I'm afraid that this story is insanely long, but necessarily so. You see it falls into about a million sub categories, including Poetry, Song, Romance, Drama, h/c, rape/nc, and most importantly fix it! Because, let's face it, COTW needed to be fixed. I'm sorry if I mislead anyone (no, I'm not, I mean to mislead you all, keep you guessing) But trust me, the end is worth it. I'd like to say so much more, but I'm afraid I'd give something away. So insert a general disclaimer here (you know the whole their not mine, I'm not profiting, Alliance ect) and enjoy. Critiques, comments, concerns, or if you just really want to know how it ends but can't plow you're way through the bijillon K's you can contact me (and pleas do!) at Ffand@hotmail.com
As Time Goes By (or From Russia with Love or Two Years Later, I couldn't decide.)
Fraser flipped through the pile of bills he had acquired from selling their tack and dogs. The pile that once had seemed more than sufficient now looked frighteningly small. They had had to budget as much as they could, and still once they reached Moscow they would be pennyless. He had been forced to sell the sled and dogs, all except Diefenbaker of course, when the currency they had on them ran out. Fraser suspected that he had been cheated when he sold the sled as well as on the exchange rates for U.S. and Canadian Dollars. But there was precious little he could do about it.
"Are you sure we should have sold those dogs?" Ray asked, for the thousandth time. After nearly two years of living in the great white north, living in the vast silence with only the dogs and Fraser as company he had gotten quite attached. Of course occasionally they would run across another Mountie, or a trapper, of if they were really lucky, Maggie, Fraser's sister, would find a way to cross their path. But those visits were few and far between, and presently down right impossible. Last fall they had followed the trail up into Alaska, and then during the horribly cold winter they had followed the trail of Franklin's reaching hand west, a little too far west. The next thing they knew the people were talking some gibberish language that Fraser claimed was Russian. According to Fraser they somehow had made it across the Pacific Ocean on ice and little islands with the dog sled. They hadn't realized just how far they had gone until they found themselves in the relatively bustling sea port of Magadan on the eastern end of Russia. That's when they sold the dogs and gotten on a bus for some city Ray couldn't pronounce. "Don't those people eat dogs?"
"Don't be silly, Ray." Fraser said. "I've told you several times that their survival depends on dogs, just like in Canada. The dogs will be well treated."
"They'll change their names won't they?"
"Most likely, Fluffy has very little meaning in Russian."
"Fluffy," Ray muttered, remembering the somewhat dim-witted sled dog. "I'm going to miss them, Fraser."
"As am I, but we have to get to Moscow, and we couldn't get there by dogsled."
"Why do we need to get to Moscow?"
"Well, there is both a Canadian and an American Embassy in Moscow, if we intend to get home, which I assume we do,"
"Right on that," Ray interjected.
"Then we'll have to go and explain our situation to the people at the embassies."
"Our situation is that we just sorta wandered into Russia on dogsled and then by hook and by crook we found our way to . . . where are we,"
"Well now, Khabarovsk."
"Into Calbarovitch where we caught the train and we have no passports, no money, and we can't go back the way we came because the ice melted."
"Fraser, I don't even believe that story, and I lived through it!"
"Well, Ray . . ." Fraser started, but something distracted him. He stood stock still, sniffing the air.
"What?" Ray asked. He had walked nearly three yards before realizing Fraser was not in step with him.
"Do you smell that?" The Mountie asked, still sniffing the air.
"Smell what? I don't smell anything, well I do smell stuff but mostly stuff I do not find particularly . . . ah . . . olfactory pleasing."
"You don't smell it then?"
"It's coming from the south, it smells like, well, a summer breeze off a mountain lake."
"I don't smell anything like that," Ray said. "Where would that kind of scent come from?"
"Well . . ." Fraser started, but then realized that he was being ridiculous. "You're right, I must be mistaken. We need to hurry to catch the train."
"Witch train is this again?"
"The trans-Siberian Railroad. It will take us all the way to Moscow, we have just enough money to secure us two tickets."
"Well, he won't need a ticket."
"He's a wolf, Ray."
"But he'll take up a seat."
"Granted, but you wouldn't expect people to pay for an extra seat for their chickens would you?"
Dief barked angrily. "No," Fraser clarified, "I'm not saying that you are equal to a chicken, that's just silly, but I am saying that because you're not human you do not require a ticket."
"There are going to be chickens?" Ray said nervously.
"Yes, Ray," He returned his attentions to Diefenbaker, "No, it's not demeaning."
"I don't like chickens."
"I'm sure chickens won't be anywhere near us."
"Well, we have Dief with us."
"So they won't want to be near us because he'll eat them."
Dief whimpered. "He's not an animal, Ray, he does have self restraint."
Ray shook his head, Franny had been right when she said he was both the smartest and the dumbest person in the world. "Two things you're forgetting, buddy, one, Dief is an animal, two cheese puffs."
"Well," Fraser said rather uncomfortably. "That was a long time ago."
Ray nodded with a knowing smile, "Sure, a long time ago."
Fraser looked at his two steadfast companions, "It's going to be a long trip," he said under his breath.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, Nick," the beautiful brunette said.
"Come on," he slipped his hand around her waist and drew her to him. "There must be something."
"Nothing," she said softly, "nothing."
He pushed his face into her hair, smelled her clear fresh scent, and moved to nibble her ear. "Something."
"I thought I saw someone I knew, but that's silly. I couldn't have seen him." She pushed herself away from him, she hated being close to him, he smelled like vodka and every time he held her she knew he was thinking that she was his. She wasn't.
Nicholas let her go without a struggle. This woman was very strong, very independent, he found that alluring. They both had the same goals, he found that downright intoxicating. At first she had resisted being lovers, she had wanted to keep the relationship professional, but he had given her a night of passion and changed her mind. She was his, and he didn't like her running into people from her past. She never talked about it, he had a feeling that she was running from something. But then again most people in his business had sordid pasts and were running from something. He was going to have to keep an extra close eye on her on this trip. "The past is behind you, baby," he told her as they got on the train. "You can't get it back."
"Believe me, that's one thing I know."
"So?" Ray asked as the pair got settled in their economy class seats. "How long will this trip be?"
"Approximately three days."
"Three days!" Ray exclaimed. "We could have gotten to Moscow faster on dogsled."
"That's ridiculous, Ray," Fraser informed his friend. "The train runs at an average speed of 120 kilometers per hour, or as you might say 80 miles per hour. There will naturally be stops to pick up and drop off other passengers, but this train is run by the government and is kept on schedule. This is the quickest way to get there. I will remind you that we do have to pass across Siberia, quite possibly the most desolate place on earth."
"Even more desolate then the frozen north?"
"Yes, quite. What is it?" Fraser asked Diefenbaker, who had been licking his had incessantly.
The wolf barked softly.
"What do you mean, you know that's impossible."
"What'd he say?" Ray asked.
"Nothing, Diefenbaker is mistaken." He looked at the wolf with an almost angry expression. "Did you hear that? You're mistaken."
"Mistaken about what?" Ray asked.
Dief barked agin, louder this time.
"You know," Fraser informed him. "This is not amusing. In fact it's cruel."
"Fraser, what's the dog telling you?" Ray demanded in frustration.
"Nothing." Fraser insisted, "In fact, I'm ignoring him for the rest of the night."
"You're going to ignore him?" Ray asked, bemused.
"Yes, I intend to."
Ray turned to Dief, "You hear that, he's ignoring you." Dief growled and pushed himself up onto the Mountie's lap. Their faces were only centimeters apart. "I don't think he wants you to ignore him." Ray said.
"Then he'll have to apologize."
Dief growled softly.
"I'm not much at wolf-speak, but I don't think he's going to do that."
"You're right, he want's me to apologize to him." Fraser shook his head in mock disgust. "The very idea."
Without a whimper Deif jumped off the Mountie's lap and started running down the aisle, yipping all the way.
"Don't you think you should follow him?" Ray asked.
"I'm ignoring him, all his ploys are useless."
"You should put him on a leash or something."
"He's responsible for himself." Fraser said with surprising appithy. "He wouldn't dare do anything that could get him in trouble, he knows that it would take very little for him to be thrown off the train and stranded in Russia forever."
"He might not think that's that bad." Ray pointed out. "These Russian woman are pretty attractive."
"If you feel a need to go after him and pick up some women, I'm not going to stop you."
"Great," Ray said getting up, but half way up something occurred to him, "You wouldn't tell Maggie about it, would you?"
"Oh, Ray, You're my partner." Fraser said. Ray finished standing up and started to follow Dief. "But, Maggie is my sister." He mussed as Ray was walking away. Ray just shook his head and made a mental note not to let Fraser see him with a woman.
"Here Dief," he called after the wolf, but of course he didn't respond. "Ok, that's fine, don't come back." He called when the wolf looked back at him. Dief just whimpered and continued to follow the train up into the higher class cars. "Ok, the reverse psychology didn't work, that's Ok, that's just fine, you can come back anyway!" The wolf didn't listen. Ray had followed him up three cars, he wasn't about to go back empty handed, but he was feeling more than a little self conscious, he was chasing after a deaf wolf (although Ray had some serious doubts about that) wearing clothes that hadn't been washed for over a week, and smelled like dogs. He could feel people look and he didn't really care, but if he got into some sort of trouble, he didn't know the language and he didn't have Fraser or a badge to help him out.
Dief was about a half a car ahead of Ray, when the wolf practically jumped on another one of the passengers. Ray abandoned his strolling pace and ran to pull the crazy wolf off this rather lovely passenger. She wasn't screaming or trying to push the wolf off, she merely seemed terrified.
"Hey," Ray said, pulling the wolf off, "Hey there, down boy." He said laughing, trying to make light of the situation for the beautiful brunet. "He's just overly friendly. He really likes pretty girls." He gave her a stellar smile. "Like you."
The girl stared him in the eyes and there was something about them that didn't seem quite right, something familiar and yet utterly foreign, something he couldn't place but he knew he should have been able to.
"Excuse me!" A strongly accented Russian voice said from behind him. Ray turned around to see a man standing directly behind him, the man was nearly six inches taller than Ray, and about 100 pounds worth of mussel bigger.
"Yha?" Ray asked nervously.
"You and your dog are scaring my woman."
"She gonna back you on that?"
The man grabbed Ray's shirt and pulled the American off his feet. "You gonna challenge me on that?"
"Stop!" The woman said, trying to pull down Nicholas' arm. "Stop, it, your acting like a child." Reluctantly the Russian set Ray down. "If he is smart," she said, looking Ray directly in the eyes, "he and his companions will not come near us again."
Nicholas let go of Ray and put his arm around her waist. "Don't forget!" he spit out as he turned and pulled her away. Once they was a car's distance between the bewildered Ray and the couple Nicholas removed his arm from her waist and started squeezing her arm.
"Was that the mysterious man from your past?" He asked harshly in Russian.
"Of course not, the mysterious man from my past isn't on this train, I was mistaken." She lied.
That didn't calm him, he only squeezed her arm harder. "Don't lie to me!"
"Why would I lie? You're my world, Nick."
"He was attracted to you."
"His dog attacked me, and he's an American, why would I encourage him? Your paranoid."
"Am I? There are times I feel like you don't really love me."
"I don't really love anything."
"I can't believe that, you have to love something, your to strong to be apathetic."
"Maybe I'm so strong because I'm apathetic." She suggested.
"No, those people can be crushed like hollow reeds, you can't be crushed."
"You've tried." she said under her breath.
"You've got passion, and while we're on this train I'll figure out what that passion is for."
"How do you plan to do that, Nick?"
"I have my ways."
A cold shiver went up her spine, but she didn't let him know how threatening she considered that prospect.
