Meg's Mission

By Postcard

Ratings: - R. Humour. Romance. Violence.

Pairings: - Fraser/Thatcher. Thatcher/Male.

Teaser: - Meg is put in charge of some misfit Mounties and has a weekend to turn the 'Mounties from hell', into model members of the RCMP.

Spoilers: - Mask. WATEM. ATQH. RWOB. PS. MOTB. GFTS. COTW.

Warning: - Slight cruelty to animals concerning a fly and at a push, fishes.

Disclaimer: - The Due South characters in this story are not mine and anything else Due South isn't mine either. I do not mean to infringe on copyrights held by any copyright holders for Due South. The story and all of the new characters however are mine (copyright May/July 2000 by Postcard on all original story content.) Please do not reproduce for anything other than personal reading without the written consent of author. This story is not written for profit and the author does not give permission for this story to be reproduced for profit.

Author’s note: - This story is set at the end of COTW, however everyone is still in there previous jobs. TYK to my circle of readers: - Blink, Kiki, Kris, Marybeth and Zzzaney for all of their kind words and encouragement while I wrote this. Oh, and for making me laugh with your comments<BG> I hope that everyone enjoys reading this story and any constructive comments are welcome at

Meg sat staring in disbelief at the dossier on her desk. The thick file in front of her contained personnel information on five of the RCMP's worst. 'The Mounties from hell', as they had been appropriately nick named. The most disgraced and unconventional, unruly mob of un-Mountie like officers that the RCMP had to offer. To Meg's consternation the RCMP had seen fit to choose Meg for the task of turning these 'misfits' into model RCMP officers.

On first opening the file, Meg's initial thought had been that this had to be some kind of sick joke! Surely the RCMP wouldn't do this to her! But to Meg's dismay, several phone calls to Ottawa had confirmed that the RCMP 'were' doing this to her.

Taking a deep breath, Meg flicked through the crammed file once more and a feeling of absolute dread filled her stomach. She had previously thought that she'd had it rough with Fraser and Turnbull on her staff, but scanning the contents of the file, Meg realised that the problems she'd had with the pair of them were just a 'small drop in the ocean' compared to this bunch. To make matters even worse, Ottawa had decided that Fraser was to assist Meg with her task of turning this rabble into decent RCMP officers. He was to be a kind of 'role model' to them. She was going to have to spend the weekend with him in the middle of nowhere. She honestly didn't know if her hormones could take it! And furthermore, if she messed up with her assignment, he would be a first hand witness. Groaning, Meg slammed the dossier shut and rested her head in her hands.

On entering the Inspector's office, Ben could tell instantly that she was not in a good mood. It was written all over her face and in her slumped posture. Even though Ben was trained in observation skills, it didn't take a police officer to notice that something had irritated the hell out of her and he just prayed that it wasn't due to him. "You wanted to see me Sir?" He anxiously stood to attention in front of her desk.

"Yes, Fraser. I think that you'd better take a seat." She indicated to one of the two chairs on the opposite side of her desk and he obediently sat down. "In fact, you might want to lie down after what I'm about to tell you." Meg leaned back in her leather chair and sighing, she briefly closed her eyes. "I think that I need a strong drink. You don't drink alcohol do you?"

"No Sir."

"Well, I think that maybe now is a good time to start." Startled by her statement, Ben looked across the desk questionably at his Superior Officer.

"We have a mission Fraser." Meg pushed the dossier across the desk towards him. "Take a look at that and then tell me if you'd like me to send Turnbull out for some alcohol!"

Ben picked up the file and began to thoroughly study the contents. Meg watched in morbid amusement as his facial features took on a formidable look. Slowly closing the file, Ben tried to be optimistic. "Yes, it does appear on the surface to be somewhat of a…challenging task. However, I'm sure that we'll be able to satisfactorily accomplish it together."

"I'm glad that you think so Fraser, because this weekend we have to go to Canada and ' satisfactorily accomplish it ' as you put it, otherwise I can forget any further promotion. They are all at the 'last chance saloon' as far as the RCMP is concerned and Ottawa did say that I have the authority to fire any of them if I see fit. But if I do that, it would be like saying to Ottawa that I can't handle my subordinates and that I'm not up to being a Superior Officer! And so somehow and I don't know how, we are going to have to transform these 'Mounties from hell' into recruitment poster type material." Meg shook her head despairingly.

"Oh, and by the way, 'challenging' is definitely a good word Fraser. Take for instance Constable Madison. You've seen his personnel information! I think that 'challenging' is certainly what he is, coupled along with the word 'insane'. Oh, and I think that I'd throw in the words, 'extremely violent' too. Yes, we have a nice 'unstable' Mountie there to contend with."

"I'm sure that he's not as bad as the file infers, Sir!"

Meg raised her eyebrows. "Really! I just rang up his Superior Officer and at the mere mention of Constable Madison, he had to pop a Valium. It appears that he has a certain 'ability' to drive his Superior Officers to nervous breakdowns."

* * * * *

Friday 13th

Dressed in their red serge uniforms, Meg and Ben stood side by side in the 'arrivals lounge' of the airport in Canada. Their plane had been the first to touch down and Meg was now waiting with baited breath for the arrival of her 'charge'. The automatic doors opened and Meg straightened up her body in preparation to meet them. Escorted by Superintendent Gaol, in trooped the 'Mounties from hell'. "Ah, Meg! Nice to see you again!" Waved Meg's Superior Officer.

"Yes, hello Sir. I trust that you had a good flight?"

"With this lot? No, you must be joking! Have you noticed my grey hair? Well, it was black when I got on the flight." The Superintendent glanced over at Ben and smiled. "And this must be Constable Fraser!"

"Yes, a pleasure to meet you Sir." Ben politely held out his hand and the Superintendent amiably shook hands with him.

"I've heard a lot about you, all good of course. I'm pleased to finally get to meet you. I knew your father. He was a good man. I'm glad to see that you have taken after him."

"Thank you kindly Sir." Ben blushed and he bashfully tipped his head slightly to the side. Meg smiled at him. He always looked so adorable to her when he behaved so modestly.

The superintendent turned around to face the Mounties stood behind him. "Right, line up all of you. I'm handing you over to Inspector Thatcher now." The five officers shuffled into a line in front of Meg. The Superintendent leant towards Meg and Ben in a conspiratorial manner. "By the way, that one over there, 'Constable. V. Strange'. He inclined his head to a lanky, broody, shifty looking character. He looked more like a criminal to Meg, than a police officer. "Well, in my opinion, the 'V' stands for 'Very'."

Believing that the Superintendent was making a joke, Meg and Ben smiled and Meg started to laugh. However, noticing the absence of laughter from the Superintendent and taking in his facial features, she quickly ceased laughing. Realising that he wasn't joking and that he was deadly serious, Meg and Ben exchanged ominous glances.

"Well, they're all yours Inspector. And er…good luck. You're going to need it." The Superintendent briskly walked away, leaving Meg in sole charge of the motley crew. Meg stared after him, longing for him to come back and say that this was just a prank.

"My word! If it isn't Meg Thatcher!" Exclaimed one of the 'Mounties from hell'. Meg's attention quickly focused on Constable Madison. "Tie me up and blow me down with a kiss! I didn't know that it was gonna be you who was in charge. Come here sexy legs and give me a hug."

To everyone's astonishment, the six foot five man, who was also built like a body builder, scooped Meg into his arms. Gripping her to him, he kissed her cheek and lifting her easily off her feet, he then spun her around. Putting her back onto her feet again, he grinned at her. Meg scowled back at him.

"Get off me Madison." Meg prised herself out of his arms and pushed him away.

"What's wrong Meg? Surely you remember me? We dated for long enough."

"It's Inspector Thatcher and yes, of course I remember you."

Shocked by the revelation, Ben looked over at Meg. He wondered why she hadn't mentioned this to him before when they had gone over the dossier! She noticed him looking at her and embarrassed, she blushed to a shade of dark pink.

"Oh! It's like that is it! Inspector." Judging the body language between Meg and Ben and the look on Ben face, Madison smirked. "Ah! I get it. You're dating this guy." He gestured to Ben. "That's why you're touchy about me hugging you. Sorry dude, I didn't know that you were Meg's plaything."

Meg's mouth dropped open and Ben was speechless. "I am not dating Constable Fraser. I don't want you touching me because I am no longer dating you. In case you hadn't noticed, I am the Superior Officer here and if you want to stay in the RCMP, I suggest that you treat me like one and show me some respect."

"Sorreee Sir. I have one question though."

"And that is?"

"Which do you want me to do, treat you like a Superior Officer or show you some respect?" Meg glared at him. "Well, I'm happy to see you, even if you're not pleased to see me Meg, erm, Sir."

Meg sighed. "I never said that I wasn't pleased to see you."

"Good. Hey, it's the thirteenth today, right?" Meg knew what was coming and she slowly nodded her head. "I haven't forgotten you know. Happy birthday Meg."

"It's your birthday Sir?" Ben asked her in surprise.


"Happy birthday Sir." He smiled widely at her and she returned the smile.

"Thank you Fraser."

"Why didn't you say something though?" Ben asked. He felt awkward because, not knowing that it was her birthday he hadn't got her a card, let alone a present. He was also a little hurt that she hadn't told him. He liked to think of her, as one of his friends, not just his Superior Officer and he would have liked to have bought her a gift.

Meg shrugged her shoulders in reply and changed the subject. "Anyhow, getting back to the task at hand. I'm Inspector Thatcher and this is Constable Fraser. As you probably all know by now, you have this weekend to prove yourselves worthy of remaining in the RCMP, to Constable Fraser and I. We've established that I already know Constable Madison, however, Constable Fraser, I'm sure that you remember Sergeant Thorne!"

"Yes Sir." Ben nodded and cordially smiled at Sam Thorne.

"Hello Meg, Fraser," Thorne greeted them heartily. "I still don't understand why I'm on this…this whatever it is. They said something about my leadership style being too militarism. But what's wrong with that? These weaklings need a good kick up the backside at times."

Meg looked at Ben and rolled her eyes. Meg chose not to comment on what Thorne had said. "If you've all got your luggage, let's get cracking because we have a long horse-ride ahead of us."

"Erm, Sir if you don't mind, would you excuse me for a moment? I have something that I need to do. It won't take a few minutes," Ben asked Meg.

Meg sighed in exasperation. She seemed to be doing a lot of sighing recently! "All right. Go on then," she conceded. "But hurry up." She wondered what the heck it was that he 'needed to do!' But knowing Fraser, it was best not to ask unless she wanted an hour-long explanation and quite frankly, she really didn't have the time for that.

"Thank you Sir." While Ben quickly walked off, Meg scrutinised the other Mounties. Apart from Madison, Strange and Thorne, there were Constables Miller and Wicker. Wicker was the other female officer and the dossier had mentioned that she was a 'basket case'. On outward appearance, she looked normal enough. She was around Meg's height, but with long wavy red hair and green eyes. She emitted no signs of instability, but still, one could never tell! Appearances could be deceiving!

Miller on the other hand looked rum. He had that naughty schoolboy look about him. The dossier clearly indicated that he was a six-year-old in the body of a twenty-six year old. Disgraced and unruly were the categories he came under. He was here because of an 'incident' that occurred during an Embassy dinner in London. He had apparently done the 'Full Monty' on a dining table in Canada House while under the influence of alcohol.

* * * * *

Meg dropped her bags onto the hard wooden floor of the cabin and surveyed the sparse room. In Meg's opinion it was a 'hell-hole'. It reminded her of the accommodation or 'lack' of accommodation on basic training. The small room she was stood in served as a kitchen, living and dining area. It had a log fireplace on the far right hand-side wall, and a sink and stove against the far left hand-side wall. A circular table was positioned in the centre of the room and Meg noted that around the table where only four chairs. That constituted the furnishings and amenities; there was nothing more.

She inwardly groaned. Even though she loved her country, at the same time, she hated the cold, isolated, northern most tip of Canada. She much preferred the more civilised regions. Taking a deep breath, Meg turned to face her subordinates. "Right, you can call this…" she gesticulated with her arms. "This…shack, the 'last chance saloon'." She felt so downhearted that she didn't even bother to hide her detests for the place.

Ben glanced over at Meg. She really wasn't getting into the spirit of things! He knew that she disliked the far north of Canada and that she was much more at home in a city, but he had hoped that she would take to the area once she was here. Although, mulling it over, he thought that it was probably not entirely the area that she didn't like! The task at hand and the people present, hopefully not including himself, were more than likely reasons why she wasn't in the best of moods! And being assigned to this particular mission on your birthday must be a disappointment too!

"Ooooh! How about 'the love shack'? I'd much rather call it that," Miller rascally grinned at Thatcher. Meg promptly rolled her eyes at him and irked, she shook her head.

Madison let out a splutter of laughter. "Oh, I'm sure Meg…er Inspector Thatcher and I can turn this place into a 'love shack'! Eh, Sir?"

Disgusted, Meg gave Madison a long cold look that told him 'no love would be coming his way'. Meg slowly walked towards him and came to a standstill only an inch from his face. She then spoke in a low, chilly tone to him. "For your own good I suggest that you shut up Madison. This is a remote dangerous place, accidents can happen." Meg finished her 'friendly' warning by flashing him a nasty smile.

She deliberately turned around quickly so that her shoulder length hair slapped him in the face. 'WHAP'. Hearing Madison's outcry of "Oomph", Meg couldn't help but to feel a certain amount of satisfaction. Head held high; she walked back to stand beside Fraser.

Ben looked at Meg with concern. He knew that it must be very difficult for her to have a former boyfriend under her command and Ben hated just standing by while Madison made his innuendoes. He wondered if he should have a private word with Madison about speaking to Meg more respectfully, however, he wasn't sure if Meg would appreciate that or not! Ben cared about Meg a great deal and he wanted to protect her, but she was such an independent woman that he didn’t want to annoy or offend her by standing up for her.

She had started talking again and so he centred his attention once more on what she was saying. "If you want to stay in the RCMP you'd better behave yourselves this weekend, because this is your last chance to prove yourselves one way or the other. If you mess up, you're off the force. It's as simple as that. If any of you don't want to stay in the RCMP, then feel free to walk out of that door right now."

She paused for a few moments and looked at each of the five 'misfits'. None of them made a move for the door. "In that case, just follow my orders and we should get along nicely!" Meg smiled self-importantly at them.

"Follow me all of you and let's explore the rest of the…cabin." Meg picked up her bags and headed past the dining table that was directly in front of her and through the door beyond. She stepped into a tiny square space that had only enough room in it to fit two people. Ben being the person directly behind her was the only one who could squeeze into the space. It had two doors leading off from it. Pushing open the door to her left she discovered the…well…she supposed that you could call it a lavatory! It had something that resembled a toilet in the room and a sink, but no bath or shower. Meg shuddered. It brought back unpleasant memories of the time she'd taken a bath at Sergeant Frobisher's outpost. And that was an experience that Meg definitely did not want to go through again.

Seeing the expression of loathing on Meg's face, Ben couldn't help but to feel sorry for her. He wanted to cheer her up and for her to enjoy her birthday, even though she was clearly somewhere she didn't want to be. He wanted to make her birthday special. That's why at the airport he had slipped off with Dief. He had gone to take a look around the airport shops, in search of an appropriate card and present to buy her. And to his delight he had found just the right gift for her. He was planning on giving it to her later on this evening.

"It's not really that bad Sir," he spoke close to her ear. The look he received from her told him more than any words could and he gulped. "Granted the amenities could be slightly better, but at least we have the essentials!"

"Slightly better? Nuns have better amenities than this and they took a vow of poverty. And as to essentials, what about a bath or shower? What are we meant to do?"

Ben cracked his neck and pulled on his right earlobe. "Well, when we were settling the horses into the stable I did notice a trough. We could use that!"

Meg's eyes went wide. "A TROUGH! You expect me to take a bath in a TROUGH? Are you INSANE?"

