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Due South Bits and Pieces

Chapter Text

Ben knew that others tended to think of him as overly tidy, an embodiment of order in just the same way that he was an embodiment of justice while he wore the uniform of the RCMP. They didn't understand that the more disordered he felt on the inside, the more effort he expended to maintain an appearance of order on the outside. This was why he was spending his Saturday night polishing his boots. For the third night in a row.

He had spent the afternoon with Ray and Diefenbaker in the park. It was a beautiful spring day, sunny and warm without being too hot. Ray brought a frisbee and the three of them played like youngsters, Ray feeding Dief bits of their picnic when he thought Ben wasn't looking. It was the sort of carefree afternoon that Ben dreamed of but could seldom have, its perfection marred only by the bittersweet longings that flared in him incessantly. He lost his breath every time a bit of light caught Ray's hair just so, when Ray cheered at an athletic catch by Diefenbaker, when Ray's glorious smile made him look like a peculiarly foul-mouthed angel who had fallen to earth to provide hope and the occasional necessary kick in the head to the hopeless. By dinner time Ben had worn himself to a frazzle and he begged off the offered Chinese food supper with some paltry excuse; he could hardly remember what variation of "duty calls" he'd utilized but it was really all the same. Everything was all the same and to hope for anything different surely not only qualified as insanity but was simply begging for disappointment.

So instead of eating Chinese food with Ray, he neglected to eat at all and polished a pair of boots that already had a high gloss, fighting to discipline his disorderly and disobedient heart. Completing the external rituals of order usually had a calming, ordering effect on his mind, but the trick didn't work as well as it once had. Still, he had discovered that leather could achieve a heretofore unimagined level of sheen. Were he ever in dire straights and in need of some kind of signalling mirror, he would now be well prepared. He supposed that should count as some comfort, at least.

Chapter Text

Guard duty in Chicago in August clearly fell under the prohibitions of the Geneva Convention, but Ben could hardly grumble, even in his head, because he'd brought it upon himself. The mistake hadn't been his but he couldn't bring himself to deflect the Inspector's wrath onto the truly guilty party. Turnbull was so susceptible to the heat and nominally his subordinate officer. Technically, Ben supposed, Turnbull's mistakes were as good as Ben's own. Surely anything was bearable for four short hours.

He had seriously underestimated the length of four hours. Time's relativity had never been so clearly illuminated as on this hellish, interminable afternoon. It took only a few minutes before he could begin to smell himself, sour sweat and wet wool mixing with the scent of the tiny dying patch of grass and the softening asphalt of Brody Avenue. Soon he began losing track of time. It felt as though all his body's processes were slowing to a treacly trickle, his neurons firing more and more slowly until they were just a disorganized, random jumble producing strange, hallucinogenic trains of thought that passed in and out of his brain but eluded any attempt to grasp and examine them.

The heat was an arsonist, he realized, a destroyer of worlds, of apartment buildings, of cabins and green 72 Rivieras. It was burning away everything that made Ben himself, until he'd soon be reduced to a lump of dry meat, just muscle, bones and scars in malodorous red serge. Not even fit for decent pemmican, and he had enough presence of mind left to stifle a giggle, only just.

It was funny – the ability to make sense of things turned out to be so fragile. Or perhaps it was that sense was so very thin a thing to start with. Just a few extra degrees of heat baking his cranium and the veneer of logic fell away from the world. The connections between things that he took for granted blurred and disappeared, like a well-defined trail that suddenly petered out and left you whacking at bush futilely with your pocket knife, scratched by twigs and brambles on top of everything for your effort. Ray's insistence on intuition seemed inevitable, rational in a world where trails slipped constantly out of focus.

And like he'd conjured him, there was Ray, and church bells ringing, which meant something but Ben couldn't remember what to save his life. And why was he standing here again? Surely he'd been waiting here for Ray.

"I'm very sorry, Ray," he started to say, but Ray was running cool hands over his face and cursing.

"God, Frase, you're burning up. That uniform's a fucking torture chamber, what the fuck is she thinking setting you out here in a Chicago heat wave?"

"Language, Ray. The trails keep disappearing. I can't seem to find my way back to the cabin. Do you think you could point me in the right direction?"

