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Endgame

Sunday

It was simple, once he dug into it. Victoria didn't really think anyone was looking for her. She'd used her dead sister's birth certificate to get a driver's license down in Florida. The address she gave was bogus, but it was a start. A few perfectly legal database searches and one fraudulent phone call later, he had an address in hand. Ray left a message on Jameson's machine and caught the red-eye to Tallahassee.

By noon local time, Ray was running the AC in a rental car in Alligator Point. He was parked in a beach turnout near Victoria's place. She was living in the middle of nowhere, in a deluxe little cedar shake house, right on the Gulf. The lady sure had taste. Ray put down his binoculars, threw his coffee lid against the dashboard with a practiced flick, and pulled out the Twinkie he'd grabbed at the airport. Might not be a cop, but he sure had stakeouts covered.

Three hours later, a blue Ferrari pulled up outside the house. Somebody was living large. He turned off the engine, to be sure it couldn't be heard over the noise of the waves. A tanned woman with dark hair pulled back in a braid hopped out and grabbed some groceries from the passenger seat. When she paused at the bottom of the stairs, Ray caught a glimpse of her profile through the binoculars. It was Victoria.

Suddenly Ray was so angry he could hardly breathe. Victoria Metcalf was rich and free, living on this fucking beautiful beach. Fraser was stuck in a cell 22 hours a day.

Oh, she was so not getting away with this.

Ray gave Victoria twenty minutes to get settled in, and then got out of the car. He took a quick leak in the woods, and then put his shoulder holster on, shivering at the clammy feel of his sweaty t-shirt under the straps.

Ray grabbed his 9mm out of the locked travel box in the back seat. He loaded it, checked the clip was full, and holstered it. Then he pulled a button-down shirt out of his bag and threw it on to hide the fact he was carrying. Glasses on, cuffs in his back left pocket, he was good to go. Ray headed for the front door.

Fraser's voice whispered, "I'll take that as a promise," and Ray's feet slowed to a stop. Turning around, he marched back to the car, muttering, "Christ, he's worse than Stella." Ray got back inside the car, quietly closed the door, and then drove 10 minutes back up the road to a gas station with a pay phone. He bought a cheese Danish and a cup of coffee inside the gas station, and got some quarters for the phone.

First he dialed 411. "Hi. I'm in Alligator Point, and I need the police, sheriff, whatever they got out here. … No, it's not really an emergency. … Franklin County Sheriff's Department? Sure. They got a number for homicide, major crimes, anything like that? … Main number's fine, then."

Ray dialed quickly. "Hello, could I speak to the sheriff please? … Sir, my name is Ray Kowalski. I'm a private investigator from Chicago. I've tracked down a fugitive in your county, and I could use your assistance. Have you heard about the cop killing up in Chicago? … Yeah, that's the one. Well, Detective Vecchio's lieutenant and his best friend hired me to find the real killer. She's hiding out in Alligator Point, and…" Ray rolled his eyes. "No, no warrant. She faked her own death."

Ray listened for a minute, then flipped the bird to the phone.

"Look, just pull up Catherine Metcalf's license picture from here in Florida, and compare it with the one from Alaska. Then get Victoria Metcalf's arrest record. … You looking at it? You see that cop-killer's picture? … Okay, we're in business then … 1623 Alligator Point Drive. I'll meet you there."

As Ray hung up the phone a slow smile spread across his face, "Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. We got ourselves a cowboy."

Ray drove back and parked his car in the same place. Getting out, he found himself a shady spot where he could lean against a tree and watch the front of the house. There was probably a back door onto the water, but Victoria wouldn't be getting far on foot.

Jazz was drifting from the open windows of the house. Every now and then he caught a flicker of motion as Victoria walked past the windows. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. Some crazy birds kept chirping at each other. A cool breeze off the ocean tried to mess with his hair. After forty minutes the sheriff pulled up in a black & white.

Ray moved out from his cover in the trees to meet them. The sheriff was a big guy in his early 50s with short steel-gray hair. He was wearing sunglasses and walked like he expected everybody to get out the way.

