Words: ~5.340
Rating: still PG (sorry for the slow build-up guys.)
Summary: Breaking Point – Enough is enough

The chaos that greeted Fraser back at the Consulate was also something he could’ve done without. Opening the door to his office, Fraser was greeted with papers strewn around everywhere, and a mess of spilled tea and soaked documents on his desk before his eyes hit upon Turnbull, half-hidden underneath the desk.

“Turnbull?” Fraser exclaimed, amazed.

There was a painful ‘thud’ as Turnbull hit his head on the under the desk.

“Ah, sir, I’m sorry for the disarray.”

Disarray, Fraser thought, was a bit of an understatement. An upended tea kettle lay at the foot of his desk where Turnbull was busy mopping up the mess.

“What happened?”

“It was a squirrel, sir.”

Fraser’s eyebrows rose in surprise. It sounded like an explanation… except that it didn’t.

“You see, I opened the windows to air the rooms and it must’ve slipped in during that time. I went into the kitchen to prepare some tea, and when it was finished I thought that you might enjoy the special blend of Oolong tea that I had imported. Of course, you weren’t back at the office yet so it wouldn’t have done to leave it on your desk in any case, but at that time I wasn’t aware that—”

“Constable, what happened when you entered my office?” Fraser asked, praying for patience.

“The squirrel, sir, it attacked me. I am sure it acted in self-defense, but it was very devious, sir. Especially cunning of it to hide in the curtains, waiting to make its escape, until I would open the door. A Mountie is always prepared, as you well know, so I raised the tea tray to defend myself and I, well, I…” Turnbull glanced unhappily at the mess on the desk.

“You forgot you were carrying a full teapot, I see,” Fraser finished for him. His eyes raked over the battlefield until his eyes came to rest on the corner of his desk.

The tea puddle left from Turnbull’s act of self-defense was merrily dripping over the edge and seeping into the drawer. In a flash, Fraser was behind his desk and pulled the drawer open. There was little inside besides his notebook, but that also meant that there was little inside to prevent the tea from leaking into the pages.

He pulled the notebook out in one quick movement. The cover was slightly damp and the pages were a little curled at the edges. He flicked out his handkerchief and mopped up the most of the tea.

“I’m really very sorry, sir,” Turnbull remarked miserably.

“It’s fine,” Fraser replied absently.

Carefully, he flipped the book open. On a few pages the ink had smeared a little, but even though the pages felt damp the notebook didn’t appear to have suffered any real damage beyond a few spots of running ink.

Fraser felt vastly relieved.

He stowed the notebook in the pocket of his serge and took another look around.

“Constable, what happened to the squirrel?”

“It was very clever, sir. It escaped through the open window while I was distracted by the commotion.”

“Ah, of course.” Fraser really wasn’t in the mood for company right now. He surveyed the remaining chaos. “Why don’t you let me finish this?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” Turnbull replied earnestly.

“I insist.” On sudden inspiration, Fraser added, “Why don’t you make another pot of tea? I would certainly like to sample your Earl Grey.”

“Oolong, sir.”

Fraser swallowed a sigh. Whatever, he thought bitterly. Couldn’t he just be left alone, please? He would like to bury his partnership with Ray without any witnesses even if he couldn’t do it gracefully.

“Yes, Oolong, of course,” Fraser forced out.

“Well, if you insist,” Turnbull beamed at him before he bent down to pick up the teapot.

A second later, Fraser was finally alone in his office.

Cleaning actually helped, Fraser mused as he wiped the desk and threw the sodden printed forms into the trash. It was better than an emotional breakdown in any case.

Shortly after he was finished, Turnbull came in again with a cup of tea.

“Thank you, Constable,” Fraser said, accepting the tea gratefully.

Turnbull smiled and turned to go, but then he hesitated.

“Is everything all right, sir?”

For a second, Fraser felt close to choking. With effort, he nodded before he managed a weak affirmative.

Turnbull didn’t look convinced, but at least he left the office after depositing a small plate with cookies on Fraser’s desk.

Fraser stared at the cookies and felt his eyes fill with tears. He’d done it. He’d pushed Ray away. The spot where Ray’s fist had hit him was still smarting, but Fraser couldn’t be bothered to put ice on it. As long as his cheek hurt he had at least proof of what kind of idiot he had been. And he was saved from hitting himself for his stupidity.

