Oh, The Places You'll Go

The Dumb and the Restless Episode 2: Attack of the Clowns

Notes: Crack alert! With thanks to the ever-nocturnal snoopypez for beta. Written for ds_flashfiction's Midsummer Amnesty Challenge, this is for everyone who yelled "Awww, CAT!" at the cliffhanger at the end of The Dumb and The Restless. And as this is a soap , if you don't want to read that first you don't have to because ...


Previously on 'The Dumb and The Restless': Frannie got knocked up again, ding dong bell — Fraser's down a well, Uncle Lorenzo confessed to gay love in the time of Prohibition, Ian got cozy with a snake and Kowalski and Vecchio found themselves in mortal danger. Will they escape? What exactly does Ian's snake need to eat to stay alive? Can Fraser stop being enchanted by the pretty echoes in the well long enough to be rescued? Where did Lorenzo stash his stash? Find out none of these answers (or maybe one) in the next exciting installment of 'The Dumb and The Restless'.

***

Everyone says it's a miracle that they're alive at all. Lying in a hospital bed, strapped down so he can't move, Ray's not feeling the miracle right now. The last thing he remembers is Kowalski's fingers, a sharp blow as something crashed into his pelvis and a sudden wild panic about the continued attached status of his man parts.

The first thing he'd done when he woke up was pat at the area to make sure Little Ray was okay, only to have the nurse swipe his hand away saying something about broken and crushed and fragments. Ray'd gone into full blown panic mode then. What was he going to do without his constant companion? There was the sex thing, sure, but what about taking a piss? He didn't want to sit down like a girl. He liked being able to whip it out in an alley when he was caught short and he'd never been a fan of squatting. Ray had only calmed down after a whacking dose of sedative and a white-coated child-doctor had explained in words of one syllable that the word 'fragments' did not apply to Ray's testicles nor the word 'broken' to his penis.

After that, it'd been plain sailing. Well, apart from the whole smashed pelvis/broken back thing.

Kowalski gets off lighter and is only an in-patient for three weeks. Ray's in a private room because of the screaming when the morphine wears off so he doesn't get to see him. Frannie (who had missed the cave-in due to the super-speedy reactions of Captain Welsh) carries news, though, and messages, and via her they manage to play the slowest game of tic-tac-toe ever. Ray tells Kowalski he gets to be Os because that's his most used expression. Kowalski tells Ray he gets to be Xs because he's such a bitch. It ends in a draw, of course.

Three weeks, seventeen hours and forty-one minutes after the rescue now dubbed 'The Most Unlikely Rescue To Ever Happen Because Really The 2-7 Has Never Been Structurally Sound And The Chances Of Both Of Them Getting Out Alive And Relatively Unharmed Were Like A Gazillion To One: Sub-title Oh My God Wow' Kowalski saunters into Ray's room, a cast on his wrist and some nearly-faded bruises on his face the only signs that he's been through anything rougher than a normal day at the office.

Ray can't help the smile that spreads across his face.

"Jesus," says Kowalski, eyes traveling the length of Ray's body and Ray's conscious of the bandages and the tubes and the we-don't-trust-you-not-to-fuck-this-up-straps and the pulleys.

"Yeah, well, you can call me Ray," he says, not willing to get emotional about this. "They were wanting to make a manbot. I told 'em they could experiment on me."

"Nice." Kowalski's gaze returns to Ray's face and Ray can feel himself flush. "Manbot, huh? They, uh, they enhance everything?"

Now Ray's not one to trust in subtle signs but sledgehammers he gets. "You trying to say something, Kowalski?" he asks, letting a hint of dark warmth slide into his voice.

Kowalski licks his lips and comes closer, picking up Ray's hand and curling his fingers around it, his other hand tapping out a stuttering rhythm on the rail of the bed. "In the ... Before ..."

He's staring hard at a point just to the left of Ray's head. Ray is concerned the pillow might combust from it. It's a worry. He squeezes Kowalski's hand.

"I want ... We'd be good together, yeah?" Kowalski finally manages to look Ray in the eye, but he's half-squinting as if he expects Ray to bust out of his straps and take him down. He's an idiot.

"Yeah," Ray agrees and wishes he could take Kowalski down for other reasons.

"Yeah?" Kowalski checks, with a grin that's probably illegal in the southern states, and leans in to kiss Ray.