"Not that I'm aware of. However, there was an incident in my family with my Uncle Tiberius and a cabbage, and so it is possible that insanity could have been passed down the line! Although, it is assumed that that was just a 'freak accident', and so I highly doubt that insanity does run in the family and that I am insane."

Meg slowly shook her head in wonder at him. The workings of this man's brain completely baffled her at times. What with Turnbull, Fraser and the 'Mounties from hell', Meg was beginning to question if normality really did exist!

"As to the amenities or 'lack' of them Sir, remember, it's only for a weekend," Ben reminded. He was trying his best to get her to look on the bright side.

She let out a deep sigh. "Yes, I suppose you're right!" Meg conceded as she wearily closed the door.

Pushing open the door to her right revealed a tiny box-like room. Meg deduced that it was supposed to pass for a bedroom, as it contained a bed but nothing more. Meg dumped her bags on the bed and accompanied by Fraser, rejoined the rest of the Mounites who were gathered around the door by the dining table in the main room.

"Well, it looks as if you'll all be sleeping on the floor in here. There's only one bed and as the Superior Officer I'll be sleeping in that. You've all got your sleeping bags and so you can lay them down by the log fire. Just be careful to make sure that you don't set yourselves alight. And I'm warning you all, there'd better not be any 'funny business' understood?"

They all nodded their heads and she was greeted with a mixture of 'yes Sir's' and 'yes, ma'am'. "Good. It better had be understood."

Now that she had inspected the shack, Meg decided that it was time to deal with the next objective and she looked over at Thorne. This was not going to be an easy task, but for everyone's safety, it had to be done. "Erm, Constable Fraser might I have a quick word?" Meg beckoned Fraser back into the 'space'.

"Of course Sir."

Ben followed Meg into the 'space'. Glancing over Fraser's shoulder Meg noticed that the 'Mounties from hell' were all craning their necks to see what was going on, and so squeezing past Fraser, Meg pulled the door closed.

She turned back around to face Fraser. "I think the next matter we should attend to is Sergeant Thorne."

"Yes, I think that's a good idea Sir."

"It most definitely isn't going to be easy though. She isn't going to like it one bit."

"I agree, it could be…tricky."

"That's one way of putting it! She is not going to like us going through her belongings. Her official report says 'BTC', 'Big Time Crazy'. Her weapons are like children to her; she'll kick up one almighty fuss when we confiscate them. I've been thinking about the best way to…detach her from her weapons and the only thing that I can think of is that we frisk her first and then search her luggage. That way, if she turns violent when we go through her belongings we should be safe enough, because we've removed the weapons that are on her person!"

Ben nodded in agreement. "That sounds like a good plan to me Sir."

"Thank you Fraser." Meg smiled in a proud manner at him. She liked impressing him and she always got a warm rush run through her body whenever he praised her.

They both stood there in silence for a few moments, just looking at each other. Even though it was so cold, squashed up against one another in the 'space' was making their temperatures rise. Ben wanted to reach out and touch her cheek.

It must have been the close proximity of her because, before he realised what he was doing, his right hand was lightly stroking her left cheek. Meg couldn't resist the impulse and leaned her face into his hand. His gentle touch was so soothing that she closed her eyes. Looking at her with her eyes closed, Ben thought that she looked so sweet and he was drawn to place a light kiss on her forehead.

Feeling him kiss her tenderly on the forehead, she smiled and nuzzled his hand. Opening her eyes, she looked into his and they both began to move their heads towards each other.

Somebody hammering on the door broke the mood. Startled, they jumped apart, in doing so Meg promptly banged into the door and Ben into the wall.

"What are you two doing in there?" Madison shouted to them. "Or shouldn't I ask, eh Meg?" They both heard him snigger. "You sound like you're doing a bit of 'banging'?" He started to laugh and they both cringed at his insinuation.

Meg composed herself and spoke to Fraser in a business tone. "We've got a job to do. Come on." She turned around to face the door and hand on the doorknob; she stopped. To Ben's pleasant surprise, she spun back around to face him again and kissed him quickly on the cheek. She saw his face brake into a huge smile before she turned around once more and opened the door.

She was instantly confronted with Madison doing an impression of a hyena. "Did you enjoy 'banging' into Meg, Fraser?" Madison spluttered out between bursts of laughter.

Fraser blushed to scarlet and to Meg's horror he wore a guilty expression on his face. Considering that Fraser looked so guilty when they had only pecked each other on the cheek and forehead, Meg was thankful that they hadn't kissed full on the lips, like they had on the train.

At that moment, Meg didn't know which man she wanted to hit the most, Madison for 'taking the Mic', or Fraser for looking guilty when they hadn't really done anything. If they were on their own, she would most definitely have chewed Fraser out.

Meg mentally kicked herself for what had happened in the 'space'. It was stupid of her to have got herself into that kind of a close position with Fraser. She would have to make sure that she didn't let herself get trapped in such close quarters with him again, otherwise, who knows what might happen!

"Ha! So you really DID 'bang' her!" Madison carried on with his ribbing of them.

"No, we did NOT. Now, put a sock in it Madison," Meg scolded. "And it's 'Sir', 'ma'am' or 'Inspector' to you. From now on, if I hear you calling me by anything else I'll punish you for it. Understood?"

"Yes, Sir. Loud and clear Sir." He smiled roguishly at her. "Does 'punishment' include handcuffs? Because I know how good you are with handcuffs."

Meg's face turned beetroot and nobody was quite sure whether it was from anger or perhaps embarrassment from him hitting on the truth! Either way, she looked ready to kill Madison. "Do you know how close I am to firing you?"

Madison looked at Meg cockily. "You wouldn't dare fire me."

"Wouldn't I?" Her words came out in a hiss, between clenched teeth.

"You won't fire me. You'd better not do anyway, otherwise…" Madison looked menacingly at Meg.

"Otherwise what?" Meg's chocolate eyes dangerously flashed green.

"Well, let's just say that you'll regret it if you do," Madison sneered.

"Oh, really!"

From past experience, Ben spotted the 'Meg Thatcher danger signs' and tried to calm the situation down. "Sir, I think that Constable Madison really does believe you when you say that you will 'fire' him. And Furthermore, I also think that he deeply regrets his comments, isn't that right Constable Madison?"

Ben looked imploringly at Madison to take the 'life-line' that he had offered to him. Madison quickly glanced from Ben to Meg. Ben apprehensively watched as Madison weighed Meg up before to Ben's relief, coming to the decision, "Erm…yes, that's right."

"Good," Ben said and smiled around at them both. His smile lingered on Meg and he was hoping that she would return his smile, but she only looked at him with a hard expression on her face. He inwardly sighed. He hoped that he hadn't 'blown it' with her again! Ben knew that she was angry with Madison for teasing them, but he couldn't understand why she would be annoyed at him as well! He supposed that it could be because he had initiated further 'contact'! However, she had not exactly shied away from it! So Ben was slightly baffled to say the least, at why she was acting aloof with him.

He willed her to smile at him. Ben always delighted in seeing Meg smile. In particular, when he was the cause of her smile, which to be honest, wasn't very often. He wished that she would smile more frequently. She looked even more attractive to him when she smiled. Ben cleared his throat. "I'm glad that…misunderstanding is sorted out. Shall we deal with the 'matter' we were discussing Sir?"

"In a moment Fraser. I want an apology first from Constable Madison." Meg looked expectantly at Madison.

"You're joking, right?" Madison let out a short laugh.

"Do I look like I'm joking!"

"Actually 'no'. That's what makes it so pathetic, that you're being so petty. But if an apology is what you want to get you off my back, then an apology it is then. I'm sorry. Satisfied?"

It was obvious to Ben that Meg was not 'satisfied'. Far from it, in fact, she looked about ready to do serious damage to some of Madison's vital organs. Ben placed his hand on Meg's arm in a cautionary manner and spoke to her in a low tone. "He's not worth it Sir."

Meg took a deep breath and looked at Fraser. "Yes, you're right." She nodded. "Let's deal with the next objective now!" Meg then turned her back on Ben, to face Thorne.

Meg spoke to Thorne in a pleasant, coaxing voice. "Er, Sergeant…I see that you're wearing your sword! Would you kindly hand it over to me!"

"Why?" Thorne eyed Meg suspiciously.

"Erm…why!" Meg stalled for time, trying to think of a reason. "Well, I'd…erm…just like to take a close look at it."

Thorne was dubious. "You would? You've never been interested in my sword before."

"I think that Inspector Thatcher would like to compare it to the sword that she bought me for Christmas, isn't that right Sir?" Fraser offered helpfully.

"Er, yes. Yes that's right." Even though Meg was still irritated at Ben, she smiled gratefully at him. She had no idea of the amount of happiness that small smile brought to Ben.

"Oh! In that case, here you go then." With one swift movement, Thorne pulled the sword out of the scabbard. 'WHOOSH'.

Strange and Wicker, who were stood nearest to Thorne, came very close to being beheaded and ducked in fright.

Meanwhile, Meg and Ben were approaching Thorne and they both jumped back in alarm. Meg instinctively grabbed hold of Ben's left arm to steady her. At the same time, Ben reached his other arm out across the front of her waist, to grip her side. It was an attempt to pull her forward again to steady her, but resulted in pulling her closely up against him.

His action caused Meg's free hand to fly around the back of his neck and to their complete embarrassment; they ended up standing in an embrace. They momentarily looked into each other's eyes, before Meg gave him a harsh look whilst letting go of him, and he in turn released his hold on her.

Observing them both, Madison smirked. It was so obvious to him that the pair of them had the 'hot's' for each other. He nudged Miller, who was standing at the side of him and whispered, "did you by any chance happen to bring any alcohol with you?" Miller nodded and Madison grinned knavishly. "Good. I think that we can have a little fun with those two tonight!"

Thorne took a step towards Meg. "I have to say Meg, Sir, what an excellent choice of a present, buying Fraser a sword!" Thorne looked approvingly at Meg and pointed the sword, blade first, in her direction.

Meg gulped and held her breath as the tip of Thorne's sword trailed along the front of her red serge. Unconsciously, Meg's hand found Ben's left arm again and took hold of it in an iron grip. Her hold on his arm was so tight that it was beginning to cut his circulation off, and Ben thought that he'd better act quickly before she did. With his right hand, Ben slowly and carefully moved the blade away from Meg. As he did so, he felt Meg relax and she released her 'death grip' on his arm.

Thorne looked over at Fraser and sternly asked, "why aren't you wearing the sword though Constable?" She expertly swung the sword around, bringing the tip to rest underneath his chin. The blade was so dangerously near to his skin that Ben didn't even dare to nervously gulp. His sentry duty postings came in very handy at that moment, as he stood as still as he possibly could.

Fearful for Ben's safety, Meg watched Thorne like a hawk and her hand covered her gun; just incase. In Meg's opinion the official report was spot on, Thorne was 'BTC', she was acting like a renegade Musketeer.

"I…erm, like to save it for special occasions," Ben managed to utter without getting his skin pierced.

"Ah! I see." To everyone's relief, Thorne pointed the sword at the floor and thrusting her arm out, she handed the sword over to Meg.

Meg cautiously took the sword from Thorne. Pretending to admire the sword, Meg discreetly motioned for Fraser to go around the back of Thorne. Like wolves circling there pray, Fraser and Thatcher slowly approached Thorne from the front and back. Now that the sword was safely out of harms way, it was time to frisk her for any other weapons.

With a slight tip of her head, Meg signalled for Fraser to frisk Thorne. Apologetically saying, "please excuse me," Ben placed his hands on either side of Thorne's wide frame and began to frisk her.

"WHAT THE BLAZES DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" Thorne yelled. Elbowing Fraser off her, she turned around and kneed him good and proper in the groin.

Meg cringed, as gasping; Ben doubled over in agony. The other Mounties erupted into laughter and Madison whooped and clapped his hands in sadistic delight.

Thorne stood with her hands on her hips, looking down at Ben, who was doubled over on his knees on the floor. "You little pervert. That'll teach you to put your dirty mittens on me."

Meg quickly moved to Ben's side. "Are you all right?" Ben couldn't speak; he just nodded his head 'yes'. Meg could tell that he was trying to put a brave face on and that he was far from all right.

At the same time, Dief arched his back and started to growl at Thorne, causing Thorne to back away from Fraser. Dief then filled the gap Thorne had vacated, by standing protectively in front of Ben.

Meg was livid at Thorne. "How could you do that to him? I should arrest you for GBH. I think you certainly owe him an apology."

"I do not," Thorne spoke defiantly. "The little turd tried to touch me up."

"He did not. Constable Fraser would never do anything like that." Ben was quite touched by Meg's high opinion of him and her defending him. "I asked him to frisk you, to see if you had any weapons on you. That's all he was trying to do."

"But why?" Thorne asked.

"Because I was given explicit instructions to check for any weapons that you might have and to remove them from your possession. So, you can either co-operate and we'll do it the easy way! Or if you chose to carry on assaulting people, we can do it the hard way! It's entirely up to you. "

Thorne's jaw set in a hard line. "And why are my weapons to be confiscated like a naughty cadet? I'm a Sergeant for goodness sake!"

"You really want to know why?" Meg ventured.

Thorne nodded. "Yes. I have a right to know."

"Okay then. Here's why. Ottawa believe that you have forgotten that the RCMP is a police organisation, not the military. Headquarters have said that you 'need to use less force and concentrate on police skills, not building an armed force'. You are considered somewhat…dangerous. Therefor, I am to remove all of your weapons for the weekend, and we're to see how you go on without them!"

"WHAT? The cheek of those toads in Ottawa! I am not dangerous. You want to take ALL of my weapons? NO WAY. Can't I at least keep one of my guns?"

"No. I'm afraid not. You have to go 'cold turkey.'"

"We're allowed to carry weapons, so WHY CAN'T I?"

"Believe it or not, you cannot go around carrying an arsenal of weapons and using them on fellow officers and the general public."

"I have only ever used them on people when I thought that it was necessary," Thorne spoke defensively.

"Oh really! And what about the 'incident'? Was that necessary?"

Thorne looked sheepishly at Meg and tipped her head to one side. "They deserved it," Thorne spoke stubbornly. Meg shook her head in amazement.

"What 'incident'?" Miller asked.

"Yeah, what 'incident'?" Madison chirped in.

"Erm…never mind," Thatcher and Thorne quickly said in unison.

Meg was just about to check how Fraser was doing, when Thorne started to get argumentative again. "I still don't understand why you have to take all of my weapons!"

Meg had had enough of trying to cushion Thorne. "Let me put it a simpler way. In layman's terms. You exhibit signs of…instability. Your official report says, 'BTC', 'Big Time Crazy'. Ottawa think you're crazy. I think you're crazy. Constable Fraser thinks you're crazy and in my opinion he definitely has every right to think you're crazy now. Basically, everyone that has ever come across you, even if they're only in your vacinity for a matter of seconds, thinks you're crazy. Now do you understand?"

Ben cringed at Meg's lack of tact. It was so unlike Meg, that it was obvious to Ben that she must have had enough of Thorne. Meg most definitely had got straight to the point! In his opinion, he doubted that she could have put it any 'simpler' than she had done!

Thorne scrunched her face up and looked rancorously at Meg. "Just because I happen to believe that the RCMP should be a strong naval power and that there is a threat of invasion from the United States, does not make me crazy."

Meg sighed and rolled her eyes in exasperation. "I'd say that's a matter of opinion! As I've told you before, 'we have a special relationship with the United States'." Thorne began to open her mouth to begin to rant and rave again, and Meg held her hand up in a gesture to cut her off. "That's enough Sergeant."

Meg turned her attention back to Fraser. Bending over him, she rubbed Ben's shoulders to comfort him. " I didn't anticipate her…well, doing what she did. I'm really sorry about that Fraser."

"It's quite all right Sir. You're not to blame."

Building up the courage to ask the delicate question, Meg nervously bit her bottom lip and then leant towards his ear. "Fraser…"

"Yes Sir?"

"Fraser…do you need some…some medical attention?"

"Thank you kindly Sir, however I don't think that's required. I'm quite all right now." Ben started to stand up and Meg was quick to assist him onto his feet.