"I'm gonna point you in the direction of a tub of ice water. Jesus, Fraser, does it ever occur to you that you're not a fucking superhero? That you are a human being and that you can actually die from doing stupid shit like this? Fuck. No, of course it does not. Come on, into the car."

"I don't think I should drive right now, Ray. There seems to be something wrong with my brain."

"You got that right. I'm gonna drive, you freak. You're a crappy driver even when your gigantic brain isn't extra crispy with a side of slaw. You're just gonna sit there and think cool thoughts. Christ, we oughta get this thing off you first."

Ray pulled him toward the car and started taking off his lanyard and belt.

"I had a dream like this once," Ben said. "But we were in my grandparent's old cabin, and you kept singing."

"Sorry, buddy, you know I can't sing for shit." Ray opened the passenger door, tossed the outer parts of the uniform into the back seat, and started unbuttoning Ben's tunic. "Here, help me with this, Frase."

Ben shrugged off the tunic as best he could, but everything seemed so clumsy. "Einstein was right, Ray."

"Yeah, that's what I heard, too. Here we go, into the car. No hurling in the Goat, though. I'm serious. If you gotta hurl, you just let me know and I'll pull over."

Ray settled Ben into the passenger seat and got the seatbelt fastened. Ben could smell him as he leaned over, just a little sweaty, and that light spicy cologne, and all those hair products, each with a different smell, and Ray's skin, all adding up to Ray.

"Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray."

Ray started the car but didn't pull out of the parking space. "What, Frase? You gonna ralph?"

"I just like the way it sounds. Ray, Ray, Ray. I don't know why your parents would name you Stanley. You don't look like a Stanley."

"Christ, Fraser." Ray pulled out into traffic with a tiny squeal of rubber meeting road. "Just keep it together for a little while longer, buddy. My apartment's not far."

"Should we walk, then, Ray?"

"Nah, we're gonna drive, like I said. Look, here we are, driving."

"Oh. Perhaps that's best. I confess that I'm feeling a bit under the weather."

"Yeah, I noticed that, Frase. Just close your eyes and we'll be there in a minute."

Ben closed his eyes and leaned his head against the window. The glass was wonderfully cool against his forehead. The air conditioning was running full blast and all the vents were turned to blow right on him. It was glorious, like the first cold breeze of fall. He wasn't sure where they were going, but wherever Ray wanted to go was fine with him. It was such a lovely day, after all.

Chapter Text


I heard the shots and went hauling ass around the corner, a whole Starbucks worth of adrenaline dumped into my blood because Fraser was out there somewhere and never had any fucking sense of self-preservation. Dief was hot on my heels and then passed me, running as fast as he could, back legs sliding around a little bit on the rainy pavement. I guess he couldn't hear the shots but he could see me running in a dead panic and he knew Fraser's habits at least as well as I did. 


But Fraser's also got some kind of freaky luck, so it wasn't until I turned the corner and saw him on the ground, saw the blood, that I started to really lose it in my head. By the time I got to him, Dief was licking his face and Fraser was trying to sit up. His left thigh looked like it had been through a fucking meat grinder and it was spurting blood. He was fumbling with his belt thingy- his whatsits, Sam Browne - ahead of me like always, gotta tie off the leg pronto. I crouched down to help him and he gave me that smile that means he's making fun of himself in his head.


He said, voice just above a whisper, "They finally shot the other leg."


I didn't get what he was talking about, but I kept my stupid mouth shut for once. I tied his belt around his thigh, tight, and promised myself I'd throw up later. I called the paramedics and told them to hurry. And I very carefully did not wonder if you could still be a Mountie if you only had one leg.



* * * * * * *

Ben's Journal

18 May 199X, 09:15

St. Francis Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA


My father's journals are full of lyrical passages celebrating the landscapes of the north, and philosophical musings triggered by his pursuits. His prose is beautifully wrought and his entries provide an entrée into the inner workings of his intellect but they speak very little of his emotional life - not surprisingly. I wonder at times if he was even aware of having an emotional life. Perhaps he was so cut off from himself that his feelings ran through him like a subterranean river, invisible and unacknowledged but crucial to the surrounding ecology.


