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See part 1A for notes, warnings, etc.

#

He woke a short while before he had to, tangled up in bed with Ray. This kind of intimate proximity had begun to become familiar to him, but the juxtaposition of Ray and his ordinary life was captivating. He could get used to this. He could wake every morning like this, with Ray’s head on his shoulder, Ray’s hand on his biceps, Ray’s--he blushed even to think the word--Ray’s cock pressed against his hip.

 

Except he wasn’t going to get used to it, because Ray had to leave in a few days.

Fraser could--possibly--go back to Chicago. Openings for postings in the Chicago Consulate tended to crop up frequently, and although he was overqualified for such an assignment, he stood a good chance of receiving it if he asked.

But such a move would leave Deline without an experienced law enforcement officer. Few senior officers requested such remote assignments, and many similar communities experienced even more rapid staff turnover than the Chicago Consulate. He had never sacrificed duty for his personal happiness, and to do so didn’t seem like an auspicious opening to this new chapter of their relationship.

It would be better, then, to stick to the plan Ray had suggested at the beginning of his visit. They’d continue as they had for the next seventeen years, until Ray reached mandatory retirement (or perhaps a little sooner--Ray might be persuaded to retire before the CPD required him to do so), and then they could be together in Deline.

“I can hear you worrying,” Ray said into his collarbone. “Stop that.”

“Sorry.” He brought his hand up to the back of Ray’s neck. “I was thinking about--”

“I know what you were thinking about. Let’s not ruin this thinking about it, okay? We’ve got plenty of time to be miserable later.”

“Right you are.”

“I know just what’ll take your mind off it, anyway.” Ray moved against him in a way that was, indeed, incompatible with gloomy thoughts.

After they made love, Ray volunteered to make breakfast while he had a quick shower and got into uniform. Ray evidently felt no particular need to get cleaned up, but then, he wasn’t working that day.

Breakfast was oatmeal and some of the dried meat Mrs. Ledreaux had given them. They’d eaten all of their fresh food before leaving on the quest, and, of course, there hadn’t been time to buy new supplies yesterday.

“You could do the grocery shopping today, if you like,” Fraser suggested as they ate. It went against his nature to ask a guest to work, but Ray wasn’t exactly a guest, and he’d indicated yesterday that he did not wish to be treated as one.

“Sure. If you won’t need the truck.”

“If I need to go anywhere, I can take the snowmobile. I’ll make you a list.”

Ray shrugged. “I know what you buy.”

“Very well.” Fraser took out his wallet.

“I also have my own money.”

“Of course you do, but you’d be buying things for my house.”

“Our house.”

The words gave him a momentary thrill of happiness. Yes. It was their house, whether Ray was there or not. Except he’d mostly not be there, which made what they were doing now a bit like playing house. Pretending that Ray lived here now. But he could pretend that if he wanted. “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry.”

“No problem. Takes some getting used to. You never lived with anybody before, did you?”

“No. Well, not since I was a child, of course.”

“Yeah, that’s not really the same.” Ray scraped the last of the oatmeal out of his bowl. “C’mon, I’ll drive you to work and then do that shopping.”

#

After dropping Fraser off at the detachment, Ray took the truck out to the Northern store--Fraser told him that the larger selection there made it a better choice for major stocking-up than the Co-op.

He was glad Fraser hadn’t laughed out loud when he said that thing about “our house.” It was just that he felt like he lived here, even though he didn’t.

Northern was sort of like a very small Wal-mart with a very idiosyncratic selection. There was a display of snowmobiles in the middle of the store, separating the general merchandise side--everything from bed sheets to blenders to chainsaws--and the grocery side. He picked up some oil, filters, and an oil filter wrench from that side, and then got started on groceries.

Everything up here cost about four times what it did normally. He’d noticed that before when he bought candy bars and chips, but somehow, he’d thought real food would be cheaper.

Clearly he was wrong. A carton of orange juice, for instance, was almost twenty dollars. Actual oranges were even worse--no wonder Fraser had been mildly obsessed with fresh produce in Chicago.

He was trying to decide whether, at almost two dollars apiece, they really needed eggs, when a woman stopped her cart next to his. “You’re Ray, who found Etseh Ledreaux!”

That made a change from “Ray from Chicago” or “Sergeant Fraser’s Ray.” “Guilty,” he answered.

“Are you staying, then?” She glanced down at the shopping cart.

“No, I’m, uh, just getting some stuff for Fraser’s place.” He couldn’t really call it “our house” to a stranger; she wouldn’t understand.

“Oh. Well, nice talking to you.”

It seemed like every second person he saw in the store stopped him to tell him they knew who he was, and ask if he was staying. Downright weird.

The only part of the store where the prices weren’t shocking was the meat department. The beef, chicken, and pork options were fairly pricey, but the moose, caribou, duck, and goose were very reasonable. He revised his dinner plan of “tacos” to “moose tacos.”

He almost changed his mind again when he saw how expensive the tomatoes and lettuce were, but what the hell. It wasn’t like he was spending all his money on beer and women. He might as well spend it on produce and Fraser.

#

After he took the groceries home, got the rest of their stuff from the airport, changed the oil and filter in the truck, re-organized Fraser’s CDs by genre, and made a couple of sandwiches, he drove back to the detachment to see if gave Fraser one of the sandwiches and see if he was done working yet.

It turned out he wasn’t--another hour or so, he said--so Ray decided maybe he’d stop by the Ledreaux place and see how Jeremiah and the old guy were doing, maybe check the truck was still running rich, or if flushing the fuel line had done the trick. Parking in front of the trailer, he thought about knocking on the door, but decided to go around back first.

Which turned out to be the right call. He didn’t even have to go into the garage; Jeremiah and Billy were sitting on a couple of cinderblocks near a fire in a cut-off oil barrel.

“Hi,” Ray said awkwardly.

Jeremiah glared at him some, but the old man said, “Sit.”

He pulled up another cinderblock and sat. “Truck running okay?” he said after a while.

“Yeah,” Jeremiah answered.

He nodded. “Cool.”

The other two men nodded, and they sat and looked at the flames for a while.

“I am going to die soon,” Billy said.

“Don’t say that,” Jeremiah said, his hands bunching into fists in his parka pockets.

Ray scratched at his hairline under his hat. “Everybody dies,” he said, managing not to finish it up with, baby that’s a fact.

“I’ve had a long life. I was only a boy when we moved in off the land and my father took work carrying uranium ore. He was not much more than half my age now when he died from cancer, the uranium sickness.”

Ray nodded. “That’s…yeah, that’s rough.” There were worse things than being a meatpacker’s kid.

“I could go to Yellowknife and live longer, maybe. A few more months, a year. I have already been out on the land for the last time. I will die here, where my father died. Where my children and grandchildren were born. I will not leave behind the important things so that I can maybe live a little longer.”

“I--yeah. I think that’s the right call,” Ray said, like he thought maybe this old guy needed his approval or something.

“I will tell my daughters, and they will not understand.”

“Women.” Ray shrugged.

“Eh. My daughters, they went to the white school. Today, we have some Dene teachers. The children learn to respect elders, to respect the land. My daughters did not learn this.”

