When She Walks In The Room
by Wax Jism

Due South © Alliance Atlantis et al.

They say the sun is sometimes eclipsed by a moon
Y'know I don't see you when she walks in the room

U2 - The Fly

Ray woke to the annoying electric retching of his long-suffering alarm, and Fraser wasn't there. Dief looked stoically at him from his place by Ray's feet, but there was no sign of the Mountie. Though the uniform still hung in place by the door, the Sacred Stetson wasn't on the dresser and the empty side of the bed was long cold.

Ray got up, grumbling to himself, and detoured into the living room to turn on the stereo on his way to the coffee machine; morning music eased his morning temper, something Fraser would appreciate; that is, if he were here to appreciate it.

Dief padded after him, close on his heels, whining softly.

"Whazzat, boy?" Ray mumbled, scratching the wolf absently behind the ears. "Mountie skip out on ya? Join the friggin' club."

Dief yipped urgently, and Ray, who wasn't as fluent in Wolf as Fraser was, but was pretty good at guessing, sighed theatrically. "Just let me get a cup of joe down first. So I get my eyes open, you know."

He had his coffee, walked Dief - for a good hour, too - and still not a peep from Fraser. It was Saturday. It was Saturday, and Fraser had the day off, and this wasn't like him. Sure, he ran off in hot pursuit of some perp or other at the drop of a hat - crime doesn't take days off, Ray - but usually, and especially now, he left a note. Something.

Ray spent hours of dead time watching the Home Shopping Network with the volume turned down and the stereo cranked to eleven. It was sort of entertaining if you watched it with a soundtrack of Madonna's Like A Virgin. "I made it through the wilderness," Madonna chirped. On TV, someone grinned a wide, plastic Pepsodent grin and held up a tube of something that apparently would both whiten and kill bacteria. "Didn't know how lost I was until I found you," Ray snarled along with the Material Girl, until he felt like an idiot and had to laugh out loud. Dief, very selectively deaf, looked up at him and whined a complaint. Ray ignored him and wondered if anyone had ever made a punk version of Like A Virgin, and where he might get his hands on it if that was the case.

He got off the couch for maybe the fifteenth time to walk around the room just because. He wasn't waiting for Fraser, wasn't pining. Uh-uh. That would be silly, Ray.

Fraser got home at five pm. He walked right in like he'd never been away (and it was only for the day, so stop clinging and get a life, Ray), somehow making a plaid shirt and jeans pull off a pretty good impression of a uniform just by wearing them. He looked like he'd spent the day in a library or something exciting like that, but Ray was picking up strange vibes. Yeah, a hunch, you see ("You know that's pretty much all I ever get"). He couldn't say what it was - maybe Fraser's stance was a little too studied, too stiff. Something like that. Dief offered a few choice words, or whines, or yips, or whatever - he sure vented them, anyway. Ray didn't get off the couch, refused to show just how relieved he was.

"I explained everything to you, Dief," Fraser said calmly. "This is not the time for this conversation."

"Not when you should be busy explainin' it to me, right?" Ray said, forcibly casual, trying not to yell, trying not to sound like a desperate loser. Just one day. Sheesh. Everything's fine, damnit, he told his hunch.

"I had some errands," Fraser said. He looked perfectly innocent, but there really was something about him - something had changed. Ray didn't feel any better.

"Yeah?" he said, but then there wasn't time to do any more interrogating (which he wouldn't have done anyway, cause that's just not done, right, that would be desperate), because Fraser was suddenly right in front of him: soft flannel and rough denim and the promise of all the pleasures in the world.

"But I'm here now," Fraser said - no, actually that would be purred. Ray's skin shivered into goosebumps, and it was a done deal, all she wrote, Ray was gone. Fraser in a seductive mood always did him in. Desperation forgotten, Ray pushed himself to his feet and into Fraser's embrace, his mouth already closing on Fraser's, his hands seeking buttons to open, zippers to unzip, skin to reveal inch by inch or all in one go.

Somehow they made it to the bedroom without bouncing off too many walls, and it was hot and fast and Fraser seemed to have grown at least two extra hands the way he seemed to be able to touch Ray everywhere at the same time. Ray felt ravaged, soothed; bared, covered; pierced, surrounded - his consciousness narrowed to a pin-point focus. It felt as sweet as make-up sex even though they hadn't argued. Ray couldn't remember what he had been feeling earlier - a hunch? what hunch? Fraser took him and pushed him over the edge, and afterwards, as Ray was drifting into post-coital slumber, after Ray'd flippantly said, "You're a real bobcat today, Frase," Fraser held him tight, tighter than he usually did, and whispered urgently in his ear, "I love you, I love you." And that was good. Ray fell asleep.

The next morning, everything was as it should be. He awoke the way he was supposed to: to the smell of coffee. The bed was still warm, and Dief had been fed and walked. Fraser was waiting for him in the kitchen, making pancakes. Fraser had this ongoing campaign to improve Ray's morning habits. So far he wasn't making much progress. Ray would eat anything Fraser put in front of him, but whenever he was alone, it was back to coffee and chocolate and not much else.

