This story got away from me. I thought it was only going to be a couple pages, but it surprised me and took an unexpected turn. It didn't turn out the way I thought it would, but then, when does anything turn out the way you thought it would? 'Strange Bedfellows' is one of my favorite season 3 eps because it gives us some insight about Kowalski. The scene at the very end, where Ray is dancing alone in his apartment and we hear the music he and Stella had danced to in the background, intrigued me and made me wonder what was going on inside his head. Part way through writing the story (at a point where I was blocked, nonetheless) I started thinking about what a close bond Fraser and Kowalski managed to form in such a short time. The two ideas somehow ended up connected in my head (who knows why, I can never figure out how my mind works) and this was the result.
This story takes place immediately following 'Strange Bedfellows', and to make sense of this story you need to have seen the ep, or at least be really familiar with what happened in it.
Standard disclaimer. They don't belong to me...yadda, yadda, yadda.
No Mounties, cops, or wolves were injured during the writing of this fiction--just put through the emotional wringer.
G, but there's some mental/emotional distress, so maybe PG?
by Casey Reyner (email@example.com)
He had lied. He had lied to Fraser and he had lied to himself. When Fraser asked him if he meant what he said to Dwayne, he said no and tried to convince himself that was true. But he couldn't deny it any longer-- he had really been talking about himself and Stella, not Dwayne and Diane. And now that he acknowledged that, and everything it implied, there was no way to keep deluding himself it could ever be the same, no way to keep alive the hope for a reconciliation.
He sat down heavily in an armchair and sighed deeply. The lying itself didn't bother him, he'd do it anytime a lie suited his purposes better than the truth. Of course, he didn't usually lie to Fraser, but he hadn't really meant to. No, what bothered him was that he had been able to lie to himself for so long. On some level, he had always known that it was over between him and Stella, but he had been pretty good at ignoring that and continuing to hope they would get back together. His head had known reality, but his heart had refused to accept it. This whole thing with the Alderman, though, and especially Dewey's statement about Ray having been replaced, forced his heart to finally admit that he was no longer a part of Stella's life.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger and decided he needed a beer. He stood slowly, as if he were physically weighed down by his troubles, and shuffled into the kitchen. He returned to the living room with his beer and took a look at his CD collection. One CD caught his eye and he had a sudden urge to listen to it. It wasn't long before his apartment was filled with the music he and Stella had danced to only a few hours earlier. He put his beer down on top of the stereo and began moving around the room, mimicking the steps he and Stella had performed in her apartment, remembering and reliving all the times they had danced together.
The song ended and he sat down on the edge of an armchair, suddenly weary. The memories were bitter-sweet, making him want to laugh and cry at the same time, and the abrupt onslaught of emotions was overwhelming. He wanted to cry--he needed to cry--for the end of this relationship he had thought would last forever, and for the loneliness he felt. Each day when he woke up alone, he had to fight the urge to just stay in bed and sleep away the day. His desires and plans for the future had been so wrapped up with Stella that, without her, he felt empty and a little lost, like there was no point to his life anymore. He felt like his life was over now that Stella wasn't a part of it.
But he couldn't cry. He had done his crying a long time ago and now, even when he felt he needed to, he couldn't cry over Stella and that lost part of his life. He stood up, trying to shake himself out of this mood, and crossed the room. He picked up his beer and took a swig, then noticed the bottle had left a wet ring on the stereo. He wiped up the puddle with his jacket sleeve, and smiled as he thought about the way Stella would have scolded him if she were there.
He set the beer back down, shrugged out of his jacket, and tossed it across the back of a chair. He drained the last of the beer and took the bottle in to the kitchen where he carelessly tossed it into a recycling bin. He pushed aside a pile of dirty dishes and pulled himself up onto the counter. He thought about the events of the past couple of days. Seeing Stella with Orsini made him realize she had moved forward and he had been running in place all this time, certain that one day they would work out their problems and things would go back to the way they had been, only better. She seemed sure that their marriage was over for good. He didn't want it to be over, but he knew that when he told Dwayne 'when it's over it's over and you have to accept that' he had really been talking about himself.
He sighed and jumped down. He was restless and began moving around the apartment for no other reason than just to be moving. After puttering around some, picking up a magazine and putting it back down, moving the dirty dishes from one spot on the counter to another, he realized he didn't want to stay in the apartment. He wanted to go out and do something. But not alone.
