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the evidence of absence

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He was right there. 

He was right there, and the room was dark. Darker than any storage room had a right to be, especially one filled with files with tiny faded print that you had to squint at under the faint overheads or hold beneath lamps or risk going blind. One of the bulbs above them was burnt out and the basement was deserted, row after row of ghosts and contraband, but their eyes had adjusted and he was right there. So close. Too close to open a manila folder between them, though he was holding one at his side. Too close to breathe, really, tucked away in the dingy stacks, protected by shadow and the late hour. When the fuck did it get so late and when the fuck did he get so close?

They’d been orbiting each other all night; he felt it, but it felt like partnership, like professional synchronicity, like Marco Polo, like the ebb and flow of a rolling tide. Bringing their findings to each other. Discussing them in hushed whispers, hunched together as if the files themselves were eavesdropping. Like the words held more meaning, more truth, when murmured between them. Close together, arms touching, shoulders bumping, breath sweeping over the other’s face when they talked except - Marty wasn’t talking. He was standing. Looking. Nothing but shelves at Rust’s back and he couldn’t look away either. 

Something was fucking gripping his lungs and gripping his arm and maybe they were the same thing, or borne of the same thing. Marty had a hand on his arm, pinky wrapped around his elbow. And his eyes. Those were what had a hold on his chest, squeezing, pressing close. Banker boxes solid against his spine and warmth - blazing warmth, hard as sun-soaked stone, soft as ripened fruit - at his front. Something was happening and he couldn’t blink or he might miss it.

Marty looked a little crazed, but determined, the way he did before a raid. All of his nervous, vigilant focus pointed straight ahead. Looking like he had no idea what was going on, or every idea. That’s how Rust felt too. Not sure how they got there but damn sure where they were.

He watched Marty look down at his mouth, unmistakable, and that’s when he knew. Because once Marty sets his sights on something, he fucking takes it. Always has. It solves them cases. It causes them problems. This was neither. Rust’s lips parted but he didn’t speak. A single word would have shattered it, he felt the fragility of it in his bones. Chin up, eyes open, ready to accept anything.

It didn’t seem real when Marty swayed in, caught Rust’s mouth. It wasn’t real. Until it was. The drag of lips and catch of teeth, the taste of breath, none of it went away. He fell deeper against the shelving and Marty went with him. Breathed in deep through his nose, like it’s the first breath he’d taken in hours. Rust tried to take some of that for his own. Tried to pull in as much of the exhale that washed over his face as he could. Their lips never parted.

They’d never done this. But it felt like they had. The familiarity was stupefying. Time is a flat circle.

The folder fell out of Rust’s hold, papers spilling onto the floor. All four hands moved into place with all the deliberateness of choreography. Marty held him the way he might hold a woman, Rust thought. A hand at his neck, another creeping to cradle his lower back. It didn’t matter. Marty’s sides were firm, his back deceptively broad. Rust slid his hands to Marty’s chest and that, at least, was just as he thought it’d be. Recognizable enough to make his knees weak. 

Rust’s jaw dropped, an offering, wanting Marty inside him in a way he could feel on the surface for a change. Marty let himself swipe his tongue in, hesitantly, like a child testing an ice cream flavor. But just once. Just once before pulling his head back, clearly flushed even under the murky lighting, looking frantically all over Rust’s face as if in search of clues.

Among other things, he looked confused. That crease between his brows told the whole story, and maybe Rust would’ve been confused too if he’d stopped to think about it, but he didn’t want to do that. He shook his head, reached up to bury his fingers in Marty’s hair and pulled him back in before reality put an end to things before he was ready.

It’d been so long since - anything like this, Rust didn’t want to put a timeframe on it. Couldn’t even. Stopped counting, stopped paying attention, but now his blood was lit up like it was laced with gasoline and Marty was a match. Rust gripped the starchy cotton of his shirt and pulled, needing him closer. It’d be wrinkled there, maybe all over. Maybe Marty’d see the wrinkles tomorrow and try to iron out the memory. It didn’t matter. He just needed Marty closer, close as he could fucking get. 

And Marty went. His whole arm snaked around Rust’s lower back, pressed together from chest to groin. A step forward knocked Marty’s right knee into Rust’s left, almost painfully, and they let out twin exhales into each other’s mouths before Marty adjusted. Legs fitting together like gear cogs. Rust could feel him. Fuck. He felt everything. Unmistakable. And where Marty’s thigh was then, he had to be feeling the same goddamn thing. Just another piece of evidence among the hoard, except easy to find, even easier to interpret.

His cheek was warm. Marty had his hand on it, he realized. Cupping it, thumb stroking his cheekbone, fingertips skimming the ridge of his ear. All the while their mouths met and slid, never still. An endless pulse, a heartbeat. Marty got Rust’s bottom lip between his teeth. Rust caged his moan in his throat but he feared bits of it were leaking out through the bars. He thought he might be pulling Marty’s hair, he wasn’t sure. Just knew he couldn’t unclench his hands or it’d all float away and him with it.

Marty’s mouth tasted like spiked coffee and Tic-Tacs and Rust’s must’ve tasted like cigarettes but surely Marty knew the taste of him by now. Even if this had never happened before. A shelf, the edge of a box, were jutting hard into his shoulder blades but it was good, it kept everything sharp. Sucking on Marty’s tongue was unreal. Like picking up a new vice. And fuck, he couldn’t quit the ones he’d already got.

The thigh between his legs dug in deeper and his hips met the call, a heavy heat straddling his own leg, no space left, no air, no thought. He felt like a signal flare, bright red and sparking, gonna set the whole place on fire. The arm around him wound so tight he could hardly breathe, so he tried to take what he needed straight from the source. Like life began right there, at the join of their mouths. Like creation. Like infinity.

Marty’s the first to break the unspoken pact of silence, cursing under his breath, and the room didn’t shatter like Rust thought it would. He nodded, because he agreed, and then punctuated it with another kiss, and another, lapping over Marty’s lips. His head felt full of thick wool, the basement silence pressing in on him, like being underwater. 

He felt Marty combing through his hair, and registered that his own hands were now both at Marty’s back, stacked one on top of the other and gripping hard. Time had stood still, or maybe it was racing along. He was too busy not letting go to try to figure out which.

But life has a way of ending things before their time. He’d always fucking known that.

The creak and slam of a heavy metal door had them springing apart like spooked cats. He tried to take a deep breath but his lungs were too tight. The shelves were all that kept him upright on weak, shaky legs. They stared at each other. Marty looked like a fucking wreck, shirt half untucked and loose, hair going all which way, face contorted and chest heaving like he’d just run a fucking marathon. Rust was frozen. Couldn’t even blink if he’d wanted to.

“Anybody down there?” echoed through the aisles.

The night custodian. Right. Must’ve been 1 am. The same call, every night.

There was an unnaturally long pause before Marty hollered, voice fuckin’ shot, “Yeah, boss. Still workin’.”

“Alright then, be back in an hour.”

Marty answered, “Roger that,” like it took the last of whatever he had left. It’s enough to snap Rust out of it. He bent down to scoop the loose papers back into the manila folder, pick everything up, but he stumbled a bit. He felt drunk, woozy. When he straightened, it was like his neck didn’t want to hold up his head.

He turned away, then. Had to. Or he was gonna fucking crack into a million pieces to be tagged and stored away among the shelves. He set the folder down on a stack of boxes, rubbed at the back of his neck. Finally able to take a breath once Marty was out of his eyeline. He heard the rustle of clothing behind him - Marty tucking his shirt back in - and loosened his already-loose tie.

He turned around.

They got back to work.