Junctures by Rhi
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Author's Notes:
Disclaimers: Neither due South nor Highlander is mine, although at least one of these characters is, and I rather think I'll have to write him into something else later. No money made. Many thanks to Damned Colonial, Raine, and Timberwolfoz for answering a canon question, and to Alyss, Merewyn , Raine, & Springwoof for beta. All mistakes, of course, are mine.
Rated: PG at worst. Written for my Crossovers100 prompt #25 -- strangers.

For reasons that do require exploring at this juncture, Fraser was holding a sword.

* * *

It wasn't his sword. That was the first thing and the most important, although the weapon fit into Fraser's hands like the reins of his dog sled or the old rifle with which he'd learned to shoot, the one that had taken too much heat warping to be used again after the fire damage at the cabin.

Still, it was in his hand, already a part of his balance and an extension of his arm -- returning it was going to be another wrenching pain courtesy of his travels and travails in Chicago -- and held resolutely between the unconscious man behind him and the wiry man pointing a sword at them both.

"Sir, your blade is neither sheathed nor less than 3.5 inches — 8.9 centimeters if you prefer. I'm afraid you are violating both the city and state statues as well as the parks' ruling, which states no blades may be carried here. I am going to have to place you under citizen's arrest."

The man chuckled, low and much more sane than Fraser had expected of a man who'd been fighting with a sword at night in Chicago. His tattoos cut darker shadows in his face where the streetlight's illumination angled down over his shoulder; Fraser automatically catalogued them as either African or possibly Maori, although definitely not Inuit. His blade was some variant on a Moorish scimitar so African was slightly more likely....

"You're not Chicago police. Not American police at all. I prefer not to have to harm you, sir, but you stand between me and my prey." He moved a few paces counterclockwise, his smile widening as Fraser automatically moved with him.

"And will remain between you, I'm afraid," Fraser told him. "Dueling is also illegal here."

"You can't stop us." He had a pleasant baritone voice which made Fraser think he could sing, and he sounded almost amused by the whole situation. "Sooner or later, I will have the horse thief's blood."

"You seem to have done that already, sir. You have an admirable throwing arm, if a poor choice of targets. But... he stole your horse?" Fraser asked, fascinated despite himself.

"Oh, yes. Also my emeralds, my rubies, my kris, and some love letters." The last two and the horse were clearly the ones that hurt most.

The gemstones were the afterthought? Fraser shook his head. "I'm afraid a boxing ring might have been a better choice. And you would have done better to point your local law enforcement towards him as a person of interest in their inquiries, rather than take the law into your own hands."

"Blacking his pretty eyes wouldn't have been enough... Constable?" The dark-skinned man was smiling at him and still circling slowly; trying to put the light in Fraser's eyes. "Not a Chicago accent, not Chicago vocabulary, and definitely not the local mindset."

"Constable Benton Fraser, yes, of the RCMP and assigned as liaison with the Chicago Police 27th Precinct. I'm afraid I do have some authority to take you in, sir." Fraser barely saw the flash of motion over his opponent's shoulder, but he was rather relieved to hear Ray's bellow cut through the night sounds.

"You with the sword -- where do you find these freaks, Fraser? Freeze, damn it! Christ, Fraser, I leave you for fifteen minutes to walk Dief and you--"

Ray's words cut off as the dark-skinned man shied to their left, pulling the point of Fraser's borrowed weapon and the barrel of Ray's gun with him. As soon as the weapons moved, however, so did the stranger: quick, fast, and sprinting to their right as if he were going for a new Olympic record. Light exploded off his blade as he ran, the metal swinging up and down with his arm's motions.

Fraser ran after him, borrowed sword temporarily unnoticed in his own hand because it felt so natural there. For a few strides, he considered dropping it, but that would leave it on the Chicago streets for anyone to pick up and he would be responsible for damage done with it or theft of it from its rightful owner. He ran on with it.

Ray came up on his unarmed side perhaps 150 meters further on; the man in front of them hadn't slowed his sprint in the least and they'd run at least 400 meters now.

Diefenbaker finally reappeared from whichever romance he'd been conducting, streaking past them both in a flash of white -- perhaps he hadn't gotten too soft in the city. Dief raced past the would-be duelist to trip him. The man swung his arm, and the sword, at a different angle and Diefenbaker had to swerve aside with a startled yip.

Fraser tried for more speed, heard Ray snarling profanity at the threat to Diefenbaker... and only then realized the man was heading for the bridge.

Diefenbaker snapped at the man, trying to herd him into a garbage can: no luck. Ray was falling behind, puffing and probably calling in backup by now. Fraser could feel his own blood pounding in his face, in his fingers, as the man held onto a sprinter's speed for longer than should reasonably be possible. (Perhaps he trained in mountain altitudes?)

Fraser saw their quarry leap to the bridge railing and used what felt like the last of his air to yell, "Diefenbaker! No!"

