DISCLAIMER:  There once was a big company named Alliance who owned this nice little show
called DUE SOUTH.  There once was a fanfic writer who liked to play with the 
characters of said show.  This writer didn't make any money from playing with these nice 
characters, so Alliance said "let it be so."  There was benevolence and everyone lived 
happily ever after.

NOTE:  Old Jake is a real guy, he does actually speak like that, and he's pretty cool too!
The Duck Lady is also quite real.  :)  As a native of New Orleans, I must stress...
WE DO NOT HAVE A SOUTHERN DRAWL OR A PARISIAN ACCENT!  Sorry, just got finished watching 
Heaven's Prisoners...BLECH!

WARNINGS: angst...I REFUSE to issue a Thatcher warning!  I'm a die-hard Meg fan.
SETTING:  post-COTW, probably about 5 years later

Portrait in Red

copyright 1999 by M. Megan O'Neil 

	Fraser took in the scenery around him with the eyes of the newborn.  Growing up in 
the wilderness of Inuvik, he was awed by the vibrant color and decadance of this 
cosmopolitan city, even though he had read many books about it.
	He walked around Jackson Square, his senses picking up the pungent smells of 
seafood, bodily fluids, incense, and alchohol.  He heard the gutteral slurred speech of the
natives and saw the contrast of the garish, colorful street performers and the commanding
elegence of the aged architecture.  Even Chicago did not have this combination of 
sophistication and earthiness, though Ray Vecchio would probably vehemently disagree.  He
smiled at the thought of his friend in one of his Italian tirades.
	Dief padded beside him, whining in complaint.  Fraser turned and looked at his furry
companion.  "Yes, I know it's hot.  It's not actually the heat, it's the humidity."
The wolf growled in annoyance, flicking his tail.  Sighing, Fraser said, "Well, I did warn
you New Orleans was quite hot, even in September.  I offered to leave you with Stan or Mrs.
	More barks.  "Well, you were the one who wanted to try gumbo, so I refuse to feel
sorry for you."
	The sight of a grown man holding a conversation with a wolf might have been 
considered odd anywhere else.  Considering the fact that an old lady wearing a Louis XIV
ballgown and carrying a duck skated past Fraser, no one threw him a second glance.
	He sat on a bench, admiring the architecture of the St. Louis Cathedral.  Briefly,
he considered the irony of a Canadian Mountie vacationing in New Orleans, but the truth was,
he needed a change of scenery for a few weeks.  He and Ray Kowalski had spent the last four
years searching for the Hand of Franklin.  At least, that's what they were searching for on
the surface.  Somewhere in that frozen barreness, the quest for a missing legend turned into
a search for their future.  Stanley Raymond Kowalski had found what he was looking for and
had gone to Alberta to hunt down Maggie MacKenzie with Fraser's blessing.  Short of Ray
Vecchio, Benton couldn't think of a man more deserving of his sister's affections.
	Benton himself had known what he had wanted long before their oddyssey in the Yukon
and had possessed and lost it on a snowy night of moonlight and howling wolves.  Sometimes
his nostrils still picked up that wild, spicy fragrance which had enveloped him in all the
beauty and sensuality of its owner.
	And now he was on a vacation before assuming the duties of Inspector of the Canadian
Consulate in Chicago.  While proud, he was also saddened that he would no longer be stopping
crime around Chicago with Ray or Ray.  He would miss both men's unique senses of humor and
streetwise cunning.  However, he knew he could always see them whenever he wished.  In fact,
after his week in New Orleans, he would be on a plane to Miami to see Ray Vecchio's new 
	"Hey!  Why you in m'seat?"
	"Pardon?"  Ben looked up to see an old black man scowling down at him.
	"Pardon nothing.  I say why you in m'seat?  Ain't got no call to take Ol'Jake's 
	"Ah!  So sorry."  Benton pushed over to allow the old man to sit next to him.  
Jake strummed a few scales on his bass.  Fraser listened with interest as the soulful 
strains of the blues came out.  "You're very good, sir."
	His response was a gravelly chuckle.  "Sir?  Ain't from 'round here these parts, 
are ya?"
	"No sir.  Canada.  I am a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
	"Hehheh."  Jake started on "Blue Moon Bayou."  "So what dey call you?  Dudley
	Fraser blushed slightly.  Although he was used to the nickname now, at times it 
still stung.  "No sir.  Benton Fraser."
	"'Dat's a mountful, yeah."  Fingers moved over the strings to pluck out sweet, jazzy, 
soul.  His sharp eyes looked over Ben.  "You stick out like a sore thumb.  Being down here,
'dat's sayin' sumpin."
	Benton wasn't sure whether to feel insulted or complimented.  Old Jake broke into 
the chorus of "Marie Laveau."  Tapping his feet to the rhythm of his guitar, Jake grinned
at the younger man's staidness.  "So, what you here fo'?"
	Not quite used to such inquisitive conversation (perhaps it was the way of this 
city), Ben tripped over his words.  "Ah-well, ah--that is-"
	"Spit it out boy!  I'm gonna die 'fore you ever get 'round to it."
	Resisting the urge to salute, he managed to say, "I'm here on vacation.  To sort out
a few things, as it were."
	Jake chuckled, never breaking the rhythm of his fingers.  "You come to da right 
place, dat's fo' sure.  Dis city, it's got the hoodoo on it."
	Dief whined in annoyance.  Here they were in New Orleans, a city which held more 
goodies than Alpha's friends Ray and Ray, and Alpha had the nerve to just sit there and chat
with a human who had the audacity not to offer him so much as a beignet!  Dief tugged on 
Alpha's pant leg.  
	A wrinkled, old hand rumpled and scratched his ears.  The wolf growled in 
contentment.  On the other hand, this pampering wasn't so bad.
