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dS Fic: Unwritten Rules

Fandom/Characters: due South, Fraser and Kowalski
Word Count: 1,500
Rating: PG-13
Challenge: Expanded from a comment-fic written for the rat_jam promptathon
Thanks to: eledhwenlin for beta'ing when even when things got crazy.
Summary: Fraser gets introspective during a stake-out.


Stakeouts often led to introspection. Although Ray began the shift by chatting and playing word games, after a few hours they were cocooned in a comfortable silence. Fraser's senses focused outwards for evidence of wrongdoing while his thoughts focused inward.

As a child, Ben had been happy. He and his mother had lived in a cabin half a day's journey from their nearest neighbor. The two of them evolved their own language and customs. They spent days in cooperative story-telling ventures that drew equally on the wilderness outside the cabin and the wildness within them. His father's occasional visits were pleasant but perplexing. Dad didn't talk to the fire when he gave it wood. He knew nothing of the gentle snow-whatsit or the fearsome kamikan, which could take on the form of wolf or man, and preyed upon both.

After Mother's death, Ben went to live with his grandparents and became Benton. It had felt like a punishment. His stories were met with admonishments against telling lies. His fervent prayers to God to let him speak to Mother were blasphemous. His tears made everyone uncomfortable.

Benton had tried so hard to learn the rules of his new existence. There were many languages to speak, but only one at a time, never mixed up together as Mother had enjoyed. There was fiction and non-fiction. There was reality and there were childish dreams.

Benton read and reread a pamphlet in his grandparents' library about Amala and Kamala, the wolf-girls of India. Raised by a she-wolf that was later killed by the local villagers, they had never learned how to live among humans. Amala had grown sick and died. Kamala had mourned and died alone. Only by following the rules could he avoid their fate.

Ray's right hand tapped out a series of complex beats on his denim-clad thigh as he watched the warehouse. Each rhythm sounded familiar, but changed before Fraser could identify the piece of music.

The rules changed as they moved from place to place. The Inuit, the whites, the Métis and the Dene people each had their own ways. Benton watched the adults and the other children, all the time, trying to break the code that would let him belong. How close to stand? Should he shake hands? Was eye contact a sign of respect or of arrogance? When could he speak, and for how long? Benton could see that his presence was unwelcome. He read it in averted eyes, bodies turned away, childish giggles and sighs. He just didn't know what he was doing wrong.

A car drove by slowly. Its headlights momentarily blinded Fraser until his night vision resolved the darkness outside into grays.

One of the few places he had ever felt at home was out on the ice of a frozen pond. Mark's voice would command, entreat, and break into boyish shrillness as he coaxed them all to stay for just a few more minutes, the light from his dad's tractor reflecting against the snow banks. Hockey had simple rules. All Benton had to do was skate fast, play hard, and never let Mark past him without a fight. Until Grandmother came to remind him of his responsibilities. They moved away before the ice could melt.

Benton's year of high school in Norman Wells had been difficult. Full and complete answers to the teachers' questions angered the other students. Girls walked close, smiled and touched him. A few of the boys did the same, if more subtly. It was flirting. Benton knew that much, but he wasn't certain how to respond. Benton kissed a girl behind the community center. She responded enthusiastically at first. When he pressed his erect penis against her thigh, she pulled away, insisting that she was not that kind of girl. It was confusing. The next day, she whispered to a group of her friends. Unfortunately, he could hear every word.

The radio crackled to life, startling them both as dispatch requested a mid-shift update. Ray fumbled for the handset. "You want to hear what's going on?" He paused for a few seconds with the send button depressed. "Yep, that's it. Detective Vecchio out."

Benton chose to follow in Father's footsteps and become a Mountie. The first day at the Depot, Benton met his troop. Picturing the careful submissiveness of a new sled dog trying to join a team, he did his best to fit in. The first weekend they went out to a local bar and drank to excess. The sensation of drunkenness was rather unpleasant, but it was exhilarating to be accepted as part of the group.

The following week Benton found his troop mate Steve copying his answers on a procedural assessment. The unwritten rules among cadets said he should turn a blind eye to Steve's cheating. Benton considered his options that night, lying awake in his bunk, listening to the rest of the troop shift and mutter in their sleep around him. The decision he made here would set the pattern for the rest of his career. The next morning, Cadet Fraser turned Steve in. The cadets rejected him in turn. At least this time, it was his choice.

