PART ONE

 

tap tap tap

"Is this thing switched on? Pete?"

tap tap tap

"Yeah, it's fine. Can you just talk for a minute? Tell me what you had for breakfast."

"Er…"

"This morning we had toast and scrambled eggs-"

"And no coffee."

"-and no coffee."

"Ok, great. Why didn't you have any coffee?"

"We've run out."

"And the thing about living in the middle of nowhere, is that the basic necessities of life - caffeine, cable TV… you know, heat. They're hard to come by out here."

"Indeed. Although some of us prefer the simpler things in life."

"Some of us are-"

"Okay, that's enough, thanks guys. Susan? Sound's good to go. Whenever you're ready."

"Okay, Pete, thanks. Now, are you two comfy…? Want some water? Ok, good. We'll just start off with a couple of easy questions first, help you relax into it, and then see where we go. Just remember - answer in full sentences, so if I say 'What's your name?' Don't just say 'Ray', say 'My name is Ray'. And don't ever look into the camera - face me.

"Ok, great. Now, let's start with you introducing yourselves."

***

Ok, you see, the thing is, everything would have been fine if it hadn't been for that stupid ass Donald-Double-Telescoping-Bag-Shot-thing.

Seriously, things were going great. We had a nice place up in the middle of… well, let's face it, Nowhere c/o The Yukon, and I was starting to fit in real good with the community. I'd even started working on some cars with Mikey down at the local garage part-time, keeping my hand in and earning some spare cash.

Dawson wasn't so bad. In fact, it was kinda like living in one of those old Clint Eastwood movies; more Cowboy than Abominable Snowman. So I got used to spending every Friday night down at the Red Feather Saloon (seriously) drinking Molson and saying "Eh?"

Oh yeah, I was more Canadian than a curling rock, baby.

And maybe things weren't perfect, but snow, power cuts, unrequited love and lack of pineapple pizza aside, things were pretty damn great.

Frase and I had this game we'd play where we'd each take turns naming things about Chicago we didn't miss. So it'd be like I'd say "pigeons" and he'd say "traffic jams" and I'd say "Vecchio" and he'd say "Stella" and, ok, sometimes that got us into fights, but pretty much I never ran out of things I didn't miss about the Big Smoke.

So, yeah, things were good.

And then… and then came The Film Crew. They blew into town with big trucks and cameras and pasty-faced college kids running around asking people if they wanted tea or coffee, and disrupted fucking everything.

Who the fuck's genius idea was this anyway?

"Mr.- Kowalski, is it? Hi, I'm Susan. I'm in charge around here, for my sins." She smiled winningly. "I just wanted to say; I know that you live on the outskirts of town, so hopefully we won't bother you too much, but we will be filming around abouts, and wanted to make sure you were ok with that." She tilted her head to one side and gazed at me with her baby blues.

"Yeah, of course, that's fine, no problem." I babbled.

"Great - thank you so much. Now, if you wouldn't mind just signing this. It's just for our paperwork…"

And, yeah, she conned me into signing my life away. I'm telling you, she's got some bad mojo working for her or something.

So: lights, camera, action; the Television People arrived. Yeah, they deserve capital letters. And scary music, lightning sound-effects - the whole shebang. They were making some reality TV documentary about living in the Yukon, and wanted to follow around some people in town, filming the "gritty reality of life in the far north." This basically meant that if you were stupid enough to show your face anywhere near town, you'd get a camera shoved in it.

Because of this, the young girls in town started donating to the cause of global warming and animal testing by upping their hairdryer/deodorant/make-up usage like a thousand per cent, and everyone kept walking around town trying to look busy and, oops, am I in shot?

Fraser, of course, spent the first week with his mouth tightly pursed. I think he was actually suffering from an overdose of disapproval. That is, until the swanky producer lady took the time to schmooze him.