"I know that woman knew me, Fraser!" Ray said in a hushed voice. It was late, everyone around them was sleeping, including Diefenbaker. Fraser wanted to sleep, but Ray couldn't stop talking about this woman. "Or at least she knew Dief."
"Ray, that is impossible, how could she know Dief? Need I remind you we are presently in Russia, a country where none of us has ever been. It is totally impossible that she would know Dief, or you."
"You should have seen her, Fraser, she was gorgeous."
"Remember, I have wavering allegiance when it comes to your romantic life."
"I'm not saying that I want to get involved with this girl," Ray argued. "There was just something about her, something in her eyes . . . Like she wanted me to help, but she needed me to keep my distance."
"Do you suppose that the man she was with was somehow abusive?"
"Why would you say that?"
"Well, if she was being abused by this man it is quite probable that she would be too frightened of him to help herself, but she might want a stranger to help her."
"So . . . we gotta help her." Ray said with unusual determination.
"This is just a hypothesis, we don't have any evidence to support this at all."
"Sure we do, she looked like she needed help."
"Did she have any obvious injuries?"
"No. Not that I could see, but she could be a victim of psychological abuse, you know. He could be manipulating her."
"That is also possible."
"But you don't think so."
"I've never seen this woman, I can't say one way or another."
"But you agree we should help."
"If she asks for help, then, yes, we should help her."
"Ask, since when did anyone have to ask you for help? What happened to the old Fraser who would help you whether you wanted it or not!"
"Ray, I do want to help this woman, if indeed she needs help, but you have to remember that we have no jurisdiction here."
"You never had jurisdiction."
"Quite right, but I always had you by my side, and before you Ray Vecchio. And we always had the law behind us. Here neither of us have jurisdiction, nor do we know the law. The status of women's rights in Russia is far behind that of the Americas, in fact woman have only had the right to vote since -"
"That's more than enough Fraser, thanks. But whether its against the law or not shouldn't matter, because it's wrong."
"I'm not disagreeing with you."
"Then you'll help me help her."
"If she asks."
"She did ask."
"Really, what did she say?"
"Well, not with words, with eyes."
"It's the same Fraser, you know it!"
"I just think we need to practice discretion considering we are in this country illegally."
"I'm going to help her."
"Caution Ray. If you intend to ever get home you can't lose yourself to a woman with sad eyes."
"Tomorrow I'll show her to you. You'll see."
"Perhaps I will."
"Hey, Fraser!" Ray said shaking his sleeping partner. "Fraser, wake up!"
"Hun?" The Mountie said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. After four years of partnership Fraser could never remember Ray having to wake him up.
"I remembered something about the girl."
"You remembered something at . . ." he glanced at his watch, "1:18 in the morning?"
"Yha, she said companions."
"The girl, she said companions, not companion."
"I'm afraid I have no idea what your talking about."
"When I talked to this woman, she didn't say that my companion and I shouldn't bother her again, she said companions, which means she knew you where here, which means she knows me, which means we have to help her."
"Perhaps she was speaking of Diefenbaker."
"That's my point, she would have said companion, not companions!"
"Ah, well, did she have a Russian accent?"
"Maybe, she had some sort of big accent."
"Then she probably doesn't know the language well at all. In that case she probably would have trouble distinguishing between the plural and singular form of the noun."
"I'm not into this whole grammar thing Fraser, I failed my English classes all through high school."
"I would never have guessed," Fraser interjected.
"The point is she knows Dief, she knows me and she knows you."
"Hmmmmm," the Mountie said softly.
"Hmm, Hmm what? What hmm?" Ray asked, excited.
"Oh, nothing. I'm sure it's nothing."
"Hmmm isn't nothing, hmm is something!" Fraser didn't say a word. "Come on, Fraser! You got something jumpin' around in that little brain of yours!"
"It's really not worth mentioning."
"Well mention it anyway!"
"It's just that . . . well, it's simply impossible Ray."
"What's simply impossible?"
"That we know this woman."
"Fraser this is an infinite universe, anything is possible."
"Normally I would agree with you but . . ." he trailed off.
"I swear, I'm going to pop you one if you don't tell me what your thinking right now."
Fraser sat up, resigned that he wasn't going to be allowed to sleep while Ray was obsessing about her. "Did I ever tell you about the Cariboo that died on the mountainside when I was thirteen?"
"Yha, Fraser, hundred times."
"Then you know that, while the Cariboo quite possibly wanted help, and certainly needed help, it was eventually the help that I tried to give that Cariboo was what killed it."
"It wasn't your fault that the stupid Cariboo wouldn't come off the cliff."
"No, but by pursing it with the best intentions, I made it impossible for the Cariboo to save itself."
"So what?" Ray asked running his fingers through his short hair. "So we shouldn't try to help her because she might end up frozen on the side of a mountain?"
"Don't be silly, Ray. I'm merely saying that if this woman does indeed need help, which I am by no means saying she does. We would be wise to focus our energies in getting her to help herself."
"'Cause if she doesn't, she'll end up killing herself."
"That might be a little extreme, but yes, that is the point I'm trying to make."
"That was the hummmm?"
"Yes, Ray, it was."
"Why don't I believe you?"
"I'm sure I have no idea."
Fraser was talking a walk through the train, alone. It was all but silent, all the passengers were sleeping, all but him. What Ray had said about the woman and what Dief was insisting made sleeping impossible. He wanted to be logical and sensible and accept the evidence at hand, more evidence than he really needed, but it hurt too much. Fraser had always had a hard time letting go of what had been, he wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was because he seemed to have such a superior memory and recall abilities. Perhaps, where other peoples memory faded and softened the impact, his remained clear. Or maybe he just thought the past affected him more because he couldn't experience what others felt when they were forced to re-live the past. He knew Ray was haunted by his memories of his life with Stella. But still if there had been the suggestion that Stella were on this train, Ray would not deny physical evidence to avoid his ex-wife, or deny she was even there.
The real irony was that, if it was her, they would meet on a train. Why did his romantic life seem to center around trains. He closed his eyes and remembered her face as that fateful train pulled away, she was begging him to follow her. Could she be begging him to follow her here? Ray had said her eyes were asking for help. He didn't want to think about the last time she asked him for help, he was still ashamed, and his father had only made things worse. Of course he hadn't been able to help her, not really, not in the long run.
Fraser shook his head, he needed to organize his thoughts. Sitting on a stuffy train with nothing better to do then reminisce and listen to Ray obsess about her, no about a mysterious woman, was not constructive. As he was walking he was able to think about the past and the future and the present. He was so lost in thought that he didn't even see the woman carrying the teacups. Of course she didn't see him either. They collided and the tea spilled everywhere.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry ma'am." he said instinctively. He kneeled down to pick up the pieces of the shattered teacups. "Let me help you."
"Oh, my God," the woman muttered.
Fraser froze. That voice, he had to catch his breath, and then he smelled her. He had feared this moment, he had worried about what he would do, what he would say. But now, that he was there and she was there, it didn't seem to matter at all. He looked up and their eyes meet. He was smiling like a fool, and she looked like she was about to cry. His first impulse was to grab her and kiss her passionately, but recognized he had to curb that impulse. He simply stared into her eyes and thought about how beautiful they were and how exquisite she smelled. They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. So much was communicated, and neither said a word. Words always seem to impede their communication process.
"What are you doing!" A rough voice, with a strong Russian accent, said behind Her. Their eyes were ripped apart and She gasped, partially out of surprise, partially out of pain, as she was hauled rather forcefully to her feet. "Who is this man?!" The Russian demanded.
"No . . .no one, Nick," She stuttered, "he, he bumped into me." She glanced down at Fraser, who was still staring up at her like an idiot. He didn't understand what was going on at all, "Didn't you just bump into me, you moron?" She demanded. She seemed to be in trouble, and she seemed to be mad at him, but the tone of her voice was so familiar that he couldn't help but smile.
"Yes, I bumped into you. As I said before, I'm terribly sorry." He started picking up the shattered pieces of the tea cups.
"You stay away from her." Nicholas demanded.
Fraser stood up, with the broken cups in his hand. "Why?" He asked with almost child like innocence.
"Do you want to make me mad!"
"No," he said, "but, I don't see why my talking to . . ." he glanced at her, silently asking permission to use her name, she silently didn't give it, "her," he continued "would make you mad."
"She's my woman,"
"Really?" She could tell Fraser didn't believe it one bit.
"Ask her," Nick said.
"You said that I couldn't talk to her," Fraser pointed out calmly.
"Just stay away from us!" Nick said as he pulled Her away from Fraser. She glanced back to see her Mountie watch them leave. He had the exact same expression on his face that he had had when Frances Bolt had carried her away as a hostage. An expression that was an odd mixture of pity, anger, and expressed pure determination. She felt comforted by that look, he hadn't changed, but oddly that was the very thing that frightened her the most.
"Who was he?!" Nick demanded as he threw her into the sleeping room they shared.
"I don't know him," The beautiful woman insisted. "He was a very nice man who bumped into me, made me drop the teacups and then was helping me pick them up when you scared him away."
"I saw the way you looked at him," his voice lowered. "The way he looked at you."
"You're paranoid!" She insisted.
"You've proven that quite a few times today!"
"You've not helped me one bit in proving that!"
"What do you want me to do? Every time a man comes near me punch him!"
"That would be an idea." He took a step closer to her. "Or you could just say it."
She had taken his abuse for months, she had told herself the ends justified the means. She could allow herself to be degraded and humiliated because in the end the rewards would be so huge. But seeing Fraser had somehow changed all that. She could be Nick's prey when there was no one to see how far she had fallen. When no one cared about you, it was all to easy not to care about yourself. But everything was different. Even if Fraser took Nick's warnings to heart, which she knew he would not, just knowing he was near was enough to make her want to retain some dignity. "No, I'm not," she said shaking her head.
Nick was flabbergasted. "Who do you think you are?!" He said taking another threatening step towards her. She didn't waver.
"I think I'm a person and I don't belong to anyone, least of all you."
"You have exactly one minute to take that back."
"Or what? What could you possibly do to me, here, on a crowded train, full of people?"
He turned so his back was to her and ran his fingers through his long black hair. "You know what? You did know one of those men, maybe even both."
"Nick, you're my world, you know that."
"You were like this when we first met. Spirited and stupid about it. I thought I got all that stupid spirit out of you." He turned around. "But seeing them brought it back."
She took a step back only to hit a wall, there was no escape. She had known that but even with all her training she couldn't control that type of fear reaction. "I'll scream." She warned him.
"No, you won't."
"You were right Ray." Fraser said, his mind was going a million miles a muinit. So much had happened in the last ten minutes. "She did know you."
Ray looked up from his mad libs, an expression somewhere between shock and smugness was on his face, "Excuse me, Fraser, that was my bad ear, what did you say?"
"You don't have a bad ear." Fraser said as he slid into the seat that Dief had just vacated for him. "But I'll repeat my statement anyway. The woman did know you."
"That's not the part I missed." Ray said, Dief barked, signaling that he wanted to hear Fraser repeat the first part too.
"You're being petty, both of you."
Dief bared his teeth.
"Fine," Fraser finally resigned, "You were both right, and I was, well, foolish not to listen to you."
"Can you say that again?"
"Ray." Fraser's voice was filled with warning.
"It's just that I don't think I'll ever hear you say that again."
"If I say it again will you let me go on?"
"Oh, yha, you bet, right Dief?"
The wolf whimpered, unhappy that Fraser was getting off so easily.
"Dief said yes."
"I don't think he did, Ray."
"Say it anyway."
"I was wrong, you were right. She knew both of you and she is who you suspected her to be."
"I didn't suspect her to be anyone," Ray said.
