It’s freezing outside, and Austin’s building’s front door is like some sort of Nirvana, shining forth into the hardship and dusty toil of a Tuesday night. He’s walked twenty minutes from the library, where he spent six hours fighting with Cicero, until the Latin was swimming in front of his eyes. It takes two or three frustrating tries, numb fingers fumbling his keys, before he gets inside and breathes in warm air.
He makes for the stairs without even looking at the mailbox. Getting home has given him enough energy to jog up the first flight, but it fades pretty fast, and he takes the second at more of a trudge. He checks the time as he sorts through his keys again: eight forty-seven. Crap, he never had dinner, no wonder he feels so…extra-awful. He thinks about food, thinks that he’d maybe rather not.
The apartment looks cleaner than it did this morning. The door swings shut behind him, and he squirms out of his messenger bag, dumps it on the floor. He contemplates his boots, coat, gloves, scarves, hat.
“Hey.” Carlos peers out of the kitchen. “How’d it go today?”
Austin sighs, starts in on his bootlaces. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He doesn’t want to think about it, either; he’d rather linger over Latin modals, hunger, snowy weather, fatigue. Normal headaches.
Carlos takes that in. “I made pasta. And we have cookie dough.”
“Not hungry. Thanks, though.” The knots in his laces have picked up dirty slush; his fingers start to go numb again, picking them apart. He’s starting to think about just curling up right here in the entryway and giving up on life when the first one goes, and the second one’s easier. His coat gets dumped on a chair, scarf and gloves and hat tossed on top. The hat falls to the floor, and he leaves it.
“Seriously,” says Carlos. “You look like hell.” He’s hanging back, in the doorway to the kitchen. He’s wearing pajama pants and a Cubs hoodie, and he looks soft and warm and concerned. Austin thinks about resisting, going into the bedroom to be miserable by himself, but Carlos’ hair is falling into his eyes and his hoodie is unzipped enough to show his collarbone, and Austin stumbles a little, crossing the hallway to wrap himself around him.
“Hey,” says Carlos in his ear. “Tell me.”
“I can’t,” says Austin, “it’s too–I mean, Alex didn’t tell me to go home and quit or anything, but I have to completely rewrite half my arguments, he’s disappointed as hell, he thought I could do better–” he chokes. “And I couldn’t concentrate in class and it took me all evening to finish my Latin for tomorrow, I was in the basement of the library with Tool on my iPod and I had espresso beans for dinner, I hate my fucking life–”
He’s interrupted by Carlos’ mouth; Carlos’ hand is firm in his hair and the kiss is soft and deep. Austin shudders and opens his mouth and lets it happen.
“Come on,” says Carlos, pulling back. “Eat something, and we’ll go from there.”
“Okay,” says Austin. “Yeah.”
He eats some of Carlos’ reheated pasta, and Carlos pulls out a cookie sheet and spoon and dumps balls of Nestle chocolate chip dough onto it. “Thanks,” says Austin. “I was going to make those this week.”
“No problem,” says Carlos. “Lab’s been pretty quiet the last few days. My mice won’t have sex, so I’m sort of stuck for now.”
“It would be so great,” says Austin, “if I had to wait for the Greeks to write more texts before I could do any work.”
“Yeah,” says Carlos, “I have it so easy. Developmental biology, you know, it’s like majoring in communications or something.”
“If I had majored in communications,” says Austin, “I could have a real job right now. In an advertising department or something. Christ.”
Carlos is quiet, spooning out the last of the dough, waiting.
“It’s like being Sisyphus,” says Austin after a second. “I don’t know if I can take it.” He’s so tired of it, of impossible deadlines and nights in the library and exhaustion like a solid weight in his chest, of the way his body feels fizzy and unreal when he gives up on sleep and makes the day’s first cup of coffee at four AM.
Carlos is quiet for a second. “Second year is the hardest year,” he says eventually. He puts the cookies in the oven, sets the timer, comes over to Austin’s chair. Austin pushes back from the table, and Carlos sits down in his lap, heavy and comforting, holding him down. “You told me that, the department told you that. And I saw you when you were writing that paper, babe, you were ready to kill yourself every second. You don’t usually hate work that much.”
“I thought it would be a good topic,” Austin says into Carlos’ bicep. “I hate it now, though. I hate it so much.”