The successful arrest was little compensation for his ruined friendship. This time the end didn’t justify the means. Ray was right; they could’ve done it differently. And if Fraser hadn’t been so afraid of losing control around Ray, he would’ve trusted him.

Fraser bit his lip. And Nautilus had escaped in the end…. or maybe Nautilus was just a myth after all and there had never been anyone behind that name. Wasn’t it strange how much power a simple story developed – up to the point where the story itself became real?

Fraser shook his head. It didn’t matter what had happened to Nautilus. Shocked, Fraser realized that he could’ve lived with Nautilus’s escape for the sake of Ray’s friendship… and the sad thing was that he wouldn’t have had to – because Ray was on the same side; Ray wanted to see the bad guys behind bars as well. Fraser never had to choose between Ray and justice. Ray had wanted an arrest just as much as he had.

So why couldn’t he have trusted Ray? …because he had been too afraid of what Ray might see if he let down his guard.

Sadly, Fraser got out his notebook again and stroked softly over the soft leather cover. The pages were too wet to write on so Fraser was left staring at the pages, smoothing his fingers over the slightly curled edges, until it was too dark outside to see anything.

It was still a little time before Fraser went to bed and even longer before he could find any sleep.

The Consulate was closed the next morning for the expected arrival of a group of delegates from Ottawa and despite Fraser’s best efforts to assist—to do anything at all – the Inspector was adamant that she wouldn’t entrust the preparations either to him or Turnbull, muttering about an incident with a group of Japanese tourists—an incident in which Fraser had been unfairly incriminated, but the Inspector since then believed him a hazard when it came to preparations involving cutlery. Well, the less said the better.

Instead, he got saddled with the daily mail. There was a stack of invitations that needed to be sent for an upcoming banquet. It took ages and the stack didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Fraser felt faintly sure that his tongue would never again lose the taste of glue from the envelopes. Fraser pushed his tongue around in his mouth with a disgusted frown. At least it had occupied half an hour of his day.

He looked around his office, but didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t think about Ray and the way things had ended at the lakeside. It hurt too much and he simply couldn’t face it, not yet, not at the moment.

His gaze traveled around his office for the millionth time. “Applied Psychology – An Introduction” greeted him on his bookshelf. Right, Francesca had told him about a psychology class she was taking and he had offered to lend her some reading material on the subject. He opened the book and took a look at the slip from the library; it wasn’t due for another two weeks. Why not? It wasn’t as if he had anything better to do and at least the chances of running into Ray at the 27th were less than likely.

When Fraser entered the bullpen a thickset man pushed past him.

“Oh, I’m not worried, Lieutenant. But if I were you I’d be worried. ‘Cause you’re in for a rocky ride,” the man said over his shoulder.

Fraser looked past the man to find Lieutenant Welsh standing in the hallway of the bullpen.

Welsh looked annoyed. “Your brother was nothing but a criminal, and I stand by my detectives, Brandauer.”

The man snarled and shoved Fraser out of the way. With a frown, Fraser watched him leave.

“Ah, Leftenant, anything with which I might help you?” Fraser asked, motioning to the man that had just left.

“Forget it, Constable. Brandauer and I have this thing. We’ve been going at each other on and off for about twenty years. Now any excuse he gets he’s gonna jump on, and he’ll start digging.”

Fraser considered this.

“And for what is he digging this time, sir?”

Welsh sighed and motioned to his office. Once behind closed doors, Welsh scrutinized Fraser for a second.

“This whole thing began with this con that they have in the holding cell, a guy called Siracusa. Apparently he had a sit-down with one of the reps from the State’s Attorney, tried to cut himself a deal for an early release. He said that our whole station was bent, taking in drugs with the arrest, skimming off the top.

How’d he come across this information, they ask? He said he used to be a stoolie for one of the dirty cops, a detective. Which detective, they ask? He points the finger at Ray Vecchio.”

Fraser didn’t have to think twice. “Ray Vecchio is not corrupt, sir.”

Welsh nodded impatiently. “Yes, you know that and I know that, but between all of them IA doesn’t have a half a brain.”

“Understood,” Fraser flicked a knuckle over his eyebrow. “What will happen now?”

“Nothing,” Welsh rubbed a meaty hand over his face. “They’re taking Siracusa to the 19th precinct where the new guy is filling in for Vecchio. Since there’s no way Siracusa will be able to pick him out of a line-up this thing’s already yesterday’s news.”

Fraser frowned. “But with all due respect, sir, Ray Vecchio is a good man and an honest police officer. This procedure means it doesn’t matter whether he was guilty or not.”

