Wolf and Turtle
Author's Notes: Given how large Ray's Turtle looms in the fandom, I was surprised to get to the end of the series and find that Turtle has no storyline or even any actual screen time. But I ended up just as fascinated with Turtle as everyone else, so I wrote up this, Ray and Fraser talking about turtles.
It's weird, pretending to be the best friend of a guy he just met. He isn't sure if it makes it better or worse that the Mountie's happy enough to go along with the charade, at least now that he's in on it. Ray thinks maybe the guy doesn't have many friends.
It's even weirder since he knows all about the guy. The Feebs gave him a whole, whatsit, dossier. Not just the whole story about coming to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father, and the cases he and the real Vecchio worked on, but weird stuff, like that he irons his underwear and hates the blue RCMP uniform, and his grandparents wouldn't let him have a toy bulldozer when he was a kid. Some of that stuff is written out in the other Ray's handwriting, like he thought it was real important the new Ray knew about it. But he didn't write down why it was important, and if he told the Feebs, they didn't bother passing that little tidbit along.
Now that he's met the Mountie, he's starting to get what the other Ray was trying to say. Fraser is something else. Probably Vecchio didn't know how to explain him, even after working with the guy for three years, and he just ended up writing all that stuff about underwear and bulldozers and hoping the new guy would somehow figure out that what he was trying to say is that Fraser is a good guy, he's special, that working with him means saying goodbye to normal, but he won't miss it a bit.
And Ray can tell already that Fraser's a private guy, and it feels wrong that he knows all this stuff, without Fraser telling him or--probably--even knowing that he knows it.
But he can't un-know it, and even if he could, he couldn't, because he has to know it to maintain Vecchio's cover. So the only way he can think of to make things fair at all is to tell Fraser stuff about him.
He's gonna have to get to the real stuff, the embarrassing stuff, stuff he normally wouldn't talk about until he's known a guy for a coupla years. But he's kind of a chickenshit; he's going to have to let himself work up to that. So when they get to the diner after putting Greta Garbo away, he dumps about eight sugars into his coffee and says, "So you've got a wolf, huh?" Stupid--he's already met the wolf in real life, and read in the file about how Fraser found the wolf in a mine shaft, and they've saved each others' lives a bunch of times. Keep going. "Me, I have a turtle."
"Really? That's fascinating."
Ray thinks at first that Fraser has to be fucking with him, but then again, this guy did run into a burning building for fish. Well, it was for Vecchio's sister and brother-in-law that he ran in there, but he stayed in there, longer than he would have had to, for fish. "Nah, it's kind of like having a pet rock, only you have to clean the tank every once in a while."
"Turtles are fascinating creatures, Ray. An amazing number of cultures have myths associated with turtles. You've heard about the tortoise and the hare, of course--that story seems to have arisen independently in European and native North American cultures, although in the North American version, the turtle won the race through cunning rather than endurance. And many cultures believe that the world either is carried on the back of a turtle, or in fact is a turtle."
"For real?" Ray knows the Mountie doesn't lie, much--that was in the files--but he wonders if maybe he'd stretch the truth a little, to make Ray feel like having a pet turtle is somehow almost as impressive as having a pet wolf.
"Yes--the Cheyenne, Mohawk, and Lakota traditions all include a World Turtle. And in Hindu mythology, the world is carried on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a turtle, and the god Vishnu, incidentally, sometimes appears in the form of a turtle. And in China, each point of the compass is represented by one of the Four Fabulous Animals, which also correspond to one of the four elements. The turtle represents the north, and water."
Ray will have to tell Speedy about that. Bet he doesn't know he's a Fabulous Animal. "What are the other ones?"
Fraser counts them off on his fingers. "The unicorn, the phoenix, and the dragon."
"Those aren't real," he points out. "Turtles are real."
"I've always thought that was a bit strange," Fraser admits "Turtles could certainly seem mythological if you've never seen one, but they are quite plentiful in Asia. Some sources posit that the unicorn, phoenix, and dragon of mythology are real animals that we know now by other names, others that mythological animals did at one time really exist, perhaps before the flood."
The waitress comes back with their food--couple of burgers, some fries. Ray picks up the conversation where they left off. "The Noah flood? I once read a story about how Noah didn't take unicorns because he could only find one. Didn't think that was fair. But they didn't have the Bible in China when they came up with their myths, did they?"
"No, but nearly all creation stories include a massive flood that occurred in prehistory--some scholars believe that only an actual flood of global proportions could explain the ubiquity of the theme. There's another turtle story. In the Bible, the end of the flood was signaled by a dove--"
"With the olive branch, yeah." Been there, colored the picture of it in Sunday school.
"In the North American versions, it's often a turtle. I'm sure you know, they can spend long periods under water, without coming up for air."
"Yeah. Bunch of times I thought Speedy must be dead, he stayed under so long."
"In the story I'm thinking of, the Creator sent several animals to dive under the water and bring back mud with which to rebuild the world. First he sent the loon, and then the otter, and the beaver, all animals known for their ability to spend long periods under water. All failed. Last he sent the turtle. Turtle was gone for many days and nights--how many depends on which tribe you ask--and the Creator, too, thought Turtle must have drowned. Finally, Turtle returned to the surface with mud in its claws, and packed in the crevices between its top and bottom shell, and with that mud, the Creator remade the world."