His first posting was a disaster. Moose Jaw was a major city, just outside of Regina. It was very different than the small towns he had experienced growing up. After a series of jurisdictional disputes, the Moose Jaw Police Service had taken on sole responsibility for enforcing local laws, leaving the RCMP to spend most of its time and effort on patrolling the highways. Constable Fraser found that his ideals and efforts made him an object of ridicule for his training officer. He returned from a personal leave spent training a group of homeless men to build shelters from available materials to find that he had been transferred to a remote posting. It was humiliating, but probably for the best.

Diefenbaker shifted and began to snore in the back seat.

Then Fraser took in a half-wolf pup. He talked to Diefenbaker constantly, since the poor little fellow seemed lonely. When Diefenbaker began talking back, it reminded Fraser of his childhood. Mother spoke to everything in their tiny world, and everything responded to the sound of her voice. Still, he ignored the pup's conversational gambits for a full week. Diefenbaker only became more strident when he was ignored. Eventually, Fraser gave in. If simply doing his job properly was enough to gain him a reputation for eccentricity, why not spend his time speaking with a half-wolf?

Ray rolled his window down by a few centimeters, letting in Chicago's ubiquitous sound of distant traffic and scent of car exhaust.

Fraser's pursuit of his father's killer left him exiled to Chicago. In the city, even the rules of basic courtesy that he had painstakingly learned were incorrect. However, everyone seemed to assume that Fraser's oddities were a result of his nationality, rather than any personal failing. Ray Vecchio expressed clearly when Fraser transgressed some local norm, but he was never cruel. Although Fraser had been assigned to work with other peace officers in the past, Ray Vecchio was his first true partner. Ray never rejected him for following his own path. It gave him hope.

Of course, that led to Victoria. He had believed she was his true mate; had chased after love with all that was in him. He had thrown aside caution, common sense, and honor; ignored Ray, Diefenbaker, and his father. He had risked all he had to create a world for two where he and Victoria could be together. Risked and nearly lost everything. Moderation had never been one of Fraser's strong suits.

Which brought Fraser to his new partner, who had appeared in his life like the Cheshire cat. Ray, passionately pursuing and protecting his ex-wife, still never stepped over the line. He sensed boundaries by instinct and danced along them with grace. Fraser envied him that talent.

From the moment they met, Ray had acted as if they were the best of friends. It was ridiculous. Fraser was well aware of how difficult he was to get along with. And yet, if sheer will, sheer desire were enough to shape the world…

Ray, somehow sensing that Fraser was thinking of him, turned and smiled. He reached into his pocket and offered Fraser a stick of spearmint gum. Fraser accepted.

All these years, Fraser had tried so hard to be a good boy, a good Mountie, a good partner. As the gum's sweetness burst across his tongue, Fraser wondered if perhaps it was time he practiced being human.

"Ray," Fraser whispered.

Ray straightened alertly, and scanned the area outside the car. "Yeah, Frase?" Once Ray determined that there was no activity outside, he turned to face Fraser.

Fraser carefully chewed, stretched, and positioned the gum in his mouth. He blew, and a tiny bubble grew and popped in the quiet of the car.

Ray's teeth gleamed in the streetlights as he grinned. "That's it, Fraser," he said, laughter in his voice. "Tomorrow night, I'm bringing some Bubblicious, and you are going down."

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Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
j_s_cavalcante
May. 10th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC)
Awwww...Ray saves Benton's history from heartbreak...and at the eleventh hour, it seems! This is lovely and so poignant.
keerawa
May. 10th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you, js! Fraser does seem terribly isolated. And there was this exchange in Chinatown:
"Spend a lot of time alone as a child, Fraser?"
"Yes."
Rather painful.
tealc_spoo
May. 10th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC)
*flail* I love this! The flow from one point in his life to the next was great. Plus Ray who sensed boundaries by instinct and danced along them with grace! I've love the way you explain that.
keerawa
May. 10th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
My beta eledhwenlin should get much of the credit for the flow. It was her idea for outside events to prompt each jump in the timeline.

