rave (dorkorific) wrote,

set me as a seal upon your heart: 4/5



When he gets home there’s a Post-It stuck to the door of his apartment, written in cramped block letters.

KIDDO - IN TOWN TRYING GET IN TOUCH
SEE YOU SOON -


There’s a sigil scrawled on the back, safer not to look at.

Cris is more annoyed now than anything else. This stuff is a fucking buzzkill.

He can’t take the note inside, obviously. In the end he scrapes it cautiously off the door with a butter knife and burns it outside, in a trash can with some brittle old sage twigs -- best he can do for the moment -- and takes a long, dreamless nap.

*


Pepe greets him with an admiring whistle when he steps onto the court that afternoon. “That is the glow of a satisfied man,” he calls. “Get some last night, papi?”

Cris feels himself redden. “Nah,” he says, which is a lie so painfully obvious that even Pepe gives him a pitying look.

“Suddenly we’re a gentleman?” Marcelo teases. Then he gets a better look at Cris’s face and his eyes widen. “Oh, no way. You catch feelings?

“No way,” agrees Pepe. He regards Cris with new interest. “Really?”

“Nah, it’s whatever,” Cris says, going even hotter. “I don’t know.”

“When did you have time to get feelings?” Marcelo demands. “Who do you even hang out with? Is it one of us? It’s not me. Is it him?”

“Shit, son, it’s not the new padre,” Pepe says. “Is it?”

“Fucking stop,” Cris says. “Do you wanna bullshit, or do you wanna play ball?”

Pepe and Marcelo give each other pointed looks, but Marcelo bounces the ball over to him without further protest.

He’s not sure why he’s getting so defensive. He wants Ricky to be his, that’s all. Not something he has to share, or something anybody else gets to have an opinion about. Even Marcelo and Pepe, who are closer to him than anyone in the world besides his mom. It’s nobody’s business but his and Ricky’s.

*


“Shit, I meant to tell you,” Marcelo says abruptly, later. “Officer Fuckin Krupke stopped by earlier. He’s pressed about something.”

“Casillas? He’s always pressed about something,” Cris says.

“Yeah, but,” Marcelo says. He looks sideways at Pepe, who’s pointedly drinking his beer and not getting involved. “Anyway, he might get on you about it, I don’t know. Fair warning. Hey, listen, everything’s cool with you, right?”

“I said it’s cool, didn’t I?” But the worried furrow doesn’t leave Marcelo’s brow. “Seriously, ’mano, I promise, it’s okay. Get off my ass.”

“And what a fine ass it is,” Marcelo says, grinning a little more normally. “Who could blame me, right?” He reaches out for the waistband of Cris’s shorts, but Cris twists expertly aside, used to dodging Marcelo’s pantsing.

Rico, guapo, y gran culo,” Pepe says, fluttering his eyelashes. Cris gives him the finger. Jesus, you talk shit one time in front of these assholes, they never let you forget it. “He’s got it all.”

Whatever. “I do,” Cris agrees loftily. It’s sort of true right now, anyway.

*


There’s no one out on the field. For a second Cris feels an anxious lurch in his stomach, like maybe the whole show just packed up and vanished in the middle of the day. Like it was never there at all. He’s almost afraid to knock.

But when the door opens at last Ricky’s right there, rumpled and aglow, and it takes every ounce of willpower in Cris’s body not to kiss him right there in the doorway. He contents himself with taking the soft cuff of Ricky’s coffee-colored sweater between his fingers, his knuckles grazing Ricky’s wrist.

“Hi,” Ricky says. His smile is enormous.

“Hi,” Cris says, grinning helplessly back. “Where are the kids?”

“All-school field trip, apparently,” Ricky says. He ducks his head. “I was hoping you’d come.”

“Of course I came,” Cris says. He pulls Ricky’s hand closer and rests it just under his sternum, against his heart. Ricky flattens his fingers there.

“Come in,” Ricky says. The moment the door closes he’s in Cris’s arms, humming contentedly into Cris’s mouth. His arms slide around Cris’s waist, a little hesitantly at first, but then Cris deepens the kiss and Ricky’s fist crumples the back of Cris’s shirt. He tastes like spiced cider.

When Cris draws back, Ricky lets out a breath that sounds like he’s been holding it for hours and drops his head to Cris’s shoulder. Cris folds his arm tighter around Ricky’s back, cards his fingers through Ricky’s disheveled hair.

