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8.

Carlos doesn't know how they got here.

Each step that had brought them to this point had made sense at the time. Every part of it had been moderate, careful, reasonable. Experimentation building on past successful outcomes. Hypotheses grounded in existing research. Results replicable under increasingly varied conditions. Evidence . . . evidence indicating . . .

"Is that too tight?" Cecil asks. His hands are soft but sure where they brush Carlos's naked calf, tickling the dark hairs there. The rope slips through his fingers fluidly, easily, as if Cecil is a magician doing a trick and the rope might disappear or fall to pieces at any moment.

But where it binds his body and holds him to the big, heavy chair, the rope feels solid enough.

"No," Carlos replies. He's surprised by how steady his voice sounds. "It's fine."

 

1.

It had begun with their first time in bed together, begun with Cecil on top. Cecil gravitating to the top, as if something in their combined electromagnetic field made them balance that way. Their clothes had still been half-on, constricting in annoying ways as they tried to move, and Carlos had been on the brink of apologizing for the state of his bedroom – clothes everywhere, scientific journals gathering dust, sheets that had been on the bed for, probably, a while – when Cecil straddled Carlos's hips, pressed him down with two hands on his chest, and kissed him thoroughly. Confidently. Until the tension left Carlos's shoulders and he relaxed into the bed.

"Let me take care of you," Cecil murmured, quietly, wetly, words passed into Carlos's mouth like shared water.

"Okay," Carlos said, confused and helplessly turned on.

Cecil smiled at him like he'd done something right, though, and fluttered his palms lightly along Carlos's shoulders, down his arms. "Relax," he said, and Carlos tried, taking a deep breath and forcing the tension out of his muscles.

Things got easier: Cecil kissed Carlos's sternum, rubbed his wide thumbs against the line of Carlos's waist, undid Carlos's jeans without even looking. Carlos reciprocated slowly, wonderingly, stroking Cecil's shoulders and tangling his fingers in Cecil's soft, tight curls. When Cecil said, "Lift up," Carlos obeyed instantly, tilting his hips upwards, and was rewarded with Cecil's warm hands against his bare skin as he was stripped bare.

Cecil peeled off his own shirt, revealing strong arms and curly black and grey chest hair, then braced his hands on Carlos's chest so that he could slide around and get his pants off. Cecil's hands on him were calm and easy, as if he were already so comfortable with Carlos's body that he could use it casually, like a piece of furniture. Carlos took a breath at that, the sensation of Cecil's weight bearing confidently down on him, then raised his hands tentatively to wrap them around Cecil's sides and hold him gently.

Once he was naked Cecil leaned back down over Carlos again, kissing his mouth and sliding his hands up Carlos's arms, pressing them down into the sheets above his head. Slowly, easily, he started grinding his cock down against Carlos in short, precise movements, each one a gentle tease. Carlos moaned softly into Cecil's mouth, unable to help himself, and spread his legs wider so that Cecil could get closer.

Cecil's hands stopped their exploration at his wrists, bearing down so that Carlos's hands were trapped against the mattress.

"You want to fuck me?" Cecil asked, a sweet smile playing on his lips.

Carlos had expected this. He nodded. "Sure, do you want to – " he moved as if to flip them over, but Cecil still had his wrists pinned.

"Oh, you can stay right where you are," Cecil said. "You look beautiful like that."

Carlos felt a flush spreading across his face, and was grateful that it was dark enough that Cecil wouldn't be able to tell. He rolled his hips up against Cecil, unable to help himself, and pushed experimentally against Cecil's weight at his wrists. Cecil let go immediately, stroking his fingertips back down the insides of Carlos's arms.

"You don't like that?" Cecil asked, nuzzling at his neck.

Carlos swallowed. "No, I – it's fine. You can do it again."

He felt Cecil's smile against his throat. "I think I'll just trust you to keep still," he said, and Carlos felt a hot surge of indescribable emotion pulse wildly through him. He kept his hands where Cecil had put them.

Cecil rode him. He stroked the condom over Carlos's dick and lubed himself up and just took him, sinking down on him until they were pressed together, until his ass was tight around Carlos's cock. Carlos breathed and breathed and didn't move the entire time.

"Is this okay?" he asked, eventually, as Cecil worked himself on Carlos's dick.

"Absolutely perfect. Put your hands here," Cecil said, guiding Carlos's palms to his thighs. "Hold me up."

Carlos did, sitting up against the headboard to get the angle right, helping Cecil to balance. He squirmed beneath Cecil awkwardly for a moment, thrusting erratically before they found a rhythm, a soft little push-pull that was agonizingly slow. Perfectly slow. Carlos felt his breathing deepen and his heart rate decrease. Cecil's thighs flexed against his palms as Cecil pushed himself up and down on Carlos's cock, as Carlos held him, watched him, let him do it.

