Imagine Carlos hearing the announcement of Lot 37 on the radio.
Imagine his heart stopping and his breath hitching and whatever beaker he had been holding crashing to the ground and shattering and his world going blank because they’re selling his Cecil.
Imagine him not giving a fuck about the highly corrosive and dangerous acid now burning a hole in the floor of his lab because Strex Corp owns the radio station and half the town, but he’ll be literally damned if he lets them own his boyfriend too.
Imagine his horror slowly solidifying into anger as he drives to the auction house, white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, comitting every traffic violation in the book in his hurry, silently daring any member of the SSP to try and do anything about it.
Imagine him being denied a paddle because of whatever beaurocratic red tape had been set up to keep Outsiders from bidding (but was really just put there specifically to keep Carlos from bidding on Cecil) and storming away but not leaving because there’s not a chance in hell he’s giving up this easy.
Imagine him lying in wait for a stray Strex representative, then pouncing and using his vast scientific knowledge of the human body to quickly and silently knock him out, but then thinking better of it and stepping on his hand and breaking a few fingers while he’s out because Carlos’ pacifist ideals do not apply to people who view the man he loves as merchandise to be bought and sold at leisure.
Imagine him stealing the Strex representative’s uniform and finding a knife in the jacket’s inside pocket (because, of course, all Strex reps are required to be armed at all times in case emergency sacrifices are needed to appease the smiling god) and using it to chop his own long hair off because it’s well past his shoulders at this point and it’s the most recognizable thing about him and he doesn’t care about cutting it anyways because a) it’s the desert and it’s fucking hot, and b) he’d take Cecil being furious at him for cutting his hair over Cecil being actually sold any day.
Imagine him slipping, unrecognized, into the auction, paddle in hand, standing in amidst the crowd of Strex reps (gathered in such numbers to ensure that at least one of them was able to successfully win the radio host) like a sheep amongst wolves.
Imagine him seeing Cecil, pale and shaky and looking very close to actually throwing up, standing in the corner of the room by himself, eyes clenched shut, clutching his paddle between trembling fingers, making a valiant effort to calm himself down and in his concentration on that task, completely missing the start of the auction.
Imagine Carlos’ paddle flying up into the air instantaneously, his heart beating thunderously in his chest as he waits and prays to a grim, horned god that no one except Cecil himself tries to outbid him.
Once. Twice. Sold.
Imagine Carlos after the auction trying to keep his hands steady and remain unrecognized as he gets his proof of purchase, a certificate made of something horrifyingly like dried human skin that declares him the new owner of Lot 37, Cecil Gershwin Palmer.
Now imagine Cecil, finishing his broadcast, putting every effort into keeping his voice steady, waiting until the ON AIR light in the studio blinks off before unravelling, slipping off his chair and curling up under his desk in the fetal position, body convulsing with silent sobs and hating himself, hating himself, for having the chance at self-ownership and letting it slip through his fingers.
Imagine Cecil gathering himself much, much later, crawling out from under his desk, dread settling like a lead weight in the pit of his stomach at the knowledge that his new, ugh, owner would most likely be waiting for him outside.
Imagine him leaving the studio and seeing Carlos, back in his lab coat, more than half his beautiful hair gone, knuckles bruised from his short tussle with the Strex rep, leaning against the hood of his car, smiling and holding - oh masters of us all, thank you - a leathery paper declaring him to be the winner of Lot 37.
Now imagine Cecil practically flying into Carlos’ arms, each clutching the other as tightly to his own body as humanly possible, Cecil sobbing “thank you, thank you, thank you” into Carlos chest and Carlos murmuring “I couldn’t let them have you” into Cecil’s hair and they stay like that for ages, wrapped up in each other, knowing this battle is far from over, knowing that there will be consequences for stealing Cecil out from under Strex’s nose, but also knowing that for now, they are safe.