"Will it hurt?"
"No, Fraser, it's gonna feel like soft bunny kisses on my shoulder. " Ray rolled his eyes. "Dude is going to be sticking a needle into my shoulder, repeatedly. Of course it's gonna hurt."
"Then I really don't understand why you want the tattoo."
They were eating breakfast, or Fraser was eating breakfast, Ray was feeling too nervous about getting the tattoo to actually eat anything, and he'd limited himself to one cup of coffee as well. He didn't want his bladder too full. Sitting still was gonna be kinda important after all.
"You don't?" Funny, because Ray had always thought that Fraser would understand. It had been important six weeks ago when he'd gotten to see the design and given what had happened since then the tattoo had achieved even more importance in Ray's mind. A physical representation of his love for Fraser, of his partnership with Fraser. Maybe he should have realised that Fraser would not understand, not understand why Ray wanted a permanent reminder of the Mountie on his body.
Ray knew however that even if the worst were to happen and Fraser were to leave him, he would still want that reminder, the knowledge that once he had loved someone so much that he would have been prepared to do anything for them. He didn't know how to explain that to Fraser.
"Do you think Diefenbaker is looking forward to our holiday?" Ray decided to change the subject instead. The wolf had chosen to take up position on top of the suitcases sitting by the door, determined, Ray thought, that he wouldn't be left behind.
Fraser smiled. "I think so. It'll be good to get out of Chicago."
"Back to nature?" Ray shook his head. "You do know I booked us into a hotel near Whitehorse, they have room service and everything." Ray had done his best to pick somewhere he thought Fraser would feel comfortable. It was about time they got away anyway, somewhere they wouldn't have to worry about bad guys, or ice queens or any of the other million and one things that always seemed to be coming between them.
Just for once, Ray thought, I want to be able to walk hand in hand with Fraser and think about only him. Canada seemed like the perfect place for that.
Ray stood up and begin moving the dishes from the counter into the sink. He could see Fraser hovering and couldn't suppress his grin.
"Relax, Frase. I'm about to wash up. We can't possibly go away and leave the sink full of dishes."
"I'm glad you see it that way, Ray."
Really, Ray thought, as he filled the sink with hot soapy water, it was a good job he loved Fraser as much as he did.
He'd forgotten just how much this hurt. Ray set his jaw and stared into the middle distance, having to tough it out. At least Fraser wasn't there. The Mountie was an expert at reading Ray's micro-expressions, he would have known exactly how Ray was feeling.
Fraser had taken their suitcases and a very unhappy Diefenbaker to the airport and Ray would be joining them as soon as this self-inflicted torture was over.
Leaving aside the pain the whole thing was actually quite relaxing. Joel thankfully wasn't the type of person who seemed to feel the need to fill every silence with incessant chatter, and so Ray was able to lean back in the chair, close his eyes and let himself fall into a reverie.
His breathing slowed, maybe he would fall asleep and would that be embarrassing or not, he really wasn't sure.
He could, he realised, see Fraser. There was a concerned look on the man's face and he was obviously talking very slowly and clearly, the way he talked to Diefenbaker. Ray couldn't hear the words but, with a shock that made his heart race, he saw that Fraser was actually speaking to Diefenbaker, settling the wolf down before the flight, and then he realised that Fraser could see him. Ray's eyes flew open.
"Are you all right?" Joel paused in his wielding of the needle. "Do we need to take a break?"
"No. I'm fine." Ray settled back again so that Joel could continue, but he didn't dare close his eyes again.
It wasn't until they were on the plane, waiting for take off, that Ray mentioned what he thought he had seen to Fraser.
"Diefenbaker didn't seem very happy." Ray glanced quickly at Fraser's face and then went back to struggling with his seatbelt.
"He doesn't like being confined," Fraser said, while, Ray noted, effortlessly securing himself into his seat.
"A bit like me. How the hell do these things work?"
"It's quite simple really." Fraser lent across to help Ray.
"You spent a long time with Diefenbaker though, talking to him. Most people wouldn't have bothered doing that." Why didn't he come out and tell Fraser what he'd seen?
Fraser had frozen, leaning sideways, his hands still on Ray's seatbelt. "Diefenbaker's not like most pets." The man straightened up, his eyes on Ray's face.
"No, he's not." Ray rested his head back against the seat. The plane was moving now, faster and faster, and Ray steeled himself for the moment when it would leave the ground. He hated flying.
"You saw me?" Fraser's tone was tentative, as though he was forcing out the words.
Great timing, Frase.
The plane was climbing now, higher and higher, the pressure building in his ears, and Ray spared a thought for Diefenbaker. Maybe it would have been kinder if they had left the wolf in Chicago, but Ray had got used to having him around and the holiday wouldn't be the same without him.
"Perhaps we should talk about this later," Ray suggested, his voice giving away his anxiety, just a little. Fraser taking his hand helped a little bit, although his next words rather negated the effect.
"You know, Ray, more people are killed in automobile accidents than plane crashes."
"That's very reassuring, Frase."
"Although no one really understands how planes actually stay in the sky."
Ray opened his eyes long enough to glare at Fraser. "Not helping." He closed his eyes again and he could hear a rustling next to him.
Fraser had pushed something round, hard, and sweet into his mouth.
Ray sucked and actually now he did feel a little better. "Thanks."
He could hear Fraser stretching out next to him, maybe he was settling down for a snooze. Ray knew he would feel a lot better if he was asleep, but the memory of what had happened while he had been getting his tattoo, niggled, making him shift in his seat.
"I thought I saw you."
Okay, so maybe Fraser wasn't snoozing after all.
"Saw me when?"
"When I was settling Diefenbaker. " Fraser had taken hold of his hand again.
All thoughts of sleep vanished, Ray opened his eyes and glanced sideways at Fraser.
"Remember when I told you about a dream I had?"
No response from Fraser and Ray frowned. Sometimes the Mountie did that, feigned ignorance, when he didn't want to talk about something and usually Ray let him get away with it, but not this time.
"When I was being held by that psycho Hobson I thought several times I heard your voice, saw your face, felt you touching me. I thought it was a dream. That's what I told you, afterwards." Ray couldn't keep the accusatory tone out of his voice. "You didn't tell me it wasn't."
"I wasn't sure. I'm still not sure I didn't imagine it." Fraser's voice was quiet, the man sounded miles away somehow.
"That's how you knew where I was." Dammit, but his voice still made it sound like he was accusing Fraser of something, and he wasn't, it was just... Sometimes he dreamt, dreamt that Hobson had him, a gun to his head and then Fraser, with that look on his face, would come charging in, that look that was both terrified and furious. Fraser rarely said 'I love you' but that look, it had left little doubt in Ray's mind about the way Fraser felt.
"I don't know."
Was that a hint of frustration in Fraser's voice?
"It's possible that I imagined it, that my need to find you, to rescue you, caused me to make connections without really understanding how I was making them and that then manifested itself into my thinking I'd actually managed to communicate with you."
