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Coming Out From The Cold

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Nigel had tried—he really had. But honestly, it was difficult to be entirely patient with Trey's skittishness without it all appearing a bit... desperate. If he had a spine, some might argue, he'd've long ago put to bed any notions Trey had, and quite firmly.

Yet he hadn't, and why was that? Was he really that desperate for companionship, of either a sexual or platonic nature? He had plenty of friends, after all—mates for whom the idea of skiing simply held no appeal . Hence, he was most definitely not going to take it at all personally that the two people with whom he'd come closest to exchanging vows were, according to Bug's latest phone message, planning on spending Christmas in each other's company and not on the slopes with him. Nor was he going to be spending—wasting— time thinking about Bug's intentions in asking Lily to do good works at the homeless shelter. To do so would be... uncharitable, really. Bug had, of course, recognized in Lily a kindred spirit—a fellow Good Samaritan (and it was just like Bug to break with his normal misanthropy to do a bit of philanthropy, proving beyond all doubt that he was a man to be admired, however much he disdained praise and recognition). No, Bug was a quiet man—a man who had no need of public recognition—content, as he was, to his own company. And Lily's, apparently. And if Bug's forays were successful, Nigel wouldn't be anything but pleased for them both. Lily and Bug. Together. It was high time Lily looked beyond Dr. Macy and saw Bug for the fine young man that he was.

Fine. Bloody brilliant. It was, in fact, a travesty that Lily had thus far failed to appreciate Bug, and if things failed to progress on that front, he had in mind to give Lily a good earful of advice about pinning your hopes and dreams on men who, quite clearly—

God, he really was desperate, wasn't he? Because Trey was starting to look... dare he say it... appetizing in his pyjamas, newly damp from his turn at the Jacuzzi bath. Never mind that said nightwear screamed, "Kiss me, I'm a ladies' man" a bit... loudly. Nigel never was much of a fan of satin on men. The noise it made coming off was strange, for one thing. And it didn't have the tactile pleasure of silk, catching on your skin. Still, burgundy polyester pyjamas with that little bit of skin showing at the collar had their appeal, and the color set off Trey's skin to good advantage.

"What—Oh, no. Oh no you don't."

"Trey, my man!" He tried for hearty, but, without the clap on the shoulder, the effect was somehow wrong. He could only imagine what expression of desire Trey had seen on his face just now.

"I am not your man. Oh no."

"You misunderstand me, my friend. My compatriot. My—my my my... "

Unfortunately, from Trey's expression, there was little hope that Trey had misunderstood. What to do, then? Give honest admission that he had, in fact, been admiring of Trey's various assets, without at any point presuming that he would be anything more than a voyeur?

And oh—wasn't that an image—watching Trey....

Who was now backing toward the door, not, apparently, before checking to see that it was still propped open, which would make for a quick getaway, however awkward it would be for him to leave without his suitcase, dressed only in his pyjamas.

"Look, Trey, I—really—I honestly had—have—no ulterior motive—nor any expectation—"

"Expectation?"

"That you would—that you or I—"

Trey was outside the room and had the doorknob in hand, preparing to close it, and Nigel realized he had, at best, mere seconds to clear this up before losing Trey's trust, perhaps forever.

"I have feelings for Bug," he managed, though the words were no more than a whisper that somehow echoed around the room, coming back to surprise him.

Trey opened the door back up and stepped back inside. "You—what ?" Trey was no longer looking at him like he was something predatory, which was progress, of a sort. "You—you and Bug?"

Nigel shook his head, and Trey looked vaguely anxious again, so he tried to at least clarify further, much as it pained him to do so.

"There is no and —-Bug doesn't—that is to say—"

"Aaah—ooh!—hooo." Trey shook his head, and yes, that was pity in his eyes. "You have a—an—"

"Unrequited. Yes," Nigel admitted, naming it at last. The pain was rather less like the sharp scalpel he'd imagined and more that of a seam-ripper reopening the badly healed-over suturing of his heart. Bug had often noted that he was remarkably unskilled at the closing of bodies, considering his other hobbies. And now, he found he wanted to curl over on the bed, but instead kept his back straight and stood tall. Pride goeth before a fall, and sometimes afterwards.