“Are you doing okay?” Cris asks, his voice a little muffled. He means, Are you sorry?

“I thought about you all day,” Ricky says, the smile still audible in his voice. He lifts his head up to press his mouth to Cris’s again, and for a while Cris just surrenders to Ricky and his enveloping scent and his slow-burn kisses. Finally he leans back against the wall with a thump, pulling Ricky after him.

“I thought about you, too,” he says. He thumbs the corner of Ricky’s mouth. “Obviously.”

“Obviously?” Ricky echoes. A dimple creases in his cheek.

“Don’t make fun of me,” Cris says, nipping reproachfully at Ricky’s kiss-swollen lower lip, then nuzzling that irresistible dimple. The radio’s on in the kitchen, something choral and joyous. Ricky takes his hand.

“There’s leftover pasta in the fridge,” he says. “Come eat.”


They eat it cold, straight out of the tupperware. Afterwards Ricky rests his bare feet in Cris’s lap. The soles are a little dusty; Cris strokes one absently with his thumb for a while.

“Hey, how did you know?” he asks, suddenly. “Yesterday, when I started to -- lose it, it seemed like you already knew. Before I did, even.”

Ricky doesn’t say anything for a minute. Finally he says, “Your eyes changed.”

The back of Cris’s head goes cold and blank: embarrassment, probably, but so savage it feels like fear. The one time he watched himself come, he’d seen it. The creeping darkness that bloomed out from his pupils like ink in water, that filled the whites of his eyes until his gaze was as blank and shining as polished stone.

He covers his face with both hands. “Fuck.”

“No,” Ricky says sharply, touching the inside of Cris’s kneecap. “Don’t. I know what you’re thinking. You couldn’t do anything to scare me, do you understand?”

“I’m not saying you were scared, it’s fucking gross.” God, and Ricky’s seen it twice now; he wasn’t even thinking, yesterday -- wasn’t thinking about anything -- and Ricky’s eyes were on him the whole time.

“Gross?” Ricky says, sounding incredulous. He pulls one of Cris’s hands down, and when Cris grunts in protest and tries to shrug him off he says, laughing a little, “Hey, no. I get to see your face, remember?”

A shiver of remembered sensation buzzes down Cris’s spine. He’s not soothed. “Don’t try to tell me it’s beautiful in God’s eyes or some shit.”

Ricky doesn’t answer for a second. He pushes up on his elbows, looking at Cris curiously. Then he says, “Not everything you are has to be beautiful all the time.”

“I know that.”

“I don’t think you do,” Ricky says. He’s smiling with one side of his mouth but he sounds a little sad, which makes Cris need to kiss him.


Some time later -- warm and quiescent beneath him, his shirt undone to the collarbone -- Ricky says, low, “Do you want to -- go to bed?”

Cris stills. He traces slow circles over Ricky’s sternum with his fingertips, hunting for the words.

“I want to,” he says eventually. “I always -- but listen, I -- I don’t ever expect anything from you. You did something for me, I know it -- it wasn’t easy for you, but I can forget it, okay? If that’s what you want. And we can pretend it never happened.”

“Can we?” Ricky says softly. “I can’t.”

Cris makes a painful, helpless sound. He kisses Ricky’s mouth, soft at first and then more insistently, and Ricky’s lips part under his.

“Come to bed with me,” Cris says roughly.

Ricky smiles, his eyes low-lidded. “Good,” he says.



Naked in Ricky’s white-sheeted bed, Cris pushes Ricky down to the mattress, then again -- harder -- as Ricky tries to rise up on one elbow. Ricky subsides. His eyes flick down to Cris’s mouth, then trustingly back up.

Cris sits back on his heels, deftly uncaps the lube with his thumb and coats his fingers. He reaches back, holding Ricky’s gaze.

He doesn’t mean to, but when he breaches himself he hears the little noise -- half strain, half relief -- pulled out of his throat. Ricky bites down on his lip so hard it goes white. His eyes are depthless, all pupil. He doesn’t speak, but his hands tighten insistently on Cris’s hips.

Cris smiles down at him. He sits back on his fingers, widening them at just the angle he likes, and shivers involuntarily. Ricky’s throat moves as he swallows.

