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The Flame beneath the Ice

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The warmth was close and comfortable. Gradually it seeped into his dream until he realized he was awake.

Moving closer to the warmth, Vinnie shifted onto his side and opened his eyes. He squinted as daylight drew the blurred colors into focus, and stared blankly at the vision in front of him: a tan shoulder and back, a mass of mussed dark blond curls.

Recognition came, swift and cutting: Roger Lococco.

Oh shit.

Vinnie rolled onto his back and succumbed to the headache which had been waiting to overtake him. He closed his eyes, mentally retracing his steps back to last night.

One of Profitt's yacht parties. Drugs and sex in such abundance you forgot how expensive they were. He remembered Susan mixing him drinks and watching him with such want in her expression he half-expected her to suggest they take the risk and go up to her stateroom.

But Susan had disappeared, called to her brother's side, out of reach. After that, events became hazy, but he remembered Roger showing up, taking her place at the bar and mixing drinks, making small-talk with a familiarity which probably should have seemed suspicious.

But it hadn't, and the alcohol-induced haze had thickened, lingered... Vinnie remembered Roger helping him down the corridor to his room. Something about the boat rocking... Remembered falling back over the bed... Remembered Roger's brief, quiet laugh as he joined him.

It had all seemed so natural, so inevitable, last night. A few deep, intense kisses. Their bodies claiming and receiving touches and heat. It had seemed so casual... Harmless...

Vinnie groaned as his headache pounded harder. Harmless. Yeah, right. As "harmless" as sleeping with Susan, he supposed, recalling the desire and need in her eyes when she looked at him. A look of fatal attraction. Fragile beneath her calculations, she'd reached out to him with a desperation to be loved outside the closed circle of Mel and Susan, Susan and Mel. And Vinnie had willingly responded, knowing the dangers but feeling her loneliness as much as his own.

Roger, though... Roger was like a cold fire. Something that threatened to melt you until you realized the stinging burn was really frostbite. Roger could open the door a little -- he had in Valdusta Ridge -- and he could just as easily slam it shut on your fingers when you tried to reach in.

Answering Susan's desperation had only made him feel his own more keenly. He wondered why he thought that getting past Roger's barriers would be any different.

Vinnie felt Roger's body shift next to him, moving closer, and wondered if this was the door opening or closing.

He opened his eyes, blinking. Roger was propped up on one arm, his face hovering close.

"Headache?" Roger asked, smirking slightly.

Vinnie nodded, feeling a strange, surprised relief that Roger hadn't simply bolted out of bed the second he'd woken up. Maybe that door was slightly ajar after all.

Roger tsked and looked him over in assessment. Then he reached out and touched his fingertips to Vinnie's temples, started rubbing gently. Vinnie's initial reaction -- utter shock -- wore off as Roger's ministrations took effect and his headache began to subside.

He watched Roger's face, his features softened by concentration, and felt a renewed desire, a renewed longing for contact. To touch and be touched, and perhaps reach inside.

Roger lowered his eyes to meet his gaze and slowed his fingers. "What do you remember from last night?" he asked quietly.

"Enough," Vinnie whispered, reaching up and brushing his hand over Roger's forearm.

Roger's gaze didn't waver. Vinnie stared back, into depths of green lit by topaz gold. Roger's face seemed closer than it really was; Roger licked his lower lip and for a moment Vinnie felt a phantom touch on his own. Felt a sweet, lingering ache.

Slowly Roger outstretched his fingers, threading them through Vinnie's hair, lowering to kiss him. At first hesitant, a long, soft, inviting kiss which intensified Vinnie's want into a need impossible to deny. Vinnie clutched Roger's shoulders and deepened the kiss, enveloping Roger's tongue in hot, swirling wetness, hungrily sucking.

Roger's tongue glided like thick velvet in his mouth, delving deep, teasing him with its moves. He answered it with taunting scrapes of his teeth, jabs of his tongue. He slid a leg out from under the sheet and hooked it over Roger's calf, pressing closer, his body seeking the solid warmth of Roger's flesh.

