Warm as Ice
Summary: Krit escaped north from Manicore because he didn't know what to do with warmth. He was not prepared for what he found.
Spoilers: 'And Jesus Brought a Casserole' for Dark Angel (Season One). And the Season One finale of Due South.
Benton Fraser knew that something had gotten into his father's cabin when he returned from his duty in Chicago. He had an extended leave of absence to put the cabin in order. From the mess that didn't reach past his shoulder and it being concentrated around the food stores, the Mountie was expecting something four-legged. So he had his gun ready, rarely did dinner come to him.
And this time it didn't either. Deifenbaker led the way to the root cellar. The varmint was a two-legged boy, poorly dressed for the weather (even though he had borrowed one of his father's wool jackets).
Granted, Benton's initial greeting lacked culture (Oh! This is a surprise.) but at least he put the gun away immediately. The boy was staring at him, like a wolf cub, and still stuffing uncooked rice into his mouth.
"Well, since you're that hungry," Benton said kindly, "You must stay for dinner." He knew better than to take the bag away from the boy, so he reached for another one. Benton knew that the boy's eyes were following his every movement and especially noting the location of the gun.
Benton hurriedly cooked up a filling meal. He served it up on a plate and then slid the plate with a fork over to where the boy was staring at him. Then he prepared his own plate and sat across from the child. As he ate, he filled the silence with chatter.
"My name's Benton Fraser and this is my cabin, or rather my father's but he left it to me several years ago. I'm glad that you came to visit, as it gets rather lonely here." Benton was relieved to see that the boy was using the supplied fork instead of his fingers. But he was still eating much too fast. "Slow down," he warned. "You'll get a horrible stomachache eating so fast, not to mention what the uncooked rice will be doing to your digestive system."
To his eternal surprise, the boy obeyed the suggestion. Benton smiled and continued talking. "I'm a Mountie, otherwise known as Canada's Northwest Mounted Police. This is my wolf, Deifenbaker. He's deaf."
That sparked a sliver of interest, so Benton told the whole story of how the dog jumped into freezing water to save him and forever paid the price. Benton continued talking until he couldn't think of anything to say. Finally he asked, "What's your name?"
The boy debated internally. It forever to hear, "Krit, sir." He was more polite than Benton had expected.
Benton grinned. "Delighted to meet you, Krit. I hope you'll be staying for a while."
The boy didn't really respond, but Benton didn't let that bother him. He pointed at his guest bed. "You can sleep there. I'll be sleeping in that bunk. If you stay, I'll be asking you to do chores, bringing in the split wood, making your bed, etcetera. I'd love to teach you how to drive a dog sled and to live off the land." He smiled. "There is much food to be found if you know how to forage."
It got dark early, so Benton pulled out the lanterns and lit them. Krit really wasn't inclined to speak and Benton was used to Deif carrying the conversation. It was a night as quiet as most this cabin had witnessed.
When Benton started getting ready for bed, Krit imitated the actions. "Do you want the light encase you need to visit the restroom during the night?" The gift of the bathroom from Ray was never more appreciated than now.
"Are you sure?"
"I have very good night vision, sir."
"That's good. You will need that up here."
Benton checked the windows and doors and then blew out the lamp. It took a little while to adjust himself on his bed but finally he slept soundly. When he woke up, it was to a muttered breath as a log fell to the cabin floor. Benton calmly opened his eyes. Krit was filling the wood bin. Benton stretched and stood.
Krit rushed to his bed to stand in front of it.
His bed was made. Benton didn't even need to toss a quarter on it to know that it had been done correctly. "Very good, Krit," Benton complimented. "I couldn't have done better myself," he said honestly. He reached for his wallet and pulled out a five dollar bill (Canadian) and handed it to the boy.
His eyes got very wide, but he made no move to accept the money. "Sir?"
"It's yours. You earned it."
