“It is hypocrisy against the devil:
They that mean virtuously, and yet do so,
The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt heaven.” (Othello, act IV, scene I)
Cesario and Orsino didn’t talk about what had happened on the beach that saturday night, and although Cesario thought they should, whenever the two of them were alone, it never felt like the right time to bring it up. On Monday evening, all talk was about the events at Snout’s, which they had to narrate alone, because Valentine decided not to come home, and stay at his girlfriend's. There was no moment during that talk that made Cesario think it was a good time to discuss their drunk make out session.
Feste texted them on Tuesday evening, asking if they were ok, and sharing some ridiculous cartoon of Andrew wearing a medieval armour, and Feste a princess dress, and there was Malvolio, looking like a villain. Cesario didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean, and made no comment. They didn’t want to engage in conversation with Feste, even though they appreciated their concern. That was the reason they kept to themself the thought that Feste only liked the drawing because the artist had given them boobs in it.
They worried they might run into Feste on their way home, that they might happen to be playing with the kids in front of their house, like they’d done before, but no such thing took place. Cesario got home to an empty house, and found out through text they’d be alone: Curio had a night shift, Valentine still refused to come home (despite everyone telling him it was safe), and Orsino was out with Olivia.
Calling Feste suddenly felt like a good idea. But fortunately Sebastian chose that time to text, asking how they were doing. Cesario realized they hadn’t told him about their latest misadventure, which resulted in a long video call in Antonio’s company. The call had the power of making the rest of the world cease to matter for as long as it lasted, and for a little more than an hour, only the telling of ridiculous but true stories, and getting some more in response was important.
By the time they said goodbye to Sebastian and Antonio, calling Feste had gone from a good idea, to an idea with too many flaws they couldn’t simply ignore. Sure, the house was quiet and lonely, but the memory of Feste laughing at them wasn’t something they were ready to forget.
Cesario didn’t bother with checking the weather forecast, and ignored the uncommonly windy morning they woke up to. So they were surprised when a storm came in the afternoon, the clouds darkening the sky, the wind shaking the trees outside, and loud thunders cracking, making Cesario jump, startled by the noise. The pouring rain soon flooded the streets.
During the last class of the day, the power went off, making studying impossible, but they couldn’t leave because the streets were underwater. It was hours until the rain stopped, and the streets were transitable again. The blackout went on, and both staff and students left the school in groups, splitting rides, or keeping each other company as they waited for their buses.
Cesario made it home not long before midnight, feeling so exhausted they just wanted to drop on their bed and be done with that awful day. Orsino and Curio were in the living room, on their phones, and both looked relieved in seeing their friend arrive safely
“You’re finally home!” Curio said, blowing smoke. “How bad is it out there?”
“It’s dark everywhere. And wet,” they said, too tired to give a better answer, but Curio was high enough to find those words funny.
“Valentine said there’s a shitload of people evacuated to the kids’ school,” he said. “He’s home?” Cesario asked, since they hadn’t seen him in a while. “He was with Big Titania, helping those guys.”
“I don’t know how bad it is, but he looked like hell when he got here,” Orsino added to the story.
“At least the rain stopped,” Cesario said, shrugging, not even trying to imagine what Valentine had been through. “Not for long,” Orsino told them. “The news says there’s more rain coming tonight.” “More?” it was hard to believe it was possible.
“Good news is, no work tomorrow,” Curio said in a cheerful note.
“Seriously?” They suddenly perked up at the prospect of a day off. Orsino nodded, mildly amused by the change in Cesario’s mood. “It’s true,” he confirmed, “it’s on the news and everything. But they didn’t even mention when the power will be back.”
“That sucks,” they said. Curio nodded. He was done smoking, and wished them a good night, before going to bed. Cesario turned their flashlight on, and went to the bedroom, only to find it underwater as well. Water continuously leaked from the ceiling, landing right in the middle of their bed, soaking it beyond any hope they had of sleeping comfortably.
Cesario was too tired to react accordingly, and held on to the door frame, beginning to cry in frustration, but not going through with it for lack of energy. They cursed, and kicked the drenched mattress, before making sure their guitar was safe, and picking some blissfully dry clothes to sleep in.
“Anything wrong?” Orsino asked, when he saw them coming back. “It’s raining in my bedroom,” Cesario explained. “I forgot about that,” Orsino said, sounding worried. “I should’ve offered to fix it, I’m sorry.”
