The Sea Wolf

Title: The Sea Wolf
Show: Due South
Author: Kadru
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Fraser/Kowalski
Status: NEW
Date: October 26, 1997
Archive: YES
Series/Sequel: No
Author website:

Disclaimer: Fraser and Ray and Diefenbaker and the other characters mentioned here belong to Alliance/Atlantis. Draupadi Vyasa, however, is mine and mine alone. No money was harmed in the making of this story.

Notes: This slash is dedicated to Casey. She directed me towards Due South and got me thoroughly addicted, and helped me to figure out how these boys work. Bless you my dear. Now go forth and sin no more.

A special thanks to Debra Fran Baker and Casey for being good sports and reading this story first, to make sure that the characterizations worked. I didn't ask them to really beta this, because hey, slash is about fun and not work and I didn't really want to foist work on them. So any "oo-boo's" are entirely my own imaginative creation.

Summary: a 100 years in the future, an archeologist uncovers Constable Fraser's journals, and as she pieces together the details of their lives, she discovers something she never expected.

Warnings: Graphic sex, first off all. Second, this story takes place 100 years in the future, and well, I'm sorry folks, but that means the boys are obviously dead. Even so, I won't say this is a character death story because it's not. And lastly, there's angst. Big surprise.

One final note. The main character's name comes from India's wonderful epic poem, "The Mahabarata." Draupadi was the wife of the five Pondova brothers, and she is the representation of filial love. I have always adored this character, and it was fantastic to be able to use her. I thought that was very appropriate, considering Fraser and Ray.

This is my first Due South slash, so be kind.

So without further ado, the curtain opens.



by Uddishtyra Kadru

December, 2006
Northwest Territories

Fraser tumbled into the snow as the wind's hard punch knocked him in the chest. He rolled back for a moment, clumsily fighting to regain his footing. With both gloved hands, he stretched open the hood of his fur parka, but all he could see was white tinged in gray. /Can't get lost,/ he warned himself. /Can't get lost./ He steadied his body against the wind's onslaught, closed his eyes, and caught his breath. The rush of the blizzard in his ears blocked most sounds, except for the one he had attuned himself over the years to hear.


"I'm coming, Ray!" he shouted back. With awkward steps, he trudged through the snow. He had only taken a few steps away from his partner when the wind had knocked him off his feet. But there was so much snow in the air now, that two steps later, he could see the dark outline of Sir John Franklin's ship, The Erebus, stuck in the ice like a wall in front of his face. At his feet, Ray was huddled, the snow rising up to his knees.

"Ben," he moaned, his fear so evident. "Ben, something's wrong."

"Don't panic." He knelt down.

"Dief's not moving."

Fraser felt his throat clamp down. Ray clutched the wolf to his chest. "He's conserving his strength, Ray. He's too old not to."

"No. Something's wrong."

The snow had risen to their waist. "We need to make a shelter." Fraser tell face forward on his first attempt to walk to the sled. He stopped for a moment, and realized he couldn't see or hear the other dogs. /Oh dear./ Reacting quickly, he grabbed a leather tarp and rushed back to his friends. "Ray, help me make a lean-to against the side of the ship." In the wind and snow, Fraser struggled with the leather. "Ray? Ray?"

Suddenly Fraser stopped, his heart racing. /No!/ He dropped his knees into the snow and tugged on his partner's coat. "Ray? Ray? RAY!!" He gathered the still figure into his arms, his cold face pressed against his lover's, tugging both man and wolf to his chest. "Ray, please don't leave me. Please don't leave me. Please!"

Only the rush of the wind answered like a wail.


May, 2116
Northwest Territories

The early Arctic spring sunshine reflected off the bluish-white metal of the airship as it streaked only a few feet above the ice. A small vehicle, it hovered briefly over the site, darting with lightning quick zips from one space to another, testing, scanning the ice for cracks and fissures. Eventually, the green glow from the two crescent shapes on its underbelly began to dim, and landing gear slid out from openings beneath the manta-like wings. It settled softly on the ice, easily spreading its weight on the frozen water.

Twenty minutes later, the door on the side opened, and a slender metal ramp extended out onto the snow. A lone figure appeared at the doorway, dressed in a white fur-lined parka and dark sunglasses. Against the white coat and the omnipresent snow and ice, her olive-complected skin seemed even darker. She glanced down at the electronic screen she held in her hand. The coordinates were correct. Last month's satellite scan of the area had detected the dark, arrow shape of a ship's prow. An ancient vessel. She estimated the 19th century from the look of it, but that was just guess work and hope. The past winter's unexpected earthquake off Baffin Island had projected ripples for thousands of miles into the ice, and all sorts of surprises were being thrown up to the light again. But this one would be hers and hers alone No longer would she get snide remarks from her colleagues about the juxtaposition of her East Indian heritage and her interest in Arctic history. With this find, she would make herself renowned.

Dr. Draupadi Vyasa shut down the electronic screen and set it inside her ship. Then with a determined tug on her parka, she descended the ramp and pressed her experienced heel into the snow. The initial crunch and sink felt good to her. She never grew so accustomed to it that she didn't notice it. Growing up first in Delhi, and then spending her teen years in southern California, she had never really experienced winter until her first trip to Fairbanks. That had settled it. She knew the minute she saw the magical white flakes falling like a carefree rain that snow was her calling. Her black eyes drifted upwards as the snow fell, a childlike mysticism causing her skin to shiver with excitement and delight. Perhaps she had been the reincarnation of someone who had lived in snow all his or her life -- there was something about the smell and the sound of it. Or perhaps she had fallen in love with a man, or woman, of the North. Someone who could trek for miles across the frozen wasteland. She felt drawn to the world of snow-draped conifers and ice-fields and cold.

Carefully, she approached the frozen ship. The recent earthquake had thrust the wooden vessel into the air at an odd angle, like a rocket about to be fired. All around it, jagged shards of snow and ice rose like pyramids and mountains. She came closer, her heart racing as she reached out and placed her gloved hand against the old, blackened wood. Then she laughed. A celebratory laugh. "It's you," she said, her voice revealing a hint of her melodic, cadent accent, "it's you, it's you! I've found you!" Giddy as she rarely allowed herself to be, she turned quickly to dash back to her ship. She would claim this discovery now, on the instant newsband. Her discovery. Her find. Despite all the white, angular obstacles around her, she scrambled around them as though on a flat race course, her excitement raging, her hands waving in the air.

Like a blow to her chest, she felt the force of the snap in her gut as her foot snagged something. It snatched her firm, seizing her ankle and stealing her direction but not her momentum. In a daze, she watched as the snow and ice rose up to her face, and she nearly lost her breath when she fell face-first into the white. "Damnit," she muttered as she pulled her foot free. She rolled onto her back, and she noticed the curved handle of a dog sled. /Dog sled?/ On her hands and knees, she approached. The sled was embedded in the ice.

Draupadi sat up, then retrieved a small square device from her belt. Turning it on, she waited for the view screen to warm up before she directed the sonic waves into the ice. A portable sonogram, it had been programmed to render a varying degree of compounds such as ice and wood and leather in their natural colors to make it easier to read. The archeologist ran the device over the ice-block, revealing the dog sled underneath. "That's strange." Trying to think, Draupadi settled herself against another chunk of ice. /Why would there be a dog sled? Did Franklin try to leave the ship? If so, why is the dog sled here? Did someone else come here, searching for them? Why?/

Casually, she scanned the rest of the area. The shift of the light from the sun's rotation had subtly changed the angle of shadows on the blue and white structures. /Only . . . that one there . . . why is that shadow round?/ Pulling herself up, she made her way across the snow to a nearby angle of ice. With her hand-held sonogram, she peered into the ice.

Her heartbeat stopped.

Then it began to race as her temperature rose.

On her screen appeared the faces of two men. She moved the device around hurriedly. They appeared to be in an embrace, holding each other like lovers. Draupadi positioned the sonogram at a different angle, and then she gasped.

Looking closer, she saw the white fur and the canine snout. "A wolf?" She examined it closer. The wolf appeared to be positioned between the two bodies. /Had it come here to eat them?/ But the mouth was closed, and the hand of one of the men was draped across it, almost like a beloved pet. /And what is a wolf doing this far north on an ice flow?/



Draupadi couldn't resist the wicked grin when she read the web updates. It had been a stroke of genius on her part to call the find The Sea Wolf. Would anyone have cared about the rediscovery of Sir John Franklin's ship? Or the two mummified remains of twentieth century grave-robbers? No, most likely not, given the times, but the mystery of a wolf being held in an embrace, that was what interested the general public. In one stroke, Draupadi had secured not only her academic career but her foothold in popular culture as well. What resources the university could afford, Draupadi directed at the excavation of the ship. For herself, she reserved the right to unearth the Sea Wolf and its companions from their block of ice.

The archeologist sat down at her workstation, a crescent shaped desk that rose up like an pipe-organ keyboard of screens and buttons. She had managed to secure the most state of the art excavation tool from the paleontology department, and she would be working here for the next year. A semi-circular glass wall gave her a view of the hallway. And in the center, a large block of ice hovered in the air. A metallic oval below on the floor, and a similar one on the ceiling, used the artificial gravity devices that NASA had developed twenty-five years ago for the colonization of the moon. This would make it easier for her to spin and turn the ice as she chipped it away from the bodies. And, in that cylinder of air, the temperature remained below freezing to prevent the ice from melting and thus damaging the find, while keeping the rest of the room comfortable. Draupadi remembered all the stories her professors had told her about the Ice Man found in the 1990's and how the clumsy techniques at the time had nearly destroyed the subject before any useful data could be gathered. She was already determined not to let that happen to her Sea Wolf.

She ran her elegant fingers through her short black hair. Draupadi was a rajput beauty, with a sharp nose, high-cheekbones, and glistening medium-length black hair which she brushed in a wave past her ears. She had long since stopped wearing her nose stud, but from her ears dangled long gold earrings jeweled with emeralds. Between her thin black eyebrows, she had pasted a faceted green crystal bindi, a cosmetic reminder of her heritage which she only wore when she was not in the field.

A musical tone sounded from her workstation, and Draupadi instinctively pressed the Accept key. "This is Dr. Vyasa." The view screen flashed on to her assistant, Kevin Forbes. "Yes, Kevin?"

"We're ready to catalog the dog sled."

"I'll be there."

She rose from her desk, then glanced at the floating block of ice. She didn't understand why she knew -- maybe it was something in her gut -- but there was more to that block of ice than two men and a wolf. She could feel it haunting her.


The rest of the day, she and Kevin carefully dismantled the dog sled. It was of typical wooden construction, the kind still made by the few Inuit tribes remaining today. Several furs. And surprisingly, a lot of white dog hair was left in the blankets, as though a dog had been sleeping there, in the sled. /Perhaps the Sea Wolf?/ The find only intrigued her more. There were also the usual supplies -- pemmican, powdered elk bone for ice burns, tallow.

"What's this?" Kevin asked as his metal forceps latched onto a brown square. Carefully, he pulled it free from the folds in the blanket. "I believe we have a log book."

Draupadi ran around the table and held out a metal tray for him to place to book inside. Books had been found in the Arctic before, but they had a tendency to crumble as their moisture content changed. The archeologist quickly clamped a plastic lid to the tray and labeled it. "Once we're done, I'll take it to the archives and have them equalize the moisture levels."


By six o'clock, they had gone through most of the materials in the dog sled. Draupadi knew Kevin was tired, but at the same time, she knew that she herself was a little distracted by the journal. She wanted to know now what those men where doing, and how they had come to the middle of nowhere. Maybe even how they died. She patted her assistant on the arm. "Let's take a break, Kevin. You look tired."

"Do you think we found anything?"

"Not much. I have a feeling everything we'll need to find is either on the bodies or in that journal."

"When are you going to take it to the archives?"


"You aren't going to wait until tomorrow?"

Draupadi moved her head from side to side with a guilty smile. "I know, I know, I should wait. But I just can't help it. I have to know who these men are."

Kevin left her half-way to the archives, bowing out for a date. Draupadi only laughed and said, "At least one of us has a life. See you tomorrow."

The archivist had left for the day, but Draupadi was already very familiar with the equipment. First, she would need to stabilize the moisture content in the AI microwave. The oven would scan the book and search for pockets of moisture and redistribute the water or remove it altogether. She started the device, and watched as tiny lightning bolts pierced the hard cover and ruffled the edges of the paper. Once the book was safe to be handled, she then took it to the scanner. This would give her an electronic copy that she could rummage through indiscriminately without damaging the original artifact.

This was the tedious part. With metal tongs, she would have to hold the book open with the pages apart while a long green ray slowly scanned across it. Then, she would have to gingerly turn the page and begin the process again. But as she did, she took a moment to view the book. All the pages were handwritten. She smiled when she thought of this. /Handwriting. How . . . quaint./ Images of mediaeval monks scribing books by hand flashed in her mind, along with the graffiti she had seen scrawled on the chunks of the Berlin Wall in museums, or how teachers once painted words with white chalk on green slate boards. To her, it was an art, like sculpture, and it warmed her heart a little to think of her ice men being able to write by hand.

