Meghan Black & Rusty Reid, c. 1999
This may be considered an AU by some, but we honestly tried to keep it all within the realm of possible reality.
Pairing: Fraser/Ray Kowalski
Archive: Sure, just keep our names attached
Feedback to: Meghan
Warnings: Plenty. This ain't your mamma's Constable, folks. If you like your Fraser's squeaky clean, stop now. If you don't like cussing and smoking and being an all around not so nice guy, make tracks quick!
It was a beautiful day. The sky was a clear and precise blue, the sun incandescently luminous, and the winds strong and chill. On the ground, cutting breezes riffled through trees finally giving up the last tattered leafy mementos of the summer. In the wilds of one of Canada's largest national parks, it was a perfect day. And in a remote part of the forest, a perfect disaster was about to unfold...
The stranger began to stir, and the two scruffy figures standing over his prone body traded worried looks.
"I think he's coming to. Got any more bright ideas? If this guy makes us, we haven't got any choice but to kill him."
The one who spoke was a man named Conway Biggins, an ex-professor of psychology at UBC and now, through the machinations of unkind fate, an amoral bank robber. The man being spoken to was Jay Ladley, a born thug of no particular origin or education.
Jay chewed on his bottom lip and stuffed his fists into filthy jean pockets. It wasn't supposed to be this difficult. They were going to hit the small towns of the Northwest Territories and then, using the plane owned by their buddy Cliff, fly south and jump over the border before even the RCMP could catch them. They'd worked it out perfectly. And now this.
"Fuck. I dunno," Jay muttered, sending a scathing look in the direction of the awakening man on the ground.
Conway's mind spun, going back and forth between the only two options they had. Take off right now before the stranger fully awoke
or kill him. He knew from the papers he'd found on the guy that he was one Benton Fraser, RCMP. Apparently he'd been on vacation, as the camping gear and general disheveled appearance indicated. Wasn't that just the worst damn luck? But it was the man's status as an active duty Mountie that had kept him alive. Murder of one of the Queen's finest wasn't on their agenda and he, for one, wasn't willing to go that far for the few thousand bucks they stood to gain from the robberies. The man at their feet groaned again, and he cursed to himself. Life just wasn't fair sometimes.
The Mountie's eyes slowly opened and he squinted against the bright light of a Northern afternoon. One hand flew up to shade his eyes, and the other reached back to gently touch the lump behind his ear. Conway knew the man would have a helluva headache after the blow they'd dealt him and wondered fleetingly if the guy was concussed. That would solve some problems, but
"Welcome back to the world of the living," Conway greeted Fraser.
Slowly Fraser lowered his hands from his head and carefully sat up. Conway watched as he looked around, taking in his surroundings. Conway had chosen the camping spot with care. A small clearing, barely big enough for their campfire and bedrolls. It was on a rise, a good defensive position from which there should have been no surprises.
Dense underbrush surrounded them, which made it even more of a trick that the guy had been able to sneak up on them the way he had. Luckily, he'd only seen Jay lazily taking potshots at birds, and Conway had been able to surprise the man, resulting in said Mountie's current state.
Conway still wasn't sure how the he'd found them, although it looked like the guy had maybe been on vacation, not deliberately tracking them. Either way, RCMP Benton Fraser's luck had just run out.
" Fraser said, half-moaning and squinting in pain at the bright sunlight.
"Yeah, you got a knot the size of Alaska there, buddy
sorry." Conway motioned Jay to bring over the canteen and he held it out to Fraser, tapping him on the wrist when he realized the man couldn't see him with his eyes clamped tightly shut. "Here, this'll probably help. Just take your time."
Fraser accepted the water and drank thirstily. His eyes remained bare slits, but he was beginning to take in some of the area around him. He quickly handed the canteen back to Jay and dropped his head between his legs when nausea met the hasitly swallowed water.
"Where am I?" Conway thought that a rather strange question for the guy to ask, but indulged him. Maybe he was concussed, maybe he wouldn't remember...
"Top of Joplin plateau
don't you remember?"
He could see a look of hard concentration, then confusion
then panic flash across the stranger's face within the space of a few seconds. Conway looked at Jay, who had wandered back over to his bedroll and was scrounging through the first aid kit, and motioned him over.
no, I don't remember," Fraser was trying to stand up, but as soon as he reached out to steady himself, he turned a very unbecoming shade of yellow and sat back down heavily. "I can't remember anything," he said, more panic in his voice this time.
The two outlaws exchanged a meaningful look and Conway smiled, then turned back to Fraser, pasting a look of deep concern on his face. "Here, let me help you. You mean you don't remember who we are?" he said, waving his hands at himself and Jay.
Fraser shook his head, which didn't help at all. He winced. "No - no, I'm afraid not."
"Or who you are?" Conway asked, incredulous yet hopeful.
Fraser took a moment to answer and Conway could see him vainly trying to remember simple details
such as his name. "No, I don't remember anything. Do you know me?" Fraser looked up now, able to focus finally on the two men squatting before him.
Conway thought quickly. This was too good an opportunity to waste. They just might get out of this, not only alive but also free, if they played their cards from the right deck.
"Sure we know ya, Ben. You're our pal
our partner. Sorry about the lovetap, but we didn't expect you to be joining us this trip. You surprised us." He looked hard at Jay to make certain the dimwit recognized their chance to get out of this. Jay looked blank for a moment, and then his face cleared as the idea hit him.
Jay grinned and nodded his head vigorously. "Yeah, Ben. You're part of our gang."
In the meantime, Conway pulled out his pack of smokes and lit up, then held it out to Ben. Might as well start the indoctrination. And the idea of the clean-cut Mountie sucking on a coffin nail was just too perfect. //Hah, see what that does to your image, Dudly Do-Right!// They'd decide what to do when they got into town, but until then, they'd have to make Benton Fraser believe he was one of them
a bank robber and criminal running from the law. It would save their necks and keep them from having to watch him, to boot.