"Sheriff Grady, I'm Ray Kowalski. Metcalf's still in the house. You want me to cover the back while you to take the front door?"

The sheriff took off his shades and looked Ray up and down. Shit, I'm still wearing the glasses, Ray realized. "Son, you did good work tracking her down, and I appreciate the tip. But this is police business now. We'll make sure the folks hired you back in Chicago know they got their money's worth." The shades went back on, and the Sheriff gestured his nervous young deputy to the back door.

Ray retreated to the trees. "Po-lees bizniss," he mocked quietly. The sheriff walked up the steps and knocked on the front door.

"Excuse me, ma'am? Franklin County Sheriff's Department. We've got a few questions for you."

The door opened and the Sheriff stepped inside. Ray shook a cigarette out of his pack and lit up. No reason to worry about the smell tipping Victoria off anymore.

Ray thought about the impact this would have on Fraser's case. All they would have on Victoria to start with would be a charge for faking her own death. But just the fact she was alive, like Fraser had said all along, would be a big help. And if they could recover some of the money from the robbery…

A shot rang out.

Ray dropped his cigarette and sprinted for the house. As his feet hit the stairs he heard yelling. A second shot. His pistol was in his hands, and it took him a second to get the door open. Ray threw himself inside. The sheriff was down. The deputy was on the floor. Victoria was standing over him, gun in her hand.

"Victoria!" Ray yelled. She spun with a snarl on her face, gun swinging towards him. Just as beautiful as in Fraser's drawings, Ray thought, as his body did what it'd been trained to and put three rounds in the target's chest.

Victoria fell. Ray kicked the gun away from her hand, into the far corner of the room. Her torso was a red mess. She gasped something. "What?" he yelled at her.

"Who?" was all he could make out. Blood bubbled out from her lips as she tried to speak.

"I'm a friend of Fraser's," Ray told her.

"Oh."

Ray took a few running steps to the deputy. "You okay?" he asked, stupidly.

"I don't know," the deputy said. "She shot me. She shot the sheriff, and I told her to put the gun down, and she bent over like she was going to, then she shot me." Blood was welling from the kid's leg. "Am I gonna die?" the deputy asked.

"'Course not," said Ray, like he was some kind of fucking expert on gunshot wounds. "Just, uh …" Ray struggled out of his shirt. "Here, keep pressure on it." He folded the shirt and pushed it down on the leg wound. "Like that, you got it?"

The deputy nodded, tears running down his face. Ray checked the sheriff. No pulse, nothing. He was gone. Victoria … she'd stopped breathing. "I'll be right back!" he called to the deputy, and then ran to the cop car outside.

They'd left their doors unlocked. Ray grabbed the radio. "Dispatch? This is Ray Kowalski. I'm reporting an officer down, I repeat, officer down at 1623 Alligator Drive. Your sheriff's dead, the perp is dead, the deputy's been shot and he needs an ambulance. … High in the left thigh. … I don't know, but it's bleeding heavy. … Yeah, okay. Tell your patrol, I'm blond, I'm in a t-shirt, I've got some of the kid's blood on me, but I'm one of the good guys, right? … Hey, what's the deputy's name? … Okay, I'm gonna go back in, try to help Jesse."

Ray dropped the radio and dashed back into the house. The deputy was lying there, pale as Casper and looking too young to shave. He was holding Ray's shirt against his leg, but it was already soaked through with blood. Ray grabbed a beach towel from a stack near the door and sat down on the floor next to the deputy. "Jesse? I'm back, I called it in, your friends are on the way."

Pushing the towel down on the wound, Ray hoped he was doing it right, or the kid would bleed out right in front of him. Jesse was pretty out of it, panting for breath and rambling on about his girlfriend. In Chicago, an officer down call would have had the place swarming with cops inside of three minutes. Here in the boonies, Victoria's grandfather clock kept ticking out the minutes.

Deputy Jesse passed out.

Ray wondered if there was something wrong with him. This morning, he'd never killed anybody. Now he had. It didn't feel all that different. He wasn't upset, or sick to his stomach, or anything. Just wound up and a little spacey, like after a hard bout in the ring.

