Author's website: http://www.mrks.org/~viridian/
Disclaimer: All things _due South_ belong to Alliance no matter how much I want Ray K to belong to me. No infringement intended. Suing me would be a waste of time. Besides, I'm poor, and I'd just kick you in the head.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Kasha for beta, thanks to Alyx for telling me which Canadian agencies might make the grab, and thanks to cmshaw for helping me with a lay/lie thing early on. Go me for getting "lay" right the first time. Thanks to Kass and Kasha for listening,
reading, and commenting as the bits settled. The summary is from "Neverland (a fragment)" by The Sisters of Mercy.
Story Notes: SPOILERS: "Call of the Wild."
This is an alternate sequel to "Long, Long Way from Home" in the Borderlands (One for Sorrow) series. Reading the actual sequel, "Nevermore," would only make the experience richer. *cough* This story also has tendrils from the Things Once Linked series in it.
I first got the idea for this during my three days of jury duty in January 2001. Maybe that's why it's so dark. I realized that there were some _X-Files_ elements in Borderlands and wondered what might have happened in a more XF-ish universe.
This story is a sequel to: Long, Long Way From Home
I walked the road under the stars alone. Couldn't sleep. I loved Ben, but I couldn't take any more of his worry over my insomnia and my weirdness. I couldn't take him thinking that I was nuts. I loved Dief--not in the same way, of course--but he was attached to the freakiness, and he reminded me of my dogs, my sled dogs I had to give up. The Mounties better be treating Santa's Little Helpers right.
Nights were harder for me to take, even in this small town as opposed to the big wilds. Though this town was considered pretty big by local standards, since the small airport nearby drew people in just like it did us. Most of the town was asleep and felt like a dull, annoying buzz now, but a lot of the local animals were awake and hunting for food. Feeling small critters bite the dust every so often didn't do much for my mood.
Better off without the people around, though. I was kind of trying to avoid them. People kept looking at me funny, and I kept getting into fights. I know it's stupid but can't help myself, not with the way I keep itching. They're not friendly, they don't trust strangers much, and they don't like me. Sometimes I go on the attack and then wonder later if the person actually said what I thought I'd heard.
I'm too damned open out here. Ravens and mind reading and mystical shit....
Much as I hated going back to Chicago with my tail between my legs, my head needed the break. I just hoped that things would be better there.
Wait a minute. It wasn't just animals on the hunt tonight. Somebody was hunting me. Several somebodies. I heard them a little, but mostly I heard them, like distant radio stations playing under static, too complicated and mentioning my frigging name too often to be animals. The volume kept getting louder.... Details came in pretty clear with everybody else asleep. I couldn't hear full thoughts but I heard wants, and they wanted me.
I didn't have a gun, and I was outnumbered. Dammit.
I walked around a bit, trying to lose them, but I didn't know the town and it was too small anyway. Small and simple, on a grid pattern. And I didn't trust what pathetic little woodcraft I have at night.
I started to briskly but "casually" walk to the boarding house to get Fraser. Damn, I had somebodies in front of me too. And to the sides. They were fucking hemming me in. When they came closer they didn't look too menacing, but they were all around me and I could feel them. Seven guys. Maybe I should have felt flattered that they figured they might need that many. They were kind of excited about the possibility that I might put up a fight and they might have to hurt me bad to put me down, but otherwise they were cold because it was nothing personal to them. Professionals.
I didn't intend to let anybody put me anywhere or use me as some kind of means to an end. It pissed me off being dicked around by people I didn't even know and hadn't done anything to.
The first guy had a big friendly smile. "Detective Kowalski. We'd just like to talk to you for a moment."
All officer of the law to officer of the law, like official business. I knew better. I was nuts, but I hadn't lost it that far. "It's really late, and I just wanna get back to my room. We can talk in the morning." They were all moving in closer, tightening the noose.
"It's very important."
"Nothing's that important."
Lightning.... Shit, they were firing up tazers. I moved, knocked one guy down, punched another guy, elbowed somebody else, shouted.... The tazer hit like a punch in the head. As I fell and everything went black, I tore my bracelet loose and tried to fling it a bit. Ben has to--
Ray had been gone a very long time, and, much as I trusted him, I knew that he hadn't been well. Surely he didn't need this much space. "Dief, we're going out to find Ray," I said as I stood and put on my coat. Dief told me that it was about time.
As soon as we walked out into a night that was showing the faintest touch of the coming thaw, Dief bounded away on Ray's trail, and I bounded after him, trying to lose my worries in the pounding of my feet and heart, the rush of my blood. I'd be taking Ray home to Chicago tomorrow for his own mental safety, and it would be beyond cruel for something to happen to him now.