They had breakfast together, not really talking much, but being together the way they should. It was Sunday, and the Sunday routine (which was stunningly similar to the Saturday routine, except that had been shot to hell recently) was usually something like: eat, have sex, go to some culturally and intellectually stimulating exhibit or possibly the park, have sex, watch a game, have sex, eat, have sex, rent a movie and watch it, have sex, sleep the sleep of the exhausted.

Today, Ray didn't feel like going out. He wasn't about to let the Mountie out of his sight.

"I thought we could do with an extra helping of decadence today," he told Fraser. Fraser just raised an eyebrow. "Bed. More bed. Then maybe the couch. Maybe."

"What did you have in mind for the furniture, Ray?" Fraser asked.

"Gee, I don't know, Frase. We could move them around some. I'm not sure I like the way the arrangement and color/material choice of couch and coffee table evokes an impression of late-nineties urban decay. I'd really rather go for ... oh, come on." He rolled his eyes and stalked over to Fraser, who had stopped eyeing him and was now pretending to be very busy with the dishes. "Don't play oblivious Mountie today, Ben. I have a mind for some sweaty, begging, slutty Mountie."

"You do? Well, I'm not sure where I put him, Ray. Just give me a minute to pinpoint his location."

"Nah, I think he's right here. Lemme look," and he pushed Fraser against the counter and kicked his legs apart, and proceeded to conduct a thorough regulation patdown (with some extras, granted). And what do you know? He found the slutty Mountie.

Once he had Fraser's feathers a little ruffled, Ray pulled him along into the bedroom. Fraser had some sort of principally grounded objections to kitchen frolics - something about hygiene or something; like he wasn't the one who'd lick a dog turd if he thought it contained a clue - and Ray didn't feel like arguing today. Today was going to be Sunday, his fun day. Oh yeah.

"So, how do you want it?" he drawled once he had them both in the bedroom, backing off a bit to unbutton his jeans. Fraser's eyes stayed below-waist, but he did answer,

"What do you recommend?"

Ray contorted his face into his version of stiff upper lip; the way the corners of Fraser's mouth twitched, he figured the result was at least entertaining. Then again, how many snooty, French waiters take their clothes off on the job? "Well, zere's today's special, we call it Ze Bruiser," he was done with the buttons and reached for the hem of his tee, "because it izz hard and fast, wizz ze added bonus of dirty talk à la Kowalski. If you like a lighter fare, Monsieur, the kitchen recommends The Love Boat; slow and eazy, mood music, ze soft lapping of waves - ah, not waves, as such, but I'm sure we can come up wizz a satisfactory substitute." Fraser was still not moving, but his eyes crawled upwards to Ray's face. He wasn't smiling, but there was the promise of a positively shit-eating grin lurking at the corners of his mouth. Ray kept his own expression of professional attentiveness, although it was a hell of an effort.

"If you do not find anyzing to your pleazure on the menu, it iz always possible to mix and match, as zey say."

"Flexibility is always admirable in any enterprise," Fraser said slowly.

"Indeed, Monsieur," Ray agreed. "For example, you might choose ze mood music in combination wizz a quick fuck up against the wall-"

That was as far as he got, because apparently, Fraser's patience had a limit, and that limit had been reached and crossed. He found himself caught between the proverbial rock and hard place - in this case a wall and a Mountie, both hard as hell - and subjected to a record-fast stripdown that would make a professional car thief go green at the edges.

"Ray," Fraser breathed in his ear, "be quiet."

"Yes, sir," Ray said, dropping the French accent - which even he knew sounded about as French as Elvis - and let Fraser have his way.

Afterwards, the bed looked like the tattered survivor of an air strike, but not even Fraser seemed to have the energy to do anything about it. They lay like fallen soldiers on the rumpled, stained sheets, just breathing and sweating and coming down.

"I love you," Fraser said out of the blue, and to Ray it sounded - for just a fleeting moment, before he shrugged it off and just enjoyed the sentiment - as if Fraser was trying to convince himself of it.

After the hurricane that was Sunday, it wasn't hard to con himself into forgetting about the Saturday - or maybe it was Fraser who did the conning, after all - and he did forget about that strange day, until the next time the Mountie went AWOL. Which was a week later. Saturday again; no explanations offered. Great sex. Ray let Fraser get away with it again, because, well, the sex really was great, and he just couldn't let himself believe that Fraser was lying - he's a Mountie and Mounties don't lie.

But then came yet another Saturday, and Fraser still wasn't talking, and when Ray asked straight out, Fraser looked constipated and told him it was personal and he'd rather not say.

Ray was angry, but the anger wouldn't come out and play. He wasn't used to feeling bottled up. He wanted to smash something, but instead he felt close to crying. Time to get out before he humiliated himself. He got up and stomped to the door.

"Ray-" Fraser said, but he didn't move to stop him, and he didn't have any magic words that would make things alright (what they would be, Ray couldn't really say. Maybe 'I'm just helping streetkids through college on my Saturdays off, Ray' might be the ticker), so Ray kept going. His stomach clenched and his head pounded, but he wasn't sure if it was anger or sorrow. He couldn't recognize the emotion, which was ridiculous. He was an expert, a fucking specialist on bad vibes and negative emotions. He'd gone through all the stages before. And he was familiar with the place he was in with Fraser now (it was purgatory; it could go either way - sour, like it had with Stella, or back to sweetness like he so fervently wished); he just didn't know his own reaction at all.

