I can't believe I let Malnpudl talk me into the due South
fandom. Paul Haggis, Paul Gross and Alliance Atlantis own all things due South
. Joss Whedon & co. own all things Buffy: the Vampire Slayer
. I still refuse to own up to the fact that I'm diving into yet another fandom.
Guy's voice was smooth, cultured and very, very English. Someone with a voice like that didn't belong up here, but what the hell. Everyone said that about me when I first showed up, so I didn't think too much about it just then. On the other hand, it'd been a long-ass time since anyone called me Detective-anything, so I pushed out a little way from under Zed's pickup and took a look at the guy.
English, sure, but someone outfitted him good for our kind of cold. His stuff was quality, not designer, so I was inclined to cut him some slack.
"Left the force a few years back. Call me Ray." I pushed out the rest of the way and stood up. I started to offer him my hand, but it was covered in black grease, so I grabbed the rag from my back pocket.
"I apologize for the misunderstanding, Mr. Kowalski. I'd —"
"Ray. Call me Ray." Yeah, it was rude to interrupt like that, but my dad's still kicking heads back in Arizona, which means he's
Mr. Kowalski, not me.
The guy looked startled for maybe half a second, and then he noddded, all business-like. "Ray."
"That's me. Whatcha want?" I gave up on my hands. The rag I was using was about two weeks overdue for getting shitcanned, so I wiped my hands on my coveralls. Still too dirty to shake, so I didn't offer. "If it's something to do with Chicago PD, I can't help, 'cause like I said —"
"— You're no longer a detective, yes." He looked a little uncomfortable, but before I could offer him a seat or something, he said, "Actually, I'm here to talk to you about Benton Fraser."
I felt like I just had the wind knocked out of me, and then I saw red. Right after Ben disappeared back in 2000 and I started looking for him, a lot of newspapers and TV stations carried the story. At first, I thought it was great, and then all the kooks and crooks started crawling out of the woodwork. The crooks were easier to deal with — I'd seen scams like that the whole time I worked in Chicago, so I just turned 'em over to the authorities once I got enough evidence on them.
The kooks were worse. They wouldn't ask for money up front. Instead, they'd say they could locate him with magic. After a while, I went along with one of 'em, just to see. And yeah, I was getting desperate by then, so I sent her a button from the serge and waited without a lot of hope. I could have handled it if she'd said he was dead and asked for money, but she didn't. Instead, I got this long letter from her, apologizing for not being able to help. She said a lot of stuff, but what it boiled down to was a bunch of crap about Ben not walking in this world anymore and her not being able to get him home.
At least she sent back the button.
Anyway, I wasn't even thinking by the time the guy finished saying Ben's name. I just launched myself at him, because I wanted to pound him into the ground and kick him in the head for bringing all that up again. So I was kind of surprised to find myself face up against the wall, with the English guy twisting my arm behind me and doing a damn good job of it. Not being a complete idiot, I went limp.
"Perhaps we should begin again, Ray."
Had to hand it to the guy. He could have called me "Mr. Kowalski" and rubbed it in, but he didn't.
"Okay, yeah. Sounds good." The words came out a little mushed, because while he was holding my arm with one hand, he'd braced his other arm along my neck so my cheek was against the wall.
"My name is Rupert Giles. I belong to an organization in England called the Watchers' Council. Perhaps you've heard of it?"
"Uh, yeah." Took about a year for word of what happened in Los Angeles to get up to Tuktoyaktuk, but once it did, it was the talk of the town. Everyone, but everyone, had an opinion about demons and vampires and Slayers, oh my.
"Excellent." He sounded way too patient. It reminded me of Sister Mike back at St. Anthony's, and not in a good way. "Your friend, Benton Fraser, accepted a commission from our organization several years ago."
I tensed up again, couldn't help it. "Yeah?"
"Yes. Ray, I would like very much to release you, but only if you promise to control yourself. Will you?"
I swallowed hard at that. Thought about lying then went with the truth. "Not sure I can right now."
"Thank you for your honesty." And then the craziest thing happened. I heard him whisper something, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in my office chair and couldn't move. Would've made sense if he'd tied me up, but there was no rope to be found, so the whole deal was kind of freaky. "I apologize, Ray. Ordinarily, I wouldn't use magic like that, but it's imperative that you and I speak without coming to blows."
