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The world was made of ice. Bare tree branches glistened with an inch of it; Sid’s sidewalk, when he ventured out, was a solid frozen sheet. Stalactites of ice hung from his gutters and thousands of tiny stalagmites poked up from his lawn between fallen tree limbs.

“Well, shit,” Sid said, and walked stiff-legged and careful back into the house. He got out his phone again and exited out of the United notification. He opened his last text from Geno and stared at it a while. Finally, deliberately, he sent: Flight cancelled.

He didn’t really expect an answer. To keep himself from waiting for one, he went upstairs for a shower. He washed himself in the semi-darkness: his power had gone out sometime during the night and never come back on. Thank fuck for his gas water heater.

By the time he was dry and dressed again – in many layers – Sid had a plan for the day. He messaged the group chat, just in case anyone else was still in town, although he doubted it: they’d all wanted to get a jump start on the bye week, even if it was just ten days after Christmas.

Sid wasn’t going to think about Christmas.

He got two chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them in the sink under hot running water, and by feel he pulled the other supplies he wanted out of the pantry: green chilis and onions and spices, whose labels he held up to squint at in the pale morning light.

He was just setting the last supplies on the counter when his front door slammed. Other than his housekeeper, there was exactly one person currently in town who had a key to that door. A minutes later, Geno walked into the kitchen. “Hey,” Sid said. He poked at the thawing chicken. He felt stupid and flushed and young.

“Hey,” Geno said. He stood far away, near the island. In Sid’s sidelong view, Geno’s hands hung at his sides, fingers twitching a little.

Sid turned his back to Geno. “Your flight get cancelled, too?”

“Yeah,” Geno said, sounding morose. “I want sunshine, palm trees, swim.”

Sid didn’t even like swimming very much. He definitely didn’t need to give up a week of training for it. It was fine. “Maybe in a day or two,” he offered. He considered his cutting board for a silent moment, and then he gave in. “You hungry?”

“Why you think I come over? You only one have gas stove.”

“You could have a gas stove.” Sid said. He concentrated on not cutting himself. The windows could only let in so much light, and it was hard to distinguish the chicken from his fingers. Probably he should light some candles.

“Yes, I know you keep say, now I get put in for sure.”

“Well. Good.”

There was a moment’s pause. Maybe the quiver of tension in the air, in Sid’s belly, was just his imagination. The next moment, Geno’s arm fell around Sid’s shoulders. Sid let Geno turn him around. Geno searched his face – for what? Signs Sid was still upset? Signs he’d forgotten all about it? Just as Sid started to squirm away, Geno bent and kissed him.

The kiss was brief, not perfunctory but cautious. When Geno retreated, he wore the same worried frown.

Sid stepped back to his lunch preparations. It might be the icepocalypse, but they still had to eat. Geno followed him and hooked his chin over Sid’s shoulder. “You see outside? All ice. Cars crash everywhere, off road, into signs. Wind blow trees down. News say forty thousand people have no power.”

“Geez. Here, you want to cut up this onion?”

“Always you make me cut up onion. You just want make me cry.”

“Sure, Geno, that’s it.” Sid focused on not whacking his thumb off with the butcher knife.

Eventually there was white chicken chili simmering on the stove. Sid had to light the gas flame with a long-shafted match because the electric starter was out. “You so prepared,” Geno said. Sid gave Geno a hard look, but it didn’t seem to be a jab; Geno was still eyeballing the dutch oven, vessel of arcane kitchen mysteries. Three years together had not been nearly enough for any of Sid’s hard-won cooking knowledge to rub off onto Geno.

Geno’s toque scrunched down over his eyebrows. He was beautiful and absurd, and Sid swallowed down a sudden, sharp longing. He shook it off like the sting of a blocked shot; he breathed until it mellowed into just a dull ache. Then he slid his hand under the hem of Geno’s long-sleeved tee and pressed his palm to warm skin.

Geno hissed, but he didn’t shift away. Sid traced the waistband of Geno’s jeans and rested his hand on the sharp, bony curve of Geno’s hip. “We’ve got fifteen minutes before I have to check on the chili.”

Geno snorted. “So short. You think I’m teenager?”

Sid leaned into Geno’s side, lifted his lips to Geno’s ear, and said, “I’ll have time to spare.”

Technically they split the difference. Sid had Geno coming in his mouth thirteen minutes in, not that Sid was timing it or anything, but then Geno grabbed Sid’s wrist and pulled Sid on top of him on the couch. He teased Sid with lazy shifts of his thigh until Sid was rutting against it. It was twenty-five minutes before Sid had recovered, changed into new jeans, and gotten back to the kitchen again.