He was back in the evening, of course; a little drunk and a lot more mellow. Fraser was there, and they didn't talk about anything serious. It was surprisingly easy to pretend nothing was wrong. There was an enormous elephant in the middle of the living room (it was making it a real bitch to watch TV), but somehow, the issue never came up. They could probably go on for years like this. The sex didn't get any less mind-blowing; the way they worked together didn't suffer.

Ray suffered, though, and he thought Fraser did, as well. Someone would have to do something soon.

Saturday morning again; oh-dark-thirty. Ray had stayed awake all night, just to be sure he'd catch Fraser slipping out. Went to show Ray could bluff with the big boys; Fraser never suspected he wasn't really asleep. At five am sharp, it was like someone threw a switch - all Mounties out of bed; hands off cocks and on with socks. Ray played possum, breathing evenly and avoided overplaying it with ... with panache (spending quality time with Benton Fraser did wonders for a guy's vocabulary, but it sure played fast and hard with his street cred).

When Fraser was dressed and out the door (after some quiet bitching with Dief), Ray slunk out of bed, pulled on the clothes he'd laid out in preparation last night, gave Dief an apologetic pat, and followed.

Fraser walked, of course; it looked like he was marching to a band only he could hear. Ray took the GTO and kept his distance. Tailing a suspect (suspect? Suspect? This is Fraser!) at five-thirty on a Saturday morning was a man's job, but this was, after all, pretty much what Ray did for a living. On the other hand, it was what Fraser did, as well, and the damn Mountie had ears like a bat and eyes like a hawk (not to mention that he was hung like a horse - but we're not talking about that; in fact, we're not even going to think that), and Ray had to use all the tricks in his books to stay on target without being made. His head hurt and his eyes were tired - not a surprise after a sleepless night - but isn't it funny how the proper motivation can make things like exhaustion and pain seem like no big deal?

Fraser went to the park. He sat on a bench, straight-backed like he was on guard duty. He sat there for an hour, for two hours. Ray got nervous, got frustrated, got angry; wouldn't the damn Mountie ever move? Finally, after exactly two hours and twenty-three minutes, Fraser got up as if he'd just taken a short breather on that bench, and walked on.

This time, he headed downtown. It took almost an hour, and by the time he disappeared into a small diner, it was almost nine o'clock, and the place was filling up with the breakfast crowd. Ray pulled the GTO into an empty spot with a good view into the diner, and settled in to watch.

Fraser had chosen a table at the inner wall of the place, but Ray had a pretty good view. He watched Fraser get a cup of tea; watched him nurse it for half an hour. This was starting to seem like a waste of time, staking out Fraser and watching him sit alone in a seedy diner on a Saturday morning. But, damnit, there was something going on. Fraser was holding something back, and anyway, it wasn't exactly normal to make such a big deal about going for a walk in the park and a cup of tea. Something had to happen, sooner or later.

Ray had let the binoculars sink for just a little while, and when he lifted them again, Fraser wasn't alone anymore. A woman with short, dark hair and a face that was attractive in an intense, scrawny way sat across the table from him, staring at him with strange, dark eyes. She looked familiar. Even considering the haircut and the fact that Ray had only seen her face in grainy mugshots, he recognized her, and he knew he was screwed. It hurt like a punch to the gut.

A guy in the ugliest track suit Ray had ever seen walked right into his line of sight and stayed there. Ray almost jumped out of the car to push the guy out of the way, but the quick reality check it took to choke the impulse suddenly made him aware of what he was doing, and to whom.

Incredible. Here he'd gone and thought he'd gotten better. Promised himself he'd never pull any of that clingy shit again; only here he was, Mr. Stalker Creep all over again. He was like a record stuck in a groove: get what you want, fuck it up, follow it around-- rrrritsch. Get what you want, fuck it up, follow it around-- rrrritsch...

He ought to arrest himself. Book me a room in the Big House, boys, I've got the stalking bug again.

Only, he'd have to make a couple more arrests while he was at it. Fraser - Mr. Law and Duty Before All - was making cozy with the criminal element. The world must be coming to an end. His world surely had.


I meet her in the same diner as before. She doesn't smile when she enters; in fact, her face shows no reaction at all. She is darkly, dangerously beautiful, and I only want to look at her. I don't want to touch her. I think her skin would be cold under my fingers; my fingers so used now to Ray's radiant heat.

"Ben," she says.

"Victoria." Her name is a stone in my mouth, but the instant rush of longing I feel every time our eyes meet is unmistakable. I need her as much as I ever did, although I can never again allow myself to have anything more of her than these brief, impersonal encounters.