My own journals tend to be short on fine expression and long on melodrama. I'm accustomed to falling short of his example in most things by now and my writing style is no exception, I'm afraid. While I endeavour to maintain the outer appearance of emotional control, my inner life is nearly always in a turmoil of some sort or another. I don't care for the Romantics much, but I seem to have inherited their cultural baggage nonetheless. Somewhere inside me is a Byronic hero struggling to get out. I fear that one day I'll snap, and they'll find me growing out my hair by a cliff somewhere, wearing a puffy white shirt and sniveling about how misunderstood I am.


Being around Ray makes me more at ease with my inner theatrics. He is so amazingly open about himself and his emotions. He makes no apologies for how he feels and he throws up no distancing smoke screens. When he's happy, he dances. His face shines, his eyes light up with the most astonishing colour, a blue that defies my poor abilities to describe. When he's angry, he shouts and threatens and sometimes goes so far as to kick someone in the head. If he's sorrowful, he weeps, without shame. None of these displays seem to make him any less masculine a man, or any less effective a police officer, or any less devoted a friend. In fact, they seem to improve his performance on all fronts, and don't seem to necessitate puffy shirts or sniveling. I would like to learn from his example, but I'm not at all sure that it's possible for a Fraser male to discard generations of inbred emotional repression.


When I woke yesterday, I knew I was in hospital from the smell before I opened my eyes. Then my whole misadventure came flooding back and I was quite relieved to look down to see the toes of my left foot peeking out of a full cast. I had hoped but I had not been sure that the doctors would be able to save the limb. The wound had been a bad one - shattered bone and severed artery, compromising the blood supply. But Ray had taken care of me, of course. I had a dim memory of some very colourful language being used to dispatch, but obviously I had been conveyed to the ER in time.


Ray was sitting with me, in the chair next to the window, asleep with what appeared to be an automotive specialty magazine open on his lap. He was slumped with his head resting on the back of the chair and his mouth was slightly open. Dief was curled on a shamefully plush pile of blankets at his feet. My Ray and my wolf, always unswerving in the end, no matter our disagreements. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude, for wholeness, for my friends. I busied myself watching Ray sleep and before I knew it, I once again drifted off.


This morning, he was gone. In his place were my journal, the stack of library books that had been sitting next to my cot and a note in his nearly illegible scrawl. It said he'd taken Dief with him to the precinct and he'd see me later in the day. We'd spent the few scattered minutes I could stay conscious yesterday chatting about trifles, mostly for the reassurance of hearing each other's voices, I think. Apparently, they found the man who shot me; Ray said with great disgust that he's probably out on bail by now, but I can't find much energy to concern myself with that at the moment. I tried to convince Ray to go home to get a good night's sleep, and he pretended to take it under consideration but every time I opened my eyes, there he was, in that same chair with the same magazine.


I'm told I'll be here for five or six days at least. The cast will stay on for eight more weeks or so. I'll begin preliminary physical therapy soon, and once the cast comes off, the pt torture will begin in earnest. I've been through this many times before. This isn't the worst injury from which I've had to recover but it will be an irritation, nevertheless. I know that I should try harder to make Ray go home. His work requires that he keep his edge; sleep deprivation can be extremely dangerous to a cop and it worries me that I won't be there to watch his back (though on some level I do realize that I'm the greatest hazard he faces). The proper thing to do would be to convince him to leave. I'm too selfish for that, though. I loathe hospitals immoderately and the only thing that keeps me from attempting to tunnel out with my pudding spoon is his diverting presence.


As much as it pains me to admit, I am my father's son, though perhaps only a pale imitation of him. It took me weeks to identify the strange emotion I feel whenever Ray is near, but eventually it dawned on me. It is the opposite of loneliness - companionship, care, comfort. Belonging. It is the warm feeling of being tucked under layers of snug quilts by a loving hand, knowing that one can sleep as long as one likes. I am far too weak to forgo that feeling in my present circumstance.






When I got back, Fraser was awake and scribbling in his journal, but he finished and closed the notebook as soon as Dief and I came in. Frase still looked too pale and he had dark circles under his eyes like he hadn't slept for a week, even though he'd done nothing but sleep for nearly twenty-four hours. But his color was better than the night before, and he seemed more or less alert. And fuck, all his parts were still there, and he was too. Considering how things might have gone, I figured dark circles for a good sign.


I set my big paper grocery sack full of files on the floor next to my chair and helped myself to a seat. Dief jumped up on the bed to lick Fraser's face once and then settled down beside him.


