keerawa (keerawa) wrote,

dS fic: "Death-Defying" 1/3

Title: Death-Defying
Fandom, Pairing: due South, Fraser/Kowalski
Rating: R
Challenge: Written for the ds_harlequin prompt #12.
Length: Complete in 3 chapters with 15.7k words
Warnings: AU, minor character death, m/m sexuality, disturbing ideas, mention of dubious-consent sexual relationship with a minor.
Betas: Thanks to nos4a2no9 and panther_kitten for helping me find my way to the heart of this story.
Disclaimers: due South, Fraser and Ray Kowalski belong to Alliance. I'm just rearranging the sandbox a little. Thanks to Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling for the use of the first and last stanzas of "Call of the Wild" and "The Thousandth Man".
Summary: Fraser is a contract-killer, and Detective Ray Kowalski needs to stop him before he kills again.
ETA: podfic_lover has now recorded a nuanced podfic of "Death-Defying". Download the mp3 version here or the audiobook version here.
ETA2:The esteemed and talented artist katekat1010 created two gorgeous movie posters for Death-Defying.

"You worried this tip won't pan out, Kowalski?" my partner Douglas asked as we pulled off the highway, towards the port. A line of marked and unmarked police vehicles followed us; the headlights made us look like a funeral procession in the gray light just before dawn.

This week, every street-level contact I had lit up like Tilt on a pinball machine. They all said Ben Fraser was coming to Chicago to settle a score. He'd be here in three days – no, next week – no, he was already here, hiding out in Chinatown.

"Nah, Lennie's my best snitch," I told Douglas. "He's the one that gave us Myrabo. If Lennie says Fraser's getting into town on a freighter this morning, he'll be here."

"Then why so down? This collar'll be one hell of a feather in your cap," Douglas said.

He was always worried about making a good impression on the boys upstairs. Me, I keep my head down and close my cases as best I can. But it pissed me off that Douglas couldn't let me be, just this once.

"Look, we're bringing in Ben Fraser," I told him. "The guy's a legend."

"Twenty-nine contract kills in seven countries? More like a nightmare, if you ask me."

"Yeah, but no civilians, no women, no children," I reminded Douglas, fingers drumming on the steering wheel. "Just the baddest of the bad - drug lords, mafioso, perps the cops could never touch. Remember that Colombian, Escobar, the one who started cutting out the tongues of the villagers so they couldn't tell anybody his business? Ben Fraser took him out in the middle of his own private army."

They showed the local church on the news, lit full of candles, people crying, calling Fraser a hero.

Douglas loves to get in my face and argue about stuff. "No civilians we know of, but what about that cop in Istanbul? He - "

"Come on," I interrupted, "he was dirty as they come, practically a bodyguard for the bad guy."

"So? That only proves coming between Fraser and his target isn't the safest thing."

Which, since that's exactly what we were about to do, shut us both up for a minute. That's Douglas for you. Open mouth, insert foot.

"You just need to get laid," he muttered as I pulled into the lot next to the pier. I didn't bother answering, since it was true, and Douglas knew it. I'd even tried picking up a girl at a bar last night. She got one look at my place and suddenly had to get home to feed her cat.

A choppy wind off the lake welcomed us with the stink of dead fish and motor oil as we got out of the car. The freighter, the Argosy, was due into port in two hours, plenty of time to get into position. I gave a few last minute instructions.

Douglas was in charge of making sure all the port personnel were escorted out of the area and observed to make sure they didn't tip off our target. I winked at Campbell, the rookie, to help him relax. He was assigned to the parking lot, out of harm's way. I left them all behind as I climbed up onto the roof of a warehouse that over-looked the area.

I stepped to the edge of the roof, and heard the soft click of a gun being cocked behind me.

"Fuck," I said. "This is a trap?"

"It is," a man agreed from a few feet behind me.

I looked down over the edge. It was a hundred-foot drop into the lake.

"Do you plan to jump?" he asked, as if it was an option.