Suddenly, Ray's embarrassed. He's already figured out that pretending to be Fraser's partner is going to mean pretending that he's bigger than he is--bigger inside; the real Vecchio's shorter than he is. Except he knows enough about undercover work to know that he can't just pretend to be bigger--he's going to have to get bigger. And maybe he can, because that's one of the things Fraser does. He makes you drive into lake Michigan even though you can't swim, and throw yourself in front of a bullet--even though you maybe even forgot for a second you were wearing a vest. But now Fraser's making his turtle bigger, too--putting all this mythology and stuff on Speedy's little shell, and somehow that's more than he can handle. So he has to bring them back down to reality, and the way he does that is to say, "I got Speedy at the five and ten when I was a kid."
"Yeah, see, my cousins were stayin' with us for the summer--my aunt and uncle were getting divorced, was why, but we didn't know that then--and we found this dog one day. Nice dog." It had been tan, sort of gold-ish tan, with white on its front legs, up to the elbows, and already knew how to shake. "We wanted to keep it, but the real owners showed up, and besides, my mom's allergic. So that was it for the dog. But they gave us a reward, the dog's owners, and my dad took us all to Woolworth's and we all got turtles. Four turtles." He hasn't thought about it in years, but he can remember it real clearly now--riding home sitting three across in the back of Dad's Ford. Lace always got to sit in the front, on account of being the oldest and a girl besides. "They came in these plastic bowls that you put water in, and in the middle there was this island with a fake palm tree." They'd filled up the bowls at the store, and the whole way home there'd been turtle-water splashing on their knees. His brother and cousins had agreed that Speedy was the coolest turtle name ever, but he got to use it because he'd thought of it first. "They all looked pretty much the same, but Speedy must've been special somehow, `cause the other ones died in less than a week, and Speedy's still, you know, turtling along."
Fraser gets this little crease between his eyebrows. "Perhaps you took better care of Speedy than your cousins did of their turtles."
"Maybe." Ray hadn't thought of it that way, but it could be. Marlon and Billy'd tried to organize turtle races, and Lace had somehow talked Billy (who was only six) into a turtle wedding. But Ray had thought, if he moved to a new place, he wouldn't want a lot of giant kids bugging him, so he mostly let Speedy hang out in the bowl and get settled in. "When I got back to school in the fall, I did a science report on turtles, and I found out those plastic bowls they sold us were crap, and the turtle food, too. You can get decent turtle chow these days, but you couldn't then. I was always bugging my mom for chicken and carrots and stuff for him, and I had to save up all my allowance until Christmas to get him a tank and a heat lamp like he was supposed to have." He'd begged his dad to advance him the money, `cause he was that worried that Speedy was going to get cold and die, but Dad had said, "It didn't die yet, so there's no reason it'll die now," and pointed out that a new turtle was cheaper than the heat lamp, anyway. "Mom found a heating pad to put under the bowl when it got cold, and he was okay. I mean, of course he is--I still have him."
If Fraser were at all normal, he'd have interrupted by now to ask why Ray thinks he cares about a stupid turtle, but Fraser is the guy who tells long boring stories for no reason. He seems happy that Ray's taking a turn. "Chelonia can live a very long time. There are Galapagos tortoises estimated to have lived for hundreds of years."
"I remember that from my turtle report! I made a will, said my brother couldn't have Speedy if I died." Later versions had left Speedy to Stella, and even his real, grown-up will mentions that Stella would get Speedy if something happened to him. "I should probably change that."
"Hm. I'd be happy to make arrangements for your turtle in the event of your untimely demise," Fraser offers. "I'm not entirely sure that he'd be comfortable in the Northwest Territories, but I'm sure I could find him a good home."
"Yeah, doesn't your place up there not have any electricity?" That's something he knows from the files--no inside plumbing, either. Vecchio was real emphatic about that. "Electricity is essential to the modern turtle lifestyle. But yeah. Thanks." Stella used to like Speedy, when they were kids--she thought it was "very, very sweet, Ray," that he cared so much about his turtle. But she wasn't real enthusiastic about finding a spot for the tank in their apartments, especially when they started getting nicer places, having nicer people over. If he had gotten killed, she probably wouldn't have kept him long. "Might take you up on that. And Dief--I guess you got somebody up North who'll want him, but I could, you know, take him up there." After he said it, Ray thinks maybe he shouldn't have--like he's planning to use Fraser's death to score a free wolf.
"That's very kind. I'm not sure what Dief would want to do if--he refuses to discuss the subject. But I'm sure he'd be glad of any assistance you felt able to offer."
"He's quite taken with you."
"Taken with me? That's good?"
"He likes you," Fraser translates.
Ray isn't sure why he's so happy about that, but he is. "Cool."
"He's a good judge of character."
Ray remembers something else from the dossier then. "Sometimes he blames things on the wolf." Ray had figured the other Ray had meant, like, farts. But maybe he means this. Feelings. "I bet Speedy would like you, too."
"I'd like to meet him sometime." Fraser says it real serious, like a turtle is somebody you get introduced to, shake hands with.
"Yeah, maybe next time we can have pizza at my place," Ray agrees. Next time, too, he'll have to talk about the more important stuff. Stella, the bank, his parents--but he feels like he made a pretty good start.
End Wolf and Turtle by Alex51324
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