Ray started to put together that Billy was telling him this as a token white guy. He maybe wanted Ray to tell him how to explain it so that it would make sense to somebody with a white outlook. He sighed, rubbed his hands together over the fire. “A lot of people in cities don’t live as long as you have. And old people down south end up spending years in the old-age home because they don’t have family to help them when they need it. Or they live by themselves in a little rented room that smells like cabbage and cat pee. There was this old dude I used to play chess with. He was a--well, that’s not important. We played chess in the park once a week or so, and I was the one who found his body when he died, because he didn’t have anybody else. So the way they do things in the city’s…not always so good. Being near the people who care about you is better than being near a hospital. I mean, if you have to pick one.”

Billy nodded slowly. “I will tell my daughters this.”

#

“You just relax, okay? I’m gonna get dinner, as soon as I hit the can. You’ve been wrestling paperwork all day.” Ray shoved him in the general direction of the sofa before continuing to the bathroom.

Instead of sitting down, however, Fraser took the opportunity to make a quick examination of the refrigerator and cupboards. He’d half-feared that he’d come home to find that he--pardon, they--were now the proud owners of the Northern’s entire selection of Pop Tarts, potato chips, candy, and other highly processed snack items. But except for a pack of Oreos and some Ritz crackers, everything Ray had gotten was something Fraser purchased, at least occasionally--or, in one instance, had purchased once and deeply regretted, but it was Fraser’s own fault for not warning Ray that one of the two brands of frozen pizza stocked by the store was completely inedible.

“Checking up on me?”

Fortunately, Ray sounded more amused than annoyed. Fraser shrugged sheepishly, and told Ray about the problem with the pizza.

“If it’s bad enough you won’t eat it, it must be awful,” Ray said, looking at the box.

“Dief--Dief did, but not without considerable complaint.”

“Should we just throw this one out?”

“No--the school sometimes has movie nights for the young people; I’ll find out when the next one is and donate it. Someone must like those things, or the store wouldn’t keep ordering them.”

“They have another kind,” Ray said. “Are those any better?”

“Marginally. I’ve found it easier just to make my own when I’m in the mood for pizza, though.”

“Easier?”

Perhaps easier wasn’t precisely the right word. “Less disappointing.”

“You ever put pineapple on it?”

“Frequently,” Fraser admitted. “Pineapple and caribou sausage. Quite tasty, actually, although I haven’t managed to make any converts.”

“People up here consider the pineapple the weird part, right?”

Fraser felt he had to tell him. “Ray, people everywhere consider the pineapple the weird part.”

“Funny guy. Okay, so we’re having tacos,” he said, putting the pizza back in the freezer and getting meat, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese out of the refrigerator.

“What can I do to help?”

“Are you gonna sulk if I say nothing?” Ray asked.

“I might.” Fraser wasn’t entirely sure he knew how to sulk, but he could try.

“All right, you can shred the cheese.” Ray handed him the block of cheese and started rummaging through the cupboard where he kept his pots and pans.

“What are you looking for?”

“Cheese grating thing.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Oh.” Ray looked stumped.

“I have a knife,” Fraser pointed out, selecting one from a drawer. “Several, in fact.”

While Ray cooked the taco meat and chopped the vegetables, Fraser whittled the block of cheese into a pile of orange shreds (the point of the exercise) and a rough approximation of a seal (an unhygienic expression of whimsy).

When Ray saw what he’d done, he shook his head. “You’re unhinged.”

“I’m afraid so,” he agreed.

“I like that about you. What does that say about me?”

Fortunately, the question didn’t seem to require an answer.

The tacos were surprisingly good--Fraser made a mental note to look at the packages from the shells and seasoning mix, in case the store had more than one kind.

After they’d eaten, Ray did the dishes, made a pot of tea, and set the table with matching cups, a sugar bowl, and some Oreos. On a plate.

Clearly something was up. Fraser’s initial impulse was to ask what, exactly, that was, but a moment’s reflection convinced him to wait for events to unfold.

He didn’t have to wait long. Once the Oreos were arranged to on the plate to Ray’s satisfaction, he poured tea into their cups and said, “Here’s the thing.”

Fraser looked at him with an expression of alert attentiveness.

“I don’t want to go back.”

Oh, that. “I know.”

“No, I mean I really don’t want to go back.” Ray separated the two layers of an Oreo and dug a deep furrow in the white filling with a fingertip. “I want to stay here. Is there a way we can do that?”

“Yes.” Fraser surprised himself by answering without thinking. “I mean, there are--logistical--things to consider--yes.” He felt his heart rate speed up, and it suddenly became difficult to swallow. Ray--here, with him, forever. The thought was almost too good to bear.

Ray let out a sigh. “Great. That’s…I mean, that’s okay with you? That’s the biggest thing. The rest of it, I figure we can figure out.”

“It’s more than ‘okay’ with me. I--I wouldn’t ask you to give up your job, your home--”

“I know, and you’re not asking. But, really--what am I giving up? The job’s…yeah, I humped that job for almost twenty years, and that’s enough. And home? My home’s here. I think maybe it has been for a long time. Chicago’s just where my past is. And I have it on good authority that it’s not too hard to get there from here--you gotta change planes four or five times, and on the last one you might have to ride with somebody’s groceries on your lap, but that’s, you know, doable. I’ll go down every now and then and see everybody, maybe go to a game, maybe buy some fruit without taking out a mortgage, and then I’ll come home.”

Home. Here in Deline, with Fraser. Now, not 17 years from now.

It sounded good. Dangerously good. He’d learned better than to trust happiness. There had to be a catch, and--oh, yes. There it was. “I hope you haven’t--this is an insulting question--I know I was…in a bad state, when you arrived. I hope you haven’t decided to stay because you fear I’ll be unable to cope on my own.”

Ray shook his head. “No. Well. No. I mean, I don’t think the timing is some wacky coincidence, but it’s more a ‘life’s too short to be unhappy’ thing. You know? I mean, Dief, yeah, that’s rough, but you guys were good together. He stuck with you even if it meant going to Chicago, which has to be even more of an adjustment for a wolf than it is for a Mountie. If you’d wasted a couple of years being apart for no good reason, you’d sure regret it now.”

“Yes. Yes, that’s true.”

“And that thing with the old guy--Billy. He had to pick between being where he really belongs and being alive longer. And you and me, we belong together, right? We’ve already wasted too much time. I shoulda never gone back to Chicago in the first place.” He shook his head. “My life there pretty much sucks, Fraser. I mean, not every minute of every day, but I don’t think there were too many days I didn’t wish I was with you instead. I know, that sounds weird, since we weren’t even--you know.”

“No, it doesn’t.” He’d felt the same way. The few weeks he spent with Ray each year were in vivid color, compared to the muted palette of his everyday life. “In that case, the only difficulty I can foresee is that it won’t be immediately apparent to Immigration Services how you mean to support yourself financially, since your pension won’t take effect for several years.”

Ray shrugged, evidently unconcerned. “We’ll get it worked out.” He stared down at his teacup, rotating it between his hands. “You really want me to stay?” he asked, looking up shyly.

“Of course. You really want to stay?”

“Of course. Didn’t I say that?”

“Yes, you did,” Fraser agreed. He was just having trouble believing it--not because he doubted Ray, but because he doubted his own luck. “In that case--” He extended his hand across the table. “Welcome to Canada, Ray.”