"Nah, I can't swim." I put my hands up. "Okay if I turn around?"


I turned, and there was Ben Fraser in a black leather jacket and jeans, looking a lot like his mug shot, except for the ice-cold blue eyes, the little smile, and the silenced pistol pointed at my head. He was like a tiger at the zoo; so beautiful you almost forgot the sharp teeth.

"Toss the weapon over here, please," he said.

I opened my jacket and pulled my gun out of its holster, real slow and careful, using just two fingers. I threw it, winced as it skittered across the concrete. Fraser was squinting at the badge on my shoulder-strap.

"Your name?" Fraser asked, as if he were about to cross me off a list. And then my body caught up to what was going on, and my heart started beating fast, revving up to give me whatever I needed to get out of this.

"Detective Ray Kowalski, CPD," I told him. "You're under arrest, so lay down your gun and come along quietly."

His lips twitched. "I'm afraid I must decline, Ray." He took a step back and brought his other hand up, moving into a relaxed Weaver stance. The pistol never wavered the whole time. He looked me up and down.

"Well, this is embarrassing," he said finally. "I feel like a tuna fisherman who's caught a dolphin in his net. I assume you have handcuffs?"

"Uh, yeah?" He looked at me, made a tiny gesture with his pistol. It took my brain a second to catch his drift. "Oh, right!" I pulled the cuffs out of my back pocket, and then paused.

No way. No way was I gonna let this guy get the drop on me and put me out of action with my own cuffs. I looked Fraser in the eye and tensed up to move. He wasn't scared, or angry, or excited. Just … ready. Ready to put me down like a dog if I tried anything.

Fuck. I snicked the cuffs closed over my own wrists.

"Lie down on your stomach, please, hands over your head."

So I did. Laying there, the cold metal of my own cuffs around my wrists, cheek pressed into the gritty concrete, felt … bad. Vulnerable. He frisked me, slow and thorough, without ever taking the gun off me. Very fucking thorough. One big, warm hand ran along my arms and sides. His jacket was old enough that it didn't creak, but new enough that I could still smell the leather.

Fraser's hand touched the small of my back, coasted over my back pockets, and I shivered. Gently parted my thighs, and worked all the way down to my ankles. I was breathing hard. He lifted me up a little to get to my front pockets, like it was easy, and it'd been so long since anybody actually touched me, part of me wanted him to keep going. Jesus, I had to get a grip. Fingers caught in my gelled-up hair and a hand got up close and personal with my balls.

"Hey!" I yelled. "What the fuck is your problem?"

"A simple precaution, Ray."

He took my back-up gun, radio, wallet, keys, glasses, watch, ID, and even my belt. I felt his boot come to rest gently on the small of my back. "I assume you didn't come to arrest me without back-up," he said.

Keep it cool, Ray. I decided to tell the truth. "Nah. We got detectives, uniforms, even a tactical unit getting into position down there."

"You're in charge of the tactical unit?"

"No, I'm just a detective with Major Crimes. My snitch brought in the lead, so it's my case."

"But you have sniper training."

How did he … oh. He knows because I took the high ground. "Just for a little while, back in the '80's." I remembered something from that half-day workshop on negotiating; you were supposed to try and make a personal connection with the hostage-taker. "My ex, she thought the teams were too dangerous."

"Hmmm. Have the RCMP been informed that I'm here?"

I didn't answer right away. The toe of his boot pushed down, right over my kidney. "Ooof. No. The top cops wanted to hand you over on a silver platter."

Fraser pulled a sleek little walkie-talkie of his own out of his pocket. He pushed the button a few times, in a pattern. There was a double hiss of static in response. He put it away, carefully unscrewed the silencer from his pistol and put it away in an inside coat pocket.

He moved off me and said, "You'll be coming with me. Up on your feet, please." I thought about it. If I resisted, there was no way he could force me off this roof. But Ben Fraser was a professional killer. I didn't really want to give him a reason to shoot me.

"Okay, Fraser, I'm moving."

Fraser had me climb down the ladder into the warehouse while he held a gun on me, then asked me to stand against the wall while he climbed down one-handed. As he reached the floor my radio crackled to life.

"Kowalski, did you want me and Gibbs north-east, or north-west?"

"Kowalski? Hey, has anybody seen Kowalski?"

"We should hurry," Fraser suggested. We walked back out through the warehouse doors, me going as slow as I figured I could get away with. A beat-up blue van was idling its engine at the loading dock. A Native guy jumped out of the driver's seat. He had shoulder-length black hair, a pretty face, and hadn't yet grown into his shoulders. I'd say he was old enough to drive, but not old enough to drink. The kid grinned at Fraser.

"Twenty tires down," he said, nodding at the patrol and unmarked cars in the lot. Shit.

"Good job," Fraser said, in a warmer tone than I'd heard from him yet. "Denny, this is Ray, my hostage, please make him feel welcome. Ray, Denny." I looked back at Fraser, but he seemed completely serious.

Denny looked me over and held out his hand. 'Personal connection', I reminded myself and lifted up my cuffed hands. We shook, quick and firm.

"Welcome to the madhouse, Ray," Denny said. He had some kind of accent.

My radio crackled again. "I see him, I see him, Detective Kowalski is with two unknown males in the parking lot, by a blue van. He's cuffed, and I think one of them's got a gun!" It was Campbell, the rookie.

Denny opened the van door. I turned, scanning the parking lot for Campbell, and so did Fraser. There, maybe thirty feet away, behind a parked car. Fraser raised his pistol, took aim, and I bumped into him as he fired. No way was I letting him shoot Campbell. Fraser huffed out a breath, irritated, and threw me into the van. I landed face first in a pile of army blankets.

"Shots fired! Shots fired!" came from my radio. Fraser scrambled in after me, tossed the radio, slammed the door, and the van took off.

"Well, that could have gone better," Fraser said, as I slid towards the back of the van. "You might have thrown off my aim enough that I actually hit that man."

I managed to sit up. I wanted to believe that Fraser hadn't really been shooting at Campbell. "What is this, take your son to work day?" I snarled at him, pointing at the kid driving the van.

"Not at all, Ray," he said, bracing himself against the seat back while the van skewed around a corner. "My profession doesn't have any schools or training programs, outside of the military. Denny's my apprentice."

Fraser switched his gun to his left hand and reached out with his right to ruffle Denny's hair. The kid arched back into the touch.

Fraser said something in a tongue twister of a language, all k's and l's. Denny slowed down. We drove like that for a few minutes, Fraser looking like he was thinking hard.

"Chopper, boss," Denny said.

"Oh dear," Fraser replied. "Where are we?" He looked out the front, and they had a short conversation in that weird language. It wasn't anything I recognized. Pretty slick way to keep secrets in front of the hostage.

Fraser turned back to me. "Now Ray, in a minute you'll be jumping from the vehicle."

"While it's moving?"

"Yes." Fraser was nodding, as if that was a totally normal thing to do.

The guy was two dimes short of a dollar. "Uh-uh. If you've decided to kill me, I'll just take a bullet, thanks anyway."

"Don't be silly, Ray. I'm not asking you to do anything I won't be doing myself. Denny will slow down at the next overpass, and we'll jump out. Just tuck in your arms, legs and head, and aim for the grassy verge. Visualize yourself as a ball flying through the air. I find that helps."

If we jumped out under cover of the highway, the chopper wouldn't see it. They'd assume I was still in the van. Fuck.

Fraser dragged me over to the van door, hauled it open, and turned to me with this gleam in his eye, and yelled, "Ready?" over the wind howling past us outside.

"No!" I yelled back at him.

Then the crazy fucker jumped out and dragged me with him. I curled up into a ball. Something slammed into my knee. I tried to roll with it, felt myself sliding through the grass, and then came to an almost gentle stop against a concrete pillar.

I stood up, heart pounding, feeling like I'd just gone through a boxing match, a firefight, and the world's best roller-coaster ride all rolled into one.

"You did it, Ray!" said Fraser, with a grin that lit me up from the inside. He grabbed me by the biceps, breathing hard, and then his eyes dipped down to my mouth, and he licked his lips. I … wow … I reached for him, felt the handcuffs tug, remembered I was a hostage, and grabbed for the gun in Fraser's holster.

He shoved me backwards, murmuring, "None of that now." Before I knew it he was behind me with the gun between us.

I limped my way through back alleys and back streets, pistol pushed into my lower back the whole time. Then Fraser moved a manhole cover, and gestured me down into the sewer. He handed me a little Maglite flashlight.

"What if I drop it?" I asked.

"I don't imagine picking it up would be very pleasant," he answered, kicking at the thin drool of sludge running down the center of the floor. "And if you tried to run for it in the dark, well, I do practice shooting blindfolded."

Crazy thing is, I believed him.

Once we got out of the sewers I spotted a few signs written in Chinese, so I figured the rumors were right, and Fraser really was hiding out in Chinatown. He pushed me through an unmarked door, talked Chinese and handed some money to a professionally blind old Chinese guy sitting behind a desk, and then marched me up some rickety stairs.

"Let me guess, this is the kind of place where nobody's gonna call the cops if I start yelling?" I asked as he opened the door to a tiny bathroom.

"My neighbors do seem to be lacking in a sense of civic responsibility," Fraser said. "Did you need to use the facilities?"

"Uh, sure." I took care of business, glad that my hands were cuffed in front of me. I didn't want to get civilians involved, anyway. And, with all the trouble Fraser was going through, he needed something more than a human shield while he got away from the cops. So maybe I had some leverage. Made it worth playing through, anyway.

Fraser opened a door at the far end of the hall. The room was barely lit by a few rays of sunlight peeking through the blinds drawn over a window. There was a bed, a table with two chairs, and a dresser with a mirror over it. Fraser locked the door behind us and asked me to wait in the far corner of the room. Then he turned on the over-head light and dragged a big, heavy wooden chair from the table to over near the door.

"If you would, Ray?" he asked politely, gesturing to the chair. I sat down, which had me facing the wall, about 6 feet down from the door.

"Ah, no, the other way around." I stood up and turned around, sat with the chair back in front of me. Fraser tossed me my handcuff key from the other side of the room, holding the gun on me. I undid one bracelet and then watched him for cues. Playing it through.

"Put it through the seat back," he ordered. I did, and then cuffed myself again. Great. Now I was chained to a big wooden chair. Not an improvement.

"The key, please?" I tried to throw it back, but the key landed on the floor about ten feet away from him. He tilted his head at me. I shrugged. So I throw like a girl when I'm handcuffed. So what.

Fraser picked up the key, took off his boots, hung his jacket over the back of another chair, and holstered his gun. He silently offered me a bottle of water, which I took and drank. A little awkward while cuffed, but I was thirsty. I handed the empty bottle back to Fraser. He removed the cap, peeled off the label, and scrunched the bottle.

"I'll recycle it," Fraser said. As if I might be worrying that the hired killer holding me hostage would improperly dispose of my water bottle.

He was being nice. Too nice. I got ready to turn down whatever offer he was about to make.

Fraser sat down on the bed, facing me. "Ray, I'm new to the area, and I need some information – "

"Nope," I said. The cuffs wouldn't let me cross my arms, so I planted my feet and leaned forward into the chair back. "Not gonna happen. We are not doing that whole 'Patty-stocking' thing."

Fraser's forehead creased and he silently mouthed a few words to himself. Then the light bulb came on. "You mean Stockholm Syndrome?"

"Right, that. Which we are not doing, because I know that you are in Chicago to kill somebody, and I'm not giving you any info that might help you do it."

Fraser leaned back on the bed, looking like a centerfold picture, and shrugged. "I assure you, Ray, it's no one that you'd miss."

