and Fraser’s staring at him like he’s a ghost.
“Was there an accident?” Fraser looks freaked out. “Good Lord, I should have been there—”
Dief snorts loudly and yawns.
“I’m not dead,” Ray says. “Just being stalked by the dead.”
“Oh, thank god.” Fraser abruptly goes limp and closes his eyes.
Ray walks forwards until he’s standing next to Fraser. “Hey, look at me?” he asks, reaching out to touch Fraser’s shoulder with one hand. Fraser tenses and Ray can see a flush rising on his cheeks before he slowly looks up and meets Ray’s gaze.
“I really must apologize, Ray,” Fraser starts, looking really embarrassed.
“Hey,” Ray cuts across whatever bullshit he’s about to come up with. “Hey. You could’ve told me, you know.”
“I’m sorry?” Fraser looks honestly puzzled.
Ray sighs and rocks back on his heels as he looks around the small office. Fraser’s dad is standing in the closet doorway, his cabin visible behind him, with a smug look on his face. Diefenbaker is watching them both with interest. “You, not a word, and you, in there.” Ray points first at Fraser’s dad, then at Dief, and then as the open closet door to the cabin.
Dief gives a disinterested whuffle, and saunters in the direction of the closet.
“Now, see here,” Fraser’s dad begins to protest.
“Nuh-uh. Not a word,” Ray says. “And close the door behind you.”
Ray and Fraser look at each other silence as the closet door shuts with a loud click.
“Ray,” Fraser begins, his voice soft.
“So, I’m thinking of ditching the art exhibition,” Ray interrupts. “And, yeah, talking is something that we should probably do, but I have a better idea.”
“Ah?” Fraser has that off-balance look about him again.
Ray kind of likes that look on Fraser, and he lets him know it by leaning forwards to kiss him.