“Good, good,” Cris murmurs, meaninglessly. He works himself a little deeper: when he presses that spot his muscles go so tight and shivery with pleasure that he almost swoons back. Ricky seizes his wrist to anchor him. His fingers twine into Cris’s.

Cris levers himself up, widening his thighs. He reaches back to take Ricky in hand -- and Ricky’s got such a beautiful cock, slender and pale like his hands, flushed, slick at the tip -- slides him back and forth down the crease of his ass, agonizingly slow. Ricky gasps, fingers vising on Cris’s.

“Cris,” he says tightly. His chest rises fast and shallow, like he’s been running.

Cris touches his face, his thumb resting at the tender skin under Ricky’s jaw. “I’ve got you,” he murmurs. “Here.”

He tears into the condom with the sides of his teeth, smooths it down fast over Ricky’s dick. Then he grips Ricky at the base to hold him still, guides him to the right angle and sinks down on him.

Ricky lets out a shattered ahh! as Cris pushes through that first sweet roughness; then Cris sighs and takes him the rest of the way, rocks down slowly until they’re pressed hard and perfect together. Ricky fills him completely. It feels so good Cris can’t think. Ricky’s head falls back, baring his pale throat. Cris bends over him, rests his forehead against Ricky’s so their mouths almost brush. It isn’t quite a kiss. He curves his spine and rises, taking the weight on his thighs as he settles again.

A fever blush mottles Ricky’s face, his neck. His hands rub convulsively over Cris’s thighs. He lets out a short desperate huff of air, his eyes wide and unseeing. “God,” he says, and Cris loves that word in his mouth, the devotion in it. “I can’t, it’s too -- Cris -- I’m gonna --”

“Go on, baby,” Cris says quietly. He kisses Ricky’s knuckles where their hands are joined. “Go ahead. I’m yours.” He catches Ricky’s lower lip, licks into the dark heat of his mouth.

Ricky makes a sound into Cris’s mouth when he comes. He squeezes Cris’s hand crushingly tight, the muscles in his belly trembling. And it’s like the first time: when Ricky loses it, the flood drags Cris under again. Heat washes up his spine, singing fiercely through his blood.

Ricky’s saying something into his shoulder. Cris hopes to God it’s not an apology. He tips Ricky’s chin up so their eyes meet, rolling his hips one more time. Ricky’s eyes fall closed, his brows draw together; he lets out a last little groan through his teeth. Cris palms the back of his skull, soothing, letting the strands sift through his fingers. He realizes belatedly that he came when Ricky did. The strings of it lie thick and shining over Ricky’s belly.

“Oh, God,” Ricky says. His voice is thready, wrecked.

“The first time, you know, it goes fast,” Cris says. His own voice isn’t so steady either. “I can make it better for you, I swear.” Ricky’s still pressed deep inside him, softer now. Cris isn’t ready to let him go.

“No,” Ricky says, “I, no. It’s -- oh,” as Cris grins down at him, pushing their hips together. He says, “I love you, I -- Cris. Please. Kiss me.”

His mouth is wet and bitter. Cris kisses him with his whole body, rests his palm on the side of Ricky’s face and breathes him in.

Cris has to fight the feeling of strange, visceral loneliness as Ricky finally pulls out. He gets rid of the condom as quickly as he can. He wishes he could plaster over the seedier parts of sex for Ricky, all the discomfort and fluids and mess. Someone like Ricky should just get to feel good, without having to worry about that stuff.

Ricky seems to feel okay, though, mess and all. When Cris climbs back into bed, he mumbles something and tugs Cris’s arms around his neck and his waist, winding his way into Cris’s embrace.

Cris nuzzles into the damp, flushed nape of Ricky’s neck. “I gotta shower,” he murmurs, not really in protest.

“Mm,” Ricky says. Cris can hear the sleepy smile in his voice. “ ’kay.”

“Well, you have to let go of my arms.” He presses himself to Ricky’s long, bare spine, lays a kiss to one shoulderblade.

“Uh-huh,” Ricky says, curling closer to him. “In a minute.”

Cris showers in the morning.


*



When he gets back to his apartment building, Iker Casillas is waiting for him in the hallway.

