Disclaimer: Alliance Atlantis ownes them. I just borrowed them.
Author's Notes: With thanks to Herman Mellville
with thanks to Herman Melville
The thing was, Ray had a thin skin. All day long they would go go go, which was fine with him. It was not only fine, it was necessary, it was absolutely fucking greatness, and there were times when the sun was up and the wind was down and the snow was flying, he was flying, hell, they were all flying and the dogs were insane with happiness and he felt exactly like one of the dogs. The sun on the snow made these amazing spark things everywhere, like millions of them, like a whole field of diamonds that went on forever and he'd feel his mouth stuck in this huge goofy grin that wouldn't stop. So he'd touch down the edge of his boot when they cut yet another perfect curve. The snow would spray up and make oceans of diamonds until Fraser would tell him he shouldn't look because he would probably go blind. Which kind of put the kibosh on things. Figured, this being Fraser. Only now he knew all about Fraser--he'd seen Fraser out here a million miles from anywhere, laughing and yelling and howling at the moon. That's when he finally got the cosmic phone message that'd been blinking at him since they started: they were so far out they could do anything. Anything they wanted. So he waited until Fraser was busy with the dogs, face all relaxed and rosy-cheeked and smiling like a kid, and then at the next curve Ray touched his boot down again. Diamonds.
The thing about stopping was, every time they would stop Ray's face would hurt. First his nose, then his ears and cheeks, then his whole face. And then his eyes which was the worst absolutely, it would keep hurting worse until he'd start to get scared there was really something wrong. Plus the sun would still be up which made trying to sleep kind of weird and pointless. But if they just kept on go go going he would be so into it he wouldn't notice, he would completely forget to hurt. There was something profound about that. Ray thought about it briefly, which was about as long as you could really hold a thought up here that wasn't a dog thought, a thought about snow or sleds or seal fat, and decided it meant they should just keep on going forever.
Ray was proud of the way he'd adjusted to cold. He'd run behind the sled and on a good day he'd get hot, actually, he'd throw his coat open and pull off his scarf, and since Fraser had a thing about headgear, on a really good day he'd end up unbuttoning his shirt some. Fraser would catch him when they switched off with the sled and make him cover up more, and he'd remember it was like a million below but he couldn't help it, he was hot. He was adjusted. Okay, so eating sticks of Crisco was a little weird at first, but he really had no idea back in Chicago that Crisco tasted so good. And then they got a seal which was surprisingly fun, like the best kind of stakeout, and Fraser melted some seal fat in a bowl and they drank it and that was totally like drugs. His lips felt great afterward, like, for hours.
That's when Fraser started touching his face. He'd touched Ray's cheek and got this kind of weird look, which Ray thought meant Fraser was going to touch him and then lick his fingers, which was going to totally freak him out. But instead Fraser kind of frowned and said, "Come here, Ray," so Ray leaned over and Fraser dipped his fingers in the seal fat bowl and then rubbed them all over Ray's face, like it was the most natural thing in the world. And Ray's face felt great, like for hours. The next day he got hypothermia.
The hypothermia was not his fault. They had packed one shirt that looked like the others but turned out to be made of cotton, which was Wrong. Fraser usually wore it because rocks would fly to Mars before Fraser threw anything out, and Fraser had this stupid thing about hygiene which had ceased to matter to Ray like weeks ago, but it was oh yeah, mandatory changing clothes day for the dignity of home and empire. Or whatever. And Ray had to grab the wrong fucking shirt (which was another reason why the changing clothes thing was stupid and probably dangerous as well as first-thing-in-the-morning butt-ass cold), and the great weather which had almost succeeded in making him feel better about running out of coffee had to suddenly turn to shit. One minute he was sweating buckets and cussing the runners and the next his teeth were rattling out of his head and he seriously thought he was going to die, and then dying was impossible or else maybe a big joke. It was the weirdest thing. Everything went kind of funny including his knees, and by the time Fraser got him in the tent he was so tired and the tent was the nicest place he'd ever seen and Fraser was the best guy ever. And his shirt was kind of frozen to his skin.