But as he said those words, Cesario remembered he actually had made the offer, back when he was willing to pay to find out stuff about Olivia. Orsino left the couch to see the damage for himself, and cursed when he did. He stood there, watching the water drip directly from the light bulb, and facepalmed.
“A minute of silence for your bed,” he said, placing a compassionate hand on their shoulder. “Minute’s over,” he added seconds later, and went on to move Cesario’s mattress from under the leak, and find a bucket to contain the water.
Cesario, who had a lot going on at the moment, and therefore hadn’t been able to think about a solution for the problem, felt guilty when they saw Orsino was doing their work. When he came back with a mop, Cesario tried to take it from him and dry their own bedroom. “I got it, don’t worry,” he said, leaving no room for discussion.
So they had a shower and put on some dry clothes. They made some noodles by candlelight, and ate them in the living room, where Orsino stood by the window, watching the rain, that was back, as promised. The wind blew furiously outside, and every now and then, a lightning would make everything visible again for a flash.
The thunders were back, and Cesario flinched more and more whenever a loud one announced itself. When he noticed that, Orsino came over, standing behind the back of the couch. “Are you afraid of thunders?” he asked, sounding more curious than amused, to Cesario’s relief.
They nodded, embarrassed to admit as much, but they’d been disturbed by thunders for eighteen years, and had developed a sense of humor about it at that point. “There was one so loud this afternoon, I just froze, in the middle of a lesson. My students thought it was really funny.” Orsino laughed, agreeing with the students.
“Are you sleeping on the couch?” he asked, moving towards the bedrooms. “It’s dry,” Cesario said, shrugging, trying not to think how sore they’d be after sleeping a whole night there. Orsino nodded, and left. He came back a minute later with a pillow and a blanket. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” Cesario said, surprised Orsino was being so thoughtful. He shrugged. “Good night.” They answered his good night, and he left. The next thunder was faint, but they still felt some relief when Orsino came back from his room once more. “That couch is too small, just come to bed with me.”
“What?” Cesario wasn’t sure all the noise from outside didn’t trick them into hearing those words.
Orsino stared at them for a second or two, then burst into uncomfortable laughter. Cesario did the same. “Seriously, you can sleep there, if you want,” he said, once the laughter was over. Cesario thought no good could come of that, and was about to decline the offer, when another loud thunder made them shake, and reconsider their answer. So they left the couch, and followed Orsino, carrying the pillow and blanket back to where they’d come from.
They hesitated again once in his bedroom, thinking the situation didn’t look good. They really wanted to sleep somewhere more comfortable than the couch, but they also didn’t want to leave any room for misunderstanding. “When you say I can sleep here, do you really mean sleep, or is there some double meaning I’m failing to see here?”
Orsino laughed, and went to bed. “No, no double meanings, just sleep,” he assured them. And because Cesario was still very doubtful when they got to bed, he laughed some more, and made a comment they didn’t understand if he meant it as a joke or seriously: “Don’t worry, I know: no means no.” He just laughed harder at their confusion. At least he didn’t know what Cesario was thinking, because it would probably make sleeping impossible if he knew they would probably not say “no.”
For some time, Cesario just lay there, their back turned to Orsino, who was on his phone, as they tried to ignore his smell, which was everywhere. They closed their eyes and concentrated on the sounds coming from outside, not their nose.
When the next loud thunder crashed, Cesario shuddered, and was comforted by Orsino’s hand on their shoulder. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Yeah,” they said, embarrassed they couldn’t act grownup about a storm. “Thank you,” they added, holding his hand in place for a second, before letting go. Cesario was glad when he didn’t move his hand from their shoulder. It was comforting, but at the same time, it was Orsino touching them, in bed. And that gave them ideas, very dumb ideas.
Fortunately, the next thunder wiped any thought from Cesario, reducing them to a cowardly, curled up creature, holding on to Orsino’s hand, pulling him closer to them. He chuckled, and adjusted his body to the new position, closer to Cesario’s, his arm around them. “If anyone walks in now, they’ll never believe the real explanation for this,” he joked, getting a weak chuckle in response.
Cesario was secretly embarrassed for enjoying the situation so much. But they couldn’t help it. They felt so safe with his arm around them, lying in an Orsino scented bed. They suspected they’d never fall asleep in his company, but they could still try to get some rest after such a long day.
