"I'm leaving now," yelled Jimmy, checking his hair one more time in the mirror.
"Sure. Dude, have a great time," Chazz's voice replied from behind his closed door. "Give Katie one for me." There was a pause and Jimmy waited, smiling. Chazz was such a doof. A big lovable doof. Jimmy was glad he hadn't known that years ago--he wasn't sure he could have been so focused on beating him if he'd known that Chazz was all squishy inside like a s'more.
"Dude! I didn't mean it like that. She's your lady and I would never ... except the one time with her boobs and she was so hot in that ... I mean, say hello to her for me." There was a sound like a hand smacking into a wall, or maybe Chazz's forehead--it was hard to tell the difference.
"'K, Chazz," Jimmy sing-songed back at him. "You have a good meeting, now."
There was another silence.
"It's Tuesday, right?" Jimmy frowned. He was sure it was Tuesday; he'd looked on the calendar and everything. Okay, maybe he'd gotten a little distracted by the picture of him as Mr. May but he looked so good in that silver outfit, in a perfect spin. The photographer had captured him so beautifully. But Tuesday, yes. He was sure of it.
"Oh. Oh, right. Tuesday. Meeting. Sex addicts group. Yeah, I'll, er, I'll be there all night." Chazz's voice petered out and Jimmy took a step towards the door.
"So don't you worry about me, old Chazz. Chazz the Jazz. Chazz Michael Michaels, out there combating his disease, the disease of his heart and loins. Fighting the good fight. A soldier against SATs. That's me."
"That's great, Chazz. See you," and Jimmy was out of the door before you could spell g-u-i-l-t. He was going to see Katie and if he was lucky she'd let him touch her breasts inside her bra this time. Chazz had made him practice with a blow up doll and some red, plastic lingerie from the sex shop downtown. Jimmy hoped that the real thing was more exciting.
As the door closed behind Jimmy, Chazz's door opened and he peered around it into the empty room. Satisfied the coast was clear, he made for the couch and flopped across it, flinging an arm across his eyes.
He wasn't going to any meeting. He didn't need any damn meeting. Chazz Michael Michaels was cured--K-Y-U-R-D--cured. The ice in his heart had melted away, had been thawing ever since he started skating with Jimmy. Chazz had always chased danger, played too close to the edge; the more scared he was, the more alive he felt. How was he supposed to know that what he really needed was someone to throw a rope around him and tell him that he was perfectly safe?
Jimmy was a revelation. A golden-haired revelation, like God had chosen an angel from the sky, plucked his wings (oh boy, that would be painful), given him a pat on the ass and sent him down from heaven to save Chazz from death by bargain basement Icecapades.
Chazz sighed and fidgeted. These damn leather pants would do it every time. He reached in and readjusted his junk, then grabbed the phone and dialed.
"But I thought you liked me," Jimmy's voice sounded whiny even to himself. He tried again. "Katie, just tell me what's wrong and I'll fix it."
"You can't fix it, Jimmy," said Katie, not meeting his eyes. "You don't know how to give your heart, you don't. It's not your fault," she said, looking at Jimmy at last, "You're like the ice you skate on, that's just who you are."
"I don't understand what you mean," Jimmy said. "I like ice, especially snow cones, but I don't see how I can be like ice, I'm all warm."
"I thought so once," Katie replied sadly, putting on her sunglasses. "And then Stranz and Fairchild got jailed for twenty years and I lost my whole family even if they were a little on the crazy side and you spent the whole evening showing me designs for your new costumes. You didn't once ask me how I was doing."
"I thought I was taking your mind off of things," said Jimmy, unable to figure out where this was all coming from. He couldn't see her eyes any more, couldn't tell how she was feeling, couldn't- oh, but didn't he look great in a reflective surface? Maybe he should think about getting more of a tan. Of course, these days with the skin cancer and everything it was important to be careful. Maybe he would-
"Jimmy!" Katie snapped her fingers in front of his face.