Dief stopped suddenly in front of me and barked. I dropped to my knees nearby, searching for something, anything. I found nothing, no signs of anything untoward. Dief, however, barked again a meter away. Ray's bracelet, broken and lying in the road like trash, gleamed dully in the beam of my flashlight. There had to have been some kind of struggle for it to come loose and break like that, because it stayed hidden under his glove and coat whenever he went out. But I saw no traces, no hints, as to the identity of his kidnappers. To Dief's consternation, he couldn't pick up Ray's scent any further. They must have carried him away. Shortly thereafter the scent trails leaving this scene became a mess, impossible to follow.
Then it started to rain, nature itself working against us. It sounded loud against my hat and quickly soaked through my jeans and gloves.
As my stomach dropped, my mind raced into overdrive. Who would do this? This town had very little crime aside from the occasional drunken bar brawl or petty theft. If he'd been robbed, he would have made it home. If murdered.... When I let myself think about that, I had to say that if he'd been murdered I would have surely found his... body. Why would they carry him away?
Who would want him or us? Who had a score to settle? I could only think of Muldoon, but he hadn't been a man to inspire loyalty in his minions, not when he casually disposed of them like trash. Yet I could not think of anyone else. What insane plans might an associate of Muldoon's have for Ray? At best I could expect a ransom demand. At worst....
I would find Ray. That was the best case scenario.
Dief suggested that we get out of the rain and pick this up again in the morning. We'd accomplish nothing further here now except sickening ourselves.
I wanted to howl.
That morning, I found out that no one had heard anything. As Ray would say, it was a neighborhood of deaf, blind, and dumb people. The complete lack of leads especially grated on me after a long night spent in sleepless anxiety. I had very little patience left in me.
The local constable would not open a case, refusing to see the broken bracelet, which I'd left there as evidence, as enough to indicate an assault. "It could have just broken and fallen off." The scene presented no other evidence. In any case, Ray hadn't been missing long enough for anyone to be concerned. My concern obviously meant nothing. I mentioned that we would be leaving for Ray's home today, that he knew no one here and had nowhere else to stay, that we had enemies, but none of my efforts sparked any interest. I even attempted to trade on our current notoriety as the men who'd helped capture Muldoon and thus might be targets, but to no avail.
"He's a Yank. Who knows what he's thinking? I'm sure he'll return."
I found the constable's attitude very strange. He'd arrived with a look that suggested that his mind had been made up long before I'd said a word. Had he been bought off?
"Constable Fraser," he said as I started to leave.
"We've heard that you have a tendency to flout hierarchy when you feel the situation calls for it. I firmly suggest that you refrain from doing so here."
Interesting. I retained a blank exterior, while on the inside I fumed. This constable knew too much. If he hadn't been bought off, he was still involved somehow.
I thought of using Ray's methods of intimidation to make him talk, but I knew that if I started to threaten this man I wouldn't be able to stop short of actual violence. I would wring his neck until he confessed, and if he refused to confess I would wring his neck until he died.
Seeing no help here and facing far too much unholy temptation, I took Ray's bracelet from the street and went to call Buck. If the local officers would provide no help, I would have to make my own. Buck wouldn't give me any nonsense about Ray wandering off, and he had many friends and connections amongst the RCMP.
He sounded concerned when I called and promised his help. His connections would cast their net wide. I also asked him to look into the background of one Constable Matthew Cross.
Buck found nothing. I found nothing on my own. No ransom note arrived. My fears mounted. I canceled our place on the flight out.
When I returned to our room that night, I quickly realized that the bed sheets had been changed, leaving no trace of Ray's scent. It disturbed me so deeply that I brought one of his undershirts out of his eccentrically packed bag and slept with it, missing his warmth and heartbeat and especially his presence. My dreams that night were dark and cold, and I couldn't remember that much more of them in the morning. Feeling like ice, brittle and cold, I put Ray's bracelet back on and went out to search again, looking for witnesses or anyone who'd seen anything strange or noteworthy.
That day passed in a way similar to the day before: no leads, no witnesses, nothing out of the ordinary, none of my phone calls to anyone I could consider a law enforcement contact yielding any fruit. I was in a welter of fear and uncertainty, knowing that the longer Ray was gone, the more likely it was that he'd been killed.
Although neither Buck nor I found anything suspicious on Matthew Cross, he'd walk down the road in front of the boarding house every so often. It couldn't quite be called harassment. He chased me away from the scene of Ray's abduction once with an admonition that I was blocking traffic, which, truly I was.
