Comments:  Stand alone story, based after COTW and AU in that Ray Vecchio never married Stella, Ray Kowalski and Benton Fraser did go on their ‘quest for the hand of Franklin’ and Francesca had only one immaculate conception.  And in this story, while Meg Thatcher doesn’t appear very broadly in it…she does have a heart.  Turnbull is still Turnbull, though he hasn’t run for office…and partners: Huey and Dewey did not open a comedy shop. 

 This story is for two of my DS friends.  It is a belated birthday gift for the Moo and a, hopefully, suitably angst read for another friend, who also just had a birthday.

Additional authors note:  I have not researched some aspects of this story.  I can not attest to the procedures or techniques of any of the professions portrayed herein.  I do hope, though, that what I have put to word will be readable and somewhat plausible.  This is also what I do when I can’t sleep and I can’t seem to work on graphics.

Thank You Kindly, Lys


“Vacations are needful things for most people, necessities for others.”  Ray Vecchio grinned as he made the comment to no one in particular and made his way back to his desk that he could see was piled with new cases in his absence.  His winter wool coat was slung over the crook of one arm.  His step slowed a bit for a second, but then his gait picked up and he stood next to his desk with a wide grin.  “And then, there’s job security.” He whispered the words as he laid his elongated fingers on top of the pile and walked around to hang up his coat and sit at his chair.  The skin of his balding head was more exposed to the sunlight than it had been of years past so that it was easy to see a fresh tan.  His face was relaxed and relatively free of the stress lines that had been forming at the corners of his mouth before he’d left for a vacation trip with his family nearly one month ago. 

 Ray leaned back in his chair and looked around the squad room of the 2-7.  He watched some of the newer officers moving around the room; some with prisoners in tow, some just coming in to work.  He noted that Lieutenant Welsh’s office door was closed but that the blinds were open.  He also noted that the man was busy at his desk with a stack of files on the side of his desk.  Ray watched the Lieutenants’ pen scribble across the approval line of a file and turned his head back to his own laden desk.

Ray moved forward in his chair and picked up his phone.  The Christmas holiday would soon be in full swing and Ray wondered if his friend and partner, Benton Fraser had returned to duty yet from the vacation his superior officer had enforced on him due to a certain case involving an overzealous wolf companion and one of Chicago’s elected officials that resulted in said wolf and Mountie nearly being front page news once again. When he was actually speaking to Fraser’s commanding officer, however, he had a feeling right in the pit of his stomach that his life was about to take another dip into that void he sometimes called, ‘Fraserland’.

It hadn’t mattered to the inspector that the entire incident had been a misunderstanding on the part of the city official or that said wolf and Mountie had actually saved the man’s life.  No, what mattered to the inspector was the irate indignity displayed by said official when the complaint was made to her. She had though, attempted to explain that the animal involved, Diefenbaker, though of partially wolf heritage was a handicapped animal for he seemed to be deaf.  However, the words, ‘Ottawa’ and ‘recall’ rang solidly in her ears after 20 minutes of trying to placate the man on the phone.  When she’d hung up her phone the first word she had yelled had been “FRASER!”  

Less than an hour after another chastisement from Inspector Thatcher, newly promoted Sergeant Fraser and his wolf companion were on their way out the Canadian Consulate door with Fraser’s backpack firmly placed over his shoulder and his wolf companion, Dief, trotting rather obediently at his heels.  They had been given an unexpected leave from consulate duties had even been requested to leave the country for a bit.  They had also been ordered not to go out into the ‘wilds’ of Canada where he could not be quickly recalled to duty.  Inspector Thatcher had even ordered Fraser and his ‘wolf’ to attend a seminar for handlers of police dogs in Ottawa for the first two weeks of their banishment.  She’d made the call to add Fraser to the class roster while he stood at attention in front of her desk.  Once he and Diefenbaker were enrolled in the class, she had then ordered him to attend the class and not return for at least 4 weeks remarking that that ought to be enough time for the current ‘7-day wonder news effect to be over’.  She’d dismissed him with such alacrity that Fraser had made haste to remove the wolf and himself from the consulate premises.

