Author: Guede Mazaka
Ricardo drifted awake without noticing anything particularly out-of-place. His mouth tasted a little stale and his body felt a little stiff and scratchy, as if somebody had gone over his skin with a bit of sandpaper…but that made sense when he saw his wrist. He’d gone to bed fully-dressed. He’d been really tired…
He pushed himself up on one elbow and his lower body started to scoot backwards as a counterbalance, only it hit something. Something curving almost to fit it, something that gave slightly before rocking back to press against him. Another something suddenly made its weight felt when it rolled a few centimeters down his side to come to rest across his waist. For some reason he froze—certainly no reason he could consciously recognize—and then he really looked at his surroundings.
It wasn’t—it was Paolo’s apartment. And not the guest bedroom, because Ricardo had seen its pristine surfaces and this room had a watch, a key-ring, a few little papers scattered across the bedside table. And somebody else was on the bed. Leaning on his arm, Ricardo blinked rapidly and wished his mind would catch up to the same speed, but it still seemed numbed by the remnants of slumber. All his thoughts were passing each other and not linking up properly, as if someone had turned out a box of old printing type-pieces onto the floor and now was trying to read sense in them.
The thing around Ricardo’s waist abruptly swung down, cinching across his belly and dragging him back. It pulled him off his arm so he went down with a slight sharp exhale and a good deal of surprise stiffening his muscles.
“I’ll have to work to make the day more miserable than usual. Otherwise God knows how downhill things will go, after waking up to find you here.” Paolo’s words skittered over the back of Ricardo’s neck, teasing the hairs there till they seemed like needles planted halfway into the skin. Which was really not what they deserved, because they were warm and amused and lazy—lazy, not relaxed. Relaxed with Paolo always still had a bit of wary anticipation to it. “Nothing’s gone off yet, have they?”
After a moment, Ricardo’s deep-iced brain managed to assign the reference to alarms, PDAs, that sort of thing. “No.”
“Oh, good.” Relieved, but now relaxed because there was a tinge of irritation at the heart of that relief. “Maybe I can fit in a sit-down breakfast before the hounds start baying.”
The hand on Ricardo’s belly moved a little, then started to drop off. It had been comfortably warm, not hot, and so Ricardo didn’t realize till then that the room had a slight chill to it. He grabbed Paolo’s wrist without thinking. And then he did, because his mind decided to finally process everything, and he hesitated.
A heartbeat after, he felt the tendons beneath his fingers tense. The bed shifted slightly, seeming to widen as the presence of Paolo’s body withdrew, leaving the air in between them to cool and numb. “Kaká—”
Irrationally, suddenly, Ricardo resented that nickname for the first time in his life. Kaká was someone else, was the son of Paolo’s good friends, was the angel Paolo thought flew obliviously above everyday life. Actually, at least when Paolo called him ‘angel’ the other man was reacting to him; Kaká now seemed to be reserved for when Paolo was about to leave the situation. And—
--and maybe Ricardo didn’t quite know where this one was going, and wasn’t sure what to do once he did, but he wasn’t ready to just drop it. He pushed Paolo’s hand back onto his stomach.
The other man was silent for a long moment, with even his breathing barely audible. His fingers were stiff as a mannequins and pressed awkwardly into Ricardo’s flesh; Ricardo’s nerves went from pricking to squirming around beneath his skin till he almost wished he could leap out of that. And then finally, just because he would’ve had to say something—but what would he?—Paolo finally spoke. “I keep forgetting. You don’t drink, so you remember what happened the night before.”
Ricardo’s heart sank at the flatness of Paolo’s tone. He opened his mouth, then swallowed back the words and instead looked down at Paolo’s hand. The tip of one of the fingers was actually bent up, away from him.
He swallowed again, then let go of Paolo’s wrist. “Sorry I made your morning so much trouble already,” he said. “I’ll just…start the coffee.”
Then he started to rise again, but Paolo’s hand flexed in and caught him back, and the odd, almost rueful laugh from the other man made him forgo resistance. “Ricardo, you should never say you’ll go start the coffee. That’s the signal that you’ve given up, and you don’t. Which confuses me even more.”