"So.... you are gay, though." Trey looked for all the world like he'd solved some great mystery and expected a round of applause for putting together the clues in the proper order. And Nigel, with some effort, held back any rebuttal, though more than a few choice words came to mind. Far be it from him to deflate Trey's moment of triumph, especially if Trey had apparently at last gotten beyond assuming that Nigel's own general interests in penises had anything to do with Trey, in particular, simply for having one.

Well, not much to do with Trey. A brief moment in which his libido took a wayward turn—a moment of base lust that was nothing more than a fleeting fantasy, having no real affection fueling it. The fact of the matter was that his interest in Trey's body was nothing personal.

Whereas with Bug, it was something else—something almost majestic—a thing that seemed rooted in his body and mind, wrapping it all up together, making him feel almost whole—almost....

"Wow—you, my friend, have it bad. "

He nodded, not looking up from his study of the tightly woven carpet—wool with an embossed pattern, which went a ways toward explaining the sticker price of the rooms here. Well, that and the marvelous Jacuzzi bath.

At least he and Trey were still friends. That was something.

"You say anything to him about this, er, what do you, um, call it, anyway?"

He met Trey's eyes. "Call it?"

He took a step towards Trey, stopping close enough to make the point that, pansy though he might be, he still was at least a foot taller than Trey, and could beat him in a fair fight. "You mean to ask me what's the gay word for it?"

"I—"

"Yes, I do realize that our manners and customs must appear strange to you, but surely you recognize love when you see it. Surely it's not too foreign a concept to imagine that one man might feel such a thing for another."

Nigel stopped, surprised at himself. Surely he still had at least enough control to recognize that Trey's acceptance was, and might well always be, conditional. Yes, he'd had a few drinks in the bath, and a few more afterwards, as he thought about Lily, and Bug, and Lily and Bug. And perhaps, if he tallied them up, the drinks were more than a few, a few more than he should have risked having while in Trey's company, given that drink often had the effect of leaving him both lustful and maudlin.

Sweet Nancy, he might just start crying if Trey didn't stop looking at him like that.

"Sorry. Man—look, I'll just—"

"Yes," he agreed. "You do that." Anything to stop that look of pity from continuing. Far better to have Trey return to protecting his precious virtue than this.

"Look, I think I'll just turn in now. It's late, the slopes are hot, and... we're cool, right? Because you—"

"Right," Nigel agreed, feeling suddenly too cold and fragile to consider skiing tomorrow. He had half a mind to pack up now and go home, except that he'd have to explain himself, to Bug. "Cool, mate. And tomorrow, we'll just see if we can sort out a ski bunny or two for you."

And Trey nodded, smiling just enough to suggest that they really were cool with one another, and, without another word, Trey climbed into his bed, pulling the coverlet up high. Nigel tried to make nothing of the way Trey rolled away from him and then rolled back again, always keeping his back to the wall.

But then Trey relaxed, if not into sleep, then into something close to it, and he rolled again, so that Nigel was staring at the back of his bald head.

Cool or not, Nigel knew that his own rest wouldn't come easily tonight, though Trey had apparently at last, subconsciously, decided his arse was safe from predation by one Nigel Townsend.

Nigel shivered and tightened the belt on his robe, suddenly feeling a bit exposed, though he'd chosen nightclothes that were more modest than Trey's own. The navy blue cotton flannel, normally soft, now seemed to chafe at his skin, his whole body restless with sudden need. He sat down and then shifted the chair closer to the fireplace—another of the room's amenities. If he were alone, he might give himself some ease, indulge in fantasy. He'd pretend that Bug had said yes to his marriage proposal, rather than not-so-gently mocking him. Pretend that Bug held a secret desire for him—one even he couldn't admit to, was even now masking, with his pursuit of Lily.

He was half-hard and very nearly asleep, staring but not seeing the hearth, when his cell rang.

"Hello?" he said, very quietly, getting up and going to the loo to avoid waking Trey.

"Nigel?"

"Yeah. It's me. Bug?"