Well, if he was gonna kill somebody, Victoria Metcalf was the right one to pick. And it wouldn't be hard for the jury to believe she'd murdered Vecchio, not after she shot two more cops. Ray just wished he knew for sure how Fraser would feel about her getting killed. About him being the one who pulled the trigger.

This carpet's gonna be ruined, Ray thought, looking at the spreading red stains around the two dead bodies and the one still breathing. Somebody should do something about that.

It took just over twenty minutes for the patrolmen and EMTs to arrive.



Wednesday

Ray was back in the courtroom Wednesday morning. He'd spoken to Jameson on the phone, but hadn't gotten to see Fraser since he flew in late last night. Jameson said that Fraser's testimony Tuesday had been eloquent, but that Stella had ripped into him on the cross-examination over the "imaginary" Victoria Metcalf. Ray wished he could have been there, but there'd been a lot to do in Tallahassee.

The defense had officially rested its case yesterday. Jameson had listed Dr. Rice from the Tallahassee Forensics Unit as today's rebuttal witness, to offer expert testimony regarding Victoria Metcalf's death. It was a sneaky, under-handed move. Ray was proud of him.

Fraser threw Ray a look full of questions as he sat down. Ray really, really hoped that Jameson had talked Fraser through what went down in Florida, like he'd asked.

Dr. Rice started his testimony by reading the sworn statement of Sheriff's Deputy Jesse Vernier, since he was currently in hospital from a wound taken in the line of duty. Stella tried to object, claiming this wasn't relevant to Victoria Metcalf's death, but the judge allowed it.

Vernier had written about this weekend's attempt to apprehend a woman known as Catherine Metcalf. The woman had shot and killed the Sheriff. When ordered to drop her weapon, she shot and wounded the deputy. Private Investigator Ray Kowalski saved his life by stopping the woman when she was about to shoot him a second time, in the head. Mr. Kowalski killed the woman in an exchange of fire.

Ray hadn't even realized Victoria got a shot off until they pried the .38 slug out of the door.

Then Dr. Rice dropped the bombshell. Fingerprint and dental records proved that the woman responsible for the shooting was, in fact, Victoria Metcalf. He showed a slide with her morgue shot next to Metcalf's arrest photo from the Alaskan robbery. The crowd started to talk, all at once. The judge called for order in the court, had to threaten the bailiff would clear the court if the noise didn't stop. Once the court was quiet, Dr. Rice followed up with a whole slew of initial forensic evidence supporting the deputy's testimony.

Ray leaned forward to get a look at Fraser's sketchpad. He wasn't sure what to expect. Victoria again? Dr. Rice?

Fraser was drawing something he had never actually seen.

Ray Vecchio, dead on the ground. Welsh had showed him the crime scene photos. But Fraser had never been at that crime scene. He wasn't allowed to attend the raucous wake cops throw for one of their own, or the one the Vecchio family had held in their home. He hadn't been a pallbearer at the funeral, like he should've been. 'Cause he'd been locked up, the whole time.

Stella requested a one-hour recess, which the judge granted. She looked at Ray on the way out the courtroom, halfway between a glare and a bewildered stare. Like she couldn't figure out what to make of him. He shrugged at her. Fraser was escorted, stumbling, to a holding cell. His eyes were glued to the floor, and Ray wished he knew what was going through the guy's head.

As the crowd moved out of the courtroom, Ray stayed where he was. A few people who recognized him, from his time as a rookie or as Stella's husband, looked at him and whispered to each other as they left. He just sat there, fidgeting.

He was beat. Sunday night they'd still been treating him like a suspect. He'd spent twelve hours getting tag-team interrogated by Florida's finest before the deputy regained consciousness and cleared him. After that, things had been a little crazy, and he never had been able to sleep on planes.

Welsh came back into the courtroom. He straddled Fraser's chair and sat facing Ray. "Kowalski."

Ray nodded.

Looking him over, Welsh asked, "You all right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little … you know." Welsh nodded. They sat there for a minute.

"Even the most righteous shooting," Welsh said finally, "can be hard on the officer involved. You want to talk, you've got my number."

"I've got it if I need it," Ray agreed.

