The Woman of the Snows
Fraser stood watching the plane take off towards Inuvik. He sighed and turned around, he'd have to sort out the dogs and then continue his own journey towards Inuvik alone. Replacing his hat on his head he turned to walk back into the terminal. He was halfway through the building when his head began to swim, he fought to keep the nausea down and suddenly he was on his knees. He was half aware of people around him and then only darkness. The wolf that had been trotting at his heels nosed his face worriedly and then pointed its nose at the sky and began to howl.
"What do we do with him?" the officer gestured to the man lying on a camp bed in the office. "We can't keep him here and the last flight's left for Inuvik today." He scowled, "And that damn wolf could be a problem."
"Isn't there anyone who would be able to put him and his dogs up for a few days?" The other officer asked. He regarded his superior slyly and then his superior officer nodded, "What about that strange woman, Harry isn't it? She's got the room, and she's dog crazy. She can take him, she can contribute to the community."
"She does that already John." The other man said quietly.
"Yeah, I know. She works with the Inuit doesn't she?" John sighed, "I just wish she was more – I don't know, welcoming? Nah, that isn't right. She just seems to spend all her time up in her cabin there not talking to anyone. All she has are her books and those 'dogs'."
"It's her life John, and she travels between here and Inuvik quite often when the weather is good."
"What about calling the health centre, can't they take him for the night?"
"A lot of kids have been coming it with coughs and colds, they can't risk it. Look, we'll bundle him up and dump him on her. Stray lamb, you know. She can bring him back to the airport tomorrow morning."
"That's not nice, Mark," John replied, but he was smirking.
She had been feeding the dogs and was about to go inside when she heard the two men call her name. She turned and just knew from the expressions on their faces she was between a rock and a hard place. "What is it, John?" she asked.
"Someone collapsed at the airport, we don't have anywhere for him to rest tonight so we thought we'd bring him over to you." John smirked and then said, "And he's got a pet wolf, you know dogs, we thought you could handle it."
For an instant she thought about refusing, about raising her chin and letting her ice-green eyes tell them what she thought of their underhand dealings and then she sighed, "Bring him in."
John leered at her and said, "Where do you want the wolf?" He was holding the animal on a lead and it was straining to get to the man.
"Let him go John. I don't think he'll do any harm." The animal bounded across to the unconscious man and nuzzled his cheek. "Just put him on the bed," she said, "Anything else I have to do?"
"He's got dogs but they're being taken care of down at the RCMP post. He just needs somewhere to stay tonight, bring him back to the Airport tomorrow when he's feeling better. See you then, Angharad."
She stiffened hearing her proper name, it was almost as if they did it to spite her, to everyone else she was Harry, Harry or-, no, she wouldn't mention the other name, the name that the Cree had given her. It had all been a mistake anyway, she'd only done what anyone would have and besides which it was technically a man's name which she almost certainly was not. She sighed and closed the door. She didn't even know who this man was and John and Mark had certainly decided not to enlighten her.
She bent over the unconscious figure and then swore under her breath, had no-one picked this up? He was burning with fever! Quickly and with the ease of long practice she removed his clothes until he lay on the bed clad in his boxer shorts. Her lip curled as she saw the bruises on his torso and the deep claw mark on his right thigh. The wound had closed but it was hot to the touch and that worried her.
"Whoever you are," she remarked, "you should be in hospital too."
She redressed his leg and then slipped a pyjama jacket on him before tucking him into bed. His forehead was still hot and she bit her lip thoughtfully before going through to a small room behind the main cabin. A collection of bottles were ranged on shelves on the far wall. Going to one of them she carefully removed the lid, a pungent, slightly bitter aroma made her smile and brought back memories of lamb dinners. Quickly she put two spoonfuls into the cup she carried and then carefully resealing the container she returned to her unconscious patient. She added honey and was pouring hot water into the cup when she heard a voice ask, "Who are you?"
She turned and saw that he was awake, taking the mug she walked across the room and set it on the bedside table then she took his hand and said softly, "You collapsed in the airport terminal, they brought you here."
The wolf pushed its nose against its master's arm and whined pathetically, "Dief-" he whispered.
"I brought you something to help bring the fever down," she said gently, holding out the mug.
Slowly he took it from her fingers and looked up into her face, he saw flax-gold hair and green eyes that reminded him of ice glaciers and gingerly took a sip, "Mint," he whispered.
"Mint," she replied guardedly, "And you should be in hospital."
"Not enough room on the plane," he whispered back, "Stan was more badly injured than I was. Important to get him to Inuvik."
"Drink the tea," she said softly, "and then try to sleep."
He finished the mug and then she tucked the covers around him, he closed his eyes and she looked down at the strong face, her hands clasped around the mug. The dog sat up and whined, she knelt down on the floor and putting the mug down on the threadbare carpet she held a palm out for him to sniff, "He's not well," she said slowly, "but I will do my best for him." Then she said the Inuktitut word for promise and yelped as the wolf flung himself on her, licking her face.
"Get off me you daft hound!" she laughed pushing the dog away, "I have to feed my own animals."
"Dief," a voice croaked from the bed, "Leave the lady alone."
The wolf's ears pricked up and he padded across to the bed and nosed the man's hand. She watched as he fondled the ears for a few seconds before the hand relaxed. Slowly she got to her feet and pulling on her coat, hat and gloves she went outside.
A soft shower of snow was beginning to fall as she tramped across to the stables, the dogs were already barking at her approach and she smiled to herself. They jumped around her as she entered, tails wagging, mouths open in an expression of glee, well technically they weren't smiling but she always liked to think that they were. She fed the dogs and was just taking another bowl through to the cabin to feed her patient's wolf when someone called her name, "Mas-gwa-ah-sid!"
She winced and then turned to the boy, Joshua, she'd recognise that voice anywhere. "Yes?" she replied.
"The baby's coming," he said quickly, "Mum said to come and get you."