Fraser drew back from the cellophane covered packet as if it were a poisonous snake. "Do I smoke?"
"Like a fucking train," Conway smirked and tossed the pack to him, jarring out one of the tan-filtered cigarettes.
"Better take it now, I ain't plannin' on supporting your habit all the way back to Ottertail." Conway made a mental note to stash a few packs of cigarettes from his own supply in Ben's pack, as well as his spare gun and some rounds. They had to convince him he was amoral, as much a criminal as they. It would keep him from asking too many questions they just didn't want to deal with.
Clumsily, Fraser shook a cigarette out of the pack. Jay was ready with the Zippo and soon the clouds of grayish blue smoke that surrounded the other two engulfed Ben also.
Of course he almost coughed up a lung, but his buddies told him that was probably due to the length of time he'd been knocked out and the dubious fact that he'd not yet fully recovered. Fraser inhaled the rest of the smoke in short, shallow intakes, careful not to repeat the mistake he'd made the first time. By the time he'd thrown the cigarette down and crushed the butt with the heel of his hiking boot, the coughing fit had passed and he seemed to have accepted the habit as his own. The power of suggestion...made more powerful by the
Conway and Jay looked at each other and smiled. This was almost too easy.
Over the next two days, Conway patiently answered Ben's questions about himself and how he came to be with them. Feeding him only the information they wanted Ben to have wasn't difficult and the man seemed to have a naïve trust in them, despite knowing their criminal backgrounds. By the morning of day three, Benton Fraser was beginning to accept their story that he was a recreational criminal and amoral character of the first degree. It was amazing what sorts of things the brain discarded during times of stress and amnesia and what it held onto. The Mountie obviously had traits that had carried over into his new 'criminal' persona, but Conway began to see a deeper side that he wasn't so sure had ever surfaced before. Chain-smoking and gradually becoming more and more feral, he soon fit right in.
Conway had laid out the trail they were following before leaving the city and Ben proved a real asset when it came to shooting down game for their meals. Conway had to give it to him; the Mountie knew his stuff in the wilderness.
In a superb show of universal irony, Ben stepped into the role of leader effortlessly, as if born to it. Conway and Jay weren't sure when the shift had occurred probably the morning, five days after they'd encountered him, when they'd awakened to find that Ben had their belongings packed and coffee made and was already on his second cigarette.
"About time you lazy bums got moving," he joked, but there was an edge to his voice that made both men hurry out of their bedrolls - and jump to his orders from then on.
Pausing one afternoon in a clearing to dress out a small deer Fraser had brought down, they'd called an early halt and made camp. When they were done and the venison was dried and packed, ready to go, Ben looked at his companions. Stretching, he took one last, long drag off his cigarette and flicked it in a perfect arc into the underbrush. Eyeing the others, he spoke. "If we're going back to civilization with this loot, would either of you care to enlighten me as to the plan now?" His tone demanded an answer and the other two men tried in vain to silently communicate some sort of way to get themselves out of the mess they'd created.
"Well, uh, we're heading down to Itvark, gonna hole up there a few days. There's a bank there too, supports the local mine. We were thinking about maybe scoping it."
Ben nodded, blue eyes unfocused as he stared out across the forest. "Hmm. Well. We shall see. Gentlemen, shall we get moving?" Pleasant though his voice was, something in it made the hair stand up on Jay's neck. Looking at his companion, he saw that Conway was pale.
"Yeah, yeah, up an' at 'em. Lead on, buddy."
The two robbers fell in behind the tall stranger, occasionally trading worried looks.
"So, tell me more about us, Conny," Ben asked. Conway winced at the nickname the Mountie had started using on him. That was one he owed Jay for oh so casually mentioning that that was Ben's pet name for his comrade.
"Well, not much to it. We've known each other for about five years. You come up here when you can't stand the city anymore and we camp, hunt, rob banks, rape and pillage...you know, the usual." Conway laughed coarsely at his own humor and Ben smiled blandly.
"I take it this is pretty usual, then." They could tell the guy was still trying to get a handle on the type of person he was and the chance to mold the Mountie into a new, corrupt image was too much to resist.
"Hell yeah, Ben. Well, except for us cloppin' ya one. Usually we come up together, then split the take. Fact, just last year, we hijacked a bus of tourists and took every wallet, watch and ring in sight. That loot lasted us through the winter." He watched Ben out of the corner of his eye, then added slyly, "Truth be told, you don't need the money, yourself. Got some 9-5 job in the States that keeps you comfortable. You only give us a call when you're bored or feeling claustrophobic. Get your kicks playing Ben the Bad-Ass."
Ben looked startled at that revelation. "I must be a real bastard..." he murmured, half under his breath.
"Nah, you're a great guy. We never have as much fun when you're not around," Conway said, slapping Ben on the back jovially. "Come on, we'll be into town in a day or so. Dunno about you, but I'm looking forward to some hot food and a little -" Breaking off, he made enthusiastically graphic motions. "Course, with your bitch back in the States, it'll be a little cold for you!" Jay snickered, biting back further comments at the suddenly dark look in Fraser's eyes. They'd started this as a joke, more or less, but the Mountie was turning out to be unexpectedly dangerous. He'd be glad when they got rid of him.
The men continued through the rapidly darkening woods and Conway wondered how far they'd be able to pull this off. So far it was working just dandy. With any luck, they'd be able to dump this character when they got to Itvark. They sure didn't need him when they hit the bank there. And he'd be damned if he was gonna split their take with a fucking Mountie.
As Benton Fraser slid into the deep REM sleep of the physically drained, his mind struggled to reestablish the link with reality. The link which had been brutally jarred loose by Conway's blow had drawn Ben's past and present together in a haphazard and truly defective manner.
