Fire and Ice
By John Yager

Copyright © 2006

Usual stipulations apply. All my stories can be found in the NIFTY Prolific Net Authors section. I also maintain a notification list.  If you'd like to be added to it, let me know at the e-mail address below.

I have thanked Andrew in the introductions to most the stories I've posted on NIFTY for the great help he has given me in proofing and editing.  Just because of the frequent repetition if my thanks it may have been seen by many readers as a casual thing.  It is not.  Without his help and support I would not have been able to continue creating these stories.

jvoyager@hotmail.com

As I began writing this story I clearly remembered that icy Thursday evening. The traffic on Lexington was heavy, very heavy, and the streets were already beginning to get a little slick. At Stephen's Road I turned right and made my way over to the convenience store at Scott. My meetings had run long and I was looking forward to getting home and out of the increasingly lousy weather.

What food did I have at home? I thought, as I made a dash for the Quick Shop door.  The place was crowded with other people making a hurried stop on their own way home, not wanting to have to go out again. I knew I had a couple of steaks and some chicken.  If I remembered correctly, I might even have a pot roast in the freezer.  My supply of vegetables was adequate so I just gathered up a half gallon of milk and a carton of ice cream and made my way to the check-out line.  There was a good supply of fire wood in the garage, so I could stay comfortably warm, even if we did lose power. Yes, I thought, if the weather really got bad and everything shut down, I'd survive in style and even enjoy a few days of solitude.

Leaving the store, traffic on Scott was a bit better, albeit moving at a snail's pace. After a mile of so, it sped up to something approaching the speed of a turtle.  I pulled into my own drive a little after seven.

By then the icy drizzle had become unrelenting. The forecast said we were in for snow.  Snow wasn't so bad, but it was looking more and more like we'd first get ice. Ice was not good. Tree limbs could snap and power lines come down. With ice storms the city usually came to a sullen, silent stop.  I'd known it to last three or four days, until emergency crews got streets cleared and electrical and telephone services restored.  It was Thursday evening, I reminded myself.  I could easily be shut in until Monday.

I turned on the radio and put the kettle on the stove.

When I went into the front hall I found a pile of mail which had been slipped through the slot. Most of it appeared to be bills and ads, but one smaller note-sized envelope immediately caught my eye.

RMC was printed in the upper left corner of the envelope and below it the familiar address in Dalton.  Tearing it open I found the short note, written in Bob's usual bold hand.

"Hey, Stranger," it began.  "I'll be coming your way on the tenth.  How about you putting me up and me popping for dinner and a few brews?"

I remembered the last classes Bob taught were on Thursdays that term.  He was sometimes able to escape other academic responsibilities on Fridays. making for a three-day weekend.

I looked at the postmark and saw it had been mailed a week earlier. Why had it taken so long to reach me?  I looked at the envelope again and saw the reason. Bob had transposed the second and third number of the postal code.  His note had obviously been bouncing around post offices all over the Midwest and upper south.

Today was the tenth and I had a sudden image of Bob out on the interstate fighting his way through sleet and ice and snow.  It was then, returning to the kitchen, that I saw the little red light on my telephone message machine blinking.

"Hey, John," Bob's disembodied voice said as the first message, recorded that morning, began. "I've not heard back from you and wonder if maybe you're out of town. I'll chance it and come on anyway.  If we don't connect I can head for the Best Western or the Holiday Inn."

The machine gave a beep and moved on to the second message, which had been recorded a little over an hour before.  "Hey John, if you're there, you can expect to see me about eight o'clock.  I'm just east of Murrayville. It's sleeting but the roads are still okay.  See ya."

My visits from Bob were not to be taken lightly.  Yes, they were sexually charged, but always emotional and usually problematic as well. He was an attractive, very appealing man, but a troubled man as well.  I often told him his life was a mix of fire and ice, the fire of passion, of lust and of his fear of hell. But his life was also bounded by ice, the ice of isolation and guilt, the frigidity of his intentional remoteness from others, from his real self and from the realities of life.

