I. Unicorn Cafe
They meet in his Intro to Philosophy class at Northwestern, the spring of their sophomore year.
The first time he notices him is early March. Aaron spouts off a well-thought-out response to a question Carson asks the professor. More intelligent and thought out than anyone he’s ever met, even if his peers at college are better than the ones he had in high school. Carson approaches him after class with the intent of telling him just this, and before he knows it, he’s got a phone number and a standing date for the following Friday.
Aaron texts him the place later on that same day, says he’s got it covered. A coffee shop that’s about a twenty-minute walk south of his dorm. They agree to just meet there, avoiding the potential awkward that the walk could bring.
Carson gets there about ten minutes early, bundled in layers to protect him against the damn Chicago cold. He let’s out a laugh at the shop’s name, the Unicorn Cafe, before entering. Aaron’s sitting in a little alcove off towards the far left of the counter by a window, coffee cup steaming in front of him. Carson feels his heart start beating faster, pulse racing. He takes a minute to calm himself, just breathe, before approaching Aaron. The man’s eyes light up when he sees Carson approaching.
“Hey,” Carson greets him, peeling off his outer layers to hang on the back of his chair, “I’ll just go grab my coffee and be right back.” He turns to walk back to the counter, but Aaron interrupts him.
“Nope, sit back down. I asked you out, I’ll pay. What’s your order?” Carson wants to be indignant, but he’s never been on a date before, or even been interested in having one. He’s not used to being on completely new territory, so he complies and sits down in his chair. “Oh, thank you. It’s just a mocha.”
“Got it!” Aaron nods and goes to the counter to stand in line. He’s wearing what’s maybe the tightest pair of black jeans he’s ever seen, paired with a short-sleeved pastel green button up. Carson almost feels over dressed in his long-sleeved white button up, black tie, and dark grey cardigan.
It doesn’t take long for Aaron to return, steaming mug in one hand and a china plate with some sort of pastry in it on the other. He sits Carson’s mug in front of him and places the plate in the middle of the table.
“I got us some blueberry scones, if that’s okay?” Aaron asks, sitting down in his chair.
Carson nods, reaching to take a sip out of his coffee. He looks up at Aaron, who’s breaking a piece of the scone to eat. “So,” Aaron almost hums, “what’s your story, Carson? How’d you end up here?”
He blinks a few times, and fiddles with his coffee mug. What’s he supposed to say? “Big question for a first date,” he mutters.
Aaron looks at him curiously and smiles. “Look at me Carson,” he pauses, waiting until Carson does so, “Listen, I asked you out because I think you’re gorgeous. And intelligent, and witty as hell in class. But, if you don’t want to be here it’s fine, we can end-”
And no, that’s not what Carson wants at all. Even though dating and all of those things never really seemed important to him before, he thinks they could be with Aaron. He doesn’t know what everything means yet, why his heart beat picked up the first time they spoke, or why he can’t keep from smiling every time Aaron looks at him. But he knows they mean something, and that’s worth enough for him to try.
He shakes his head, “No, Aaron. I’m, that’s not what I want. I want to do this, try this.” Aaron smiles stretches across his face, making his eyes crinkle. “Sorry, my uh, hometown never had anyone who fit to my standards well enough for me to date.”
Aaron full out laughs, covering his mouth, and shaking his head in disbelief. “Well, must be pretty high standards then. I’m taking it as giant compliment you’re even here with me. So, do I come close to fitting those standards?” He shoots Carson a look that makes his blood race under his skin, creating a light blush across his cheeks.
He looks at Aaron like he’s considering him for a moment, “I don’t know. I think I’m going to need to get know you better to decide.” And god, did he really say that? This is flirting, right? He can feel his cheeks get even hotter as he glances away.
He doesn’t see Aaron reaching out with his hand, so he startles when he feels it warm on top of his own. Carson lets his hand get flipped over, palm side down, so Aaron can lace their fingers together. He looks over to him, where he sees Aaron has a blush to rival his own. “Well, looks like you’re just going to have to keep me around then,” Aaron says softly, his voice shy. Carson hums in agreement, reaching forward to take a piece of scone.
II. Shedd Aquarium
It only takes three more coffee dates for them to start officially dating. They’re had two more since then, but today is their first date outside that coffeeshop. Aaron already informed him that he has it all planned out for them, which was a relief, he wasn’t quite sure he knew what a qualified as a good date. He’s just finishing wrapping his scarf around his neck when his phone chimes with a message. He pulls it out of his pocket, even though he already knows who it’s from.