"Yes. Can you hear me? The damned phone—" and then a banging sound and, "Right. That's better. Nigel?"

"Yes. What—Bug, is something wrong?"

"Wrong? No. Why?"

"It's very nearly midnight."

"And?" Bug sounded annoyed, managing to convey that with just one word. Of course, Bug often sounded annoyed with him, so perhaps he was simply reading too much into it.

"You sure everything's all right?" And perhaps it was the restlessness, or the alcohol, but the sound of Bug's voice made him feel anxious. "Is Lily—?"

"What about her?"

"Is she—with you?"

"It's nearly midnight, Nigel. Why would she be here ?"

Nigel blinked, wondering what to say.

"So... are you..."And a long pause before Bug continued. "Are you alone ?"

"I—yes. Well, no. Trey's here."

"Trey's with you?"

"It's a double room, Buggles. Trey, being my friend, is here with me, skiing ." Then he realized that, when last they spoke, Trey was still undecided about the trip.

"Riiight."

"Look, Bug—is there some particular reason you called at this late hour?"

Dead silence, for a moment. He supposed that had come out rather snappish. But no—not silence, after all. In the background, Nigel could hear voices. The television. And he could guess what was on it—one of Bug's Star Trek DVDs, most likely.

And though he was far from the fire now, the idea of that warmed him, somewhat.

"Look, Nigel... I just wanted to say—I wanted to tell you—"

"Hmm?"

"Nothing. Hang on a minute."

"Bug?"

"I just don't like skiing." A heavy sigh, and what sounded almost like Bug walking up a flight of stairs, which didn't make sense, as his flat was all on one floor.

"I know that, Buggles."

"I didn't want you to think it was—"

"You being afraid of sharing a room with me? Trey—"

"But you straightened him out, I trust?"

He nodded, forgetting, for a moment, that Bug couldn't see him.

"Nigel, just—next time, just win a trip to somewhere warm, all right? With beaches."

The tightness in
his throat easing a bit now. "Will do, Buggles. Blue waters, hot sand and
hot bikinis."

Silence, again, and then Bug cleared his throat. "You wear a bikini?"

Nigel dropped the phone into the tub, nearly falling into it himself. He heard it crack, the plastic cover separating from the rest. When he picked it up, he at first thought he'd lost the call, but then he heard Bug still there, breathing. The sound was intimate—close—like lying beside him in bed might be—another fantasy, if not for the fact that the phone was in two pieces, now, held together by the pressure of his sweaty palms, and he was standing in the still-damp tub.

"I—Bug. The phone—I dropped it—"

"So I gathered."

"I—don't know—"

"Now you do," Bug answered, his voice low and deadpan, a somewhat amused, impatient drawl, as if they were discussing the weather, and not Nigel's choice of... swimwear.

"I have a Speedo," Nigel said at last. And it was at this point that it occurred to him that he might well have fallen asleep by the fire—that this might be a dream from which he would wake, alone. At least it was a good dream, and he wouldn't have to replace his cell.

"That's—of course you do." A sharp breath. "What colour is it?"

"Blue with a grey stripe. Right down the—well. Where you'd expect it to be." Yes, a very good dream indeed, as Bug was still on the line, his breathing sounding a bit more rapid.

"What are you wearing now?" Yes, rapid breathing, though that could be because Bug still sounded like he was climbing stairs. Where the hell was he, anyway?

"Silk pyjamas," Nigel answered, because it had to be a dream, he'd decided, and he could bloody wear whatever he wanted. And the red ones he'd left at home were sexier than the ones he was wearing now.

"No you're not."

It figured that, even in his dreams, Bug was arguing with him.

"I'm—not? Yes, I am." He looked down, surprised to find he wasn't, in fact, wearing his red pyjamas.

"Idiot. I can see them, along with the rest of you."

Nigel nearly dropped the cell again as he looked up and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror across from the bath and saw Bug's reflection in the glass beside his own.

He focused on the taller man in the mirror—a pale, ghost of a stranger—clearly drunk, from the looks of him, with smudgy, puffy eyes and damp hair. He looked bloody awful.

