For Primrose by ifreet

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Title: Thirty Years of Snow
For: Primrose
Pairing/Characters:  Caroline/Bob
Warnings:  Reference to canonical character death
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes:   Thank you to the mysterious persons who deserve thanking.  You know who you are; I hope you also know how much I appreciate your help.


 When Caroline's eyes first opened on that featureless plain, the realization came before the memory itself, like the moment between seeing blood and feeling the injury.  And then the memory had caught up with her -- with all the shock, denial, fear,  anger and worry, that she hadn't had time for in the actual moment --  and she'd lost herself in it.  The emotions swept over her like a storm that built and built and didn't break.  She reached blindly for some anchor, something real and solid, and found it, a sharp tug like a safety line pulling her back.

Back was where she wanted to go, so she grabbed hold of it fiercely and pulled herself along it.  The line thrummed, pulsed hot and cold, and twisted in her grip like a living thing.  It hurt to hold on to, but whenever she slowed or wavered, she felt an answering tug, as though someone were pulling from the farther end.  

There was a door before her, so she opened it.   She found herself in their home with the door closed behind her.  The room seemed dusty, neglected, and somehow darker than it should be.  She crossed to where Ben slept,  arms wrapped tightly around himself.  She brushed the hair back from his forehead, bothered when she couldn't quite feel it.  He didn't stir; she wasn't sure she wanted him to.  

Following that still-constant line, Caroline crossed to the bedroom.  Her steps fell silently against the floorboards.  She opened the door and again found herself on the other side with the closed door a solid presence behind her.  The room was stale.  It smelled of unwashed sheets and sickroom sweat, and the dimness of the other room was amplified here, as though his grief had become a physical presence in the room.  Robert sprawled on the bed in his clothes.  He'd let his beard grow in, longer than he had ever allowed out on the trail, and his clothes looked like they'd been slept in for more than one night.  

She'd made a strangled noise, and he'd twitched in his sleep, reaching towards her.  The pull on her increased, only now she recognized the feel of Robert in the line -- recognized it as something made of his pain as well as hers.  She wondered what holding that connection was doing to Robert.  If she'd imagined it as her safety line, then Robert was trying to anchor the end alone and was being pulled down after her.   Maybe with her here he'd stop slipping.  She could hope that the damage had been done, that they would now reach an equilibrium.  But the connection didn't feel safe or stable.    And even if they could somehow stabilize it, what kind of life would that be for him?  For their son?

She couldn't stay.  Caroline stood and watched him sleep, and she wanted so badly to stay, to curl up beside him, to have everything back the way it was -- and she couldn't.   After awhile, instead of tears, words poured out of her. First as  a trickle, then a stream, then a dam-bursting flood.  I love you.  I miss you, too.  Take care of Ben.  I will always love you.  Remember me. Don't you dare follow me, don't you dare.    She spoke until she should have gone hoarse.  She spoke until she knew she was repeating herself.  She spoke until the morning light seeped around the curtain and fell across the floor, failing to touch her.

And then she wrenched loose the knot of grief-anger-longing that held her by his side, and as the house faded back to white, barren plain, she hoped it'd been enough.

The storm had blown over, leaving only the wind, constant and pushing towards...  some other place.  She hunched her shoulders against it out of habit.  This inbetween place looked cold, and even if her breath no longer puffed white vapor clouds, she had the memory of cold still.  But the plain was no longer interminable, featureless white.  There were hills and valleys, some trees, and ... a cabin?

She blinked, but it remained, as solid as if it had always been there.  But surely she should have noticed it?   After a moment, she let herself in.

The cabin was small, but homey. Caroline hung her coat on the peg, left her boots by the door.  A fire burned in the stove.  There was  a comfortable-looking chair was drawn up close for warmth.  Comfortable and familiar looking.  The longer she looked, the more familiar everything seemed, until finally she realized it was the old cabin on Baffin Island and wondered why she hadn't noticed it before.
 
***

With time, the cabin came to fit her snug as a cocoon, as she waited. The wind whistled around its corners and howled across the stovepipe.  Snow drifted around its walls and splattered wetly against the windows, which now looked out on the northern expanses both she and her husband had loved.

