This story is the third and final installment in the Rage Series. Reading Quiet Rage and Rage To Be Quiet before reading this fiction will greatly enhance your understanding of what is taking place in this fiction.

Title: Winter's Quiet Rage

Author: Lystykds

Rated: R to NC-17.

Pairings: F/V and F/other.

Spoilers: COTW, Quiet Rage and Rage to Be Quiet.

This story begins with the events of COTW.

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I find myself alone and in front of yet another window looking out onto a cold and icy world. Assimilating everything that has transpired in the last 72 hours is beyond my capabilities. My eyeballs tell me that all is right with the wintry world outside, but inside my head I know my world will never be quite the same. Snow threatens the city and from my vantage point I believe I can see the Sear's Tower swaying in the midst of oncoming winter winds. The world outside is bleak, but not bleaker than my very soul feels right now. Muldoon, the name resounds and reverberates through every muscle of my body. Ray Vecchio lies in the room near me, recovering from surgery for a bullet wound because of Muldoon. But, I know the blame is more than partly mine. What was I thinking when I saw Ray across that hotel lobby? I can still feel the shock of seeing him inside that doorway and the insane inane smile the filled my face. I simply as Stan says, 'blew it'. I let my emotions drag me where I knew I had no business being. Now Ray Vecchio is paying for it, Francesca is paying for it and I have become the victim of my own over exuberance. How can I face Ray? Is there anything I can say that will even begin to make him understand?

Ray Vecchio is talking to me. I know it. My ears register the words, but I can hardly look him in the face. I can see his smile; even hear the tone of his words. But I can't really assimilate what he's saying to me. I twirl my Stetson in my hands and voice mere platitudes not the words I really want to say. I want to grab him, hug him and keep him safe in this room as he has kept his family and myself safe these two years that he has been gone. I want to put a wall up and drag the whole Vecchio familia behind it into safety. I want to put Ray and Francesca at the center of the biggest fortress ever built. But that would be futile, for I have already damaged them, perhaps beyond repair.

All I can see as I look at Ray is the guilt he feels and I, therefore, feel guilty, too. It's my fault he feels that way. My fault. I allowed myself to be kidnapped and used in that vile way against him. My fault. I know my eyes are looking at him shyly, hoping he can read my mind and find the words of apology that I cannot say. All I can hear ringing clearly in my ears are the words I heard him say to me the last time we met. He wanted me to keep his family safe. He wanted me to be safe. I did my best, I protected them, but when Ray needed me the most, I failed.

I failed Ray. I failed in every way possible to keep his undercover position safe. The only avenue left to me is to find Muldoon and give him over to the precepts of the law to hold and punish. I know from reading my father's journals that the man is a hardened criminal. It is my duty to go after him. I am a Mountie. I will do that which I must.

I feel the doorknob in my hand as I close the door to Ray's room behind me. Stan is waiting for me where he has been sitting since we arrived in this hallway. He looks tired. So tired. I look at my feet and wish I could make all of this go away.

As Ray and I rush towards the airfield, all I can picture in my mind is Francesca standing in front of me in that hospital corridor wanting to know if I care for her and hear Stan answering for me. As I think about her, the words stick in my throat again choking me. I wanted so badly to tell her everything, to begin again with her. But since I have returned from that lost weekend 18 months ago, I wonder if I will ever be able to approach Francesca. Ray is safe now, Francesca is safe now; but I am not. As Stan drives towards our destination I remember all that Ray Vecchio and I have done to protect each other and Ray's family. I wonder if Ray Vecchio will ever forgive me for what he had to do. I can feel Stan beside me driving like a madman, which actually isn't that out of character for him. I raise my head to look at his profile aware that he knows much of my history and my shame. He raises his head and smiles broadly at me. He speaks to me, but again, my ears seem to have left my head and I only see his smile.

