Matt was passing the infirmary on his way to the bunk room after taking a night watch, and he saw a light inside. He stopped. In the stillness of the night he faintly heard music. Wild polar bears couldn’t have stopped him from opening the door and peeking inside.
Peter sat at his desk, a lantern beside him. The music came from a battery-powered tape player that looked like it had been here since the base opened in the mid-1980s. He looked up at Matt and smiled.
“Come in,” he said softly.
Matt didn’t need telling twice. He walked to the desk with only a trace of a limp. His ankle was healing nicely, and he’d discarded the crutches a week ago. Peter still insisted he wore a pressure bandage for another month as support, like an old lady with varicose veins. But Matt was willing to do anything Peter asked. He sat in the chair on the opposite side of the desk from Peter.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked.
Peter shrugged. He reached for the tape machine as if to turn it off, but Matt said, “No, leave it.” It was playing classical music, which Matt knew nothing about. But he didn’t want Peter to turn it off on his account. “Is that, um, Mozart?”
“Beethoven,” Peter said. “Third symphony.”
“It’s, ah, nice.” He grinned at the side-eye Peter gave him for this presumably inadequate assessment.
“He dedicated it to Napoleon,” Peter said. “When some people saw Napoleon as a liberator. As the great hope of a new enlightened Europe. But Napoleon’s later actions made Beethoven angry, and he famously crossed out Napoleon’s name from the manuscript of the score.”
“Right. That Napoleon. Bit naughty by all accounts.”
Peter chuckled but then became serious again. “History is all we have left. Humanity, I mean. Everything is in the past for us.”
This was a lot heavier than Matt had hoped for from a middle-of-the-night chat with Peter. “Are you saying humanity has no future?”
“Human culture as we know it, the one we built over thousands of years, is gone. Nobody will ever publish a book again. There are no more orchestras to play symphonies. Nobody will ever build a car or launch a satellite. There are no more sports teams. No more baseball or football games.” He half smiled at Matt. “Or cricket or rugby.”
“Blimey, it’s worse than I thought.”
Peter snorted and shook his head. Matt didn’t like the despair in his voice. Didn’t like the sadness. He hated the thought Peter might become depressed. Peter had taught him and Louise to watch for signs of depression in the others and themselves. It wasn’t surprising anyone might become depressed in this situation, and a couple of the group had gone through some dark times. But was Peter falling prey to it himself?
“We can rebuild culture,” Matt said. “It will take a long time, I know. But we’ve done it before. Like…like Europe after the Black Death.”
“This is worse. Much worse in terms of numbers. But also the victims of the Black Death didn’t rise from their deathbeds and wander about attacking the survivors.”
“And how much was lost even then, of what we’d built?”
“So we make something new,” Matt insisted. “We start from where we are and use what we have. We built so much from a smaller base before. We can do it again.”
“We’re too scattered,” Peter said, shaking his head. “Little pockets of people can’t do much.”
“Then we start to concentrate together again. Sooner or later we’ll do that. Then it all starts again.” He grimaced. “We might even get some stuff right this time. Someone should leave a message for them—Knock it off with the CO2. You’ll thank me later.
Peter didn’t laugh. He looked at Matt for a long time, until Matt felt heat rising up his neck and into his face. He wanted to turn away, embarrassed, but Peter’s eyes held him transfixed, deep and black in the dim light. The music swelled from the tinny speakers of the cassette player. Peter spoke quietly.
“Come into my room.”
Matt gulped. He’d heard that right, hadn’t he?
“What…for?” he managed to say, stupidly. Peter, voice low and soft, answered him.
“You know what for.”
Matt jumped up so fast he toppled his chair. While he was busy righting it, Peter rose, picked up the lamp, and walked into his room. Matt almost ran after him.
Peter set the lantern down by the bed as Matt closed the door, then turned to him. The lantern lit his face from below, giving it a strange and unfamiliar look. As if he were another man. A stranger. Matt saw, startled, that the picture of Peter and Harrison was missing from the small cabinet Peter used as a nightstand. He glanced around to see if it was on the wall or a shelf, but it was too dark. He hoped it was in a drawer someplace. He’d feel a little self-conscious with Harrison watching him.
The fact the picture was gone, put away somewhere or at least no longer right by the side of the bed, watching over Peter, made Matt realize Peter had not asked him in here on a whim. He’d planned to do so. Matt gulped again, abruptly feeling the pressure. This was going to happen. At last, after nearly three years of wanting it. Which meant it had better be damn good.
He walked to Peter, who welcomed Matt into his arms. Pulled him close. Kissed him. A momentarily awkward kiss, lacking the spontaneity of most kisses Matt had participated in. But pleasure quickly overwhelmed all feelings of awkwardness. Peter’s kiss was firm, dry, tasting of toothpaste. Matt opened his mouth to let him inside, and Peter pressed his tongue in quite…politely. Gentle and careful. Probing, not thrusting and demanding. Matt sighed and his knees softened. He melted against Peter, who laughed and tightened his arms around Matt, holding him on his feet.
