Every now and then, it hits Ray just how little stuff Fraser has.
Not that Ray is the biggest packrat ever. Most of his belongings are stored away in boxes at his parents’ place down in Arizona, but he still has a healthy amount of crap lying around his apartment. Fraser, however—what didn’t go up in flames during Victoria’s rampage was destroyed when his apartment building burnt down. If he hadn’t kept his father’s journals at the consulate, he would have lost those too. Ray suspects they are now the most precious things he owns.
It scares him, sometimes, that Fraser isn’t tethered to the world like most people he knows. If he were to up and disappear one day, only the odd book or spare uniform would prove he had ever even existed. It was like he was walking on sand without leaving footprints.
Ray shudders and snuggles up against Fraser’s back, grounding himself in their shared warmth. He sneaks his arm around his chest and pulls him closer. When Fraser asks him what’s wrong, he doesn’t reply.
One day in late June, a big brown package arrives from Canada. According to the attached letter, it’s a box of belongings Fraser and his grandparents left with an acquaintance many years ago, back when they moved away from Inuvik. Ray can’t contain his excitement at the thought of exploring unknown treasures from Fraser’s past together—so much so that he doesn’t even realize at first that Fraser isn’t joining in.
“It’s like a pirate chest,” Ray says eagerly as he gropes around in the kitchen drawer in search of the Stanley knife. “Like a…whatchamacallit…,” he gives up on the knife and fishes out a pair of scissors instead, “…a time capsule. Stella and me, we buried one in her backyard when we were kids. But at some point, her parents decided they wanted a swimming pool, and, well, the rest is history. Hey…”
Ray suddenly glances up. Fraser has been unusually quiet, and when Ray meets his gaze, his expression is stuck somewhere between a scowl and a weary frown.
“Hey, buddy, what’s up? Did you want to…” Ray holds the scissors out for Fraser. “Sorry. Got a bit carried away there.”
“No, by all means, be my guest.”
Ray folds his arms in front of him. “Then what is it? What’s got your panties all in a twist?”
Fraser briefly glances at his crotch and then shoots Ray a confused look. “I can assure you, my underwear is perfectly straight.”
Ray doesn’t even honor that with a groan. “Hardy har har. You know what I mean. Quit prevale…prevari…”
“Prevaricating?” Fraser offers helpfully.
“Yes, that.” He points a finger at Fraser’s chest. “See, you know you’re doing it.”
Fraser sighs and rubs his left eyebrow with his thumb. “I’m not avoiding anything, Ray. I just don’t understand this fixation with physical objects.”
“Hey, I’m not fixating on anything. It’s just, I think it’s kinda cool. Since, you know, everything else you owned got barbecued. I just…I thought you’d be excited.”
“Ray, I made my peace with that a long time ago. I never had many worldly possessions, and while I was sad to lose some old photographs and drawings, nothing held any immense value. What I truly treasure, I carry with me.” He taps his chest, just above the heart. “In here.”
Suddenly, there’s a great big lump in Ray’s throat. He doesn’t know where to look, so he turns his back. “Yeah, well, me too. I mean, the important stuff. Obviously. It’s just…I just like to think there’s some stuff in this world that belongs to you. Like an anchor, you know? So you don’t, I dunno, vanish without a trace.” He tosses the scissors onto the tabletop, and they land with a loud clatter. “Forget it. I’m being stupid.”
“Oh Ray.” Fraser steps up behind Ray and wraps his arms around him. “I have my anchor right here. I’m not going anywhere.” He kisses the side of Ray’s neck and rests his chin on his shoulder. “But if it means so much to you, we can look at the contents together. I fear they will mostly be books and a few odd drawings and knick-knacks, but I daresay I’ll find a memory of two to share.”
Ray nods curtly and leans into Fraser’s warmth. “Thanks,” he mumbles quietly and runs his fingertips across the top of the box.
Footprints in the sand.