Then she saw it. She turned the page back to be sure.

A name.

Constable Benton Fraser.

"Constable? Surely that's not his first name." /Would it be worse than Benton?/ She knew that wasn't right, but her mind was so tired that simple words escaped her. Draupadi left her post to find an electronic dictionary. The dictionary confirmed "constable" as his title. She slapped her palm against her forehead, pinching her bindi against her skin. "Of course! He was a Mountie!" she shouted to herself, disturbing the quiet. The she realized what she had said. "Oh, my god, I've found a Mountie!"

Now more than ever, the task became tedious as the green laser refused to move any faster, slowly crossing each page like a syrup before saving the scan. As she flipped the pages, she saw references to Ray and Stan, but she wasn't sure what that meant because Fraser apparently used both names at the same time. For now, she would call the couple Fraser and Ray until she had more evidence to go on. The page turning continued, and she stopped when she noticed a reference to Diefenbaker. That caused her eyebrows to narrow, and she slowly read the contents.

"Diefenbaker says he wants to see Franklin's hand again, before he dies. I told him it was a morbid thought, but then the wolf did something I had never heard him do before.

"He said please.

"I'll talk to Ray about it tonight. I already know what he'll say. He'll say that's insane and that I've spoiled the wolf all these years and that Dief's so old now he couldn't see if he wanted to. I've given it some thought, though. If we did make the journey, Dief would have to ride in the sled."

Draupadi left the journal in the scanner and slumped in a nearby chair. /The wolf's name was Diefenbaker. He had a name. And Fraser talked to it, and believed the wolf was talking back./ The archeologist rubbed her eyes. /Maybe it's late and I've misread it./ As she stood up and returned to the task, one thought occurred to her. "Explains why there was white dog hair in the sled."

The remainder of the scanning job was mind-numbing. Draupadi stopped reading the entries and focused on getting the task finished so she could make it home and go to bed. She began to count how many pages, based on an estimation, she had left to scan, when her metal tongs pulled a page free from the binding. "Shit!" As she tried to lay the page down, she noticed that it was folded. /Wait a minute./ Very gently, she opened the page.

A cold chill ran down her spine.

"Oh my god. It's a map."

Once again, the green scanning laser moved too slowly for her, and her small feet padded impatiently against the tile floor. /Come on, come on, come on./ Once the scanning was complete, she forwarded the map to her hand-held viewer and launched into a chair to read it. In seconds, her fingers were tapping on the tiny console, creating a search to cross-reference the map with any on record for Canada. Once the search began, Draupadi took a deep breath, stood up from the table, and stretched her back. /This will take a long while./ She stepped away to get a hot cup of Darjeeling when suddenly her hand-held reader beeped.


She glanced down at the reader and her eyebrows rose in disbelief.

Even though the map was hand-drawn, it was a statistically perfect outline of the north Canadian shore.

"He might have been crazy, but this Fraser guy must have been good with his hands."

Examining it closely, she noticed the dark path drawn from Franklin's ship to a starting point outside Inuvik. /His home, perhaps?/ She pinpointed the coordinates, and then something sparked in her. /His cabin! The cabin he talked about in his journal!/


The next afternoon, Draupadi's aircraft hovered over the lake where the journal's map seemed to indicate. Being further south than the Franklin site, the ice on the lake had melted somewhat with the spring thaw and was not strong enough to hold the weight of her vehicle. For almost ten minutes, she flew around the shoreline, looking for a clear place to land. Already she was getting frustrated. Douglas firs grew all the way to the frozen water's edge. Where would the Mountie build a cabin here? Even as the doubt sprouted in her mind, Draupadi forced it away with hopeful rationalizations. After the influenza epidemic in 2016 and the spread of ebola during the Red Plagues in the 50's, the world population had fallen drastically. And just as Europe had been reborn after the Black Plague, the Earth's shattered ecosystem immediately revived. Although Canada's northern territories were sparse before disease ravaged the land, they became almost uninhabited afterwards. If Constable Benton Fraser did have a cabin here, chances were good that it was still standing.

Eventually, Draupadi was able to find a safe landing site. Taking the reader in her hand, she began her search. The weather was everything she had ever dreamed of when she was had started her career in Arctic archeology. A dark blue sky feathered by cirrus clouds. The gigantic mountains ringing the horizon, their salt-and-pepper peaks flashing back the sun. The rich green of the conifers poking out from beneath their dusting of snow. And that sound, that heart-warming sound of clean snow crunching underneath her boots. The smell of sap rising in the conifers added an extra tang to the air. She felt alive. She felt vibrant. And more than that, she felt home.

That made her laugh. Home was the hot, humid streets of Delhi, and when Delhi was too hot, before the monsoon rains, home was the temple and palace strewn landscape of Rajastan where her aristocratic grandparents lived. Her land was the land of the Ramayana and the Mahabarata and the Festival of Holi, and not the Great White North. Who was she trying to kid?

After an hour and a half of tramping through the snow and trees, her ebullient mood had passed. Now she was feeling the shadowy fingers of defeat close around her spirit. She had yet to find any trace of a cabin. /It's been a hundred years. It has to be gone. What was I thinking? I could have started cutting away the ice, really seen their faces today. Instead I'm out here on some screwed up vision quest trying to find a stupid cabin. And what the hell's going to be in this cabin, anyway? It's been a hundred years. Everything there will be rotten past hope./ She trudged through the snow, continuing to circle the lake. She could see the metallic gleam of her aircraft and she really came to believe that she had lost her senses.

Anger raged inside. /I could be eaten alive by some bear or a pack of wolves or something. Jeez, this is stupid./ Now she was only concerned with getting back inside her airship and blowing her nose. Her dark eyes focused on the snow beneath her feet, so intently, that when she moved around the trunk of a fir tree, she literally ran into the wooden wall of the cabin.

Draupadi tumbled backwards and landed ungracefully on her rear. Looking up, her eyes took in the snow-dusted boards and the white roof. No wonder she didn't see it. There was so little of it that wasn't touched by snow. /Oh my god. Oh my god! This is better than the Ice Man. This is better than the Second Tomb of Ramases. This beats the whole fucking herd of Congo apatosaurs! This is the find of the century! The Sea Wolf! And the Sea Wolf's home! Oh my god, I'm going to be famous!/

Only then did Draupadi realize that she had been sitting in the wet snow for almost five minutes, staring at the wall of the cabin, imagining her fame, but that she had never walked inside. Scrambling to her feet, Draupadi forced her boots through more snow, desperately searching for the door. When she couldn't find one, she began brushing the snow away from the walls with her gloved hands. Sometimes, she would find a recessed angle and her heart would skip a beat, only to discover that it was the top of a window. When she finally found the remains of a porch, and then the door, she tried the knob and it was locked. Something snapped inside her -- hours of the cold, mixed with the roller coaster ride of excitement and let-down, the brief imagined glimpses of fame entwined with the hunger to know these two men -- and Draupadi felt the delicious pain of her shoulder slamming against the wooden door. She shouted, her hoarse voice echoing across the lake as she threw her body against the wood. "No. No. Open. Up. Let me in, goddamn it. Open. Up."

When the door finally cracked, Draupadi still had so much momentum that she fell into cabin, landing on her stomach. Then there was an utter silence. Draupadi swallowed hard, took a shaky breath, and realized she had done something unspeakable. She had desecrated their sanctuary, their quiet place. Rising up on her hands and knees, her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light. The cabin was bare, but she had almost expected that. Not much would have survived these icy winters and warm summers. Slowly, she moved around the edge of the cabin. There was a metal stove that still appeared to be in good shape. A table that had fallen to one side a long time ago. What appeared to be the remnants of a bed. It seemed spartan now, but Draupadi could tell by the debris that at one time, it had been very cozy. There were also numerous bookshelves, but all the books had rotted long ago. She noticed a door to one side, but on a wall that she had already examined from the outside. /Must be a closet./ The warped door gave her some problems, but when it opened, all she could see was darkness.

Draupadi flashed her penlight into the space. Bright colors came back to her eyes -- reds, blues -- in small rectangular shapes. Coming closer, she realized they were small plastic containers, stacked one on top of the other. She picked one up, turning it in her hands when she felt something hard and solid thump inside. Draupadi cracked open a lid, and then her eyes opened wide.

Inside the single container was another of Fraser's journals.

She pointed the narrow beam of light into the closet again.

There must have been hundreds of them.


June, 2116

The Sea Wolf discoveries continued to capture the public's attention. As each journal was catalogued, scanned, and digitally recorded, she released them to be published, but not before pouring over them herself. Even so, Draupadi had yet to feel anything that compared to the rush that came over her on the afternoon Kevin had buzzed her at her workstation. "Yes, Kevin?"

"Padi, you need to get here, now."

She had run all the way to the archives. When she had burst through the doors, the first thing she had to do was hold up her hands, then bend over, trying desperately to regain her breath. "Remind me . . . not to run . . . like that again."

A black and white square appeared underneath her nose. The glossy print made her suck in her breath all at once as she recognized the outlines of a late twentieth century photograph. Then she saw those eyes. Instantly, she snapped up the photograph from Kevin's tweezers before she remembered this was an artifact. "Tweezers! Tweezers!" she shouted as she snatched the tool from Kevin. That sweet smile. The thick black hair. The smooth skin.


Her olive-skinned fingers hung mere millimeters above the surface of the photo, outlining the Mountie's face. She almost cried.

"His picture." Then she perked up her head. "Pictures, of course. He's a Mountie! His records should be on file with the Canadians!" She handed the photograph back to Kevin. As she ran out the door, she shouted, "I've been so focused on the journals I didn't think to pull his files!"

Several days later, she had more electronic files than she could manage, and her workstation had multiple screens open as she read everything simultaneously. She squeezed the bridge of her nose. One thing was for certain -- Constable Fraser's writing style took some getting used to. The detail! Smells. Tastes. Colors. How someone's hair was cut. The measurement of someone's brow. Dialogue. Blocking. And then there were license plate numbers. License plates? /What the hell are license plates?/ Luckily, with the journals scanned in electronically, she only had to click on the word to have a definition pop up. The first few journals confused her. There were constant references to Ray but not Stan and Draupadi had to take several aspirins before she referenced the old Chicago PD records and figured out that there were two Rays -- a Vecchio and a Kowalski. She read on -- starting with Fraser's first impressions of the city after his father's death, his introduction to Vecchio and urban life in general.

On one screen, she kept a picture of Fraser. At night, lying on her side in her bed with a pillow clutched to her chest, she let her thoughts drift to the displaced Canadian, and how at night, he would write down his thoughts and feelings in ways he never could express verbally. And his descriptions were so vivid and precise she had little need to interpret.

She cried when she read about Victoria Metcalf, and how much Fraser thought he loved her, and her betrayal. And his shame at how he had behaved to his friends.

She cried even harder when Vecchio disappeared without an explanation, and how Fraser secretly blamed himself.

Then suddenly, Ray Kowalski was there, taking Vecchio's name and place. At her workstation, she pulled up Ray's picture to be beside Fraser's. He seemed so odd looking in the police photograph, but the way Fraser described him -- his eyes and his crooked smile and that experimental hair -- she could sense what it was that drew the charming, detail-oriented Mountie to his side. She read of Ray's acceptance by the Vecchio's, of Beth Botrelle and how Ray had cried so hard that Fraser wanted to hold him but was too afraid to show his feelings, of that night on the lake when Ray insisted that Fraser club him after their argument, of professional boxers and country-western singers and something to do with curling.

When she got to the journal entries of Maggie Mackenzie, something snapped inside her, made her both angry and sick to her stomach, Draupadi quickly flipped through the electronic pages until she had gotten past them. She didn't like that woman for some reason.

After almost a month of reading and researching, she came across the first reference to Sir John Franklin. Fraser and Ray had spoken, while trapped hundreds of feet in an ice crevasse, about Franklin's lost ships, and the idea of finding the old captain, frozen in ice with his hand reaching out for the Beaufort Sea. She almost choked on her Darjeeling as she read it. /So they were serious. They did go in search of Franklin's hand./ Only, something wasn't right. According to the files, she still had almost fifty journals left to read. How could Fraser have had the chance to write fifty journals if he died on the way to Franklin's ship?


Then one morning, Draupadi realized that she had to start excavating the men and the Sea Wolf out of the ice. For several minutes, she stared at the massive block, floating in the air, level to her chest. She had arranged all the tools she would need -- mostly sonic chisels which could sheer away the ice without damaging the contents within. Draupadi selected one of the larger tools -- it would take her several days to break through the outer layers before she would need to call on the more delicate, precise chisels.

And as she did, she programmed the workstation to read Fraser's journals out loud. She selected a soothing male voice, one that she imagined Fraser would have. When she set the blade into the ice for the first time, Fraser's words were rising up in the air like sandalwood incense.

The days began to roll by. Draupadi had little recollection of the passage of time. She whittled the ice away, but the only rise and fall of the sun which she recalled were the ones described by Fraser.