"I was talking to Diefenbaker." He moved his head so the wolf could see his face clearly. "Did you see that? She is here, you were right?"
The wolf barked.
"Well, you don't have to rub it in."
"So," Ray asked, just a little annoyed that he was not part of the conversation. "Who is she?"
"Margaret Thatcher," Fraser said excitedly.
Fraser opened his mouth and closed it again in utter shock. "You . . . you know who she is." He finally spit out.
"I have never heard that name before in my life."
"Ignoring the fact that a Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of England for most of your adult life, you have heard that name. She was my superior officer, Ray." Fraser said, exasperated.
"Like in Canada or something?"
"No, in Chicago!"
It was Ray's turn to be shocked. "The Ice Queen!"
"Yes!" Fraser said excitedly, then added. "Although I do think that that particular nick name is just a little cruel and entirely undeserved."
"That is neither here nor there!" Ray said. "That woman I met can't be Inspector Thatcher. This woman was beautiful."
"The Inspector was . . . oh dear."
"What now? She was beautiful and you just didn't notice because you are the only man on the planet who knows the sent of tree moss breath better than you know the sent of a woman."
"I think that's an exaggeration Ray, there are lots of men who know tree moss better than I do. On top of which I am more than acquainted with The Inspector's smell." He shook his head violently. "Drat, there I go again."
"What?!" Ray demanded.
"I'm no longer certain how to address her. She is no longer an Inspector, so I can't call her that. Miss. Thatcher seems entirely to formal considering we had a relationship," he cleared his throat, "a working relationship mind you, for three years. Yet, Meg seems too informal." He hesitated for a second. "Although, I doubt that it matters at all. She didn't seem to want me to use her real name in front of that man."
"You saw the guy too, hunh?"
"Oh, yes, he was very possessive." He shook his head for a moment. Nothing was making any sense. It was Meg, there was no doubt about that, but in so many was it was someone Fraser had never met.
"You sure it was Thatcher?" Ray said after a pause. "'Cause I'm sure I would'a recognized her."
Dief barked softly.
"Dief says he led you to her with the hope that you would recognize her, and prove me wrong. Which I must say was rather little of you." He added to the wolf.
"She changed," was all Ray could think to say.
"Yes," Fraser muttered. "She has."
"Do you know what she's doing here?"
"Do you know who that neanderthal she was with is?"
"Do you know any possible reasons for her not to tell us those things?"
"Do you still think we should wait for her to make the first move?"
"Possibly. Look Fraser, there's no possibly about it! We are honor bound to help her."
Fraser couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice or expression. "Honor bound? Since when have you felt honor bound to do anything?"
Ray shrugged. "Look buddy. I'm not saying it's my honor in question. It's yours."
"What are you talking about?"
"You really need me to tell you?"
Fraser looked at his partner and realized that Ray was right, for the second time that day. There was an unspoken vow binding him to the former inspector. He couldn't even think of when it started, it had just seemed to come naturally, like the world was supposed to work that way, and anything else, anything different, went against then natural order of things. The odd thing was that, while they both knew the bond was there, neither of them particularly wanted it. They had both tried so hard not to accept what they were feeling, but that only made things more awkward.
When she had told him that she wouldn't be taking him with her to Toronto he had been so happy, on the surface. He would be going home. But in the spring, when he could smell the breezes coming off the mountain lakes he started to wonder if he should have let her go, and when he heard that she was in Iraq, undercover, in horribly dangerous situations, he all but wished he was there with her. He knew that she was capable of taking care of herself, and he chided himself for wanting to protect her, that was insulting. But on cold nights when he was watching the stars twinkle in the crystal clear sky and he was is a sentimental mood he couldn't help but want to know she was safe, and happy, and if she missed him as much as he missed her.
It was 5:45, Fraser had been asleep for about thirty minutes. He had been planing with Ray for nearly an hour after his encounter with the inspector, and then his partner had finally succumbed to sleep. Fraser himself had stayed awake longer, trying to figure out what the former Inspector was up to, but he didn't have enough information. He imagined that she was lying in her bed, trying to figure out what he and Ray were up too. He lingered on that thought for a moment, enjoying it a little more than he thought he should. She had let her hair grow out, so it fell just behind her shoulders and she had been dressed in a simple dress that was much closer to the things he had seen his mother ware as a child then the stuffy business suits she had worn to the consulate. And to top it all her hair had been tied back in a red sash. Of course he preferred her in red serge, but that was something else entirely. He was content thinking of her cheeks lying on a pillow, her eyes closed, her soft breath coming in and out. Then, unbidden, the image of that man lying in the bed with her came into his mind. The thought disturbed him more than he wanted to say, his eyes snapped opened to reveal Deif leaning over him.
"What?" he asked the wolf, "What is it?"
"You're sure? Well, yes, of course your sure." He pushed the wolf off him rather clumsily and found his feet. Dief barked. "No I'm sure I can find my way. You're not the only one with a sense of smell you know."
Fraser took a deep breath, he could smell her, but her sent was almost hidden by other, heavier smells, cigars, dirt, chickens, oil, and vodka. The closer he came to her the stronger her sent became, and the more apparent that there was something else, that was smothering it. The smell was dark and oily and permeated by Vodka, but it couldn't hide the inspector's smell, at least not to Ben's trained nose.
He walked through two cars and the baggage car and the next door he opened led him outside. She was standing on the little platform, in the freezing weather. The wind wiped around her face and she was staring at the landscape as they passed it. He could tell she was lost in thought. "Sir?" He asked softly, not wanting to frighten her. She was leaning on the rail and if she were to lose her center of balance she could easily fall off the train.
"I'm not your superior officer anymore, Fraser," She said curtly.
"No," he admitted, stepping onto the platform and closing the door behind him. "Indeed you are not."
"I'm not even RCMP."
"I'm aware of that."
"Which would imply," she continued, "That you don't have to call me sir, or Ma'am, or Inspector."
"Well, then what should I call you?"
She was silent for a moment. "Meg would be fine." She said at length.
"Ah," Fraser said, nodding and stepping up so her was next to her, gazing over the rails, "Then perhaps you should call me Benton."
"Why are you here?"
"I went too far west."
"Fraser, going west would take you to the engine room, not the baggage car."
"Ben," he reminded her. "And I thought you were referring to why I was in Russia, not why I was, well, here."
"Did you know I was out here?"
"Do you . . ." Her voice faltered, she cleared her throat and started over again. "Do you know where I have been since I saw you earlier?"
"Good." She said crisply. "Because that's classified."
"So you're here for work then?" Fraser asked.
"And that man you're with?"
She turned suddenly to look at Fraser. "What about him?" She asked defensively.
"I was just wondering if he was your partner, someone you worked with. Or is that classified as well?"
She turned back to stare at the quickly fleeing countryside. "Suffice to say he is part of the job."
Fraser nodded, but didn't say anything. They stood there, silently for nearly twenty miles, looking into the dark western horizon. Finally Ben broke the silence. "You know, when I was eight my friend Inusoquk and I found an abandoned mining camp about three miles from our village. It was very exciting looking at all the mining equipment that had been left. They had rails, for the mining carts still there, the elements hadn't corroded them yet. We followed them into the mine, which looking back was an incredibly unsafe thing to do, but we were young and adventurers. I only think of it because the tracks seemed to disappeared as we looked further into the mine, as these tracks are appearing to do now. We had taken a kerosene lamp into the mine, but through miscalculations and plain foolishness we ran out of kerosene when we were deep inside." Fraser paused and shook his head. "I was convinced we were going to die in there, no one ever finding our bodies, no one even knowing what happened to us, but Inusoquk, who was much wiser than I came up with a plan. We got on our hands and knees and followed the rail until we could see the light. Then we ran home a quickly as we could and we never went near the place again."
"I used to love trains," Meg said at length. "As a child."
"You don't anymore?"
"I've had too many bad experiences on them."
Fraser nodded, "Understood."
"No, Constable . . ."
"You don't understand." Fraser could tell that she had something weighing heavily on her mind, he waited for her to get it out. Finally she did. "Iraq was so exciting. Every day I knew I was doing something important, something that would help people. I worked so hard. There were five of us, on the team, and I was the only woman. I felt like I had to prove myself. I think I worked too hard, I over compensated." She paused, Fraser waited patiently for her to continue, eventually she did. "They, that is my superiors, reviewed my work and decided that I was ready to work alone, without a team. There would be people I would have to check in with, but overall, I was on my own. It was such an honor, Fraser, you have no idea. I wanted to prove to them that they had made the right choice, selecting me for this job, I threw myself into it." Her voice softened. "Looking back, I think I would have gotten the job, no matter how I performed in Iraq." She took a deep breath and continued with the story. "I was so dedicated that, well, I thought I could make little sacrifices, for the grater good. But then, one night, the sacrifices . . . lets just say they were bigger than I was willing to make.
"I gave up everything for abstracts like what's right and Canada and nameless, faceless people. And now, those abstracts are all I have left. And as wonderful as that may sound on paper and in creeds, its hard to reconcile with real life. I'll never see all the people I've helped, I probably won't see any of them. And If I did, they wouldn't know who I was, or what I've done. Canada is so far away and so long ago, it's not home anymore, I'm not even sure I could go back now, after . . . all this."
"What about what's right?"
"It's all starting to blur together." She said softly.
They were silent for a while, the sun was rising in the east, but the rays had yet to reach the western horizon they were looking out on. "You know," Meg said hardly above a whisper. "You can lose you home, you can lose you job, and it can be devastating. But if you lose yourself, you have nothing."
"My father told me that." Fraser said, he smiled at the thought of his father.
"Did he tell you what to do . . . in case that ever happened?"
"No, I'm afraid he didn't."
"Oh," she said, even softer. Something in her tone disturbed Fraser. Their conversation had made it clear that she was extremely troubled by her experiences, and that she wasn't going to talk about it. He respected that, but there was something in her voice which frightened him. A sort of low trembling that he had never heard in her voice before.
"Perhaps we should go inside."
"I like it out here. The view is breathtaking."
"You must be freezing."
"I've gotten so I don't even notice the cold."
"That's not good, sir." Fraser said, concern in his voice.
Meg shook her head slowly. "There are a lot of things, in life, that aren't good." She stared off into the distance, the sun rays were finally reaching the pair on the back of the train and her hair was glistening in the light. It also revealed a large hand shaped bruise on the side of her face. "Sir?" Fraser asked her, trying to get her attention, to get her to look at him, but she didn't. He noticed that, ever so slightly she was leaning forward over the rail. "Sir?" He said louder, still no response. "Meg?" He tried to no avail. She was still leaning forward towards the last traces of darkness. And all of a sudden her center of balance shifted, she started to tumble off the train.
In less then a heartbeat Fraser threw his arms around her and pulled her back onto the platform with a little more force than was necessary. Instead of her falling froward they both fell back and hit their heads against the door to the baggage car.
"Why did you do that?!" Meg demanded as she pulled herself up. Fraser watched her carefully, she was trembling, he assumed it was from the cold.
"You lost your balance."
"I lost my balance!"
"Yes. You would have fallen off the train." He paused, "You could have died."
"If you ever get the urge to help me again, do me a favor. Resist it." She opened the door to the baggage cart and stormed in. Fraser quickly followed.
She spun around, fury in her eyes. "Stop it! I'm not your superior officer, not anymore!"
"Then act like it!" She turned and started towards the other end of the car and the train proper. "You don't need to watch out for me Fraser, that's not your job."
"I was not under the delusion that it was."
She stopped and turn to face him again. "Then why did you . . ."
He took a step closer. "Do you really have to ask?"