	"Your dog, he's wantin' to git movin."
	Benton scowled at Dief.  "Yes, well actually, he's a wolf, and he's just being
rude.  He merely wants something to eat."
	Waving his hand in dismissal, Jake smirked.  "Ah, dat's dogs.  I gotta play and
your dog gotta eat."
	Sensing the conversation was over, Benton waved goodbye to Jake and tugged at Dief
as they started to walk around the French Quarter.  He was amazed at the contrasts of 
this city which was more European than American, from the homes of families tucked away on
side streets to the sensuality and Bacchanal revery of the strip clubs and bars on Bourbon
	He found himself strolling down Dauphine, going in and out of the various little 
galleries.  Even with all the books on great art his grandparents had provided, it was still
a thrill to see beautiful pictures up close.  Benton wandered into a little place called
Le Petit Galerie, fascinated by the different types of paintings, from the antebellum
scenes to that ridiculous little blue dog that was evidently all the rage down here.
	A young woman came up behind him.  "May I help you?"
	Ben turned, almost tripping over Dief.  "Ah, no thank you.  I was just admiring your
artwork.  You see, I'm just visiting this city.  Your jazz paintings are fascinating."
	She laughed, determined to put this handsome, skittish customer at ease.  No one
was going to be uncomfortable in her shop.  Looking at him again, she grinned.  Too bad she
was married.  Grabbing his arm, she started to show him around, speaking in the odd, slurred
accent of New Orleans.  "Lawd.  They're not my paintings.  I'm just a dealer.  The jazz ones
are pretty good.  They go for $750.  Let me show you some more."
	She led his to the other room.  Benton's eyes took in everything.  "You have quite a
collection.  I see you have a few street-"  His voice caught in his throat.  
	It was a large painting, about the size of a large wall mirror.  The model was 
gracefully reclining on her side, her head turned to gaze out a window.  Her beautiful ivory
nakedness was laid bare to human eyes, with only a blue scarf draped over the soft curve of
her hip to cover her most intimate beauty.
	The owner grinned at Benton's reaction.  "Beautiful, isn't it?"
	He nodded dumbly.  His heart was racing, out of control---a runaway.  She looked 
even more beautiful than his fertile imagination could ever have dreamed up.  Her long 
slender legs and softly curving hips which had set his heart ablaze; her softly rounded 
breasts.  He smiled as the memory of retrieving a hairpin came flooding back.
	Fraser inhaled sharply as his eyes travelled over her lovely body to that exquisite
face, the long dark waves tumbling over her shoulders like a chocolate river.  Those 
crimson lips were as beautiful and soft as a Yukon snowfall.
	Ah!  But those eyes!  If the artist had painted nothing but those eyes, Benton 
would have known her.  Those eyes were ultimate beauty; those smoky, dark orbs which 
crackled with anger, passion, and fire.  /Ah, Meg, you're still the loveliest woman to 
walk down the pike./
	"Wh-where did you get this?"  She looked so young.
	The art dealer ran a hand over the bottom of the frame fondly.  "In Paris.  I have
a friend there and while I was visiting her, she introduced me to an artist named Jean-Paul
	Fraser briefly remembered hearing the name.  She continued.  "Anyway, I decided to 
buy some very good street scenes from him.  While I was doing that, he should us some of his
earlier works.  I fell in love with this one."  She smiled.
	Benton touched one beautifully painted leg.  "She is absolutely beautiful."  
/God, Meg, where are you now?/
	"I know."  Laughing, she walked around him to straighten another frame.  "Wish I
looked that good naked.  He told us it was someone he used to know, a Canadian girl."
	He smiled at the thought of a young Meg Thatcher gleefully shocking her elders 
by posing nude.
	Benton had no idea where she could be now.  He only wished for her safety and 
happiness.  He wanted this painting.  He needed it.  It was all he had left of Meg, along
with his memories.  "How much do you want for it?"
	The dealer frowned.  "Well, I hadn't planned on selling it-"
	"Please!  That is, the model reminds me of someone I knew.  I have the money.  How
much do you want?"  If it took begging to get this painting, he would break his pride and
	A few minutes of uncomfortable silence passed.  The woman sighed.  From her few 
minutes of talking with this quiet guy, she got the feeling that he did not ask for much.
She also figured the model reminded him of an ex-lover who had broken his heart.  What the
hell?  Who was she to deny someone's request?  She had had a print made of it anyway.
	Benton could see she was not going to bend.  He didn't blame her.  Dejectedly, he 
motioned to Dief.  "Thank you anyway.  I'll be going-"
	"Wait!"  She held up her hand.  "$1000.  And that's a bargain."  Seeing a beautiful
smile spread across his boy-like face made her day.  Everybody's wishes should be so simple.
	Benton pulled out his traveller's cheques.  "No.  I'll pay you $1500.  It's worth 
every penny."
	After getting over her surprise, she laughed uproariously.  "Offering to pay me 
more?  That's a first!  What are you, Canadian?"
	Handing her the check, Fraser grinned, feeling happier than he had in a long time.
At least he had this small reminder of Meg, however petty it might seem.  
	"What is the name of the painting."
	Her brow creased in concentration.  "Let me think.  He said he named it after her.
	Her eyes widened in surprise.  "That's it.  'Marguerite.'  How did you know."
	His smile was gentle.  "Lucky guess I suppose.  She looks like a Margaret."  	
Depositing his check in the cash register, she asked, "Where do you want it sent?"