I could fault him on nothing, but I felt how wrong it all was. The urge to murder him grew stronger, and I knew that beating him to a pulp would relieve so much of my stress. Given enough time with him, I could make him talk....
No, I would only kill him. Right now I lacked the finesse for anything else. Besides, it was wrong... illegal and immoral, no matter how right it seemed to me.
That night I fell into my empty bed, tired in body, heart, and soul, but how much worse off must Ray be? And I couldn't find him. I felt helpless and drowned in my emotions. Dief leapt up onto the bed next to me, and I buried my face in his fur.
I examined the scene of Ray's kidnapping again, crouching in the road for another look. Dief barked joyously and bounded up to the person approaching, making me hope that he'd seen Ray. Instead, he pounced on a young man... no, a young woman dressed boyishly in a cowboy style, a dusty bandanna at her throat disguising a lack of an Adam's apple, her dark blonde hair cut in a mannish style beneath the cowboy hat she wore. She wore no makeup, and her tanned skin had a slightly wind-roughened look, while small squint lines bracketed her eyes. She'd even altered her walk to better disguise a different center of gravity. Most people would think her a young man. She had an antique gun holstered at each hip, making me wonder if perhaps the town had some kind of odd festival going on, but then I realized that I was dreaming.
"Hey, Tommy!" she greeted Dief, her voice deep for a woman and somewhat hoarse, her accent an American variant I couldn't place. "This is a good look for you, you scoundrel." The fringe on the sleeves of her dark brown leather jacket swirled a bit, briefly resembling wings, as she crouched beside me. "Can I help?"
Perhaps she could. Perhaps my subconscious had sent me aid. "I hope so. Ray has been taken from me, taken here, but the trail goes cold. I fear that my enemies have kidnapped him." It felt... comfortable to have her here.
She nodded. "It's happened before. Have they made any demands?"
"No, and that worries me."
"They want to sweat you a bit first, maybe."
"That was my thought." I closed my eyes. In a dream, I could admit weakness. "I'm so frustrated."
"So am I."
I opened my eyes. "I don't--"
She looked off into the distance. "I'm lost, Ian. You have to come quick. You have to come quick and get me, because I don't know where I am, and they watch me day and night. And I hate the needles and being helpless." She shook her head, then cocked it in a very familiar way. "Canada never worked out for us."
"Ray?" I asked. She was. And she wasn't.
Why would I imagine Ray as a woman, even a boyish one? It's not as if I had any internal struggles over my orientation.
"They're not criminals in the traditional way. They're part of the government, and as far as they're concerned I am not a citizen. As far as they're concerned, I'm a bridle they can put on you, with a metal bit they can put between your teeth."
I awoke, frustrated and bereft. Then I called Buck and asked him to look into any governmental agencies that had shown signs of irregular activity lately. The whole time I ran the length of Ray's bracelet across my fingers, back and forth.
I spent the day in more fruitless searching. Buck called that evening to say that none of his contacts had noticed anything out of the ordinary.
My head pounded from frustration and fear as my well-developed imagination gave me a variety of horrific images as to what Ray's captors might be doing to him. I needed Ray back, and I feared for his life. And for my sanity.
Dark when I opened my eyes, dark with rainbows when I closed them. I smelled a hospital, sharp and acrid, then mud, then snow, then ozone, then hospital again. Somebody sobbing, pleading; somebody laughing. Pain tore at me, and I couldn't get away from it, especially not with my arms and legs tied down, the shackles creaking. They'd ransom me if they didn't kill me from carelessness first.
Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop....
I had a sharp stone to cut through my bonds... didn't I? I knew I had it. I must have lost it.
The familiar weight settled on my chest, and something ticklish brushed across my neck. "They're molesting that girl next door again," the voice croaked. "Are you sure you don't want to make a deal to get all of you out of here?" Familiar voice.
I used to speak. A lot. I know I did. So I tried. "Nnnnnnh. Whua?" My lips stuck to my teeth, and my throat hurt. Dry, so dry.
It sighed. "Damned drugs."
Yeah, the girl. Something about her people's treasures being stolen or having been stolen ages ago, and she kept demanding them back too loudly. Somebody hadn't liked that. Hadn't liked that a bit.
The orderlies and guards got to use her as a kind of bonus.
I got to feel her being raped.
And she wasn't alone, and I wasn't alone, and we were all in pain and fucked up together, and I wanted it to fucking stop....
I had told Ian how it could be. I'd told him.
"I can stop this," the voice said. "Give me your name and fealty, and we can tear this place apart."
The next thrust ripped through me, bad as it could be, and I ripped back, then fell back onto my sweat-damp pillow, shaking, like I'd strained something after running for miles. But I felt them panicking and leaving her alone. Leaving us alone, thank God. It was all impossible, but being left alone felt good no matter how much my head rang....