 After his dismissal, Inspector Thatcher had steadfastly refused to replay in her mind her own actions in the ‘incident’ and its repercussions.  Though, to be sure, several hours later when she had cooled down she’d wished she handled the entire situation a bit more coolly.  This thought occurred to her on her fifth attempt to explain something she wanted Constable Turnbull to do in the absence of Sergeant Fraser.  And on her return to her own apartment that night, while she made a dinner of salad and shrimp and sipped a glass of red wine she began to see the funny side to the incident and wished she hadn’t been quite so harsh on her subordinate.  After all she’d thought, she wasn’t that humorless and by the time she’d finished the salad, she was quite resigned to the fact that she had actually done Fraser a favor.  She’d been aware for some days that the man needed a vacation but had been clueless about how to go about demanding he take one.  After all, the man still had over 80 days of accrued time off and as his commanding officer it was her duty to make sure that her subordinates took care of themselves.  By the time she had laid her head on her pillow that night she remembered that Fraser’s counterpart in the Chicago police department was taking a month’s vacation.  She’d rolled over secure in the thought that Fraser might actually get a chance to relax and come back with a wolf companion that she could honestly say had passed a police dog course. 

Nearly a month later, when Inspector Thatcher picked up the phone to talk to Detective Vecchio, her throat threatened to squeeze the very breath from her and her tongue felt oddly lax and uncooperative of her wishes.  She’d read all the files about the cases these two men had solved together, reading between the lines to learn how close the two men were to each other.  Having been in charge of the Canadian Consulate for several years she knew just how hard it had hit the then Constable Fraser had been when Ray Vecchio had gone undercover for 18 months.  She’d watched the slow development of friendship between Ray Vecchio’s replacement and Constable Fraser.  And now, knowing how close both of the American’s were to Sergeant Fraser made it hard for her to talk, made it hard for her to evade the reason for Fraser’s delay in returning to Chicago.  She’d successfully hidden information many times from Ray Kowalski, Ray Vecchio’s replacement during those 18 months of undercover work.  But that had taken a great deal of subterfuge and outright lying to the detective plus the subtle use of his own commanding officer, Lieutenant Welsh. She’d dreaded the day Ray Vecchio returned for she knew at that point one or both of Sergeant Fraser’s partners would start demanding some answers. 

 The fingers on her hand grasped the plastic of the phone’s receiver tightly and her sweaty palm nearly slipped the phone from the orbit of her ear.  “Really, I can’t give you more information than that Detective Vecchio.  The Sergeant left on vacation just a few days after your own departure.”  Her lips grimaced into a tight line as she held her breath and listened to the man on the phone talking rapidly into her ear.  The words emitting from the earpiece hardly registered within her brain as the thought that she must adhere to Fraser’s wishes tumbled over and over inside her brain.  However, she was quite certain that the man was wrong and that now was just the time to have his friends about him.  She bit her lip and contemplated a way to break her promise to Fraser without actually disobeying his wishes.  She heard Detective Vecchio slam the phone done in her ear but the sound didn’t register with her until she finally was about to answer him and heard the provokingly irritating sound of the dial tone in her ear.  She sat quietly for a moment and looked around her office where she finally fixated on the curtains that Fraser had once told her would do justice to her eyes.  A single tear threatened to escape from her left eye.  But she quickly wiped it away and reached over for her phone once again.  She dialed and said, “Lieutenant Welsh.  I have a favor to ask of you.”  She then spent 20 minutes on the phone with her Chicago Police Department counterpart laying out her request and hatching a plausible sounding plan to send two Chicago detectives to Ottawa. 

Diefenbaker sat forlornly in the small kennel that had been set aside for his accommodation while he waited for his friend, Benton Fraser’s return.  He’d been there for nearly three full weeks.  Oh, he’d been taken out and walked, groomed and treated royally.  He was well fed, well cared for in all respects.  There was even a medal attached to the front of his kennel for outstanding performance in his field as a police dog.  Around his neck was a brand new collar with a brand new shiny shield on it declaring him a certified police animal.  But, Diefenbaker didn’t care one whit about any of that.  He was bored; he was worried; he wanted his friend back.  He spent hours pacing his kennel before sitting forlornly once more at the gate. Several humans made it their goal to take care of him.  They made it their responsibility to keep him from being totally despondent.  But, ultimately, it was soon plain to see how despondent the animal was; though they had no idea that part of his demeanor was caused by guilt.