#

After spending the morning knocking around town--he got a library card and picked up an application for the volunteer fire department, among other things--Ray turned up at the detachment at noon. “I didn’t have time to smush a sandwich for you today, so we’ll have to go out for lunch,” he informed Fraser.

Fraser turned off the computer surprisingly quickly, and they headed down the street to the diner. He steered Ray to one of the tables in the back, a strange choice for Fraser--his lunch break was a good time for people to find him and tell him things they didn’t want to officially report, but wanted him to know anyway, so he usually sat where he’d be easy to spot.

After they’d ordered coffee and a couple of sandwiches, Fraser said, “I spent a surprising amount of the morning on the telephone with the immigration department. Most of it on hold, but I did eventually manage to speak to a live person. To establish permanent residency--which after three years would allow you to apply for citizenship, if you choose--you’d need to be sponsored by either an employer or family member.”

That didn’t sound good, and the fact that Fraser wasn’t quite looking at him seemed even worse. “Okay,” he said cautiously.

“Since none of your considerable skills are in particular demand in the region, finding an employment sponsor seems…unlikely.” Their table happened to have two salt shakers, and Fraser evidently developed a sudden need to make sure they each had exactly the same level of salt in them.

“And I don’t have any Canadian family members. As far as I know.”

Fraser cleared his throat and blushed from the neck up. “Establishing a family relationship through marriage to a Canadian citizen would probably be the most, ah, expedient course of action.” He carefully tipped a few grains of salt from one shaker to the other.

Ray frowned. “You saying you know a woman who’d be willing to marry me as part of an immigration scam?” That didn’t seem like something Fraser would be able to know about and not turn him in for.

“Not as a scam, no.” Fraser scraped salt from the threads of the salt-shaker lid with a fingernail. “I realize this is rather precipitate, from the conventional point of view, but from another perspective….”

“Who are you talking about?” He didn’t know any Canadian women. Maggie, maybe. Was that what Fraser meant? Maggie might go along with it, but he’d technically be screwing his brother-in-law, and that would be…icky. Better than going back to Chicago alone, yeah, but still, not high on his list of choices.

Me,” Fraser said, blushing even harder.

“Fraser.” He tried not to laugh. He didn’t succeed. “I can’t marry you.”

Fraser looked at him for the first time in the entire conversation. “Why not?”

“Because.” He gestured back and forth between the two of them. “Obvious reasons.”

Fraser licked his lower lip. “Ah. Perhaps you’re not aware… Canada has had same-gender marriage for almost three years now.”

Ray squinted at him. “Seriously?”

“I never joke about immigration law.”

“Shit. If I knew that, I’d have proposed earlier.” He sat back in his chair. “Shit.” He felt himself smiling so wide his face hurt. “Shit.”

Fraser ducked his head shyly. “So is that a yes?”

“Uh, yeah. That’d be a yes.” They grinned at each other like idiots for a minutes, until it occurred to Ray to ask, “Isn’t that gonna be a problem with, you know, the job?” He knew there were a couple of gay cops in the CPD--they couldn’t get thrown out for it like when Ray was a rookie--but they had to be twice as good as anybody else just to have a chance.

“The RCMP can hardly object to a Member exercising a legal right extended to the population at large,” Fraser said, a little stiffly. “And two years ago two Members--who were both men--married, which was a bit of a media circus, so the marriage of a Mountie and a Chicago detective should be comparatively unremarkable.”

That was one way to put it. “Okay. So the RCMP’ll be cool with it. What about, you know, the locals?” Ray gestured vaguely at the room around them, like he thought maybe Fraser wouldn’t know who he meant otherwise.

Fraser shrugged. Before he could say anything, Maddy came over with their sandwiches. “You’re looking more cheerful than usual, Sergeant,” she said putting them down.

“I’ve just become engaged to be married.”

Maddy looked at him, and then back at Fraser. “Congratulations. It’s about time. You boys need any ketchup?”

“Uh--yeah, please,” Ray said.

She gave them the bottle out of her apron pocket, and walked back toward the counter, saying, “Darlene! Guess what?”

“We should find out within an hour or two if it’s likely to be a problem,” Fraser said.

By the time they finished eating, three more people had come over to congratulate them, and one guy sitting at the counter turned his head away, real obvious-like, when they walked by on their way out. Ray figured that was a pretty decent ratio.

Outside the detachment, he told Fraser, “I guess I oughta go home and make some phone calls.” He wasn’t looking forward to some of those conversations, but he figured his parents and friends ought to hear the news not too much later than the 650 residents of his new hometown. “Pick you up at four?”

“Yes, thank you.” Blushing again, Fraser leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Bye.” Before Ray could respond, he scampered--there was no other word for it--back into the detachment.

#

 

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Look, why don’t you put Dad on?”

There was a rustle as the phone was handed over, and his father said, “Stanley? What did you say to your mother?”

Dad already knew something was up, so there was no point trying to soften it. “That I’m moving to Canada and marrying Fraser.”

A long silence followed. “This better not be your idea of a joke.”

“Nope.”

“You taking the GTO?”

“I haven’t decided yet. Probably not. I don’t wanna give it up, but there’s only gravel roads up here, and there’s no highway to the town, so I’d have to have it brought in on a barge, and it’s a whole mess. But I haven’t decided for sure.”

“Okay. Well, let your mother know when the wedding is.”

Ray nodded, then remembered his father couldn’t see him. “Okay. It’ll be in Canada, but we could do it somewhere near the border, maybe….dunno. We haven’t talked about it yet. Uh, is Mom okay?”

“She’s in the bathroom.”

That wasn’t really an answer, but he said, “Okay. Okay. Uh, I love you guys, and I’ll let you know when we, uh, when we set a date.”

He hung up and dialed the next call before he had a chance to rethink it. He’d decided to do the calls in descending order of awfulness, get the worst over with. “Cop shop,” Frannie said cheerfully.

“Yeah, Frannie, it’s Ray. Put me through to Welsh.”

“Hi, Ray. How’s your vacation? How’s Fraser? He’s okay, isn’t he? I mean, you’re not calling because something happened, are you?”

“We’re both fine. Is Welsh around?”

“Oh, yeah, let me put you through.”

She ended up putting him through to the desk sergeant--they’d only had the new phone system for six or eight months, and Frannie didn’t have the hang of it yet. Fortunately, the desk sergeant did, and she transferred him to Welsh’s office.

“Hey, Lieu, it’s Kowalski.”

“Kowalski. We’re not expecting you back until Monday.” And since Ray never called from his vacation just to chat, of course he knew that something was up.

“Yeah, I know, it’s about that. Here’s the thing. I, uh, I won’t be back on Monday.”

“Oh? And when can we expect to see your smiling face again?”

“Well, that’s the thing,” he said again. “Never. I’m, uh, I’m staying in Canada. I mean, I guess I’ll come back and get my stuff, and I can stop in and do…whatever I have to do. But I’m moving to Canada.”

“You mentioned that. Any particular reason?”

“Gettin’ married.”

“I see. Anyone I know?”

“Yep.”

He sighed. “I figured. Have you told Francesca yet?”

“No. She’s on my list.”

