Natasha (Basha) Drama
Well hello everyone. I've been away for ages and have been lost without all your wonderful stories! I've finally got up to date and would like to post my story. It takes considerable explanation so bear with me. I had the idea in Oct but only put it down in paper recently. This was for my best friend (unfortunately not a DS fan -no ones perfect !) Any way she loved it and wanted more. The idea started as a way to explain who Steve (North) is but kind of got away from me. Anyway the story was meant to be about this and to clear up a continuity error from BITH that said BF had been shot in the leg before (my thanks to Elyse for unwittingly giving me that idea) but some evil bunnies got in my head and... I would greatly appreciate ALL comments complimentary or critical as this is the first piece of proper fiction I've written.
It should probably be rated PG13 for some mention of violence, drug addiction and bad language (nothing you don't hear on DS.)
Oh and the Disclaimer: The lines in Sphere are from Bryan Adams song 'The only thing that looks good on me is you'. I'm sorry I borrowed the characters but some fool left them lying around. Its not worth suing me. Apart from the DS characters the story and Anna are mine. If when its finished you want to post it to the DS fiction archives feel free. Anyone else wants to mess around with it, ask me first!
So without further ado..
ENDLESS LIGHT Natasha
THE WORLD Henry Vaughan
I saw Eternity the other night Like a great ring of pure and endless light, All calm as it was bright, And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years Driv'n by the spheres Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world And all her train were hurled.
Perhaps this had been a terrible mistake, after all it had been a long time since she'd seen him. Following what had happened things had been more than a little strained. Anna sighed and looked down at her shaking hands. This was worse than all the exams in the world. She suddenly longed for a simple life again, going to school, playing with her friends in the snow... him. Even now, years later she missed him, the friend and confident who had been like a big brother, who'd stood by her... saved her life.
*Pull yourself together Anna.* Still if it hadn't been for this job offer she wouldn't have been here facing her demons. Why Chicago of all places? Of course in the part of her mind where she was being completely honest she was glad it was here. Maybe this was a second chance. It was an escape of sorts too, a place to runaway but she couldn't admit that, especially not to herself.
If he'd actually been at his home then Anna wouldn't have had all this time to worry and get nervous. But no! She'd been on a route march via the 27th Precinct and now she was at the Consulate and he wasn't here either. *Someone somewhere is definitely trying to tell me this is a horrible mistake.* Voices downstairs intruded on her thoughts. By the sounds of it they were those of Detective Ray Vecchio and Constable Benton Fraser involved in a somewhat heated discussion. The Detective was shouting at the Constable about how disgusting it was to taste vegetable leaves that were found on the floor of a Supermarket.
"I can't believe you put some filthy lettuce leaf in your mouth! You've just gotta stop eating things off of the floor before you catch the plague!"
"Well actually Ray it would depend which plague you were alluding too. For example the bubonic plague was caused by the bite of a rat flea which was infected with the Pasteurella pestis bacterium and I most certainly..."
"Shut up Fraser! I don't care. All I'm saying is that tasting lettuce leaves is not the way to track a thief that only stole a coupla tins of soup."
"But that's not how I found him. I simply asked the checkout girl if she knew the thief and if she might know of his possible whereabouts."
By this point they were almost at the office door and Anna was rapidly looking for likely escape routes. She'd decided on the fire escape but was having difficulty getting her legs to go along with the plan. In fact she was having to cling onto the desk just to keep upright and her stomach was obviously enjoying a roller coaster ride to judge by the way it was feeling. She finally gave up on the losing battle with her legs and turned to face the door just as it opened to reveal the two men.
They both stopped and looked at her obviously awaiting an explanation of who this trembling wreck was. Anna took a deep breath, there was no escape now, and spoke.
Ray Vecchio was looking at her interestedly and Ben, well Ben was looking a little shocked. He had also become rather pale. *Yep, definitely a mistake! Should have phoned first, given him some warning.* Unable to stand the uncomfortable silence any longer she spoke up.
"Long time no see, eh Ben?"
*Did I really just say that? Oh yeah that has to go down in the history books as a great opening line. Well done Anna you've got great style.* Anna got a grip on herself deciding now was not the time to debate on the why and wherefore of this situation and she smiled sheepishly at Ben trying to control the sudden quivering of her bottom lip. The next thing she knew she was enveloped in a hug. *Oh god I need this.* She squeezed back, determined not to sob all over his smart red tunic. She stepped slightly away from him as Ben introduced her to Ray who shook her hand slightly bemusedly. After the brief introductions in which Ben described her as "an old friend" Anna turned her attention back to the reason why she was there.
"I brought you a present Ben."
" Oh well that's very kind of you Anna but there's no need, really." He smiled at her in way that reminded her of better times, when she'd been a little girl doted on by her brother and by him.
"Think of it as an apology. I certainly owe you one." Ben opened his mouth to protest but Anna interrupted him before he got a chance to say a word.
"If I feel I owe you an apology and if I will feel better by giving you this gift surely it would be impolite to refuse, Ben." Anna gave him a wicked grin as he started stuttering.
"Well I suppose if you put it that way... but really there is no need. That is to say I'll accept the gift but there is no need.."
"Shut up Ben."
Ray stood behind Ben desperately tying to smother a giggle as Benny shut his mouth with an audible snap. He was wondering who this young lady was that she could elicit such a demonstration of affection from Ben AND stop him mid ramble. Anna reached behind the desk and produced a large framed photo. Ben accepted and stared at it in utter silence for a whole minute.
"I thought you might be missing the view." The smile Ben gave her made Anna forget all the nervousness and tension. She turned to Ray and explained.
"It's a photograph I took near Ben's father's cabin. Ben used to take me up there to watch the sunrise when I was a little girl."
"You took it yourself ? It's really good, are you a photographer?"
"No, photography is just a hobby, I'm a Veterinary Surgeon."
"Really? You don't look..."
"Old enough?" She grinned at Ray and shrugged. "Lets just say I'm a little older than I look. I haven't been qualified long though." She turned to study Ben feeling uncertainty wash over her, nervous of his response.
"Thank you Anna, its beautiful."
"Well I've got you a little something else as well. Sit down and close your eyes I want you to taste something!"
"I knew it! I just knew tasting strange objects was a Canadian thing." Ray was having problems keeping the smug expression off his face as Anna reached for what looked like a cool box and spooned something out of it and into Ben's mouth.
"Well then Benny is this something you've never tasted before. What is it?" Ray was surprised to see that when Benny opened his eyes they looked suspiciously damp. His reply to the question was even more surprising.
"It's snow from home. To be precise I think it is from the hill behind my fathers cabin where Anna took that photo." Then he looked at Anna and quietly, gently asked his question.
Anna hesitated before answering. She knew exactly what he was asking but she didn't really want to explain. It was still painful and she was so very ashamed even six years on.
"I do owe you an apology. I knew what Steve was doing for quite sometime before he.., well..." She took a deep breath before continuing. "... before. I should have told you, the police, someone, sooner. Then none of what happened would have. I..."
"You were eighteen years old! What happened was not your fault. He was your older brother and responsible for his own actions." Ben's response was more vehement than she'd expected. Ray looked on helpless, completely lost as to what the hell the two of them were talking about. This clearly wasn't just some old friend from Benny's past. Ray felt a pang of something too nebulous to define, that left him cold all over and studied Anna and Ben more closely. Anna was talking now, sounding angry and sad.