Welsh shrugged wearily. “I know Vecchio was clean. But there’s no point in wasting our time with digging up old cases to prove it. They won’t be able to prove the opposite and that’s good enough for us.”

“I see,” Fraser said with a stubborn twist to his mouth.

“Was there anything you wanted, Constable?” Welsh asked.

“Ah, no, sir. Thank you,” Fraser dismissed himself.

The wave of anger that surged through him almost took Fraser by surprise. By the time the door had closed behind him he had come to a decision. He went over to Francesca to give her the book which she took with delight.

“Listen, Francesca, can you tell me on which case Detective Brandauer is basing his accusation on?”

Frannie’s expression turned sour. “That jerk. If my brother were here—” She seemed to remember where she was and quickly glanced to the left and to the right. She dragged Fraser into the supply closet and closed the door.

A moment later, the small cupboard was filled by the harsh light of a single bulb.

“It’s about some heroin case. Apparently, they seized 10 kilos of heroin and when it was signed in at evidence control there was only one. They say that Ray did something with the rest—but he didn’t. I don’t know what game they’re playing, but—” Frannie whispered enraged.

“No, I understand Francesca. I’ll look into the matter; no harm will come to Ray. Could you make me a copy of the case file?”

Frannie smiled at him. “Anything for you, Fraser.”

Fraser swallowed uncomfortably and pulled at his collar.

Francesca left to copy the files and came back a few minutes later.

“This is everything I could find.”

“Thank you kindly.”

Back at the Consulate, Fraser pored over the old notes. He felt a twinge of guilt that he was so very glad of the distraction this newest development provided. This was about his friend Ray Vecchio, after all, and he shouldn’t be using this as an excuse not to think about what happened with Ray at the docks.

But thinking of Ray Kowalski was always followed by a sudden pang in his chest and the feeling that he couldn’t breathe and having an excuse not to face this was more than a little welcome.

When evening came, Fraser had a working hypothesis as to what had happened with the heroin. Ray had worked together with Detective Huey on the case and if one supposed – as Fraser did without a doubt – that none of them had taken anything from the heroin that meant that someone at the evidence lock-up had.

There were only so many reasons why someone at the lock-up should skim off a few kilos of heroin. There were two major crime syndicates inChicagothat were specialized in dealing with drugs. To bribe someone directly inside of a police station took connections, and Fraser didn’t believe that a small-time gangster could’ve pulled it off. That left two men. Either the rest of the heroin ended up in the hands of Gus Fillion or in those of Eddy Herndorff.

Recently, there was even a third figure by the name of Andreas Volpe who might also have been able to accomplish it.

All Fraser had to do was prove that one of them had bribed the evidence lock-up and it would show that Ray Vecchio was indeed innocent.

Fraser felt another surge of bitterness at the thought that no one at the 27th cared if Ray Vecchio had really done it or not. All that was important was that it couldn’t be proven— when in fact it should’ve been important that there was nothing to prove!

Ray Vecchio might have had unorthodox measures and his technique might not always have been a model of police procedure, but he was a good man and there was no bribe in the world that could corrupt him, of that Fraser was sure. Ray Vecchio had looked upon corruption with the utmost contempt; under no circumstances would he have dealt with drugs.

Having reached a promising course of action, however, left Fraser with his original problem. Ray Kowalski, who had always been at the brink of his thoughts throughout the day, was back with a vengeance and there was nothing else to distract Fraser from it.

“I could just call him and tell him I’m sorry,” Fraser told Diefenbaker. Dief snorted and moved underneath the desk to curl up for a nap.

“You’re right. I would have to give Ray an explanation… and I can’t do that.”

Dief grumbled quietly. Fraser knew that his canine friend thought that he should just tell Ray about his feelings, but Fraser reminded himself that wolves were moderately simpler than humans when it came to relationships.

Fraser sighed deeply and put his head in his hands. In a sudden burst of energy, he got his notebook out and uncapped his pen. Staring at the blank page, though, he hesitated. If he wrote it down now it would somehow make it real… more real…

He couldn’t—he didn’t—it was just too final.

He shut the notebook again. But… maybe… writing itself… he got a blank piece of paper out and tried to compose a letter to Ray. Yes, he could explain it all in a letter. That was much easier and he could find the best way of putting it.