Had Conway or Jay still been awake they would have seen the disturbing way Ben's head rolled from side to side and his brow furrowed in concentration as the dreams slipped in and out in rapid succession.
Flashes of red and a wolflike animal with wild eyes kept assaulting him, making the sleeping man wince as he tried to evade those snapping teeth. He had a gun and he knew how to use it. He pointed it at the wolf, but something stopped him. A hand with exceptionally long fingers closed around his wrist and when he looked down he saw that the fingers lay on a bed of bright red fabric.
Throughout the night, first nightmares of attacking wolves, then quiet, restful dreams of a soothing hand on his brow and worried blue eyes brought Fraser back and forth in and out of consciousness. When he awoke the next morning, he saw the dark circles under his eyes even in the rippling water of the pool where they refilled their canteens.
As Ben Fraser lit his first day's cigarette, he wondered who the blue eyes belonged to and if he would ever see them again. Shrugging, he set the doubts of his heart and mind aside. Life goes on.
He couldn't help but wonder, though, who the blue eyes belonged to and what place they held in his life back in the States. He was looking forward to getting home and having the rest of the blanks filled in about his past and current life...including the blond stranger.
Setting up camp the next evening, Conway wondered when their lives had taken such a wrong turn. What gods of perversity had taken notice of their piddling little lives and decided to crap on their plans? It had started out easy enough, but the 'plan', as the two thieves had come to refer to their misguided attempt to save their asses, had backfired, pure and simple.
Convincing the Mountie he was one of them, just as low, just as bad, had been simplicity itself. After the initial and expected resistance, Ben Fraser had begun to think of himself as 'one of the gang'. His credentials and papers had been destroyed as soon as the men had realized their opportunity and once they'd explained who they were and what they were after, it had just been a matter of filling in the blanks from their warped imaginations whenever Ben had asked them about himself.
What they hadn't counted on was the man's natural ability to lead. And once he'd established himself in that role, the whole damn thing had gone to hell in a handbasket. Conway's attention was yanked back to the camp by the sound of raised voices, and then a muffled cry. Shit! Another damn fight. When would Jay learn not to mess with the man? They weren't going to control Ben, at least not like this. And he'd be damned if he knew how they'd get rid of him.
"You trying to tell me I'm a fucking homo?" Fraser was hissing, the now ever present cigarette clamped between his teeth bobbing inches from Jay's face. He'd also picked up Jay's filthy mouth, it seemed. The Mountie had definitely gone bad. Despite his joy at that, Conway was a little scared. Who would have thought the man had such twisted potential?
Ben had Jay by the throat, strong fingers cutting the air off, ignoring Jay's strangled gurgles. "Jesus, let 'im go Ben. Can't you two get along for one fucking day?" Conway was getting more and more annoyed by the pair's bickering. Ben seemed to take offense at the drop of a hat and it didn't help that Jay took way too much pleasure in goading him every chance he got.
Now it appeared that Jay had been having fun again, at the expense of his windpipe. "Oh, I'll let him go...as soon as he takes back that comment." Ben spoke low, very close to Jay's ear and Conway could see the real terror in his partner's eyes.
Jay obviously thought he was going to die at this lunatic's hand and Conway wasn't so sure he was wrong. Sighing, he realized it was time to join ranks. That was the only way they'd outmaneuver the monster they'd created. "He's right, so why should he take it back?" Conway said mildly, while snarling internally. Whatever had possessed that idiot to try to convince Ben that he was gay? Ben's eyes flicked over to the other man, although he maintained his deathgrip on Jay's throat.
"You'll be next when I finish with this one if you don't explain." Ben stared at Conway with those cold blue eyes until the other man looked away. Conway swallowed, preparing to brazen through this latest fiasco.
"You're as queer as they come, Ben. We all know it and it's no big deal. You've been out for years now." He had to make Ben think they weren't making fun of him. He just hoped he didn't think *they* were that way.
Realization that they just *might* be speaking the truth began to sink in and Conway let out a breath of relief when he saw Ben's grip loosen. He waded in again. "Matter of fact, your...lover, he's back in the States. You've told us plenty of times when we were out here that you couldn't wait to get back to 'im."
In for a penny, in for a pound. If they could make Ben believe Jay hadn't lied, it would save both their asses. Ben peered at Conway through narrow slits, as if the very intensity of his gaze would force the truth out. Conway stood his ground, a placating half smile of false warmth on his lips.
"Why didn't you mention this before?" Ben asked, still obviously suspicious, but trying to deal with the possibility of yet another new truth.
"Never seemed to be an issue. You know we don't go that way, so its not something we discuss around the campfire...know what I mean?" Conway let a full-blown smile appear now, hoping it looked like honest camaraderie.
Jay and Conway both waited what seemed like an eternity for Ben to make up his mind as to whether he was going to believe them or not. Apparently they'd both put on a good act, Conway more so than the idiot, as Ben released Jay and stepped back. He flexed his fingers, sore from having been tensed around Jay's neck for several moments.
"Sorry...I...well, I didn't know. It never occurred to me, certainly." He didn't look too contrite, but Conway could definitely read confusion on Ben's face. That'd keep him busy, trying to figure that one out...at least for awhile. Maybe it hadn't been such a bad move on Jay's part after all. Keeping the Mountie off balance seemed to be the key.
"Ready?" Ben turned to Jay, who flashed the weapon in his jacket, and then to Conway who was just shoving the sawed off shotgun into its holster.
"Let's rock and roll," Conway grinned. This was the part he lived for. The adrenaline, the rush of fear in the people around him. Conway knew when he walked in that bank, everyone in there would obey his every word. If he told them to crawl across the floor with the bag of money, they would. The large man could almost feel himself getting hard as the direction of his thoughts took him farther and farther from the realm of reality. Control, power, mastery. They were all his for the taking once he stepped foot inside that bank.
