This fic follows on Falling Into Place, and both contains spoilers for and will not make sense without that work. You should read that work first.
"Can I ask you something?"
Nick kisses his chest, curled up in the usual spot by his side as the two of them snuggled on Carlos' bed after dinner. "Of course, babe. What's up?"
"How did you... come out?"
Nick chuckles, and Carlos isn't sure why that would be funny. "Um. You remember I said that I told my parents because there was a boy I wanted to ask out in high school, right?"
Carlos nods, recalling the conversation. "I do."
"Well, it turned out the guy was actually straight, so I kind of made it a point after that of being a little more public with my intentions and interest. I don't know if there was really a singular coming out moment, as much as I just started slipping comments about male celebrities or crushes into conversation where appropriate. And then I actually had a boyfriend, and that was even easier, because I could just talk about him." He shrugs. "I was lucky, I guess. No one really batted an eye at it. At least, if they did, it never got back to me."
"Oh." Carlos can't help but marvel how different Nick's experience had been from his own, but it sounds nice anyway. "Um... I told you how I came out to Adam, right?"
Nick nods, listening anyway even though he hadn't asked. "You said you didn't mean to, but that Adam was so supportive afterward that you wished you'd done it sooner."
"He was the first, and then I got Chris to help drag me to Q&A, and I met James and Dan, and then Nate, and all of them really... helped. So I guess there wasn't a single moment for me either, after Adam. I just started surrounding myself with supportive people, and then I didn't have to lie anymore." He doesn't want to talk about the frat house at the moment, the memory of Tom's words and Steve's reaction still a bit too raw, even after all those years.
"That sounds very healthy," Nick says, and Carlos thinks he sounds proud of him. "You said you ran the LGBT organization too, right?"
Carlos nods, kissing his head. "I did. I took over after Liz... uh, the previous leader, was looking at graduating. It was nice, in some way, to feel like I could help others in the same way people had helped me."
"You're always so selfless, babe," Nick says, and Carlos blushes, not sure he deserves all that praise.
"Well, it was something to do, anyway."
Nick smirks at him. "So, as nice as this is, I can think of something else we could do right now."
"Adam would say that physical activity so immediately after dinner isn't a good idea." He's feeling relaxed enough to tease, even though he really likes the idea himself.
Nick chuckles, moving up and kissing him as his hands run up Carlos' shirt. "Since when has that stopped us before?"
Carlos grabs him, pulling him on top of him. He's pretty sure it never has.
Carlos looks around the apartment, nervously, wondering if he'd gone too far.
It's his first Valentine's Day while he was seeing someone, and even if he'd never really understood the tradition, he thinks that Nick's the kind of person who would appreciate a gesture.
Still, maybe the candles were too much. He should have just stuck with the roses, and maybe ditched the champagne. They weren't even going to be there that long, since they'd made plans (and reservations) for dinner at a reasonably nice restaurant, but Carlos had told Nick he wanted some quiet time together before they braved the crowds, and the crowded restaurant.
Before he can second-guess things again, he hears the key in the lock and chatter in the hallway. He grabs the bouquet and holds it behind his back, trying to even his breathing as his heart pounds in his chest.
The door opens, and Nick walks in first this time, holding what looks like a box of chocolates. "Hey, babe. I..."
Nick stops walking as he takes in the room, his eyes flickering over the red candles to the bottle of champagne and glasses on the dining room table. The look on his face is worried, or maybe upset.
Carlos feels his heart fall at it.
"Well, I'm going to leave you two alone," Adam says behind Nick from the hallway, grinning, not able to see Nick's expression or Carlos' face, and mistaking Nick's hesitance for pleasant surprise. "Have a nice evening!"
He shuts the door, and Carlos can feel his face turning red. "Um. I... Sorry." He isn't sure what he did wrong, but from the way Nick is staring at his own feet now, he's pretty sure he'd misunderstood some unspoken Valentine's Day etiquette.
Maybe candles and champagne were supposed to be a thing for after you were already married.
Nick shakes his head. "No. I... um..." He seems to suddenly realize he still has the box of chocolates, and holds it out toward Carlos awkwardly.
Carlos takes it, realizing he's still holding the roses. He sets them down on the table instead. "I'm sorry. I think I... did something wrong."
Nick laughs sharply at that, and it's not the reaction he'd been expecting. "No. No. You... Sorry." Nick shakes his head again. "Sorry. Can we... sit?"
Carlos moves to the couch and Nick joins him, sitting next to him and leaning against him, and he takes that as a good sign, at least. "I didn't mean to... overdo it," he tries, still not quite sure what he did wrong, but wanting to fix it anyway. "I'm sorry I made you uncomfortable."
"No. I just..." Nick buries his face in his hands. "God. I'm... screwing everything up today."
"I can... put everything away. We can just have a quiet evening. I'm sorry I, um... I'm just sorry."
"No." Nick looks up at him, looking guilty now, and somehow that makes him feel better. "Don't be sorry. You were doing something... really nice. I just..." He sighs. "It brought back some bad memories."
"Oh." He wants to ask, but settles for wrapping his arms around Nick instead, pulling him close. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to."
Nick shakes his head. "Babe. You... you couldn't have known. You did all of this for me and it's amazing."
"I... still. I should have just... gotten the flowers or something. Or nothing. Was it the flowers?" He realizes suddenly they're still on the table, and he'd never actually given them to Nick.
"No." Nick's trying to smile at him now, and pulls him in for a gentle kiss. "Carlos. Don't feel bad about any of this. This is amazing. You are amazing."
"Okay." That helps, a little.
"Just... hold me for a bit?"
"I can definitely do that, dude." He holds Nick tighter and kisses his forehead, hoping he can make whatever memories Nick associates with the current situation go away, or at least replace them with better ones. Nick's hand finds his, settling on top of it and squeezing.
It's nice, and he can feel the knot in his stomach start to detangle itself as they sit there, and Nick rubs the back of his hand.
"I'm sorry." Nick seems significantly calmer when he speaks again. "I didn't mean to freak out like that. It's just that the last time I was in a situation with candles and champagne, it was a significantly less pleasant one."
Carlos tries to imagine how that could have happened, but comes up blank. Nick takes his hand, and maneuvers it to his cheek. It feels like it should be significant somehow, because he doesn't normally do this, but Carlos doesn't understand why. He runs his fingers down Nick's cheek and over the rough stubble there, liking the way it feels even if the motion is unfamiliar to him, and Nick sighs and closes his eyes.
Carlos doesn't need to be asked twice, and his hand moves to the back of Nick's head as he leans in and tries to pour as much reassurance as he can into the kiss.
Nick smiles when they break, eyes still closed, and Carlos runs his hand through Nick's hair. "Can I do anything else? I want to help, if I can."
"You are, babe. This is... nice."
"Okay. That's good."
Nick opens his eyes, staring into Carlos' and looking content before suddenly frowning again. "Am I making us late for dinner?"
Carlos glances at the clock. "No. We have plenty of time."
Nick smiles again. "Okay. I, um... if I haven't screwed everything already, can we have some champagne?"
Carlos kisses his forehead. "You aren't screwing anything up. And we can definitely have some champagne." He kisses his forehead again before standing.
Nick turns and watches him pop the bottle and pour them two glasses. His arm brushes the roses, and he stares at them, unsure of what to do with them.
"Thank you, babe. For the roses, and for everything. It really... it was really nice of you."
That answers the question, and he tucks the bouquet into the crook of his arm and carries the glasses back to the couch, handing one to Nick before sitting next to him again. Nick takes the roses from him with the other hand, holding them in front of his face and closing his eyes and inhaling, a smile on his face.
