Title: Man in Red
Author: A. J. Dannehl ajdannehl@hotmail.com
Rating: PG (just a couple of words)        
Pairings: none
Spoilers: JiB, VS, BDTH; Men in Black
Disclaimer: The Mountie, the Cops, and the Wolf belong to Alliance, Jay and Elle to Columbia Pictures Corporations and to Amblin entertainment. Those are the guys making money. I’m not. I’m writing this just for fun.


Benton Fraser, at the top of a telephone pole somewhere in the Northwest Territories of Canada, was puzzled. He had just finished a conversation with his very best friend, who had taken what had to be great pains to call, only to say. . . very little. And to say it oddly, too.

It always fascinated the Mountie how Ray could, in a free-flowing riff of words and expressions, talk on and on about anything or nothing. Yet in this call, the usually voluble detective said, well, not much.

Why? And what did it mean?

"There has to be some special message in what Ray said," Fraser mused aloud. "He sounded. . . constrained. He was trying to tell me something. I'm sure of it." He looked at Diefenbaker on the ground below, standing next to the pole. No help there; while not too far away to be unable to lip-read, the wolf's attention was directed towards the horizon. Fraser shifted his own focus there.

A black car had crested the hill and was barreling towards man, wolf and telephone pole. The car, an older-model Ford LTD, slid to a quick, smooth stop near by. A man and a woman, both dressed in severe black suits, exited the car and walked towards the telephone pole. Fraser clambered down as rapidly as possible; when back on terra firma, he assumed parade rest stance.

The woman, dark hair slicked back behind her ears, spoke. "Constable Benton Fraser?" Fraser nodded. "I'm Elle, and this is Jay."

Her companion, a handsome, young Black man, smiled a greeting at the Mountie then spoke. "And this is your dog, right? Diffenbachia?"

"Diefenbaker," Fraser corrected him. "And, actually, he's not a dog, he's a wolf."

"Wolf, right," Jay said, edging back just a bit, smile wavering slightly. "Yeah, I knew that." He smiled down at Dief. "That's cool, you bein' a wolf and all." Looking back at Fraser, the man continued, "We're with Division 27-C, U.S. Immigration and Naturalizations Service."

"There is no Division 27-C associated with the INS," Fraser calmly observed. "Actually, you are both members of an ultra-secret agency of the United States government. This agency is concerned with the registration and surveillance of aliens, not from other countries but from other planets. This organization is commonly referred to as the Men in Black." Pausing to look first from Elle to Jay then back at Elle, he asked, blue eyes guiless, "Or is it 'Persons in Black' now?"

Elle and Jay exchanged glances, then looked back at the Mountie.

Elle spoke, "Men in Black will still do." A short pause, then she continued, "You seem to know quite a bit about our organization, Constable Fraser."

Jay spoke up. "And that's cool, 'cause we know a whole damn lot about you, too. For instance, we know that you're a good cop, a damn good cop, but you tend to get on your superiors' nerves. Matter of fact, you solved one case so good you got sent to Chicago, which seems to be where the RCMP exiles those who piss 'em off. You got few friends, no family that you know of. . . well, 'cept for your daddy's ghost, which apparently pops up now an' then to chat."

"How. . . how did you know that?" a visibly shaken Fraser asked.

Elle said dryly, "We have some most. . . unusual contacts here and there."

Fraser found that easy to believe.

After giving the Mountie some time to collect himself, she continued, "But, as you've probably surmised, we're not here to talk about your family, whatever plane of existence they may exist." For a wild second Fraser hoped that the late Robert Fraser would choose this moment to make an appearance. A visible, extremely vocal appearance.

No such luck.

Benton Fraser looked sourly towards the heavens. Always there where you’re needed. Thanks a lot, Dad.

Elle reached into one of the pockets of her severely tailored black blazer and, extracting a photograph, gave it to Fraser. "Can you identify this man?"

Fraser looked first at the picture and then back at the two agents, not bothering to disguise the irritation he felt. The photo’s subject was a man with close-cropped, thinning hair, a distinctive nose and even more distinctive hazel-green eyes. Anyone who knew about Sgt. Robert Fraser didn’t need help in making this identification. Cocking his head a bit and looking up from under his hat’s brim, he answered dryly, "This is Detective Raymond Vecchio of the Chicago Police Department."