Thanks for the feedback!
dessert_first
May. 10th, 2007 12:25 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! And that Ray *gets* what Fraser is doing and celebrates him for it... wonderful. I especially liked the reason he decides to give in and talk to Diefenbaker.
keerawa
May. 10th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
Since Fraser's not fooling anyone into thinking he's normal, might as well enjoy being a freak. I'm glad you liked it, Dess!
eledhwenlin
May. 10th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
You posted it! And it's so very, very awesome! :D
keerawa
May. 11th, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
Thanks to you, Eledh!
mickeymvt
May. 10th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC)
Lovely, especially that Ray GOT what Fraser was doing without needing it explained.
keerawa
May. 11th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
The two of them really do have that whole non-verbal communication thing down. Thanks for the comment, Mickey!
mergatrude
May. 11th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
This was lovely!
keerawa
May. 11th, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know you liked it, mergatrude.
bluebrocade
May. 11th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
I love this! ♥
keerawa
May. 12th, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
Thank you, bluebrocade! I drew your name in the flashfiction First Lines Challenge - I'll probably post my piece tonight.
snarkyducky
May. 12th, 2007 06:32 am (UTC)
i love this story, but the ending is what i love the most!

thank you so much for sharing this! ♥
keerawa
May. 12th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, snarkyducks! In an earlier draft I had Fraser telling Ray the story of the snow whats-it, but the bubblegum ending is just more fun. Thanks for the feedback!
sam80853
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Beautiful! Just beautiful!

::sighs::
keerawa
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:12 am (UTC)
Thank you, Sam! This story has a rather gentle, hopeful end.
luzula
Feb. 25th, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
Yes, this is great! I especially like the part where Dief starts talking back, and how it reminds him of his childhood. Also this:

The cadets rejected him in turn. At least this time, it was his choice.

Ow, that hurts. It's like he's sure that he will be rejected at some point, so it's almost a relief to be the cause of it.
keerawa
Feb. 25th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
It's like he's sure that he will be rejected at some point, so it's almost a relief to be the cause of it,
*nods* At least this time he's rejected over a matter of rpinciple rather than some inadequecy he has no control over.
omphale23
Mar. 25th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)
Wait, did I miss this the first time? How is that even possible? Especially when I love stuff with shifting timelines so much, and the tone of this is such a gorgeous mix of melancholy and humor.

The lesson here? I fail at the internet. You, however, rock.
keerawa
Mar. 25th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
Yay! Fraser is such a woobie here. I'm glad you enjoyed it, omphale23. You probably just missed it in the ratjam frenzy.
vienna_waits
Mar. 31st, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
Another one who totally missed this somehow. Wow, I really loved this. For Fraser, blowing a bubble at the end seems like a perfect expression of hope and optimism that the future can be different -- geeky yet just right somehow. I also envy your ability to evoke extensive histories with just a paragraph or two in each instance. Nicely done as always!
keerawa
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, vienna_waits! He's trying to play, blowing that bubble, and Ray recognizes that. I'm always a bit surprised by how short this piece is - it feels longer in my memory. Re-reading it this timew I was struck by the man-wolf parallels. Wonder where my subconcious was going with that?
petronelle
Aug. 14th, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
The imminent bubble-blowing contest that saves Fraser from a life of outsider behavior makes me grin in equal measure to my worried frowns for him regarding the previous sections.
keerawa
Aug. 15th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
*smiles* Thanks, Petra! This Fraser is quite different from how I normally view him, but it's certainly a possibility...
brigantine
Dec. 18th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
OMG I can not believe I've never commented on this! I love this story! It's really Ouch and Woobie!Fraser, and I love his Mum... and then there's Ray, who's kind of weird himself, and he gets Fraser. It seems as though even while Ray normally comes over all impatience, he's willing to wait for Fraser to catch up in certain ways, even coach him. \o/!
keerawa
Dec. 18th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
Fraser's mother is such an interesting character here! And it makes Fraser's current crop of caribou and Inuit stories seem so poor in comparison. In my first draft I had Fraser telling Ray the story of the snow-whatsit, instead of popping bubble gum, and right now I like that version better.

Thanks for the comment, brig!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )