"Why haven't you invited me in yet?" Cecil blurted, and then regretted it.
They were in his car outside Carlos's lab at the end of their sixth date, as they had been at the end of all the previous dates (except for the fourth, when Carlos drove, and they ended outside of Cecil's house instead). The fourth and fifth dates had involved kisses before the parting one, and this date, a picnic at one of Carlos's more secluded seismometers, had featured some rather serious making-out. Each time, Cecil had hoped Carlos would ask him to spend the night, but each time, Carlos had kissed him good night and that was all.
The slightly guilty frown Carlos was giving him now made him want to go back in time and kick himself for asking. Unfortunately, time travel was still illegal, so he could only try to smooth things over.
"I'm sorry, that was so awkward of me. I only meant, well, if you thought I wouldn't want to, I thought I should let you know what I would -- I don't want to pressure you! Or if there's some ritual you want to observe, or some milestone you're waiting for -- oh God." He cut himself off and put his hands over his face. "I'm just making it worse."
Warm fingers wrapped around his and gently tugged one of his hands down. Carlos was smiling slightly, and it didn't look derisive.
"Don't worry," Carlos reassured him. "It's cute when you're awkward."
"I'm just not sure how to explain this. I do... want to. But you became so infatuated with me so quickly, before we even talked to each other. I just want to make certain you don't end up regretting anything. If one day you're like, oh crap, it was just a crush and Carlos isn't perfect after all -- because I'm really not."
"You're perfect to me," Cecil said desperately.
"I'm honestly happy you like me. I'm just not sure yet it's really me you like. Let's take it slow, okay?"
"Okay!" That came out as a ridiculous squeak. Cecil moved to cover his face again, but Carlos kissed him again before he could. It was a perfect kiss, long and deep and so hungry that Cecil would've been certain they were about to continue it indoors if Carlos hadn't just explained why they wouldn't.
"Good night, Cecil," Carlos said hoarsely, lips barely half an inch from Cecil's. It was clearly a struggle for him to tear himself away; that made Cecil feel a little better about watching him get out of the car. A little.
Still, on the way home, Cecil paused at a deserted intersection for a thorough, red-faced self-admonition. He idled there, forehead on the steering wheel, talking to himself, for so long that a man in a balaclava knocked on the window to ask if he was all right. He assured the man that he wasn't ill or possessed, just embarrassed, thanked the Sheriff's Secret Police for their comforting vigilance, and drove the rest of the way with an increased awareness of traffic laws.
He lay awake until the small hours turning Carlos's words over in his head. A still-youthful part of him, a part he let have a little too much rein sometimes, could only dwell on his sense of rejection. That part wanted to get melodramatic, wail that Carlos didn't love him and never would, that he was too ordinary and unappealing for someone as glorious as Carlos. How could perfect, brave, brilliant Carlos want someone who dissolved into stammering idiocy in his presence?
After a time of this, he rolled over, and felt paper under his cheek. He turned on the light. There was a post-it note on his pillow. It read, 'Be a teenager more quietly, please, you're keeping me awake.'
"Sorry," he said sheepishly to the Faceless Old Woman Who Lived In His House, and turned the light off again.
He laced his fingers across his stomach, breathed deeply, and tried to think like an adult. He was __ years old (his mind slid off the number without parsing it, as usual), and even if sounding like a kid sometimes might be considered a charming eccentricity, he had no excuse for being immature.
He respected Carlos, didn't he? So he ought to give Carlos's concerns serious consideration.
He did so.
He developed a possible solution.
He slept. He had only the usual sort of nightmares, and woke full of resolve.
* * *
"And now, Dear Listeners, I ask you to bear with me for a few minutes as I do something... rather unprofessional."
The hesitation was deliberate; he'd even written it into his notes, ellipsis and all. His stomach had fluttered with nervousness while composing the segment, but once he was at the microphone, just as he'd hoped, his radio persona took over. He was performing. His words were sincere, but then, he was always sincere on the air.
"I know I talk about Carlos kind of a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe not! Maybe just the right amount, because let's face it, Carlos is wonderful. But I haven't used my airtime to talk to Carlos, and that is just what I am about to do now.
"You see, when I'm with him, sometimes I get tongue-tied. Last night, at the end of our date, he raised an honest concern, and I descended into incoherence -- you would've been so embarrassed for me, Dear Listeners, it was awful. And since I'm seldom tongue-tied on the radio... you see where I'm going with this.
"So be patient with me, my friends, because this is the only way I'm sure I can say it."
He took a deep breath. Felt within himself for anxious flapping, and found none. Squared his notes.
"Carlos. My sweet, sweet Carlos. It's true that what I felt at first was just infatuation. Giddy and shallow, and maybe a little exaggerated for theatrical effect. When I said that I fell in love the first time I saw you smile -- I'm not a middle schooler, I know that isn't really love. But oh, Carlos, how can you think I haven't fallen since? How can you fear for a moment that I don't truly love you now?