"Actually, Dawson used to be the capital of the territory, Ms Sharpe. It wasn't until 1952 that it was moved to Whitehorse. It was quite the thriving metropolis in its day."

"Gosh, how interesting, I didn't know that. So why is it called Dawson, do you know?"

"Well-"

And so it turned out that Fraser wasn't so pissed after all, and that Susan Sharpe could fake her way through any conversation. I gotta admit, I was pretty impressed.

Of course, we both should have known she had a serious hidden agenda. Fuck that Double-Danish-Telescopic-Bag-Shot.

***

"Ok, next question. Where did you two meet?"

"Well, that's kinda a funny story-"

"Full sentences, Ray."

"Oh, right, uh… Frase and I met. Er-"

"I had gone to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father and-"

"-for reasons that don't need explaining at this juncture-"

"-remained attached as a liaison officer for the Canadian Consulate. During which time I worked closely with the Chicago Police Department."

"Where I worked."

"We met when Ray was placed to work undercover, posing as the man who had been my partner for more than two years…"

"And we kinda bonded."

"Yes, bonded."

"You know, 'coz ghost ships, performance arsonists-"

"Diethylaminoethoxycyanophosphine oxide."

"Yeah, all that stuff - Russian subs - It'll mean you get in some serious life-or-death bonding, you know?"

***

The crew had been there two weeks when Ray and Fraser first ventured into town together. They were walking to Kate's for breakfast when Ray got an awful sense of foreboding, just like when he'd known Ira Cowan was about to pull a knife on his ass.

"Hey Frase? Fraser?"

"Yes, Ray?" Fraser paused in the doorway.

"I don't think we should go in there." From behind him, Dief barked and Ray thought it was in agreement. Or it could have been a demand for bacon.

"You're not in the mood for pancakes?" Fraser asked, head cocked.

"No, no, pancakes are fine, pancakes are all good. I just- I don't think we should go in there."

"Well, Ray, the fact that you want pancakes must surely necessitate a visit to Klondike Kate's. It's the only place in town that sells them."

Ray rolled his eyes at Fraser's tone. "Oh, God. Fine, we'll go in, just don't start with this again."

"I wasn't 'starting', Ray, I just meant-"

"Nuh uh, I know exactly what you meant." Ray pushed his way through the door. "And I'm telling you, it was your turn to buy milk-" He came face to face with the lens of a huge fucking camera. He stared at it blankly for a few seconds. Then a sharp movement caught his eye. He turned his head and saw Susan gesturing at him sharply. She could either have been saying Don't come in here or they'll chop your head off, or Don't look at the fucking camera. Ray went with the camera thing.

They moved over to a booth in the corner, Dief dancing around their feet. The camera followed. It was attached to a burly man, who was attached to Pete, wearing headphones and a pack over his shoulder, who was attached to Susan, holding a small box-type-thing, at which she was staring into with intent. They all shuffled along behind the cameraman like pre-schoolers forced to hold hands on a day out. Stay in the crocodile, kids.

Molly, the waitress, bounced over. Her hair was huge and high and wide, and Ray stared at it for a few seconds in wonder.

"What can I get you boys?" she asked breathily, beaming at the camera and sticking out her chest.

"Uh…"

"Pancakes. With maple syrup, please, Molly," said Fraser, who looked the same cool oasis of calm that he always did. Apparently all the madness was not fazing him in the slightest. Ray, however could feel himself shooting nervous glances at the camera every few seconds. Susan was gonna kill him, but he really couldn't stop.

Molly tottered off on six-inch heels. How the hell she was going to work in those, Ray didn't know. Didn't she do like a ten-hour shift?

Dief sat upright, next to Ray in the booth, and looked regal. Jeez, even the wolf was acting up for the camera.

"To continue our earlier discussion, Ray. Ray? Ray!"

"Yeah, Fraser, what, sorry," Ray made a huge effort to not look at the camera.