We don't talk, because there's nothing to say. I can't let her speak; I've heard everything. We don't touch, save for a few times when her hand grazes mine, and even at that casual touch, I pull away. But I can't stay away; can't let her just vanish. She's pulled me in again - come into my parlour said the spider to the fly - and she won't let me go unless I make her, and I have found myself sadly lacking - again - both the strength and the courage to do that. There's nothing in the world that could change the circumstances after the fact, yet I cannot stay away. Something as overpowering as instinct is drawing me back to her, and I am helpless to resist. Thinking about Ray doesn't have the intended effect; it only makes the hook in my flesh dig deeper. Incredible that my love for him - and it is love; nothing but love can be torment and sweetness in such balanced amounts - shouldn't be enough. I thought I'd measured the depth of this flaw in me; I am realizing now that I underestimated it..

"Come with me," she says as I prepare to leave. She says that every time we meet, and I fear the day her lure will be stronger than my resolve. I picture Ray's face. It doesn't help. He's shadowed, distant, fading. I feel cold.

"Victoria ..."

"I caught this morning morning's minion," she whispers.

I shake my head sharply, although the words are already forming, already spilling from my lips: "Kingdom of daylight's dauphin..." Nonsense; Hopkin's poem has no meaning here. I might as well recite the phone book from memory for all the impact the words have, but her presence is like the bell in Pavlov's experiments; instead of saliva, I sprout line after line of intricately alliterated and rhymed syllables.

Finally, I leave, tearing myself temporarily from her gravity.

I know I will be back.


They weren't even talking. Fraser never opened his mouth for anything but the tea; neither did she. They just sat there like statues. Statues of star-crossed lovers, gazing longingly into each other's eyes across that impenetrable barrier of the diner table and circumstance.

Ray stared, too, until his eyes felt hot and raw, and his lungs burned at every breath, like just looking at the scene behind the grubby window had poisoned him.

Finally, he couldn't take a second more of that quiet communication, that quiet connection that excluded him, and he lowered his binoculars and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes hard, really screwing them shut, but it didn't help, of course, so he just bit the bullet and settled in to wait.

Fraser came out alone maybe half an hour later, once again looking starched and unruffled, but Ray could see the cracks in the armor, sure he could. He knew Fraser like no one else. Like no one else, except maybe-

When Fraser's eyes lit on Ray, both men froze; deer-in-the-headlights, tharn, statues again. Fraser pushed the impression the farthest; his face was so perfectly blank Ray had to wonder if this wasn't just a life-size porcelain Mountie. Fraser blinked, twice, slowly, with china-doll impassivity.

"Not a word," Ray blurted, unnecessarily - Fraser didn't look like he was about to speak. He didn't look like he had vocal cords anymore. Porcelain through and through. "Get in the car."

The words were an order, but to Ray's own ears they sounded like a plea. Anger roiled and churned inside him, somehow, impossibly, never finding an outlet. On the surface was only the pain and something meek and helpless.

Fraser obeyed without comment. Dief whined and wagged his tail in the back seat, but Fraser didn't greet him. Instead, he turned his porcelain eyes to Ray, opened his porcelain mouth and said, "Ray."

"Not now, Fraser," Ray snapped, and concentrated on the well-known and safe motions of driving. He drove too fast, and he even ran a couple of stop signs, but the Mountie didn't bitch at all, not even when he drove through a really old yellow. Taxi-green, his dad used to call it.

He pulled up in front of the consulate. He didn't look at Fraser, just waited silently.

"Ray..." Fraser said. Ray raised a hand.

"No, no, no, no. I cannot have this conversation now. Not right now."

"Understood, Ray," Fraser said like a good boy, but he didn't leave the car. Ray lasted fifteen awkward seconds.

"You lied to me," he said after suffering through those seconds, making himself a liar. The conversation had apparently been booked for this slot, no matter what he wanted.


"You lied to me. You told me you loved me."

"I do, Ray."

"You love her. How stupid do you think I am? I just never ... I'd never have pegged you for someone to screw around, you know? I thought--"

"Ray, if you'd just listen - I wasn't-" For the first time since he'd gotten in the car, Fraser was actually displaying emotion. The Mountie mask was cracking. It didn't appease Ray.

"Shut up, Fraser! I am this close to smashing your lying mouth in. I won't, cause I know it won't make me feel any better." The last sentence came between clenched teeth, and he had to take a quick time-out; staring hard at his own hands gripping the steering wheel with white-knuckled force. Deep breath. The clamoring urge to commit grievous bodily harm receded to a murmur, and he could say, somewhat calmer, "It doesn't matter if you were just holding hands with her or doing her doggy-style over the Lieutenant's desk; this isn't about sex, Fraser."

"No, it isn't," Fraser said, and Ray was momentarily taken aback by the agreement. Fraser agreeing with him always made him lose his footing in an argument. He was on a tear now, though, so it was only a question of regrouping.

"Who is she?" he asked, although he knew exactly who she was. What she was. He just wanted to see a reaction; see what Fraser would do. "How come I've never seen her before?"

"I can't--"

He saw that frightened glance. All it took. He interrupted, "No, you can't tell me. She's the bank robber chick, isn't she? She's still got you wrapped around her pinky. Don't argue! I will not be responsible for my actions if you argue today. I am a thermonul- fuck it - a thermonuc-le-ar device and you have pushed the big red button that says 'Don't Ever Use'."