One of his caregivers finally had finally gone to a superior officer and tried to contact Diefenbaker’s official contact at the Canadian Consulate in Chicago.  The answer had come back quickly via a phone call.  “Please take care of the ‘wolf’.   He’s quite special.”  The officer had walked out of his superior’s office in a huff. If he had perhaps waited and not exited out of pique he might have heard the rest of the conversation wherein Inspector Thatcher displayed a great deal of heartfelt angst over the entire situation. 

The large curtained window let the rising morning sun into the room and cast shadows over all the furnishings within it.  In deep shadow within the curtained confines of the bed, lay Sergeant Fraser, his bruises having long faded away; leaving him with several severe healing cuts about his midsection and arms.  The worst part of the infirmity of body he felt though was his back and his legs.  This time he’d come much closer to leaving this world the hard way than he had ever before, an even closer call to certain death than when he’d been shot in the back by his friend, Detective Ray Vecchio when the man had tried to shoot Victoria Metcalf as she boarded a train to flee her pursuers.  He found it strangely ironic that one meeting with Victoria had led to a bullet in his back nearly paralyzing him forever and a new meeting with her had changed everything forever.  He had one month to go and then he would be able to go to his friend and explain…to once again ask for forgiveness.

However, this time he’d delivered his former lover to the authorities.  This time he’d performed his duty like the good little Mountie he had trained to be all those years ago before he’d met her; before she’d nearly ruined his life in Chicago.  And he owed it all to Diefenbaker, his wolf companion.  He’d never been more grateful for Dief’s fetish for jelly donuts in his life or for that singular devotion of the wolf’s to all things in a bakery store that had led him back to Victoria, no matter the outcome had been.

The man and the wolf had spent the first week of their sojourn in Ottawa attending the course that Inspector Thatcher had ordered them to attend.  While some of the other officers had, at first mind you, been put off by Diefenbaker’s heritage and reputation, which had preceded him, they were nearly all won over by the animals devotion to his sergeant by the end of the first day.  The wolf had been swift to obey and eager to learn.  Now if this was a means of placating his friend who had been temporarily exiled from his friends and the city of Chicago no one would ever know, for Dief wasn’t talking about it.  But, he surprised even Fraser by his attentiveness and willingness to put his ‘deafness’ aside. 

The trouble had come on their third day of class when everyone had been excused for the day.  Benton was inordinately proud of his companion and had declared that they would take a stroll towards the shops before retiring that evening.  In hind sight, Benton wondered if he somehow had been drawn in that direction by premonition, for he’d had a foreboding feeling the entire day of class.  Even now, in retrospect and lying in his hospital bed waiting for help to move to his wheelchair so he could attend therapy he wasn’t quite sure how it had all come about. 

He clearly remembered Diefenbaker’s low growl forming as they neared the bakery on the corner near their accommodations in Ottawa’s suburban area.  Benton had been rather pleased to find a situation for their two week stint in Ottawa within the building that housed some of his old friend Quinn’s family.  The family had taken lodging near Ottawa on a temporary basis with their tribal leaders negotiated a rather lucrative agreement that would offer non-invasive tourism in their homeland.  It hadn’t surprised Benton to learn that some of the younger member’s of Quinn’s had figured out a way to offer visual tourism on the internet for people who could not actually travel to the more inaccessible areas of Canada’s wilderness.  Benton had, however, been surprised by the amount of money some people were willing to pay to live vicariously through mere images on the internet. 

When Diefenbaker had growled, Benton remembered looking down at his friend and seeing the hairs on the animals rear standing straight up and stiff like porcupine quills.  That alone should have warned him, but Benton had continued towards the bakery shop oblivious to the goings on inside it and totally absorbed in the plight of his companion’s coat.  In hindsight, Benton was well aware of the fact one or both of his friends named ‘Ray’ would chastise him for his ability to ‘tune’ out certain situations taking place around him. 