"It was not my turn to by milk, it was your turn. I bought milk the day before yesterday. Before you decided to eat four bowls of cereal for supper."

Ray was suitably distracted. "Not true, Fraser, you finished the milk last night. So you should replace it."

Why the hell were they still filming this? Ray wondered. This must be the most boring conversation ever caught on film.

Another, smaller camera appeared, operated by a small, thin girl. Susan whispered something to her, and she directed the camera at Fraser, while the bigger one moved in on Ray. He shot it another nervous glance, and out of the corner of his eye saw Susan put her head in her hands.

"What are you planning on doing today, Ray?" Fraser asked encouragingly.

"Uh, you know, the usual. Head down to Mikey's later, maybe go for a beer tonight with a few of the guys. Nothin' special. You?"

"I have quite an exciting day planned, actually. We have a new recruit at the post, so I'll be taking him out into the field, seeing how well he tracks, observe what skills he has cultivated and what bad habits need to be ironed out." He cracked his neck - Ray assumed it was in preparation for some serious Mountie discipline.

Anyway, Ray knew about the new recruit, but Fraser clearly felt he had to narrate for the camera.

"Cool. So you'll be out late? Not home for dinner?" The cameraman pushed forward, closer to Ray, and he lost his train of thought.

"Oh, no, I should be back by then. It's not the usual patrol, more a field-trip, if you will."

"Sure. Fine. Uh… so what's the new recruit like?"

"Thompson? He's… well, he seems like a very capable young man. A little naïve, perhaps, and whimsical - he seems to have romantic tendencies" Fraser muttered darkly "- but all in all he's coming along fine." Fraser lowered his voice. "I think that he may have a crush on Daisy."

Ray grinned. "Really? The hots for Daisy, huh? Well don't worry, Frase, a week with you and he'll be licking dirt off the floor and not even noticing Daisy exists."

"Well I wouldn't go that far, Ray."

"I would. I have faith in you, Frase. In no time at all he'll be a mini-Fraser, and forget about sex completely."

Fraser coughed, turning red.

***

"So when did you make the decision to move to Canada together?"

"Well-"

"We decided to move to Canada together after we successfully apprehended a criminal by the name of Holloway Muldoon."

"No, that's not right, Frase, that just started the whole Hand of Franklin mess. It was after that that I thought I might as well stay. And it wasn't a together thing, it was an independent thing. You know, you were staying, and I just happened to be too, so we may as well room together. There was no, like, joint-decision."

"Ah yes, of course."

"You see we arrested this guy and I thought I should make a holiday of it up here, so we went off to discover the Hand of Franklin-"

"Reaching for the Beaufort Sea…"

"And partied with the dog-sled for a while, froze our asses off, the usual. Then we, well, Fraser, he got this job here, and I was supposed to go back to Chicago, but…"

"Ray decided he liked… Well, he liked-"

"…Oh, you know, the, uh, air up here, the nutty people… it's all good. Plus, not much for me in Chicago anymore. I needed a change of scene."

"We moved here and everything fell into place, rather. The house, my job, Ray's work. We very quickly established a routine."

"Yeah. It all sort of just happened. I don't think there was one time I could say 'That's it, that's when I decided what I wanted'… which was to stay."

***

Ok, so that's a lie. But things really don't happen wham! bam! It's all, you know, gradual. So I saw Ray Vecchio staring back at me with that dumbass little moustache and felt something crack, or maybe it was something clicking into place. And stuff from there… snowballed. But if there was one single moment, that was it.

"Ray! Ray Vecchio!"

"…Ray Vecchio?!"

That was when I started to realise what I wanted, which was to stay. Near Fraser. Wherever the hell that was.

***

They were followed out of the diner, down Main, past Mikey's, all the way to Fraser's detachment. Dief yapping at Ray's heels like he had donuts stuffed in his pockets, Ray with his shoulders hunched, Fraser striding along all noble-Mountie. Ray had started to suspect that Fraser'd got it into his head that he had to make a good example or something.

