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Ice Melts

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Randi used to call him a lizard when they were kids. “Because lizards are cold-blooded and creepy, just like you, Mark!” she would joke. And, okay, the creepy part was a little offensive, but he couldn’t argue with the rest of it. Mark swears that his mother’s bad circulation teamed up with his father’s low blood pressure to make him the coldest human, like, ever. 98.6 is practically a fever for him.

And it’s not just that his body temperature runs on the low side of low. Mark feels cold, all the time. His feet and hands are always freezing cold, even during the summer. His parents gave him fencing lessons for his birthday one year in the hopes that some sort of physical exercise might get his blood pumping hotter; it does help, but twenty minutes after he gets back from the gym, without fail, his fingers are like ice again. He knows that spending most of his time sitting in front of his computer doesn’t really help, but he’s been cold for 19 years and being warm just does not seem as important as whatever project he’s working on at the moment.

So Mark has gotten used to being cold, and he doesn’t really think about it anymore.

He will admit that it’s led him to make some strange lifestyle choices. People give him weird looks for going out in shorts and sandals in Massachusetts in the winter, but he ignores it. He’s rarely outside for longer than it takes to run from his dorm to class and back and he would get just as cold in jeans and a real jacket, so why waste the time it takes to get bundled up? Seriously, whenever Eduardo goes anywhere it takes him at least five minutes to put on his scarf, boots, coat, hat, and gloves. Mark can go from coding to out the door in seconds, and he barely notices the difference.

The only time he gets annoyed with the whole thing is when his fingers go numb while he’s coding. Not only does it make his typing slower, but it distracts him the way no other physical need seems to. Sometimes he has to take a break from coding to hold his hands under the hot water faucet until they’re pink before he’s able to fully wire in again. He complained about it to Randi once, and for Hanukkah that year she gave him a pair of fingerless gloves. No matter how drafty his Harvard dorm gets he refuses to wear them, because he’d rather have cold hands than look like a tool.

But just because he refuses to take the easy solution doesn’t mean he can’t get annoyed when he starts making mistakes because he can barely feel his fingers on the keyboard. After correcting the same line for the third time, Mark finally gives up and gets up to find an extra blanket or something. When he stands he is hit with a sudden wave of exhaustion. He leans on the back of his chair for a second, blinking blearily at the digital clock on his dresser. It’s four in the morning, which means he’s been coding for about 18 hours straight. Not his longest streak by far, but long enough to make him feel even more tired thinking about it. He leans over and saves his code one more time before shutting his laptop and stumbling over to his bed. He strips down to his boxers and t-shirt and lifts up at least four blankets to find someone already sleeping there.

Right, he thinks as he remembers Wardo bringing him dinner and staying to do some studying of his own. He must have crashed here again, like he does at least twice a week even though he has a single not five minutes from Kirkland. Mark doesn’t really mind because, well. He just doesn’t, okay?

Mark slips under the covers quickly, so as not to let too much cold air in. He tries to leave some space between his body and Eduardo’s, but the bed is small and his feet slip against the back of Eduardo’s calves. Eduardo makes a small sound and shifts in his sleep. Mark tries to keep still, but it’s too late.

“Mmm, Mark? Time ‘s it?” Eduardo mumbles, turning around completely so that he’s lying on his side facing Mark.

“Four. Go back to sleep, Wardo,” Mark replies.

“No, ‘s okay. Jesus Mark, your feet are like icicles,” Eduardo complains sleepily.

“I’m always cold.”

“Right, I forgot that you’re the only person I know who’s wearing a sweatshirt in their family’s Disney World vacation pictures. And I’m from Miami, I’ve seen a lot of Disney World vacation pictures.” Eduardo radiates heat, and Mark can’t help inching a little closer. Eduardo startles a little as Mark’s arm bumps against his stomach. He tries to give Mark an exasperated look, but he’s too sleepy for it to come across as anything but fond. “Mark, you are freezing, come here,” he says, and wraps his arms around Mark, pulling him to his chest.

Mark does not cuddle, but he makes an exception for these nights. Where Mark’s pale skin is practically cool to the touch, Eduardo’s tanned limbs are always solid blocks of pure heat. Mark sometimes jokes that he must have a nuclear reactor instead of a heart, but Eduardo just laughs and says it must be his tropical blood. And this is the real reason he never minds when Eduardo stays over, no matter how much shit he gets from Dustin and Chris. Because wrapped up in a nest of blankets and with Wardo like a furnace beside him is the only time Mark ever feels truly, to the core warm.

He settles against Eduardo, already well on the way to sleep. Their feet tangle together at the end of the bed, and his head is snuggled up just under Eduardo’s chin. Eduardo has an arm wrapped around Mark, and he’s rubbing warm, slow circles into his back. Mark mumbles a vague goodnight, nuzzling into Eduardo’s collarbone.

“Shh, go to sleep Mark,” Eduardo whispers back. Mark thinks he feels Eduardo press a brief kiss on his temple, but he’s already dropping into a dream of tropical sunshine, heat sinking deep into his bones.