"I knew exactly what I was doing! I fully understood the consequence of my actions, or rather lack of them. You nearly died because of my cowardice. Steve should have been stopped a long time before he got to the point where..."
"Constable Fraser!" The voice behind them made everyone jump, but it succeeded in breaking the tension. They turned to see Inspector Thatcher looking angry.
"You are late for guard duty! May I suggest you straighten your uniform, bid your guests farewell, and attend to your duties."
"Yes, of course, my apologies sir!" The Inspector cast an angry glance at the offending guests, turned on her heel and slammed the office door resoundingly.
"Maybe I could visit you tonight Ben?" Now that they were finally talking about this she may as well get the whole damn thing out in the open before she chickened out again.
"Oh dear, well I'd love to but I have a prior engagement."
"It's all right Anna. Benny's having dinner with me and my family tonight. Why don't you join us?"
"I couldn't possibly impose."
"Rubbish, I insist. Pick you up after your shift Benny. Now why don't you let me give you a lift to wherever you need to go Anna." Ray was determined to get to the bottom of this. Alarm bells were going off in his head. *Once bitten, twice shy* he thought to himself as he ushered a slightly startled Anna out of the Consulate, barely giving her a chance to mutter good bye.
Anna studied the infamous Buick Riviera briefly before climbing in. She could well see why Ray had been mortified when Ben had made him blow up the first one. It was obviously his pride and joy. After telling him where she was staying they sat in companionable silence, Anna studying the scenery of what was to be, hopefully, her new home for the next six months. Ray, however, was far from feeling companionable. The nebulous feelings he'd experienced earlier had refined into a sense of foreboding that had settled in the pit of his stomach with a vice like grip. *I'm a detective for god's sake! I'll ask some tactful leading questions, find out what's going on. Stop history repeating itself.*
"So Anna, you known Ben long?"
"All my life." Ray sighed, she was hardly being communicative. He tried a different tack.
"What brings you to Chicago then?"
"Well, as you know I'm a vet and there is a practice here that needs a locum for six months. They have an interesting set-up there so I thought I'd give it a try."
"It's a long way from Canada."
"Hmmm. But it should be quite an opportunity, apart from the small animal practice they also work with the zoo here. I should get a chance to dabble with the more exotic species!"
"Is there something wrong with the zoo?" Anna studied the Detective he seemed a little... twitchy.
"No, nothing wrong with the zoo." *Unless of course your planning to shoot a convicted bank robber there and blame it on my best friend. Then we have a problem!* Out loud Ray said, "You must be glad of the opportunity to see Benny again. When did you last see him?"
"Oh, it must be six years now. We've kept in contact by letters but it's not the same. This should give us a chance to sort some things out." *Great I've been avoiding the whole mess for the past six years and here I am about to tell a practical stranger about the skeletons in my family closet!* The whole day had been wearing and Anna just longed to curl up in bed and not talk to anyone for a month.
Ray studied her more carefully. She was petite with shoulder length blonde/brown hair. She looked about as threatening as a fluffy bunny in a lion cage yet a whole squad of police sirens were going off in his head. He made a sharp left noticing her grip the door as they swung across the path of a truck. He acted as if nothing was wrong and continued his questioning, prodding and poking looking for her to give something away.
"Detective Vecchio!" Anna shouted, interrupting his tirade of questions.
"Hey, what happened to Ray?" He grinned as disarmingly as possible.
*He really does have a sweet smile* Anna felt her anger at his cross questioning fade away. "I was calling you Detective so that I could let you know I was annoyed without being rude to you...Ray"
"Why are you annoyed?" The sweet, innocent good Italian son look was plastered all over his face. Anna thought for a moment before answering. Why would Ben's friend be so suspicious of her? It struck her in what could only be described a flash of inspiration. *I really can be so obtuse at times.*
"Why don't you get to the point and ask me if I have a criminal record, a grudge against Ben or if I am, in any way, related to a certain Victoria Metcalf?"
"Oh, and I thought I was being subtle."
"Ray you're about as subtle as a caribou in mating season."
"Sorry. So are you gonna tell me?"
"I am not going to walk into Ben's life and set him up for various crimes he hasn't committed. Also I am not going to try and kill him, try and get him killed or for that matter do any of those things to you. Satisfied? Oh and I'll try not to get him shot or break his heart at the same time. Happy?"
"Yep. So Ben told you all about what happened then?"
"Actually no. He mentioned in a letter that Victoria had been involved in some crime in Chicago and during police efforts to apprehend her he was mistakenly shot. I am actually quoting there so as you can gather he was not entirely informative. A friend in the RCMP, Sergeant Mears, filled in the blanks."
"I shot him."
"He was running after the train she was escaping on, trying to stop her, and he stepped in front of her just as I shot at her."
"Liar." Ray slammed his feet on the brakes, oblivious to the path of destruction he had left in his wake, and stared at her.
"What did you say"
"I said you were lying. Ben wasn't trying to stop her, he was going with her."
"You don't know that."
"I know Ben and the effect Victoria had on him. He got a second chance, he would have taken it. I know what funny things people do for love." *After all, look at all the stupid, dangerous things I've done for particular #that# emotion.* "You don't think I shot him deliberately?"
"No. I know that Ben has a nasty habit of stepping in front of loaded guns." *And its not the first time a friends shot him.*
"He does it all the time. Seems to think a profound Inuit story and his Stetson will protect him from anything." Anna smiled at the thought of Ben delivering Inuit stories to unsuspecting criminals.
"Now that we've sorted this out can we stop driving round the block? The views becoming slightly monotonous." Ray grinned in response and pulled in at her house.
Anna stretched out on the sofa considering the day so far. Ray was a nice guy and obviously a good friend to Ben. He'd even given her an opportunity to back out of the Vecchio family dinner, telling her how much they shouted and argued. She was actually looking forward to it. Big family dinners were not something she'd ever experienced but it would be good to meet the family that had given Ben a sense of belonging. Her thoughts turned back to Ray. He'd come in for coffee and they'd had a nice talk. She was amazed that he was precisely as pictured from Ben's letters: sarcastic, tough and underneath it all a caring, gentle man. He had also been incredibly nosy about Steve. She'd told Ray that her brother and Ben had been best friends and left it at that. Anna looked down at hands that were shaking again. She could hardly have told Ray the truth, the truth was something she and Ben had skirted around for the past six years. It was a joke really. Benton Fraser was the closest thing she had to family yet neither of them were ever honest with each other. They wrote long letters to each other that seemed to leave out the important facts. Ben's casual mention of Victoria was a prime example. *Of course I have been just as economical with the truth in my own way.* Anna got up and headed for the shower. Thinking about Steve was always a mistake. He still managed to strike fear in her heart even from his icy grave. She let the hot water sluice away the dark memories, watched the anger wash down the drain. It was time to be honest. Steve may once have been a brother but he had become a monster who had robbed and betrayed her. And what's more she was relieved he was dead, it meant he couldn't hurt her anymore.
Benny was jumpy. There was no other word to explain his behaviour. He sat in the passenger seat of the Riv fiddling. Ray was amazed. *Benny fiddling?* He had watched Benny picking invisible specks of dirt off his uniform, now the Mountie was working on his Stetson. Ray grinned.