At the detachment they crammed into the narrow hallway, Fraser hanging up his hat neatly.

The fresh-faced Turnbull-clone bounced out from the back room, mirroring Dief for perkiness. Did none of these people realise it was still before 9am? Ray thought tetchily, running his hand through his hair.

"Good morning, Inspector Fraser," smiled- what was it? Thompson, right. His smile faltered, however, when he saw the camera.

"Morning, Thompson," Fraser confirmed, "How is everything this morning?"

"Fine, sir," he stuttered nervously. Ray suddenly felt an old hand at this TV thing. Heck, he barely noticed them anymore. "Uh, I believe there is some paperwork on your desk that needs attention, and a few messages, nothing too urgent."

"Good, good." Fraser said heartily. Thompson edged backwards out of the hallway. "Well, Ray, I'll be home about seven, if that's ok?"

"Yeah, fine, Frase." Ray twitched slightly, making to leave, almost chickening out. He turned away, and then turned back abruptly, pulling Fraser to one side and lowering his voice. "I- I made lunch, you know, 'cause you keep missing it and stuff, especially with you two going out into the wild today and everything. So… there." He shoved the package wrapped in brown paper into Fraser's hands and jerkily moved away.

"Why, thank-"

"Don't worry, whatever… I gotta go." He practically ran out of the building. To his relief, the big camera stayed with Fraser. Unfortunately, the little camera attached to the slim girl - what was she, seven?! - stayed with him.

***

In fact it followed him around all day. All the way through fixing a way-cool Hummer with suspension problems, through a meatball sub with Mikey at the dusty desk in Mikey's office, through going home and putting dinner on, through walking Dief, through waiting patiently for Fraser to come home.

6:45PM flashed the little digital clock on the microwave.

Ray was so unfazed by the camera by this point that he had started to make conversation with the seven-year old. Carla had turned out to have a quick, sharp tongue, be closer in age to twenty-five than seven - though she definitely didn't look it - and was kind of a tomboy; Ray had taken a shine to her.

"Hey, Carla, want the grand tour?" he asked.

"Yeah, sounds good." She grinned, eyes fixed on that little LCD screen, one headphone on, one pushed back on her head. "Make like an estate agent."

Ray jumped up and spread his arms. "What we have here is the classic Yukon kitchen: Oven, gas, of course; fridge; olde-worlde countertops. It's a prime example of the period. Uh… the pre-60s period." He wandered through a big archway into the living room. "The TV - which is heaven, when we actually have power - the couch, my Mom sent me that throw from the States; knitted it herself. The computer which actually has email - I know, amazing, huh - that's a bit of a lifeline. We keep in touch with a lot of people from back home that way. Also that big grandfather clock, which Fraser's grandparents left him, or something. Makes a hell of a racket."

As he walked through the rooms he played with little knickknacks that they'd collected, showing them to the camera: old magazines left lying around; an undeveloped roll of film so old that he couldn't remember what was on it anymore; a packet of maple candy that he kept meaning to send to his folks.

He walked into the hallway. "That room there is Fraser's, you can tell 'cause there's nothing in it but a bed and his clothes. And this is my room," Ray pushed open the doors as he passed. Ray's room looked equally empty, if he was honest. "And lastly the bathroom. Fascinating, huh?"

Carla smiled slightly, still looking down. Had she even made eye contact once? Ray wondered. She did seem totally obsessed with that camera.

"Well it's certainly not what I was expecting," she said quietly.

"Huh," Ray said, surprised. "What were you expecting?"

Carla looked up quickly and smiled. "Oh, I don't know. Something… smaller, I guess."

"Smaller? Smaller than one level, a living room/kitchen, one bathroom and two-?"

The lights in the hallway flickered once, and then went completely dark. There was no light coming from anywhere. It was only at times like this when he hated not having streetlights.