The wind and the rain made a continuous noise, which Cesario listened to, trying to relax, and they were almost fully asleep, when the sound of a crash, as loud as if it had been in the bedroom, made them jump up. “What was that?” they asked, scared, and disoriented.
“It’s the wind,” mumbled Orsino, who no longer had his arm around them, they noticed.
Cesario rolled to their right, facing Orsino, who slept on his back, with his mouth slightly open. Their eyes had grown used to the dark by now, and they studied his profile, instead of trying to fall asleep again. Looking at him like that, however, was all they needed to have their mind invaded by fantasies of the silliest kind. Being aware those fantasies were ridiculous didn’t stop them from making vivid images in their mind, it didn’t even convince Cesario to stop staring. They kept silently admiring the man’s features.
The next thunder sent Cesario to him without thinking. One arm held on to him, the other covered their head, uselessly attempting to protect them. Orsino freed the arm on top of which Cesario had gotten, and spoke in a sleepy voice: “It’s gonna be over soon.” His now free arm went around Cesario, in a hug that was probably meant to be comforting, but only made them feel hot.
It was too much! They had tried so hard doing everything right just to end up with Orsino holding them in bed. They had tried resisting him, but that was more than they could ignore. Kissing him was the best solution against Cesario’s silly fantasies, there was no need for those now.
Orsino kissed them back, holding Cesario in both his arms, and pulling them to his top. They didn’t have to think about it, they kissed him in every way they felt like, and ran their hands over his shirtless body. Though they knew they should’ve told Orsino first, there was no way Cesario was going to interrupt something so good to start an awkward conversation.
“Take it off,” he said, with his fingers pulling down on the waistband of their shorts.
Cesario moved from straddling him in order to take their clothes off. They expected some immediate reaction from Orsino, but it didn’t come, it was too dark. It didn’t take long, however, for him to feel what he couldn’t see. They could feel his hand search for something that wasn’t there, and hesitate. “I should have told you sooner,” they said, feeling more anxious with every second Orsino kept quiet. Not just anxious, as the silence stretched, they had to admit they were scared. Cesario had hoped the right moment would come along to tell Orsino what he needed to know, and now the truth was out when they were the most vulnerable.
“Yeah, you should have,” he agreed, and though Cesario couldn’t see his face, he sounded very amused by the discovery, which was a relief. They went back to kissing, and only thought about that much later, in the quiet satisfaction they enjoyed together. “You’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” Orsino murmured. He kept playing with Cesario’s hair, with their head resting on his shoulder, the fingers of his other hand intertwined with theirs.
“Not really, just the one,” they told him. “A pretty big one,” Orsino remarked, still sounding amused.
They tried not to think about the many ways things could’ve gone wrong. But maybe because Orsino had reacted so well to the news, Cesario could admit they had chosen the most dangerous way imaginable to come out to him. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, before all this happened.”
He chuckled for a little bit, shook his head, and said: “You can tell me now. I mean, you could tell me why.” And that started a long conversation, in which Cesario did most of the talking. They told Orsino their first name, and preferred pronouns, as well as their reason for asking Seward to introduce them as a man. They told him about Sebastian, and how the two of them had never entirely fit in their hometown, and had been making plans for leaving that place as soon as they were old enough. Orsino listened.
When Cesario couldn’t think of anything else to say, they returned to their carefree silence, content in being held. “I feel like I should’ve noticed something sooner,” Orsino said. They felt strangely proud in hearing he’d never suspected anything. But a worry they couldn’t put to words started nagging them, and they had to talk about it, even though they didn’t know where to start.
“I’m not a girl,” they told him, which wasn’t the heart of what they meant, but those were the words that came out, so now they had to work from there.
“Ok,” Orsino said, sounding like it made no difference for him. But Cesario still felt like there was more they wanted to tell him, except it was so much, they didn’t know how to go on. The silence between them didn’t feel like the content kind anymore. It was Orsino who ended it. “How does that work? I mean, what’s… your gender?” he said the words like they weren’t entirely familiar to him.
“It changes.” It was the only short answer they had for his question, and Cesario didn’t know if he would care for the long answer.
“How does that work?” he insisted. The answer to that question was only the beginning of a much longer talk that served a much less specific purpose, which however vague, was more urgent than sleep.