"Anybody'd think you're going on a date Fraser!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well I mean look at you! You're fiddling. You can't be nervous about dinner tonight, I mean I thought you'd got used to all the Vecchio family togetherness!"
"I love having dinner at your house Ray. You're mother is a wonderful cook."
"You didn't answer my question. Are you nervous about introducing Anna to Frannie? I mean I know she can get a little jealous of any women you know. Or any women you talk too, or look at for that matter, but still. I doubt she'll resort to violence or anything, maybe a little verbal abuse but I'm sure Anna will cope.
"I'll admit that I'm a little worried about tonight. I want everything to go smoothly, Anna's a long way from home, I want her to feel welcome. To be honest I am more concerned about Dief."
"Well yes. He and Anna have never actually met. I've told him all about her but still..."
"He knows she's a veterinary surgeon." Benny's tone suggested that that comment would be sufficient to explain all.
"Well he has certain reservations about any members of that profession. I mean it is perfectly understandable. They do give him his shots every year and obviously they hurt and well... Also on the two occasions he had to stay at the vets it was because he'd been shot. He seems to blame the vet and has developed some kind of what I can only call a phobia. It's irrational of him I know but there's just no reasoning with him. It's another problem I've tried to work through but you know Dief, he's making me pay and pay and pay!"
"It'll be fine, Benny. All Anna has to do is bribe him with some disgusting sweet thing loaded with additives and he'll adore her for ever."
"Ray! She's a qualified Veterinary Surgeon. She's hardly going to feed Dief something so unsuitable to his dietary needs." Ray grinned as they pulled up outside the small house Anna was renting.
"Me and Dief'll wait here. You can get Anna and give her some warning that she'll have a hostile wolf as a dining companion."
Anna had forced herself to sit down. The carpet was beginning to look the worse for wear after her continual pacing of the past half hour. All her courage had vanished into thin air. Maybe they could pretend she hadn't mentioned Steve, that way she wouldn't have to go through the painful explanations and admissions of guilt. She looked up at the sound of a car pulling up outside, took a deep calming breath and headed for the door. Of course the calming breath didn't calm at all but it was a nice idea. Fictional heroines always did that sort of thing before facing a character from the past. *Oh for goodness sake! Get a grip on yourself girl. Open the door.*
"Hi Ben." She hovered on the doorstep not sure if she should give him a kiss on the cheek or not. Ben solved the problem by leaning forward, giving her a quick peck and taking hold of her hand.
"Are you ready?"
"We need to talk. You don't even know why I'm here."
"Ray told me about the job. Let's have a nice meal at the Vecchios and worry about the rest later. We've left it six years another few hours won't hurt." She was surprised at his candidness. Perhaps all of Rays outgoing honesty had rubbed off on him.
"There is someone in the car I want you to meet."
"Dief? I can't wait."
"Yes. Although I'm afraid he is not altogether looking forward to meeting you. It's nothing personal you understand. I am afraid he's judging you on your professional status."
"Ahh. The vet thing? Well I'm sure we can work through it."
"I hope so. Heaven knows I've tried."
Anna greeted Ray with a quick grin and dived into the back seat to meet Dief. He was beautiful. She held her hand out to him and introduced herself. The next thing she knew an incredibly heavy snow white wolf was sitting on her lap lavishing great sloppy, doggy kisses on her.
"I'd say you're reservations were unfounded Ben."
"You haven't by any chance got sweets in your pocket or somethin Anna?"
"Why do you ask Ray?"
"The wolf's a fast food junkie with a sweet tooth."
"And there I was thinking it was my irresistible charm. Would you like to visit me at work one day Dief? You can sit in the waiting room and scrounge off all the people that come in. I'm sure the veterinary nurses will adore you."
"Anna!" Ben sounded thoroughly horrified. "You of all people should know not to encourage him. He's manipulating you."
"Well if he's clever enough to manipulate me then he deserves some pampering, don't you Dief?"
Ben raised his eyes and shook is head. He gave up. It was a conspiracy, Dief and the world against one lone Mountie.
Dinner at the Vecchios" had been great if a little noisy. After half
an hour of Francescas" probing questions Ray had kicked her under the
table and after that she'd been sweetness and light. They were a good
family and so welcoming Anna had been overwhelmed at first. Mrs Vecchio
practically adopted her in the spot! Ray showing remarkable tact had left Anna and Ben alone in the garden, giving them a chance to talk. It hadn't been easy but it was worth it. For the first time in years Anna felt at some kind of peace with her past.
Steve had been a good brother to her for many years. Never growing bored of a little sister that was almost thirteen years younger than him. Anna had only fond memories of that part of her childhood. There had been three constants in her life: Mum, Steve and Ben. Ben and Steve had gone to school together in Inuvik. Now that she was old enough she realised that her family had probably given Ben a sense of belonging he didn't get from his Grandparents. She'd been a broken hearted little girl when he left. There was no one to talk to her
like a grown up or answer her unending questions of "But why?" As Anna grew up Ben had written regularly and visited whenever he could. Even when her and her family moved away from Inuvik.
Anna stretched out in her bed and giggled in remembrance. She'd been sixteen and just finishing another boring day at school when Ben had turned up out of the blue offering to take her home. The next day practically ever girl in the school had been her best friend, wanting to know who the blue eyed Mountie was! *And if Francesca Vecchio is anything to judge by he still has that effect on half the female populace.* Life had gone sour not long after that. Steve had become a different person, unable to hold down a job, always shouting. Two months after her seventeenth birthday Anna's mother had died. She'd suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. Things went from bad to worse. Anna shivered in remembrance. On her eighteenth birthday she'd taken the money her mother had left in her will and moved out of what had been her home. Steve was heavily into drugs and she had a hint of other shady business deals he was involved in. Her apartment had been burgled five times and she knew it was Steve, robbing to support a habit, his entire inheritance gone. She knew of other crimes in the area where she lived that were undoubtedly his doing, but being a good little sister she didn't tell the police. He was her brother, her only family and she still loved him no matter what. Anna felt restless and got up to get some hot milk. Telling Ben all this had been the hardest thing she'd ever done. Steve had turned up at her apartment one night. He'd become violent and wrecked the place. Anna got frightened and called the police. She refused to press charges but the police offered to keep him in custody until he'd cooled down. She'd agreed. She'd gone back to her wrecked apartment and phoned Ben. He'd been surprised to hear from her, even more surprised when she asked if his father's cabin was free. Anna had been there on numerous occasions through out her life. Fraser senior had liked her and let her use it when he didn't need it. She packed her bags, stayed at a friends overnight and left the next morning. After that the worst nightmare of her life had begun...
"So Benny, did you get things sorted out with Anna?" Ray was driving Benny home from the consulate. He wanted to know about this dark secret Anna and Ben shared.
"Yes all sorted." Ben glanced across at his best friend. "Actually she asked me to tell you all about it. She thinks you're worried her past."
"Well I did wonder. Are you going to tell me?"
"Yes. Why don't you come in? It's a long story"
Ray sat in silence listening in horror. No wonder Anna hadn't been very forthcoming.
