And Years Gone By

Ice checked the address he’d written on the back of a receipt to some Mexican fast food joint. This was definitely the place, though he didn’t know why he doubted that; “Marine Research Institute” the sign declared, beneath the name of some rich dead guy with an odd love of marine life. The building was new, all concrete and plate glass shining green in the sunlight, tucked away on an empty bit of coast in LA county.

It was five-thirty when Ice spotted him coming out of a side entrance, alone. His hair was shorter now, the blue tips long gone, but Ice could still recognize him in an instant, easy as breathing. He didn’t wear glasses anymore, either. Ice frowned a little. That face used to be his secret, something he only saw in the dark when he peeled Ceasar’s clothes off and kissed the skin beneath.

Ceasar didn’t notice him skulking there across the street, just strolled casually towards the adjacent parking lot, fishing around in his pocket for his keys. Ice darted across the road, halting in the middle to let a truck whiz past. Ceasar still hadn’t seen him, was checking his other pocket and frowning. Ice ran the rest of the way and circled around, sneaking up behind him.

“Hey,” Ice said, and Ceasar stiffened. He didn’t turn around. He didn’t have to. Ice slipped a hand onto Ceasar’s shoulder. He hadn’t thought this through at all, but he swallowed hard and smiled and asked, “You got time for a drink?”

* * *

They undressed each other in the entryway of Ice’s suite, kicking off their shoes by the door, tossing the rest all over the room on their way to the bed. Ice might have blamed the wait, the years apart, the anticipation, but in truth he’d always been like this when they were together, every time, every day, it had never been enough. Everything about Ceasar made him desperate. He could remember sitting beside him at lunch one day, and the smell of his skin had driven Ice insane. That had been years ago. The same scent intoxicated him now. Would he ever get over this, he wondered?

“You’re still so—” Ice said.

“Shut up.” Ceasar was pressed against him, gripping his hair too tight. Ice could feel his heart thud in his chest. “Shut up,” he said again, and kissed him hard, and maybe Ceasar was a little desperate, too.

Ceasar’s cell phone rang soon after they’d finished, while they lay together breathing heavy in the dark. Ceasar sat bolt upright and scrambled out of bed, following the ringing to where his pants had ended up on the sofa. “Hello?” he said, and Ice sat up and listened. “Sorry, I met a friend from high school and we went out for a drink. I didn’t realize it was so late. What did you do for dinner?” Ceasar paced around the room, and his expression softened. “That’s not a real dinner and you know it. I guess it’s okay, though. I’ll be back soon.” He glanced at Ice. “I love you,” he said into the phone, and hung up.

“Who was that?” Ice asked.

Ceasar hesitated, staring at his phone. “The guy I’m living with,” he said after a moment’s pause. “Michael.”

Ice was quiet. He clenched the sheets in his hands.

Ceasar smiled wryly. “No respect for guys who sleep around, right? Sorry.” He pulled his clothes back on as he spoke, one piece at a time. “It’s your fault, though. I’d have never done it if it weren’t you.”

“Leave him,” Ice said, the words leaving his mouth before he could stop them. “I love you more.”

Ceasar’s hand was already on the doorknob, his knuckles going white. “Don’t come looking for me again,” he said, “Please.”

Ice looked away. He heard then door open and then click softly shut.

* * *

A few subtle enquiries had lead Ice to an elementary school not far from where Ceasar worked. There was a name written on a scrap of paper, crumpled in Ice’s fist almost beyond recognition. Michael had taken Ceasar’s surname. Ice strolled into the office and dropped the paper on the secretary’s desk.

“I need to speak with this guy,” Ice said, “Can you call him in here for me?”

The woman at the desk arched a perfectly groomed eyebrow before smoothing out the paper and picking up the phone. She punched in an extension number and spoke briefly with someone. She looked up at Ice. “He’ll be here shortly,” she said.

Ice nodded and slumped against the wall. His pulse sped up. He hadn’t thought this bit through very well. What was he going to say? “I fucked your boyfriend the other night. Dump him so I can steal him back. I loved him first.”

When Michael finally came in, though, all Ice did was laugh and laugh.

* * *

Ceasar opened the door and found Michael gripping the hem of Ice’s coat. “Dad,” Michael said, “This man came and got me out of school early. He said he needed me to show him where our house was. Is he a bad guy? Or a good guy? Should I run and get a policeman?”

Ceasar’s face fell and he swallowed hard. “Nothing like that, Michael,” he said, and forced a smile. “Why don’t you run over to your aunt’s house for a few hours while I talk to this guy? Make sure you call me when you get there.”

Michael glared up at Ice. “You’re the guy Dad met the other night, right?”

“Yeah,” Ice said, “That’s right.”

“Then you better not make him cry this time,” Michael said, starting off down the stairs, “Or I’ll beat you up.”

Ice laughed as he watched Michael bolt down the street. “Cheeky kid you’ve got there.”

Ceasar sighed. “Come in, then,” he said, heading into the living room. Ice followed behind him.

“Rose lives near here, then?” Ice asked.

Ceasar nodded. “She was friends with the people who used to own this place,” he said, “so I got a good deal on it.”

They sat on opposite ends of the couch in silence for a time.

“Why’d you lie to me?” Ice asked finally. “Do you know how mad I was? And how sad? My chest hurt that whole night.”

Ceasar fidgeted. “It wasn’t a lie,” he said. “I am living with Michael. I never said he was a boyfriend or anything. I just thought it would be easier if you gave up on me.”

“Ceasar.” And Ice’s hand was on Ceasar’s shoulder, and his voice was cracking.

Ceasar looked over at him. “You really haven’t changed at all,” he said. “Not a wrinkle or a grey hair in over ten years.” He laughed softly. “I guess I’d always hoped that it wasn’t true.”

Ice frowned, “What does that have to do—”

“I’m getting old, Ice,” Ceasar said, cutting him off. “I go to bed at ten-thirty. I make peanut butter and honey sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and I write Michael’s name on the paper bags I pack them in, and I go to PTA meetings, and I have grey hairs. I’m getting older and you’re not and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Ceasar looked away. “Why’d you have to come back? I was over you. Everything was fine.”

Ice started to laugh.

“What’s so damn funny?” Ceasar fumed, and he looked exactly like he always had. Ice laughed again and pulled him close.

“Thank god,” Ice breathed into Ceasar’s ear, “That’s all it is.”

“It’s kind of a big deal,” Ceasar sputtered.

“Not it’s not.” Ice’s hand crept into Ceasar’s hair. “Even if I look like this, I can still make sandwiches and go to PTA meetings. What difference does it make if your hair’s grey and mine’s not? I’ll dye it and you’ll never know the difference. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Ceasar gripped Ice’s shirt unconsciously. “It’s not that simple, you idiot,” he said. “I’ll keep getting older and you won’t want me anymore, because you’ll be young still and I’ll be repulsive, don’t you get it? You won’t want to stay with me. You think you will but you won’t.”

“You’re the idiot,” Ice said without hesitation. “Do you know what I’ve thought about every day since you left? I’ve thought about how good you smell, how warm you are, how my arms fit around you just right.” He squeezed. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as I have you here. I can’t believe you thought it would matter. This is all I need.”

“Ice—”

“Please,” Ice buried his face in Ceasar’s neck, “Don’t ever leave me again. Don’t send me away.”

Tears dripped hot down Ceasar’s face. “Okay,” he said, and smiled.

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