No one could say that Fraser was stupid. Intentionally oblivious from time to time, sure, but never stupid. He apparently got it, got that Ray was serious as Old Man Trouble. He just said, "Understood," again, and left the car.

"I'll see you Monday, Fraser," Ray called after him. Fraser almost - almost - spun around; it looked like he pulled something stopping himself. He turned, instead, very slowly, and stared at Ray. Ray felt smug; damn Mountie didn't see that one coming. "We've still got work to do, Fraser," he clarified, just to push home the point that Ray Kowalski was a professional, a good policeman, and would not let personal matters screw with his duty.

Fraser just nodded. Ray didn't stick around.


It's not my heart, but my head. It is full, so full I think it might split open any minute now, like an overripe fruit, laying bare all these hateful, disgraceful thoughts and emotions for all the world to see. All I can do is concentrate furiously on the mechanical task of filling in forms and stamping envelopes. Occasionally, I can forget myself. Mostly, I can't.

"What are you doing, son?" my father's voice asks out of thin air. I look up to see him standing in front of my desk, ramrod straight and frowning sternly. Well, that was all the day needed. Ever since my relationship with Ray Kowalski developed into a romantic liaison, my father has been conspicuous by his absence. On occasion, as I work here in my office, I would feel something of a disapproving presence, but he would never materialize, and I would never ask him to. I'd thought he'd given up on me. Now here he comes, probably brimming with good advice I haven't asked for and don't want.

"I am working, Dad, as you can well see."

"Not that!" he snaps, annoyed already. "The Yank. The woman. What the hell are you playing at, son?"

"Ah," I say. I do not wish to discuss this. Not now, not ever. I know, however, that if I were to have a match in sheer bloody-mindedness, it would be my father.

"I don't say I approve of your ... relationship with the Yank, son," he starts, sounding almost ridiculously paternal, "but he doesn't deserve this."

"This is not something I want your advice on, Dad."

"I've talked to you about second chances-"

"At great length, as I recall." I keep my voice even and dry, but I am getting increasingly vexed. He doesn't seem to notice, or perhaps he does, but chooses to overlook my temper. He frequently does.

"It's a worthy subject, son."

"I'm not entirely sure your experiences with Buck Frobisher apply to this case."

"You're right," he says. "I never hopped into bed with him."

"Well, there you go, Dad. It doesn't apply. Now, as you can see, I have duties to attend to." I make a great show of shuffling the forms around my desk. He watches me impassively for a minute. I studiously ignore his presence.

"The Yank's a good man," he says finally. I try not to let my annoyance show too much, but I know I sound rather snappish when I say,

"You said that, yes. Ray is a good man. He's done nothing to deserve this. Now, if you'd excuse me ..."

When I look up again, he's gone. I lean my head in my hands and close my eyes. He is right, of course. I know my duty - towards the law and towards Ray. Yet I cannot bring myself to even contemplate bringing Victoria in. I feel as if her pain - that twisted, kaleidoscope pain she surely must feel at the life she and I have ruined together - is my own. I am caught, and I cannot see a way out that would not utterly crush me.


This was his second chance - that fabled second chance that you don't always get - and it was turning to shit right in front of him. He couldn't talk to Fraser; Fraser wouldn't talk to him. They were caught in silence, because if there was silence, at least no one would have to punch anyone, no one would say anything that couldn't be taken back. Ray paced the room and thought about Fraser. Fraser, this strange Fraser who lied and cheated and sat in cheap diners with someone he ought to have been arresting. Someone who was a fugitive; someone who was a murderer. Ray could understand Fraser's obsession; Ray had been there done that got the T-shirt. It didn't make things any less fucked up, any less shitty.

He stopped pacing with a jerk, and before he even knew what he was doing himself, he'd swiveled around and punched the wall with everything he had. The pain came afterwards, and it was strangely satisfying to have a physical pain to take his mind off the other one, the one that aspirin or Tylenol or even morphine would never take away.

"Fuck," he said eloquently to the empty room. "Shit." Well, that summed it up pretty neatly. Shit, as in turning to it. Manure, excrement, waste, dung, feces, compost. He almost popped the wall another one, but stopped himself just in time. No need to break any bones here, and his hand already hurt like a sonuvabitch. He made do with pointlessly flipping the finger at the inoffensive architectural structure. There you go. Sit on it and spin.

So. Shit. That was an established fact. What to do about it? Not the faintest. Gotta have a plan, be a man, get a plan.

"I am such a dick," he mumbled, and went to sit on the couch again. Flipped on the TV. 'Bullitt' - but he couldn't watch Steve McQueen when he was in a jealous rage over his Mountie boyfriend getting frisky with a bankrobbing, murdering bitch. That would be, whatsit, sacrilege, at least. "Dick," he repeated and turned off the TV and just sat staring at the blank screen for a while. He tried to think. It wasn't easy, but he might just manage to-

Ah-ha. A dick with a plan. Well, well, well. Seeing as he was in a jealous rage and all, he might as well do something jealously raging. First, he'd do some detectoring, yeah, and then - bring on the jealous rage, pal.