Frase wrapped him up good. He held the furs tight around him for a minute until he thawed, then stripped him out of his clothes quick which in the tent was hilarious because they couldn't quite stand up. Ray kind of fell over Fraser's back and grabbed a thigh but didn't seem to be strong enough to dump him. Or maybe Frase'd gotten heavier since they were after all on some kind of other planet and what the hell, maybe gravity was different. Fraser weighed more on Pluto. Yeah, this would definitely explain Ray suddenly feeling so heavy. Fraser rolled him onto the furs which was fun, and toweled him off which was fun except really kind of itchy and painful, and look, Frase was doing the frowny thing with his face again. Ray pointed this out to Fraser, who did not seem to be interested. He kept staring at Ray's chest. So Ray craned his head around and tried staring at his chest too, just so Frase would not feel lonely and isolated. (Frase felt lonely and isolated a lot. This was something to which Ray, as his partner, was not about to contribute.)
And whoa Nellie. If they were on Ice Planet Zero, Ray had just found an alien. Only it was him. This discovery made him uncomfortable big time, plus he did not even get a hat with wings. He told Fraser this was an injustice. Actually, what he said was, "Fraser, my skin is all funny and I do not have a hat with wings."
Actually, his chest and belly were red and white and funny, and Ray knew from a million billion Fraser lectures that white was bad. He tried to say, hey Frase, I think maybe I got frostbite of the whole body, only what came out was, "Aaaaaahhh!!!"
And some kind of random thrashing around.
But Fraser knew what he meant. Because Fraser was THE greatest guy in the world. Fraser said, "It's okay, Ray. You do not have frostbite. You have snowburn." Which, being Fraser, did not sound any better, and "It looks like a significant case of eczema as well." Which, whatever it was, definitely sounded worse.
Ray was thinking about asking how long he had before his transformation into Fungus of Terror was complete, when Fraser said, "And your eyelids are swollen. I'm afraid you have an incipient case of snow blindness."
Snow blindness was bad. He knew that. And Fraser was still talking. Jesus, what else could he have? Cooties?
"...my fault entirely. I should have insisted we stop and make you some..."
No more frowny face. Frowny face was bad.
"Fraser. Fix it."
"It's going to be all right, Ray. I have a salve."
Ray wanted to say, of course it's going to be all right. You are the greatest guy in the world, you fucking moron. Of course you have a salve. But he was too tired. He whined instead.
"Close your eyes, Ray."
Ray burrowed down into the furs and closed his eyes. Better.
Fraser rubbed salve into his eyelids. It felt weird and wrong. He wriggled. Fraser made calming noises. He calmed. Fraser rubbed salve on his chest and belly. It felt great. He fell asleep.
When he woke up there was an igloo.
"Look, Fraser! Igloo!" Wow, igloos were painful to look at. Ow ow ow. He shut his eyes.
"Yes, Ray. Let's go in the igloo."
"No, Frase. No going in without asking. The bears might not like it."
"There are no bears in this igloo, Ray."
"They are white, Fraser. They blend." And, Ray thought, I cannot see for shit right now. There could be a whole army of mutant gun-toting polar bears in there right now and I could not draw a bead and I would not have a clue.
"All righty, then," said Fraser. "I'll just go in first and check."
Ray seized Fraser's ankles and growled. Which, since Fraser was already crawling into the igloo, meant sliding in after him feet kicking, belly in the air. Mmm. Dark. Quiet. Fresh igloo. Sometime during the non-night Fraser had made an igloo. It had an ice window and everything. Man, Fraser was good at this stuff. He was putting the furs out on a kind of snow shelf thing. Ooh. Instant bed. Ray launched at it and got dibs. He rolled around for a while, burying his nose in the furs and snuffing up the good animal smell. This was great.
"Ray. Ray, Ray, Ray..."
"I thought we could rest here for a few days. There's fishing nearby, the game is good, and we need to give your skin a little time to heal. The dim lighting of an igloo's interior and the keeping of your skin exposed to the warm still air between regular applications of emollient are traditional Inuit remedies for what is actually a quite common..."