“Okay?” Geno asked.

“Oh, now you’re worried about the food.” But Geno did actually look a little concerned, peering at the chili as Sid spooned through it, and Sid added, “It’s fine. It’s still got a long time to go, anyway.”

Geno hummed, stepped in close, and tucked Sid into his side.

They ate around eleven, leaning against the kitchen counters. Sid supposed it counted as brunch. When he finished, he wrapped his chilled fingers around the empty bowl, to no avail. A fresh draft swept across the back of his neck. He sighed, put the bowl aside, and rummaged through what Taylor called his chaos cabinet until he found a flashlight. He handed it to Geno. “We’re starting a fire, I guess.”

They hauled firewood in from the garage, and then Geno heckled from the couch while Sid crumpled up newspaper in the fire place and arranged kindling on top. “I’m making you do it next time,” Sid told him.

“I only know how to start in wood stove.”

Sid laughed. “Should have gone to Miami then, I guess.”

There was a long pause. “I go work out,” Geno said abruptly, shoving to his feet. By the time Sid thought to point out that the treadmill wouldn’t run, Geno was already gone. Well, he could lift, anyway.

Sid went back to building his flammable house of sticks. It took concentration and soft hands. Finally he lit the scrunched-up newspaper. The kindling caught, and he sat back on his heels, warming his hands over the licking curls of flame.

It wasn’t what he’d planned to be doing right just then. He was supposed to be in the air on his way to Colorado. Geno was supposed to be at his gate, waiting for the flight to Miami. Separate, living their separate lives, like Geno wanted. But instead they were here.

Sid stood and went to look for the new Rommel biography he’d meant to read on the plane.

An hour later, Geno found him sprawled in the recliner, which Sid had dragged over next to the window for the light. Geno was pink-faced and still shower-damp, so he obviously had found something to do in Sid’s gym. “There’s more chili, right?”

“We just ate like two hours ago.” Sid set the book aside anyway.

“I’m so hungry, Sid. I work so hard.” Geno contrived to look pitiful, and the hell of it was somehow he managed it. It was something in his eyebrows, the droop of his mouth.

“I bet you did.” It came out too fond to be any kind of chirp.

They ate, and they fucked again – a bizarre, out-of-season luxury, usually possible only in the summer, when there was no one around to notice all the hours Sid and Geno seemed to spend together. This time they took it upstairs. Sid pressed Geno into the wall and framed Geno’s face with both hands, and he kissed him until they were both out of breath, until Geno was a heavy, firm line pushing into Sid’s stomach. “What do you want?” Sid breathed into Geno’s mouth.

Geno made a noncommittal noise in his throat. He shifted away from Sid and stripped: efficient, not a show at all, but the emergence of his long wiry legs and thick ass from under all those layers made Sid’s mouth water anyway. Geno sprawled out on the bed on his elbows and his belly, his head hanging low from his shoulders. The pale light from the window caught the expansion of his ribcage with each quick breath. Finally he looked back over his shoulder. “Please, Sid.”

The words were soft. Geno was loud and shameless about his wants in bed, on the ice, for dinner – except when it came to this. After years of fucking, he was still shy about his ass.

Sid swallowed down the sharp, sad feeling at the base of his throat, and he stripped. He palmed Geno’s thigh and coaxed until Geno let him slide a pillow underneath Geno’s hips. He straddled Geno’s knees, squeezed a dollop of lube onto his fingers, and touched Geno’s hole.

Geno hissed. “Cold.”

Sid was cold all over, goosebumps pimpling up and down him. It couldn’t be above fifty in the house, and usually he loved the prep, but this time he couldn’t wait to start moving again. Probably he should give up those fantasies of fucking on the ice. “You’re okay,” he said.

Geno grumbled, and then Sid pushed a lubed finger in, and Geno clenched around it with his entire body. “So fucking sensitive,” Sid said.

Geno’s face was pressed to the bed; his unintelligible mumble was probably some variation on Fuck you. That was why Sid usually loved this part: how much Geno got out of just getting fingered and how embarrassed he got about it, red-faced and cursing and yet outraged if Sid suggested they stop.

Today the moment felt too fragile for teasing. He squeezed Geno’s haunch, reassuring. It didn’t feel like enough, so Sid bent forward and pressed a kiss to the skin. Geno shuddered.

“You okay?” Sid murmured.

