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Life Without Fraser, or How Ray Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Moose

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Ray didn't start out loving moose. The first time he saw one was his first week in Canada, and he made a lot of really good points to Fraser:

"I could make better horns than that out of cardboard. They look like the hand turkeys little kids make."

"Anything that big that eats that messy was designed to be way far away from Ray Kowalski all the time."

"Oh, jeez. See what I mean? You get that big, you spit out a gallon of snot every time you sneeze. Yuck."

"And if one moose is a moose, what's two of them? Mooses? Meese? I'm not kidding you here, Fraser. Only Canadians would love these things."

And Fraser just smiled, sort of half-smiled anyway, and that was that. Point made. Although a few minutes later he did say, "You know, Ray, moose are indigenous to much of North America, including areas that are within the borders of the United States." Ray had laughed, just trying to imagine a moose making it in the USA.

The last time he saw a moose was his last day in Canada. It wasn't a real one, just a picture, but the guy who drew it totally got the moose - how it might look big and dumb and Canadian, but it was, like, designed for the weather and the isolation and the tundra in a way Ray wasn't, could never be, no matter how much he might want that. In Chicago, he'd miss Fraser, but at least he'd be Ray missing Fraser, not just some guy with bad hair trying to live in a place he didn't belong with a Mountie he didn't deserve.

Actually, that was the last time he saw a moose until today. Dewey gave Frannie a baby present, and it turned out to be a stuffed moose. Frannie got a little teary when she looked at it, but that was nothing to how Ray felt - he had to go to the men's room and push hard on his eyes or he'd have been crying, fucking crying in the bullpen.

He calmed down, got himself the fuck back together. Washed his hands, splashed cold water on his face. And then he just stood there, staring into the mirror, thinking: I'm Ray. Ray in Chicago. Ray where he belongs.

But he just kept thinking of that moose, the little stuffed moose, how it was going to make it in Chicago, spend the rest of its life with some kid going to be born in a couple months, make that kid happy, get old and chewed and covered in spit by that kid, and be happy itself, even so.

And then he realized he was getting teary over the damn stuffed moose again, and he might not have a Mountie-sized brain but he could read signs when they were hitting him over the head.

So he went back to the bullpen and started sorting through his files. If he was leaving forever, the next guy would need notes better than "Saw M with F on 2/11: liar liar pants on fire" and "Yeah. Right. Fucker."

Was surprising how fast the paperwork went once he wasn't thinking about how much better Fraser would do it.

And now he's sitting in his apartment. All the lights are off, the stereo's off, the heat's off; it's cold and dark and Ray is all alone. And he's staring at the phone.

In his left hand, he's got the moose; Frannie gave it to him before he left work. She wouldn't say why, but he guesses that moose's destiny isn't to grow up happy with that baby after all.

In his right hand, he's got a piece of paper. He can't read the phone number that's printed on it in Fraser's neat script, but he's got it memorized, even though he's never dialed it. So he can do this, he can, he can, he just - what the hell does he say?

So it's cold and dark and Ray's alone. He puts down the paper, looks at the moose. Looks at the phone.

Takes a deep breath, picks up the phone, dials. When he hears Fraser's concerned voice on the other end - shit, it's almost two a.m. - Ray can't help smiling. "Hey, Fraser, it's me," he says. "Wanna moose?"