"I should've gotten you some flowers too. I think I'd just been avoiding them because I associate them with, uh... thinking you weren't interested in me."
Carlos feels bad about having created a bad memory, and a bad association, for him. "I'm sorry. You were so... brave, to put yourself out there like that, and I just froze. It wasn't fair to you."
Nick shakes his head, opening his eyes again and looking at him affectionately. "Don't be. You needed to work through some things first, and I understood. Afterward." He puts the flowers down on the coffee table and leans against Carlos, sipping his champagne. "I'm just glad you ran into me that weekend."
"I am, too." He thinks about how things would be different if Adam had decided he'd needed to study that day, or if they had walked a different direction, or if Nick hadn't chosen that particular restaurant or that particular table for his date, or if it had been too cold for them to sit outside.
He doesn't really believe in fate, but he's still thankful for those fortunate circumstances and lucky coincidences.
"Really. Thank you. For all of this." Nick's voice pulls him out of his thoughts. "For the flowers, and the champagne, and the candles, but really for thinking of me and doing all of this for me. And for everything you've given me, over the past few months."
"You deserve it, Nick." He kisses his forehead, and his mind jumps back to Nick standing only a few inches away from where they're now seated, holding out a bouquet of flowers in his direction and looking more nervous that he'd ever seen him, and at the way his heart had quickened and his throat had closed up. "You deserve everything I can give you."
Nick just smiles at him, and kisses him gently. "You do, too."
Nick fumbles with the condom wrapper, frowning and briefly pulling away from Carlos. "Sorry, this one's being stubborn. I don't know w... oh, I see. The corner was folded over."
He finally gets it open, and quickly slips it on. Then he's back against Carlos, kissing him again.
"Condoms are somewhat of a pain."
Nick chuckles. "I blame my lube-slick fingers. But better safe than sorry, since unprotected anal sex is quite a bit riskier than oral sex." He pauses. "Um. Not to imply that it would be a problem for us, or that I think there's any risk for us, since we're both clean and haven't been reckless, and haven't slept with anyone else since we started going out."
Carlos shakes his head. "No. Of course not. Sorry... this is probably the least sexy conversation we could be having right now."
"Well, it's a conversation about sex, so by definition, it has a positive sexiness quotient." Nick smirks.
"It could be nice, one day, to not have to deal with them anymore." It slips out, and he blushes. Nick just smiles at him.
"If that's something you'd like, babe, we should make sure we're, um..." He shakes his head. "Sorry, I'm doing it again. Come here."
He kisses him again, dragging Nick into the right position. And as Nick presses into him, Carlos pushes the conversation out of his head, losing himself in the moment and the pleasure instead.
"Um. I got tested." He hands him the sheet of paper, suddenly feeling like his cheeks are burning. It had taken him longer than he would have expected to work up the courage to do it, not because he thought he had anything, but because of what he thinks it would mean, and imply, to Nick. "But I don't mean to imply anything by it," he adds, even though he really wants it to.
Nick takes it, unfolding it and scanning it briefly. "No surprises, here."
"I just... I know we didn't really talk about it. That much. And dude I... it's totally fine if you never want to do it. I'm happy with you. I'm happy with you even if you always want to use a condom, if that's, uh... easier or cleaner or, I don't know, recommended by the medical board or something." He doesn't mean that one as a joke, but Nick chuckles anyway. "But I haven't had sex with anyone else since we became a thing... I mean, obviously, since we're monogamous and everything. And I always used protection before you. So just... you have that now, just in case."
Nick folds the page back up and hands it back to him. "Thanks, babe. I think I should probably get tested, myself, before we do anything like that, just to be sure."
"Yeah. Of course."
"I haven't gotten tested since Wade. It feels a bit irresponsible of me, honestly, even though I've been safe since then, and only had two hookups." Carlos must look confused, because he quickly clarifies. "Sorry. Wade is my ex."
He'd assumed, but it was still good to get the confirmation. He isn't sure he likes the way his chest tightens at the mention of his name, but he doesn't want to get into that right now.
"That makes sense."
"Don't let me pressure you into anything either, okay? I'm also happy with you, always, if you always want us to use protection. This honestly isn't all that important to me, but if it's important to you, then it's important to me."
He thinks that's maybe a bit of a contradiction, but he gets the point anyway. "Um. Did you and Wade... ever..."
He blushes again, and wonders if it was inappropriate to ask, and feeling the same tightness in his chest when he says his name.
"Yeah. Uh. We were together for two years, and at some point it was nice to just not have to remember to restock, and to stop in the middle to get one on." He shrugs. "I don't think either of us cared particularly much either way, though."
"Um. I do. If that's... okay."
"Babe, of course that's okay."
"I'd really, um... like it. Once you're ready. Only once you're ready, if you're ready. It you want to. Only if you want to." He stares at the ground, really not used to having conversations like this. "And after you get tested," he adds for good measure, even though that part is implied.
"Then it's important to me." Nick takes his hand.
"Okay. Then we'll, um..."
He wants to say more, but Adam's coming back from the bathroom, and he's pretty sure he wouldn't be able to have this conversation in front of him.
Nick just smiles, squeezing his hand and kissing him gently before turning back to Adam, and Carlos heads to the kitchen to start dinner.
Carlos waves good night to Adam as he disappears into his bedroom before pulling Nick closer to him and kissing his forehead. "Um. Do you want to spend the night sometime? Not tonight, of course. I know you have things tomorrow. But just... sometime."
Nick nods against him. "Yeah. That'd be nice." Nick turns and kisses Carlos' chest. "You're welcome over to my place sometime too, of course. I'm not intentionally trying to hide it from you or anything, and I don't have any roommates. Not that Adam is ever a problem. But, um... it's just a studio, and it's pretty bare bones. I didn't really bother furnishing it with anything more than the necessities, so it just hasn't seemed like a place to bring you back to, since there wouldn't be anything to do there." He thinks for a second. "Also you would find my kitchen abhorrently understocked."
"I'd... like to see it sometime." The idea of seeing his boyfriend's private space feels intimate somehow, even though Nick's seen his just about every week since they've known each other.
"Then I'd like to show it to you, sometime."
"I'm imagining a square box with a bed, a single table, a single chair, and every medical textbook known to man." He grins. "The necessities."
Nick chuckles. "Um. Actually, you're not too far off." Carlos feels a strange sense of pride in it. "Although I do have two chairs. But they're folding chairs. And a TV, but I don't think I've ever used it." He stops. "Which would surprise and shock the Nick from undergrad, who made a habit of Thursday reality TV."
"You're into reality TV?" Carlos isn't sure why that surprises him.
"Yeah. It's something that Wade and I, uh... bonded over."
"Oh." Carlos feels a bit of perverse pleasure at the thought that Nick doesn't think the shows are important anymore, but then wonders if they instead just remind Nick of the good times between him and Wade, and he's avoiding them either out of respect for Carlos or because he still has feelings for Wade.
He doesn't want to think about that, right now.
"Oh. I have something for you." Nick stands, pulling a sheet of paper out of his pocket and handing it to Carlos.
Carlos opens it, and it's test results. "Negative across the board." He isn't sure why he said it out loud, or why his voice is suddenly shaking. He folds it back up and hands it back to Nick, who stuffs it back into his pocket.
"Not that I'm implying anything by it, of course. Either. And I'm sorry it took me so long. Things have been busy." Nick sits back down next to him on the couch and leans against him, and Carlos' arms wrap automatically around him. "I just wanted to make sure you had them. Well, I guess saw them, but you can have the sheet if you want."