It took a few minutes of me tugging at nothing to figure I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, so I slumped down and gave him my meanest cop look. Guy didn't even flinch.
"I've been glared at by much scarier things than you, Ray, so don't feel badly." Crap. It figured he could read minds. "And no, I can't read your mind. You have a remarkably expressive face."
Shit. I felt blush start at my belly and rush up like nobody's business. "Okay, whatever. Talk to me about Fraser, already, would ya?"
"Right." He started undoing his coat as he talked, and what he had to say spooked the hell out of me. "Six years ago, my group approached Constable Fraser to ask for his help in contacting the spirits of the north."
"Okay." I wanted to call the guy a kook, but I was still in my office chair going nowhere fast. Maybe he was telling the truth. Or something like it.
"He agreed to help us, and once we had the RCMP give him sufficient leave, arrangements were made to send him to the spirit world as our emissary." Giles paused and said, "Are you still with me?"
"Yeah. No. Wait. Why Fraser?" And I wondered why the hell Ben would agree to something like that. Yeah, him and me were on the outs then, but he could've said no. He could have sent them to Eric or Quinn. That would have been better.
"His family has long-standing ties with the Watchers' Council, and that was the primary consideration at the time."
Giles rolled his eyes at me. "At the time, we were still a fairly secretive organization. Constable Fraser really was the best man for the job."
"Oh." Made sense, I guess, but Eric or Quinn still would've been the better choice. At least that way, Ben and I could've gotten over our fight a lot sooner.
"At any rate, he was only supposed to be gone for two years, but —"
"He's been gone almost six!"
Giles winced a little — my voice kind of echoed a lot in that garage. "Yes, Ray. I'm aware of that. It's why I'm here."
"Then why isn't Ben here?" I started struggling again. "Damn it, let me out of this thing!"
"I think not." Yeah, I wouldn't've let me go either. "Constable Fraser — Ben — isn't here because of a series of badly timed events." Giles talked about the Council getting blown up in London and having to stop the world from ending because of some evil thing and a whole bunch of other crap that happened. It took a while, but he finally started winding down. "We're still taking a census of who survived the attacks of 2002 and 2003, and it's that census which brought up Ben's status. We realized that no one had ever retrieved him, which is why I'm here now."
It took me a minute to catch on to what he was saying. "Wait — he's alive?"
"Very much so. And rather impatient to get home."
"How do you know that?" My heart was pounding so hard I could hardly breathe.
"We have a witch on staff, a Willow Rosenberg, and she's made contact —"
"Hey! I know her!"
Giles looked a little embarrassed. "Yes, you do."
"Why didn't she tell me this when she wrote me five years ago?" Man, I was pissed. All this time wasted.
"She wasn't a member of the Watchers' Council at the time and didn't have access to certain records," he said, looking at me kind of sternly. It was almost like having Ben home. "Rest assured that she remembered him immediately when his name was brought up. Once she realized Ben was missing because of Council business, she made every effort to research as quickly as possible the process used to send him to the spirit world in the first place."
"So —" I couldn't say it. Couldn't get the words out, because my throat closed up.
Giles did his mind-reading trick again and said, "Yes, Ray. He's coming home."
"As soon as you can control yourself," he said. And he said it nice, not mean, and that was it for me.
I started crying a little, and pretty soon I was up to sobbing. Hell, I don't think I cried that much after Beth Botrelle got out, but Giles was cool with it. Somewhere along the line, he let me out of the chair and just held onto me while I got it together. Six years I'd been looking for Ben, and this guy comes along and says Ben'll be home lickety split.
It was maybe another twenty minutes when I finally killed the guy's handkerchief and got my shit together. "Okay." I hiccupped. Embarrassing, but it's what happens when I cry too long. "What do you have to do?"
"Ben should have given you something before he left."
"Yeah, he did. He sent me his Stetson." It was why I started going crazy looking for him as soon as I got it. Ben's Stetson was like something sacred to him, and he never would have given it up unless he thought he wasn't coming back. Since we'd had a big enough fight that I'd gone back to Chicago to cool off for a while, I had reason to panic. Leaving like that wasn't the brightest thing ever, but I needed some space. Ben didn't agree, and that was what the fight was about. If I'd known he didn't think I was coming back, I never would've left.