"Erm, sorry about earlier constable," Thorne apologised; slightly embarrassed.

"It's all right. Never mind. You weren't to know," Fraser chivalrously brushed it off.

"No hard feelings!" Thorne offered Fraser her hand to shake. However, Dief was not so forgiving and snarled at Thorne as she stretched out her hand in Ben's direction.

"Dief stop it. Dief…now, Dief, behave yourself," Ben wagged his index finger at Dief. The wolf looked at Ben and muttered something that only Ben could translate. "Dief! That is not a very nice thing to say. Where ever did you learn such a thing? I ought to wash your mouth out with soap and water. I would thank you kindly not refer to anyone in such a…a disrespectful way again. Sergeant Thorne did not mean to hurt me; it was all a misunderstanding that's all. Now stop embarrassing me and conduct yourself in more of a civilised manner." The wolf ducked his head in a shameful manner.

Ben reached out and shook Thorne's hand. "No hard feelings Sergeant."

"Fraser, would you like me to finish frisking Sergeant Thorne?" Meg considerately asked.

Fraser looked at Thorne and hesitated before answering. "No. That won't be necessary. I can manage." Ben warily approached Thorne. It was like a Matador approaching a bull. Except, instead of holding a red cloth, dressed in his red uniform, Ben was the human version. He feared that at any moment, she might charge at him and flatten him. The handshake clearly hadn't sorted matters out. Every step Ben took towards Thorne, she side stepped away from him, their eyes remaining locked at all times.

"Sergeant, stand still and behave yourself. Or do I have to use force?" Meg threatened.

Ben wondered what kind of force Meg had in mind! Sedation would probably be a good idea. However, the way Thorne was acting, Ben thought that they'd probably need a tranquilliser that one uses on a horse or an elephant to knock Thorne out long enough to disarm her!

To Ben's relief, Thorne started to co-operate and she stood still. Starting at the top, Ben began to frisk Thorne. First he took off her Stetson. On a close inspection, tucked underneath the lining, he found a Swiss-Army Knife. He handed it over to Meg, who catalogued it. Meg then dropped it into a large metal container that Ottawa had given her especially for the task of storing Thorne's weapons in. To lock the weapons securely away, the container had a code padlock that only Meg knew the combination to.

Upon frisking Thorne's chest area, Ben's hands hit on numerous solid objects. "Er…Sir, would you!" He indicated for Thatcher to undo Thorne's red serge to obtain the objects.

"Constable Wicker, Fraser seems to have located some weapons, would you retrieve them for him!"

"Yes ma'am." On undoing Thorne's serge, Wicker revealed two switchblades and a miniature handgun, all wedged in various locations. She handed them over to Thatcher.

"I'd check the pockets too," Fraser suggested.

In one of the pockets of Thorne's red serge, Wicker found another switchblade and gave it to Thatcher. Meg and Fraser exchanged glances and Meg rhetorically asked Ben, "how many switchblades does she think she needs?"

Fraser shook his head and then resumed his check for weapons. Moving down Thorne, Fraser ran his hands in turn, along each of her jodhpur-clad legs. 'THUNK'. His hand hit against metal on the right leg of her jodhpurs.

Meg indicated for the men to all turn around, so that their backs were facing Thorne and Wicker then pulled Thorne's jodhpurs down. Strapped to Thorne's thigh was a pistol.

Wicker unstrapped the pistol and placed it into the care of Meg. While Thorne pulled her jodhpurs up and rearranged her uniform, Meg pondered how in the world Thorne would actually manage to get to the pistol in time to shoot an assailant! In Meg's opinion, it would be too late by the time you'd got you jodhpurs down.

"Now then Sergeant, Constable Fraser and I need to examine your luggage for weapons." Meg thought that it was best to explain first this time.

Thorne started to 'kick off' again. "NO. That's private. It's been degrading enough having these pipsqueaks frisk me and take me weapons off me. I'll not let you go through my luggage as well." Thorne stood by her luggage like a guard dog with rabies.

Meg tried to reason with Thorne. "Sergeant, don't make this even harder on yourself. Just co-operate. Constable Fraser and I are going to do it anyway, so you might as well just step aside and let us. You don't want us to have to physically restrain you, do you? That would be even more degrading for you. If you want to maintain your dignity, then please step aside."

Meg's words must have poured oil onto Thorne's mental cogs because, grudgingly, she moved away from her luggage.

It took both of Meg and Ben to lug Thorne's bag onto the round table to get a better look at the contents. That was a bad idea, because as soon as they placed the bag on the table, there was a loud creaking noise. To everyone's horror, the table legs started to give way. While the other's watched with baited breath, Fraser and Meg tired to pull the bag off the table. They were too late. The table collapsed under the weight of Thorne's bag.

"Great! Just great! It was bad enough that we didn't have decent amenities in the first place, but now, we haven't got a table as well. What's going to happen next! This place is falling to pieces. Is the sink going to come off in my hands and land on my feet?" Meg sarcastically screeched to no one in particular. She didn't know if it was being in the company of so many abnormal people or not, but Meg felt that she was gradually beginning to lose the plot herself. She could feel the stress inside of her building up to exploding point.

The Mounties around her all raised their eyebrows and exchanged glances that said, 'whoa! She's flipping like a pancake'. Meg noticed and embarrassed at her unprofessional outburst; she flushed to deep pink. Clearing her throat, she hastily ordered, "well, all of you, don't just stand there gawking like observers at a crash scene. Find the bag."

Searching amongst the rubble of the table, Ben located Thorne's bag. Between them both, Meg and Ben began to go through the contents. The pair of them extracted three hand-grenades (thankfully with the pins still in them), a mortar and countless deadly knives. It was like Mary Poppins' bag.

Meg cautiously delved into the 'lucky bag' again and prayed that she would be lucky enough to bring her hand out in one piece. Pulling her hand safely out, Meg gawped in disbelief at the Heckler and Koch VP-70 pistol, with a butt attachment that had a 'burst-fire' facility, which allowed it to function as a submachine gun.

Looking over Meg's shoulder, Madison whistled in appreciation of the pistol. "Nice firepower!"

Ben's next excavation into the 'lucky bag' was even more surprising. To the entire rooms complete astonishment, he retrieved a PIAT (Projectile Infantry Anti Tank,) which the military use for blowing up tanks. They all stared dumbfounded at it. What in the world did she think that she needed one of them for?

In fact, there were no clothes in the large bag. It was just full to the brim with weapons. Thorne's eyes glinted in a crazed fashion at the sight of all of her cherished weapons. Before Thorne made a dive for her weapons, Meg quickly, but at the same time extremely carefully, placed all of the weapons in the metal container and securely locked it.

"Right, it's late and we're all going to be up bright and early in the morning, so start to lay your sleeping bags out," Meg instructed. "Fraser, Madison, can you give me a hand with this!" Meg gestured to the metal container.

"Certainly Sir," Fraser obliged.

"Still need my body, eh Meg, Sir?" Madison grinned at her.

Meg noted that he had once again used her first name. But as he had corrected it to 'Sir', she decided to let the usage of her first name slide this time. Instead, Meg shot back with, "only in your dreams Madison."

With the help of Fraser and Madison, Meg carried the container into her bedroom and placed it onto the wooden floor.

"Dismissed," Meg told them.

Fraser turned to leave the room, but Madison stayed put. "Are you sure Sir?" Madison asked her.

Puzzled, Meg asked, "I beg your pardon? Am I sure about what?"

"About me leaving the room!" He nodded to the bed. " I'm told that the nights up here can get pretty chilly. There's just about enough room for the two of us in there if we snuggle up. So how about we 'cosy on up' and spend the night together! I'll give you a birthday 'present', if you know what I mean!"

Exiting the room, Fraser heard Madison and disgusted at him; Ben froze in his tracks. Turning around to look at Meg, Ben saw that she was knocked for six at Madison's proposal. Her mouth was gaping open and she looked at a loss for words.

The state of being 'lost for words' didn't last long though. She was seething. Ben was about to step in and have a word with Madison about 'respect,' when a deluge of words spurted from her mouth. "Not a cat in hell's chance, you slimeball. I was young, naive and obviously blind stupid to have ever dated you. And if you even think that I'm going down that road again you're sorely mistaken. I'm your Superior Officer here and just you remember it from now on, otherwise I will fire you. Now, I suggest that you get out of the room before I unlock the container and use every one of Thorne's weapons on you," Meg furiously advised.

If Fraser hadn't have been there Meg would have verbally hit Madison with a torrent of abusive swear words. However, Meg didn't want to show herself up in front of Fraser and so with great difficulty she restrained herself.

Madison sneered at her. "I'd like to see you try and use a weapon on me. I'd have it off you before you knew it."

Meg let out a short bitter laugh. "Oh, really! Try me. I can floor you anytime, weapon or no weapon"

"Oh, I like the sound of that. Come on then Sir. See if you can floor me!" Madison swaggered up to Meg. Standing directly in front of her, he beckoned her with his hands as he said, "do your worst."

"Okay. I will."

"Er, Sir, I really don't think that you should…" Ben attempted to persuade her not to take up the challenge.

"You're a witness Fraser, remember, he asked me to do this." Meg bit her bottom lip and without further ado, she took Madison up on his challenge.

Madison was taken completely by surprise. When he had been goading her, he had never dreamt that she would actually do anything to him. Ben gulped and then closed his eyes. He'd seen this particular scene before, when Meg had overpowered the Robert De Niro fan on the train. With two swift movements of her leg, she brought Madison down onto the floor. This time however, she added an expert punch to his ribcage for good measure.

Hearing Madison's body hit the hard wooden floor Fraser opened his eyes. "Oh dear! Is he…?"

"Conscious?" Meg asked and Ben nodded. "No, he's out cold," Meg answered in a self-satisfied way and Ben noted that she looked quite proud of herself.

"Oh dear!" Ben exclaimed for the second time running.

Leaning down, Meg checked Madison's pulse. "Well, he's alive, if that's any consolation to you!" She spoke in a matter of fact voice.

Meg bent down and picked up Madison's Stetson. Striding over Madison's crumpled body, Meg then headed out of the door. "Where are you going Sir?" Ben called after her.

"I'll be back in a minute. Just wait here and if anyone comes, don't let them into my room."

Entering the room that contained the lavatory and sink, Meg went straight over to the sink and placed Madison's Stetson upside down into it. Turning the tap on, she filled his Stetson with ice-cold water. With a wicked smile on her face she turned the tap off, picked up the Stetson, and hurried back to her room.

Back in her room, she stood over Madison with an evil grin the size of Africa on her face. Tipping the hat, she gleefully poured the cold water over his face. As the waterfall of cold water bounced onto his face, he gasped, indicating that he was conscious again. "I can't believe you did that, you stupid cow," Madison yelled at her. "If Fraser wasn't here I'd…"

"You'd what?" Meg caustically asked and crossed her arms in front of her.

Madison scrambled to his feet. Once on his feet, he roughly shoved Meg backwards, so that her back hit the wall. While Meg was temporarily winded, he then pushed his body up against hers, squashing her up against the wall so that she couldn't do any damage with her legs. Grabbing Meg's arms, he held them against her side. Bending his head down, he pushed his nose up against Meg's. "I'd slap you silly."

"Get off me Madison." Trying to free herself, Meg squirmed under his forceful grip.

Fraser was soon at her side. "Leave her alone." He took hold of Madison's arms and tried to pull him off Meg. But Madison was as 'mad as a March hare.' His report had 'hit the nail right on the head' when it had stated that he was 'violent.' Making a 'URRRRRRRRRRRRR' noise, Madison shook his body like a wet dog, throwing Ben off him. Ben went flying across the small room and landed hard against the bed.

Letting go of Meg's left arm, Madison raised his own right arm to slap Meg. Her arm now free, she automatically grabbed his wrist and tautly warned him, "if you hit me you're fired."

Madison glowered at Meg, but yanking his wrist from her restraint, he released his hold on her other arm. His body still squashed against Meg's; Madison turned his upper-body sideways to punch Ben in the face instead.

Meg reached into her holster for her gun. Drawing it out, she shoved it hard against Madison's groin. "Don't even think about hitting him. If you want to keep your genitalia, back away from Fraser and me, NOW."

After what Meg had done to him already, Madison didn't fancy his chances against her pointing a gun at him, especially not in that particular body region and so he obeyed. With his ego and body bruised, Madison pushed past Fraser and out of the room.

"Are you all right Sir?" Ben asked as he pushed himself to his feet. She looked extremely shaken up and was breathing heavily.

"Yes. I can handle him. And you, are you all right?" Meg looked at Ben with concern.

He slowly walked over to her and placed his hand gently on her arm. "There's no need to worry about me. I'm quite all right Sir." He wanted to take her into his arms and hug her. But he didn't, because the last thing he wanted was for her to think that he thought she was weak and resent him for it. "Erm…are you going to fire him?"

Meg started to pace the tiny room. "No, not yet. That's too easy on him. I'm going to make his life a living hell first," Meg spoke heatedly.

"You're probably wondering why I didn't tell you back at the consulate that I knew Madison!" She didn't wait for Fraser to respond she just carried right on. "The truth is that it came as a shock…a nasty shock to come across him again and to find out that he'd joined the RCMP. I had no idea that he'd joined. What was even worse was that I had to spend this weekend here with him."

Sitting down on the bed, Meg looked at her hands in an ashamed manner. "I was also…embarrassed that I had ever been associated with him."

Meg started to speak more to herself than to Ben. "Oh, I hate that man. My parents were right when that particular summer in college they sent me to France, to get me away from him. At the time I was so annoyed at them. But now…now I'm thankful that they did. What a mistake I'd have made if I had married him!"

Realising what she'd just said in front of Fraser, she looked mortified. She looked up at him and saw the, 'ah! I see', expression on his face. "No, you don't see Fraser. I'd better straighten out what I've just said!" She took a deep breath. "My parents didn't send me away because we were going to get married. Madison didn't propose to me. But my parents could see how close we'd become and that it was inevitable that if things continued as they did, we probably would end up married."

She took another deep breath. "He was my first proper boyfriend. I was at that rebellious stage and I couldn't get anyone who lived life more on the edge than Madison! Looking back, I suppose that's what attracted me to him at the time. My parents were not happy with us dating. Especially when my grades began to drop. And so to get me away from him, they gave me the opportunity to go to Paris for the summer. They told me that if I went and still came back with feelings for Madison, then they'd get off my case."

Meg let out of short laugh. "I don't think for one minute that they would have though! Anyhow, the outcome was that I went to the Sorbonne for the summer, had a fabulous time and to my parents relief, while I was there I grew out of Madison."

"You've got nothing to be embarrassed about," Ben kindly told her. Meg didn't say anything; she just resumed intently studying her hands. Ben moved towards the door and stood awkwardly beside it, unsure of whether to leave or not.

Meg made up his mind for him. Standing up, she walked towards him and literally pushed him out of the door. Saying, "dismissed Fraser," she shut him out of the room. She didn't mean to be rude or upset him, but after accidentally revealing far more about herself than she would have liked, she just wanted to be alone.

Disappointed at Meg throwing him out of the room and also concerned about her, Fraser moped back into the main room. Madison was waiting for him. He grabbed hold of Fraser by the lanyard. "Fraser, don't you ever lay a finger on me again or I'll knock your head off. Got it?"

"The same applies to you, if you so much as even try and harm Inspector Thatcher again. Now kindly remove your hands from my uniform."

Madison's eyes bored into Ben's, before finally releasing his grip on him. "Just out of interest, I was wondering, she wouldn't really fire me would she?"

"Oh, yes. I believe that the Inspector would fire you. In fact, I'm positive of that. I'm not generally a betting man but I would bet my last match-stick on it." Ben looked hard at Madison, before walking away.

Ben went over to his rucksack and discreetly took out a small prettily wrapped package. While the others were pre-occupied with arguing about 'where they wanted to lay their sleeping bags', Ben slipped unnoticed out of the main room, towards Inspector Thatcher's bedroom.