"Well I'm thinking that I'd miss anybody you murder in my city!"

Fraser tilted his head. "Really?" he asked, as if he were just too polite to call me a liar.

I looked down. Even leaving out the thing in Columbia, I'd been one of a whole bar full of cops that raised a glass to Ben Fraser when we heard he'd taken out the head of the Iguana crime family down in Vegas.

Fraser walked over to the table, grabbed a paper bag, and brought it back to the bed with him. "I have a few simple questions about the structure of the local crime syndicates, and then you can be on your way, well-compensated for the assistance you've given me." And as he talked he was pulling wads of cash out of the paper bag, laying them on the bed next to him. "You'd be protecting the local citizenry, really, since the better my information the more surgical my approach can be."

"You think this is the first time I been offered money?" And holy shit, were those hundreds? "Okay, maybe not that much, but still, I've never been on the take before, and I'm not starting today."

"Ah," Fraser said. He picked up the money and put it back in the bag. He walked over to the table, cleaned off the surface, and laid out a cloth on it. Then he bent down on the far side of the bed, and I heard the soft snick of metal clasps. Fraser stood up with a big, black, bolt-action sniper rifle. Looked like one of those NATO 308-caliber weapons. 800-yard effective range. Nice.

Fraser carried the rifle over to the table, quickly stripped it down, got out some brushes and oil, and started to clean it.

"I generally find," he said while dripping oil down the barrel, "that with the proper combination of pressure and incentives, men are willing to see reason."

"Well I don't see that good!" I said, and even I could tell how stupid that sounded the moment it came out my mouth.

"What a pity," Fraser said, like I was funny.

I felt my face heat up, and opened my big mouth. "Proper combination of pressure and incentives? What's that even mean? Let's say somebody needs a little girl whacked, to put some pressure on her father, you're the guy, huh? Are you that guy, Fraser?"

Fraser didn't look up from cleaning his rifle, but his lips stretched thin and pale. "No. Contract work is a niche market, and that's not my niche."

I settled back and waited. Fraser picked up a cloth and rubbed at a few drops of gun oil he'd spilled on his hand. Rubbed it again. Finally he looked up, eyes hard and hot.

"Any idiot with a rifle and a bad attitude can kill a child," he spat at me. "I take the hard targets, the real challenges –"

"You wouldn't kill an innocent little girl," I told him, sure of it as I've been of anything in my life. "And you wouldn't hurt me."

Fraser stalked across the room until he was standing over me. I remembered that I was still cuffed to a chair, and he still had a gun, and maybe pissing the guy off wasn't the smartest thing I'd ever done. "I would, if it were necessary." The muscles in his jaw worked, smoothed out, and when Fraser looked down at me his eyes were calm, cold crystal-blue. "Don’t make it necessary."

Then he walked away, sat down at the table, and finished cleaning his rifle. He was as careful and finicky about it as my sergeant in the teams, which is saying something. The scent of gun oil drifted across the room to me, comfortingly familiar. My knee throbbed, and I shifted to try to take the pressure off of it.

Fraser looked up. "Are you injured?"

"Uh, not really. I just banged my knee a little when we jumped out of the van."

Fraser finished up what he was doing, wiped his hands on a cloth, and walked across the room to me. He squatted down and started gently tapping on and around my kneecap. I hissed in a breath when he hit the sore part.

"I need to get a look at it," he said pulling a big knife out of nowhere.

"Hey!" I protested.

Fraser seemed kind of offended. "I assure you, Ray, you're in no danger. I just need to split the jeans along the seam so I can tend to your knee."

The weird thing is, it hadn't even occurred to me he might do something bad with the knife. "Its not that. I just … I like these jeans."

His eyes twinkled up at me. "Well in that case, would you like my assistance in taking them off?"

That was a bad idea. But my knee did hurt. And the 'personal connection' thing was good, right? "Uh, sure," I said.