"You still have it?"
I looked at him like he was nuts. "Of course I do."
Giles looked so relieved I didn't want to ask what would've happened if I didn't still have it. "Excellent. We need to go get it."
I nodded. Couldn't talk again, because my throat was closing up, so I just put on my coat and headed out of the garage. Giles zipped up his coat again and followed me out, and I shut the door behind him. It was maybe ten yards to my house, but the wind had picked up and was blowing the loose snow around like crazy, so I put Giles' hands on the guideline to the back door and walked behind him. I was used to this kind of crap weather, so I didn't worry about me getting into the house. Right about then, a question occurred to me.
"Hey, how'd you get up here? We've been closed off from everything for the last two weeks." I had to shout, because that wind was blowing really, really hard.
Smart guy that he is, Giles didn't give me an answer until we were in the house. He took off his coat and told me, "Trust me, you don't want to know how I arrived."
I was about to argue with him, but then Dief came into the kitchen. He was moving pretty slow, which made sense, given that he was pretty fucking old by then. He whuffed once, and Giles held out his hand.
"You must be Diefenbaker, yes?" Dief whined a little, and Giles said, "He misses you as well, but he'll be home soon." Shit. It was like Ben was already back.
Damn near started bawling again, but I kept it together and went into the living room to grab the Stetson. Giles came along, and when I offered him the hat, he said, "No. It's best only you touch it for now."
He looked around the room for a minute. "We need to move the coffee table and rug."
Once they were in the kitchen, Giles got on the floor and started chalking some kind of design on my floor. On my freshly sanded and varnished floor. I was about to start bitching when Dief gave me a warning look.
"All right, Ray." After he drew the penta-whatsis, he put down five candles, one at each of the points. "I want you to put the hat in the center. Be careful not to rub out any of the chalk lines."
Thought about telling him it would have been easier to do before
he started making like a street artist but decided not to. For the first time in almost six years, I had real hope I was going to see Ben again.
Once the hat was in place, Giles motioned for me to stand back. "I'm going to say a few things and burn a bit of sage," he told me. "If all goes as I expect it to, there will be a fairly significant light show. Please don't panic. The light and noise are normal for this type of spell."
Yeesh, I hated that word. Okay, sure, magic was real and more and more witches were coming out of the broom closet, but I didn't have to like it. Guess that made me a conservative.
I didn't pay too much attention at first, and then I couldn't help but
pay attention. Giles was right — there was a lot of light and a lot of noise. Sounded like a thousand screaming ghosts, which should tell you something, because I never heard a thousand screaming ghosts in my life, but after that, I knew what they sounded like.
At the end of the noise and light, I opened my eyes kind of carefully — that light had been really, really
bright. Giles looked like he'd been rode hard and put away wet, and Dief kind of looked stunned himself. I probably did, too, because even though I hoped — I had real, honest-to-god hope that Ben would come back — part of me didn't believe it would happen. So when I saw Ben standing in the middle of that penta-thingy, buck-naked and kind of wet with his Stetson on his head, it took me a minute to realize that yeah, that really was Ben Fraser standing in the middle of my living room.
I must've made some kind of noise, because Ben turned to me and gave me one of his million-watt smiles. "Ray! It's good to see you!"
Giles left the next day — he might've been kind of embarrassed at the noise Ben and I were making that night — and he promised to send someone in the summer to get Ben's report on his contact with the spirits of the north.
Diefenbaker left a couple of days after Giles did. I didn't want to let him go, but Ben told me that Dief had been waiting for him to get home before heading off to die. I cried again — felt like a total girl — but Ben and Dief didn't razz me about it. Ben just held me while Dief went off into the blizzard. I said something about finding his body come spring, and Ben agreed, even though I don't think he believed we'd find the body. He's probably right.
Anyway, that all happened about a month ago, and I'm still welcoming Ben home every chance I get. It's kind of embarrassing, acting like this at our age, but hell. He was gone for too damn long. I want to make sure he doesn't take off again.