Characters belong in due South, and thus are property of Alliance. I borrow them temporarily and only to work out a few ideas in my head, because I think sometimes, though with good intentions, the creators/writers/whoever just end up getting things on this show in one whopping big mess, and I have to try and fix it, if for no other reason than to preserve my own sanity.

This is set during Season 3, immediately after the episode Perfect Strangers (in which the previously mentioned party created a mess that I simply could not ignore).

Inner Voice

by Michelle Lunsford

May 1998

The Friday afternoon traffic had been more jammed and tense than usual. This, and the tedium of several errands along the route home - the bookstore to purchase the latest release by her favorite author, the grocery to pick up a few things, the craft store for items necessary for a pending project, the pet store for fish food and new aquarium filters - had combined to drain the last remnants of patience and energy from Inspector Margaret Thatcher. She was never more relieved than when she managed to accomplish, her arms loaded down with shopping bags, the simple act of inserting the key and unlocking her apartment door.

With one foot, Meg kicked the door shut behind her. She made her way toward the table that sat in what served as the dining area, and unloaded her wares. In an instant the fashionable pumps were kicked off, left lying where they fell as she abandoned the normal routine of depositing them in their assigned place along the shoe rack in her bedroom closet. The jacket of her conservative business suit soon followed, hanging half-on, half-off the arm of the chair where she discarded it. Not daring to pause for a break, Meg set to putting away the perishables from the grocery, and then the other items. She changed the filters in her aquarium and fed the fish.

Responsibilities completed, Meg finally began to consider a moment of respite. A glance at the clock revealed it was already half past seven, and she groaned inwardly. The thought occurred that she should have picked up something to eat from the deli when she had been at the grocery. Though hungry, Meg did not feel at all like putting forth the effort to prepare something to eat, even if it was nothing more than one of those simple microwaveable meals she kept in the freezer for just such occasions. But, she had bought some of those fruit breakfast bars she liked so well, and that would suffice for now.

Munching on the strawberry flavored bar, Meg decided she might as well gather up her shoes and clothes. Once in the bedroom, it seemed a good idea to change into something more comfortable altogether. The well-worn, cozy fleece pant and top set were a welcome relief. Gazing in the mirror, Meg smiled and ran her hand over the familiar logo and lettering, long since faded. The Regina Rascals had been the name of the local softball team she had played on during her RCMP training. Every time she donned the old sweats, she could not help but recall all the good memories of that time. It was probably this, plus the fact that they were just so comfortable, that prevented her from throwing out the near threadbare rags.

Changed, and having placed her suit among the pile of other clothes to be taken to the cleaners next week, Meg opted to go ahead and finish some of the ritual normally reserved for just prior to going to bed. She brushed her teeth, removed her eye makeup, and washed her face. That finished, she considered what to do next. She was tired, but not sleepy, and knew if she went to bed this early she would only toss and turn. The idea of that new book crossed her mind, but Meg had promised herself she would save it until tomorrow, a special Saturday, lie about the house and do nothing but read, treat. She was just about to rummage about in the kitchen for something else to eat when the realization dawned on her.

She was stalling.

With a resigned sigh, Meg strode into the dining area. The bag from the craft store still sat where it had been hastily dumped. It's not going to go away, so I might as well get started on this, Meg thought silently, as she opened the bag and began to systematically arrange the contents on the table. Then she went back into the bedroom, where she retrieved a plain, rectangular box. Gathering the few other supplies she might need, scissors, glue and tape, a pen, Meg finally settled in at the table.

It certainly was not the first time Margaret Thatcher had tackled a project of this kind. Though very few were aware of it, the Inspector had a streak of sentimentality about her. Keeping scrapbooks and preserving memorabilia had been a regular occurrence, even since early childhood. But this time, the memento had distinct meaning. She wanted to do this one in an extra special manner.

Having distinct meaning did not, however, preclude the fact that this entire undertaking was also a bit troubling, and Meg was bombarded with all the emotions she had been so pointedly attempting to avoid when she removed the lid of the box.

Inside, in all their simplicity, were several dead and dried flowers. She looked at them for a long while, merely staring as the minutes ticked by. It was a bit amazing that in this state they still held the same vibrant color as when she had first received them; a lovely collection of white, yellow, and pink daisies. Such a plain flower, and yet they had a delicate beauty all their own. Not for the first time, Meg wondered why he had chosen these in particular. And, as usual, this thought was immediately followed by the sound of that familiar, inner voice, saying "maybe I don't really want to know." She had kept the flowers, in her apartment, and when they had died, she simply could not bring herself to throw them away. And so she had dried them, stored them in this box, and eventually decided upon this means of preserving them. Meg took a deep breath, and set to her task.