"It's been more than a year since I met your glorious smile. More than a year since I saw you tuck a soft wing of your long, dark hair behind your ear, since I saw your lovely dark eyes alight with curiosity. If that were all I knew of you, yes, you would be right to worry that my feelings won't last.
"But that is not all I know, dear Carlos.
"I know that when your hair is short, much as I miss that glorious disarray, seeing the nape of your neck is delightful as well.
"I know how you look in bandages, how you look when you want to impress me, how you look when your burrito just squirted pico de gallo all over your shirt and you're not sure whether to be angry or laugh.
"I know what you sound like when you're afraid, and when you're impatient, and when you're excited by some phenomenon that seems ordinary to me, like a child just discovering the world. I know the voice you use when you didn't really hear what I said because you were taking notes. I know the voice you use when you call me to ask a question you just thought of and then realize it's four in the morning and you woke me up.
"I know, now, your voice when you make yourself stop kissing me but you don't really want to stop.
"What I'm trying to say is -- precious Carlos -- I will wait. Gladly, patiently, gratefully, because you wouldn't worry about something like that if you didn't care for me. As long as it takes you to be sure of me, that's how long I'll bide. But I needed to say this -- now, here, at my microphone, where I know I won't stutter and swallow the words -- I love you. All of you, everything about you, I'm alight with it, I am on joy the way the pit of forbidden books behind the high school is on fire, and I will never regret it."
He set his notes down, spread his hands on them. Took a deep breath. He was shaking a little, but he hadn't stammered once. He was a little afraid of how Carlos would react -- and how Management would react, because they got a little stroppy sometimes when he used too much airtime on personal business -- but he wouldn't take back a word.
"Thank you for your patience, Dear Listeners. And now let us go, trembling and giddy with mingled relief and anticipation, red-faced but unashamed -- to the weather."
* * *
The rest of the show passed in a blur. He half hoped Carlos would call him, and half feared it, but when he checked his phone afterwards there were no voice mails or texts. He tried not to let that fluster him. Maybe Carlos hadn't even heard the show. Oh God, what would he do if Carlos hadn't heard the show? Carlos almost always listened, but what if this time --? On the way out of the station, he opened a text message window, closed it, opened it again -- nearly collided with an intern and barely noticed -- closed it as he shouldered through the door, dropped his phone in his pocket, looked up.
Carlos's car was parked next to his. Carlos was leaning against it, also dropping his phone in his pocket, also just looking up.
Cecil stood stock still for a long moment, face reddening, heart speeding up until it was doing a double-dutch that would've had him calling 911 under any other circumstances. The expression on Carlos's face -- So that's what 'smoldering' looks like, he thought, and then Carlos was striding toward him, was taking Cecil's face in his hands, was kissing him and oh, Cecil was melting, clinging to him, mind blank and knees crumbling.
"Come home with me," Carlos whispered.
"Okay," Cecil said. And if it came out a little squeaky, Carlos didn't let on that he noticed.
Life being what it is, imperfect, inconvenient, as mundane as it is extraordinary, they then had to go each to his own car, and drive in caravan for an interminable ten minutes. Cecil was almost grateful for the delay. It allowed him to compose himself enough that when they reached Carlos's lab, he had the self-control to let Carlos lead him by hand up the stairs to the apartment above, rather than trying to tackle him to the lab floor.
Carlos broke first. As soon as he'd shut the door at the top of the stairs, he pinned Cecil to the hallway wall and kissed him breathless again. Hands on Cecil's hips, thigh between Cecil's legs, tongue flicking into Cecil's mouth and teeth nipping at his lips. Cecil worked his fingers into Carlos's hair and whimpered, overwhelmed.
He had never, even in his best fantasies, imagined Carlos might be desperate for him too.
He was hard in seconds, on the verge in another handful of minutes. When Carlos broke away from his mouth to suck at his neck, he gasped, "Wait, Carlos, please, wait --"
Carlos's lips moved to his ear. "Are you going to come?" he growled softly, and Cecil nearly did.
"Yes," Cecil whimpered. "I'm too close oh God --" he nearly wailed as Carlos moved both hands to his ass and pulled him hard against that deliciously unyielding thigh.
"Do it, then." Carlos kissed him again, somehow even hungrier than before. Ground against him wickedly until Cecil cried out and shook and clung to him as helplessly as a torndado victim to a telephone pole.
When the wave receded, Cecil tried to hide his face against Carlos's shoulder, but Carlos tugged lightly at his hair until he looked up, reeling, unable to quite focus his eyes. "Oh," Carlos breathed, eyes even darker than usual, dusky cheeks gorgeously flushed. "Oh, Cecil." He touched Cecil's slackened lips with a fingertip.
"I'm going to fall down," Cecil confessed. It came out a little garbled because of that finger, but Carlos understood. He scooped Cecil up and carried him to the bedroom.