Diefenbaker skidded to a stop, whining a protest as the man vanished into the night leaving behind only a muted splash. Fraser managed the last few yards to the bridge in something closer to a staggering walk than a run. His muscles were protesting and he had his left hand on his hip, arm out to help his lungs take in more air.

He dropped to his knees beside Diefenbaker, certain this run had matched or exceeded his best times at the Depot when he was younger and less scarred. He knelt there listening to the water lapping at the piers, to the air moving in and out of his lungs and his pulse beating through his muscles, to Dief's frustrated growls and the sound of sirens splitting the night... and only then remembered the unconscious man they'd left behind them.

* * *

When Fraser got back to the park corner, he looked for the man he'd been protecting, the man whose sword he'd picked up when a flung rock felled him.

No one was there, just a dark stain on the edge of the grass that smelled, and looked, like blood.

* * *

Fraser sat in Ray's living room, cradling his mug of tea between his hands, while Diefenbaker lounged patiently at his feet and Ray cleaned up from dinner. Normally Fraser would have watched him work for the pleasure of observing Ray's ever-changing dance between sink, drying rack, and cabinets. Tonight, however, Fraser was still trying to piece together what could have happened against what had happened.

Once again, he called up the memories, looking as carefully and dispassionately as possible at the way the rock hit the fair-skinned man in the head. He'd seen the man's chest rise and fall as he scooped up the sword, saw his hand curve laxly, not gripping the hilt.

The man had been unconscious: bleeding slowly for a head wound but bleeding. His eyes hadn't moved under the lids, his fingers hadn't twitched. He had been unconscious and possibly badly hurt; Fraser should never have chased his attacker, honestly, but the man had run and Fraser had followed. Terry Pratchett had that right, embarrassing though it sometimes was: they ran because you chased them, but you chased them because they were running.

How had the dark-skinned man run so fast for so long? And while carrying a sword? Where was he from to have such interesting tattoos and that striking voice... and who had written those love letters, that he valued them more than jewels? Had he written them, or had he received them?

Why had both of them had swords and been fighting in a mostly concealed corner of the park? How had the fallen man recovered so swiftly? There'd been no tracks to indicate someone had carried him out; he'd gotten up from a fair-sized rock to the head and promptly run. None of the hospitals or free clinics had treated him, so far as he and Ray had been able to discern.

Ray came over from the kitchen and brought with him the teapot he'd bought Fraser last Christmas, still half-full of Darjeeling tea. Fraser accepted the refill with a nod and an absent, "Thank you, Ray."

Ray flopped down next to him with his own mug of instant hot chocolate and more marshmallows than a mug should be able to hold. "So? Seriously, Fraser, I got nothing, bupkiss, no clue what the hell that was all about. You?" Ray squirmed into a comfortable position on the couch as he talked, right hand drumming a beat on his thigh. "Those guys did not sound like survival nuts, or those crazy medieval reenablers--"

"Reenactors, Ray," Fraser corrected, smiling a little as Ray never lost pace and rearranged himself without so much as dripping cocoa anywhere (to Diefenbaker's whined dismay).

"Yeah, fine, reenactors, but these guys don't fit, Fraser. None of the gangs use swords, their faces aren't in any of the databases... short of some fingerprints on that sword, and it ain't likely--"

"I'm sorry, Ray, but it was the best idea I had at the time," Fraser said, trying not to wince at the reminder that he'd mishandled evidence.

Ray snorted and waved off the apology. "Hey, it beat you taking him on empty handed, no argument." He sipped at his cocoa. "I can figure out gangs, thieves, kidnappers, purse-snatchers, fuckers who beat up their wives, and the five hundred other weirdnesses that are the daily job at the 27th, Fraser, but I cannot figure out guys who have a swordfight at midnight in Chicago over love letters and a horse -- actually, the letters kinda make sense to me, but with swords? -- and then jump into the damn river in November. I mean it. I got nothing."

Fraser sighed and sipped his tea, reached a hand down and scratched behind Diefenbaker's ears for him. "Love letters is what he said. And I must admit, I can see times and places when I would have been infuriated over the theft of my dog sled, but he did not look or sound like a man who lives in rural, deserted areas, Ray."

"Huh." Ray hunched forward, elbows on his knees, staring at the TV they hadn't bothered to turn on. "And he said the other guy had pretty eyes, right? So maybe this was a lovers' quarrel that got way out of hand."

Diefenbaker whined and put a paw over his nose.

"Yes, well, you might have more sense than they do, Diefenbaker." Fraser rubbed his forehead and took another sip of tea. "I just don't know, Ray. None of it fits together properly."

Ray turned to look at him. "Okay, look, just spill it, okay? You're chewing on yourself for something. What?"

"I shouldn't have left that man," Fraser began and Ray waved a hand to cut him off.

"Uh-uh. We both know there was a guy with a sword tearing off into the city who'd already dropped one guy and you couldn't know who he'd attack next. First guy was down, unconscious not dead, bleeding some but not bad, and you had a nutcase running with a sword and me not there yet. I should have stopped, Frase, but you were doing the right thing. We both know it. So? Spill. What're you really trying to feel guilty about?"

