They were walking through the station in a very usual way, Ray bustling along with a handful of files, Fraser trailing him like a wolf followed by another wolf. "Ray, I have something to tell you."
"It's not another one of your Inuit stories, is it, Fraser, because I am chock full of Inuit right now."
"No, Ray," Fraser said reassuringly, then paused next to where Ray was filing and drew himself up slightly. "You know, someday I may tell my last Inuit story--"
"Christ, you're not toying with me, are you?"
"--and then I think you'll find your life the poorer for the absence of their insight and simple wisdom."
"I got a lot of simple wisdom. Ask anyone. I brim with it. Hey, Huey, what do I got?"
Huey didn't look up from his desk, where he was typing two-fingered aliases in for his eighty-year old perp. "Simple wisdom, Vecchio."
"It's Kowalski now." Ray swept onward. "See? What'd I tell ya, Frase?" With a reproving look, Fraser allowed Ray to sit down at his desk, then loomed over him like a big red fire pole, turning his hat around in his hands. "What, what, *what*?" Ray barked.
Fraser cleared his throat. Five times, with slightly different inflections each time. Ray counted. Then the eyebrow was rubbed. There was eyebrow rubbing. "Well, I have something to tell you. It's rather difficult--"
Caught in mid-thought, Fraser blinked. "Pardon?"
"Spit. It. Out." He snapped his fingers with each word.
"Oh. Yes. Well." He hesitated, placed his hat on Ray's out-box, then paced for a moment before abruptly sitting down across from Ray and leaning forward in a confiding Mountie-like manner. Ray immediately responded to the gesture, inclining toward Fraser across the desk, as if they were about to plot world domination or discuss a Chinese take-out order so no one would overhear and ask them to pick up extra, which was no big deal, sure, if you were some kind of mutant super-octopus, because that's what you had to be by the time fifty fucking cops finished mauling you and writing orders for orange duck on your arm ("Because you'll just forget, Ray") and breezily promising IOUs that you'd never see until Mounties were hockey-skating in Hell, because cops were the worst fucking--
"--wolves and caribou, who will often sense things beyond our own level of comprehension."
Shit. He'd missed something. "Pause. Rewind. Replay."
Fraser's eyes narrowed and his face went smooth. Busted. Then he took a deep, visible breath. "I'm an elf, Ray."
Okay, he didn't just say... "I'm an elf, Ray."
Ray tried that one out. "Yes."
"You seem to be repeating everything I say."
"Everything you say." He shook off the dazing punch and straightened up. "Everything you *say*? Everything you say?!"
"I know you repeat yourself when under stress--"
Turning to Elaine, who was passing by, Ray said, "Fraser's an elf."
Elaine didn't break stride, but sounded thoughtful. "I always knew there was something." She disappeared around the corner.
"You are not an elf. End of story."
A kind of reluctant regret crept over Fraser's face, as if he hated to contradict Ray, but felt the need. Ray had seen that expression often in dreams and nightmares, just before Fraser explained their boat was sinking, that they'd die of the hypothermia, that there really were rabid weasels in his car. "I'm afraid I am, Ray--"
Anger boiled up. "End of story, end of story, end of *story*!" He got up and strode out, Fraser neatly rising, grabbing his hat, and pursuing him with relentless Mountie loyalty. "Elves!" Ray seethed, making the word a curse. "So what, you're gonna go live in some cave now, spend the rest of your life bangin' your hammer against the rock and singin' a happy song?"
"I believe you're thinking of dwarves, Ray. Though it's a common misconception that mining is their only industry--"
Ray banged into the bathroom and leaned over the sink, bracing himself on both arms and staring into the drain that had sucked down his life. Fraser hovered by, emitting his usual signals of absolute self-assurance and lunacy, along with a faint anxiety on Ray's behalf. "I wanted to tell you sooner--"
"What part of shut up don't you understand?" Ray finally straightened up and looked Fraser in the face. "We were buddies."
"We still are," Fraser said stoutly, warmly, creepily.
"I can't be partnered with an elf! I'll be mocked until my ears ring and my brain falls out," he illustrated this with wide and violent hand gestures, "in a big bloody puddle around my feet to be licked up by wolves, and when they're done, you know what'll happen?" He waited for Fraser's headshake. "I'll be mocked some *more*."
Fraser's brow crinkled. "More than you are now?"
It was almost unbearable. "Is this a Canadian thing?"
"All things are Canadian things, Ray." Fraser sounded faintly puzzled.
"I hate you." Resignation was sulking into his voice.
Fraser reached out and squeezed his shoulder, a friendly touch from a careful distance of three feet. There was a dubious hesitancy to the gesture, and to Fraser's own voice as he offered, "Perhaps a hug...?" He broke off at Ray's glare, removed his hand. "Well, perhaps not."
"I'm not hugging an elf. In the men's room. With a wolf watching. That would be weird." As if this *wasn't*.
And then they went to lunch, and the elf threw his bread roll at a mugger and beaned him at thirty yards, and Ray won five dollars on a scratch-off card and bought Dief some doughnuts, and they made it through another day on the mean streets of Chicago.