Hard to concentrate.
The thing on my chest cackled. "You... you tore the major blood vessel in his dick! I love you, kid. And tore a shackle too. How about the other wrist now? Hatchling?"
"I told Ian why I can't tell anyone." It was safer to be a boy. "I told him...."
"Ian? What the--" It sighed. "I'll still be here when you wake up. Or get back."
I'd been afraid of that.
The trickster confronted me in the street where Ray had been taken, a location I kept dreaming about. He wore my father's face and uniform again, the cloak of raven feathers dark and swirling over the red serge. "You have to help the Yank," he said. "He's unanchored, lost. They have him so drugged that he doesn't know who he is or what's real. It gives him some power, but it makes him dangerous to himself and everyone around him. You might want to hurry."
My heart clenched. "Can you tell me where he is?"
"I'm a primal force of nature. Do you think I understand street addresses?"
Amazing. He was as helpful as my father had been, which was, to say, not very much. When I approached him, he backed away, making me wonder what kind of expression I had on my face.
I had to remain calm, or at least pretend to be calm. Had to. "Then help me."
"I've helped you as much as I can."
"That's not enough!" So much for calm. "Can you at least help him?"
I awoke to the phone ringing. The phone ringing, even at 4 a.m., could mean news. I lunged for it. "Constable Benton Fraser," I answered.
"Turnbull?" I asked.
"I know where Ray is."
I hadn't even let Renfield know that Ray was missing. Perhaps word had filtered down. "How?"
"It would be dangerous to name my sources, sir." He sounded... very awake. I couldn't figure out why that seemed odd to me. "The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has no idea of what it's toying with."
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service? I'd so wanted to believe that Ray had been taken by criminals, no matter what my dream had said, but I'd been kicked too many times by government and corporate agencies to be too surprised here. Enraged, yes, but not surprised. "You said you had an address."
Renfield had more than an address; he gave me directions on how to get to the place where Ray was being held from the boarding house I stayed at. It seemed uncanny, but who was I to complain after speaking with a figure who might be Raven?
Ray had been having such trouble before he was taken. If he truly did suffer from the presence of uncanny abilities, how much worse might they become in confinement, especially while in the clutches of singularly uncaring captors? I had to free him immediately.
"Thank you, Turnbull," I said, as plans swirled through my head. I would dress and leave immediately, 4 a.m. be damned.
"Yes, sir. Please bring him home safe. Good-bye."
I threw on my uniform with vigor, figuring that the uniform would give me more moral authority. I put Ray's bracelet around my wrist, then covered it with my sleeves. Dief barked excitedly, but I said, "I'm sorry, but you can't come along. I doubt these people would respond well to the presence of a half-wolf." Dief snorted in disgust and told me that he would wait outside for us. "That would be fine. Thank you, Dief."
I fumed as I walked in the darkness. Only seven blocks away. All the effort I'd made, and Ray had been only seven blocks away. It was a small town. Dief peeled away from me at the sixth block to prevent whoever was expecting us from knowing that he was around.
Not even in the suspicion of foul play could I break into a government facility, not without evidence of wrongdoing. They no doubt had some plan, and if I went to them they might tell me, and if they were asleep they could be roused. But I doubted that they wouldn't leave a watch.
Indeed, as I reached the entrance the guards smiled at me as if expecting me. One said, "You're late. We thought you'd come yesterday," as he frisked me for weapons.
I knew that they remarked on my "lateness" as a taunt, to gall me, but even knowing that it stung badly. "I'm here to--"
"We know what you're here for. Follow us," one of the guards said. He waved me forward with his gun, indicating that I should walk in front of him. Despite my misgivings, I did, remaining hyper-aware of the three armed men at my back.
Walking through halls painted a sickly green, my nose kept wrinkling at the smell of dust, stale air, and sterilized equipment. It could be argued that those scents combined could be the smell of hopelessness, futility, but I refused that interpretation. The hall somehow felt too quiet aside from the vaguely echoing, soft sound of our footfalls and the momentary squeaky, scuffing sound of an orderly's sneakers against the floor. Fluorescent lighting gave everything an unhealthy glow. I didn't fool myself that the rooms contained behind the thick, heavy, locked doors would be any better.
This place felt so wrong to me that my heart clenched. As I'd fumbled about for days, Ray had been trapped in this purgatory.
A tap of a gun barrel against my shoulder told me to stop and showed me how lost in thought I had been. Such inattention could cost me--and Ray--dearly. This door had its own guard, and he stepped away to open the door and let me pass inside into a small, windowless room. The door shut behind me and the single guard escort with a heavy, final sound. The lights were on, making me wonder if they always kept the lights on at night or they had called ahead and had prepared the room for my arrival.