Fraser would have preferred not to admit it, but Ray would only keep digging. "I must admit, I almost hope no one comes to claim that sword."

Ray blinked. "What, you want it? I mean, yeah, it's cool, but." He shrugged, then said, "Hey, if that floats your boat -- or just fits, huh, like that wrench set I spent way too much on and Stella yelled about?"

"Something very like that, Ray." Fraser studied his hand. "It felt like it had always been in my hand, always been an extra length of my arm. I've never held a blade so beautifully balanced."

"Hey, if it felt that good, better you than the city of Chicago. Definitely better you than guys holding domestic disturbances in public parks." Ray leaned back with his mug as if that settled the whole question and propped his feet on the coffee table. (Socks, at least, instead of shoes; Fraser's scoldings, and polishing the table, were having some effect.)

Ray even let the silence last an entire four minutes before he circled back to their non-case; the lieutenant hadn't even mentioned it to the ADA yet. "But you can't make sense of it either. You think that guy'll ever try to claim his blade? Or we'll find tattoo guy? It's not exactly a priority, not with nobody showing up hurt, one of 'em disarmed, both of 'em on the run, and us overworked like usual."

Dief huffed a mournful, disgusted noise and his ears twitched downward. Ray just nodded. "Yeah, me neither, Dief. I think they're gone."

"I don't think we'll make sense of it with what we have," Fraser said quietly. "No. I don't think we'll ever know."

Ray nodded again. "Yeah. Damn it." He shrugged. "So? Calgary's playing Vancouver. Wanna catch the last period?"

Fraser smiled. "Why not?" They could puzzle over this again at the station tomorrow, or the next day. Maybe the artist's sketches would turn up a hit somewhere.

* * *

It was two weeks before the forensics technicians had time to check the sword for fingerprints. When they did go to retrieve it... it wasn't there. In its place lay a plastic pirate's sword and an eyepatch. There were no fingerprints on any of it, including the evidence bag.

Ray yelled at the techs about securing evidence properly, at the cop on watch about just how bad it looked when the the police got robbed, and finally stomped off back to work, growling about didn't it just figure on this one....

Fraser just sighed, rubbed his eyebrow, and then turned back to trying to make sense of the Mitchener robbery.

As he'd feared, he missed the weight of the longsword in his hand.

And they never did find out what it had all been about.

~~~ finis ~~~

Comments, Commentary, & Miscellanea:

For those of you who don't know due South and made it this far (wow!), Fraser's presences as an RCMP constable in Chicago was frequently explained as 'I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father and, for reasons which don't need exploring at this juncture, I have remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian consulate.' The rest of you, I hope, were not drinking or eating when you read the opening line.

I don't remember the last time I've had to look up so many small things for a fic. Fraser's lawful streak will drive me nuts yet. (Although getting to look up the first and last duel in Illinois was kinda interesting. http://www.lib.niu.edu/2001/ihy010228.html ) Oh, and yes, Fraser's cabin in Canada did burn; assuming a rifle there warped is my guesstimate, however.

A kris is a knife with a wavy blade. A sword made in that shape is called a flamberge

RCMP cadets train at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division.

No. The immortal with the tattoos is no one from canon (and he may yet turn up again; he won't *go away*), and I'm not certain who the other immortal is. Probably not Cory, but I just don't know.

Yes. Really. In Terry Pratchett's Men At Arms, Lance-Constable Cuddy and then-Lance-Constable (now Sergeant) Detritus chased a man because he was running; he kept running because they were chasing him. Of course, bluntly, 'anyone not making a dash for it when they saw Detritus knuckling along at high speed behind them was probably guilty of contravening the Being Bloody Stupid Act of 1581.' (Detritus, you see, being a troll.)

Given that Fraser's grandmother taught him to box from books (I believe this is canon?), I have no trouble believing that she also handed him a walking stick and a copy of Pearson's Magazine (of January, 1901), "Self-defence with a Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-Stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions (Part 1)" by E. W. Barton-Wright. (Capitalization per the article; I didn't do it. Yes, it's real. Reprinted in the February 2000 Journal of Non-lethal Combatives. Online at: http://www.sirwilliamhope.org/Library/Bartitsu/)

ADA: Assistant District Attorney, who'd be in charge of deciding if they were going to try to press charges for dueling.

Okay. Yes. Replacing the sword with a plastic costume sword does make me suspect it was Cory, but I don't actually know.

No. I have no plans for a sequel, or a series, or a longer version. Sorry, guys. I'll write one if I think of it, but no plans. I have several other sequels to write already!

For the curious: no. I'm not implying that Fraser's a pre-immortal. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, you do find a weapon where the grip, the length, the weight, and the balance are all perfect for you, and it feels like you're barely holding anything, like your arm simply elongated. Fraser got that lucky -- with someone else's sword. Poor man.

Last: Just for the record, it's not actually Rokeon's fault... but it sort of is. She commented to one of my LJ posts with almost the exact opening line, and said I could run with it... so I did. Thanks, dear!