"Cecil," he gasped, because it seemed appropriate to say something when someone was doing this to you, doing this for you, and Cecil's name was the only sound echoing in his head. "Cecil, yes, yes, Cecil," and he sounded like a fool but Cecil didn't seem to care.

"You like this, sweet Carlos?" Cecil asked. He reached out to stroke Carlos's face. "Just like this?" He drew back a long way before thrusting back down again, taking Carlos deep and hard.

"Jesus Christ, Cecil, yes, you're – you're amazing – " Cecil threw his head back for a moment, smiling, exposing his long brown throat. Sweat glistened in the hollow between his collarbones. He was overwhelmingly, breathtakingly beautiful.

Carlos's hands were still holding Cecil's thighs, taking some of the pressure off, but Cecil's cock was hard and leaking between them, which was probably Carlos's responsibility.

"Can I – Cecil, do you want – " Carlos managed to say, rubbing his thumbs urgently against the outside of Cecil's thighs.

"Carlos," Cecil said, in that deep sonorous way he had of making Carlos's name at least four syllables. He met Carlos's eyes and smiled brilliantly. He had dimples. "Carlos. Just enjoy yourself."

With a deep breath Carlos nodded and held Cecil's gaze, held Cecil's body, letting him do all the work.

"You're all I need," Cecil breathed. And then he said it again, what he'd said at the beginning, but softer this time: "Let me take care of you."

 

9.

"You're so beautiful like this," Cecil says, kneeling in front of Carlos, when he's got the final knot in place. The rope is electric blue, so it stands out prettily against Carlos's skin, against Cecil's where his hands still linger against the last loop. Cecil's fingernails are perfect, Carlos notices, not for the first time. Short and neat, well-manicured, painted in what Cecil once told him is a sensible, conservative pink, appropriate for the office.

"Beautiful," Cecil says again, watching Carlos carefully.

Carlos doesn't respond. The ropes are a constant sensation against his bare skin, neither soft nor rough, not pinching or binding but just . . . holding him. Holding him the way that Cecil holds him, sometimes: tightly and possessively, controlling his breath and movement. He flexes the muscles of his arms to feel their resistance. Cecil rubs two fingers against the skin of Carlos's thigh, right next to where the rope is securing his leg to the slats of the chair.

It may be that they sit there for a long time, like that, with Carlos feeling the way the ropes touch him and feeling the way Cecil touches him, both of those touches at the same time. He's not sure. It might only be a few seconds. His breathing is faster than it would normally be in a resting state.

"Do you remember your safeword?" Cecil asks softly. Carlos blinks back to focus.

"I – yes." He licks his lips.

"And the failsafe code you've prearranged with the Sheriff's Secret Police?"

"Yes," he says, more confident this time. He tries not to look at the potted plant in the corner. Cecil assured him that it was audio surveillance only, but even that is too overwhelming to think about. Hard enough to share this with Cecil.

"And you'll let me do whatever I want to you," Cecil breathes. Carlos flexes again, feeling the restraints, letting them dig into his skin as he moves against them.

"Careful." Cecil frowns slightly. "You could hurt yourself."

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I just – " He shifts again, pushing harder, not sure if he wants to get free or be bound more tightly.

"Say it," Cecil says, his voice deep and commanding. "What do you need."

Carlos takes a shuddering breath. "Hold me," he manages, and Cecil understands. Cecil puts his hands on Carlos's shoulders and applies the tiniest amount of pressure. Carlos shudders and stills.

 

2.

They'd eaten breakfast together the next morning, and Cecil had been all bright smiles and little pirouettes in his thigh-length floral robe. He kissed Carlos shyly, over coffee, tasting of that oddly compelling Cedar Chip Crest that only seemed to be available in Night Vale. They were both stubbly and rasped against each other, wincing, before Carlos cupped Cecil's cheek and went in for another, more careful kiss.

"Amazing, sexually compatible Carlos," Cecil sighed, and Carlos giggled too hard to need to duck his head and avoid the compliment.

"You were pretty sexually compatible yourself," he replied, elated. "I, uh, feel like I owe you one." Cecil had come last night, but with his own hand on his dick, and Carlos couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt about it.

Cecil cocked his head at that, looking strange and still for just a moment. "You don't," he said, eventually. "But perhaps you'll let me take you out again this weekend?"

Carlos nodded and kissed him again. "I'm all yours."

"Oh, good," Cecil breathed, into the kiss. "That's what I was hoping you were."

