Ray stepped off the plane in Chicago and put on his sunglasses. Hopefully no one would recognize him with his hair dyed light strawberry blond, but you never knew. He shouldered his bag and headed for the rental desk. He would need a decent car, traffic was hell in Chicago, but public transportation was worse. He handed over his second identity's Mastercard and filled out the forms for a nice compact car, smiling at the woman when she flirted at him. "Sorry, I'm here for a funeral," he told her, taking his keys and going out to find his car. He already had reservations at a decent, but not upscale, hotel. Then he had to go do some digging. He climbed into his rental car and smiled at the 'new car' smell that was coming from the hanging cardboard on the mirror. "Yup, nothing seems to change here," he told himself, shutting the door and starting the engine.


Ray walked into his old precinct. A call had gotten him an invitation, and he was taking them up on it. Of course, he was wearing a trench coat, a baseball cap, and his sunglasses...but that was okay. They didn't need to know that he was still alive. As far as his former coworkers knew, he was dead. He tapped on the Lieutenant's door, walking in at the yell. "Hey," he said, taking off his sunglasses. "What's going on?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Jack Huey said as he pointed at the door. "Shut and lock it." Ray did as he was told and sat down. "Last we heard, we buried you." He leaned closer. "Lieutenant Welsh told me something strange happened to you, but he never said you weren't dead."

"I'm in hiding," Ray sighed. This was the cover story he had for every law enforcement agency. "One of my former undercover assignments came back to haunt me, and it's bad enough that we can't go through the system. Welsh helped me plan my escape."

"Ah." Jack leaned back in his chair. "So, this is all a ruse?"

"Yeah, a big one," Ray said, taking off his hat so he could run his finger through his sweaty hair. "I'm officially dead and my new identity was nicely created for me by some friends."

"And now you're here because you heard about Vecchio." Jack Huey frowned. "I'm not sure I like this," he said, stroking over the nick on his chin, the dark skin showing the redness very clearly. "I don't like the fact that some stupid asshole with a battle axe is running around my town, and so are supposedly-dead people."

"I'm leaving as soon as I fix this," Ray said calmly. "That's all I want. You can have him otherwise."

"Deal," Jack said. "We've lost three officers going after him so far and he managed to get away from a full SWAT team." He frowned down at his desk. "I have no idea why this guy's using archaic weapons, but I want him in jail." He looked up. "Or dead."

"However it works?" Ray asked.

"And I don't much care how it works at the moment."

"As long as you're willing to say I'm still dead," Ray agreed.

"Done"," Jack said with a faint smile. "Though, I must say, being dead agrees with you. You're healthy looking, and looking like you haven't aged a day." He frowned suddenly. "What do you know about this nutcase?"

"Not much yet," Ray told him. "I'll make you a better report when I have something." He put his hat back on. "I'll let you get back to your paperwork. Where's this shmuck staying?"

"Hilton. We're waiting to get him in an area where innocent people won't be endangered. It's the SWAT Commander's decision."

"Got it," Ray said, putting on his sunglasses. "I'll see you at the funeral this afternoon," he said as he stood up and walked out of the office.

Jack Huey sighed. He didn't like this. Dead people coming back to solve his problems. People with axes cutting off heads in his area. This was just too much. Next, they'd be getting another super Mountie to come and take Frasier's place once he finally left the city again. He shook himself; he didn't need that headache, but he would deal with it if it happened.


Ray walked over to his former partner's elderly mother, bowing his head to her. "I'm very sorry Ray died, Mrs. Vecchio," he said softly. She looked at him, and her breath caught on a sob. "I'm going to avenge him."

She pulled him in for a hug. "My Ray told me that you weren't dead," she whispered. "You now guard this family, he said so." She let him go, seeing the understanding. "Come over for tea," she offered.

"Not today. Once this is done I'll be over." He kissed her on the cheek, then walked away. He had someone to stakeout. He barely felt a tingle and looked around, staring at one cop, who shook his head subtly. Maybe he needed to have words with a few people. He watched his partner's funeral from next to a tree, smiling when he saw his favorite Mountie finally showing up, late but in uniform. Maybe he'd talk to Frasier too; he deserved the truth, and the guy wouldn't say anything. He mentally arranged his schedule for the rest of the day as the priest walked up to the casket.

Ray stopped Frasier with a hand on his arm, looking over the rim of his sunglasses at his former friend. "Hey, Benny," he said quietly. "Come walk with me?"

Constable Benton Frasier nodded and walked off with him, heading for a quiet part of the cemetery. "They told me you'd died," he said simply.