"I was worried about her so I took time off work and went out to the cabin. She was sitting on the hill behind my fathers cabin just staring at nothing. She wouldn't tell me what had happened, just that Steve and her had an argument and he'd been put in custody overnight. Anna wanted to be left alone but I couldn't leave her out there. She insisted on going for a walk. When she didn't come back after two hours I went looking for her. I tracked her towards a place called Hawk Cliff. Only she wasn't alone, Steve was with her. He was intoxicated." Ben paused and studied his hands. Ray noticed he was absently chewing on his bottom lip. He sighed before continuing. "Steve, it seems, was involved in quite a crime ring. He thought that Anna knew all about it and had told the police. He had become violent."
"Did he hurt her?"
"Not seriously, she was shaken more than anything. Unfortunately he also had a gun. He was sitting ten feet away from Anna, on the edge of the cliff. Apparently Anna was just the bait for bigger prey."
"Steve blamed me for everything that had gone wrong in his life. He felt I had taken Anna away from him. My punishment was that he would kill Anna and then me. I couldn't let him do that."
"Did you have your gun?"
"No. A lack of foresight on my part. I was off duty and had no idea that the situation was so serious. He turned and shot at her."
"You didn't buy any chance step in front of the gun did ya Benny?" Ben managed a faint smile.
"How did you guess? He shot me in the leg. Then... well the only way to describe it is that he "lost it" as you might say. I think the reality of what he had done suddenly hit him."
Ben sat there in silence. All that could be heard was Dief's gentle panting from the corner.
"What happened Ben?" Ray's voice was quiet, concerned.
"He killed himself. His body was never recovered. Understandably Anna did not take it very well."
"I'm sorry Benny. I don't understand why you and Anna have never discussed
this. It's a pretty big issue to avoid."
"I felt guilty. I hadn't kept in touch as often as I should. After her mother died I should have been there for her, should have realised something was wrong. Anna hasn't talked about it because she was ashamed. She had suspicions for quite sometime about how seriously involved in criminal activities Steve was. She was ashamed she didn't report him to the police earlier. Me getting shot, Steve dying, she blamed herself for it all."
"And does she still blame herself?"
"No I don't think so. Anna realise that even though you love a person it doesn't mean you can save them."
They sat, each involved in their own thoughts. Both their thoughts turning to a woman with long dark hair who had nearly destroyed them both.
Anna sat behind the wheel of her car singing lustily at the top of her voice. Every now and then Dief chipped in with a tuneful howl. She was sure the other car drivers thought she was nuts but who cared? Life was pretty good at the moment and she didn't mind who knew it. Coming to Chicago had been the best decision she'd ever made. The Vet practice she worked at was great and she got to do things as diverse as trimming a Rhino's toenails to giving Chemo-therapy to someone's prize cat.
"Well I don't look good in no Armani suits No Gucci shoes - or designer boots"
Anna laughed at the words. This was one of a favourite songs mainly because it made her think of how very different Ben and Ray were. Although she suspected if Ben ever were to wear an Armani suit he'd look pretty good in it. Personally she preferred Ray in the Armani suits and Ben in his uniform or casual jeans. In the two months she'd been in Chicago she had spent plenty of time with the pair of them. Dinner at the Vecchios was a weekly occurrence. Now that Francesca no longer saw her as a possible rival, Anna was glad to go. Her and Ben took Dief for long walks together and Ray regularly turned up at her house offering to cook dinner. They were all spoiling her terribly. Ben and Ray even seemed guilty if they were on a case and couldn't spend time with her. She wasn't about to complain though. It was wonderful to feel so wanted and so important. Anna pulled onto West Racine. Ben should be back from the consulate soon and he was bound to have missed Dief's company. No matter how much Ben griped about Diefenbaker's behaviour Anna knew he got lonely with out the wolf's company. Dief came to the surgery with her every now and then. His fear of the Vets seemed to have been overcome by the promise of the sweet sticky things that they all fed him there. Today she'd had the afternoon off and her and Dief had gone to the woods for a long, peaceful walk. Anna had taken along her camera and got some great shots of Dief. She could add them to stack of films waiting to be developed in her darkroom at home. What with work and everything she hadn't had the time to develop them yet. She felt guilty for neglecting a hobby that she was constantly being told was a talent. Even Ray had been teasing her about the hundreds of photos she'd taken that had never seen the light of day. Maybe this weekend she'd get time.
"C'mon Dief lets get going. Oh and try to look a little less smug! Ben always knows that you've been eating junk food when you look like that. And don't take that attitude. You're not the one that gets into trouble. If your not careful he won't let me take you to the surgery any more. Hmph. Thought that'd change you're mind!"
Anna was sitting by the window with only a single lamp for illumination. Ben entered his apartment quietly, not wanting to disturb her.
"Good day at work Ben?"
"Well not too bad. Ray and I have become involved in this rather intriguing case..." Anna didn't seem to be listening and continued to stare out of the window. Ben hobbled over to where she sat, sincerely hoping she wouldn't notice his limp. It was just bruising he was sure but Anna would want to know how he had become injured. The truth, that he'd fallen off a moving vehicle, would annoy her even more than it had annoyed Ray. "Is there something wrong Anna?"
"Hm? Oh, sorry Ben. I was just thinking that in four more months I'll be going back home."
"You don't want to?"
"Yes and no. I miss my friends there. I miss the peace and quiet. But somehow I think I'll miss being here even more."
"You could stay if you wanted."
"Possibly. Anyway I'm not going just yet." Anna changed the subject, unwilling to dwell on such depressing thoughts. "I took Dief to the woods, got some great shots of him."
"Thank you kindly. It should help work off all those calories from the junk
food he undoubtedly ate this morning." Anna had the grace to look slightly guilty.
"He just sits in the waiting room looking miserable and unloved. People feed him treats to get rid of the mournful look on his face."
"I'm sure. That and the fact that if they don't feed him he drools all over them. If you end up with elevated levels of cholesterol don't come running to me, bucko!"
Anna studied Ben more carefully. He looked slightly... dishevelled. Despite the heat of the apartment he was still wearing his great coat.
"What happened to you."
"What do you mean, Anna?"
"Nice try Ben. I doubt you could lie well, even if Inspector Thatcher ordered you to." Ben stuttered and turned a delicate shade of pink. Anna didn't soften one little bit.
"I'm waiting." Ben suppressed the urge to giggle. She was standing in front of him, hand on hip, foot tapping. The effect was spoiled slightly because he was nearly a foot taller than her and she had to look up at an angle of approximately twenty degrees to meet his eyes.
"It was a simple mishap involving a moving vehicle, a concrete sidewalk and me."
"You jumped onto a moving car and fell off. Again?"
"Er, well yes. Although I'm not sure that is quite how I'd put it. There were mitigating circumstances and we did..."
"Enough. Lets have a look at the damage then."
"I'm fine, really."
"Yes, and I'm a monkeys uncle. Take off your coat." He did so reluctantly. With an iron will Anna refrained from laughing at the state of his uniform. The right sleeve of the brown jacket was shredded to pieces, the uniform trousers covered in something distinctly distasteful.
"You should stop damaging Canadian property, what will the Dra.. Inspector say? Your arm's bleeding Ben."
"It's just a graze."