"Well, I got good news and bad news," I said. "Welsh said I can stay here during the day until you're out. That's the good news, in case you were wondering."


Fraser gave me a hint of a smile. "And what's the bad, then?"


"My assignment is to go through all these files and figure out which major underworld figure we'd vote Most Likely To Do Time if we sent someone in undercover. Also, he said I'm supposed to catch up on my paperwork, but I don't think he was serious about that one."


"Surely not, Ray. I can't imagine he'd get his hopes up."


"Ooh, snarky. You must be feeling better."


"Yes. Thank you for asking."


Fraser knew that it pissed me off when he was too polite to me, cause partners don't need to go around thanking each other for every goddamned thing, so that was his dry little Canadian attempt at humor. I rolled my eyes but some of the worry leftover in my gut started to unravel. He was gonna be okay.


Dief suddenly raised his head and then jumped down off the bed. A nurse opened the door and came in a split second later. Just for the record, I have my doubts about just how deaf that wolf really is. Maybe Fraser's right that vibrations and a really good sense of smell can compensate for a lot, but as far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out.


Usually nurses were all over Fraser like Dief on a donut but this one didn't seem too impressed. Not like she was Nurse Ratched or anything, but she had a look on her face like she knew Fraser was a handful. She was carrying a syringe. "Time for your pain meds, Constable."


Frase immediately got that wooden, blank Mountie On Guard Duty expression that meant he was working himself into a stubborn. "I'm really feeling much better and I’m perfectly capable of managing any pain myself through self-hypnosis."


The nurse wasn't budging, though. "Yeah, yeah, tough guy. We've been over this. When the doctor comes through this afternoon, you can talk to her about it. Until then, the demerol's on your chart and you're getting it.


Fraser sighed but didn't make any more protests, and the nurse injected the stuff into the IV. Fraser closed his eyes and appeared to go to sleep.


The nurse turned to me. "He's in more pain than he'll admit. Try to talk him into staying on the good meds for at least a couple of days more, okay? He'll heal better if his pain is managed and there's no reason for him to suffer."


"Yeah, okay, I'll see what I can do. But won't the doctor make sure he stays on the meds?"


She held up her little finger and made a little circle in the air with it. "He's got Dr. P. completely whipped."


"And most of the nurses, too, I'd bet."


She nodded and winked on her way out. I looked at Fraser, who was completely zonked out.


"You heard that, didn't you?" I asked.


"Maybe I did, Ray, and maybe I didn't," he answered without opening his eyes.


I laughed and picked up the first file.


About an hour later, another thunderstorm had started and rain was pounding against the windows. It was kinda cozy in the room, reading while Frase and Dief slept to the music of the storm. I looked up to find Fraser awake and smiling at me.


"I don't think I've ever been any happier in my life than I am at this moment," he said.


"That'd be the demerol talking, Frase."


"Hmm," he said and closed his eyes again.




Ben's Journal

18 May 199X, 17:38

St. Francis Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA


Dr. Petrelli came by a while ago and, with a bit of coaxing, agreed to change my chart and take out the IV and catheter. Any pain medication will be strictly by my request from now on, and I intend to do without it as much as possible. It makes me feel terribly fuzzy-headed, and I generally dislike the sensation of being under the influence. I certainly object to being laid out flat several times a day on someone else's schedule. So, one small victory against the grinding hospital machinery, huzzah. When the doctor left, I sat meditation for a few minutes and did a bit of self-hypnosis for pain control. At the moment, I'm feeling fairly comfortable, as these things go. I'm just a bit thick-witted from the remnants of the drugs and the anesthesia, and edging toward the strange restlessness that plagues me in hospital. I can sit trapped by a blizzard in a Yukon shack for days, unbothered, but confine me to a hospital room and I'm climbing the walls within twenty-four hours. But then, in a Yukon shack I'm usually fully clothed and completely alone. Here, I'm wearing a hospital gown that leaves my bare backside hanging out, and I'm pestered by some fresh monitor of vital signs on the half hour. It would seem Sartre was correct: hell is other people. Or nurses, at least. I suppose I should be grateful that they've begun allowing me out of bed to use the washroom, bare backside or no.