"Old case came back to haunt me in a way I couldn't go through the system," Ray said with a slight shrug. "Vecchio knew, but he was sworn to secrecy." He stopped them. "Were you planning on helping me or going after this guy yourself?"

"Ray told me, when this all started, that he expected me to watch out for his family if something happened to him." He rubbed his eyebrow with a thumb. "Are you staying?" Ray shook his head. "Ray, why haven't you aged? It's very noticeable that you haven't aged in the last eighteen years. Even the dye doesn't hide that."

"If I tell ya, you'll not feel right about life anymore," Ray explained. Frasier nodded. "It's not that I don't want to, but I shouldn't because it'll majorly screw with your head." He leaned a little closer. "Let's just say I'm aging *real* slow these days and leave it there, 'kay?"

"Thank you," Frasier said, giving him a smile. "Are you carrying your sword?"

"You know?"

"I had a young man under my tutelage that seemed to have the same problem," Frasier admitted. "He left for his training last year when someone found him out."

"Ah. Well, I'm kinda like that. It's more like I'm the mate to one of them."

"I see. Does it work well?"

"Only until they die," Ray sighed. "Which is one of those things that could still happen any day now." He looked at his friend. "You aren't mad?"

"No, not at all. But was there ever a case?"

"Yup," Ray sighed. "A big one. A Mafia one actually." He started walking again, and the Mountie fell in step with him. "I had to leave sometime but, when one of the smaller Mafia families caught on that I was the one who had taken down their cousin, they weren't real pleased. To make matters worse, this was a ten year old case, and some of the methods me and my partner used were ...irregular. Not going through the system protected us as much as them."

"I see. And now?"

"Now, I'm happy," Ray told him. "Adam and I are very happy. We've got friends like us who we're living with. They have animals, and ferrets. It's like a big commune sorta thing."

"It's good that you found happiness," Frasier told him, stopping him with a hand on his arm. "Are you going after this person? The one who killed Ray?"

"I am," Ray agreed. "Jack Huey just wants him."

"And the aging problem?"

"It's dead or alive right now," Ray told him. "He's killed a few cops; they just want some piece of him to show off to the press, they don't care about which cop, or human, does it for them." He coughed. "Does that bother you?"

"No, I knew you'd do something like that. You've never been one of the bad guys, Ray." He held out a hand, which Ray shook. "Come visit, Ray, I'm teaching in the field now." He turned and walked away.

Ray smiled and went to find that one cop. He had to have a clue, he was a prime target.


Ray walked into his hotel room and flipped on the lights, frowning at the man sitting at his room's desk. "Who're you?" he asked as he closed the door.

"I'm your Watcher," the man said, turning to look at him. "I watch you and Xander." He tapped an envelope on the desk. "Joe asked me to deliver this personally and to find out your intentions."

"He killed some people I was very fond of," Ray told him, sitting on the end of the bed. "So, you're helpin'?"

"Not particularly. I'm here more to see if it dissipates or not. Joe thinks that Xander taking a quickening was a fluke. I'm here to see whether or not he was right."

"All right, just stay outta my way," Ray warned him. "How did Joe know I was gonna come alone?"

"He has someone else watching Xander."

"Ah. Then you know about...."

"Oz?" he asked with a smile. "I know what Joe's written, that's all. As for our former coworker, I could care less. He was a little odd for my tastes. It was nice of him to work on his own Chronicle though." He stood up and left the room.

Ray got up and picked up the envelope, staring at the information inside. An information sheet. He knew as much as the Watchers did about this mook now. He sat down to read; he couldn't fight as well as some, but he was sneakier and having the right information would help him there.


Ray followed the immortal, whom he now knew as Martin DuChamps-Sinclair, a recent graduate from his own training, down to the artsy district of town. The man had a serious weakness for gourmet food, and it was something this man did every evening. He had managed to get around the police tail, they were looking for the perfect moment to take the asshole - he had to get to him first. Once the immortal had decided on a restaurant, he grabbed a waiter who was smoking in the alleyway behind the restaurant. "I need you take a message to someone," he said, his voice cold and quiet. He handed the guy a note and a fifty. "It's the picky guy who just came in, real asshole that the cops want."

"You a cop?" the waiter asked, looking down at the folded over paper.

"Nope, but we need to have a ...discussion," Ray said, looking at the man. "Just deliver it." He walked away, sure the waiter would like the money enough to do that.

The waiter tossed away his cigarette and talked into his mic. "Do we know this person?" he asked the people monitoring him. The answer he got made him frown at the empty alleyway. "Really? Why'd he do that?" He walked back inside, going to give Sinclair the note. He took a glance at the note, then showed it to his camera. "Maybe we'll jump him then, not too many people around and the one guy's expendable," he muttered as he grabbed a tray of glasses and took it out into the restaurant. He faithfully delivered the note and a glass of water, then went on to stock the other empty tables.