"Take your jacket off and that filthy shirt and let me have a proper look at you." Ben started to protest. "Either I look at you or I'm frog marching you down to the hospital. Understood?" Ben hastily removed said items of clothing and stood in front of her in his white undershirt and trousers. "You can sit down Ben. Just let me get my case." He seemed to hesitate. "For God's sake Ben! I am a qualified Veterinary Surgeon. And you know damn well that in an emergency I'm allowed to operate on humans. And don't tell me this isn't an emergency." She turned back to face him, he was sitting at the table with a broad grin plastered on his face. "What's so funny?"
"It is just that I don't recall you being bossy when you were little."
"Hmm. Well no child is perfect."
"If only we had known we could have tried to correct the flaw in you're character. I suppose it is to late now."
"Stop teasing me before I decide that cut on your arm needs stitches." She gently took hold of his arm, probing the bones, asking him to bend it this way and that. "At least it isn't broken. You must have cracked it quite hard." Anna deftly cleaned the cut on his elbow and the grazes running up his arm. "I think you might need stitches, Ben." He started to protest. "Don't worry, I can't give you a local and I'm not that cruel. It would be extremely painful without an anaesthetic. I'll just use some glue and a few Butterfly plasters. I'll look at it tomorrow and if its not closing you can go and get stitches at the hospital. You should try and keep it elevated. Now what about your leg?" Ben sighed, he'd rather hoped she hadn't noticed.
"It is just bruised."
"Well I won't embarrass you by making you drop your pants. Although it would serve you right for constantly telling people you've seen me in diapers." Ben turned a fetching shade of fuschia. Anna studied him more closely. Deep grazes ran across the back of his arm and his undershirt was spotted with blood on his back. "You'll have to take your undershirt off or it's going to stick to your back when it scabs over." Ben obeyed and she swabbed the grazes with disinfectant. Anna paused noticing the bullet scar on his lower back. She touched it briefly before speaking. "You should be more careful."
"Best friends get trigger happy." Ben had suspected she knew exactly what happened with Victoria, that comment resolved the issue once and for all.
"It WAS an accident. Ray didn't mean it."
"I know. I'm not glad you got shot Ben but I am glad you got stopped from going with her."
"You should take better care of yourself. You mean an awful lot to many people. And I'm not about to lose my best friend again." She reached out and gently touched his cheek before turning away and busying herself putting her medical kit away. "Shit! Look at the time. I'm on call in an hour. I'd better get home and have something to eat. Knowing my luck the polar bears will choose tonight to come down with the flu! Keep an eye on that arm. You can have a warm bath as long as you don't get the dressing wet." Ben saw her to the door, offering to walk her to the car.
"No thanks. I'm a big girl now." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek to take the sting out of her words. "Goodnight Benton, see you tomorrow. Bye Dief." Anna hurried down the steps before Ben had a chance to argue.
The day, or rather the past twenty four hours had not gone particularly well for Anna. She'd been up most of the night helping to give an emergency caesarean section to a lioness. Anna hadn't been on duty but the senior vet needed a helper and it had been quite an experience. Unfortunately they'd lost both the cubs although the mother should make a good recovery. Then she'd had to take early morning surgery. To top it all when she'd gone home there had been a letter waiting for her. Not a very nice letter either. It had upset her so much she couldn't catch up on her much need sleep. She'd briefly considered going to Ray's house but she figured he'd still be in bed this early on his day off. Besides, good friend as he was, she wasn't entirely sure she could cope with his bouncy and noisy manner at the moment. Ben however would be soothing company and there was no doubt he'd be up. *I'll probably end up searching the neighbourhood for him, he's bound to be off rescuing some lost soul.* Luckily Ben was in. Anna was relieved that he didn't bat an eyelid when she turned up and asked if she could stay a while. Exhaustion finally got the better of her and she fell asleep on the bed. It wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as she expected...
"You're awake then? I was just going to take Dief for a walk before Ray arrives. Would you care to join me?"
"Huh? Ray?" She couldn't seem to get her sleep befuddled brain into gear.
"You've been a sleep most of the day. We are all meant to be going out for dinner tonight, remember?"
"Damn! I can't go looking like this."
"We've got enough time to take Dief out and for you to go home and get changed if you want."
"Yes I want. C'mon, let's get going maybe I'll wake up a bit."
Perhaps visiting Ben hadn't been such a good idea after all. His company wasn't half as soothing as Anna had hoped. Trouble was he knew her too well, knew when something was bothering her. He'd already told one Inuit story about a man who was afraid to ask for help and she had a feeling he wouldn't stop until she told him what was wrong. There was no doubt about it, Benton Fraser was a master at finding out the truth. If he couldn't get the direct approach to work he went for the indirect one. It usually involved making you feel guilty. Anna was feeling guilty. She was also getting angry. Her bad mood had rapidly deteriorated into a foul one by the time they got back to Ben's apartment.
Ray didn't quite bounce up the stairs to Benny's apartment, but there was a spring in his step. He'd found this new restaurant and he couldn't wait to take the guys there to try it out. He stopped abruptly at the beginning of the corridor to Benny's apartment. *Shouting? From Benny's place?* It sounded like Anna's voice. *Wow! Benny made someone other than me lose their temper.* This would make Ray's week. At last he wasn't the only person who thought Benny was the worlds most annoying man. He headed for the apartment. It might be time to intervene, Anna sounded like she was about to throw something breakable.
"Hi guys." It was all Ray could do not to take a step back as Anna turned blazing eyes on him. *Whoa* Something was not right here. Benny looked worried and even a little upset. Anna was without a doubt furious.
"I told you Ben, nothing is wrong. And if there was I would not be obliged to tell you. In case it has escaped your notice I am twenty five years old now and perfectly capable of looking after myself." Ray couldn't believe his ears, this person couldn't be Anna but it was.
"Anna, please." Ben bit his lip and looked at the ground briefly before looking up again. Anna made a couple of hand movements and then spoke.
"I'm going for a walk. I need to clear my head. If you will excuse me, Ray." Ray didn't miss the hurt look on Benny's face. He'd seen it before after all. They'd been outside Zuko's house only that time he'd been the cause of that look not Anna.
"I said leave it Ben!" She walked out without looking back.
"What the hell is going on Benny? And what was all that hand gesturing about?"
"I'm sure Anna is in trouble but she won't tell me what is wrong. She's been acting strangely all day."
"And the hand gestures?"
"She was being... rude. I expect she didn't want you to know what she said. That's why she used sign language."
"Sign language. Anna's mother was a teacher for the deaf, I thought you knew that."
"That's kind of beside the point don't you think Benny? You should go after her, its late. She shouldn't be out in this neighbourhood alone."
"I doubt she'll listen to me."
"Yeah, well its worth a try."
Anna paced up and down the block. She felt a fool. She'd lost her temper for no good reason. Ben had only been trying to help, to be a good friend. And as Anna knew only to well friends were sometimes all you had. To be honest she was inclined to think friends were better than family. After all Ben had been a better brother than Steve ever had. She should go back and apologise, there had been no reason to be so mean.
"Anna!" At the sound of Ben's voice she turned, her mouth open, ready to ask forgiveness.
And then, there was nothing.....