He stood outside of her room, in the 'space', summoning up his courage. His keen hearing heard sobbing coming from inside the room. At hearing her upset, sorrow filled his own heart. Cracking his neck, he took a deep breath and tapped lightly on Meg's bedroom door.

"Just a minute," Meg's muffled voice told him. Meg lifted her head up from the pillow and wiping her eyes, she sat up on the bed.

"Come in," Meg's voice instructed him from the other side of the door. Opening the door, Fraser popped his head around, but didn't enter the room. Seeing that it was Fraser, Meg quickly got up off the bed. Subconsciously, she straightened her hair. "What is it Fraser?"

Ben looked at her tear stained face. "Are you all right Sir?"

"Yes. Why wouldn't I be?" Meg spoke harshly to him.

"Erm…I just wondered that's all."

She was touched by his concern for her, but she just wanted him to leave her alone. She knew that it was obvious that she had been crying and she felt like she was about to cry again. The last thing Meg wanted was to be humiliated further by him actually seeing her crying. "Well, I'm fine, so you can go."

"Er…before I go, might I have a private word Sir?"

Meg sighed. "If it's about what just happened with Madison, I'm not really in the mood to talk about it."

"It isn't."

"All right, come in then constable. But hurry up with whatever it is you want to discuss." Fraser stepped inside the room and closed the door behind him. He stood in front of Meg, almost to attention, and she could sense that she was going to have to prod him, otherwise he might take all night to tell her what was on his mind. "Well? What is it Fraser?"

While she waited for him to answer, she noticed that he had his hands behind his back and that he was holding a package. Inquisitively peering around him she asked, "what's that you're holding?"

Fraser brought his hands out from behind his back and held the package out to her. "I…erm…happy birthday Sir."

Meg was totally taken aback. Taking the package from him, she managed to stutter, "I…erm…why, thank you Fraser." Meg sat down on the edge of the bed and untied the red ribbon that was in a bow. Unwrapping the rose pattern paper, Meg unveiled a maroon jewellery box.

Watching her slowly open the jewellery box, Ben heard Meg's sharp intake of breath. Shakily, her fingers picked up the necklace. She carefully held it in between her fingers and he saw her eyes light up as she closely examined it.

It was one of the most exquisite pieces of jewellery that Meg had ever seen, and Meg was a lady who knew her jewellery. The gold necklace had a locket delicately dangling from it; that was in the shape of a heart. A sparkling ruby had been also expertly cut into the shape of a heart and was embedded into the gold of the locket. Turning the locket over in her hands, Meg noticed an inscription on the back. Due to not wearing her glasses, she had to squint to read the inscription 'red suits you'.

"Oh, Fraser it's beautiful. Thank you so much. It was very sweet of you." Getting up off the bed, Meg went over to Ben and kissed his cheek.

Ben blushed to the intense shade of the ruby. "I'm glad you like it."

"'Like it!' I love it." She smiled warmly at him and the warmth from her smile filled his insides. "What makes it even more precious to me is the inscription on the back." Ben blushed even more and Meg's smile widened.

"I…erm, wanted to get you something special," Ben quietly told her.

"Well, you succeeded with flying colours. But you didn't know that it was my birthday until the airport! If you don't mind my asking, where on earth did you find such a perfect gift in such short notice?" As Meg spoke the words, it clicked as to 'where he had found it'.

"Actually, don't tell me. Let me guess. That's what you were up to when you asked to be 'excused' at the airport!" Ben nodded his head. "You really are an extraordinarily thoughtful man Fraser. Thank you, for going to all of that trouble."

"You don't need to thank me Sir, it was my pleasure."

Meg looked at the necklace in her hands. "It must have cost you a fortune though!"

"You're worth it," Ben spoke softly to her. He believed that it was worth every dollar of his to have cheered her up.

Hearing his words, Meg looked up from the necklace and into his eyes. She could see that he had strong feelings for her. Most women probably thought that she was 'nuts' for constantly pushing him away every time he tried to get close to her! During a misunderstanding he'd even offered himself to her, and like a fool, she had not taken him up on it. It wasn't that she didn't want too. Oh, she wanted too all right. It was just that she…well, to be honest, she hadn't a clue why she kept pushing him away.

"Would you like me to…?" Ben gestured to help her try the necklace on. Meg nodded and handing it over to him, she turned around. He gently gathered her hair up, lifting it out of the way. Meg closed her eyes at the feel of his hands in her hair. She moved her hand up to hold her hair on top of her head, while he placed the necklace around her slender neck. Fastening the clasp, his fingers softly brushed against her skin and she felt a tingle go down her spine.

Standing so close to her, Ben could smell her unique scent and it drew him in. Lowering his head, he took a deep breath and inhaled the essence that was Meg. Her scent did things to Ben that no other woman ever had or could. Meg's scent flowed up his nostrils, increasingly drawing him to her. Ben couldn't resist her. He tenderly kissed the exposed part of her neck. As he did so, he could feel her pulse quicken beneath his lips.

Meg closed her eyes as his lips softly placed tiny kisses along her neck. Leaning her body back against his, she felt him encircled his arms around her waist. Letting go of her hair she placed her hands over his, holding his hands to her.

"We shouldn't be doing this Fraser."

"I'm sorry if I did something that you didn't want me to do! I'll let go of you if that's what you want?" He spoke quietly into her ear and then kissed her neck one last time before, just standing there and holding her, waiting for her to make her decision.

She turned around in his arms to face him. "What I want and what we should do, aren't necessarily the same thing."

"So you do want me to hold you?"

"Yes. No. I don't know. But either way, we shouldn't." However, she didn't attempt to move from his arms. Instead she brought her hands up to his shoulders.

Letting his eyes roam her beauty and the necklace, Ben told her; "red really does suit you."

"So you keep telling me." She smiled at him and then bit her bottom lip. "I think that it's best if you get back to the others."

"Okay," Ben relinquished. "But won't you join us in the main room for a birthday celebration? I bought a cake at the airport too."

"You did?" Smiling, Meg shook her head in awe at Ben's generosity and thoughtfulness. "What flavour cake?"

"Chocolate." As he spoke he looked into her eyes. He had been thinking of those beautiful eyes and her dark hair, when he had been deliberating on what kind of cake to buy. Subsequently, that had been the main reason why he had chosen a chocolate cake.

"My favourite." Meg smiled joyfully.

"So you'll join us in the main room?"

"Yes, all right. It sounds better than what I had planned anyway."

"And that was?"

Breaking off their embrace, she walked over to one of her bags and took out a box of chocolates. "I treated myself to these. I was going to sit in bed with my Walkman and listen to some music, whilst working my way through this box of chocolates." She smiled at him and he smiled back, showing his cute dimple. "I could have done with a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows too. But I thought that it wasn't such a good idea to bring any alcohol here! Anyhow, would you like one?" Meg held the chocolates out to him.

He gratefully chose a chocolate from the box. "Thank you kindly."

"Ah! A soft centred man." Meg indicated to the chocolate he had chosen.

Before placing the chocolate into his mouth he asked, "and you Sir? Which is your favourite chocolate?"

"Oh, I'm a hard on the outside, soft on the inside kind of girl," Meg joked.

"I can't disagree with that." They both smiled at each other. "I er, tried to find an appropriate card too. But I'm sorry, what with getting the necklace and cake, I didn't have time to find one that I really thought was suitable."

"Well, that's just not good enough, is it constable?" Meg put on a stern look and folded her arms in front of her chest. Ben gulped and looked contrite at her.

Meg started to laugh. "Relax, I'm only joking Fraser." She playfully patted his chest. "Don't talk silly. You don't need to be sorry for not getting me a card. I'm made up that you got me such a wonderful present."

At the realisation that she was only joking, Ben let out a sigh of relief and a small smile brightened up his face. Meg linked Ben's arm and they both walked into the main room together.

Once inside the room, Meg went to sort out the arguing Mounties, while Ben got out the chocolate cake and placed a tiny candle in the centre. He then lit the candle and held the cake in front of Meg. Ben started the familiar song of 'happy birthday', and the rest of the Mounties managed to stop arguing long enough to all join in and sing 'happy birthday' to her.

"Blow the candle out and make a wish," Ben told her. Holding her hair back with both of her hands, Meg blew out the candle and made a private wish. "Did you make a wish Sir?" Ben asked.


"I hope that your wish comes true then Sir."

She could tell that he sincerely meant it and she smiled cheerfully at him. "So do I Fraser." Meg sat down on one of the four chairs, while Ben placed the cake on the chair next to her and began to cut it into slices. Thorne sat on a third chair and Madison on the fourth. Everyone else had no choice but to sit on the floor.

While Ben cut the cake, Miller grinned over at Madison and said; "I'll get the drinks."

'On the ball,' Meg said, "Non alcoholic I should hope!"

Like a naughty schoolboy, Miller expertly lied, "but of course Sir," whilst putting on his best angelic grin. Going over to his knapsack, he took out two large plastic bottles.

Meanwhile, Madison had got up and was searching the kitchen area for glasses and plates. "Guess what Sir?" He shouted over to Meg.

"What?" After what had occurred earlier in her room, Meg had little patience for Madison and it clearly showed in her voice.

"Well, we've got enough plates, but go on, take a 'stab in the dark' as to what we haven't got enough off!"

"Don't tell me there's not enough glasses!" As if it was his entire fault, Meg looked accusingly at Madison.

Madison shrugged his shoulders in an off-handed way. "Okay I won't then."

"It's okay, we'll just pass the bottles around," suggested Miller.

"Yes, that's the ticket Constable Miller," Fraser spoke brightly. "Good thinking. See, there's no need to worry Sir, we'll mange quite nicely." In an attempt to persuade Thatcher that the lack of glasses wasn't the end of the world, he smiled encouragingly at her.

Meg misconstrued Fraser and so she didn't reciprocate his light-heartedness. To her, he appeared patronising. Instead, she gave him one of her long hard looks. Leaning forward in her chair, towards him, she accompanied 'the look' by quietly, but snappily telling him; "don't you dare patronise me Fraser."

Ben looked perturbed. "That's not what I…I didn't mean to… I'm sorry ma'am if that's what it sounded like. I didn't mean for it to sound…I would never intentionally patronise you; that's the last thing that I would ever do. I'm very sorry if I have offended you."

"Yes, well, don't do it again Fraser. And…apology accepted." Meg sat back in her chair. Hollering across the room she asked Madison, "how many glasses are there?"


Shaking her head, Meg let out an infuriated sigh. "Somehow, that makes sense in this place. Four chairs, four glasses," she surmised. "As the Superior Officer, I'm having one of the glasses and due to rank, so is Sergeant Thorne. And because Fraser isn't here to be punished, he can have one of the glasses too. As far as I care, you can toss a coin as to who gets the last glass."

At her sarcastic suggestion, they tossed a coin and Strange won. Ben finished slicing the cake and handed it fairly around. Ever the gentleman, Ben then offered the chair and his glass to Wicker. "I don't mind drinking out of the bottle or sitting on the floor. In fact, I quite prefer sitting on the floor," he explained to the young female constable.

"Are you sure?" Wicker smiled sweetly at him. Meg felt herself go jealous at the attention Fraser was paying to Wicker and of the way Wicker was looking all 'doe-eyed' at him.

"I'm positive. I'll be more than comfortable on the floor," he reassured Wicker and smiled at her.

Sitting down cross-legged on the floor, Ben glanced over at Meg and saw that she was not looking 'best pleased'. Catching her eye, he smiled warmly at her to try and cheer her up. His smile seemed to do the trick because smiling; she coyly looked down at her cake. Taking a bite she savoured the cake. After swallowing it, she licked her lips. "Ummmmmm. Good choice of cake Fraser. It's delicious."

"Thank you kindly Sir. I'm just glad that you like it," he humbly said. He looked so happy yet uncomfortable at her praising him in front of the others, that she could feel her face creeping into an amused smile.

"What are the drinks?" Meg distrustfully asked Miller.

"Oh! Erm…they're a mixture of all different fruit juices that I like. Kind of like 'Fruit Burst'." He went around the room pouring the drink into the four glasses and then taking an enormous swig, he handed the bottles to Fraser and Madison.

Thirsty from the cake, Ben took a large mouthful of the drink. "What a unique taste! I can detect pineapple, grapefruit, orange, melon, banana and peach. However, there is one that totally escapes me. I can't place it at all."

"Really?" Miller tried to look and sound all innocent.

"Yes." In an attempt to try and figure out what was evading him, Ben sampled the drink again. Swirling it around his mouth like a wine connoisseur, he savoured it, trying to work out the mysterious fruit.

Meg suspiciously sniffed the liquid and then took a small sip. It definitely had a 'unique taste'. It wasn't unpleasant; in fact it was rather nice. But Meg could have sworn that her experienced tastebuds detected a slight trace of alcohol. "Are you sure that this is just fruit juice?"

"Yes, of course."

Meg looked at Miller sceptically. She didn't believe a word of it. But seeing as it was her birthday, she thought 'what the hell'! None of them could really get drunk off the small amount of alcohol she'd detected! Plus, it was rather amusing watching Fraser trying to work out what else was in the drink. With him not being used to alcohol and the strong fruit juice partially hiding the taste of it, she wondered how long it would take for him to discover that it was laced with alcohol! She knew that she should really tell him, but part of her wanted to see if he would 'let his hair down' with a bit of alcohol inside of him! She was exceedingly interested in a Scientist studying a lab-rat kind of way.

"Oh, that's a lovely locket Sir," Wicker commented, bringing Meg out of her thoughts.

Meg held her head up high and fixed Wicker with a snobbish smile. "Thank you. I think so too."

"Have you had it long?" Wicker probed.

Meg wasn't sure whether to tell her that Fraser had just bought it for her! Meg mirthfully thought that it would definitely wipe the smile off the little red haired femme fatal. However, she didn't want to draw undue attention to the kind of relationship between herself and Fraser. Things were beginning to develop nicely, and she didn't want to mess it up by the others teasing him and in turn him going into his shell. "Er, no. A friend bought it for me for my birthday."

While they ate and drank, Strange rummaged through his rucksack. Meg watched as he pulled out a glass jar. The jar had air holes in the lid and there was a piece of string protruding out of the lid. Taking off the lid, Strange took hold of the string and carefully pulled it out of the jar. Meg nearly choked on her cake. She couldn't believe her eyes. Attached to the end of the string, as if on a lead, was a fly.

"What are you doing with that?" Meg gave him a look that told him that she thought he was 'unhinged'. From the expressions on the faces around her, Meg wasn't the only one who thought that too.

"It's my pet. Everybody meet 'Barry the Bluebottle'." Strange then started to feed some of his cake to the fly.

Meg was beginning to understand what Superintendent Gaol had meant when he had said that 'the V stands for very'. Yes, in Meg's opinion, Strange was as mad as a hatter.

Thinking of people who weren't a full shilling, triggered off a question that Meg wanted to ask Miller. "So tell me Constable Miller, whatever possessed you to do the 'Full Monty' at an Embassy dinner? I know that you were drunk at the time, but even so, stripping at an Embassy dinner for goodness sake!"

He grinned impishly at her. "The entertainment didn't show up and so I thought I'd liven things up a bit."

"'Liven things up a bit'!"

"Yes. They were a bunch of boring jerks. The place needed livening up. Do you want me to do a striptease for your birthday? This party could do with a bit of life being brought into it." As he spoke, Miller stood up and swaying his hips, he started to undo his Sam Browne.

"NO, I most certainly do not want you to do anything of the sort. Stop that this instant."

Miller, however, had other ideas. Moving to stand directly in front of Meg, he sexily rotated his hips whilst slowly removing layers of his uniform. Throughout his 'performance' Meg kept ordering him to, 'stop' his 'lewd behaviour', but it was of no use because he just kept on stripping. He resembled a deranged cowboy, the Stetson adding nicely to the picture, as he slung his uniform around like a lasso, before letting go and sending parts of his uniform flying in all directions across the room. Madison, ever the instigator, even gave up his chair for Miller to stand on to do his 'routine'.