“Do me a favor and call her at home.”

“Will do.”

“And Detective?”

“Yeah?”

“Good luck.” He didn’t add, “You’re going to need it,” but Ray heard it anyway.

“Thanks, Lieu.”

Next on his list was Stella, but he realized as he was dialing that if he told her, he’d be telling Vecchio, too. He canceled that and dialed the detachment instead.

“Sergeant Fraser.” He sounded tired.

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Oh, good.”

“Ringing off the hook, is it?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. Well.” Ray managed not to point out that he had no one to blame but himself. “I was just about to call Stella, and I thought maybe we ought to do that one together. With the whole Vecchio situation.”

“Ah. Thank you for thinking of it, but I think…not.”

“You sure?”

“It…might be easier to talk to Ray--the other Ray--if he’s had a little time to absorb the information.”

“Okay.”

“If you don’t mind.”

“No, it’s okay. Yeah, I’ll call, then. You doin’ okay?”

“Yes. The response has been…overwhelming, but mostly positive. Do you know if we’re planning to have the ceremony locally? A number of people have asked.”

“No. I mean, I dunno. I guess we can. My parents might wanna come, but they’re pretty good travelers. Dunno how they’ll feel about the whole tiny-plane issue, but they’ll deal with it. In summer, maybe.”

“Summer sounds good.”

“The Kennys have suggested that we pick a date soon if we plan on using the lodge facilities. I’m given to understand they’ll be a bit miffed if we do not.”

“Okay. So, summer, at the lodge. We’ve got a season and a location, so the thing is about half planned, right?”

“In fact, I gather there are a number of other considerations we haven’t even begun to, ah, consider. We haven’t selected colors, have we?”

“Colors?”

“Evidently one has to have colors.”

“Red, I guess. I mean, you’re gonna wear the uniform.”

“Excellent. We have colors. One color. We may need another. Green? I’m partial to green.”

“Only if we want it to look like Christmas in July.”

“Oh. Yes. Well, we can decide about additional colors later. Ray, did you know…that is, I’ve gotten the impression that it’s generally believed that we’ve been, ah, intimate partners for quite some time.”

“Yeah, I think Welsh thought that too. Somebody shoulda told us.”

“It might have saved some time. Connie is alerting me that I have several other calls waiting. I should answer them, on the off chance that one of them may concern police business of some kind.”

“Yeah, okay. See you later.”

“Wait, Ray--how did your parents….?”

“Handle the news? Dad okay, Mom hysterical. Dad thinks she’ll come around.”

“Ah. Good. Well, I should--”

“Yep.” He hung up and dialed Stella in Florida.

A bored teenager answered, “Kayvee Pins, the area’s premiere family fun center. We set them up, you knock them down. How can I help you?”

“Yeah, let me talk to Stella.”

“She’s very busy, can I help you?”

“This is Ray Kowalski. As in, the guy whose last name she’s still using. You want to let me talk to my ex-wife, or you want a kick in the head?”

A moment later, Stella’s voice came down the line. “Ray, why are you threatening my employees?”

“Only one employee.”

She sighed. “What, Ray?”

“I’m getting married. Thought you should be--well, not the first to know, but in the top ten. Top five.” If you didn’t count the 650-odd residents of Deline.

“Who’s the lucky gal? I’ll send her the Ray Kowalski user’s manual.”

“It’s Fraser. And I think he already has it.”

“That’s not funny, Ray.”

“Nope. It is kinda fun, though.”

“You’re not gay. I know you. Our marriage--us--wasn’t--wasn’t a lie, or a phase, or anything like that.”

“No. No, it wasn’t. But it was a long time ago.” He rubbed at his eyelids. “Fraser’s…like, an exception. To everything.” Up to and maybe even including the laws of physics.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘congratulations’?”

“Congratulations,” Stella echoed.

“Thanks.” He coughed. “I know it seems…kinda weird. But I think we’re gonna be really happy.”

“I hope so.” Her vice went all serious. “You deserve to be happy.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it’s, uh, been a while.”

“I know. Good luck, to both of you.”

“Thanks. Uh, so, it’s gonna be in the summer, here in this town where we live. We’ll send you and Vecchio an invitation when we pick the date, but if it’s too far or whatever--” Or if they were too freaked out to want to come, which was likely “--we’ll understand.”

“It’s hard to get away when you own your own business, but we’ll see.”

“It’s real pretty up here, and there’s a hotel. Indoor plumbing and everything.” Was he trying to convince her to come? It kind of sounded like he was.

“It sounds nice.”

“It is. Uh, so go ahead and tell Vecchio the news, if you want, and Fraser’ll talk to him later.”

#

 

“Benny, what the fuck?”

Fraser winced. “Ray, I’m at work.”

“Yeah, well, so’m I. Stella just came out of the office and told me you and Stanley are getting married. This some kind of joke? Some kind of immigration scam? You can tell me, I won’t turn you in.”

“It’s not a scam.” Would Ray really consider it preferable that he perpetrate a scam than marry the partner he loved?

“Since when are you gay?”

“Ah, for quite some time, actually.”

“You never said anything.”

“It didn’t seem relevant.”

Ray sighed. “Shit, Benny.” Fraser could almost hear him shaking his head. “What, weren’t we friends? You didn’t think you could tell me?”

That wasn’t the response he’d been expecting. “I didn’t want to…create an awkward situation,” he temporized. In fact, he’d feared that Ray would react with anger or disgust if he knew. Clearly he’d underestimated his old friend.

“That have anything to do with why you haven’t been in touch so much? You figured if I knew you were gay, I wouldn’t want to be your friend?”

“I’m afraid I did,” Fraser admitted. He hadn’t consciously decided to avoid his first Ray, but after one occasion when Ray Vecchio commented on how much he talked about Ray Kowalski, he’d found himself cutting their conversations short. “I’m sorry.”

“Aw, hell. Maybe you did right not to tell me before. I didn’t know any gay guys--that I knew about--back then, anyway. We opened up the alley down here, and the first league we got was this league of gay bowlers. I wanted to turn them down, thought they might keep the families away. But Stel said business is business, and anyway they could sue us, so we let ‘em in, and they’re good guys, you know? I could do without some of the music they pick out, but they pay their bills and don’t puke in the men’s room too often, and they always do their bit when we have the charity bowl-a-thon every year. And they bring in the tournaments, which is a big moneymaker in this business.”

Fraser smiled. One thing the two Rays had in common was their practical outlook on life. “Well, I don’t think my taste in music has been affected by my orientation.”

“Yeah, I don’t figure you for the techno type. Stanley, he’s good to you? He treats you okay?”

“Yes. Yes, he does.”

“Okay. You tell him from me, he’s not good to you, I’ll come up there and knock some sense into him.”

“I’ll pass along that message,” Fraser promised.

“Good. So, okay, you’re at work, so I’ll let you go, but we’ll talk more later. And you let us know when the--you know, the wedding--is, and we’ll come.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I know I don’t. Hey, did you decide yet who you want to stand up for you?”

“No,” Fraser said cautiously. “The plans are…not very far advanced.” Was Ray offering? It sounded as if he was, perhaps, but it wouldn’t do to assume.

“Okay, well, let me know when you do. I mean, maybe you want your sister to do it. You’re marrying a guy, I guess you can have a girl best man if you want to.”