The immortal looked at the simple message and smiled at the code it contained. Yes, this was starting to become interesting.


Ray hopped off the hood of his car as Martin walked out into the parking lot. "You ready?" he called.

"Yes, I think this will be a perfect opportunity to test out my new edge," Martin said as he pulled out his axe. "Shall we?" he suggested when Ray didn't move.

"Yeah, sure," Ray said, moving closer. "I see your teacher never taught you proper blade care," he noted as he ducked under the first swing and took a swipe at the man with his sword. "You really shouldn't leave blood on it, it'll rust."

"You aren't very old, are you?" Martin sneered. "Probably not even out of your preliminary training yet."

"Not really," Ray admitted, "but I've got good teachers." He ducked another swing and used the man's momentum against him, pushing him into a building. "Actually, I've got three of them."

"You do-gooders are all the same," Martin snorted. "All so willing to die young."

"Yeah, well, you shouldn't've gone after people I used to consider family," Ray said with a shrug, and the real fight was on. He danced out of range, making the immortal wear himself out. "You know, you guys are all the same too - always too quick to come after guys like me," he panted as Martin backed off, following after him. "I mean, how stupid do you have to be to come after someone like me?"

"Why? Never taken a head?"

"Well, not really," Ray said with a grin, "but I'm *really* looking forward to yours." He ducked under a tired swing and scored on Martin's stomach. "So," he said, knocking the other man down with a shove of a shoulder. He was getting too tired, he needed to end this soon. "What shall we do now?" He snorted at the pulled gun. "Yay. I have a bigger one," he said, pulling it out and pointing it down at him. "Even if you killed me, you still couldn't get anything from me."

"Why? You're not a pre-immie. I can feel you so I know you're not pre."

"No, I'm a mate," Ray said with a feral grin as he first shot the gun hand then swung and took the guy's head. "I'm not really in the game, but, for you, I'll make an exception," he said, backing away from the body and his car. Thankfully, this guy hadn't taken too many heads, his quickening wasn't that strong. By the time it was done, he was on his knees on the ground, but still able to think. He pulled out his cellphone and checked it, then smiled when he figured out it was still working and dialed the number for the 27th Precinct. "Hey, I need to talk to Jack Huey. No, I just found that copkiller guy and the news said to talk to him. Nah," he said with a spit at the body. "Seems someone took care of him for you guys." He left his phone there and got into his car, leaving the axe there. There were some people who'd be wanting that, maybe even his ex-wife Stella; the Prosecutor's Office was always happy to get such presents. He drove away, waiting down the street until he saw the sirens. They had it now.


Ray tapped on Mrs. Vecchio's door, giving her a smile. "It's taken care of," he told her, handing over a card. "It's a local number for Chicago, but it'll reach me wherever I am," he told her. "Ray would want me to take care of his family. No matter what year it is, I'm there," he told her, giving her another kiss on the cheek and then walking away.

She looked at the card in her hands, smiling down at him. "He was right," she whispered. "He is one of the good ones." She shut the door and went back to the living room. She handed the card to her daughters. "Ray didn't lie," she told them. "If we need that nice one, he'll be here shortly," she declared as she sat down.

Francesca looked down at the card, then at her mother. "You're still saying Ray Kowalski is alive, Ma? He died *years* ago."

"No, he had a case," Frasier said as he walked into the living room with a tray of tea implements. "I talked with him also." He smiled at the woman who was like a mother to him. "May I copy that number?"

"Of course," Ma Vecchio said, smiling at him. "Are you staying?"

"I've been reassigned here," he told her, pouring her a cup of tea. "I'll never be that far away." He smiled at the two daughters. "From any of you...if you need it."

Francesca smiled at him. "Sure, *now* you promise that, after I'm married," she teased. "But what about when a woman comes to steal you?"

Frasier laughed. "No one would dare try," he told her, giving her an affectionate pat on the shoulder.


Ray handed in his keys and headed for his gate, not expecting anyone to be waiting on him. "Bresbiss," he said with a nod as he sat down beside her. "Making sure I go away?"

She hugged him and handed him back his phone. "Here, you left this, Jack said you'd want it back," she said, then she got up and left.

Ray tucked it into his pocket, smiling at the feel of the second phone. Methos would understand, he had to have felt like a guardian for a family sometime in his lengthy past. And if not, Xander would probably be able to explain it to him. He'd be there when they needed him.