“Is that a new plaid shirt?” Cris says, swinging his keys around one finger in a jingling loop. He saunters forward. “Oh, babe, you didn’t have to dress up for me.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Casillas says. He’s pretty hot when he’s pissed. He’s actually pretty hot all the time, but fortunately boring and cranky enough not to pose any real threat to Cris’s equilibrium. “What do you want with Ricky?”

Cris lifts his eyebrows. “You know him?”

You know him?” Casillas counters.

For a second Cris has a warm, shivering full-body flashback to Ricky’s mouth on his neck, the sounds he made when Cris was taking him in. He doesn’t know what expression he’s making. “Yeah,” he says eventually. “I know him.”

“What do you want with him?”

It’s actually an interesting question. “I don’t know yet,” Cris says.

“I know what you get up to,” Casillas says sharply. “You think I’m stupid? Guys find themselves in a hotel room with no memory and all their cash gone--”

Cris regards him pityingly. “Yeah, you nailed me,” he says. “I’m responsible for every hangover in this city. Jesus Christ, this must be a really slow week for you.” He fits his key into the lock. He doesn’t really want Casillas seeing the wards on his apartment, but if that’s what it takes to make him go away, that’s what it takes.

“You’ve been on the edge of every shitty mess I’ve ever had to clean up,” Casillas says. “Just because I haven’t pinned you to it --”

“Because I haven’t done anything,” Cris says. He doesn’t feel like flirting with Casillas right now. He’s too tired and his key’s stuck. “I stay straight ninety percent of the time, and the other ten no one cares about, except you.” He smiles thinly. “Speaking of things that are right on the edge of legal, how’s that cute little Francesc of yours?”

Casillas isn’t going to be baited. He grabs Cris’s arm. Cris looks at his hand, then wearily back up at his face. “Really?”

“I like Ricky,” Casillas says, low. “He’s a good person and I don’t want your kind fucking with him.”

“I’m not fucking with him,” Cris says shortly. He pulls his arm away. He wants to say, You have no idea what a good person he is. “I like him too, you know.”

Casillas gives a contemptuous snort of a laugh.

Cris’s face goes hot. He says -- sharper than he means -- “I do.”

“Yeah, okay,” Casillas says, lip curling.

Cris feels himself flushing hotter. “I don’t care if you believe me.” His key still won’t turn. He rattles it uselessly in the lock, his frustration mounting. “It’s none of your goddamn business.”

“It was my business as soon as you started messing with my friends,” Casillas says.

“I’m not messing with him,” Cris says tiredly. He turns to stare Casillas down. He doesn’t even want to joke about it anymore. “Look, why are you even here? What do you want me to say? You’re gonna think whatever you think, I can’t do anything about that.”

Casillas makes a disgusted sound and finally lets go of his arm. “I’ll be watching you,” he calls over his shoulder.

“Lucky you,” Cris says, finally jamming the key to one side and shouldering his door open.

*


Eventually he gives in and gets Marcelo over to help with the floodlights. It’s getting dark earlier and earlier, and the kids get raucous and cranky if they have to spend too much time inside.

“I mean, bro, these are ancient, they’re for shit,” Marcelo says, squinting up at the looming, rusted panels while Ricky watches him anxiously and chews on his lower lip. Cris feels unaccountably jittery, just seeing the two of them together; it’s disorienting. “What you need is like, a full-on new installation.”

“We can’t yet,” Ricky says, sounding genuinely pained. “I’d love to, and -- when we’re in a better position for fundraising -- but it’s, just at the moment --”

“Well, I can fix the bulbs for a holdover, I guess,” Marcelo says, shoving his hands into his pockets. “What’ve you got up there, four-hundred-watt halide?” He tilts his head contemplatively to one side. “Yeah, those babies’ll run you two, three hundred-per, not including cost of labor of course.”

Ricky’s face falls. He says, “Oh, we -- I didn’t realize --”

“I’m kidding, Father,” Marcelo says cheerfully, slapping Ricky between the shoulderblades. “This one’s on the house. You got a ladder?”

He looks a little surprised, but not displeased, when Ricky gives him a sudden fierce hug, and he gives Cris a pointed, approving look over his shoulder as he follows Ricky into the supply shed. Cris ignores him.

*



One day Ricky has this great idea about making homemade Christmas ornaments with the afterschoolers.