“I believe traditions in this matter are somewhat flexible,” he agreed.

“Well, let me know. You don’t want me to do that, maybe I can give a toast or something.”

“Thank you, Ray. I’m…thank you.”

“Yeah, well. Take care, Benny. Talk to you soon.”

After ending the call with Ray Vecchio, he managed to do a small amount of work before Pauline Kenny came into the detachment with a sheaf of computer print-outs and several brochures, and a calendar, and indicated that she would like to know when they’d be having the wedding. Two weeks in July and one in August were unbooked.

He made a note of the available dates, promised to discuss them with Ray at the earliest opportunity, and thanked her for her help.

And tried to catch his breath. When he’d suggested marriage, he’d envisioned a weekend trip to one of the major cities and an exchange of vows in front of a justice of the peace, perhaps followed by dinner in a nice restaurant. Given how rapidly the plans had snowballed, he wondered if by the time the wedding came, they’d be hosting a three-ring circus, complete with trained elephants.

He hoped not. Even in summer, the climate wasn’t particularly suitable for elephants.

#

“Let’s go with July,” Ray said. “Third week in July.”

“Any particular reason?”

He shrugged. “Looks like a lucky date.”

Fraser wrote that down. “Should we have the ceremony on the Saturday, then? That will allow the guests to go home on Sunday and be back at their jobs on Monday.”

Choosing the date was the most urgent item--he couldn’t expect the Kennys to hold several dates open during their busiest season while they made up their minds--but the questions various people had asked over the course of the day had allowed him to compile a list of other decisions they had to make. They worked on wedding plans for another hour, managing to cover the subjects of cake, music, flowers--one of the local women felt she could do something nice with local plants--and a number of other equally pressing matters.

Although Fraser had never planned a wedding before--and Ray admitted that his first one had been planned mostly by Stella and his mother--he found that planning a wedding was not entirely unlike planning an arctic expedition or a large-scale law enforcement operation, with the key exception that hurt feelings were a more pressing consideration than physical danger. For instance, both Maddy and the Kennys had expressed interest, and he feared causing a rift with whoever wasn’t chosen. But Ray suggested that whichever didn’t do the reception could be responsible for the rehearsal dinner--a neat solution that Fraser hadn’t thought of, because no one had mentioned that there would have to be a rehearsal.

Once they’d planned as much as they could, Ray stretched and announced he was going to get to work on dinner. Fraser offered to help, but Ray said, “I’ve got it. Why don’t you call Maggie?”

Fraser nodded. He didn’t want to, particularly, but Ray had made all of his calls already. But then, Ray had always been braver than he was. Still, he picked up the phone and dialed Maggie’s trailer, hoping cravenly that she was out in the field.

“Mackenzie.”

“Fraser,” he answered.

“Hi, Ben. How are you?”

“Fine, and you?”

“Fine. It’s not Christmas, or my birthday, so what’s up?”

“Ah. Well. There is some news, in fact.”

After a long silence, Maggie said, “Are you going to tell me what it is?”

“Oh. Yes, certainly. Well, Ray’s here for his vacation.”

“Right, the quest thing.”

“And I’m getting married. On July 19th.”

“Married? You didn’t mention you were seeing anyone.”

“I, ah….”

“It’s only been three months since we talked. You’re not marrying some woman you just met, are you?”

“No. Definitely not. Wrong on all counts, in fact.”

He could almost hear Maggie thinking on the other end of the phone. “It’s a man? Ray?”

“Yes.” He hurried on quickly, “It’s in July, which I believe I said, and I hope you’ll come, if you’re able to arrange leave.”

“I’ll…think about it. You know how it is in remote detachments. It’s hard to get away.”

“Yes, I know.”

Maggie laughed, but not with any noticeable amusement. “When we met in Chicago, I kind of thought Ray was interested in me. I guess I--didn’t realize. You both must’ve thought I was so dumb.”

On reflection, perhaps that should have been a clue. “Not at all. Ray was--and is--predominantly heterosexual. And we weren’t, ah, intimate at the time. I believe his interest in you was genuine.”

Ray, who was bouncing from foot to foot in time to some unheard rhythm as he chopped potatoes, looked over his shoulder at Fraser and mouthed, What?!

He mouthed back, I’ll explain later. “At any rate, we’d both enjoy seeing you again.”

“Yes. Yes, I’ll try to get leave. It would be good to see you in person. Dief, too.”

He winced. “Dief, ah, Dief passed away recently.”

“I’m sorry,” Maggie said automatically. Then, in a different tone, “Recently?”

“Yes, about a month ago.” Calculating, he was surprised to realize it had been so long. “Very peacefully.”

“Dief died a month ago, and you just got engaged.”

“Yes,” Fraser answered. “Your tone seems to suggest that the events are related in some unsavory way, which I’m not sure I appreciate.”

“No, nothing like that. I just remember--you know, from when Casey died--most people figure it’s a bad idea to make major life decisions when you’ve just had a significant loss.”

“I’ll take that under advisement,” he said, perhaps a little more tartly than absolutely necessary. Maggie ended the call not much later.

“So?” Ray asked when he went over to the kitchen.

“Maggie seems to be under the impression that our engagement is an irrational decision brought on by grief.” He took a piece of carrot from the pile Ray was chopping.

“Well, that’s flattering.” Ray shook his head and dumped the carrots into a pot where some meat cubes were simmering. “But other than that, she’s cool?”

“More or less.”

“Good.” Ray put a lid on the stewpot and leaned one hip against the counter. “In that case, I think we should celebrate our engagement.”

Fraser licked his lip, mouth suddenly dry. “Indeed. Did you have anything specific in mind?”

“I have an idea or two.”

“Oh.”

“You know what I like about Mounties?”

“Ah…no, I’m afraid I don’t.”

Ray grabbed his Sam Browne belt and pulled him in close, grinding his erection against Fraser’s hip.. “They come with handles.”

“So we do,” he said faintly, as all the blood rushed away from his head. He refrained from pointing out that the cross-belt had been removed from the newer un-dress uniform for exactly that reason, and allowed Ray to drag him into the bedroom.

Once there, Ray began stripping him out of his uniform with admirable efficiency, licking and kissing each area as he uncovered it. “Love you, love this,” he mumbled into Fraser’s skin.

“My left elbow, Ray?” He was finding the sensation almost disturbingly erotic. He’d never think of elbows the same way again.

“Your left everything,” Ray answered, sliding his mouth down Fraser’s arm.

“Something’s wrong with my right side?”

“No, that’s good too.” Ray demonstrated by switching to his right elbow. “Hm. Tasty. Bed?”

He backed over to the bed and sat down, mentally adding larger bed to his list. Ray pulled off Fraser’s half-boots and socks--without, Fraser noticed with some disappointment, kissing his toes--and opened his pants. “Hm, nice,” he said, weighing Fraser’s cock in his hand. “Stand up a minute.”

He stood, and Ray pulled off his pants and underwear, shooting the latter across the room by means of the elastic waistband. Fraser was mildly embarrassed to be naked while Ray was still fully clothed, but when Ray tumbled him back on the bed, covering Fraser’s body with his, the variety of sensations--soft fleece of his sweatshirt against his chest, rough denim against his legs and groin, mouth on his, and Ray’s deliciously clever hands everywhere--left no room for embarrassment.