Fraser's fingers were tight round his own and Ray knew the Mountie was reliving the experience, he wished he could do something to make him feel better.
"We'll be on holiday soon." Ray stretched out his legs and yawned. "Just you and me and Diefenbaker, no bad guys allowed."
"No bad guys allowed." Fraser's voice sounded wistful and Ray, breaking his rule of not showing too much affection to Fraser in public, lent sideways to kiss him.
The hotel was very impressive, a long low sprawling building which looked, to Ray's eyes at least, as though it had grown from the very ground, rather than having been built in the conventional manner. There was still snow on the ground, despite it being almost May, and Diefenbaker was clearly enjoying the change of environment.
"This is okay, isn't it?" Ray wasn't sure if the look on Fraser's face was one of happiness. "I know it's not the middle of nowhere, but it's a fair approximation." And has to be better than Chicago, although he kept that thought to himself. Fraser never said anything about Chicago and Ray wondered if he were afraid that any criticism of the city where Ray had lived his entire life would upset him.
"Just you and me and Diefenbaker." Fraser was smiling, so why in his mind could he hear him say, 'and all the other hotel guests as well'.
"They have cabins near the lake. I thought once we get our bearings we could rent one."
"Ray, it's wonderful, really."
Okay, Fraser really was looking more relaxed now, maybe this would be a good holiday after all. He wanted to make Fraser happy, that was the main purpose of the trip after all.
Their hotel room was almost as big as their apartment. Fraser prowled around it and Ray wouldn't have been surprised if he had run his finger along the bookshelves. There was quite a good selection of books, Ray thought, but he was hoping that there wouldn't be too much time for reading.
Really, Ray thought, Fraser looked every bit as good out of uniform as he did in it. Still thinking about a naked Fraser, Ray stripped off his sweater and his shirt, then fished about in his bag looking for the pot of cream that Joel had given him.
"Do you need some help?"
Ray nodded, sinking down into one of the oh-so-comfortable armchairs. Fraser's fingers, cool and gentle, loosened the bandage covering his recently acquired tattoo. He heard Fraser's intake of breath.
"The skin'll look a bit red for a while, nothing to worry about."
Fraser didn't reply, he simply began to rub the cream across the design. It was soothing and Ray could feel his body finally starting to relax, now he just needed a nice hot shower, preferably one that included Fraser.
"Well?" Ray looked at Fraser as the man backed away, wiping his fingers clean on a towel.
"It's very simple."
Ray shrugged. "That word about sums me up, doesn't it?"
"No." Ray was surprised by the vehemence in Fraser's voice. "Simple is not a word I would ever use to describe you, Ray Kowalski."
"Well, you know, Fraser, you don't exactly wear your heart on your sleeve, do you?"
"You're wearing it for me. Literally." There was a smile on Fraser's face, but the man looked so sad that Ray reached out, wanting to cheer him up. A knock on the door pulled his attention away. Ray scowled.
"It might be important." Fraser was already heading towards the door and Ray pulled his shirt back on, not wanting to expose himself to the gaze of whoever was out there.
"Hi, sorry to intrude."
Ray heard the woman's voice before he saw, it was the sort of voice that was perpetually cheerful.
"Can I help you with something?" Fraser being unbearably polite as usual, and instead of shutting the door in her face, he was actually opening it wider.
"Paul and I just wanted to say hello." There was a middle-aged man standing behind the middle-aged woman and he at least had an apologetic look on his face. Ray could almost have liked him, except for the fact the couple were interrupting his alone time with Fraser.
"It's a pleasure to meet you."
"I'm Alison and you are..."
"Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
All right, that was enough. "We're on holiday, Frase. You don't need to introduce yourself like that."
Alison had seen him and the woman had suddenly come over all coquettish, perhaps she was into skinny guys, although the shape of the husband suggested otherwise. "And you are?"
"Ray." That was all he was going to give them. He hadn't come all this way to make polite conversation with the people staying across the hallway.
"He's my partner."
Oh Fraser, why did he always have to give away so much information.
Alison's eyes gleamed. "You're a Mountie too?"
Ray forced a smile. "Wrong type of partner." He took Fraser's hand so the woman would get the message, she looked disappointed.
"Oh. Well I just wanted to say hello. Paul and I come here every five years, our little treat, so if there's anything you need to know---"
"Isn't that what the hotel staff are for?" Ray interrupted. "Well it was great to meet you." He was shutting the door in their faces.
"That was rude, Ray."
"That is not why we came here, Fraser. I didn't like her. Diefenbaker didn't like her either." The wolf had not moved from his position on the fireplace rug.
"Then why did we come here?"
Fraser looking at him, all big-eyed and innocent, Ray had always found that a turn-on.
He pulled his half-buttoned shirt off. "Why don't I show you?" And he tugged Fraser into the bedroom.
Later they ordered room service. Fraser protested at the price, a good 25% extra on the restaurant price, but Ray had insisted. He didn't want to share Fraser, not on their first night away.
Ray suggested that they eat naked, although Fraser still insisted on decorously draping a napkin across his lap. Ray couldn't stop himself from laughing.
"Is that really necessary?"
"Good etiquette is always appropriate, Ray, no matter the situation."
He had been about to respond to that when he'd seen the look in Fraser's eyes, he was being teased and damn, but that felt good.
The next day they went out walking. Thankfully there was no sign of their over friendly neighbours at breakfast. Ray really couldn't have faced talking to them. He drank coffee and tried not to mind too much when Fraser piled his plate high with food and insisted he eat all of it.
Jeez, I'm not a kid.But he knew it was just concern for him that made Fraser act that way, so he swallowed his words, and ate as much as he could stomach.
"We're going walking," Fraser reminded him. "We might not make it back in time for lunch."
"I'll burst if I eat anything else," Ray protested and then to assuage Fraser he added, "We could take the rest with us." Although he fully intended to give it all to Diefenbaker.
The hotel provided snowshoes but to Ray's relief Fraser said there wasn't any need for them and that a sturdy pair of boots would be quite adequate.
"We'll take the snowshoes just in case."
And so Fraser and Ray set off intrepidly, with snowshoes hanging around their necks.
It was quiet out in the snow, sound just didn't seem to exist out amongst the trees, other than the crunching of their boots against the snow.
They walked all the way to the lake and stopped at the edge gazing out across it. It looked very cold.
"Iced over." Ray slid one foot out onto the edge but Fraser pulled him back.
"No, Ray. The ice is melting, it's not safe."
"Then how come he gets to do it?" Diefenbaker had ventured a little way out onto the ice and seemed to be enjoying himself.
"Diefenbaker doesn't weigh as much as you do."
"It is beautiful here," Ray commented. "Even if everything is covered in snow." He reached out with one gloved hand and tugged Fraser towards him. Fraser's lips were warm and inviting, just as they always were and Ray lost himself in the sensation, until the sound of Diefenbaker's barking made Fraser pull away.
"What's up with Dief?"