“Well, I…” So many things Ricardo suddenly didn’t knew—or to be more accurate, knew that he should know but hadn’t yet learned. It was so much more complicated and nuanced than he’d thought, and somehow he felt it shouldn’t actually be that way, and…and he knew now that it was Paolo behind him, Paolo’s arm locked around his waist, and still he stiffened up. “I’m sorry. I’m trying…I don’t mean to be like that—like this, but you just…I’m surprised, I’ll stop in a…Paolo. Paolo? Paolo?”
Paolo had turned slightly as he’d pulled Ricardo back, so Ricardo had landed on the bed off-balance and instinctively rolled back. He ran up flush against the other man, who’d tightened his arm to keep Ricardo there even though every bit of Ricardo had gone tense as an overtuned violin string upon contact. Something grazed the back of Ricardo’s neck, sending such a shiver through him that he was shocked when he didn’t feel a muscle snap. Then it slowly turned sideways and pressed up against his hair so he knew it was Paolo’s nose. And where the nose was…breath tinged with a little moisture ghosted over Ricardo’s nape, where the needle-hairs collected the damp and the increased weight made them prick deeper.
“You know, a lot of people actually find that to be the best part of having an inequality of experience,” Paolo said. Casually, a little detached, as if he were breaking down a case over lunch. His arm crooked so his hand slid from Ricardo’s side to the middle of Ricardo’s stomach. Its fingers splayed out, pushing down till the strained webbing between them could be felt. Then the first two glided together while the ring and little finger bent, pulled up some of Ricardo’s shirt into a wrinkle. “The whole matter of discomfort.”
Ricardo’s right arm was thrown out straight across the bed, his fingers just a little over the edge. But turned up, and trying to grab the edge would twist his wrist beyond physical capability. Instead he gripped his thigh with his left hand, trying to muster up the will to regulate his breath to the point where he could respond in words.
“And I fully admit that in the past, I was one of them.” Kiss to the back of Ricardo’s neck, slipped in so deviously that Ricardo missed it, didn’t know what it was—had been—till the air evaporated the trace of wetness there. Paolo laid his forehead against the back of Ricardo’s head as his hand gathered up more of Ricardo’s shirt-tails. “I don’t know with you, though. Well, no, I do…you can’t change your tastes that easily. But you make me wish I could, every time I see that argument about fleeing in your eyes.”
“I’m not facing you,” Ricardo finally managed to stammer. He shifted nervously as the tip of one shirt-tail scratched into his belly-button, then again when Paolo’s finger slipped over it and onto his bare skin in tucking in that last fold. The inside of his mouth was dry, as if it’d been swabbed out with cotton, but the rest of him seemed to bleed liquid. He couldn’t be sweating that much in reality, but every sensation seemed more evident, more concentrated.
Paolo snorted. The steady puffs of breath stopped and Ricardo thought he was ready this time, but Paolo didn’t just kiss his neck; that mouth lingered, spread itself around a bone in his spine and seemed to burn straight into that bundle of nerves so effects showed up in distant parts of his body. His legs jerked, his heel gouging into the bed; his right hand curled so tears briefly stung his eyes when one of his nails dug too deep into his palm. “Of course not,” Paolo said.
He sounded sarcastic again, like…and frankly, Ricardo didn’t want to think about it. Whether Paolo meant they were this way on purpose, this way was easier because Paolo could pretend something about Ricardo again—bad enough that the idea was in the other man’s head. It’d linger on and on, and come up again as well if something…didn’t…
With a good deal of effort, Ricardo managed to take his hand off his thigh. Paolo had already started sliding his hand down, over the bunched-up shirt, but he was coiled up against Ricardo, preparing to make some point again. Before the other man could, Ricardo pressed his hand over Paolo’s and pushed at it.
He only moved it a few centimeters before he—to his increasing disgust—froze up again. Ricardo bit at his lip, trying to snap himself out of it, but…he exhaled in irritation. “I…I’m sorry. I hate this.”
“No, I mean it. I mean ‘hate.’ Because the idea—this is meaningless if I don’t love you, and so it wouldn’t frighten me then. But I do love you, so I should—it’s like I’m afraid of you and I don’t want to be,” Ricardo said, low and quick and furious. He really was angry with himself, and so much so that that almost scared him, but then…he sighed and sank back, exasperation shading so very easily to dejection.
His grip on Paolo’s hand unconsciously relaxed. He didn’t realize it’d happened till after Paolo had twisted his wrist and suddenly it was Ricardo’s own hand lying against his belly, Paolo’s fingers interleaving between his. Paolo drew them down, cupped them over the top of Ricardo’s waistband, and Ricardo went very still.