Mmmm. That little piece of fur smelled like salve.
"...crossing the sound the ice will be much more reliable after the front moves through the..."
"We're gonna laze around here for a while and you put salve on me until everything's better."
"That's about the size of it, Ray."
"I think there's sand under my eyelids. It is like a death weapon."
"That's snow blindness, Ray. Just keep your eyes closed until it feels better."
But then Fraser made food and there is no way you can keep your eyes closed when you are trying to cut rubbery seal with a camp knife. So that was an ow. And then it was salve time, so he had to watch how things were going with the Fungus of Terror, and he could feel his eyeballs moving which was all weird and wrong and ow ow ow "Fraser, can you sprain your eyeballs?"
"Hold still, Ray. Close your eyes."
Salve smell. Mmm. Really strong. Wow. Vap-o-rub as a controlled substance. Something soft and heavy on his eyes. Bandages. No more moving, eyes. Sleeping now.
He half woke to feel Fraser's hands stroking salve into him. Mmm. Fraser made us an igloo. Food later. Don't have to try with the knife. Sleep now.
Later on it smelled like food. Which was great, he was hungry. Ray ate a chunk of seal, which tasted even better now he couldn't see that seal was kind of gray. He chewed ecstatically. Warm grease ran down his chin. Mmm. Fraser. Fraser rubbing grease across his lips and cheeks.
"It's all right, Ray. Grease is actually the best thing for your skin right now." More warm oily feeling over his face and chest. No more tight itchy feeling. Ray rolled in the warm furs while his partner stroked him. Wow. A whole thought-free lifestyle.
Later a warm feeling came by. Lamp. Dark. Snow over the window.
"Safe under the snow for the duration. As shall we be. Shall I read a little?"
Pages rustled. Fraser's voice droned.
...After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize. As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along...I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulence, or malice, of any sort whatsoever...I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands...such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, -Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness...
Salve smell. Warm seal. Leaning against Fraser now, warm hands stroking his ribs. Tight feeling slipping away, good feeling coming. Belly rubbing. That's the best. Little moaning noises. Pushing up. More more. The hands slipping lower. Oh. New feeling. Warm. Hot. Push, push. How long since...Yes. Push. Arch, stretch. More more. Yes. He poured long spouts of come over Fraser's hands and fell instantly asleep.
The next time he was lying flat on his back wrapped in furs with Fraser's hands slipping under to stroke him slowly, salve at first, and then when he was good and warm and the smell...Oh the smell was great and the furs were back and the warm oil was like it was him melting in the heat from the lamp which he could feel over there now, he could feel everything, the warm oil dribbling down lower, lower until he opened his legs and let Fraser fill the hollows of his hips with warm seal oil and stroke him and stroke him and do something else all warm and wet until he came and just after he felt something new dripping across his thighs and was glad.
Ray staggered out of the igloo some days later feeling much better. The sun was dazzlingly bright. He rubbed oily ashes into the hollows of his eyes and adjusted his new goggles. They were like blinders, letting in only a narrow field of vision, but somehow he could get used to this. He could see a lot better if he didn't have to see too much at a time. He looked around. The world was in focus again. Him and Frase with the dogs and the sled in the clean empty middle of nowhere, a couple of guys who worked hard and played hard kicking around having an Arctic adventure. A thick coat of hard new snow covered over everything, looking like diamonds.
They made a good run. The dogs were crazed to run after all the time cooped up under the snow, and Ray felt just exactly like one of the dogs. He ran beside the sled and behind the sled and then ahead of the sled with a pole, testing anything that looked suspicious and dueling occasional imaginary enemies with the pole straight out in front of him.