"All right, Joshua," she replied calmly, "I've had another visitor dumped on me, let me just check that he's okay and put some food down for his hound and then I'll be right with you."
The man had rolled over onto his side and she could see by his relaxed face that he was deeply asleep. She put the food down for – what was the dog's name – oh yes, Dief and then wrote a note which she left on the bedside table. Then grabbing her satchel she opened the door and stepped into the snow.
It was dusk when she returned a few hours later, yawning she stamped the snow off her boots and then thumped her hands together to remove it from her gloves. She sighed and wondered what she could have for supper, there was always the last of the pemmican but quite frankly she didn't fancy it, still it would be filling and she could worry about food tomorrow. She wondered about the man lying in her bed and decided that she'd go down to the RCMP station the following morning and try to get some more details. Maybe that would stop her worrying.
To her surprise a figure was sitting in front of the fire watching the flames. She recognised him almost immediately. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"He's my son." Came the quiet reply.
"I see," she replied, although really she didn't, "care to elaborate or elucidate or whatever?"
"His name's Fraser, Constable Benton Fraser RCMP. Like me." The man replied and then turned to look at her, those blue eyes seemed to look straight through her, they always had done, "And I suppose like any father I'm watching over him."
"I don't suppose you know anything about what happened?" she asked, as she threw another couple of logs on the fire and poured herself another cup of tea, "I don't suppose you want one?" she enquired politely.
"No thank you, Harry." Bob replied, "I'm dead. Can't drink it."
She relaxed, he'd called her Harry, when he called her that she didn't usually have too much to worry about, "I'm doing my best, Sir." She replied, "I've given him something to try and reduce the fever, I'm not sure what else I can do."
"You need to get someone up here, someone he loved once and I believe still loves."
"And she would be?"
"She was his Inspector. Inspector Margaret Thatcher. She joined the Canadian Intelligence Service and I haven't heard of her since."
"But I thought that you were watching over him."
She was sure that he squirmed, if a ghost could be said to squirm, "I last saw Ben at the bottom of a mineshaft facing Holloway Muldoon. He killed the light of my life, Caroline, and for one of the few times in this existence I made Muldoon see me. Then I finally saw Caroline and we went – home. I haven't been back in over three months."
"Oh," Harry had wondered why she hadn't seen him. "What's it like?"
"Amazing." He said quietly and seeing Harry's eyes on him he said quietly, "It is home - in every sense of the word. I cannot explain it any better, Harry. You'll know when you get there."
"Don't you mean, if?" she queried, laughter dancing in her eyes.
"We'll see," he smiled, "You'll go down to the RCMP station tomorrow?"
"I was going to anyway," she replied, "I may have to employ a little subterfuge," at his puzzled expression she explained, "I can't say that his father's ghost came and told me what to do."
The man shrugged and a hoarse voice croaked, "Do you always talk to yourself?"
She lit the lamp and then set it down on the bedside table, "How are you feeling?" she asked gently.
He stared at her, sweat plastering the hair to his forehead and a glazed look in his eyes, she heard his raspy breathing and swallowed her fear, "I'll make you another cup of mint tea," she heard herself saying, "and I think I better get something to prop you up."
He drank the tea she prepared without complaining and she bit her lip, "I'm going to get you some water," she explained slowly. "Try and drink as much as you can, that fever worries me."
He nodded but she had the horrible feeling that nothing had actually gone in. He closed his eyes again and she watched him for a few moments. She finished the stick of pemmican, she wasn't overly fond of the mixture but at least when she'd had a cup of coffee she'd feel full. The wolf nosed her hand and fondling his ears she fed him the last piece. "Do you beg from your master?" she asked as she stroked the silky ears.
The wolf just huffed at her and she held up her hands, "No more."
Unrolling her sleeping bag she settled down on the floor in front of the fire. She felt the wolf lie down against her back and laughed softly to herself. "I hope you don't snore," she muttered.
It seemed to take her a long time to fall asleep. She woke in the early morning when it was still dark. The wolf had moved so that it was lying next to the bed, she made breakfast quickly, oatmeal but she rarely fancied anything else when it was still dark in the morning. The sun would rise at about ten o'clock but there were at least three hours to go until then. She pottered about the cabin, adding a log to the fire and putting the coffee pot on. She was pulling her jacket and boots on to go out and feed the dogs when he moaned.
She bent over him, his face was flushed and his breathing sounded stertorous. She gently laid her hand on his forehead and his eyes half-opened. She cursed softly to herself she was going to have to put an iv in and she loathed the operation.
He seemed to have fallen asleep again. She walked through to the back room and opened one of the plastic cases. Various medical supplies, still wrapped in their protective sterile cases were stored there. She took all the preparations for an iv insertion. Then her arms full she walked back into the main cabin.
"Going to put an i.v. in?" a familiar voice asked.
"I do wish you wouldn't do that, Bob," she replied, exasperated, "I nearly jumped out of my skin."
She had opened the sterile packets and was ready to begin when she realised the young man was awake and watching her. He didn't say anything and she couldn't find the words to explain, her throat had dried up on her. He watched as she carefully opened the sterile sheet and laid it across his chest, then she opened the top of each packet and making sure she didn't touch the interior she shook each one out. She washed her hands and slid her gloves on, wiped the back of his hand and then looked up at him, their eyes met.
"Do it," he said thickly, "You've no choice."
Swallowing hard she slid the canula into the vein, with her other hand she picked up the half syringe of saline and said, "This may hurt." He didn't answer and she didn't know if it was because he was fascinated or repelled. She attached the tubing to the saline bag and allowed it to run through into the bowl. Then she attached it to the venflon. She placed the bag on the bed and he watched fascinated, for the space of five minutes her face had become calm as if she knew exactly what to do next. "just put your good hand on the bag there for a couple of minutes while I clean this up." She removed her gloves, wrapped up all the packing and sterile sheet and set them on the floor. Taking the saline bag she hung it from a nail on the wall. "Try to rest."
"You dressed my leg."
