Disclaimer: They ain't mine, I loaned the borry of them from Alliance without asking, but I promise to put them back newly scrubbed and only slightly damp.
Notes: Contains references to (and spoilers for) All the Queen's Horses, Strange Bedfellows and Perfect Strangers. This story does not reflect the actual procedures, policies, or paperwork of the RCMP.
Many thanks to Kari and Alia for their kind and insightful beta- reading. Any remaining goofs are my own.
Excusesby Crysothemis (firstname.lastname@example.org)"While there was breath still in his body, ConstableFraser would never neglect to do his paperwork." -- Turnbull
Inspector Meg Thatcher pushed her reading glasses up on her nose and peered at her laptop screen. She had never been overly fond of this part of her duties, reporting back to Ottawa. Truth be told, she despised paperwork, not that she would ever let on to that little fact -- certainly not to her subordinates. She knew her duty, and the importance of setting an example. Even if, all things being equal, she would prefer to be doing almost anything else, up to (if not including) running naked through the streets of Chicago screaming the words to the national anthem at the top of her lungs.
The Canadian national anthem, that was.
Today's report was particularly irksome. Headquarters wanted a complete review of her active personnel, just the sort of useless make-work that made her head hurt. But after working on it all last evening, she had managed to whittle it down to one last section. One last, impossible section.
There was no choice; she had to get it over with. Nevermind that it would have been easier with his 10989B on her desk. He doubtless had some outlandish excuse for its absence.
Meg sighed and began typing.Constable Benton Fraser
Constable Fraser has been attached to this Consulate as deputy liaison officer since 1994. His tenure here thus predates my own, not that that makes any material difference, as I am, of course, the superior officer, and I naturally requested his personnel files, medical records, and so forth when I was first appointed to this office. Nevertheless, I confess that there are certain . . . difficulties in evaluating Constable Fraser and his role here at the Consulate.
Constable Fraser has proved himself to be resourceful, strong, brave, and in fact, on occasion, surprisingly sensitive; however, while he is attentive to his duty after his own fashion, I am afraid that his construal of exactly what constitutes that duty can at times be, well, creative. Not that I disbelieve in the importance of justice, of course, nor do I feel that the interests of international cooperation are insignificant insofar as they involve police work, but there are limits to what we, as the RCMP, should involve ourselves in while we reside outside the borders of Canada.
In addition to his somewhat unorthodox interpretation of his duties, I'm afraid there is something else I must report about Constable Fraser. He is
Meg paused her typing and tapped her fingers on the desk. It wasn't right. Nothing about the words captured the infuriating contradiction that was Benton Fraser. She needed to go to the source. She took off her glasses and straightened her blouse. It wasn't vanity, certainly not. It was simply important to maintain a professional appearance.
Fraser's office door was slightly ajar, so she tapped once and pushed the door all the way open. Fraser was not only present, but fully dressed for once -- in his antiquated, if flattering, brown uniform. The problem with his living in his office was that he had started treating it like a locker room, which was dangerous to the blood pressure of . . . well, of female superior officers, who might need to speak with him in his office, at times."Constable," Meg said, drawing herself up to her full height.
Fraser came respectfully to his feet, which would have been slightly more gratifying had he not had something to feel guilty about. "Sir."
"Your 10989B report is overdue. I was expecting it on my desk at O900 this morning."
Really, the man was enough to drive a saint -- or possibly even a Canadian -- to homicide. "Perhaps you could tell me where it is."
Fraser shifted on his feet. "Ah, yes, sir. Well, sir, this morning while Detective Vecchio and I were in pursuit of a suspect -- "
"Constable, was this suspect a Canadian citizen?"
"Did he, perhaps, commit some offence against a Canadian citizen?"
"Then perhaps you can explain why this engagement took precedence over your paperwork."
"Sir, if I could explain --"
"I sincerely hope you can."
"Detect ive Vecchio and I have been engaged in a nocturnal stakeout involving a rather delicate political situation. If we were to arrest the wrong suspect in this case, it could have city-wide ramifications, so you can see the need for careful surveillance. Recognizing that I would thus be occupied until morning, I naturally completed my 10989B report last night."
"Before the stakeout?"
"Well, no, actually during it."
"I see. Then you have it for me now."
"Well, actually, no, sir. I'm afraid the report was a casualty of the pursuit."
"You lost it?"
"No, sir, not exactly. You see, Detective Vecchio was in the middle of consuming a large and rather sticky chocolate-covered doughnut when -- "
"Constable, can you please get to the point? What happened to your report?"
"Ah, yes sir." Fraser cleared his throat and looked down, one hand tugging self-consciously at his ear. "I'm afraid Diefenbaker ate it."
Really, this was too much. It sounded like the sort of excuse eight- year-old children gave for missing homework. "Your wolf ate it," she repeated.
"Yes, you see he has developed quite a fondness for junk food lately, a habit which I have been attempting to discourage, but, I might add, with little success. When the doughnut that Detective Vecchio had been --"
It was suddenly painfully clear that there was no way she was going to get a concise story. "Never mind, Constable."
Fraser looked up, with that all-too-innocent expression she knew well. "Sir?"
