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the moon is climbin' high

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When Ted rings Trent’s doorbell a little after six, he’s holding a pan of Rice Krispie treats. He had other, grander plans but his FaceTime with Henry ran longer than expected, stories from camp told with near breathless excitement filling up almost two hours, and then another twenty minutes of stilted, awkward chat with Michelle, mostly around the logistics of whether Henry is coming to London for Thanksgiving this year and, if so, how and for how long. Ted was left with enough time to make the crust for his tart or the filling, but not both. He also had a burst of panic that Trent might not like peanut butter (he’s learned, since moving to London, that it’s a far more divisive foodstuff than he ever would’ve expected) or could have an allergy. 

So he leans on an old standby instead, even dipping into his precious and dwindling stash of American ingredients to use an entire jar of marshmallow fluff. (He doesn’t know what the difference is, but English marshmallows don’t melt the same as American ones. The butter options, however, are far superior.) 

In the end, he thinks he was probably better served choosing something he can make with his eyes closed, his go-to for school bake sales and classroom birthday treats, because he’s nervous enough he can barely stir the fluff as it melts in the pan, let alone follow the steps of a new recipe. 

He changes his clothes four times, ending up in the same jeans and green crewneck sweatshirt he started with, and he doesn’t even feel all that silly about it because even if neither of them has actually said it, Ted’s pretty sure this is a date. 

Or maybe the precursor to a date, a sort of casual hanging out that isn’t strictly platonic. 

Ted’s not really sure how dating works anymore.

The last time he went on a first date, he was nineteen and he took Michelle to see Pulp Fiction—he’d hated it, she liked it, and they spent nearly two hours bickering about it in his car afterwards, just driving around and finishing the giant bucket of (yes, soggy by then) popcorn he bought. And then they’d parked, and bickered a bit more in that way that was really more like flirting, and then...well, Ted’s not looking to take that particular trip down memory lane. 

He hasn’t really dated as a fully grown adult, hasn’t dated in the twenty-first century, and obviously hasn’t ever dated another man. He’s feeling a bit in over his head, but when the door swings open and Trent’s there in his little foyer, in jeans and another band t-shirt (Queen, this time, A Night at the Opera ), his feet bare and his glasses pushed up on top of his head, Ted’s roiling nerves settle. The idea of Trent might make Ted nervous, but the actual, physical presence of him is soothing, and isn’t that something?

“I brought Rice Krispies,” Ted announces as Trent steps aside to make room in the foyer for Ted. 

“You didn’t have to,” Trent says, but he’s already taking the pan from Ted’s hands, eyeing it with interest. “I haven’t had one of these since primary school, probably.”

“You haven’t had one of these ever,” Ted insists. “Not the way I make ‘em.”

“There’s a Lasso Way for Rice Krispie squares?” Trent asks, amused.

“Of course. I take the recommended amount of butter, and I double it. And I use an entire tub of marshmallow fluff.”

“I think that’s the most American sentence I’ve ever heard,” Trent says, making his way toward the kitchen, Ted following him.

“You complaining, Mr. Sweet Tooth?” 

“Not in the least,” Trent grins. “But I’m going to have to hide these from Georgie or I’ll be peeling her off the ceiling after one bite.”

“She’s probably had no desserts over at your folks’ all weekend,” Ted jokes. “Seems cruel to deny her a krispie treat.” 

“Yes, grandparents are known for their remarkable restraint when it comes to their grandchildren’s sugar consumption.”

“My Grammy used to spray whipped cream from the can directly into our mouths. We—my cousins and me—would all line up by the fridge, mouths open like guppies, and she’d walk down the line with the can. My cousin Billy had four cavities before he even lost all his baby teeth.” Trent stares at him, mouth opening and closing wordlessly (not unlike one of the aforementioned guppies) for a few seconds. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. It was only for special occasions, like Christmas and Easter and Monday Night Football.”

Trent laughs, and sets the pan on the kitchen counter. “Please don’t tell Georgie that story, or I’ll never hear the end of why I don’t let her eat squirty cream straight from the can.” The doorbell rings again and Trent turns back toward the front of the house. “That will be dinner. I’ll be right back.”

Ted is drawn over to the fridge, which is almost entirely covered in toddler artwork and scraps of magnetic poetry—“purple juice must be repulsive” and “watch my puppy symphony” are Ted’s favorites. He can’t resist making his own, scooping up a few loose words, stringing together “of smooth delirious whispers”, and tacking it on to the puppy symphony. 

“As you can see, Georgie is in her abstract period,” Trent says, nodding at the artwork as he comes back into the kitchen laden with two brown paper bags. 

“Very Jackson Pollock,” Ted agrees, grinning. “I assume the fridge T.S. Eliot is you, though.”

“What gave me away? The quality of the verse or that my daughter can’t read yet?” Trent asks wryly. “Surprisingly helpful for writer’s block, actually. I’ll come over here, noodle a bit, and usually by the time I get back to my laptop I know what needs to be done.”