"I'm a bit worried about that," Harry replied, "You should be in hospital with your friend.
He smiled wearily, "I told you. No room on the flight. I just need to sleep."
"I hope so," she responded quietly, as he settled down. "I really hope so."
Meg Thatcher sighed and leant back in her chair, at last the dreadful weariness that had accosted her since the beginning of her pregnancy was starting to dissipate. She felt the slight tickle and smiled to herself, the midwife had assured her that she wasn't imagining things and it was the baby 'kicking' inside her. For the thousandth time her thoughts flew back to that final night in the Yukon. It was only the second time they'd kissed, and it was just as magical. Then he'd picked her up in his arms and carried her to the nearest tent. She'd wondered for the longest time what it would be like with him and finally it surprised her. They didn't talk much, it wasn't a long, lingering seduction but the frantic act of two people who had wanted each other for so long that it was simply the outpouring of lust. They'd barely managed to get undressed before he was forcing her down onto the furs and kissing her so fiercely that she had no time to protest, and then suddenly he was inside her. She remembered the feel of him, as his whole body shuddered and he'd collapsed against her. He'd raised his head and looked her in the face, she remembered how open it had been as he'd looked into her eyes, "I'm sorry."
She'd reached up and kissed him and shaken her head, "You've no reason to be. Thank you, Fra-Ben."
"I shall endeavour to please you first next time, Insp-Meg," he said smiling down at her, "but first I think we should get under the covers."
She'd readily agreed to his proposal and soon they lay snuggled under the furs, she remembered how they'd held one another, staring into each other's eyes and then he'd bent to kiss her again and this time he'd brought her slowly to climax before entering her again and she'd wanted to scream with pleasure and then he was inside her again and this time she remembered looking up into his eyes and thinking how dark they became when he was in the throes of passion and then he buried his face in her shoulder, thrust twice and shuddered to a standstill. She held him as he recovered, and then he'd held her as they drifted into sleep. She'd woken first and raising herself on an elbow she'd looked down at the sleeping man, she knew that she loved him now but she also knew that while he loved it here, she could not live here, that for her it was the end of the world. So she'd quietly got up and got dressed, she'd been warming her hands in the RCMP Station when Sergeant Frobisher came in. "Morning Sergeant," she said warily.
"Morning Inspector." He touched his hat, "Glad to see you and Constable Fraser have finished your strategy session. They can certainly take it out of you. Would you like some breakfast?"
Thatcher shook her head, "No thank you, Sergeant. I'd like to get away as soon as possible." She'd snapped into command mode, "This place is just too scary for me. So as soon as I can get away – and back to civilization, the better."
"Very well Inspector." Sergeant Frobisher smiled, "As it happens there are two fully fuelled snowmobiles outside, you won't mind Constable Turnbull accompanying you?"
"Not at all." Thatcher smiled although it felt like her face was beginning to freeze, "That would be great."
Frobisher nodded and smiled again although the smile didn't quite reach his eyes, "May I say, Inspector that it's been an absolute pleasure."
"For me too, Sergeant, in many ways," Meg replied thoughtfully, she wasn't about to tell him that the four hour sleigh ride had given her bruises in places no-one should have bruises and left her feeling as though her life would end in the next five seconds. "Thank you again for your hospitality."
"And any message for Constable Fraser?"
"Er – no." She said quickly, "Well, yes, yes. Tell him I wish him well and that I hope to see him someday in Ottawa."
"Will do." He'd helped her onto the snowmobile and given her a five minute safety check which she'd only half listened to because she was terrified that any minute Ben would come out of the tent and all her resolve would fade away. She turned the machine on and sped away, only coming to a stop several metres away from the RCMP Outpost. She could still see Sergeant Frobisher standing outside watching her. As she turned to look back he looked across at her – at them both and saluted. Surprising herself, she'd saluted back and then turning away to the snow covered expanse in front of them she took a deep breath, opened the throttle and drove into her future.
Hah! She almost snorted and then realised that that wouldn't look very professional, some future! Oh she'd volunteered for the CSIS and when they'd asked her what code name she'd like she'd had a hard time choosing between Dragon Lady and Ice Queen. In the end something about Dragon Lady had appealed and she'd gone for that. Everything had been going swimmingly for about six weeks and then she'd begun vomiting, usually starting early in the morning and continuing until lunchtime. Every day. At first she'd thought that it had been the foreign food but when the doctor had returned with the results she'd stared at him in shock. Pregnant! How! And suddenly she knew how and a crimson flush had crept up her neck and face, and all her plans had fallen apart. She'd been repatriated of course, a pregnant Secret Service Intelligence Officer was no use at all, the only glimmer of light was that she'd been instrumental in seeing one of the worlds greatest dictators brought to his knees. Her superiors had made their displeasure known at her pregnancy and her refusal to name the father, most of them thought that it was someone she'd had an affair with before she went overseas, and some of them thought that she'd done it on purpose so that she'd have to be repatriated. Suprisingly, Meg didn't really care any more. She began to realise with her pregnancy that her desire to control everything had pretty much destroyed any chance of happiness she might have had. She could have had the pregnancy terminated but the thought filled her with abhorrence. It was the last piece of him she might ever have. So here she was twiddling her thumbs trying to look dignified and 2¾ months pregnant. Finally she put her pencil down and went to look out of the window, it was no good, she'd have to go and tell him. It wasn't fair of her to try and deprive him of his child, even if she'd been as graceless as to leave without saying goodbye, he had the right to know that he was going to be a father. After that, it was up to him. But, she thought ruefully, he was as likely to walk away, she almost certainly didn't deserve him.
Harry regarded her patient thoughtfully, he was no worse, but he was no better. She'd checked the saline drip and checked the site, there was a slight amount of swelling but no more than usual. It was finally light and she could go and see the RCMP. Gritting her teeth she pulled on her coat and boots, once outside the door she put on her snowshoes, she hated them but they made travelling in the snow easier and she didn't want to take the dogs out today. She was strapping on her second one when a voice asked, "Mas-gwa-ah-sid, you go out today."