Cris is outside haggling with the contractors over redoing the fence where it’s fallen down; he doesn’t get done until the kids have already left. He finds Ricky in the little bathroom in the rectory, trying to wash the long streaks of glue and glitter off his hands.

“It’s in your hair,” Cris says, amazed and delighted. He leans against the wall. Ricky’s stripped his shirt off, presumably to stop the spread of glitter. His bare shoulders are smooth, freckled with gleams of silver.

“I know,” Ricky says helplessly. Laughter is still bubbling out of him in little hiccups. “It’s actually everywhere. I feel like it’s in my teeth. We should have just stuck to finger paints.”

Cris moves behind Ricky’s body, rests his chin on Ricky’s shoulder and catches his eyes in the mirror. Ricky’s smile is soft and mischievous. His eyes fall closed as Cris tongues his earlobe, presses his mouth to the hot skin of his throat, his jaw. Cris bumps their hips together and slides one hand over the front of his pants, and Ricky catches his lip in his teeth and reaches out to steady himself, one palm pressed flat to the mirror.

“Don’t,” he says, still smiling. “I have to clean up.”

“You don’t want help?” Cris murmurs into his neck.

“Hmm,” Ricky says. He laces his fingers into Cris’s, turns to kiss his mouth. “Not yet,” he says.



Not to be deterred, Cris lurks in the bedroom until Ricky emerges -- flushed and warm and damp, smelling unbearably good. He’s pulled his underwear on and a towel is slung around his neck.

“I thought I was getting dressed,” he half-protests, and laughs low in his throat as Cris pushes the towel off, backs him inexorably into the mattress and falls over him, breathing him in.

“Nope,” Cris mumbles against his skin, and kisses the bow of Ricky’s upper lip.

He deepens the kiss and slips his hand into Ricky’s briefs, palms the smooth high curve of his ass. Ricky groans into his mouth; he’s hard, his hips jerking helplessly against Cris’s thigh. He reaches back, covering Cris’s hand with his own, and helps him push the underwear down. Cris rolls him back, still kissing him, lacing their fingers together. The damp tip of Ricky’s cock nudges against his hip. The heavy scent of his arousal is everywhere, wound up with the clean soap on his skin.

Cris lets himself grope at Ricky’s ass a little harder, a little more possessive, getting a solid handful of that firm, warm flesh -- and when he slides two fingers experimentally into the crease, Ricky breathes in sharp but doesn’t move away. He pushes against Cris’s body, cupping Cris’s face, and twines one long leg around Cris’s to keep him close.

Cris can’t help smiling against Ricky’s mouth. He kisses Ricky’s neck, his shoulder, one tight nipple; sucks heat into Ricky’s skin, moving slowly down his chest and stomach. Ricky’s fingers curl in his hair. He arches under Cris’s mouth, his skin gone electric with goosebumps. Cris pauses an instant at the vee of his hips. Then he raises his eyes to Ricky’s and presses a long, slow kiss to the head of his dick.

Ricky stares back, eyes wide and dazed, mouth falling open. His face is soft, flushed. Cris bows his head to taste him -- bitter, clean, Ricky -- and he can feel every sinew in Ricky’s body shudder for an instant.

They’ll come back to that. Cris dips lower, kisses the skin behind his balls, and Ricky edges out a little whine through his teeth. He clutches at Cris’s hair like he doesn’t know whether to pull him off or push him closer. Cris lets him do it. He wraps an arm around Ricky’s thigh and presses his leg back til his knee is resting on his chest. His muscles tense a little under Cris’s hand, but he’s easy now.

One thumb against him. Not quite inside, not yet. Ricky’s breath is ragged; when Cris rubs a slow circle over him, he makes a sound and turns his face into the pillow. Cris tightens his arm around Ricky’s thigh.

When he flattens his tongue -- convex, slow -- over the pucker of muscle, Ricky’s whole body jerks. His hands fist convulsively as Cris licks over him, savoring the salt of him, the flesh, the intimate bodily taste. He hooks one finger gently into Ricky to open him and when he presses his tongue inside, Ricky makes a desperate noise. He’s leaking against his belly. Cris rubs himself into the bed, aching for relief. He drags the wet inside of his lower lip over Ricky’s ass, licks short strokes into Ricky’s heat until Ricky’s thighs are shining with spit and sweat, til he’s shaking under Cris’s hands.