“But your advisor doesn’t want you to do it for a dissertation also or anything,” Carlos says.
Austin shakes his head against Carlos’ arm. He’s always so warm.
“So, you can get through this. I know you can.” Carlos drops a kiss on his head, soft and brief. “Four more weeks until it’s due. And you have all of spring break.”
“There’s just so much,” says Austin. “Translations, papers, thesis, work, finals–”
“Austin,” says Carlos. “Finish eating, come on.” He stands up, leaving Austin colder, lighter.
He takes a deep breath. “Sorry. I really try not to whine.”
“You’re not whining,” says Carlos. “But cold spaghetti is gross.”
Austin can’t argue with that, so he finishes. Carlos does some dishes; Austin feels guilty for not having done any dishes lately, then tells his subconscious to shut up and eat. The timer goes off, and Carlos pulls the cookie sheets out of the oven, lets them cool for a minute, transfers the cookies to a couple of plates.
“You done?” Carlos asks.
Austin sets his fork down. “Yeah.”
Carlos takes his plate and goes to rinse it out in the sink. Austin slumps down in his chair and tries not to think about the eighty-seven thousand things he has to do. Alex gave him a short list of sources he’d missed, and only one of them is in English, so that’s going to take some doing. He has to spend some time on the paper for Lisa’s Roman military seminar before this weekend. He has work tomorrow afternoon, so his Greek translation is going to have to wait until after five–
Carlos’ arms come around him from behind, and he leans his head back, letting his eyes fall closed. Carlos kisses him upside-down, gently, and tugs him up out of the chair.
The bedroom is cleaner than it was this morning, too; Carlos must not have been kidding about the mice, because he only cleans by himself when he’s bored. Austin is momentarily, viciously jealous, but then Carlos kisses the back of his neck, and he can only be glad that they aren’t both freaking out at the same time. When Carlos is stressed to the breaking point, he’ll slump down in a chair and just cry silently, and it can take hours to pull him out of it.
Now, though, Carlos is unbuttoning Austin’s shirt, pulling it off, going for his jeans. Austin steps out of his pants and his boxers and waits, trying to forget about it all, about the whole fucking Classics department–and then Carlos takes Austin’s wrists in his hand, gently but seriously, holding them together. Austin breathes out, and when Carlos steps away, he keeps his hands behind his back.
The leather against his skin makes him close his eyes; Carlos snaps the wrist cuffs shut and hooks them together. “Comfortable?” he says into Austin’s ear.
Austin tugs at them. “Yeah.” He wishes they weren’t, almost, wishes Carlos would pull his arms back far enough to hurt. But this is good all by itself. He already feel s a little clearer.
“Turn around,” he says, and when Austin does, “Kneel down for me.”
The thump when he hits the carpet does hurt, a little. He swallows and looks up. Carlos’ hands are at his waistband; Austin waits for it. Carlos strips off his pants and reaches down to tilt Austin’s face up, thumb against his jaw. Austin lets his mouth fall open, tongue against his bottom lip, and Carlos’ cock bumps against his cheek, his lips, and slides into his mouth.
Austin lets him push in, keeps still until Carlos decides he’s in far enough, and then he flattens his tongue against the underside of Carlos’ dick and sucks. Carlos sighs above him, and Austin tongues along the shaft, sucks harder, pulls back a little to lick around the head and then goes back down, farther, swallowing around it. He can feel himself relaxing, unwinding, things starting to slip out of his head. He pulls a little against the cuffs, just to feel them there.
“That’s good,” Carlos whispers; his hand is carding through Austin’s hair, fingers light and warm. Austin swallows again; his eyes are watering. It is good. He’s always liked this, having something in his mouth. He tilts his head a little further back, silent invitation.
“Not yet,” says Carlos. “Work a little harder, first.”
That stings, although he knows–vaguely, somewhere in the back of his mind–that Carlos doesn’t mean it like that. But he licks down the shaft, pays some attention to Carlos’ balls, a little rougher than usual because he knows Carlos likes it like that sometimes. Down there, it feels hot and close, his cheeks against Carlos’ thighs, hair tickling his lips, all of it smelling like sex. He licks at Carlos’ inner thigh, mouths the slick skin, and pulls back in a long wide lick up the shaft of Carlos’ cock to the head. He takes it in his mouth, tongues the slit–the taste fills his mouth–and goes down again.