Benton had been in uniform, wearing his brown, leather Sam Brown and because he was actually in Canada he’d been wearing a fully loaded standard issue RCMP revolver.  So, when the first shot rang out from the entry to the bakery he and Diefenbaker were approaching, he withdrew his gun from within the flap of his holster and leaned low over Dief to order him to the back of the building.  Benton moved to stand by the solidness of the building’s front wall and cautiously peered towards the bakery’s entry door.  He had inched his way closer to the doorway and had been prepared to shout the official RCMP warning towards the deviants when he’d noticed the long curly hair of the woman behind the register.  Now, that in itself, wouldn’t normally have piqued his interest.  But the woman was talking to the would be robber and trying to calm the young man down.  It had been the sound of the voice emitting from the woman that had nearly pole axed the Mountie.  The woman’s voice was the very same one that had whispered poetic words to him years before as they both had lain nearly freezing to death in a violent snow storm.   The voice, he had finally let himself note, belonged to the only woman that he at one time had thought he would ever love. 

 He’d hesitated when he heard that voice.  But, he’d only hesitated for a moment before positioning himself inside the bakery’s entry door.  He called out, “Halt.  RCMP.” And then he’d said more softly, “You really don’t want to do that young man.”  After that the situation had gone strangely out of his control as Diefenbaker entered the bakery from the rear door and moved to stand behind Victoria Metcalf, wanted murderer and former lover and the rear exit.  After Dief’s entry to the bakery, everything had changed drastically.  And though Dief’s first instinct was to guard and perhaps contain Victoria Metcalf, he had remained quiet and taut waiting for a command from his friend and companion,

 The boy had fired, missing the officer and then swung around to face the woman behind the register.  He’d run over, despite the presence of the warning growl from the furry animal standing guard by the back entry.  He’d raised his gun and pointed it directly at the woman’s head. 

“You won’t get out of here you know.”  Benton had coaxed sidling closer to the assailant.  “And I doubt very much if this woman will co-operate with you.  She’s a known felon and probably has a gun of her own ready to fire at you.”

The young man, probably no more than 19 or 20 year old, froze a moment, looked at Victoria and then turned back to Fraser.  “Doesn’t matter, if I don’t get out of here, you won’t either.  There’s a gun pointed at your back.”  The boy seemed to become rather cocky thought sweat was beginning to run freely down his face.  Diefenbaker chose that moment to launch himself directly at the boy whose gun was again pointed directly at the sergeant.  The boy went down in one fluid movement of legs and limbs and the sound of a shot blasting from a flying metal gun.  Fraser leapt towards the boy and the snarling form of fur standing over him and kicked the gun out of the boy’s reach. 

He’d looked up and over at Victoria for just a fleeting moment and noticed a small gun in her hands which she now held pointed directly at him.  “Victoria.” He had whispered the word on strangled sounding vocal chords.  “Put down the gun.”  He’d extended his free hand and opened it palm up hope against hope that she would place the small gun metal colored weapon in his hand.  She, in turn, had backed away and her hand never wavered as she kept the bore of the pistol aimed at him. 

The young boy lay on the floor with Dief holding him down by the throat and barely moving.  The sounds of the animal’s harsh breathing sounded through the room with that of the youngster’s own labored breathing.  The boy’s eyes darted from the sergeant’s back and back toward the bakery door.  He lay still but watchful.

“There will be other’s coming Victoria.  That shot would have been reported by someone.”  Benton kept his hand extended and hoped that the sweat of his skin was not noticeable.  “Victoria..”

She shook her hair back and displayed her beautiful smile towards him though her eyes were filled with sadness.  “Come with me.”

“I can’t”

“Please.” She coaxed and took a tentative step backwards. 

“I can’t.”  He didn’t waver.

“You were coming with me when he shot you.  I know you were Ben.”

He wiped his lower lip with tongue and said, “That changed everything, don’t you see.  If he hadn’t shot me, I’d have been lost Victoria.  I can’t be that man anymore.”  He looked fiercely into her eyes.  “I’m not that man that you met in the snow.  I’m not the man you set up to go to prison because of your hatred Victoria.”

She didn’t lower her weapon and sent him another challenging look.  “Let me leave.”

“I can’t.”


 “Drop the weapon Victoria.”  He didn’t hesitate.  “Now.”