Finding her wasn't hard, but executing his plan took some time. Ample time for a guy to think hard about what he's about to do. Ray did - think hard, that was - but come evening, he was still the same dork with the same plan.

He watched the diner until Fraser showed up again; apparently, the fact that Ray knew - that Fraser knew Ray knew - didn't put the guy off seeing his piece on the side. The woman, little old Tricky Vic herself, came in around ten thirty, and the toothsome twosome sat quietly over untouched cups of tea, looking at each other. Ray didn't get them; what kind of an affair was that? What was Fraser doing, stepping out on Ray just to sit and stare at the woman like he was afraid to touch her? It was like something out of one of those Jane Austen-type chick flicks. Victorian melodrama, hardy-har. He gave an anemic chuckle at his own weak pun.

"I'm such a dick," he said out loud, for about the ninety-seventh time. Well, it was true. Still, he was going through with this, dick or not.

She almost gave him the slip. He was busy making cow-eyes at Fraser, and suddenly, she was just gone. Lucky for him, he caught a glimpse of her when he was rolling down the street, swearing to himself. By random, dumb accident he saw her turn down a side street, and the chase was on.

It was a short chase, and not much in way of entertainment, either, if car chases were what you did for entertainment. Her apartment wasn't far away, on the fifth floor in a run-down building with no elevator. It gave Ray a cheap satisfaction to see how wealthy and comfortable she wasn't. Looked like crime didn't pay, after all.

Well, now he knew where the snake had her lair. He stood in the dingy hallway outside her door, smelling piss and boiled cabbage and mold, puzzling over how to best get this thing over and done with. Then he heard her behind the door, heard the lock turn, and had to beat a hasty retreat.

Well, he thought, looking after her walking down the hall, looks like another stakeout. He watched her through the staircase window, watched as she dodged puddles and pulled her coat tighter around her. He laughed a little maliciously, because it had been raining all morning, a dogged, wind-beaten rain that made the world grey and dull and damp, and she didn't have an umbrella.

"Hope it fucks up your 'do," he muttered morosely and turned back to the hallway. There was no one around, which worked fine by him. The building was old and cheap and didn't look like it had been renovated in the last millennium or so. The doors were just as worn and rickety as the rest of it, and the lock on hers yielded to his little card trick without giving him trouble.

It was a studio, empty and bare and unfurnished, save for a small kitchen table with two matching chairs in the stylish seventies Formica kitchenette (Ray thought that particular shade of orange had been outlawed sometimes around 1982), and a camp bed in a corner. A single, thick candle stood next to it. A suitcase had been pushed under the bed.

Ray snooped around a little, trying to get some sort of grip on the woman that had turned Fraser's head worse than anyone had ever turned Ray's. Well, she was a neat freak, a bit like Fraser there; the place was creeping Ray out with its pristine tidiness. He couldn't find a speck of dust anywhere, like she'd spent hours dusting and polishing every surface, and he was willing to make a small wager (not money, of course, but a wager, nevertheless- Shut up, Fraser!) that a forensic investigation would turn up jack shit in the way of fingerprints. He remembered reading about that in Victoria Metcalf's file - three days she spent in Fraser's apartment, and not so much as a partial.

She was supposed to be some sort of evil genius - after all, she'd escaped right in front of Vecchio's nose, hadn't she, almost managed to frame Fraser for murder, too. So, all things considered, it was probably a good idea not to let her get the drop on him. Which went to say, hurry the fuck up, Kowalski.

The suitcase turned out to be outrageously uninteresting. It contained - surprise, surprise - clothes. And nothing else. A couple of shirts, a pair of jeans he couldn't for his life imagine her wearing, some underwear (boring cotton underwear; nothing like the fancy silk stuff Stella liked and Ray liked as well - on Stella, off Stella, why was he thinking about Stella?), and a long, black skirt.

In the bathroom, he found the usual suspects; shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, a toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, perfume (Lâncome's Trésor - how original), and an extra-large bottle of aspirin, generic brand.

Well, time to face the music and admit that this lady had left nothing, nothing at all of interest for him to find. Either she was the most boring person on the face of the planet, or she was the most suspicious one. Faced with the evidence, he'd have to go with door number two. He settled down to wait.

And he waited, and waited, and waited some more, perfectly still in his place behind the door for longer than he'd thought he was capable of, and when she finally, finally, after two and a half hours that almost killed him, stepped through the door, she never had time to do anything. He had his gun against her head neat as pie, and said, in his best shake, bad guy, shake voice, "Don't move. Do not move."

She didn't, just stood quietly and waiting. He took the time to check her out some. She was bird-boned and skinny - and she was a real looker, Ray noticed now that he was really seeing her, not just staring through the back of her head at Fraser. There was something hard and ungiving around her eyes, though, something that made his mouth go dry.

He patted her down gingerly, finding a small .38 in her purse. He emptied the gun on the floor, one-handed. The rounds tinkled and skittered across the hardwood like gleaming, metallic insects.

"Detective," she said suddenly, sharply, and he almost pulled the trigger in surprise. Jittery, Ray, jittery - cool it down.

"What?" he snapped. "No, don't talk to me. I'm gonna do the talking."

"Really?" she said, and he was sure she was grinning like a loon under that cooler-than-thou mask.

