Disclaimer: Possession is nine-tenths of the law. (I hear voices -- does that count as being possessed?)
Summary: Turnbull sticks out his chin and grins.
Notes: Previously seen on the Bindlestitch mailing list.
"Yes, Turnbull?" Constable Fraser said. "What is it this time?"
Renfield looked up at his fellow officer. "Oh, please don't interrupt your work for me, sir. I can wait."
Constable Fraser squared up a small stack of forms on his desk and set them aside. "You're not interrupting, Turnbull. I've finished."
"Ah," Renfield said. "Well then. I feel it is my duty to inform you that I have failed to carry out my assigned responsibilities. Sir." He gazed stoically at the corner of the wainscotting visible over Constable Fraser's left shoulder. The Constable made an encouraging gesture, and Renfield set his resolve and continued. "As you know, sir, the Inspector had a meeting scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. this afternoon, a meeting which unfortunately was required to continue, due to unforeseen agenda conflicts, until nearly 4:56 p.m. today. Therefore I was requested to deliver tea service three times--"
Constable Fraser held up his hand, and Renfield stopped speaking. "I apologize for interrupting you, but I am afraid it is quite late and I have a dinner engagement. Perhaps you could write me up a full report tomorrow and merely provide me with a summary this evening. Has a diplomatic incident occurred?"
"No, sir!" Renfield said.
"Is consular property destroyed?"
"No, sir!" Renfield said.
"Did you misfile your paperwork?"
"Yes, sir! My 3459-B, sir, and I'm afraid the Inspector has already sent the relevant files to Ottawa for review!" Renfield kept himself still, but he knew his face was burning bright red with the shame of it.
"I see," said Constable Fraser calmly, but there was a slight -- an ever so slight -- edge to his voice, and Renfield knew. Constable Fraser was disappointed in him, saddened by his failure, disgusted by his ineptitude at carrying out his duty--
"I'm sorry, sir!" Renfield blurted, and then, appalled, clamped his mouth shut again.
Constable Fraser sighed, and stood up from his desk. "It is 6:03 p.m., Turnbull," he said. "We are both off-duty now. Please remove your uniform tunic."
With shaking hands, Renfield loosened his lanyard and lifted it over his head, then set it carefully on the wooden chair facing Constable Fraser's desk. He unfastened and removed his Sam Browne, placing it in Constable Fraser's outstretched hand, and finally unsnapped, unbuttoned, and removed his tunic and all accoutrements. He placed them on the chair as well, beside the empty gun holster and shoulder strap that Constable Fraser had stripped from the belt. He faced Constable Fraser again, feeling naked.
The Constable ran his fingers along Renfield's Sam Browne. "Clean and supple," he said in an approving tone. "I commend your care with the uniform." Renfield took a deep breath and released some of his humiliation over the misfiled form. Constable Fraser looked up at him and said, "Please remove your shirt and kneel facing the chair now."
Renfield slid his suspenders off of his shoulders, letting his eyes meet Constable Fraser's stern gaze briefly before he untucked his shirt and lifted it over his head. Holding the shirt in his hands, he lowered his knees to the floor and bowed his head.
The tip of his own belt trailed delicately across the bare skin of his back, and Constable Fraser's voice said, "Count." Renfield closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded.
The Sam Browne cracked across his back. "One," Renfield said. Another blow. "Two." A third, and only now was he beginning to feel the pain of the first strikes. "Three," he said. On four he opened his eyes again, seeing his own uniform before him. He would live up to the honor and glory of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He could and he would. By five his back was tingling; by six his whole body was tingling. "Seven," he said dreamily. All right, he had made a mistake. He would acknowledge it, and learn from it, and be stronger for the experience. "Eight," he sighed, so happy, so grateful to Constable Fraser that he might almost cry.
"Eight it is," Constable Fraser said, and Renfield knew that his punishment was over and he was forgiven.
"Thank you, sir," he whispered.
"Just a moment, Turnbull," Constable Fraser said, and Turnbull nodded, perfectly content to remain where he was. After a short period of time Renfield felt a cool hand stroke over his back, and the sting eased. "This should ensure that the welts will not be chafed by your uniform tomorrow," Constable Fraser said, and Renfield felt him apply more of the salve.
"Thank you," he whispered again.
Something warmer than the salve brushed lightly across the top of Renfield's spine. "You always have such good intentions, Turnbull," Constable Fraser said softly. "Do you understand how I admire that?"
Renfield swallowed around a sudden lump in his throat and said, "They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
Constable Fraser's hands stilled against his back for a brief moment, then continued to work the salve into his skin. "This isn't Hell," he said finally. "My theology may be shaky, but nothing I have ever read has suggested to me that in Hell one is served deep-dish Chicago pizza with pineapple." Renfield's back was patted dry with a soft cloth, and Constable Fraser stood up and stepped away. "Believe me, it's a possibility I used to consider," he said, and then he stopped as the front door of the Consulate slammed.
A cheerful voice called out, "Hey, Fraser, pitter-patter. I'm starving!"
"I'll be just a moment, Ray!" Constable Fraser called back, and then Renfield felt a light touch of fingers on his shoulder as the Constable asked, "Would you close up the Consulate when you leave, Turnbull?"
"Of course, sir," Renfield said.
Constable Fraser squeezed his shoulder companionably. "Thank you," he said, and then he was gone.
After a while longer, Renfield stood up, gathered his uniform together, and retired to the front parlor, where he began cleaning and oiling his Sam Browne belt. He hummed cheerfully as he worked: "Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun...."
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