This fic follows on Breaking the Surface, which in turn follows Falling Into Place, and therefore contains spoilers for and will not make sense without those two works. You should read both works first.
The Zoom call dings, and Chris' face appears on the screen. Carlos grins at him. "Hey, dude!"
"Hey," Chris says, warily. "How's Nick doing?"
Carlos shifts on the bed and reangles the laptop so Nick is in the frame.
"Hi, Chris," Nick says, and Chris immediately looks relieved.
"I'm glad you finally made it home."
"It was about time," says Carlos, shifting the camera back as Nick protests. "Shush, baby. You're supposed to be sleeping. I agreed because you said you just wanted to say 'hi' quickly."
The call dings again, and Nate and Jake appear onscreen.
"Who's that?" Nick asks, and Carlos turns the screen back. "Hi, Nate and Jake."
"Nick! I'm glad you're finally home." Nate looks relieved too, and Jake smiles next to him.
"Thank you. It's good to be home."
"How are you feeling?" Jake asks, and Carlos shakes his head, turning the laptop away again.
"Okay. Nap time, and if you protest, I'm going to burn your dinner, too."
"Burnt foods are carcinogenic, babe," Nick says, but acquiesces, closing his eyes and pulling the comforter up to his chin. Carlos kisses his forehead and picks up the laptop, moving to the living room and closing the bedroom door behind him. He feels guilty, somehow, leaving his husband alone after they'd spent so much time apart, and when all he wants to do his wrap his arms around him again and never let go, but he reminds himself that Nick really does need to rest.
"Are you doing okay?" Chris asks, and Carlos can't help but laugh at it.
"Dude. The three of you have probably been literal lifesavers over the past few weeks. I can't thank you enough for these calls."
"I apologize that we didn't think of it sooner," Nate says. "It should have been an obvious thing to do once we had to stop our bi-weekly dinner meetups, and Jake's been really happy to talk to Chris again regularly, too. It shouldn't have taken Nick getting sick for us to finally arrange something."
He feels a pang of regret and nostalgia at the memory of cooking for Jake, and how much Nick had enjoyed discussing the meals with him. It'd been good for Carlos too, not just because it meant he and Nate had picked up their friendship after the wedding and rediscovered how much they enjoyed each others' company, but because his heart felt full when he watched their husbands interact, Jake's shy and reserved personality so quickly turning into a talkative and bubbly young man under Nick's calm demeanor that Jake was often even more eager to try Carlos' new experiment than Nick was.
"Well, you two and Nikhil and Hannah were doing the bubble thing, so life was probably pretty normal for you." He's jealous, but he doesn't think he would have been able to trust two other people that much, or have two other people trust him that much, especially earlier on when Nick was still home. Nick did work in a hospital, after all.
"Hi," James says from Chris' screen, and Chris moves over slightly on the couch. James sits down next to him.
"Dude! I caught your stream the other night. Where do you get these ideas?" He's still not sure why the one-man reenactment of Star Trek scenes in Shakespearean style had been so captivating, given he understood so little of it for so many reasons, but he'd still re-watched the stream a dozen times afterward.
James laughs. "It's mostly Chris' ideas. It's just nice to have something to do, again."
"Hollywood still shut down?" Jake asks, before blushing. "Sorry. Stupid question."
"Are we still doing Jackbox?" Chris asks. "Or do you need to talk, Carlos? Or anyone?"
Carlos shakes his head. "No. I don't need distraction today, but that's because I'm calm today for the first time in a month, so I don't need to be talked down from anything. For once. But thank you." He really does feel calm, the usual tightness in his chest, that had been familiar even before Nick had gotten sick, finally gone. "So Jackbox is fine," he adds, clarifying.
James raises an eyebrow, and Chris turns to him and says something.
"I'm glad Nick is home again and continuing to recover, Carlos," James says, and Carlos can feel relief wash over him again.
"Thanks, dude. I am too. Are you joining us this afternoon?"
"It depends what we'd be playing." James shrugs.
"Let's do that drawing game again. With the Owl," Jake suggests, and Carlos feels like he's on board with that, and nods.
Chris sets up the game, and as they join and the game starts, Carlos glances over at the closed bedroom door and thinks of his husband sleeping behind it.
Things really are going to be okay.
"Breakfast time," Carlos says as he walks into the room with a muffin and some juice. Nick looks up at him from the bed, fondly, before putting a bookmark in his book and setting it on the nightstand.
"Actually, can I eat at the table?"
"I don't want you exerting yourself, baby."