Looking at the kitchen clock, I saw it was half past seven.  If Bob made it, he'd be famished.  Even if he really wanted to take me out for a meal, the weather would soon make such intentions impossible.  Besides, I knew Bob was always starved, in more ways than one.  I opened the freezing compartment of my frig and surveyed the inventory.  Chicken seemed the easier choice, so I took out two boneless, skinless breast and set them to thaw in a bowl of water while I turned on the oven and got two large potatoes in to bake.

Just as I finished the phone rang again.

"Hey, John," Bob said when I lifted the receiver. "You are there!"

"Yes, and I just found your note."

"It just arrived? What's wrong with the postal service?"

"Don't blame the post office, smart ass," I laughed. "You screwed up the code."

"No way!"

"Yes, it's true, Robert Michael Callahan can and does make mistakes."

"Shit."

"You can see for yourself when you get here. By the way, where are you?"

"I am there . . . here.  I just turned off Hickman."

"Come on then. Dinner will be ready in about an hour."

Ten minutes later I heard Bob's car pulling into my drive, the wheels crunching on the rapidly accumulating sleet and ice.  I went out into the garage and hit the button, opening the overhead door.  "Pull on in." I called out, directing him to park in the empty space next to my car.  If it was going to get bad there was no reason for his buggy to be out in the drive getting coated with ice.

"Oh, man," Bob said, getting out of the driver's seat, "it's getting bad out there."

I hit the control and the door closed, leaving us in the gloom of the cold garage.  Bob came around the front of his car and gave me a big hug.

"Good to see you, buddy," he smiled.

"Good to see you, too." When we hugged again, his lips found mine.

"Come on, it's too cold out here for that," I said, taking the larger of his bags and leading him into the kitchen.

"An hour till we eat?"

"Yep, just about."

"So is there time for a shower?"

"Sure, you know where it is."

"Show me."

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. It wasn't as if he didn't know his way around my house. I led the way back to my bedroom where we each put a bag on the floor.  I turned on the bathroom light and turned to let him enter when he took me in his arms again.

"Let's shower together," he whispered as his lips brushed my ear.

"Do you want dinner?"

"Yes, eventually, but I want you first."

How could I say no to such an offer?

We peeled out of our clothes and in less than a minute we were in the shower as hot water cascaded over us and our kisses became hotter than the water.

We lathered each other, letting our sudsy hands roam over shoulders and arms and chests.  His body was so familiar to me, as mine was to him. We paid even more careful attention to each other's crotch and ass and were soon so aroused that something more than touching was desparately called for.

"You know, John," Bob whispered between kisses, "you keep posting those hot stories on the internet.  How come you've not written one about us."

"You're in several of my stories, fellow," I said. "Bits here and pieces there."

"But I want you to write one just about us, about me.  I want you to write one where I am identifiable as me."

"Real name and all?"

"Well, not that identifiable.  Change my name but use one that still leaves me Irish."

"Irish-American," I corrected.

"Well, okay, or American-Irish." He paused, then added, "Maybe you'd better change the places too, you know, to protect the innocent."

We both chuckled.

Then, turning and placing his splayed hands against the tile wall of the shower, Bob leaned forward, thrusting out his rear, and whispered two of the most melodious words one guy can say to another. "Fuck me."

Needless to say, I complied.

Grabbing a handy bottle of body lotion from the shelf just outside the shower, I coated his nimble ass and began to open it up.  I inserted one finger, then two, and then a third before he began to beg me to stop with the digits and plug him with my cock.

Bob loves getting fucked.  He can also be a not so willing top, if really pressed, but what he wants is to be taken, roughly, fast, given a swift, hard fuck which leaves him whimpering and babbling like a baby, spent, but still wanting more.

I fucked him like he wanted, taking complete control, letting him know I was in charge, letting him know he'd given himself to me.  It had been his choice but now there was no turning back.

It was fast and aggressive and it didn't last long. I knew if the weather got as bad as predicted, we'd be holed up together for at least a day or two.  There'd be time for subtleties later, when the urgency of our need had been met.

When we'd both come, I in his ass, Bob in rivulets on the tile wall of the shower, we held each other, gasping for air, our wet, naked bodies pressed together. The hot water drenched us as we slowly revived.

"Damn," Bob finally murmured, "damn!"