A low, humming breath filled his mouth as Roger moaned. He felt Roger's fingers fall from his hair and roam his body, kneading and caressing. He sank one hand into Roger's curls, insinuating the other between their bodies to grasp Roger's cock and hold it firmly, feeling heat rush through it as it hardened. He bit down on Roger's tongue as his own cock curved over his thigh, swelling thickly.

Roger lifted from the kiss, panting softly, his eyes alight with unconcealed lust. Vinnie met his gaze, wanton desire flaring up inside him, and gave Roger's cock a determined squeeze. Roger attacked the nape of his neck with a biting kiss and dragged a hand over Vinnie's hip to brush against his cock. Vinnie arched forth as Roger drew his thumb along the shaft and flicked the edge of his thumbnail against the tender tip.

Roger skimmed his teeth up the curve of Vinnie's neck. Whispered roughly, "I wanna fuck you."

Vinnie shook with longing, now achingly hard. Needing to feel Roger's body joined to his, to feel Roger's lust echo his own. Needing this contact, however brief and explosive. Not pausing to question it, not wanting to.

"Yes," he hissed. Keeping his legs tangled with Roger's, he stretched back and reached for the bedside table. Roger kissed and bit across his chest, sliding an arm along his, taking the plastic tube from his fingers. Roger grazed his teeth over Vinnie's left nipple before shifting back.

Anticipation flooding him, Vinnie rolled onto his stomach, gasping as Roger's fingers sank into his ass, stroking slick gel. He took a deep breath and started to rise to his knees when Roger grabbed his hips and held him in an iron grip. Vinnie braced himself for the thrust, bucking forward when it came, Roger's body heavy heat on him, slamming into him.

The initial shock of pain dissolved as Vinnie recognized Roger's hunger, let it feed his own famine. Pressed against the bed, holding Roger's searing flesh tightly inside, he rammed back, matching Roger's relentless, deep rhythm. Followed it, groaning hoarsely as his senses blurred with the assault of pleasure, and dizziness washed over him. Roger bit the slope of his shoulder and he was catapulted back to hyper-awareness, thrashing and pulling.

Roger's cock was thick and burning inside him, bearing down, moving with increased urgency, faster, harder, propelling him into an almost bodiless state of pure fulfillment. Their flesh combusting, fusing together as they crashed headlong into ecstasy, bolts of energy shooting through them.

Vinnie shuddered against the bed as the fire rolled through his flesh, as he felt Roger thundering against and inside him. Drowning in molten satisfaction, he lay still, lungs begging for air. Roger withdrew, collapsing over him, panting hotly against his neck. Another wave of dizziness dashed at him as he closed his eyes and lost himself to the sensation of Roger's weight locking him down.

He dozed off, physical satiation diluting mental and emotional uncertainties into exhaustion. When he awoke a while later, Roger had slid to his side. He felt the brush of Roger's knuckles over his back and made a muffled grunt of satisfied welcome. Roger's hand fell away.

Vinnie rolled onto his back and opened his eyes to see Roger climbing out of bed. The questions started bombarding him then, clogging his mind with confusion and doubt and surprise and... relief. Relief, yes. Roger could be touched after all, could make contact.

Roger threw on his trousers and Vinnie felt a tightness creep into his gut, sensing there was a precarious balance between them he was in danger of losing.

"Roger?" he said, voice hoarse and quiet.

Roger continued dressing without pausing. "Yeah?"

Vinnie started to sit up, resting on his elbows, searching for words. The feeling of closeness, of contact, was disappearing, bleeding away, and his mind worked, seeking the link which would bring it all back.

But as he searched, reaching back into disjointed memories of the night before, something else tread into his thoughts, insidiously nagging. Susan. He was supposed to meet Susan. He glanced at the bedside clock. Now.

Cursing silently, he slumped back against the bed. Roger was watching him expectantly, buttoning his shirt. The moment had been lost, though. Whatever words he could have found were gone, blotted out by a new urgency.