Nick shakes his head. "I've been lying down in a hospital bed for a month. I think some sitting up would be good for me."
"Is that your expert medical opinion?"
"Please. I'll sit on the couch instead of at the table, if it'll make you feel better."
Carlos considers it for a moment. "Fine. But you're staying right there until I set the food out, and come back to help you."
Nick looks like he wants to protest, but instead just nods, and Carlos sets up some plates, napkins, and drinks at the coffee table before returning and helping support Nick on his way out to the living room. They sit together, and Nick leans against him, more from a desire for closeness than out of any need.
"Did you make these?" Nick's chewing a bite of muffin, and Carlos resists the urge to tell him to not talk while he's eating or he could choke.
"I did. I've been trying new combinations, and it's nice to have someone else to try them out instead of having to eat them myself. It's hard to make fewer than about 10 muffins, because you can't exactly split an egg."
"I'm going to guess.... zucchini and walnut. With cinnamon and... a hint of chili powder?"
Carlos shakes his head, always amazed at Nick's ability to identify flavors. What he lacked in cooking ability, he more than made up for in appreciation and enthusiasm for eating the results. "That's right. I was wondering if I should throw a berry in, too. It probably would have been too much. Maybe next time."
"What did I do to deserve this?"
"Baby. You do everything, and you deserve everything." Carlos forces away the tears that threaten to come.
"I love you, Carlos," Nick says, and Carlos wants to hear that every day for the rest of his life, after being so afraid he never would again.
"I love you, too." He kisses Nick's temple, and they finish eating together in a comfortable silence.
He climbs into bed slowly, trying to disturb Nick as little as possible even though he's pretty sure he's not asleep. He's proven right when Nick opens his eyes and turns toward him.
"Hey. Have a nice nap?"
"I don't think I was really asleep. I was just resting my eyes for a bit. I've been sleeping so much recently that it's sometimes hard to sleep, now."
"Must be nice, dude," Carlos jokes, before feeling guilty about it. "I mean, your body is still recovering, so you should still rest as much as possible."
Nick's hand finds his between them, and grasps it tightly. Carlos tries not to think about how much he'd missed that, too.
"You didn't come to bed last night."
"Oh, yeah. I didn't want to disturb you so I slept on the couch." In truth, he'd also been worried about his ability to keep his hands off of his husband after being apart for so long, and the last thing Nick needed right now was a sex-crazed Carlos straining him unnecessarily.
But it had also been torture, so he'd allowed himself to join Nick tonight, promising himself he'd be on his best behavior.
"I missed you."
"I missed you, too." He squeezes Nick's hand.
Nick doesn't respond, seemingly thinking for a bit. "Can I... lie on top of you?" he asks, finally.
Carlos shakes his head. "Baby..."
"I miss you, Carlos. I miss touching you, and kissing you, and yes, fucking you. It's been ten weeks, and even though I can't remember a lot of that time, my body still knows how long it's been, and still needs you."
"Your body is still repairing itself, baby. You don't need that added stress, right now." It's hard for him to turn down what he, too, desperately wants.
"I think it'd be good for both of us."
Carlos thinks. "If you were your doctor, would you advise yourself to engage in even light sexual activity at this time?"
"If I was my doctor, I would advise myself to reconnect with my husband after spending more than two months apart."
"Please." Nick's hand releases his and moves to his crotch where, despite himself, he's hard at just their mere proximity. "I know you need this, too."
Carlos sighs, closing his eyes and letting the feel of Nick's fingers on him soothe him. "Fine. You can lie on top of me. But no promises for anything beyond that."
He can feel Nick shift next to him, and he opens his eyes again, helping maneuver Nick so until he's on top of him and their bodies are pressed together. He almost hisses at the pleasure, and at how much he needs it, but the fact that his husband feels significantly lighter and frailer than he remembers is sobering.
Nick just smiles at him, kissing him gently. His mouth doesn't taste the best at the moment, but Carlos can't bring himself to care.
"I love you. I missed you." Nick kisses him again.
That shouldn't do it, but suddenly the pain and need from the past months hit him all at once, and his body shakes as he sobs.
"I'm... I'm sorry," he tries to work out between sobs, but Nick just shushes him, kissing gentle reassurances into his cheeks and the corners of his mouth.
"Shhh. It's okay. I'm here. I'm here and it's okay."
"I thought... I thought I'd lost you. They called and... and said you were in the... ER and... they showed me and... you were so..."
"I don't... I don't know what I'd do... without you..."
"Shhh. You don't have to worry about that anymore."