Jay honked like a game show buzzer. "Wrong!” the MiB agent said cheerfully. “The man in that picture, according to the FBI, is the late Armando Langoustini." Seeing the Mountie's puzzlement, the agent continued, "Don't feel bad, though, 'cause the Feds got it wrong, too."

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation. . . got it wrong, too." Fraser felt lost, as if he were without compass or map. Rubbing his eyebrow with his left thumb, he held the photograph aloft and cautiously asked, "Then who was this?"

"To understand that," Elle said, looking at Fraser, "I need to ask you a question in turn." The Mountie gave one slow nod in assent. "You remember Irene Zuko?"

"Frank Zuko's sister, " Fraser said heavily. "Yes, of course I do. She. . . died. . . because of mistakes Ray and I made."

"Wrong again," Jay informed him, still irritatingly cheerful. At least this time he didn’t make the buzzer sound. "She's alive and fine and says to say hi."

"Ms Zu. . . Irene's. . . alive?" Fraser stuttered. "How. . . why are you telling me this? You should be telling Ray, not me."

"No, we shouldn't," Elle said firmly.

"And we're only tellin' you 'cause you ain't gonna remember, anyway," Jay added.

"Not remember? How could I not remember something like this?" Fraser demanded. "And what does this have to do with Ray Vecchio or this person?" Here the Mountie waved the photograph like a semaphore flag. Diefenbaker, noting his human's agitation, glared at the two MiB agents.

"Look, one thing at a time, Big Red," Jay said soothingly. "First, let's get back to the not-so-late Irene Zuko. Ya know, you’d never know it to look at her, but that babe's over 500 years old."

"Five. Hundred. Years. Old," Fraser repeated. "Do you mean to say that she was --"

"Is," Jay interrupted.

"Is," Fraser, noting and using the correction, continued, "an. . . alien?"

Elle, straight-faced, complimented him, "You catch on quickly."

"Yeah," Jay drawled. "You good, Dudley Do-Right."

Elle interrupted her partner in order to keep him from saying anything else stupid, at least for a few minutes. "The being you knew as Irene Zuko is actually a member of the Arquillian royal family. Over the past couple of decades, several members of the family have been forced to take refuge on Earth."

"Now, this Mafia Princess," Jay barged in shamelessly, "happens to be some kinda top-rank scientist specializing in robotics. And we ain't talkin' no Disney's Pirates-of-the-Caribbean crap, neither. We're talking realistic, better-than-human stuff."

"You've seen Al Gore?" Elle asked.

"The Vice President of the United States?" Fraser asked in turn, one eyebrow raised quizzically. "Of course." Then, after a moment's pause, he leaned closer as if to not be overheard by the surrounding trees, "Do you mean to say. . . ?"

"Yes," Elle answered. "People wonder, but they'd never really believe it.”

"'Sides," Jay put in, "Al was just Irene's version of fun. A joke, you know? But her stuff's usually real serious. I mean, she's had to rebuild herself several times over durin' her years as a Zuko."

"I can see that," Fraser said faintly. And he could, too. It was unsettling. "But, what does any of this have to do with Ray Vecchio?"

Elle, shooting her partner a look intended to quench him, began, "Several years ago, another member of the royal family sought refugee status here on Earth, so our organization asked Irene to design a housing unit for him.”

“And just guess who she used as the model,” an unquenched Jay drawled.

Fraser gaped at the photograph in his hand then sputtered, "She designed a. . . housing unit that looked like Ray ? Ray Vecchio?" He did not even want to think what Ray’s reaction would be upon learning that he had a robot doppleganger.

Robot Ray.

Robocop Ray?

Oh, dear.

Jay shrugged his shoulders. "She really likes the dude. Go figure."

Fraser looked at the two agents. "Let me see if I have this straight. Irene Zuko, who is still alive --" both Jay and Elle nodded in unison, seemingly pleased with his progress, " -- and is actually an alien scientist, once designed a. . . a robot that looks like the man who loved her, and it was used by an alien named Armando Langoustini, who is now dead."

"Actually," Jay said, scratching an eyebrow, "Langoustini's still alive, too."