"I'll see you later," he managed to say, smiling slightly, hoping to imply a casual intimacy which could leave the path between them open.

Roger returned his smile without revealing any particular emotion and said, "Yeah." He threw on his jacket and left the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

Vinnie hurried to dress, pushing aside the faint unease Roger's indifferent departure had left him with, thoughts of Susan crowding his mind.

He was heading from the yacht, passing the lounge, when he heard a sound. Mel's voice. He slowed his footsteps, listening.

"... near my sister," Mel was saying. Vinnie stopped next to the door, standing back, out of sight.

"He's not with Susan," Roger's voice said, sounding weary but edgy. "I left him not 15 minutes ago." Vinnie froze. Roger was telling Mel...

Mel spoke again, voice low, confident. "Left him with a smile on his face, huh? Good."

Vinnie waited for Roger's reply, releasing the breath he'd been unaware of holding in. But Roger made no reply, and Mel continued, "Keep him happy, Roger. Keep him satisfied. And keep him away from Susie."

For a moment Vinnie simply stood there, unable to move, unable to take in the words, their meaning, the situation. But the moment quickly disappeared as anger rose up in him, bleak and powerful. His first impulse was to storm into the lounge and tear Roger into pieces; he flattened his hand against the wall to stop himself from following it. Making a scene could only make the situation worse, anger Mel into doing God-knew-what, make him miss his date with Susan. Vowing to confront Lococco later, he slipped past the lounge and left the yacht.

-----

Vancouver was blanketed in grey clouds which cried just enough cold rain to be irritating. Vinnie strolled along the waterfront park, wind lashing in his face, sense of futility deepening with each step. The park was deserted, not a soul in sight. He couldn't blame her. He was an hour late, and Susan Profitt was not the type of woman to stand in the rain waiting. He stopped to watch the waves lapping at the embankment. What kind of woman was she? He knew he couldn't answer that, and felt a strange emptiness tangling with his frustrated desire.

Staring into the water, he pictured Susan rushing to her brother's side, heard Mel's voice saying, "Keep him away from Susie." Relived the silence that had been Roger's reply. Lococco. That motherfucker. A gust of wind barreled over him, cold over the heat his reanimated rage poured into him. Later was now. He left the park to find Roger.

-----

Vinnie met Roger's Chinese housekeeper leaving the loft. Nodding silently, she waved him into the service elevator and bowed before disappearing into the rain. Vinnie rode up, momentarily forgetting his anger to ponder the puzzle of the tiny, always-silent woman -- who was she? how did she fit into Roger's fast-track life? -- until the elevator stopped and he caught sight of Lococco.

He was welding, working on another monstrous metal sculpture that from a distance looked like skeletal forms climbing over each other. White sparks flew from his blowtorch in a wide halo, flickering golden light bathing his face. Vinnie approached slowly, letting his fury build with each careful step, searching for and finding the kernel of his anger and holding it deep.

He was less than a foot away from Roger's shoulder when Lococco finally acknowledged his presence, switched off the blowtorch and set it down. Vinnie watched silently as Roger slid off his protective goggles and started to smooth a hand through his dark blond curls. Something about the movement of his hand set off a trigger inside Vinnie. He could feel the heat of that hand, feel it against his bare skin, knew its strength, its surface. An inferno of longing twisted inside him, meeting his rage, exploding in a quick, hard punch to Roger's jaw.

Roger doubled back, his surprise already transforming to equal anger. Not bothering to check the stream of blood trickling from his lip, he lunged at Vinnie, knocking him to the floor, rolling over him. Everything happened in split-second bursts. Vince was pushed face-down against the floor, his arms nearly ripped from his shoulders as they were pinned back. Felt a kick against his shin as the crushing weight that was moving above him finally slowed. He caught his breath, closing his eyes briefly as pain flared over him.