She was alone, but rarely lonely.  After those first grief-mad days, she'd rediscovered the trick of being at peace in her own mind and with her own company.  And sometimes, she had visitors, lost souls who turned up on her doorstep on their way to ... elsewhere.  Wherever the wind was blowing.  She gave them what advice she could about this place; she couldn't answer their questions about the next.

Caroline sighed and let the calico curtain drop back across the window.  The wind still whistled.  The snow still fell.  She still waited.

But lately, she'd been feeling restless, checking the window constantly, the way she had when she'd expected Robert home.  The waiting was simply wearing at her.  Maybe it was the indefinite nature of it.  Robert's predictions about when she might expect him home had often been wrong.  Hikers got lost, criminals needed apprehending, and patrols were extended.  Life was unpredictable.  But at least she'd had an approximation to guide her, and she'd never doubted that Robert would do everything in his power to come home to her.  She didn't doubt him now, either.  It was just so hard to stay, when she knew she could go.

She snorted, and her lips quirked in an expression that had more to do with self-deprecation than humor.  Because going to him had gone so well before.  On the other hand, she knew so much more now.  Then again...

There was a thud against the door, and she was grateful for the distraction.

She opened it to find one of her visitors,  thrashing his way upright from where he'd evidently tumbled onto the ground.  He'd picked himself up and was slapping ineffectually at the snow that had adhered to his coveralls, when he suddenly noticed her watching and straightened.

"Uh.  Hi?"

She smiled and made a concerted effort not to laugh when she realized his odd hat was improvised from green thermal underwear, sensing he might take it badly.  "Hello.  Would you like to come in?"

"Inside?  Where it's warm? Yes," he said fervently, but then he hesitated.  "Where's Fraser?"

She gaped at him, there was no other word for it.  "Fraser?"

"Mountie, about yea high, brought me here?"  He frowned.  "Though I don't remember that part.  How'd we get here?"

"You know my Robert?"

"No, I know Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP, who first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father and has remained, except for how I'm thinking he might not be remaining after this case.  And now I'm starting to worry about him.  Where'd you say he is?"   

Caroline held onto the doorjamb and stared at the man on her doorstep, who clearly had no idea the shock he'd just delivered.  Her Benton, a mountie?  Somehow, that thought was more surprising than the fact of Robert's death.  She'd been waiting for Robert, after all, knowing what that meant.  But her little boy had grown up in her absence.  Stranger still talking to a man so close to her own age and discovering him to be about Ben's age as well.  She supposed he could be an older acquaintance but didn't think so.  He felt close to Ben, a connection she could almost see.

And he was here.

"What's the last thing you remember?" It came out too abrupt, she could tell by the way his head snapped back, so she tried to soften it after the fact.  "Please, it's important."

"The ice fields.  No, wait."  A line appeared between his eyebrows as he thought for a moment then snapped his fingers sharply. "The mountain.  We were climbing this huge mountain, but it was getting dark.   Frase set us up in these cool hammocks, and then..."  He shrugged expansively.

"... you fell?"

"Would I be standing here talking to you if I fell?"

Yes, she thought.   But he hadn't fallen.  Which probably meant hypothermia, which meant there was the slightest chance...

She grabbed her coat from its hook, pushed him back away from the door and stepped through herself, pulling it closed behind her.  He squawked a protest that she ignored.  "You have to go back.  Now."

"But I don't--"

"You know the way," she told him, because he had to believe it for it to be true.  And she, perhaps selfishly, needed it to be true.


The wind dropped.  Distantly, she heard a voice repeating a name, Ray, Ray, Ray.  He seemed to hear it, too, turning away from her towards the sound

and fading away.

She waited, but he didn't flicker back into sight, so she assumed he'd made it safely home.  

The wind picked up again, sending snow sparkling off the tops of the snow banks.    She settled her coat on her shoulders, and looked up.    It had stopped snowing, and the clouds were breaking up.  Maybe she should go looking for Robert, after all.

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34 Comments

Oooh, this is wonderful! Kind of eerie and wistful, and, wow, what a terrific surprise to find the exact way in which it dovetails with CoTW. She saved Ray for Fraser!!! \o/

I love this piece so much. My heart kind of breaks for Caroline, but I love knowing she has a happy ending. :)

Beautiful work, Santa!