Sirens began to fill the small confines of the bakery as squads of RCMP vehicles pulled up outside the establishment.  She seemed about to turn and flee the scene.  But she hesitated for just one fleeting moment to close her lips and let tears begin to fall from her eyes.  He’d never know if they had been tears for her own imminent capture or tears for losing his love for her.  He’d never know.  But she hesitated too long and when she turned she had found another officer of the RCMP standing right behind her training a gun at her back.  She’d dropped her arm and let the gun fall from her fingers.

Efficiency is a thing of beauty at times and looking back over what had happened in the next 15 minutes was still startlingly clear in his mind. It had taken but a few minutes to contain Diefenbaker, cuff the boy and aid in the official arrest of Victoria Metcalf, wanted felon.  Victoria had been held within the confines of the bakery by an officer while other officers removed the handcuffed youth to a waiting vehicle.  Several officers wandered the establishment taking down notes from the sergeant and from Victoria about the initial robbery.  It hadn’t taken long for them to determine that she should be taken into custody and moved to RCMP headquarters. 

 He had had to stand by and watch them handcuff her hands behind her back.  He had had to officially give her identification and what he knew of her changes and wanted status in the city of Chicago in the United States.  He’d done it clearly, calmly though his teeth were clenched tightly between his statements; clenched so tightly that his jaw hurt. 

 Finally, they had begun to move her out of the bakery.  And, because he had been the first one on the scene, because of that the arrest was officially his,  he was given the honor of escorting her out of the building; of walking her to the squad car that would take her behind bars for perhaps the rest of her adult life. 

 He’d been so busy attending to merely staying upright, to walking; to moving without giving away his breaking heart that he hadn’t heard the wind up of a car engine.  He hadn’t heard the faint screeching of tires but she had.  Nor, had he smelt the telltale smell given off by highly rotating tires that left a scorching path on asphalt.  But she had.  Victoria had heard the tires and turned her head towards the oncoming vehicle.  She’d quickly noted that the remaining officers were all inside the bakery completing whatever duties they had left to complete before they could leave.

Ben would never know if she had planned merely to save her own life or had had another agenda in mind when she suddenly lurched against him and knocked against him bodily.  She was a small woman, tiny boned and shapely of form; but she had always been wiry and strong enough to control him, to devour him during their sexual intimacies. Because he was caught off guard emotionally by her capture it was far easier than it otherwise might have been for her to push into him twice and to succeed in knocking him nearly out of the way of the oncoming SUV driven by the companion of the young man who had tried robbing the bakery and been taken away in handcuffs.  The end result was devastating.  The car had hit the two of them nearly square on, killing Victoria outright.  But, she had knocked Benton towards the outermost point of the impact.  They had tumbled, Victoria beneath the wheels of the oncoming vehicle and Benton off to the side and up in the air to land against the squad that had been waiting to take her to jail.  He’d lain there, stunned before he lost consciousness, well before he realized what she had done.

The harsh cloth of the hospital sheets had bitten into Benton’s hip as the young aid helped him rise and maneuver into the ever present wheelchair by his side.  He’d held tears of pain tightly in check as he’d settled into the cushions that one over zealous and young aid kept plumped up there for him. It had been two weeks now since the SUV hit him.  He’d had two weeks to hear the commendations of his fellow officers, to hear the growing respect for Diefenbaker.  He’d had two weeks to wallow in his feelings of self disgust for once again dealing Victoria a hard hand of fate.  It wasn’t until he’d been in the hospital for several days and the pain killers they had given him had begun to wear off a bit that he fully realized what Victoria had done for him.  He didn’t clearly remember her using her shoulder to push him, but he did remember the description of it he had read in several written reports he’d been given to read in the local Ottawa newspapers.  He’d shed tears that had nearly prevented him from reading the first article that came his way.  His pillow had been moistened with tears every night since he’d awakened.