Based on previous experience, she expected the process to be in some way helpful; hopefully, even cathartic. Even as Meg began to carefully remove each flower from the box, all the thoughts she had been fighting for days finally began to flow and situate themselves in her mind.

They had been vigilantly avoiding one another for a little over a week now. Oh, it was never anything obvious. In this tangled little plot they continually weaved, things, it seemed, were never allowed the freedom of simply being obvious. So it was an averted look here, a ducking into the next room there. Meg had not been able to overlook the fact that she had been delegating more of the regular workload to Constable Turnbull this past week. But then again, her mind reasoned, that was partially due to the fact that she had also been unable to overlook the fact that Constable Fraser had spent more time than usual at the District 27 Police Department station this past week.

A sigh escaped her lips as Meg worked with the delicate flowers. Her mind could reason all it wanted, but the truth was the truth. Fraser had been purposefully making himself scarce, and she was as resentful of that as she was relieved. But what was he supposed to do, that small voice asked, inside her head. A silent, but heavily ironic laugh answered in reply. If Meg had not been able to figure out what she was supposed to do, how in the name of all sanity was she supposed to figure out what Fraser was supposed to do?

The passing of days had done little to dull the emotion of the incident. The images played through her mind now, as they had countless times before, with the same lucid clarity, as if it were all happening again this very moment. There had been the customary, polite knock, interrupting her work on one of the many reports she had to finish, and she had ushered him in with her usual blunt formality. How long had he stood there? She was not sure, as she had been paying only half attention, and could now only remember the way he continually cleared his throat. This was his indication of some sense of nervousness, or at best, hesitant uncertainty. Still dividing her attention between him and the report, she had urged him to just spit it out with a curt "What is it, Fraser?"

A few times she had glanced up in his direction, some semblance of an acknowledgment that she was listening. It was during one of these obligatory glances that she noticed he was holding a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. This intrigued her, and she found herself giving full attention. The rambling that followed was something Meg had come to recognize all to well. It was that overly detailed, and seemingly disjointed manner in which Fraser always explained things. Most times it did little more than drive her crazy, and she was in no particular mood now to play the game of trying to make sense of it all. She jumped in during one of his pauses and asked if there was a point to this.

The Mountie continued, saying something about taking things incrementally. Then there was some nonsense about talking, which he said they had already done - whatever that meant, Meg thought - so they could move to the next increment, dancing perhaps. Dancing? Meg was thoroughly confused now, and was just about to interrupt him a second time and fairly order him to get to the point, when he said something about his parents, and how they had danced without music. It was then that her brain finally made the connection.

Meg never would have imagined that a human being was capable of feeling so many emotions in one instance. And only now, several days later, was she allowing herself the opportunity to fully analyze what she had felt. Embarrassment, naturally, seemed to be the foremost. Oh dear heavens, could she have been that obtuse in her discussion about the matter? Surely she would have initially mentioned her intentions were of adoption. But as Meg had racked her brain afterwards, she just could not be certain. Of course, the inner voice chimed in again, your thoughts weren't exactly in their usual state of cohesiveness that day anyway. No, Meg mused, one did not get to ask when one's biological clock would go off, and the entire concept had hit her a bit by surprise. The almost indescribable sense of longing for a child was not like anything she had ever known before, and it had been terribly unnerving to realize how much those feelings kept maneuvering into her otherwise rational frame of mind. She paused, but the inner voice would not remain silent. Yes, it was entirely possible that she had not stated her intentions clearly from the beginning.

"No wonder he behaved so oddly," Meg said aloud to herself, thinking of the conversation in the taxi on their way to the police station. Embarrassment washed over her anew, and she suddenly felt very weary.

Then again, what if she had mentioned adoption from the onset? That would imply that Fraser had made the misunderstanding fully on his own. Meg's brain did not have to run very far with that one. She may have only known him for a little over a year, and some things may have happened between them, but she knew he would not have done that. His sense of honor would not allow it. No, if he had come to misunderstand her, it was most likely because she had said something to indicate-- The longer Meg contemplated this situation, the worse she was beginning to feel. Just what did I say during that conversation, she wondered.

Well, there was little could be done for it now. The misunderstanding had been made, and now it was time to dive in and look at all the implications. Remembering the scene again, she saw in her mind's eye Fraser standing there, a multitude of feelings playing across his own face. She recalled that awful feeling in the pit of her stomach, and simply wanting to be anywhere but standing there, sharing his embarrassment as well. In some ways, that had been the worst part; the realization of everything Fraser must have been feeling. When he had asked to be dismissed, their eyes met for a moment, in one flash of great honesty. Meg could not forget that look had she wanted to. Certainly she had seen pain there, a pain so strong it cut through to her very soul. All she had wanted was to take him in her arms and somehow make everything alright again, but instead she had been brave (or was it an act of cowardice, the inner voice mocked) and merely replied, "if you wish."