But Ben was leading this one, Conway was forced to acknowledge. The blind obedience from the patrons of this bank would be made to the man standing in front of him now, cigarette caught between perfect, white teeth. Conway had to admit, Ben's charismatic way was compelling. He wondered what Ben had really been like...before his memory loss. Before their corruption.
That he had been competent, professional and in control when it came to his job, Conway had no doubt. Some things didn't go away, no matter who you thought you were. No denying it, Ben was good...really good...at being bad. Conway sensed a darkness in the ex-Mountie that he knew must be a remnant of his former life, but whether or not it had ever been acknowledged was still a mystery.
"Lock and load, gentlemen," Ben said seriously before dropping his cigarette on the sidewalk and crushing it to oblivion with his boot.
The air inside was still and the small bank reminded Conway more of a library than a financial institution. Of course, in this one sled dog town, he knew the same building could very well house both.
The quiet didn't last.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if I could please have your attention."
Conway had to grin. Polite even unto those he was about to rob. Another throwback, no doubt, from Ben's life prior to last week. The grim humor of the situation took some of the sting out of losing the alpha position in their little pack. Conway gave a mental shrug and pulled out the shotgun, ready for action.
When all eyes were on the trio, Ben lit a cigarette and pulled out the gun Jay had given him. It fit smoothly, elegantly into his hand and Conway could tell he was more than comfortable with the piece. Sweeping it in an arc around the room, he stopped at the figure of an elderly woman, clutching her bag tightly to her chest and swaying. He stepped forward, smiling at her, and with one hand under her elbow urged her to a chair against the wall. Mutely, the woman complied. Turning back to the room, he spoke, clear voice carrying easily.
"If you'll be so kind as to lie on the floor, I'm sure no one will be injured," Ben said with casual ease.
Then Ben sauntered...that was the first word that popped into Conway's head...over to the counter and leaned forward toward the bank teller. The clerk was young, perhaps early twenties. He was blond, with a fresh scrubbed, outdoor look, almost stereotypically professional. The gold wire-rimmed glasses probably
added to the effect. But even the spectacles couldn't hide the fact that he was scared.
The smoke from the cigarette swirled around them both as Ben spoke...this time his voice low, dangerous. "If you don't fill that bag with all the money you have back there, I might just have to blow your fucking brains out."
The poor teller seemed paralyzed with fear and confusion. Conway found himself willing the clerk to cooperate. They didn't need the trouble and Conway was uneasily certain that Ben would kill the man if he didn't follow orders.
Ben eased a little closer and whispered something to the clerk that Conway couldn't hear. It must have done the trick because the frightened teller burst into action like a rejuvenated Energizer Bunny.
While the clerk was stuffing bills in the canvas bag, Ben turned to his partners and nodded. Apparently everything would be fine now. Conway swallowed, and glanced over at Jay just in time to see a look of pure horror cross his face. Swinging his head around, Conway saw the source of Jay's dismay. The bank had installed security cameras since they'd visited last.
Ben noticed the panicked expression and followed Jay's gaze to the camera. But, unlike the other two men, the existence of surveillance equipment didn't seem to faze him at all. To the contrary, Conway watched with amazement as Ben turned to face the camera and raised his gun to his forehead in a casually arrogant salute to the lens - and then, with one lightning fast movement he fired, the bullet smashing through the lens and destroying the device. With one last puff, Ben flicked the cigarette out of his mouth, blew a cloud of gray smoke at the ruined camera and turned back to the counter, dropping the smoldering butt on the floor.
The bank teller held out the now full bag with trembling hands and seemed greatly relieved when Ben took it from him and smiled brilliantly.
"Thank you kindly, Mr..." Ben checked the name placard at the window, "Mr. Gallway."
Then, to everyone's amazement, Ben leaned across the counter, grabbed the astonished Mr. Gallway by the chin and, yanking him forward, planted a hard, almost passionate kiss on his parted lips. The teller flinched, then melted into the fierce assault.
When Ben pulled back, Conway saw the smile had turned pure evil. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention, and he hastily looked away. The unfortunate teller collapsed back into his chair, a look of shocked longing on his face. Conway blinked, yanking his attention back to his fellow gang members.
"Ready gentlemen?" Ben's tone sounded so casual and his look so innocent, that Conway thought confusedly that he must have imagined that evil smirk. Retreating, they ran out of the bank and piled into the stolen car.
Welsh stood in the door of his office, impatiently beckoning to the detective. Nearly surrounded by folders, Ray waved his arm, pointing at the phone glued to his ear and making incomprehensible motions. Welsh shook his head, and tapped his watch. Emphatically. Ray grimaced, and cut off the conversation, slamming the phone onto the receiver. Bouncing up, he strode into the lieutenant's office.
"Vecchio, you heard anything from your pal? The Inspector just called, wanting to know, *if* you please, if we were done with him could we send him back, as he was *not* on permanent loan to the Precinct and had important work to do at the Consulate." Welsh's lowered eyebrows and grumbling tone betrayed his irritation at the demand, and yet, he understood the emotions behind it. Fraser was a godsend sometimes, but the man had a definite tendency to get under his superior officers' skins. With the best of intentions, of course.
Ray blinked. "I figger'd he'd be busy over there. He ain't been in here since
" His forehead wrinkled as he thought back. "Uhhh
since right before the Labor Day weekend. Said something about going camping, somewhere up north. So he's a few days overdue. The man needs a vacation, especially away from the Ice Queen."
Ray shrugged. He didn't mention his own stifled, half-ashamed resentment at the absence of his Canadian partner. So what if Fraser felt he had to get away from Ray? No biggie, he understood. Hell, he couldn't stand himself sometimes...//of course, neither could Stella -// Cutting himself off abruptly, he tilted his head inquiringly at the lieutenant. "So?"