In my confinement, with too much time for Bryonic brooding, I find myself thinking of my father. I believe I've thought more about him since his murder than I did in all the years previous combined. There's been no evidence of him since I've been in hospital, and his journals are still back at the Consulate, but I find myself thinking of him nonetheless. I seem to have inherited his most irritating, unseemly traits without any of his compensating virtues. I sometimes wonder if anyone around me knows me any better than I knew him before he died. I think of him in the frozen landscape that he loved, alone, not so much as a deaf half-wolf for company, even Buck Frobisher miles distant. That image seemed heroic to me once, but increasingly I simply find it sad. If I'd been alone on that recent rainy night, perhaps I would have shared his fate, bleeding out onto pavement instead of snow, staring up at a last vision of yellow Chicago street lights instead of Northern Ontario stars.


Ray seems to think that I don't understand the risks I habitually run, but he's wrong. I don't fear the risks, but I understand them. Life is short even when one doesn't make of oneself a walking, red-serge target. In the end, the journey into death is undertaken alone; it can be no other way and the thought never troubled me overmuch. But I find myself increasingly desperate to be known, to leave some person on this benighted planet who will understand the precise shape of the space left in my wake. I don't want to be best-known posthumously, or God forbid, never known at all. I'm not sure, however, how one goes about remedying such a situation.


Ray has taken Dief with him to run some errands and pick up supper. When I woke this afternoon, I found Ray napping in "his" chair with a file open on his chest. Shake, bad guys, shake. Ray's at his best in the field, running and fidgeting out his caffeine jitters. Being trapped here with me must be difficult for him, but I suppose Lieutenant Welsh didn't want him prowling the streets without backup. I really ought to convince him to go home to sleep tonight, at least, if he's going to stay here during the days with me. If I know he's coming back the next morning, being alone most of the night will be tolerable. Perhaps there's a limit to my selfishness, after all.


Chapter Text

"So, Detective Vecchio, Constable Fraser. Why don't you tell me what brought you here." Dr. Allison Bradley gave her two new clients a sincere, hopefully reassuring smile.


Both were sitting rather uncomfortably in her comfortable chairs, but that was to be expected at the first session. Cops were seldom very good at this sort of thing, though these two did seem to be a bit of an unusual pair. They glanced at one another and came to a quick, completely nonverbal agreement about who would start. Detective Vecchio, who really looked more Polish than Italian, rubbed a hand through his hair nervously.


"Well, see, me and Fraser, we're partners, right? And that works real good some of the time. We got, you know, complimenting skills. He takes care of logic, and licking stuff that no human should put in his mouth, and patience and stuff like that. And I take care of driving, and instinct, and shooting guns since he refuses to get certified to carry concealed in Chicago, even though he's a millionth-level Mountie sharpshooter."


Constable Fraser looked vaguely - though politely - distressed and rubbed his eyebrow. "Evidently, you're also in charge of hyperbole."


"Yeah, well, somebody's gotta do it." Vecchio rolled his eyes. "Problem is, all of a sudden, we're driving each other ape shit. We argue all the goddamn time! We nearly called the whole thing off but we realized that we're a great team when we're not up all in each other's grills. So we decided to give it another try, but within a couple of days, we were right back to making each other crazy. And, you know, I got a buddy in the one eight that came to see you about some problems he was having with his partner, and it seemed to help. So I thought, hey, what the hell. It's on the department dime, it's confidential, maybe we should give this a shot."


Dr. Bradley gave her best professional and encouraging nod. "I see. And do you agree with Detective Vecchio's assessment of the problem, Constable?"


"In substance, yes. I'd also add that, although we can't discuss the details, previous to Ray I was partnered with another detective, who is now deep undercover. Ray inherited me when he came to the twenty-seventh precinct."


"Of course, everything you tell me will be held in strict confidence, and no case details will be recorded in the files. This is just about how you're relating to each other, not the specifics of the work. But let's go back to this idea that Ray inherited you. Most detectives are assigned their partners, aren't they? It's not generally a matter of choice."


"But, as I'm sure Ray mentioned when he spoke to you on the phone, as a member of the RCMP, I'm only informally affiliated with the Chicago Police Department. I developed a working relationship with my previous partner through what could only be called a series of coincidences, and ended up staying on, by mutual decision rather than assignment. A partnership was formed into which duty required Ray to step. But if the initial decision had been his to make, perhaps he would have made a different choice. Or rather, to put it more plainly, he's stuck with me whether he likes it or not."


