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Carlos supposed that he should have seen this coming; it was bound to happen eventually, especially considering his line of work. Still, he was honestly a bit surprised when he was called down to city hall for reeducation. He didn't even know what it was exactly that he was being reeducated for; although, really, it could have been anything. All he really knew by the end of it was that everything hurt and the City Council really was very creative.

When they finished, a member of the Sheriff's Secret Police poured him into a squad car and started driving towards the desert. The scientist estimated that there was an equal probability that he would be murdered and buried beneath the sand as there was that he would survive, but everything hurt too much for him to really care; he just closed his eyes and hoped for just a little bit of sleep before whatever was going to happen happened. He felt the car pull to a stop but didn't even bother opening his eyes.

"Um Mr. Velazquez," the driver said, sounding surprisingly unsure of himself. "I can take you home if you prefer, but I thought that you might not want to be alone."

Carlos ratcheted his eyes open and stared blearily out the window; it took him moment to register where exactly they were. He blinked at the dark shadow of Cecil's house and tried to form a coherent thought.

"Dr. Velazquez?" The officer asked, sounding concerned. "Do you want to stay here or go back to your apartment?"

He cleared his throat, trying desperately to form a coherent thought. "No, here. Here is good." He opened the car door and stumbled out into the night. He staggered up to the house, propping himself up with the door jamb as he tried to gather enough strength to knock loud enough to wake his partner. After a few failed attempts, he fumbled for his phone, smashing the buttons and hoping for the best. Thankfully Cecil answered his phone within a few moments, and Carlos was able to mumble his request.

Cecil opened the door, his bare chest heaving and all three of his eyes wide open. He caught his friend up in his arms, supporting him as he helped him inside. They barely made it to the living room before Carlos collapsed on the sofa, physically unable to get any further. The broadcaster left him there, hurrying to get his first aid kit. When he returned, the scientist was listing to the side, looking completely out of it. He propped him up and started cleaning away the blood from his face; he knew that the other man was in a lot of pain, but he wanted to put off administering the pain meds until he knew he would be able to get him into bed.

He shook his head, holding back tears with the strength of long practice. "Carlos, sweet Carlos. Why did they do this to you?"

"No," he answered, shaking his head. "Don't." He avoided eye contact, sounding completely broken.

He pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, trying his best to be reassuring. "Okay, we don't have to talk about that. I'm just going to get you cleaned up and then we'll go to bed. You'll feel better after a good night's sleep; I promise."

Carlos hummed in vague agreement, still avoiding eye contact. Cecil finished up as quickly as possible, bandaging what he needed to and coaxing his friend to swallow the necessary pills. He pulled Carlos to his feet and helped him limp down the hall. He got him undressed and into bed, situating him as comfortably as possible before crawling in next to him. Carlos was asleep almost immediately, but Cecil laid awake, unable to stop worrying about his friend.

/////////////

Cecil was up long before Carlos. He tried to stay busy, cleaning his kitchen when he ran out of other things to do. He was in the middle of scrubbing the shelves of his refrigerator when he heard his bedroom door open and Carlos' heavy steps coming down the hall. He jumped to his feet, his heart rate skyrocketing as he tried to think of something to say. Carlos stopped awkwardly in the doorway, avoiding eye contact just as he had the night before.

"How are you feeling?" Cecil asked, wringing his hands nervously.

Carlos just shrugged, not looking up.

"Let me check your head," he said awkwardly, stepping across the room. "I want to make sure your bandages didn't shift while you slept." He reached out without really waiting for a response and was surprised when Carlos flinched violently away from him.

Cecil pulled his hand back, trying not to feel hurt. "Carlos, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

Carlos shook his head, refusing to give any other answer and keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.

The broadcaster sighed and forced a smile, trying to sound as cheery as possible. "Well alright then. We don't have to talk about anything. What do you want for breakfast? I was thinking omelets; I managed to get the last carton of unfertilized eggs from the Ralph's, and I want to use them up before that changes."

Carlos didn't answer or really acknowledge that the other man had spoken at all, so after a few more awkward seconds Cecil sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

"Look, I understand that re-education can be very traumatic," he said, trying to sound as understanding and helpful as possible. "But you can't just shut out those that care about you; recovering is much easier if you try and get back into your normal life. So come on, you can help me with breakfast. It really will help you feel better. Trust me."

"You haven't stopped at a stop sign the entire time I've known you," Carlos mumbled, still not looking.

Cecil frowned, confused, as he usually was, by the scientist's non-sequiturs. "Okay?"

"That's what? Five tips a year?" He continued, his voice taking on that special tone it had when he was getting really logical. "And I know that your year is almost up. So maybe you were running out of time and needed another stamp. I mean, you know me better than anyone else; I don't even try and hide the things I should from you anymore. I mean it would be so easy for you to report me for any one of a hundred things. How could I have trusted you? How could I have been that stupid?"

Cecil shook his head, reaching for his partner, unable to stop himself as his heart was shattering. "Oh no no no no no." He grabbed onto his arms, wishing that he could make the other man look at him. "I would never report you; I could never do anything to intentionally hurt you.

"And I don't even report people all that much. It's really just Steve Carlsburg. I mean really, if you can't even properly maintain a tan Carola, then you deserve what's coming to you.

"Not that I would ever report *you* for your hubcaps, even if they were abominably cared for." He paused, allowing his third eye to open and swallowing thickly before continuing. "Carlos, you could do just about anything and I wouldn't report it. You could plot to overthrow the city council, and yeah, I'd try and convince you it was a really very bad idea, but I'd keep my mouth shut about it. Carlos, you have to believe me."

Carlos finally looked up, searching his companion's face for any sign of deception before finally focusing his attention on the rarely opened third eye. "You shouldn't do that. You know it'll give you a headache."

"It interferes with the surveillance equipment," he replied, disregarding Carlos' concern. "And I wanted us to have some privacy."

He reached out, still frowning, and gently caressed the skin around the eye. "I don't want you to be in pain. Especially not because of me."

"I don't want you to get hurt either," he answered, sounding desperate to be believed. "I would do anything to keep you safe: I'd stop at every stop sign for the rest of my life; I'd go bowling with Steve Carlsberg twice a week; I'd go in your place if I could. Please believe me, Carlos."

Carlos pulled his friend against him, squeezing his eyes shut against the guilt he felt bubbling up inside of him. "I believe you. I'm sorry I doubted you, but I believe you now. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," he whispered, holding onto his friend as tightly as he dared considering his injuries. "Suspicion is only natural in situations like this; it's practically mandatory."

He shook his head, unwilling to be dissuaded. "Not for you. I should know better than to doubt that."

Cecil sighed, recognizing the futility of arguing the point, and turned his head for a gentle kiss. "Come on, let's start breakfast. You need to get your strength back."

The scientist agreed, still feeling guilty and eager to agree with anything his partner suggested. The couple set in, their shoulders brushing as they worked. Cecil chattered easily, catching Carlos up on all of the news that hadn't made it onto his show. Carlos did his best to clear his mind, focusing only on following the simple instructions he had been given and letting the sound of Cecil's voice wash over him.