"You see. You're not even listening now. I'm breaking up with you and you're too cold to care." She stood up, pushed her hair off her face and sighed. "I really don't like ice, Jimmy. I thought I could get past it for you, but I can't. Not when you're frozen, too. Goodbye, Jimmy."
Before Jimmy could find his way through the shocked mist that had descended on him, Katie was gone.
He sat, stunned.
What had just happened? He thought they had something special: Katie was so pretty and sweet and wore clothes with nice buttons. And now she was gone. He dropped his head into his hands.
"What's the matter, son?"
Jimmy raised his head to see an old, white-haired man with a kindly face looking down at him.
"I think ... My girlfriend ... She just broke up with me." Jimmy's eyes stung a little.
The old man looked sympathetic.
"Was it because she found out you're a fairy?" he asked in soothing tones.
"What?" Jimmy blinked rapidly.
"You know, son. A queer. Bent. A shirt-lifter, fudge-packer, plougher of the chocolate field, salami sucker, catcher of the German sausage. Friend of Dorothy."
Jimmy's eyes got wider and wider throughout this speech until he thought they would pop out and roll away.
"I'm not sure I understand. I don't have any friends called Dorothy. My father's great aunt was called Dora--maybe that's short for Dorothy."
"It must be all the chemicals you gays use on your hair," said the man. "Never mind, I'm sure you'll be snapped up in no time. Pretty boy like you. Hang in there, champ."
And with that he wandered off.
Jimmy furrowed his eyebrows. He couldn't understand why the old man thought he was happy (and his hair was one hundred percent natural, thank you very much)--he'd just lost Katie. Katie!
"Oh, Katie, why did you leave me?" Jimmy moaned, and was hit by a sudden urge to go home and tell all to Chazz. Chazz would understand. Chazz would tell one of his stories that always left Jimmy wondering if Chazz had been dropped on the head as an infant but never failed to make him feel better. Chazz would fix it. Only. No. Chazz was out. Being addicted to sex. There was no one home. Jimmy stumbled blindly into the night.
"It's no good, Coach," said Chazz. "I've tried it my way. The sex way. I've tried strippers, lap dancers, ladies of the night and their daytime equivalent. Good girls, bad girls, even drag queens and cowboys. Sailors too: any port in a storm of the soul. But they do nothing for me. The fire in my loins is doused. There's just cold, grey ash where my liboodoo used to be. That's right. You heard me. Ash."
"I know, Chazz, I know," said Coach soothingly. "What about-"
"Your way?" Chazz shifted dramatically, succeeding in flinging himself off the couch and onto the hard, slate floor, the phone flying out of his hand and skittering under the coffee table.
"'M okay!" shouted Chazz in the general direction of the phone. He made no attempt to move.
"I tried it your way," he yelled. "I tried looking for someone to understand the C word. Not the bad C word. Or the other bad C word. Or the holy button of female love C word. But the good one. The one with lots of letters and shared tax liabilities. I've dated librarians, school teachers, nurses, lawyers, construction workers--and some of them didn't even want to kill me after the first date. But it was no good, Coach." Chazz was getting into his stride, his voice rising and edged with despair. "Not one single person was the right one. Not one of them ticked my 'settle down and make sweet, sweet love to me for the rest of my born days' box. No one makes me feel that way. Only-"
Chazz stopped in horror, shoving his fist in his mouth and biting down on it. His eyes widened in pain: he'd forgotten he'd had his eye teeth specially sharpened last Halloween so he could seduce Valentina--that Russian temptress--who had a thing for vampires.
"Only who?" Coach prodded gently, his voice tinny and far away.
"Mmmph mmph!" shouted Chazz.
Chazz pulled his fist out of his mouth. "No one!"
"Now, Chazz, I don't think you're telling the truth."
"Me neither." A new voice, but one Chazz knew well.
"Jesse? Am I on speaker? Take me off speaker. I hate speaker."
"Tell the man, Chazz."
Chazz scrambled to his knees and crawled across the floor, grabbing the phone. He held it at arms length and yelled, "I have no idea what you're talking about. Who are you? Why are you calling me?" and with that he hurled the phone at the wall and it shattered.