Fraser opened the door to his cabin and stepped out onto the porch, sipping his cup of bark tea. The air was biting cold, but he only wore his white cable-knit sweater and a heavy black coat. The steam from his mug curled and twisted in the cold air. After he had agreed to take Ray on an adventure, he knew better than to begin a presumptive search for Franklin's ship across the ice flows with only a few months of winter left, even though he was fairly certain he knew where the ship was. The chance of weakened ice flows, along with the melting of the snow and the coming of the mosquitos would make for an even more miserable trip than sub-zero weather. But that wasn't Fraser's main concern. His multi-hued eyes cut through the mist of the hot tea and looked out across the space between the porch and the shoreline.

There, standing like a black hash mark in a field of white, Ray stared out across the frozen lake. He was standing too still, too motionless. He had been standing there for a very long while.

And from his stance on the porch, Fraser felt the familiar fingers of doubt in his heart. This was not Ray's world. The Mountie had no business entertaining Ray's dreams of adventure, but, sighing, he knew he couldn't resist that wicked smile and those blue eyes. He had had enough foresight to bring Ray here, to his father's cabin outside Inuvik. He told Ray that it was too late to set out across the ice and that the two of them should grow accustomed to the Canadian seasons and to change the American from "city fit" to "tundra fit."

And, before they ventured out into the ice together, perhaps they should test those filial bonds by living together, side by side, through the short Canadian summer. They still had another two months before it stopped snowing, though. Ray had plenty of time to change his mind, and to be honest, that frightened the Mountie tremendously.

Fraser could easily recognize that Ray was miserable. Earlier that morning, he had tried to show Ray how to chop wood. The American had never done something like that before. He had said cavalierly with a sniff, "How hard can it be?" With each swing of the ax, he would nick the sides, whittling the piece down until it was sharp as a pencil on one end. Or, he would jam the ax-head halfway through the log, forcing him to raise both pieces like a hammer until he had broken through to the other side. When he had missed altogether and smacked the ax-handle against the wood, the resulting sting to his hands made him throw the ax into the snow with an echoing curse.

"You know, Ray, Annie Dillard used to say that the wood she had chopped would warm her twice."

"Oh yeah? Who the hell's she? The school teacher who wrestles bears?"

"Well, no, actually. She's an American who won the Pulitzer for her collection of essays."

"Oh, yeah, well, why don't you get her out here to chop the damn wood."

"You see, Ray," Fraser picked up the ax, "the trick is to focus on driving the ax through the wood, to the bottom." With one fast swing, Fraser effortlessly split the log. "You see?"

But Ray stood there with his hands on his hips, his breathing ragged as he tried to tamp down his rage. Of course Fraser could chop wood. Was there nothing he couldn't accomplish with flair? And more, this was his element and Ray was just a pathetic amateur getting snow stuck all over him. It took all of his control not to start whaling on the Mountie. With a wave of his hand, Ray spun around and stalked off.

"Wait, Ray, don't you want to try it again?"

"Not right now, Frase. Not right now."

Fraser watching him storming away. /What? What did I say?/ He hung the ax on a peg in the woodshed. /I can't do anything right around him. Everything I do is wrong. Why do I even try?/ Slowly, he made his way into the cabin, his eyes dark and saddened. He slumped into the chair, holding his head as he tried to repress his feelings. After a while, he boiled hot water for his tea. Fraser had drunk an entire mug and made another before he finally stepped out onto the porch to check on Ray.

Back at the shoreline, Ray moved at last. He stepped around to make his way back to the cabin. Dief happily barked around his heels. For a long time now, he and Diefenbaker had been developing a strong relationship, and it seemed that Ray meant as much to the wolf as Fraser did. A few steps away from the shore, Ray did not lift his foot high enough, tripping in the snow and falling face-first. From where he stood, Fraser clearly saw his partner slam his fist into the whiteness. Ray rolled onto his side, then into a sitting position where he hung his head down between his knees.

Although Ray whispered it, Fraser distinctly heard him muttered, "Jeez, I hate it here. I hate it here. I just . . . I can't take this any more."

Fraser closed his eyes, the tight frown creasing his lips. He ran his thumb over his eyebrow before retreating inside.


Later that night, after dinner, the two men sat on the floor in front of the wood stove, watching the fire crackle around the logs. Since they had come to Canada, both men had been very close, physically, as if in this massive open space, they needed to remain within reach of one another. Part of that had to do with the cold, and maybe they had become so accustomed to it after spending many nights sleeping together outdoors, practically in each other's arms. Fraser was a little anxious over what Ray's reaction might be when he saw that his father had only built one bed -- one that could comfortably fit two men but was still small -- but Ray seemed actually relieved that they could still sleep close to one another.

The only sound from outside was the wind. Ray knew that meant more snow. It always did. Snow, snow, an endless snow that coated everything white and what he wouldn't give to see grungy red brick again, or a tar-stained orange road cone. Even to be stuck behind a sun-paled yellow school bus sputtering greasy pollution and blocking an intersection while some slow kid finally crossed the street.

"Ray, can I . . . uhm, that is . . . may I ask you a question?"

Ray turned slightly and watched Fraser run his finger under the collar of his white sweater. Whatever it was, the question was a biggie. "Yeah, sure thing."

"Why are you here?"

"You mean in this cabin?"

"Well, no," Fraser laughed nervously, "of course you would be in this cabin because it would be too cold to stay outside this cabin, what with the snow and the ice and the -- and the snow. Reminds me of something my father used to say when he was --"


The Mountie cracked his neck. "Yes. Right. No, I meant . . . here," he looked at Ray with sad, questioning eyes, "here with me . . . and not in Chicago?"

"There's nothing left for me in Chicago."

"You have your career . . . and your family and your friends."

Ray smiled slightly, from nervousness, then stared back at the fire. Fraser loved the way the light and shadow from the flickering flames played across the features of his face. "But you'd be here."

"No I wouldn't."

"Oh, come on, Frase, there's no way you'd go back to the consulate without Turnball and the Ice Queen."

"But I would have, Ray."

Thinking a while, Ray finally said as he rolled his head back, "Yeah, of course you would have. That's just the kind of thing you'd do. Mr. Perfect Mountie." He cupped his hands together and blew into them. "But didn't you miss this place? And don't tell me you didn't, cause I know. It was really starting to get to you. It was starting to drive me nuts, you know, you always out in the park or fishing in the reservoir or something like that. And then when we landed in that snow, jeez, you just looked so happy."

"But now you're the one who's miserable."

"I'm not miserable."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not," he barked.

"Yes you are."

"Frase, will you stop it, I'm not miserable."

"You . . . uh . . . appeared miserable this afternoon."

Ray took a deep breath. "Okay, okay, so I'm miserable. Big deal."

"So why are you staying?"

"Because of you, you lummox. This is where you're happy. Say it."

"That's not the point --"

"Say it, Fraser. Say you're happier here."

"But I am."

"See. I told you."

"But I want you to be happy, Ray."

"I am happy."

"I thought you just said you were miserable."

"No, you said I was miserable."

"But you agreed with me."

"Fine" Ray held up his hand.

"I'm serious, Ray. If you aren't happy here --"

Ray finally snapped, "Well maybe I'm only happy when I'm with you!" Both men fell silent as Ray stared fiercely at the Mountie with jaw muscles tight. Ray tried to calm his lungs, and he had to turn away from Fraser's surprised expression.

Fraser disguised his smile, glancing down at his fingertips for a moment. He had dreamed of hearing Ray say that to him for such a long time. Even if it wasn't the romantic overture that he really wanted to hear, he knew it was a start. "For what it's worth, Ray, I'm glad you're here."

"Really?" The detective grinned, then shyly looked back at the fire.

"Yes. It means a lot to me. For as long as I can remember, I think my behavior has been, well, a little compulsive--"

"You, compulsive? Noooo."

Fraser smirked. "I think it made me difficult to work with. I had friends, yes, but they were more like friendly neighbors. Even so, I always knew that I would find someone who would be close to me. Logic told me I would have to find my closest friends here in the territories, because of the extremes and all. I . . ." He looked into Ray's eyes. "I never thought I'd find a friend who liked me so much that he would endure this kind of hardship just for my sake."

Ray could only stare at him, open-mouthed. Fraser's words shocked him a little, because he had spoken the truth, a bare, crystalline truth, like the wilderness outside, like his homeland. Cold. Barren. Unmistakable. Ray knew he was fond of the Mountie, but there was much more than fondness. And Fraser's heartfelt words, when the Mountie obviously had such a difficult time speaking such things, encouraged him to speak his own peace, and this time without arguing.

"You see, Frase, it's not like I'm giving all that much up. I mean, I really didn't have a career, and well, to be honest, I know it's gonna sound like I'm babbling when I say this but I was just kinda hanging there, you know? . . . after Stella and all? And then Vecchio needed replacing and they threw me in it. I was somebody different and new all of a sudden and I liked it and then you came as part of the deal. After a while, I don't know, I didn't think I'd be me if you weren't there with me."

"I'm sure you'd still be you, Ray."

"Yeah, but would I like me?" he asked with a gesture of hands.

"I like you, Ray."

A small laugh caused Ray to nod slightly. "Thanks, Frase. But if you can get used to Chicago, then I can get used to this."

"Ray, I never got used to Chicago."

After a long pause, the American mumbled, "Oh." He plucked a string from his sweater and tossed it towards the fire, missing. "Isn't that just ironical? I find a guy I like and neither one of us can stand where the other one comes from."

"If you are miserable here, I don't think it would be a good idea for you to stay."

"Look, Frase, if I went back to Chicago, I'd be even more unhappy. Everywhere I'd go, I'd see places that Stella and I used to hang out and I'd think about her down in Florida with that bowling alley and Vecchio and that'd just tear my heart out." He toyed with the hem of his jeans. "And then, I'd see all the places that you and I used to go . . . only, you wouldn't be there and . . ." he took a deep, sad breath.. "I don't . . . I don't think I could take that kind of loneliness."

Fraser spun around on his seat, so that now, even though their hips were still touching, both men could look each other directly in the face. "Ray, I'll go back to Chicago with you."

"I don't want to go back to Chicago. I want to stay here."

"It would be easier for me to adjust to Chicago than for you to adjust to Canada."

"Who says?"

The Mountie was taken aback.

"Are you saying I can't cut it?"

"Well, no, I --"

"Cause I can cut it. I can cut it like a knife and serve it on toast, see? I can handle this."



Fraser continued to fidget. He still had one more concern and now he really hated who he was. If he were more confident with his heart instead of just his mind and his body, then maybe he could probably broach the subject. He knew what he felt . . . most times . . . some times . . . and he knew that with great concentration he could articulate them in his mind, but even after all of that mental effort, his tongue always rebelled and he couldn't speak. Yet he had to know one other thing and it would be better to break into this issue now rather than to stumble over it later in a barren field of ice.

"Uhm . . . Ray . . . there's, uh, something else."

"Yes." His voice was firm.

"Well, you see, I've been meaning to ask--"

"I said, the answer's yes, Frase."

"But I haven't asked my question."

"I love you." Ray stared at him, his eyes almost angry and defensive.

"Oh. Oh, I see." Again Fraser cracked his neck.

"That was your question, right?"

"Well, yes, actually it was."

"So now you know."

"Yes. Now I know."

Another moment of silence passed between them when Fraser rubbed his thumbs over his eyebrows several times. "You, uh, once said you'd, uh, you'd try anything once."

"I did say that."

"So have you?" Fraser added quickly.

This time Ray grinned, truly enjoying seeing this perfect Mountie squirm. "Yeah, Frase, I've tried a bunch of things."

"No, I meant . . . oh dear."

"You mean, like, one thing in particular?"

Unable to speak, Fraser blushed so hard that from these close quarters Ray could feel the heat radiating from his friend's skin. Finally, Ray knew it was up to him to carry this conversation forward. Granted, he wasn't much better than Fraser at speaking his heart, but at least he didn't get so tongue-tied. "Look, Frase, I . . . back in Chicago, I thought about it. Thought about you and . . ." he rolled his hand around in a tight circle. "How to do it and whatnot. The mechanics, you know? And to tell you the truth, it's not the sex part that bothers me. That I can handle."

Fraser was now blushing so hard that his face hurt and he couldn't breathe.

"But I'm scared. I'm scared of what's gonna happen later. I mean, I like it that you think I'm your friend and all and that I mean that much to you, but how long's that gonna last?"

"I don't follow you."

"I mean, look, I grow up in this house where my brother can do no wrong and it don't matter how hard I try, I'm always second best. And then I drop out of college and join the academy and it's like suddenly I'm a leper or something. And then Stella. I mean, she said she didn't want kids and that she wanted to focus on her career, but look at what she went and did -- she ran off with Vecchio and now they own a cheesy bowling alley, and you can't tell me Mr. Catholic Poster-child hasn't gotten her knocked up already. I mean, no offense, I know Vecchio's your friend and all, but that just hurts, Frase. It fucking hurts." Ray's eyes moistened, even though he tried to fight it. "It means that all that crap about career and stuff getting in the way was just crap and that the real reason she didn't want me no more was because she just didn't want me. Period. That I was the reason. That she didn't like me and who I was. I can't . . . I can't say I blame her." He stopped to catch his breath. "So, yeah, I love you, Frase, and I'm not afraid of . . . touching you and all, it's just that . . . the way things are now is good and I don't want to screw things up."