And it's probably just the morphine but Ray is floating and he can't remember the last time he felt this high.

Just then a nurse bustles in all starched and brisk and Ray's high evaporates as he hears 'more tests' and 'we have some concerns'.

***

Mort loves dead bodies. They're so ... still. And compliant, hoo boy, are they compliant. They don't complain when he cuts into them with a sharp, sharp scalpel and rummages around in their insides trying to find out exactly when and why their tick went tock. They don't whine or moan when he ties little tags around big toes and zips them into their modern-day shrouds, not even the ones who don't look so good in nylon. Nor do they kvetch or quibble when he does ... the other thing he does with them from time to time.

He lays out the trolley with all the things he needs and opens each freezer drawer in turn, unzipping the body bags and hemming and hawing over his choice.

"Aha!" he says, mouth already salivating, "This one, I do believe, is perfection itself."

With practiced motion he slides the body to a gurney, leaving the cocoon of the bag behind, and wheels it to the middle of the room. There is one last thing before he is ready to begin. Mort draws a remote control from his pocket and aims it behind him over his head. The overture to Faustus begins to play and Mort drops the remote on the trolley and hums to himself as he unscrews the lid of a jar.

So engrossed is he, breath coming in short pants when he remembers to let it out, that he doesn't see the doors swing open. He definitely hears the yell, though.

"Mort! What the hell are you doing?"

Mort looks up from the body to see Detective Huey, shocked and gaping. He looks back down again and it occurs to him that the detective expects him to be embarrassed. But he is an old man and he has seen such things that his little ... peccadillo, he supposes ... is a mere trifle. "I am expressing myself," he says and smiles a crooked smile.

"Yeah, well, wash that paint off like yesterday or you'll be expressing yourself by scratching tally marks into a cell wall. The Captain's on her way with grieving relatives. What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that your little Greek friend would look wonderful with a Thracian tattoo design," says Mort, sadly wiping his brush on his apron. "But, alas, he still breathes."

"Ooookay," says Detective Huey, taking a hasty step back, hands palms out. Mort imagines them covered with whorls of Mehndi. He thinks perhaps he should take a rest from painting the dead after all.

He's about to fetch a washcloth when the body on the table opens its eyes.

"Help me," it whispers.

***

Three days after the tests the child-doctor uses the words 'paralyzed' and 'sorry' and 'never ever EVER walk again'. Ray expresses his feelings towards his bedside manner with every single curse word he knows, including in six separate Inuit languages (time on stakeouts with Benny was always well spent) plus some manual gestures that he doesn't think have made it into ASL yet. The child-doctor doesn't scare easy, though, and Ray gets it when he sees the size of his needle.

Kowalski wanders in an hour or so later, lips wrapped around a cruller and Ray is first seized with a blinding vision of how perfectly his dick would fit into Kowalski's mouth and second by the stunning blow of realization that this can never happen. Not now. He's Catholic; he knows martyrdom like the back of his father's hand. It's not like Ray to want to suffer alone but he figures he'll have enough on his hands making Ma and Frannie and the rest of his ever-extending family miserable, without adding Kowalski to the list. It's a kick in the guts but he knows what he's got to do. "Free bird," he warbles inside his head. "Freeeeeee biiiiiiird."

Ray keeps his face neutral when Kowalski stops feeding his face long enough to say hello and calculates the exact amount of flinch needed to stop him in his tracks when he leans in for a kiss. If only he'd known how to do that when Lena Fiducci'd cornered him between Gym class and Language Arts that time maybe he wouldn't have had to have had his first sexual experience coincide with his first trip to the Emergency Room.

"What?" says Kowalski and he's frowning like this is a puzzle he knows he's not going to solve.

Ray turns his head away so he doesn't have to look at him, all long and lean, sharp edges blurred by the tears Ray's vowed not to let fall. (It'd been a whole fist-shaking-yelling-at-God-questioning-the-veracity-of-the-concerned-nurse's-parentage-ice-chip-cup-throwing thing. Ray's secretly proud of the level of hysteria he'd achieved. He's fairly sure they could hear him over the other side of Lake Michigan.) "I don't want to do this. I've changed my mind."

"No," says Kowalski, grabbing Ray's chin and forcing his head back around. "No."

***

"Oh," says Frannie, pressing a hand to her heavily swollen belly. And, "Shit."