Carlos shakes his head, the idea of actually having the sheet a little too invasive, for some reason. "No. Thanks. I just..." He swallows, suddenly feeling scared. "If it's okay with you, though, I'd, um... like to... do that, with you."
Nick smiles at him, gentle. "Babe. I told you that if it was important to you, then it's important to me, and I still mean that. But I think it's your decision."
Carlos blushes. "Um. If you're not leaving yet, can we... maybe..."
He trails off, but Nick seems to get the message, kissing him again before standing and offering a hand. Carlos takes it, letting himself be pulled into his bedroom, his heart hammering in his chest in a way he isn't sure it ever has before sex, even that first time, with Dan.
They strip each other slowly, Carlos' hands running up Nick's stomach to his chest, slowly bunching up his t-shirt over his wrists. Nick's hands slowly unbutton Carlos' shirt, running down his chest and side as he gently nibbles at his neck. Then he stands back and lets Carlos tug his shirt up over his head and off, Carlos' fingers tracing up his arms to his fingers above his head, a smile on his face. Then he's back, kissing Carlos gently as he undoes the last button and runs his hands back up his front to his shoulders, gently pushing the shirt off his shoulders, and Carlos lets it drop. Carlos plants one hand on Nick's spine while the other traces back down Nick's chest to his stomach, following the soft trail of hair to the waistband of his pants and hooking his fingers in, loving the way Nick's breath catches. Nick's hands drop as well, moving down across his chest again to his back, running along his spine to the belt under the small of his back in a way that makes him shiver.
It's exciting, and slow, and tender, and Carlos thinks that Nick is intentionally being loving because he knows how much this means to him.
Screw slow, he thinks, needing the man in front of him now. He grabs Nick's ass and brings their bodies together, and they both groan as their crotches meet and they feel the evidence of each others' arousal, even through the layers of thick fabric in the way.
"Fuck me," he says, grinding his hips against Nick's, who moans and buries his face in Carlos' neck.
Carlos grabs Nick, tossing him back onto the bed before fumbling with his belt, undoing it just enough to pull down his pants and underwear in one swift motion as Nick watches him, propped up on his elbows, hungrily. He almost gasps as his cock springs free and the cool air of the room hits his superheated skin.
Nick moves to pull off his own pants, but Carlos stops him, catching his hands and roughly throwing them aside before grabbing the waistband and pulling everything down. Nick's cock springs free, already wet with pre, and he takes it to the root in one smooth motion. Nick muffles his yell with his fist, and Carlos finds Nick's ass, relaxing his throat as he pulls Nick even deeper. Nick swears as hand finds his hair and grips it almost painfully.
Then he pulls off, needing to breathe. His eyes meet Nick's, and he feels weak at the need he sees there that he knows is mirrored in his own eyes.
So he moves, instead, still breathless, climbing onto the bed and sliding their bodies together as he finds Nick's mouth. Nick yelps in surprise as Carlos knocks him back flat onto the bed and then his hands are on Carlos' ass, pulling the two of them together with delicious friction as they devour each others' mouths.
It's almost too much and he pulls away, urgently, trying to think less sexy thoughts to stave off the orgasm that's already threatening to come. Nick looks disappointed at the sudden lack of contact, then concerned for him, but then he smirks as he stares at Carlos' rapidly rising and falling chest and the way he's sure his face is screwed up as he tries to focus on Adam's descriptions of unusual parasitic infections.
"Looks like someone's having a problem," Nick says, and it should be teasing, but it's low and gravelly and his cock twitches at the tone, and dammit that isn't helping. Nick's fingers gently brush his cock and he squeezes his eyes together as he feels another bit of pre run down from the tip.
"I need your cum," he gasps out, feeling like a physical wreck already as his heart thunders and his chest is on fire as it demands more air and his cock is throbbing almost in pain from the need for release.
Nick's expression grows serious again, and Carlos watches him swallow, heavily, as he nods. Then he's maneuvering Carlos, moving him up the bed before settling at the end of it between his legs, and even just that touch and feeling of Nick's hands on his skin as he literally pushes him around -- non-sexual and practical -- just serve to heighten his need.
"Babe... you're so..." Nick's voice wavers, and Carlos hooks his legs up around Nick's back as his cock twitches at his voice, and the thought of what's to come.
"Fuck me. Please..." He doesn't think he can last another minute without feeling Nick inside him.
He hears a click that he realizes is the lube -- he isn't sure how Nick had had the presence of mind to grab it at any point in the past few minutes -- and he can feel Nick's hands between his legs as Nick slicks himself up. Then he feels the bottle being dropped next to him, and Nick is looming over him again, kissing his lips surprisingly gently.
"Are you sure, babe? I don't want to do anything you're not absolutely okay with."
Carlos doesn't think he can express just how okay this is, how much he needs this, now. "Fuck me, Nick. Use me. Fill me. I need it. I need you. Just you. Nothing in the way." It's a lot dirtier than their usual dialogue in bed, but he doesn't think he can do any better right now.
But it seems to work, because Nick's breath hitches, and he nods, kissing Carlos more sloppily before sitting back up. One hand settles on Carlos' hip, and Carlos grasps his arm, needing the contact, his other hand gripping the bedsheets at his side in anticipation. Then he can feel Nick nudging against his hole, and Nick's eyes settle on his, asking a silent question.
"Yes," he breathes, pushing back against the pressure, and he can feel Nick slip inside, and he gasps at it.
Nick's eyes don't leave his as he inches forward and Carlos can feel himself being slowly stretched and filled. Nick seems to be back in gentle caring mode, despite all of the desperate need the two of them are feeling at the moment, and he's suddenly full of emotion at how much it often feels like this man is making love to him, especially now. Nick's other hand finally finds his other hip, and his hand finds Nick's, and then he can feel Nick's pubes scrape his ass and Nick stops moving.
"Oh." It seems almost ridiculously understated for what he's feeling at the moment, but Nick just smiles at him, his thumbs rubbing gentle circles into Carlos' hipbones. It's different, and not just because what it represents to him.
Carlos laughs, despite himself. "That's... that's so okay. Oh god. You're..." He fumbles for words, instead reaching for Nick's neck and pulling him down and kissing him, gently this time.
Nick hums against his mouth, breaking and moving to his neck and gently nibbling the skin there as he starts to move his hips, and Carlos is almost overwhelmed by it. He tightens his legs around Nick's back and ass, trying to find leverage so he can push back and meet each slow and gentle thrust that fills him with desire.
He loses himself in the sensations, hands flailing aimlessly across increasingly-heated flesh and lips kissing or sucking anything in reach, a moan escaping his mouth every time he feels Nick bottom out again, or his cock brushes against Nick's stomach, streaking it with wetness. "Babe, you feel so good," Nick breathes into his ear, sucking on his earlobe, and Carlos can't help but shed a tear at the feeling in his chest at it.
"Faster," he manages. "Please..." And Nick kisses him before slowly sitting up, the hands on his hips gripping more firmly as Nick finds purchase and thrusts more quickly, desperately.
"Babe, I'm... I'm not going to... last much longer." Nick squeezes his eyes together, his mouth open, and Carlos reaches for his own cock now, gripping it tightly in one hand as the other finds Nick's chest.
"Please..." He moans at the feeling as he strokes himself once, roughly. "I... I need you."
"Ohh... I..." Nick thrusts once, twice, before bottoming out again and shuddering, and Carlos knows he's found his release.