Fraser placed his hand on Ray's arm. "Ray. I love you. I'd never hurt you."

"I know that, Frase. But that won't stop me from disappointing you."

The Canadian sighed, dropping his head in frustration. Finally, he said, "What if we just let this mature on its own? Take it slowly. We have more than enough time. And if either of us gets a little nervous, then we should make a promise now to tell one other and that we won't get upset."

Kowalski waited a long while before he finally reached for Fraser's hand. "I promise."

Carefully, Fraser wrapped his arms around Ray, pulling him close. The American was a little stiff at first, before he pushed out his breath and melted into Fraser's embrace. At that moment, feeling Ray relax against him, Fraser smiled, and a small part of his chest began to glow.


The snow that had begun that night continued without stop for several days. With his arms crossed on the windowsill, Ray stared out at the falling flakes. Every so often, he would massage his temples and groan. "I thought you said it was spring."

Looking up from his book, Fraser lifted his eyebrows. "I beg your pardon?"

"Spring, you know? Spring! Flowers and little pink Easter bunnies and all that crap. What's with all this snow? I thought this was supposed to be spring!"

"I'm afraid we sometimes have snow in the summer, too."

Ray collapsed in a heap on the floor with his head in his hands. "Ah, jeez. I can't take this."

Fraser couldn't hide the anxiety he was feeling for Ray. His partner, this man he loved, was not going to acclimate to the northern territories regardless of his motivation. From his seat in the chair, he watched Ray stand up and pace, his hands constantly moving, his lips mumbling incoherently. With a deep breath, Fraser stood up, then placed himself in front of the American. "Ray, relax. You're just getting cabin fever."

"Cabin fever?!" He clutched at his forehead. "Is that like contagious or something?" He spun around several times. "What is it? Am I gonna get sick? What? What?!"

"No, no, it's not an illness. Not a physical illness, anyway. Well, it does have physical symptoms, but it's more psychosomatic in nature."

"These psychosomias, are they like viruses or something?"

Fraser held onto Ray by his upper arms. "It's nothing like that. It's just a syndrome marked by anxiety and paranoia that is caused by overdue confinement in a small space."

"Oh, well, I already know about that, Frase. Jeez, it's called being cooped up in one place for too long."

"I see. Look, Ray, why don't you try meditation? I've found it often helps me avoid the effects of cabin fever."

"Meditation? You mean that levitating in the astral plane stuff?"

"That is possible, but I think we'll first work on clearing your mind to help you relax." He pulled Ray towards the center of the room. "No, just sit here, please."

"Do I gotta?"

"Please? Cross your legs like this. Yes, that's right."

"Okay, now what do I do?"

"Well, perhaps the clearest descriptions I've come across is one said by the Zen Buddhist practitioners in Japan."

"Which is?"

"Sit still. Do nothing."

"Earth to Fraser." He smacked Fraser on the forehead. "We're doing nothing already. That's the problem."

"Close your eyes. Now, take a deep breath, slowly . . . now release, slowly. Continue to do that, and focus on breathing. Focus on the sounds. Focus on what it feels like moving in and out of your body."

"What am I supposed to be thinking about?"

"Nothing. Don't think about anything. Just concentrate on the breathing. That's the point of mediation. By focusing on your breathing, it gives the mind an opportunity to stop thinking altogether. And then, after practice, you can stop focusing on your breathing as well, and truly silence the mind."

The cabin remained quiet for a few moments longer as the two men sat on the floor near the stove, their legs crossed, facing each other. Finally, Ray spoke, "Hey, Frase?"

"Yes, Ray?"

"When can we do something else?"

Fraser tried to stifle a frustrated groan. He stood up and sat down behind Ray. He stretched his long muscular legs so that his thighs were pressed against the Ray's. "Keep your eyes closed. I want you to focus on my fingertips." Fraser placed his fingertips on Ray's forehead. With feather-light strokes, he traced the outlines of his eyebrows, down his temples, across his cheeks, then up the bridge of his nose to brush his eyebrows again. At the moment of his touch, Ray shuddered, his tense muscles relaxing around his spine. He sighed, the warm touch of Fraser's fingers on his face washing away all of his stress.

Fraser closed his eyes and drifted in the sensation as well. Ray's skin was satiny smooth, and after a while, Fraser used both his index and middle fingers to massage Ray's face, touching his jaw line, the stubble on his chin, and the lobes of his ears. Ray groaned, and he pressed his back against Fraser's chest. The motions continued as Fraser's eyes studied the line on the back of Ray's neck where the hair ended and the skin began. Unable to resist, the Mountie leaned forward and pressed his lips to the other man's nape.

"Oh, Ben."

Benton drew back. As he did, he felt his hard cock squeeze against Ray's back. "Oh dear. I'm sorry."

Both of Ray's hands grabbed Fraser where his thighs joined his hips, pushing his rear into Fraser's crotch. "Don't stop, Ben," he whispered huskily. "Please, please don't stop."

Fraser's arms wrapped around Ray's slender chest, enveloping him as his hands explored the tight muscles beneath the American's wool sweater. He licked the back of Ray's neck, tasting both salty and sweet. With his open mouth, Fraser clamped onto a nub of Ray's spine, sucking on it, nibbling it with his teeth as Ray groaned and writhed in his grip. He tasted of sun, he tasted of hot dogs and of Smarties and coffee and sodas and Fraser knew all that was impossible because Ray had not had any of those things in his system for quite some time but it was just Fraser's image of Ray projected onto his skin. Fraser's normally graceful hands clumsily tugged at Ray's sweater and flannel shirt until he could get underneath them and feel the hot skin unimpeded. Ray's slim, hard stomach quivered at his touch, but when Fraser found his nipples, rolling them between his thumb and forefinger, Ray cried out his name, "Ben!"

He had never heard Ray call him by his first name before, and the sound of it aroused him even more. He maneuvered Ray around in his tight embrace and claimed his mouth hungrily -- no chaste first kiss of lips against lips -- Fraser's tongue forced its way into Ray's mouth and the Mountie held him close. The stubble on Ray's skin burned, but his lips were soft and moist. His tongue was rough and firm on the top, sweet and vulnerable on the underside. Their lips made a perfect connection and the suction was strong and claiming. The only thing that existed for either of them was this one single point of their bodies, joining them in this first intimate moment. Everything burst inside for both of them -- years of longing, even longer years of self-doubt and beliefs that for some reason or another they were too "weird" or too "out-of-place" to ever find a similar soul who hungered so desperately for them.

Fraser pulled Ray down with him, and even though Ray's knee jabbed at his groin, Benton didn't seem to notice the discomfort because at this moment he had never felt such pleasure before -- both physical and emotional. Ray didn't break the kiss, hanging on tightly as the Mountie roll him onto his back. Their hands scrambled across their bodies, feeling hard muscle beneath all those layers of cloth. Very deftly, Fraser's fingers unbuttoned Ray's jeans and pulled down the zipper. Rising up, Ray helped Fraser push his pants past the horns of his hips, exposing his hard cock in the cabin air.

At last, Fraser broke the kiss, and Ray's eyes sprang open as he felt the hot wetness swallow his cock, sucking hard. Fraser's tongue swirled around his shaft, and his hand gripped it hard, moving up and down in tandem with his lips. Ray wiggled beneath him, his hands squeezing Fraser's shoulders and running through his thick black hair. It had been so long, so long since he had last felt a climax, and although he wanted this moment to last forever, he knew that bubble was soon to burst. "Ben. Ben, back off, man, I'm about to come." Fraser only sucked harder and faster and Ray screamed out loud as his cock shot inside the Mountie's mouth. Spurt after spurt wracked him and he felt all of his muscles clench and unclench in a shuddering orgasm.

When he was done, Ray was panting hard on the floor, unable to move while Ben wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. With gentleness and love, Fraser slipped his arm beneath Ray's head and kissed him chastely on the forehead.

"Oh yeah. I think I could get used to this here meditation thing."

Fraser shook his head in happy frustration before settling his forehead against Ray's neck. He closed his eyes, holding Ray tightly and enjoying the slow, random movements of hands on his body. After several moments of this intimate touching, Ray whispered, "Ben, can I . . . look at you?"

"You mean . . ."

Ray tugged on the rim of Fraser's jeans, popping the first button. "Please?"

Fraser couldn't make direct eye contact, his cheeks turning pink again as he fumbled with his jeans, exposing his white boxers. Ray stole the Mountie's breath when his thin, mechanic's hands spread across the front of the cotton, touching the half-erect cock through the cloth. Fraser braced himself with his elbows and threw back his head as fingers gripped and squeezed his shaft. Eventually, he noticed Ray tugging on the elastic band, and Fraser lifted his rear from the floor.

Ray wrapped his fingers around the base of Fraser's cock and lifted it. The pale, thick cock fell to the side from its weight. He continued to massage, exciting Fraser and the Mountie's breathing quickened pace. Benton's foreskin intrigued Ray, the way the skin slid back and forth along the shaft. But as his fingers continued to dance along Fraser's cock, the foreskin grew tighter and tighter. "Ben, is there nothing you aren't perfect at?"

The Mountie blushed. "I'm sorry."

With a wicked grin, Ray kissed him on the cheek. "Don't be. This belongs to me, now." He shuffled down towards Fraser's crotch and examined his lover's thick cock in closer detail. Fraser closed his eyes and sighed as he drifted in the sensations. But when Ray pressed his lips against Benton's brown cockhead, he nearly sat up.

"Sensitive, there, are we?"

"Yes," he blurted out with a cracking voice. Ray brushed his tongue across the head, and Fraser moaned, his hand clasped onto the back of Ray's neck. Encouraged, Kowalski sucked the head into his mouth, his lips inching down the shaft. Fraser's body shivered even as heat spread across his body in waves. The hot wetness pulling on his cock carried away his sense of self-composure and he moaned animalistically, shaking his head back and forth. The intimacy was beautiful and Fraser wanted to let all of his heart open to it -- to bring forth shouts of joy along with some tears. Ray's fingers stroked his balls, then along the ridge towards his lower entrance. The Mountie could feel the tension increasing in the muscles of his legs, and as the cool shivering began, he mumbled, "Ray, stop."

Ray laughed, and the vibrations on his throat caused Fraser to shout.

"Ray, Ray, Ray, RAY!"


Draupadi perked her head up from her work with bits and pieces of ice melting on her brown face. She snapped her head to the left, then to the right, then stood up straight. One eyebrow rose high.

Turning slowly, she asked out loud, "Did Fraser really record the details of a blow job?"

Setting her sonic chisel down, she stepped around the workstation, then flipped back several pages.

Although the thinly-veiled hints were there, the details were not.

She shrugged her shoulders. "I guess I added that." Draupadi moved the reader back to the page she had stopped it on, then went back to work. In the back of her mind, she wondered why she had let her imagination drift and create such an intimate scene between two men. Yes, it was obvious the two men loved each other deeply -- Fraser had recorded the conversations they had had. Again she shrugged her shoulders with a wicked smile. In the back of her mind she vaguely recalled a popular culture class where they mentioned women writing erotica based on men from television shows. "I suppose I need a little extra entertainment." She picked up her chisel and went back to work.


As the rising sun struck the snow for the first time that day, it made a tiny sound as the snow sighed with the feather's brush of heat. A gentle crackling sound, with something high pitched, like a siren's call, like a wet finger stroking the rim of a wine glass. Fraser loved that sound. He had missed it for so long, and now, every morning since he and Ray had fallen out of Muldoon's plane and into the deep snowbank, he opened his hearing as much as he could to hear that first crystal sound of the morning. When he did, he detected other sounds -- Ray's breathing. Glancing over at the man sleeping in his arms, his back cuddled into Fraser's chest, the Mountie could not resist a smile. He easily felt the wiry man's heart beating, and Fraser closed his eyes again to drink in the sensations of touch and hearing.

Fraser pressed his lips against the back of Ray's neck. He tasted of a hint of salt from sweating beneath the cover of blankets. Drawing in his breath, Fraser could smell a faint sweetness coming from Ray's body. Ray shifted slightly in his embrace, mumbling. Suppressing a grin, Fraser moved closer, then opened his mouth and nibbled on Ray's neck. Ray moaned, and Fraser sucked harder, almost marking him. Ray shivered under his touch, and he roused himself awake to the sensation of Fraser's open hand caressing his bare chest.

Rolling slightly, Ray faced his Mountie. "Is it morning already?"

"Yes, Ray." Fraser continued to kiss his neck, drilling his tongue in the small valley where his collar bones met. Ray closed his eyes and pressed his head into the pillows, exposing more of his neck and chest to Fraser's explorations. Fraser's hairless hand gripped the curve of Ray's shoulder, holding him against the goose-feather mattress as his mouth continued to dust his chest with kisses. A pink tongue swirled around the nub of Ray's nipple, and he arched his back with a moan.