"Idiot," Bug muttered, though it sounded almost affectionate, and Bug reached out to grip Nigel's elbow, steadying him as he started to sway a bit.

"I—"Bug." He climbed out of the tub and set the phone down, on the sink. His palms were slippery with sweat and he had to wipe them on his trousers.

Bug was there, really there in the bathroom with him, looking none too fresh himself—not surprising given he'd probably spent the last several hours driving here. Bug's boots were caked with snow, and he was wearing his winter coat and his hat with the earflaps. He looked very cute, and very annoyed.

"Bug! You're here!"

"You look like hell, Nigel. And you left the front door propped open. Stupid, anybody could've come in."

Bug turned and walked out of the bathroom and into the room proper and Nigel trailed after him.

"Sorry. Trey lost his keycard, and I left it open for him and must've forgotten to—" He stopped, realizing he was babbling like an idiot. He wiped his face with his shirt-sleeve and shook his head, trying to clear it.

Then, he suddenly remembered—Trey was here (as this was not, apparently, a dream, and thus Trey would not have faded out conveniently). Trey was still asleep, his breathing deep and even.

And Bug had really asked him about his swimwear!

"Nigel."

"Hmm?"

"I've got a room, at full price. I'm in 342."

"Oh. Good. Good. You—you're staying the night? No, of course you are. Bug—"

But Bug was already out the door and in the hallway, the door swinging shut behind him.

"Wait—hang on a minute." Nigel raced back towards the bathroom and got his phone, then looked around, grabbing his toothbrush, frantically trying to decide what else he should take. Assuming this was an invitation. Was this an invitation? Did he need his toothbrush? Perhaps Bug only wanted to talk somewhere without waking Trey. And why the hell hadn't he worn the red pyjamas? They were so much nicer than these worn, old things. Not that Bug cared either way. Did he?

"Wait—Bug—" Trey stirred, but didn't wake up, and Nigel opened the bathroom door and saw that Bug was standing just outside it, beside his bed.

"Here." Bug grabbed his overnight bag from beside the bed, tossing it at him. He somehow didn't catch it and Trey twitched but still, miraculously didn't waken at the dull thud it made landing at his feet.

Bug rolled his eyes and removed his hat, a fine dusting of snow falling onto the carpet as Nigel picked the bag up off the floor and tried to remember if his clothes were hung up or in the drawers.

Bug looked at his watch impatiently. "Nigel, get your kit and leave a note on the stationary."

"A note?"

"So Trey doesn't wonder where you are. Exactly how much did you drink tonight?"

"What should I—"

"Tell him you got lucky. Tell him you were abducted by aliens. Tell him whatever you like. I don't bloody well care. I'll be in 342."

And at that, Bug left the room again, and Nigel stared at the door feeling a good deal more than simply pissed. Room 242. 342? Or was it 422? Hell, he'd knock on them all if he had to. A lucky number indeed, if he could only remember it.

"I got lucky," Nigel wrote, noticing his penmanship was a bit shaky. I got lucky, he thought again, and said it aloud, testing it, keeping his voice at a whisper.

I was abducted by a small, bad-tempered alien with a day's growth of beard. He made wild love to me in a Jacuzzi bath, then fucked me again whilst I lay on the floor, which accounts for the rug-burn on my knees. I was bent across the desk and fucked raw by my best mate, who called out my name as he came, and who then fell across my back, sweaty and warm, his arms wrapped around me before we both slid to the floor. Later, we crawled to the bed, and I was pinned down by my surprisingly strong and determined and hirsute entomologist who stared into my eyes as he held my wrists down by my thighs and thrust against my belly with surprising abandon. I was tenderly caressed by this same man who I adore with all my heart, then called an idiot for forcing him make the first move. He summarily ignored my protest that it was I who asked him to marry me, and when I asked him to marry me again, he rolled his eyes, but held me as if he meant to say yes.

A likely story, especially as he still couldn't remember what room Bug was in.

He shook his head, checking to be sure he'd written down none of that, and, finally satisfied, signed the note,

"Not Yours, but Sincerely,

Nigel Townsend"

And finished it with a small but pronounced flourish and what he knew must be a very smug smile, because Bug really hated skiing.