This time, Carlos takes a firmer hold of his hair and moves his hips forward; Austin shudders around him and relaxes his throat, and finally Carlos starts fuck his mouth. He’s not nice about it, fucking in quick, short strokes, making Austin’s throat burn and tears start to trickle out of the corners of his eyes. He gasps in air when Carlos pulls back, tries to lean forward and is held back by Carlos’ grip on his hair. It stings, and he sits back, panting. His wrists are hurting, although he doesn’t remember struggling at all.
“You’re doing so good, babe,” says Carlos; his voice is almost a whisper, and he’s jerking himself slowly with his free hand. “Breathe a little. You okay?”
He nods, watching Carlos’ hand. He curls his lower lips inward, runs his tongue over it; his mouth tastes like sex. He’s so hard, his dick aching, and that feels good, too.
“You’re so hot like this,” Carlos says, low and rough. “Your mouth, God. I love it when you suck me.”
That gets to him the way you’re doing good never quite does. It’s honest appreciation, real and serious praise: he’s fucking good at this. He grins a little, leans forward again, and this time Carlos lets him come, lets him lick around his fingers, run his tongue across the spot just under the head. Carlos groans and lets go of his cock, pulls Austin in with his other hand, and then it’s a series of quick thrusts, no time to breathe before he’s coming down Austin’s throat.
Austin swallows, thick and heavy, his mouth full of the salty-bitter taste of come. He licks his lips.
Carlos is panting above him; he reaches down and takes Austin’s arms, tugs him to his feet–Austin stumbles, and Carlos’ grip instantly gentles, holding him up. He leads Austin to the bed, sits him down, and drops to his knees on the carpet.
Austin moans when Carlos licks the head of his dick, hips jerking a little, trying not to move. Carlos pulls back and pauses, his tongue just barely outside his mouth, and Austin breathes, curls his fingers into fists behind his back and waits.
After an endless moment, Carlos dips his head again, and this time takes Austin’s cock all the way into his mouth. Austin hears himself make a choked, strangled noise; Carlos’ mouth is so hot, so soft and wet and perfect. His tongue slides along the underside, and Austin starts to pant, quick, whining breaths. Carlos brings a hand up to trace delicately over his balls, hold them in his palm, slip his finger back just far enough, and pleasure sparks up Austin’s spine.
Carlos keeps sucking, on and on and on until Austin thinks he might scream, it’s so good. When he comes, his eyes are shut and his head is back and his hips are pushing into Carlos’ mouth, his cock jerking into that endless wet heat. Carlos sucks him through it, sucks him into a trembling, oversensitive wreck, and then he stands up and kisses Austin’s mouth until it feels like he’s drowning in it.
When he pulls back, finally, Austin can’t take his eyes off of him, the curve of his cheek, his hair falling into his eyes, his lips red and shiny. Austin is panting and fucked-out, and he turns his head so he can see Carlos’ face even while he’s unsnapping the cuffs. He brings Austin’s hands around front, strokes his fingers over the red lines, rubs his arms right where the muscles are sore. “Okay, baby?” he says.
“Yeah,” says Austin. His voice is raspy. “Yeah, I’m okay.” He breathes. “Thanks.”
“One of these days you’ll believe me when I say: my pleasure.” Carlos nuzzles his hair, and Austin smiles. Carlos snags a tissue from the bedside table and does a quick once-over on both of their faces, and says, “Okay. Tired?”
Austin considers. “A little.”
“Okay. Hold on a second,” and Carlos steps back. Austin keeps the protesting noise down; Carlos is right there, he’s just taking the rest of his clothes off. Naked, he pulls Austin down onto the bed with him, arranges the sheets around them and tucks Austin against him. “Hang out here for a bit, maybe, and then if we’re still awake we can have cookies.”
“That sounds good,” says Austin, already starting to feel a little sleepy. More, though, he feels relaxed; Carlos has somehow managed to liquefy the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders, fry his brain to the point where he can’t remember why he was upset. It’s amazing. “Set the alarm,” he manages. “Have to get up early and…” he yawns, “do stuff.”
“Sure, baby,” says Carlos, and leans over to the alarm clock. “Seven okay?”
“Yeah,” he says, and yawns again. Carlos curls back around him and brushes a kiss against the top of his head, and that’s the last thing he remembers.