In the evening that was not an evening they got out to the sound. Ray wanted to keep going but Fraser said it would be sad to miss this chance to put out a couple of lines, so they stopped and fed the dogs and set up a place for ice fishing. Ray knew the whole thing was really Fraser worrying about thin ice. He fed the dogs anyway. Fraser puttered around the edge of the ice doing testy things, for fucking ever. Ray tried to control his impatience. He knew only one sure way of testing thin ice, and Fraser was heavier than him. At least Fraser had made a hole for fishing...okay, not really a hole. Calling it a hole would be too ambitious. It was more of an opening. But enough for a Fraser-style fishing expedition.
"Ray, do you like fish?"
Master of the freaking obvious. Ray squinted irately at Fraser through his snow goggles. "Yeah, Fraser, I like fish. You know I like fish. Fish are great."
"Well, that's very good, Ray. Because I've hooked quite a large fish," said Fraser, and then he pitched forward onto his face and started sliding across the ice toward the opening.
Ray grabbed him by reflex while his conscious mind was still working out a comeback to what must be a joke, because what the hell could you catch that could hurt you through an opening this small...then Fraser lurched forward again with a grunt, taking Ray with him, and terror kicked in and he knotted his arms around Fraser like grim death, dug his feet into the ice and held on.
The whole thing took forever, give or take twenty minutes. They slithered forward. Ray got his feet under him again and leaned back until his joints cracked. Come on, come on, come on Fraser...and then he could feel Frase get to his feet finally, fucking finally I could use some help here asshole before I crash and fail and kill us both and the sudden lurch of Fraser, solid muscle launching back at him like a freaking tank and suddenly there was nothing to pull against, nothing holding him up, and Ray's feet went out from under him and he landed on his ass in the snow. And the whole fucking thing started over. They were sliding again, toward the tiny opening that had suddenly become a huge crack in the world, how the hell did that happen? They were gonna go through, going to drown, and Ray felt the sudden burst of panic large bodies of water always inspired in him plus freezing to death, drowning and freezing and being eaten by some horrible monster all at the same time, oh Jesus God...and suddenly he had enough. He slammed his boots down with the insane clarity of mind he sometimes wished he ever had when he was not really, really close to dying. The momentum propelled him back up onto his feet and halfway past Fraser. He slung around hard, ducking his head and shoulder-slamming into Fraser's chest. They both lurched backward away from death in opposite directions, and something changed. The fish wasn't pulling anymore. Fraser was still holding on to the line, and the line was still taut.
"Let go let go let go let go let go!" Ray screamed. Fraser didn't let go. Ray lunged toward him, grabbing for the line, and the ground went out from under him. The ground went out from under him. He was still standing up. On thin ice. Ray stared at the line in Fraser's hands. It was slackening fast. The ice tilted again, then Fraser's side dived straight down toward nothing.
Ray Kowalski's life did not flash before his eyes. If he could have thought, he would have thought that was a good thing, because he sure as hell did not need Stella yelling at him about this right now. But time slowed down, way way down into absolute leisure time. He saw the sled and the dogs and the long safe sweep of bank where Dief stood, trembling, next to a plant Ray had never noticed before in all the time they'd been out here, a plant just one long step straight down from his left boot, rooted in the solid ground, with a little tiny flower like a daisy. Just step off. Easy. But his body was already running for Fraser, faster than he had ever run in his life. And his brain, left far behind staring downslope at the top of Fraser's hat, said thinly, hey, hero, if you were really a smart guy you would have run away from him in the opposite direction.
With his extra weight on that side the ice went Titanic and Ray took the altitude and jumped. He hit Fraser with all the force that was in him, will and gravity and sheer pissed-offness, hoping like hell that it hurt and that Fraser would grab him because otherwise they would die. Then they were on solid ice. Not dying. Then something huge and slimy hit Ray hard in the back, and he was skittering off across the ice like this was a fucking game, like they were curling or something and Dief and Fraser and solid ground and when he came to himself he was punching the lights out of the ugliest fish in the world.
It was huge. It was unbelievably big. It had lips. It had an obscene long thick eel of a body and nasty sharp teeth everywhere and it was staring at him out of its huge staring eyes, and it was huge, and it was staring, and its blood was red which was all wrong only maybe that was Ray's blood, and the worst thing except for the lips and the sheer wrongness of its bigness was, it was white.. And the line in its mouth connecting it to Fraser. Ray punched it a couple more times for good measure, then he stood up and walked off and freaked out.
