"Go. Find…" Benton Fraser enunciated with a grimace. His head strained off the cement, one bloody hand around his wolf's ruff. Diefenbaker spun around with a yip and ran around the corner of the alley before the Mountie could finish his command.
"…Ray." Fraser nodded, before slowly laying his head back down to the ground with a grunt. Both hands crawled toward the knife that was buried in his abdomen. He could feel blood beginning to pool beneath him, rivulets flowing heavily now underneath his thick woolen uniform. This wasn't the first time he'd been stabbed. Nor was this the first time he'd found himself staring up at the sky as he felt himself begin to go into the initial stages of shock from a grievous injury. It was arguable, though, whether this was more or less painful than the last.
When he'd been shot on the railway platform, his thoughts had been focused upon Victoria leaving him behind on that train. On how he should have been with her on that train. As he lay bleeding in her icy wake that night, the world around him seemed to shake itself like a snow globe, taking him back to a time when he'd lain huddled with her in a terrible storm, his body covering hers for a day and a night and day in an attempt to keep her alive even as he felt his own consciousness and life ebb into the cold.
Fraser closed his eyes, ashamed of distancing himself from his past experiences at a time like this. Even in his memory, he still carried with him only a rote description of the events which had transpired between Victoria and himself the first, and perhaps only, time he'd really fallen in love; however illogical, however dangerous or transgressive, and however truly heartbreaking it would one day prove to be. Those days spent freezing and huddled as one entity… dying, yet so very alive together, had re-hardened—frozen—to a mechanical "day and a night and a day" as soon as he'd recovered from the gunshot wound. Reiterated still under the guise of poetry or storytelling, or perhaps simply a sort of learned Native oral tradition to his heart until now, he realized, as an icy stab of pain grabbed him fully. Now he felt—and this was foreign to his personality, which only served to pull at him from invisible and incomprehensible forces—completely alone.
Tonight, the displaced policeman stared at the stars, stifling a moan as pain tried to escape his throat. There was no suffering associated with the loss of a woman to confound his injury, but Fraser found it nearly as intense. He attempted to secure his shaking hands around the blade to stem the warm flow of blood, but the weapon had been thrust to its hilt. His breath was coming in pants, which he could see hang for a moment in icy white clouds, suspended and overlapping in the winter night. He was having difficulty slowing his heart rate and felt sweat beading along his face as his body began to shudder in intervals. So he blinked the moisture back and focused on the stars.
He couldn't see many constellations from his position in the claustrophobic alleyway, but Orion's belt was visible, partially obscured by steam from a nearby building. Fraser tried to imagine the asterism of the Greek hunter's belt morphing into his own Sam Browne. He thought of how hard it would be to reach those stars every other night to polish the belt to his satisfaction, moving his fingers down slightly to meet the stickiness that was beginning to soak through the leather of which he took great care. Head still firmly planted on the asphalt, and with a swallow of dread; he came to the conclusion that he was all too quickly losing pride in his individual uniform, quite a lot of blood, and possibly whatever slips of sanity he liked to think he had banked.
Perhaps it would be more helpful to focus on individual stars, rather. Fraser tried to ignore the sound of a nearby scuffle. He could do nothing to help and could hardly shout for assistance in his condition, so he let the sounds muffle themselves. He let the stars blur. And Benton Fraser finally let himself lose control as he waited to pass out or for Dief to bring help—whichever came first. He trusted Ray to apprehend the man who'd attacked Fraser's uniform, Canada, the Queen, and—well—his person; and he relented. For the moment, there was nothing more to do but wait.
Breathing heavily, Ray Kowalski finally caught up with the man he and Fraser had been chasing. He was really just a kid. Nineteen years old. Ray had been separated from the other two due to the irritating habit his partner had of leaping onto rooftops during foot pursuits and soaring from impossible heights onto moving objects during a chase. Ray generally left his cape at home, so he preferred to stay on the ground while his Canadian buddy flushed the bad guys down- or around-ward when possible. It was a system that usually served them well, so he had few qualms about it unless he got sucked into Fraser's bizarre methods. Attempting parkour looked like fun in movies, but it lost its glamour somewhere between the cat leap and West Randolph Street. Tonight, though, Ray had managed to stay on the street, so he was content.
As soon as the opportunity presented itself, Ray employed his own unique manner of leaping from behind a dumpster and tackled the suspect to the pavement. Still breathing hard in the cold, his chest heaving, the detective yanked the young man up and slapped a pair of handcuffs on him. He was taller than Ray, well-muscled under his loose-fitting clothes, and dewy droplets of sweat stood out on an olive complexion. His bony hands shook nervously under the ragged cuffs of his navy blue sweatshirt. A rough patting-down revealed no weapons. He'd probably ditched whatever he had during the chase. Surprised that Fraser was nowhere in tow, Ray began to Mirandize the squirming subject now in his custody. Where was the Mountie?