Helplessly, he thrust against Ray’s thigh.

“What’re you--okay, okay, here,” he said, shifting so that Fraser was rubbing between his legs, at the rough seam where four layers of denim met and adding, “Weirdo.”

Fraser was too far gone to take offense, and after a few more thrusts, he clutched Ray’s shoulders until his knuckles went white and finished with a gasp and a convulsive shudder.

When his vision cleared, Ray was sitting back on his thighs. “Looks like I’m gonna have to do laundry,” he said mildly.

“Oh. I’m terribly sorry.”

Ray punched him lightly on the shoulder. “Doofus.” Unbuttoning his soiled jeans, he freed his erection and gave himself a few lazy strokes. “You wanna help me with this, or watch?”

“I’ll help. I like to help.”

“Yeah, that’s my second favorite thing about Mounties.” He took Fraser’s hand and guided him in the slow, easy strokes that he liked, letting his hand drop away once Fraser had gotten started.

He was delightfully responsive, making little sounds of approval and lust and twitching his hips to guide Fraser to the sensitive spots, teasing himself, until it became too much and he thrust unashamedly into Fraser’s hand, then climaxed across his chest.

Panting, Ray rolled off of him and collapsed against the pillows. “Huh.”

Fraser wiped a splatter of come off of his chin with the sleeve of Ray’s t-shirt. “I think….

“Yeah?”

“I think married life will suit me.”

#

 

“Hi, Ray,” Connie greeted him as he entered the detachment. Fraser’s vacation was over now, and Ray had decided to stop by for a cup of coffee before getting started on the long honey-do list Fraser had left for him. “Will you be doing anything around town today?”

“Yeah, I’ve got lots of errands to do. Wedding stuff.”

“Good! You can distribute these while you’re at it.” She gave him a stack of flyers headed “FREE DOG.”

“Okay, sure,” he said, looking at them. The rest of the text said, “Bill Byerly’s Dog. Female. 6 mos. Old. Kind is called a Pointer. Comes with food, bed, leash, more. Has shots. Spaded. Spayed. Ask at the RCMP.” Rolling the flyers up, he stuck them in his pocket. “Who’s Bill Byerly, and why are you giving away his dog?” he asked on his way to the coffee machine.

“He was a schoolteacher here, but moved away over the weekend,” Connie explained with a shrug. “He didn’t even tell the school he was planning to leave, just got a flight out, and left behind everything he couldn’t carry. Including the dog.”

Ray knew his was a nasty suspicious bastard, but he couldn’t help asking, “He, uh, left of his own free will, though?”

“Yes,” Fraser said from his little cubicle. “The school principal found a letter of resignation in the mail slot when she opened up the building in the morning, and the airport staff were able to verify that he wasn’t under any duress.”

It was kind of weird for Fraser to talk to him without coming out of the cubicle to look at him. “You stuck in there or something?”

“The dog won’t let me move.” Fraser sounded a little annoyed.

Ray took his coffee around the partition. “The dog’s here? What, are you the dogcatcher too?”

“Animal control falls under the general heading of promoting public safety and well-being. We usually put strays out back, but this dog doesn’t seem equipped for the weather.”

“Where is it?” Ray didn’t see a dog anywhere in Fraser’s little nook.

“Sitting on my left foot, at the moment.”

Ray looked under the desk, which was pretty difficult because Fraser wouldn’t budge to let him. The dog--white with brown spots, and about half-grown--was curled up with her chin resting on Fraser’s foot. When she saw Ray, she growled, whined, and thumped her tail, all at the same time. Ray decided not to try to pet her. “That dog is schizo or something.”

“Her feelings about her situation seem decidedly mixed,” Fraser agreed. “She seems to prefer it if I don’t move my feet or legs.”

“Poor thing. Why would someone bring a dog all this way and not take her with him when he left?”

“I have no idea,” Fraser answered.

“Sounds like a great guy.” Ray looked at Fraser’s computer screen, where he was filling out a summons for Bill Byerly. “You’re charging him?”

Fraser nodded. “Animal cruelty. As far as we can tell, he didn’t make any plans for her care before leaving. O’Donnell had to break in yesterday when the neighbors complained about incessant howling.”

“Cool.” He glanced under the desk to take another look at the dog, who wagged and whined again. “I’d better get started on my list. Do you need any dog stuff, while I’m out?”

“No, Constable O’Donnell brought all of her supplies and accessories from Byerly’s apartment.”

Having to share his office with a strange dog didn’t seem like the best thing for Fraser, so as Ray went about doing his errands, he did the best he could to find a home for schizo-dog.

He didn’t have much luck. Most of the locals didn’t see the point of having a large dog that couldn’t pull a sled or do anything else useful. One of the health center nurses said she wished she could take the dog, but she’d be going back to Toronto in June, and it would be too difficult to find a dog-friendly apartment from several provinces away. Most of the school teachers felt that they’d gone to enough trouble on Bill Byerly’s account, thank you kindly. By four o’clock, he’d accomplished everything on his list, but still hadn’t found a place for the dog.

When he returned to the detachment, Fraser was standing outside with the dog, which was on a leash and wearing an RCMP hooded sweatshirt, with her front paws through the sleeves, and trotting back and forth along the strip of dead grass in front of the detachment, nose to the ground. “Just pick a spot,” Fraser was saying. “It isn’t rocket science. You’ll have another chance tomorrow.”

“The dog is wearing your clothes?”

“Constable O’Donnell’s proved to be a better fit,” Fraser answered. “Although some alterations may be necessary. Her coat is…” He gestured vaguely with his free hand. “Inadequate for the climate.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Ray agreed. “I guess nobody volunteered to take her in yet?”

“No.” He hesitated. “Her…activities…in the detachment last night required a considerable amount of cleaning this morning, which Connie rightly points out is not included in her job description, and Constable O’Donnell’s lease unfortunately disallows the keeping of pets. I hope you don’t mind.”

Ray was trying to figure out why he’d mind what O’Donnell’s lease let her do or not when he realized what Fraser was getting at. “We’re taking the dog?”

“Just for the night.” He cleared his throat. “Or until other arrangements can be made. If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind,” Ray answered, looking back and forth from Fraser to the dog. “If you don’t mind. I mean, are you gonna be okay, with, you know. Having a strange dog in the house?”

“She’s a nice dog.”

“Well, yeah.” But she wasn’t Dief. Having her in the cabin would almost have to remind Fraser of what he’d lost.

But maybe Fraser wasn‘t worried about that. “All right, then. I’ll just get her food.” He handed Ray the leash and went back inside.

The dog started to follow him, and stood at the end of the leash, whining slightly and staring at the detachment door. “He’ll be right back,” Ray said. Poor dog--after she’d been abandoned by her human, it as no wonder she wasn’t happy about being left with another stranger.

When Fraser came back out, the dog circled around behind him, wrapping the leash around his legs. Crazy dog.

They had to hoist her into the cab of the pickup, and then she spent the whole ride quivering in the space next to Fraser’s feet.

“Man, that is one weird dog.”

“She’s just nervous. She’ll settle down,” Fraser predicted.