Then there had been those agonizing moments afterwards. Once Fraser left, and Meg had gotten through the initial shock and embarrassment of everything, emotions of quite a different nature had registered. She had to admit that a part of her had been extremely flattered, and even sincerely touched. At the time, of course, her mind had briefly skirted toward the full ramification of what this misunderstanding implied. It had just as quickly retreated from such thoughts, but even so, the realization had been enough to thoroughly rattle her. Meg did not know how long she stood there, just holding those flowers, but eventually it became too much for her. She had barely managed to grab her things and get to the car before the tears began.

She had cried all the way home. She refused to think about it, or analyze it in any way. She simply cried, and hoped when the tears ceased, everything would be fine. By the time she had gotten home, the tears had stopped, and Meg subconsciously decided to leave it at that. The flowers were put in a vase with water, and the week went on. Now Meg sat looking at those same flowers, dried and preserved in a simple shadow box with a glass cover, the date marked in fine script lettering in one corner on the back. All that was left now was to clean up. She sighed heavily. If only life could be as simple as her scrapbook and craft projects.

Her job with the flowers completed, Meg had ceased to focus her thoughts. Now, as she cleaned up, her mind wandered. For the most part, she just felt numb. But as she discarded the last bits of trash, and closed the trash compactor door, a new comprehension hit her square and full force. Meg fell to the floor in a slump, pulled her knees up tight to her chest, and let the tears fall freely. While her mind had known it, she had never fully acknowledged until just now the blatantly obvious. The inner voice had finally spoken it. Benton Fraser had been offering to father a child - her child. The tears continued to stream. She did not sob, but Meg's shoulders shook with the intensity of her feelings. He had stood right there, in front of her desk, bearing flowers and telling her that he was, more or less, accepting her proposal. His only request had been that they take things slowly. Fraser had misunderstood, and considering all the implications, had still accepted the responsibility she was offering. Meg's emotional sense reeled with the weight of it.

A hundred thoughts seemed to be running through her mind at once. What might this experience have been like, this being courted by the man of her dreams? Even as her mind ran wild with speculation, Meg knew now that the misunderstanding had been compounded. For while she may not have recalled mentioning adoption from the beginning, Meg was absolutely certain that any mention of a committed relationship had never been made. The thought pained her greatly. Adopting and raising a child, as a single mother, was one thing. But to ask another man to be the one to share with you the joy, the wonder of actually conceiving a child - that was one responsibility Meg had decided a long time ago she would ask of only one man, her husband. Heaven help me, her mind pleaded, did he intend to take it that far? Did she even dare hope that the relationship would lead to something, that he might one day ask her to marry him?

And as the inner voice spoke her heart, it was in this moment that Meg realized she loved him, truly loved him.

 

 

When she finally picked herself up from the kitchen floor, it was well past ten. Exhausted, Meg trudged to her bedroom. Somehow, she managed to change into a silk nightshirt and climb between the sheets. But sleep came in fitful spurts, and plagued her with images even then. At a quarter of one, she finally sat up and turned on the bedside light. It being a three-way lamp, she stopped after the first turn of the switch, wanting only a soft glow, something to push away the darkness. She knew what she had to do, and before she could argue with herself against it, Meg picked up the phone.

It was answered before the second ring. The "Hello?" that came through her receiver was tired, but was not groggy, with no hint of sleepiness. Meg opened her mouth to speak, but all words seemed to fail her. A second, more alert and concerned "Hello?" came, and she finally managed a response.

"Fraser, it's Inspector Thatcher." Meg was surprised at the steadiness of her own voice.

There was a short pause, full of unspoken meaning. "Is everything alright, Sir?"

"Yes, Fraser, I'm fine," she paused herself. Well, that was fairly much a lie. "That is, I'm not fine, but I'm alright." Now she wasn't making any sense. "That is–" Well, so much for steadiness of voice, Meg thought, as she faltered and fell silent.

"Inspector–"

"Fraser, please," she interrupted, and before she could falter a second time, plunged ahead. "I'm not calling as your superior officer."

There was an even longer pause this time, and as Meg clutched the phone she could swear she heard his soft, measured breathing. She pulled the covers up a little, a gesture of some sense of added security. When the silence became too much, she finally forced his hand.

"We need to talk."

A sigh from the other side, and Meg thought she heard relief as well as resignation.

"Yes, I believe we do. Shall I meet you somewhere?"

Meg had to admit she had not counted on this. Well, she thought, when one does a slightly impulsive act, you get a lot you don't count on. "If it's all the same, could we perhaps just give this a try over the phone... for now?"

Another pause before the response came. "Alright."

Meg knew it was up to her now. Still, she could take a moment for courtesy. "I apologize for calling at this late hour, Fraser."