The wolf was standing a little way out on the frozen lake, barking at nothing as far as Ray could see.
"He's probably seen a duck." Fraser turned his back on the lake. "Feel like a bit more walking?"
"Sure, why not." Ray's feet were aching but he didn't want to say no to Fraser, so he dutifully followed him back along the path they had taken earlier.
Only a few yards away the path branched in two. Left would take them back to the hotel, right deeper beneath the trees. Fraser went right and Ray followed.
"Are we going anywhere in particular?"
Ray smiled. "Well, you know me, Frase. You lead, I follow."
They walked in silence. For some of the way the path ran alongside a half frozen creek. Ray could see the water flowing beneath the top layer of ice and he took care when placing his feet, he really didn't want a boot full of icy water. On the other side of the creek Ray could see a dark hole gaping open in the opposite bank.
Fraser, some way in front, stopped and retraced his steps. "It's an old mine shaft."
"What were they mining? Pine nuts?"
"No. It was gold."
"Gold?" Ray made to leap across the narrow body of water. "Can we go have a look?"
"It's not safe." Fraser placed a gloved hand on Ray's chest. "The tunnels are unstable and prone to collapse."
"How do you know all this?"
"I read the hotel's guidebook."
Ray frowned. "Read the hotel's guidebook. Of course you did."
"I thought it only prudent, Ray. I'm not overly familiar with this area. I didn't want us to get lost."
"Well at least one of us was prepared. C'mon, I'm cold."
Fraser didn't fuss about going back to the hotel and Ray found himself wishing that the trails were wide enough that they could have walked along hand in hand. But they couldn't, so instead he settled for watching Fraser's ass, and in fact he got so distracted by it that he almost fell into a snow drift.
"Ray." Was Fraser laughing at him?
"You could help, you know." Ray leant backwards, trying to pull his foot out and toppled over. There, Fraser was laughing at him. Diefenbaker leaping up to him and licking his face. Ray pushed the wolf off, laughing.
"Maybe," Fraser said as he pulled Ray back onto his feet. "Next time we should go somewhere a bit warmer."
Despite everything they did make it back in time for lunch. As they walked into the restaurant Ray saw Alison and Paul waving at them.
"Why don't we sit over by the window," Ray suggested, adroitly steering Fraser away from the middle-aged couple. He made sure to choose a table that was too small for anyone to join them.
"Get you anything?"
Ray looked up from his menu at the sound of the voice. It was surly and clearly the man it belonged to wanted to be somewhere else.
"Just a tuna and mayonnaise sandwich, please."
The waiter looked at Fraser, scowled, but didn't say anything. Instead he turned back to Ray.
"I'll have the same." Ray fought to keep his voice civil and Fraser reached across the table to touch Ray's hand. When the waiter saw it his scowl turned into a smirk.
"I might have known."
"What?" Ray was on his feet, all pretence of civility gone. "What exactly is wrong?"
"Are all mounties like you?"
"I'm not a mountie, jerkwad. So why don't you tell us what your problem is?"
The waiter didn't know when to leave and Ray stepped into his space, so the man had to take a step back.
"You want to explain yourself or shall I just go straight to kicking you in the head." Ray was dangerously close to boiling over.
"I doubt you could."
That was fighting talk and Ray pulled his fist back.
"Ray." Fraser was on his feet, circling the table to pull Ray back. Briefly he considered pulling away and attacking the waiter anyway, but then he saw the look in Fraser's eyes and he wound down, just a little, just enough that he was in control of himself again.
"Go away." His voice was low. "Don't come near us again, understand?"
The waiter left, glancing back towards Ray and Fraser, as he did so. Once he had disappeared back into the kitchen Ray gave his chair an angry shove.
"I'm not hungry anymore. C'mon."
The men went back to their room. Ray once more making sure Alison and Paul would have no chance of accosting Fraser. He was so angry that he strode off down entirely the wrong corridor.
"Ray... Ray... Ray---"
"Our room's this way."
"I knew that." He strode past Fraser, pretending not to notice the look on the Mountie's face.
"You'll wear a groove in the carpet."
Ray almost snapped Fraser's head off for that comment, but at the last moment he took a breath, this was not Fraser's fault.
"You heard what that kid said." Ray kept right on pacing.
"I also heard what he didn't say. Ray, we can't expect everyone to agree with the way we choose to live our lives."
"So you're saying that was our fault?" That thought did bring Ray to a halt. "Frase---" Ray was breathing heavily, he was still so angry and he wanted Fraser to be angry too. Trying to understand why that punk had said what he did, that was stupider than stupid.
"We just need to be a little more discreet that's all." Fraser had his explaining face on, the face that made him feel like an idiot.
"Discreet?" Ray started pacing again.
"I don't understand." And bless him Fraser really did look utterly and completely confused. "That's how you behave when we're out in public already."
"I do that for you, Fraser." Ray came to a stop directly in front of the Mountie and took his hands. "You always seem so uncomfortable with public shows of affection. If it was up to me I'd light up Chicago with signs saying 'Ray loves Fraser'. I'd hold your hand everywhere we go. I'd plant one on you every time you got into my car." His words were starting to jumble together, passion flushing his cheeks and leaving him breathless.
But just as it seemed Fraser was going to say something there was a knock on their door.
"If that's Alison and Paul I swear I'll shoot them both."
"You don't have your gun." Fraser went to answer the door.
Ray didn't move, his breathing was still heavy. He hung his head, no good telling Fraser how naked he felt without his Beretta. Fraser would simply say, "We're on holiday, whatever would you need a gun for." So okay he couldn't shoot them but maybe he could introduce them to his poetry instead. That thought made Ray grin and there, he could feel it, feel his anger slipping away.
It wasn't Alison and Paul, instead it was Frances Simms, the manager of the hotel, an older woman who, Ray realised, it would be impossible to get angry with.
"I heard what happened in the restaurant." There was no preamble, no attempt at small talk, Ray liked that. "I came to apologise. Sam normally is very polite to the guests."
"That's great," Ray couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "So why pick on us?"
The woman paused before she answered, clearly weighing her words. "I think it's because you're policemen. Sam... well, let's just say he's had some trouble in the past. He doesn't much like the police."
"Great." Ray slumped down into a chair.
"Obviously I'd like to make it up to you."
"We would quite like to stay in one of your cabins." Fraser smiled, turning on his full wattage Mountie charm.
"Yes, of course. I'll put together a few things to take with you. And some sandwiches, since I gather you missed lunch."
The few things the manager had put together for them somehow managed to fill two hessian sacks and Joe, the odd job man, had been roped in to help transport them.
He was dark and glowering, even more so than Sam the waiter had been. Ray sighed, so far Canada seemed to have an awful lot in common with Chicago, namely that everyone hated him.
"So, what do you have against us?" It seemed easier to ask and get it over with, although from the look Fraser gave him he guessed that his partner didn't agree.
"Your friend's a mountie right?"
"Yep." Seems like everyone in the hotel knows, not much point denying it.