“You want to sit down?”
They sat on the bed. Peter already had his shoes off. Matt leaned down to take his off, stashing them under the bed. He straightened, and Peter was waiting for him with another kiss.
“We don’t have to rush,” Peter said when they broke for air again. Matt was red-hot in his clothes. But he waited for Peter to set the pace, even as he worried that Peter would change his mind. “I’ve made you wait for a long time. I don’t want this to be a quickie.”
“You haven’t made me wait,” Matt protested. “You’re under no obligation to me. You didn’t want to. Now you do. I wasn’t waiting before.” He smiled. “Though I have to admit to hoping.”
“I know.” He stroked Matt’s hair. “And believe me, it’s been difficult to resist you. From day one, not only since we were trapped here. You’re beautiful, Matt.”
“Um, right. Thank you. Uh, you too.” Wow. He had to learn to take a compliment more graciously. “Look, I don’t want to push, but I’m burning up here. Either I have a fever and need your medical attention, or…”
Peter began to help Matt out of his clothes. Matt returned the favor. Both wore several layers because the furnace burned low at night. In the winter Matt had slept in a parka more than once. But tonight they both had on a mere three layers above the waist and two below. Sweaters, which they peeled off over their heads. Flannel shirts under those, which they unbuttoned for each other. Matt pulled the loose shirt off more quickly than Peter and then got stuck when he realized he hadn’t undone the cuffs. After a moment of fiddling about and cursing, he got it off. Peter reached for the zipper of Matt’s jeans, and Matt gasped. Peter looked at him.
“Yes,” Matt said. “Of course. I just… I can’t believe this is real. I keep thinking I will wake up in my bunk any second.”
“It’s real,” Peter reassured him. Getting the zip down gave him some trouble. “Perhaps we should stand.”
They got up, and that made it a lot easier and faster to get out of their pants. This left them only in thermal underwear, and Matt giggled.
“Funny, you never see models in GQ
in long winter underwear,” he said.
“There’s probably a niche market for it. But you shouldn’t worry. You look good, whatever you wear.”
“You obviously didn’t see some of my fashion disasters from when I was at uni.” He pulled the thermal T-shirt off over his head quickly. Peter was in a good old-fashioned union suit, all one piece. He peeled it off and stood before Matt in a pair of rather gray, much-washed cotton briefs. Matt, never one to be left behind, skinned out of his long pants and dropped them on top of the heap of his clothes on the floor. He took a breath and stripped off his shorts too.
His cock, free, stood up and pointed at Peter as if to say, You, yes, you. Come on over here.
The thought made him chuckle nervously. A sudden chill draft caught him, and he shivered. Peter noticed and frowned.
“Let’s get into bed,” he suggested.
Matt dived for it, in first. Peter took a second more, discarded his briefs, and climbed in naked beside Matt. Moving close was instinct, not only desire. Seeking the warmth of each other.
“Oh man,” Matt said with a long sigh of delight. “That’s so good.”
“I haven’t even touched you yet,” Peter said.
“I meant being in bed with you. You’re so warm.”
“So you’re only after me for my body heat?”
“It is the best way to keep warm, after all.”
In the worst of the winter, he’d sometimes slept crammed on the bunk with Stav or Edvin, and Louise said she and Chandra did the same. He’d wondered if Jay and Professor Crawford did too. Vicky had Kasper. Nobody had wanted to snuggle with Brooks, and nobody would have dared to ask either R.J. or Peter. As much as Matt had wanted to ask Peter.
It was different this time. Better. He hadn’t been naked with Stav or Edvin. They’d sometimes been stripped down to their thermal underwear and ignored any importunate morning stiffies. Being naked with Peter was a quantum leap in coziness. It was clearly true that the best way to share body heat was to be naked while doing it. For a while they lay together, hot skin pressed together. Faces close, breath mingling. But their cocks swelled and shifted between them, until Matt groaned and started to grind against Peter.
“Peter. Oh, love, I need you. Please, touch me.”
Peter stirred himself. He stroked Matt’s face, then leaned in to kiss him softly. But Matt was more urgent, pulling him closer. He whispered out a plea again. Peter moved, rolled on top of Matt, then straddled him. The blankets hung from his shoulders like a cape. The cold air swept across Matt’s chest and belly, making his nipples hard enough to be painful. The slight draft on his hard cock made him whimper. So hard, so desperate for Peter’s touch. Peter stroked Matt’s cock. A gentle caress with two fingers.
“Don’t worry about coming fast,” Peter said. “We have plenty of time.”