Dear Lord. Ray....
Ray lay atop the covers on a Spartan bed. In four-point restraints. The red marks and bruises on his wrists and ankles suggested a constant struggle against his padded leather shackles. Oddly, one of the wrist shackles looked significantly different than the other three. He wore a simple, thin, white short-sleeved pajama set. His feet were bare. Gooseflesh roughened his pallid, chill skin and made the hairs stand on end. He smelled sour, of drugs and sponge baths. Did they ever unshackle him at all? The IV line attached to his arm sure as hell suggested that they didn't feed him as if he were a healthy, functional human being. At last I looked at his face. Asleep or unconscious, he still had lines of suffering at the corners of his closed eyes and bracketing his mouth. His thick stubble suggested that he hadn't shaved since before he'd been taken.
I was outraged. I was sick.
When I knelt beside his bed I could feel the cold of the bare floor through my jodhpurs. I set my head on the thin pillow next to his and whispered, "Ray, I will get you out of here. I swear it."
He turned his head toward me in a random, tossing fashion, but he opened one eye, the eye closest to the pillow, and murmured, "Gotta get us all out of here. Political prisoners." His low voice sounded harsh and gravelly, more like a bird's croak than human speech. His pupil was dilated, but he sounded rational.
And he seemed to fear that he was under surveillance. He was no doubt right.
Political prisoners. Everyone here was imprisoned unjustly?
I squeezed his hand in answer and reassurance, wincing at how icy he felt. I couldn't allow him to be kept here, not one more day, not one more hour. Not one more minute either, but I knew that I had no hope of achieving that one.
"Kenny will wanna see ya. He'll tell you what's up," Ray whispered.
I nearly snarled when a heavy hand fell upon my shoulder. "Our captain wants to see you," the guard said. "To discuss terms."
When I turned to face Ray again, there were no indications that he'd ever been conscious. His closed eyes looked almost bruised. I put my hand on his dark, almost greasy looking hair and felt oil cling to my fingers. Everything about him spoke of being ill-kept, ill-treated, ill-used.
I swallowed down my outrage, knowing that I would be no good to anyone if I let myself drown under my emotions. As I left the room with the guard, the other two rejoined us. The halls all looked the same, but I counted my steps and the turns. I also needed time to plan. Security here seemed to be anything but lax. I would talk to this Kenny and get a better idea of the situation.
And Kenny would pay.
The office they led me to didn't match the rest of the institution. It was airy, roomy, almost cheerful. The lamps here provided a warm, golden light. Very different from the conditions my Ray suffered under.
"Constable Fraser, Ben. Have a seat," the man said in a friendly fashion. The desk he sat at lacked a nameplate to identify him.
"I'd prefer to stand, thank you." The psychology of power could be useful. I noticed that the guards left and closed the door behind us.
"If that suits you better." The man--perhaps Ray's Kenny?-- continued to smile, an expression becoming less welcome by the moment. "Look at you. You could be a recruitment poster. The public has gotten some romantic ideas about you since your dispatch of the Muldoon situation. You're physically attractive, and you have a certain idealist, pioneer spirit. Even your wolf is photogenic. You're a credit to your uniform and could be more so if only your superiors had the slightest idea of how to best utilize you instead of wasting you in exile in Chicago."
"Thank you," I said as I wondered where this was going.
Calm. A display of rage wouldn't impress a man such as this to do anything beyond letting the guards back in. I schooled my face to stillness and tried to school my mind to it as well. Calm and cold. I would think better that way.
"The problem seems to come in leashing that idealism of yours."
And here it came. "Sir?"
"I've studied you, Ben, so your oblivious routine does nothing for me, but I will become more specific. Some people we could pay off. Promise them that their family will be safe and that we will let their loved ones stay free. You, you have a long history of putting yourself and others at risk for your ideals. Thus, we have to take a more pro-active approach in keeping you under control. You only have yourself to blame."
"I refuse to accept that." Factions of my country were illegally holding citizens hostage, and it was our fault?
"Of course you do. We knew that you would from our study of you. You're a man of few physical attachments, an ascetic, and most of the people you formed some links to were Yanks, a problem until recently." He sat back. "Now it is our boon. Detective Kowalski's legal status can easily become very hazy."
Something cold squirmed in my stomach. "He is an American citizen."
"One we can make disappear very easily. We already have. Witnesses to his erratic behavior can be produced from any of the towns you stayed at."