Fraser looked at Diefenbaker. Dief looked back at Fraser. The wolf's expression showed that he didn't quite grasp it, either.

Elle said, “He,” indicating the photo Fraser still held, "is a mathematical genius who's supposed to put Einstein to shame."

Fraser crossed his arms. "Was Einstein an alien, also?" he asked sourly.

"Nope," Jay answered, "that Al was a home boy."

"Langoustini," Elle continued as calmly as she could, considering her partner's. . . exuberance, "somehow made his way to Las Vegas, where he became fascinated with the games of skill and of chance offered by the casinos, especially poker. High stakes poker. Being an extraordinarily gifted mathematician, he was soon wrecking havoc everywhere he played, which was how he came to the attention of the Iguanas."

"Yeah," Jay added, "seems the Iguanas decided ol' Armando would be a great addition to their happy little mob family. Not that the guy's a crook himself or anything like that; fact is, he really don't know nothin' 'bout crime, or criminals, or mob families or any of that stuff; he just luvs numbers. So they made him their, I dunno, financial guy. Their Bookman, yeah, that's it, 'cause he keeps the books, ya see."

Jay paused and looked at the Mountie. Judging from the dazed expression in Fraser’s eyes, the MiB guessed that the man wasn't going to add anything at that second, so continued. "Now, our boy Armando had it pretty good: big house, money, power, servants, cars. You know, the old alien-American dream."

"But," Elle said, "his cover was blown. Not to the Iguanas, but to some enemies of the Arquillian royal family. So to keep him safe, we had to set up a fake car accident, make it look as if he'd died, and get him out of there."

Jay grimaced, and took up the explanation again. "Seems some genius in the FBI thought this was their chance to get an insider in with the Iguanas." The MiB agent's voice displayed all the irritation and loathing that Ray Vecchio's did when speaking of that Federal agency. "So the Feds butted in, covered-up our cover-up, hid our guy -- but did such a piss-poor job of it we found him real easy -- and then sat back and thought odd thoughts in their little Fed heads.”

Jay crossed his arms and sighed. “Now, at first,” the man continued, “they were gonna go with the ol' drastic-plastic-surgery bit. You know," he paused, looking briefly at Fraser, "like on TV, when one actor wants out or gets canned or a pay cut or somethin' and they gotta replace him, so they hire another guy and say the first guy was in a real bad car wreck or plane crash or fell in a volcano or some dumb-ass thing like that, right? Well, seems some bright boy in Chicago noticed the resemblance between your buddy Vecchio and Langoustini, so suggested instead that they use the cop as their undercover operative."

Fraser's forehead wrinkled at an unpleasant thought. "Would that have been an Agent Ford?" he asked.

"Ford ain't too fond of your friend, Frase," Jay answered matter-of-factly.

Sometimes I hate being right all the time, Fraser thought gloomily. Then an objection occurred to him. Staring narrowly at the two MiB agents, he asked, "Won't the Iguanas be a bit curious when their star accountant isn't the same financial genius he once was?"

"Hey, the guy's just been in a major car wreck and nearly died," Jay said. "That's bound to bounce the battery in anyone's calculator."

"But we do feel some. . . responsibility," Elle said, sounding apologetic. "After all, it was because MiB used your friend's likeness that he's in this mess to begin with. We're taking. . . steps. . . to insure the safety of both your friend and our alien."

"First off," Jay began, "the assassins after Armando ain't no ugly-assed, hopped-up killer cockroach from hell with an attitude problem. Not this time. Nope, this time, whoever's payin' for the hit hired quality. They don't wanna come down here causin' any problems for the citizens of our happy little planet. They just wanna come in, off their boy and get outta here with as little fuss as they can." Jay paused for a second, then frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe the CIA should hire 'em."

"Apparently," Elle explained, "these assassins regard their trade as a holy ritual. To mistakenly kill anyone but their assigned mark is a great sin; so to keep themselves pure, they've developed instruments that will harm none but the intended target, with no collateral damage. So your friend will be safe."

"Lot safer than bein' a cop in Chicago," Jay added.

“But that’s why your scheme is preposterous!” Fraser objected. “Ray Vecchio has a family, a career, a life in Chicago, for heaven’s sakes! How can anyone expect him to simply pull up stakes and leave?”