He grabs his neck again, pulling Nick down and claiming his lips even as he roughly strokes himself between them, crying out into Nick's mouth as it's too much and he's filling the space between them with his own seed.
He doesn't know how long they remain like that, lips gentle against each other, his legs still firmly around Nick's back, his hands caressing Nick's neck and hair and Nick up on increasingly shaky arms on top of him until he collapses and his weight settles comfortably down the length of Carlos' body. He can still feel Nick inside him, his ass pleasantly stretched instead of painfully used around Nick's softening cock in a way that in the past he would have been disappointed by, but now just feels so right.
He shifts, breaking the pseudo-kiss and taking in a needed deep breath of air. Nick gently pulls out, before kissing his cheek gently, and Carlos' ass immediately feels empty, even though he thinks to himself that it's actually quite literally fuller than it has ever been before. And that thought makes him blush.
"Was that okay?"
"That was incredible. Thank you."
Nick smiles, gently, kissing him again. "I'm glad. That was incredible for me, too."
Carlos pulls him against him, resting Nick's head against his chest and wrapping his arms around him. Nick sighs in contentment as Carlos' hand runs through his hair.
But as he lies there, coming down from his endorphin high, he feels... something, like his chest is tight, and there's something in his throat, and he can't quite catch his breath, and his eyes are suddenly watery, and it reminds him of how he felt when Nick was filling him so gently, like Carlos was the most precious thing in the world.
He stops for a moment, starting to worry. His arms tighten around Nick's torso, and then the feeling's gone.
He doesn't want to think about what that means.
"Is something wrong with me, chico?"
Adam looks up at him from the textbook he's reading. "Sorry, I missed the last thing you said."
Carlos immediately regrets starting the conversation. This was Adam's study time. "Sorry. I shouldn't be distracting you. I'm supposed to be reading."
Adam shakes his head and puts his book down. "It's fine, dude. Say it again?"
"I just... is something wrong with me? Physically? Am I having a heart attack?"
Adam frowns. "What are your symptoms?"
"Um. After Nick and I, um... have sex..." He blushes, but Adam doesn't, apparently in professional doctor mode now. "...and I'm holding him against me, there's this... tightness in my chest. My throat feels tight. There's this intense, um... I don't know. It's like my head briefly swims and I feel like I want to cry. But then it passes."
Adam looks at him, seemingly thinking. "That doesn't sound like a heart attack, dude. This happens after sex? Right after sex?"
Carlos nods. "Yeah."
"Have you two done anything new recently? New positions? Maybe something more physically intense or demanding than usual?"
Carlos blushes again. "I, um..." He stops. "I understand now why people want doctors who aren't their friends."
"Oh." Adam suddenly seems to realize what they're discussing, and blushes, too. "Sorry. I didn't even... think about that. I was too busy trying to think of what kinds of conditions could cause that kind of chest p... sorry, chest and throat tightness after intense physical activity."
Carlos pats his arm. "It means you'll be a good doctor, dude. Professional detatchment or whatever. But um... yes." He claps his hands together, wishing he could stuff them into his pockets right now, and stares at them. "Not more physically demanding, but um... we stopped using condoms."
"Ah," Adam says, no hint of judgement or embarassment in his voice, but Carlos can't look at him anyway. "Was that important to you? As a thing?"
"It's stupid." He resists adding 'chico', trying to go for some sense of detatchment, at least.
"It's not stupid, dude. Was it something you really wanted?"
"I, um... yeah. I guess. I've never... done that before, with anyone."
"Right." Adam sounds a lot happier than he should, and when Carlos looks up at him, he's grinning.
"Chico. What? You don't look like I'm about to keel over in the middle of the living room."
"Dude. I think you're in love."
Adam's grin turns into a soft smile, and he takes Carlos' hand and gently pats it. It's relaxing, and reassuring, and Carlos calms down at it.
"I think you love him, dude. Is it emotionally intense? Like you just want to pull him tighter and kiss him and let him know how much he means to you?"
"I uh... I mean, we just had sex. There's all those endorphins and stuff swimming around, right?"
Adam nods. "And that's part of why, at least at first, it's more common to feel that way during or after sex. I think you love him, dude."
Carlos considers that for a moment. He knows love. He loves Adam. He loves his brothers. He loved his parents, now an intense, painful hatred that makes him want to grab the nearest breakable thing and throw it.
He ignores that part.
But love isn't like this feeling. It's gentle, and affectionate, and soft. It's in the way Adam calms him down, and smiles at him when he places a plate of food in front of him. It's in the joy he'd felt when Adam went to a gay pride parade with him, looking slightly uncomfortable the entire time, but wanting to be supportive. It's in the pat on the back, or Adam's hand ruffling his hair, or the way he always feels so safe when Adam is nearby. It's in the unspoken words they can exchange with a glance or a brushing of fingertips against each other.
This isn't that. This is intense, and sudden, and demanding. It feels like he suddenly can't get enough air, or can't get enough of... Nick.
He shakes his head. "No. I... I don't think so. There has to be something wrong with me."
Adam smiles at him and picks up the textbook again. "Well, if it happens again, stop and think for a second about why. And ask yourself if it's because you're feeling a sense of connection in the moment that goes beyond just the physical contact and intimacy, like some sudden desire or intense need that you can't control."
"Oh." That does sound closer, and he's not sure he likes it. "Okay. Thanks... chico."
Adam makes a noise, but he's buried in his book again, and Carlos is pretty sure he didn't really hear him.
He picks up his own book again, trying to focus on the words, but his mind just wanders.
He lies in bed, staring at the rectangle of light painted on the wall by the bathroom, waiting. Nick takes a bit longer in the bathroom, and for some reason, his heart pounds in anticipation.
After what feels like ages, Nick walks out, a pair of sweats hanging low on his hips and a threadbare t-shirt tight across his chest, and Carlos can't help but stare, that feeling back in his chest again. He remembers Adam's words, and from the warmth he now identifies along with the tightness and the slight way his breath hitches when he thinks about running his fingers over the tight fabric, he wonders if Adam might have been right. It's desire, but also something more.
It scares him.
"Sorry. I forgot I ran out of toothpaste this morning and had to open a new tube." Nick stops as he notices Carlos' expression, and looks a little concerned. "Babe? Is everything okay?"
"You're beautiful." Carlos shakes his head, tearing his gaze away even though, from the way Nick's now blushing, he's pretty sure he doesn't mind.
"Oh. It's... just an old undershirt and sweatpants."
Carlos isn't sure how to articulate that he's never had this before. Never seen someone looking so comfortable around him like that before, at least not someone he could touch, and someone where he didn't have to imagine what the small sliver of skin and sparce trail of hair were teasing and previewing. The one time he'd spent the night with his ex had been an unpleasant experience, for many reasons, and Adam was... Well, Adam was Adam. The thought of waking up next to Nick the next morning, for the first time, somehow has him speechless with want and anticipation.
He isn't sure how to say that he suddenly realizes he loves the man standing in front of him.
He immediately feels self-conscious about his own sleepwear, and pulls at his own shirt. "I..." He can't say it.
"You're beautiful, too." Nick turns off the bathroom light and moves toward him, his face lit now only by the streetlamp through the window.
Carlos blushes, loving the way the words make him feel. Not like you are, right now, he thinks.
Nick stands at the foot of the bed and seems to look the bed over. "So, um. I see you've picked a side. I hope you're happy with your choice, because you can never change your selection again."
Carlos tries to remember why that sounds familiar. "What?"