"You did good," Welsh rumbled at him. "That woman was poison."

He held out his hand. Ray shook it. "Thanks, Welsh."

After Welsh left, Ray sat there for a little while. He'd cracked the case wide open. He should be feeling good. Instead, he just felt messed up. Who was he, to be in the middle of all this? Ray decided he had enough time for a cigarette and another cup of coffee before the court was back in session. He bolted for the door.

He made it back just as the judge was entering the courtroom, which earned him a nasty look from the bailiff. Stella cross-examined Dr. Rice. She tried to flap him. But he was unflappable. Stella asked him if there was any evidence, at all, linking Ms. Metcalf with the shooting of Detective Ray Vecchio.

"No," Dr. Rice replied. "It is very early in the investigation. However, the car she was driving," and he pulled up a slide of the blue Ferrari, "would seem to indicate that she had access to the robbery money."

Stella objected that was supposition, and the judge sustained it. But Ray had seen two of the guys on the jury whispering to each other. Yeah, that car made an impression.

After that it was time for closing statements.

Jameson went first. And he was good, but Ray was watching Fraser and his sketchpad.

Ray Vecchio, alive, trench coat over a suit, tie loose, smiling over a sandwich at a diner table. So that was Fraser's partner. Good to meet you, Vecchio, Ray thought.

Then Stella had her shot at a closing argument. She was still the heavyweight champ, no doubt, but Ray knew a desperate endgame when he saw one. Fraser was drawing another picture.

Ray Kowalski in a t-shirt, bent over a chessboard, holding a phone to his ear, laughing like a loon. Ray felt warm and a little light-headed. He liked the version of himself on Fraser's sketchpad.

The judge gave the jury their instructions, and then they went into some back room to deliberate.

Two different news crews tried to talk to Ray in the hallway. He totally ignored them, imagining a turtle pulling arms, legs, and head to safety inside its shell. I'm a turtle, Ray thought at them, and I'm boring. Go away. After a few minutes they did.

The jury finished its deliberations in less time than it took Franklin County to respond to an officer down call.

Fraser didn't turn around as he sat down. The jurors delivered the piece of paper to the judge, who read it and nodded. Then the jury foreman stood up to deliver their verdict. "We find the defendant not guilty on all counts."

The whole room cheered, everybody who'd been out for Fraser's blood twelve days ago suddenly all for him. A whole bunch of them mobbed Fraser. Francesca Vecchio threw herself at him. "Oh, Fraser, I'm so sorry. I should have know you could never…"

Ray walked out, drove home, and took a nap.

When he woke up it was dark out. Ray got up and got dressed. He noticed a message blinking on his machine. He'd been so deep asleep he'd slept through the phone ringing. Ray pressed the button.

"Ray," Stella's familiar voice seemed to echo off the walls of his tiny apartment. "You really screwed me on the Fraser case." She didn't sound mad. Just tired. "But I think I understand why you did it."

"He was innocent, Stella," Ray whispered to the message.

"Anyway, I just called to see if you were okay. Give me a ring when you get this. If you want to."

Ray almost did, just because he'd spent the past two years waiting for an opening like that. But, really, what was the point? He deleted the message.

Ray shuffled down to the mailbox to get the mail that had stacked up while he'd been gone. Put some music on. Danced a few steps to it. Turned the music off. He could go visit Fraser…

No, that was stupid. Fraser wasn't sitting in jail waiting for a visit. He was out … somewhere. Doing something. Drinking with the boys from the 2-7. Playing bingo at church. Getting laid. That seemed pretty damn likely, after all that time in prison.

Fact was, Ray had no idea what Fraser might do after he got out of prison. So Ray watched some wrestling on TV, drank a few beers, and went back to bed.

The next morning Ray woke up and tried to think of a good reason to get out of bed. The chance of finally getting Mrs. Lipinski a money shot of her husband and babysitter in a clinch just wasn't enough anymore. The pressure in his bladder had almost convinced him when the phone rang.

"Yeah?"

"Ah, Kowalski?" It was Fraser. Listening to Fraser's voice, naked in bed with a hard-on, could have been fun under other circumstances. Right now it just felt kind of dirty.