I’m outside :)
Carson smiles down at his phone and leaves, taking the steps down his building two at a time.
Aaron greets him outside when he steps outside of his apartment, a beanie on his head and a thick wool scarf around his neck, with his thousand watt smile shining from underneath it. He has on a shirt beneath his thick coat that reads ‘Shedd Aquarium Chicago, IL’ with a cartoon shark, that immediately makes Carson roll his eyes.
“Well, aren’t we prepared for a day at the Aquarium?” Carson snarks. He stands in front of Aaron, shifting nervously under his gaze.
The other man hums, wrapping his arms around Carson’s waist to pull him closer. Aaron presses his lips against Carson’s cheek softly, startling him. They hadn’t done anything besides hand holding yet, and it takes him a moment to realize that they can do more if he wanted. He could pull Aaron closer and slot their lips together like he’s wanted to since their first coffee date. Having to watch Aaron lick his lips every minute or so after sipping his coffee was his own personal brand of hell.
He can feel the heat radiating off his cheeks from the thought of Aaron’s lips. The other man pulls back then, of course, giving him a questioning glance. “Of course. We’re playing tourist, might as well dress like one.” He finally steps back from Carson, and they start their short walk towards the train.
Carson gives him smile of reassurance and raises his eyebrow. “Wouldn’t a tourist not own that shirt until after they went to the Aquarium?”
Aaron narrows his eyes at him. “Don’t ruin my logic Carson.” He nudges Carson gently with his shoulder, grinning at him. Carson returns the smile as he feels the back of their hands brush. They lace their fingers together, holding hands the rest of the trip.
After they arrive at the Aquarium, Aaron rushes them quickly through the line. He attempts to buy Carson’s ticket too, but Carson ends up convincing him to let him buy his own ticket.
Aaron immediately pulls Carson off to the side after they have their tickets in hand and opens up their map. He’s biting his bottom lip, worrying it between his teeth. Carson’s eyes zero in on it. It’s all his brain seems to be able to process today. He wants to take it between his own lips and soothe the bite mark over with his tongue before-
Fuck, he thinks. Aaron’s looking at him with a curious smirk, like he knows exactly what Carson had been thinking about.
“Y-yes?” His voice stutters out, breathier than normal.
“There’s a penguin chat in like, five minutes. Can we go?” Aaron looks expectantly between the map and Carson.
He nods in agreement. “Sure, but I don’t-,” Aaron grabs his hand, tugging him into a run towards a set of stairs. “Aaron is this really necessary?” he huffs.
They shove through the crowds of people, mostly made up of tourist and children. He runs down the stairs behind Aaron, struggling to keep up. They turn more corners than Carson can remember before finally entering an exhibit area.
He slams into Aaron’s back when he stops abruptly, causing them both to stumble forward. There’s a glass tank that takes up most of the wall in front of them, and inside lay the penguins. A long cushioned bench stretches out to face the tank, and Aaron gently leads him to sit with him on it. It doesn’t take long for an older gentlemen to come out, and being talking about the penguins in the exhibit.
At some point during the chat, Aaron slips his arm around his waist, tugging him closer. Carson glances over at him with his best ‘really?’ look, but Aaron just answers him by kissing his cheek.
Aaron turns back to watch the man. Carson has to bite his lip to keep himself from pulling Aaron back and kissing him right on the lips. He sighs, soon, he thinks.
On their way walk from the Aquatic Show to get lunch, Aaron tugs Carson’s hand back to make him stop. He’s looking at the photo booth, situated up against the wall.
“Carson! Can we, please?” Aaron asks, pouting out his lower lip towards him. Carson glances at it, he doesn’t know if being in a tightly confined space with Aaron is such a good idea today, with the way his mind has been going. But one look at his hopeful face and he gives in. Aaron gives a happy hum, dragging them both towards the booth
Aaron slides in first, tugging the taller boy in before drawing the curtain shut. It takes a minute for Carson to adjust to the darkness, and by the time he does Aaron’s already got his card swiped, and is clicking through the menu.
“Should we go with the penguin frame, or the shark frame?” He flicks between the two options, studying them.
“The shark one,” Carson replies.
“Shark one it is then.”
He finishes with the menu, and the camera comes on. They shift closer together to fit inside the frame, and Aaron starts the countdown. They do a simple one at first, just smiling at the camera. The camera clicks, and the countdown starts again.
“Silly one?” Aaron asks.
Carson nods. He scrunches up his face, and sees Aaron stick his tongue out. The camera clicks again, and the countdown starts.