He'd driven home for a shower and a change of clothes before he went to the lab, and during the drive the good feeling he'd had in Cecil's kitchen faded. He wondered how sexually compatible he could possibly be when he just lay there like a log, not doing anything, not even getting Cecil off. Not even fucking him properly. It had felt freeing, at the time, to lay back and let Cecil take him, to pretend nothing was expected of him. But in retrospect he wished he could go back and change it, act like a real boyfriend. He couldn't even decide what he ought to have done differently – roll Cecil over and take over the work of fucking, maybe, or suck Cecil's cock before the fucking even started, or maybe suggest a second round even though he'd been pretty tired – but he kept running anxiously through potential scenarios, trying to figure out why he hadn't done more.

The funny thing was that, at the time, it'd been the most unanxious he'd ever felt while fucking someone.

 

10.

"You want me to get you out?" Cecil offers. There's a well-used knife on the table next to them, single-sided and wickedly sharp, polished wood and silver with strange metalwork animals done in filigree over the handle. Cecil's hand moves toward it.

It had taken him an hour to tie Carlos up, looping rope carefully over his limbs, his torso, around the base of his cock. Cecil had fussed with the pressure of each piece of rope, tested for bloodflow, made sure to make everything perfectly symmetrical. And Carlos knows that he would cut it all to pieces in an instant and not regret it at all, because all he wants is for Carlos to feel good.

"No," Carlos says. "I want you to do whatever you want to me." He rubs against the ropes again, but gentler now, reveling in the sensation of them. Like a whole-body hug. They're warm from his skin, caressing him like living things, and Carlos shuts that line of thought down before it gets too far, because objects in Night Vale have a tendency towards sentience, and reality in Night Vale is too fond of acceding to thought.

The ropes remain solid, and Cecil remains solid, his hands still resting on Carlos's shoulders.

"Oh, Carlos," Cecil says, four syllables at least. Carlos can tell that he's hard already under his pants, that his eyes are shining and his hands are hot, that he's deeply affected by what Carlos is offering and deeply unconcerned about letting Carlos see it.

"I'm going to make you feel so good."

 

3.

The Saturday night after the morning after, waiting on his front step for Cecil to pick him up, Carlos was still thinking about it, trying to catalogue and decipher his guilty feelings, figure out where he went wrong. He was so distracted that he almost didn't register Cecil's presence when he arrived, even though he was wearing rather eye-catching purple and white checked trousers with matching suspenders.

"Carlos! Is it a good idea to linger on the stoop? You wouldn't want anyone to think you were . . . loitering." Cecil shivered.

Carlos's old upstairs neighbors in Tucson had called the cops on him three separate times within one year for standing on his own front porch. They told him they hadn't recognized him and thought he looked suspicious, hadn't even seemed to feel guilty for it. It was almost refreshing to think that, in Night Vale, loiterers were probably rounded up at random by government robots and taken to the Abandoned Mineshaft, or herded by predatory cats back to their homes and jobs, or something.

"I thought I'd come outside to wait for you," Carlos shrugged. "I've been thinking."

"Oh?" Cecil smiled, and held out a hand to help Carlos up from the porch. Carlos took it. "Anything in particular? Some kind of scientific investigation?"

"No," Carlos laughed, standing. He didn't let go of Cecil's hand right away, and Cecil didn't let go either. "Um. About you, I meant. I couldn't – couldn't stop thinking about you. I missed you, I really wanted to see you again." It was too forward and too sentimental and oh god they had seen each other two days ago and Carlos wanted to take it back immediately, but Cecil didn't look uncomfortable.

Instead, he raised Carlos's hand to his mouth and kissed it gently, lips just brushing over the knuckles. It was courtly, chivalric, as if Carlos were something delicate, to be cherished and protected. Cecil's eyes were dark, staring into Carlos's, and for all that it took four seconds it was one of the most profoundly erotic moments that Carlos could remember.

"Lovely Carlos. I wanted to see you too. I had to have Intern Frankie hold my phone on several occasions to keep from calling you. 'He needs his space, Cecil,' I told myself, but oh, Carlos, how I wanted to hear your voice."

Carlos smiled, because at least, if he was going to be embarrassing and bad at relationships, he was in one with Cecil, who didn't ever mind when he said something weird and usually managed to find something weirder to say.

"I'm here now," Carlos said, after an awkward pause.

"So you are." Cecil kissed his knuckles again, and Carlos couldn't help the little shiver that passed through him as a result of the touch.

"I – no one's ever done that before," he said, trying to explain his reaction when Cecil raised an eyebrow at him.