"No, sir. You said that if I completed chores, you would teach me how to live off the land. That is an equitable exchange." That was obviously what Krit desired, not to need to depend on anyone.
Benton blinked. The child had an American accent but didn't act like any child (American or Canadian) that he had ever met. Benton used the restroom and then went outside to take care of the dogs. When he returned, Krit had made his bed with the same dexterity and precision as his own.
"Krit," Benton hedged (he had spent too much time in the lower 48, if he was capable of hedging). "I understand that you are excited to learn, but it takes years, decades to be able to fully live off the land."
"I'm a quick study, sir."
"So I see."
"If you would tell me the rest of the chores that I'm responsible for, I'd be pleased to finish them."
Benton glanced around the tiny cabin and scratched his chin. "Can you cook?"
"No, sir, but I can learn."
"You get some water from the well and start it boiling and I'll hem some clothes for you."
"Sir, my clothes are satisfactory. I do not want to be beholding."
"Now see, you wouldn't be beholding. You need some clothes to blend in and I can help with that."
"So teach me, sir."
Benton smiled. "Go get the water while I get the supplies."
The first day was spent cooking, cleaning and sewing. Benton was pleased that the boy now had a set of clothes that fit him better, though he worried about the cold. He also worried about keeping the barcode tattoo covered at all times. The Northern temperatures would drop quickly and Krit needed more to survive that weather. The boy was a quick study as he promised. Rarely did Benton have to tell him something twice and if he had to repeat it a third time, Krit would apologize profusely.
Benton worried about Krit, how he knew some things so well and others not at all. The boy was incredibly obedient and he shied slightly when Benton got too close, obviously a result of physical abuse. Once, Benton had clapped him on the shoulder for a job well done and Krit winced obviously and then apologized. (Benton had also noticed the extra warmth he was emanating, the fever that never went away.)
Benton, of course, had apologized in return and promised to respect his personal space more. That had confused Krit. He had had no problem stripping when Benton had been measuring the clothes for his use. He had no problems when Benton was teaching him how to rock climb. Krit was a very good belayer and an excellent rapeller. He was good at the physical parts of learning to survive. It took him longer to identify eatable plants, but even then he was a quick learner.
Benton enjoyed teaching and he hoped that Krit enjoyed learning just as much. Time passed quickly and one day, before Benton awoke in the morning, Krit had disappeared.
Benton knew that Krit wasn't ready to be one his own and so he tracked the boy. Krit had managed to traverse a great distance before Benton caught up, most of it straight up a mountain and into the tundra.
Benton found Krit. He was sitting in the snow, shaking horribly. Benton knew that it wasn't the chattering that was a precursor to hypothermia. He also had a vague idea of why Krit was seizing. He reached into his pack and brought out the pills that Ray had sent him and forced several down Krit's throat. He held the boy close until he stopped shivering.
The boy was already so very cold. Benton wrapped him in blankets and carried him back to the cabin. Krit never woke up. Finally they made it back to warmth. Benton convinced Deifenbaker to share Krit's bed and nursed the boy back to health.
Or he tried. Most of it was Krit's choice.
He had heard very little of the afterlife, but if there was a good place, a high place, this was it. The smells identified it as not being Manticore. He was warm. He wasn't in pain. He could feel a heartbeat on his feet. He wasn't alone.
He couldn't tell if he was with one of his brother's or sister's. He didn't care.
Then he felt movement and peeked through his eyelids.
Benton Fraser, RCMP.
He was cooking. He was always taking care of someone. Krit had hid whenever there were the rare visitors to the cabin, but Benton had always helped the others. Krit wasn't a special case, though none of the others had been invited to sleep in the cabin.
That meant that the heartbeat and the warmth on his feet was the half-wolf. The canine shifted a bit and put his nose under Krit's hand. The canine had done this several times before and Krit still felt at a loss, even if he petted the animal.
A medicine bottle on the table by the bed caught his attention.
Krit reached out to grab it.
