by Shrift

"Yo, Fraser?"

Fraser could barely see Ray's blond hair over the arm of the folding seat. "Yes, Ray?"

"This sucks," Ray said over the soundtrack.

"I must admit that the situation isn't ideal, yes."

Ray shifted and glared balefully at Fraser, only one blue eye visible around the cup holder. "Fraser, we are stuck to the floor --"

Equally annoyed at the situation, Fraser interrupted, "Oh, that's a bit of an exaggeration, Ray --"

"We are pinned down and stuck to the floor, okay? I got popcorn where the sun don't shine, and --"

"-- because although the floor may be described as 'sticky' --"

"-- we are freaking trapped in a Loews Cineplex --"

"-- it certainly isn't significantly impeding my freedom of movement --"

"-- with a bunch of armed lunatics hopped-up on acid, so would you stop arguing semantics with me, god damn it?"

Fraser shut his mouth with a click of teeth and took a deep breath. The air reeked of popcorn, salt, artificial buttery flavorings, and corn syrup.

"Sorry," he said finally.

"Yeah, me too," Ray answered immediately. "It's just -- I hate this movie."

Fraser took a quick glance at the flickering screen behind them. "You don't like Men in Black?"

Ray's body moved in an awkward shrug, encumbered by the proximity of the theater's seats. "It's the aliens. I have a thing. Don't ask."


"Paper?" Ray asked. "Like, we talking rolling papers here, or something else?"

Fraser glanced over at the driver's seat, but Ray kept his eyes on the road, and a ray of sunlight briefly illuminated his unshaven face. "Something else, I'm afraid."

Ray's hands tapped out a syncopated beat on the steering wheel. He reached out and fiddled with the radio with his long fingers. "And what would that 'something else' be, Fraser?"

"Turn right here," Fraser said. When Ray slowed to turn, but neglected to activate his turning signal as usual, he said, "I have reason to believe that an employee of Aunt Ida's Homemade Treats is adding lysergic acid diethylamide to some of the specialty candies vended to local movie theaters."

"He's spiking candy with acid?" Ray demanded. The toothpick in his mouth darted from side to side in agitation, finally stopping to press a groove into his lower lip. "What is he, a minion of Satan?"

Fraser rubbed his temple. "The candy itself is normal, but specific shipments have been wrapped in material treated with this drug, and evidence suggests that one of these shipments has been sent to this theater here."

"Here?" Ray said, steering the car into the lot and parking in the fire lane. He tossed his toothpick out the open window. The situation could be classified as an emergency, so Fraser refrained from commenting on the illegality.

Fraser turned in his seat and took hold of Diefenbaker's jaw. "Dief. Stay here." Dief whined. "Well, I'm sorry, but I'm certain your presence would violate several health codes."

At Dief's low groan, Ray said, "Watch the car, and I'll bring you some popcorn. C'mon, Fraser, let's go."


There was a shuffling noise followed by the sound of crunching popcorn, and then Ray was squeezing his lean, warm body next to Fraser. Ray's breath smelled of spearmint gum.

"So what are we gonna do with these guys?" Ray asked, brushing crumbs from the sleeve of his leather jacket.

Momentarily distracted by the shell of Ray's ear, Fraser blinked and said, "I have absolutely no idea."

Ray's answering grin was wide and toothsome. "Yeah?"

"Nary a clue," Fraser said.

"We could wait until they run out of ammo," Ray suggested. A high-pitched roar suddenly overwhelmed the theater's speakers, and both Fraser and Ray ducked and covered their heads, their backs pelted with another round of corn kernels. Ray growled. "Or not."

Fraser rolled his shoulders. "Stings a bit, doesn't it?"

Ray popped his head above the seat, one fist upraised. "I'm so gonna kick you in the --"

"Ray!" Fraser grabbed a handful of Ray's T-shirt and pulled him back down in time to avoid another volley of kernels. Fraser shielded Ray's body from the ping and the clatter of the corn.

Face mashed against Fraser's shoulder, Ray said, "Okay, we need a plan."


Inside, the shining red and white lobby of the theater appeared to be deserted, and while Fraser was given to understand that Monday afternoons were perhaps not busy days in terms of customers, he certainly expected there to be a few employees on hand. The doors were unlocked, the lights on, and TV monitors showing loops of movie trailers with short, startling bursts of sound.

Ray whistled. "This place is a ghost town."

"In my experience, ghosts aren't nearly this quiet," Fraser observed.

Ray's head snapped around and he narrowed his eyes, mouth pursing to speak, when from a back room came a loud crash. They both turned and moved toward the sound, Ray's hand sliding inside his jacket to rest upon his firearm. Ray looked his way and nodded, and they framed the doorway briefly before Ray darted inside with his weapon drawn, Fraser right behind him.

"Freeze! Chicago PD!"

They were greeted by the wide-eyed stares of five teenagers wearing garish employee uniforms, two girls and three boys. Ray immediately relaxed his arms, aiming his gun at the ceiling.

Fraser held out a hand as a conciliatory gesture. "We apologize for the -- oh dear. Ray --"

"I see it," Ray said. Several boxes lay open on the floor, their contents messily arranged but undeniably half-empty. On the side, each box bore the cheerful, looping insignia of Aunt Ida's Homemade Treats.