	Ben looked around his new apartment with pride.  It was simple, yet not quite as
spartan as his Racine St. flat had been.  He personally felt he could have continued living
in his office, but Ray and Ray had quite vehemently insisted that an RCMP inspector needed 
a decent place to live.  After much arguing between the three friends, they had finally
settled on this one-bedroom apartment.  Before, he had felt rather foolish paying rent when
he was quite comfortable in his office.  Now he was grateful for his two friends' 
insistence.  The light from the fireplace lit up the portrait of a young woman now sitting
above the mantle.  Her eyes were turned toward the painting's sunlight, lost in hopes and
dreams.  Benton smiled as he put out the fire.  "Sleep well love, wherever you are tonight.
Good night Meg."


	Her screams echoed in the room and the whip came down hard across her back.  Meg
bit back tears.  Someone had betrayed her and she would die alone, abandoned, and forgotten.
She would die doing the right thing in a wrong world.  She had no regrets, except perhaps 
one.  The perfect ivory flesh on her back was ripped to shreds as dark crimson stripes 
wove patterns of anguish on her body.  Meg prayed the Catholic prayers from her childhood,
hoping for death with honor.  She saw the rich crimson flowing on her rope-lacerated hands
and remembered.  She managed to smile.  "Red suits me."
	The world went dark.