"Fraser, hey! Hi! Uh, I wanted to, you know, congratulate you. It was just kind of nuts in there yesterday, after the verdict."

"It was," Fraser agreed. "Do you think we could meet later today?" He sounded kind of nervous.

"Sure thing. When and where?"

There was this long pause. Maybe Fraser was a little rusty when it came to deciding where he wanted to go.

"Sherman Park," Fraser blurted out. "The north end of the pond."

"Okay, I know the place. I can be there in an hour. Or later, if you want."

"I have an another appointment at 11," said Fraser. "Perhaps 2 o'clock?"

"Sounds good. It's a date." Ray could have bitten his tongue. It's just, he always said that to Stella, when they set something up.

"I'll see you then," Fraser said, sounding a little distracted.

Ray threw himself out of bed, put some coffee on, and got into the shower. He took care of himself with a resolutely anonymous fantasy, working hard to keep Fraser's voice out of his head. But he got his hair just right and put on his nice leather jacket. It couldn't hurt, right?

He found some not-too-scary frozen leftovers in his freezer and nuked them for lunch, then drove over to the park. He was early; had enough time to smoke three cigarettes and drive himself nuts with best-case and worst-case scenarios by the time he spotted Fraser.

Fraser was dressed in jeans and a gray henley. He looked good. Really good. Better than Ray had ever seen him. Like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Which, hey, it had.

What was that song? If you love someone, set them free? At least he'd got that part right.

Ray met him on the path, and they fell into step together without a word. Ray figured he'd better get the conversational ball rolling before his head exploded. "So, how'd your appointment go?"

Fraser glanced sideways at him, and then looked back at the pond. "Very well, actually. The RCMP has given me a choice of returning to the service at my former rank, taking an extended leave, or resigning without prejudice." He sighed. "I haven't decided yet." A few more steps down the path, Fraser paused. "This way," he said.

Ray followed Fraser down the slope and around a boulder to a private little spot near the water. Fraser sat down on the grass and stretched out his legs out in front of him. He closed his eyes and tilted his face up to the sun. Gorgeous. It made Ray wish he could draw.

Instead he plopped down on the ground across from Fraser and leaned back against the sun-warmed boulder. They sat there, not moving or speaking. Some crickets were making a racket in the weeds near the pond.

Chicago could be pretty nice in the springtime.

"Fraser," Ray said eventually, "about what happened in Florida. I never meant for that…"

Fraser's eyes opened as Ray ran out of words. "Ray, you did what you had to." His voice was low and intense. "You saved that officer's life. You proved my innocence. And you were careful." He shook his head. "No one believed me. No one but you. How can I thank you enough?"

It was so close to Ray's perfect little fantasy. Ray shifted in his suddenly too-tight jeans.

Fraser looked thoughtful. "Ray, we haven't known each other long, but there were times … I perceived a certain …" He seemed stuck.

Ray jumped in to help. "You thought maybe I had a thing for you. And you were right. I do." Ray was proud of how that sounded. Casual. Not at all like his heart was trying to climb up out of his throat.

Fraser picked up a blade of grass and started stripping it. That was not so good a sign. But Ray kept going.

"And what about you, Fraser?"

"Pardon me, Ray?" Fraser said politely. Playing dumb. Giving Ray an out. Well, he never was all that smart.

"Do you find me attractive?"

Fraser looked back up. His eyes were blue like the waters of the Gulf. Ray wanted to go swimming. "Very much so, yes." Back to the blade of grass. "But - I'm not really qualified to judge."

Now Ray was starting to feel jerked around. "How you figure?"

Eyes fixed on the skyline, Fraser had a touch of bitterness to his smile. "My judgment in matters of the heart has proven notoriously poor."

Once burned, twice shy. "Yeah, I get that. But me and Victoria, just a little different, you know?"

And the bitterness was gone, but Fraser didn't look any kind of happy. "Incontrovertibly. I, however, am the same man. With the same desires, the same blindness that led to Ray Vecchio's death. After that, it's hard to trust. Not you, Ray. Myself."