No matter how hard she tried to ignore it, the insistent voice kept impinging on her thoughts. She wondered why people couldn't just let a girl sleep. Surely they knew she'd been working at the zoo all night. There was something vaguely familiar about the voice. Familiar, yet different. A tone of voice she hadn't heard before. It was quite comforting really even though it was annoying. It kept asking her to open her eyes, to wake up. *Why should I open my eyes? I'm tired.* Still, maybe if she opened her eyes the voices would stop bothering her. Anna wondered why she hadn't thought of that before. *Must be sleep deprivation.* It seemed the hardest thing to do. When she did open her eyes she saw Ben. She was relieved to be able to put a face to that insistent voice. She looked a little closer at him. He didn't look like Ben at all. He was all dirty and had a cut on his head. Something else about his appearance bothered her briefly but the thought vanished before she could grasp it. *Maybe Ben had jumped on that car and fallen off.* That must be why he looked so scruffy. He really should be more careful. Anna carefully moved her hand up to brush away the tears that were leaving clean streaks on Ben's dirty face. *TEARS.* That was the strange thing about Ben, he was crying. Why would Ben be crying? This was all so strange, it just didn't make any sense. Maybe she should go back to sleep.
"Anna. Please stay awake. Don't go. Please don't go."
*Silly boy. Where would she be going?* She tried to tell Ben that he was behaving all wrong, but the words just wouldn't come. All she managed to say was his name.
"It's all right Anna, just hold on a little bit longer. The paramedics will be here any minute. I'm here, so is Ray. You have to stay a little longer, please."
She looked at the face that appeared next to Ben's. It was Ray and he looked terribly worried. Maybe the paramedics were for Ben. That was it! He must have been hurt by that car. A car. There had been a car. The mystery finally solved she closed her eyes. The sirens of the police cars and paramedics lulled her to sleep.
It was a dark and frightening place. The atmosphere was close and uncomfortable making her feel like she was suffocating. It was like crawling out of a pit, just when she thought she'd got there something pushed her right back down again. But whenever it got to much for her he was there. A bringer of light, who banished the shadows of fear and led her home. She called out for help and always it was there.
Anna woke up suddenly. She was completely disorientated, with no idea where she was. She glanced about nervously. There sitting next to her bed was Ben. He held her hand firmly in his. He was slumped over, his head resting at an uncomfortable angle on the bed. In another chair on the other side of the bed Ray was similarly slumped. Briefly she wondered what on earth was going on, but whatever it was she knew she was safe and so she gave in to the exhaustion that rapidly overcame her.
"Hey Anna. How are you feeling?"
"To be honest I'm not really sure Ray. The doctor said I was run over. I don't understand."
"What do you remember?"
"I was mean to Ben. Oh Ray I said some dreadful things. Do you think he can forgive me?"
"Of course he will. After you were done shouting at him you left the apartment. I sent him after you. It's a good job too. He got outside just before you were knocked over. You had us all really worried there."
"Hmm. There is something your not mentioning. Did you catch the driver?" Ray grinned at her. Anna had been seriously ill for five days. They'd all feared
the worst. He was just glad those fears had been unfounded.
"All Canadians must have really hard heads! The doctor said you'd be a bit confused after suffering such a head injury."
"Well my head is fine thanks."
"Well it wasn't before Anna. There was a real possibility that you might have suffered brain damage. I was worried, we all were."
"Sorry. I'm still feeling a bit off. Everyone keeps telling me I got run over by a car but from where I'm sitting it feels more like an armoured truck mowed me down!" Ray sat down beside her. This was the part he hadn't been looking forward to. He was relieved Benny was asleep in the waiting room outside. He needed to discuss this with Anna, alone.
"It wasn't a simple hit and run."
"The car that ran you over didn't drive off after it hit you. It turned round and tried to run you over again. While you were lying in the road." Anna stayed silent, she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. "If Benny hadn't got to you first and dragged you out of the street you would be dead." They were harsh words, but he needed her to understand the seriousness of her situation. "I guess Benny was right when he asked you if you were in some kind of trouble." She looked across at him sharply.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I went to your house. I found the letter you got. It seems a bit of a coincidence you get a threatening, abusive letter the same day that someone tries to kill you."
"The two are not connected." She avoided his gaze briefly and then turned to face him. "Have you told Ben?"
"No. I kind of got the impression you didn't want him to know."
"It's just that sometimes he treats me like I'm still a little girl. It annoys me."
"You've been independent and alone too long, Anna. That's not how Benny treats you. He treats you the way he treats any one that he cares a great deal about."
"I screwed up, didn't I?"
"Just a little. Now tell me about this letter. Have you had others?"
"Not since I've been in Chicago. I don't know how he found out my address here. I had quite a few of them when I was in Canada. They are from an ex boyfriend."
"You don't have much luck with the men in you're life, do you?" *oh well done Ray, way to go. Why not put both your feet in your mouth and have done with it?* "Sorry."
"Why? Your right. He was a scumbag. He lost his temper and hit me. I
dumped him and reported him to the police. Ever since then he's been
"And you don't think he did this to you?"
"Not his style. Would you tell Ben about all this, I'd rather not. I'm a bit ashamed to be honest."
"Jeez, when will you two got your act together?"
"Doesn't matter. I'll tell Benny but then you can apologise for being horrible to him before. Go back to sleep for now. I'm gonna let Benny sleep a while longer on those uncomfortable hospital chairs before we start tracking down your ex and any one else I can think of. Do you mind if we have a look at your house again? Now your awake I might be able to prise Benny from your bedside. See if I can't put his wondrous Mountie skills to work!
Grains of Sand
Ray studied his best friend carefully, cautious not to be too obvious. It had been a tough few days for everyone, but Benny seemed to have taken it the worst. When Ray had seen Anna lying on the ground his mind had just gone blank. It was Benny at the train station all over again. But to Ray the most frightening thing of all had been seeing Benny crying so openely and uncontrollably. They had both kept a vigil at her bedside until they were sure she'd be all right. Later, when Ray had told Benny about Anna's ex boyfriend he had just narrowed his eyes briefly and grunted. Ray thought he knew pretty much what was going on inside Benny's head. Of course Benny was a complicated person. Just when you thought you knew him he said or did something that meant you had to completely re-evaluate your opinion of him. Benny was a much more open person than he had been when he'd first come to Chicago. Ray knew that this was partly his doing, but mostly it was Anna. In the three months she had been in Chicago she had changed both their lives. Ray knew Benny wasn't the only person she'd effected. It was all these damn Canadians, they were rubbing off on him. He even said Thank You Kindly to Elaine without giving it a second thought.
"Stop worrying about Anna, Benny. She'll be fine with Elaine to keep an eye on her."
"I know. It was very kind of Elaine to offer to stay with her. Its just that I don't want her to wake up without someone she knows there." Ray nodded in agreement. Of course what Benny meant remained unsaid. Since coming around after her accident Anna had had nightmares. Terrible nightmares.
She woke up screaming to wake the dead. He had helped settle her back to sleep on numerous occasions. Benny and he took turns at the hospital to sit with her. They were the only people that seemed to be able to calm her down after a nightmare. Although Ray admitted to himself that Benny did it best. He figured it was because Benny had told her bedtime stories as a little girl and made her feel safe. That and a little something else...
"Let's get going and look over her house then. As this ex boyfriend Niall couldn't have been involved in trying to kill Anna we really need some clues. It's time you put your Mountie nose and tastebuds to the test!"