The perp she's standing over bellows with horror as he's drenched with body-warm amniotic fluid. That'd teach him to underestimate the ability of a pregnant woman to take out a handcuffed wipeass bent on escape.

"Somebody!" she shouts. "Anybody! I appear to have gone into labor a little earlier than anticipated. Some help here?"

For a split second there's total calm and then everything goes crazy really fast. Frannie's at the eye of the storm and she finds herself in almost a zen-like state as the perp is whipped away to be cleaned up and she herself is whisked to Harding's office and entreated to lie down on the sofa. She manages to mutter "No time," as she hears someone calling for an ambulance and to skin out of her maternity pantyhose before there's a whole bunch of screaming and castigating the son of a whore who got her into this predicament in the first place.

"I'll get my tubes tied," says Harding and Frannie stops yelling in shock. "There's no one else here," he shrugs and he's right. The room had cleared with the first ear-splitting screech. Not even Detective Xena had stuck around. Come to think of it, she'd been first out the door.

"I can't ask you to do that," Frannie says through gritted teeth as another contraction takes hold. "You don't owe me anything."

"Several years of backdated child support," says Harding, taking her hand and not even wincing as she squeezes the life out of it. She opens her mouth but he gets in first. "You don't want it, I know that. We can only have been through it a hundred times or more. But I don't know if I can keep doing this, Francesca. I'm not young any more, if I ever was, and this sneaking around is bad for my heart and not so great for my knees either."

"Oh, Harding," says Frannie and can't quite remember why she's been keeping him at arms length for so long. Probably the endorphins kicking in, she thinks.

"Look," Harding continues, "this may not be what you want to hear at this particular moment in time but I have to ask anyway. Will you-"

Harding is cut off as Frannie gives voice to a scream that instantly curdles every single coffee creamer in the station. She looks at him, horrified, and jabs her finger several times at the gap between her raised, bent legs. Harding takes the hint and lets go of her hand, scrambling to look. It's probably the most courageous thing he's ever done, thinks Frannie, screw the four commendations. He pushes her skirt up a little higher.

"Oh shit," he says.

***

The elevator in Ray's apartment building doesn't work five days out of seven and the doorways aren't wide enough to accommodate his wheelchair anyway. Ma suggests he move home but it's taken Ray nearly forty years to move out and he's not going back. He's no Boomerang Kid – he's never even been to Australia. He moves into some assisted living complex and pretends he's thrilled to be there. It's not boring or anything.

Mondays he has bridge with Tony the blind guy next door and Mungo and Jerry, the one-legged ex-pirates. Tuesdays is lunch with Martha, when she remembers, which, given the fact that she's "103, you know," and going doolally, isn't that often. Wednesdays and Saturdays Frannie visits with one or several of the kids, Thursdays is bingo afternoon with Stuttering Stan the caller (it makes the games last twice as long, but what else is Ray gonna do?) and Sundays is listening to Ma talk about how she's been praying for his legs. Ray thinks about telling her that it's his back she should be concentrating on, but he's had his miracle — two, if he includes the fact that Kowalski wanted him, but he doesn't like to think about that — and he's not expecting another one.

And if he's lonely sometimes, then that's just the way it is.

"You're lonely all the time, Ray," says Frannie. "And you're being an ass."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Ray is belligerent and considers wheeling his chair over Frannie's toes.

"You really do. You want to make me suffer? Fine. You want to be Mopey the Eighth Dwarf? Fine. You want to make Ma spend her life-savings on votive candles? Fine. But Ray's not blood, lucky bastard, and you don't get to punish him because you're angry enough to put your fist through a cat."

"What?" Ray startles, distracted.

"I read it somewhere," says Frannie, waving her hand vaguely in the air and pulling the baby off her breast with a pop. Ray wishes she wouldn't do that. "And stop going off on a tangram."

"How am I even punishing him?" Ray can't even bring himself to say his name. "He gets to not have to look at this every day."

"Oh, God." Frannie rolls her eyes to heaven as if expecting a reply. "You are so selfish, I can't even begin to tell you." She switches the baby to her other breast and Ray really, really wishes she'd put the first one away first. "He's miserable, asshole. And he's drinking too much. Also, he's set up business in the supply closet trading blowjobs for professional favors. It's only a matter of time until Harding finds out and that can only go one of two ways. Stop being a jackass and call him."

"I can't," says Ray.

"Your fingers still work," snaps Frannie.

