DISCLAIMER: These characters aren't mine; but I think I treat them better.
SUMMARY: Next in The Iceman Cometh.
ARCHIVE: Besides Surisa, are there any others?
NOTES: I suggest you read the first two in the series before you bite into this one.
Thank you to everyone who gave me so much support and encouragement for this series; especially to She of Few Words. I realize I suck at responding to feedback, but I promise that it really does mean a lot to me. :)
FEEDBACK: See above.

by Alestar

Do you ever notice the craftsmanship of sheets?

Do you ever get close enough to see the intricate weaving?

Think of all those factories burning day in and day out, and the overweight, myopic, hair-netted blue collars, slaving to bring you the luxury?

Me neither.

I'm almost to that point, though. It's my third hour of wide awake-ness, and I'm still unable to get closer to my door than two feet. I've already counted the trees outside my window, rearranged the pillows on my bed, and paced every square inch of my room. And I had plenty of time left over to contemplate just carrying on, pretending nothing's happened.

But I can't do that. It would just be another lie.

Or would it? I mean, really. Would it be that much of a lie to just stop playing it...y'know, straight, and that be enough, instead of proclaiming it to the world that I'm...that other thing.

Christ, Bobby, listen to yourself. You can't even say it. A simple word. A small word. Just say it. You. Are. G-A-...

Jesus. What am I going to do?

It'll be simple. I'll just go downstairs, eat breakfast like usual, and do everything like usual, and if someone happens to ask me, Why Bobby, are you...not straight?, I will answer them truthfully and say, Why yes, I am...not straight. And it'll be fine.

I give a small, self-deprecating laugh, ready to settle into another hour of brooding.

But a knock on my door interrupts me. I start, spinning around to stare at the door in histrionic suspense.

"Bobby...? Are you awake?"

It's Hank.

It's a few moments before I realize that I'm expected to reply.

"Yeah, Hank, I'm up. I'm just..." avoiding my problems by refusing to deal with them "...looking for something to wear."

Looking for something to wear? I never was very creative.

Silence from beyond the door for a moment, and then

"Bobby, may I come in?"

I hesitate for a moment, then realize how stupid that is. I walk to the door and open it. Hank is there, with an admirable attempt to hide the concern in his eyes.

I stand there for a moment, in the doorway, waiting. Hank waits patiently, then, after a moment repeats

"May I come in? For but a moment?"

I start, and then step to the side with a nervous laugh.

"Oh, yeah. Heh. Yeah, come in. I was just, you know, cleaning up."

"I see," he says, looking around at the immaculately neat room. "I was merely wondering if we might talk for a moment or two."

I swallow. I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready to talk about it, and I'm not ready not to. I'm not done with my hiding-in-my-room bit yet. I manage a smile.

"Sure, Hank. What's up?"

He makes his way over to my bed, and plops down.

"Bobby, are you feeling well?"

"Feeling well? Yeah, I feel fine. I'm, you know, just. I'm just. I'm feel fine."

He watches me for a moment.

"Bobby. You've enclosed yourself in this room for almost three days..."

Three days?!

"...and before that, you walked about in a dreary half-cognizance, precipitous with fatigue..."

Jesus, I slept for three days.

"...And, Robert, though you needn't feel that you have to talk to anyone, I'd like for you know that I would most certainly be willing to listen to your problems..."

Three fricking da-

"...with Opal."



"Bobby, I know that you've taken your estrangement from Opal very hard. It's quite understandable."

Jesus, he thinks...

"Oh, yeah, Opal. Of course. It's been pretty har-"

// "I got into a, uh, fight." //

Hank waits expectantly.

// "Of course I like her. She's a girl, isn't she?" //

My words catch in my throat.

// "Yes, sir, that's what I meant." //


No more lies.

No more half-truths.

No more.

"Hank, I.... I'm not upset about Opal and me. It never would've worked out, never could've. See..."

Hank waits patiently, and I feel my throat close up, protesting.

Just tell him. He's your best friend.

Exactly. He deserves not to know.

But he wants to know. He's here, asking you.

Because he doesn't know what he's asking. If he knew-

"Bobby. Tell me."

I look at him.



"I'm gay."

Hank's features retain their perfect stillness, not so much frozen as untouched by the wave of time; and it might have been comical under different circumstances, if my heart were actually beating. Before he can say anything, though, I begin talking at speeds that would put Quicksilver to shame.

"...and she told me I'd never be happy, and she was right . ."

"...and then I started having these nightmares, with this Monster and a boat and..."

"...was horrible, and that's why I've been so tired..."

"...until tonight, or three nights, or whatever the hell..."

"...didn't think I could tell you, tell anyone, but I guess I did..."

He sits, still as ever, letting me exhaust my oxygen, until I have to either stop for a breath or pass out, which actually crosses my mind as an option. I have no choice but to pant for breath and look to him for a response.

He stands, slowly, and I hold my breath.

Jesus God, he's going to walk out of here. He's not going to say anything; he's just going to walk out. Please, Hank, don't.

He walks over to the chair which I've flopped myself down in, and squats down until he is on eye level with me.

And then he smiles.


"It's okay."

If I had had any breath to hold, it would have all come wooshing out in a rush. As it is, my shoulders slump forward, and I feel all my energy, all the energy I've been penting up in defense and anticipation of -- I don't know: disgust, horror, rejection? -- drain from my body.

"Hank, I...Thank you. I was afraid that...that you..."

And my vision blurs, and I curse and turn away, make to stand up and walk away; but Hank catches my arm, and turns me back toward him.

"What did you think, Bobby?" he asks softly. "That we would turn away from you? That, somehow, something would change?"

I manage out a choked "Yeah."

He smiles.

"Surely you know us better than that, Bobby. We fight everyday against unreasoning intolerance."

// "The world around you is not covered in ice." //

"I know you. We've been best friends for twelve years, three months, seventeen days, ten hours, and" with a brief glance at the digital clock resting on Bobby's bedside table "and forty-three minutes. Surely you realize that nothing you could ever do would change that, nor the fact that this is your home."

// "It beats alive and warm with vitality..." //

He stands up, and offers out his hand.

"This is your home. Now come downstairs and eat breakfast."

I cannot speak, so I simply don't. I take the hand mutely, and enjoy a morning of cheese and bacon omelets.

In my home.

continued in "Chicken Soup" >>

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