For a second their eyes met and Meg understood exactly why he had saved her. Again they were on a train, emotions charged to a danseurs level. They both took as step forward, the same memories in their mind. Ben leaned forward, their lips touched, and for no apparent reason she pulled herself away. Ben stood stock still for a second, trying to figure out what had happened what had gone wrong. He looked at her, the question painted quite clearly on his face, but he didn't say anything.
She looked up at him and realized that he deserved an explanation. She also thought that she couldn't tell him the truth. "I'm sorry." She said softly, brushing her hair behind her ear in a very meek manner. "But, I can't."
"Oh," was all Fraser could think to say. He realized that he was in the middle of a very complex situation. Fate had thrown him in as an extra variable, and the equation no longer worked out nicely. He wanted more than anything to help her, but he knew he couldn't do that unless she told him what was going on, why she was in Russia, who Nick was, and why she had nearly fallen off a train.
"It's not you." She said quickly, grasping at the little dignity she had left.
"Who is it then?" He asked.
Meg wasn't sure what he was asking. "What?"
"Well, if it's not me, then it must be someone else."
"No!" Meg said with undo harshness. "It's not what your thinking at all!"
"I wasn't thinking anything."
That caught her off guard. "You weren't thinking that Nick and . . . and I . . ."
"No," he tilted his head ever so slightly. "Should I have been?"
She didn't know how to answer that. "He'll be mad if he wakes up and I'm not there."
"And you don't want to make him mad."
"Because he'll hit you?"
"Why . . .why would you say that?"
"Your face," instinctively her hands flew to her cheeks where Nick had held her mouth shut last night. "I don't think finger marks like those can be made accidently."
"That is none of your business!" She said. Fraser recognized a defense mechanism when he saw one.
"Meg," he said softly. "I only want to help you."
"You want to help everyone."
"Not everyone, only those who need it."
"Are you insinuating that I need your help? That I'm helpless?"
"No, of course not."
"Then what are you insinuating?"
Fraser licked his lips and firmly stated, "I'm insinuating that you made sacrifices, sacrifices that were bigger than you were willing to make. And because of those sacrifices you have lost . . . clarity. I only want to help you find it."
"Ben, I have never suffered from a lose of clarity."
"Oh," Fraser said softly. "Then I was mistaken."
"Yes, you were." she said sharply.
"Well then, perhaps I should just step back and let you and Nick alone."
That was the last thing she wanted. She wanted him to protect her, to be a knight in shining armor who would rescue her from the horrible monster. She wanted him to fight for her honor. She wanted him to wipe away her tears when she woke up at night and couldn't stop crying. "That would be a good idea," she said without looking him in the eyes.
Fraser nodded and started walking towards the door to the luggage car. He opened it, but before he left he paused. "If you find that, sometime in the future, you do lose your clarity, I would be happy to help you find it." He walked out the door before she could respond.
"Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray . . ."
"Shhhhhhh," the detective groaned. "Some people are trying to sleep, Fraser, and you are not making it particularly easy."
"It's nearly seven thirty, we have work to do."
"What?" Ray said utterly confused. He had planed on spending the whole day on the train, catching up on letters to his folks and other assorted relatives. "What kinda work can we do, in case you haven't noticed we're on a train!" Never the less, Ray sat up and stretched, he knew that Fraser wouldn't let him get back to sleep. He might as well be alert if they were going to be working.
"I know, and we're going to have to be especially careful in our surveillance techniques because if Nick noticed us it would put Meg in danger."
"Meg?" Ray asked, amused.
"Yes, that is her name."
"Meg." He repeated. He was just a little too excited about calling the ice queen by her first name, and he knew it. But she had been high and mighty for so long, almost inhuman, and now she was only Meg, it wasn't even a particularly dignified first name, kinda plain, fairly common. He couldn't stop laughing.
"I fail to see what's so amusing." Fraser said, looking at his friend curiously.
"Yha, well, you would." Ray snickered.
"Ray could you pleas concentrate."
"Yha, sure," he took a deep breath. "I'm together now."
"Good, Now I suspect Meg . . ." he was interrupted by Ray's fit of laughter, Fraser waited for a moment, until his friend appeared to be more collected. "Are you quite finished?"
"Yha," Ray said, gasping for breath.
"Never happen again."
"Do you promise?"
"Yha, Fraser, I promise, look, Meg, Meg, Meg, no laughs, I'm all good."
Ben looked at his friend wearily for a moment before finally deciding that he was sincere. "As I was saying, I suspect that Meg," he paused, waiting for laughter, when none came he pressed on, "is deep undercover, if we reveal who she is she is in very real danger. Furthermore I have reason to believe that the man she was with,"
"Is the criminal who she is trying to bring to justice with her subversive operations."
"And, ah, how exactly do you know this."
Fraser paused. "From things she said." He replied at length.
"So, she told you?"
"No, not in so many words, but her message was clear."
"Yes, she said that 'he is part of the job'."
Fraser looked at Ray expectantly, "That's supposed to mean something, isn't it?"
"You realize that she is employed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service."
"So, she's a spy."
"More or less."
"So, how do we know that this Nick guy isn't a spy."
"I don't. But, if you listen carefully to his accent you'll notice that it is genuine, furthermore, it is clear from his sent that he is a heavy vodka drinker. If he were really a spy he would need to keep his wits about him at all times for fear of blowing his cover, he couldn't afford to get drunk."
"Yes, in both of our conversations with him he threatened us with violence. Now, fights create spectacle, things spies tend to want to avoid. Furthermore, he referred to her as his woman, and although she never outrightly supports him on that she is certainly acting the part."
"So your saying she's leading him on, to get information or something?"
"Yes. But I'm afraid that the situation has changed, and although she wouldn't admit it, she needs our help."
"And did she ask you?"
"No, in fact she distinctively told me not to interfere."
"But you're gonna anyway."
"She needs me Ray, she can not stand up for herself because of her job, but he's hurt her before and will undoubtably hurt her again."
"Don't you think standing up for her will break her cover or anything?"
Fraser was quiet. He had never thought of that. Meg obviously thought that by defending herself she would somehow be unable to perform her job. Yet, she had confided in him that she had nothing left, and she had nearly fallen off the train. Fraser wanted to believe it was an accident, but he wasn't that naive. She had made sacrifices that were too big. His father had thought that every person had a line they wouldn't cross, no matter what the cost. Ben suspected that Meg had been pushed over that line. Someone had taken everything from her, including herself, and she let them for Canada's sake. The more Ben thought about it, the more he thought that nothing, even Canada and the Queen, had the right to ask her to do that. Giving ones life for an ideal was one thing, having ones life taken, slowly, bit by bit, for it was another thing entirely.
"Quite possibly," Fraser asked, his mind even more set than it had been before.
"Wouldn't that threaten National Security or anything?"
"I doubt it, but it might."
"You know, Thatcher's been in dangerous situations before. You should probably just let her work herself out of this."
"It's too late for that Ray."
Meg walked into her sleeping cart carrying two tea cups carefully. On the off chance that Nick had woken up after she left she would need a cover so he wouldn't get mad. Although, on this trip he seemed to be getting mad at everything. They only had one more day on the train, she could make it until then.
"Where were you?" His clear voice asked as she opened the door to the sleeping room, balancing the tea cups precariously. He didn't move to help her.
"I woke up and wanted some tea. I got you some too."
"When did you wake up?"
Meg's heart stopped. "I don't know, I don't have a watch."
"Does it take you an hour to get tea?" She didn't respond. "Because that's how long I've been awake."
"No," she stuttered, trying to think of an excuse that was innocent and plausible. "You could see the country side roll by from the windows in the dining car. I must have spent more time watching it than I thought."
"What's wrong with this window?" Nick asked, slamming his fist against the sleeping room's window with undo force.
"You were sleeping, the light would have woken you and then you would have been mad." She paused, "Lot of good that did me, you're still mad."
Nick pulled up the window shade to reveal little more than a torrid rainstorm. "You spent an hour looking out at this?"
"The rain just started a little while ago."
"You were talking to one of those men weren't you?"
"Don't be stupid." Meg said, trying not to sound too afraid. She held out one of the tea cups towards him. "I brought you this, you might as well drink it."
He took it from her and spilled about half the cup onto the saucer in the process. "Don't lie to me."
"I'm not. Why would I lie?"
"You've been acting strange, like you think someone is watching you."
"Come off it. You're paranoid."
"Only with reason. You haven't said a word about business since we've been on the train. That's usually all you talk about. Do you think they are spies?"
Meg almost laughed out loud at the sheer irony. "No," she said at length. "If I were going to send spies to find out about our deal, I wouldn't send an American to attack us with dogs and a Canadian to spill our tea."
He was quiet for a moment. "You're right," he said at length. Then he set down his cup and grabbed her waist and swept her into his lap. That caused her to spill her tea everywhere, she dropped the cup, but it didn't break.
"Why did you do that?" She demanded. "You know I hate that!"
"You're so funny when you're mad." He said, still holding her down.
"Let me go." Meg said with measured voice. "This is juvenile."
"You need to loosen up."
"I thought that's what last night was for," Meg said icily.
"I thought you liked last night."
"As much as ever." Her voice cracked, she wished she could drink some tea, but it was all spilled.
"Yha, I pretty much thought so." He said nodding.
"We didn't get any work done last night." Meg said. "I still don't know who were selling too."
"Why should you need to know?"
"Don't forget, over half the guns are mine."
"And you'll get your cut. You can be sure of that. Is money what you love?"
"You told me you don't really love anything. You really love money, don't you."
"Sure, I love money. Could you pleas let me go, this is uncomfortable."
"Fine." Nick said with disappointment, he released her. Meg pushed herself off his lap and picked up the cups. "Can I trust you baby?"
"Yep." She said not looking at him.
"How do I know?"
"Where would I go? You're my world."
"You've told me that a couple of times." he mused. "What does it mean?"
"It means . . . you're all I got."
"But, you're not my woman?"
"Why do you have to drag this stuff out."
"You don't really love me."
"I told you I don't really love anything."
"But I'm your world. You don't add up."
"I'm not an equation."
"What exactly are you?"
Meg lowered her head and started rubbing her temples. "I thought we were going to talk about business."
"That's all we ever talk about. Business and my life. Never ever about you. That's odd."
"I don't like talking about myself."
"Everyone likes talking about themselves."
"Just because you like something doesn't mean that everyone likes it."
"Are you calling me an egoist?"
"Are we going to talk about business, or are we going to expound on things that don't really matter?"
"This is our relationship. I would'a thought you cared. Seeing as how I'm your world and all."
"I care about business, if you care about anything else, you get hurt." She said honestly.
"I see." He said nodding. "So once this business is done you and me, we're over."
"You got other plans?" Her interest was genuinely piqued.
"Maybe, if I can trust you."
"I told you you could."
"News flash, I don't trust you."
That caught Meg totally off guard. "What?"
"I did. You had me totally fooled. That's hard. Maybe it was the way you were so closed off. You didn't play into my hands, I would expect a spy to play into my hands."
"You're saying I'm a spy."
"And those guys are your contacts."
"Listen to yourself," Meg said lightly.
"Maybe you should listen to yourself. One is American, one is Canadian, how could you possibly know that? Unless you knew them, and they were you're contacts."
Meg was totally silent, she had been caught.
"There," Fraser said, pointing to the door to a sleeping room. "She's in there, and so is he."
"And how do you know this, exactly."
"I can smell them."
"Smell, how do you know its not two other people you smell."
"Diefenbaker agrees with me, it's them."
"So how does Dief know its not someone else you smell in there?"
"Don't be insulting, Ray, Meg has a very distinctive smell."
"Sorry,"Ray said, "no offence meant."
"Oh, I didn't take any, but I think Dief might have."
"Well tell him I'm sorry."
"Tell him yourself, he's right here."