“What do you wanna do-”
“Mm, don’t worry, I got this one. Just sit there and look cute.” Aaron winks at him. Right before the camera clicks, Aaron kisses him on the cheek, again. Really, how hard is it for Aaron to understand that he wants to actually kiss him? He wants to press their lips together and-
Aaron interrupts his thoughts when the next countdown starts. “What do you wanna do for this one?,”
Carson huffs in annoyance. Without really thinking he grasps Aaron’s jaw with his left hand, yanking him forward to take advantage of Aaron’s open mouth, and crashing their lips together. Aaron’s gasp of surprise gets quickly replaced by a moan, right hand reaching out to clutch Carson’s coat. They let themselves get lost in it, just moving their lips against each other. Carson can taste the faint hint of coffee that Aaron had when he woke up this morning on his lips and moans softly, pressing harder into the kiss.
Just as he goes to suck Aaron’s bottom lip into his mouth„ Carson hears a faint clicking noise. It takes him a moment in the haze of ‘he’s kissing Aaron’ to register that it’s the photo booth’s camera. He lets out an indignant squeak and pulls back from the kiss suddenly, Aaron’s lips trailing after his.
“Mm-, hey no, where are you goin’-” Aaron mumbles, eyes still shut, trying to pull Carson back in. He concedes, eyelids fluttering close and pressing his lips against Aaron’s again. The damage is already done anyway.
The second time is just as perfect as the first. Aaron takes more control this time, cupping Carson’s jaw and tilting him so that their mouths can slot together easier. There’s more pressure, a more comfortable passion. Aaron hums in the back of his throat this time, and Carson can feel the vibrations tingle his lips. They slow down, switching to small, closed mouth kisses until Carson eventually pulls back. He stays close this time, letting their noses rest against each other. Aaron presses closer, nuzzling their noses together.
Carson lets out a soft snort before whispering, “Didn’t really expect my first kiss to be caught on camera.”
Aaron makes a vague questioning noise, before seeming to realize where they are.
“Oh,” he whispers, “S’your fault. You kissed me.”
Carson glares at him playfully. “Well if your lips didn’t look so damn kiss-”
“Uhm excuse me? Are you guys finished?” a voice comes from outside the booth, accompanied by a soft knock.
“Yeah. Uhm, j-just a sec,” Aaron calls back out. They slip out of the photo booth, hoping they don’t look like they just made out, and let a dad and his young daughter go inside.
Carson grabs their picture strip from the machine, and they walk off to the side a bit to really look at it properly.
He gasps as glances down at the pictures in his hand.
“What?” Aaron asks as he slides in closer to look at the pictures.
“Nothing. I just-, they’re gorgeous Aaron.” he mutters, thumbing the bottom border of the pictures.
Aaron laughs, tugging lightly on the ends of Carson’s scarf so he’ll turn towards him. “That’s a little narcissistic, isn’t it?”
“Maybe a little,” Carson smiles, “but it’s true.”
“Especially that last picture, hmm?” Aaron murmurs, pressing a kiss against the corner of his lips. A shiver races through him.
Carson looks back down at the last picture, their first kiss stares back up at him.
“Especially the last one,” he replies, letting Aaron tug him forward by his scarf to kiss him soundly.
III. Navy Pier
“So, why did we have to come to Navy Pier again?” Carson asks as they step underneath the giant bright red gate. He knows why, Aaron explained it to him during their coffee date earlier in the week, already excited to plan their date.
Aaron grabs his hand, letting their fingers lace together and swing in between them. His smile is bright and warm. “Because, Carson, you’ve been in Chicago for more than a year and haven’t been to thetourist destination. What shall you ever tell people when they ask you about the Pier?”
“Nothing? Not like anyone will ask anyhow,” he huffs. yanking the sleeves of his shirt up, “There is a perfectly good reason I’ve never went, you know.” He sighs, looking pointedly at all the tourist. He adjusts the sunglasses perched on his nose with his free hand, and lets Aaron guide him further into the Pier.
Aaron makes them go to the carnival rides on upper level of the pier first.
It doesn’t last very long, they get tired out quickly and Carson gets concerned about getting burnt. They drag themselves back down to the lower level, skimming through the Chicago themed shops and exotic fashion boutiques.
They don’t linger very long at any one store, and soon, they turn around the corner away from the boutiques.
The moment Carson sees the logo around the corner, he knows he’s doomed.
Aaron’s a five-year old at heart, and that Build-A-Bear logo stands out against the darker tan color of the walls. Aaron immediately stops dead and turns to him.