"Fuck!" said Ray, pushing past Carla into the living room. "Shit! Fraser isn't here. Uh… candles, candles… where the fuck-?" He walked into the sofa with a thud. "Ow."

A little light flickered on. For a brief second Ray felt relief flood through him. Power again. But then he realised that it was just the little battery-powered light on Carla's camera. "Jeez, give that thing a rest, will you?" he snapped.

He felt his way over to the computer desk in the light from the camera and started rummaging around in the little drawer, muttering something about candles.

"Don't you know what to do when this happens?" Carla asked, but it seemed more like an interview question than something she actually wanted to know.

Ray answered distractedly, "Uh, Fraser usually deals with this shit. I'm- I'm not too good with survival stuff. Where the hell is he, anyway? What time is it?"

Bong! shuddered the grandfather clock dramatically.

"Shit!" Ray said, dropping a handful of candles. They skittered along the polished wooden floor as Ray struggled to find them in the dark, and the clock rang six more times. "Told you that thing was noisy."

The front door opened as Fraser, on time as always, stepped in out of the cold, Dief trotting after him. A gust of air blew in a light swirl of snow, like something out of a movie, and he wiped his feel on the doormat, unbuttoning his coat.

He looked like one of those Arctic explorers you see saying things like "I may be some time." Carla grinned; that was one hell of a shot she just got. The Mountie-hero and scary wolf-companion in all their glory.

"Evening, all," Fraser said chirpily.

Ray stood up swiftly, relief making him sag. "Fraser, thank God. There's no power, it just went out like two minutes ago, and I dropped all the candles, plus dinner is in the stove and I think it's burning and God I know I sound pathetic but I don't fucking care."

Fraser seemed to take all this in his stride, and had quickly and gracefully rescued the candles from under the desk, set them up in strategic places around the room, lit them, removed the casserole from the oven, calmed Ray down and put water on for a "much-needed" cup of tea. Carla was pretty impressed.

***

An hour later, the candlelight was still softening what Carla personally thought were the rather rigid lines of Fraser's face. Bit too military for her tastes.

Sitting around the kitchen table, the camera whirring discreetly on the sideboard - were they even aware she was still filming? - Fraser drank tea, Ray coffee, and they talked about Fraser's day, the debris from dinner soaking in the sink. All very domestic.

"-and then Thompson spilled lemonade all over himself. I was hard pressed not to laugh, I'm afraid to say. Not very charitable." A twinkle in Fraser's eyes belied the pompousness. "Diefenbaker was not quite as circumspect." He frowned down at Dief, lying casually in front of the fire.

"Tut tut, Frase," Ray grinned, nudging him gently with his shoulder. "Next you'll be stealing candy from babies and stuff. Any exciting policing actually get done?"

"Actually, there is something I should warn you about, Miss Shaw. Today a report came through in reference to an extremely dangerous criminal who recently evaded capture in Chicago," he looked at Ray significantly, "was spotted passing through Carcross a month or so ago. He goes by the name Tommy Donen. There has been no confirmation of the sighting, so it's possible that it might simply be the imagination of the locals. But since it was in this vicinity, I have been warning everyone to take extra precautions in personal safety while I wait for security camera footage from the Illinois Federal to arrive."

"Wait, in this vicinity? Fraser, Carcross is more than three hundred miles away!" Ray protested.

"Still, Ray, it can't hurt to be too careful. Especially for Miss Shaw - this man has perpetrated several cases of sex-related offences in America, as well as being wanted for a number of other serious charges, chief of which is the murder of two policemen in his attempt to escape."

"Shit," said Ray, absently rubbing the back of his neck. "Any ideas where he's headed?"

"No. Most likely he'll be looking for somewhere to conceal himself until the manhunt dies down. Although I doubt very much if he's familiar with this locality, it is possible he has accomplices somewhere in the countryside."

"Well, if you want any help, you know where to come."