Ray's body was such a pleasure to Fraser, a musical instrument that warmed to his touch and reacted to his movements like a plucked string. His slipped his arm underneath's Ray's back, pincering him in a tight embrace as his mouth continued to search his chest and stomach for tender spots. He was most sensitive where his rib cage ended and his flat, muscled abdomen began. Ray squirmed beneath him, and Fraser wiggled his tongue into his lover's navel.

As Fraser bathed Ray with his tongue, his left hand roamed beneath the blankets. His palm drifted down Ray's side, brushing his hip bone, then down his long leg as far as the Mountie could reach. When he started the journey upward, Fraser slipped his hand along Ray's inner thigh, higher and higher, until his thumb and forefinger cupped Ray's balls. Fraser's strong fingers massaged against the chord of muscle between Ray's scrotum and anus, and the man tensed with pleasure.

Finally, the Mountie curled his fingers around the shaft of Ray's cock. Fraser mused how his lover's penis seemed so much like a smaller version of Ray. Long. Thin. Curving devilishly in an arch. From what Fraser had read about anal sex, he knew that the angle of Ray's cock would strike his prostate in magical ways, and the conflict within him between the pleasure he knew he'd experience and the anxiety of having never done something like that caused nervous butterflies in his stomach.

Ray was panting by now, his long fingers buried deep in Fraser's black hair. "God, I love you, Ben," he moaned. "I can't believe how much I'm in love with you."

As his words sank into Fraser, the Mountie reacted by wrapping his lips around the head of Ray's cock, and the American groaned, his hand squeezing Fraser's neck. He only managed a few up and down strokes before Ray lifted himself up on his elbows and pulled Fraser off. "Turn around," he whispered, and his strong arms manhandled Fraser until the Mountie was lying with his knees bent near the pillows. Ray grabbed Fraser's hard thick cock like a handle as his left arm slipped between his thighs and his open hand pressed against the small of Fraser's back.

Fraser quivered, his eyelids fluttering, as Ray's mouth sank onto his cock, swallowing it. Ray gagged slightly, but he continued to push Fraser further and further past his tongue. Fraser called out when he felt his cockhead slip past the ring of muscle in the back of Ray's throat. For a moment, as Ray's throat muscles danced around his cock, Fraser's mind opened around an understanding -- that what he loved so much about Ray was his fearlessness, and how he would try anything without so much as a second thought.

Taking courage, Fraser sucked Ray's cock into his mouth, deeper and deeper, trying to relax himself as much as possible until he felt the curve of Ray's erection sink into his throat. In this intimate circle, the two men swallowed each other, moving their shafts in and out of each other's mouths in perfect rhythm. Fraser gripped Ray's muscular legs hard, wanting him, not just physically, but emotionally as well. Needing him.

He felt the gates opening inside his loins, and Fraser attempted to pull away. Ray's hand clenched his buttocks and forced him even deeper into his throat. Fraser groaned around Ray's cock and he felt his body rebel against him. Red and blue flashes sparked behind his eyelids as every muscle shivered. Ray swallowed fast, sucking him with muscular spasms that milked his cock. Lost in his own orgasm, Fraser barely noticed when Ray's shaft swelled beneath his tongue. A sudden heat burst in the back of his throat, and Fraser swallowed, again and again, drinking Ray's essence into him.

Even though Ray's erection started to deflate in his mouth, Fraser continued to swirl his tongue around it, enjoying the sensation of holding the most private part of Ray's body in such a close, intimate manner. And Ray seemed to have the same need, as he gently lapped the length of Fraser's semi-erect shaft. Finally, Fraser shifted around on the mattress until he could hold Ray in his arms. He kissed his lover on the mouth, their salty tongues sliding across one another's. "Good morning," he whispered.

"I think I like this way of waking up."

"You sure you don't need coffee?"

"This comes real close." He nuzzled against Fraser's neck, his stubble burning Benton's skin.

"I love you, Ray."

They remained in each other arms, enjoying the last fleeting moments of the post coitum triste. The barriers had been broken. They loved each other, they had finally spoken it, and now, they were exploring the ways to physically express it.

Ray didn't seem to mind that a new layer of snow had blanketed the land. Together, they had struggled with digging a path from the door to the wood shed, laughing like they had never done before -- with an almost childlike exuberance. Throwing snowballs. Rolling in the snow. Fraser had never felt something like this before -- Victoria had been such a dangerous love that drew him in with holy promises of being the salvation to a dark lamb. Vecchio had been an unrequitted prison. But Ray -- he feared he was behaving like a gushing adolescent and yet he didn't care. This was an unfettered freedom he had never experienced, and he wanted this giddiness to continue.

As for Ray, Fraser could only observe and make judgements. He knew that Stella was the one person he had ever really loved, but their love had always been tenuous. At any moment, she could have turned her back on her working-class man and returned to the bourgeois circles she belonged -- and that was precisely what she had done. Fraser was no blue-blood. He was a fellow cop, sworn to duty and justice. Masculine, rugged, but accepting and respecting. The day passed so easily for them -- a lunch of smiles and grins and stolen kisses -- an afternoon of chopping wood -- and watching the sun set behind the mountain range, arm in arm. It appeared to Fraser that Ray's constant struggles with the snow and isolation had somehow abated, as if his real struggled had not been against sub-zero temperatures and omnipresent ice -- but the need to be free with his emotions.

The night sank into whispered conversations. Eventually Fraser moved around the cabin like a ghost, extinguishing the candles until only the orange and red stripes from the wood stove danced across the cabin walls. Ray watched his lover move around the cabin, how his legs expressed such grace and confidence, how his back muscles stirred when he bent down to blow out a candle. With slow movements, Ray stripped away his sweater, then unbuttoned his shirt. Beneath that, his thermals, which he shucked over his head. At last, he pushed off his jeans, then his socks. The cabin had been so comfortable until he was naked, and now he was chilled. But Ray refused to be cold, refused his body's call to draw his arms into a cross over his chest.

Fraser blew out the last candle and turned around. When he did, he saw Ray standing there, beside their bed. His arms hung by his side, and in the dim light, he could see how tight his nipples had contracted and how his balls were gripped like a plum to his body. In this light, with the red and orange shadows flickering across his pale flesh, Ray burned more like a candle himself. Strong. Bright. Erect. Brave. Slowly, Fraser stepped closer. Without saying a word, his hands fell on Ray's shoulders, then slipped down his arms. Skin so smooth and soft, but beneath that, strong stone. Both hands splayed across Ray's chest, testing his rounded muscles and strength. Pulling the man against him, Fraser caressed his back, then his rear.

"Ben," Ray released his whisper.


"I . . . belong to you."

Fraser sighed. He wanted to lecture the man and say that no one belonged to anyone else and that he would always be allowed to practice his free will and leave at any time. But he couldn't speak. Couldn't shatter this moment with words. Yes, he did want Ray to belong to him. And Fraser would treat him like a prized possession, keeping him safe, cherishing him at all times. Embracing the American, he opened his mouth and claimed Ray with a kiss.

Bending down, Fraser pulled the sheets back from the bed, and he guided his lover into its soft warmth. Standing up again, he stared down at Ray's nude form, how his knees rose up in angles and his arms held his chest up from the bed. So many sharp points, from his spiky hair to his hip bones -- a mirror of Fraser's own mountainous home, with blue eyes like lakes. Fraser stripped away his wool sweater, then his flannel tee-shirt, exposing his bare chest, firm and smooth like a marble statue of some Greek wrestler. Still wearing his jeans, Fraser bent down onto the mattress, covering Ray's naked body with his own. The bare skin of his chest drank in the warmth from Ray's flesh. Fraser kissed Ray again, holding his head in check. With a soft moan, Ray lifted his arms above his head. In just a few days, he had learned that Fraser took so much pleasure in being able to kiss and taste his body, as though he were tracking a missing man across Ray's fleshy landscape. Ray closed his eyes and drifted in the sensation of Fraser's lips, tongue, and mouth touching and sucking the sensitive parts of his body. Fraser licked the ticklish cove of his armpits, nosing the soft blond hair. He sucked on his nipples until they were raw. His chest and stomach were lapped and mouthed until he shivered from the chill.

Fraser's hands spread Ray's knees apart, and his palms gripped Ray around his balls. Groaning, Ray resisted the urge to arch his back away from the mattress. Fraser only teased his cock with the tip of his tongue, running the point all over his shaft and head. Carefully, he sucked first one testicle, then the other into his mouth, juggling them with his tongue. Ray groaned in ecstasy, his hands finally gripping Fraser's soft shoulders, urging him on. But intent on moving deeper, Fraser's hands pressed against the back of Ray's thighs, lifting his legs and setting them on Fraser's back. With Ray's rear lifted slightly, Fraser spread apart his cheeks and nuzzled the area between his balls and hole. His tongue bathed the curly blond hair that lined the sides, but when Ray felt the first warm lick against his anus, his eyes expanded wide and he moaned aloud.


The Mountie swirled his tongue around the ridged circle of Ray's opening, feeling the muscle wink as it relaxed. He tested the ring, tracing the outer edge before poking into its center. Ray grabbed the backs of his knees, exposing more of himself to Fraser's onslaught. "Don't stop," he whispered, and Fraser continued to massage him with his tongue, opening him until his could slip his finger inside up to the first knuckle.

Ray's anus clenched instinctively, but he willed it to relax until Fraser could insert all of his finger inside. Fraser wondered at the contrast of Ray's sphincter squeezing so hard and tight around his finger, but how warm and soft he felt deeper inside. With gentle, patient strokes, he reamed Ray's anus until he was relaxed enough to fit a second finger.

"Ben, please!"

"Does it hurt?"

"No. I never thought this would feel so good. Please, fuck me. I want you to come inside me. Please, Ben. Please."

Fraser scrambled from the bed, searching for the Vaseline they kept for their chapped lips while at the same time tugging himself free from his tightened jeans. When he returned, Ray had rolled onto his belly, one leg angled to the side, opening himself to Ben. The Mountie sank down onto the mattress between Ray's legs. Lying down, he pillowed his head on the small of Ray's back as he opened the plastic jar and scooped up some Vaseline in his fingers. As he had read in a book, he spread the lubricant around the opening as Ray squirmed beneath him. Then, with more lube, he pressed some inside, coating him generously as his fingers returned to massaging, opening his muscles even more.

"Please, Ben. Please do it now."

With his hand gripping Ray's leg, Fraser pulled him onto his side as he snuggled behind his lover. His cockhead slipped into the greasy space between Ray's buttocks and he waiting, aiming. Ray inched back just slightly, wanting Fraser so badly. He reached down behind him and guided Fraser's thick shaft into place. Reading his lover, Fraser pressed forward. The ring of muscle expanded around his cockhead, and the Canadian pulled down on Ray's hips, mounting him. Suddenly, Ray's sphincter sprang open and Fraser drilled into him deep with one motion.

"Aaaaaiiiiiii!" Ray shouted as the length speared him. His hands gripped the mattress, his knuckles turning white. Fraser was prepared for the initial breach to burn and pain his lover, and he held on tight, peppering Ray's neck and shoulders with kisses until he felt Ray's inner muscles cease their spasms.

"Shhhhh," he whispered in Ray's ear like he was a startled horse. "Don't let me hurt you."

"Doesn't hurt."

"Are you sure?"

"Just . . . feels weird . . . that's all."

"We'll stay like this for a while."

"No, that's okay."

"It's what I want," Fraser added with a lust-stained voice. He sucked on Ray's neck hard, delighting in Ray's strangled groan. Finally, he asked, "Ray?"


"You aren't doing this just for me, are you?"

With tiny rocking movements, Ray fucked himself on Fraser's cock. "I'm doing it for you, and for me."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Always wanted to know what this felt like. And I . . . knew you'd be the only man who wouldn't make it hurt. Make love to me, Ben. Please. I wanna know what it feels like when you come inside me."

Fraser withdrew his cock until it was almost free, then sank back inside his lover. Ray groaned as his neck muscles strained. "Oh, yes!" Fraser continued this slow penetration, back and forth as Ray floated in his passion. Never had Ben felt something so erotic -- the tight heat and the play of muscles massaging his cock all over -- the hard ring opening into the softest glove. His pace quickened, piercing Ray to the mattress until he was pistoning like a machine, smacking his groin into Ray's ass with the speed of a hammering heartbeat. Ray's muffled moans broke into animal-wails until finally his entire body clenched, including the muscles of his rear around Fraser's cock. He gasped for breath as his climax overtook him.

For Fraser, just being a part of this experience, of bringing Ray to the ultimate brink sent him over the edge, and he sprayed the inside of his lover, again and again as his body shook from the release. With the last ejaculation, Fraser collapsed on Ray's back, panting for breath. Exhausted, Fraser tugged on the blankets, wrapping both of them tight, as the two men fell into a sated sleep, Fraser's thick cock still locking the two men together.