And, when he had been strong enough, he’d listened to the doctors divulging the extent of his injuries.  He’d paid scant attention at first when they had told him that he was lucky.  He’d bent his back up a bit, caused some hairline fractures with his fall against the squad car.  But, most of all they’d been worried about that bullet in his back, the one Detective Ray Vecchio had put there when he’d nearly run off on a train with Victoria more than three years ago.  They weren’t happy with the responses they were getting from the nerves on his feet.  And he didn’t seem to be gaining strength quickly enough from his injuries to be able to stand on his own two feet.  They were cautious physicians, cautious people really and they did everything in their power to persuade him that if he wanted to get better he would: one – have to try a bit harder, two – let them remove the bullet and three – realize that he might be bound to that wheelchair for a good many months and that he wouldn’t get out of it without a lot of very tough work. 

They did, however, say that if they removed the bullet, he had a chance to be moving about somewhat quicker than if he delayed having the surgery.  He’d given in.  ‘After all’, he thought, ‘maybe he wouldn’t wake up this time and everyone might be better off without him in their lives.” 

That had been the point at which Inspector Thatcher had arrived, surveyed the ongoing treatment plan and her junior officer’s depressed state.  She given him a direct order to get well, assured him that Diefenbaker was in good hands and had sworn herself to secrecy and that she would not, at whatever the cost betray his illness to his closest friends.

For a woman who demanded strength of her subordinates, she’d found her visit to Ottawa stressful and horrifyingly fraught with the emotional entanglement of realization that she was not totally blameless in her own past treatment of Benton Fraser; both as a superior officer and as a woman blowing first hot and then cold on any possible romance that might have taken flight between them. She’d emerged from the hospital entryway into the sunshine with a very clear memory in her mind of a time when she’d stood enveloped in her junior officer’s arms and he in hers and they had shared a very passionate kiss.  She, being an officer with an eye to advancement, had quickly had second thoughts about any relationship they might have forged between them and had ordered him to put the ‘incident’ behind them.   As she’d set in the cab moving away from the hospital, she’d gently felt her soft lower lip and remembered the soft burn of his own lips against hers.  She’d closed her eyes and then sternly admonished herself that one thing Benton, err…Sergeant Fraser did not need right now was someone being quite maudlin over what might have been their only chance to form a more informal relationship.  Her return to Chicago caused her junior officers some concern for their missing comrade as they watched her order them about their usually daily business but noted a change in her eyes.  

Ray Vecchio and Raymond Stanley Kowalski were both chaffing at the orders given them by Lieutenant Welsh to attend some new out of town conference.   And it had been a near thing as to which of the men would be the first one to break and complain directly to their commanding officer.  While neither man was comfortable alone in the other man’s company both men were deeply devoted friends of one Benton Fraser.  Ray Kowalski having spent a great portion of the last two years as Fraser’s department liaison while Raymond Vecchio was undercover.  Both men had a vested interest in avoiding this conference as both men wanted to know just why Benton Fraser hadn’t returned from his vacation in his homeland. 

 The Lieutenant was not a man of simple temperament or a man who suffered fools among his officers.  He stood before two of the best men he’d ever served with and gave them hint after hint that, perhaps, he was sending them where they wanted to go; namely in one Sergeant Fraser’s direction.  After a few moments of doing everything but bluntly blurting out his intention of helping them in their quest, he finally just threw their plane tickets down in front of them and sighed.

“Gentlemen, before I go completely gray.  Read your tickets.”  He dropped into the wooden chair at his desk and waited.

They picked up the tickets and knew they were beaten.  Ray Vecchio rolled his eyes and began to turn away toward the office door.  Ray Kowalski opened the ticket envelope and after reading over the interior he grabbed on to Vecchio’s shoulder and grinned at the Lieutenant.

“Yes Sir.”  The short, cropped blonde hair on his head moved closer to Ray Vecchio’s ear.  “Read this.” He whispered the words before turning back to the Lieutenant with a huge grin on his face.

“Finally.”  The Lieutenant cleared his throat. “Now, get out of here.” 

Ray Vecchio’s sister, Francesca had set her little, 1 year old boy down in his high chair.  She was another of the women who had fallen for the Canadian Mountie as soon as she had set eyes on him.  She’d been divorced when they’d met all those years ago and even now, with a failed relationship behind her and a child to take care, she still held a quiet place in her heart for him.  So when she’d heard the front door open and slam and heard the quick steps of her brother’s footsteps nearing the kitchen she’d somehow known that her brother’s impatience had to do with the current void in their family circle filled by Benton Fraser.  It had surprised them all to return home from their annual Florida vacation and find no trace of their honorary family member in their midst. 