Thorne was outraged by the indecent behaviour and jumping to her feet, she waved her right fist at him. " Stop that this instant, you raunchy sod before I…" 'THUNK'. Thorne never got to finish the sentence due to Miller's left boot clobbering her on the head. Seeing stars, Thorne collapsed onto the floor, unconscious.

"Well that's one way to shut the old battleaxe up," Madison cruelly said and then started to laugh.

Jodhpurs being the only remaining part of the uniform still on Miller, he slinkingly slipped them off and all of the 'audiences' mouths dropped open in shock. For, oh no, he didn't reveal white smartly pressed boxers, but a red thong. Getting over the initial shock, Madison burst into laugher and Wicker wolf whistled.

Spurred on by the attention, Miller drew his jodhpurs back and forth between his legs and then dropped them into Meg's lap, saying; "for you Sir, as it's your birthday."

Meg heaved and nearly vomited up the cake she'd just eaten. Grimacing, she picked the jodhpurs up as if they had lurgy on them and tossed them onto the floor.

Meanwhile, Dief was standing on the crumpled mass of Thorne, licking some remnants of cake off her face. Eventually regaining consciousness, Thorne pushed Dief off her. Sitting up, Thorne had a birds eye view of Miller's tackle bulging through the thong. Thorne's eyes went wide and flexing her hand, she lasciviously reached out to grab him. "Ummm. Aren't you a big boy then," Thorne complimented. "Fancy test driving an older woman?"

Miller gagged and kicked Thorne's hand away. "Not on your life. What do you think I am, a Kamikaze! Now if the Inspector was to ask, that would be a different matter," Miller winked at Meg, who made a wry face at him.

"Go on, get em off," Wicker cheered and pointed to Miller's thong.

"He'd better not. Fraser do something," Meg commanded.

Due to the alcohol he had consumed, Fraser was of no use and came out with, "what? Do you want me to strip too Sir?"

"No, I most certainly do not." That was only partly true. She did want him to strip for her, just not in public.

Peeved at Miller's rejection to her advances, Thorne offered; "I'll do something Sir if you want me to? I'll gladly give him a thick ear. The randy little twerp! And if you give me my weapons, I can teach him a lesson he'll never forget!"

"Erm, thank you Sergeant, but that won't be necessary." Meg didn't think that it was wise to let Thorne 'teach Miller a lesson'. It would more than likely only create further problems for Meg to iron out.

Now that Miller was down to only his red thong, Meg gave up trying to order Miller to 'stop' and decided to take action. From where she was sat on the chair next to him, Meg gave one rapid kick from her right leg, bringing his own chair toppling out from under him.

Miller landed with an almighty 'Thump' on his backside. "Now get up and get dressed. And for the rest of this weekend, your clothes had better stay on you at all times. Is that understood?"

Miller rubbed his sore backside. "Yes, Sir. I was only trying to have some fun."

"He's r…right about…bout one thing though Sir," Ben slurred. "This party co…could do with som…something to make it go with a bang and I'm not talking about Sergeant Thorne's weapons," Ben laughed giddily at his bad attempt at a joke.

Turning her attention to Fraser, Meg saw that the bottle in his hands was nearly empty and his cheeks had taken on a rosy glow. He took another large swig from the bottle, draining the last of its contents. "How about a dance Sir?"

Without giving her chance to answer, he jumped to his feet and taking hold of her, he pulled Meg up out of the chair. "Constable, I don't think that…" Putting her plate and glass down on her chair, she placed her hands on his chest to push him away. Dief, who had already had an extra piece of cake, was quick to get to Meg's plate and lick up the crumbs.

"Don't think Sir, just dance." Ben pulled Meg close to him and started to move her around the room, grinding his hips against hers in a sexy Latin dancing fashion.

Meg was beginning to feel really guilty for not telling him that there was alcohol in the drink. "Fraser, behave yourself. This is not proper conduct of a member of the RCMP." Meg tried to sound disapproving, but in actual reality, she was enjoying the feel of him gyrating against her.

Madison and Miller were egging Fraser on and clapping a beat out with their hands and feet. "Go on Fraser. WOO! All right!" Madison laughed.

"Swivel those hips. Yes, that's it. Now, go on, hold her by the ass," Miller wickedly encouraged.

To Meg's pleasant shock, Ben grabbed hold of her backside with both hands and Meg could feel his tackle growing hard against her. She thought that she'd better put a stop to this before he made a total fool out of himself and possibly her too. Reaching around herself, she took his hands off her backside and moved away from him, saying, "that's enough Fraser. You're drunk."

She then turned to scowl at Miller. "Don't think that I don't know that there was alcohol in that fruit juice, because I do. I should fire you for it. Your behaviour has been disgraceful this evening."

"Please Sir, don't," Miller begged. "I didn't mean any harm by it. There wasn't enough in it for anyone to get drunk."

"Maybe not for people who are used to it! But Fraser doesn’t drink alcohol. His systems not used to it. Look at him." Meg gestured with her arms to Fraser. He was frolicking around with Strange. They were both doing something that could only be described as a 'very bad attempt at an Irish jig'.

"Please don't fire me Sir. That's the only alcohol I brought with me. I promise that I'll behave myself from now on," Miller pleaded with her.

Meg looked into his childlike eyes. "Oh, all right. I won't fire you this time. Think yourself lucky that it's my birthday and so I'm in a good mood!"

"Oh, thank you Sir. You won't regret it."

"I'd better not. Otherwise you will too, because I won't give you a second chance," Meg warned. Meg looked at her watch. "It's time for you all to turn in now. Miller, seeing as you got Fraser into this…this state, as a punishment for you, you can calm him down and get him into bed. Good night everyone."

Making her way out of the main room and into the 'space', Meg could hear Fraser singing, "what do we do with a drunken sailor!" She started to laugh as changing the words, Miller piped up with, "what do we do with a drunken Mountie! What do we do with a drunken Mountie! What do we do with a drunken Mountie, before Inspector Thatcher kills us!"

Another voice started to sing, "we could 'put him in the cold water trough, till he's sober! Put him in the cold water trough, till he's sober! ! Put him in the cold water trough, till he's sober, that's what we'll do with the goodie two shoes Mountie!'"

At Madison's evil suggestion, Meg turned around to go back into the main room and intervene before they did anything too cruel to him. However, before she got the opportunity to do so, the door opened and Wicker walked into the space. Meg instantly noticed that something wasn't right with Wicker's mannerism. Scrutinising the female constable, Meg picked up on the change in Wicker. Her hair was dishevelled and her eyes were blazing. She looked like she was in a bit of a trance as she began to come closer to Meg. "Is something the matter constable?"

"Yes, there's 'something the matter.' It's you that's the matter, you little hussy."

"What? How dare you call me that?"

"I'll call you what I like, you tart. Well, I now know how you got to your rank! How many men did you lure into your bed to get to Inspector, floozy?"

Stunned, Meg's mouth gaped open in shock. Wicker couldn't have hurt Meg anymore than if she had slapped her across the face. Meg had got to her rank through pure perseverance and a lot of hard work. She had never once slept with anyone to further her career, even though creeps like Henri Cloutier had propositioned her to.

Meg was furious. "I have no idea where your twisted mind got that rubbish from, and I'm not about to stand here while you insult me. And just for the record, I have never once slept with anyone to further my career." Meg would have liked to have burst Wicker's nose, but instead she just gave Wicker a piercing look before turning around to head into her room.

"Stay away from Fraser. He's mine. Not yours. So keep your hands off him you temptress," Wicker venomously warned Meg.

Her hand on the doorknob, Meg turned around to face Wicker. A knowing smile crept onto Meg's face. "Oh, so that's what all this is about! You've fallen head over heels for Fraser. Well, take some advice from me; forget it. Like all of the others you're wasting your time. I can tell you now that he's not interested in you. And seeing as you've already made it quite clear what you think of me, I might as well tell you why he's not and never will be interested in you. He wants to be with me. He has done for a while. Who do you think bought me this?" Meg smugly fingered the locket.

Suddenly, Wicker turned into a ferocious cat. Making hissing noises, she lunged at Meg and tried to claw her with her long manicured fingernails. Meg fought the 'wildcat' off her. Taking hold of Wicker's wrists so that she didn't claw her face off, Meg restrained the woman by yanking her arms behind her back and into arm locks. Wicker started to wriggle and hurled abuse at Meg. Deciding that the situation called for 'desperate measures', Meg went about handcuffing Wicker. She shoved Wicker face-first up against the wall and putting all of her own body weight into it, Meg pushed her shoulder against Wicker's arm, so that she could let go and handcuffed Wicker with the free hand.

Task accomplished, Meg marched a raving mad Wicker into the main room and zipped a still handcuffed Wicker into her sleeping bag. "Now shut up and calm down. When you start acting like a human being instead of a wild animal, I'll come back and take the handcuffs off."

Glancing around the room, Meg noticed that except for Dief who was absorbed with devouring the last of the cake, everyone else was missing. The trough! Bursting out of the front door, Meg sprinted over the snow carpet to the stables. Flinging the stable doors open, she was just in time to witness the dunking.

Poor Fraser was trussed up like a turkey. His hands and legs were bound together by handcuffs and if it weren't for his boxer shorts, he would have been totally naked. Madison and Miller were swinging him back and forth over the water trough, while Strange stood at the side, whip in hand, thrashing Fraser's backside.

"Oh my God!" Meg was flabbergasted. "STOP that at once. Let go of him." Bad choice of words, for Madison and Miller smiled evilly at each other before letting go and casting Fraser into the cold water. 'SPLASH'.

Meg dashed up to the trough and grabbed hold of Fraser. While he spluttered, she quickly called upon all of her strength and pulled him out of the water. Clutching him to her, she cradled his head. "You bastards. You could have drowned him."

Still supporting his head with one hand, she unlocked the handcuffs and taking them off him, she massaged his wrists and ankles. Snatching up his red serge, she then dried him off with it. "Quick, we need to get him warm before he freezes to death. Help me get him into the cabin and that's an ORDER. Oh, and Strange, gather up Fraser's clothing and bring them inside. We'll need to put the serge in front of the fire so that it will dry off. It's damp from where I've dried him off with it. Well, come on all of you, move it."

With the help of Madison and Miller, Meg carried Fraser inside the cabin and lay him down in front of the log fire. "Madison, make him a warm drink," Meg commanded. "And Miller, take off Fraser's boxer shorts, he's soaked through."

Fraser had Goosebumps all over his body and so while Miller obeyed and pulled Fraser's boxers off, Meg went and brought Fraser's sleeping bag over to him.

"Sir?" His voice frail, Ben spoke for the first time. He sounded very dazed and confused.

Meg's fingers tenderly brushed away a stray wet curl off his forehead. "It's all right Fraser, I'm here. I was just getting your sleeping bag," Meg softly explained and avoiding looking at his tackle, she helped him into the sleeping bag. Whining, a concerned Dief then sat on top of Ben's sleeping bag and body, to protect him and keep him warm.

Madison brought the warm drink over, and Meg held Ben while he sat up and sipped the hot liquid. "Is he all right?" Miller guiltily asked.

"Yes, no thanks to you," Meg told him harshly. "What do you think you were all playing at? And you," she turned to glare at Strange, "what twisted part of your mind thought that it was okay to thrash Fraser with a whip?" The three men looked down at their boots. "Well, I'm waiting for an answer!"

However, still none of them answered her, so Meg came to her own conclusions. "I know why Madison did it. You thought you'd get your own back on him for earlier, am I correct?"

Madison didn't deny it; he just smirked at Meg and barked, "Yeah. The little dweeb had it coming. To be honest, I quite enjoyed myself."

Meg looked at Madison with a revolted look on her face. "Oh, well I'm going to enjoy myself tomorrow when I punish you for it."

Meg fixed her attention on Miller. "Miller, why did you do it?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…well, what I mean is, he wouldn't get into bed and Madison came up with that idea, and so I thought that a little bit of cold water might sober him up. And then Fraser wouldn't co-operate and so we had no choice but to handcuff him."

Meg shook her head. "And the whip?"

"That had nothing to do with me Sir, honestly," Miller fervently denied.

Meg turned her head to look at Strange. "Well, you were the one doing the whipping, so, why did you do it? Whatever possessed you?"

Strange shrugged his shoulders. "I just felt like it."

"What? You 'just felt like it'! W…f…w…? " Meg trailed off, her mouth gaping open and she let out a burst of breath in stupefaction. Shaking her head, she looked at him as if he had a screw loose.

"I should fire the whole lot of you right now, but firing's too good for you. I'm going to have my own bit of fun with you first and when that's over with, then I might just fire you anyway. But in the mean time, starting from right now, I'm going to make your lives miserable." Meg smiled nastily around at the three men. "Seeing as you all like the stables so much, you can sleep in there tonight. Now MOVE IT."

"No chance. I'm not sleeping in there with the smell of horse dung," Madison protested.

"Oh, yes you are. And you'd all better move fast, otherwise I'll take pot shots at each of you." Meg took out her gun and pointed it at Madison. The look in her eyes told each of them that she wasn't kidding, and they quickly gathered up their stuff and hurried out to the stables.

When the three male Mounties had gone, it suddenly dawned on Meg that Thorne was no where to be seen. "I won't be a minute Fraser, I'm just going to find out where Thorne is." While she spoke she looked at him and his glazed eyes told her that he was still pretty much intoxicated. "Just, don't move while I'm gone, okay?" She added and he nodded.

First of all Meg checked in the lavatory for Thorne, but upon not finding her there, alarm bells started to ring in Meg's head. The metal container! Meg sprinted the very short distance to her bedroom and flung open the door. Sure enough, there was Thorne, hunched over the metal container busily trying to crack the code on the padlock.

Meg put her hands on her hips. "Sergeant!"

'Sprung' in the act like a naughty schoolgirl, Thorne looked up, 'hangdog,' at Meg. "I…er…oh what's the use! You know what I was up to."

"Yes, I do. Come on now Sergeant, leave that alone and get some sleep. It's been a long day and I'm really not in the mood to have to deal with you playing up again. I've got enough on my plate with the constables. You're a Sergeant, for Pete's sake, act like one."

Shamefaced and irritated at being caught, Thorne trudged out of Meg's bedroom muttering under her breath; "five more lousy minutes and I'm sure I'd have cracked the code."

Thorne had only just exited Thatcher's bedroom when Meg heard an almighty scream.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." Followed shortly by, "You dirty little toerag! Why, I ought to tan your hide for streaking. Why is it that all of the male constables here are so quick to get their kit off? Take that." 'SMACK'. "And that." 'SMACK'.

Quickly opening the door, Meg was confronted with the sight of a cowering stark naked Fraser, being repeatedly battered by Thorne.

"Sergeant, control yourself and stop hitting Constable Fraser."

Thorne restrained herself and took a good look at Fraser. "My, my Constable Fraser! Aren't you…arhem…very well endowed!" Thorne raised her eyebrows at Fraser and licked her lips.

Meg couldn't help herself; she let her eyes drop to Fraser's tackle and what she saw took her breath away. Thorne was absolutely one hundred per cent correct. For several moments Meg continued to look lustfully at Fraser and he, at her.

Thorne was beginning to feel like a gooseberry, but she was too busy eyeing Fraser up herself to take her leave. Clearing her throat, Meg pulled her eyes away from Fraser's naked body. "That'll be enough Sergeant. I'll deal with this now. I want you to go and unlock Constable Wicker's handcuffs. But make sure that she stays in her sleeping bag." To Thorne's disappointment Meg manhandled Thorne out of the 'space' and closed the door.

Turning to face Fraser, Meg asked, "I told you not to move. Why did you?" He didn't answer. He just stood there completely naked, looking at her. Meg let out an exasperated breath. "What do you want Fraser?"


"I…erm…I beg your pardon?"

Emboldened by the alcohol, Ben wrapped his arms around her waist. "I want a goodnight kiss from you."