He was coming back for another round, this time with kicking, when Fraser grabbed him.
"Ray. It's dead. Ray. Ray, Ray, Ray..."
"WHY DIDN'T YOU LET IT GO?"
"Once the ice cracked, the weight of the fish was balancing..."
"WHY DIDN'T YOU LET IT GO?"
Fraser looked at him with an inscrutable expression. A couple of times it looked like he was going to say something, but didn't. Then he said, "You said you liked fish."
This is how Ray hit Fraser the second time. Later, he would admit to himself that hitting probably was not a good idea. But by then it was too late, neither of them knew how to get out of it.
When he came back from his cooling-off walk Fraser was skinning the fish. The fact that you could skin a fish made Ray's stomach churn. Hell, pimps and dissolute Middle Eastern sheiks probably had boots made out of it.
"We are not going to eat that."
Fraser kept his back to him. "Suit yourself, Ray."
Fraser cut some kind of twisted Porterhouse out of the fish and set it up on a stick. Ray bet it wouldn't fall off. It was long and thick and pink and shiny wet. This fucker wasn't fish, it was meat. Ray grabbed the stick, careful not to touch what was on it.
"That," said Fraser, "is my lunch." His voice had a dangerous edge.
"Fraser," I want to stop. I'm sorry about the hitting. I do not know how to stop, tell me you know how to stop this. Fraser, tell me you know how to take it all back, so nobody loses, so we can be friends. But you cannot say things like that, so he said, "Look Fraser, just don't eat that, okay? I think maybe...I think maybe something's wrong with it."
Fraser looked at him coldly. "You're worried about the tigusiruq usuk. It's perfectly all right. Just because you aren't familiar with..."
"This thing could have killed us." He tried not to look at what was in his hand. "And it is raw, Fraser. Raw. You cannot even cover it up with hashbrowns and pretend it is something else. I mean, maybe it is poison or something. Maybe it has a disease. You ever think of that? Huh?"
"Did you ever think," said Fraser, and his tone made the hairs at the back of Ray's neck stand up and pay attention, "that you are speaking of things you know nothing about?"
"Yeah, you think." Yeah, you're right. That is what this is all about. The only things I'm really good at are handguns and intimidation and the fifty-yard dash. I am fucking useless up here, except for...except for intimidation.
Ray looked straight at Fraser and smiled a long easy smile. "Fraser, if there is one thing I know more about than you, it is fish."
Bingo. Fraser's face flushed pink. He turned away again and cut another one of those meat things and busied himself over it, keeping his back to Ray. Ray thought this was not exactly the effect he had been going for.
Fraser ignored him.
"Fraser, I...I am not going to talk to your fucking back." Fine. Ignoring was fine. He could do that.
And he did, too, for hours, until he caught Fraser getting ready to feed what was left of the monster to the dogs.
"You can poison yourself all you want. Go right ahead. But you are not going to corrupt the dogs."
"Ray, you're being irrational. The dogs need food as much as we do. If eating this meat caused illness, I would have shown symptoms by now. The fish is a Tiktaalik, a northern relative of cod, not only perfectly harmless but considered by almost everyone to be extremely good eating. Admittedly, its size and color are unusual..."
"Unusual is not the word. And who the fuck is everyone? Eskimos? What the hell do they know about us, I mean, we are from Chicago, and that was not what you called that thing before. You called it usik something. Fraser, do you even know what it is? Do you even know what we are dealing with here?"
"Inuit, Ray. Yes. And I am not from Chicago."
"Right. But I am."
For a minute Ray almost thought Fraser had got it, and Ray didn't know whether to fall apart or punch him or run. But then the dogs smelled fish ho and started yelling their heads off, and the blinkers came down over Fraser's eyes.
"Have to feed the dogs, Ray."
"You can eat Moby Dick all you want, Fraser, and I cannot stop you. But the dogs, they can get bones stuck in their throats, they are innocent, they cannot stop themselves and I..."