Cecil let their hands fall but still held on, tugging gently so that Carlos fell into step with him and they were walking hand in hand.

"No one's ever treated you like the precious jewel that you are?" Cecil asked lightly. Carlos fidgeted, reminding himself that Cecil really wasn't making fun of him when he said stuff like that, and then shrugged.

"Most guys, they want me to be the, ah. The butch one. You know." Carlos was tall, and broad, and brown, and tended toward muscle even in spite of the way he sometimes forgot to eat, or sleep, or . . . move. It'd been a struggle to stay off the football team in high school, and at 6'1" he had always felt like a weird clumsy giant in the lab, even in university. He'd never dated anyone bigger than him, including Cecil.

Certainly no one but Cecil had ever thought he was precious.

Cecil pursed his lips. "Do you like that?" He sounded dubious, and Carlos felt exposed, that Cecil should already be able to intuit this about him.

"Not really," he admitted. "I – you know, it's probably just that I get tired of always having to be the one who, uh, carries someone else to bed, that kind of thing."

"Hm. Maybe I should carry you sometime."

It was Carlos's turn to look dubious. Cecil was so perfectly average in height and build that he would be completely unremarkable at first glance if it weren't for his particular fashion sense and tendency towards bright colors. Carlos glanced down at their linked hands; Cecil's nails were pastel purple that day, to match his checked pants and the light glittery purple eyeshadow he was wearing.

"I'm stronger than I look," Cecil objected, half-laughing. "Come on, try it, I bet I can give you a lion-back ride." Cecil crouched down carefully, in the middle of the sidewalk, gesturing at his back.

"You mean a piggy-back ride," Carlos corrected him, thinking again of his neighbors in Tucson, his neighbors almost everywhere he'd ever lived, who would've balked at two men holding hands in public, much less queers giving each other piggy-back rides in the street.

There were other people on Carlos's street, but none of them gave Cecil and Carlos more than a fond, distracted glance. Carlos hesitated for a moment, then got on Cecil's back, letting Cecil reach back and grip him under the thighs and clinging on to Cecil's neck.

"What could children possibly learn from riding pigs?" Cecil huffed, obviously straining to stand up with Carlos's weight on his back. "I don't know what kind of elementary school you attended, Carlos, honestly."

They wobbled briefly, Cecil fighting to keep his balance, and in a moment of panic Carlos almost let go. But then Cecil straightened, hitching Carlos up on his back – he really was a lot stronger than he looked – and they were fine, solid, a single unit moving under Cecil's power. Carlos gasped involuntarily as Cecil started walking, slowly at first but with increasing speed, so that by the time they got to NEW DELICIOUS RESTAURANT, two blocks away, he was hopping, almost running, while Carlos laughed against the top of his head.

"Across the threshold!" Cecil crowed in triumph when they fell through the door together. Carlos slipped off his back and looked at Cecil; he was out of breath and flushed, shining, happy. Carlos kissed him lightly on the lips, not feeling awkward, for once, that he had to bend down to do it.

"My hero," he said, and it wasn't even a joke, not really.

"A table for two, or will you be rejoining into one symbiotic entity for the meal?" The server inquired politely.

"Two, please," Cecil replied, and as they were led to their seats he leaned upwards and whispered in Carlos's ear.

"Maybe symbiosis after dinner, though."

Carlos grinned happily, then reconsidered as they sat down and opened their menus. "You don't mean literally, do you?" One of the first things Carlos learned in Night Vale was Always Ask If You're Unsure Whether Someone Wants To Become Your Body Mate. He still felt awkward whenever he saw Larry Leroy on the street.

"No, no, sorry, I meant – it was a come on," Cecil explained, looking embarrassed. "Um. Metaphorical, uh, symbiosis." He raised his hands like he wanted to make a hand gesture to illustrate, but then thought better of it and gripped his menu again.

"Oh," Carlos said. "Good." He reached out and squeezed Cecil's hand. "That's really good."

Cecil beamed at him, and Carlos did feel like one entity, then, like they were sharing sustenance and body heat symbiotically between them. He wouldn't know how to explain his feeling of satiated warmth, otherwise.

The sex that night was fantastic, rough but not frantic, Cecil lying on his side behind Carlos and fucking him in short, hard thrusts.

"Please," Carlos moaned, desperate, scrabbling behind him at Cecil's hip, burying his face against his arm, "please, Cecil, yes, that feels so good – "

"I love that you want me," Cecil murmured into his neck, soft and honest. "I love that you beg for me."

Carlos squeezed his eyes shut, opened his mouth for a gasping, helpless breath. Cecil reached around and started jacking him off; it wasn't going to take long.