"Sorry," Ray said, genuinely.
The wolf barked.
"He accepts the apology."
"Good, 'cause I'd hate to think there was any bad blood between us."
"Shhhhh," Fraser said.
"I need to hear what they're saying."
"Fraser, there is a huge noise from the train, not to mention the thunderstorm that is raging around us."
"I know, and it makes it very difficult to hear, which is why I need you to be quiet."
"Oh." Ray said. Years ago he wouldn't have believed his friend had the ability to hear the voices of people behind closed doors with about a million decibels of background noise, but now there was very little he thought his friend couldn't do. "What are they saying?" he asked after a few moments of silence.
"They are arguing," Fraser paused and tilted his head, "about us."
"Us, like you me and Dief us?"
"Yes." He said slowly. "He said one was Canadian and one was American, and . . ." Fraser paused for a moment. "Oh dear."
"What, Fraser, what is it?"
"We have to get her out of there," he said, turning towards the window behind him and trying to pry it open. "Now."
"What?" Ray asked.
"He's discovered that she is not who she had led him to believe she is."
"You lost me on that one."
"He knows she's a spy." He finally managed to rip the window open and a torrent of cold rain assaulted them.
"What you think he's gonna do?"
"I don't know, but the sooner we get her out of there the better. I have a plan."
"I'm assuming us getting soaking wet is part of the plan."
"Not directly no."
"THEN WHY IS THE WINDOW OPEN???!!!"
"Well, you see Ray, I'm going to climb over the top of the train and pull Meg out of the window on the other side."
"And this Nick guy, he's not going to stop you?"
"No," Fraser was climbing out the window, Ray was terrified that he would fall of the train, but he recognized that that was an illogical fear. Fraser never fell off of anything. "He'll be otherwise occupied."
"How do you know?" Ray had to scream to be heard over the roaring of the train and the rain.
"Diefenbaker will be attacking him."
"Just wait thirty seconds and then knock on the door." By this time Fraser had pulled himself up to the roof off the car and was hanging upside down to talk to Ray.
"And then what do I do once he opens it?"
"Run!" The Mountie said, before he disappeared from sight.
"Run," Ray mussed as he waited, trembling slightly from the cold. "I was hoping that the plan was more advanced than a game of ding dong ditch." He looked down at the wolf who was whimpering ever so slightly. "You ready boy?" He asked, Dief barked in an unquestionable affirmation. "Here we go then." Ray said, stepping towards the door, making a fist and knocking about as loudly as he could.
Meg was leaning against the wall for support, the world in front of her was swimming and she couldn't seem to draw any breath into her lungs. She was going to die, it was pretty clear. There was no way she could escape from this man who was about four times her size. All the self defense techniques she knew were useless, he was too big and he fought too well. He had slammed her against the wall with all his force, and she could only guess what he was going to do next. She knew he had a pocket knife, and there was a gun in his bag (which was an impossible meter and a half away). But it would have been equally easy to kill her with his bare hands, by strangulation, or snapping her neck, or simply beating her to death. She tried to draw enough breath into her lungs to let out a scream, but she couldn't, breathing hurt. She wondered if he had broken one of her ribs, not that it would have really mattered one way or another if he had. The fact would only turn up as an interesting side note on a coroners report, if that.
Suddenly, as though by saving grace there was a pounding on the door. Nick froze for a second, unsure if he could afford to open the door, or afford not to. Oddly, almost simultaneously with the knocking on the door, there came a tapping on the window, right behind Meg's head. At first she ascribed it some head injury she had received from being thrown so violently against the wall, she was after all still dizzy. But the tapping only became more insistent, and she thought she could hear Fraser's voice yelling something. But the wind and the rain and the train was so loud she wasn't sure. In any event she felt she needed to know what was on the other side of her window.
The knocking at the door continued, it was apparent that whoever was at the door was not going to go away. "If you're smart, sweetheart, you won't try anything." He warned her as he opened the door. In that split second where his attention was in between her and whoever was on the other side of the door a white blur seemed to come from nowhere and pounce on him. In the very back of her mind, Meg knew that blur was Diefenbaker, but she didn't have time to think about that. She turned and pulled the shade over the window up and nearly screamed when she saw Fraser's face only inches away from her. She didn't have time to be startled though, she had to escape, before Nick had time to wrestle Dief off. Through pure adrenalin, and with the aid of Ben she was able to pull the window open, she was instantly soaked.
"Trust me!" He yelled over the horrible noise, holding his hands down to her.
She understood immediately, she reached up with one hand, which Fraser quickly grabbed, with her other she balanced herself as she started pushing herself out of the window. She moved quickly, without thinking about the fact she was soaking wet, or the fact that one slip and she would fall to her death, and quite possibly take Fraser with her. These thoughts didn't cross either of their minds. They were working to hard on mere survival to even think about the possibility of not surviving.
Once he had pulled her up to the train's roof and the two of them had found their feet it occurred to Meg that they were standing on top of a train again, in danger again. Only this time, instead of being angry she was frightened, and instead of being authoritative she was just trying to stay alive. She couldn't help but think how the mighty have fallen.
He lowered his head to whisper in her ear. "Follow me." He said, his breath, for one second warming her ear. Then smoothly he slipped his hand into hers and started pulling her towards the head of the train. She followed, almost slipping a hundred times, but always catching herself. She was still having trouble breathing, but she couldn't let it slow her down. They had gone over the roofs of about three cars when she thought she could hear Nick's yells over the torrent of the rain. Meg closed her eyes and assured herself that she was mistaken. But then the clear buzz of a bullet cut through the rain. Fraser must have heard it to, he pulled her closer too him, eventually he slipped his arm around her waist, he leaned over and whispered into her ear again. "He is at least twenty meters behind us and visibility is approximately ten meters. Add to this he is using a handgun, which has an average range of fifteen meters. Furthermore the constant movement of the train would make it impossible for him to aim properly."
"What does that mean?"
"He has no chance of hitting us."
Meg would have nodded but her energies were focused on keeping up with Ben's long steady strides.
Another bullet whizzed past them harmlessly. Then without warning Ben dropped down, pulling Meg with him, so that she was lying on the roof, and he was lying on top of her. She was about to demand why he had done that, when the world turned from gray to pitch-black and the constant pounding of the rain suddenly stopped. They were inside of a tunnel. Meg had no idea how Ben had known that the tunnel was coming, but had they been standing she knew they both would have died. After catching her breath she wondered if Nick had ducked soon enough. Her question was quickly answered by a bullet flying frighteningly near them, it created sparks as it hit the walls. "Oh dear." Ben said quietly. "He can see our silhouettes against the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if he misses us, the ricochet of his bullets off the walls could do serious damage."
"We need to get inside, while we're in the tunnel." He started inching his way forward, Meg followed unquestioningly. They continued to crawl along the top of the train in the darkness for what seemed like hours. If they had been cold before, running against the wind, continually pounded by rain, now they were absolutely freezing; crawling, soaking wet, at a snails pace with the wind whipping around them. Meg was starting to have a heard time breathing, but she couldn't let it slow her down. She did notice that Fraser seemed to be pulling her more than she was propelling herself. There were more bullets, more sparks. He kept pulling her forward until she was parallel with him. "The car ends in about a meter," he whispered into her ear. His breath warmed her ear for a second, but for no longer. "I'll lower you down, don't move."
Meg tried to say something, but she was too cold. She simply stayed still as he lowered her onto a platform, slightly sheltered from the wind, there was another shot, this time she didn't see the sparks she only heard it. Before the echo was gone Ben was next to her on the platform. Wordlessly he pried open a door and all but shoved her into it. He closed it rather violently behind him and for a few seconds they stood in absolute silence and darkness, catching their breath.
Finally, Meg found her voice. "Where are we?"
"My God," Fraser said, she could hear footsteps and soon felt his strong hands on her shoulders. "You're practically frozen."
"I'm fine," she said, but she could hear the tell tail trembling in her voice.
"Take off your shirt, before you catch hypothermia." Ben said, she could hear a rustling and could only assume that it was him taking off his cloths.
"Fraser, I don't think . . ." She started.
"Don't talk, it wastes body heat," he said.
Meg wanted to protest. Even in the total darkness she didn't want to take her shirt off, for two reasons. One because he was a man, and in her experience men had the tendencies to take advantage of such situations, and two because he was Benton Fraser, a man who would get embarrassed by merely talking about sexual innuendos. The reasons contradicted one another, which was why she was so resistant. If one wasn't true the other had to be.
"Meg, please." Fraser's voice said from somewhere near her in the darkness, it was trembling too. "You were slowing down out there because the majority of your energy was spent keeping your heart warm enough to pump blood. Now that we're inside the danger is not totally gone, your system has started slowing down and will continue to slow down unless your body temperature rises dramatically. The only way to do that is to huddle together and share body heat, which we can't very well do if you have a frozen, wet shirt on."
She could see his logic, it was perfect, well thought out, more or less obvious. He had lived in the great white north, he had had to survive elements much worse than this. She realized she needed to trust him. To take a leap of faith. As she fumbled with the bottons on her shirt she could feel burning hot tears run down her cheeks. She was glad that wherever they were was pitched black, so he couldn't see how truly frightened she was. "I," her voice was trembling, she tried to steady it but failed. "My fingers are numb, I can't undo the bottons."
Fraser didn't say a thing, but seemingly out of nowhere came his hands. He undid most of the bottons and those which he couldn't he merely tore off, it wasn't that important to either of them. As soon as her cold and wet shirt was off he pulled her towards himself and immediately she wanted to push herself away. First of all, because his skin was about as cold as hers, and secondly, because the embrace of a man, any man, was threatening. But she merely closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing in and out.
"Better?" he asked as he gently lowered the two of them to the floor so they could curl up in more efficient balls.
"Thank you." Was all she could think to say. She was still cold and frightened, but at least now, she was less so.
There was silence for a while, and then for no apparent reason, Ben started reciting a poem:
"I CAUGHT this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, -- the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume,
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shééer plóód
makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion."
As soon as he'd finish he'd start over again. Meg fell asleep to he sound of his measured voice.
Ray taped a nervus rhythm on his knees. Fraser had been gone for over three hours, which didn't really mean anything. If Ray were running from a maniac with a beautiful woman he would hold up in a dark room somewhere for a couple hours. But of course that was him. The very idea of Fraser and Thatcher clinging to each other in a dark room was somewhere between ridiculous and disturbing.
Dief had returned about a half an hour after the rescue attempt. The wolf seemed fine, but he was limping noticeably. Ray wasn't sure if it was a ploy for sympathy or a genuine injury, but he went to the train's concession stand and got the wolf a box of the Russian equivalent to Milk Duds. His limp didn't go away but he certainly seemed more contented.
After about four hours of no word Ray began to seriously worry. "You know, Dief, Fraser might be in some trouble."
The wolf merely yawned.
"You don't think so hun?"
"Don't think so, don't think so," the crazy old lady behind him said softly.
Ray ignored her and continued talking to the wolf. "You think he's still on the train?"
"Traaaaaaain." The woman muttered, Ray had a suspicion that she didn't know a word of English.
Dief barked sharply, Ray wasn't sure but he thought that was a yes.
"You know where he is?"
The wolf yawned.
"You know, for a loyal life long companion, you're showing a noted lack of concern."
Dief licked his chops and jumped over Ray into the aisle. He looked back at the American expectantly.
"You wanna play Lassie, huh?" Ray asked amused.
"Lassie" the woman behind him groaned.
Ray glanced back at her and rolled his eyes, old people made him uneasy and crazy people disturbed him. This woman was both. He decided that the easiest thing would be to ignore her. "Pitter patter let's get at 'er," he told the wolf, scurrying him forward with a wave of his hand. "Let's find our two wayward Canucks."