He shakes his head and grabs Nick, kissing him more roughly and desperately than he probably should, but Nick melts into it, and he can feel himself calming down at it.
They break, and Nick stares into his eyes, smiling, before his expression turns mischevious and he moves his hips against Carlos. Carlos moans through the tears, the sensation bringing him back into the present.
"I only agreed to... you lying on top of me."
"My hips must have slipped," Nick says, but he's smirking, and Carlos somehow loves him all the more for it.
"Okay, seriously though. Your heart's been strained. Your lungs are still really not good, and I want to avoid breaking out that supplemental oxygen if we can. I really think we shouldn't be doing this, right now."
Nick bites his lip, and Carlos knows he knows he's right.
"Fine." Nick rolls off of him, and he immediately misses the pressure. "But can I... watch you jerk yourself, at least?"
That seems like it should be harmless enough. "Fine. But if I catch you doing anything, like joining in, I'm stopping and sleeping on the couch." He feels like it's probably an empty threat, because he doesn't think he could bear another night away from the man next to him at the moment, but he tries to make it convincing anyway.
"Touch yourself," Nick says, and it's in the commanding tone he uses when they're feeling a bit more sexually adventurous, that always goes straight to Carlos' cock and settles in his spine.
He slides his hand into his underwear, palming himself and moaning at even just that contact. It's been too long. He hadn't trusted himself to do anything while Nick had been in the hospital, trying to hold on to the memory of the last time they'd had phone sex, instead, and feeling like doing anything would sully it. He can feel Nick's eyes on him, and Nick's hand settles on his thigh, and it shouldn't feel as good as it does.
"Touch your hole." This is equally as rough, and Carlos shivers as he trails his fingers down, over his balls and lingering over his taint before finding his entrance. He whimpers as he grazes the tender ring of muscle. He hadn't used any toys since Nick had left, and had turned down Nick's efforts to make him do this, before. Here, too, he was hanging onto a memory, this time of Nick's cock nestled deep inside him as Nick filled his heart with promises and his insides with the evidence of his love for him.
"P...please," he gets out. "I need... I need you... inside."
He breaches the muscle with one finger, arching up at the pleasure despite himself and despite the awkward angle and the way his cock is pressed painfully between his wrist and his briefs. He really should have gotten naked, first, but he hadn't exactly been expecting this.
"You feel... so good." He probes, gently, before adding another, the feeling bringing the memories -- pleasant, this time -- flooding back despite the surprisingly painful stretching and the roughness from a lack of lube, and a tear runs down his cheek.
"Babe..." Nick misinterprets the tear, and his voice is soft now. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push too hard."
Carlos shakes his head, removing his hand and immediately missing the feeling of it before he pulls down his sleep pants and briefs. "No. It's good tears. Good."
He sees Nick nod, and then his voice is rough again. "I didn't say you could stop."
Carlos shivers again, reaching for the lube in the nightstand, and feeling a sharpness in his chest when it feels so unfamiliar. He shakes the feeling away, focusing instead on the warmth of his husband next to him now, and quickly lubes up his fingers before returning them to position. He circles the ring, slowly trying to relax under his touch before he tries again. He can tell Nick's watching him, and can hear Nick's breath catch along with his when he pushes a finger in again, up to the first joint, and feeling himself spasm around it. He wonders if he should stop, for Nick's sake. It was just supposed to be a quick handjob.
"Yeah. Add another and fuck yourself for me." Nick's voice is tinged with a softness that undercuts the intended effect, but it makes him shiver anyway, and he doesn't think he could stop at the moment even if he wanted to. He'd never heard Nick curse outside of sex, and almost didn't think he could before it'd slipped in on an otherwise usual -- but still incredible -- session, and it's another thing that feels like his because of it.
He does what he's told, pushing another finger in and prying himself open. His other hand finds his cock and starts to stroke, gently, just enough to alleviate the painful throbbing. Nick's hand is back on his hip, and moving along his skin until the fingertips comb through the coarse hair around the base and bump his length. Even just the slight contact is incredible.
He moves the fingers in his ass, imaginging they're Nick's cock gently filling him as Nick kisses his lips and breathes loving words into his mouth. But he needs it, too much, and decides to forego tender, kicking that thought aside and instead setting a pace that he knows he's going to regret the next day, fingers slicking in and out as he thrusts instinctively into his fist and against Nick's soft fingertips.
"I... I need to cum..." It's as much a request as a statement, and Nick's hand pushes his aside, taking its place as his fingers wrap around his cock and brush over the head, and that's too much.
"Cum for me, Carlos," Nick says, rough and needy, even as Carlos is already over the edge, his cum spurting in streaks over his abdomen and t-shirt.