Fraser stood up, silhouetted against the sky. "I thought I might head up north. See Diefenbaker. Perhaps try to rebuild my father's cabin. I need some time. Some space. The Territories have plenty of both." Ray couldn't see Fraser's face, but his voice was quiet, shaded with regrets.

That sounded like a goodbye. But maybe … Ray got to his feet and stretched, intentionally graceful. "Yeah? Think you might want a visitor up there?"

Fraser's eyes widened, like he never would've thought of that. "I … perhaps …" He licked his lower lip. "Yes. In a month or two."

All of sudden, Ray knew. Fraser felt it, too. Fraser wanted him. This was the real deal, and it was all gonna work out. Ray saw it, like a pattern in chess sure to get him a checkmate. Only question was how many moves it would take Ray to make something happen.

Ray felt a predatory little grin tugging at his lips. "Good. 'Cause I really want to meet Diefenbaker."

"Oh, I'm sure he'll insist on meeting you, Ray, as soon as he hears about the events of the past few weeks."

One step closer, and they were almost touching. He could smell Fraser's shampoo, and the man's own musky scent underneath. "You know, Fraser, I'm known for being kind of stubborn."

Fraser's pupils were wide. "Stubborn?" he asked, in a husky voice.

"As a pit bull. I see something I want, I go for it. Full throttle."

Fraser wet his lips and closed his eyes.

Ray leaned in and messed up Fraser's hair.

"Ray!" Fraser protested. He sounded like he couldn't decide if he was more pissed off or turned on.

"Been wanting to do that for a while now," Ray called over his shoulder as he walked up the slope. "See you in a month!"

As soon as he was out of sight, Ray allowed himself a little victory dance. He'd spent two years courting Stella before she let him kiss her.

Fraser was gonna be a walk in the park.


For readers who prefer bitter noir to sweet harlequin, there is a short alternate ending here. Please do heed the warnings.

Comments

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custardpringle
Feb. 20th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)
\o/

I was going to go do my homework and everything, and then I refreshed my flist and saw you'd posted this.

And I am so very, very glad I clicked instead :D there are NO WORDS for my love for this. Seriously.

I just. ::flail:: Fraser who sits in the courtroom and drawing and the way you make it advance the plot even more than just being a little character detail, and Ray with his only two settings: off and full throttle, and Stella, and Welsh, and, and, and the way you make everything neat and happy and perfect by the end without them even kissing.

In all honesty? I was very, very protective and worried about this prompt, because it was based on my single favorite fictional pairing ever and I really wanted to see it done well. And you did a fantastic job. Thank you thank you thank you.
keerawa
Feb. 20th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
I was a touch worried that Fraser is thrust into such a passive role in this fic, between the all-expenses-paid round-the-world guilt trip he's on and the fact he's, you know, in prison. The drawing allows him to participate a bit more, and gives us a glimpse into his head.

you make everything neat and happy and perfect by the end without them even kissing
*grins* Ray's a tease. And so am I.

I'm delighted that the story meets with your approval, prompt-master.
llassah
Feb. 20th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
wow. God, you get Ray perfectly, and I love how Fraser is there sketching, and how the sense we got in Victoria's Secret that Fraser was condemning himself in telling the truth, and the sheer hopelessness of the trap he was in is completely here. And I love the casework you have here, you show a great picture of a legal system (I have no idea if it's accurate, but that doesn't matter as you sounded sure). And god, this bit mde me do a computer stea dance of glee:

Two different news crews tried to talk to Ray in the hallway. He totally ignored them, imagining a turtle pulling arms, legs, and head to safety inside its shell. I'm a turtle, Ray thought at them, and I'm boring. Go away. After a few minutes they did.

Ray the zen turtle, that's a really fresh take on the whole Ray and turtle thing. Just wow, I love your writing.
keerawa
Feb. 20th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
My Ray Kowalski's on the wrong side of 9 years of betrayal and bitterness, trying hard to be cynical and stay out of things that are none of his business.

Fraser is just a mess. He is well and truly trapped, and he can't even trust in The Law to make it right anymore. He's just going through the motions until Ray shows up and gives him hope again.