Dief yipped, ether because he found what Ray had said funny or offending (Ray wasn't sure) and started leading him up the train towards the engine room.
The most present thought in Meg's mind as she woke up was that she was safe. In her lull between dreams and reality she couldn't remember why, but she knew deep down that she was safe in every way that mattered. As her dreams faded and she became more and more aware of what was going on around her, she realized that she was cold, very cold. Her jeans were wet and her back was exposed to the air. But her chest wasn't cold, she realized that was because someone was holding her, to try and keep her warm. For an indeterminate amount of time she just lay and listened to his steady heart rate and breathing. She lost herself in the patterns. But suddenly the obvious occurred to her (as it only can while you're half asleep); she was in the arms of a man. Her instantaneous reaction was to push away from him, but her muscles were not as awake as her mind. But overlying even those strong fears was the assurance that she was safe. The man was not holding her in a possessive way, but rather a protective way, and although Meg couldn't pinpoint exactly what the difference in the two embraces was, she could recognize it. Slowly Meg started to remember where exactly she was and what exactly had happened, so that when she fully woke up and saw Ben smiling down at her with his sincere boyish face, she wasn't surprised.
"Good morning," he said softly.
"Well, no, afternoon. It's actually about one o'clock."
"Oh," she said softly. She wanted to stay close to him and bask in his warmth, figuratively and literally. But she couldn't. She pushed herself away and he let her go without protest.
"It's freezing in here," she said looking around her. "Where are we?"
"I'm not sure, but I think it's a linen closet."
"A linen closet?"
"I'm not sure."
Meg nodded, but doubted that he could see it in the horribly dim light. "Where are our clothes?" Her voice was trembling from the cold again, but they both knew that the cold was in no way dangerous.
"Oh," she dimly saw him stand up and reach down a hand to her. She took it and found herself standing very close to him. For a second they were both captured by the moment, but both of them knew it wasn't the time or the place for such thoughts. Fraser pulled away first, "They're over here," he stuttered. "I'm afraid that they aren't quite dry," he said handing her a white bundle which Meg could only assume was the shirt she had been wearing.
"And they're cold!" She said, not wanting to re-don the shirt.
"Well," Ben said hesitantly, "yes."
Meg was scowling, but there wasn't enough light to see it. She pulled the shirt on and tried very hard not to let the cold get to her. "Now what?" She asked nervously.
"I think it's time to find Ray."
"Oh," she said, somewhat disappointed. "What if we run into . . ."
"I don't think we will."
"Do you have any reason to believe that?" She asked him authoritatively.
"He will have assumed one of two things," Fraser said as he felt around the door area trying to find the handle. "One, that we fell off the train and two, that we somehow escaped."
"If he follows the first assumption he will not be looking for us. And it's easiest to hide when no one is looking for you."
"But if he assumes we somehow escaped..."
"He will be trying to get away from us, he knows that you represent the law, and he assumes that Ray and I do as well. Like any criminal he will try to avoid any confrontation with the law."
"He didn't seem to want to avoid confrontation with me." Meg observed bitterly.
"No," Fraser admitted, "but you were alone and vulnerable at that time. You're not so anymore." Before Meg could respond to that he managed to open the door and the two were assaulted with a cold wind. But the wild thunderstorm was far behind them. "This will lead to the passenger cars!" Fraser yelled to be heard above the wind. He reached out a hand to her, which she took. With more caution than they had used to run across the top of the speeding train, they crossed to the other car and quickly slid in the door and found themselves in a bustling kitchen.
Fraser didn't seemed surprised at all, he merely started leading her through the bustling flood of people. He kept saying 'excuse me' and 'pardon us' despite the fact that none of the people could understand him. He was only drawing attention to them, and attention was the last thing Meg wanted. Before they made it half way through the train car a man wearing an obviously cheap tux, presumably a materdie, placed himself in front of them. He started babbling at them in Russian. Fraser smiled and nodded and then leaned down to Meg, "What did he say?" he asked her.
"Oh," his expression changed from one of bewilderment to relief. "Well then, here you are." He quickly pulled two tickets, soaking wet out of his jean pockets and showed them to the man in the tux.
"Where did you get those?" Meg whispered as the waiter inspected the two soaked tickets.
"Well," Fraser explained. "One of them is Ray's. I was holding it for him."
Satisfied, the man handed Ben back the drenched tickets and said something in Russian. Meg answered calmly and the man shrugged and started leading the couple out of the kitchen and into the dining hall. Once they were walking calmly through the dining cart, Fraser leaned over to her. "What did you tell him?" Fraser asked.
"I said we got a little lost."
"And he believed you?"
"We had two tickets, he couldn't very well throw us off the train. But we might get in some trouble if they find us in the kitchen again."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Dief barked excitedly and speed up his pace. "You got something?" Ray asked, with as much excitement as the wolf showed. It was the early afternoon and everyone on the train was restless, there were lots of people in the aisles and, while Dief could maneuver around them, Ray was not so fortunate. He was nearly a car behind the excited lupine when he heard the wolf bark, and then he heard Fraser exclaim "Diefenbaker!"
Ray's slightly obtrusive pace doubled to downright rude as he started running to meet with his friends. He hadn't realized how worried he had been until he no longer needed to worry. "Hey!" he yelled as soon at the two Canadians were in sight. "God, you guys look like hell!"
Meg looked like she was about to say something but decided to hold her tongue. Ray was very amused by the expression on her face, it was somewhere between annoyed and grateful, but as always, composed.
"Yes, well." Fraser said somewhat dismissively "Have you seen Nick?"
"Oh," Fraser said, looking around them, as if he would just somehow pop up. He turned to Meg, "Where do you think he would go?"
"Did we stop while I was asleep?" she asked. Ray cast her a curious glance, but he knew better than to say anything.
"Yes, I believe so. The train was scheduled to stop in Novoibirsk at noon."
"He got off there."
"You know this?" Ray asked skeptically. "How you know he didn't fall off the train? How do you know that he's not just hiding out somewhere waiting for a time when he can get you again?"
"Look Detective," Meg said in an unnecessarily harsh voice. "I know this man, for over six months he had been my world. He likes to talk big but the fact is that he won't enter a confrontation unless he's positive he will win it. He has no such assurances if he were to confront either you or Fraser. Furthermore, he knows we represent the law and his only hope is of hiding until the situation calms down." Neither Meg nor Ray noticed Fraser's knowing smile.
"What?" That was not the response she had expected.
"My name's Ray, I'm not a detective anymore." He had an self-satisfied smile on his lips that Meg didn't understand, but Fraser knew entirely too well.
"Of course you're not." She said, making as little of her slip up as possible. "We need to get to our room," she asserted. "I have to know what he took with him when he left the train, as well as contact my superiors to advise them of the situation."
"Naturally," Fraser said, "lead on."
Meg glanced back at him, there was something in her eyes that hadn't been there when she had lived in Chicago. But her mannerisms were exactly the same. She lead them down the train with a sense of perfectionism that was totally uncalled for.
Dief trotted lopsidedly slightly in front of her. Fraser was on her heels and Ray held back a little. There was definitely more going on then anyone had told him, and no one seemed to be in a particularly talkative mood. He had a feeling that Dief knew more about what was going on between those two than he did.
"Hey Fraser!" he said, just loud enough for Ben to hear. The Mountie turned around to look at his partner quizzically. "So, what's with Thatcher?" Ray asked, keeping his voice low.
"What do you mean?" Fraser asked, his voice matching Ray in volume.
"Her face, what's the thing with her face?" Fraser only offered a blank stare. "Don't tell me you're going blind. There, that huge bruise on her face."
"Oh, that, well . . ."
"You know how it happened?"
"I wouldn't say I know . . ."
"But you got some . . . ah . . . some ideas."
"And these suspicions, do they include Nick?"
"I'd really rather not say."
"They do, don't they?"
"Meg hasn't expounded on that issue, and I really don't think it would be appropriate to press her."
"Not appropriate! Fraser, that is a dangerous criminal he's a . . . what is he anyway?"
"Well, he did attempt to murder Meg, and myself."
"I'm going to assume he's done more than that."
"I think that would be a safe assumption."
"Can you assume anything else?"
"Well, I could, but I don't think that would be prudent."
"Not prudent, huh?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"So, you're not going to tell me anything."
"I've nothing to tell, honestly Ray, she hasn't confided in me. And even if she had I would be honor bound not to tell you."
"Honor bound! Fraser, she's not your superior officer. We're in Russia, not Canada, not Chicago. You've got no duty here! She's just a woman!"
Fraser nodded, "I'm aware of that."
"You are?" Ray sounded a little surprised.
"Damn," Meg said almost calmly. "He's come and he's gone."
"You know this how?" Ray asked.
"His stuff is gone, my stuff is gone, let's consider the options."
"Do you need to contact you're superiors?"
"Yes, but I'm at a loss of how to do that. He took my cell phone." She leaned against the wall, "blessing in disguise, at least now we'll be able to track him."
"However that does leave the problem of contacting your superiors. He's been gone for about an hour, we can't afford to let him have that much of a head start."
"How do you propose to do that?"
"I have no idea, but I'm sure there is a way. In the meantime, perhaps you should change out of those wet cloths."
Ray's eyebrow shot up, but no one noticed.
"In case the fact escaped you, he took my bag, with my clothes in it."
"Ah!" Fraser said, as if the fact had escaped him. "Well, then, Ray, where are our bags?"
"Our bags." Fraser asserted. "She can't very well stay in those wet clothes now can she? And since she had no dry clothes of her own she'll have to use some of ours."
Ray looked around skeptically, "You're kiddin, right?"
"No, Ray." He said seriously.
"Ben, you shouldn't have to go to any trouble." Meg said, inserting herself into the conversation. "We'll be in Moscow tomorrow, I can get fresh clothes there."
"It's no trouble at all." Fraser said with an unnerving level of kindness. "I shall collect the bags. They are by our seats are they not Ray?"
"Sure," the American mumbled.
"And perhaps you could fetch us some lunch?"
"Lunch?" Ray asked, annoyed.
"We haven't eaten since, well, last night."
"Yha," Ray said. "Lunch, sure, for, ah, three."
"Four," Ray corrected himself.
"Right," Fraser said, he was smiling like a fool. "We'll be back presently." He turned towards the door and was almost out before he was stopped dead in his tracks by Meg's protests.
"Fraser," she said, before she really knew why she said it.
She looked around nervously. "Hurry back," she finally said authoritatively.
"Yes Ma'am." He was still smiling unabashedly, something Meg found alluring despite herself. Ray just found it annoying.
Once the men were gone, Meg found herself alone in the room. She couldn't think of any place on the entire earth that frightened her more. Or at least any place that had more frightening memories in it. "It's only a place," she muttered to herself. "There is nothing inherently frightening about it. It's neutral."
She sat down in a corner of the room as if moving around in it freely would have somehow brought Nick back. She was not at all happy about being left alone while Ben and Ray were off running errands. Well, they had left the wolf, but she regarded him more as protection than company. Meg leaned her head against the wall an closed her eyes. She didn't want to be here, she wanted to be anywhere but here. Nick's smell was still in the room, and it made her nauseous. She wanted to curl up into a little ball, become as small as possible, and then just maybe she would disappear. But she knew that was stupid. She was exhausted, the four hour nap she had taken in Ben's arms may have done wonders for her bodily well being, but emotionally she was still off the wall. She could feel tears start to form in her eyes. She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes with her already wet sleeve. She couldn't start crying because if she did she wouldn't be able to stop, and she couldn't cry before Ben. The very thought of her crying in front of Ray made her laugh. She had enough self-control to keep a professional front. She was good at that, she had done that all her life.