He would’ve expected Paolo to say something then, but instead the other man’s brow pressed into the back of Ricardo’s skull, sliding down to settle in the dip where that met neck as Paolo laughed quietly. It wasn’t a particularly carefree sound, but it wasn’t so cynical either. Paolo’s little finger curled beneath Ricardo’s hand and crooked up against his palm as the other man’s breath tickled down between Ricardo’s collar and his skin. “Damn it, you do exactly what I like in ways where I almost can’t…breathe, Ricardo. You sound like you’re dead.”
“I’m not,” Ricardo said. His voice was little more than a croak due to the constriction on his throat and it irritated him; he absently shifted and Paolo shifted with him, their clothes scratching between them. He swallowed and it was like he’d swallowed a burning coal, which went down into the center of his body and then flamed up so his face felt like—he pressed it into the mattress and wondered when he didn’t smell burning cotton. “I’m still here.”
Paolo paused. Then his other hand suddenly slipped up under Ricardo’s side, arrowing through the slight arch formed by the dip of Ricardo’s waist, and clasped under his left, over Ricardo’s left. And his left hand disappeared, leaving his right to collapse down and retrap Ricardo’s hand on the verge—it reappeared on Ricardo’s hip, fingers running down along the outside seam and then crossing just above Ricardo’s knee to start drifting upwards. “Good,” Paolo finally said, voice thicker. Lower. “Just stay here, and…”
Fingers halfway up the inside of Ricardo’s thigh. One of them crooked, dragged a groove compared to the feathery touches of the others and he couldn’t help himself, he jerked and sucked in his breath. Paolo’s mouth brushed along the back of his neck, teasing his spine, shushing him. He bit his lip again and the welling of blood, tiny as it was—barely a drop—was shockingly metallic on his tongue. His fingers gouged at his own stomach as Paolo stroked two long fingers upwards, just pushed them into the crease where leg joined torso and then turned them sideways, corkscrewed them slowly into the fold so they followed it.
“It—” Ricardo started. Speaking felt like breaking the surface of the sea for air.
“Don’t talk. I think,” Paolo murmured, something now flicking wetly at Ricardo’s skin in between words, “That half the problem’s you’re thinking about this even more than I am.”
Paolo rippled his hand, shifted to put his last two fingers where the first two had been. His thumb swept lightly over—Ricardo jerked again, rammed himself back into Paolo and then felt an irregularity in the line of the other man’s body he didn’t remember from a few moments ago. He froze and Paolo pulled his hand back down, curled it around Ricardo’s thigh, loose but purposeful.
“You are supposed to enjoy this, you know. Outside of all the meaning and complexities and…now I’m talking too much.” Mock-sigh, trailed over Ricardo’s nape like a cool fingertip as Paolo’s head lifted. “Normally, this is where you’d kiss me and tell me to stop. If you’re taking notes.”
“Now you’re being—” Ricardo stopped when he felt Paolo’s tongue stroke over the top of his ear. His mouth was still open and he honestly didn’t know what to do about it. He—Paolo pulled at his leg, hauled him closer and Ricardo watched the world be sliced up by thin black lines. The muscles in his chest tightened and a strange, harsh groan came out of him. “Paolo.”
Their intertwined hands skidded lower, half of Ricardo’s index finger and a third of his middle slipped between his skin and his waistband before he had finished the breath. Paolo’s fingers moved slowly, deliberately around and between Ricardo’s hand, nudging his numbed fingers aside. He blinked hard, then gasped and bucked forward when teeth were applied to his ear, a line of them sinking in while the second line scraped up over the back.
His trousers were undone sometime in between, suddenly and shockingly loose; he rolled his hips because Paolo’s mouth jammed up beneath his ear, where the jawbone shaded away into soft flesh, like ice and hot iron at the same time. He burned and froze, Paolo gradually guiding their hands past the unresisting folds and bunches of his clothes. The other man ran his thumb along the second waistband, once hooking it beneath and then letting the elastic snap back—Ricardo said something, incoherent and guttural—before pushing away the fabric and then…and then there wasn’t anything in the way.
Ricardo felt a flush in his cheeks that somehow seared up past the heat already overwhelming him and ducked his head without thinking. His nails scratched mindlessly over coarse, crinkly hairs—shorter than the nails here, but they’d be longer further…he was relieved when Paolo flattened a hand over his own again, made him push on till he felt the thinning in the skin, the growing warmth as it became more and more stretched and the hot blood came closer to his fingers.