Fraser smiled gently. "Of course, Ray."

Carla's cell chirruped, breaking the peace that had settled over the dinner table.

"Hello? Hi, Susan. Yes. Yes, I'm with them now. Not really. No. Not particularly. If you like- ok, yeah no problem. Ok, bye." She looked at Ray and Fraser hopefully. "Would one of you mind giving me a lift back into town?"

***

"Tell us about the 'adventure'."

"The adventure… man, that was crazy."

"We started out from Fort Providence, and stuck to the Mackenzie Delta, heading north, stopping over at Fort Good Hope and Aklavik on our way to-"

"We had this tiny tiny tent and two sleeping bags and a load of dogs and it was pretty much us against nature."

"Ray acclimated surprisingly quickly, considering his previously urban existence-"

"Yeah, Chicago winters I can handle, but that wasn't nothing like this. Eyelashes frozen, ass numb, eating pemmican and building fires - or trying to… it was pretty wild."

"Yes, it was quite exhilarating. At one point, in the vicinity of Tsiigehtchic, we were stuck in so harsh a blizzard we had to camp out for three days."

"Man, that was harsh. Howling winds and nothing to do all day but count snowflakes."

"But quite warm in the tent. You know, arctic sleeping bags are much warmer than people realise-"

"Yeah, toasty. Plus we had that lamp so I guess it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We played cards most of the time."

"And I took the opportunity to teach Ray some very important survival techniques."

Susan interrupted. "Didn't you find it difficult living in such close proximity? Were things never uncomfortable?"

***

"Did they follow you around all day?" Ray asked when Fraser came back after dropping of Carla at her hotel. He was sprawled on the couch reading an old magazine, angled towards a nearby candle, glasses slightly askew, beer in hand. The low ticking of the Grandfather Clock gave the room a peaceful air. Fraser shed his coat and settled on the couch near Ray's feet.

"Not at all, they left mid-morning. I'm afraid they found police-work to be rather dull." Fraser smiled.

"You're lucky. All day I had Carla dogging me like I had candy taped to my ass."

"You're clearly more interesting than I am, Ray."

Ray threw the magazine onto the couch. "No way is my life more interesting than yours, Benton buddy." He stretched his feet out onto Fraser's thighs with studied casualness and closed his eyes. "When do you think the power will come back on?"

"Probably not until morning," Fraser admitted, stretching his arm along the back of the couch. "Or until the storm wears itself out."

"Jeez." Ray squinted at Fraser through one eye. "You worried about this Tommy Donen guy?"

"Not unduly," Fraser assured him. "As you say, he probably has very little cause to make Dawson his base. He'll want to avoid it at all costs, one would assume, it being such a large town."

"Large town…" Ray repeated with a grin. "I can't believe that even after living in Chicago, you still think this place is big."

"Well it's all relative, Ray, and for the Yukon, Dawson is a relatively large settlement."

There was a moment of silence, and briefly Fraser wondered if Ray had fallen asleep. Then suddenly, eyes still closed, he spoke. "Do you ever think about, you know… moving on? Going somewhere even more obscure? Just 'cause I know you, and I know you like as large a bear-to-people ratio as possible."

Fraser inclined his head in acknowledgement of the joke. "Well, I've considered it, of course. There is still work to be done on my father's cabin, and it would be nice to return to my old haunts of the Northwest Territories. But it's highly impractical, Ray. It would depend on whether or not a place opens up in any of the detachments I'd favour."

"Yeah." Ray sat up slowly and swung his feet to the floor. He rested his elbows on his knees, head hanging low. "Just 'cause, you know, I'd come with. I mean, I like it here and all, but I'd want to come with. If that's ok. I don't want to be a drag- a burden, but…" he stared at the carpet.

"Of course, Ray. I'd hope you would."

Ray grinned, shoulders relaxing. He clapped his hands on his thighs. "How about some poker?"

Part two