Meg was bowled over. Who said that wishes didn't come true! She got hold of his hands and pulled Ben into the privacy of her bedroom. She had the hots for this man so much, that she thought she'd emotionally burn down the cabin if she didn't satisfy her desire with at least a kiss. After all, it was her birthday and her birthday wish had been for him to kiss her properly.

Behind the closed door of her bedroom, Meg's birthday wish came true and she sank into his arms as he kissed her. It felt so right to be kissing him and she felt at ease in his arms. Holding his naked body close to her, she took great pleasure in feeling his rugged masculine skin beneath the smooth touch of her fingers. The contrast between the feel of their bodies sexually exited her even more and, hungrily, she traced the contours of his body with her roaming hands.

The only problem was that the more she kissed and touched him, the hornier she became. Meg could tell that she was having the same effect on him because, even through the bulky material of her uniform she could feel that his tackle was aroused.

Even though she was immensely enjoying the kiss, Meg was the one to end the contact. She wasn't sure if he was kissing her because he really wanted too, or because he was drunk and she didn't want to be accused of 'taking advantage' of him.

Pushing him away, she abruptly told him, "I think that you'd better get back to your sleeping bag. And…put some clothes on Fraser."

"I don't want to. I stay to want with you," Ben's drunken brain muddled. "I love you Margaret." He reached out and pulled her to him.

"You don't love me Fraser. You're just drunk." She took his hands off her.

"I'm drunk not, I drink alcohol don't," Ben protested.

"Yes you are. You're that drunk, you can't even string a sentence properly together."

Ben wobbled to one side and started to giggle. Meg quickly reached out and grabbed him so that he wouldn't fall over. "Ooh. I think maybe you're right! I do balance to be a little appear off."

Managing to decipher what he had just said, Meg agreed; "yes Fraser, you are off balance. Now, I suggest that you go back to your sleeping bag and try and sleep it off."

To Meg's astonishment, Ben dropped to his knees in front of her and looped his arms around the tops her legs; letting his hands rest on her backside. "Get up Fraser. You look pathetic," Meg admonished.

Meg was left speechless as he started to weep and buried his head against her stomach. She hesitantly placed her hands on his head and gently patted him.

Ben looked up at her with tears running down his cheeks. "I can't sleep it off because I do love you. Please say that you love me! I don't want to live without you." Once again, he then buried his head against her body.

Holding his head tenderly with both hands, Meg bent her own head down and kissed the top of his. "I…I love you too Ben. But we can't be together."

He kissed her stomach. "Why not? I with to be want you."

"Fraser, now is not exactly the right time to discuss this with you in your…present condition, now is it?"

"Is it because I'm your subordinate? If it is, I'll resign. I care don't. Here, I'll my you give resignation right now." He stood up and taking out his notebook and pen, he started to write his resignation.

"Fraser, don't be an imbecile. I don't want your resignation. I would never ask you to do that."

"You can have it. It doesn't matter. Nothing m…m…matters other than you." He handed her his resignation and she briefly looked at it.

"I can't accept this."

"Why not?"

"For three reasons. Point one, I can't read it. Your writing is atrocious when you're drunk." She smiled at him. "Point two, is just that, you're drunk. And point three, I don't want you to resign." She tore the resignation up.

Ben took hold of her left hand and this time, instead of getting down on both knees, he got down on one knee. "Margaret…will you…?"

"Will I what?" Believing that he was going to propose to her, Meg started to breathe heavily in anticipation.

All of a sudden, his face turned green. "Oh dear!"

Meg could tell that he was going to be sick. "Come on, let's get you to the toilet!"

In a mad scurry, Meg managed to get Ben to the toilet just in the nick of time. While Ben retched his guts up, Meg comfortingly rubbed his back. "Oh, why do I feel so bad? I feel so ill, I think I'm going to die," Ben moaned.

"You're going to be all right. It's just the after effects of the alcohol. Don't worry, it'll wear off soon."

The next few hours where spent with Ben throwing up and Meg consoling him. When there was a lull, Meg took the opportunity to check on Thorne and Wicker. Entering the 'space', Meg felt something soft and fury rub up against her leg. Looking down she realised that it was Dief. He looked up at her, his eyes filled with concern. "Are you worried about Fraser?" Dief started to whine softly and nuzzled her leg. Squatting down, Meg patted and stroked the wolf. "There's no need to worry. He'll be all right. I'm looking after him for you." Dief licked her hand in appreciation and Meg smiled. Straightening herself up again, she told Dief, "come with me."

Dief obediently followed her into the main room and over to the front door. "Dief, don't let anyone through this door. Do you understand?"


"Good." Shaking her head she uttered, "I can't believe I'm having a conversation with a wolf!"

Leaving Dief on sentry duty by the door, Meg quietly strode over to Thorne and Wicker who were tucked up in their sleeping bags. Thankfully, both were fast asleep and so she decided to go to her room and change into her night clothes.

After changing into her flannel pyjamas, Meg went back to Fraser. He was in the same position she had left him in, which was on his knees, clutching the sides of the toilet bowl. Meg placed a hand lightly on his shoulder. "Shall we try and get you into your sleeping bag?" He nodded his head and then winced at the pain the movement caused.

Every time she tried to settle him into his sleeping bag he had to make another dash for the toilet. Meg was feeling extremely guilty for not telling him about the presence of alcohol in the drink and she felt entirely responsible for his present condition.

"Come on Fraser, you can sleep in the bed tonight. I'll sleep on the floor in the sleeping bag." She managed to get him to clean his teeth and then Meg helped a jaded Ben into the bed. "Try and get some sleep. I'll only be on the floor if you need me."

Ben clutched hold of Meg's arm and looked at her like a frightened child. "The room's spinning. Please, I don't want you to leave me."

"I'm not leaving you Fraser. I'll be right here on the floor."

"Please stay with me! My head feels like a Waltzer. I've never felt like this before. Sir, Margaret, I'm…scared."

"It's all right Fraser, I'm here. I'll stay with you." Meg climbed into bed at the side of him. To comfort him, Meg wrapped her arms around him and they both cuddled up. To try and get him to sleep, she soothingly stroked his hair.

Ben lifted his head up slightly to look into her eyes. "I love you. Please don't leave me Margaret like Victoria did! I couldn't bare that. "

"Shush," Meg rested her head lovingly against his forehead. "I'm not going to leave you Ben. I'll always be here for you."


"I promise. You just close your eyes and get some sleep. There's no need to worry, I'll be right here at the side of you." She placed a tender kiss on his forehead and Ben contentedly closed his eyes.

Finally all was quiet, except for one thing. The only sound that could be heard was a constant loud droning noise ---Thorne's snoring. Meg was aggravated by it, but far too exhausted to do anything about it. She pulled the covers up higher, so that they covered her exposed ear and snuggled up closer to Fraser. Now she could hardly hear Thorne's snoring. What she could hear, with her ear that was nicely squashed against Fraser's chest, was the calming beating rhythm of Ben's heart. It was so relaxing that, smiling; she soon fell asleep.

* * * * *

Saturday 14th

Fraser woke up to a blinding headache and a chunk of his memory missing---the last couple of hours of his memory to be exact. He thought it was most bizarre that he couldn't remember anything.

He shivered. One side of his body was cold and to his puzzlement, his other side was nice and warm. Peeping underneath the covers he discovered the reason for his being so cold---he was naked. Turning his head towards his warm side, Ben quickly found out that the warmth was the sleeping form of Meg Thatcher.

At the discovery that he was naked and in bed with Margaret, Ben's brain started to whirr. Oh dear!

It wasn't an unpleasant realisation. In actual fact, it was his dream come true. The only disappointment was that he couldn't remember any of the details. He did think that it was strange that she was wearing pyjamas when he was naked. But he just put that down to the climate. He rationalised that after making love she must have put them on so as not to get cold. He couldn't for the life of him think why he hadn't put some clothes on himself though! He didn't normally sleep starkers.

Meg rolled over in her sleep, so that her back was to him. Feeling the need to bond with Margaret after making love to her, Ben rolled over after her. He felt really bad about not remembering any of it. He wanted to make her feel special and loved, because even though he couldn't remember any of it, she was special to him. Spooning his body around hers, he held her tightly to him and kissed her cheek.

Meg's eyes flew open. As she turned her body around to face him, he cheerfully greeted her with, "good morning honey." To Meg's further surprise, he proceeded to place a kiss on her lips and hugged her.

"I…erm…Fraser what do you think you're doing?" Meg panicked. If anyone were to find them like this she'd be in serious trouble. Not only because she was on duty and it could be conceived as 'taking advantage' of her position, but particularly as Fraser was drunk last night.

"Kissing you good morning. Why?"

"'Why'? I wake up to find my subordinate not only holding me, but kissing me and you ask me 'why' I'm wondering what you're doing!" Meg blurted out and then deeply regretted it, because of the hurt look in his eyes.

"I'm sorry. I don't understand! Is that all I am to you, a 'subordinate?' Margaret, we've united as one. After what we shared last night…I would have thought that after what we did, you would have wanted me to be affectionate to you!"

It suddenly dawned on Meg as to what Fraser thought they had done together. "Fraser you don't think that we…?"

"That we what?"

"That we…you know…made love, do you?"

"Didn’t we?"

"No, we most certainly did not."

Thoroughly embarrassed by his assumption and by being naked now that he hadn't made love to her, Ben quickly released his hold on her. "In that case, if you don't mind my asking Sir, why am I…in bed with you and…naked?"

"It's a long story. I take it that you don't remember any of last night?" It was just her luck to finally pluck up the courage to tell him that she 'loved him' and him not remember because he was drunk. It was just like the time---no, worse than---the time when he had lost his memory and therefor couldn't remember their 'contact'. Meg rationalised that it was probably for the best that he couldn't remember her confession last night about her true feelings!

"To be completely honest, 'no, I don't'. Furthermore, I'm terribly sorry Sir for…well, assuming that we…er…for assuming what I did and for my actions just now. It's just that I woke up to find myself naked and in bed with you and…I'm sorry, that's no excuse." He was the colour of a nice ripe tomato and Meg felt sorry for him.

"It's quite all right Fraser. I suppose it's understandable that you assumed what you did! It’s not the most unpleasant way to wake up." Meg smiled at him and he shyly ducked his head. ""How are you feeling this morning?"

"Terrible. For some reason I have an appalling headache."

"Ah! That'll be because you've got a hangover."

"I beg your pardon? How can I have a hangover? I never touch alcohol."

"To fill in the blanks, do you remember the mysterious fruit that you were trying to detect at my birthday party?"

"Yes. However, I don't remember anything after that."

"That's because it wasn't a fruit; it was alcohol. Miller had laced the fruit juice with alcohol."

"Ah! I see!"

"Due to the side effects of that, you were pretty ill last night. I thought it was best to keep an eye on you and so that's why you're here in bed with me."

"So we didn't…?"

"No. Don't worry, you were far too ill to get up to any serious funny business Fraser."

His face first showed relief and then disappointment. "Oh!" Trying to cover his most private region with his hands, Ben asked, "what I don't understand is, why am I naked?"

"Ah! Well, Madison and Miller thought that they'd 'sober you up' by giving you a dunk in the trough. I tired to stop them, but by the time I got there, it was too late. I pulled you out and got you warm by the fire. And then with you being sick, I didn't get the chance to get you to put your long johns on."

"That's quite all right Sir. Thank you kindly for looking after me."

"There's no need to thank me Fraser. I'm partially to blame." Meg bit her bottom lip. "I suspected that the drink was laced and I didn't tell you. I'm…I'm sorry Fraser."

"Apology accepted Sir. From the sounds of it, you more than made up for it by looking after me!" He smiled at her to reassure her that he wasn't annoyed.

They lay together in comfortable silence, each enjoying being in bed together. Neither of them wanted to move from the others side. The minutes ticked by and Meg was waiting to see if Ben would make a move on her. She clearly remembered him confessing his true feelings for her last night and she wished that he would tell her again, now that he was sober. What's more, at one point when he got down on one knee, Meg was positive that Ben was actually going to propose to her. He never got to finish the sentence though and to be honest, she didn't know what she would have done if he had managed to finish his sentence and really had proposed to her in his drunken state! Even if she had wanted to marry him, because he was intoxicated she couldn't have said 'yes'.

Meg wanted to kiss him, but being the Superior Officer, she couldn't make the first move, it was down to him and so she waited.

Ben studied Meg's face and to his delight he saw the same look in her eyes that he'd seen on top of the train, when they had moved towards each other to kiss. Inspirited, he boldly told her, "I hope you don't mind my saying so Sir, but you look cute in those snowman pyjamas."

Meg blushed, but holding his gaze, she smiled at him. "Thank you for the compliment. You don't look so bad yourself."

Holding one another's gaze they moved their lips towards each other. Their lips touched and they sank into a passionate embrace. While they kissed, Meg let her hands once again explore his skin.

Wanting to feel Meg's naked body against his own, Ben placed his fingers on the top button of her pyjama top and asked, "may I?" Meg nodded. She then pulled his head down, so that their lips met again.

Kissing her, Ben worked on removing Meg's pyjamas. Task accomplished, he broke off the kiss to take in Meg's beauty. He had only ever seen a woman naked once before, and that was Victoria. He had thought that Victoria was beautiful, but she was nothing in comparison to Meg Thatcher. Meg was stunning. Her beauty captivated him.

"I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life, than you." He timidly touched her breasts. "You do know that I love you Margaret, don't you?"

"Yes, I know."

"How do you feel about me? Do you…do you love me?"

"Yes, I do love you Ben. I wouldn't be about to make love to you if I didn't." She kissed him and he wrapped his hands around her body, pulling her tightly to him. It felt so good to him to finally hold Meg's naked body.

They hungrily, but gently caressed each other's bodies, eliciting moans of pleasure from one another as they touched the most intimate regions. Still touching Ben with one hand, Meg searched through her personal belongings with her other hand for some protection. Finding what she was looking for, she tore open the packet and rolled the condom onto Fraser's tackle.

Just as they were about to join together as one, Ben couldn't take the excitement any longer and came. He gasped. "I…I'm terribly sorry Margaret. I…the thought that we were actually going to…well, I love you so much that I got…I'm sorry." He couldn't look her in the eye and she could tell that he was mortified.

Meg lay down on top of him and hugged him. "It's okay. It doesn't matter; there's always another time. Please, don't be embarrassed. I'm flattered that you want me so much." She briefly kissed his lips and then smiled warmly at him.

"Do you mean that? So you're not angry at me?"

"No, don't be a moron, of course I'm not angry at you. A little disappointed maybe, because I would like to make love to you, but angry, no. But as I said, 'there's always another time.'"

"You still want to make love to me after…?"

"Yes, more than anything. I meant what I said Ben, I love you."

"Oh Margaret, I love you too. More than you'll ever know." He kissed her on the lips and then hugged her tightly to him. They lay in an embrace together and Meg thought once again how right it felt to be in his arms and how content she felt.

After kissing his cheek, Meg broke the silence, "I'll go and get your clothes from the other room for you."

Putting her pyjamas back on, Meg went and retrieved his clothes from the other room. Returning with them, she kissed him briefly on the cheek as she placed them on the bed for him. Getting her own things, she then went into the 'bathroom' to have a morning wash, well, as best she could with the lack of amenities.

Meg vacated the 'bathroom' to find Ben was waiting patiently outside to go in after her. As they passed one another in the 'space', neither could resist the urge to have a quick kiss and a hug. Reluctantly letting go of each other, Ben went into the 'bathroom', while Meg went into the main room to check on Thorne and Wicker. Both were just waking up.

To Meg's amusement, Madison, Miller and Strange were hammering on the door to be let in to use the 'bathroom'. Meg wanted to watch the comedy and went over to the tiny window to look outside. Miller spotted her. "Please, let us in Sir, it's freezing out here."

Meg relieved Dief off sentry duty and opened the door to the three shivering men. "Did you all sleep well?" Meg asked as she let them in.

