Usually when people say they’re afraid of water, they mean drowning. Like me. Though you’d never know it, the number of times I’ve followed Fraser into Lake Michigan. But Fraser’s sitting here, deadly serious, telling me that up North, out on the ice where we’re going, you have to be afraid of drops of water, even your own damp breath.
Not that Fraser’s afraid of water or anything else. Plus, he has freakish amounts of self-control and apparently he’s taught himself not to sweat or cry or come if he doesn’t want to. Yes, he actually said that last part, not in those words of course, but talking about his own semen for Christ's sake—and yeah, okay, Fraser gets embarrassed about a different set of things than regular people, but he never talks about anything remotely connected to sex, and here he is doing it like it’s no big deal.
Which maybe means that what he’s telling me about death by moisture is a very very big deal.
The thing about Fraser is, he knows he’s a freak. He is real aware of his own abilities and he’s smart enough to understand that most people can’t do the stuff he can.
He’s real aware of other people’s abilities, too, which you might not think, because he goes around casually expecting ridiculous levels of performance, but what I eventually figured out is, it ain't casual at all. He knows exactly how far he can push—well, me, just to take a not-at-all-random example—without asking for something truly impossible. And so, what Fraser just merrily assumes someone will do, he usually gets.
Which is probably the only reason we made it over that mountain, back when we were tracking Muldoon. Maybe Fraser had to do all the planning and the navigating, carry the gear, carry me for a good part of that time, but goddamnit, after he went through all that, I was damned if I was going to freeze to death on him.
Came pretty close, but I made it out alive. I don’t know how close I did come to dying up on that mountain, but you can bet Fraser does.
So he’s been lecturing me nonstop ever since we agreed to go on this crazy dogsled quest to the middle of nowhere for no good reason except it seems like a fun thing to do. Which, yeah, being lectured by Fraser can get to be a pain. And having to learn sixteen million new skills that make me look like a klutzy toddler and that Fraser can do backwards in his sleep, that’s tiresome and humiliating. Not to mention physically exhausting, what with the snowshoeing, and the hauling stuff on and off the damned sled until I can get it packed right the first time, and the digging practice emergency shelters in snowbanks, and the wrestling dogs in and out of harness when they’d much rather play dump-Ray-on-his-ass-in-the-snow. But Fraser thinks I can do it and I’m damned well not going to prove him wrong now. So I moan and groan and curse and swear and try to remember which order the tent-ropes have to get tied in.
And Fraser just stands there with his arms crossed, watching me wrestle stuff into place on the sled with my half-numb, mitten-clumsy hands, or fall on my face when I forget to keep my weight back on the snowshoes. Sometimes giving me instructions or encouragement or snide remarks, but mostly just watching.
And then when we knock off for the day, he feeds me stew and lectures me about how water can kill you.
“Do you understand, Ray?” he asks me. Over and over again. I don’t yell at him or beat him over the head. I just nod and repeat the latest round of stuff back to him, or shake my head and he tries to explain it some other way until I can get it through my thick skull.
“Do you understand, Ray?” he asks, his eyes blazing like this is the ultimate question of life.
And I think I do understand: what he’s saying, but what he isn’t saying, too.
I think he’s scared.
It’s like he’s got this deal with the environment out here: special dispensation to survive where people aren’t really supposed to live. But it doesn’t cover me, and he’s taking me out there anyway, trusting in my just-learned normal-person survival skills, plus whatever miracles he can pull out of his ass.
And that? That is a very big deal indeed.
That says there’s something Mr. Freakish-amounts-of-self-control wants bad enough to do this very scary thing. Wants from me.
Now, that scares me. But sure as I’m following Fraser out into that ice-world that wants to eat me alive, I’m going to find out what it is that Fraser wants so bad.
If Canada doesn’t kill me first.