Ray is normally in constant motion, but every now and then he has this defensive stillness. Zen turtle seems like a good description.

Thank you for the feedback, llassah!
lucifercircle
Feb. 20th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
This was awesome. Fraser in prison was believably falling apart and Ray was wonderfully manic.
Also, there was an actual crime plot! And it was well thought through and resolved.
I read the creepy-dark ending too and I loved it. So eeriely plausible.
keerawa
Feb. 20th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Fraser's had a very bad few months here. I'm glad the plot made sense.

The Noir ending kind of freaks me out, actually. Once it occurred to me, I had to write it just to get it out of my head. It just takes a small step side-ways to see that Fraser...
kill_claudio
Feb. 20th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this story! I was especially fond of your description of Florida's fine police force, most particularly;

Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
and
The jury finished its deliberations in less time than it took Franklin County to respond to an officer down call.

And determined Ray! And a caged and helpless Fraser! Just fabulous. And their relationship was so well set up that you didn't need any more for the ending, because it's obvious that they are going to be happy. Just perfect.
keerawa
Feb. 20th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
Any resemblance to existing police forces is purely coincidental. I swear.

caged and helpless Fraser
Poor Fraser. Luckily, he had Ray Kowalski in his corner.

you didn't need any more for the ending
Thank you! Honestly, I had planned for a kiss, but Ray didn't think it was the right time to push. Fraser really is still a mess here at the end. Ray can afford to be patient.

shoemaster
Feb. 21st, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
Oh my god, Fraser in prison is pretty much the most depressing thing ever, but I loved PI Ray, and though I wanted this to just keep going and going and going, I love all that you have here. now where's the porny epilogue?

Also, how sad does it make me that I was more worried about Dief than RayV? It's always the dog.
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, Fraser in prison is against all nature.

how sad does it make me that I was more worried about Dief than RayV
Major Character Death Warnings are tricky that way. One of my betas was deeply worried I was going to kill Kowalski off.
(no subject) - keerawa - Feb. 21st, 2007 02:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
Thanks, Ali!

I couldn't have done it without you telling me exactly how I was screwing up in the first draft.
vienna_waits
Feb. 21st, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Everyone else has said most of what I wanted to say--having Fraser draw was just beyond clever, the description of Fraser as feeling the bars with every breath gave me the shivers, the Florida showdown scene was terrific, the use of the chess game to establish character and intimacy, little nods to canon here, there, and everywhere...great stuff. I really enjoyed this.
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 05:29 am (UTC)
the description of Fraser as feeling the bars with every breath gave me the shivers Ah, wonderful! I'd hoped it would.

the use of the chess game to establish character and intimacy
My Ray Muse insisted on the chess game, which was a bitch to write, since I don't actually know how to play chess. Well, the internet isn't only for porn - it's also handy for research!

Thanks for the feedback!
dessert_first
Feb. 21st, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
Ah, wonderful! I love Harlequinned slash, and I really loved competent, smart PI Ray just DEMOLISHING this case, kicking Fraser's ass at chess, not only learning to let go of Stella, but USING HIS POWER to veto the divorce as a trade-off for information! He really was magnificent. :D

And his slow courtship, his being careful enough to call in the cops just for Fraser, his handling of the entire scene at Victoria's pre- and post-shooting and his scenes with Welsh were all great. And you drew such a credible, jailed Fraser, with his drawings and his hesitation to trust Ray (or call him Ray) and the pain over Vecchio's death. I really liked the catalyst of the bloodied knuckles being Ray's sign that Fraser's going too far and Ray needs to leap into action in a whole new direction. I loved Fraser's dad still being there for him, even if we don't get to see him. Obviously, Bob is in favor of giving Ray a shot, so. Yay.

Yay overall! And, having read the alternate ending, gooood noir. Eeee.
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
Like Ray says, he is good at his job.

USING HIS POWER to veto the divorce as a trade-off for information
Yeah, that was ballsy. I'm not sure Stella would go for it in canon. But in this noir version, with a Stella who's played in the dirt to get where she's at - I can buy it.

Bloody knuckles as a catalyst - I like the way you put that.