"Oh yeah, like logs," Madison sarcastically retorted. "I've never slept better. You can get loads of sleep when there's timber wolves scratching at the stable doors trying to get in. Not to mention the martens running around the stables and weaselling their way into your sleeping bag. Speaking of martens, here Sir, we got you a belated birthday present." Madison held up a marten in front of Meg's face and then threw it at her.

Meg squealed as the marten landed on her shoulder. Madison started to laugh as she desperately tried to get it off her. Madison teased, "aw, don't you like your present!" as Meg flung the creature onto the floor. To Meg's relief, Dief then chased the marten out of the front door, before returning to stand guard-like in front of Meg.

"You think that was funny? Well, I hope you find what I'm about to do, just as funny! All three of you take your uniforms off now, except for your boots and boxers. Then go back outside."

"What?" The three men exclaimed in unison.

"You heard me. Do it."

"I'm not doing that. I'm not going outside with hardly any clothes on, it's freezing," Madison protested.

"Oh yes you are. Now stop moaning and get on with it."

"NO," Madison stubbornly refused. "It was horrible in the stables last night. Black flies and mosquitoes continually pestered us. It's a good job that we had some mosquito repellent, otherwise we would have been bitten alive."

"Ah! The scourge of the north!" Interrupted Thorne, with a knowing nod of her head.

"I put up with that, but I am not doing this and you can't make me." Madison moved menacingly towards Meg and Dief growled. Looking at Dief's sharp teeth, Madison backed off and decided to obey Meg's order to undress.

"This is going to be punishment for what you did to Constable Fraser last night and for Madison's childish prank just now. Plus, I thought that you could all do with a good morning wash and seeing as there's no shower or bath, what better way than what I have planned!"

"You're not going to make us go in the trough are you?" Miller asked horrified.

"Would I do that?" Meg grinned around at them, giving them a look that clearly said 'yes, she would do that to them.'

"Oh, I've got to see this," Thorne said gleefully, rubbing her hands together.

"Don't worry, you will Sergeant, you will. By the way, I've done a rotor for using the 'bathroom' in the morning. I'm first, Constable Fraser is second, then Thorne, Madison, Miller, Wicker and last but not least; Constable Strange."

"Oh gawd no! Why do I have to go directly after Thorne? I bet you've deliberately made the rotor that way to spite me!" Madison looked accusingly at Meg.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Thorne put her hands on her hips. "Why don't you want to go after me?"

"It means, 'I'll need a gas mask' if I'm to go in after you."

"Why you cheeky…I'm gonna…" Thorne started to charge at Madison and Meg quickly put her hands on Thorne's shoulders to restrain her. "Let me at him," Thorne yelled and shook her fists at him.

"I'll let you get your own back in a moment Sergeant. Trust me, you'll enjoy what I have in mind. It might get some of your frustration out and may help with your with-drawl symptoms!" Glancing over at Wicker, Meg added, "it will hopefully help with your anger management too Wicker!"

Meg whispered her idea into Thorne's ear and the Sergeant's face took on a sadistic smile. "Oh, that's clever Meg. I'll enjoy that. Yes, a very good idea."

"Thank you. I thought so too," Meg said, holding her head up high.

Ben entered the main room just in time to see the three male constables being marched outside in only their boxers and boots. As Meg lined them all up on the snow-covered ground Ben asked, "erm Sir, what's going on?"

"I thought we could do with a little bit of target practise before breakfast Fraser."

From personal experience, Ben could tell from Thatcher's body language that the three men were in for some hard core punishment. "Oh dear!"

The three men stood in a line, their knees knocking from the cold. "Right, Fraser Thorne and Wicker, gather some snow up into snowballs and place them in a pile at the side of me. Make sure it's the soft kind of snow, we don't want any injuries," Meg instructed.

At Thatcher's order it became crystal clear to the three almost nude Mounties what their punishment was going to be. By 'target practise' Meg was referring to them as the 'target.'

"You're not going to throw snowballs at us, are you?" Madison asked in disbelief.

"What do you think?" Meg rhetorically retorted. She then gave him a sickly sweet smile. "You know how much I like to play ball, don't you Madison!"

Fraser, Thorne and Wicker scooped the snow up with their gloved hands and moulded the snow until it was compact into ball shapes. Once the pile beside Thatcher was up to knee level, Meg told them that 'was enough'. Picking up a snowball from the top of the pile, Meg smoothed it into a neater ball, all of the time smiling at the three shivering constables. Tossing the snowball from one hand to the other, Meg chose her first 'target'--- Madison. Missile at the ready, she let out a sour laugh and threw the snowball with all of her might at Madison. 'SPLAT'. The snowball landed straight in the middle of his face.

"Nice shot Sir," Fraser praised.

"Yes, good arm Meg, er Sir," Thorne commended.

Wiping his face, Madison splurted the snow out of his nose and off his lips. "I can't believe you just did that! Let's see how you like it!" Madison bent down and scooping up a handful of hard not soft snow, he hurled it at Meg.

Meg wasn't the only one with a good aim. The snow zoomed through the air and landed with force against her right eye. 'WUMPH'.

"OW! Ooh, you'll regret what you've just done. Just wait until I've finished with you." Covering her right eye with her hand, Meg glared through her other eye at Madison. The expression she wore was as cold as the snow that had just hit her. "For the whole of the weekend you're on toilet duty. Once everyone's finished using the 'bathroom,' you get to clean it."

To Meg's delight, Madison let out a low guttural groan of disrelish.

"Are you all right Sir? Here, let me take a look at it!" Concerned, Ben gently removed her hand from over her eye.

"I'm fine Fraser," Meg snapped. "Fraser, handcuff Constable Madison so that he can't do a repeat performance."

With the help of Dief as protector, Ben handcuffed a verbally abusive Madison.

"You're supposed to use ice after you've been hit in the eye," Miller joked. Meg gave him an austere look. "Well, Sir at least you've got a head start on bringing the swelling down!"

Picking up a second snowball, Meg motioned for Fraser, Thorne and Wicker to follow suit. When each of them had a snowball in their possession, Meg yelled, "take aim. FIRE."

The three insubordinate male constables were continually pelted with a volley of snowballs. Madison's body was left to take the full brunt of every snowball attack, due to being unable to shield himself with his hands and arms like the others could.

Running out of snowballs, Thatcher and her fellow comrades dusted their gloves off. The three male constables resembled snowmen; they were covered from head to boot in a layer of clean white snow. Meg took pity on them. "You can go inside now and dry off. I won't make you take a dip in the trough. Unlike you three, I'm not that cruel." Meg gave the snowmen a hard look. "Fraser would you undo Madison's handcuffs!"

"Yes sir." Meg remained outside to supervise while Fraser removed Madison's handcuffs. The other's trekked inside to get warm. His handcuffs removed, Madison gratefully ran ahead of Fraser and Thatcher to join the others huddled around the log fire.

When Madison had gone inside the cabin, Fraser went over to Meg and checked her eye. "It's already swelled and it's starting to bruise. I'm afraid you're probably going to end up with a black eye."

"Oh, great!" Meg moaned.

Fraser took a handkerchief out and putting some snow into it, he turned it into a cold compress. "This should help," Ben said as he gently placed it over her eye.

"Thank you…Ben." Meg smiled warmly at him and hearing her call him by his first name, he heartily returned the smile.

The clouds opened and the snow started to fall. Fraser looked around at the sugar landscape and smiled. "People often say that the Inuit have several hundred words for 'snow', but in actual fact they only use the one word 'aput'."

"Really? I didn't know that. You know, it's remarkable the amount of knowledge that you have Ben." Even though it was cold outside, his cheeks took on a slight redness as he blushed.

Ben watched, mesmerised as the feathery white flakes cascaded down Meg's face and decorated her dark hair. He was snow blinded by her beauty. Ben was falling for this snow angel faster than any snowball. He tenderly took hold of her hand and held it up to his face. "You have beautiful hands Margaret. There's only one thing that could make them more beautiful."

The snow continued to sprinkle onto them both as she looked at him enquiringly. "And that is?"

"A ring on your finger that says that you’re my wife."

You could have knocked Meg over with a snowball; she was taken completely by surprise. She hadn't thought for one second that he would propose to her when he was sober. "You…erm…did you…are you proposing to me?"

"Yes. I'm in love with you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you be my wife Margaret?"

"I…er… don't you think it's a bit sudden?"

He let go of her hand. "Oh! I…erm…I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

The look of hurt on his face made her quickly reach for his hand and she squeezed it. "Ben I'm not saying that I don't want to marry you. You just took me by surprise that's all. I just need a little time to think about it."

His face lit up. "Take all of the time you need. And if it's moving here that you're worried about, I want you to know that we don't have to. Erm…speaking about moving, if you don't mind my asking, why did you decline the offer of a transfer and promotion after we captured Muldoon?"

Meg took a deep breath and bit her bottom lip. "I…I wanted to stay with you," she confessed.

"I'm glad you did. When I took that time out and was looking for the hand of Franklin, I…I missed you so much. I thought about you all of the time. You were in my every waking thought and…dream." He blushed a little at his confession of 'dreaming' about her.

"While I was away I realised then that I loved you Margaret. I had a lot of time to think and I decided that when I got back to Chicago I'd try my best to win you. What I'm trying to say is, if you want to move to Toronto, I'll go with you, I don't mind. They say that 'home is where the heart is' and my heart is with you. You've worked hard to get to the rank of Inspector and I'm just a Constable, so if one of us has to resign, then I will. I've achieved my goal of arresting my mother's killer and so I don't mind leaving the force now, if it means that I can be with you."

"Oh Ben, you'd do all of that for me?"

He nodded firmly. "Yes. It wouldn't be much to do for what I would be receiving in return. I love you Margaret."

Looking into his honest caring eyes she knew that he meant every single word and Meg didn't need anymore time to think about his proposal. She made her mind up right there and then. "I don't need anymore time to think about it Ben. I've just come to a decision. I've…I've made my mind up."

"And what's your answer? Will you marry me?" He looked expectantly into her hazel eyes.

Meg was just about to open her mouth when Thorne came running out of the cabin. "Quick Sir, you'd better come inside," Thorne interrupted.

Fraser was not normally a violent man but he could have happily shot Thorne for interrupting at that exact moment. He desperately wanted to know Margaret's answer and now, it looked as if he was going to have to wait until whom knows when for it!

"Constables Madison and Strange are fighting and from the looks of it, I think that they're going to kill one another," Thorne gushed.

"What? Why are they fighting?" Meg asked as she and Fraser ran towards the cabin.

"Constable Wicker released 'Barry the Bluebottle' and Madison stood on Barry with his boots on and squashed the fly to a pulp," Thorne explained.

"Oh dear!" Fraser shook his head mournfully.

Upon entering the cabin Meg stepped into a boxing ring. Madison and Strange were bashing one another's lights out. Wicker was stood on the sidelines, yelling at them to stop fighting. Meanwhile, Miller was treating the whole thing like an organised boxing event and from his ringside seat he was cheering Madison on. The scamp even started to try and take bets from Wicker and Thorne as to who would win the boxing contest.

Scanning the situation, Meg decided that there was no way she was going to step in the middle of the battle to split it up, she'd be pulverised. Pulling her gun out, she fired into the air, embedding the bullet into the cabin roof. At the sound of the gunshot the two boxers nearly jumped out of their skin and Wicker let out an almighty scream that came close to rupturing Meg's eardrums.

"Unless you want to be arrested, step away from each other this instant," Meg told Madison and Strange. The two boxers backed away from each other, but stood glaring at each other.

"He killed Barry," Strange pointed at Madison.

"Chill, will you! It was only a fly," said Madison.

"He's a murderer," Strange accused with venom in his voice.

"I'm not a murderer. If you don't stop calling me one I will commit murder, on you." Throughout the slanging match, the two boxers had inched their way towards each other and were now standing face to face. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife.

"If the cap fits, wear it," Strange told Madison.

That was the last straw for Madison. With one quick powerful movement of his muscle bound arm, Madison punched Strange in the stomach. Strange keeled over. "Don't you ever call me that again. Got it?"

Catching his breath, Strange managed to mutter one word and it wasn't 'yes'---it was 'murderer'. Meg could tell that Madison was going to go ape and she aimed her gun at him. "Don't Madison. You're in enough trouble as it is." Strange was back on his feet and wanting to take revenge. "Fraser, I'll deal with Madison, you get Strange," Meg instructed into Fraser's ear.

Approaching Strange, Fraser showed them all the art of restraining a prisoner. While at the same time, Meg tried talking Madison out of his violent stance. It was of no use, he just turned on Meg and she successfully demonstrated the art of self-defence on him.

"That's two lessons on the itinerary that I can cross off!" Meg announced in a sarcastic manner. "Do you all think that you can manage to do what Fraser and I have just demonstrated?" The Mounties from hell nodded. "Well, let's see then! Get into partners and show me."

They all partnered up. Madison went with Miller, Thorne went with Strange and Wicker chose Fraser as a partner. Madison and Miller seemed to have developed a friendship and to Meg's contentment they accomplished the tasks and didn't ruff one another up too much.

Thorne and Strange was another matter. During the self-defence Thorne dropped Strange like a bag of spuds. Strange got his own back on the restraint by putting Thorne in an arm lock that was excruciatingly painful. Thorne winced in pain and Strange seemed to be enjoying her suffering. Meg noticed the sadistic glint in his eye and ordered him to release Thorne. Grudgingly he obeyed.

Turning her attention to Wicker, Meg watched as the female constable floored Fraser and then gleefully sat on top of him. "That's enough Wicker, get up off Fraser." Wicker made no attempt to move off Fraser; instead she ran her hands over his chest, resulting in enraging Meg. "I said, 'GET OFF HIM'." Meg went over to Wicker and dragged her by the scruff of the neck off Fraser. Meg gave Wicker a hard shove, sending her across the room. Offering Fraser a hand, Meg then pulled him to his feet.

"Thank you kindly Sir."

"You're most welcome Fraser." Meg smiled sweetly at Ben and then turning to look at Wicker, Meg's smile turned frosty.

"Did we pass that bit Sir?" Miller hopefully asked.

"Yes, you've all passed that part. You all seem to have mastered those techniques. Well, in your own unique ways."

At being told that they had passed that part, the Mounties from hell all cheered. "What about Madison? You can't let him pass Sir after what he did to Barry and me!" Strange complained.

"Yes I can. What happened between you and Madison was a personal matter. I do sympathise with you. It was wrong of Madison to…stand on your…pet but you incited him to thump you. So I'm letting the matter drop and so should you."

While Ben attended to the horses, then made the breakfast, and Meg studied the itinerary, the others took turns using the 'bathroom'. The next part of Meg's mission was to teach them compass and police tracking skills. And so after a hearty breakfast that consisted of rations from the supplies that they had brought with them, the riffraff followed Thatcher and Fraser outdoors.

Firstly, Meg went over how to use the compass. Under her close supervision she gave them all, in turn, nearby locations to find and Mounting their horses, everyone had to follow the Mountie who's turn it was to the location. She wasn't letting them out of her sight for a moment, especially in these conditions; they'd probably disappear! Trudging through the knee-high snow covered ground, Fraser then taught them tracking skills. They weren't tracking down criminals, but Moose and Caribou. Fraser explained to them that the same techniques could be adapted and used when hunting criminals.

Dief was lapping up being back in the Northwest Territories. He was jumping and rolling in the snow like a bonkers puppy. It was obvious to everyone that Dief had taken an intense dislike to Madison and still hadn't forgiven Thorne, because he kept repeatedly stalking them both and then pouncing, he knocked them onto the snow mattress. Even a severe scolding from Fraser didn't change the wolf's misbehaviour.

Once they had tracked down a Moose, Meg then chose Strange to pretend to be the criminal. She and Fraser then proceeded to demonstrate how and when, and only when, it is all right to use force and a weapon. Strange was doing a first class impersonation of an aggressive criminal. Thatcher and Fraser were demonstrating the various techniques to deal with him and how to effectively bring him in. Meanwhile, Thorne was shuffling slowly nearer to Miller. All of a sudden she grabbed his gun out of his holster and pointing the gun at Strange, Thorne pulled the trigger, shouting, "FREEZE, you scumbag."