“God in heaven,” Ricky says hoarsely.

He’s open entirely now, and when Cris gives him a second slicked-up finger a long, liquid tremor runs down his spine, but that’s all. He doesn’t clench or fight, not even by instinct. His head’s fallen back, a trail of sweat sheening down his throat into the dip of his collarbone. Cris rubs his dick urgently against the mattress again, biting at his lip. He wants --

Ricky’s touching his hair, saying something.

“Cris,” he says roughly. Light catches a bead of moisture at the corner of his lashes. “I want you. I want this.” He tugs on Cris’s shoulder and Cris lets himself be pulled up.

Cris braces himself on one arm, gazes down at Ricky. “What do you want?” he says. He almost doesn’t recognize his own voice.

“You,” Ricky says. He licks his lips and Cris has to kiss him again. The inside of his mouth is hot.

“You have me,” Cris says, muffled against his lips. He fucks his fingers deep into Ricky again, hungry for that barely-audible sound he makes. “I’m all yours, you know that. What else? What do you want to do with me, sweetheart?”

“Please,” Ricky says. He’s shaking. “I can’t --”

He can’t say it. Cris murmurs it for him. “Want me inside you?”

“Yes,” Ricky says again. His eyes close. “Yes.”

At Cris’s first cautious push against him, Ricky’s muscles seize up helplessly; and then Cris breathes out shudderingly through his teeth and pushes in. Ricky’s eyes open too wide; a wire of muscle stands out in his throat. He clutches the sheets, knuckles going white as he takes the flared head of Cris’s dick -- and then Cris slides full and slow into the hot silken clench of him.

Ricky says, “oh Christ,” so quietly it’s almost just a sigh. Cris buries his face in the sweat-damp warmth where Ricky’s neck meets his shoulder, trying to steady himself.

“God,” he whispers. His breath rebounds hot on his own lips.

Ricky makes a little noise. The fingers of one hand drag hard up Cris’s spine, sinking into his shoulderblades. With the other he’s gripping himself, fingers curled. He’s harder than Cris has ever seen him.

Cris fucks deeper into him, short strokes that drive maddening, desperate little sounds out of Ricky’s throat. He covers Ricky’s hand with his own to jerk him off, touching the hard hot flesh through the gaps in his fingers. He’s leaking, skin slick with precome and Cris’s spit. His heel digs hard into Cris’s back. Cris drags out of him slowly, watches Ricky’s face change as he pushes back in.

“Tell me,” he says, the words cracking a little, “if it hurts, if you -- don’t feel good, tell me and I’ll stop --”

“No,” Ricky says. His voice is thick. “Don’t stop, it’s. It’s good.”

He comes fast like that, Cris deep inside him, his hand tight on his own dick, and while he’s still shaking through the aftershocks Cris pulls out, curls his tongue around Ricky’s cock and licks him clean. Ricky’s belly shivers convulsively under his hand. Cris sucks him in deep, still holding him open with three fingers. Ricky’s petting his hair, his jaw, the curve of his ear; he’s making sweet, painful noises with every breath, and his cock twitches against Cris’s tongue. Cris pulls off him, savoring out the wet sound of it, and Ricky almost sobs.

“Cris. I can’t, it’s...”

“I bet you can,” Cris whispers. He kisses the thin, velvet skin just inside the curve of Ricky’s ass and Ricky jerks back on him, his fingers closing on air.

All he can say is “God -- God!” as he comes the second time, hips twisting sideways.

When Cris crawls back up his body, bends his knee back to fuck him again, he’s boneless, dreamy, his eyes huge on Cris’s. He cradles the side of Cris’s face in his hand.

Cris doesn’t last long. When he comes, that gorgeous smile spreads achingly slow over Ricky’s face and Cris squeezes his eyes shut, kisses the tilted corner of his mouth, kisses him for so long he starts to get lightheaded.

Ricky’s arms are so tight around him; his chest heaves under Cris’s. Cris can’t stand to pull out of him, not yet.

“All right, baby,” Cris says softly. He strokes Ricky’s damp hair back from his brow. “You’re all right. You okay?”

“No -- I mean, I didn’t know,” Ricky says hoarsely, raising his head. “I didn’t -- Cris.

The wonder in his voice, the look in his eyes. It makes Cris want to say something insane.

