Carl doesn’t think too much of shrugging into Ron’s favourite hoodie. He needs to be covered when he goes downstairs because most everyone is ‘in house’ right now and Ron’s hoodie, and a pair of clean boxers from the laundry he still hasn’t put away, are the closest things to hand. The fact that the hoodie is warm and worn and smells like Ron is just a bonus.
He pads downstairs, laments the fact that soon it’ll be cold enough that he’ll need to put on pants just to wander the house as the chill starts to seep up through the floorboards, and bustles around the kitchen making hot chocolate and slicing a big chunk of Carol’s homemade banana nut bread because he doesn’t really feel like cooking. Or doing much of anything except sliding back into bed with Ron.
He’s waiting for the kettle to boil, snagging a few of the sweet strawberries out of the fruit bowl they’ve finally been able to make use of for something other than collecting dust and reminding them that they need to find better sheeting for the greenhouses if they ever want to see a piece of fruit that didn’t come out of a can ever again. Carol’s been talking about homemade jam, and if they’ve got homemade jam to go with their homemade butter and homemade bread Carl thinks he might not eat anything else ever again. Unless someone finds pudding mix, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
He can’t help but grin to himself, life has been strangely good, really good, for the past few months. He can’t remember ever being this happy, not even in the fuzzy slightly surreal memories of the time before. He knows that part of that is because of Ron, who is…well, Carl doesn’t really know what he is, he’s his lover of course but also his run-partner, his roommate, his rival, and just his, by virtue of being a part of his strange patchwork post-apocalyptic family unit, sure, but it’s somehow more than that.
Carl thinks that this is probably how people know when they’re in love with other people.
He fights down the giddy noise bubbling up in his chest, and instead buries himself deeper into the too large hoodie and shoves his hands deep into the pockets.
In the pocket on the right hand side there’s a balled up bit of paper. Curious, Carl pulls it out and begins the process of unwadding it. If it’s a request list for their next run he’s pretty sure Ron’s forgotten all about it at this point ‘cause he hadn’t mentioned anything about it. And if it’s a set of special requests, well, Carl never claimed not to be unreasonably nosy and it’s not like Ron’s gonna be able to hide anything from him on the road anyway.
When the paper is finally unrolled and smoothed flat though, it’s clear that it’s not a list. Well, not list of supplies anyway.
It’s a sheet of graphing paper torn from Ron’s notebook and the title at the top reads: “ASK CARL TO MARRY YOU!!!”
It’s scratched deep in pencil and underlined three times. The list is a little more vague, reading: where? When? HOW, what even is romance?? And ring??????
Punctuated here and there by cartoon-y sketches of his hat, an engagement ring that he’d never wear not even if it came from Ron, and a wiggly line that might have been the start of a tree or the slope of his bare shoulder, it was difficult to say.
Carl, doesn’t know what to do. Completely floored by the little piece of paper in front of him.
They haven’t talked about marriage, mostly because they’re basically the apocalypse version of married anyway, living together, working together and sleeping together. Marriage is for people like Glenn and Maggie who like the formality and the ceremony of the thing and he and Ron just…aren’t that.
Carl doesn’t think that they are, necessarily, but he also hadn’t thought that the man sleeping in his bed would ever ask him to marry him. So maybe he doesn’t know Ron as well as he thought. Which also highlights the fact that, despite three years of almost constant proximity, Ron doesn’t know everything about Carl. Mostly because Carl hasn’t told him.
The kettle whistling at him in angry insistence that it’s done boiling is a welcome interruption. He pours a bit into each cup and stirs before adding a few drops of the coffee cream Michonne likes to dump in her morning chai.
His brain seems to be stuck on a loop.
Ron, his Ron, wants to marry him.
What the hell is he supposed to do with that?
The sliding door bangs in its frame as Judy thunders in from outside, her blonde-brown hair a tangled wind-combed mess.
“Carl!” she squeals bouncing up into a hug that takes the breath out of him for a second, the kid is damn strong for a seven year old.
“Hey Jude,” he grunts, “Did you grow again? I swear you’re bigger than you were at breakfast.”
“You can measure me after dinner!” she says, bouncing out of his hold and snitching a cube of the banana bread without shame.
Carl moves quickly to grab the damning bit of notepaper crinkling it back up nice and tight and shoving it back into it’s pocket home in the same hasty slightly guilty movement that must have got it stuck there in the first place.
“Uncle Morgan is gonna teach me a new kata today, you wanna come help me practice?”
Five minutes ago Carl would have waved her away with the excuse of needing a nap and slipped back into bed with Ron, possibly for the nap in question and possibly for more canoodling and another round of lazy sex.
Now, well, now he's vibrating out of his skin, his mind is spinning and sitting still isn’t anywhere in his near future. Let alone facing Ron without giving away that he now knows what the other boy has been thinking about. And beyond all that, he isn’t sure he knows what his answer would be if Ron did end up asking him, and saying that to Ron’s face would definitely hurt him.
Judy’s request is basically the perfect excuse. So he rustles up a small smile for her and hands her his hot chocolate.
“Sure thing, Judy Blume, lemme just get dressed and smooch Ronnie and then we’ll go together, okay?”
Judy predictably doesn’t bother looking up from her hot chocolate, shooting him a thumbs up instead as she gulps the treat down and probably scalds her tongue in the process.
He takes the tray upstairs and changes quickly and quietly so he doesn’t wake Ron who’s indulging in a post-orgasmic nap, and leaves a note instead.
He knows he’s running, knows he’s gonna have to face Ron eventually, and in fact probably sooner than he’s prepared for. But he doesn’t want to go back to him without an answer one way or the other.