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It really was like being in a kind of twilight zone. He knew, he did know, that Fraser wasn't dead, but…everything about it was so real. Hell, he'd started panicking when his friend didn't wake up immediately in the morgue that time, and now seeing him in the coffin, in his dress uniform with the- the belt…the funeral home guy was speaking, but Ray was having a hard time tuning in to the words. His responses were more automatic than anything else, and he was aware that they were a little more flippant than the situation demanded, but his thoughts were captivated completely by the rigid form of his partner.

The airtight bit freaked him out. The little hiss made him want to flinch, but for the sake of the ruse he suppressed it. His tears to get the guy to leave weren't entirely fake, a serious stress response of his that he'd always hated. It was kind of an effort not to shake Fraser awake, clap in his face again, or at least see if he was breathing. He was glad that he managed it- the lack of breath would have freaked him out even more- but the nervous laughter…! He knew then that he had to leave. He couldn't take much more of this, and couldn't wait for it to be over.


The first time he guessed something might have gone wrong was when Huey and Dewey pulled up to the funeral home. At first, because he was thinking of something else, he thought that Welsh might have bought them in on it, and the "Ray, is it true?" could have applied to 'Fraser had a toad in his pocket?', 'The Cubs won the game?', 'Frannie's getting married? or a million other things. He didn't even listen when they kept talking, but that must have been taken as another sign. Geez, he had to start listening more.

Then he got inside, and saw that the coffin was closed. God, how long had it been like that, how was Fraser still- his own footsteps drowned those of the detectives following him. But the casket was open now, and Fraser- well, he didn't look any more dead than he should have, but what kind of a sign was that?

He knew something definitely had gone wrong when more people started arriving. A rabbi for one- Fraser wasn't even Jewish! The guy sure made friends easy, Ray was almost jealous. Jealous, of a dead guy? Really Kowalski…no, no, Fraser wasn't dead. It was the frog thing, the toad- oh, it didn't matter. But Ray was going to be dead, if the looks of the next two arrivals were anything to go by.

Turnbull and the Ice Queen. She really did freeze when she saw Fraser lying there, and Ray practically saw the penny drop on Welsh's face. They should've told the Canadians, how had they forgotten that? But then, it had all been so quick, and they'd still been getting over the toad juice thing as a concept when it was put into action. When Turnbull started his waterfall act, Ray knew he had to intervene. This was weird, how Fraser still hadn't come around…the detective was uncomfortably reminded of the scene in the morgue the previous evening, and had another urge to shake his partner back into awareness. He lightly pushed the Inspector aside, noticing how she didn't even resist, it was like moving a man- mane- big clothes dolls, mannequins. That was it. But with less good clothes and a more shocked expression. Yeah, she was in shock alright.

Dewey pulled him away, but the hand on Ray's face was out of exasperation that this plan had leaked, not sadness. At least, he didn't think so…everything about this was so real, so impossible to stage. There was an old woman sobbing her eyes out behind him, someone he didn't even think Fraser could have heard of. What if Fraser really had died, and he was in denial? He'd seen victims do that sometimes, they forgot the perp ever did anything and wouldn't press charges. Had there been an accident, an arrest gone wrong? All those times that their lives had been endangered in wildly bizarre ways…

Nah, Fraser wouldn't have been the one to kick it. It was Ray who couldn't swim, Ray who didn't think before he acted, Ray who didn't bring enough clips. It would have been him in that coffin, and not under the influence of toad sweat or whatever. What if it was him that was dead, and this whole thing was a hallucination, the afterlife? Well then it was hell, it couldn't be anything else, because Fraser being actually, really, properly dead was the worst thing that could happen to him, pretty much ever.

Leaning forward again was more for himself than anything else, Ray needed to get out of his flat spin and concentrate on the situation in hand. Ray: a member of the material world, for definite. Fraser: alive and, well, not kicking just yet, but soon. Jones: still missing, but hopefully Fraser knew where he was, and would tell all when he came around. At that very moment, though, things were getting a bit out of hand, literally and figuratively. This party needed to stop right now.

The funeral home had never seen a crowd this large. The whole precinct must've been there, the whole of Chicago- how did news spread this quickly? How did they even know, Ray wondered as he looked over the room, drumming his fingers restlessly on the coffin. Then he saw the white streak pushing its way through the press of people, and prepared for an assault. This, he knew definitely, had been the worst plan ever, and it was never going to be repeated.

Frannie's lace-clad elbows were merciless, and Ray didn't even want to get in the way. She went straight for the coffin, not even seeming to see anyone else standing by. When she picked up Fraser, he almost told her not to touch, but her grief was so real…he exchanged a look with Welsh, who still had Turnbull attached to his jacket, and reminded himself that this was all fake, would all be cleared up soon. Yeah, Frannie might beat him up for agreeing to the plan, but everything would be straightened out.

Time sped up abruptly when Frannie screamed, and Ray looked down to finally see the exact proof he needed. Turnbull started yelling, probably just because Frannie did- he couldn't have seen Jones from that angle. Welsh rolled his eyes, but there was something of a satisfied smirk lurking around his mouth. Switching from semi-bereaved friend to police officer in a second, Ray looked around for the mob guys before being drawn to them by the gun call. Somehow, they had Frannie, but there couldn't even be a question that they would get away- the only good thing about the mix-up was that almost every police officer in the city was in the room. Turnbull alone had a look which could take on ten men unscathed, and it had freaked Ray out more than a bit. Frannie, poor kid, was about to collapse from a shock overload, but then the guy started counting down and the guns were getting lowered. What, this was it? All this death stuff, all the sub- subde- lying, for the murderers to get clean away?

Then, Fraser did his number, and sat up. Bolt upright, like he'd been tased in the back or something. The reaction was instantaneous- Turnbull was the first to go, Frannie following him. Thatcher went down like a ton of bricks, then, to everyone's surprise, Van Zandt hit the floor…the organist's head made a tuneless mess of the sombre background music, then there was a domino of people from the corridor to the coffin, all out cold in a second. Huey and Dewey were two of the last to go, eyes wide and leaning into each other. Ray could have laughed, if he hadn't been close to collapse himself from the relief.

His phone ringing bought him out of his trance, and Ray turned to find an overjoyed Diefenbaker licking off all Fraser's rouge. The guy seemed happy enough, though it was likely his head was pounding- and hell, he even looked confused when he finally looked around the room. Asked if there had been a shootout, apparently he'd still been a bit out of it whilst the whole world fainted around him. Ray hurried to get him out of the coffin, ostensibly to get at his still-ringing phone but really to get Fraser away from all the death stuff, the coffin and the flowers and the bedding with a corpse underneath. Never, never again were they pulling anything remotely like that. Ray was gonna have nightmares about this little stunt for weeks as it was.

The call was- well, the call was from a life insurance company, of all places. Asking if he and his loved ones were covered in the event of an emergency, a sudden death. He told the guy where he would find his own sudden death if he ever called again, and hung up, hurrying Fraser out of the buildings as the other police officers began to come around. Ray didn't want to think about anything like this again for as long as he lived.