The Mountie's voice was equally polite, but his words more direct. "No need to apologize. It's obvious that neither of us were sleeping very well tonight."

Meg frowned slightly. Yes, she had assumed that Fraser had been dealing with his own thoughts over this matter, but having him remind her of it did not make her feel any better about it. Still, this was why she had called. A week's worth of playing games was more than time enough.

"I'm sorry that we had such a–" oh, why make it any worse by trying to find appropriate adjectives, her mind berated. "I'm sorry we had a misunderstanding, Fraser. I feel that I am very much to blame, having not made myself clear regarding my intentions from the beginning."

"Well, I don't really feel that an apology is necessary, at least not from you. It was entirely my fault for the misunderstanding. I should never have jumped to such inappropriate conclusions, and I am truly sorry."

Meg fought the urge to sigh. Even now, that irritating, unwavering sense of honor was showing itself, and she knew Fraser would not let her take the credit for this one. Of course, it would not be half so frustrating if his honor were not so totally genuine. Or, she knew, if it were not one of the many things she loved about him. "I don't think we're going to reach an agreement on this one. Perhaps we should agree to simply let the blame fall where we each think it lies, and accept mutual forgiveness on the matter."

There was the sound of an intake of breath, and for a heartbeat Meg was sure he would argue the point with her. If they could not get beyond this, then how were they ever going to deal with the rest of it?

"I believe that is a wise decision," Fraser finally replied. "Agreed, and accepted."

A silence fell then, and Meg suddenly grew tense. Where was she going to go next with this? Of course, a part of her wanted to just cut right to the chase and admit all her feelings once and for all. But she knew that was impossible. It was too much, too soon, and she would not be that foolish, no matter how her heart felt. The silence was growing uncomfortable, at least on her end of the phone, and she wished now that maybe she had not called at all.

Fraser's voice, soft and warm, broke into her torment. "And now we're both wondering,... what happens now."

"Yes." Her voice came out almost in a sob, both of relief and of frustration.

"Insp–"

Fraser caught himself, and there was another pause. For one wild moment, Meg wondered if he would actually call her by name. Her breath caught in her throat at that, and she was sure her heart stopped beating. She did not know whether to pray that he would, or that he would not.

"There's no delicate way around this," Fraser said at last. "Perhaps the most we can do is simply to acknowledge the misunderstanding was made, and that it was just that - a misunderstanding - and then try to get on with things as best we can."

One part of her mind screamed that this was totally ludicrous. She wanted to say, but you offered to father my child, Ben. She wanted to say that, misunderstandings aside, it was not an altogether undesirable prospect. She wanted to say that she loved him more than she had ever known she could love anyone and she didn't care anymore, just so long as he knew. At the very least, she wanted to admit that she could not do this, could not ‘get on with things'. Things were never going to be the same again. But all she said was, "yes."

It was quiet on the other end again, and Meg dared to hope for a moment that Fraser might be experiencing his own little torment of conflicting emotions. But she pushed the thought aside, and cursed her own weakness. Why should she expect something in return, when she could not admit her own feelings? As the tears began to silently flow, Meg offered what little she could.

"Ben, I'm sorry."

"For what?" The entreaty was tender, but genuinely confused.

Meg struggled to keep her voice even. "I– I just want you to know I'm sorry, that's all."

Time passed, quiet, waiting.

"Are you sure everything is alright?" Fraser asked.

She bit back the tears, and somehow regained her composure. "Yes. Everything is fine. Thank you for speaking with me, Fraser."

"It's quite alright. I needed this as well," he admitted.

It was a time for goodbyes, she knew, but the silence hung between them anyway.

"Ma'am?"

"Yes, Fraser?"

"I just want you to know– to understand, that if you still should consider adoption, I'm here to help, in any way I can."

The offer was so sincere, the voice so gentle and precious - somehow, Meg maintained her control. "Thank you. That means a great deal to--" she broke off, afraid any more words might reveal too much.

"Try to get some rest," Fraser encouraged softly.

"Only on the condition that you do the same, Constable." It was the most formal way of addressing him, Meg knew, but she altered her tone, and tried to say it in a way that spoke of something more. Perhaps, she thought, it worked, because when he responded, there was a lightness to his voice that had not been there before.

"Understood," Fraser replied.

And she could even hear him smile.

"Goodnight, Fraser."

"Goodnight."

As she held the receiver tight, waiting for the sound of the disconnection from his end, Meg realized that despite the fact she was still drained, as if her very spirit ached, she somehow felt better about the entire ordeal And now, finally, the inner voice was quiet; except for the barest of whispers, echoing a hope that perhaps, just perhaps, that most secret desire of her heart was not for naught after all. Maybe it was only her imagination, the wisp of something caught in that veiled place between sleep and dreaming, but she slept peaceful that night; content, even if but for the moment.


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