He staggered a bit, as if he'd misjudged Cecil's weight, and nearly bonked Cecil's head on the doorframe, but it only made him grin and blush harder.
His bed was neatly made. He set Cecil down on smooth blankets and tidily squared pillows. Cecil was almost certain Carlos was not the type who made his bed every morning. He'd neatened up, knowing he was going to bring Cecil here. No -- not knowing, Cecil realized as he watched Carlos undress, as Carlos fumbled buttons and stumbled over his shoes because he refused to look away from Cecil's face. Hoping.
The thought drove the satisfied fog back from Cecil's mind and woke a fresh fire in him. He sat up and hurried out of his own clothes. Hesitated over his now-gooey briefs. Forgot what he was doing as Carlos whipped off his t-shirt, dropped his boxers, and stood there, glorious, mouthwatering, improbably real, for a long moment that might've been awkward if Cecil weren't too stunned by his beauty to think about the hesitation.
"This is... really what you want, right?"
Cecil reached out a hand, and Carlos took it, let Cecil pull him down. "I love you," Cecil said. Said it to his face, and didn't stammer at all. "I want to know all of you, and give you everything of me. Carlos, yes."
Carlos cupped his face. His hand was shaking. "I'm not good with words like you are," he began. Bit his lip, and didn't continue.
"Then say it without words."
Carlos kissed him in answer. Kissed his mouth, his neck, his shoulders, as if convincing himself Cecil wasn't a dream, as if he was every bit as helplessly, giddily in love as Cecil was. Removed Cecil's underwear, with a breath of a self-deprecating laugh at his own reverence, and knelt between Cecil's legs to lick him clean. Cecil gasped, then sighed, then moaned, half hard again already. Here was yet another beauty to adore: Carlos with glazed eyes and wet lips, hands clumsy with urgency pressing Cecil's thighs apart.
"Do you want," Cecil said. "Ah. Tell me. Tell me and let me give it to you."
Carlos lifted his head. His gaze raked up Cecil's body until his eyes locked with Cecil's, burning. "I want to fuck you."
"Oh." The mere thought sent a hard pulse to his cock. "Please."
There were lube and condoms in the drawer of the bedside dresser. Cecil wondered whether Carlos had put them there when he made the bed, or whether he'd been keeping them there all along, whether he'd used the lube to masturbate, whether he'd thought of Cecil when he did it -- and then Cecil stopped thinking, because Carlos's fingers working into him eclipsed all his thoughts.
Carlos was gentle with him, went slowly with him, though he gnawed his own lip swollen as if holding back was more than he could bear. And Cecil didn't hurry him, because every second of this was so precious, it would be a crime not to cherish it. Surely Carlos was right about time -- that it was slowing down -- that it wasn't real -- because years must have passed outside this room when Carlos was at last inside him as deep as he could go, one of Cecil's legs hooked over his shoulder and one around his waist, and Cecil could at last suck that swollen lip to soothe it. They were both shaking. Both taking shallow, rapid breaths.
"Cecil," Carlos said, and his voice cracked.
"Nn," Cecil said. He pressed his heel to the small of Carlos's back and rolled up against him.
They moved together. The bed creaked. They breathed rough and desperate, clutched at each other, dug in fingernails and kissed and bit and sweated, forgot everything and feared nothing, trusted, knew.
Carlos came quietly, with only a high, soft sound like a sob. Cecil, hands fisted in the pillow, back arching, made a garbled noise that meant almost there, don't stop, and Carlos took hold of him without pulling out and finished him with a few sweat-slick strokes.
While they lay panting, tangled, the window flickered bright. A few seconds later there was a distant rumble. Carlos laughed softly against Cecil's shoulder. "So I did hear thunder. I wasn't sure. I thought it might be my pulse."
"Rain tonight," Cecil confirmed absently. "Didn't you listen to the weather?" He ran his fingers through Carlos's hair, learning what its texture was like sweat-damp and mussed. Another thing to love.
"I was busy rushing to the station. I'm sorry I doubted you, Cecil. I was just... scared, I guess."
"Afraid I'd change my mind when I knew you better."
"Of all the things to be afraid of." He kissed Carlos's beautiful forehead and stroked his beautiful shoulderblade. "Even if I weren't me and you weren't you, isn't it more likely that we'll be slaughtered and baked into cookies by feral Girl Scouts than that we'll give up on each other?" He heard the sonorousness creeping into his voice, but couldn't stop, as if gripped by prophesy. "But oh, Carlos, I am me, and you are you, and I think the universe designed me to love you -- because as malicious as it seems sometimes, what is darkness without a flame? What is horror without beauty?"
"What is peanut butter without jelly?" Carlos supplied, and giggled, and the portentous aura was gone. They laughed into each other's shoulders until they were breathless all over again.
* * *
Above the bed where they lay entwined, above the lab, above the town, clouds rolled in. They hid the lights over Arby's. They hid the sky, both void and stars. And rain fell on the desert.