“I like that. Like stretching for your brain.”

“I suppose so,” Trent nods, before turning his attention to their dinner. “I hope Thai is okay. I considered Indian but…”

“Oh, I think my body would reject it immediately. Even a less spicy version. Thai sounds great.”

“We have a bit of a takeaway tradition in the Crimm household,” Trent says. 

“Hit me. I love a family tradition.”

“We eat on the floor of the sitting room and we dirty as few dishes as possible.”

“A takeout picnic! Sounds perfect.”

Trent pulls two forks from the drawer next to the refrigerator and picks up one of the bags. Ted grabs the other and follows him through to the sitting room. He was too busy keeping an eye on Georgie the last time he was here to spend much time in it. It’s a snug room, with an L-shaped sofa (of the several replaced covers, Ted assumes) and a thick Persian rug in shades of navy and red on the floor. There are bookshelves on every wall, all of them full, and Ted is itching to go inspect the spines, curious what Trent reads in his free time. There’s a narrow desk along the back wall cluttered with notepads and pens and Trent’s laptop and, beside it, a lower child-sized one, equally covered in crayons and coloring pages. It’s easy to picture Georgie sitting at her little desk next to Trent’s while he works on an article and she colors. 

“I ordered a lot,” Trent says, as they begin unpacking the bags. “We like leftovers in this house.”

They spread the containers out, pad thai and spring rolls and drunken noodles and fish cakes and more, a sea of options on the rug between them.

“Drink?” Trent offers, going to a bar cart tucked in the corner. 

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” Ted says, already digging into the pad thai. 

Trent opens a bottle of wine and pours them each a glass. They clink glasses once Trent sits down next to Ted. For a few minutes, they’re quiet as they eat, trading containers back and forth and trying everything. 

“How’s Henry?” Trent asks, taking a spring roll.

“Good,” Ted says. “A real chatterbox today, actually. He had fun at the first camp. It was up in Maine and it sounds like he had the classic camp experience—canoeing and roasting marshmallows and playing capture the flag and getting into a bit of trouble with the rest of the boys in his cabin. He leaves for the next one on Tuesday. Boy Scouts, this time. A little closer to home.”

“When does he visit next?”

“Thanksgiving, probably. Or Christmas. Or both. Michelle’s gonna look into whether he can miss a bit of school and stay for the whole stretch in between, save him from so much back and forth.”

“Do you think they’ll move here?” Trent asks. 

“Man, even when we’re not in the press room you still get right to the heart of the thing, don’t you?”

Trent smiles. “I’d apologize but—”

“No, it’s a fair question.” Ted leans back against the couch behind him. “I want them to, but it feels like a lot to ask of Michelle.” Trent doesn’t say anything, just waits, and Ted sighs. “It’s a big change for her, for Henry, in a stretch of a lot of big changes. She’s got a whole support system there—her parents, her best friend, her siblings, everybody lives within an hour drive. Here, there’s just her ex-husband with a job that sends him all over the country most weekends.”

“So you haven’t asked her,” Trent says, and Ted doesn’t think it’s an accusation but it still hits him square in the jaw like one. It must show on his face, because Trent reaches out and puts a hand on his forearm, placating. “I’m sorry, I’m leaning hard on old habits. It’s not any of my business.”

Of course it is, Ted wants to say, because if whatever is happening between them is heading in the direction it seems like it is, they probably have a lot of conversations like this in their future. 

Ted is hit with the sudden, nerve-wracking thought that he’s been reading this wrong the whole time, that Trent isn’t interested in him like that at all, that the thing growing between them actually is strictly platonic on Trent’s side and painfully not on Ted’s. 

But...

They almost kissed last night, Ted is sure of that. Had Roy not texted, Ted knows he would’ve grabbed Trent by the lapels of his jacket and finally, finally kissed him. He’s thought about it plenty, for longer than he’d care to admit. He’s rusty, feeling out things like this with another person, but he’s pretty sure he and Trent were on the same page about it last night. It would be awkward at best and gutting at worst to discover they’re reading from different books entirely. 

Suddenly it’s all he can think about, how much he wants. Ted wants nothing more than to get his hands on Trent, wants to pull him into his lap, wants to taste him, wants to dip his tongue into the hollow at the base of his throat and suck a hickey to that spot on his neck right below his jaw, usually hidden by his hair but perfectly exposed tonight. He feels like a teenager, certain that’s the last time he felt this overwhelmed by something as simple as wanting to kiss someone. 

“Ted?” Trent asks, his hand still on Ted’s arm. “Are you all right?”

“Peachy,” Ted says. Trent starts to withdraw his hand and Ted catches his wrist. “I want—can I—” 

Ted’s not sure which of them moves first, only that it’s a bit of a graceless scramble and one or both of them definitely spills something on Trent’s very nice and probably very expensive rug but Ted can’t bring himself to care because Trent is in his lap and his hands are in Ted’s hair and and Ted’s hands are on Trent’s hips and Trent’s mouth is on his, softer and gentler than he might’ve expected, given how frantic he feels, how much his heart is racing in his chest. 