"I can't," Ray repeats and storms off. It's only once he's half-way across the courtyard that he realizes he's just flounced out of his own apartment without keys and is going to have to go back and get Frannie to let him in. He sighs. His life sucks. He swivels the wheelchair around and then pauses, hand on wheel-rim. Why should he go back? Screw it. Screw it all. He swivels the chair around again and heads for the gate.

***

It is snowing. Again. Fraser is naked in the snow. Again. If it isn't accidental trespass into tribal land it's poisonous fur-eating grubs or thievery by arctic hares. He knows what to do, though, and uses his hands to dig himself a den, packing the snow around his body, leaving only a tiny hole for breathing. He hugs his knees tight to his chest in the heat escape lessening position and catalogues his symptoms, pressing his thumb and little finger together repeatedly to prove to himself he's still in stage 1 hypothermia. Diefenbaker will surely bring rescue before he sinks too far into stage 2. He should stay alert.

He falls asleep.

When he wakes Fraser feels the cold air of the tundra on his face and realizes his den must have collapsed. But yet he is warm, and it feels as if he's encased in a heavy, soft blanket. Ah, he thinks, stage 2. Fraser doesn't know whether to be worried that Dief has yet to return for him or that he's succeeded in staving off his decline for what must be, judging by the position of the sun in the sky, some several hours.

Fraser relaxes into the counterfeit warmth, just a little, and that's when it occurs to him that he has stopped shivering. He tenses. The hypothermia must be further advanced than he thought; stage 3 for certain. But he's confused, the symptoms don't match, perhaps it's his own fault, sluggish thinking preventing him remembering with accuracy. And amnesia, he must have amnesia because he assuredly does not recall having a large white paw growing out of one shoulder before.

Oh.

Well.

That explains that, then.

He twists in the polar bear's loose grip and meets one sharp, black eye. "Delighted to meet you," he says with all sincerity. "My name is Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And yours is?"

The polar bear yawns. Fraser recognizes that it's impolite to suggest a salt water gargle (even he is prepared to admit toothpaste is difficult to come by north of the Arctic Circle) and nods instead. "Thank you kindly for sharing your warmth. I understand this is somewhat of an imposition but I wonder if you could perhaps assist me further?"

Riding the polar bear is not so far removed from bareback horse riding. Except in those cases it was the horse that was barebacked and not Fraser himself. He soon finds his balance and the rub of the thick fur against his naked genitals is rather pleasant. A little too pleasant, possibly, Fraser thinks as he finds himself leaning closer in, hands twisting in the bear's scruff.

There are shouts and yelps and chiming bells in the distance and Fraser knows that rescue is near. He sits up, looking down at himself and feels his cheeks flush. He can't, can he?

No.

No?

Fraser bends down low and whispers in the polar bear's ear.

***

He doesn't know how long he's been out. He's fended off what feels like hundreds of patronizing bastards trying to help him cross the street and for a while he's furious with Benny until the third broken pedestrian crossing and then he resigns himself to saying yes to the next do-gooder that comes along. The little old lady is remarkably nippy on her feet, Ray thinks.

He's in a familiar neighborhood but it all looks different at this level and Ray's not entirely sure where he is until he recognizes with a jolt that he's on Kowalski's street. He slows down, unsure of what to do. He doesn't want to see him but the chances of them meeting are still pretty low, Kowalski's probably sucking dick in the closet right this very moment. Ray's stomach clenches and he's icy cold despite the sun and the exertion. He goes to speed up but his arms don't obey his brain because there's Kowalski not twenty feet away, swaying on the curb, staring vacantly into the traffic. He's stoned out of his mind, Ray realizes and before he can move Kowalski's got one foot into the street and there's a ten-ton truck bearing down on him.

Before Ray can even form a thought a powerful urge sweeps through him and he's on his feet closing the distance between them and yanking Kowalski back from the brink. His legs are weak and they buckle under him, tumbling them both to the ground.

Kowalski flails in his arms, trying to get away until Ray yells at him to quit poking his bony ass into bits of Ray that do not want to be poked. Then he twists around and goes still, staring at Ray. He stares for a good while and Ray tries to breathe surreptitiously through his mouth so as to avoid the scary whiskey breath. Kowalski looks like shit but Ray can't bring himself to look away. Eventually, Kowalski breaks the stare and looks down the street to Ray's chair and then back at Ray. He does this a few times until Ray starts to feel dizzy.