“I’m okay.” Geno’s breath seemed loud in the still, frozen silence house. “Keep going.”

He squirmed around Sid’s fingers. After Sid finished with the lube, he fucked Geno with them: slow thrusts at first, then shallower and quicker, in time with Geno’s breath. Every one of Geno’s shudders seemed to echo in Sid’s dick.

Finally, frustrated and needy, “Sid.

Sid squeezed the meat of Geno’s thigh again. He rolled the condom on. He was achingly, dizzyingly hard; he was a little breathless with it. “Yeah?”

Geno spread his legs a little wider. “Yeah.”

After all the squirming and swearing and the deep, deep flush that stole down Geno’s back as Sid worked his fingers into him, it always eventually came down to this: Geno open and waiting. Impatient, as Sid took too long and Geno threw an irritated look over his shoulder. Sid could only grin at him. He got up on all fours, lined himself up, and took the plunge.

Geno groaned, a long, guttural sound from the center of him. He was hot and tight around Sid. Sid withdrew and thrust again. All those meditative thoughts about how beautiful and precious and absurd Geno was got lost in the glide in and out again, the burn in his thighs, Geno’s delicious heat and the room’s chill.

Sid bent against Geno as he came. He pressed his face to Geno’s back and let it take him: heat sparking along his nerves, up his spine and down his legs. He gasped harsh breaths against Geno’s skin.

It took him a while to start to move off of Geno. Geno grunted in discontent. “Cold,” he complained again.

“Don’t you want to get off?”

Geno grumbled some more while Sid pulled out and climbed off. Obligingly Geno rolled over at Sid’s tug, as though letting Sid get his hands on Geno’s dick was Geno doing Sid a favor. Sometimes Sid talked through this, teasing Geno or telling him how great he was: confessions he could never quite make to Geno’s face. He had to say them to cameras for other people to hear, or here, where he could pretend Geno wasn’t paying attention and wouldn’t notice that Sid meant them.

But the stillness of the house, of the frozen outdoors, stilled Sid, too. He worked Geno silently, pressed into Geno’s side for warmth and to feel each shuddering breath, until Geno came with a sigh, curling into himself.

Sid pressed a kiss to Geno’s temple and moved to climb off the bed. Geno caught Sid’s wrist. “Stay.”

“I’m just going to get cleaned up.” Sid squeezed Geno’s hand, and reluctantly Geno let go. Sid tossed the condom in the trash and returned with a hot washcloth to carefully wipe Geno off. Then, at Geno’s urging, he climbed up behind Geno and pulled the down duvet over them both.

Sid woke with Geno’s face burrowed into his neck. Sprigs of Geno’s unruly hair tickled Sid’s chin. Sid stroked Geno’s back until finally Geno stirred. “What time?” Geno mumbled.

“Two? I dunno. Dark in a couple of hours.”

“Mm.” Geno’s hand closed over Sid’s hip. His thumb brushed across Sid’s skin, idly, without intent. Eventually Sid’s stomach growled. Geno huffed a laugh and shifted his hand to pet Sid’s belly. “So angry all the time. Nobody feed you.”

Sid shoved at Geno. Geno cackled. “Like you aren’t a bottomless pit,” Sid said, shifting away and climbing out of bed. Fuck, it was cold. “Do you want to go see if the store’s open? I didn’t leave a lot in the fridge. I didn’t think I would be here.”

“Not enough green, so sad,” Geno said, but he crawled grudgingly out from under the duvet.

Sid slid the car twice on the way, the second time trying to make the turn into the grocery parking lot. Thank fuck for the studded tires. The store was dim, clearly running on generator power. Sid bought meat and greens and milk, and also a pint of chocolate ice cream that he hid under the kale. Geno bought cocoa powder and peanut butter. “You have oatmeal?” he asked. “What kind?” Dissatisfied with Sid’s offerings, he disappeared to the cereals while Sid paid - in cash, because it was a cash-only operation today.

The house seemed even darker inside than when they’d left, though there was still some daylight left, pouring thinly through the windows. Sid lit candles in the kitchen while he put away his supplies. “I gotta get a generator,” he told Geno. “What if this happened when it wasn’t below freezing outside? Everything would go bad in a day.”

Geno paused in his candlelit perusal of Sid’s pan cabinet to shoulder against Sid. “It not freezing, there’s no ice storm.”

“No, but I mean—oh, shut up.”

Geno grinned with his tongue caught between his teeth, and then he ducked into the cabinet again.

“What are you even looking for in there?”