She looked up and saw Eric, Mary's husband suddenly standing in front of her, she could swear that Eric was an Angekok but she'd never tell him. In his arms he carried half a caribou and she sighed, "I have to go down to the RCMP station and report that I have an injured Mountie in my care. I should also check on his dogs."
"Do you wish me to look after him while you are away?"
"Would you?" Harry grinned, "His name is Constable Fraser. The ghost of his father told me last night. But I can't tell them that at the RCMP post. Would you watch him?"
"Of course, Mas-gwa-ah-sid," Eric smiled, "I have brought you some caribou to thank you for the safe birth of my son."
"Thank you, Eric," Harry smiled, "I would appreciate it if you could gut it for me."
She trudged up the short road to the RCMP outpost. Sergeant McGregor was on duty, she smiled, she liked Rob, he was one of the few people who seemed to accept her for what she was. "Hi Rob. I've acquired an injured Mountie, was wondering if you could give me any information about him."
"Know his name?" Rob looked up, only mildly interested.
"Constable Benton Fraser," she replied laconically.
"The Constable Fraser?" he queried wonderingly.
"I suppose so, yes." She replied, "What's so special about this man, Rob?"
"He's a legend in his own lifetime, he turned in one of his own about 2 years ago. You must have heard of it, the Gerrard case with the dam?"
"David may have, me I try not to watch the news. It just upsets me."
"And you've acquired him?"
"Something like that," she smiled, "Can you put the word out Rob, someone may be worried about him. Oh, and I came to check on his dogs."
"The dogs are fine, they'd rather be running but we'll feed and water them until he's decides what he wants to do with them."
"Fair enough," she smiled, "What's the weather doing?"
"Few storms coming in, nothing major. The airport should stay open."
She nodded and then quietly slipped out of the office. Eric was waiting for her when she returned, as she walked into the cabin he stood up, "Mas-gwa-ah-sid," he inclined his head, "Fraser woke up while you were out and I looked at his leg. There is infection there and it will need to be cut out."
She nodded, "I thought so," she smiled at Fraser, "And I don't suppose you're too happy about this either."
"Didn't think the injury was too bad," he managed a half-hearted smile.
She sat down on the chair next to the bed and surveyed him thoughtfully, "I could anaesthetise you," she said quietly, "I have the capabilities, but with that fever and us being out here."
"You'd rather not risk it," he croaked, Eric handed him the mug of water and he took a grateful sip.
"There is another option," she said quietly, "I could sedate you and use lidocaine to numb the area around the injury." She grinned wickedly, "Or I could get Eric here to hold you down and drain and clean it now."
"That might not be such a good idea," Eric said slowly, "You were joking, Mas-gwa-ah-sid?"
"Yes, Eric, I was only joking," Harry replied, "Shall we try the light sedation and lidocaine?"
Fraser nodded wearily, "Why does Eric keep calling you Mas-gwa-ah-sid?" he asked, "It's not Inuit."
"It's Cree," she replied quietly, "and it's not important." Suddenly there was a banging on the door and Harry stood up, "I'll get it."
Pulling on her coat, she opened the door and stepped outside.
Sergeant McGregor was standing outside looking concerned, with him was a young woman, Harry felt, rather than heard Bob Fraser behind her, "That's the woman I was telling you about, Meg Thatcher. She's put on weight."
Ignoring the ghost Harry smiled, "Rob," she said, "Twice in one day, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I've come with news about Detective Stanley Kowalski," when she looked blank he elaborated, "The medical helicopter that left here a day and a half ago. He's recovering in the hospital in Inuvik. Didn't Constable Fraser mention him to you?"
"Oh yes," Harry murmured, "He did say something about someone called Stan. Good, I'm glad. And?"
"This young lady arrived an hour ago asking after the Constable," Rob said, "May I introduce-"
"Inspector Thatcher," Harry held out her hand, "I already know who you are."
"How?" Meg gingerly shook the extended hand.
"I have my sources," Harry replied, and thought, Some of them definitely the unearthly kind, "My name's Angharad, but everyone calls me Harry. So what do I do with you, Inspector?"
"I was inquiring after Constable Fraser and when I heard he'd been injured and was here I flew down as fast as possible," Meg replied, "Sergeant McGregor has been kind enough to find me some accommodation in the RCMP Office."
"I'll take you back this evening then," Harry smiled, "Come and help me feed the dogs. You'll probably get licked to death but there are worse ways to die."
As Meg entered the barn another jolt of queasiness ran through her and she had to suddenly throw up in the nearest bucket. Harry was all contrition, helping her to the nearest hay bale and offering her a tissue for her mouth. Meg sat, a tight knot of misery forming in her stomach, How long had Fraser known this woman? Why had she bothered coming out here? Surely this woman was more to his taste and Meg knew that she could not compete.
"So why did you come up here?" she enquired politely, "Surely it wasn't just because Constable Fraser was injured."
Meg laid a protective hand on her stomach, "I-I had – have some news for Benton- I mean Constable Fraser."
Understanding dawned in Harry's face, "You're pregnant! And it's his?"
Meg swallowed her misery and nodded, "So you and Constable Fraser are an item?"
Harry stared at her dumbfounded for a couple of moments and then she laughed, "I met Constable Fraser two days ago. We're not a couple – he's a very handsome man I'll grant you, but I prefer my husband."
Meg gaped, "You're married?" Suddenly everything caught up with her, the snap decision to fly out to the wilds of Canada, the frantic race to get this plane to Sachs Harbour the dreadful feeling that she'd be too late and she burst into tears.
Harry watched her for a moment or two and then she gently drew the woman towards her, gently rubbing her back. When the storm had passed Harry continued, "We were just discussing the best treatment, the wound in his leg has become infected and it needs draining and cleaning."
"Will he be all right?" Meg asked her dark eyes wide and frightened.