Welsh rolled his eyes. "Check up on it anyway, all right? The last thing I need is the Inspector on my ass."
Ray jerked his chin affirmatively, relieved at official permission to barge into Fraser's life, however much the aloof Canadian desired his solitude. Just because Stanley Raymond Kowalski wasn't Fraser's first choice as a partner didn't mean that he could avoid Ray's caring about him. However little he wanted it. Ray groaned, shoving that thought into the back of his mind, focussing on Welsh and the squadroom.
"Un-huh, will do, Loo."
Welsh rolled his eyes, vanishing back into his office, and Ray settled at his desk, shuffling the open files to the side of his desk and picking up the phone.
Ray was worried. Fraser hadn't returned to the Consulate, hadn't called in, and hadn't been seen by the park rangers. He could understand the man wanting to get away for a while, but the thought of the duty-conscious Mountie simply overstaying his leave without notice was inconceivable. Something *had* to be wrong. Frowning, he tried to remember the name of the town Frase had mentioned as being close to where he was going. Ott-something. Ottowa? Nah, that was a big city. Ott- Otter? Otter-something. A light momentarily dawning in his eyes, he dialed the consulate number. Luck being what it was, Turnbull answered. Ray closed his eyes, a groan rising in his throat. Maybe if he kept it short and simple
Local police and park rangers had been notified about Fraser's disappearance. Currently, they were attributing it to an accident, and sending out search parties. Ray was convinced that it had to have been an accident, something serious enough to keep Fraser from finding his way back to - well, civilization was probably overstating it, but back to the booming metropolis of Ottertail, pop. 308.
The thought of Fraser lying out in the woods, hurt, suffering, *alone*, made Ray's head ache. And his heart. Damn Fraser for his stubborn independence! As if he though nobody could, or should take care of him. Ray grimaced, rubbing eyes that prickled suspiciously. That train of thought had no friendly stops. Dammit all, anyway. He dove back into his casework, hoping every time the phone rang that it was news of Fraser.
By Tuesday, Ray was unbearable. Snapping at his fellow officers, staring morosely at the phone, drinking cup after cup of bad coffee. The desk was littered with empty M&Ms boxes, and the dark smudges under his eyes were on their way to becoming permanent. Finally, Welsh stepped in.
"Ve - Kowalski. Ray. Go home. You're doing no good here, and I swear, I think Francesca is going to hurt you if you snap at her one more time. I promise, if there's any news, I'll call. Otherwise, go home, get some sleep, and come back tomorrow with a better attitude. All right?"
Ray jittered impatiently, a look of frustration flashing across his face. "Lieutenant -"
Ray hung his head, scrubbing at his face with tired hands. "Yeah, ok, I'm going. You'll call?"
The last was almost childlike, a plea to make everything be all right
Welsh nodded firmly, patting Ray on the shoulder and pointing him towards the door.
"Yes, I'll call. Get some sleep, Detective."
Ray left, shoulders slumped and mind a thousand miles away.
"Vecchio! My office."
Welsh's voice rang across the busy squadroom, turning heads. The lean figure slouched behind the desk in the corner jerked upright in his chair. Several days of worry and frantic work had left his blond hair more tousled than ever, and marks as dark as bruises highlighted the suffering in the quicksilver eyes. He rubbed them fiercely, pressing deeply in an effort to hold back the weariness. Rising, he made his way towards Welsh's office, his usual quick stride reduced to a shuffle. A low hum of concerned murmurs followed him.
The look on Welsh's face was curiously neutral as he swung the door closed and flipped the blinds shut. Ray's heart turned over in his chest with a dull, throbbing agony. It could only mean one thing, the Lieutentant's desire to break some news in private too painful to bear under the eyes of the squadroom. Ray cursed and, jaw clenching, threw himself into a chair. He looked up at the other man, and in a voice that was calm, even, nearly masking the thread of despair, muttered
"So they found a body, then. Where?"
Welsh shook his head. "You know, I've known Fraser for three years now. A freak, yeah, but he got results in that squeaky clean, Dudley-Do Right way of his. I liked the guy. Never could understand him, but at least I thought I knew the kind of person he was..."
"Goddamit, Loo! Where!? What happened ta him?"
Ray started to rise, anxious feet ready to pace, when quiet words dropped him back into the chair with the force of a blow.
"He's not dead. We think
Hell, we don't know *what* to think!"
Ray's heart raced, the earlier words echoing crazily through him //notdeadnotdeadnotdead//. Welsh tossed an envelope into his lap, jerking his attention back to the man in front of him.
"These came this morning. Robbery in some little town, up in B.C. Security camera caught them. I can't make heads or tails of it..." Welsh shrugged, leaning against the desk and watching Ray closely.
Confused, Ray opened the envelope, impatiently yanking out the pictures inside. There were five of them, printed from a grainy security camera in a bank, and they all showed one impossible thing.
Steely eyed, gun in hand, and a cigarette dangling from his lip. Cooler-than-thou James Dean attitude. Robbing a bank in company with two men who looked like they belonged on America's Most Wanted. Ray's eyes glazed over as he flipped through the black and white shots, and he blinked fiercely.
//notdead// cried part of his mind, while his lips flung out agonized disbelief.
"That's...that's *impossible*. You know that can't be Fraser, no *way* in *hell*!"
Welsh shook his head sadly and waved another piece of paper at him. "Fingerprints. Also came in this morning. It's him. What I want to know is how this could have happened. You're his partner, go up there and find him. And...watch out for this woman. In any connection. "
He handed over a file folder - flipping it open with shaking hands, Ray recognized the dark haired beauty from one of the other Ray's cases, the one where Fraser had been shot. There'd been some story about Fraser crossing the line, there, that he'd never quite figured out...
Welsh cleared his throat.
"I'd rather this not get around the station. They're his friends, and if something's...happened, I don't want them hurt. Understand?"