Finally, we have located Muldoon and are on the wings of Muldoon's plane, waiting for it to take off. I know for sure I am insane now for I have embroiled Stan in this mad quest. Will any of them forgive me? The plane takes off and I feel the air dragging from my lungs and Ray gives a shout. Am I about to kill him with my irrational need to be in the right, to make an arrest? The plane gains altitude and we hold on for our lives.

Section 2

The wind whips about my face as I stand knee deep in snow next to a bewildered Ray Kowalski. I can't help it; my mouth hangs open in a lunatic grin. I know I must clearly be insane for this cold and light and snow fill my soul, as no other location on earth ever will. The thumping of my heart as it races happily at the sight of nothing but snow and more snow for miles around us must be ringing in Stan's ears as it sounds crazily within my own head. Stan's mouth is moving; I know he must be talking. I laugh and fill my lungs with cool almost arctic air for I am home. I am home in a way that feels good and clean. The purity of the snow drives a spike of joyous pain into my chest, but I stand my ground for a moment hold by the need to feel as I haven't felt anything since I left the Territories in search of my father's killer.

Hours and miles of snow covered in our tracks lay behind us and I watch Stan sleeping in discomfort on the side of this mountain. He trudges on so valiantly though he is cold and uncomfortable. His movements when he swung his hammock earlier could have loosened the hold of his pinions plunging him to his death. When sleep finally claimed him, I watched him sleep and then huddled in my parka for what warmth it could give me. Tomorrow, tomorrow will see us off this mountain. One way or another we will find Muldoon.

I think Stan perseveres here to remind me that I am after all a civilized person. I think he alone knows how close to being a wild creature I am at heart. Dief has always known. Francesca has an idea, I have seen it in her eyes and sometimes think that is what draws her to me. Ray Vecchio has no concept of the wildness in my soul.

Ray Vecchio sees me as clueless, a person to be protected because of my innocence of city life. When I arrived in his office, I was appallingly abrupt in my manner and God knows I have a tendency to appear shockingly, even brazenly confident in situations where it would do me rather more good to appear less prideful of my accomplishments. I have never needed more than a few well-placed words to be understood. But Ray taught me that are layers to life; nuances to be listened to and understood. We learned from each other. But he never accepted that I was wild and untamed at heart. My reticent manner led him to believe I was naive. I was never naive about life and death. But I was naive about city life. I would not have survived without the Vecchio family and Ray. By the time Ray went undercover and I met Stan I was a different person on the outside. A new, less abrupt covering hid me, though I don't consider myself a wolf in sheep's clothing.

When Ray left I think he was just beginning to realize how many layers were really beneath my 'Big Red' image. I am, after all, the same as all humans, many faceted and remote in many ways. Since my grandparents' deaths, the only persons to have any impact on me, other than my Father, have been Ray, Francesca and Stan. As for Victoria, I write her off as an illness that took me 10 years to figure out as an imbalance of my inner ear. So, admittedly my friendships are rather limited in nature. But here I am, back in the wilderness, which is my home, and find Stan with me. He is so tired, but I selfishly drag him on towards Muldoon. And still, I think of Ray Vecchio back in Chicago in that hospital bed, where I alone put him.

Section 4

Dawn came hours ago and here I am standing out in the early morning light watching the faint pink and blue tones of the early light and waiting for the word to be given to advance towards Muldoon's position.

There is no glass windowpane to hide behind here. No door I can shut to keep out those that would seek to know me. The cold air that surrounds me fills my lungs with gloriously frosty air. I breathe quietly and watch the escaping vapor with wonder.

The camp is so quiet; I know I must be the only one awake. I shiver a little standing here, but not from the cold. Remembering how close Stan and I came to dying in that crevasse makes goose bumps rise on my skin. Falling as we did and winding up wedged and roped together in such a fashion was unforgivable of me. Stan may be a raw, untrained tracker in the wilderness, but I am not. I should have been more careful. If we had died there, perhaps never to be found, it would have been my fault. Mine alone. But Ray is stalwart and 'pluck to the backbone' as my grandfather used to say. He even climbed on that makeshift sled believing I knew what I was doing. I heard our combined screams of exhilaration as we flew down that mountain and our faces became rigid in the cold. I was only 'winging' it as they say. We could have been killed yet again, but we were not. God, I am such a fool. I drag people along behind me, convinced I know the right of it. But do I.