"Really. Look, I've got a deal for you, okay? It's a one-off; you go back on it just once, and I'm all over you like a dirty blanket." He pushed her a little with the gun, nodded towards the kitchenette. She walked ahead of him, still cool as a very cool cat, and sat down on one of the chairs. He parked in the other, right across the table, and kept the gun steady and pointed at her.

"So, Detective. You call yourself Vecchio, don't you? What is your real name?" He resisted the urge to smack her across the face for that, and just shrugged.

"I go by Vecchio. All you need to know." She didn't insist. "I want you to leave. This town. This state. In fact, I want you to leave this country. Go anywhere - Timbuktu would be fine. I hear the fishing's great there this time of year." She didn't answer. Her eyes were creeping him out, but he held her gaze. "Just don't go to Canada. I think you've lost your Canadian privileges permanently."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, that's what I said. Listen, lady, I am not in the mood, all right? You're wanted for murder. I could book you right now, and you'd never see daylight again. But I won't. I just want you to go away and stay away. I'm giving you a good deal, a better deal than you deserve. I'm doing it for the Mountie."

"He'll come with me," she said, and boy, did she sound sure of herself. Ray narrowed his eyes and glared at her, but she didn't even blink.

"You think he'll come with you? You think that? How come he hasn't already? He had his chance three years ago, didn't he?"

"The real Detective Vecchio shot him."

That pissed him off even more - 'the real detective Vecchio', and that superior, why-do-I-even-bother tone of voice. Focus, Ray. Focus. "Maybe he just didn't want to go with you. He's not going now, that's for sure."

"How do you know?" She smiled at him, but it didn't change her eyes at all; they remained cold. "He's going to stay with you? He'll go with you?"

"He already is with me," Ray snapped, knowing that he was letting her get to him; not caring. "Get that through your scumbag head. He won't be yours, not now, not ever. Just get the hell outta Dodge before I sic the wolves on your ass."

"How delicately put," she said sarcastically, but something flashed in her eyes, something hot and glowing. And there it was; just a glimmer of hurt, but Ray caught it. Oh God, she loved Fraser, she really did. He could believe it now - he hadn't before; he'd thought she just wanted something again. She loved him, but she couldn't love him right. There had to be something wrong with her, with the way she was wired, or something - like maybe she couldn't do that give-and-take thing that was needed in a relationship; could only take and demand more, take and demand more - but it was love. He saw it, and he recognized it - the desperation.

He faltered, felt his mouth fall open, and in that brief moment of distraction - indecision, sympathy - she lunged across the table and went for his gun.

"No!" he yelled, and it was close again - he almost blew her head off in the scuffle. But through some kind of minor act of god, he held on to his piece without pulling the trigger.

She was like a rabid polecat, scratching at his eyes and snarling in rage. He tried to push her off him, but the chair teetered backwards and fell, and he ended up flat on the floor with her on top of him, and she caught her breath faster than he did, and punched him straight in the nose. It wasn't a girlie punch, either; his head filled with the sharp crackle of bone and cartilage twisting and breaking. Christ, she was fast and strong, and it was time to do something about this situation.

"Don't make me kill you, you stupid fucking bitch," he growled, blinking through the dark flowers blossoming all over his field of vision. His head spun, but he could take a beating; a good one in the face wasn't enough to take him down. She didn't stop trying to claw out his eyes, so he hit her back, hard, southpaw. She fell off him, and he rolled and pounced and got the gun on her again, jammed hard against her chin. He crouched over her, ignoring the clamoring pain in his nose. Her eyes were like chips of coal in her pale face. There was a little blood on her mouth.

"Don't think I won't," he whispered at her, digging the gun in a little tighter. She was feeling him, hell yeah. "Now listen up, and listen hard. You ever - and I mean that literally and symbolically and any -ally there is - ever set your foot in this town again, I will hunt you down and blow your brains out. Got that? I'm letting you go this time, for Fraser. But just this once. You hear me? Am I making myself clear? Huh?"

He backed off to let her up, and looked hard at her. There it was again, that flicker of pain - her face softened and her eyes misted over just barely. She didn't look scared, or even angry, just sad. Like she was thinking about never seeing Fraser again and it was hurting her. Well, Ray could sympathize, but it was still a moment of intense triumph when she slowly got up and left without looking back. He resisted the impulse to shout "Don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out" after her. This was probably not the time to gloat.

He got up himself, made a big, completely unnecessary fuss out of brushing non-existent dust off his clothes, just trying to regain some sort of balance. He winced as his nose got his attention again. His throat was filling with that familiar metallic-sweet taste, and when he touched his face, the hand came away bloody. Damn. It was probably broken. That meant going to the ER. Not what he had in mind for the rest of the day.


It is late, and the consulate is dark. I should by all rights be in bed, but my narrow cot seems more uninviting every night. I've become soft, sleeping in Ray's large, comfortable bed, caught safe and sound in the guarded circle of shared heat, shared breath, shared dreams. Pressed against Ray's easy warmth, I would sometimes stay awake to listen to him sleep. He's a restless sleeper, a bundle of twitches and sighs. He wraps himself around me, snuggles closer, his breath tickling my skin softly. I feel protective towards him; I want to fold him into my arms and make sure he never gets hurt again-

I snap out of my reverie. I have hurt him. He's somewhere out there, alone and hurt by my actions. Another walking wounded by my hand.