“Just so you know, you have no choice in the matter. I already planned this as part of our date.” He seems proud of himself, as if preplanning it could make Carson more willing to go in the store. Carson rolls his eyes, but gestures for him to lead the way.
They immediately step up to the wall of animals, and he can almost feel the energy vibrating from Aaron. His boyfriend paces back and forth across the wall several times, stopping to pick up one of the unstuffed animals in the bin and looking at it, before ultimately putting it back.
“What exactly are you looking for?” Carson asks from where he’s leaning against one of the stuffed animal’s bins.
Aaron sighs, picking up another stuffed cat and running his fingers across the soft fur. He puts it back down into the bin. “One that looks like you.”
Carson pauses. “What?”
Aaron runs his fingers through his hair. “I just, I miss you sometimes. W-when we can’t see each other for awhile, and I know summer’s coming up, and you’re going to go home for a while and I just w-want to be able to hold you, even if you aren’t here,” he breathes out, not meeting the other boy’s eyes.
Carson swallows back the emotion that always seem to hover just on the surface with Aaron. They haven’t been dating very long still, two month tops, but he knows Aaron’s stutter only comes out when he’s really emotional or stressed out.
He walks over to him, cupping his jaw with his hand. Carson’s smile is gentle, “Aaron. That’s, that’s really sweet of you. But you know you can just call me, right? I’ll always make time for you.”
And he will, he means that with all of his heart. There aren’t many people Carson would drop everything for, but Aaron is one of them, if not the only one sometimes.
His boyfriend smiles that gorgeous smile he reserves only for Carson. The one that lights up his entire face.
“I, I know. But I just want something physical too, you know?”
And he does. Of course he does. Sometimes he wants nothing more than to walk the few blocks over to Aaron’s apartment on a whim, just so he can see and touch him. But there’s always that lingering of too soon in the back of his mind. Carson knows it’s probably not, that it’s all him holding them back, because he still feels like he’s walking on unsteady legs when it comes to relationships and social connections.
“How about this. You get one that looks like me, I’ll get one that looks like you. But we do the heart’s for each other’s? That way we both having something.”
Aaron lets out a breath. “..really? So, I’d put the heart in the one that looks like me, but you’d keep him?”
He laughs. “Exactly. Sound good?”
Aaron reaches forward to grasp Carson’s face, pulling him closer. He kisses Carson softly, letting his thumbs rub against Carson’s temples.
When Aaron pulls back, his eyes are shining brightly. “That sounds perfect.”
They go back to search through the bins. Carson finds Aaron easily, picking up the unstuffed animal to show him. Aaron has a harder time. Finally, he finds the perfect animal in a bin clear on the end and picks it up to show Carson, who nods in agreement.
Carson ends up with a stuffed border collie sporting pastel colors and raybans named Aaron, while Aaron ends up with a fox in blue with thin glasses named Carson.
Boxes in hand, they make their way out of the store.
I. Baking together
Carson brushes the non-existent dust of his shirt for the twentieth time, pacing back and forth in front of his kitchen counter. Aaron was coming over any minute, to his apartment for a date Carson planned.
He felt like all the oxygen in his lungs had magically disappeared.
It doesn’t matter that they have been dating for four and a half months. Or that Aaron told him he doesn’t care what they do, as long as got to see Carson, since he just got back from spending a month and a half in California.
This was the first time Aaron was going to be inside his apartment.
They usually went over to Aaron’s, because it’s bigger and closer to campus, so Carson could just come over after classes end. Or after his job at the school newspaper. His own apartment was further away, close enough to still just be in reasonable walking distance. Neither of them had roommates either, so there was never a problem of figuring where or how to get time alone for making out or for doing, well, more.
But it was also the first time Carson was in charge of their date.
Aaron was usually overly eager to take the reins. Volunteering his Chicago-native knowledge to take him around the best spots in the city. That’s why Carson decided on a night in, there wasn’t something in the city he could show Aaron that he wouldn’t have explored already.
His phone abruptly buzzes from it’s place on the counter. He answers it without checking the ID.
“Hey, I’m downstairs. Buzz me in?” Aaron’s voice flutters through the phone.
“Sure thing,” he replies, voice sounding much more secure than he feels right now. Carson presses the correct button on his phone to unlock the door before hanging up, placing it back down on the counter.
He takes a deep breath, trying to remember that it’s just Aaron, and he won’t care what they do.
“Knock knock!” Aaron’s voice comes from outside the door.
Right. Here goes nothing.
Carson opens the front door, his boyfriend’s smiling face greeting him.