Normally I could play this game longer, but the memory of a deeply drugged Ray confused and strapped to a bed burned. "Is that a threat, sir?"
"We have no need to threaten. I'm merely stating facts. We're not official. That way the government can disavow anything we do, and we don't have watchdogs looking over our shoulder. It's very freeing."
"You had no reason to treat him as you have while he's been in your custody. I couldn't trust his safety to you even if I felt inclined to do so."
"It was unfortunate but necessary. We personally find this distasteful ourselves, but you know what duty is like, Constable Fraser. Your partner is volatile."
Not that volatile, dammit. "Please don't insult me or him."
"Yet our treatment of him has uncovered something that may facilitate his citizenship."
The switch from stick to carrot left me momentarily stunned. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"His abilities. Perhaps our intelligence on him was incorrect or out of date, or it may be that the drugs broke through to something he'd always possessed. His talents are wild, utterly untrained, and may well require the application of sedation to use--" he smiled deeper as I bristled, "but very much there."
Oh, Ray. "What talents would these be?"
"Enhanced intuition. Mild precognition and what seems to be telekinesis. He talks with something only he can see that may be a drug-induced hallucination but might not. Department H is quite interested."
Department H was said to work on developing paranormal operatives. I'd heard stories of their zeal for driving on until they achieved results. "He'll want no part of that. In any case, he isn't even Canadian." I would take him home. To his home.
"Yet his talents manifested while he was here, making them Canadian."
I almost snorted. "That may be the most ridiculous nonsense I've ever heard, and that is in a long life of hearing nonsense."
"Ben, Ray could stay with us in his current capacity, or he could take a position at Department H and gain Canadian citizenship and all of its advantages. Which do you think will be more beneficial to him and you in the long run?"
Unknowingly, he slapped me in the face with my own selfishness. My own former selfishness.
"I will tear this building down around your head first," I growled.
"I think not. It wouldn't be wise. We're under surveillance at this very moment. I could make one gesture, twitch even, and Ray's IV line could be filled with something far more dangerous than his current cocktail. We're only asking you to serve your country, Ben."
I pulled restlessly at the leather straps. Parts of me kept thinking that maybe I'd imagined Ben being here--I had before--but I could feel him too. He hadn't gone far. But he was in pain....
"That's for sure," One for Sorrow said, a heavy weight on my chest. "They're using you as a bargaining chip against him. Speaking of bargaining, are you sure you don't want me to get you out of here so they can't do that to him?"
They couldn't do that. I wouldn't let them. I had to get out.
I felt a sharp, ripping pain, with sparks behind my eyes, at the thought of it. The strap on my right wrist snapped, making One for Sorrow hop off my chest to the bedpost when my freed arm flew up. "Maybe I don't need you after all, Big Bird."
"You shouldn't be able to do that now."
As opposed to when?
It hurt like hell, but so did punching a wall. If I just needed to rip and spark a little to get free....
Rip... and the one at my left wrist snapped too. "Oh, yeah?"
Sitting up gave me a head rush to beat all head rushes, but I had a job to do, and the anger of seeing Ben's folks trying to screw him over again and trying to use me to do it cut through the haze a bit. When it looked like I only had one IV in my arm instead of two, I pulled it out, gritting my teeth at the pain. The feeling I got when the ankle shackles snapped reminded me of how it felt the time I broke my arm when I was eight--weird, deep, and sick, almost blinding--but I couldn't stop now.
The floor swam beneath my feet, and the walls wavered. My knees felt like they had Jell-O in them.
"How are you going to get out?" One for Sorrow asked, sounding curious now instead of taunting.
The door blew off its hinges in a small storm of sparks, and it didn't hurt at all. "Like that?"
"You're a true son of chaos, hatchling," the raven said as he settled on my left shoulder, heavy, but he smelled of summer and winter instead of stale, institution air and suffering, so I didn't mind much.
Three armed guards, guns drawn, waited on the other side of the door, but they didn't look very brave. Right now they just pissed me off. I was bringing this whole place down.
"Get back in the room," the head guy said.
"Fuck off," I answered and blew doors off the cells all the way down the hall, distracting the guards.
I punched out two, then somehow knocked the last one into the wall in a way that I didn't understand. Whatever. They were out cold. My right eyebrow kind of burned and stung, and when I touched it my fingers came away bloody. It didn't feel real.
In the halls, other detainees wandered around, some saner and soberer than others were. "Hey!" I said. "Make your way out. If your neighbors can't make it out on his or her own power, help 'em. Get help outside. Make a lot of noise."
A sound like popping corn made me look up, and I saw the overhead fluorescent bulbs and wall-mounted cameras blowing up. This was cool. One for Sorrow cackled.