“Never underestimate our friends the Feds,” Jay said. “They’ve concocted some story or the other to take care of that.” Seeing that the Mountie was about to object again, Jay raised one hand and continued, “Look, I’d explain it if I could but it’s a long story, probably take an hour or so to tell, but it doesn’t have a thing to do with why Elle and I are here today and dammit, I don’t understand it anyway.”

Fraser looked over at Elle, who lifted her shoulders in the classic don’t-ask-me shrug. She then extracted another photo from her pocket and, handing it over to the Mountie, said, “Here’s a part of the cover. Constable, meet the man who has been known as Detective Ray Vecchio for about the, oh, last thirty minutes or so.”

Fraser stared, first at Langoustini's photograph, then at the one of the man identified as Ray Vecchio. Naturally, Langoustini looked like his friend. But the man in the second photo. . . "Are you people deranged!?" he finally sputtered. "This man has hair! Blond hair!”

"I told you already,” Jay tsked, “don’t go underestimating our good friends at the FBI. They've come up with a cover story for that, too.”

“I can hardly wait to hear it,” Fraser said sarcastically.

“And I just can’t wait to tell you,” Jay informed him. “See, everyone at District 27'll know that guy," here he indicated the photograph of the blond man, "ain't your friend Ray. Same with the Vecchio family, naturally.”

“Naturally,” Fraser agreed, dazed.

Jay, pleased that the Mountie was in the ball park with him, continued, “But the Feds'll feed 'em some sort of line, just enough about Vecchio's undercover assignment to keep 'em cooperative. As for everyone else, well, you and your pal didn't exactly hang out with lots of different folks, did you?"

Fraser mutely shook his head.

Elle asked, "No romances at this time or significant others to be concerned about?"

Another shake of the Mountie's head.

“Not after your old girlfriend Vicki, the pyro-bank robber,” Jay snorted. “I mean, I’ve pissed off some ladies in my time, but. . .”

Elle shot him a dirty look.

"OK, then," Jay said, back to business. "You just keep away from anyone outside of work or the Vecchios or anyone else that's not in the know, and everything'll be cool."

"But the people in my neighborhood know Ray," Fraser argued.

Jay's forehead wrinkled a bit. "Um, the FBI's gonna make sure that your old neighborhood's no big problem -- and sorry about your apartment, by the way."

"My. . . apartment," Fraser repeated. Diefenbaker looked wary but stayed silent.

Elle, her hands moving gently as if to soothe, said, "The FBI is taking steps to insure that everyone else in your building finds someplace to live."

"Why?" Fraser ground out.

"Well, it was only fair, man," Jay said reasonable, "since the arsonist they got to torch the place should have finished the job oh,” he paused to look at the oddly shaped watch on his wrist, “about now." A look at the Mountie's expression caused him to add, "I don't think Ford likes you too much either."

Fraser slumped against the telephone pole, trying to assimilate everything he'd been told. He was going to lose his apartment -- although it was nice to know Mrs. Gamez and all his other neighbors won't be left homeless -- lose his best friend for who knew how long, and have to cope with the fact that a stranger running around the 27th had to be called by everyone, including himself, Ray Vecchio.

And the Vice President of the United States was a robot.

OK. He could handle this. All of this. He was a Mountie.

Straightening his posture and squaring his shoulders, Fraser faced the two MiB agents. "What can I do to help?"

Jay and Elle exchanged glances. "Nothing," Jay answered.

"Not a thing," Elle seconded.

"And that's the best thing you could do," Jay finished.

The two agents looked at the Mountie. He looked as if he'd been slugged with
an otter. A particularly large, noxious, toxic, disease-ridden, recently deceased but not recently deceased enough, otter. A glance at Diefenbaker revealed that the wolf wasn't faring much better. Jay and Elle could practically hear the gears clicking away in both those skulls, human and lupine.

Finally, after a few minutes of silence, a bewildered Benton Fraser said, "But, I don't understand. If there's nothing I can do about this, why are you here in the first place?”

"Because you are such a damn good cop," Jay said, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a pair of shades and a slim, silver, pencil-like object. "You ever seen one of these before?" He held the silver object aloft.

"No," the Mountie answered.