“Hey, come in.” He moves out of the way so Aaron can step inside, and closes the door behind him.
When he turns around, he’s met with an eyebrow raise and a smirk. “Is that how you greet your boyfriend you haven’t seen in a month and a half? C’mere,” he reaches forward and tugs Carson closer by the front of his v-neck sweater.
He laughs as Aaron kisses him, open-mouthed and dirty from the start. Aaron pulls Carson’s bottom lip in between his, nipping it gently, before he soothes it over with his tongue. He gets a loud moan in response, and Carson’s hands fumble for purchase on any part of Aaron he can reach. They manage to grab his waist, so Carson pulls him even closer. He runs his hands up and down Aaron’s sides, trying to relearn the way his body feels after going so long without touching him.
Aaron pulls back to start sucking wet kisses across his jawline, eventually moving onto his neck. Carson makes a whining noise in response, tilting his head back so Aaron has more access. Hands wind around Carson’s back, one slipping upwards to tangle in the hairs at the nape of his neck.
“A-ah, uhm, Aaron-n,” he breathes out, as his boyfriend sucks particularly hard at the top of his collarbone, “Not that-uh, this isn’t nice, a-and all. But this isn’t, oh-fuck, particularly what I had in mind for today.”
Aaron gives one last hard suck before pulling back and giggling. “Oops,” he murmurs. There’s a nice sized red mark that will definitely bruise right where his lips were at just a moment ago. “Sorry. You just-uh, I haven’t seen you in a month and then you wore a v-neck sweater, Carson, who even does th-mmph” he’s interrupted by a sweet kiss to his lips.
Carson’s hands gently squeeze his waist, and when he pulls back from the kiss, Aaron is smiling up at him.
“Was that a more, satisfying greeting?” Carson asks, a grin tugging on the ends of his lips.
“Yes. Much better,” he replies, “So what do you have in mind for today, anyways?”
“Oh,” Carson swallows hard, letting his gaze fall to the floor, “I thought we might, uhm, bake? You mentioned a while ago about really wanting me to teach you?”
He finally brings his gaze back up to meet Aaron’s, who is smiling like a damn loon.
“Carson, did you think I was going to turn away baking lessons from you?” He tilts his head in curiosity, “You did, didn’t you?” He sounds more amused than anything.
Carson blushes, ducking his head. “Well, not necessarily, but you could have.”
“Never, would I deny you, the opportunity to teach me something. Okay?”
“Alright, lead the way, then.”
Carson leads him into his tiny apartment kitchen. The baking ingredients and supplies are already set up on the counter. Aaron smiles, pressing a kiss against Carson’s cheek before walking up the counter.
“Where do we start?”
It takes all of ten minutes before Aaron can’t keep up.
“Aaron, what did you-,” when he glances over at Aaron, he has to catch his breath. Because standing, covered in white flour, Aaron still looks absolutely beautiful.
“I uhm, I-I don’t know? One minute I was pouring the flour into the mixing cup a-and the next minute I was like this! I’m hopeless Carson. You should-d just give up on me now. I’m so sorry Carson, I’m sorry I-” Aaron’s voice cracks as he continues to ramble, and he looks like he might be on the verge of a panic attack.
“What?” Carson interrupts him, “Why are you sorry, for getting messy? I love you, you idiot, I don’t care if you-”
He puts down his bowl and takes Aaron’s cheeks in his hands. He leans over, kissing him as gently as possible. The taste of flour invades him mouth, and Carson hums into the kiss. He moves his thumbs in a circular motion over Aaron’s cheekbones. They pull back from each other, keeping close enough that their noses still touch.
Carson whispers against his lips, “I love you, Aaron.”
He gets tugged forward, Aaron connecting their lips again in a passionate kiss. Aaron whimpers, letting them taste each other for a few moments, before pulling back. Aaron’s hands are gripping Carson’s biceps, and his eyes are shining.
“I love you too, Carson.”
Carson’s jaw drops, before twisting into a giant grin, his teeth showing.
“Oh,” he breathes. He throws his arms around Aaron’s neck and pressing their faces impossibly close.
Aaron kisses his cheek a few times, before moving to start kissing under his ear. Carson lets out a soft moan, tangling his hands in the back of Aaron’s hair.
“Why don’t we forget the baking for now,” Aaron whispers in between kisses, while Carson squirms in his arms, “and go to your room, love?”
Carson laughs, “But-, you were doing so well.”
“Shut up,” Aaron growls, nipping his earlobe and tugging Carson towards the hallway, “Bedroom. Then we’ll see if I can make you a mess.”