I heard the howling last night after I kissed Meg. I heard Dief's voice ringing out loudly, leading the howling. I heard the howling increase as Meg and I settled in her tent. I heard the howling as we kissed again, as we took from each other what we had held back for so long. I heard Dief's* solemn howl continue as Meg and I zippered her sleeping bag around us as we snuggled deep into the confines of the bags enveloping warmth. Dief's howl rose to a fever pitch as Meg and I said goodbye with love-fevered kisses. We had to end our relationship this way, for if we had not, neither of us could go on for we would be caught in the possibilities of all that we had put aside because it was not the right time or because it was unseemly for a junior officer to be involved with his superior officer. We grasped each other tightly, kissing each kiss as if it were to be the last kiss we ever knew.

When Meg slept, I realized that this would be the last and only time I would ever hold her this way. Her hair gently curved along her jaw as I gently pulled away from her. Meg, who was my superior officer, held me in her hold as tightly as Victoria ever did. Meg and Victoria held me, bound me to them through the force of their own will.

I am ashamed to say that even as I lay there, naked as I was born, with Meg, I thought of Francesca; Francesca, the pursuer, Francesca of the soft heart, Francesca the one who always saw clearly into my eyes. Francesca is the only woman I know besides my Grandmother who ever looked me directly in the eye to see my soul. Francesca, the dreamer, has always been the one to know that I could be hurt, or lonely, or homesick. Francesca of the mercurial words has always been the one to want me to feel her as she could feel me, though we hardly, if ever touched.

Francesca is so different from Meg who always needed to control my actions, for the good of the force she said. She is different than Victoria who controlled me with her heady scent and my own guilt. Even the night Francesca came to my apartment in that leather outfit, she didn't come to control me but to seek the real me out. She saw my body's bruises and my pain and stayed to care for me. Admittedly, she did enjoy embellishing the tale of our night together, but I can't fault her for that. She is as she admits a dreamer. Where Meg dreams of promotion and perhaps a child to take care of by herself, Francesca dreams of love with me, and a future. When this is all over, I hope to God that I am able to return to Francesca in search of what might be in the future for us.

I can hear the sounds of early rising in the camp; hear the stamping of feet too cold from a night's sleep in a frail tent. Soon we will be breaking camp. Soon, we will be on Muldoon's trail again. Odd, I haven't heard or seen my father in hours. I wonder what that means?

*Authors Note: Wolves in the wild live in-group societies where only the Alpha male and Alpha female mate and raise young. When the Alpha male and female mate, the entire pack sometimes howls and carry on noisily during the mating. When the young are born, the entire pack takes care of the young pups.

Section 5

The light from above shine eerily down the mineshaft where I stand quietly with my head tilted back to watch Muldoon's feet swinging over my head as he is pulled to safety and certain arrest. Dust motes dance before my eyes as I watch those feet swaying from side to side in the narrow shaft. I can see Dief's head above me peering down to see that I am well. Soon the rope is lowered and I find myself encircled by its noose as my own feet dangle below me. Tears fill my eyes as I strain to see the bottom of that shaft for one more time before I am free of its confines.

Friendly hands haul me quickly over the edge of the shaft and back into the sunlight. Voices surround me and Dief stands beside me mute and silent. Hands clasp my shoulders and I think words are flowing about me. I look back over my shoulder for one more glance at the mineshaft opening before feeling strong hands propelling me towards a medic who shines a light in my eyes and seems worried because I am not responding as spontaneously as I should. I drop my head and hide my eyes when Sgt. Frobisher approaches me for he knows me all too well. He kneels before me where I sit on a snowmobile and I can no longer avoid his glance.