The never-ending chatter in Ted’s brain quiets and he lets himself get lost in sensation alone: the warmth of Trent’s skin under his hands where Ted has rucked up Trent’s t-shirt, the slow slide of Trent’s tongue against his, the perfect weight of him in his lap. 

When they break apart, Ted’s not sure if it’s been minutes or hours. Hell, years probably could’ve passed and he wouldn't have noticed or cared.

“Christ on a cracker,” he says, feeling dazed, and Trent throws his head back,  laughing. It dislodges his glasses, and they land with a plop in the drunken noodles. Ted can’t help it, he leans forward to kiss Trent’s neck, biting lightly at the spot he’s been eyeing. Trent hums and uses the hand still in Ted’s hair to tilt his head up to meet Trent’s eyes. 

“All right?” Trent asks him again, and Ted can see a flicker of something like uncertainty cross Trent’s face.

“Never better,” Ted says, meaning it. He curls a hand around the back of Trent’s neck, his thumb against Trent’s pulse point, feeling the steady thumping of his heart against it. “Wanted to do that for a long time.”

“Not nearly as long as I have, I assure you,” Trent says, so dry and self-possessed Ted almost misses the way Trent’s hands, currently resting on Ted’s shoulders, fidget. His glasses are still sitting in the drunken noodles, so he can’t fiddle with them to hide his nerves. 

“Pretty bold assumption there,” Ted says, grinning. “I think we’ve already covered what happens when you assume.”

Trent rolls his eyes. “Something about arses, if I recall correctly.” 

“It is a better visual pun,” Ted admits. “But my point still stands. Why d’you think I always call on you first?”

Trent shakes his head, but his mouth curls into a small smile. “Better not let Keeley hear you say that.”

“If anyone already knows the score here, it’s Keeley,” Ted says. Trent frowns a little, and Ted regrets bringing up the press room and Keeley and the reminder of the many complicating factors in their lives. “Offside?” he asks, and is relieved when Trent’s frown eases into something exasperated and fond.

“No,” Trent shakes his head. “But, as much as it pains me to say it, I think we should take things slowly. There’s rather a lot at stake here, for both of us.”

“I hear you,” Ted says. “On all counts. Might be able to hear you a little better if you weren’t sitting in my lap trying to have this conversation though.”

Trent snorts but he moves to sit next to Ted instead, and both of them see for the first time the extent of the mess they’ve made: there’s a fish cake mashed into the rug, pad thai scattered everywhere, and Ted’s wine has spilled, leaving a probably permanent stain. Trent fishes his glasses out of the drunken noodles and sets them on the coffee table. 

“Don’t see a metaphor where there isn’t with all that,” Ted says, pointing at their mess.

“I’m not.” Trent smiles. “If anything, I’ve been looking for a reason to get rid of this rug. I hate it.”

“I can spill your drink on it too, just say the word.”

Trent laughs. “I don’t think that’s necessary.” 

A silence falls between them, heavy and more awkward than Ted has felt with Trent since that first interview. “I get the sense there’s something you’re trying not to say over there, Trent Crimm. Doesn’t seem like you.”

Trent sighs. “I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. We said we wouldn’t borrow trouble.”

“Easier said than done, though.”

“Yes.” Trent drops his head back against the couch, staring up at the ceiling. “I can’t cover Richmond anymore.”

“Because of a bit of kissing?” Ted says, even knowing his tendency to lean on humor when things get awkward is not going to be helpful in this particular moment. 

Trent looks sidelong at him. “It’s more than that to me.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Ted says. “It is to me too.”

Trent nods. “There’s a job opening in Features.”

“You’re going to stop covering football entirely?” Ted asks, startled. 

“Can you think of a team that would let me into their press room knowing I’m sleeping with the enemy?”

“Ah,” Ted says, feeling his ears grow warm. “I didn’t think of that.”

“It’s not just that, though,” Trent continues. “I do think it’s time for a change. Writing about football was starting to feel stale for me, and then you arrived on the scene and shook things up and I’m very grateful for that but if it’s a choice between writing about you and being with you, it’s no contest.”

“Sweetheart,” Ted says, as surprised by how easily the endearment comes to him as he is that Trent allows it. “I hate that you have to make the choice at all.”

“It’s a lot of pressure to put on a handful of sort-of dates and a snog.”

“A snog,” Ted repeats. “There are plenty of words y’all do better than us, but I gotta say, snog is not one of them.”

“Ted.” 

“Sorry.” Trent’s fingers are worrying at a fraying spot in the knee of his jeans, and Ted reaches over to take Trent’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “I’m good with taking things slow.”

“Thank you,” Trent says, squeezing Ted’s hand. 

“One thing we probably shouldn’t take too slow is cleaning all that up, though,” Ted says, nodding at the mess on the rug. 

“It can wait a few more minutes,” Trent says, turning and pulling Ted into another kiss.