Ray nodded, shuffling the pictures, the file, and a folder that the lieutenant handed him all together, and standing.
"Yeah...yeah, I gotcha."
He rubbed his eyes again, motioning towards the closed blinds. "What are we gonna tell them, though?"
"That there's a lead up north and you're going to investigate it. They'll probably assume it's to identify a body, but that can't be helped. Just
go. You're on detached duty for now, until you can find him. Or figure this out."
Ray nodded, reaching for the door. Flipping open the file again, he looked at the bank photos.
Dark stubble shadowing his cheeks, big hand expertly holding the gun, half-smirk as he leaned on the counter and threatened the clerk.
Fraser, looking at the camera with cool disdain, before raising the gun in a mocking salute and firing at the camera, destroying it..
And yet...Ray felt an uncomfortable lurch in his chest as he imagined Fraser that way. Dark. Vicious. Radiating sensuality like...He swallowed against a suddenly dry throat and closed the file.
"Yeah, well, I'm onnit. I'll be outta here tonight."
Welsh nodded, watching him with concern.
"Be careful. And, Ray
bring him back
if you can. He's a good man - or, was. Is. Hell, just find out what's happened."
Ray jerked his chin in a nod, and opened the door. Raking his gaze across the covertly attentive squadroom, he swallowed hard, looking past them with a quelling glare. "Y'all ain't got business? Geez, people..."
He nearly loped across to his desk, quick, nervous movements masking his trembling hands as he gathered his coat and files. Turning, he caught a few people giving him guardedly sympathetic looks before he made tracks out the squadroom door.
Down in the GTO, he sat for a long minutes, head in his hands, trying to calm down. It was impossible, crazy, unbelievable. Fraser. Sexy as hell in that dangerous, bizarre way. And he'd though the unattainable clean-cut Mountie was bad...
Fraser lay under the stars trying to comprehend the events of the last few days. If Conway and Jay were to be believed, he was an apparently gay man who enjoyed robbing banks as a hobby. He had a lover and an 9-5 job in the United States. He was an excellent shot, and he was plagued by nightmares of a stunning, blue eyed man //his lover?// and a fierce wolf. It didn't make sense, and that bothered him. Deeply. He slotted these thoughts in with the others, facts and stories that the two men had told him over the last week, and sighed. He desperately wanted to know more about his life. Ben Fraser didn't like not knowing who he was and what made him tick.
Most of all, he wondered why the two men who said they were his partners kept looking at him so strangely when they thought he didn't notice. They seemed to have no problem with the idea that he was homosexual, but he sensed something
resentment perhaps? Things didn't add up and this worried Ben more than anything. The nagging unease fostered a growing sense of doubt about the others, a doubt that led him more and more to trust only himself. After all, he knew himself...didn't he?
The still of the night was broken only by the restless tossing and finally settling in of Jay. The quick intake of breath, then total silence told Ben the man was just finishing what Ben had come to call to himself "Jay's Nightly Ride." Ben could feel a smirk cross his lips, but then speculation crowded out other thoughts, racing across his mind like the herd of wild horses they'd seen yesterday. Three men traveling through the wilderness of Canada, wanted by the law. What had made him choose a life like this? What sort of depraved soul did he possess? All he could do was lay there, feeling the stinging chill of the night air, and wonder.
Jay sighed and was soon breathing steadily. Ben's thoughts turned to the bank clerk he'd thoroughly humiliated this afternoon. It had felt good to point that gun and threaten him, Ben had to admit. He'd known exactly what it would take to get the young man moving. But the kiss. Ben wasn't sure what had prompted him to such dramatic action, but he felt a small thrill as he recalled the feel of trembling lips, even as he crushed them beneath his own.
The teller's face rose before his mind's eye and Ben closed his eyes as he recalled the intoxicating fear Mr. Gallway had shown the world. The kiss, though. Ben kept going back to that
the feel of a stubble-framed mouth rather than the soft yielding of a woman's lips. Had he always been inclined
that way? All he knew was that the combination of innocence and terror on the young man's face had been irresistible, and high on the adrenaline of the robbery, he'd gotten carried away. He felt almost obscurely guilty, but the sensation was overwhelmed by the memory of the day.
Then, as Ben's hand traveled downward, working its way through the folds of soft cotton long johns, the face shifted, blearing, and then reformed. Still blond and masculine, and blue eyes still gazed back at him, but they were oh so different. This face had an edge
not so soft
not so young. And instead of fear and shame, the mouth quirked up with mischief and good humor. And the eyes shone with
It was the same face that had begun haunting his dreams of late. Ray. The name drifted into his mind through the fog of memories, and he sighed. Who was Ray? And why did the name inspire such confusion? This face seemed to ask for a touch
a kiss, and Ben caught himself just before moaning aloud at the feelings of arousal the thought elicited. His cock jumped and thickened as he could somehow imagine the man...//Ray//...touching him. Yes, this must be his lover who Conway had mentioned. It seemed likely, judging Was this 'Ray' the lover Conway had mentioned? It seemed likely, judging by the response his body was having to the images his mind played for
Cool fingers sliding through the gap of his clothing, he gripped the hardening flesh tightly, almost painfully. A few sharp, short movements later, he bit his lip hard, stifling the instinctive cry at his completion. If only he could *remember*...he hungered for the feel of hot silky flesh against his, of the intimacy he remembered feeling with the enigmatic figure in his dreams...
Fraser sat on the floor in the corner of the small miner's shack. One leg was drawn up and his left arm rested nonchalantly across his knee as he leaned back against the wall. Ray wasn't fooled for a moment. He knew Fraser's reflexes were good enough to regain control of the situation, if Ray gave him half a chance. He'd seen him move, quick as a snake and just as deadly. Ray still couldn't believe the events of the showdown earlier, when he'd found their hideout.