"My family were evicted, the police came and forced them out."
Ray sighed and let Joe stomp along the path by himself.
"Everyone hates us, you do realise that, don't you, Fraser?"
The cabin was a lot more luxurious than Ray had expected from the outside and he was glad to send Joe back to the hotel. It felt, he reflected, a little like starting their holiday again. Maybe they would get along better now, just him and Fraser and Diefenbaker, like he'd intended. No hotel staff to contend with, no Alison and Paul, and yes there were other cabins but all set a distance away and let's face it people came out here because they wanted some space, it was very unlikely the neighbours would come knocking on the door.
He let Fraser have an hour to explore the cabin and get things straightened out to his satisfaction, knowing Fraser would never relax if he didn't. Then, with an apologetic smile at Diefenbaker, he had dragged Fraser into the large bedroom and concentrated on ensuring the Mountie would not feel he was being neglected.
Later, when the glow of making love was beginning to fade, Fraser lit a fire in the wood stove. He did it remarkably quickly, Ray would never have been able to work so efficiently, was that a tiny bit of envy he was feeling?
"I'll get some more wood."
"Frase, we've got plenty." Ray was enjoying the warmth emanating from the stove, and he stretched out his bare feet feeling a little guilty, perhaps he should offer to go and get the wood. He didn't.
"Indeed we do, Ray. I was thinking more about the morning."
"Oh." Ray leant his head back and closed his eyes. "Knock yourself out, Frase." He didn't open his eyes but he knew there would be a smile on Fraser's face, the two of them didn't get along so badly, considering how different they were.
He must have dozed off. Diefenbaker's wet nose shoved against his hand woke him up and he blinked, struggling to focus on the clock hanging on the wall over the fireplace. An hour had gone by since Fraser had gone out for wood. Ray replayed that in his mind.
An hour. Fraser had been gone for an hour.
Ray shot to his feet. Of course maybe Fraser had come back, seen that Ray had fallen asleep and decided to do something by himself while Ray slept. That was it, of course that was it.
There was no reply. Diefenbaker looked up at him and whined. That was when Ray noticed the basket which was supposed to hold the wood was missing. Fraser had taken it outside but he should have put it back, shouldn't he?
His heart rose into his mouth but Ray fought to stay calm. "It's fine, Dief. Maybe he left it somewhere else, didn't want to disturb me."
Ray began to hunt for the basket, but thirty minutes went by, he still hadn't found it and there was no sign of Fraser anywhere in the cabin.
"Maybe he went for a walk." He was grasping at straws now, Diefenbaker would not have wanted to be left behind if it looked like there was a walk in the offing.
Diefenbaker looked at him and barked.
"Yeah, you're right. Let's go and check outside."
Checking outside didn't make Ray feel any better. He tramped round to the wood store first, but the basket was lying abandoned on the ground, chunks of firewood spilling out of it. Ray looked at it and then turned round in a circle, where was Fraser?
Diefenbaker was nose down snuffling at the snow. Then he put his head up and barked.
"What have you found?" Ray swallowed, there was a patch of something on the snow, something that looked a lot like blood.
There was no answer, only the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Ray folded his arms around himself. He half expected Fraser to come bounding down the path, but the other half, the pragmatic half, knew that wasn't going to happen.
Time to think like a detective. He had, he realised, been tramping all over the place searching for Fraser.
"Contaminating the scene," Ray admonished himself. There were tracks, he could see that now. He recognised his own boot prints, they meandered about and, as he feared, partially obscured some of the other footprints.
Very very carefully he retraced his footsteps back to the cabin. There, those were Fraser's prints, the man walked with long strides, his footprints were light as though he were somehow able to hover above the snow. Ray followed them around the corner of the cabin, doing his best to avoid obscuring them anymore than he had already.
When he reached the wood store things got more confusing. He could see the basket, the wood and the traces of what he felt sure was Fraser's blood. But there were no more Mountie footprints. Ray glared down at the snow, he could see his own tracks and Diefenbaker's.
There was something else there. Tracks that he had been too upset to notice before. As he feared he had stepped over the trail several times. What prints were left were smaller than his and those leading away from the cabin were sunk deeper into the snow. The realisation that this was because they were carrying something heavy slowly sank in. When Ray concluded that they must have been carrying Fraser he threw his head back and howled.
He would have to follow them, he had to find Fraser. Given the small amount of blood Ray was hopeful that his partner was still alive.
Ray shivered. He had come out without his coat and now he hesitated, torn between following the tracks and going back to the cabin for his coat. Just as he was on the verge of making a decision he realised he could hear shouting, coming from the direction of the lake.
Fear made his heart beat faster and Ray broke into a stumbling run, heading not in the direction of the tracks but towards the lake and the excited voices.
"Look, over there. Oh, never mind your boots, someone drag him out."
The voice was high pitched and female and Ray was using it as a guide through the trees. When he heard the last bit he started to run, Diefenbaker ran at his side and the man and wolf were soon out from under the tree cover and staring at the lake.
Not far from where they had emerged a small crowd of people were gathered at the lakeside. As Ray watched a couple of the people shuffled aside to reveal a body, half in and half out of the water.
"Not Fraser, please don't let it be Fraser." His head was swimming and he reached out to Diefenbaker. The wolf whined and then together they walked forward.
The body was large and almost certainly male. Lying face down with clothes darkened by the water Ray couldn't reassure himself that it wasn't Fraser lying there. Maybe, Ray catastrophised as he walked closer, Fraser had somehow hit his head while collecting wood and then, in a state of confusion, had made it as far as the lake before falling in. His fingers curled deeper into Diefenbaker's fur.
The people in the lake were arguing over what to do and none of them noticed Ray until he was pushing past them and crouching down by the body.
What the hell am I doing? Ray could see the pallid hands and his stomach turned over
He knew from Diefenbaker's reaction that it wasn't Fraser and his heart felt a little lighter. He had been a detective for long enough that he could see the body had been in the water for some time.
"Has anyone called the police?"
There were murmurs galore at that and one man, muttering something under his breath, peeled away from the group and started to walk back towards the hotel. Ray hoped he was going to make the call.
Even though he knew it wasn't Fraser he still wanted to see the man's face, just to make sure.
"Help me turn him," he addressed his remark to a man who he thought he recognised from the restaurant, likely a fellow guest.
The body was heavy and Ray crouched down so he wouldn't strain his back. There was very little smell and he decided it must be because the body had been frozen. Trapped in ice for months maybe. Ray felt a familiar rush of anger and grief, someone must be missing this man.
He glanced across the body at his fellow guess, somewhat awkwardly positioned and on the confirming nod Ray reached out to roll the body.
There. He resisted the urge to shove his hands under his armpits. It was hard to tell what colour the clothing was and the face was slack and pale, still in good condition considering how long he thought this man had been dead for.
Not Fraser. Ray muttered a quick prayer of thanks.
The other man had stood up but he was pointing at the man's jacket. Ray bent in for a closer look, brushing away the debris. What was that? Something gleamed under Ray's fingers, a pin of some sort.