Ray's face was centimeters from the floor as he peered at the perpetrators from underneath the seats. "What we need is a distraction so one of us can go unplug those doohickeys."

A thought occurred, and Fraser crawled to the far aisle, returning triumphantly with a can of heavy metal cleaner and showing it to Ray. "This rolled down from their perch a few moments ago, and I believe I may be able to create such a distraction if you are possessing of a lighter or some matches."

"What?" Ray said. "I don't have a -- wait." Ray rolled onto his back and thrust one hand deep into the right pocket of his jeans. Fraser stared shamelessly as a grin bloomed over Ray's face. He produced a green plastic lighter from his pocket, and said, "You are one lucky Mountie, you know that?"

"Ah, thank you kindly," Fraser said, taking it from him.

"Okay, so you go left with the distraction -- which I so don't wanna know about -- and I go right for the extension cords. Right?"

"Right," Fraser agreed. "On three."

"Hey, Fraser," Ray said, squirming around in the close quarters in an attempt to get his feet beneath him once more. His hand closed on Fraser's shoulder.

"Yes, Ray?"

"Ever necked in a movie theater before?"

Fraser shook his head. "I can't say that I have."

Ray yanked him forward by his tie, and he fell onto Ray's lap. Ray's mouth welcomed him easily, warm and wet, and tasting of spearmint and coffee. Fraser eagerly returned the lazy stroke of Ray's tongue, angling his head to the side. One kiss merged into three, and Ray reluctantly pulled away, his teeth dragging over Fraser's bottom lip, breath warm on his face.

"Now you can," Ray said, his eyes smiling.


Closer perusal of the teenage employees revealed a few telling details. Their pupils were dilated, hands perceptibly trembling, and their faces glistened with sweat. Several of them had smears of chocolate on their hands and mouths.

"Oh yeah, they're flyin'," Ray muttered beside him.

"That would be my guess, as well," Fraser said.

One of the girls raised her arm and pointed at Fraser, her eyes still wide and unblinking, and then she let out a terrible shriek. "It's a bear!"

Fraser glanced down at his uniform. He had worn the brown serge today due to a mishap at the dry cleaner involving a fleeing graffiti artist, which had left both his red tunics even more colorful than normal.

"I assure you, this is an official uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," Fraser began to explain.

"Bear!" Two more teenagers shouted.

"Let's get it!" yelled a third.

Working in concert, and much more quickly than Fraser assumed the narcotics in their system would allow, the five employees grabbed several leaf blowers, dumped shovels of corn kernels into the plastic barrels, and took aim.

Fraser looked over at Ray to see Ray looking back. Together, they stepped backward through the open door and into the carpeted hallway. Fraser saw their slack faces twist in fear and anger, and tackled Ray just as they turned on the machines. On their sides, they slid through the double-doors of an empty movie theater, kernels of corn raining down all around them.

"Ouch," Ray said.


Lips still tingling, Fraser crawled to his end of the aisle and turned to see Ray already in position. Ray thumbed the side of his nose, and Fraser repeated the gesture. They counted silently, raising fingers, and on three, Fraser rose to his feet and charged the youthful perpetrators, pausing a few lengths away to pass the lighter through the spray of cleaner and thus turning it into an impromptu flamethrower. A few nearby kernels of corn popped.

The fire seemed to mesmerize them for a few precious moments. One of the young men reverently said, "Dude." His nametag read 'Darren'.

The other two, the ones wielding the leaf blowers, did not remain impressed for long. "It's a fucking bear!" They both reached for the on switches and the engines began to howl, and then just as suddenly cut out.

Fraser put out his flamethrower before the can exploded, seeing Ray approach with his weapon drawn.

"Hands on your head and get on the ground now!" Ray shouted. He slipped a little on the corn kernels underfoot and cursed. "Do it now!"

The three boys obeyed awkwardly, moving as though the floor was unsteady beneath them.

"Where are the others?" Fraser asked them.

"The girls, where are they?" Ray demanded.

"Um," Darren volunteered. "I think they got thirsty."

Ray nodded at Fraser and walked to the theater entrance, craning his head around to look at the lobby. "Jesus," Ray said. "They're loading up on Hi-C like camels."

"Although you may have been unaware that the candy delivered to your place of work was contaminated with lysergic acid diethylamide," Fraser said, coming to stand in front of the prone young men, "let this be a lesson that overindulgence in any vice leads to ill. 'It is nothing less than a sordid crime of violence inspired by vast greed.'"

"Yeah," Ray said, pulling his cell phone from his belt. "Plus, we're gonna call your parents."

The young men groaned loudly.

"Furthermore," Fraser said, "I am Mountie, not a bear."

"Might be an animal, though," Ray said, lifting his phone to his ear.

Fraser raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps later, Ray."

Ray winked. "Hey, Lieu. Yeah, I wince to hear your voice, too. Listen, you're gonna love this one..."


Later, after the madding crowd of parents, police officers, irate Lieutenants, and paramedics finally dispersed, Ray and Fraser left the Cineplex, trailing kernel corn behind them. Once outside, they both took a deep breath of non-popcorn-scented air.

"Well, all in a day's work," Fraser said.

Ray snorted and turned toward the car. "Let's get out of here."

Diefenbaker's white face stared at them accusingly from the passenger seat. He barked once.

"Ah, crap," Ray said. "I forgot his popcorn."


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