Three attempts later, Fraser threw yet another page into the wastepaper basket. It was futile… even if he could find the right words Ray would never accept a letter as an apology. And he couldn’t even find the right words. Fraser laughed a little despairingly.

What was he afraid of? That Ray could hate him more? That he could make Ray any angrier and disappointed if he knew the truth of Fraser’s feelings for him? It was ridiculous, and yet Fraser found himself quite unable to put it into writing.

Maybe all Ray needed were a few days time to let off some steam.

…and what if not? A little voice inside of Fraser’s head whispered.

What if Ray didn’t want any more to do with him? What if Ray didn’t want to listen to any apologies? Fraser clenched his fingers into a fist. ‘What if’ had never made anyone happy.

Instead, Fraser focused all of his energies on clearing Ray Vecchio’s name. He didn’t care if the investigation was already closed or not. He would not stand by while people slandered the name of his friend. He owed him that much. What kind of justice let another man take the fall? No, he had to find the real culprit.

Getting an interview with Mr. Fillion was easier than Fraser had anticipated. Fraser only had to show up at his bar and Gus Fillion took one look at Diefenbaker and waved Fraser closer.

“Is that a wolf?” he asked with a nod in Dief’s direction.

“Half-wolf, actually,” Fraser amended.

Fillion tapped with his long fingers thoughtfully on his chin before he did a sweeping gesture, taking in the whole wall in front of him. Fraser looked at the pictures that filled the wall.

“I painted all these, I love dogs. Not candy-assed drop-kick dogs, you understand. I mean real dogs.”

“A very deft touch. They are amazingly lifelike,” Fraser commented truthfully.

Fillion gave him a shrewd look. “You’re here because of the dirty cop.”

“Ray Vecchio didn’t take the heroin,” Fraser said with his head high.

“So you think I did it?” Fillion seemed amused by the idea.

Fraser tried to phrase his answer carefully. “I’ve formed no opinion, sir. I’m merely gathering information, proceeding more or less along the lines of a royal commission,” he rubbed a thumb over his eyebrow.

“I like you. You can talk. Most of the cops around here can’t string a sentence together.” Fillion’s gaze wandered from one painting to the next. Finally he added, “Listen, I had no reason to get my hands on the white stuff. I didn’t need to prove anything. But the word is that Herndorff was getting antsy. Volpe was getting too big in this game… maybe he was trying to make a point?” Fillion shrugged, not terribly concerned.

“Thank you kindly,” Fraser tipped his hat and left.

Trying to meet Herndorff was a lot more complicated. While Fraser spread the word on the streets that he was looking for Eddy Herndorff, another day came to an end.

A few times Fraser had thought he had seen Ray Kowalski when he had spoken to people, but whenever he had turned around there was no one there. He wished he knew what to say so that Ray would forgive him.

That night, Fraser went again over the case files. There had to be a reason for the missing 9 kilos. It all seemed straightforward enough. Ray and Huey had seized the shipment after an anonymous phone call came in. They booked the perpetrator and the drugs went to evidence control. And then everything had been quiet until the candidate for State’s Attorney, one Damon Cahill, had taken up the cause of fighting corruption.

And when Siracusa had stepped up then, and accused Vecchio, he was a welcome scapegoat. Fraser rubbed a hand over his eyes. It was already too late to get anything else done tonight. With a heavy heart, Fraser’s fingers stroked softly over the cover of his notebook. If he only knew how to tell Ray…

The next day, Fraser reached his limit. He got tired of hearing the same thing over and over. Everyone was telling him that no one in his right mind wanted to meet Herndorff. And apparently Fraser couldn’t convince anyone of the opposite.

The frustration was finally enough to get to him. In the afternoon, Fraser fell into his office chair with a barely suppressed sigh. Ray, Ray, Ray. It all came back to him. He could use his help and his street knowledge in this case. It would be much easier to clear Ray Vecchio’s name with his help.

…or maybe Ray was simply distracting him to the point where he missed the obvious. If his head wasn’t so full of Ray it might just be possible that he would find the clear-sightedness to solve this case.

Annoyed, mostly with himself, Fraser opened his notebook, and this time he didn’t hesitate to put his pen to the paper.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. For not being honest… and for making it so hard on Ray. I never meant to hurt him—that was the last thing I wanted. And now I can’t stop thinking about him—it’s even worse than before. And, God, it hurts so much. The more I try not to think about him, the less it seems I’m able to. His help would be immeasurable… as would Ray Vecchio’s. I’m sure my friend would know how to handle the situation as I have to admit I’m doing a rather poor job of it. Ray Vecchio would know just the thing to say. He’d probably tell me how stupid I am behaving and he would be right… Not for the first time, Fraser wished that his friend didn’t have to leave. I’ll clear your name, my friend. I promise. And there was still something else that needed to be done. I need a chance to at least try to talk to Ray. I can’t let things end like this.