The eventual thawing of spring marked more than just the returning of Canadian geese and the phallic poking of blue crocuses through snow. It heralded a change in both Benton Fraser and Raymond Kowalski. Their partnership those last few months in Chicago had tightened until they were both synchronized in thought and actions, but now, with the ability to freely touch and love the other, they had opened a door to an even further marriage of minds. The first thing to change was their conversations. So much now went unsaid. Ray seemed to know when Fraser needed a knife from the drawer. Fraser was ready with a backrub before Ray even seemed to notice he was stressing from the isolation. At night, Fraser would read to Ray as his lover nestled against his chest.

Summer introduced Ray to fishing and hunting, to blanket tosses in Inuvik and hiking in the mountains. The constant exertion along with the increase in fresh meat and vegetables brought with it added muscle and weight. Fraser knew that they didn't have a full-length mirror for Ray to see the change, and one day while in Inuvik, he pulled Ray towards a darkened window that threw back a mirror-quality reflection. In shock, Ray turned around several times, admiring his healthy bulk before grinning madly at Fraser. "How come you didn't tell me?"

"Guess I was enjoying it too much."

This time, Ray blushed.

And as summer gave way to fall, Ray's mercurial personality switched again. Whereas in spring he had begged the sky to stop snowing, now he was pleading for the first glimpse of white so that they could begin their adventure -- and to find the hand of Sir John Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea. When the first snow finally came, Ray transformed into a child, dancing in the falling white and screaming an almost maniacal laugh. And that night, underneath the covers, he put his arched cock to use, screwing into the Mountie and punching the button of his prostate again and again until Fraser melted into a jellied mass of pleasure.

A hundred years later, a stranger to them both would be chipping away at the ice that surrounded their prone bodies, just as her scientific mind digested Fraser's journals and reconstructed their lives. Now she had stripped away the bulk of the ice, and with even more precise tools, she removed the remaining layer, exposing their parkas to the air for the first time in a century. Diefenbaker's fur bristled under the sonic vibrations as they shook away the frozen water.

In the quiet of the sterile workroom, Draupadi focused on her handiwork while her inner imagination drifted along with Fraser's words. The snows had deepened and the oceanic ice had firmed enough for them to begin their search. Fraser had a good idea of where the Erebus was last seen. At long last, they hitched up the dogs and made their way. Draupadi paused long enough to compare the dates -- she was now reading the journal entries of 1995, and the last entry in the journal she and Kevin had found on the dog sled was 2006. Still unsure what had happened to these men, she proceeded with both the ice and the journals as Fraser and Ray sped across the wasteland, crossing the frozen Beaufort Sea to Banke Island. They traced the edge, eating seal when they could, subsisting on rations otherwise. For almost a month they traced the island's edge, until Fraser turned them north, closer towards the pole and the Sverdrup Islands. Hearing the name, Draupadi became excited for them. /Yes, that's it! Sverdrup! That's where the ship is!/ Then she had to control herself. Of course they found Franklin. That's where she found them, after all.

On the second month of the search, Fraser spotted it. The barest trace of the hull of the ship lying above the layer of ice. Franklin's hand had long since disappeared, and the ship was deserted, but that didn't matter. The point was that the two of them had braved exposure and death together to find it. Together, they held each other tight with Diefenbaker and the dogs huddled around their legs. It was too cold to kiss, so they rubbed their noses together instead..

"Thank you, Ben."

"You're welcome, Ray. Wasn't much of an adventure."

"Yeah it was. I nearly froze my ass off. Now, can I go home?"

Fraser paused for a moment, so afraid. "You mean . . . Chicago?"

"Chicago? Of course not. Home. Our home. Pitter, patter, let's get at her."

Fraser clung to him in the icy wind.

And so they returned. Back to the cabin. And for eleven years they lived together, outside Inuvik. They had made it home from Franklin's ship in early December, just in time for them to celebrate their first Christmas together. Draupadi smiled as she listened to the details of their domestic life -- the bickering disputes that warmed her heart with its odd familiarity, the occasional trek across the wilderness after a fugitive criminal, the long nights when they would make love to one another.

Until finally, in 2006, Fraser approached Ray as winter settled in, and told him that Diefenbaker wanted to see Franklin's ship again before he died. Fraser knew Ray would argue, but he also knew how devoted he was to the wolf.

And they set out across the ice for the last time.

Draupadi angled the lights that hung above the bodies. She adjusted the specialized scanning beams so that they would alter the color of any ice that contained human, organic matter. She didn't want to run the risk of damaging anything as she stripped away the last remaining layer of ice from their faces. Fraser's words chilled the air as he tried to hide his panic from his journals. They were attempting to cut around a blizzard and hopefully outflank it. All indications were that they had snuck behind it as the blizzard passed Sverdrup.

Then Draupadi noticed the ice around Fraser's face had changed color. It was a dark blue, an indication of something organic. She changed to a single point laser and chipped away what she could, but for some reason, she couldn't clear the ice away from the Mountie's face. Draupadi attached a magnifying lens to her goggles and tried to chip away what she could. Only it was all blue.

Stepping back, she examined the face.

All the blue ice was coming from Fraser's eyes.

"End of journal entries," a dry computer voice sounded.

Draupadi gasped.

She dropped her sonic chisel.

From a slight distance, without the magnifying glass turning the ice into a contrast of white versus blue, she could see the full extent of her find.


In Fraser's last moments, tears had streamed out his eyes, covering his face, where they froze in layers.

Now she could see the facial expression -- how the muscles were wrenched in agony. Draupadi could practically hear the sobs screaming in her ears. Frozen in time, Fraser had died at the moment of his deepest heartbreak. Holding Diefenbaker. Holding Ray. Both of them dead. Their faces calm and quiet. His face twisted in pain, his lips pulled back from his teeth, his eyelids squeezed tight into a map of wrinkles.

Draupadi collapsed into the chair behind the workstation and cried, the absence of Fraser's words from the journals underlining the significance that he was gone.


The next day, Draupadi could not face their bodies. She remained hidden in her apartment overlooking Lake Michigan, her heart shell-shocked. Her Darjeeling tea had lost its strength, and even her mother's recipe for curried lamb and lentils had no spice. Her night was devoid of dreams, as if, even there, the men were gone.

Finally, after another day had passed, Draupadi found the courage to step back into the workroom. Her mind was quiet, but her heart was still depressed. She felt like she had lost her best friends, but she knew that this was ridiculous. The devastation was total. It was as if she had felt this pain once before. But she had never met them, and she never would. With a quiet spirit, she sank into the chair, then rested her head on the workstation desk.

"Ah, jeez, that's disgusting!"

At the sound of a man's voice, Draupadi leapt from her workstation. Turning, her heart sprang into her throat as she recognized two men standing at the doorway. She couldn't help but stare at one of them more than the other -- his brilliant red serge jacket drew her eyes towards him. Draupadi had seen that uniform before, in pictures. And that face. It was a perfect match. He doffed his brown stetson hat and spoke softly, "I'm dreadfully sorry. We didn't mean to startle you."

Draupadi pressed her back against the glass wall, trying desperately to create more room between her and these men. "Who . . . who are you?"

The dark-haired man held out his hand, the smile on his face charming and comforting. "Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And this is my partner, Detective Ray Kowalski." The blond only waved at her, his back turned to the frozen mummies.

/This has to be a joke,/ Draupadi thought as her heart continued to race. /This has to be a fucking joke./ "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I first came to Chicago on the trail of my father's killer --"

"Fraser." The second man warned him. Draupadi glanced over at him, her hands still shaking. He was not so nicely dressed, wearing jeans, black leather boots and a tight tee-shirt beneath his khaki trench coat. One of Draupadi's eyebrows lifted in question as she noticed how spiky his blond hair seemed.

"Oh, right you are, Ray."

"Why are you doing this?" Draupadi challenged them with a suddenly vicious voice.

"Doing what?"

"Trying to frighten me."

"No. Oh, no, no." Fraser stepped closer and Draupadi warned him off with her hand. "We . . . you see . . ." he twisted the stetson in his hand, "we wanted to . . ."

"Spit it out, Fraser."

"Right. We need to ask you a favor."

Draupadi gasped when she saw the white wolf appear at Fraser's feet, his claws clicking on the linoleum floor. Her skin grew cold as she recognized the pattern of white and gray on the animal's fur. The uniforms, these clothes, they could be faked easily, but not the wolf. Swallowing hard to regain her composure, she whispered, "In your journals, you said you could see ghosts."

"You mean my father's?"

"Is that what you are? A ghost?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes."

"How is it that I can see you?"

"I'm not exactly sure, actually. I have a feeling it's because of all the research you've been doing. Or perhaps you knew us in a previous life. My father appeared once in front of a man named Holloway Muldoon because he wanted to be seen. Perhaps we just want you to see us."

Suddenly, the door opened, and Ray jumped out of the way. An intern stepped inside the small room and placed a file on Draupadi's work station as if nothing were out of the ordinary. "Here's the chemical analysis you requested, Dr. Vyasa."


The intern stopped on his way out. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Is there anyone else here?"

He looked around the room, then back at Draupadi. "You mean in here? Doctor, are you okay? Maybe you've been stuck in here with the Sea Wolf too long."

She waved him off, "Thank you. Perhaps I have." After the intern closed the door behind him, Draupadi turned her dark-eyed gaze on both men. "What do you want?"

"We want to ask a request. You see, these are our bodies. And, well, considering that we are dead, and the fact that we died in such a place where no one could recover them and give them a proper burial . . . you see, what I'm asking is . . . don't force us to be objects of study. Would you please be so kind as to offer us . . . some type of burial?"

"Bury you? You've got to be kidding. Think of how valuable you are to science. Think of the data and what we can learn. You can't seriously expect me to destroy that. You are much to important."

"Oh." He paused, trying hard to hide his disappointment. "Oh, I see. Well, since you put it like that." He ran his thumb across his eyebrow. "Very well. Thank you, kindly." He turned to face his partner and said, "Come along, Ray."

"That's it?" Ray barked.

"That's what?"

"That's all you're going to say to her? Can we please and thank you kindly?"

"Well, I asked her politely."

"Polite? Polite! Oh, yeah, that's just great. A hundred years and you're still going on about manners." Ray focused on the archeologist. "Do you know what it's like to live with a guy like this? 'Oh, be so kind as to step aside, Ray, and let these people pass. It only takes a minute to be polite.' A minute, my ass, do you have any idea how many dead guys there are?"

Draupadi shook her head.

"Now, those guys are us." Ray shuddered for a moment, then focus on Draupadi again. "And we don't take too kindly to having a bunch of strangers throwing us in a freaking zoo--"

"Ah, Ray, I believe you mean, a museum."

Spinning around, Ray replied, "No, Frase, I meant a zoo. I know what a zoo is. A zoo is a place where you stick some animal that nobody gives a damn about behind a piece of glass so people who don't even know you've got feelings can tap on it and make whatever stupid comment they have to make about it before they move along to something else. Well, I for one know that we deserve more dignity than that. Hell, a hundred years ago, we started taking bodies outta museums and putting them back in their graves. Are you just gonna tell me that you folks decided it was a bad idea all of a sudden?"

All three of them remained silent as Draupadi tried to comprehend what she was hearing. At long last she asked, "If you are dead, why would it matter what happens to your bodies?"

Fraser approached the bodies. His ivory-colored hand brushed the leathery skin of Kowalski's face, then stroked Dief's fur. "You see . . . I died . . . holding them close to me. The way we lived. This . . . this was our last memory. I loved Ray, Doctor. I love him still. And I don't want anyone, ever, to break this embrace. It means too much to me. For a hundred years, we could go back to Franklin's ship and see each other, holding each other close, and know how much we meant to one another. Please, please don't pull us apart."

From across the room, Ray watched as Fraser's hands continued to move across the bodies. The fingers trembled, and Fraser's jaw wrinkled tight as he tried to fight back his emotions. "I . . . made a mistake. I think I was too confident. I didn't see the second blizzard coming and the snow fell so fast." From where she stood against the glass wall, Draupadi could witness the way the Canadian's eyes twisted with grief. "I tried to protect them. I did. I tried. Ray . . ." Fraser swallowed. "Dief died first. He was so old. And then Ray . . . he was so . . . so quiet. He didn't move. I begged and I begged for him to stay but he just . . . wasn't there any more . . . and I was . . . I was so alone."

The thin American left his place against the opposite wall, and with a saddened face, touched Fraser's shoulder. The Mountie spun around and swept him up in his arms. "Ray, Ray, I'm so sorry."

"Shhhhhh," Ray stroked his lover's back. "It's over, Ben. It's over. That was a long time ago. It was just something that happened, but it never tore us apart. I'm still here. I'm here and I'm gonna stay here for as long as it's possible."

Fraser sobbed hard, clutching Ray to his chest like a life line. "I love you," he choked from his lips. "I love you."

"I know, man, I know." He ran his hand over the back of Benton's head. "I love you, too. I always have. I always will."

From her place against the glass wall, Draupadi saw the two men grasping at each other. Tears fell down her face, and her throat was too tight to speak. Finally, she moved, and she touched Benton on the arm. It surprised her how solid he felt -- she could even feel the brush of the red serge cloth. "Constable?"