"Oh my fucking god, you can walk," says Kowalski, all big eyes and slack jaw and Ray doesn't care about the warm gusts of sour booze because oh my fucking god he can walk.

"Well, I could until you collapsed your skinny butt on top of me and broke my back again," he snipes but his heart's not in it and he knows he's grinning so wide they could see it from space.

"Now will you stop being an asshole?" Kowalski slides a hand under Ray's head, caressing him with a thumb.

Ray considers that lying on a public street might not be the best place for this conversation and knows he hears several shocked gasps from the passers-by who are doing their level best to ignore them when he says, "Maybe, if you stop sucking off half the station and doing your best impression of a brewery."

"Sure," says Kowalski, clearly not as worried about getting his head kicked in as Ray is because he leans in and kisses Ray, soft and gentle and Ray can't help but to whisper against his lips, "I love you," and also "Get your ass off of me, I'm dying here."

Kowalski rolls off Ray and helps him to a sitting position. "You love me, huh?" he says.

"Might," says Ray, shrugging his shoulders, enjoying the sensation of Kowalski's warm body pressed against his side.

"Might, too," Kowalski replies. "You wanna?"

"Yeah," says Ray and takes the hand he's offered.

The sun, sinking behind the buildings, does its best to fade the scene to black.

***

"Randall, I do believe I grow weary of this prison life." Francis Bolt lays down his copy of The Elegant Universe and sighs.

"And I, too, Frankie." At the other end of the bed, Randall picks at his nails with page 291. Francis has long given up trying to teach him to treat books with respect.

"Francis. How many times do I have to tell you, my name is Francis. Soft sibilants, Randall, no plosives for me."

"But Francisssssssssssss, I thought you loved explosives." Randall wiggles his fingers to punctuate his point and grins.

Francis bares his teeth in return. Really, Randall's sense of humor is far too slapstick for him but it doesn't pay to create antipathy. Not if they are to stay free once they escape this hellhole.

"I have managed to secure the co-operation of Theodore, our hapless keeper. I do believe he has developed some sort of twisted feelings for me." Francis holds up a hand to prevent interruption. "Of course I do not reciprocate them, Randall. You know where my heart lies. But that is of little import at this point in time, the crux of the matter is that we must be ready exactly one hour after lights out. He will come for us then."

"What a story, Morning Glory!" crows Randall, throwing his arms around a recalcitrant Francis.

Francis has never been a fan of physical affection, for this he blames his mother's inability to produce life-sustaining milk after his precipitous birth. He blames her for many things, truth be told. He stiffens in Randall's arms and pats his side awkwardly with one hand while retreating as far as possible. "While this display of brotherly love is charming," he says, "it would be easier to convey the rest of the plan to you if you behaved with a tad more decorum."

"Whatever you say, Frankie, baby," says Randall, letting go but continuing to encroach on Francis' personal space. Francis takes a deep breath and wishes for perhaps the five thousand four hundred and eighty-third time that he didn't depend on Randall to do the messy things that he himself was not prepared to do.

The lights go out on time as they do every night and exactly on cue one hour later the door swings open, the hulking figure of Theodore shuffling from foot to foot. Francis might find it endearing if he wasn't so busy working out how they are going to hide such a big body once they'd made it past the prison walls.

The three of them creep along dim-lit corridors; past night-guards slumped against the wall where Theodore has slipped them a sleeping draught. They move silently through well-oiled doors and Francis can almost smell the sky. The last door is opened.

"Fuck that shit," says Randall.

"Ah," says Francis.

"Yeah, oops?" says Theodore.

***

Ray wakes to the sound of his cell. He fumbles around until his fingers close over it and doesn't bother to check Caller ID before hitting the green button, immediately regretting his decision. Five minutes of furtive conversation later he hangs up and turns around to find a naked Kowalski leaning up on his elbow, a question on his face. Ray considers ignoring the question and rolling Kowalski onto his back and giving it to him but good, like pretty much every morning since they pulled their heads out of their collective asses but he knows it's not going to go away. He sighs and puts down the phone.

"It was my brother."

Kowalski's question changes into full blown what the fuck? "You have a brother? Since when? I've been you and I didn't even know you had a brother."

"Yeah, we don't talk about him because of the thing that happened with the-"

And then the doorbell rings.


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