Thanks dessert!
viciouscats
Feb. 21st, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
What llassah said. *nods*

Wonderful story. I enjoyed it very much.
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)
*smiles* Thank you for the feedback, viciouscats.
nos4a2no9
Feb. 21st, 2007 04:13 am (UTC)
I really, really enjoyed this. And y'know, I'd put it over on the 'noir' side of things even without that epiloge. Your RayK voice is pretty world-weary and cynical; I could easily imagine Bogart saying a lot of his lines in some B&W movie from the '40s. And I liked his relationship with Welsh early on in the story - they don't seem to get a lot of screentime together in fic, and I'm always happy when the Welsh shows up:-)

And your Fraser was...God. Poor Fraser! He'd totally go a bit nuts in solitary confinement. The sketching thing was terrific (why doesn't that particular skill of his show up more often in fic?) and I loved the sequence where he and Ray play chess. His insults were hysterical ("That move was .02 seconds slower, Kowalski") and I could really imagine them as *friends* in this fic even before the romance stuff was really developed. Anyway, great job with this - it was the perfect length and did exactly what it was supposed to do. Terrific work!
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 05:50 am (UTC)
The challenge said "harlequin", the prompt screamed "noir", and I spent the whole story balanced between the two. I could easily imagine Bogart saying a lot of his lines in some B&W movie from the '40s. Then I'm hitting the genre right on the nose.

slidellra helped me get Welsh right. He's tricky!

Fraser is definitely losing it here. Sketching is giving him enough distance in the courtroom to keep it together. *grins* I had fun coming up with that chess insult.

Thank you, nos!
dswdiane
Feb. 21st, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yay, Fraser is going to see Diefenbaker. Yes, obviously I am utterly mad and obsessed over the damn wolf.

Actually, I have only seen this show about maybe three time and maybe know it best via the fic, so what I have to say doesn't count for much, but I think you captured the characters and their voices beautifully. I think the happy ending was just perfect and I can't imagine the Fraser of the other ending. Very well plotted and an excellent well paced read.

Okay, you can please get back to Highlander now. . .Kay?
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Diane! As a Diefenbaker fan, you might enjoy The Thrill of the Hunt.

I will get back to Highlander, I swear. I've just got ... 2 half-written short fics and a vid to finish first. *looks shifty*
sam80853
Feb. 21st, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
PERFECT!!!

Oh, this is really really great.

Fraser's drawings and Ray believing in his innocence ... ::sighs:: A truly great read, thank you!
keerawa
Feb. 21st, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Sam!
zeenell
Feb. 22nd, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
....I. Wow. Just. Wow. Wonderful, simply wonderful.

*facepalm* I am not going to be able to top this fic, damnit. *sulks in a corner*
keerawa
Feb. 23rd, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Nell!

Are we competing? *looks for the Russian judge*

Nah. The more good stuff we all write, the more good stuff we all get to read.
myreasontosmile
Feb. 23rd, 2007 09:43 am (UTC)
You totally got me back into Due South. You captured Ray and Fraser perfectly!!!! I loved the slightly AU element and the ending was absolutely perfect. I adored this fic so much! Great work!
keerawa
Feb. 23rd, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
Welcome back!

It only took two minor changes to canon to create this AU.
1) Ray Kowalski's gut tells him something's wrong during the Beth Botrelle case, and he follows up on it.
2) Ray Vecchio searches the zoo parking lot while looking for Victoria and, tragically, finds her.

So glad you enjoyed the ending, and thank you for the feedback!
isiscolo
Feb. 23rd, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
This is a fabulous story, and an example of my favorite type of AU in which canon events are still present, or show up as parallels. Choosing to build the story around a variant of canon really makes it plausible and far more interesting.

I thought the alternate ending was a little too far out to be a believable due South fanfiction story, where the characters must adhere to reasonably canonical characterization - but it makes for a better story, and I sort of prefer it on strictly aesthetic grounds!
keerawa
Feb. 24th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Isiscolo -

Its always been my favorite type of AU as well.

I'm glad to have pleased both the due South fan and the aesthetic noir appreciator in you.

Thank you for the feedback!
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