Ray had managed to find a witness who overheard the robbers in a bar, bragging about the old mining town up in the hills, abandoned now for the shiny new suburbs. The cabins were old, deserted, home only to rats and ghosts, and perfect for three men who didn't want to be found. Leaving the local police behind, he'd gone up after them alone.
By the time Ray arrived up there, it was beginning to get dark, and a fine misty rain had begun. Half-blinded, cursing, he'd slipped up. Coming around a corner of one of the outbuildings, he'd almost literally run into one of the robbers. A half second too slow and he'd found himself sprawled on his knees with a throbbing head and expecting a bullet in the brain. Instead, the robber had dragged him to this cabin, precipitating a huge argument over his disposition with the other fugitive. An argument which had
been interrupted when Fraser arrived.
Ray, still shaken, shot a glance over at the enigmatic figure in the corner, recalling his earlier shock at seeing a 'bad' Benton Fraser.
Fraser had stepped in, swung a glance round the room, and
*smiled* at Ray. Just the memory of that sweet, wicked smile made his heart pound. It was the smile Fraser wore in the bank pictures.
The others, automatically turning to Ben for direction, had been almost as taken aback by it as Ray had been. The one who had captured him, Jay, had begun to explain the situation when Ben cut him off with a sharp, dismissive movement.
"We're not going to do anything with him, boys. This is my
good friend, Ray." Crossing the room, he'd caressed the side of Ray's face, and he'd been too incredulous //face it, too willing// to prevent the small, possessive touch.
Jay had gone off like a madman. Screaming, waving his gun and threatening, he'd protested that he wasn't going to be partners with a faggot anymore, and he sure as hell wasn't going to keep the faggot's bottom boy along with them. There'd been more, but Ray had ignored it, staring in sheer shock at the Benton Fraser before him. A Benton Fraser who bore no resemblance to the honest, good natured Mountie Ray knew
This Ben was still breathtakingly handsome, even with dark stubble shadowing his cheeks and blue eyes flashing with anger. The red plaid shirt he wore was his own, but the buck knife on his belt was new - as was the .45 tucked securely into his waistband. Ray had stared, incredulous, as Fraser had leaned back against the table, drawn out a cigarette, and with a familiar little smoothing of his eyebrow, lit up. After a few moments, during which Ray's blood pressure (and other things) rose alarmingly, Fraser had stood up, grabbed Jay by the collar, and almost effortlessly dragged him outside. The heavy door swung shut with a bang, as someone's boot caught it, and there was a sharp double report, a slamming thud against the wall, and a sliding thump.
White-faced, Ray and Conway stared at each other. He *hadn't* just
He had. Hadn't he?
Fraser had reentered the cabin with a small smile on his lips, and the gun now tucked into the back of his waistband. "Ah. I believe that will take care of any difficulties, gentlemen. Don't you agree?"
Turning to Conway, he tilted his head inquisitively. Conway nodded frantically. "Uhhh
yeah, sure, no problems, right, yeah
Ray couldn't speak. He looked like Fraser, kinda, and he talked like Fraser, but he didn't *sound* like him. And he for damn sure wasn't the Fraser that Ray, and the 27th precinct, knew...
Who was this man? He sure as hell wasn't the man Ray had called friend, the man who helped little old ladies across the street. The man whose good-natured and honestly baffled relations with women had driven the station's distaff complement to despair. This was a dangerous, deliciously seductive wild animal, caged behind bright blue eyes that were even now assessing Ray.
Shortly after that, Conway had gathered his things and made the excuse that he was going to sleep outside. Fraser had only nodded, mock-saluting him with his gun and never letting up on the unnerving stare he had leveled at Ray.
Fraser had tossed his gun onto the table after Conway left, and that was a good thing, Ray figured. Maybe they could just go on back to town and get all this mess straightened out.
"So you came looking for me. How touching," Ben said finally, throwing his cigarette in the fireplace.
Ray didn't know what to say. Where was Fraser coming from? "Of course I came, Frase, we're partners."
Ben raised a brow and Ray saw his smile turn almost predatory. "I know that Ray
I just didn't expect to see you again till I got home. Although I can't deny I'm happy that you're here."
Something wasn't right - not right at *all*. He didn't think this was the Fraser he knew, and he sure as hell didn't think Fraser was going to merrily accompany him to town as he'd hoped. Shaking his head, Ray decided to play on his instincts. As usual.
"Well, got a bit worried when ya didn't show up when ya were supposed to, so thought I'd check it out. Looks like you're ok though." Ray couldn't match Fraser's feral grin, but did manage a warm smile.
"Doing just fine, except those miscreants were really starting to get on my nerves." Another cigarette was drawn from his shirt pocket and Ray blinked, wondering again where Fraser had picked up that habit. If he hadn't seen it
Ben held the pack out for Ray, who shook his head, baffled.
Leaning back, Ray spied his gun on the table behind Fraser and wondered briefly if it was going to be necessary to use it. His mind shied away from that thought. Didn't want to go there.
Fraser shrugged, tucked the unlit cigarette behind his ear, and sauntered toward Ray.
"Well, since you are here, how about a proper welcome?"
Ray narrowed his eyes, not sure what was expected of him now. Judging by the way Fraser was coming at him, some sort of physical display was in order - and not just a friendly hug. This thought was confirmed when Ben reached out and cupped Ray's face in his palm, letting his callused fingers stroke Ray's neck just below his ear. Ray's heart stopped, then leaped into frantic rhythm. Fraser pulled back, his eyes bright with arousal, and smiled at him.
"Actually, I'm very pleased you came Ray."
What was he supposed to do now? In his confusion, Ray was still able to come to one very definite truth. The man standing mere inches from him right this minute was not the same man who'd left Chicago two weeks ago. Something majorly wrong had happened.
"What is wrong wit ya? What's goin' on here Frase? You are acting *way* strange, and I, I don't understand any of it. Ya know we gotta to go back to town
talk to the police."