Strange froze all right. He also peed in his pants as the bullet put a hole in the top of his hat, narrowly missing his head.

"Sergeant, what the hell do you think you're playing at? You could have killed him," Meg bellowed.

"Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist. He's alive isn't he? I didn't even put a scratch on him. Look at him, it made him stop being aggressive anyway. The only thing these criminals understand is violence."

"But he's not a criminal. He's a fellow police officer. We were only doing role-play you moron. Now give the gun back to miller. And in future Miller, keep a closer eye on your weapons. That goes for all of you too."

"Can't I keep it?" Thorne cradled the gun like a baby.

It was like talking to a child who had stolen a toy. "No, you can't. Now give it back."

Stamping her feet, Thorne started to kick up a fuss. " I have to have my weapons. I can't take this anymore."

"Calm down. You can do this Sergeant. You're strong, you can get through this," Meg assured. "There's only a few more hours to go. Take a deep breath. That's it, now hand the gun over to Miller." Reluctantly, Thorne obeyed. "Good. Well done Sergeant."

"I want you all to get a partner and take turns role playing the criminal and police officer. Oh, and Thorne, if you use a weapon again you fail. The same applies to everyone else if they use a weapon on this exercise. It's just role-play; I don't want you shooting or stabbing each other. Understand?"

There was a chorus of "yes Sir." Under his breath Madison added, "three bags full Sir," and Miller chuckled.

So that Wicker wasn't with Fraser, Thatcher decided to pair them all up herself. Meg paired Madison and Miller up again because they had worked well together last time. She then paired Thorne with Wicker and Fraser with Strange. To Meg's satisfaction they all passed the role-play, even Sergeant Thorne managed to scrape through.

Back at the cabin they ate some more of the rations from their supplies for lunch. Meg then informed them that 'to make the supplies last, they would all have to go ice fishing.' Complaints and moans of distaste greeted her. "Stop moaning and belt up. If you want your dinner, you'll have to catch it. It's as simple as that. But firstly this afternoon it's back to school for you all." The news brought more moans to her ears.

Clapping her hands, Thatcher made them all sit on the floor and with the assistance of Fraser, Meg held a 'woodentops class.' Thatcher went over basic police procedures with the woodentops and made them all take a series of exams to check that they understood the work they had just covered. With the help of Fraser's patience and encouragement, every one of the woodentops passed the exams. None of the officers were thick; they just had behavioural problems.

Once the class ended, Fraser took the Mounties from hell outside to teach them how to ice fish. Meg didn't relish the thought of sitting on the cold snow, freezing her backside off waiting to catch a fish and so she had made the excuse that 'she needed to write up some reports.' While she couldn't attend, to Meg's delight Fraser had kindly offered to catch her dinner for her.

They had been sat, huddled around a hole in the ice for over an hour and Fraser was the only one who had caught anything. Tired, hungry and extremely pissed off, the Mounties from hell started to lose the bit of patience that they had. "If I had one of my hand-grenades, we could blow the suckers out of the water," Thorne said nostalgically.

"Oh, I've had enough of this," Madison grumbled. Taking his gun out, he pointed it at a moving shape in the water and pulled the trigger. 'BANG'. To his satisfaction a fish floated to the surface of the hole. "Now that's how you catch a fish." Madison grinned smugly at Fraser.

"Make sure you don't choke on the bullet. We wouldn't want anything to happen to you," Strange said sarkily.

Glaring at Strange, Madison opened his mouth to retort. His abusive language was drowned out by gunfire, as the other Mounties from hell decided to follow his example of shooting their dinner out of the water.

That evening they all gathered around the log fire. They'd just finished eating a delicious meal of arctic char. Before cooking the fish, they had removed bullet after bullet from it, causing Thatcher to shake her head in astonishment. She had to give them ten out of ten for initiative!

"What are we doing this evening for entertainment?" Miller asked with an impish grin.

"We could have a traditional Inuit evening!" Fraser suggested. "The Inuit pass their time by storytelling, wrestling contests, throat singing and drum dances in the 'qaggiq,' which is a large snowhouse."

"The wrestling is definitely out," Thatcher said dryly.

Nobody fancied doing any of Fraser's other suggestions and exhausted from their busy day, they all voted to go to bed. Getting into his sleeping bag, Ben was disappointed that he wouldn't be spending the night with Margaret. He wondered what her decision was! It had been on his mind all day and if he didn't find out soon, he was sure the wondering would drive him insane, like his Uncle Tiberius.

During the night Strange extracted his revenge on Madison and Wicker by having a 'grooming session'. They were all thoroughly tired out from all of the exercise and the long tough schedule of the day. Consequently, Madison and Wicker both slept straight through and didn't realise what Strange was doing.

While they both slept, Strange first of all shaved both constables' eyebrows. He then got a little carried away and shaved Madison's head, moving on to cut off all of Wicker's long manicured fingernails. Feeling artistic, Strange then coloured in their eyebrows with red magic marker. Observing his work of art, Strange grinned and let out a short chuckle. Satisfied with his revenge, he got rid of the incriminating objects and settled into his sleeping bag.

* * * * *

Sunday 15th

Meg was jolted awake by a blood-curdling scream, followed by loud male laughter. Jumping out of bed, she grabbed her gun and headed towards the main room.

Entering the main room, the scene playing out before Meg was one of total chaos. Meg's jaw nearly hit the floor as she saw Madison's bald-head. He was going berserk and between them, Fraser and Thorne were restraining him from murdering Strange. On a closer inspection she noticed that his eyebrows were missing and in their place was a thick bright red arching line.

Madison wasn't the only one creating. Wicker was a nervous wreak. She was huddled in a corner, her body shaking uncontrollably and screeching blue murder. Miller and Dief were desperately trying to calm her down and comfort her. To Meg's amusement she saw that Wicker's eyebrows or lack of them, were the spitting image of Madison's.

"What in the name of sanity is going on?" Meg bellowed over the hullabaloo. "And Wicker, pull yourself together, you're giving me a headache."

"Look sir, look what Strange has done to me. He's hacked off my nails. And look what he's done to my eyebrows," Wicker sobbed.

Meg was quite pleased that Strange had cut Wicker's fingernails. At least she wouldn't be able to try and claw anyone for a while!

"You're lucky. At least he didn't shave your head! Be thankful of that," Madison yelled at Wicker.

"You can't prove a thing," Strange said and folded his arms across his chest.

"Did you do it Constable?" Thatcher asked.

"If I admit to it, will I get fired?"


"Then I'm not owning up to anything," Strange said stubbornly. "It could have been anyone here. Even your precious Fraser could have done it. You'll not find any incriminating evidence on me."

"Miller, search him," Thatcher ordered.

A lengthy search of Strange and his belongings proved fruitless. "Can't you arrest him or at least still fire him Sir?" Madison pleaded.

"I'm sorry Madison, Wicker, but 'no, I can't'. We can't prove it. There's only circumstantial evidence."

"That sucks! Madison complained. "I know he did it."

"That may be so, but you can't prove it," Thatcher said.

"I'm going to get this crap off," Madison announced. At the nod of Meg's head, Fraser and Thorne released their hold on him and he stamped off to the 'bathroom'.

She knew Madison well and she could tell that even though he was trying to appear tough, he was really upset about what Strange had done to him. All of her old feelings for him started to come flooding back. Feeling extremely sorry for him, Meg followed Madison into the 'bathroom.'

"Come to gloat have you?" He snarled.

"No. I came to see if you were all right. Believe it or not, for some stupid reason I still care about you."

"Well you don't show it."

"That's not fair. I didn't mean to be hard on you this weekend, but you've given me no choice. You know Madison, you only have yourself to blame for this." She gestured to his bald-head. "You brought it all on yourself. You need to stop being so violent. Others won't be as lenient as I have been with you this weekend. If you don't smarten up your act, sooner or later you're going to get kicked off the force. And that would be a waste of your talents. I know that you can be sweet tempered when you want to be, so cut the macho crap Dan."

Madison was taken by surprise at her using his first name. "You really care?"

"Of course I do. I'm not the cold-hearted bitch that you think I've turned into. Even though we're not dating, I still care. I don't want you to ruin your life. You've done well to get into the RCMP; I'm impressed. I was astounded to find out that you'd even joined."

Madison reached out and gently cupped the swollen eye side of Meg's face. "I'm sorry about the eye Meg."

"So you should be."

"Yes, that's a nasty bruise you've got. I've given you one hell of a shiner."

"It'll fade eventually. Probably about the time that your hair grows back." They both smiled at each other and started to laugh.

Meg wasn't sure how it happened, but the next thing she knew, she and Madison were kissing. She slung her arms around his broad shoulders and he lifted her up onto the sink, so that she was in a sitting position.

Realising what she was doing, Meg ended the kiss and pushed Madison away. "What's wrong sexy legs?"

"I…I can't. I'm in love with someone else. I'm sorry."

"It's that Fraser isn't it?" Meg nodded. To Meg's surprise Madison didn't start shouting. Instead, he softly said, "it should be me that you're in love with. If it wasn't for your parents, you'd be my wife now Meg."

"It wasn't down to my parents. I made my own mind up Dan. Give me some credit, you know how strong minded I can be!"

"That's true. You can be damn stubborn when you want to be." He grinned at her.

"I'm sorry Dan, but you and I…it was never to be."

"I know. You've got yourself a good man with Fraser, Meg. He'll take care of you and treat you better than I ever could. Don't screw it up."

"I won't. And…thanks." Meg kissed his cheek and he smiled warmly at her.

"And if he doesn't treat you well, call me up and I'll come and sort him out for you."

Meg laughed. "I will. But you'll have to get in line after me."

"That's my girl," Madison said and hugged Meg.

At the exact moment that the hug ended, Fraser walked in and seeing Meg backed up against the sink, he jumped to the conclusion that Madison was trying to hurt her again. "Get away from her and leave her alone. I told you not to hurt her and that if you did; I'd hurt you. And I'm a man of my word." Fraser grabbed Madison and pushed him hard against the opposite wall.

"Fraser stop it. Leave Madison alone. He wasn't trying to hurt me," Meg said, jumping off the sink and taking hold of Fraser's shoulders.

"He wasn't?" Ben looked somewhat confused.

"No he wasn't."

"You're sure? I mean…are you all right?"

"Yes. I'm fine. Now go back and watch the others."

Mumbling, "I'm sorry," to Madison, Ben reluctantly went back to join the others.

Meg turned to face Madison again. "I'll leave you to try and get the red pen marks off your face. Before I go though, I just want to say…to tell you…you can be a good police officer Dan. Just tone down the violence and be a bit more respectful to people; in particular your Superior Officers."

Exiting the 'bathroom' she left him to think about what she'd said while he vigorously scrubbed his brow line.

With the help of Dief, the Mounties devoured the last of their rations for breakfast. Once everything was cleaned away and their luggage was packed, Thatcher addressed the Mounties from hell.

"I have good news to tell you all. Congratulations, you've all passed."

There were whoops of delight from the Mounties from hell and Fraser patted each one of them on the back, saying, "well done," as he did so.

"I'll not lie to you," Thatcher continued. "You all have a long way to go before you're out of the woods. But even though this weekend hasn't run smoothly, you've all passed the designated tasks. There's been a few slip ups, mostly regarding personal incidents." Glancing from Strange to Madison, Meg gave them each a hard look. "But I'm going to let those incidents slide. And Thorne, you didn't exactly manage to last the weekend without touching a weapon."

Thorne looked down at her boots and muttered, "erm, yes, sorry about that."

"I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, don't disappoint me Sergeant!" Thorne nodded.

Patrolling up and down in front of them, Thatcher continued. "However, in order to stay on the force, you will all have to put into practise what Constable Fraser and I have showed you this weekend. Because even though I haven't fired you, if you go back to your old ways, your Superior Officer's will fire you."

Meg looked at Thorne. "Come with me Sergeant and we'll unlock your weapons." Thorne's face lit up in anticipation and excitement. "But I'm warning you, you'd better use them wisely."

* * * * *

While the others toured the shops, Ben and Meg sat down in the departure lounge at the airport. Looking over at Meg, Ben couldn't wait any longer, he needed to know Meg's answer. "You still haven't given me your answer." He got up off his chair and knelt down on one knee in front of her. "So…? Will you marry me Margaret?"

Meg smiled at him. "You really want to know what my answer is?" She teased him.


Ben didn't get the chance to hear Meg's answer because they were interrupted yet again. "Ooh, look what I've got," Wicker said and shoved a bag in front of Fraser.

Ben shook his head in exasperation and sighing, he stood up. Looking in the bag he said, "bath salts."

"Yes. But not just any type of bath salts, aromatherapy ones. Oh, I can't wait to take a bath."

"Me too," Meg muttered wistfully.

"Yes, I'm rather looking forward to one myself," Ben agreed.

"Want someone to scrub your back for you?" Wicker flirted with Ben.

"Thank you for the kind offer, but the answer is 'no'," Meg interjected. "He's already got someone to do that."

"Oh, really! Who?"

"Me." Standing up, Meg linked Ben's arm and smiled smugly at Wicker.

"Oh! Right!" Wicker spoke heatedly.

Meg saw the danger signs again. "Don't even think about doing a repeat performance of what you did at the cabin." Heeding Thatcher's warning Wicker turned around and stormed off.

"A 'repeat performance' of what?" Fraser asked, rubbing his eyebrow.

"Nothing. Never mind."

"So, you're going to scrub my back for me are you?" Ben smiled at her.

"Yes. I think that a woman should make sure that her 'husband to be' is kept nice and clean, don't you?"

"Margaret am I to infer that you're accepting my proposal of marriage? That you do want to be my wife?"

"Yes. Yes, I want to marry you Ben."

"Oh, that's wonderful." He hugged her tightly to him and she laughed. "I can't wait until you're my wife Margaret."

Breaking off the hug, Meg kissed his cheek and looked at him. "If you're going to be my husband there's one thing you should know."

"And that is?"

"My friends call me Meg, not Margaret." She smiled at him.

"Meg it is then." He wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her again. "Erm…Meg, I'm sorry but I don't have an engagement ring on me."

"That's okay." She kissed his cheek. "We can go and choose one together." Meg's expression turned serious. "Ben, you remember the mix up over the 'process'?" He nodded his head. "You know when you said that you wanted to take things 'incrementally'?" Another nod 'yes' from Ben. "Well, I want us to do just that…take things incrementally. You're special to me Ben and I…I want to save making love until our wedding night. You don't mind, do you?"

"No, I don't mind." He kissed her forehead. "I've waited this long for you Meg, I can wait a bit longer…well, just about, I think! As long as it isn't something like two years that I have to wait!" He let out a short laugh and she playfully punched his chest.

Meg fingered the locket he'd given her. "I know what pictures I'm going to put in here. One of us on our wedding day and one of our child…or children."

They both smiled at each other. "I think that's a lovely idea," Ben told her and kissed her on the lips.

Sprinting across the airport towards them Madison shouted, "SIR. You'd better come quick."

"What's the matter?" Meg asked alarmed.

Madison skidded to a stop in front of them. "Some nutter's taken over a plane and is threatening to fly off with it."

"You're kidding me right?"

"No. I'm not. And what's more, Sergeant Thorne has gone to 'deal' with the situation. Her exact words were, 'Oh good. I get to try out one of my toys'. I think she was referring to one of her weapons."

"Oh God no! Are there any passengers or crew on board the plane?"

"No. He chucked them all off at gunpoint. There's just him."


The airport shook from the explosion. Meg, Ben and Madison all grabbed hold of each other to steady themselves. Dazed, they all slowly approached the window and looked out. One of the aeroplanes was on fire. That's if you could call it an aeroplane! ---There was hardly anything left of it. To stop the criminal from stealing the aeroplane, Thorne had used her PIAT (Projectile Infantry Anti Tank), and blown the plane up.

Meg shook her head in despair. Rolling her eyes, she sighed and in an exasperated manner she lightly head-butted Ben's shoulder.

Mission Accomplished!