Fraser was hooking Dief up to the front of the dog sled when he heard the ringing. He straightened up and looked around him at the vast white expanse of the Yukon and wondered where the sound could be coming from. Dief barked and Fraser looked down to where the wolf should have been, but saw only snow. Confused, Fraser looked back up. The ringing was louder, and he heard Dief bark again, seemingly right in his ear. Fraser turned his head to the side and came face to muzzle with Dief. Fraser sat up quickly and looked around, seeing not the Yukon, but his office at the Consulate. And that incessant ringing was his phone.
"RCMP," Fraser mumbled into the phone, the only semi-intelligent thing he could think of at the time.
"Hey, Fraz. What's wrong? You sound strange," Ray's voice, much too alert for this time of night, questioned.
"I was asleep, Ray," Fraser answered, beginning to wake up and resenting it.
"Oh, really? Sorry," Ray replied, not sounding the least bit repentant. "Well, since you're up, you wanna go do something? Wanna get something to eat?"
Fraser didn't respond for a moment, wondering what in the world was going on with Ray. He looked at his watch and said into the phone, "Ray, do you know what time it is?"
"Huh? It's kinda late, I guess, but I'm hungry. Come on, we'll go to Denny's, they're always open."
Fraser couldn't believe how dense his partner was. "I shouldn't be surprised," he thought sourly, "he can be kind of self-centered at times." But Ray only acted like this when he had something on his mind and he had been preoccupied the last several days. Since this thing with his ex-wife had begun he had been acting stangely, almost possessed. Fraser figured his friend needed to talk but wouldn't come right out and say so. Thinking wistfully about the night of sleep he was going to miss, Fraser sighed inwardly and said, "Ok, Ray. Pick me up in 10 minutes?"
"You got it. See you in a few."
When Ray pulled up in front of the Consulate, Fraser was already waiting outside with Dief. In fact, if the Mountie hadn't been wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt, Ray might have thought Fraser was standing guard. "I wouldn't be surprised if he did sometimes play statue in the middle of the night," Ray mumbled.
Fraser opened the car door and let Dief climb in the back seat before sliding in next to Ray. "I hope you're paying, because I'm out of US money," Fraser grumbled. He knew he wasn't being very polite, but he was a little bitter about being pulled out of bed. It had been so long since he'd had a good night's sleep, and on the top of that he had been having a very lovely dream about home. He was struck by a pang of home sickness, but shook it off and focused on what Ray was saying.
"...and Teemu Selanne made this amazing shot that has got to be one of the greatest I've ever seen. Did you see it?" Ray was speaking enthusiastically; he loved hockey and was glad he and Fraser had that in common.
"No, Ray, I didn't see the game."
"You didn't see it? You missed a game between the Ducks and the Canucks, a show-down between two of the best forwards currently playing? What kind of hockey fan are you?" he exclaimed incredulously.
I was working, Ray. How did you manage to see the game, might I ask? We were working together at the time of the game."
"I taped it. I can lend you the tape if you want."
"I'd appreciate that. Thank you, kindly, Ray."
Inside the restaurant, the Mountie and the Detective settled into their seats and studied their menus in relative silence. While they ate, they talked about sports and work and basically made small talk. Dief ignored them and concentrated on devouring every single crumb of the burger the manager had provided for the wolf free of charge.
A silence fell over the table as both men concentrated on finishing their meals, and Fraser stole a glance at his friend. He wondered when Ray was going to get around to saying whatever it was that had compelled him to call the Mountie in the dead of night.
Ray finished his food, pushed his empty plate away, and leaned back in his seat. He had just opened his mouth to say something when the waitress interrupted him by asking if they would like anything else. Ray ordered a piece of cheesecake and more coffee, and Fraser asked for hot chocolate. Fraser waited for Ray to begin speaking again, but the Detective was silent.
Seeing that Ray wasn't going to talk about whatever was bothering him without some prodding, Fraser asked gently, "Ray, what's wrong? What is troubling you so much that you dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night?"
"I'm sorry, Fraser," Ray sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "It's just...this thing with Stella the past coupla days, it's brought up old emotions, and made me think..."
Ray stopped talking when the waitress returned with the cheesecake, hot chocolate, and a piece of cherry pie. She served the two men their desserts and placed the pie (also complements of the house) in front of Dief, who quickly began gobbling it up before Fraser could take it away. She smiled at the wolf and patted him on the head, before leaving to get Ray's coffee.
Fraser leaned down closer to the wolf and said, "You're going to get fat if you keep this up, you realize that don't you?"
The waitress returned and refilled Ray's coffee cup, favored the wolf with another smile, and left the men to their conversation. Fraser sipped his hot chocolate and waited for Ray to begin speaking. Ray took several bites of his cheesecake and washed them down with a gulp of coffee before clearing his throat.