With a startled yell Ray toppled backwards. The lake water was shiveringly cold but Ray barely noticed. Clenched between his fingers was the pin he had taken from the body, a pin bearing the letters RCMP.
He'd gotten out of the lake with Diefenbaker's help. Then, shivering and wet through, the manager had taken him back to his cabin. It was only once inside that he realised he was still holding the pin.
"The Police are on their way." She was in the small kitchen making coffee, while Ray dried himself off in the bedroom. "I should imagine they'll want to speak to you."
"Great." He came out into the kitchen, bare chested and the woman passed him a cup of coffee. "I can tell them Fraser's disappeared."
"What?" She seemed unusually perturbed by the news, but she didn't have time to interrogate him farther as Alison and Paul, who had arrived to gawk at the activity by the lake, stuck their heads round the door.
"Police are here." To Ray's ears her voice sounded unnaturally high and excited.
"What's that?" Paul had followed his wife into the cabin and was gasping open-mouthed at Ray. He looked, Ray noticed, very pale, probably the man had never seen a dead body before.
"You've never seen a tattoo before." Feeling exposed Ray snatched up the first shirt that came to hand. It was one of Fraser's and Ray buttoned it with trembling fingers.
"What does it mean?"
"Are you for real?" Ray growled. "Not that it's any of your business but one's a spark plug, the other's an Inuktitut word, it means love." It was a representation of his love for Fraser and Fraser's love for him, but of course he didn't say any of that. "Get out." He strode forward and Alison and Paul retreated through the door so quickly it almost made him smile.
"I'd better go and speak to them." Frances gave Ray a sympathetic smile. "You'd better stay here Mr Kowalski. I'll point the police in your direction so you can tell them about Constable Fraser."
"Thanks." Ray saw her to the door and then he turned the key in the lock, just in case Alison and Paul decided to come back.
"Hey, Dief." He bent to ruffle Diefenbaker's fur and then sank down into the big chair by the window, staring out at the snow and the trees and thinking about Fraser.
Ray closed his eyes, he was so tired, overcome by a million emotions, too myriad for him to be able to pick them apart. He could feel himself sliding towards sleep and then... well, perhaps he was dreaming, dreaming about Fraser, which wouldn't be unexpected since he couldn't think about anything else at the moment. He could see Fraser, slumped in the darkness, there was a dark gash on his forehead, another on his cheek. What light there was came from an ancient looking hurricane lantern hanging from the ceiling of the room Fraser was in, although it looked more like a tunnel. Looking closer he could see that Fraser was dressed in the same clothes he had been wearing earlier that day. He was actually seeing Fraser, not a dream, not a fevered imagining, but actually Fraser. From somewhere far off in the darkness he could hear voices. Ray tingled with anticipation, he would be able to see who had abducted Fraser, but just as he was beginning to make out the figures in the gloom a violent knocking on the cabin door roused him, and suddenly he was back in the chair by the window, Diefenbaker at his feet.
He was about to yell, 'come in', but then he remembered he had locked the door. Grumbling Ray pulled himself out of the chair, stepped over Diefenbaker and went to open the door.
At first his addled brain thought it was Stella. He had last seen his ex-wife while in hospital recovering from his abduction. She had walked up to his bed looking as though she meant to hug him, but then she'd seen Fraser and abruptly diverted to a nearby chair.
Ray shook his head and re-focused. The woman in front of him had blonde hair, but she wore it long, just below her shoulders and her eyes were brown. The deep scarlet pantsuit she was wearing was similar to things that Stella would have worn as well, it was all making Ray feel very odd indeed.
"I'm Constable Jeanne Couzens." There was a slight accent lurking behind the Canadian burr he'd expected.
She smiled. "I grew up in Montreal."
Ray stood staring at her for a long time, words seemed to have failed him.
"Can I come in?"
He nodded, but still didn't speak. Moving aside to let her through the door, he watched as she moved on into the large living room.
"I like your dog." She had already bent down to greet Diefenbaker. "What's his name?"
Finally Ray managed to speak. "He's a wolf and his name is Diefenbaker."
The Constable nodded. "Named, I presume, after John Diefenbaker, prime minister between 1957 and 1963." Then her eyes narrowed. "You're not Canadian."
Ray shrugged. "And you're not in uniform." He really wasn't in the mood for any kind of verbal sparring, not with Fraser missing. His stomach churned.
"My partner named him, my partner's Canadian."
"Ah." Another smile. "I'll need to talk to her as well. Is she here?"
"He," Ray corrected. "And he's missing."
"Missing?" The woman was a born detective, Ray could practically see her ears prick at the mention of a missing person. He also picked up on the fact that she hadn't even blinked when he corrected her pronoun, he liked that.
"Yeah. He went out earlier and hasn't come back." To give his hands something to do, Ray walked into the kitchen area and started to make some coffee.
"Perhaps he went for a walk." Jeanne's eyes were fixed on his face, intent and watchful.
"He would have told me." Ray shrugged. "At the very least he would have taken Diefenbaker. There's nothing he enjoys more than running around in the snow." He poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Jeanne. "But I'm guessing you didn't come here to talk to me about Fraser." Ray, with the hand that wasn't holding the coffee cup, dug into his pants pocket. "You're investigating the body in the lake."
"I'm just asking questions."
"What about this?" Ray put the silver RCMP pin down on the counter.
Jeanne looked at it and then she looked at Ray, he could see a hint of accusation in her eyes.
"Where did you get that?"
"It was attached to the guy's jacket. Came off in my hand when I lost my footing and fell."
"And you just thought you'd hold on to it?"
"Hey." Ray clenched his fists. "I'd only just realised Fraser was missing and then I saw the body, thought it was him for a moment. So excuse me if I'm not thinking very clearly."
Jeanne was still looking at the pin, she reached out and touched it with one finger, but otherwise made no move to pick it up.
"You thought the body might be your partner's, why?"
"Similar sort of build. And I found a patch of blood. Fraser might have hit his head, staggered off confused, and then fallen into the lake." Just saying the words made his insides twist. Okay, so the body hadn't been Fraser's, but the man was still missing.
"My colleagues think the body is RCMP Sergeant Mark Fisher."
Ray looked up but Jeanne was staring off into the distance and didn't notice.
"He was staying at this hotel five years ago when his wife reported him missing. He just disappeared. His wife thought maybe he'd run off with another woman." Jeanne forced a smile. "I think wives always think that."
"How can they be so sure?"
"Well it's not certain but height and weight match, the clothes appear to be what Sergeant Fisher was reported as wearing when he disappeared, and the pathologist says that the body does bear all the hallmarks of having been in the water for a number of years." Jeanne took a sip from her cup. When she spoke again it seemed as though she had forgotten that Ray was a witness she was supposed to be interviewing. "Do you want to hear something interesting? Although maybe interesting is the wrong word, maybe bizarre or weird or just downright scary might be a better word."