First Fraser untied my boots, pulled them off, and put them off to the side. Then he gestured for me to stand up. He opened my button-fly in one solid rip. Okay, yeah, he'd done that before. He pulled them down over my hips, down my thighs, and it was not my fault that my cock was taking an interest. There was a gorgeous guy stripping off my clothes, and even though I tried to silently explain to my dick that I was cuffed, and he was dangerous, and this was for medicinal purposes anyway, it didn't really seem to care.

He pushed the other leg of my jeans all the way down. I lifted up my foot, steadying myself on the chair, and he pulled it off and then threaded that part through, behind the chair back, his hands coming within an inch of my dick. I sucked in a breath, but he just gave my erection a quick, appreciative glance, didn't say a word.
Then he eased the other jeans leg down over my sore knee.

I plopped back down in the seat, a little too distracted to be graceful, as Fraser inspected my knee.

"Well, it's not bad," Fraser said eventually. "A bit of an abrasion, and you'll have a nasty bruise tomorrow. Just a moment," he said, stood up, and walked out the door.

I had just enough time to get over being left with my pants down, literally, and start wondering if I could make it over to the window when he can back in with an ice bucket.

"This will clean out the abrasion, and should also help keep the swelling down," Fraser said, pulling a piece of ice out of the bucket. As he knelt down he added, "It may sting a bit."

Fraser cleaned up my knee, first with the piece of ice, and then with an alcohol swab. It smarted, a sharp little pain over the deep, dull one. I kept my eyes on the window across the room. Fraser knelt there, holding an ice pack on my knee for a while. It was stupid, letting a little thing like cleaning up my knee get to me. Only, the last time somebody looked out for me like that was Stella. And even with her, it must have been ten years ago when she stopped.

It's like, that time I got shot, I used up all of her caring about me getting hurt. Any time after that I got messed up in the line of duty, Stella was just pissed off. She'd say, "If it hurts, take a painkiller," like she didn't even want to know. So, after a while, I stopped telling her. And a while after that, she kicked me out.

Fraser patted my knee dry, then got out a little first aid kit and put some stinky ointment and a band-aid on it. Then he helped me put my jeans back on, and it wasn't sexy at all, just caring. An aching heart's a lot harder to ignore than aching balls.

"Thanks," I said in a hoarse voice.

He looked up and met my eyes. "You're welcome, Ray," he said, like it meant something. Then he sat back on the floor, resting with his back against the bed. "If you don't mind me asking, was your father a police officer?"

Some little voice in me chimed in with 'personal connection,' but the rest of me didn't give a damn. "No. No, my Dad hated me being a cop. He, uh, pretty much stopped talking to me the day I graduated from the Academy."

Fraser shook his head like he couldn't hardly believe it. "I'm very sorry to hear that, Ray. Why did you choose to join the police force, then?"

"Well, it's a funny story," I said, my voice a little too high. "You'll laugh." Everybody thinks me and Stella were some kind of joke. But Fraser was just sitting there; calm, serious, listening like this was the most important thing in the world.

"I was thirteen and she was a Gold Coast girl. Private school. She was untouchable, but I was working it. I was lying like a maniac. I was John Lennon, James Bond, Joe Namath, all rolled into one." I told him the whole sorry story about Marcus Ellery, the big bad bank robber, and stupid little Stanley Kowalski, wetting his pants in front of everybody. The basis for my whole fucked-up marriage, right there.

Fraser didn't laugh. At the end he said, "I'm surprised you didn't decide to become a bank robber."

"Yeah, well, I always wanted to be one of the good guys." That got a little nod out of him. "Ellery disappeared off the grid eight years ago, but I keep hoping he'll turn up. He's got family in the area."

"I could …" Fraser looked away, cracked his neck, and said quietly, "I could help you with that, if you like. When I'm finished with my present assignment."

The way he said it reminded me of Alexi, a kid in my first-grade class. Alexi didn't speak much English, but one day he slid a baseball card over to me, all shy, during snack time. Once I took it, we were friends.