"Now, I think, yes." Harry stood up and brushing straw from her trousers held her hand out to the other woman, "Come on, let's go surprise your Constable."
Eric waited until the door closed and then he said, "She was visiting Toronto seven years ago," he began, "There was a young Cree family walking towards her, they had a little boy, he was doing what little boys do, running ahead of his parents, weaving in and out of the crowd when he ran into the back of someone else's legs. A businessman I think," Eric took another sip of his tea and continued, "this man turned and backhanded the child across the face. I think the words he used were something along the lines of 'Get away from me you little Indian brat.' Of course the child went flying and the parents came running up to soothe him. The man started to rant at this couple with their toddler and all this venom poured out from him," he paused again, "and all the time this couple are standing there, the mother holding her now sobbing child and then Harry tapped him on the shoulder. She'd seen everything of course and heard it."
"Then what?" Fraser leant forward.
"She tried to explain to this gentleman that he couldn't go around insulting people and that the Native Peoples of Canada were also people and that you couldn't go around hitting people because they were a different nationality or tribe. He turned on her and began accusing her of being an 'Indian lover' and spewing all his venom on her," Eric smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes, "As I recall, the words were along the lines of 'these Indians are taking all the proper jobs', and he used words like 'idle, shiftless, scum,' at which point she hit him. Knocked him cold, and then proceeded to tie him up and make a citizen's arrest for assault. The child, who had stopped sobbing stared at Harry and said 'Mas-gwa-ah-sid'. It means Stroke of the Bear, or Bear's Paw."
"So she got her man?"
"Not exactly," Eric frowned, "The man was a prominent Canadian. The Cree couple wouldn't come forward so it was Harry's word against his. Then although the CPS went forward with the case, after all Harry had witnessed the attack, but because the Cree couple wouldn't testify against him he was only fined a minimal amount."
"I get the feeling that you're keeping something from me," Fraser remarked.
"After the court case, this man brought charges against Harry for assault and loss of earnings and public humiliation." Eric put his mug down and when he turned back to Fraser his face was hard, "She lost pretty much everything, her job, most of her savings, her reputation."
"But I retained my self-respect," Harry said as she stepped back into the room, "I presume he's regaled you with the story of my name. It's all fish-fuzz you know. I did what anyone would do." She smiled again, "and in some respects I gained much. Things I would not have found had I not taken-"
"The road less travelled," Fraser finished her sentence for her and their eyes met. "And I do not think that anyone would have done what you did."
"And I met my husband of course," She paused and smiled again and Fraser suddenly realised how beautiful she was, "I have some good news for you, Constable about your friend Detective Kowalski, he's safe in hospital in Inuvik."
An expression of relief passed across his face and when he spoke his voice was thick, "Thank you."
"A pleasure," Harry replied, "There's something else." She opened the door and gently drew Inspector Thatcher into the cabin.
Fraser's eyes became very wide and he stuttered, "Insp-Inspector?"
Meg's eyes lit up, "Ben-Fraser?"
"Talk to him," Harry gently touched Meg's arm.
"What if he says 'No'?" she murmured
"If you do not open your heart you will never know," Harry replied softly, "And the price for opening your heart is that sometimes it will get broken. But encase yourself in ice and you'll never know."
"I won't get hurt," she muttered in reply.
"You won't ever heal either," Harry replied.
Slowly, Meg eased herself onto the chair next to the bed, Harry noticed that Fraser's eyes never left her face.
"Tea?" Harry asked gently.
Neither of them answered and Harry noticed that Meg was holding his hand, she nodded to Eric, "Dogs need feeding," she murmured, "Wood needs chopping."
"I'll come and help," Eric responded.
Meg looked down at the hand holding his, "I didn't expect to find you like this."
"I didn't expect to be like this," he replied.
Meg looked up into his face, "Ben, I'm sorry I left without saying goodbye. It was insensitive and thoughtless of me."
"I knew you wouldn't say goodbye," he replied, "You made it perfectly clear the night before you left that we came – come from different worlds."
"That's the reason I left," she replied, then she straightened her shoulders and for the first time in her life spoke the truth, "No, that's what I told myself. I told myself that I was leaving because we were so different, but the truth is worse."
"It wasn't that I couldn't face life out here, it was that I would have had to depend entirely on someone else and I couldn't bear to relinquish that control. I sneaked away before you were awake because I was afraid that if I did wait then my resolve would weaken."
"Oh, Meg," he said softly, "Don't you know how long I've loved you? I've loved you since the night we were trapped in that egg incubator when I saw your smile, I've never seen anyone so beautiful – you took my breath away. I love you, Margaret."
Suddenly she was shy, "Do you know the moment I fell in love with you," she said softly, "it was the day you stood in front of me in your brown uniform and told me that your uniform was a part of you and you would not change; I remember thinking how impossibly handsome and honourable you were and that I was in love with you. I love you, Benton Fraser. And I was such an idiot not to be honest about it earlier."
The door opened and Eric and Harry entered the cabin carrying a long table between them, she saw Fraser's questioning look, "I want a hard surface to work on," she explained, "and it'll give me a chance to change the bed."
"Can I help?" Meg asked.
"You can help me scrub the table," Harry remarked.
Meg nodded, "All right. When do you want to do this?"
"Immediately," Harry looked up at her, "Think you can handle this?"
Meg nodded and almost immediately her gut rebelled, she heaved and Harry took her shoulders and marched her across to the sink, she held her there for a couple of moments while Meg vomited. She hung there panting for a few moments and then turned to Harry, "I really, really hate this."
"I know," she replied, handing her a glass of water, "When I was expecting my son, I had the worst three months of my life. I had to stay in Inuvik and I don't think I've ever been so angry and bored in my life."
"You've got children?" Meg squeaked.
"A girl and a boy." Harry's eyes sparkled, "Lucy and James. My mother looks after them while I'm up here, it's been-" she paused, "challenging sometimes but David and I worked through it."
"Your husband?" Meg took a mouthful of water and rinsing it round her mouth spat it into the sink.