Fraser picked up a chunk of carcass.
"Fraser. I am telling you. Do Not Do This."
"Dogs have instincts, Ray, as I am sure you know. They know perfectly well what they like." Fraser smiled a thin, angry smile. "They know what's good for them."
He tossed the obscene fat cone of a fish head, as big as Ray's own, and Ray caught one last glimpse of its flat accusing eyes as it sailed past him. The dog chorus reached a howling pitch of ecstasy, then settled to happy snuffles and growls as they dug in.
Ray's stomach growled. He stared at Fraser. He wanted pizza. And beer. Lots of beer. And something else, he didn't know what. Eggrolls, maybe. Whatever the hell it was he wanted, it sure wasn't fish. Fraser walked past him as if he wasn't there, cooing quietly as he fed the dogs.
Ray felt suddenly exhausted. His eyes hurt. Christ, why couldn't it ever be easy? He walked slowly across to the sled and started to pack. The dogs were still crunching and fighting over Fraser's castoff bounty when he felt a push under his mitten. Dief. The wolf whined. Ray laughed, but it came out sounding kind of hollow.
"Thanks, buddy. I'll send you a dozen doughnuts from Izzy's."
Dief looked at him funny.
Ray sighed. He dug around for his snow goggles, but he seemed to have stuck them in some other pocket he couldn't find right now.
Dief looked at him funny from the other side.
Ray leaned against the sled.
"Okay, you deserve an explanation. Only I don't have one. Only say you're thirteen, and you live in Chicago, and all the guys in the neighborhood are playing with each other over Playboys and Georgie Wallenski is exposing himself all the time and bragging about his mom's cold cream. And one day when you are fourteen you are playing ditch 'em with Johnny Wawryszczuk, he catches you and ties you up and does stuff and you come, I mean really come, and pretty soon it is happening a lot even though you don't mean to, it just seems like you and Johnny Wawryszczuk are playing ditch 'em all the goddamn time, which is fine 'cause all the guys are doing it and then one day you are fifteen and it is all over the neighborhood that you are a faggot. And you still don't know what the hell happened. But you are the skinny kid in the glasses and you are the guy that has to go around and kick everybody's ass individually, every fucking kid in the neighborhood. And every fight you lose it is faggot, faggot. From guys who last week were jerking each other off in the bushes. But it is you that has got to prove something. Only it is you with the constant hard-on from being insanely in love with the most beautiful girl in the world that you think you can never have, except maybe, but if she hears about this there will be nothing you can do except take the tourist bus to Lake Michigan and jump off the observation deck. The whole thing sucks more than anything has ever sucked only there is nothing you can do about it except keep on fighting and fighting until they have killed you or you have kicked every last guy in the neighborhood in the head until they say uncle. You start with your buddy John Wawryszczuk, who is twice your fucking size for chrissake, and "I will kick your ass you scumbag" is the last thing you ever say to him. Because your parents are never going to move, ever. And you are going to have to live in this lousy neighborhood in Chicago with all of them for the rest of your fucking life. Because by the time you are sixteen you have quit wearing your glasses and school doesn't matter and you have stared down every guy you have not kicked in the head, and you know that is all you are good for."
Dief whined and licked his hand.
"So see, I got to go home."
Dief stayed with him the whole time, while he put together a backpack with the basics, snowshoes and cookpot for lemmings and boot moss and pemmican and a bag to melt snow, the spare firestarter and sinew for snares and extra lashings and some oil which there was really not much of and a compass and a lampwick and a knife. He could almost convince himself he could live through this. Without really thinking about it he rigged up a dog pack. Maybe he'd take one of the dogs.
The trouble was the rifle. They only had one. Ray leaned his head against the sled for a while. Dief whuffed softly, and, since nobody was looking, he let himself slide down and put his arms around the dog's neck. After a while he got up, took the rifle and ammunition, and slid it in his pack. He was sticking with the pretense that he'd live long enough to get back to Chicago. Fraser could have the tackle, eat all the fish he wanted, work his way further north or down along the river. Ray would be traveling inland. He wouldn't last long without a gun, and if he didn't take it, Fraser would know.