Vecchio got more and more wound up through this little speech, until he finally unfolded his arms and exploded into gestures. "That is such bullshit! That is complete horseshit and you know it. I coulda gone my own way at any time, least after the first few weeks. This is just your typical passive-aggressive bullshit Canadian way of saying that you wish that V. . . your former partner was back instead of me."


They both stared at each other. Vecchio was breathing hard while Fraser didn't seem to breathe at all. Vecchio's face was plastered all over with hurt and surprise at himself, while Fraser could have slipped into a vegetative state, he was so still and blank.


"Well," Dr. Bradley said, "it would seem there are some lingering insecurities around the former partner. That's not unusual. Police partnerships can be intense."


"It's not true, though," Fraser said quietly.


"What isn't?"


"That I would trade Ray for my former partner. I miss him at times, you understand, as one does any close friend who is absent. That does not mean that I would trade."


"Hm. How do you feel about that, Detective?"


Vecchio rubbed his face with his hands. "I don't know. I mean, I sorta don't get it. Everybody says how great Fraser and his former partner got along. Why wouldn't he want his old partner back? I wouldn't blame him. How come they could get along so good and we're always sniping at each other?"


"Because I didn't," Fraser said.


"Can you elaborate, Constable?" asked Dr. Bradley.


"I didn't snipe at my former partner. One isn't always as objective about one's own behavior as one might wish to be, of course, but I believe that I didn't snipe at my former partner as much as I do at Ray."


"That's interesting. Why do you think that is?"


"I'm afraid I don't really know."


"Was your other partner a more easy-going kind of person?"


Fraser smiled just a little. "Not really, no."


"Did you find him less irritating?"


Fraser sat thinking on that for a bit, silent, and Vecchio began tapping a foot but didn't interrupt. Finally, Fraser said, "Actually, I frequently found him to be irritating. He was often impatient with me and he complained a great deal. He was vain to the point of ridiculousness about his clothing. He sometimes smelled overwhelmingly of garlic."


Vecchio snorted a laugh at that, but stayed quiet.


"And yet, evidently," Dr. Bradley said, "You didn't express your irritation to him. Why do you think that was?"


A little furrow appeared between Fraser's eyebrows. "I didn't want to appear rude."


"By your own admission, you seem to feel free to appear rude to Ray. What do you think would have happened if you'd appeared rude to your former partner?"


"I don't know. He might have dissolved our partnership, I suppose."


"Were you and he close, outside of work?"


"I thought so. I considered him my closest friend."


"But you still worried that if you weren't polite, he might abandon you."


"Yes. I suppose I did."


"Are there many people in your life that you feel comfortable enough with to forego being polite?"


"Not many, no. My late father, perhaps."


Vecchio piped up, with a wry grin. "Dief."


That pulled another almost-smile out of Fraser. "Diefenbaker is intentionally provoking."


"And Dief is?"


"His wolf."




"Half-wolf, really."


"His supposedly deaf, donut-loving, ear-licking, half-wolf. That he's rude to."


"Well. That's . . . unusual. All right, anyone else?"


"I suppose I've been known to be a bit sarcastic to Constable Turnbull at times."


"This is a colleague of yours at the Consulate?"


"Yeah," Vecchio interjected, "but Turnbull would try the patience of Jesus Christ himself. He doesn't count. I'm not sure that Turnbull even gets sarcasm."


"Even if we include Constable Turnbull, that leaves one wolf, one person who is no longer with us -" Fraser mumbled something, but Dr. Bradley couldn't quite catch it and decided to move on. "- a colleague whom you don't seem to think much of, and Ray. Two living people and a wolf seems like a short list of intimates."




Vecchio looked at Dr. Bradley. "Okay, you're the psychiatrist-"


"Psychologist," Fraser corrected.


"Don't start with me, Fraser." Vecchio turned to stab two fingers in the air toward him then turned his attention back to me. "What does 'Hmm' mean? How would you translate that from the Canadian? Because I'd really like to know. All day long, he's making with the 'hmm's and the 'ah's and I'd be surprised if even the wolf had the first fucking clue what it means."


"I thought the wolf was deaf."


They spoke together. "He reads lips."