Geno triumphantly emerged with a medium-sized sauce pan.

“Are you going to cook?” Sid asked, bewildered. They were both in trouble if that was Geno’s plan.

“No-bake cookies,” Geno said smugly.

Sid groaned. “Carol-Lynne should never have taught you how to make those.”

“Vacation, Sid. Five days, we eat what we want.”

“Well,” Sid hedged. “I already bought ice cream, though.” So much for that secret.

Geno hummed and nudged Sid with his hip, and otherwise he did not pay this worthy objection any attention at all. Sid watched at Geno’s elbow while Geno melted the butter and poured in the sugar and milk. Finally Geno swatted at Sid with the sticky wooden spoon. “Don’t have to hover, it’s fine. I don’t burn anything this time.”

“Oh.” Geno glanced over at Sid, eyes curious. Sid shrugged away all the things too soppy for Geno to hear. “I was just keeping you company.”

“Oh,” Geno said softly. “Okay.”

Sid stared determinedly into the pan. “Besides, someone has to mix up the peanut butter and oatmeal, right?”

“Oh, fuck.”

Laughing, Sid went to find the big aluminum mixing bowl they’d used the last time Geno had demonstrated his no-bake cookie prowess. At least cookies had actually resulted that time. The time before that, Geno had forgotten to put the milk in, and they’d discovered not only did sugar and butter not boil, but if they waited long enough, it would scorch the wooden spoon.

Eventually he handed the bowl over to Geno so Geno could pour bubbling-hot chocolate sauce into it, and together they hurriedly dolloped cookies onto wax paper before the whole mixture hardened in the bowl. Geno tried to grab a cookie immediately, but it fell apart on the paper, and he hissed and stuck his fingers in his mouth.

Sid laughed at him, and he laughed more and more until finally he couldn’t breathe quite right, until Geno started to look a little concerned.

They ate leftover chili heated up on the stove, and then Geno piled a plate high with now-cool cookies and carried it into the living room. “Need fire now,” he said, looking expectantly at Sid.

“You’re a lazy fuck.” Sid shook his head and knelt to get the fire going again while Geno looked on with supreme satisfaction. By the time Sid had the fire crackling to life, the last of the light through the windows had faded. Sid took a flashlight to the kitchen and came back with a handful of candles that he lit on coffee and end tables. Then he settled in next to Geno on the couch and pulled a heavy blanket over them both.

The world had shrunk to the radii of light cast by the fire and Sid’s feeble candles. The only sounds were Geno’s easy breathing and the occasional pop of the fire. It seemed reasonable, even likely, that there was no one left on Earth but them.

“Geno,” Sid began.

“Mm.” Geno peered at Sid’s forehead.

“What?” Sid tried to twist away from Geno’s stare, but he was still wrapped up in the blanket, and he couldn’t go far.

Geno leaned in. Cautiously he poked at a curl near Sid’s temple. “Think maybe you get gray hair.”

Sid pressed his face into Geno’s shoulder, because it saved him from any of the dumbass things he wanted to say to that: Am not and You too! and others equally childish. When Sid had recovered, he shifted so he was looking into the fire and not at Geno. His head resting on Geno’s shoulder, he said, “I don’t really like palm trees.” Geno made a questioning noise, very reasonably. “I mean, I don’t care about them. But I would’ve liked them with you.” Sid could say it here, in the near-dark, while Geno wasn’t looking at him. “I just—I wish you wanted me there. With you.”

Geno found Sid’s hand under the blanket, and he ran his thumb across Sid’s knuckles. The words seemed to echo louder as the silence drew out. Just as Sid was considering crawling out of their coccoon and going to hide under his duvet, alone, Geno whispered, “I want.”

“What?” Sid said, startled and too loud.

Geno flinched and drew his hand back. “I want you come with me, but maybe people think it’s weird. I think people look at us, and they know.”

“Know what?” Sid asked. His pulse was loud in his ears.

Geno stared down at the curve of Sid’s knee under the wool blanket. “Know we’re boyfriends.”

“Geno.” Sid didn’t have any other words. They’d disappeared on him, every single one.

“Is true, right?” Geno turned pleading eyes on Sid. “We fuck for three years, you know.”

Sid laughed, incredulous. His eyes were suddenly wet. “Yeah, Geno. I think we’re probably boyfriends.” Geno nodded to himself, looking lost. “Is—is that bad?”

Geno’s voice was still hushed. “So long, I think it’s just fucking. But then you want to come to Miami with me, and I get scared. And then you’re upset, and I get more scared, because it’s real, you know?”