Ricky’s laughing, sort of helplessly. “I mean, I thought I knew what God was telling me to do, I thought I understood, but --” He butts his sweaty forehead into Cris’s shoulder. “But I didn’t,” he says. He sounds exhausted.

“Well, okay,” Cris says, laughing too in spite of himself. “Is that a good thing, or --”

“It’s good,” Ricky says, emphatically. “No. It’s good. It’s just -- more.” He shakes his head, frustrated. “When you’re -- I never thought about -- sharing my body with someone, like that. I don’t know. It’s different.”

“Yeah, it is,” Cris says. He touches Ricky’s face, traces down the line of his jaw with one fingertip. “It is.”

*


Ricky doesn’t say anything in the morning, but he’s walking carefully, and when he sits down for breakfast he winces almost imperceptibly. Cris’s brief shudder of arousal at the thought -- that Ricky can still feel him inside, that he’s still aching from what they’ve done -- is, obviously, a bad thing and he feels bad about it.

“You look smug,” Ricky says accusingly, and pokes him hard in the leg. His fingers rest a few seconds too long on Cris’s kneecap.

“No I don’t,” Cris says, hiding behind his coffee cup.

*


Advent’s busy. Ricky’s all over the place, running trips to old-folks’ homes and homeless shelters, writing what seems like endless sermons, constantly grabbing his breviary in alarm when it occurs to him he’s missed a prayer. He’s not too busy for Cris, though; somehow he never is. Cris tries to be helpful and stay out of the way, stringing up fairy lights in the courtyard or putting stamps on Ricky’s Christmas cards or whatever. Only then Ricky will close his laptop and give Cris a hot, purposeful look; or he’ll appear suddenly behind him, hands rubbing down Cris’s chest, mouth in his hair.

“I’m very busy,” Cris says, leaning back to grin up at him with his tongue between his teeth. “Can’t you see how busy I am?”

“Mm-hm, I see that,” Ricky murmurs, plucking the unstamped envelopes out of his hand, tossing them to the table.

*



On Christmas, it snows. Cris spends the holiday at his mom’s, being tackled into snowbanks by about a million little nieces and nephews and cousins, while Ricky gives three masses and has dinner with one of the congregant families. At the rectory afterwards they poke up a fire and watch the kids’ Christmas pageant on tape, drinking mulled cider. (“There is booze in here, Father,” Cris said, shocked, and Ricky said defensively, “It’s Christmas!”)

The pageant is hilarious. One of the angels is stashing a bag of Fun-Yuns under her robe. Isaac, as Joseph, is wearing a huge beard that makes it impossible to understand anything he says. Whenever Trinity, as Mary, isn’t talking, she’s staring into the middle distance, face set in her customary look of weary middle-aged disdain. At one point Offsides David trips over his shepherd’s crook and falls on his face, and Cris laughs so hard he gets cider on Ricky’s shirt.

Ricky gives him a huge, glitter-shedding paper snowflake the kids made for him, with MERRY CHRISTMAS CRISTIANO and all their names written on it.

“You told them to do this?” Cris says, gaping at him.

“I would have bought you something nice,” Ricky says, pulling a little face. “It just wasn’t … but next time, though.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Cris says, and kisses him, long and slow. “It’s great.”

He wrapped Ricky’s gift himself, so obviously it’s a fucking mess. “It’s dumb. I didn’t know what to get you,” Cris says, shrugging helplessly. “I mean, I wanted to get you everything. Anyway, I kept the tag, so you can take it back.” Ricky’s ignoring him, tearing into the paper like a little kid, and the way his face lights up when he opens the box -- how he stares up at Cris like he can’t even comprehend how he got so lucky -- is so fucking precious Cris wants to die.

“Cris!” he says.

“You like them?”

Ricky fishes the earmuffs out of the box and jams them on, looking completely thrilled. His hair sticks up on both sides of the headband. From the open, delighted, ridiculous look on his face you’d think Cris gave him a puppy or something.

“My ears are always cold,” he says, too loud.

“I know,” Cris says. He reaches out to pat Ricky’s hair down, rubbing his thumb over the fuzz on the earmuffs. “Merry Christmas,” he says, and Ricky slides a hand into his hair and kisses him again. Outside the sky is purple velvet, the snow drifting down in fat, soft, silent flakes.

*


Part Five.
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