Later, dry and dressed in sleeper slacks and baggy t-shirts, and eating together at my little dining room table, I began to see the change come over him.  I'd seen it before and knew what was in store.  The sparkle of our recent passion died in his eyes and a somberness came over him.

The chicken was good, really good, and the chardonnay I'd opened complemented it perfectly.  Bob, however, was, by then, paying very little attention to the food and wine.

I made no attempt to force the conversation.  When Bob got like this it was better to let him take his time, better to let him work it out in his own way, at his own pace.

We were both silent as we finished our meal.  I cleared the table and started a fresh pot of coffee.  It was looking like we'd be up late, quite late.  If Bob got on his usual streak, we'd probably talk late into the night. As I looked out the widow over the sink I saw my back yard was white.  The freezing drizzle had been followed by sleet, which in turn had been followed by wet, clinging snow.  It looked like there must be a couple of inches on the ground already and the steel-gray sky looked heavy.  We could have well over a foot by morning.

Bob was still sitting at the table and had made no attempt to help me clear the dishes or serve dessert. He looked like shit and I knew what was coming.

"Damn, John," he murmured as I put coffee and cake on a tray and led him into the living room. "I shouldn't have let you fuck me."

I sat down opposite him and silently sipped my coffee.

He was looking down at his mug.

"I don't think it was a question of you letting me, fellow," I eventually said. "Seems to me you were begging for it."

"I shouldn't have let it happen, any way you put it."

"So now the guilt sets in."

"Shit, yes, John.  How could I let it happen?"

"What did you have in mind when you headed this way?  What do I have to offer that Dalton didn't?"

He was silent again.

"I'm not queer, man," he whispered. "I don't want to be queer."

I got up and stood by the window.  The snow was getting heavier and its weight on the already icy limbs of trees was beginning to have the inevitable results.  There was a sharp snapping sound from a hundred yards away across the street and, in that eerie luminosity which always come with snow, I saw the limb of a big maple split, striking a power line. Sparks flew and the lights in half a dozen of my neighbor's houses went out.

"Did you talk with your sister, Bob? The last time you were here you said you were going to discuss it with her."

"I couldn't do it," he whispered.

"You used to say you'd never come out to your folks, but they're both gone now.  You said you'd talk to your sister." I put my mug down on the table and went around him, putting my hands on his hunched shoulders, gently kneading the knotted muscles. "You need to talk it out, Bob, if not with Ann, with somebody."

"I talked with a priest."

"Confession?"

"Sort of, but not the old style bench in a booth." He was silent again and then added, "In Father Sebastian's office, more like a counseling secession."

"What did he say?"

"What do you expect he'd say?" It was almost a grimace.

"I'm not Catholic, remember."

"He said if I couldn't love a woman and live a normal, married life, I had to be chaste, celibate."

"Right," I responded, trying to keep the skepticism out of my voice.

"I know I'm going to hell, John."

"Did the priest tell you that?"

"He didn't have to.  You can't be raised in an Irish Catholic family and not know it."

"Yeah, I guess," I admitted. The weight of his guilt was like an inheritance.

"God, I want it to stop."

"Wanting men?"

"Wanting men, wanting sex with men, wanting you."

"I'm not the only man in your life, Bob."

"No."

"I wasn't even the first."  I wasn't going to let him put his guilt on me.

We were the same age and had met in college. By then we both already had a fairly long history of sexual involvements.  Bob's, by his own admission, had involved only men, boys at first, then men.

My own interests were more ambidextrous.  In fact, when Bob and I first met I was dating his sister.  Ann was a year younger and had proven to be an eager and blissful playmate.  She loved sex and had no inhibitions.  Any Irish Catholic guilt she had was easily put aside.  Now, ten years later, she was happily married and the mother of two great kids.  Whatever she and I had had was behind us and she seemed to suffer no scars.

Bob, on the other hand, had many scars, including some inflicted by a sadistic priest when he was thirteen years old.  The physical marks had faded but the emotional scars were still very real.

"I care for you, Robert Michael Callahan," I whispered as I kissed his ear. "But I don't know what to do to help you."