Fraser was tired of sitting on his hands doing nothing. If Herndorff wouldn’t grace him with an interview, Fraser would have to get the information himself. Fraser would have preferred a direct meeting with Mr. Herndorff; this sneaking around was giving him a tingling feeling at the back of his head, but it couldn’t be helped.

That Herndorff conducted his business in the back of a seedy strip club was an open secret – and getting in wasn’t an issue; no one wanted to go where Herndorff was. Well, the lax security and Fraser’s trusted lock pick kit paved the way, to be honest. It wasn’t even really a set of lock picks; mostly it was wires and other instruments that Fraser found… helpful… when faced with a closed door. Or window for that matter.

The lock on the low cellar window was no match for the small, flat metal pick. It was almost too easy. Fraser held the window open for Dief, who slipped in with the almost noiseless rustle of fur. Fraser looked around. If what he had been able to gather had been correct, then Herndorrf’s business transactions should be kept in one of the back rooms.

It took him longer than he had expected, but he finally came across a small vault. Fraser almost smiled at the challenge this little break-in provided. He pulled a slender stethoscope from his pocket and set to work.

Going through the files he found inside was a lot more taxing than getting the safe open. When he finally found the entry he was looking for Fraser couldn’t believe his eyes at first. It was impossible! Now it made sense, the anonymous phone call, the timing… the man who had ordered the bribe was no one else but—

Dief didn’t get out more than a warning growl before two men approached from behind.

“Dief! Run!” Fraser shouted and the vanishing flick of Dief’s white tail was the last thing he saw before unconsciousness claimed him as the butt of a gun connected painfully with the back of his head.

“Stubborn Mountie!… what did I do to deserve this? …and why didn’t you stop him, huh? You’ll be one sorry wolf when this is over… I’m going to kill him….”

Dief whined in protest.

“Yeah, okay, okay. You did bring me to him; your honor’s safe for the moment… Jesus, I’m talking to a dog… don’t let Fraser know that, okay, Dief?”

Fraser shook his head to clear it. Ray? His head hurt. As he opened his eyes he realized that he was tied to a chair in one of the back rooms. His wrists were fastened behind his back and someone was tugging on the knots… and muttering curses in his ear. It was terribly distracting.

“—ay?” Fraser tried to ask, but the scarf that was gagging him and which was tightened behind his head prevented him from articulating clearly.

“Don’t you ‘Ray’ me,” Ray growled, giving the knot another tug. “I should just kill you myself and put you out of your misery… who the fuck did these knots? Houdini?”

“U—ight—con—ide—u—ing—u—ocke—ive,” Fraser tried to enunciate as clearly as possible.

“I, uh, can’t. I left my pocketknife in my other jacket.”

“—ay—u—ow—u—houd—rea—y—ee—u—ing—o—oga—ize.”

Ray glared at him. “Look, Fraser, this is the wrong time for advice on neatness.”

Fraser thought that the communication would be remarkably easier if Ray would be so kind as to remove the gag from his mouth and he tried to voice this idea to Ray.

“Nope, I’m damaged, not stupid. See, I’m really sorry I hit you and if I let you open your mouth now I’m afraid I’ll have to hit you again. So we’re doing this the sensible way, ‘kay? The guy who has at least part of his brain left does the talking and the guy whose elevator stops a floor short of his brain does the Canadian thing and shuts up.”

Ray’s fingers continued to fumble with the knots. If Fraser wasn’t very much mistaken there was the smell of smoke in the air.

“No one in his right mind wants to meet Herndorff! Are you unhinged?”

“So—eopl—eep—ellin—e,” Fraser said, exasperated.

“Oooh, good, so people did tell you,” Ray exclaimed sarcastically. “And here I thought it was something about the American expression of ‘stay the fuck away’ that got lost in the translation. You know, you really suck, Fraser. You think this is all your story, right? Like this is all one big adventure that you’ve been thinking up and that you’re writing down, just the story of your life, right? Guess what, there are other people in it, too.”

“U—ow—u—didn—eed—o—rescu—e,” Fraser pointed out.