"I know that we're divorced, I realize that, but just because a piece of paper says we're not married anymore doesn't mean I feel any differently," Ray just let his thoughts tumble out as they came to him. "I've been thinking of her as my wife since we were in high school. I knew then that I was gonna marry her, and I figured we'd buy a house, have a family, and grow old together. I thought we'd be spending our lives together. It's not like I can just stop thinking like that. I know that we're divorced and I know that that means I'm supposed to get on with my life alone, but I don't know if I want to, or even if I can. She's the only woman I've ever loved, probably the only woman I'll ever love. I still love her and I don't want to live without her.
Ray had been speaking passionately, sitting up and gesticulating with his hands. But when he finished talking, he slumped back into his seat as if he were a deflated balloon. Fraser took a moment to collect his thoughts and figure out what he should say to his friend.
Unsure as to how Ray would receive what he was about to say, Fraser chose his words carefully, "Sometimes the way we think our lives are going to work out isn't the best thing for us. Sometimes we can't see that what looks like an unfortunate happenstance is actually an event that will lead us to a greater happiness and a more fulfilled life."
"Yeah? Like what?" Ray had a hard time believing what Fraser was saying. How could his divorce possibly bring about anything good?
"When I first came to Chicago..." Fraser began.
Ray interrupted, "You were on the trail of your father's killer, yadda, yadda, yadda. I know that Fraser. What does this..."
"Ray, please, let me continue."
Ray just nodded his head and squirmed a little in his seat, trying to get comfortable for what he was sure would be a long story.
"When I first came to Chicago," Fraser began again, "I was sure I would hate it. The city is so loud and crowded and dirty. The smog is so thick it was hard to breathe, and the lights are so bright they block out the stars. The closest thing to wilderness around here is the city park and, believe me, it's a pathetic approximation."
Ray nodded in agreement. The park was little more than a patch of grass and a few trees. It was far from clean, and it was littered with winos and junkies.
"I thought I'd die here, not physically of course, but emotionally. Before I came here, the largest city I had ever been posted in was Moose Jaw, and I had to be transferred out after a few weeks because it was too urban for me. But, contrary to my prediction, I found that I was actually growing here. I found city life fascinating, and I learned something new every day. I made friends, and the Vecchio's adopted me into their family. Now, I can't say that I prefer Chicago to the Yukon, but living in this city has given me the opportunity to have experiences and learn things I never would have encountered in the Territories. So, you see, a change I thought would be tragic, turned out being one of the best things that has ever happened to me."
Fraser paused a moment, considering his next words, then said, "What you had may have been terrific, but you never know what the future holds. There may be something even more wonderful waiting for you that you have never even imagined. I know that's difficult to accept, but you can't live in the past--you have to move along and go where life leads you or you might miss something incredible."
Fraser caught his breath and let Ray consider what he'd just said. Realizing his mouth was dry, Fraser gulped his rapidly cooling hot chocolate. "I hate long speeches," Fraser thought, "They always leave me feeling parched."
Ray was silent for a few moments, and Fraser watched him. He could see the emotions play across Ray's face and he could tell Ray was weighing the Mountie's words against his own thoughts and feelings. Finally, Ray leaned forward and began playing with his empty coffee cup. Looking at the grounds in the bottom of the cup rather than Fraser, he said, "I know you're right. It's not something I'm happy about, but I think I accept it, or I'm starting to." Ray raised his head and looked Fraser in the eye. "Thanks. For everything." He began to lower his head to stare into his cup once more, but snapped his head back up and said, "I'm sorry I woke you up."
"It's ok, Ray. I know you wouldn't have called me if you didn't really need to talk. And I apologize for being rude earlier."
"Ah, hey, no problem Fraser. You wanna get outta here?"
Fraser and Ray rose and Ray carried the bill to the cashier. Fraser followed the Detective until he realized that Dief was not at his side. The Mountie looked back at their table and saw Dief, front paws on the table, licking the plates clean.
"Dief. Dief. Dief. Dief." The wolf ignored him.
Upset and embarrased by his wolf's behavior (though there were maybe two other people in the entire restaurant and they didn't even appear to notice the wolf, let alone seem offended at his behavior), Fraser strode back over to the table.
"Do you realize how rude that is? Not only have you become completely soft here, you have forgotten your manners," Fraser lowered his voice and muttered, exasperated, "Or chosen to ignore them."
"Hey Fraser, let's go," Ray called from the door.
"Come on, let's go," Fraser said to Dief, and then turned to join Ray. The wolf gave the plate he was cleaning one final lick and followed Fraser.
"You know, I really do appreciate you talking with me tonight," Ray said once they got outside and were walking to the car.
Fraser put his arm around Ray's shoulders and said, "Anytime, Ray. Anytime."