Nick smiles at him and climbs into the other side of the bed. "It's a thing. Couples typically have a side of the bed that's theirs, and usually don't change afterward. In most cases, it's the side they end up on the first time they spend the night together."
Carlos' heart swells at 'couple', even though it shouldn't be a surprise to him in any way, and the tightness is back. "Oh."
"I'm mostly kidding though. Well, not about that, but we can change sides at any point if you decide you like the other one better."
Carlos thinks for a second. "No. You're on the side you usually end up on after sex, relative to me. I think it makes sense."
Nick nods, moving closer to him and pulling him in for a gentle kiss. "Works for me."
Carlos kisses him back, focusing on the way it makes him feel, and at how the tightness is replaced with a gentle contentment.
He breaks, pulling Nick's head down and against his chest, instead, and Nick shimmies downward slightly in the bed before wrapping his arms around him. Carlos closes his eyes, his arms around Nick's back and his hands running gently through Nick's hair, and tries to focus on the way he can feel Nick's breath through his t-shirt, and the way his own heart is suddenly pounding, despite not doing anything.
Nick must notice too, because Carlos can feel him frown against him. "Are you okay, babe? Your heart rate is a little... elevated."
Just the concern in his voice brings the feeling back, and he tightens his arms around Nick, finding that it helps. "Yeah. I just..." He squeezes his eyes shut tighter, trying to get the words out. "I... I love you."
That for some reason helps, and the tightness turns into a pleasant joy as a tear runs down his cheek, and he realizes he's pouring his feeling through his arms into the man against him. He relaxes, somewhat, feeling like he's maybe squeezing a little too tight.
"Oh." He can feel Nick smile against his chest, and hates the sudden disappointment he feels that Nick didn't say it back.
Of course he didn't say it back. You've only been together for four months.
Then Nick shifts, and Carlos opens his eyes to find his head next to his, his eyes shining and staring into his own.
"I love you, too," Nick says before kissing him, gently, but still full of passion.
Carlos doesn't even notice the way the tears are flowing now as he pulls Nick on top of him, and kisses him back like he's the only thing in the world.
Carlos slides back into bed after cleaning up after sex, and pulls Nick against him again. He momentarily misses the feel of Nick's bare flesh against his, cursing the fact that they're dressed again, but settles for a hand under Nick's shirt and against his side instead.
"You know, I'm kind of amused that I asked if you wanted to stay over, and the first time we're doing this is at your apartment," he says, kissing Nick's head.
Nick chuckles, one hand drawing circles on Carlos' chest through his shirt. "You also said you'd like to see my apartment, so we're knocking out two relationship goals at once."
Carlos closes his eyes, a smile on his lips, liking the idea that they're progressing through some list of relationship-related events. "I like that." His arms tighten around Nick, who makes a pleasant noise. "I've never... it's never been like this before, with anyone."
Nick kisses his shoulder. "I'm glad." He's quiet for a bit, seemingly thinking. "Actually, I think I can say that too, for myself. I've dated guys before, and I loved Wade, and we spent the night, of course." Carlos isn't surprised by any of that, but it still fills him with a momentary discomfort. "But I've never... fallen for someone like I did for you. I think I blame the way Adam talked you up before we met, and I thought he was exaggerating, but then I met you and it turned out he wasn't after all."
"Nick..." Carlos' eyes are wet now, and he doesn't dare open them. He can feel Nick shift next to him, then kiss his cheek.
"I don't think I knew before you how perfect someone could be for me, and I hope that I can always be the kind of person you need as well," Nick says, his voice soft.
Carlos can't not look at him at that, his vision slightly blurry from tears. Nick's eyes are large and filled with honestly. "You do, Nick. You... you're better than anything I could have dreamed of. You're smart, and supportive, and affectionate, and just... I feel like you give me back so much, every day."
Nick smiles, kissing him gently. "I love you."
Carlos gently maneuvers him so his head is on Carlos' chest again, running one hand through his hair. "I love you, too."
The words come more easily, that time.
"Hey, babe? Feel free to say no, if you don't want me joining you, but I wouldn't mind tagging along the next time you and your friends go out to a club, if it's a time when I'm free."
Carlos looks over at Nick, sitting on the couch with Adam with notes spread out everywhere, as he takes off his shoes, having just returned from a club with his friends. He isn't sure he heard Nick properly. "What? You... go clubbing?"
Nick blushes at that. "Yeah. Well, Wade and I used to. We had a bit of a group in undergrad. I just haven't felt like I've had enough time since moving here, not to mention dealing with the subsequent hangover, but I guess that part is a bit easier to deal with by just being more careful with drinking."
He ignores the tingling in his chest at Wade's name. Even in his inebriated state, he has the sense not to be the one to broach that topic. "Dude, of course you're welcome to come with us."
He also likes the idea of another opportunity for Nick to socialize with his other friends. They'd all gone for dinner together a while back, so he'd met them, but it was too much of a pain to arrange that kind of thing regularly, so Nick hadn't been around them as much as Carlos feels like he would have liked, and the interactions otherwise had been limited to a few quick meetups with a person or two or the rare opportunity when he ran into one of them while they were out together.
"Okay. And now that I've asked I feel like I'm going to be so busy that every time you ask I'm going to be unavailable. But keep asking, okay? It won't annoy me, and I won't be saying no because I don't want to go. It'll be because I'm legitimately too busy."
Carlos nods, understanding that even without the explanation, moving next to the couch and waiting as Nick moves some papers to clear space before he sits down next to him.
Nick kisses him, and then looks contemplative. "Whiskey? And coke?"
"Whiskey coke, double coke." Carlos is mildly impressed. "It makes the drink last longer, and doesn't cost any more."
"Sounds like a sound economic decision." Nick kisses him again.
"Well, I don't want to be like Aditya. Cosmos, double vodka, with some added syrup to make it go down easier. He's a lightweight anyway, and after a couple of those, he's down for the count."
Nick makes a face. "Simple syrup? Who adds that to a cosmo? The point is that it's supposed to be tart. Cranberry, lime, and, um..."
"Triple sec, for a bit of sweet," Carlos finishes. "And simple syrup for a lot of sweet, in his case."
Nick shakes his head. "Vodka sodas or screwdrivers for me. I'm not a fan of strong flavors in my drinks." Carlos notes that fact down. "Anyway, sorry, we're almost done here."
Carlos wraps an arm around his back and grabs his book from the end table from its position buried under other binders. "Take your time. I'm just going to read, myself."
Nick leans against him and he and Adam continue their quizzing, and Carlos wonders if a nice bottle of vodka would be a reasonable birthday gift.
He knocks on the door to Nick's apartment, waiting a bit before it opens. Nick smiles at him, but looks guilty. "Hey. I'm, um... I know we were supposed to go out for your birthday this Saturday, but uh... something came up."
"Oh." Carlos feels a bit more disappointed than he thinks he should. He'd been looking forward to his first birthday celebration with a boyfriend. "Sure. That's fine."
Nick seems to suddenly remember that Carlos is still standing in the hallway. "Sorry. Hi. Come in, come in."
He steps aside, and Carlos walks into the apartment, dropping his overnight bag on the ground, wrapping an arm around Nick's waist and pulling him in for a kiss.
"Busy with class stuff?" he asks when he breaks.
"Oh. Um." Nick seems nervous. "No."
"Oh." He wants to pry, but feels like he shouldn't. "It's okay. You don't have to tell me."