"Uh-huh," Harry turned so that she was standing with her back to the sink and looked at the other woman, Meg stared at her and was still staring when Harry said gently, "Are you all right?"
"Yes," Meg said slowly, it sounded like her voice was coming from a long way off, "I think I've just had an epiphany. All this time all I had to do was to let go, I knew he loved me, I knew I loved him but I was so intent on both keeping him at arms length and trying to curb his behaviour that I didn't stop to look at my own."
Harry eyed her thoughtfully, "When did you last eat?"
"About three hours ago," Meg said slowly.
"Sit down." Harry ordered, "Do you both want a cup of tea?"
Then she realised that Fraser was staring at Meg, and that he'd never stopped staring at her. Carefully she guided Thatcher to the chair next to the bed and sat her down in it. Fraser took her hand but Meg seemed completely oblivious.
Harry made the tea and broke open a packet of arrowroot biscuits, she was wondering how many she should put on when she heard Fraser say sharply, "Harry."
Turning she saw Meg still sitting like a statue but tears were running down her face. Fraser was gently stroking her hand and gradually Meg's face relaxed, she pulled a tissue out of her pocket and scrubbed at her eyes, Harry brought the biscuits over, "Eat them," she ordered looking at Meg, "even if you have to nibble. I'm not having both of you on 'drips'."
Meg managed to drag a smile from somewhere and took a sip of her tea. Fraser eased himself up into a sitting position and winced, Harry eyed him and then she said, "It's getting worse isn't it?"
He caught her eyes and only a slight nod betrayed her suspicions, "Then we have no choice." She laid a hand on Thatcher's shoulder, "Finish your snack and then come and help me."
Together they scrubbed the table down using the purple carbolic soap, Then Harry put a pillow on the table and spread a clean sheet over the top, she looked across at Meg, "We're ready."
Eric pulled the covers back and helped Fraser to his feet and across to the table. "Eric, if I give you my stethoscope will you monitor the Constable's heart rate?"
She smiled down at Fraser, "Almost ready. I'm just going to have a quick word with Meg, and get my instruments."
He nodded and she gently took Meg's arm and led her through to the room at the back. "Right, first things first. I'm going to use something called conscious sedation, he probably won't remember anything that happens when it kicks in, I want you to hold his hand and talk to him." Harry smiled, "Certainly I'll have to use lidocaine to numb his leg but he'll still be partially aware."
"Are you sure?" Meg asked quickly.
"Yeah," Harry grinned, "I've done this before, although I wasn't the anaesthetist." She held out her hand again, "Come on, help me get my stuff."
When they returned Eric had covered Fraser with a light blanket, Harry smiled down at him again, "I'm going to remove the iv and then give you the injection. Then I'll numb your leg. Trust me, this will work."
She removed the iv and tubing and casually dropped them on the floor, then she slowly began the injection. Fraser's whole face relaxed as he drifted into what appeared to be unconsciousness. "Keep listening to his heart, please Eric," she murmured, looking at the watch she'd laid beside his head, as she continued the injection, she watched him for a few minutes more and then nodded.
"Now I can begin. You can hold his hand, Meg."
Thatcher watched as Harry carefully folded the blanket back to expose the leg and the dressing. Harry looked up at her and smiled, "I'm going to start now, and some of it may be unpleasant. The smell for one."
She carefully took off the dressing and a tumescent odour arose, Meg gagged but managed to stop herself from being sick again. "How's his pulse, Eric?" she asked almost conversationally.
"Pulse steady, Mas-gwa-ah-sid," Eric replied.
"Mas-gwa-ah-sid?" Meg looked at her, "Why does he call you that?"
"You explain," Harry looked up at the Inuit, "I don't think it's that crucial."
While Eric told the story she injected lidocaine into the area around the injury. Then she shook out her instruments and dressings onto the sterile sheet and finally slipped on her gloves. Clasping her hands together to get her hands firmly into the ends of the fingers she picked up the scalpel, "Sorry to interrupt," she said, "I just need to know if the local anaesthetic's taken effect." She gently pushed the tip of the scalpel into the tissue at the top of the injury, "Ben, can you feel that?"
He shook his head slowly and the eyelids flickered but didn't open.
Harry grinned, "You can finish the story now." Picking up the gauze in her other hand, she carefully made her incision. Pus welled up and Meg swallowed hard.
"Vile isn't it," Harry scowled at her over the top of the mask, "Are you going to be all right?"
"Yuh-huh," Meg replied.
Meg found herself gazing at Fraser's face while Harry pressed the wound and surrounding area, finally, having assured herself there was no more pus to evacuate she cleaned the wound and then looked up at Meg and smiled, Meg's whole face softened as she stared at Fraser and Harry was glad for them. "She's the right one for him isn't she?" Bob's voice said over her shoulder.
"Mmm-hmm," Harry agreed.
"Everything going okay," Meg asked softly.
"I think so," Harry smiled, "I'm going to pack the wound open, if there's any more pus it'll drain out. Ubi pus; ibi evacua." She grinned up at Meg, and translated, "Where there is pus, allow it to drain."
When she'd finished she leant over Fraser and said gently, "It's all okay, Ben, you can go to sleep now."
He sighed softly and she straightened up. "I have to go and bag up the medical implements. Then I think a late supper. Fancy an omelette?"
"That'd be nice," Meg smiled, remembering the omelette Fraser had cooked for her. "Thank you." She flexed her shoulders trying to work some of the stiffness out of them, "May I call you Angharad?"
Harry scowled, "I should say, 'No,' she was part of my old life, but in a way I am still her. All right."
"Thank you," Meg said slowly. "Thank you for everything, for this-" she gestured at Fraser and the cabin.
"It was really rather nice," Harry smiled, "made a change from what I usually do up here."
"I forgot to ask," Meg said, suddenly embarrassed.