Chazz stared at the pieces on the floor. He considered throwing a tantrum, but it seemed a waste of time if there was no one there to watch. He went to fetch the dustpan and brush instead.
He had an early night and slept well and most certainly did not toss and turn and wonder exactly where the hell Jimmy MacElroy was.
Practice had been long and hard. Chazz seemed off his game and Jimmy knew his own head wasn't in it. He'd wandered in a daze all night and could hardly recall how he'd gotten to the rink. All he could remember was being gently shaken awake and seeing Chazz's concerned face looming over him. Jimmy had blown him off with some feeble explanation about an early morning run but he wasn't sure Chazz had been fooled. He was no idiot. Well. Sometimes he was no idiot.
Coach and Jesse had left some time ago--something about a regional Coach and Choreographer's symposium on the place of interpretive dance in modern skating. Jimmy and Chazz had stayed on, trying to get the mid-section of the new routine right, but somehow, today, they kept misfiring. They'd closed the rink; even the Zamboni guy had gotten tired of waiting for them to finish. The security lights cast a soft glow across the center of the ring, leaving the edges in shadow. It was really kind of romantic, Jimmy thought, and then felt a sob rising up within him. He fought it back valiantly but still a hiccup came out and Chazz whirled round on his skates, coming to a stop in a spray of ice.
"What's up, man?" he asked.
"N...n...nothing," stammered Jimmy, afraid to trust his voice.
"Don't try that shit on me," said Chazz, skating back towards Jimmy. "I'm an addict, I can spot bullshit at twenty paces and you're standing hip deep in the middle of a dunghill."
Jimmy looked down. He was mercifully dunghill free. Damn! He had to remember that Chazz was king of the metaphor. He took a deep breath, determined to avoid cow patties. Chazz was his friend and partner, after all: he deserved the truth.
"Katie broke up with me."
Chazz's jaw dropped. "She did? Why?"
Jimmy let his gaze fall to Chazz's feet. "She said I don't give in to my emotions. That I'm cold. Me!" He chipped at the ice with the point of his skate then looked up at Chazz through eyelashes that weren't damp with tears because he wasn't a girl. Chazz was doing his lugubrious camel look, the one where he got all droopy and long-faced. Jimmy didn't like that look--it usually meant something bad was coming.
And then it did.
"Wait!" Jimmy's head snapped up and he shot Chazz an accusing stare. "You agree with her? I don't believe it. I thought we were friends."
He turned to leave--first Katie, now Chazz--but before his blade even struck ice, Chazz had gripped his forearm and forced Jimmy to face him.
"You've got to stop with the dramatic exits, man. Give me a chance to explain. I broke the phone, it's not like I can call you up and beg you like last time."
Jimmy narrowed his eyes. He couldn't see what Chazz could possibly say that was going to make this better. He'd thought it had hurt when Katie had accused him of not giving his heart, but Chazz's agreement was a bitterer blow still. He just wanted to go home, only he wasn't sure where that was any more.
"Do I agree with your ex-lady? I gotta say yes-"
Jimmy tried to yank his arm away, but Chazz stayed firm. He always was the stronger one.
"I gotta say yes, but it's not your fault, Jimmy. You grew up in an ice rink of the heart, my friend. Did your father ever hold you and tell you how proud he was out of season? Did that money ever buy you anything to keep you warm?" Chazz paused and furrowed his brows. "Except for, you know, the fur coats and the fleece-lined boots and the- I mean here." He beat his breast and his voice dropped to a whisper. "In your heart."
Chazz looked at Jimmy and the sincerity beamed out of him. Jimmy felt a strange, twisting sensation in his chest. He blinked rapidly.
"Oh god, you're right. I am like the ice I skate on, just like she said. What am I going to do, Chazz? I don't want to die alone."
Chazz squeezed Jimmy's arm. "You won't. Look, you know that fire melts ice, right? It's the first law of thermal dynamics. All you need to do is find that special person, the one that ignites the Eternal Flame."
"The Eternal what now?"