"No, it's just... Wade's going to be in town. He just let me know yesterday, and I haven't seen him since we graduated, and I just..." He shrugs. "I know the timing is terrible, because we already had plans, and it's your birthday, and it's really not fair to you, but it didn't seem fair to him either for him to come out all this way and for me to miss him. If he wasn't flying in Friday morning for work, and out again Saturday evening, I would've suggested a different day, instead. But um... he was thinking we could see Alcatraz, so maybe I could do that during the day and we could have dinner? But if it's not okay with you, tell me, and we can stick with our original plans, instead."
Nick is starting to ramble in the way he does when he's nervous, and Carlos feels a lot of things all at once. Jealousy, he thinks, especially that Nick's taking time away from studying and away from him on a day they were supposed to be celebrating together for this man, and doing something that the two of them haven't done together. Envy for what he knows Nick and Wade had that they've still never talked about and for what Carlos wants for the future for the two of them. Disappointment that they weren't going out together this weekend, ruining his plan to take him up to Alamo Square with a picnic lunch so he finally had another excuse to try making the bread he thinks he's finally mastered.
He kicks himself. He doesn't have a monopoly on Nick's time, or a say in who Nick sees, just like he doesn't with Adam. And Nick is right that it would be terrible for Wade to come all this way and for them to not meet up.
"I'd like to meet him," he says before he even knows he's thinking it. "Shit. Sorry. That was... completely inappropriate." Nick's staring off into space now, and he rubs his lower back. "It's totally fine. Of course you should see him." He kicks himself again. Nick hadn't asked for permission. "I mean... I'm... glad the two of you still talk." He's not sure about that part, but he hopes it helps.
"Um. Actually," Nick says, and Carlos holds his breath, not expecting any response that would start with that. "I think that would actually help." Then Nick's shaking his head. "Sorry. You didn't mean... this time. Just... yeah, of course you should meet him, if you want to. Um... not this time, if you don't want to. And it's fine if you don't want to at all. Sorry, you just said you wanted to."
Carlos kisses him, gently, to draw his focus back. "Dude. I don't want to make you uncomfortable. Or him."
Or myself, he thinks, still not sure how he feels about the whole thing.
"You won't make me uncomfortable. I think it would actually really, um... help. Me. But that's a lot to ask of you." He shakes his head again. "Sorry. I keep assuming you mean this time."
"I do." He decides the abstract 'sometime' leaves too much room for him to avoid the subject. "But only if you're completely okay with it. And if he's completely okay with it."
"Okay. Um. If you're sure, I would... really like it if you joined us on Saturday." He'd think it was some sort of placation if he didn't know Nick well enough to know how sincere the response was.
"Are you sure it'd be okay with him?"
"Yeah." Nick seems more confident about this part. "I think he'd be happier if I brought you than if I didn't, actually."
"Okay." Carlos isn't quite sure he understands why that would be the case, but decides not to ask, wrapping his other arm around Nick, pulling him close and pressing their bodies together, and loving the way Nick relaxes against him. But despite the feeling, his mind starts to wander again. "How final was the breakup?"
It's out before he even thinks about it, and he immediately regrets it. He starts to apologize, but Nick shakes his head. "It was really final. As final as you can get. You don't have anything to worry about, babe."
He feels a bit better at that, at least. "Okay. Sorry. That wasn't my place to ask."
"I think it was. We've never talked about it, and I feel like maybe I should've offered to. Um, before now, I mean." Carlos nods. "Because I'm offering to now, if you want," Nick clarifies, just in case.
"Okay. Can we?" Talking about Nick's ex isn't how he'd expected to start the evening, but he feels like maybe it's an important conversation to have.
"Yeah. Um." Nick turns his head, seemingly looking around the apartment. "I guess the options are dining chairs or sitting on the bed. I'm still sorry I don't have a couch."
"Chairs, maybe?" He isn't in love with the idea of sitting without back support for a conversation of unknown length, and a part of him wants to keep the bed to only categorically pleasant memories.
Nick pulls away from him, and he suddenly notices how cold the apartment feels, but lets himself be led to a chair that Nick quickly grabs some books off of and dusts off quickly with his hands.
He's not sure how he should sit, but Nick answers that for him when he moves the other chair, sitting facing Carlos and taking his hands in his as Carlos sits. "Um."
"We really don't have to talk about this if you don't want to, dude."
"Does that mean you don't want to?"
"No." Carlos is surprisingly sure of that answer. "But do you want to?"
Nick nods. "I do. I haven't talked to anyone about it before."
Carlos is reminded of when they'd talked about his coming out to his parents. "I'm willing to listen, if you need to. Or want to."
"Okay." Nick takes a deep breath and seems to think for a bit. "Maybe we should start with my, um... freakout on Valentine's Day."
Carlos listens as Nick tells him about his senior year, and being obsessed with his applications and preparations and studying. He tells him about how he knew Wade didn't really like the more serious and studious Nick, and all of the changes he felt like Nick was making, even though they felt like a natural progression to Nick. He tells him about how he knew their relationship was in trouble, and he felt like he had to do something about it.
"So, um... I got some candles, and champagne, and roses. And on our scheduled night to watch the Survivor premiere, I kind of... made a gesture to try and let him know how much I loved him, and that I wasn't trying to ignore his wants and desires."
Carlos doesn't really like 'loved him', even though it doesn't surprise him, but he swallows the feeling and nods, telling himself he just needed to be supportive right now.
"And it worked, I guess, for a bit. But it meant I could keep ignoring the fact that we were no longer right for each other. He needed to go to New York and have his big-city partying life and his theatre tech career and his shot at working Broadway. I needed to go somewhere quiet where I could be heads-down and focus on my studies and the future. So I think just... seeing the candles and flowers reminded me of that, and it made me worry, for a second, that the two of us weren't right for each other too." Nick takes Carlos' hands and squeezes, looking into his eyes what what Carlos takes as reassuring. "But I know it wasn't the case. For us. It was just me, being stupid again."
"No. I understand." Carlos squeezes his hands back, trying to be reassuring in return, because this really was Nick's time to be reassured. "I'm sorry I didn't realize."
"How could you have?" Nick smiles, softly. "It was romantic. You... you did amazing. You are amazing."
Carlos wants to keep talking about that forever, but feels a need to force them back onto the topic at hand. "So what made you finally realize that? That you were no longer right?"
"My friend Laura. And Wade. He kept telling me, without telling me, that he knew things were over. Laura was a bit more blunt about it, but she finally managed to get it through my stubborn head. Well, I thought she had, because Wade and I finally broke up. But I guess I still held out hope?"
Carlos feels his heart fall at that. "And still?"
Nick suddenly looks desperate. "No, babe. Not anymore. I meant... after we broke up. I knew I wouldn't be happy in New York, but I still... held on to it. My first med school offer was NYU, and I thought it was maybe a sign. Even after I got UCSF, and even though it had always been my dream city and my dream school, I held on to that. I guess I thought that, if I moved, I could grow to like it. And maybe Wade would eventually see that and take me back."
"So what... what finally convinced you?"
"Oh." That sounds promising.
"He came over to celebrate my UCSF offer. And when I told him I hadn't accepted it yet, he knew exactly why. He told me in no uncertain terms that we were over, and we would always be over, and that he didn't think we could be friends anymore if I refused to let him go. And I think that's what I finally needed to hear, because I did. For good, that time."
"Do you love him?" Carlos doesn't mean to be blunt, but he still feels like he's suffocating.
Nick nods, reluctantly. "I think I'll always love him, in some way. But I think now it's more like I think how you feel about Adam? It's friendly, but not in any way where I'd actually want to date him, again. Not in the way I love you."