"I work at Aulavik National Park," she responded, "The cabin isn't mine, it belongs to the Park Services, so in about seven months I'll pack up the dogs and head back to Inuvik. That's where my husband and family are based and that's what I want to talk to you about." She paused, "I'll make supper and then tomorrow morning I'm going to call in some favours and get you both shipped back to Inuvik. You'd both be better off there, I'll take care of the dogs. Or maybe I can get someone to run them through to Inuvik. But you're going back-" she held up a hand as Meg opened her mouth to protest, "No, you're expecting and you shouldn't be out here, and he-"she gestured at Fraser, "Should at least be checked over by a qualified physician."
"But I thought you were qualified," Meg stuttered.
"I am, but that was over 5 years ago, there are bound to be changes."
"I-I-I," Meg tried to find the words and Harry gently took her cold hands, "I know he'd rather be out here wrestling seals and grizzly bears but he's in no fit state to do that at the moment. If at Inuvik they give him the all clear, then you can sort something out, but I'd rather send him back and be safe. That's the first thing you learn out here, out anywhere as a matter of fact. Safety first."
Meg laughed softly as a picture of Fraser tramping through the wilderness swiping at wild animals rose unbidden in her mind. "I'm sorry," she said, "You're right."
Harry nodded, "I know." She grimaced, "Help me tie up this bag, it's all the stuff I used for Constable Fraser's operation and it needs to be specially bagged so that it can be disposed of properly."
Fraser was stirring when they walked through to the main cabin, he half-opened his eyes and looked up at them puzzled, "When do you start?"
"I've done it," Angharad smiled, "you pretty much zoned out throughout the procedure."
Meg took his hand, "Hungry?" she asked softly.
" A bit, yes." He smiled and Harry noticed how it lit up his entire face.
"Three omelettes," Harry grinned, "and then you rest, Constable. Understood?"
Once supper was finished, the two women changed the bed and slowly helped Fraser across to it. Harry checked the dressing and was glad to see that there was no more bleeding. She parked Meg next to the bed. "I'm going to wash up."
"Do you want any help," Meg asked.
"No thanks," Harry smiled, "I want you to talk, properly."
Meg sighed and turned to Fraser, "She has a point."
"Brave woman." Fraser said softly, "Do you know the Inuit call her Mas-gwa-ah-sid?"
"Yes," Meg nodded, "Eric told me the story while she was operating on you. She pretty much lost everything you know. All her savings, her reputation."
"Just for standing up for the rights of people," Fraser nodded, "I had a similar experience you know, with a man named Warfield. He hit a busboy and I wanted him to apologise. He wouldn't so I took to standing outside his club, he had some of his men beat me up."
"Oh God," Meg's heart clenched. "Look, Ben. I came up here because I needed to tell you something. You're an honourable man and you deserve to be treated honourably." She swallowed hard, trying to find the words.
"It's all right, Meg," Ben said quietly, his hand holding hers, "You're pregnant. Is it mine?"
She nodded quickly, "I made some inquiries in Ottawa when I first found out. But no-one had heard anything of you since you left the RCMP camp in the Yukon, I pulled in a few favours, asked Sergeant Frobisher to keep his ear to the ground. Then last night I got a call from your Sergeant McGregor to say that you'd been hurt. So I took a mad flight across Canada to come and see you."
Harry hummed softly to herself while she washed up, she looked out of the window at the snow covered landscape and then she heard Bob say, "It gets to you doesn't it?"
"Always did," Harry replied, "I could stand and stare for it for hours and up at Aulavik it just takes your breath away. But there's beauty in everything and purpose."
"I want to thank you," Bob sounded tired and Harry turned to see that his form was becoming transparent.
"Are you going again?" she asked a catch in her voice.
"I'm afraid so," he smiled, "we ghosts only get to come back for a limited time and this was mine. Thank you, Angharad."
"There's no need," Harry felt the lump rising in her throat, and couldn't find the words.
"But I thank you anyway," Bob smiled, "Give them my blessing and my love. It has been an honour and a privilege."
"No, Sergeant," Harry smiled through her tears, "the honour and privilege has been mine." To her surprise he saluted her and then slowly he faded away until she was alone.
She looked out of the windows and murmured, "God speed, Robert."
Meg looked up when she entered the main cabin, "Everything all right?" She enquired.
"I suppose," Harry smiled tiredly, "If you count saying goodbye to ghosts. Your father." She said softly looking at Fraser. "he came back to set something right."
"Us?" Meg turned.
Harry nodded, "He felt that you should get a second chance. He said to give you both his blessing and his love."
Fraser's face relaxed, "You must be only the second person who actively admits to seeing spirits."
"But the Inuit say that everything has a spirit," Harry smiled back, "and I have always seen human spirits. I just know not to broadcast it." She paused, "And although I'd never dare tell him, I'm almost certain that Eric is an Angekok."
"I only ever saw my father," Fraser mused thoughtfully, "although he did tell me that he saw my grandmother when I was in hospital. I wonder why I didn't see him this time."
Harry sat on the edge of the bed and took his other hand, "Perhaps because this time he was here to help you. Maybe your mother has taught him something."
Fraser smiled, "So he was the one who told you about Meg."
"He told me that I should get her up to you if I was going to save you." Harry replied, "but she found out where you were and decided to come out here herself."
Fraser smiled, "That's my Inspector Thatcher."
"Superintendent," she responded raising a dark eyebrow. "Promotion when I had to leave the CSIS."
"Would you be prepared to leave it all," Fraser asked quietly. "If you still want the child."
Meg turned his hand over and then looked up at the man she loved, "I don't know," she said finally, "usually this would come under the heading of fraternization, although it could be argued that since you didn't know about my condition until a day ago then neither of us has been coerced into this position."
"What do you want to do about it?" Fraser asked quietly.
"Nothing for the moment," she replied suddenly, "Can we talk about it when we get to Inuvik?"
"As you wish," he said softly, and again Meg felt her heart squeeze.
"Sleeping arrangements," Harry interrupted, "I'm afraid the Constable keeps the bed, so you and I have a choice of the chair or the floor."