Chazz let go and skated swiftly backwards. "The Eternal Flame," he said, turning smoothly into a pirouette, hands meeting high above his head. "The Eternal Flame that will light a fire in your heart." He punched the air, fingers waggling. "And melt away the ice forever." He spun lower and lower, body bending forward, arms in front, undulating. Slowly he came to a stop and looked up at Jimmy.
And Jimmy did see. He saw his friend Chazz reaching out to help him like he always did. He saw them at home brushing each other's hair and re-sewing the sequins on the crotches of Chazz's costumes (always the first place to go). He saw them watching TV, Chazz trying to explain the finer points of NASCAR while Jimmy attempted to impress Chazz with the fact that there was more to costume drama than heaving bosoms. He saw them skating perfectly together, day in, day out, so finely in tune with one another that they would know if a single heartbeat was out of place. Something eased inside Jimmy. Something that left him breathless and confused.
"I'm cold, I'm gonna go home," he choked out and fled.
"Okay!" Chazz's voice floated after him. "I'll just stay here a little while and, er- Don't. Er. Don't be sad! Or." The voice faded.
Jimmy reached the stands and stood in the gateway, gripping the barrier tightly. If he concentrated hard he could sense that the chill he felt wasn't only coming from the ice, it was coming from inside him. A tight band of cold around his heart. They were right. They were both right. He couldn't risk himself. Couldn't share himself. And if he'd thought he'd felt bad before, now it was a thousand times worse.
Impulsively, Jimmy turned back and watched Chazz skating, spotlighted in the center of the rink. His dark hair flew back from his face and he frowned in concentration. Jimmy could see his lips moving--he was singing to himself again. But this wasn't the usual Chazz Michael Michaels showboating, nor was it one of their routines: this was something entirely new, softer.
It couldn't be.
Chazz was spelling out Jimmy's name on the ice.
Flustered, Jimmy took a step forward only to realize his feet were pointing in the opposite direction to his head and he sat down with a bump. And in that moment it occurred to Jimmy that Chazz led with his whole heart whatever--whoever--he did. And he wondered what that would be like. Just for once.
A smile spread across Jimmy's face and he scrambled to his feet, searching along the seats for Chazz's coat. He reached into the pocket and as his hand closed around the object he was looking for Jimmy nodded firmly to himself. No turning back now.
From across the ice, Chazz watched as a tiny, orange glow appeared in the shadows. He skated to a stop. What was that? And then it started to move towards him, and it took a couple of seconds to realize that no, the ice rink hadn't suddenly gotten a friend from the spirit world, but it was Jimmy. Jimmy with Chazz's Zippo held aloft. Chazz's heart started to thump so loud he could have made up a routine to it and he found he was holding his breath. This couldn't be...?
Jimmy stopped right in front of Chazz. Well inside his personal bubble. It was a good thing he observed excellent oral hygiene, Chazz thought and then mentally smacked himself for being sidetracked.
"I don't have the Eternal Flame right here," said Jimmy, sweet and bashful, "but will this do?"
He offered the lighter to Chazz who took it, his hand closing over Jimmy's, like it had done so many times before but never, never like this. He brought him in close, flicking the lighter closed--never say Chazz Michael Michaels doesn't learn his lessons about fire.
"Yes," Chazz answered. "It'll do just fine."
And then Jimmy closed the last tiny gap between them and Chazz felt lips touch his and they weren't cold. Not cold at all. And as they kissed the world shifted under Chazz's feet and they were spinning faster and faster and faster and...
...Jimmy lay on his side, head resting on Chazz's shoulder, one arm flung across Chazz's bare chest, fingers skating across skin instead of blades across ice. A crumpled cotton sheet lay across their middles for modesty (though the time for that was long gone) and four feet stuck out at the bottom, enough for two pairs, though whose was whose was anyone's guess. On the floor, a pillow that hadn't made it through the night, Jimmy's teddy bear and some very used tissues. And on the bedside table a small statue burning an Eternal Flame (non-flammable) and a glass of water. No ice.