But his knees—they twitched towards each other every time his hand moved and at the moment they seemed completely beyond his control. They didn’t even look like part of him, but instead jutted into his hazy peripheral vision like…Paolo pressed lips to the point of his jaw and it pushed his head back, his body forward, and his gaze drifted and Ricardo stuttered, snapped shut his eyes.
Paolo sensed it. Withdrew again, and later Ricardo would be a little chagrined to admit that his uppermost thought was not again, I can’t take this much-- but right then he just—he—and Paolo took the whole messy, half-comprehended problem out of his hands by simply moving to have a good hold on Ricardo, and then heaving them over.
The headboard rattled hard. Then its noise settled into a languidly diminishing low keen, like a tuning fork struck and held beneath a table, and Ricardo settled into an awkward sprawl against Paolo. His left leg had fallen over Paolo’s knee and was pulled wide; he’d unconsciously grabbed at Paolo’s right thigh as they’d rolled and that had ensured that his right leg trapped itself under Paolo’s.
Ricardo looked up, blinked, and then—but Paolo’s hands flashed into place, pinned his left hand down on the side of his open fly and his right on Paolo’s hip, jammed an elbow into his left knee to keep him from dragging that leg back. A short, broken sound rasped out of his mouth as he jerked his head, banged it into Paolo’s jaw and failed to stop seeing his reflection in the mirror on the wall. He twisted in instinctive alarm, but only seated himself more firmly against the other man.
And Paolo: his hands looked so brown against Ricardo’s skin, lean and smooth-skinned, with the few imperfections merely attesting to a well-lived life. His right hand glided up as Ricardo watched—his own right still melded with Paolo’s hip—pulling sections of Ricardo’s shirt taut and then leaving them rumpled to the line of the body as it went. Its fingers closed around the top button—inhale—and Ricardo’s attention suddenly narrowed to it, so much that he almost thought he heard the rasp of the buttonhole’s hemming against the plastic. Then his collar was gaping a little, and two long, tapered fingers pushed in and made it gape farther, till the next button was straining in its hole.
Paolo’s head was down, tucked into the side of Ricardo’s throat, only the white gleam of the morning sun on his hair and a few streaks of dark brown around that visible, and that brown so rich that it almost seemed like something Ricardo should taste, feel in his mouth. He swallowed with his mouth open, needing his lips parted because he could only breathe in gasps now, and Paolo’s mouth followed the play of the muscles in his throat. He watched them move in the mirror, unable to help himself, his eyes fixed on the shifting shadows and the occasional glimpse of Paolo’s tongue flicking out, lapping back over his skin. Paolo dropped his right knee and moved his leg so it went under and came up on the other side of Ricardo’s leg, and Ricardo didn’t notice till he’d been spread so wide he couldn’t pretend anymore that—that Paolo wasn’t wrapping their hands around his cock that was flushed and rising to meet them, his fingers slivers of ivory inset into the dark amber of Paolo’s covering hand.
“Paolo,” Ricardo mouthed, only traces of sound making it out of his choked throat.
“You are enjoying it,” Paolo whispered to his neck, lips brushing against his jaw for every button undone. Fingers dipping beneath the shirt that was falling half-off his shoulders now, teasing shivers from him. Paolo lazily raised his head, nose tracing the curve of Ricardo’s face, and his eyes wandered across Ricardo’s in the mirror as if they were merely meeting on the street.
Ricardo felt an electric jolt when the circles of their gazes aligned. And then suddenly he wasn’t even breathing anymore; the heat had magnified to the point where he was simply immersed in it and breathing wasn’t in the picture. His mouth opened and he gazed dazedly at its shockingly red inside as he moaned.
He knew Paolo wasn’t untouched either, no matter his retention of the ability to speak—he was pressed right up against the measure of that, and his throat went suddenly parched as he thought—as he knew what this fitting of bodies echoed, what it might be recalling to Paolo’s memory. His gaze dipped as the last shirt-button was undone and one of his shirt-tails fluttered over his cock, away from Paolo’s exploring hand. Then he raised it again, and Paolo was hiding his face in Ricardo’s throat again.