Maybe Fraser was off licking something. Probably on the trail of the treasure of the Sierra What's-it-called. Or perhaps a sewer rat had been burgled and Fraser was returning its prize scrap of moldy ham. Maybe a moose had wandered a tad South and Fraser was loaning it a compass. Ooh, Jimmy Hoffa…
"…If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you…" he continued, still theorizing in his head why he was the one who'd eventually caught up with their subject. At that moment, Diefenbaker rounded the corner. That was when Ray knew something was wrong. The wolf without Fraser in this situation meant something was queer.
"Hang on," he said, mid-spiel.
"Don't you gotta say the whole thing, cop?"
"I said shut up!" Fraser's wolf licked Ray in the face.
"Dief, don't do that. Hey." Then Ray felt around his scruff. He yanked on his glasses and saw, dark under the incandescent streetlights, what could not be anything but blood. "Aw, shit. Fraser!" he yelled. "Fraser!" His glasses fell down and hung loose, dangling by one ear.
"That the Mountie guy?" the kid asked, a cocky grin pulled tight over his jutting jaw.
"What did you do?" Ray grabbed him. "What the hell did you do?" He shoved the kid against the dumpster, and the pair of glasses fell to the ground with a crack. "Where is he?"
"I got the right to remain silent."
"You got the right to remain cuffed to this here post, you bastard." Ray pulled out the extra pair of cuffs he'd decided were a good idea to have on him since Fraser was woefully under-equipped and had a habit of attracting trouble, and attached the man to a street sign. "You move, you die."
Ray must have dropped his guard, because his threat only encouraged a hard kick to his gut. He fell back a few steps, curling in on himself, cursing. Vision narrowing, he nearly dry heaved and caught himself with one hand on the dumpster. He had to get to Fraser.
Dief must've had the same plan. Ray felt wolf breath in his ear and looked up as the agitated animal started licking his neck and making frantic noises.
"I'm coming, Dief. Show me where he is, buddy." Ray straightened and started to run, his stomach clenching from the kick and nervous energy. "Hey, slow down a little. Dief! Diefenbaker!" He saw a tail disappear around a brick building as he caught himself on a cold, rough wall; head down, gasping for breath. He shoved off, following where he last saw a flash of fur, and skidded around the corner. Nothing. Not a sound.
"Fraser!" He waited for a moment then walked forward. A furry white head poked itself from an alley and disappeared. Ray ran. He nearly tripped over Fraser when he reached the dimly-lit passageway. That uniform was good for something. It was like a bright red don't-step-on-me sign. Ray dropped hard to his knees on the cold cement.
"Frase… what h—" Then he looked at Fraser's hands weakly trembling around the handle of a knife. Even against the red uniform, he saw the blood. Ray froze for a moment and looked at Fraser's face. His throat was working up and down, and his mouth opened like he wanted to say something, then shut. His usually confident eyes were distant and glanced back and forth slightly at the sky.
"Jesus, Frase… hold on. You hear me? I gotcha." Ray fumbled at his belt, automatically grabbing for a radio to call in a 10-00—forgetting again that the only radio he had access to in the 27th was in the car. Cursing, he jammed shaky fingers into his pocket, retrieved his phone, and dialed.
"Yeah. This is Detective Vecchio. Chicago PD. 27thPrecinct. Officer down." His voice cracked. "Need an ambulance immediately." He dropped the phone to the ground by accident, but left it there, returning his attention to Fraser who was now staring at him, eyes wide and glazed.
"Hey, it's gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay, Fraser. Ambulance is on its way. Stay with me."
Fraser groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. Ray could see his partner's breath hitching as bloody hands cradled the knife.
"What do you need? What can I do?" Maybe Fraser knew some trick from his Great Aunt seventeen-times-removed that Ray could do to keep him alive or help him hurt less while the ambulance took its merry time getting here…
"Qiuliqtunga…" Fraser said softy. Ray squinted and scratched his neck.
"What was that? Go lick tuna? I don't think that's gonna help, Fraser. I know it hurts. You're not, you know, making much sense right now… Just…" Ray swallowed. "Just hang on…" He felt a tug on the elbow of his black flight jacket and looked down. Diefenbaker was pulling on it with a whine. Ray's brain was in shock seeing Fraser like this. He hadn't even thought to cover him with more layers. The detective quickly removed his coat and covered Fraser's chest with it, careful not to touch or jostle the knife.
