“Of course, Ray. Anything.”
Ray clutched his coffee mug harder, loving the scalding surface of it against his hands. It seemed to be the only warm point in his entire body.
“Do you honestly not think that these are conditions for which human beings were simply not meant?”
“Which conditions are those, Ray?” Fraser asked, like they were discussing an old case while sunbathing on the beach, and not in the middle of an uninhabited, snowy tundra.
“These conditions, Fraser. This sixty below business. I know you grew up around here and all, but how is this normal?”
Fraser looked almost bewildered. “Well, it isn’t normal.”
“Ah-ha!” Ray would have lifted a hand in triumph, but that would have meant taking it away from his coffee and he simply couldn’t do that to himself. “So you admit that this isn’t right.”
“I admit no such thing, Ray.”
“But you just --”
“I just said that this isn’t normal. I never passed judgment on whether or not it was right.”
Ray frowned. “What’s the difference, then?”
“There’s a world of difference, Ray,” Fraser explained. “For instance, while I admit that this sort of weather is not the ideal condition in which human beings can exist, many find plenty to love about it. I, for instance, think of it as my home.” He paused, thinking. “This is the place I know best, the place in which I feel most comfortable.”
“Comfortable how?” Ray scratched his freezing nose with a freezing hand.
“Well...if not always physically, then certainly mentally and spiritually.”
“Huh.” Ray thought about this. “So, okay, this is where you feel most comfortable...but it isn’t where humans being are meant to be. Or, at least, not where most of us are.” He looked up at Fraser to see if he got it right.
“Indeed. But, Ray, I believe that humans are exceptionally adaptable creatures.”
“Of course. For instance, look at us. We are surviving up here with hardly any discomfort, without much aid from such things as power or running water or fresh vegetables. The cold that you feel is the only large problem facing us at the moment. And soon, you will barely feel it at all.”
Ray had his doubts on that score, but let it slide in favor of a different point. “You think I can be adaptable?”
“Certainly. You have kept up exceptionally well these past couple of weeks.”
Ray liked the way Fraser was looking at him. Made his stomach feel warm without even having to take a sip of his coffee.
“And you think I could feel comfortable in these, uh, sub- sub-par conditions? You know – spiritually.” It seemed important that he look Fraser in the eye when asking this. Fraser looked down, chewed on his lip, then met Ray’s gaze.
“I certainly hope so. After all --” Fraser cleared his throat. “What is normal may not always – well, live up to our expectations. Or sustain our lives...spiritually.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Ray looked down into his coffee mug and grinned. Fraser definitely had a point. And Ray couldn’t argue with the kind of logic that agreed with his gut.
When he looked up, Fraser was smiling into his tea.