He turned in his chair, suddenly sobbing, and embraced me.  It as an awkward position for both of us.  I was standing bent over him; he was seated, his arms circling my hips.  By some odd quirk of fate his face was nestled in my crotch as his sobs continued and his wet tears blotted through the flannel pajama bottoms I'd pulled on when we'd left the shower.

"Come on, man," I said softly, "let's get you to bed."

It wasn't late, only a little past ten, but I saw no future for this conversation. We'd had it before, many times before. The best thing to do was to get Bob to bed and let him sleep.  In the morning he'd be better.

I pulled the covers over him and returned to the kitchen, where I washed up while I watched the late news on the little TV on the corner cabinet.  The snow was expected to accumulate to over two feet and local schools were already announcing that there'd be no classes the next day, Friday.  I figured we were in for a long weekend and decided then and there I would call in the next morning to say I had work I could do at home and wouldn't make it in to the office.  I suspected my secretary would also stay home and I'd just be leaving a message on our voice mail service.

Back in my bedroom, I got quietly got under the covers. Bob quickly move over and snuggled against me, his arm encircling my chest.

"I'm sorry, John," he whispered.

"It's okay," I whispered back.

"No, it's not," he said, a little louder this time. "I'm a grown man, John.  I know I can't blame my situation on anyone else and it's time I came to terms with it, one way or another.  I can't always be running here to cry on your shoulders."

"Or my crotch," I couldn't help volunteering.

It got a little laugh.

"You know what I mean."

I rolled over to face him.  Soft light reflected off the new snow and filtered in the windows onto the bed.

"I know you're hurting, Bud, and I want to help."

"How come the whole sexual thing is so much easier for you?" he asked.

"I don't know," I admitted. It always had been.  "I guess I just accepted who and what I was at an early age. It never was much of an issue."

"And you don't feel any guilt about it?"

"Not so long as I behave toward others in what I judge to be a responsible way."

"Sex by the golden rule?"

"Yeah," I laughed. "I'd never force myself on anyone and I'd never do anything with another person that I didn't think they wanted me to do."

"You make it sound so easy."

"Well, not something I get all bent out of shape over."

He was silent for a while and I began to think he'd fallen asleep.

"Do you believe in hell, John?" he eventually asked, his voice very low.

"Yes," I said. "I believe in alienation and separation, of running into darkness instead of light, of fleeing good, seeking evil."

"Do you think God sends us there?"

"I think it's more likely we send ourselves."

"So you think it's a choice?"

"Yeah, I guess," I said, trying to put into words what I really believed. "I think we have chances all the time, choices between good and bad, choices between treating other people with kindness or cruelty, caring or disregard."

"Do you believe in a judgment, a last judgment?"

"Yeah, in a way," I said. "Maybe it isn't just at the end.  Maybe it goes on all the time."

Bob was silent again and when he spoke it surprised me, not just that he spoke, but what he said.

"The Creeds say Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead."

"I know," I responded.

"Do you believe that?"

"Do you remember how Jesus spoke to the woman accused of adultery?"

"Yeah," Bob whispered, his voice almost too soft to hear. "He said her sins were forgiven."

"Yes."

"But he also said to sin no more."

We were both silent then.

A while later I kissed his ear.  "Do  you  think she did, Bob?"

"What?"

"Sin no more."

"Probably not."

"And would Jesus have forgiven her again?"

"Yeah, I guess he would," he said.  A moment later I sensed his breathing had changed.  He was finally asleep.

The next morning I woke at seven.  Looking out the window, I figured the snow was well over two feet deep, probably three feet in places that mattered, like the inevitable drifts against my garage door and in my driveway.

From the living room windows I could see that there had been no traffic on the street.  The snow lay in unblemished splendor all the way from my house to the houses across the street.  Not even the newspaper delivery guy had been by and I knew he drove some sort of four-wheel monster which could navigate through just about anything.

The broken limbs I'd seen fall the night before lay half buried in the thick snow, surrounded by a tangle of cut wires.  My side of the street looked less damaged and I presumed my immediate neighbors and I still had power and telephone service.

I went quietly into the kitchen and called my office.  No one was in at that hour, but I left voice mail messages for my secretary and Roger Oliver, with whom I had scheduled a meeting, letting them know I'd not come in, even if classes were canceled, as I assumed they would be.  Most of our students lived in town and commuted, not in the dorms on campus.  A snow like this made it next to impossible for faculty, let alone students, to safely travel.