 She had put a bib around the child’s neck and settled down in a chair with a baby spoon in her hand knowing full well that her brother would be stomping into the kitchen any moment.  She’d kept her back to her brother’s entry she looked down with her eyes fearing what he might have to tell her.  The hand that clasped her shoulder had reassured her with its soft grip. 

 “Tell Ma I’m going to Ottawa for a few days.  Will you do that for me?” 

She’d refrained from looking him directly in the eyes for fear he’d see the brightness of her eyes.  “Yea, I’ll do that Ray.”  As her voiced hitched up a notch, she said, “Is…”

 “Yea, I think so.  I’ll let you know Ok.  I’m leaving my car here and Kowalski’s taking a cab with me to OHARE.  Neither one of us wants to leave our cars there, you know.”

 She’d clasped a soft hand over his then released it.  “Call.  OK?”

 The kitchen had then been filled only with the sounds of a recalcitrant toddler trying to avoid a brand new food item being added to his diet.

 Their plane landed on time and the two men grabbed their carry on luggage and headed off to the cab stand outside the airport.  A half an hour later they had checked into a moderately priced hotel and moved on to sign in to their conference.  Only when they arrived for the conference, the address they had been given was that of a hospital.  They’d exchanged mutual looks of respect for their superior officer’s perfidy in getting them to places they would rather not be and had quickly removed themselves from their cab.

Bnton tried, he really did; but it just seemed that everything he was supposed to be doing for his own benefit was just far too hard given the scope of his current depressed state.  He was and had been padded, poked, prodded, provoked and severely chastised by the head nurse and other staff members; all for his own good he’d been told.  But, mostly he’d either just lain there on his coarse hospital sheets and let them do what they would with him; told to eat; he would, taken to therapy he’d pull himself around by rope and pulley and in his chair and between the parallel bars.  And still his basic nicety of propriety, his own innate sense of fairness demanded that he at least give the appearance of working hard to regain his health.  But his heart certainly wasn’t in his work.  And though he seemed to be working, seemed to be eating; those that really watched him worried for he seemed like a person lost in a decline from which he might not recover. 

And so he sat once again, on a fluffed up pillow with a newly fluffed and plumped pillow at his back after being set in his wheelchair near the large window inside his room.  His freshly made bed waited for him for the rest they said he needed every day after luncheon was served.  But, in reality, he was waiting.  He was a man without the drive that kept him going most of his adult life. 

He’d been all of about 23 when he’d met Victoria Metcalf during her flight from robbery and to safety in the wilds of a mountain storm.  They had survived together, for a day and a night and a day within the shelter of the coat he had staked out over them for protection against the storm.  They had kept each other alive with their voices and with the nearness of their clothed bodies.  Then, when the storm had broken, they had made their way down the mountain after finding the backpack of supplies he had dropped in pursuit of her and had stuffed themselves on all his rations at once. 

Later, when they finally made it within site of the church tower of the town where Benton knew he would turn her in, they had delayed and spoken not a word.  And Ben would be haunted forever by the look in Victoria’s eyes as she had been led away after he’d turned her in and stood trial for her part in the robbery she’d tried so hard to avoid.  The look in her eyes had driven him into a near reclusive state where women were concerned for the period of the ten years she had been in prison.  And he still blamed himself that he hadn’t known when she had been freed to come after him and his friends so unmercifully in an attempt at revenge. 

Benton Fraser was a man of great convictions and a man who had always sought to do that which was right in the eyes of the law.  That connection he’d had with Victoria when he was 23 had formed a hard shell around his heart which he had truly believed would never belong to another.  And though after 10 years had passed and he had encountered other women: Margaret Thatcher and Francesca Vecchio among them, he’d not let himself be that totally vulnerable again until Victoria had stepped back into his life so disastrously.  And then his best friend, Ray Vecchio and his family had nearly paid with their home used as bond after Fraser’s own incarceration on Victoria’s trumped up murder and money laundering charge.  And his companion, Diefenbaker had been left nearly dead and recovering from a bullet that nearly killed him. 