"Will you do it again? Beg? Say please?" Cecil's breath was hot and fast against Carlos's shoulder, his thrusts becoming erratic. His hand tightened on Carlos's cock.

"Please, Cecil," Carlos managed, past embarrassment. "Please, please, please, fuck me, please – "

"Perfect," Cecil said on a thrust, "beautiful," another thrust, "Carlos, yes, yes, so good for me, my Carlos, so good," fucking him hard and sloppy until they both hit some weird crest at the same time, suspended right on the brink, both of them shaking and grasping at each other for what felt like forever. Carlos was crying out and Cecil was, too, until he muffled himself by biting into Carlos's shoulder, hard, his teeth creating perfect catalytic points of sensation. They came at almost the same instant, Cecil pushing into Carlos's body, biting into Carlos's skin.

Carlos felt amazing for about twenty seconds after coming, up until the wave of embarrassment that he had avoided in the heat of the moment came back. He didn't – Cecil's possessiveness was weird and overwhelming, and he shouldn't be encouraging it, and it had felt so good at the time but he hadn't ever really begged for sex before and didn't know what to do with the feeling that came with it, thick and tight in his chest.

"Uh, that was – " he said, but then trailed off. His body felt good, hot with expanded capillaries, ticking with little muscle spasm aftershocks, weak and wrung-out and well-used.

"I loved it," Cecil said wholeheartedly, his forehead pressed between Carlos's shoulderblades. He was breathing hard. "Did you love it?"

"I – yeah." Carlos closed his eyes tight and tried to catch his breath. "Yeah, I did."

 

11.

"How are you doing?" Cecil asks softly, straddling Carlos's lap and stroking idly at his hair, his face, the front of his throat. He's still fully clothed, the slick fabric of his leopard-print dress pants and soft yellow shirt rubbing against Carlos's bare skin. When Cecil's fingers trail down under his chin, it's astonishingly easy for Carlos to just tip his head back, close his eyes, and give Cecil access to his throat. Cecil's thumb presses against his Adam's apple.

Carlos feels like he's far away, but also like he's incredibly and overwhelmingly physically present, grounded by the ropes and by Cecil's weight on his thighs but also drifting, floating. "Good," he manages, after a long pause. Cecil's hand curves around the back of his head and tilts it up again. Carlos keeps his eyes closed.

"Hmm." Cecil's fingertips flutter against his skin, light brief touches that don't quite tickle.

"Will you – you said you were going to – " Carlos begins, and Cecil waits. His fingers go still against Carlos's throat. Carlos swallows, breathes. "Are you going to touch me?"

"I am touching you," Cecil replies. Carlos would roll his eyes if he could bear to open them and look at Cecil. He lets his head fall forward instead, bending his neck to push his head into Cecil's hands.

"You said before that you were going to, uh. Touch me everywhere."

"What I said," Cecil drawls, radio-slow and deep, "was that I wanted, first, to tie you up so that you couldn't move at all. I said that I wanted to slowly draw my mouth and hands over every part of your body. I said that I wouldn't let you go until I had worshipped absolutely all of you." He pauses for dramatic effect, because Carlos was dumb enough to get involved with a professional radio announcer. "Is that what you want from me?"

It's hard to hear it, all laid out like that, plain and straightforward, but Carlos has had practice now. "Yes," he says, and then remembers what he's supposed to say: "yes, please. Please, Cecil."

He hears Cecil sigh above him, content, and then Cecil's hands take up their slow caresses again.

"Please what?"

The words struggle and flutter behind Carlos's teeth for a long moment before he can finally let them out. "Please touch me. Please don't let me go until you're done with me."

Cecil's mouth lands softly on Carlos's collarbone, and the wet sensation of the kiss after all the light touches is solid and powerful, drawing all of Carlos's attention to that one spot on his body.

"Good," Cecil says, warm and rich.

Carlos opens his eyes and meets Cecil's gaze.

"Good, perfect, wonderful Carlos," Cecil intones, and Carlos bites his lip. Cecil is still looking into his eyes, and it's intimate, uncomfortable. "Do you like it when I call you that?"

"No," Carlos pants, as Cecil reaches down to grip his cock.

 

4.

"I've never been fucked the way you fuck me," Carlos said into the dark, right after their fifth time together, too wrung out and sated to censor himself. Cecil had made him hold still while he sucked his cock, painfully slow, teasing, until Carlos had sobbed with need and Cecil had finally, finally let him come. He'd been too out of it to notice, at first, Cecil crawling up the bed; by the time he did Cecil was already straddling Carlos's face, sliding his dick easily between his lips. Carlos tried to get it together to give him a proper blowjob, but it hadn't taken long, Cecil just fisting one hand in Carlos's hair and moving him where he wanted, using his slack wet mouth for a few short thrusts before he came, spilling into Carlos's eager swallowing throat.