Roger was straddling him, holding his wrists back, pushing him into the floor with all his weight. Something sharp ate into his gut and he wondered if he'd cracked a rib on the fall. He tried moving to ease off the sharpness and was immediately pushed back down.

Roger's hot breath blasted his ear. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

The hoarse whisper flowed through him, stirring his senses, as his body adjusted to the pressure, recalling the weight of Roger's body over him, the feel of Roger's cock buried inside his ass. Desire bit into his anger, fighting, clawing. He gathered his strength, keeping still until he felt the slightest change in the solid mass bearing down on him. Rolling, squirming free, he turned over, kicking Roger away, landing a kick on Roger's temple before sliding back, across the floor.

Roger sat up and stared at him, gasping in breath. Vinnie was panting, half-sitting, half-sprawling a few feet away. Aches, sharp and dull, spread over his body. He willed his strength to tense readiness, meeting Lococco's dark stare head-on.

"I want you," Roger whispered, his voice harsh, like a slap.

Vinnie didn't have time to reply, Roger was over him again, running his hands over anything within reach, ripping his shirt open, yanking his jeans off. Shaking with hunger, Vinnie grabbed at Roger, pushing his boots off, unzipping his boiler suit, and captured the warm, naked body beneath. Attacking without precision, he kissed and bit whatever flesh his lips touched, aware only of a maelstrom of heat moving through and over him.

A muffled moan caused him to pause. He glanced down, saw Roger's face pressed to his thigh. His hands continued their explorations, more leisurely, sliding down Roger's back and over the smooth arc of his ass. He grasped the firm cheeks, parting them, and maneuvered between Roger's thighs to lick the hot path behind his balls.

Roger leaned back a little, welcoming, covering his inner thighs with soft, tormenting bites. Vinnie's tongue reached the tight opening of Roger's body and laved at it as Roger dove between his legs, tongue washing over his balls. Vinnie held him tighter, arching as his cock pounded fiercely. Roger slid his mouth along the straining shaft, closing a hand around the base. He rubbed his lips over the tip before imbibing the head, stroking the ridge with his teeth. Vinnie gasped and gave Roger's ass a soft squeeze before sinking lower, mouth watering for Roger's cock.

Too hungry to tease, he enveloped it, sucking richly, discovering its taste and every curve of its shape with his tongue. Roger rocked over him, taking his cock deeper, drinking steadily, mouth flowing with restless thirst. Vince moved with him, losing himself to the subtle rhythm of their bodies giving and accepting pleasure. A lulling motion that drew him deeper, poised on the edge. Ready to burst when Roger's teeth raked over his shaft.

He jolted, thrusting, wracked with shudders as release came, swift, hot, and overpowering. His throat opened for a wordless cry and Roger's cock filled it, pulsing thick seed. He swallowed desperately, sucking harder, spinning into intense, aching ecstasy. Waves of sensation lapped at him as Roger released him, their bodies sliding away in trembles, finally split apart.

Without hesitating to think about what had just happened, Vince shifted to blanket Roger with his body, pulling him into a slow, deep kiss, tongue gathering and sharing the mingled tastes of their come. Roger accepted his kiss, drank from it, burying one hand in his hair to hold onto him. As the last remnants of aftershock wore off, Vince drew back, staring into Roger's eyes, catching the faintest glimpse of something open and vulnerable before the shutters fell, blocking him out.

A tiny spot of blood smeared under Roger's lower lip. Vinnie noticed it, recognition sinking in as his eyes strayed to the discoloration on Roger's jaw. A jabbing pain kicked at his side and with a weary groan he stretched out over the floor, watching Roger, remembering why he'd come here. He remembered Mel's words, remembered the silence that was Roger's reply.

"Roger," he whispered, then paused, searching for the words which would bring them closer. Roger looked at him questioningly for a moment, then looked past him, lifting his eyes. Vinnie followed his line of sight, turning to lie on his back, and looked up into the sweet, silent face of the Chinese housekeeper.