"Ray. What are you doing?"
"Going home, Fraser."
"Where's home, Ray?"
Ray stifled an urge to lie down on the dogsled. "Chicago."
"Chicago is a long way from here."
"Not really, Frase. Not nearly as far as you'd think." He shouldered the pack. "Don't think it hasn't been good. Mind if I take one of the dogs?"
Diefenbaker sat down and howled. Fraser hushed him sharply. The wolf took no notice. For a moment Ray really thought Fraser was going to hit Dief and he stepped forward, but then Fraser's hand fell to his side as if he'd forgotten it was there.
Still managing to sound soft over the increasing howls, Fraser said, "Ray, if you leave me, I'll die."
Diefenbaker stopped howling.
"Fraser, that is...that is like some kind of bad novel. It is beneath you. It is emotional freaking blackmail."
"No, Ray, it is the literal truth. However I might feel emotionally does not seem to be an admissible part of this discussion." Dief made a sudden loud noise that managed to split the difference between a yawn and a scream of despair. Fraser looked sharply at him and went on. "You were right about the fish. Not literally-it will poison neither you nor me nor anyone else. It is merely insufficient to sustain my life."
Ray stared at him.
"Fish is lean protein. Without oil, in this climate, I can't survive. Our supply of shortening is used up, as is the seal meat, and the seal oil is almost gone as well."
Ray knew why the seal oil hadn't lasted, but he didn't say anything. It wasn't like Fraser didn't know.
"You can catch a seal," he said. You did not tell me. You did not tell me this stuff was more valuable than gold.
"I haven't the skill."
"Do not fuck with me, Fraser. You have caught a seal. I have seen you."
"No, Ray. We have caught a seal. The two of us, together. I can't do it alone."
Ray threw him the rifle.
Fraser watched him narrowly. "Even if you could snare a caribou, or hares, there's not enough oil. It would be suicide."
Ray was tired of talking. His pack was heavy already. He put the box of ammunition on the sled and started walking. He heard the rifle cock as Fraser raised it to his shoulder.
"Frase, buddy, as far as oil goes I think I'm worse than fish."
"I can't let you kill yourself, Ray."
Ray kept on walking.
"Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray..."
Christ on a crutch, the guy was annoying. "Fraser. Go. Kill. A. Seal." He turned around to make his point, and, whoa, staring down a rifle barrel was intense. He tried keeping a poker face, but he couldn't keep from talking. "Look, Fraser, there are worse things than death." The weasels in his head were keeping him from thinking of any at the moment, but he knew there must be some. "Like having no dignity. Like being some kind of dead weight local joke who is only around to make the other guy feel like a man..."
Fraser put down the rifle and stared at him.
"You just saved my life, Ray. Both our lives. I miscalculated the depth of the ice. It was my fault."
"I should of gone the other fucking direction, I should have kept the balance, I should have run away from you but I didn't Fraser, I ran toward you because I was not thinking, I was, I was..." but he had no way of saying what he was and how it made him feel knowing that Fraser had fucked up and almost killed them and Fraser needed his seal-hunting skills to survive in the Canadian arctic and the rifle was down. So he charged the guy and they rolled over and over in the snow.