It was hard—twice Ricardo gathered the remnants of his concentration, only to let them spill away when Paolo grazed his teeth over the neck-pulse, when one thumb rolled over Ricardo’s nipple and another over the head of his cock. It was hard but the third time he pulled his hand from Paolo’s hip, dragged it over and behind and then it was awkward, he couldn’t see what he was doing and anyway he was still hypnotized by Paolo’s fingers stroking over him and Paolo was jerking about in surprise, not helping, but Ricardo got his fingers behind himself. Between them, over the top of Paolo’s trousers and somehow managed button and zipper.
And then Paolo pulled hard at him, trapping his hand back there, and Paolo’s head came up and the reflection of his eyes should’ve scorched the mirror black. Ricardo opened and closed his mouth, wanting to explain, to reassure, but Paolo began to move again. Slow, eyes always on Ricardo now, he bent and he kissed the half-healed bite he’d made at the base of Ricardo’s throat. He’d avoided it till now, and now he lavished it with attention: lapping and sucking, turning the flesh around it pink and then red and then deeper shades while Ricardo squirmed. Bucked so his cock pushed through the circle of their hands, tender skin scraped on callused palms so his head filled with a buzzing and it made him dizzy but he wanted to be dizzier.
Paolo did things with his hands, magical things that made the mirror swim like its silver surface had turned to water. His knuckles dug into Ricardo’s back, ran over his spine so his knees disobeyed him again and melted, and then he brought that hand around and used it to lift Ricardo by one thigh so something with length and breadth and heat pressed up at Ricardo’s backside. Dipped under, rubbed up against him so now instinct had him hauling his knees apart, or trying to because too far and he didn’t have any balance, couldn’t even move his hand over his cock and Paolo had to do it for him till he’d fallen back. And Paolo was still watching him, though now it was an effort to keep his eyes open. Ricardo’s eyelids seemed to be going leaden on him, clamping down for longer and longer and lifting less and less when they did finally listen to him.
And then there was a long, long moment when they wouldn’t open at all, and Ricardo grabbed at Paolo and prayed that it’d be all right.
* * *
The world gradually spiraled back into place, all the dancing white sparks melting away into the solid lines of a room, a bed. Ricardo’s left foot, its toes still clenched down. A mirror…Ricardo’s fading flush abruptly intensified and he twisted his head, only to bump into something. He opened his mouth to apologize and instead Paolo’s tongue slyly stole away his words and his breath, so he could only slump against the other man.
Paolo brought up an arm to support him, and then lifted the other with a tired grunt to cup a hand to Ricardo’s face. “And still no phone call. Either I’ve been fired during the night, or I’m slated for some truly…miserable night-shifts.”
Ricardo started to frown, but it was hard to persuade his face to do that; he was exhausted everywhere, and also just strangely, calmly opposed to being anything but contented. So he laughed a little, disbelieving that even now Paolo could be like that, and twisted to lay his head on Paolo’s shoulder. But then that loss of breath breaking up the other man’s words registered, and he did have to frown. “I missed you.”
Confusion reigned on Paolo’s face for a moment. Then his brows lifted and his mouth quirked. “Oh. That. Well…presumably we’ll be trying this again. With less clothing—if it makes you feel better, I’m disappointed we didn’t even get a single piece completely off.”
“Paolo,” Ricardo said.
For some reason, Paolo stared at him for quite a few seconds after that. Then the quirked mouth became a wryly twisted one, and Paolo tipped back to look out in front of him. Not at the mirror, though; his eyes were more distant than that. “You look…no matter how old you are, you’ll never change the way you’re happy, are you? You won’t learn how to enjoy the compromises.”
Ricardo bit down his first-choice reply; he wasn’t in any state to argue interpretations with Paolo, let alone facts. And besides, speaking in exasperation wouldn’t help. Then again, his second-choice, although more thoughtful…he was glad at least half his blush was hidden from view. “Paolo. I love you, and…and I just had sex for the first time, and it was wonderful. Do we have to think about that now?”
Paolo blinked. The corner of his mouth twitched, then curved generously up as he turned back to Ricardo. “Very good point,” he murmured, his fingers threading into Ricardo’s hair.
“I’m just taking your advice,” Ricardo whispered. And then wished he hadn’t, as it made Paolo stop a mere hair away from his mouth. “From earlier. When…when you said…”
“Oh, no, I remember now. Sorry, age and memory—”
Ricardo recalled another suggestion, and slung his arm up over Paolo’s neck and kissed the other man.