#

“You don’t have to stay under there. Well, yes, but you might be more comfortable in the other room. It’s warmer, for one thing.”

Ray stood in the doorway to the bedroom, watching Fraser. He’d been on the couch working on his immigration paperwork--it turned out there was a lot more to it than just getting married and being handed a green card--but he’d gotten up to investigate when he heard Fraser’s voice from the other room.

He was lying on his stomach next to the bed, where the dog had been ever since they got home.

“It’s Ray’s house too. I think his feelings are hurt that you don’t seem to like him. He’s very nice once you get to know him. Yes, I know you’ve had a hard day.”

Moving quietly, Ray went over and sat on the floor next to Fraser. Fraser glanced over at him and smiled. “Hey, dog,” Ray said.

“Her name’s Queenie,” Fraser said.

“That’s stupid. Maybe she’s pissed off because the guy gave her a stupid name. I know what that’s like. Hi, dog. You want some biscuits or something?” He peered under the bed--Queenie was curled up in a ball against the wall, with her nose resting on one of Fraser’s shirts.

“Maybe you should tell her that you don’t think she’s weird,” Fraser suggested.

“She is weird.” She’d spent the entire day hiding under different pieces of furniture--if that wasn’t weird, he didn’t know what was.

“Well, yes, but it’s rude to draw attention to it.”

Feeling a little stupid, Ray looked under the bed again. “I don’t mind that you’re weird. Fraser’s kind of weird too, and I like him. A lot.”

Fraser sat up. “Let’s go into the other room for a minute.”

“Okay,” Ray said cautiously. He was reminded of Mom sending him out of the room so she could tell Dad he was being a jerk--a good idea in theory, maybe, but not very practical in a small apartment, since he could always hear what was going on anyway.

But it turned out Fraser wasn’t worried about fighting in front of the dog. Once they were back in the living room, he perched on the edge of the couch and said, “I think we should consider asking Queenie to stay.”

“Didn’t we already?” She was here, after all. Ray moved his folder full of paper aside and sat down next to Fraser.

“I meant on a, ah, long-term basis.” He put his elbows on his knees and knitted his fingers together.

Ray scratched the back of his head. “You said you didn’t want a new dog.” A guy could change his mind, sure, but he didn’t think it would be good--for anyone--if they took the dog in out of a sense of guilt or obligation.

“I didn’t. But she needs a home, which we’re able to provide. And you might appreciate some company when I’m away on patrols. It would be a mutually beneficial arrangement.” Fraser’s chin was tucked down against his chest, but he was looking up at Ray with his eyes.

He was talking about duty, but it sounded to Ray like he was saying this was something he really wanted. “Maybe we should think about it for a couple of days,” he suggested. “See if she settles down.”

“We can do that,” Fraser agreed. “But I think perhaps the uncertainty of her situation is contributing to her anxiety. The sooner we make a decision, the sooner she’ll be able to feel secure.”

Which maybe meant that Fraser didn’t want to get attached to the dog and then have Ray say she should go somewhere else. Or maybe he already was attached. “You figure she’ll like it here?” he asked, figuring Fraser would have an easier time answering that question than one about whether he liked the dog.

“Yes, I think so. We’ll have to ask her, of course.”

Right. “Yeah, okay. One thing, though--we’re going to have to change her name.”

“Why?” Fraser asked.

“One, it’s a dumb name, and B, two guys together with a dog named Queenie? Think about it.”

“Ah. You may have a point.”

They went back into the bedroom and Fraser asked Queenie how she felt about coming to live there. After a moment, Fraser got up off the floor. “She’s thinking about it.”

“She’s thinking about it. That’s great. We have to decide right away so the dog will feel secure, but the dog gets to sleep on it?”

“She’s just suffered a major life upheaval.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.”

He went back to his immigration stuff, and Fraser filled out the form to sell himself a dog license, “Just in case.” When he got to the space for the dog’s name, he went back into the bedroom, and Ray heard a muffled, one-sided conversation. When he came back, he said, “How do you feel about ‘Regina’?”

“As a name?”

“Yes.”

He thought about it. It was easy to see how Fraser’d gotten there from “Queenie,” and it kind of made sense for a dog that was going to be hanging around an RCMP detachment. “Okay, as long as we pronounce it so it doesn’t rhyme with ‘vagina.’ Did she make up her mind yet?”

“No, she’s still thinking.” But Fraser got out Constable O’Donnell’s sweatshirt and started cutting and sewing. “This won’t be warm enough for long walks,” he said as he worked. “We’ll have to make her something heavier.”

“I think they sell those.”

“Not in Deline,” Fraser said. “If I can get a caribou hide, I’ll make her a parka.”

Great. Now they were going to have a bird-dog in caribou clothing. “That’s not going to make her confused about her species?”

“Now you’re just being silly, Ray.”

Ray decided not to point out that he wasn’t the one talking about making dog clothes out of traditional materials.

#

Late that night, Ray woke to the sound of jingling tags and toenails on the wooden floor. Next he heard Regina slurping from the water dish they’d left in the kitchen. He wondered if he ought to get up and see if she needed to go outside, but before he could steel himself to do so, the dog trotted back into the room and jumped up onto the bed, turning in several tight circles before flopping down between their legs with a heavy sigh.

“Hey Fraser,” Ray said, nudging him.

“Hm?”

“I think the dog made up her mind.”

#

“Dr. Calloway,” Fraser said, shaking her hand. “I’ve been expecting you.” She knew that, of course, but he hoped she might take the hint that he preferred not to be dropped in on unannounced. “We can talk in my office.” He noted that she had chosen sensible footwear this time, as well.

“Thank you. You’re looking well.”

He nodded. He’d insisted that he was fine before--but he actually was, now.

When Dr. Calloway came behind the partition and took a seat, Regina got up from her bed and ducked under the desk. “You have a new dog?” she asked.

“She was abandoned by a temporary resident last week.”

“Getting a new animal can be an important step in recovering from pet loss. Not a replacement, you understand, but--”

“Yes, I know.” Regina was as different from Dief as it was possible to be--shy where he was bold, a different sex, different breed, and a transplant to their northern home rather than a native--but he was confident that she could prove to be a fine companion.

The doctor moved on to another topic. “How was your vacation.”

“Very relaxing.” He knew that if she spoke to anyone in town, she’d soon hear his important news--she may already have, in fact--so he figured he had better tell her, or she might think he had something to hide. “I’ve gotten engaged.”

“Congratulations.” She looked at him expectantly.

“Thank you?”

“Is that something you’ve been planning for a while?”

“In a way.” It was not quite a lie--if spending all of their time together and not talking about why could be considered planning to get married, which Fraser decided it could.

“Someone local?”

“No.”

Dr. Calloway didn’t speak, clearly waiting for him to say something more. It was an elementary interviewing technique, and one that he was not going to fall for. He was comfortable with silence.

More than comfortable. He was at home with silence.

He mentally composed the first section of his daily report. After that, he considered the sample wedding invitations that had arrived on yesterday’s plane from Yellowknife. They’d both agreed that they wanted something simple, but that still left them with four or five choices. The ones with the horizontal red stripe were nice, but they also had some gold leaf, and that, he felt, was a little gaudy.