"Where are you going?" a woman asked.
Blinking the red haze of blood out of my eye, I said, "I gotta date with Kenny."
"You have a big black bird on your shoulder."
Hunh. She saw the raven. "I know. Get out before more guards show up. Get. Out." And I turned away, because I didn't have the time for this, not with Kenny somewhere else pulling Ben's wings off.
I didn't know where Kenny was, not even with Ben with him, but I figured that my rubber knees could hold me up long enough, even while I had a big black bird on his shoulder, to search the swaying halls that looked different depending on which eye I looked at them through. Kenny had some things to pay for, and I was coming to collect.
"You didn't make it easy to find you," I said, fighting the urge to snarl. "I'm surprised. I would figure that the whole point would rest in me finding Ray and learning what you wanted me to do."
"You needed to know how much you would miss your friend, so you'd---" The lights flickered overhead, leaving my tormentor looking worried. "That's--"
Something crashed behind me. I turned to see Ray standing in the suddenly empty doorway, with the door lying on the floor. His eyes wide and wild, Ray looked utterly insane, especially with the dark chafe marks on his wrists and bright blood sluggishly trickling down the right side of his face and onto the white of his shirt. "Hey, Benny-Ben. Hey, Kenny-Ken."
Kenny had a gun in his hand for only seconds before he cried out in pain as it was ripped from his hand by an invisible force, going off as it hit the wall. He grunted as it shot him, blood blooming from the side of his neck. However, he hadn't been dealt a killing shot, merely a superficial wound.
Before I could even move, Ray had run toward the desk, leapt up onto it with almost inhuman grace, grabbed Kenny by his tie, and crouched there, barefoot, holding him up close. "Ray--" I started. When Ray shook his head almost convulsively, I fell into the seat I'd been offered at the beginning of the interview. A... force kept me pinned there. "Ray!" I shouted as I struggled against it, trying to stand.
"I wouldn't call his attention at the moment," a coarse voice said from near my shoulder. A large raven sat atop the back of the chair. "Might not be healthy."
"Some have called me that," it said. "I'm not used to you being able to see me outside of dreamtime. Hey, how many feathers am I holding up?" It cackled and preened. "You know, I could get used to this. Sit back and enjoy the show. They put him in the worst place for someone with his sensitivities, and now it's time to reap what they've sown."
"I set everybody free, Kenny," Ray said. "All the people you drugged up and bound up and raped and fucked with, they're on their way out. It's gonna be a big, messy scene when they get outside. Lots of attention."
"You're not a killer, Ray," I said, although I certainly would not mind making Kenny pay the final price for what he'd done. But I didn't want Ray to do it. I feared for him.
"Think I killed some guys on the way over here. Hard to say. Like this." Ray waved one hand a little, and a bookshelf fell over. Kenny choked and bled a little faster as he dangled from Ray's other hand.
I thought I'd feared for him before? I could run hysterical later over how Ray did all this, on how so much I'd dismissed was in fact truth.
I wasn't so shocked that I missed how the pressure on me had lifted a bit. I would get out of this chair and help him.
Ray's eyes were wild and dilated. "You think there's justice for this guy and his cronies? You know how much he's gotten away with over the years? How many people he's hurt? How much he fucking gets off on it?"
I saw the guard appear at the open doorway and raise his gun, aiming for Ray. Pulling the boot knife I'd secreted, I yelled to distract and slow the man, then threw for his throat even as I threw myself toward Ray to sweep him out of the way. But Ray had already let go of Kenny and started to fall backwards as if thrown aside, out of the path of the coming bullet. I heard the bang of the gun going off and a gurgle but didn't stop to interpret it, not when I had all my focus on Ray, grabbing him and cushioning his fall with my own body.
A trickle of blood ran from his right nostril, making me check frantically for bullet wounds, but I found none. He turned his head against my neck and murmured sleepily, "It's over here. No more guards in this section."
Kenny was slumped, quite dead, atop his desk. He had a messy exit wound in his back to go along with the gash in his neck. Raven danced across his desk, then faded away, smudging from glossy bird to thin shadow to nothing at all. I could swear I heard him say, "You can thank me for his life later," before he disappeared. The guard who'd unknowingly shot his supervisor was sprawled along the floor with my knife in his throat. That gave me far too much satisfaction.
They'd studied me, and the domesticated Constable Benton Fraser of record wouldn't secrete a knife in his boot, so they hadn't checked. I'd schooled my mind to reflect that Constable Fraser so well as they'd frisked me that I hadn't even let the thought of that knife cross my brain. They hadn't realized that where Ray was concerned, I was a different person. I would not be anything less than fierce in defense of my loved ones.