Fraser forced himself to regain his composure, nodding. "Please excuse me. I don't usually act this way."

"I understand. I . . . I don't know if I'll be able to act on your request, but I swear by my word, and on the gods of my family, that I will never break the three of you apart."

"I believe you," Fraser said.

"Oh, yeah," Ray added, "that's all well and good for you but what's gonna happen to us when you're dead. They'll probably chop us up into little bits and serve us as tea or something."

Fraser interrupted. "I doubt they'll use us as a tea, Ray, but I see your point."

"I can't destroy the evidence. It'll ruin my career."

"I understand the significance and the consequences of our request, Doctor. But what we are asking for is dignity, and respect. We are human beings, no different than you, and we don't wish to be treated like objects on display."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Burn our bodies. Scatter the ashes outside our cabin."

"Burn your bodies!" Draupadi closed her eyes. "Let me . . . give me some time to think about it."

"Thank you, Doctor. Thank you very much."

As Fraser moved to leave, Diefenbaker whined.

"What did you say?" Fraser asked the wolf, deeply horrified.

Dief barked.

"I'm not believing you asked that!" Kneeling down he added, "No, you may not chew on our feet!"

The wolf barked again.

"I don't care if we do look like pemmican, and to be quite frank, for the first time I agree with Ray. That is just disgusting!"

The wolf growled as he trotted out of the room. Fraser stood up and faced the archeologist. "I'm deeply sorry for that. You see, since you made him famous as the Sea Wolf, he's just been impossible to live with." Fraser started to walk out the door, but he turned in the doorway, staring at the floor for a moment, and said, "At the same time, Doctor, I wanted to say, too. . . . all this time, Diefenbaker's felt responsible for . . . for what happened. We're both glad that he's back to his old self. We have you to thank for that." He snapped his stetson hat smartly on his head. "Thank you, kindly."

Draupadi glanced back at the three bodies of the infamous Sea Wolf discovery, hovering chest-level above the floor. With shaking hands, she wiped the tears from her face and whispered, "Oh dear."


With her dark eyes made even darker by sleepless circles, Draupadi spun her china tea cup around and around, her long, brown fingers against the side of the curved handle. /Maybe it was all the snow. All the sub-zero weather. Maybe it was all those nights when I didn't sleep. It's because this has become an obsession, that's what it is. I've been living and breathing these men for so long, it's no wonder I'm starting to hallucinate them. Hell, this keeps up I'll start thinking they're real./

Draupadi stopped turning her coffee cup.

"That's the problem. They are real."

She dropped her head into her hands.

They had come to her. They had actually come to her. She had seen them.

And they had asked her to destroy her career.

She shook her head. /How could they?/ She had focused so hard on their lives, researched every angle, and followed Fraser's career beginning with his father's death. She had struggled with him while he fought to understand Chicago. She had endured his pain while he was attracted to Vecchio when Vecchio had no interest. She had listened to his rationalizations and ramblings when Kowalski had appeared suddenly and captured his attention. She had felt the daily excitement and downfalls of every comment and movement Ray made around him, even tracked Holloway Muldoon across the ice fields with Ray strapped to his back, hearing his fervent prayers that Ray live. And then to feel the rush as they finally expressed their love, tracked a missing ship across the ice, then returned to thrive for over ten years by each other's side. She had memorized the alphabet of their hearts and for them to just . . .

Draupadi closed her irritated eyes and felt a faint rush of shame.

They should never have had to come to her. She knew their love more than any other human being ever had before, and she was still prepared to turn their bodies into a faceless, dehumanized artifact like any other piece of pottery or arrowhead, on show for her own reward.

"Hey, Padi, what's up?"

Draupadi glanced upwards and noticed Kevin slumping into the chair opposite her.

"You look like shit, girl."

"Do I?" She lifted the tea cup with both hands. "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately."

"About what?"

She took a noisy sip of her tea, trying to gather her thoughts, when she started, "Do you remember, our first year in grad school, we had to take Research 600?"

"Yeah, vaguely."

"Do you remember the Blair Sandburg Scenario?"

Kevin nodded. "Yeah, I remember that story. Course, I don't remember anything about it except the discussion on whether Sandburg was a real person or a character off a television show."

"That's not important," Draupadi replied with some impatience. "What is important is that Sandburg destroyed his research to save his subject."

"Uhm . . . why are you thinking about that right now?"

"The point of the scenario is that this anthropologist discovers something amazing, but the very act of presenting this amazing thing would destroy the integrity . . . no, it would destroy the actual thing he had discovered."

Kevin stared at her for a few moments. "Padi . . . what have you found? . . . That is it, isn't it? You've discovered something about the Sea Wolf. You've discovered something. What did you find?"

"I think . . ." She peered up at him with red-rimmed eyes. "I think I discovered . . . humanity."


Fraser stood on his porch, his legs spread wide and one arm behind his back. Every so often he would sip from his mug of bark tea. The Mountie loved this time -- for so many months, his home would be blanketed with white -- even the sky would be white. But now, during the early months of autumn, the land heaved one more burst of color. The sky seemed almost cobalt when outlined by the dark mountains capped with a thin layer of snow. From his place on the porch, Fraser's eyes marveled over the play of colors from the trees -- green so dark it had traces of brown in places, with threads of silver beneath that flashed in the sun. Emerald green grass grew thick between the cabin and the slate-blue lake, still jeweled in late-morning dew. And in the sky, high above the canopy of the firs, a wide vee of Canadian geese were flying due south. It warmed his heart to see his home.

Then he heard Ray parking the Jeep. That warmed his heart even more. To think that after eleven years, this man had chosen to remain in his homeland. He grinned to himself, and that grin stayed on his face when he saw his lover stepping through the thick grass up to the porch. "Morning, Ray."

"Morning." Ray kissed him on the lips. "Be right back." He slipped inside, and a few moments later, returned to Fraser's side with a cup of tea.

"Did you enjoy your trip into town?"

"It was all right. Took that moose I shot over to Mama Baker's place." He sipped his tea. "Be the last time that damn moose gets into my tomatoes."

"Is she going to dress him for us?"


"What you give her for it?"

"Told her she could take her pick. She said she wanted a rack of ribs. Hadn't had barbeque for a while. Said she wanted the organs, too, and you know I can't stand them things."

"What about the hide?"

At that moment, a very old Dief hobbled out of the cabin and onto the porch, lying at Fraser's feet.

"I swapped the hide for a couple of blankets for Dief. Say, did you give him some of that willow bark tea already?"

"Gave him some this morning. His joints must be giving him more problems than usual today."

"Oh yeah? This winter's gonna be a lot worse than last."

"What makes you say that, Ray?"

With his mug, he pointed to another flock of migrating geese. "Geese are moving early. So are the caribou. Haven't seen the turtles for a while."


"That and I saw it on the Weather Channel when I was in town. Something about the air stream taking a dip and pulling in a lot of Arctic air this year."

"Ahhh." Fraser suppressed a smirk as he drank from his tea, then the smirk became a deep, pleasured sigh as he felt Ray's hand drift behind his back and wrap around his waist. Out of habit, Fraser draped his arm over Ray's shoulders.

"I'm damn proud of you, son." At the sound of his father's voice, Fraser cast his eyes to the left and noticed Bob Fraser leaning against the porch railing.

"So," Ray began, "is your father here?"

"Why, yes. How did you know? Can you see him?"

"Nah." Ray sipped his tea. "But every time he's around, Deif get's that funny look on his face. And you. This part of your neck gets all tense." The American traced his finger along the ligament from Fraser's shoulder to behind his ear. "Means you're listening to him. I can usually tell which side he's on that way."

"Oh. I see." Glancing to his left, Fraser saw that his father was grinning.

"You've done a damn fine job of training the yank, son. He's almost as good as you."

Fraser smiled into his mug.

"Now, granted, you didn't give me as many grandchildren as Maggie did, but look at the two of you. He really loves you. He *really* loves you. He's never let you down, and you've always been by his side. . . . I sometimes wish your mother and I had had that chance. . . . You chose well, son. Don't ever let him go."

After a moment, Ray patted his lover on the flank. Fraser turned to him, blushing. "He must have said something really good. I haven't seen you that red since you were last in uniform."

Fraser pulled him into an embrace, Ray's back to his chest. "That he did, Ray. That he did." He kissed Ray on the cheek, and both men gazed out onto their wilderness.


Draupadi shut down the computer's voice and Fraser's words fell silent. With the coming snow, Fraser and Ray would strap Diefenbaker into the dog sled, and they would take off across the tundra, east from Inuvik, towards Victoria Straight and Franklin's remaining ice-moored ship. Only, this would be their last trip together. The snow would come too strong, and they would die.

Together. As they had in life. Holding each other.

Then, with her heart laden, she was surprised by how efficiently her fingers operated the many keyboards on the workstation, and by how professional her voice sounded. She knew she would need a server, and a very large one, capable of at least 500 gigabytes. That would require a lot of money, but fortunately, the royalties on Fraser's journals had been substantial, and there were now three hologram stations bidding on the details of Fraser's life for an upcoming series. The doctor was quite amazed by how easy it was to procure something that large and seemingly impossible now that she had a bursting bank account. She then secured two more servers to act as back-ups, and she knew she was ready.

So many images passed into her mind as she managed the floating cart into the work room. She had spent so much time here, listening to Fraser's words as her surgical hands scraped away the layers of ice, that she almost felt outdoors here, as if this tiny circular room held the vast wastelands of northern Canada -- its snows, its winds, its trees and lakes. She recalled all of Fraser's fears and trepidations. And in this moment as she leveraged their three connected bodies onto the gurney, she remembered the nights just after Fraser had been recommissioned as an RCMP in Inuvik, after they had returned from Franklin's ship. He was patrolling, and with Dief at his side, he worried about Ray, left alone in their cabin. He knew the American was bored, and for days they had lived in an almost steel-clad existence while Ray became increasingly discouraged by the requirements for becoming an RCMP. The first and most troublesome had been the discussion about his lack of Canadian citizenship and the fact that he was, for all intents and purposes, an "illegal alien."

Draupadi cloaked the Sea Wolf with a long, white sheet. With a deep, resolved breath, she stepped behind the gurney and guided it out into the hall. Two floors down from the paleontology department was the physics lab. There, she had reserved the molecular transcriber. Although it would be impossible to record every particle on a sub-atomic level due to the Heisenberg Principle, she knew that at least she could make a virtual copy of the Sea Wolf find, and that would have to do -- her fears of future scientists referring to both the Ice Man of the 1990's and the Sea Wolf of the 2110's as science-damaged artifacts would just have to be damned.

The conflict over Ray's status in Canada was resolved quickly with Buck Frobisher's help and a lot of favors. In days, he had a visa to remain, along with so many forms and applications for citizenship that Ray could only groan. "Jeez, Fraser, I didn't have to do this much paperwork when I was a cop." Fraser saw it as a chance to spend time with Ray, working on something together again. He spread the forms across the table and tried to coax the information out of him. But Ray was so antsy and frustrated. Each time he came close to quitting, Fraser would touch his shoulder, or use his most imploring, puppy-dog expression he could manage. When at last Ray was ready to throw the sheets of paper into the air, Fraser said with a small boy's sadness, "Please don't leave me."

Ray stared at him for a moment, suddenly realizing the full import of what this meant. He nodded, sat down again, and together they worked furiously to complete Ray's application for citizenship.

Draupadi propped open the door to the molecular scanning lab, then moved the floating cart into the room. The fluorescent lights flickered for a minute as they warmed up, and the realization of what she was doing hit her again. She clamped it down quickly.

The application for citizenship would take almost a year, even considering that officials in the RCMP were helping to accelerate the process. When Fraser came home and told Ray that he had received a recommendation from Inspector Thatcher, Ray was clearly taken aback. He remained silent for most of the evening, but Fraser couldn't help but smile. Knowing that the Ice Queen had, in her own way, respected him, meant a great deal -- to them both.

The doctor struggled with their bodies as she positioned them on a white metal bed. The instrument resembled the old MRI and CAT scan equipment of the early 21st century, with a massive, glossy circle that would slowly swallow their bodies as the multiple lasers identified and recorded every molecule in their bodies.

While Ray waited for his citizenship, he did at least begin working for the RCMP's in an "unofficial capacity." But "unofficial" for the Canadians meant something entirely different than Lieutenant Welsh's definition. He helped repair and rebuild the engines of their jeeps and snowmobiles. It kept him busy, and he was always there in case something happened and they needed to deputize an extra man.

Draupadi connected to the server, and when she was confident the fiber-optic line was secure, she began the scan. From her screen, she watched as a single byte flashed. Then another. The red tracings on the laser sights approached their bodies, the bed that held them inching closer and closer. When the first hair of Fraser's fur parka touched the flashing circles of light, Draupadi's screen burst in a flood of data, thousands of numbers streaming across the monitor. It was beginning. They were being copied. The first step was taken.