Diefenbaker looked up at her with huge brown eyes as if knew about her inner turmoil and wanted to help. It was entirely disconcerting. She tried looking out the window, but she could still feel the wolf's eyes on her. Finally, she turned to face him, determined not to let a sled dog get the best of her. "I . . ." she started, and then shook her head. "I'm talking to a deaf wolf." She muttered to herself. "I must really need sleep."
Dief let out a low growl that was not really threatening, more disappointed. He also took a few wobbly steps towards her. Meg leaned forward, concerned. "He hurt you didn't he?" she asked the wolf. He whimpered softly and put his head in her lap. She looked down at him and couldn't help but feel guilty about all the times she had yelled at him, or criticized Fraser because of him. "I didn't hate you, ever," she told him, mostly because talking to him was better than being alone in the memory soaked room. "I think I was jealous, he talked to you, not to me. Not that I encouraged conversation." she laughed. "But I would have thought that you wouldn't either, being deaf . . . and a dog." Dief growled softly. Meg started rumpling his ears, if he were a cat he would have purred. "You're a good listener." She told him. Dief licked her hands affectionately. Meg couldn't help but smile at the wolf. There was something about him that garnished affection.
"Where did Nick hurt you?" She asked, deciding that she should return the favor. She didn't really expect Dief to answer her in any way, but to her great surprise he offered her a paw that, as far as Meg could tell, was extremely swollen. "How would this happen?" She wondered out loud, even if the wolf could tell what she was saying there was no way he would be able to tell her what had happened. Fraser, maybe, but not her. And of course Fraser would have know what was wrong with him, and known how to fix it. As it was all she could do was notice it was swollen. She sighed, "I'm sorry Dief."
"You're talkin' to the wolf now?" Ray said snidely as he entered the room carrying a bag that smelled very good. "Never thought I'd see that happen."
"Well, now you have." Meg said icily, pulling away from Diefenbaker. The wolf whimpered softly and laid down at her feet.
"Yha, so they kinda stopped serving lunch so I had'a take what they had." He said setting the bag down. Meg waited for him to expound, he waited for her to ask what they had left. Finally, thinking either Thatcher didn't care or she was just really out of it, he opened the bag. "Soup, and bread." Ray said, handing her a steaming Styrofoam cup. "Careful, it's hot."
"I can see that, Detective."
"Ray." There was definite strain in her voice. He could see that she was uncomfortable with him. She had never been before. Before she had regarded him as inconsequential if that; now she was afraid to look at him. Ray didn't understand women in general, and he certainly had never understood the ice queen, but when behavior changed so obviously, even he noticed.
"So?" he asked casually.
She looked around to see if there was anything else he could be talking to. Discovering no one else she replied, "So."
"Your face." She gave him a blank stare. "There's a bruise, on your face," he said by way of explanation.
Meg glared at him with something just under hatred. "That's none of you're business."
"You know I'm Fraser's partner." She didn't respond. "And he's worried about you."
That caught her attention. "He is?"
"Yha, he won't say anything. But the deal of the matter is he thinks that the Nick guy hurt you."
"Hurt me?" Meg somehow made her voice sound skeptical.
"'Cause, you know, that bruise on you're face, it's like he was holding his hand over you're mouth, like he was keeping you from screaming."
"And you didn't have it that first time I saw you,"
"When you had no idea who I was?"
"Right, so he was hurting you on the train."
"What could he possible do?" Meg asked, she hoped that her tone of voice made it sound as if the idea was ridiculous.
"Oh, I'da'know." Ray said looking out the window, not really thinking. "He could threaten you, slap you around, rape ya." His train of thought was suddenly interrupted by Dief's sharp bark. He turned around to see Meg clutching her right hand and cabbage soup all over the floor.
"Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!" she muttered.
"You Ok?" Ray said, not entirely sure what had happened.
"Fine," she said, her voice was stretched thin. "I just spilled the soup."
"Yha, but you're hand . . ."
"I'm fine, Detective!"
"Ray," she corrected herself. Her voice was full of frustration and her eye's were tightly shut. Had anyone ever told Ray that he would see The Ice Queen like that he would have busted them for being under the influence of some very mind altering drugs.
"What happened?" Ben said softly from the doorway. He had changed out of his wet jeans and sweater into his serge. It should have struck both Ray and Meg as exceedingly odd, but it didn't. It seemed unnatural that Fraser had gone so long without wearing it.
"Nothing." Meg insisted, shaking her right hand in the air to get the soup off it. "I just spilled some soup."
"Ah, and your hand."
"It's fine." she growled, holding it awkwardly at her side.
"I see," he said nodding. "Well, in that case, here." He gave her a red flannel shirt "Unfortunately, I can only replace your shirt. I'm afraid that I don't have any . . . well, any . . ."
She reached up with her left hand and took the shirt. It was soft and warm and smelled like him. "Thank you, Fraser," she said sharply. "This is really more than enough."
He smiled at her courteously. "Well, then, we'll leave you to change." He turned to the American "Ray?"
He nodded towards the door and eventually Ray caught on. "Oh, yha," he said and moseyed out the door. Fraser waited expectantly, holding the door open. Dief whimpered reluctantly, but left the room after Fraser gave him a very unamused glance. With a courteous bow Fraser took his leave.
"Fraser, something is seriously wrong with that woman," Ray said as soon as the door was safely closed behind them.
"Dief, I'm going to run a quick errand, don't let anyone in or out." Fraser ordered his wolf before starting up the train at a rapid pace.
Ray followed, "Didn't you hear me?"
"Oh, I heard you, Ray."
"Then why didn't you answer me?!"
"Well, I don't know what to say." Fraser admitted. "Offhand I would agree that there is something weighing heavily on her mind at present, which is distracting her. But she seems to be handling it with her usual . . ."
"Detachment?" Ray prompted.
Fraser shook his head. "No, professionalism. Whatever is troubling her, the last thing she is, is detached and the one thing she wants to be is professional." They came to a little concession stand in the hallway, the same place Ray had bought Dief some Milk Duds. "Hello sir," Fraser said politely. "I need some ice."
"Iesss?" The man asked with a heavy Russian accent. It was obvious that he had no idea what Ben was asking for.
"Oh, dear." Fraser said, "I'm afraid my Russian is rusty, I can't remember how to say ice."
Ray rolled his eye. He grabbed one of the paper napkins and then, without permission, reached into a bucket with assorted colas and beers and pulled out a handful of ice. He put it in the napkin and handed it to Fraser. "This good?"
"Well, yes, this should be sufficient, but Ray, we didn't pay for it."
"It's ICE!" Ray exclaimed. He grabbed Fraser's arm and pulled him back down the hallway towards their room.
"Thank you Kindly!" Fraser called back to the dumbfounded Russian.
"You always have to be so polite?" Ray asked annoyed.
"Well, in my experience people respond better when they feel they've been treated with respect."
"You respect Thatcher?"
"But she's not responding to you well, now, is she?"
They reached the sleeping room, Ben made no motion to open the door or even knock on it. "What are you getting at Ray?"
"You agree that she's acting odd."
"Well . . ."
"Do You agree?" Ray pushed.
"Yes, yes, I agree that her behavior is not normal."
"And you agree that she's not about to tell anyone about it if all they do is ask politely."
"What are you insinuating?"
"I think that Nick guy messed her up pretty bad, Fraser. And I know that you've got this weird thing with her, so I'm just saying unless you go up and make her talk she's not going to say a thing."
"I can't very well make her talk, Ray." Fraser was about as upset as Ray had ever seen him. "She's not a suspect in an interrogation room. She hasn't done anything wrong, in fact all evidence points to her being the victim. And yes, I do agree that she needs to talk, to let it all out. But if she doesn't want to talk to me, then there is nothing I can do about it. By forcing her I'll only make matters worse."
Ray nodded. "She wants to tell you. You just got to ask her."
Fraser regarded his friend carefully. "Would you mind leaving Meg and me alone for awhile, I need to examine her hand and . . ."
Ray offered Fraser a knowing smile, "I'll be back at our cheap third class seats with the crazy old lady waiting for you."
"Thank you." He moved to knock on the door but Dief was in his way. "Would you mind going with Ray?" He asked politely?
"Oh, really, well I'm glad you're on good terms now, but still I think I need to talk to her in private." Dief growled softly but finally followed Ray down the aisle.
Ben turned to face the door. He had to remind himself that there was no reason to be nervous, beyond the fact that inside there was a beautiful woman who he was very much in love with and it was very probable that what he had to say would hurt her. No reason to be nervous at all. Tentatively he knocked on the door. Almost immediately Meg's clear voice called "Who is it?"
"Constable Fraser Ma'am." He said, reverting to old habits and mannerisms.
Fraser did as he was told and found Meg staring wistfully out the window, holding her right hand protectively. Fraser closed the door behind him. "I brought you some ice." He said softly.
She turned to look at him, her eyes were puffy but dry. "Ice?"
"For your hand." Fraser took a step forward and held out the ice pack for her to take. "You burned it with the soup."
Meg looked at her hand and then at his ice. Finally she reached out and took it. "Thank you."
Ben didn't say anything, he just smiled. They stood in silence for a while each waiting for the other to take the first step. It was a game they both played a little too well. In the end, it was the ice that made the first move.
"It's melting," Meg said, somewhat out of the blue.
"The ice, it's melting. We should get rid of it before it causes a mess."
"Oh, yes." Fraser said, snapping to action as always. He quickly took the napkin that was more filled with water than ice and, for lack of a better place, put it in the Styrofoam cup that had once contained steaming cabbage soup. That done he turned to her and asked, "How is your hand?"
"Better," she said softly.
"Can I see it?"
Meg nodded and displayed her hand for him. "Humm," he said softly, taking her hand in his, keeping it palm up and being very careful not to touch it where it was burned.
Meg glanced at her hand, then up at Fraser, and back at her hand. It hurt, a lot, but she didn't think it was serious. How hot could the soup really have been? Her hand was red, discolored, but Meg didn't think that was abnormal. Fraser's concern made her doubt that assumption. "What is it?" She asked after he didn't volunteer any more information.
"Sit down," he said, releasing her hand and fiddling with his Sam Brown.
She looked at her hand more carfully. She saw nothing on it that would necessitate her sitting down. "Why?" she asked, mostly out of curiosity.
"Because, I'm going to bandage it, and it could take a while. You'll be more comfortable sitting down."
"Oh," she said as she placed herself on one of the seats, keeping the injured hand out so he could examine it. Fraser sat across from her and opened a little jar that was filled with a paste like substance. "What is that?" Meg asked.
"It will make you're hand heal faster."
"What's in it?"
"You don't want to know." Meg considered that an enigmatic answer, but decided it would be best to let the matter rest. Ben gently took her hand in his and held it steady, while he began to apply the cool salve with his other hand. "You know," he said. "My partner, Ray, who I trust with my life, told me that he believed there were some essential facts to the case which you were not telling us." He looked up and smiled at her, "Does this hurt?"
"Not yet." Meg said tensely.
Ben continued to apply the ointment. "I told him that we were intruding into your case. And that if there was any information which you felt that I should know, you would reveal it in your own time."
There was a long pause. Meg knew that Fraser was trying to coax a confession out of her, and quite frankly she found it intrusive. She didn't want to tell him anything, but there were a few things he did deserve to know. "His name is Nicholas Bendoshkie. He has been a small time arms dealer for years, then suddenly he got his hands on two nuclear weapons and was selling to the highest bidder."
"I assume that you were charged with finding the weapons."
"I was charged with gaining his trust. We didn't really want Nick, he's just the middle man. We needed his source and his customers."
"And have you retrieved that information?"