Thank you, JS! Eerie and wistful is exactly the atmosphere I'd hoped to establish.

The very best kind of ghost story.

I love Caroline, her strength, her determination. I love the idea of her cabin as a temporary waystation for lost and confused souls.

She smiled and made a concerted effort not to laugh when she realized his odd hat was improvised from green thermal underwear, sensing he might take it badly.

Hee.

Very well done!

Thank you, akamine! It was interesting getting to know her.

Oh this is great! I really like the "Caroline-saved-Ray" part, and how that fits in with COTW. Very nicely done!

This was really, really good. The tone was perfect: wistful and sort of lonely, but with the knowledge that it would all come right in the end. I loved your narrative voice for Caroline, and the way you reconciled the events in the story to those in CotW. Nice job, Santa!

Thank you! I'm glad the tone worked.

Luzula Author Profile Page said:

Oh, very nice! I love Caroline in her cabin, alone but not lonely, and how she helps the visitors. I like the ending, how she goes looking for Robert, and (I assume) finds him in the mine shaft.

Thank you! And you assume correctly -- or at least, the author assumes the same. ;)

primrose said:

Oh, wow, this is beautiful. I love this pairing so much, and the added Ray makes my adoration exponentially bigger.

After awhile, instead of tears, words poured out of her. First as a trickle, then a stream, then a dam-bursting flood. I love you. I miss you, too. Take care of Ben. I will always love you. Remember me. Don't you dare follow me, don't you dare. She spoke until she should have gone hoarse. She spoke until she knew she was repeating herself. She spoke until the morning light seeped around the curtain and fell across the floor, failing to touch her.

This? Made me cry. *loves so much*

Beautiful, heartbreaking, perfect. Exactly what I wished for!

I am so glad you liked it! Thank you for making me examine a character I really hadn't put much thought into before.

That was lovely. I love that Caroline saved Ray by insisting he go back.

OH! Oh, wow!

I love this so much. What a wonderful Caroline voice and what an excellent way to frame her waiting. And her clinging to Bob in the early days. And Ray finding her, because of course Ray wouldn't find dead!Bob -- he'd end up on Caroline's doorstep looking for Fraser.

*adores*

Yes, this should be canon.

Anonymous said:

This is lovely. I adore the atmosphere you create, and the dreamy sense of the place Caroline goes to. Her letting go of Bob is just gorgeous, and ties in nicely to Ben's memory of his father suddenly getting up and shaving. I also love the idea that Ray came to her and she pushed him back. Her voice feels absolutely right, even though we never heard her in canon. Great job!

Thank you so much, anonymous!

I'm all goosebumpy and happy and sad. This is going on the rereading list right away. Awesome job, Santa.

That is the best reaction I could hope for. Thank you!

Okay, here's how great the writing of this was: I *knew* it was RayK at the door just from the description. I could see it that clearly. Everything was just so well done, so beautiful to read, and so heart-breaking in spots.

Amazing job!

Excellent! Thank you!

Jade Lennox Author Profile Page said:

Oh, wow! That explains how Ray survived the mountain, which did seem kinda unlikely there for a while.

*Caroline love*

Oh! Her letting go of Robert, so that he could let go of her, was heart-breaking. And she saved Ray! Hurray Caroline!

'Heart-breaking' followed by a 'hurray' -- my work here is done. Thank you!

Beautiful! I love how Ray-ish Ray is, even in those few sentences, and Caroline's story is so sad and perfect.

This is absolutely beautiful. I love the representation of Caroline's grief -- that she, being dead, would grieve as much as the men left behind, which was heartbreakingly portrayed.

I really liked the twist of her waiting for Bob, and 'feeling a change' much as Bob did in CotW, yet first coming across Ray. That was a wonderful little bit of character interaction.

This whole thing had me in tears pretty much from the start. It was emotionally driven in such an intimate, loving way that I could not help but feel the beauty of her love for Bob and Benton, the tragedy of her loss as well as theirs, and her fears about Benton losing someone else he loves. Amazing.

Wow, thank you! I could not imagine a better reaction.

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This page contains a single entry by ifreet published on December 16, 2008 12:13 AM.

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