Ray came up on top with no idea what to do and Fraser under him like a charging bull but Ray's body, ahead of him as usual, decided this must be make-up sex. Which was all the sense he had any right to expect after a million times with Stella, when sex made more sense out of love and rage and need and terror than anything else ever did. So his pants were half down but this was not his living room, this was the Canadian fucking arctic, and in the end he yanked down Fraser's pants and shoved himself in there less from uncontrollable lust than fear of frostbite. But he didn't go in. In where? Fraser's everything was twice the size his groin expected, and, ooh, warm, and after a million times with Stella his not-quite-excited but hard enough dick did not slide into a not-quite-excited but wet enough hole and turn two complicated people who maybe hated each other into sex, sex, beautiful and self-perpetuating and mindless. Instead he bounced off Fraser's ass and a gust of freezing air hit him and he dug in again in sheer confusion, this time hitting something soft that felt good but caused Fraser to grunt sharply and thrash. Balls. Ow. Ray winced in sympathy, and this was about when they got hit by a frantic, growling Diefenbaker, all of them falling sideways and as Ray scrabbled frantically to keep the snow out of his privates and Rescue Wolf off him he realized vaguely something was all the way down there between Fraser's asscheeks, which were the size of small dogs and could probably crack walnuts. Nut-cracking action kicked in as Fraser either panicked or else just tried getting up, and then Fraser grabbed at himself or maybe him and Ray swung over and felt something definitely firm and rubbery against the end of his dick, hot and alive and a total dead end, and in the moment between panic that his dick would end up cartoon flat and bursting out laughing Ray realized this was totally different from anything he had ever done with Stella or any other woman to not resolve anything. Because he and Fraser would both absolutely, totally, one hundred percent have to want this. All or nothing, no accidents. Ray got his pants up and Fraser got his pants up and Ray didn't even care Fraser clocked him, he was laughing so hard.
Fraser was over him now, pinning him in the snow and shouting in his ear, "You cannot do that, Ray, you cannot just decide everything by yourself."
Dief shoved his head between them.
Ray watched Fraser, feeling suddenly, stupidly safe. He nodded.
Fraser continued to scream at him. "If we don't act together we'll die alone, or kill each other."
"Got it, buddy. Got that."
"Do not act like me, Ray. Do not act like me!" Fraser stopped short, as if he'd had no idea what he'd just said. He looked shocked. Ray wanted to kiss him, but wasn't there yet. He lifted his hand and touched Fraser's face. "'s okay," he said. "You're good."
Fraser rolled off him and they sat side by side in the snow, holding each other by the shoulders while the wolf acted neurotic, running back and forth, licking their faces. Ray could feel Fraser shake for a while, then steady down. Ray himself felt like he had just gotten up out of a really uncomfortable chair he'd been sitting in too long, like twenty years. He looked over at the lemming pot he had neatly lashed with sinew to his caribou-skin pack and decided he no longer had any idea who he was and didn't care. After a while they got up and saw to the rifle and the gear and the dogs. Fraser checked the snow with an interested expression, and wordlessly Ray got the bone knife and started cutting igloo blocks. When they were done Fraser lit the lamp and Ray spread the skins and then there was a lot of taking each other's clothes off and wrapping up in the furs and touching each other during which Ray and Fraser both kept their eyes open. Except right at the end, but that was pretty normal.
During the night the wind came up. Fraser knew and told Ray this would probably be the last storm of the season, the last hard freeze, last solid ice before the thaw. They waited it out for a couple of days, with Dief coming in to report and staying to sleep while they slept and ate and touched and sucked and by the time the weather cleared they'd got quite a long way with all the things they knew and tried some new ones. At some point it was time and they put their clothes on and dug their way out into sunshine and clear air. Ray looked at Fraser, and Fraser looked at Ray, and they tried the kissing thing when their dicks were not hard, in the daylight. And it was okay, it was more than okay, and their eyes were open, and the snow looked like diamonds, and the dogs were eager to run run run and Ray finally mentioned, and Fraser agreed, that they both felt not quite exactly but somewhat like the dogs.
"Okay then," Ray said, "This is going to have to last us, because afterwards we turn south and everything gets different. Right?"
"Well, Ray, yes and no. We will need to turn south soon. But we'll be able to carry whatever we achieve at this point with us, and use the supplies we lay in now for some time forward. They'll be available to us any time we want them. Even in less congenial climates."
"Right," Ray said slowly. "I think I got it." They put on their snow goggles. Ray grinned at Fraser and kicked up some snow. "Priority one, let's get us a seal."
Fraser grinned back and threw him a handful of diamonds.
End Snowblind by Rackem
Author and story notes above.
Please post a comment on this story.
Read posted comments.