“Like hell I didn’t. You think I got a choice? Think I could just leave you here to be burned to a crispy chicken? Nu-uh. Think again. Mounties haunt you to your grave, I know that. And it’s probably especially gruesome if they had to die in some totally un-Canadian place, like Chicago, or something. See? I never had a choice.”

Finally, the knot came loose and Fraser stretched his arms, trying to get the blood flowing again.

There was a loud bang as one of the windows exploded.

“Let’s get outta here,” Ray muttered, pulling Fraser along. By the time they were safely outside, the flames were already leaping out of the windows.

Fraser looked sadly at the fire that was rapidly consuming everything inside. “Now I won’t be able to prove Ray Vecchio’s innocence after all.”

Ray shook his head slowly from side to side. “Fraser… Fraser… you still haven’t grasped how this works. Think ‘Lennon and McCartney’, ‘Leopold and Loeb’, the ‘Three Stooges’ –well, technically, they were a trio, but in my opinion they should have dropped Larry right from the start because you could see the guy he just was not committed—anyway, duets, Fraser. We’re a fucking duet, okay?”

Ray reached inside of his jacket and pulled a page out that had obviously been torn from an old and rather big ledger. Mr. Herndorff’s ledger to be exact.

“Think I don’t know why you went to Herndorff? When someone told me that they wanted to dish the dirt on Vecchio I knew you would come running. All I had to do was ask around; Volpe is an old, uh, acquaintance of mine. When he said a Mountie was snooping around, asking to meet Herndorff I knew it had to be you— not even Chicago can handle more than one freak your size,” Ray sighed and held the page out. “This is the page you’ve been looking for, right? I took it before the fire got to it.”

Fraser took the page. It showed the details of a business deal. Herndorff had ended up with the heroin… but the man who had paid him to do it was no other than—

“Cahill, huh? Who’d have thought the man running for State’s Attorney of all people would be buried to the neck in the dirt. I guess he really needed this prime example for his corruption agenda. C’mon, this was your investigation you can give the details to Welsh on the way.” Ray handed him his cell.

Fraser was speechless for a moment. He had wanted nothing more than a chance to explain to Ray and now Ray was here. Ray had come just when he had needed him the most… and he had known how important this case was for Fraser.

He stared at Ray with wide eyes. Ray noticed the look and grinned slightly.

“Don’t worry, you’re still in for a chewing out. But I’m feeling magna-whatsit so I’m saving it until we’re at my place,” he winked and opened the car door.

Ray didn’t seem all that mad. For the first time in days, Fraser felt something like hope.

Fraser shut the phone a minute before they reached Ray’s apartment. Welsh had seemed pleased to have the real perpetrator to throw at Brandauer… even though he had been less than keen once he knew who the real culprit was. Fraser couldn’t really blame him; investigating the ladder of hierarchy in the other direction was seldom pleasant.

Ray was almost vibrating with barely contained intensity throughout the drive. Fraser swallowed dryly. Now that they were at Ray’s apartment, Fraser had no idea how to start. But Ray wasn’t waiting for any clues; he pushed Fraser onto the couch, preventing him from escaping by planting his feet firmly to the left and to the right of Fraser’s knees. One warm hand wrapped around each of Fraser’s shoulders as Ray scrutinized his face, searching for something.

“Okay, now you and me we gotta talk. What’s eating you?”

“Ray, I…” Now that the moment was there, Fraser didn’t know how to put it into words… and holding Ray’s inquiring gaze wasn’t as easy as Fraser had hoped.

“You’ve been skittish around me for weeks and risking your life in really bizarre ways—well, more bizarre than usual anyway… what gives? Gotta be something to do with me or I’ll move toCanada. So, something I did?”

Fraser bit his lip and shook his head. “No, Ray, it’s—you didn’t do anything,” Fraser answered truthfully, willing him to believe his words.

Ray’s eyes narrowed as his gaze searched Fraser’s. After a moment of consideration, he nodded thoughtfully. He allowed himself a small smile.

“Good, okay…. something I didn’t do then. What didn’t I do?”

Fraser’s mouth felt suddenly dry. Ray was more perceptive than he had given him credit for… or Ray knew him better than he had expected. There was no running away now… maybe he didn’t need words after all. If this was his one chance he would take it. He was a Mountie, he could do this.

Before he could back down, Fraser closed the distance between them, and pressed his lips to Ray’s.

Continued here