Carlos's mouth felt a little raw inside where Cecil had fucked it.

"I hope that's a compliment," Cecil replied, managing to sound prim even with his lips mashed against Carlos's neck. Carlos chuckled.

"It's – yes, it is." He stroked Cecil's arm absently. "You take such good care of me." At this, Cecil pressed a sloppy kiss just below Carlos's ear. "But I just – I hope you're getting as much out of it."

Cecil's answering giggle was high-pitched and squeaky, with a hiccup at the end. "You have no idea," he said, which at least made Carlos feel better.

A few heartbeats passed between them before Cecil asked, "Have you ever been submissive with anyone before?"

Carlos let the question hang in the air for a long time. It wasn't like he didn't know what they had been doing, hadn't recognized his own spiraling desire in the moments when Cecil held him down, or told him what to do, or teased him until he went out of his mind.

"No," Carlos said, as Cecil reached down to splay a steadying hand over his stomach.

 

12.

"Why don't you like it?" Cecil asks softly, his mouth still pressing wet kisses along Carlos's chest and throat.

Carlos would move if he could, would fidget with his hands or turn away from Cecil's adoring caresses, but he can't: he's held in place by the rope, by Cecil's weight on top of him, and by the force of Cecil's attention, pinning him down like he's a rare and beautiful biological specimen.

"I – I don't know," he stutters, honestly, instead of fidgeting. "It's too much. I don't – I haven't earned that."

"You don't deserve it," Cecil murmurs into his ear. Even speaking quietly Cecil's voice is deep and rich, the sound capable of shaking through Carlos like the pressure wave of an explosion. Carlos shudders, his dick hard, and tries to roll his body up against Cecil's. He doesn't; he can't move. Whether or not he gets touched is Cecil's decision.

"Is that right?" Cecil presses. Carlos swallows.

"Yes."

"Oh, but Carlos," Cecil intones, "I think you do."

Cecil slides backwards slowly and gets to his knees between Carlos's legs, then bends his head to kiss one knobbly, hairy knee.

"I always say that you're beautiful because you are, Carlos. I want to touch you everywhere, all the time." His hands rub up and down Carlos's shins, pink nails scratching lightly. No one has ever touched Carlos's legs like this, or cupped his ankles, or run light fingers over the tops of his feet; the sensation is almost intolerable in its unexpected intensity. "I want to touch all of you, get inside you every way I can. Do you understand that? How much I want you?"

"I – yeah," Carlos says, caught somewhere between desperate embarrassment and overwhelming joy. "I do, Cecil, yes."

"I think you need reminding," Cecil says. "Perhaps I'll start here." He places a soft kiss on the inside of Carlos's knee, twisting his head to get access. Cecil's tongue flicks out and pushes into the crease, and Carlos can't keep from yelping at the wet slippery feeling.

Cecil grins up at him, an expression of pure and unhesitating joy that Carlos has only ever seen in Night Vale. "So sensitive, my Carlos. So lovely. I'm going to wring every response I can out of your beautiful body."

 

5.

It wasn't even just the sex, was the thing; even when they were out in public, Cecil would open doors for him, or guide him with a warm hand in the small of his back, so that Carlos felt – cared for. Protected. Spoiled, even. After they'd been dating for a while, Cecil asked, shyly, if he could order for them both at Gino's Italian Dining Experience and Grill and Bar, and, when Carlos said yes, gave him a warm look of pride and excitement that made Carlos's heart flutter. Every bite of the meal had taken on a strange significance; he could feel Cecil watching him eat, and where such a thing would normally make him nervous, it made him feel powerful instead, capable of giving Cecil something that he wanted and needed, just by picking up his fork.

He had never known this feeling before, of being sure that he was doing things exactly right. It made him confident, reckless, so that he rubbed his left ankle slowly against Cecil's right, and bent his head to kiss Cecil's palm, and opened his mouth willingly when Cecil held out a bite of his steak for Carlos to try. Cecil slipped the fork into his mouth, and when Carlos closed around it Cecil drew it back slowly, letting the tines linger against Carlos's lower lip.

"Delicious," Carlos said. Cecil licked his lips.

At the end of the meal, Cecil had reached across the table and dabbed at the corner of Carlos's mouth with a napkin, just briefly, and Cecil's slow, hot smile made Carlos want to fuck right there, bend forward over the table or fall to his knees, let Cecil take him fast and easy.