A brand new bottle. It was full. He had run out days before leaving for the mountain top. He hadn't wanted the shakes that had taken Jake. He wanted the cold, the freedom, and the mountain. Benton hadn't let him die out there. He had given Krit exactly what he needed.
"It's yours," Benton spoke.
Krit met the kind man's eyes.
"The tryptophan. I had a friend send me an entire crate of it. It's out in the shed. Next time you feel the need to leave, please take it with you."
"How did you know?"
Benton smiled. "It's a small cabin, Krit, and we are living in each other's pockets."
And the man was very observant. His eyes shouldn't be as good as Krit's transgenic eyes, but Benton saw just as much.
He looked apologetic now. "If I had known just how low your stores had gotten, I would have given you another bottle," Benton promised.
"I know," Krit whispered. Benton hated to see anything suffering.
Krit decided then that he would never leave, even if Benton could no longer teach him. Two months later, a contingent of red-coated, horse mounted men destroyed his hope. Krit had seen them coming and had warned Benton.
Benton had met them at the edge of the property and talked with them. Krit couldn't hear the words, but he could see the tension in Benton's posture, so unlike what he was used to seeing in the man. Finally one of the men separated from the others and with him was a riderless horse. That horse was for Benton.
Krit stayed hidden until Benton called for him.
Benton looked extremely sad as he introduced Krit to his CO and explained that he had to leave.
"I'll go with you," Krit said.
"Krit, you can't. Things have happened out there and a lot of scared people are panicking and hurting each other. We're going to restore order. It's going to dangerous."
"I'll go with you."
"Krit. There's an Inuit family not far from here who will gladly take you in."
Krit was not about to be left behind. "I can take care of the dogs for you. You'll need them. Any hysteria would lead to disruptions in the supply chain, especially for fuel. That's why they came on horses."
"True." Benton wasn't surprised at the boy's deduction. "It's still too dangerous. If we take the dogs, I'll find a local boy to help."
Krit really didn't like the idea of anyone doing his job. He didn't like being replaceable. He didn't like Benton being anywhere that Krit couldn't watch his six. And Krit could watch Benton's six better than anyone else, even better than Benton knew. "Any place you take me, I'll leave. And I'll track you down." Krit couldn't believe he was being so bold. He was refusing a strong suggestion, Benton never gave him orders. He didn't know if he could refuse an order from the kind man.
The CO finally spoke up. "He can come."
Benton was surprised and actually said, "sir?"
"He's obviously smart and made up his mind. If you've been teaching him anything, he'll be able to follow. But son," the CO fixed his eyes on Krit, "You will be expected to work hard, keep up and follow orders. Is that understood?"
Krit fixed his eyes forward, stood at parade rest and responded briskly. "Sir, yes, sir."
"My name is Buck Frobisher, son. Use it."
"Pack up, boys. We're going to be gone for a while."
Benton nodded. "Krit, put all of the dog food into the dog sled and harness the dogs, as well as any perishable supplies."
"Yessir." Krit ran off to obey.
Buck looked at Benton. "There's a story to that one."
"Yes sir, but I believe he will be in danger if any investigate it."
Buck nodded. "So be it. He's your responsibility. I have no doubt that you two will do right by each other."
"Krit is a rare name. We'll refer to him as Chris. Is that clear, boy?" Buck noticed that the boy had returned quickly, quietly and with all the supplies that Benton had indicated.
"Sir, yes sir," Krit responded.
"Just a 'yes, sir' boy. We don't want to draw any attention to you."
"Yes, sir," the child corrected himself.
Buck shook his head one last time and left the shed. He was whistling a tune that Krit did not know. The boy shook off his unease and turned to his guardian. "Sir?"
"Harness the dogs. I'll put together a pack for each of us, grab whatever you deem necessary."
"I've already packed the tryptophan."
"Very well then, we shall be off shortly."
Krit didn't care about the future, so long as he was in the company of Benton Fraser.