"Enough of it. I gave Geneva all the information they wanted about his source, and I know where and when the meet is set for the bombs. That should be enough."
"It sounds like you did an excellent job." Fraser said. Meg didn't look at him, she just watched him nimbly coat her scared hand with medicine.
"I did what I had to do."
"I'm going to put a bandage on it now." Fraser said, putting her hand down as he pulled some gauzes out of his Sam Brown. "To prevent infection."
"Thank you." She was quiet for a while longer. "Are you wandering why I nearly fell off the train this morning?"
Fraser hadn't expected her to bring that up. "I assumed it was an accident."
Meg shook her head, biting her lower lip. "I told you I would have been chosen for this assignment regardless of my performance in Iraq."
"Yes, you did say that."
"Nick was a womanizer. They told me that much." She laughed humorlessly. "I spent my entire life trying to prove that I was just like any man, and the biggest case of my career I get because I'm a woman.
"I tried to be one of the guys, as much as I could be. There was a large supply of weapons at my disposal, so it would appear that I was an arms trader as well. The first night we met I nearly slapped him, but didn't because, well, I needed to curry his favor. There are very few women in the arms business, almost none in Russia. Nick was not the only man I attracted. But because I didn't discourage him I think he got the wrong idea. Which was, of course, the idea he was supposed to get. Which was the idea that my superiors knew would open him up to me. He was my world, he was all I thought about for nearly six months, every action every word I analyzed carefully. But I missed the facts that turned out to be really important, the nuances, the innuendos.
"God, Fraser, I was so naive. We were at this bar, and he said he wanted to talk business in a private room upstairs. I was ecstatic, I was positive he would tell me everything." She was quiet for a while. Ben finished wrapping her hand but he continued to hold it, waiting for her to go on. Finally she did.
"After it all he just fell asleep, and I found myself lying on the floor, trying to think of what to do next. My first impulse was to kill him as he slept. But I couldn't do that. Then I thought of killing myself, jumping out the window, or blowing my brains out. But I didn't have the courage for that either, at least not then. Then I thought of running, disappearing, fading away and never being heard from again." She raised her head and looked him directly in the eyes. "I was putting on my clothes, Fraser, I had everything on but my coat, and then for some reason, I thought of you. And it hurt more, but I knew what I had to do." She fell silent.
Ben sat in awe. He had suspected as much, but he had dearly wanted not to believe it. He was suddenly filled with a mixture of righteous anger and extreme pity, and overlying it all was a total wonder of the woman sitting in front of him. She had recited the whole tale dry-eyed, with a measured voice and keeping her hand still. She had been set up by her superiors to be hurt by a vicious man who placed no value on human lives, for no better reason than she was pretty. Nick and those suits in Geneva had collectively taken everything that she held dear away from her, her honor, her dignity, her self respect, and through it all she had done the right thing.
Fraser couldn't pretend to know what she had gone through, but there was a time when he too had lost (or at least it felt like he had lost) everything that was important to him, Diefenbaker, Ray, his career, his honor, and eventually his freedom, all gone. And when the choice came, between duty and himself, he had chosen himself. It was a choice that haunted him. The incident had been forgotten by every other person involved, Lt. Welsh, Detective Huey, Ray Vecchio, but not by Fraser. They had all forgiven him. But Fraser knew that when his life had come to the single most important crossroads, and the moment of decision was at hand, he had chosen the wrong road. Meg hadn't.
She had been faced with the same amount of emotional torture he had been, but she had put what's right over everything else. He marveled at her strength. He had always known that she was probably the strongest woman he would ever meet, but this amazed him. He couldn't help but think that he didn't deserve her. She deserved someone as strong as she. Someone who wouldn't crumble under extreme pressure. Someone who wouldn't run away when the world hurt too much.
"Say something, Fraser." Meg ordered, begged.
The Mountie looked up at her and wondered what he could say, what words could would communicate that she amazed him, and that he loved her, and that he would do anything for her. He wanted to give her his heart on a platter, but there didn't seem to be any platters available. So instead he stood up, still holding her bandaged hand, and looked down at her lovely countenance. He took a deep breath and started singing:
"You must remember this,
A kiss is still a kiss,
A sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by."
Meg looked at him as if he was absolutely possessed at first, but then, slowly a smile blossomed on her face. She was reminded of the time they were trapped in the incubator, she had been convinced they would die, and Fraser had pretended to be electrocuted to lighten the mood. It wasn't a particularly funny joke, but it had been just enough to make her smile. Meg knew she didn't deserve a man so wonderful, so thoughtful, so kind and loving, and so good. But despite that she stood up and put her other hand on his shoulder, while he slipped his hand on her waist. Slowly they started to dance in the little room whilst Ben continued to sing:
"And when two lovers woo
They still say, 'I love you,'
On that you can rely,
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by."
Meg laid her head against Ben's chest and started singing the bridge:
"Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion"
Fraser finished the line:
"Jealousy and hate."
Meg was smiling unabashedly now.
"Woman needs man,"
Ben took a deep breath, taking in her scent.
"And man must have his mate,"
They sang the last line in harmony:
"That no one can deny."
Ben took the last verse:
"It's still the same old story,
A fight for love and glory,
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers,
As time goes by."
He held the last note as he dipped her, and when he pulled her up, their eyes met. They didn't say a word but each of them knew what the other was thinking and feeling. Ben leaned forward and again their lips touched. This time Meg didn't pull away.
One Month later.
Agent Jason Ferguson poked his head into Cornel Park's office. "I've got Thatcher's deposition for you, if you want it, sir." He said.
The Cornel looked up from the varius paper work that was splattered all over his desk, "What?"
Jason stepped fully into the room. "Margaret Thatcher's deposition. You remember? The Bendoshkie case."
"Deposition?" He demanded angrily. "Why the hell isn't she testifying?"
Jason looked around nervously, "Well, sir, she's on her honeymoon."
"Damn! That was the Thatcher that got married?"
"How long ago."
"Almost a month now, sir."
"Chicago. Guess she still has a lot of good connections there."
"Where are the love birds held up?" Park said reaching for his phone, "I'll make arrangements for her to be here."
"Ah, sir, I really don't think . . ."
He paused, "Do you know something I don't?"
"Well, it's just that I think they planned it so she wouldn't have to testify."
"What?! It's her duty to testify! What kind of antics are these!?"
"Sir, sir," Jason said realizing that he might have over stepped his bounds just at tad. "I don't know that, sir, I was really speaking out of turn."
"Why would you say a good officer was avoiding her duty unless you had good reason to suspect it?!"
"Well, I was just guessing, I mean, she never confided in me."
"Tell me about this guess."
Jason rolled his eyes. For a man that really didn't give a hoot about his subordinates he sure enjoyed the gossip that flew around. "Well, its just when she came in from Moscow she gave every impression of, well, putting the whole thing as far behind her as possible. On top of that, she had a fiancé."
"Where did she get a fiancé, was he Russian?"
"No, Canadian. Mountie to boot. I guess he worked under her during her tenure in Chicago and through some miracle he was in Russia and was on the same train. I only heard parts of the story, and Meg didn't seem to want too much of it told, but the result is that they were getting married. I think he wanted her to give up the spy business, and I can't say I blame him. She'll probably be reinstated into the RCMP."
"Some women just can't say no to men." Park grumbled.
"I don't think that's Meg's problem." Jason chuckled. "I think it's more that this last case got to her, he just wants to protect her."
"What do you mean?"
"You've done field work haven't you?"
"I was a solider in World War Two, boy, don't forget that."
"I meant, undercover stuff, sir."
"That, no, I was in real battles."
"Oh," Jason said, suddenly gaining a new understanding of his superior. "Well, every now and then something happens in a case that causes a paradigm shift."
"Speak English, boy."
"She's tired of it, and she wants a normal life. A husband and kids and a dog. You know, suburban dream."
"So what you're saying is that she's escaping her responsibilities by falling into the arms of a man who is still under the impression that he needs to bow to her authority?"
"No, not at all." Jason said shaking his head. "I thought so to, at first. But then, well sir you should have seen her and him together. She brought him in on her last day, to show him off. The whole office was impressed." Jason remembered the overly friendly Mountie in the bright red suit that he had always assumed was only common fair for the RCMP musical ride. "The two of them, they didn't say much to each other, which I found rather odd, but then I noticed how they looked at each other. She kept stealing glances at him and he would just smile at her. I think it was the most romantic exchange I've ever seen. Had you asked me a month ago if I thought Meg Thatcher would ever get married I would have laughed in your face. And I would have given any marriage she did pull off a six month shelf life. But this guy, you could tell that he really loved her, not her face, or her body, or her power or title, but her. And Meg knows what she has." Jason nodded wistfully. "I hope that when I find a wife we have a relationship like that."
"Mambe-pambe romantic crap." The Cornel said bitterly. "She's avoiding her duty. Find me the number of the hotel they're at, I'm gonna bring that girl back here to testify if I have to do it over her husband's dead body."
"Ah, there's another thing sir . . ."
"They're not at a hotel."
"They planed to spend their honeymoon in the Yukon, in his father's cabin."
"Who the hell spends their honeymoon in the Yukon!?"
"I don't know, it sounds romantic to me. There's really no excuse to huddle together in the night if you're in the tropics, I mean you're warm as it is."
"Find me the cabin's phone number."
"I'm afraid the cabin doesn't have a phone."
"Good God, Isn't there any way to reach them?!"
"Nope, 'fraid not."
Epi-epilog (You've made it this far, just a little farther!)
Ben could feel his father's presence, he didn't see him, and he didn't hear him, but he knew that his father was there, and he suspected that his mother was too, looking over him, smiling.
Meg was still asleep. She had woken up last night, not because of the nightmares that were becoming rarer and rarer, but because of the roaring of the winter wind. Ben had hardly noticed it.
She had woken him up and asked if the cabin was in any danger of collapsing in on itself. The very idea was ridiculous to him, but he could remember his first night in the city, any city. When he had been a senior in high school he had accompanied his father to Ottawa and he couldn't sleep the entire weekend, there was so many strange noises, the buzzing of the streetlights, the cars, the occasional sirens, the noise from the hotel, the elevator and the people coming in and out at all hours of the night. That had changed, he had learned in Chicago that those noises were as natural as a howling wolf or the whipping of the wind. Meg would get used to life in the north. Soon she wouldn't let snowstorms worry her.
They weren't going to live in the cabin forever, Fraser knew that. Meg was at heart a diplomat, that's where she blossomed, where she felt comfortable. And there were precious few opportunities to use those skills in the wild, where there was an average of one person per 50 square miles. He could live in the city for her, and she was slowly, but surly, discovering that she could live in the desolate wilderness, where any step could be your last. Ben was even beginning to suspect that she was learning to enjoy the quiet and the solitude. In fact, it was exactly what she needed, a safe place for her soul to settle.
She groaned softly, she was waking up. He has a pot of coffee ready on the stove and pancake batter waiting to be grilled, he thought he would serve her breakfast in bed (it wasn't particularly hard considering the stove was only three meters away from the bed.) And then he would hitch up the dogs and ride into town to make sure that everyone was alright. The storm had been much worse than he had let Meg know. Their cabin (When had it ceased to be his father's and become their's) was sturdy, but many of the local Inuits were not so lucky. He suspected that Meg would be willing to bundle up and ride with him. She had a compassionate side that she had kept well hidden during her time in Chicago, probably because compassion was easily (although quite mistakenly) associated with weakness. She couldn't afford the risk of compassion in Chicago, in may ways it was more vicious than the great frozen north, and she had had to face it alone. Now if she ever felt weak she knew he was there to catch her.
Meg groaned a little louder, and opened her eyes. Ben was looking down at her, smiling, she smiled back
The End (aren't you glad you finished?)