Fraser nodded, almost undetectably in appreciation. Diefenbaker was lying next to him, and had begun to worm his head under one of Fraser's arms.
"Keep talking to me. What was that word you said? The 'tuna' word?" Ray placed a hand on his buddy's chest. "Ah, try to imagine yourself…" What would Fraser imagine to feel better? Be Canadian, Ray… "Imagine you've been trudging through the tundra for days tracking a guy who beats baby sea otters…" Fraser's eyebrows rose slightly at that. "Yeah, and, uh… you've been wading through a frozen river, and you're very, very cold. But, now. Now. You've caught the man, saved all the baby otters, and you're all dry, sitting in your long johns, a flannel shirt, and a sweater in front of a roaring fire in a little cozy cabin. You're drinking that disgusting bark tea you like so much, and you feel as toasty as a bug in a rug, right? Oh, and all the otters're snuggling with ya." Ray leaned in closer.
Fraser made a noise. It probably started out as a chuckle, but it reminded Ray of the early days of rebuilding his Goat when the engine just wouldn't start. It would make terrible choking noises. His dad would laugh and say it was part of the process, but Ray would feel guilty that he might've hurt her… just for a second. He'd laugh and yank the key out.
Ray could feel his friend shivering violently underneath his hand. Fraser had one hand resting now on Diefenbaker, fingers twitching and digging into the fur sporadically. The stain still spread across Fraser's uniform, reflecting dark and wet in the moonlight and a flickering streetlight somewhere behind them. Feeling useless, Ray moved one hand to meet Fraser's, which was still embracing the knife, shocked at the amount of slippery, warm blood coating it.
"It means… 'I am cold,' Ray." Fraser gasped, his voiced straining. He looked intently into his partner's confused eyes. "Qiuliqtunga…" he paused, letting out another grunt, "is Inuktitut… for 'I am cold.'"
"Oh." Ray sat, staring back. He vaguely recalled Fraser telling him Dief could lip-read an Inuit language easier than English. Maybe he was talking to the wolf earlier.
"I..." Fraser touched his tongue to his lower lip, thoughtfully. "I can't see the stars…" A bead of sweat slid slowly down the side of his face and disappeared into his hair. Ray looked up. He could see the stars. It was a clear night. No clouds or snow.
"Ray, the sky is too big to…" Fraser swallowed. "To fit into an alley," he whispered. Ray bit his lip. Not only was his buddy hurt, but he was homesick.
"Hey, the ambulance is coming. I hear it. You're going to be fine." Dief started howling along with the keening of the sirens.
"Thank you, Ray." His eyes slid shut and his hands relaxed.
Ray didn't feel the EMT release Fraser's fingers from his grasp or hear anything but the pounding of his own heart until sounds seemed to focus into the size of a pin then explode around him.
"BP seventy over forty-two. Pulse-ox seventy-six. Pulse is weak, thready, and irregular. Seems to have lost about three units. Patient may be too unstable to transport."
Ray heard something about respirations before his own felt as though they wouldn't move past his teeth. He wanted to scream, but it felt like his own lungs had frozen solid and wouldn't pull a breath in or out. Fraser had been talking to him a couple of minutes ago. Ray made a fist and slammed it into the brick building they had been huddled nearest. He pounded it until his hand was unrecognizable, and then began kicking it until he fell. No attempt was made to pull himself off the dirty street still shining with his partner's blood as hot tears of rage ran across his face. He felt strong arms pull him up and take him to the waiting ambulances. Apparently two of them had shown up along with a black-and-white. Why hadn't someone come faster?
A needle jabbed him in the rear below his hip.
"—just to help you calm down, Sir…"
"—doing the best we can, Sir…"
"Detective! It's Detective..."
"Sorry, Detective. We're doing the best we can, Detective."
"…don't need a sedative, God damn it!" Ray shook hands off of him.
"…just relax and let it work. Let us look at your hand."
Collapsed in resignation, there was nothing to do but comply. "Ko… Vecchio. Ray Vecchio. Just help Constable Fraser… Just help Fraser." Ray felt like he should say something about the Consulate. Let the EMTs know they should notify Inspector Thatcher. Tell them he's a Mountie… Since Fraser was unconscious, should Ray tell them about how Constable Benton Fraser "first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father, and for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, has remained, attached as liaison officer with the—"
He felt his eyes shut and the voices flow into one, icily, sucking him under, muffling his senses until he had only one thought… So this is what an ice floe was like… He'd have to tell Fraser he'd experienced one when he awoke.