there are few things carmine likes more than sleeping in. one of them is cuddling.
even better is cuddling while he sleeps in. he likes to just huddle under the covers and share his pillow with someone just at his back–he loves feeling their breath at the nape of his neck. he likes it, when they curve into each other and let their legs tangle and their fingers intertwine.
(eliseo swims laps around in his bowl.)
carmine likes it when he’s half awake and, if he opens his eyes, he can stare at the dust motes flutter aimlessly about. he’s warm and clingy, these times, and he loves it when he wakes up and, if he turns around, his partner’s awake already and kiss him slowly, languidly. because they have all the time in the world.
very nice ways to reward him. they just fall on the pile of leaves they just made, and while it’s wet, it’s not entirely uncomfortable. it happens from there. it’s new, though–enjoying the outdoors in a new way. carmine feels pretty comfortable doing this, which has eli wondering.
he pokes out of the pile and looks around. “coast’s clear,” he says.
they stargaze like there’s nothing else to do; and, as far as carmine’s concerned, there isn’t. the grass feels cold under him, and eli’s arm against his feels warm from helping him with unpacking things. nothing is said for the longest time, under the stars, and he likes that. just them and the stars.
(it’s easier than he thought, picking himself up and starting again. after a year of helplessness and not knowing what to do with the shadow of his, mm, ex-fiancé; carmine feels kind of proud of himself.)
eli’s head presses against his shoulder, and he can tell the blond’s already half-asleep. “c'mon,” carmine says. “let’s go to sleep."
carmine loves any good joke; eli does, too, except when he’s involved in the receiving end of it. there were three stages of eli’s reaction to the fish being named eliseo, of all things: he looked at carmine, his eyebrows drew together and his nose wrinkled as much as it could, and then he took the fishbowl with the intention of emptying it into the ground floor. then he gave up because the fish was darned cute.
they get there in the wee hours of the night, and eli wakes up when carmine shakes his elbow with a low, “we’re here.” “no, we’re not,” he slurs and means to turn around and go back to sleep, but soon he’s unpacking what luggage they brought with them from the car while carmine hands the cab driver a folded bill and fetches something from the back seat.
“see, this is it,” carmine says, cradling in his arms the aquarium he insisted they’d buy on a store on the way–goldfish included. “sure, carmine, sure,” eli says, “but hey–you could just put that thing down and maybe help me get these things inside?” he laughs, tilts his head at the front door. “yeah, let’s get this done.”
he knows it’ll be hell to try to fall asleep again, so they might as well take care of the things–mostly clothing–they’ve brought with them.
general dancing aside, there comes a time when carmine learns that eli’s got two left feet when it comes to leading in a slow dance. his immediate reaction is that he must teach him.
carmine puts up some schmoopy song from the forties and as the music kicks in he pries the wine of glass from eli’s hand and sets it next to the player. (not without taking a swig first.) “c'mon, mr. ainsworth, i’m sure you can do this,” carmine guides eli’s hand to his waist before setting it on his shoulder, warm, reassuring. fingers enlace, and eli feels the music, feels carmine close against him, swaying slightly on the balls of his feet. tries not to stare too much at the painting just behind carmine. “yeah, sure,” he concedes. they dance. carmine smiles, coaxes him into trying to find their rhythm, whispers encouragement into his ear. “i’ll demand compensation if you do step on my toes too many times, though.” eli laughs, brings his lips just below carmine’s ear, his nose bends against carmine’s neck. he laughs.
and he tries his hardest at dancing, to some degree of success.
eli decides to bring one of the pumpkins carmine scavenged from the garage into the living room, and makes preparations for spooky day. he’s sure carmine won’t mind, especially given it was one of his excuses in the first place to get his grabby hands on the pumpkins. he keeps the seeds, nonetheless.
the best thing about having a loft bedroom is that you get to smell the waffles in the making as soon as you wake up, or so eli thinks. it’s a nostalgia trip back to the bachelor challenge when he finds carmine making his choice breakfast–maybe not so much for him, maybe that’s carmine’s habit; eli’s got the time and all the mornings to find out about it.
there are things that stay the same, after all, and there are things that change, like how carmine indulges him in a good morning kiss just as he sets their plates on the table.
he helps out with the garden anyway; not with actually taking care of carmine’s young plants (both because carmine’s a mother hen for them and because his suspicions that eli might accidentally cause a nuclear meltdown in his garden are true), but with raking the fallen leaves splattered on the ground.
it’s kinda nice, nicer than eli thought it’d be after living only in urban places.
on their first day–more like afternoon, because of carmine’s messed up sleep schedule–they go investigate the festival grounds, ready as they are for the people to enjoy the season. except they don’t, really. carmine makes a beeline for the pumpkin patch. “it’s for our lanterns,” he says. “it’s not for my future garden,” could be an attempt at lying. meanwhile, after bullying a local kid, eli compensates by having a moment extremely out of character with a wildflower.
they didn’t even get to explore the haunted mansion.
eli learns that the next time a doe-eyed carmine asks a favor with no reward in sight, run as fast as you can.
they get interrupted by the rain, which means they get home as quick as they can, dripping water all over the new carpet. it’s not like it minds. their priorities are everywhere but in the carpet–unless it’s suddenly become a pair of ice cold, slightly wet hands that only want to get rid of clothing.
the red lady, however, has her priorities all over the carpet.
eli ainsworth is no storyteller; and this is fact. the things he thinks he can’t quite put them into words, the things he says aren’t tale material. that’s why the piano’s there. for the times he can’t quite say no to carmine says in the night, “play the piano, will you?”
what he plays, too, is a story in itself.
and then, carmine’s a better storyteller than him–there’s stories unwritten behind how he just lounges in the bed and speaks everything and nothing, and laughs and finally falls asleep. even the rise and fall of his chest tells a story, and this distracts eli, has his fingers trip on the keys. however, carmine’s asleep however, so he may as well stop playing the piano.