“God, why do I always feel this sense of impending doom as soon as I see that sign?”
Aaron looks over for just a second, not wanting to disrupt his view of the road, but even in that short glance he can see Carson’s upset.
“I know,” he replies softly, a little of that same feeling stirring in his gut as the familiar streets and businesses start to come into view.
Welcome to Clover.
He squeezes the soft hand in his tightly, and he can see Carson’s tiny, grateful smile in the edge of his vision. Grinning back, Aaron pulls their interlinked hands closer until he can brush his lips over the back of Carson’s. And there it is, that glowing smile just meant for him, always a little shy but more certain now than ever.
Aaron rests their wrists back on the center console, still stroking a thumb soothingly down the side of his hand. “Just remember the plan.” He flicks the turn signal for a right into the neighborhood his parents live in, slowing down to accommodate the turn.
“Your parents’ until Christmas Eve, my mom’s until the 27th,” Carson says dutifully, and Aaron can hear the change in his voice as he calms down, never stopping the soft movements of his thumb. “Strategically avoid any and all Christmas parties thrown by Clover High Alumni, visit the graveyard—” his voice drops off to a pained whisper and Aaron presses another kiss to his hand “—and finally, get the hell out and not think about it for another semester.”
“Sounds perfect,” Aaron says quietly, trying to keep his voice light.
It was a long process, coaxing the soft parts of Carson out from the hard armored shell he always wore. Aaron didn’t even know that’s what he was doing at first, but it turns out all those times he purposefully got under Carson’s skin he was also exposing another little piece of the true self he kept so carefully concealed.
“It won’t be,” Carson sighs, and Aaron cuts his eyes over, opening his mouth to argue. “But, it’ll be as close as it could be, because through it all you’ll be there holding my hand.”
Aaron sucks in a breath, hitting the brakes a little too sharply at the last stop sign before his house. It still absolutely thrills him to the core when Carson says things like that, when he lets down his guard just for him and no one else. He knows it always will.
He throws the car into park.
Tugging on Carson’s hand to bring him closer, Aaron pulls him into a sweet kiss, sighing through his nose in relief when Carson immediately relaxes in. It was meant to be chaste, just a little sign of affection, a yes, exactly and nothing more.
That is, until Carson wraps his free hand around Aaron’s neck and pulls him back in, open-mouthed and searching deep. Making a little startled noise but not at all unwilling, Aaron gives in to the kiss eagerly, sucking on Carson’s lower lip.
The first brush of Carson’s tongue against his makes Aaron shiver, that same out-of-body realization that this is real and this is happening and that somehow this beautiful boy is all his.
The car behind them honks noisily, making Aaron and Carson spring apart guiltily. Aaron makes eye contact with the driver through his rear view mirror, groaning when he recognizes the Smiths that have lived next door for as long as he can remember.
Sorry, he mouths, putting the car back into gear. Instead of scowling in disgust or at the very least shaking her head in disapproval like he would guess, Mrs. Smith is smiling. Grinning from ear to ear.
Well, that’s… Unexpected. And really really nice.
“Dont think for a second I’m complaining, but. What was that for?”
He doesn’t even have to see Carson’s face to picture the sly smile, just a tiny bit bashful, head ducked but eyes bright with mischief. Adorable.
“Because I can’t do that in front of your parents.”
Aaron stops at the curb in front of his house, turning with his mouth already open to suggest just where they can do that, but Carson is already sliding out of the car, going to hug Aaron’s mom as his dad starts pulling luggage out of the trunk.
Shaking his head to himself, Aaron thinks that even with all the shit living in Clovis put him through, put them through, he can’t ever begrudge this town for the one beautiful thing it did give him.
He looks up at a tap on the window and can’t help but grin when he sees that Carson is smiling, remembering all too easily a time when he didn’t.
“Are you coming?” Carson says, voice muffled by the glass.
Aaron nods and slides out, knowing deep in his soul that he would follow Carson anywhere.
“Merry Christmas,” Carson is saying to his dad, offering his hand to shake and surprised when he gets pulled into a hug.
A very Merry Christmas indeed.