“Yeah,” Sid said shakily. “It’s, uh. It’s pretty real for me, I guess.”

“For me, too,” Geno whispered.

“Shit, Geno.” Sid hid against Geno’s shoulder again, for different reasons this time. After a moment, a hand landed on his head and began to pet his hair. Sid grabbed for Geno’s other hand and held it tight, and finally he gave up hiding and looked for Geno’s face, though the view was still blurry. “You’re really fucking important to me, you know.”

“It’s because of power play, yes? What you do without me?”

“I don’t know.” Sid shook his head, laughing softly, and then he pushed up to catch Geno’s mouth, wet and warm and tasting of chocolate. Geno closed a hand around the back of Sid’s neck and skimmed the other along Sid’s ribs, under his shirt. Sid hummed against Geno’s lips.

After a few breathless moments, Geno pulled away. His eyes were wide and troubled: not what Sid had been hoping for. “I don’t know how to do, Sid. How to be. We tell people?”

“I mean, maybe? Sometime. It’d be nice, right?”

Geno’s expression suggested deep uncertainty about that.

“I think it’d be nice,” Sid mumbled.

“You want?” Geno searched Sid’s face.

“I mean I—I’d like to tell my sister. My family. They think I married hockey, probably. Except for Taylor, she—” Sid cut himself abruptly off. Geno raised an eyebrow. Sid confessed, “She guessed about you, I think. I told her there was someone. A guy. A while back, I told her.”

Geno brushed a lock of hair behind Sid’s ear. It immediately sprang free again. “You’re more brave than me.”

Sid considered that for half a second, which was twice as long as the notion deserved, and said, “I don’t think that’s true.” Geno seemed primed to disagree, and Sid kissed him. He kissed his boyfriend. He wasn’t close enough, so he abandoned the blanket and crawled onto Geno’s lap, straddling his thighs. Geno gripped Sid’s ass with both hands, and Sid laughed into Geno’s mouth, giddy, breathless.

Geno looked up into Sid’s face, searching. He traced a finger along Sid’s jaw. “You’re so happy,” he said wonderingly.

“Well, yeah.” Sid grinned. He couldn’t help it.

Geno pressed his face into Sid’s chest. After a moment’s surprise, Sid began to stroke a hand up and down Geno’s back. Geno’s shoulders shook gently for a little while. Sid started to worry about putting Geno’s legs to sleep.

Finally Geno shifted back. Still staring at the Pens logo of Sid’s hoodie, he said, “I think if it’s change between us, changes are all bad.”

“Yeah?”

Geno nodded. He lifted his red-rimmed eyes to Sid’s. “But maybe it’s not. Maybe some good, too.”

“Maybe so. I think—” Sid squeezed Geno’s shoulder. “I think it could be good, yeah.”

Geno exhaled slowly. Inhaled. Sid brushed a tear from under Geno’s eye, and he bent and kissed him again. Gentle at first, then deeper. Geno surged up against Sid’s mouth. Sid thought he had aged out of fucking three times in one day, but clearly not. He reached down between them and gave Geno a squeeze, and Geno groaned.

They dragged their jeans down over their asses while Sid made his best effort to kiss Geno’s brains out, and in between all he somehow ended up sprawled on top of Geno on the couch. Sid ground down against Geno, and Geno rolled his hips up, and they kept at it until they came in their boxers, sweaty and desperate, like teenagers.

They got up just long enough to strip out of their filthy boxers and scrub away the worst of the jizz before stretching out again. Sid ended up wedged between Geno and the back of the sofa. Good thing Sid had bought a deep one. “We should go upstairs,” Sid murmured.

Geno grunted sleepy disagreement. “Vacation. Sleep where we want. And fire’s nice.”

Sid smiled against Geno’s neck. He craned his neck over Geno’s head and peeked an eye open at the fire. It was burning down now; without any help, it’d be down to coals in an hour or so. Sid settled back down and let his eyes fall shut.

“Sid?” The word rumbled through Geno’s chest and Sid’s, too.

“Yeah.”

“When flights start again, you want to come to Miami with me?”

Sid fisted a hand in Geno’s shirt. “Yeah, Geno. I really do.”

“You don’t even like swimming.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

Geno arm draped over Sid’s waist. Not pulled or pressing, just there. “You come, then.”

Sid sighed out the tension in his shoulders, always the last holdout. “Okay. I’ll do that.”

The fire crackled. Geno was warm against him, and outside, the world lay frozen and still.

[end]