Instead he picked up the thoughtfully provided egress-brick, offered it to Cecil, and said, "Shall we?"

"We shall," Cecil said.

 

6.

Or there was the night he came home – home to Cecil's apartment, which was overfull of cushy furniture and strange Night Vale memorabilia, comforting and colorful and cluttered like Cecil himself – covered in rapidly hardening green goo. Cecil took one look at him, muttered something about the ravages of science, and made him strip down in the front hall while Cecil ran him a bath.

Carlos felt cold and exposed, walking through the apartment naked. To his surprise, though, when he reached the bathroom Cecil was stripping down too so that he could fit in behind Carlos in the bath. Once they got settled, Cecil's arms and legs wrapped around Carlos's torso like an octopus and squeezed him tight. Carlos felt momentarily awkward, but then Cecil sighed against his neck and Carlos leaned back against him, closing his eyes and relaxing into the tight squeeze.

Just when Carlos had forgotten the original purpose of the bath, Cecil sighed again and gently levered Carlos forward; Carlos went where he was put, boneless and relaxed in the heat, in Cecil's embrace. He didn't open his eyes, not even when Cecil gently poured handfuls of warm water over his hair. He heard the sound of a cap opening and closing and smelled the lavender and ash shampoo that Cecil preferred.

"We'll get you all cleaned up," he said, gently massaging Carlos's scalp with his fingertips before dropping a fast kiss to Carlos's shoulder. "Good as new."

It was just an expression, of course, but after the bath Carlos did feel new, standing naked with Cecil as the tub drained around their legs, automatically holding out one arm for Cecil to lean on for balance while he stood on tiptoe and poured a last sluice of warm water over Carlos's head, letting it cascade over his shoulders and down his body. He felt new, and empty, and full, all at the same time, trusting Cecil to look after him.

 

7.

"I got you something," Carlos said, fidgeting nervously and shifting from foot to foot. "For our anniversary."

Cecil looked delighted, then confused. "Our six month and one and a half week anniversary?" he asked.

Carlos took him by the hand and led him to sit down on the giant overstuffed couch. "The paperwork took longer than I expected, and required more blood than I was able to give all at once," he frowned, apologetically. The word paperwork made Cecil perk up like a terrier, and by the time Carlos got to the part about blood he was practically in Carlos's lap.

"Sweet, thoughtful Carlos. What did you get us?" Cecil's automatic and unhesitating use of the plural pronoun made Carlos's heart beat hard in his chest, even after six months and one and a half weeks.

Carlos bit his lip and held out the box. Cecil grinned as he undid the bow and peeked under the lid. Inside there was a form from the City Council's office, written in an awful lot of blood on gilt-edged (or was it guilt-edged? Carlos wasn't sure he'd heard the clerk correctly) vellum and bearing the seals of the City Council and the Sheriff's Secret Police. At the top it said, in fancy calligraphy, Municipal License for Kinky Sex Acts, Form 35B: Bondage Using Specialty Equipment.

"Oh, oh Carlos," Cecil gasped. Carlos grinned; usually Cecil filed all their municipal sex paperwork, because in addition to being complicated it was just seriously skeevy, but Carlos knew that Cecil hadn't applied for this one yet, maybe because he didn't want to presume, so Carlos had gone to the permit office and faced down the basilisk himself. He hadn't been able to think of any other way to express it, how he felt about what they did together, how much he wanted more of it, but Cecil spoke fluent bureaucracy and would understand what Carlos was trying to say. He hoped.

"I thought – you know." Carlos took a deep breath; if he was going to do it, certainly he could say it. "You like to, uh, hold me down, sometimes, but maybe we could take the next step." He kissed Cecil on the neck, just below his ear, as Cecil stroked his fingertips over Carlos's dried blood. "Look underneath."

Cecil lifted up the thick vellum and underneath, gleaming silver, were two pairs of sturdy handcuffs, Sheriff's Secret Police make, legally acquired.

"Two pairs?" Cecil asked. Carlos licked his lips.

"I like it when it's, uh. Symmetrical. The restraint."

Cecil picked up the key and looked at it for a long moment.

"Go into the bedroom," he said, "And take off all your clothes. Lie down face up, spread-eagled, and wait for me." He glanced up to meet Carlos's eyes, his gaze hot and breathtakingly honest. "I'll be with you in a moment."

Carlos stood up, shaking fingers already fumbling with the buttons on his shirt.

 

13.

Cecil takes him apart.