"Five years before Sergeant Fisher disappeared, another mountie, a corporal this time was staying at this hotel, he disappeared too. Strange sort of coincidence, don't you think?"
Ray couldn't move. He watched as his hand opened and his cup fell, shattering on impact. Then he looked at Jeanne, the woman seemed to be miles away and he couldn't focus on her face anymore.
Ray was as surprised as Jeanne sounded and he wanted to deny it, but the wet drops on his face suggested that he was in fact crying.
"Two mounties have disappeared while staying here? They don't put that in the brochure, do they?"
Jeanne shook her head. She was staring at him, eyes wide, but of course she would have no idea why he was so upset.
"Here." Ray strode to the door where his jacket was hanging and dug in the pocket, looking for his wallet. He had a picture of Fraser in there. It always cheered him up whenever he went to pay for something, seeing it there.
Found it. He handed the photograph to Jeanne. It was only a head and shoulders shot, but Fraser smiled out of the picture dressed in his red serge tunic.
The woman didn't speak but she examined the picture and then looked at Ray.
"Constable Benton Fraser," Ray wondered for a moment who was speaking because it didn't sound like his voice. "Deputy Liaison Officer with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago." Ray swallowed. "He's my partner, he's the one that's missing."
"Oh," Jeanne said and then again,"Oh." She looked at Ray. "You're thinking---"
"That the same person who kidnapped those other two mounties took Fraser. It's likely."
"Certainly the suggestion can't be completely discounted."
"Can't be completely discounted?" Ray scoffed. "Look, you should be talking to the hotel staff. There's a coupla them who definitely have a beef with the RCMP."
"Okay." Jeanne waved a hand in the air. "I can see you're upset, Mr Kowalski, but you have to let us work through the investigation in our own way."
"It's Ray, thanks, and I know how this works. I'm a detective and you know as well as I do that if we don't find Fraser soon he'll be dead. God." Ray turned away, suddenly sure he was about to vomit. He didn't want to think about Fraser dead, that would kill him. No, he recalled what he'd seen while he had been dozing, that was real and Fraser was still alive.
"You expect me to let you work with us?"
"I'm a cop, I know the drill." Ray folded his arms around himself. "I can help."
Jeanne's eyes were hard now. "You're a cop who is way out of his jurisdiction, there's no way you can do anything official."
"Then we'll keep it unofficial. I'll stand in the background while you interview suspects. I won't say a word."
Jeanne frowned. "You do realise, Mr Kow... Ray, that in the case of your partner's disappearance, you are the prime suspect."
A familiar wave of anger was rising within him and Ray clenched his fists.
"You must agree," Jeanne continued, and her accent was stronger now, "That in the majority of cases where a partner goes missing, it transpires that the other partner is responsible."
"The majority, but not this one."
"Of course you would say that." Jeanne raised her eyebrows.
"Yeah, I would say that, because I'm not the one who kidnapped Fraser." Ray had to hold himself back from getting in the woman's face. If she arrested him then finding Fraser was gonna get a whole lot more difficult.
"Can you prove that?" The woman was cool and calm, Ray might almost have added the word relaxed, but he could see the tension around her eyes, she really wasn't sure who she was dealing with.
Ray laughed. "You're serious? You've just found a dead mountie, you've linked that disappearance to another dead mountie, and yet you think the most recent mountie to go missing, my Mountie." And Ray thumped his chest to emphasise his point. "Isn't connected?"
"I'm simply following all the lines of enquiry. Besides." Here Jeanne paused and turned slightly away from Ray. "If your theory is correct, then Constable Fraser may already be dead."
Diefenbaker threw up his head and howled, Ray couldn't say he blamed him, he wanted to howl too.
"Fraser's not dead." He spoke without thinking.
"How could you possibly know that?" Jeanne had narrowed her eyes.
Shit. "I hope he's not dead, isn't that what everyone says when someone they love disappears?"
"Yes, it it. But that is not what you said." Jeanne folded her arms. "When most people say that, they say it with uncertainty. You know they are trying to convince themselves that the worst has not happened, but you can see they do not really believe it."
Shit, shit, shit.
"You said it with conviction, as though you know for certain. How?"
"You wouldn't believe me."
"You want me to arrest you?" She was shorter than him and yet, for a moment, she seemed to be looking down on him.
Ray turned to look out of the window. He stuck his hands into his pockets and let his forehead rest for a moment against the glass. Then he turned back towards Jeanne.
"A coupla months ago I was abducted. Someone I'd arrested escaped from prison and came looking for me." She was a cop too, he could see in her eyes that she appreciated what he was saying. "I thought I was gonna die but somehow Fraser found me." Ray paused, he didn't think he would ever be able to forget that moment. "While I was being held captive I thought I saw Fraser, heard his voice. He told me to hold on, that he was coming for me." Ray shook his head. "Earlier something similar happened to me. I thought I saw Fraser. No." Ray paused. "I know I saw him. He's somewhere dark but he's alive."
Jeanne was staring down at the ground as though to better listen to his words. "When I was little my grandmother told me a story. She lived in Paris during the second world war. My grandfather, her husband, was in the army. He was captured by the Germans, tortured and later killed. One night my grandmother said she had a dream about him. She saw him sitting in the cell, she said she spoke to him." Jeanne looked up.
"You believe me?"
"I want to." She sighed. "I might regret this but I'm not going to arrest you, not today anyway." Jeanne rubbed her hands together briskly. "I need to let my boss know about your partner. I'll come back in the morning. Promise me you'll stay here."
Ray nodded. "Got nowhere else to go, not without Fraser."
Once she had gone Ray found he was unable to settle. He paced up and down, his thoughts swirled through his head so fast he couldn't order them. The only thing he knew for certain was that he needed to go and look for Fraser.
But when he pulled the door open, intending to start his search, he found a uniformed police man standing outside his door.
"Good evening, sir."
Ray muttered something incoherent and retreated backwards. That bloody woman, she hadn't trusted him. Ordinarily that would have made him angry but now all he felt was despair.
"What are we going to do, Dief?" Ray sank down onto the floor next to the wolf. "How can I find him if I have to stay here?"
Diefenbaker whined and pushed his nose against Ray's chest.
The hurricane lantern hanging above his head did little to dispel the gloom around him. From the feel of the air on his face he knew he was underground and the waves of nausea that ebbed and flowed in his stomach told him that he'd been injured.
Earlier he had heard the muttering of voices nearby, but he could barely lift his head. Added to that was the very real fear that whoever had taken him might decide that if he were conscious he should be killed. He had played possum, concentrating on keeping his breathing steady and even, that was easy enough.
But then a thought intruded. Ray. The man was impulsive and Fraser worried about how he would respond to his disappearance. Would he try to think things through before plunging in or would he just react?
The voices were quiet, footsteps receding away from him and he let himself relax, just a little. No longer forced to fake unconsciousness Fraser began to catalogue the things he could discern, few as they were.