It's so much pleasure that it's almost pain, and not just because of how long it's been, and it feels like he's blacking out from it, only vaguely aware of Nick's hand continuing to stroke, gentle now, helping him ride out the waves as they gradually diminish.
When his eyes can focus again, he looks over at Nick, who's staring up at the ceiling with his eyes squeezed shut. Nick's hand is unmoving, still wrapped around his cock, and he hadn't done the usual thing where he'd hold it up for Carlos to clean up, and Carlos wonders if all this was a mistake.
"Ba... baby?" It's still hard to speak, but he's concerned about his husband.
Nick's eyes open and look at him, and Nick smiles, but it's not as full as he'd like it to be. "I'm... I'm okay." Carlos notices he's breathing heavily. "I didn't... touch myself. Just... need to... catch my... breath."
Carlos doesn't move, even as the fingers in his ass become more annoying and his arm starts to cramp and the cool air of the apartment makes him shiver, instead watching Nick's eyes and chest as Nick's breath slowly evens out.
"Are you okay?" He asks, finally, once he's satisfied that Nick is breathing normally again.
Nick nods, finally withdrawing his hand and holding it between them, in the air, as if not quite sure what to do about it. "Yeah. Sorry. I didn't think seeing you do that would... affect me so much."
Carlos doesn't know why he would have thought that, and kicks himself for thinking it would be okay in the first place. Sex with Nick has always made him breathless with desire, even if he wasn't personally getting off at the time.
"Well, then I think you've broken the terms of our agreement, and I'm sleeping on the couch tonight." He withdraws his own fingers, hating the way he feels so empty now, but needing to give his arm and ass a break.
Nick shakes his head, but there's desperation in his eyes. "No. We agreed I wouldn't touch myself."
"We agreed you wouldn't 'join in'. Your hand is exhibit number one, right now." Still, he gently takes Nick's wrist and licks the spunk off of Nick's fingers, and Nick looks at him with so much love and regret that his heart feels like it's going to break at it.
"I'm sorry. I just... please stay with me, tonight. It's been too many nights, alone." Nick's voice cracks, and if he'd actually been considering leaving, that would've kicked that thought away for good.
Carlos nods, wiping Nick's spit-slick hand on his t-shirt, thinking this particular one was a lost cause and due for the hamper, anyway. "Fine." He tries to not betray any of the need he's feeling, himself. "But I think we really do need to put a pause on bedroom activities for a while. You have some more tests coming up, and I don't want the doctor reprimanding me or whatever."
"This doctor would never reprimand you," Nick says, leaning over and kissing him gently. "Unless you wanted him to."
Carlos shakes his head, gently pushing Nick away and standing and pulling off his t-shirt. Nick's eyes scan hungrily over his naked body.
"Seriously, Nick. You need to take it easy."
Nick sighs and stares up at the ceiling before nodding. "I know. You're right. It's just... hard."
Carlos nods, tossing the shirt into the hamper and walking toward the bathroom to clean himself off. Something feels off, he thinks, and he realizes it's the lack of the feeling of Nick's cum running down his legs to accompany the soreness of his hole.
He tells himself that's something else to look forward to, and a goal for them to work toward, letting it act as incentive for taking things slowly until he's sure Nick is recovered enough and has gotten the green light from a doctor who's a little less invested in the whole situation.
He washes up quickly, the routine coming back to him despite not having been used for quite some time, grabbing a clean shirt and pulling his underwear and pants back on before slipping back into bed next to Nick.
His husband looks at him, smiling, and maneuvers so their hands are joined again. "Thank you. For staying."
"I agreed to 'spend the rest of my days, hours, minutes, and seconds at your side', baby. You're stuck with me." He knows it's not what Nick is saying, but he's feeling comfortable enough again to tease. It was the one part of their vows they'd coordinated with each other, wanting to make sure they ended on similar notes, and the one part Nick hadn't blatantly ripped off from his long-form engagement speech, smirking at Carlos as he spoke even as his voice wavered with emotion. And Carlos had cringed but loved every minute of it.
"Thank you for being mine, then."
Carlos leans over, kissing him softly. "Baby. Like there's anything I could ever want more."
Title from 'Declaration' by David Cook.
I'll take you just the way you are / Imperfect words inside the perfect song / I feel you closer than you are / But I've been waiting far too long / Too long / It's my declaration / To anyone who's listening / You're my inspiration / As I stand alone against the world / 'Cause you love and you bleed / And you stole my soul to set me free / It's my declaration