"I do have a bed at the RCMP outpost," Meg responded thoughtfully. "But I'd prefer to stay here near Ben."
"Fine," Harry smiled, "Sorry that it'll be a sleeping bag on the floor."
"I've slept on worse," she grinned. "And I think I'm tired enough tonight to sleep on a knife edge."
"Now that I can understand," Angharad smiled.
They spread out the sleeping bags and Harry handed Meg a pillow. They snuggled down and Meg asked quietly, "What happens tomorrow?"
"I go down to the RCMP office and the Airport and see about getting you transport back to Inuvik." Harry said quietly into the darkness, "and you two sort your lives out."
"If we can," Meg said softly.
"Do you have faith?" Harry asked quietly, "because this is what this is. Faith, and the ability to take each other's hand and make that jump into the unknown."
"What if we can't? What if I can't?" Meg quavered.
"That's up to you," Harry sighed, she turned over so that she was looking at Meg's shape on the cabin floor. "You know I used to love Toronto. I lived five minutes away from work and every morning I walked past this coffee stand and I could buy myself a large latte on the way to work. It was the best job I'd ever had and I loved every minute of it." She paused, "and then everything went wrong. Or I thought so at the time." She sighed softly.
"When you arrested that Canadian businessman?" Meg asked.
"Yes, although in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I would not have met David if I'd stayed in Toronto. As Thomas Paine said, 'That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. It is dearness only that gives everything it's value.' You have discovered this man's worth and been given a second chance. Don't waste it."
"I don't know what to do," Meg sighed softly, "I'm a city girl, I'd be a liability in the Northern Territories."
There was a pause and Harry said softly, "I was until I came to Inuvik. Go to sleep, Meg, we'll talk tomorrow."
She lay looking up at the ceiling until eventually she dropped into slumber. She half awoke as Harry got up and rolled her sleeping bag up, she sat up, "Anything wrong?" she asked.
Harry shook her head, "Not really. It's just time for me to get up, I'll check on Fraser. Want some breakfast?"
Meg sat up and yawned, "That'd be great, Harry."
They sat eating their cereal and Meg asked, "So, you said last night that you were a city girl too. How did you get so good at navigating in the wilderness?"
Harry took a sip of her tea and then said, "After the court case when I had to leave Toronto,I applied for a number of jobs but because of the publicity I couldn't get any of them. Then I was offered a post in Inuvik, mainly thanks to what I had done for that Cree family." She grinned, "of course when I first arrived I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry. Then I met David."
"Your husband?" Meg asked. And when Harry nodded she said, "And he helped you?"
"Showed me how to work a sled team, insisted that I would be able to compete in the Yukon Quest and told me that I had far too much talent to be stuck in a miserable city like Toronto." She smiled wryly and continued, "Of course I didn't believe him."
Meg grimaced, "So what did you do?"
"I was so determined to show him that I was hopeless that I did all the things he told me to do thinking that it would show him how useless I was."
"I'm assuming that it had the opposite effect," Meg grinned.
"Something like that," Harry replied, "I got fitter, learnt how to handle the dogs, despite my protests and was even good enough to compete in the Yukon Quest although I didn't win." She smiled, "And then I realised that not only was I in love with David, I had found something."
"I took the one less travelled by," Meg murmured.
"And that has made all the difference." Harry replied, "If I had not been 'exiled' to the upper reaches of Nunavut I would not have met David and I would not have my two children; nor would I be who I am today."
"I wish I had your faith," Meg mused, "I cannot help but be afraid."
"So was I," Harry responded, "perhaps the question should be, 'Do you love him? Do you love him enough to take the first step?'"
Meg bit her lip thoughtfully, "Yes I love him. But we'll still need to talk."
"I know that," Harry replied, "Be strong. Have faith."
Rob was working at his desk when Harry entered the office. She smiled at him and said, "Morning, Rob, what's the news from the outside world?"
Rob looked up and smiled, "Not much, Harry, I heard what you did for Constable Fraser. What are your plans now?"
"I was hoping that I could get him, Diefenbaker and Superintendant Thatcher out on a Medical Transport to Inuvik."
"You calling in a solid?"
"I'm calling in the solid," Harry replied., "but it would be in his best interests to go to Inuvik. I managed to drain the infection and clean the wound but he would be better off in a hospital and certainly the Superintendent you brought to me should be somewhere with better medical facilities than Sachs Harbour."
Rob nodded, "All right, Harry. You'll look after his dogs?"
"Until I can get someone to run them through to Inuvik," she grinned, "thanks Rob."
"No problem," Rob looked up at her and his face became serious, "I'll contact the 'copter while we've still got a window."
An hour and a half later, a well equipped paramedic team rolled up to the cabin Angharad called home for 7 months of the year and Fraser was carefully lifted on to the stretcher. One of the paramedics examined his leg and smiled up at her, "Good job, Dr. Torrance." He grinned, "How's David?"
"Fine, a bit stressed with the job but he's all right."
"How long are you up here?"
"Until September," Harry smiled, she bent over the now recumbent Fraser, "Look after yourself, understood?"
"Understood." Fraser smiled, he shook her hand, "Thank you, Harry."
Fraser was loaded onto the Medical Helicopter and just before Meg got on she turned to Harry, "I can't thank you enough," she said, "you saved his life."
"Just remember what I said," Harry replied.
"I will," Meg hugged her. "Thanks again." One of the ambulance men lifted Diefenbaker into the 'copter and Meg climbed in next to the wolf. She took Fraser's hand and watched Harry as the door was closed and the rotors started. As the 'copter began to rise, Meg lifted her right hand and continuing to look straight at Harry brought it up in a salute. She held it just before she disappeared from Harry's view and snapped it down. Then the helicopter was gone, spinning up into the sky and away from Sachs Harbour.
Harry turned, her eyes wet. Wiping the moisture away with the back of her hand she turned and walked back into the hamlet.