He had already determined that he was underground, possibly a tunnel, man made from what he could see of the marks on the walls. He could hear the faint sound of water, somewhere to the left of him. His hands and feet were bound, the ropes had been tied by someone who obviously knew what they were doing. He might eventually be able to escape them but probably not before whoever had taken him returned to finish the job. One final point that Fraser refused to let worry him, was that he was not gagged. His captors clearly were not expecting anyone to come looking for him.
Fraser closed his eyes. He couldn't help but worry about Ray. The detective had been abducted so recently that this situation could well be causing him all sorts of problems. Ray was an expert at hiding his true feelings but Fraser always could see through him.
He pictured the man in his mind's eye, saw him sitting with Diefenbaker next to him. The wolf would do his upmost to comfort him. Then Fraser slowed his breathing, listening to each breath as it left his body, tasting the air he breathed in. Settling himself.
For a moment Fraser could hear Ray's breathing, could see the flicker of his eyelids, a bad dream. He wanted to reach out, to reassure Ray that he was still alive, that they would see each other again, but he could hear voices and so Fraser pulled his mind back and once again feigned unconsciousness.
"Shouldn't he be awake by now?" The voice, male he decided, sounded worried. Fraser opened his eyes just a little but the figures were shrouded in shadow and he could make out nothing of their features.
"You hit him too hard." That voice sounded female. "Now, let's finish this."
"I'm not sure we should." The male voice had a distinct quiver. "There are police everywhere."
"All the more reason to get it done."
"What about the twice-marked man?"
That was a curious thing to say and Fraser focused his attention on the voices, hoping they would say more.
"Ridiculous nonsense. I told you at the time what I thought about that."
"But you saw. You saw. He had a tattoo on each shoulder."
Fraser's heart pounded so hard he was afraid his captors would hear. Ray. They had to be talking about Ray. Did they have him too? And if they did, where? Despite the necessity to keep still Fraser tested the ropes again. He needed to get out of here, he needed to find Ray.
"Misery will follow the twice-marked man." The man seemed to no longer be trying to keep his voice down.
"A phrase that could be interpreted any number of ways."
"I think being arrested will be pretty miserable, don't you?"
Fraser lay as still as possible, listening, hoping that he would hear something that would help him.
"Okay then. Let's go." And true to their word the voices, still argued receded away from him.
Fraser was left alone.
Ray woke with a start. His heart was racing and for a moment he couldn't remember where he was. When he did he groaned, pressing his hands against his eyes.
He got up, being careful not to disturb the sleeping Diefenbaker, and peered out of the window. There was a police officer standing by the door, no way of telling if it was the same one that had been there previously.
Shaking his head Ray wandered around the darkened room. How the hell was he supposed to find Fraser when he was under house arrest?
What about the way he had felt earlier? He had seen Fraser after all, and no matter what anyone else said he was sure it had been real.
Ray sat down again, by the window this time, and leant his head back. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing.
This was stupid. His eyes flew open. He didn't want to sit still, he wanted to pace. Irritated by his own inadequacies, Ray closed his eyes and tried again.
The night time was so quiet, Ray was used to falling asleep to the sound of passing traffic, whether that traffic was motorised or pedestrian. It was hard to stop himself from straining to hear the few sounds there were, but he managed it.
He could feel himself slipping into a reverie, halfway between awake and asleep, the perfect place to find Fraser.
"Ben," he whispered the name, not really expecting a response, not really expecting anything at all.
The exclamation startled him out of his chair and it took him a few minutes to check the room and reassure himself that apart from Diefenbaker he was alone. Then he sat down and tried again.
The connection between them was strong enough that Fraser saw Ray's startled reaction, the man clearly had not expected Fraser to respond to him like that.
At least now I know Ray's safe. Fraser was happy to let go of that concern. Now he was free to concentrate on the fact that the floor beneath him was growing increasingly wet. The water seeping through his clothes. The water was cold, it had to be at least in part, melted snow. How long would it be before the tunnel would fill up with water and he would drown? Fraser didn't know.
Ray's voice, tentative and a little hoarse, pulled his mind away from wondering if he would freeze to death before he could drown.
It was really very strange. He could see Ray's face floating in front of him. His partner looked very unhappy.
"Ray." Fraser did his best to smile, but it was hard while simultaneously keeping his jaw set so his teeth wouldn't chatter.
Blue eyes opened wide. "You can hear me?"
"I can see you too." Fraser was becoming more and more uncomfortable but he mustn't let Ray see that.
"There was a body, in the lake, I thought it was you." Ray's voice was rising in tone and inflection, if the man got too agitated the link between them, the link that he didn't fully understand, would be severed.
"I'm fine." He wished he could reach out and touch Ray's face.
"It was a mountie."
Now Fraser understood why Ray was so upset.
"Someone out there is killing mounties and there's a uniform outside so I can't come and find you."
The clenched fists, the rapid breathing, the flushed face, Ray was working himself up into quite some state. The problem was the only thing that Fraser could think of to calm him down was sex.
Over the time since he and Ray had decided to redefine their partnership as something more intimate, Fraser had rapidly discovered that sex was in fact the best way to calm Ray down.
Fraser had even found he could arouse Ray just by talking to him, and he considered himself to be quite an expert on it now. He rather enjoyed the fact that he could bring Ray to climax just through the sound of his voice.
"Tell me where to find you?"
Ray's shout refocused Fraser's mind back onto his current situation.
"I seem to be in some sort of tunnel. I can hear water." It was awfully imprecise but the knowledge might help Ray feel better.
Or perhaps not.
"I don't know." Fraser's attempt to keep his own frustration out of his voice was not completely successful and he frowned.
Ray was gone, the link between them severed by mutual fear and frustration.
"I should have tried the dirty talk after all."
Ray couldn't sleep. Immediately after his long distance conversation with Fraser he had tried to leave the cabin.
The uniform had been polite but firm. Ray had thought of pushing past him and fleeing into the night, but then he remembered which of them had a gun and changed his mind.
So Ray had fretted and fumed and waited for the morning.
He must have dozed, because the knock on the door roused him from a dream that filled him with dread. In the dream he had been lying bound and unable to move while freezing water pooled around him, soaking through his clothes, leaving him half frozen.
"What?" He yanked the door open, scowling.
"Good morning, Mr Kowalski." It was Jeanne. "Did you sleep at all?"
"I told you it's Ray, and no I didn't. Now, if it's all right with you can we go and find Fraser?"
"By all means."
The woman was clearly waiting for him but Ray hesitated. He turned and went into the bedroom, pulling one of Fraser's shirts from the suitcase lying on the floor and putting it on.
"It's actually quite warm this morning. A coat should be sufficient."
"This is not for me," Ray growled. "C'mon Dief."
The wolf barked and leapt down from the sofa where he had spent the night.
"Follow me." Ray lead Jeanne round the side of the cabin to where the wood was stored. "That look like blood to you?"
The woman crouched down. "It certainly bears a resemblance." She stood up. "You think this is Constable Fraser's blood?"