I almost said yes, before I realized that a contract killer was offering to 'help' me with Ellery. And maybe I was looking for some payback, a little revenge, but not ... not like that.

"No thanks, Fraser," I said. He nodded, checking out his own jeans. "I really appreciate the offer, though."

I reached my foot out and bumped it into his. "So," I said when he looked up. "What about you? Why'd you decide to … do what you do?"

"Ah," Fraser said, rubbing a thumb over his eyebrow, smoothing it down. "I wouldn't call it a decision, as such. More a chain of events."

"I get that," I told him. "I do."

He took a deep breath, let it out slow, and said in a news-reader voice, "When I was six years old, my mother was murdered. I heard the shot, went outside, and watched her die."

A little sound came out of me, but Fraser ignored it and kept going. "I went to live with my grandparents. They were traveling librarians, up north. It was difficult for them to take on a small boy at that time in their lives, but they tried to make a place for me. When I was ten, there was a car accident." He was studying the carpet.

"Did they die?" I asked.

"My grandmother died almost immediately. My grandfather was in hospital, unable to care for me. So my father came home." His eyes flicked to me. "My father was a member of the RCMP. Did you know that?"

I shook my head.

"He was something of a legend in his own time," Fraser said with a twist to his lips. "When I was a child he was out on patrol for months at a time. Before my grandparents died I can only remember two holidays he was able to spend with us. He had to give up those assignments and accept a desk job, after the accident. He resented it, naturally. And I was very tenderhearted, as a child. I felt things deeply. My father found it … effeminate. When I was twelve years old, my father took me to hunt caribou."

Fraser sat up straight and stared me in the eye. "Now, you have to understand, Ray, that I was eager to go. Every Inuit boy has to kill a caribou in order to be considered a man, and I wanted to prove myself to my father. We tracked the caribou together, through difficult terrain, and he ... he was proud of me, of my skills, I think. Then we found the herd. I aimed at a buck at the outskirts of the herd, and then, just as I was about to take my shot, it turned to look at me."

Fraser's eyes closed. His breath came out in a little sigh. "His eyes were a limpid brown, peaceful, curious. He was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen. And then my father whispered, 'Shoot' in my ear, and my finger jerked on the trigger."

Fraser's eyes opened. "I missed the shot, of course," he continued. "The buck was wounded, but not dead. And my father, he picked me up by the collar of my coat and dragged me down the hill, yelling that no son of his would miss such an easy shot, and I'd better finish the job. When we got there, there was blood on the snow, just like my mum, and the caribou, he was hurt, he was terrified, desperately trying to get up so that he could run away. My father, he was screaming at me, and I, I closed a door in my head. And then I could breath, and the caribou was just a dumb animal in the snow, and I reached out with a steady hand and put a bullet between its eyes. And when I turned around, my father was still yelling. But he was just another dumb animal making noise in the snow."

I sat upright, the handcuffs rattling against the chair. "You didn't –"

Fraser glanced up at me, eyes flat. "No, I didn't. But I could have, easily. So I left the next day, headed south."

"I ended up in Toronto, after I ran away from home," he said in a matter-of-fact voice. "I did, well, all the things that boys do, to survive on the street," Fraser said, pulling that knife out from his boot and balancing it on his finger, blade on one side, handle on the other. "And then I caught Joe McNally's eye."

"Joe had an eye for the pretty boys?" I asked.

"He did, actually." Fraser shrugged, as if it wasn't a big deal. "His attentions weren't entirely unwelcome. And in return, Joe offered me … everything. Joe gave me a roof over my head, a family, a place to belong. He trained me." He smiled fondly at nothing for a moment, and then gave the knife a fancy flip before holstering it.

We sat there for a minute, not saying anything. I guess Fraser was remembering stuff. Me, I was trying to imagine what it was like to be a kid so freaked out, so alone, that a guy offering you three hots, a cot, and assassin training in return for playing 'hide the salami' seemed like a great deal.

Read Chapter 2.
Tags: au, death-defying, due south, fic

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