"Can you reconstruct the report?"
"Yes, sir. I have been in the process of doing so." He inclined his head toward his desk, which was indeed covered with papers that looked like the rudimentary makings of a 10989B.
"And you will get it to me . . ."
"Within the hour, sir."
"Thank you, Constable."
Meg turned on her heel and left him there. He was truly impossible, that was the beginning and end to it. It wasn't that she was mishandling him -- there wasn't anything any superior could do in the face of that . . . of that strong column of neck, those broad shoulders, that . . .
No, it was certainly not her fault. But it meant her report to Ottawa was a delicate matter, one in which she had to take utmost care not to misrepresent the situation, or rather, Fraser's character, since there was absolutely nothing whatsoever improper about the situation. True, he had kissed her that once, but it had been under extraordinary circumstances. She'd thought she'd killed him. And the thought of losing him, of having been responsible for losing him, of never seeing him again . . . Well, any superior officer would have felt . . . regret at the loss of a subordinate. Any superior officer would have felt relief to discover that he was not, after all, dead, crushed, broken by his fall from the train . . .
Paperwork. She had paperwork to do, and here she was standing in the corridor of the Consulate, allowing her thoughts to wander. Meg marched back to her office and seated herself once again in front of her computer.
She didn't bother to read over what she had written. She needed to plow forward if she were ever going to finish.Of course, it's not just the peculiar predicaments he gets himself into, nor his tendency toward something bordering on insubordination. (Not that he is not respectful of his superior officers, of course, and I must say he does take a dressing-down well, even when he's wearing nothing but that red union suit of his, however . . .)
No, she couldn't possibly write that. What could she be thinking? Meg deleted the sentence and started again.Technically speaking, however, the primary problem is not insubordination. The fact of the matter is, he talks to himself. Out loud. And listens, as if he expects himself to answer. Of course he talks to his wolf, too, but to some degree that's understandable, even if the animal is deaf. At least in that case there's someone -- some living creature, anyway -- to address, and he doesn't usually do it while shut in a coat closet.
I have, of course, attempted to address this issue. I had all of my officers evaluated by a psychologist, an eminent doctor specializing in the detection of personality disorders. The results were inconclusive, however. He rated Constable Fraser's mental state as "acceptable."
In short, Constable Fraser is a contradiction. He can intervene in politically sensitive affairs with grace and deftness, and yet he talks to himself, and occasionally utters the oddest
There was a rap on Meg's door. She lifted her head to see the object of her thoughts at the door, an unusually thick pile of papers in his hand. "Yes, Constable."
"My 10989B report, sir."
"Thank you, Constable, you may set it here on my desk."
Fraser crossed from the door to her desk, striding, as always, with strength and purpose. The man looked powerful enough at parade rest. In motion, he was . . .
" Are these new, sir?" He was looking down at a vase of dried flowers she'd set on the corner of her desk this morning.
"As a matter of fact, they are."
"They look nice, sir," Fraser said. "They soften the ambianceof your office."
Meg felt a warmth rise in her cheeks. "That will be all, Constable. Thank you."
"Yes, sir," Fraser said, and in a moment those broad shoulders had disappeared back out into the hallway.
Meg's cheeks still burned. But there was no way he could have recognized the flowers. The process of drying them had subdued their original color and somewhat altered their shape. He couldn't possibly have realized that they were the remains of the bouquet he had given her.
It still had the power to make her heart turn over. He had come courting, in his own inimitable style. Utterly awkward, and to this day, she had no idea how much of that had stemmed from true feeling, and how much from the utterly ridiculous way he'd managed to misconstrue her words. She'd kept the flowers, though duty dictated she correct the misunderstanding. A duty which, at her least lucid moments, she sometimes now regretted.
Did that make her daft, as well? Surely not. Her psychological profile was rock solid. It was Fraser, of course, as always. It was only around Fraser that . . .
Her phone rang, jerking her thoughts back to the here and now. It was the outside line, and when she picked it up, she could hear the faint buzz that suggested it was long distance. Long distance from Ottawa, in fact.
"Inspector Thatcher, there's been some concern. We were expecting your personnel report today. Of course we understand the vagaries of the Chicago postal system, so perhaps if you could tell me when it was mailed we could attempt to initiate a tracking procedure."
Oh, dear. Meg covered the mouthpiece momentarily, at a loss. Duty, duty, she was so tired of duty. But she couldn't possibly file her report as it was, even if she had managed to delete all references to underwear. "I'm afraid that won't be possible. Due to circumstances beyond my control, that report has not yet been mailed."
The Superintendent's voice went frosty. "I trust there is an explanation for this delay."
An explanation? Of course there was. She was supervisor to the most impossible, most distracting man in the RCMP. "Certainly, sir. The explanation is in fact quite simple. Circumstances being what they are, what with collation of daily 10989B reports, the analysis of duty rosters and psychological evaluations, the strange disappearance of my executive secretary . . ." She was babbling, she knew it, but she couldn't stop herself.
"That is, given the current state of Consulate affairs and the overwhelming . . ."
"Inspector Thatcher -- "
Meg took a deep breath and said the only thing that came to her mind.
"The wolf ate it."