 These things all played through Benton Fraser’s mind every time he was given even a moment’s time to think.   So, his mind was in a tumultuous descent into the past once again as he sat in his window and looked out into the sunshine. 

The two men stopped at the main information desk in the hospital lobby and inquired if they could please have the room number for Benton Fraser.  Their request was met by the baleful eye of an older volunteer and with a decidedly negative answer until they had both shown their badges.  They’d grinned when she had penned the room number down on a hospital pass and given it to them.  They didn’t hear her murmur, “Americans,” to their retreating backs.  But she said it with a grin upon her face. 

They exited the elevator and made their way swiftly down the corridor nearly jostling each other aside in their pursuit of the correct hospital door.  But, strangely or perhaps more normally they slowed their steps the closer they became to the right doorway.  And, by the time they stood just outside the door they were again jostling each other aside though this time they were each trying to force each other to be the first one inside the door. 

Eventually, the two men turned a bit sideways and stepped through the door to stand still once they were just inside the door and aware of Fraser sitting near the window looking out.

Ray Vecchio was the first one to make a sound and he dropped his voice to a mere whisper and nearly whimpered, “Oh Benny.”  For Ray had been there with Benton all through that last episode of Victoria Metcalf’s intrusion into the Mountie’s life and had wound up nearly killing his best friend by shooting him in the back as the Mountie ran towards the fleeing woman on the train.  Ray knew deep within himself that that mad run had been a last minute attempt to go with her; a last chance for Ben to in some way atone for all that happened to Victoria since their survival atop that mountain during the snow storm.  Ray remembered all too well the recovery period Benton had spent in the hospital after that shooting and how after being involved in a shooting himself they had spent several days side by side in wheelchairs and looked out one of the hospital windows.

Ray walked slowly over to the wheelchair and knelt slowly down beside it and placed a gentle hand on his friend’s arm.  When Ben turned his head slowly toward Ray, his pallor and thinness and weakened condition formed an all encompassing vision of a man giving up.  The two men, who had been through so much together over the years, stared at one another; Benton in shock.

Ben’s lips formed the words, “Ray, she…” But he couldn’t go further.  He couldn’t get the words out. 

Ray leaned over and pulled his friend into the shelter of his arms.   “Its Ok Benny.  We’ll get through this, we will.”  It was then that Ben finally broke down as he had not since his entry into the hospital.  And Ray listened as his friend Benny told him about Victoria’s death. 

Ray Kowalski discreetly stepped back out into the hallway and opened his cell phone and made a call to the Canadian Consulate in Chicago.  He avoided a polite ‘hello’ and asked a few questions and then listened.  Tears of his own threatened his eyes as he listened to Inspector Thatcher tell him what had happened to Sergeant Benton Fraser.  

When Ray closed his cell phone, he walked back into Fraser’s hospital room.  For a moment he stood with his back against the wall next to the door, then he reached over and closed it against the prying eyes of the hospital staff.  He leaned back against the door and listened. 

Finally, Ben had been worn down by the exposed nature of his revelations had leaned laxly back into his wheelchair.

Ray Kowalski walked over and dragged a chair over to sit down beside the two men.  He tilted his head back, crossed his arms and said.  “And you didn’t call us because?”

There followed a session of questions and answers and hesitant reasoning put forth by Ben that his friends listened to quietly.   Ray Vecchio chided his friend, Benny, for not calling for help; for at least not getting in touch with him.  Both men voiced their strong intention to stay with Ben for the next several weeks and then to accompany  him back to Chicago where he and Diefenbaker would be welcomed into the Vecchio home until Ben was back on duty at the consulate. 

Months later, Benton Fraser buckled on his Sam Browne and took a last look in the mirror in the bedroom of his own apartment.  He picked up his Stetson and held it gently in his left hand before turning to open his apartment door.  This would be the day he went back to work.  This would be the day his friends had worked so hard to make happen.  This would be his first day back at the Canadian Consulate.  His eyes still held just that little bit of sorrow in them that people who have suffered great loss sometimes keep for the rest of their lives.  He walked a little slower, a little more carefully than he had in the past.  But, he knew that too would pass. 


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