That done, I made coffee and turned on the radio to listen to the morning news.

On the international front, Palestinians were still blowing themselves up, killing Jews, who responded by firing into the Gaza homes of known terrorists.

In Washington, DC, the president was proposing new programs to combat drugs and illegal immigration.

The world was not a happy place, I thought. The best we could do was to try to make a little island of peace and tranquility and love for ourselves, surrounded by a very turbulent sea.

Looking out the kitchen window I saw the snow in a new light.  In many ways, as tranquil as it seemed, it represented that sea around each of us, forcing us in, into our own lives, into our own little contained world.

Had Michel de Montaigne been right?  Perhaps we could, even should, retreat to our own private world, our tower, and ride out the storms which raged around us.

No, I immediately reminded myself, I couldn't live like that, in privileged isolation.

Nearer to home, the radio announcer continued, disturbing my thoughts; schools and colleges, including my own, were closed and people were being asked to stay in and off the roads so snow clearing crews and line repairmen could do their work.  I for one had every intention of doing my part.

It was just then that Bob came in to the kitchen, blinking at the bright light streaming in through the windows.  The sky, after the snowstorm, had cleared and was a brilliant blue.  The sun, reflecting off the pristine white snow, was harsh, almost overwhelming.

He looked haggard, still in need of sleep.

"Coffee?" I asked, holding up a mug.

"Um, please," he said, his voice midway between a growl and a whimper.

I poured it and handed it to him, knowing he drank it black.

He downed the hot brew all at once, like an undergraduate chugalugging beer.

"More?" I ventured.

"Um."

As I refilled his mug I looked the boy over.  He was my age, within a month or two, my height and build. Otherwise we could not have been less alike. Where my hair was light, his was black.  My face rounded and my nose small.  His high cheekbones and aquiline nose gave him a more Celtic appearance, clearly demonstrating his ancestry.

"I guess you could use more sleep."

"More coffee will do," he said, his voice a bit clearer now.

"Ready for breakfast?"

"Sure, what's on the menu?"

"Eggs, sausage, toast, orange juice," I said, going to the frig.

"Great."

Bob did the toast while I manned the frying pan.  In minutes we were settling down at the kitchen table.

"There was no paper this morning," I commented as we ate. "Maybe the delivery man will be by later."

"Is everything closed down?"

"Yep, just about everything.  They are even asking people to stay off the roads so the snow clearing crews can get their work done." I reached for more toast and added, "We're lucky, I think the houses across the street lost power."

"If your electricity goes out do you lose heat?"

"Yes, the furnace is gas, but the controls and fans are electrical. But I can keep the living room warm with a fire in the fireplace and I have a good supply of wood in the garage. I have even more stacked in the back yard, but that's under a couple of feet of snow."

We were silent as we finished breakfast. Bob helped me wash up. Once done and still in our pajamas and robes, we went off to build a fire.  The house was warm without it, but the thought of an open fire on a cold, snowy day, was too appealing to resist.

Finally, nestled together on the living room sofa, a big wool throw over us, Bob returned to the conversation of the previous night.  I knew he'd get back to it, but had let him do so in his own time.

"I'm sorry about last night," he began.

"Sorry? I thought it was great," I teased.  I knew he meant his self-incrimination, but I couldn't help reminding him of the sex.

Bob turned to me and grinned. "I don't mean fucking," he said, "I mean my sob sister act afterward."

"Your guilt trips, Bob," I smiled, "are a fact of life.  I accept that.  You have sex and then you regret it.  I figure if the time comes when the qualms become so strong you can't deal with them, you'll forego the sex."

"Yeah, I guess," he agreed, his voice soft, thoughtful. "But that doesn't make the guilt any less real."

"I know," I said, stroking his thigh.

"I just wish I could reconcile my needs with my beliefs."

"That would be fantastic, but it's probably impossible," I said. "You were born the way you are, Bob.  You have needs and you repress them as long as you can. Then, when you can't stand it any longer, you respond to them.  That doesn't conform to what you were brought up to believe is moral or right."

