In this world, the clouds cannot bear to cover the sky's splendor. Rain falls unbidden, like unsaid sorrow. Snow floats down in fluffy flakes and remains white until springtime. The winds are too gentle to bring sudden storms.
Dr. Iceberg presented his mentor with a single, thornless rose on Valentine's Day. He confessed his feelings. He acknowledged that, if he stayed, he would grow cold and indifferent to cope with his job. Just as his mentor had done. If he was rejected, he would transfer out and put this all behind them both.
"I'll stay with you, and we can both be cogs in this machine."
Dr. Gears decided that accepting the offer was the logical, efficient choice at the time. He had wanted to smile but could only bring himself to nod. By that evening, he had presented his new partner with a box of chocolates and fed them to him at the rate of precisely one chocolate every two minutes.
The first year together was the most difficult. For a solid month, nothing changed save for a morning kiss that Dr. Iceberg initiated; Dr. Gears never responded, nor did he pull away. In frustration, Iceberg attempted to spark a jealous reaction. He flirted with various women for months. Dr. Gears said nothing, except to offer a breakup if Iceberg was no longer interested.
On their first anniversary, Dr. Gears walked in five minutes late and placed a vase of freshly cut roses onto his partner's desk before attending to the morning paperwork.
Dr. Iceberg had forgotten. Embarrassed, he skipped lunch for some shopping. By the evening, he had presented Dr. Gears a box of chocolates.
"Sorry. I didn't find anything better— work took up my time. I forgot the date-"
Dr. Gears merely nodded, then opened his mouth in expectation.
That night they shared a bottle of wine. Gears offered Iceberg his bedroom, then they had sex in his bed. The sunrise met them asleep in each other's limbs, no different than any other couple on the morning after Valentine's.
The second year was easier. Dr. Iceberg stopped trying to get reactions. He learned instead to understand his partner's affection. It came in convenient breaks during heavy workloads, the occasional plate of muffins on his desk in the morning, and mid-afternoon fresh coffee.
Every year for the next six years, Gears brought Iceberg roses on the morning of Valentine's Day. Iceberg brought chocolates in the evening. Then they had sex, each time a little less passionately.
Iceberg got colder.
Gears watched. He wanted to stop this. He wanted this to never end.
It is the evening of their seventh Valentine's Day. Dr. Iceberg feeds Dr. Gears chocolates at precisely one every two minutes. Every three minutes, they sip wine in unison. When the chocolates run out, they fall into bed together.
The sheets are not particularly soft— standard Foundation grade. Neither says the other's name. They don't have the lungs to kiss in the heat of it; their lips rest against each other, sharing breath.
After it is over, Dr. Iceberg holds his mentor against himself. Fear, insecurity, and sadness sparks in his blood. His heart races even as Gears' slows in preparation for sleep. Do you still care? Do I? How much worse will I get? Am I already your mirror image?
"What is the purpose of continuing to acknowledge Valentine's Day in this manner?"
The question brings Dr. Gears out of his sleepy state. He dwells on the question. If I said there was no purpose anymore, would you leave? If you left, could you recover? But he could not give this up for the world.
"I have learned from you it is important to maintain established interpersonal relationships."
Iceberg can only nod. He wants to do so much more.
The sunrise finds them fast asleep in each other's arms.