Carlos pushes his buried feelings for Adam back down, and nods. The words do help, and he can breathe a little easier. "Okay. That's... good."
"I guess that's mostly it. I think I hadn't realized until I met you how much I needed someone who could pull me out of my, uh... single-minded focus, but not in an aggressive way. Not in the way Wade did where I always felt guilty about it. You're caring, and supportive, and understanding, and that's what I love most about you. I think this... uh, him visiting... is a good example of that."
Carlos blushes. "Yeah, well. You're those things, too. And I've had a lot of practice with Adam and academic focus, so..."
"You're really sure you're okay with this? Even though it's your birthday? I can still tell him no." Nick still seems guilty.
"My birthday is Thursday. I assume you'll be over, studying with Adam, and I was going to get a cake, so we're already celebrating it."
Nick nods. "I will, but Saturday was supposed to be for us."
Carlos kisses him, feeling more calm now. "We can go out the following Saturday, instead, as long as you can get away from studying and everything for a bit." He stops, suddenly realizing. "That Saturday is your birthday."
Nick blushes, seemingly surprised that Carlos remembered. "It is."
"Dude. Then we're definitely going out the following Saturday. As long as you can spare that time."
"Yeah. That'd be fine. There's nothing I'd rather be doing on my birthday than spending it with you."
Now it's Carlos' turn to blush. "Dude."
"Thank you, babe. For... listening."
Carlos nods, but somehow, the conversation really helped him, and he hopes he was able to be as reassuring and supportive for Nick. "Of course."
Nick stands and holds out his arms. "Come here, babe."
Carlos stands, and lets himself be pulled into a kiss, and takes it as yet more reassurance that he has nothing to worry about.
And he thinks he almost believes it.
"Oh. I was thinking today..." Nick starts, before trailing off.
Carlos pulls on his sleep shirt and turns off the bathroom light before turning to Nick, climbing into the bed and waiting for him.
"Always a dangerous activity." He can't see Nick's face in the moonlight, but his voice didn't sound concerned.
Nick chuckles. "If you're going to be staying over here somewhat regularly, and if you had some stuff you wanted to leave here, you're welcome to. I know you already have a toothbrush and stuff here, but I mean... clothes, I guess. Or books or whatever. I can give you a shelf in my closet."
"Dude." Carlos climbs into bed, and reaches for Nick, pulling him close. "Is this the infamous drawer thing I've heard people talk about for serious relationships?" He's pretty sure Nick blushes.
"Maybe? I mean, I think the two of us are working out, and it doesn't make sense for you to lug a bag of stuff over here every time you're going to spend the night."
Carlos kisses him, gently. "Okay. That sounds nice, then. Same for you, if you have clothes you want to leave over at our place. And you already leave like half your books there, but if there are any others..." He really actually likes the intimacy suggested by the mingling of their clothing and things, even if it really should just be a practical consideration.
"I might do that. I'll show up at your place next time with a huge rolling suitcase of clothing."
"You forget I've seen your closet, dude. You don't have that many clothes. Now books, I would believe."
Nick chuckles again and pulls Carlos on top of him. "I think we shouldn't be having many clothes right now, either."
That sounds good to him, too.
Carlos isn't sure what he'd been expecting, but it wasn't this. Wade is friendly, and charming, and he thinks it reminds him of Nate except he thinks Wade's smiles and laughs seem more sincere. He easily understands why Nick fell in love with this man, and feels his stomach knot up at it.
But then he looks over at Nick, smiling at something Wade had said, and he sees none of the same affection or desire he sees so often in Nick's eyes, and it's almost enough.
"Sorry it isn't quite your birthday. It could have been nice to visit for that, although I guess you and Carlos probably just want to celebrate it together." Wade smiles at Carlos, and he isn't sure if he likes or hates that Wade is being deferral to him.
"Actually, Carlos' birthday was this past week, so we're kind of out celebrating that." Nick smiles at him too, and that's full of the affection that made him kiss him in the first place, all those months ago, and that definitely helps.
"Oh! Well, happy birthday, Carlos. I'm sorry if I'm crashing any celebration."
"You're not," Carlos says, even though both he and Nick know Wade actually is. "I'm sorry if I'm making things awkward by being here."
Wade shakes his head. "Is it weird if I say that this actually makes things better?"
Nick had said something similar, and Carlos hadn't understood it then, either. "Kind of? Um... don't get me wrong, because you seem like a really great guy, but if my ex was in town and we were somehow on good terms, I feel like bringing Nick along would make things... worse."
Wade just nods. "Nick has this tendency to hyperfocus on things, and has trouble letting go of things that really matter to him. I'm sure you've noticed that."
Carlos thinks back to how Nick often throws himself into studying with even more dedication than Adam, and sometimes forgets to take care of basic needs like food as a result. He remembers their conversation about family and coming out, and how it had still bothered Nick even after he'd realized there wasn't anything either of them could do about it. He remembers even how Nick had thrown himself headfirst into dating to try to get over him when he'd thought that Carlos wasn't interested.
"Yeah. I have."
"Well, at one time, I was one of those things that mattered to him, and he had trouble letting go, even when we both knew it was the best thing for both of us. I don't know if he told you that he really didn't want to move to New York, but after we broke up, he was holding onto his NYU offer, even after he'd gotten his dream school, because he was holding out hope for us."
Nick had told him the same thing, and thinks hearing it again helps. "Yeah. He told me that. But why would me being here... help?"
"The fact that he has you now, and you two are clearly so happy together, means that he's truly let go. And it means that he's not just faking it, because I'm sure you've also noticed how bad Nick is at hiding his emotions and how he truly feels."
"I'm right here, you know," Nick says, but it's teasing.
"Case in point," Wade says, and Carlos laughs because he knows Nick's words mean he's actually a little annoyed. "But you two look truly happy together, and he seems truly at ease with you. So seeing that instead of just hearing it from him is helpful for me, and that's why you make things better."
Carlos thinks he understands now, and Nick's beside him again, squeezing his hand. He tries to find something else to say in response, maybe to thank Wade, but then there's an announcement on the intercom.
"And I think that's our ferry," Nick says, pulling the tickets out of his pocket.
Carlos follows Wade down to the dock for the ferry to Alcatraz, Nick holding his hand the entire time. And between Wade's speech, the talk with Nick earlier in the week, and the feel of Nick's thumb gently rubbing against his hand, he thinks he finally feels like he has nothing to fear.
"Hey, dudes. How was Wade?"
Carlos stops as he pulls off his shoes, surprised for a second at the question. Of course Adam would know about him. He and Nick talk too, probably more than Carlos and Nick do, even.
It should make him jealous, but instead it makes him happy.
"He's doing well. I mean, I knew that already, because we talk from time to time, but it was really nice to see him again," Nick says, before squeezing Carlos' hand in a silent question.
Carlos smiles at him, trying to convey his response. I'm really okay with this. And he really is, now. Even over dinner, when there had been no other activities to do or things to see to distract them, Wade had been friendly, and the conversation had been remarkably easy, and Nick had seemed so genuinely happy to be seeing him again that Carlos couldn't help but be happy with him, and for him.
He can't imagine wanting to talk this own ex again, but Nick seems like the kind of guy who would want to keep up with his exes. And he likes that thought, for some reason, even though that too should make him jealous.
"I wish he could stay longer," Carlos says, but he feels like he's still surprised that he actually means it. Wade was fun, and they'd talked about the clubs and gay scene in New York, and Carlos had promised to take him to his favorite clubs in San Francisco the next time he was in town. "I'm looking forward to seeing him again."
Nick nods, squeezing his hand again. "Me, too."