Finally, Calloway broke. “How do you feel about your engagement?”

All that waiting, and she’d lobbed him a softball. “Deliriously happy.”

“Ah?”

“Yes.”

She asked him inane questions for another hour--if his appetite was normal, was he sleeping well, had he processed his loss. He wasn’t entirely sure how one processed a loss--there were no forms--but he responded that he had.

Finally, she took her leave. Less than a minute later, Ray bounced inside. Knowing him, he’d probably been waiting outside for her to leave. “So, you sane?” he asked, giving Fraser a kiss and Regina a pat.

“Dr. Calloway indicated that she has no major concerns.”

“No major concerns, huh? I guess we can live with that. Lunch?”

Fraser helped Regina into her coat and then put on his own. Although he’d avoided delving into the subject with Dr. Calloway, he was, in fact, very happy. Losing Dief had been a painful end to a very important chapter of his life, but as he prepared to step out of the detachment with his new family, he as though he was stepping into an entirely new book. He was eager to turn the next page, and the one after that, and the one after that.

He reached out his hand, and Ray took it. Together, they stepped out the door and into their future.

Fin.

 

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Comments

( 108 comments — Leave a comment )
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teaphile
Apr. 21st, 2008 11:04 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this whole story immensely.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
grey853
Apr. 21st, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
This was fantastic. Ray took the first step to admitting they belonged together now, not 17 years from now. They're engaged, they have a place, and a dog, and are planning a wedding. \o/

All together, this was one of the most satisfying DS stories I've read in a long time. I really appreciate you taking the time to write and share it.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

I've been wondering for a while, what's the \o/ symbol mean? It must be fandom-specific; I don't recall ever seeing it before I got into due South.
(no subject) - wihluta - Apr. 21st, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grey853 - Apr. 21st, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
chikan4
Apr. 21st, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)
Yay yay yay! I love happy schmoopy domestic bliss. And the dog in the sweat shirt. Hee!
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Dogs in clothes = instant funny.
fides
Apr. 21st, 2008 11:54 am (UTC)
That was great. A wonderful story and very in character. I looked forward to new sections being posted as each part provided me with something more to love about it. Thank you.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad the posting-in-sections worked for you--it seems that few due South stories are posted that way, and a few people were annoyed by it. I think having something new to look forward to is nice!
lon_dubh
Apr. 21st, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
Wonderful.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
damiamarsters
Apr. 21st, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
I have spent every day checking for the next chapter, wanting to find out how it was going to end and now it has I am really sad! Lovely, well paced story. My favourite kind, post COTW- first time. Hits all the right buttons. Thank you.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I'm a little sad that it's over too. I'm not sure what I'll be doing next--I have a short piece in progress for ds_flashfiction, but I'm not sure whether my next long project will be dS or House. Stay tuned!
spuffyduds
Apr. 21st, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
This whole story is really entirely lovely.

I was inordinately amused by Stella's having co-opted RayK's slogan for the bowling alley.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
You never know--maybe he got it from her in the first place! Him cop = setting them up. Her lawyer = knocking them down. Maybe?
hurry_sundown
Apr. 21st, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
“Ray, people everywhere consider the pineapple the weird part.”

Cue the giggling. *g*

This was a lovely story, and yay for them figuring out they'd be stupid to wait any longer. I am entirely gleeful at the thought of Fraser contemplating wedding invitations, among other things (like “Darlene! Guess what?” and Welsh asking Ray to call Frannie at home).
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks! There's something to me inherently funny about these guys planning a wedding. Because you know there would be very little angst. No:

Ray: I want the theme to be turtles!

Fraser: I want the theme to be wolves!

Ray: I hate you!

Both: Wah!

More like,

Ray: I want the theme to be turtles.

Fraser: I will tell an Inuit story about a turtle.

Ray: If you have to.

Both: **have sex**
(no subject) - hurry_sundown - Apr. 21st, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Diane DesAutels - Apr. 19th, 2019 10:10 am (UTC) - Expand
chaoskir
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
I don't want this story has an end. I want this story in never ending. *sigh* Yeah I do like in which way the things worked out and I take a bow for you again, Alex. Every time again when I read one of your wonderful fics. But why do you let them end? *sigh* Yeah I know, every good thing have to end but I don't want it even if I like your endings. So if a story really have to end than with endings like that. Thank you so much for sharing this moving and captivating and awesome and wonderful written fic with us. You are so much in the character. It's just a great pleasure to read this fic.
Urrgh, what do write currently? Where is the next fic? Nope, no pressure, no, no. ;-))
Oh and yes of course I remember and I'll try it again to create Anton Ignatz Kartoffel his own house. It's just a question of time I guess.
alex51324
Apr. 21st, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I'm not sure what I'm writing next--I have a short piece I'm doing for ds_flashfiction, but I'm not sure if my Next Big Thing will be House or dS. I'm not feeling strongly pulled in either direction at the moment.
(no subject) - betony11 - Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand
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wihluta
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
There are too many good parts to quote both the funny and the hand-wringing kind, so I'll just say: I LOVE this story! Srsly love it!

The reactions of the people to the news about the wedding were brilliant and so in character for each of them. Wonderful work!

Also, my fear, when I started reading the story, was that Fraser and Ray would end up with a new pup. But you made that part work. I like that Queenie/Regina is not a puppy anymore and is just as weird, out of place and kinda damaged as Ray and Fraser. They'll fit well together. :-)

Lovely ending. Now I'm kinda sad it's over.


"Everybody dies" I read that and then heard a weird echo of "everybody lies" in my head. House will never let me go again. lol


...he drove back to the detachment to see if gave Fraser one of the sandwiches and see if he was done working yet. there's a little snitch with the verbs in this sentence, thought I'd let you know.:-)
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Thanks! The new dog was my beta's idea, and my reaction was sort of "No, bad idea, no, no, no...well, maybe it could work....okay, let's try it." I figured the only way it would work was if the dog was as un-Dief-like as possible.
atlantisgrrrl
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
Oh god, perfect timing. I'll cuddle up with this one now :)
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
Yay! The fic loves cuddling. It is a cuddly fic.
(no subject) - atlantisgrrrl - Apr. 22nd, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
julia_here
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
The thing about pointers (my family loves German Shorthaired Pointers, has since before my parents were married) is that they are amazingly emotional dogs- in a good way, love-sponges. Also, long-lived and generally very healthy. So this lady coming into their life looks like providence.

Lovely storie, all around.

Julia, thank you for writing it!
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! I have a pointer--she's sweet but very crazy. My Lab/GSP mix is also sweet but very sane.
mmmarmalade
Apr. 21st, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Loved this whole series. Great job. Write more, please.
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm still deciding what my next project will be.
love_jackianto
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
Great ending :D I really enjoyed this story. Post-CoTW fics are a favourite genre of mine.

By the way, I think that \o/ is suppose to be someone rising their arms over their head in joy.
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked.
myriad69
Apr. 21st, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
I REALLY enjoyed this story!! I have not read anything that dealt with the loss of Dief in a more realistic, deep and meaningful way. It was heartbreaking and perfect. Thank you for sharing this with us!
alex51324
Apr. 22nd, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! The story started with the idea that Dief wouldn't live forever, and everything else kind of grew out of that.
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