Cecil with his wide bright smile and his deep voice and his weirdass fashion sense that had grown on Carlos like a fungus, with his intense dedication to municipal regulations and careless public flouting of rules he doesn't like, with his long fingers and the smattering of dark freckles across his shoulders, Cecil breaks him into small pieces until he's trembling, undone, his whole body quaking like the ground beneath Night Vale, violently and harmlessly, with significance but without consequence.

Cecil's mouth and hands and body touch every part of Carlos that he can reach, every part not bound against the chair or beneath the blue ropes. This is Cecil's investigative process, this gradual exploration, this careful control over experiment conditions. He runs a fingernail up Carlos's right side, then the pad of his finger, then his knuckles, testing the line been ticklish and intense, registering Carlos's gasps and attempts at squirming away, squirming closer. He puts his mouth to Carlos's neck and pulls blood to the surface of the skin, leaving a trail of suck marks, each one a different size and shape. He rubs his palms slowly, smoothly, over Carlos's back, his thighs, his cock, fleeting and ghostly one moment, hard and firm the next, registering the difference in response.

Carlos shakes against the ropes, against Cecil's body where it touches his, each sensation far too powerful for the simple caress that creates it.

And Cecil talks through it, his voice like the ropes that hold Carlos tight and steady, grounding him, reminding him of his edges.

"The noise you make when I touch the insides of your thighs, Carlos. Yes, that's the one. So beautiful. I know you want my hands on your cock; I can hear your desperation in that beautiful sound. But oh, Carlos, we're nowhere near done yet."

"I love the look of your skin when I've bitten it, the way it flares red for a long moment while the teethmarks fade. I love seeing the imprint of my body on yours."

"I'm glad I tied you up this way, sitting down. If I could fuck your ass right now I would, I'd lose patience and take you, because you're so beautiful, Carlos, so beautiful as you twitch and sweat against the ropes you let me tie around you, and I wouldn't be able to resist. I want your ass, I want your mouth, I want your cock inside me. I know you want those things too, baby, I can feel it in the way you're trembling. But it's not time yet. We have to wait."

"This patch of skin right here, on your arm, it's lovely. Rough. Like a scar. A burn, maybe. I want to know what made it. I want to know everything, all your secrets. I want you to give them up to me."

"You need this so badly, don't you, my sweet Carlos? I can't get over it, how needy you are. The way you shift and gasp underneath me, waiting for me to make you feel. It's the most beautiful thing about you. I never want to stop making you feel, Carlos, just dragging my hands over your body and giving you everything you need."

Through it all Carlos stays silent, listening, soaking up the words greedily, allowing himself to really hear them for the first time: beautiful. Perfect. Lovely. Cecil hasn't gagged him or told him to stay quiet; he could respond if he wanted to. But he can't imagine what he would say to this, to Cecil's poetic litany of his body, anymore than he can imagine being able to move during it, what he could possibly do to return Cecil's touches. Instead he accepts the praise the way he accepts Cecil's control over him, as something he doesn't have to justify or explain, even to himself: as something that simply exists, that makes him feel safe.

"Do you want me to touch your cock now, dear Carlos? Should I get you off?"

"Anything you want, Cecil," Carlos replies, immediately. It's the only answer he has, the only one he needs. "Anything. Anything. I'm in your hands."

Cecil kisses his mouth softly, sliding their lips and tongues together so gently and tentatively that it's reminiscent of their first kiss, the one in the car, the one that Carlos had agonized over both before and after it happened.

This kiss is easy; Cecil sets the pace, and Carlos follows eagerly, opening his mouth automatically when Cecil's tongue swipes at his lips, letting Cecil inside him.

"Perfect," Cecil says, when he finally pulls away. "You're perfect."

Carlos feels perfect.

 

14.

There are still red marks roped around his limbs, later that night, when Cecil takes his hand. He runs his fingers over Carlos's fingers, idly, the way you might stroke a smooth stone, a cross on a necklace, a good luck charm.

As Cecil rubs the pad of his thumb over one short fingernail, Carlos is struck by desire. Or maybe not desire. Whimsy.

"You should paint them," he says, quietly. He hasn't spoken in a little while; he's just been drifting, feeling Cecil's touch on his body and thinking about pedesis, the Brownian motion that brought him here, to this moment.

Cecil grins, delighted. "What color would you like?" He's already reaching for the sparkly little collection of polishes that he keeps on the nightstand. Carlos sometimes wishes he wouldn't paint his nails in bed, since it smells and the polish could get on the sheets, but he hasn't said anything. He likes to watch Cecil's careful concentration and delicate, controlled movements as he makes himself pretty.

"Something conservative," Carlos says, holding out his hands. "Appropriate for the lab."

Cecil kisses each fingernail softly before he paints it a deep, rich red.