"Cum for me," Nick growls, his hand jerking roughly as he runs his thumb over the tip of Carlos' aching cock. The tone of his voice is harsh, demanding, commanding, and Carlos shivers at it, feeling it in his spine.
"Oh god I'm gonna..."
Carlos tries to muffle his yell in a pillow, but his hands can't seem to find one and he doesn't have the presence of mind to really try, as the orgasm hits him, his balls clenching almost painfully as he cums, spurt after spurt covering Nick's hand and palm and wrist and leaking out to streak his own stomach. Nick continues to jerk him, roughly, and then he's yelling from the pleasure that's now pain, too much too soon.
When he's about to beg for mercy, Nick stops, and he looks up at him through half-lidded eyes and a foggy brain. Nick is smirking at him, holding up his hand covered in Carlos' spunk. Carlos licks his lips, involuntarily, waiting for Nick to tell him to clean up the mess he'd made.
"Watch me," Nick says instead, in the same rough tone that leaves no room for negotiation, and that he wouldn't even try to disobey anyway. He watches as Nick shifts on the bed, moving so he's sitting by Carlos' head, his cock tantalizing close to Carlos' face. Carlos licks his lips again, involuntarily.
He watches as Nick smears his cum all over his cock, the sweet but slightly acrid smell filling his senses, and he whimpers at what that does to him.
Nick finishes coating his cock, shiny and glistening even in the relatively dim light, and finally wipes the backs of his fingers on his own chest for good measure. He stares at Carlos, the serious expression on his face undermined by the love in his eyes. "Clean me up."
Oh. He hadn't been expecting that.
Nick's cock twitches as Carlos sits up and moves in, his hands finding Nick's ass and his mouth enveloping his cock, not stopping until he can feel Nick's pubes tickling his lips. Nick groans and a hand, the clean one, tangles in Carlos' hair. The taste of himself, mixed with Nick's musk, explodes across his tongue, and he thinks he'd be hard again if the evidence of his release wasn't literally right in front of him.
He sucks and pulls in all the ways he knows Nick likes, until the taste is gone and even beyond that. Nick's thrusts grow harsher and more erratic, and Carlos knows he's close.
"You... want it?" Nick's breathing heavily, the attempt at harshness overlaid with more tenderness than he'd probably intended this time, but Carlos doesn't appreciate it any less. He can't respond, of course, but he takes Nick to the root again and holds him there, letting his tongue run the length and Nick groans.
The hand on his head pulls him back, then pushes him forward again, and that's all it takes. When his nose bumps Nick's abdomen, Nick muffles a yell, and then he's cumming down the back of Carlos' throat, and Carlos tries his best not to choke on it.
He waits until the fingers in his hair relax before pulling off, licking the tip for good measure in a way that makes Nick shudder.
Nick's watching him, half lidded, his lips almost as red from biting them as what Carlos suspects his look like at the moment. "Was that oka..."
"I'm not done yet," Carlos says, taking Nick's wrist and licking his fingers, cleaning the drying semen from the webbing and knuckles. Nick shudders as he continues watching him, as Carlos' tongue runs over sensitive fingertips and skin, as Nick's other hand strokes the back of Carlos' neck affectionately.
When he's satisfied with that, he gently maneuvers Nick down onto his back, flat, and leans over him, licking the dried streaks from Nick's chest, sweet mixing with the salt of Nick's sweat. Nick chuckles, but lets him, and Carlos can feel his heartbeat against his lips.
With that done, he lies back himself, and Nick settles into the spot at his side, arm over his chest and leg thrown over his.
He kisses Carlos' shoulder. "Was that okay? I'm still not really sure what I'm doing, so I worry I'm not doing a good job."
"That was really nice, baby." Carlos stills for a moment, the word slipping out unintentionally. But as he thinks, he realizes that it actually does fit this time, and doesn't fill him with the sense of desperation -- that he was trying too hard to make something work that he knew wouldn't -- that it always had before. He kisses Nick's head, relaxing again. "You were really good."
"I'm glad." Nick kisses his shoulder again. "It wasn't too much? I know you said you like it when I take charge and order you around. I just want to make sure it wasn't too much."
Carlos shakes his head. "No. It was really hot. And perfect."
"Do I need to do that more? Take charge more often? Do you need me to do things like tie you up? You seem like you're really happy with the more vanilla stuff, but if you feel like you want or need more, I'm happy to give you whatever you'd like."
The question should make him embarrassed, or at least blush. The first time they'd talked about their sexual interests, he'd barely been able to articulate to Nick the kinds of things he liked, or at least that he thought he liked. He worried Nick would be disgusted, or leave him for wanting those things. Instead, Nick had been Nick, and instead gently kissed him, reassured him that everything he wanted was perfectly reasonable, and normal, and apologized for being a bit more vanilla himself. Then he'd smirked, put on that authoritative voice that went straight to Carlos' cock for the first time, and ordered him to blow him, his hands forcing Carlos' head down until he'd almost choked when he did. And he'd loved it.
So it should make him embarrassed, but it doesn't, and Carlos thinks about why. With Dan, he'd gotten off on it, being ordered around and used in any way Dan saw fit, feeling like he had no agency, even though Dan had always been good about consent. And, to a certain extent, he still does like it. He likes it when Nick takes that tone of voice with him, and makes him do things that should be humilitating but that he knows that Nick knows he'd actually enjoy.
But Nick is different. Carlos likes it more when they make love, their lips gently pressing together and with gentle touches on his skin as Nick softly thrusts into him in a way that feels like he's so concerned about Carlos' pleasure that it makes his heart want to explode out of his chest. He likes the way sex with Nick feels more about the two of them together than the physical act itself. He likes the way Nick holds him afterward, in a way that Dan rarely did -- or, if he thinks about it, never did, because Dan never held him like this -- and how it feels like an extension of, or somehow even more intimate than, the physical act they'd just shared.
He trusts Nick, he realizes. He trusts Nick in a way he never really trusted Dan, or anyone else before Nick, because at the end of the day, no matter how good the sex was and how accomodating Dan was, he was still just another hole to be used and thrown out afterward. Even with his ex, when he dared hope for more, it never felt like this.
Nick just feels right.
And he loves him.
"No." He shakes his head, smiling now. "I... didn't realize how okay... sorry, how amazing sex could be, before you. So I think I was... trying things to feel that rush, you know? That satisfaction. And, with you, I feel that all the time, already."
"Babe..." Carlos looks over at him, and Nick is blushing but looking at him with such love and affection. "You do the same to me, too."
"So, um... I wouldn't mind if you threw some stuff in there more often, or if you wanted to explore some things, even if they're new things for me. But I'm... I'm more than satisfied with this. With you. With everything with you."
Nick kisses his shoulder again, and the arm over his chest pulls him in tighter. "I love you, Carlos."
"I love you too, baby." It's intentional that time, and it too feels right. He closes his eyes, letting himself get caught up in the calmness and happiness still washing over him. "And happy birthday. Again."
Nick just smiles against him, and they both gently drift off to sleep.
Title from 'Blindfolded' by Kris Allen.
Walking through the strange and crowded place / Imagining your face and fighting my way through / Oh I feel you getting close with every step / With all that I have left, I'm reaching out for you / If I was blindfolded, if my memory was erased / If every sign pointed to another place / I would still find you, I'd still find you, I'd still find you / If I was blindfolded / My fingers trace the outline of your shape / And recognize the way you pull me into you / Oh you're calling out to me, not saying a thing / You're everything I need / And all that I could never, ever lose