When I raise my eyes and look directly at him, I can see the truth in his eyes. He knew, he always knew about my mother. I can't be certain, but I think I see apology in those old and tired eyes. I feel sick and tired and my head hurts, no doubt the result of hitting my head when I fell down that shaft. I whisper to him that they are gone. I have no need to say who is gone, Frobisher knows without me voicing their names. He sighs and rises to his feet. He puts his hand back on my shoulder and squeezes me tightly, almost painfully. Then he abruptly drops his hand and orders me to get some well-deserved rest.

Stan stands by the group surrounding Muldoon and I can see by the fire in his blue eyes that he would like nothing better than to kick Muldoon in the head. I shake my head at him and rise to my feet feeling better somehow. Watching Stan move around freely in the snow, I know I have to find someway to repay him for all that he has endured for me. I have but one question for him: "Why did he call me Dolphin Boy?"

Section 6

It is dawn again. The cold air wraps protectively around me as I stand here outside Sgt. Frobisher's cabin wearing the parka I wore during our pursuit of Muldoon. Somehow the parka holds my parents close to me, even though they are both lost to me now. Wearing it I can see my mother before me as her hand reached out to touch my cheek so softly. The spot on my face where she touched me seems oddly warm still, a faint reminder that while she is gone from me her love will always be with me.

The quiet sounds of my homeland surround and envelope me; filling my heart with joy. There is silence now that the force that came to capture Muldoon is gone. Only Stan and Sgt. Frobisher remain here with me. We have packed our gear and will leave Sgt. Frobisher this very day. Diefenbaker is showing excitement and rushed to and from the cabin while Stan and I packed the sled we will use in our endeavor to find the 'Reaching Out Hand of Franklin'.

Meg and Turnbull left yesterday taking letters with them from Stan and I to members of the Kowalski and Vecchio families. I am chastened with embarrassment that I have asked Meg to deliver my letters but there is no other way to send them situated as we are in this part of the Territories.

My grandmother would have chided me sorely for my poor use of Meg in asking her to deliver my letters and would have boxed my ears heartily. I am sure that Meg had an idea what was in one of those letters for she held them all tightly in her hand with whitened knuckles as she told me that she would personally make sure that our letters reached their intended recipients. I know I flushed red as I stared mutely at her sad eyes. Even now, I can hear her whisper words wishing me well as she drew back from her goodbye kiss to my cheek.

Meg offered to pack my things at the consulate for me and leave them stored there for my future dispensation. I was surprised when she offered to go on Stan's behalf to his landlady with Stan's request for his turtle's care until his return to Chicago. Meg smiled rather warmly at Stan when he made his shy request.

Stan has emerged from the warmth of the cabin and now stands beside me dressed in the same garments he wore as he traveled so bravely beside me in search of Muldoon. I know he talking in that bright and cheerful way he has but the words only run and coalesce into one sound in my ears. I can feel Sgt. Frobisher's hand on my shoulder and hear his gruff laugh as Stan begins to climb in our waiting sled. Dief has trotted to the lead position of our team and waits impatiently for me to harness him. Without words I move to Dief and attach his leads and harness. With a trembling heart I step back to my position as sled driver and fixing my eyes on the horizon I give Dief the word to begin our trek.

When we reach the rise, which will take us out of sight of Frobisher's cabin, I halt the sled and look back. After a quick, smiling salute back towards the cabin we are off on our adventure.

Epilogue

We never found the 'Reaching Out Hand of Franklin', but we did find our friendship on solid footing. The weeks we spent roaming my homeland served us well. Ray became proficient in handling our team and driving the sled giving me plenty of hours riding bundled in the sled to think about what I wanted out of life. I knew without a doubt that I did not regret Meg and our parting or the letter I sent south. Only time would give me the answer I hoped to receive. It was easy to lose track of the time we spent running our dogs and surveying the country, but we both agreed that it had been time well spent. Our friendship developed into a far stronger bond than we had shared before.