Holding tightly to Ray with one arm, unwilling to let him go, I pulled Kenny's phone across the desk with the other. I would call my people to get an investigation initiated here. I learned.
And they wouldn't be allowed to take Ray out of my sight.
He slept quietly, peacefully, in my arms until the authorities came, though he still looked exhausted when he woke, with nothing uncanny about him. I spent the waiting time watching him and thinking.
Ray looked normal, if tired, as he gave his statement to the authorities, but the moment we were done and out of plain sight, he slumped against the alley wall, pulling himself down into the shelter of his borrowed coat like a turtle into its shell. "God, I wanna cigarette," he slurred.
"You don't smoke," I replied numbly.
Ray smiled a little. "Not in years, no, but I wanna now. Not even sure who I am right now...." Though he certainly seemed like the Ray I knew. Dief nosed his hand.
I gently pulled at Ray until he leaned against my side instead of the wall and put my arm around him. Too proud, he'd refused my physical support while he gave his statement, but I understood that kind of pride and couldn't repudiate it.
"You're Detective Ray Kowalski, my partner, my lover, and my friend." He felt like a bundle of sticks against me. "And I love you."
He sighed in contentment, then said, "They're using this, you know." Ray looked tired and pale, his skin color matching the white of the gauze bandage covering the wound on his brow. A blood vessel had broken in his left eye, leaving a small red spot in the white sclera. "They're saying they were attacked and ransacked by some other country's operatives. Using it as proof that they need more money. And with all the electromagnetic shit I had going on around me--"
"Electromagnetic?" I had to ask.
Ray shrugged. "Blew out the camera and computer records in there. Tapes and drives wiped clean. If we're lucky, maybe they kept all the data on me in-house. I don't understand it any better than you do. You look worried, Ben."
"I am worried."
"Don't worry. I think I burnt myself out a bit, and I couldn't bend a spoon right now. At least I got you to believe me."
The thought of him believing that I thought him an insane liar after all of this appalled me. "Ray, that's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about you, but not in that way. I know now that you're simply attuned to things that most people aren't aware of. I saw Raven. I should have believed you, Ray, but I've spent so much time denying the uncanny things I've seen that I've locked myself into a habit of denial."
When Ray closed his eyes, the slim, tired smile that crossed his face looked anything but happy at having been proven right. "I don't remember everything that happened. There are these holes.... Think I killed a few people." He took a deep breath. "Think I liked it. At the time."
"And you wonder why I'm worried about you."
Constable Matthew Cross passed our alley, sparing us only a glance. He'd arrived with the other officers, looking ostentatiously innocent. I'd retrieved my knife earlier and felt the urge to use it.
"He'll get his," Ray said, then opened his eyes and asked, "You wanna take me home, Ben?" before I could make a comment back.
"Beyond a doubt, Ray."
"You think we'll get there without any other evildoers getting in the way?"
"It's hard to say." Missing our old way of relating to one another, I hesitantly asked, "Can't you see it?"
Ray heard the tease and smiled a little. "Funny guy."
"Unfortunately, I believe that we'll be forced to remain in Canada at least until preliminary investigations are done. I'm sorry." I hated to have to tell him that. I would have rather lied. "Whatever help you need with your sensitivities, I shall do my best to provide."
Ray leaned harder on me, seemingly weakened by those words. "Can you at least take me away from here?"
"Ray," I whispered, "I shall remain a constable through this investigation and Muldoon's trial, the better to take advantage of the resources attached to the position, but after that I shall resign. I refuse to serve any authority that would allow this to happen to you. Tonight I'm bringing you home, but sometime in the future you'll be bringing me home. With you." I took a deep breath. "If you still want to after this."
"You've always been a Mountie."
"My father is gone. Completely now. You're alive, and so am I, and I'd like dearly to keep us that way." I shook my head but couldn't think of a clearer way to express myself. How could Ray understand what I meant?
Yet Ray seemed to. "Together, huh?"
"Yes. Dear god, yes."
Ray's lips tasted faintly bloody, but he felt so hot and so good in my arms, and a kiss and tight embrace made far more direct statements than anything I could have managed.
More Viridian5 stories can be found in The Green Room version 2.0 at http://www.mrks.org/~viridian/
No-frames but no-frills access available at http://www.mrks.org/~viridian/Viridian_side.htm
Fandoms represented: due South, Hard Core Logo, Twitch City, Andromeda, X-Files, Once a Thief, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Angel, Two Guys and a Girl (was Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place), X-Men, Smallville, Doctor Who, Fight Club, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
End Neverland by Viridian5: Viridian5@aol.com
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