Ben seemed amused by this statement. "I don't think so, Ray."
Fraser stepped back and returned to his position against the table's edge. "If you came to take me in, I think you may have wasted your time. Besides, surely you know me well enough to realize that this sort of thing isn't that unusual?"
Was that the slightest hint of uncertainty in Fraser's voice? His movements, his mannerism were all still the Mountie's, but the attitude
the air of cockiness
the way he was treating Ray, all signified a major personality shift. Once more Ray realized he was just going to have to follow his gut on this one. And he was going to have to take Fraser in, willingly or no.
Ray fidgeted for a moment, and then looked up, at the Mountie. He grinned.
ya know, I was just kinda shocked and all. Ya know, you 'n me, we're partners. All the way, buddy." As he spoke, he drifted closer and closer to the table, drawn almost irresistably to the figure waiting with the gleam in his eyes. Arriving finally right in front of Fraser, he leaned forward, as if he were going to whisper in the elegantly curved ear, and stealthily reached for the gun.
Feeling the ridged grip under his fingertips, he fought against the surge of arousal that nearly overwhelmed him at being so close to Fraser's body. He could smell the faintly spicy scent of Fraser's sweat, overlain by tobacco and whiskey, and the sheer incongruity of it made him dizzy. He could feel the warm hands sliding down his sides to rest on his hips, and the soft breaths against his hair as Fraser rested his face against Ray's neck. Warm lips brushed against the sensitive skin behind his ear, and a shockingly arousing swipe of tongue followed. Ray's gut clenched //ohdeargodfraserohhh// Swallowing hard, he tightened his grip on the gun and jerked back out of his friend's arms, raising the weapon into a shooters grip that trembled noticeably.
Fraser blinked at him, emotions chasing across his face in rapid sequence. "Whassa matter, Ray? Don't trust me?" He quirked his eyebrows in mild surprise and leaned back against the table, dimples flashing on each side of a wicked grin.
Ray gritted his teeth, suddenly angry at this stranger in Fraser's body, and scrabbled at his belt for his handcuffs. Tossing them at Ben's feet, he husked "Put those on."
Fraser glanced down at the cuffs, and then at Ray. For a moment, confusion seemed to cross his face, but the same bad-boy smirk he'd had in the bank soon replaced it. Sliding down onto his knees with an intense, wild animal grace he picked up the cuffs and clicked one closed around his left wrist.
"Sure?" He murmured, voice light, teasing.
Ray shuddered almost imperceptibly, biting his lip and nodding. "Get 'em on. Then, Benton-buddy, we're gonna talk."
The bravado and in Ray's voice rang false, even to his own ears. Confused, longing, he only knew that he wasn't certain of anything any longer.
Fraser merely smiled, locking the other cuff around his wrist and easing his legs apart more comfortably. Unfortunately for Ray's peace of mind, that brought the material of Ben's jeans tight against the taut muscles in his legs and the half hard swelling in his crotch. Ray couldn't look away - and Fraser knew it. Resting his cuffed hands on his thighs, he looked up, catching Ray's eyes with a flash of blue malice. "Sure?"
Ray nearly moaned out loud, turning suddenly to curse and slam his fist into the wall. Taking a deep breath (another mistake, he could practically *smell* the desire radiating off of both of them), he sat down at the table, keeping the gun pointed. He swallowed hard, choking down a hundred burning emotions, and cleared his throat.
"Mind if I smoke?" Taken aback, Ray tossed the pack one handed to the other man, who caught it with a neat, wrenchingly familiar motion. Dexterously he extracted a cigarette and lit it, leaning back to prop himself against the wall. Eyes slitted, Fraser watched Ray, a regard Ray could almost feel scorching across his skin. He squirmed and shifted a bit on the chair, half-turning away from the man in the corner. However, he didn't relax the hand holding his gun. And didn't that feel just too weird
a gun on Benton Fraser.
"Better be careful with that thing, Ray
it might go off," the teasing quality of Ben's voice made Ray jump and glare at him. The only result was a smile of surpassing eroticism as Ben flicked his tongue over his lips. Ray swallowed hard, feeling suddenly hot in the chilly atmosphere of the deserted cabin. Fraser smiled at him.
"Whatssa matter, Ray? You're not scared of me, are you?"
"You wish," Ray scoffed, but somehow he knew that Fraser saw right through him
just like he always had. Yes, he was scared, Ray thought. But not the way Ben thought and he'd be goddamned if he was going to let Fraser see it. No, Ray was scared of the places his brain was going lately. And here he sat with the freaky feeling that Fraser knew exactly how he felt
what he wanted.
And was more than happy to give it to him.
That was the eerie part about it. The part that gave Ray the willies. At times, when Fraser was distracted or talking animatedly in that weird way he'd picked up, Ray could see 'his' Fraser, as he'd come to refer to the Mountie persona buried deep somewhere inside this dark and tempting Fraser. Oh yeah, Ben tempted him. Ray admitted it to himself easily enough. Of course, the old Fraser had too, so why would it be any different now? On the contrary, the man who now gazed at him from the corner with open lust made Ray's pulse speed up and the muscles in his stomach clench as shivers of arousal washed over him. Temptation whispered to him with a compelling voice that uged his conscience to just worry about it tomorrow, but he fought against it. He feared it was a losing battle.
"What I really wish is that you'd put that gun down and come over here," Ben said to Ray's show of bravado. His voice beckoned, low and sultry, almost a purr. Ben patted a spot in front of him, between his legs and Ray swallowed hard as he realized just how much he wanted to be in that space.
"In your dreams, tough guy," Ray said with a lot more irritation than he felt. "Just stay in the corner and I'll keep the gun, ya got it?"
"Understood." The sparkle in Ben's eyes made Ray catch his breath. Damn him.
(Continued in Part 2)
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