"No surprise there," Jay laughed, "and even if you had, you wouldn't remember anyway. This little thingie," he continued, "is called a neuralyzer. It's what makes mine and Elle's job a hell of a lot easier and life here on Earth a hell of a lot less complicated for the average Homo sapiens."

Fraser studied the object. It had a jewel-like object at the top, and three digital displays on one side. He saw Jay make some fine adjustments to each of the displays and then put his sunshades on.

Elle explained further. "It's a device that enables us to erase memories and replace them with plausibly deniable stories." She, like Jay, now had a pair of sunglasses in her hand; she carefully placed the glasses over her eyes. The resulting effect was to transform the undeniably lovely woman into a cool, remote observer.

"You did say," Fraser reminded them, "that I wouldn't remember any of this. But what is the point? I mean, why go through all of this only to render my memories moot?"

Jay removed his shades. Brown eyes looked candidly into blue. After a few moments, the MiB agent sighed and said, "You are one damn fine cop, Constable Benton Fraser. Look, we know there's no way you're gonna just go back to the Windy City, find out that all kind of weird shit's happened while you were keepin' Canada safe from litterbugs, find a total stranger callin' himself by your friend's name, and not do anything about it. It's the way you are, man. You find a mystery, you just gotta go out and solve it, no matter what. And you do. And we just can't have that, not this time."

"I would never," Fraser said, softly but firmly, "do anything that would put Ray in danger."

Elle said, "We know that, Constable. We also know you're one terrible liar."

"I mean, damn," Jay said, "you couldn't even hang around used car salesmen for a few hours without tellin' the truth. And if you can’t handle lyin’ to them, then how you gonna do lyin’ to regular people?"

Fraser had to admit that the agent was right.

"So we're just gonna make it a bit easier on you," Jay said. He replaced his sunglasses and held the neuralyzer before the Mountie and the wolf. “Smile for the birdie.”

Fraser and Diefenbaker looked up. There was a bright red flash of light, then a popping noise that sounded like an old-fashioned camera flashbulb.

Both man and wolf stood, unblinking, frozen.

"OK, now," Jay said. This was a part he really liked about his job: creating memories. None of that mess-with-their-minds, you-didn’t-see-what-you-saw shit like some agents. No, Jay liked happy thoughts. "Y’all gonna go back to Chicago, things'll be weird, but you'll handle it. Fraser, you're gonna be suspicious of this new guy callin' himself Vecchio, and you're gonna do some investigatin', tryin' to get to get a handle on things, but when the lieutenant there at the 27th fills you in on the situation, you'll let it go, OK?" Jay paused for breath, and looked at his partner.

"What, no happy endings?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.

"I'm gettin' to that, woman," he answered irritably. "OK, now, Fraser, you're gonna relax some. You just too wound-up, too buttoned-up, man. Hell, I mean, play some jokes or get on a stage and sing or look at some ladies or somethin'. Anything. Loosen up some, you understand?" Jay looked at the still-unblinking Mountie and sighed. "Done all I can for him," he told his partner.

"How about the wolf?" Elle asked.

"Your turn."

Elle nodded, knelt and looked the wolf in his unblinking eyes. "OK, Diefenbaker. You go back with the Constable, forget that any of this ever happened, and. . . do whatever it is a wolf does in Chicago."

"That's it? That weak-assed story is it?" Jay asked. Elle contented herself with just a glare out the corner of her eyes. "OK, then," Jay said, resigned, "that's it. Now let's get the hell out of here. All these trees make me nervous."




So the switch was made. Ray Vecchio became Armando Langoustini and Ray Kowalski became Ray Vecchio. After some initial fuss, Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP, adjusted to the change in partners, later displaying some interesting changes of his own.

Dief continued to forage for whatever food he could scrounge.

Irene Zuko, bored with working for the Men in Black, became a designer for a leading international chain of fast-food restaurants, developing toys for kiddie meals.

Al Gore was still thought to be made of wood, but no one really cared.

The alien Armando Langoustini was given a new robotic housing unit and taken to Canada, where he became a writer/producer for a quirky, US-Canadian produced television show.

And anytime someone seemed unduly puzzled with this arrangement, people in plain black suits came out of plain black cars, put on plain black sunglasses, pointed silver pencils at them, and took care of everything.


Hey, y’all got any better reason for season #?