"Look, whoever took him would likely have had to knock him out. Fraser wouldn't have gone willingly." Ray looked down at Diefenbaker. The wolf seemed very interested in the patch of discoloured snow, then he looked up, barked and trotted away up the slope.
Ray looked at Jeanne, the woman still sceptical. "I don't believe this, you still think I'm involved?"
"I prefer to withhold judgement until I have all the facts?"
"Quoi?" Jeanne smiled. "Why are you laughing?"
"Sounded like something Fraser would say." Ray stuck his hands into his coat pockets. "C'mon."
The man and the woman walked up the slope following the path that Diefenbaker had taken. Ray had a vague hope that the wolf might be able to follow whatever was left of the trail of whoever had taken Fraser. He felt sure that Sam, the waiter at the hotel, had something to do with it.
"Have you spoken to the hotel staff yet?"
"Not personally. I did interview some of the guests last night. As you can imagine they are all shocked by what has happened."
Ray shrugged. He could see Diefenbaker ahead of him, the wolf had stopped by the side of the creek. It was the same spot where he and Fraser had halted yesterday. Is that what Diefenbaker had tracked? Ray tried not to let himself be overwhelmed by despair.
Then he spotted the opening set high in the bank of the other side of the stream. "I think Fraser's in there."
"You're sure?" Jeanne folded her arms across her chest. "We'll get wet feet."
Ray looked at her. "Wet feet?"
Jeanne pointed at the tunnel entrance. "Those tunnels were dug in an attempt to find gold, but they are too close to the water. When the snow melts they flood."
Ray shivered. His dream, what if it hadn't been a dream? What if he'd been with Fraser? Ray remembered the feeling of the near freezing water soaking through his clothes, the feeling of despair.
The wolf barked and Ray turned to Jeanne, suddenly resolute. "He's in there."
"Well then." Jeanne smiled. "It's a good thing I came prepared." She pulled a flashlight from her coat pocket and waved it in the direction of the stream. "Shall we?"
Walking through pools of water following Jeanne, Ray found he was very grateful for the sturdy boots on his feet and the warm coat. Then he thought of Fraser, lying in that water and suddenly he didn't feel as warm anymore.
"Can we go a bit faster?" he growled.
"These tunnels are not safe," Jeanne responded, sounding uncannily like Fraser.
"Right." Ray frowned. How many miles of tunnel were there anyway? Fraser could be anywhere.
Ahead of him he could see that Jeanne had stopped. She looked back at him.
"Left or right?"
He could see that the tunnel branched off, which way to Fraser.
Diefenbaker barked, a sound louder than it should have been, and before Ray could stop him the wolf had taken off down the left hand tunnel.
They had only taken a couple of steps into the new tunnel when Ray held up a hand. "Stop."
The pair strained their ears. There it was again. Someone was shouting.
"That's Fraser." Ray's heart surged into his mouth. "Fraser!" He took off at a run, ignoring the warnings of the woman behind him.
The water splashed around his boots as he ran. He could hear Fraser's voice more clearly now, make out a dim light. Ray slowed a little.
There he was. Ray could have cried. Instead he hurried forward, searching for the knife he would need to cut through the ropes. Behind he could hear Jeanne's hurrying footsteps but Fraser had all his focus now.
Fraser smiling at him, as though they were at the precinct or in their apartment, as though everything were normal. But Ray could see the distress in Fraser's eyes, see that the man was shivering.
"C'mon, Dief, give me room to work." Ray set to work sawing through the ropes around Fraser's wrists and then he turned his attention to his ankles.
"Ray." That was Jeanne's voice, she'd finally caught him up. A good thing too because he needed to get Fraser on his feet.
She was already by his side.
"Okay, on three." Together they pulled Fraser up, he clung to Ray who tried a grin out for size. "World's worst case of pins and needles, huh?" He turned to Jeanne. "Can you hold him steady?"
Ray pulled off his coat and the cold bit instantly. If it was bad for him imagine how much worse it must be for Fraser.
"Sorry, Ben." He worked as quickly as he could, taking the sodden shirt off Fraser and replacing it with the extra shirt he had worn under his coat. Then he added his coat, pulling it around Fraser's shoulders like a cloak. Only then, only once he had done everything he could to warm Fraser up, did he press his lips to Fraser's.
He was already looking warmer.
"Naw, don't mention it. You'd do the same for me." Ray did grin then, a proper grin, his relief so intense it made him dizzy.
"Thank you kindly, Constable." Fraser had directed the words at Jeanne and Ray frowned, how the hell did he know?
"It was my pleasure." The woman smiled.
"Right." Ray settled Fraser's arm across his shoulders. "Time we got out of here."
The walk back to the hotel seemed to take a lot longer than he remembered, although it was helped by Fraser insisting halfway that he could walk unaided.
They walked into the hotel lobby and right into a circus, that almost made Ray walk back out again, only Fraser's hand finding his stopped him.
"We need to see this through."
The hotel staff were gathered just inside the manager's office and Ray nodded towards them.
"It's gotta be one of them."
"No." Fraser kept walking as he talked, dragging Ray, Jeanne and Diefenbaker in his wake. "There were two of them, a man and a woman." He was heading straight for the group of hotel guests. "Their accents weren't local and Ray." Fraser half turned towards his partner. "They saw your tattoos."
"They what?" There was a snarl on Ray's face and he propelled himself across the room, his hands closing unerringly on Paul and Alison. "It was you." He shoved them both to the ground and then pulled his fist back, fury on his face.
"Ray, no. Leave this to justice."
"After what they did? They don't deserve anything less than a bullet."
"That may be so, Ray." Fraser's tone was calm, hard to believe he had been a bound captive only a short time ago. "But it's not our decision. Let the authorities deal with them."
"Ray, please." Fraser was asking not telling, and it was that and that alone that made Ray unclench his fist, step away from the frightened couple on the floor and breathe. Then, despite the crowd of people watching, he stepped closer to Fraser, pulling him in so that he could kiss him.
Fraser kissed him back.
A small ripple of applause broke out around them, even Jeanne joined in, a broad smile on her face.
"I think you've earned a break." She flapped her hands. "Later I will have questions. Constable Fraser will need to give a statement, but right now, take time for you."
Ray looked at her and she winked at him. "Go warm him up."
So Ray and Fraser, holding hands, and with Diefenbaker leading the way, went back to their room.
Ray looked around as he walked through the door, it seemed a lifetime since they had last been here.
"That connection we have..." Ray looked at Fraser.
"The one that saved both our lives."
"Do you think it was real? Do you think we could do it again?"
Fraser rubbed a finger across his eyebrow. "I think that there are times when we just have to accept that we don't have all the answers."
Ray shrugged. "I guess." A pause. "I thought I'd never get to see you again. I love you."
Fraser smiled. "And I love you."
"Are you tired? I shouldn't think you got much sleep last night."
"A little," Fraser admitted. "But I'd rather make love to you than sleep."
Ray grinned. "I think we can arrange that. C'mon."