All during Ray's struggles with what he would do with himself, the one thing he knew he would not resist was Fraser's need to be a Mountie. It was his life, as much a part of him as the snow and the wind and his dark hair and ivory skin. To remove it would be to remove his soul. And so, he was comfortable with letting Fraser take his first patrol alone into the wilderness. Because for the first time in his life, Ray knew he was loved, and that this love would last until he died. There was something about that sense of future and confidence he had never had before. With Stella, there was always the chance she would leave him for not having the Gold Coast background or the legal mind like hers. Strange how Fraser's intellect eclipsed Stella's but he never really made Ray feel like an idiot. Ray knew that Fraser would always be in his life, forever, and it didn't matter if he was a hundred miles away sleeping in the snow, he would come back.

But that night as Fraser sat in the snow on his first patrol away from Ray, he stared up into the stars and for one of the few times in his life felt how truly alone this part of the world was. The blue and green traces of the aurora borealis whipped the sky above him. For almost a year now, he had lived side by side with Ray. No, longer than that if he counted his years in Chicago. Not for the life of him did he ever suspect that he might find this place, his Canada, uncomfortable. But now it was. It was lonely, and quiet, and . . . . sad. He waited for the northern lights to pass, and once the final flickering electric shower ended, he pulled his cell phone from the lining of his coat.

The phone rang a few times before he heard that sharp Chicago accent that he loved. "Yeah?"

"Ray, it's me."

"What's wrong? Something's wrong, isn't it? What? What is it?"

Fraser imagined Ray spinning around, trying to pace but too wound to do it. "No, Ray, I'm fine. I'm just . . ." He glanced up at the black night dusted with millions of stars. "I'm just lonely, that's all."

There was silence on the other end of the line. Or at least, the silence of voice. Fraser could easily hear the fire crackling in the wood stove, and the brush of cloth against cloth as Ray settled into the chair. For a few seconds, Fraser worried about the pause, trying to interpret its meaning until Ray finally spoke with a quivering voice, "I miss you, too, Ben."

"I didn't mean to upset you."

"You didn't. You didn't. Not really."


"You know, that thing you said your father told you once, about how he and his partner were still close even though they were a hundred miles apart?"


"I don't think he was considering cell phones."

Fraser smiled. "Right you are."

"I love you, Ben."

The Mountie tightened his coat around his chest, his eyes closing lightly. "As I you, Ray."

"But you might better save your battery, in case you really need some help."

Fraser sighed. "Yes, you might be right." He waited a moment, not really wanting Ray to go away. Finally he said, "I . . . guess I should go."

"Yeah. Good night, Ben."

"Good night, Ray."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

As he turned off his phone, suddenly Fraser felt even more alone than he had before he called.

The scanning continued, so abominably slow that Draupadi found herself pacing the hall like an expectant father. Gradually, a complete record of every detail of their bodies took shape, one that future generations could recreate in virtual holographs. Chemical analyses could be done with the stroke of a key. No one would be able to clone them, but even that was controversial still and might never happen anyway. All these steps she was taking would temper the bite of the scientific community when her outrage would be revealed, but the bite would still come. Thinking back on all she had learned of these two men and their wolf, she knew this was inevitable. It reminded her of those ancient Greek plays she had been forced to read in high school -- she was doomed to suffer this fate -- not because she was born -- but because of the person she had become.

Four hours later, the molecular scan finished. For almost a minute, the equipment buzzed, yet Draupadi hadn't heard it. She was still lost in her own world of the Chicago PD and the RCMP. With a yawn, she turned off the machine and reached for the gurney.

It was now or never.

In the basement of the building was an incinerator.

She stared for one last time at her men clutching the Sea Wolf. No -- at Fraser and Ray and Dief. During all the months she had worked on this find, they had never moved -- just stiff board-like things waiting to lie on a shelf collecting dust, with polite, formal, serif-font tablets pasted beside them explaining the story of their lives in less than thirty words. But to her, they were alive. "They had a being, breathing frost," she whispered, thinking back to a poem she remembered. And now she was going to send them away from her, forever. She would never again wake up and know that she would spend her day with them. There was nothing more to discover. She knew how it started, with a single gunshot in the Canadian wilderness and an old man's curse. And she knew how it ended, with the three of them, huddled against the side of the ship as snow poured from the sky, covering them as their lives slipped away.

Everything was over. Everything was finished.

Her heart ached as she pushed the gurney in front of her. And then the thought came to her as she carried Fraser, Ray and Dief to be immolated. Images of her ancestry. Here she was, the widow in this affair. And although these men and their wolf had died, and she was taking them to their funeral pyre, she, too, was burning. Burning herself. Burning her heart. Burning her career in her own form of sati.


The next morning, Draupadi selected her nicest silk sari, of shimmering cobalt blue trimmed in white. Many years ago, when she had last journeyed to Rajastan to visit her grandparents, she had endured her grandfather's bitter rebukes after she had chosen to major in arctic archeology. He saw it as sheer fantasy -- what did she know of the Arctic? One trip to Alaska? And what was there to learn? All that ice and snow? Did she know that she would probably be spending all of her time in Siberia instead of the Yukon? There was certainly more of Russia in the Arctic than of Canada. But then her grandmother had approached, and handed her this sari. "Here, my granddaughter. Take this. It is not the Arctic that calls to you. It is the ghosts of the Himalayas that you have found in your new land. Live there, in all that ice and the snow. And know that following your heart is more important than following your head."

On the table, a small silver urn gleamed in the Chicago sunlight.

She draped the dark blue silk around her slender form, tight around her waist, a pass of cloth over her head, and a loose collar around her neck. She wore this when she needed to feel surrounded by the North, to see the blue skies that stretched for miles above her head, and to glimpse the trails of white snow and white feathered clouds. With a sigh, she selected a blue crystal bindi and pasted it on her forehead.

An hour and a half later, she stepped up to the acrylic podium, before a group of reporters and webcasters, scientists and academics, and there, to the right, the chancellor, the dean, and the president of the university. With her chin held high, she took one deep breath through tightened lungs, and she set fire to herself with these words.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began with her lilting Indian voice, "I would first like to express my appreciation for appearing at such short notice."

She took another deep breath. Her throat ached.

"In 1989, Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police first came to Chicago on the trail of his father's killer . . . and for reasons that do not need explaining at this time, he remained as a liaison with the Canadian consulate. Here, he met Detective Ray Vecchio, and they worked together as partners for some time until the Federal Bureau of Investigations selected Vecchio for an undercover assignment. Constable Fraser was then assigned Detective Stanley Raymond Kowalski as his contact at the Chicago PD, and this Stan Kowalski took on Detective Vecchio's identity to further protect the real Vecchio.

"Most of you know this from reading the journals that have been released up to this point. But what I have uncovered in the past few weeks has revealed less about police work and more about the nature of love. On leaving Chicago, Constable Fraser was followed by Detective Kowalski, and together, they made a life with each other. They were passionate, devoted and extremely loyal to one another for more than ten years before they died. It was the kind of devotion that most of us dream about, or imagine, in our books and in our holograms, but we never experience.

"But one thing more than any other remained powerfully strong with these men. They were never apart. Even when Constable Fraser returned to patrolling the wilderness, they were never truly separated." She paused to glance at the screen image behind her, of the two ice-mummies clutching each other with the wolf between them. "Even in death," she added, "they never broke this embrace."

Draupadi took another deep breath. Now for the hard part.

"At 11:15 a.m. yesterday, I established the Sea Wolf Trust, using the proceeds from my royalties from the sale of Constable Fraser's journals, which I will now bestow upon this university."

In the right corner, the dean grinned at the chancellor, but neither of them spoke.

"With this trust, I have purchased three large servers, and established financial means for their future maintenance. Each of these servers contains a precise molecular copy of the Sea Wolf find. It is my wish that the university provide open source access to all other universities and scientific institutions throughout the world. Because, you see, ladies and gentlemen, the Sea Wolf does not belong to anyone. Even in life, this animal was given free will by Constable Fraser. He could come and go as he pleased. And that was something that we in the archeological field have forgotten. That Constable Fraser and Detective Kowalski also have free will. They lived and breathed with more human grace than most of us could ever imagine, and it is not our place to deny them their humanity simply because they had the misfortune to die in such a means as to make them interesting cultural icons."

She swallowed hard. Now or never.

"At 4:35 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I honored their humanity, and their courage, and their devotion. I . . . incinerated their bodies, as Constable Fraser had mentioned in his journals was their preferred form of burial. These ashes I will then scatter at their home outside Inuvik. They stayed with us for a time, and just as they left this world in real life, so have they left us again. I have provided for the scientific community now and in the future a full record of every physical detail of the find for future study, but I will not allow any dishonor to occur to their remains."

Her breath rolled out of her.

"That is all. Thank you."

With her heavy-lidded eyes half-closed, she slid away from the podium, all of her energy expelled. As she came close, the dean grabbed her arm. Draupadi only glanced at her. The dean came in close, her short blond hair glistening in the spotlight. "How dare you disgrace this university? Remove all of your things at once."

Draupadi noticed the video cameras still pointed at her. She took a deep breath, snatched her elbow free, and said in a loud, resonate voice, "I believe I have fed your greed enough. I have given your university enough compensation to more than cover for your *investment*. But you have no right to exploit these men, and I won't feed that kind of abuse. What I have given this university is something it's never had before." She turned to the camera. "Compassion."


That afternoon, as the sun was setting in northern Canada, Draupadi stood along the shoreline with Fraser's cabin behind her. In her hands she held the silver urn. She had long since traded her blue silk sari for her more comfortable white parka, but she really didn't need the heavy coat. The weather was fairly temperate these days. Large patches of pine-green painted the landscape, even though there were still patches of snow, rounded mounds of white, that were melting everywhere. Small blue flowers poked through the surface. And before her, the lake was thawing, the once-white layer of ice now dark blue with white striations like marble.

"Thank you, Doctor Vyasa."

Draupadi turned quickly, and she spotted Fraser's red serge uniform and brown stetson. "Constable Fraser." She glanced around his shoulder and noticed Ray behind him, his grin cat-like, his blue obscured by black sunglasses. "I wondered if I would ever get to see you again."

"Thank you for this." He pointed to the urn.

"It's what you wanted, isn't it."

"Yes. Now, with our ashes together, no one can separate us."

She smiled sadly. "I . . . was hoping you would show up. Now what do I do?"

Dief barked, gently pawing at her leg.

"Just throw the ashes. We'll take care of the rest."

Her long-fingered hands unscrewed the cap. She paused for a moment, offering up a prayer, before she turned the urn over. A sudden wind whipped through the trees, catching the ashes as they fell. The ribbon of brown spun around her twice, whirling higher and higher above her head before it spread out in a fan across the hardened lake. Like a wave it passed away, further and further, until by the time it reached the other shore, all of the ashes had dissipated.

And then it was done.

Her body sagged beneath her, and she felt Fraser's hand on her shoulder. She spun around and embraced him tight, needing desperately to feel his existence. Once she realized how uncomfortable Fraser was, she backed away.

Ray patted her on the shoulder. "Thanks for this. I don't know if I could have been as brave."

"Brave?" She laughed in disbelief. "Oh, no, I assure you, the world thinks I'm anything but brave."

"You are brave," Fraser added. "And it takes more than bravery to commit a brave act. It's going to take a great deal of courage to defend it to others."

She thought about it for a while. "I suppose I have a new career now. Defending the rights of the dead. If I don't defend my actions, then no one else will ever feel they can make the same decision." She glanced at them both, and at the way they stood with their arms around each other's waists. "Now where will you go?"

"Who knows? We have nothing keeping us from coming back. Most of our friends have already been reborn. We just haven't . . ." Fraser turned to Ray, "haven't seen any need to."

Draupadi came close, and she kissed Fraser on the cheek. "Goodbye then. I'll miss you." Fraser coughed as he ran his finger under his collar. Then she kissed Ray as well. "I wish there was a way I could see you again. I'll miss you."

Ray hugged her. "I already do. Even if you weren't really my sister."

"Ray," Fraser warned.

Dief pawed at her more insistently, and Draupadi bent down to hug the wolf. He pelted her with wet sloppy kisses across her face.

"He remembers you," Fraser said.

"Thank you, Dief. Thank you for making me a very rich woman." She looked up at the two men. "In more ways than one."

"Come along, Dief. Let's go." They turned to leave, and halfway into the forest, they stopped to wave at her. Draupadi felt her eyes grow wet as she watched them holding hands among the trees. Fraser leaned in closer, kissing Ray gently, and the three of them disappeared. Turning, Draupadi let her eyes rest against the landscape -- the colors returning as the snow melted. She took a few deep breaths, trying to make sense of her environment, when she glanced back over her shoulder.

There was still nothing more than an empty forest.

They were gone. Their ghosts were gone and so were their bodies and when she returned to Chicago there would be nothing left of them but the words in Fraser's journal. She had erased these men from her existence. Suddenly she felt like crying. But even as her chin crinkled into a frown she knew this was ridiculous. They had come into her life like a snowstorm, covered her with a beautiful white, and then melted away. She should revel in her fortune, dance like Shiva the Destroyer and pound the celestial drum. With a smile, she wiped away her tears and drank in the glory of the setting sun casting the mountains in purple and orange.