"You think I was born . . . gay?"

"Born, conditioned, habituated does it make any difference"

"So you're saying it wasn't a choice . . . my choice?"

"You no more chose to be the way you are than I did, Bob. No more than any person chooses to be, straight, bi or gay. But," I reminded him, "we've been through all that a dozen times."

"A hundred times would be more like it."

"Okay, a hundred times."

"So I'm just another victim of Catholic guilt."

"Take your choice, buddy," I laughed. "It could be Catholic guilt, Jewish guilt, Protestant guilt, just plain Guilt guilt. We all have to come to terms with who we are, what we are, with the realities of living as good a life as we're capable of living.  Then, I guess, we leave the rest to someone else."

"Someone else you mean God?"

"Yes, God, grace, forgiveness, mercy, all that and maybe more."

"So by including forgiveness, are you admitting that you think what we did, what we do, is a sin?"

"Oh, Bob, I don't know, but any way you put it, I know my life falls considerably short of the ideal."

"And sexual sin part of what you see as falling short?"

"The liturgy includes `thought, word and deed, what we have done and left undone.' I suspect the greater sin is failure to love, failure to put other's needs before our own, not loving our neighbor as our self."

"I wish I had your confidence."

"Do you remember Flannery O'Connor's quote? `Faith is knowing what is true, even if you don't believe it.'"

"Yeah, I love that" Bob smiled. "But she also wrote, `The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."

"Touché," I said, moving my hand up along his leg. His cock was hard, as was mine.  "Are we going to have sex again now?" I asked, somewhat teasingly, but also with real seriousness.

"Yeah, right here on your sofa in front of that nice fire."

As I pulled off his t-shirt and then my own, he asked, "So is this where the story ends?"

"What story?"

"The one you are going to write about us."

"Let's see. I could finish it off with some line like, `so having put the unanswerable questions aside, they embraced again as their passions gained control.'"

"Yeah, something like that," Bob laughed as he tried to get our pajama bottoms off while keeping the warm throw over us.

"Nah," I smiled, "that would be a bit of a cop out."

"How do you mean?"

"Well first of all, I'd need to describe how our bodies molded together in the radiant warmth of the fire, how we kissed, gently, no longer just having sex, no longer just assuaging our lusts, but slowly, tenderly, making love."

"Yeah?"

"Yep, and then I'd need to describe how, after we'd kissed, after our tongues had danced, after our warm bodies had entwined, I lifted your legs, pressing your knees back against your chest, as I reached for the tube of lubricant I'd conveniently positioned just under the sofa, and slowly, carefully opened your hot hole."

"Oh, yeah!"

"Then, when you were open, ready, how I knelt between your legs and brought my own hard cock to your willing ass, lubed it and gently entered you, inch by inch, waiting after each advance until you nodded your readiness.

"When I was fully in you, you sighed."

"Oh, John . . ."

"And only then did I begin to thrust, slowly at first, but soon with greater force and speed."

"Yeah, babe, fuck me, fuck me hard."

I made it last, taking my time, not letting him get away from me, not letting my own climax or his build too quickly, slowing down when either of us got too close.

The throw had slipped away but it was okay. The warmth of the fire radiated over our naked bodies, making our skin glow.

The sofa proved too narrow for us and we abandoned it for the floor.  Bob, with his back resting on the thick, warm carpet, didn't complain.

My thrusts began to build again and this time I made no effort to delay the inevitable.  I felt my own climax building in my gut, felt my spine stiffen, my toes curl.  Then it hit me, hit me very hard.  I exploded in him, filling Bob's bowels with my seed.

Seconds later he exploded too.  His sperm bolted from him, collecting in rivulets along his chest, finding the valleys of his abs.

"Oh, John," Bob gasped.

"Yeah, babe," I moaned, hardly able to utter sound.

Suddenly I felt chilled as the sweat of our passion cooled.

"Fire and ice," I sighed.

"Huh?

"Fire and ice," I repeated.  That's us . . . you anyway."

"So what about the unanswerables?" he whispered when we'd both begun to come down.

"Still unanswerable, I guess."

"So is that the end of the story?"

"Oh," I murmured, kissing his ear, "I hope not . . . . . . ."