Several months have passed since I left this town aboard the wing of plane with Stan. The sabbatical that we shared after our pursuit of Muldoon was exactly what I needed to solidify my decision and bring me to the foot of these familiar steps. I can feel the blood ringing in my ears as I take the first step towards the porch and the Vecchio front door. My hand is shaking as I put my hand out and ring the doorbell. I have spent so much time running from this very person to whom I am now running with tightly held breath.

Mrs. Vecchio, who gives me her brightest welcoming smile, opens the door. She reaches out and takes my Stetson from my hands with a warm smile and searches my eyes carefully as if she has never quite seen them before. With a nod of her head she takes my arm and leads me unrelentlentingly towards the staircase. I am beyond protesting as she almost literally drags me to the top step and down the hallway. Flinging open Francesca's bedroom door, she pushes me inside with a laugh and an expletive in Italian, which I am ashamed to admit that I know. As the door snaps shut behind me, I turn around expecting to see Francesca's bed because I know this to be her room. Instead of her bed, I am confronted with six little basinets and Francesca sitting in a rocking chair by the window with a small bundle in her arms. Her eyes brighten and she puts her finger to her mouth to shush me. My heart has fallen to my feet like the dead thing I feel it to be.

Nevertheless I find myself walking over to her and standing to stare down at the vulnerably small babe in her arms. Itís head is covered with the darkest of baby hair curled in ringlets rioting everywhere. I take a closer look and the leaden feeling in my boots begins to rise to my knees. Francesca turns the babe's face in my direction and I am astounded to see eyes the exact shade of mine shining up at me. Francesca is watching my face closely and seems at ease for all she is sitting here with my letter to her displayed prominently on the table beside her and the six infants surrounding her. I see another paper sitting under my letter with a letterhead I am familiar with peaking out from under it. I put my hand out to touch those papers and suddenly find the world receding from my control as I fall back until I hit the floor.

I don't remember blacking out, but Francesca assures me she had never seen anyone hit the floor so hard. Mrs. Vecchio is kneeling beside me with a rag soaked in smelling salts in her hand. I can feel a soft pillow under my head and realize Francesca has taken a pillow from one of the basinets for me. All I can do is stare up at her in wonder. I can see her lips moving but have no idea what she is actually trying to tell me.

Once the shock wore off, Francesca and I were able to piece together our miracle. Ray and Stan will shake their heads and say only I could have worked this out. But this is the truth. At one time I would have done almost anything to help Margaret Thatcher have a child of her own. I had thought she wanted a dalliance with me to achieve that end but was soon disabused of that thought. I tried arranging an adoption for her, but that never seemed to go anywhere.

Sometime during that confusing time, I determined that perhaps Meg could make use of a fertility clinic so I dutifully went and made a small donation. But I never told Meg what I had done. I remember that some little time before Muldoon arrived in Chicago the clinic called and wanted to know if I would allow my 'donation' to be used by someone else. It didn't appear at that point in my life that it would make any difference to me or to Meg so I acquiesced to their request.

It's very simple really; Francesca decided that if I would not respond in kind to her love, she would still like to have issue. She couldn't face the idea of trying to love someone other than myself and so decided to use the facilities of a clinic. It was the sheerest luck that she approached the very same clinic where I had made a donation. And it was by the sheerest of luck that someone remembered my donation and description, which fitted Francesca's rambling description of what she was after in a donation.

It is very odd to sit here holding a child of my genes without the benefit of the usual avenue of achieving such a child. Francesca and her mother sit here with me, each holding one of our miracles. Ray and Stella should arrive soon from Florida where I understand they are getting ready to sell the bowling alley that they acquired when they married. When they arrive Francesca and I will be married with Stan and many of our friends in attendance. We are the parents of four girls and two boys and I hope each of our daughters is just like their mother.

The doorbell is ringing waking up the children. I hear Stan's voice in the hall and realize I never did ask him why he called me 'Dolphin Boy'.



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