"Ray, really. I do think you wholly overestimate the power of a human beings sense of smell. Also, gratifying as your faith in my ability to taste things is, I doubt It will solve this mystery."
"Yeah, well maybe, but I know your hoping it'll work too."
They went over the house with a fine tooth comb. It was only a hunch that whoever tried to kill Anna would have actually been in her house but at this stage any thing was worth a try. They had the make of the car that ran Anna over but nothing else. No plates, no nothing.
"Where's left to look? Nothing here looks disturbed. No clues to something Anna might have done that someone wants her dead for."
"The darkroom is all that is left."
They went through the room. Anna had obviously been busy. All her films had been developed. Ray smiled at some of the shots. She really knew how to capture who a person was in her pictures. There was a lovely one of Elaine looking slightly mysterious. Ray nearly choked as he came across a shot of The Dragon Lady. How the hell had Anna got that? She looked as though she was concentrating hard on something, she also looked extremely attractive. Benny passed over the shot without a second glance. Ray wondered if perhaps Benny was actually doing as Meg Thatcher asked and putting the whole train incident behind him. Inspector Thatcher really was an interesting person. Despite what Ray said, he didn't really dislike her. It was just the way she treated Benny he disliked. He didn't think she was right for him. What Benny needed was someone to bring him out of his shell, not push him in deeper. Ray caught a shot of himself next to the Riv. Anna had captured his love of the car completely.
"There's nothing here Benny. We should get back to the hospital to collect Anna. I'll doubt she'll thank us for making her stay there a minute longer than necessary."
He headed for the car. Someone really should keep an eye on Anna. They didn't have any real proof that the accident had been an attempt on her life so there was no possibility of police protection. He briefly thought about suggesting she stay at his place for a while, but quickly rejected that idea. Anna need peace and quiet, not a Vecchio family bedlam.
"Maybe you should stay with Anna tonight, Benny. I've got a pile of cases to get through before Welsh has my butt, otherwise I'd help."
"I doubt Anna will be very keen on the idea."
"I'm not asking her, I'm telling her. She's not being left alone until we catch the creep that did this!"
Benny remained silent. He was as depressed as Ray was about the lack of leads on the case.
"Ya know, Benny. Dief is looking really depressed."
"He is missing Anna. Or to be more precise all the junk food he gets when he visits her at work. Although to be honest, I think that secretly he also misses the long walks she gives him. Of course he'd never admit it. He really is an ungrateful wolf."
Dief whined pitifully from the back seat of the Riv while ray tried to hide his sudden fit of the giggles.
"My god Ray! That's it!"
Ray peeled himself off the dashboard where he'd landed after slamming on the brakes.
"Damn it Benny. Don't to that to me! What's it?"
"Think about it Ray. Why would anyone want to kill Anna? Who could have a possible motive?"
"Well, the ex, but we know its not him. What about someone who knew Steve?"
"That was six years. Besides as far as anyone else is aware he killed himself. No one knows about what happened at the cabin. No we are thinking in the wrong direction. We know Anna too well, we are to close. Think of her just as any other victim of crime, what do we know about her."
"O.K She's a veterinary surgeon. Which, no offence Benny, is not something people usually kill for. Not unless she discovered the polar bears were blackmailing the other zoo animals!"
"Ray, Ray, Ray!"
"Sorry. She's Canadian, again not usually something to kill because of, although there have been times.... Anyway, she loves animals, is quite good with people, doesn't have much luck with males, be they brothers or boyfriends, and she loves to take photographs. In fact she takes brilliant photographs."
"You see that is it! The most logical explanation. Someone tried to kill Anna
because she'd taken a photograph of something she shouldn't have."
"Maybe... But she would have told us."
"Only if she'd realised. Do you remember about a week before Anna's accident when I tried to stop the thieves from the electrical store?"
"You mean when you fell off a moving car, again?"
"Well, that is not entirely fair Ray. The results justified the means, we did..."
"THE POINT BENNY. GET TO THE POINT!!"
"There really is no need to shout. Anna had Dief for the day. She told me she'd taken him to the woods and got some wonderful photographs of him. Where were those photos? They weren't in the darkroom, yet every single other film she'd taken since being in Chicago was."
"But that would mean these people have the photos but still want Anna dead. They must think she's seen something and knows about it. Not that she just mistakenly photographed it! Damn!"
"Anna, the shots you took of Dief in the woods, where are they?"
Anna looked up from the book she was reading in surprise as Ben and Ray came charging into her hospital room.
"They are in my darkroom at home, all my photographs are, why?"
"Shit. They're not there anymore. We think you must have inadvertently taken a photograph of something important. Something someone thinks it's worth killing you for."
"Oh. Wait, do you mean the photos I took the day Ben fell off that car?"
"Anna, Benny falls off cars practically every day!"
"I mean the time when I patched him up."
"Yes Anna, that's the occasion in question."
"I made a second contact sheet. In fact I also made an extra set of blow ups. I wanted Ray to choose the best shot so we could give you a picture of Dief for your birthday. I meant to give them to him the night I got run over. The whole lot should still be in the trunk of my car."
"Anna you're not being left alone until we sort this out. Is that clear? You're not even going to the bathroom alone, understood?"
It had been one of the longest twenty four hours of her life. Apparently when she was in the woods with Dief she'd taken a photograph of some kind of mobster meeting up with the boss of a rival mob. To be honest she couldn't care less. She was just relieved to be safe. Ray had stopped a mob war starting on the doorstep of the 27th and put some truly evil men behind bars. That was all she needed to know. Of course there would be a trial but her photographs should speak for themselves. Anna found it rather ironic that the most annoying thing about the whole mess was that the photographs in question were by far the best she got of Dief. That and the fact that she'd nearly died. It made her cold all over thinking about how the injuries to her brain could have been so serious that she never would have woken up. She had been extremely lucky that the brain swelling had gone down leaving no permanent damage. No permanent physical damage anyway. Emotionally? The nightmares were dreadful. Or at least their after effects were. She knew she woke up screaming, knew that on endless occasions Ben or Ray had held her close, whispering soothing words, chasing the darkness away. Now she was facing her first night at home since the accident and she was petrified. They had gone out for a celebratory meal, nothing too formal as she was supposed to be taking it easy. Besides Ray had paper work to catch up on and Benny had an early shift at the consulate in the morning. Inspector Thatcher's revenge for all the time off he'd taken off to be with her. Although to be honest Meg had been a great help in her own way.
Anna stretched out briefly. It really was time for bed. Ray had told her that Ben was going to stay the night just in case. From the startled look on Ben's face Anna gathered that she wasn't the only one Ray was bossing around. She'd watched the scarlet blush consume Ben's face with fascination before conceding to Ray. After all, she really didn't want to be alone any way. Ben was reading quietly in the corner of the lounge.
"I'm going to turn in now Ben. Is there anything you need. Are you sure the spare rooms is all right for you?."
"Thank You Kindly, but no. Your spare room will be just fine. Sweet Dreams Anna."
*I sure hope they will be!" "Night Ben."
Shouting. There was shouting. And screaming. Who was that, what was going on. As the panic started to rise she felt warm arms around her. A soothing voice in her ear. With a jolt she realised that the shouting had been her own, yet she had no recollection of what she'd said.