"Preet," Roger addressed her quietly, sitting up. He didn't say anything more, but she walked off, returning shortly with a towel and a damp cloth. She bowed and handed them to Vinnie, then disappeared into the shadowy reaches of the loft.

They cleaned and dressed in silence. Vinnie watched Roger, waiting for either a confrontation or an obvious rejection. Instead, Roger surprised him by sitting down on the floor and saying, "I can have her bring some tea if you want. Or a beer or something."

Vinnie sat down facing him, shaking his head. "No thanks." Still feeling his way through this fragile closeness, he kept his eyes on Lococco, finally saying, "Listen, about that punch..."

Roger's lips slowly curved into a crooked smile. "Yeah, what about that?" he asked, his eyes glinting with something more perilous than the smile revealed.

Unsure if the glint was a warning or a threat, Vinnie ignored it for the moment. "I came here to beat the shit out of you, Roger. I overheard you and Mel talking."

Roger's smile cooled before vanishing altogether, but his eyes sparked with something other than anger. At first it seemed like shame, but Vinnie let go of that impression as Roger said nothing.

"I don't care about that now, not really," he continued, speaking carefully. "I mean, I do, but I also know the truth, Roger. I've felt it. It doesn't matter if Mel told you to sleep with me, I know what you felt--"

He stopped abruptly, chilled by Roger's look. Cold, hard, lethal. There was a moment of silence before Roger spoke, voice low but brittle. "If that's what you think happened, you know nothing about it."

"I heard him say it," Vinnie countered, unnerved by Roger's coldness as much as his words. "He said, 'keep him happy and away from Susan.'"

Roger's stare drilled into him. "Mel Profitt pays my paycheck, Vince. I may work for him, but I don't lay down for him, not with anyone, you understand? He doesn't own me." He stood up, looking down at Vinnie. "I play by my own rules."

Vinnie's uneasiness dissipated at that. He stood up and met Roger's stare confidently. "No, you don't. You play by someone else's and pretend they're your rules too."

To his surprise, Roger actually looked startled, but only for a second. Then his expression closed up again. But not his reaction. He walked away, pacing restlessly, seemingly ignoring Vinnie standing there, watching him.

"You think it matters about Mel?" Vinnie said. "It doesn't, not to me."

Roger continued ignoring him, picking up his goggles and blowtorch, circling his sculpture-in-progress. Vinnie walked up close, laying a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

"Don't you ever get tired of this?" he asked. "Tired of shutting everyone out? Tired of feeling lonely?" Roger stared at him impassively. Vinnie released his shoulder but didn't move away. "Don't you ever want your life to get easier, not harder?"

"Loneliness is easy," Roger said, voice barely above a whisper. Vinnie stepped aside, at first not sure what he meant, then understanding completely. There was that damn door, shutting in his face.

"Fine," he said disgustedly, grabbing his jacket and stalking off. "Tell yourself what you have to, Roger, but just remember I felt the truth. I know what's there."

He didn't wait for a reply, if Roger even made one. He slammed the elevator door down and rode to the ground floor, stepping out and into a dark, rainy afternoon.

-----

Vinnie's sleep that night was deep, the energy and emotions slowly draining away in unconsciousness. He woke up groggily, surprised when the clock told him it was not yet dawn. Something warm moved closer, a weight in his bed. Roger. He rolled onto his side to reach for him and stopped cold.

"Good morning, Vinnie," Susan said, smiling as she untied her negligee and let it fall from her shoulders. She slid over to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You know, I was very disappointed in you yesterday. You kept me waiting." She kissed him softly. "I really should be angry with you, but somehow I just can't find it in my heart..." Her words trailed off as she covered his neck in warm kisses, the soft feel of her lips against his skin a stark, ardent invitation.

Vinnie gathered her body to his, answering her desire. Melted into it, let it consume him, scald away his longing for Roger, his doubts and questions. Let it numb him into acceptance. Accepting love out of desperation, aware that the closeness he wanted, that he'd almost realized with Roger, was a prize sought, and lost.

(the end)