My incipient wallow in self-recrimination is interrupted by Dief's soft whuff. Then I hear it myself; light footsteps in the hallway. There's only one person who'd break into the consulate in the thick of night and then walk around as bold as can be.

He comes in and stops right inside my door. I only have my desk light burning, and he's standing almost completely in shadow, but I can quite clearly make out his swollen, butterfly-bandaged nose and the stitches in the gash on his upper lip.

"Ray." I don't know what else to say. He's returned to me. He has the control. I am the offending party - the bad guy, as he would put it - in this situation. I will listen to what he has to say.

"She's gone," he blurts, and my heart seizes in my chest. The mangled state of his face seems suddenly sinister to me. He can't mean- "I told her to take a hike, make like a boxer, split, get the fuck outta my face."

"Ray, what--" He didn't-- he hadn't. The fear sinks back to a more bearable level.

"I let her go, Frase," he says softly, looking, at some apparently fascinating spot somewhere to the left of my desk. "She's okay, she's just ... gone. Couldn't let her fuck you up any more. I'm sorry." He straightens suddenly, and his posture becomes almost defiant. "Fuck it. I'm not sorry. She loves you, Frase, I'll give you that, but she's poison. I know, I'm not exactly a catch, but I'd never ... I'd never ..." He trails off; he's run out of steam. The defiance leaks out of him, and he is left looking tired and ill-used. I'm still horrified at what he has done - and the way he's injured has me speculating wildly as to Victoria's condition - but he has put himself in danger for me; he's fought for my flawed affection. He's offering ... something.

"Ray," I say again, helplessly. It seems all I can manage today is his name, like a parrot with a one-word vocabulary. He's walking towards me, his eyes still shadowed, but I see intent. I see a challenge. I see Ray, who's apparently going to jump right back into the fray. For me.


Ray backed Fraser up against the desk. Fraser wasn't saying anything; it didn't look as if he was able to. His eyes looked huge and black in the murky light, and Ray thought he could see both fear and relief in them. He might be wrong, of course - Fraser wasn't easy to read at the best of moments, and this sure wasn't one - but he chose to believe what he saw.

Fraser was wearing his uniform, so Ray turned his concentration to getting it off, but he'd had some practice, after all - it wasn't the major task it used to be. He didn't move to kiss Fraser, and Fraser didn't move at all, but they were both breathing a little heavier by the time he pushed Fraser's boxers down and dropped to his knees.

He gave Fraser his mouth with its sore, cracked lips. He was good at it; sucking dick was something he had a talent for - he knew exactly how much, how long, how hard to use lips and tongue and teeth, how to make Fraser pant helplessly and shiver and whimper. In five seconds flat, he got the first moan out of him, then a harsh groan, and finally, a cry - "Ray!". Yeah, Ray though, that's it - remember who you're with, tell me you know who's doing this to you.

He wanted to say that out loud - say my name, damnit, Frase - but his mouth was full and busy, so he just gave everything he had, put his soul and his pain and his longing into that blowjob, and Fraser repeated his name over and over again until he choked on the short syllable, but that was forgiven, because just then he jerked and shuddered and filled Ray's mouth with bitter-sweet, blood-warm slickness. He swallowed with some effort, and then Fraser's hands were pulling him up, and there was a kiss, a kiss that was a question and an invitation. He let Fraser touch him. There was his answer.

We're not okay. We'll probably never be okay again. But I take what I can get.

They lay tangled and sweaty in Fraser's narrow and uncomfortable so-called bed. Fraser wasn't asleep, but he was pretending to be. Ray didn't mind. He sure didn't want to talk.

He twisted and turned himself toward Fraser, pushing his body closer against that familiar furnace heat. He's mine, he thought, there's no way he can't be mine.

"Can I keep you until she comes back?" Ray's treacherous mouth asked before he could zip it shut, and even though he'd meant it to be funny - when the thought was just a thought - he realized he meant it sincerely by the time the words made their getaway. Fraser heard that too, it looked like, cause he flinched like somebody smacked him a good one with a dead fish or something.


Ray squirmed and held up a hand, both hands, and Fraser bit down on his protest.

"I've sunk pretty low here, Fraser. I'm not above begging, but please don't make me, okay?"

"Ray, I--"

Ray talked right over Fraser's protest. "You love me, I know. Just not enough, I guess."

"It's not--" Fraser tried again. Ray didn't let him finish. There was nothing Fraser could say now that would change anything. Maybe later. Maybe never.

"It's not me, it's you, yeah, yeah - that's old hat. You know what, Fraser, old buddy? I'm gonna go ahead and pretend none of this ever happened, okay? I'm pretty good at that, the old pulling the wool over your own eyes deal. I can do it. Just...just never remind me, okay?"


"Promise me." He twisted around again so he could catch Fraser's eyes. It was getting lighter; the night was over.

"Yes, Ray. I promise."