"It is all right, Anna. Just a bad dream."
*Benton Fraser, always the master of understatement. Someone wakes him up in the middle of the night screaming blue murder and "it is just a bad dream."* "I'm sorry I woke you. I know you have to be at work early."
"It's not your fault. Try and get back to sleep, you are overtired."
Anna managed a weak grin. *Overtired! Made her sound like a fretful toddler that wanted more candy.* Overtired or not she didn't want to go back to sleep. To many dark images pushing at the edge of her memory. It had been a hell of a lot more than a bad dream. Her trembling, sweaty body proved that.
"I don't feel tired."
"Ah, well then perhaps I should tell you an Inuit story? Ray seems to think they're a sure fire way to send anyone to sleep."
Anna couldn't help but giggle at Ben's humour.
"An Inuit story sounds perfect."
Ben settled on the edge of the bed.
"There was a bird named Swallow, and Swallow although small was powerful. She had the power to soar high over mountains, to travel great distances. Now Hawk was envious of Swallow...."
Anna woke slowly from a luxurious, relaxing sleep. She had no idea of where she was or what time it was but she didn't care. She was safe. The safest she had ever been in her whole life. Happy and safe. She began to stretch and the arms around her tightened, pulling her closer. *ARMS?!* She nearly fell out of bed in surprise. Ben was propped against the bed head his arms wrapped around her. He looked terribly uncomfortable in that position. Anna recalled the events of the night before. The nightmare, Ben telling her an Inuit story. They must have both fallen asleep. She wondered what time it was, hoping Ben wouldn't be late for work. It couldn't be that late though, Ray was meant to be collecting Ben.
He muttered something unintelligible and then opened his eyes. She recognised the look on his face. Something Frannie had said about a squirrel trapped in the car head lights just before you squashed it came to mind.
"I guess the Inuit story worked a little too well."
"Hmm. Won't Ray be pleased!"
"I'm sorry for disturbing your sleep."
Ben turned piercing blue eyes on her and smiled.
"I told you it is all right. It is not your fault. Why don't I make you some breakfast?"
Ray never did turn up to take Ben to work so Anna offered. Ben had protested vehemently saying she wasn't up to it. She'd finally convinced him by mentioning Inspector Thatcher, probation and transfer request in the same sentence. Anyway it was nice to be out in the real world again. She'd already decided to visit Ray at the precinct and take him out for lunch. For some reason Anna thought Ben wouldn't be free for lunch for a number of days, or even weeks, to come.
Ray had seemed surprised to see her at the precinct but he was eager to go for lunch. Very eager. Too eager. Anna should have realised he was up to something.
"So how are things with you and Benny."
"Fine." Anna noticed the smug grin on Ray's face. "What do you mean?"
"Oh nothing. Just that I came by to pick Benny up this morning."
"We never saw you!"
"I let myself in. Didn't want to disturb you. I thought you'd still be asleep. You were. So, it seems was Benny."
"I don't... Ray what on earth do you mean? You can't think that Ben and I..."
"No need to be coy Anna. I think its great and about time too."
"Ray that's not it at all."
"Yeah, sure. The two of you were lying in bed curled up in each others arms because...?"
"I had a nightmare."
*Whoops! Put your foot in it again Ray.*
"I'm sorry. It's just that..."
"Your forgiven. I can't believe you thought that. You have a filthy mind Ray Vecchio!"
"Inspector Thatcher wouldn't by any chance be affecting your thought processes would she?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I believe you, thousands wouldn't. Let's say that, for arguments sake, you found Meg a rather intriguing and attractive personality. If Ben were with someone you could, without trace of guilt, pursue her if you so chose."
"Don't twist things."
"Ray, I know you're a good friend to Ben and wouldn't hurt him. I also know that you secretly like Meg and want to get to know her better."
"I still can't believe you'd think that me and Ben, you know..."
"He's practically family and he's twelve years older than me. Besides, can you imagine his reaction if I made a pass at him? He'd faint from shock."
"None of those are reasons not to get together with him."
"You forget your ideas about me and Ben, I'll forget about you and Meg, O.K?
"O.K. Still I think the two of you would make a lovely couple..."
Anna sat at Ben's kitchen table staring at the cup of tea in her hand, Ben was doing the same. Ever since that conversation with Ray at lunch she'd been on edge. She didn't want to be here but she'd said when dropping Ben off at work that she would pop round in the evening and see him and Dief. The reason she didn't want to be here was that maybe Ray had been right. Never once had she thought of Ben in that way, but now... As Ben would say, "Oh dear". It had struck her like a bolt of lightning, corny as it was.
"I liked it."
"Huh?" Anna dragged her errant mind back to the present. What did he mean?
"This morning, I liked it."
"Oh!" she couldn't think of any thing else to say.
It wasn't the response Ben had expected. It was obvious she knew what he meant, but that didn't really prove anything. He was surprised when she spoke again.
"So did I."
"Oh." What did he say now. He'd told her because...., well just because. He studied the tea mug in his hand in some detail.
"Ben, just because we both liked it, doesn't mean anything. We've both been through a lot. It is bound to be nice waking up and knowing you're not alone. We don't have to make a big thing about it."
"My feelings were more specific, Anna. I liked waking up to next to you."
"Well, yes. But Ben we're such good friends, do you want to risk all that for something that is a maybe?"
"I think we both need to be honest with each other."
"O.K then. I liked waking up and you being there. However if I had a choice between waking up with you once or having you as my friend for the rest of my life I know which I'd choose."
"I love you Anna, you mean the world to me."
"As do you. I love you dearly."
"You're not listening Anna. I am madly IN love with you. I woke up this morning, saw you and realised. I have never felt like this before. Never. I need you to be honest with me."
"Well, being totally honest, I'm in love with you too."
"Yes, completely and utterly."
"Oh! So why is there a problem?"
"I'm scared. I can't lose you."
"You won't. I love you and always will no matter what."
He gently reached across the table and took her hand in his. Anna felt her stomach somersault the way it had the first time she'd seen him in Chicago. She looked up into blue eyes that regarded her questioningly. She smiled and touched Ben's cheek. Ray had been right. She'd get her own back on him for this, but for now nothing else mattered. Lips pressed against hers briefly and then she was enveloped in warm, loving arms. She hugged back inhaling the scent that was so familiar yet unknown. Without a moments doubt she gave up her soul to Ben.
Diefenbaker studied the two of them closely. He then padded over to Ben's bed and jumped up settling himself in. He wanted first dibs, after all, possession was nine tenths of the law...
Ray looked up at Ben's apartment building and smiled. He picked up his cell phone and dialled a number. "Inspector Thatcher? Ray Vecchio here. I thought I should tell you Benny won't be at work tomorrow. He's come down with a flu virus. Yes of course I'm telling the truth! He's tucked up in bed right now in fact. Actually I was wondering if I could meet you at the consulate tomorrow. Yes it's important. It involves a Canadian citizen and some very serious allegations. Ten a.m. then? Great, I'll see you then, Meg..."
I saw eternity the other night Like a great ring of pure and endless light, All calm, as it was bright, And round beneath it, Tome in hours, days, years Driv'n by the spheres Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world And all her train were hurled.