Title: potentially lovely, perpetually human
Summary: Peter and Carl love each other and sometimes that is enough.
Carl gets the words wrong often enough. He doesn’t mean to do it, or at least he didn’t at first. He’s not sure anymore. It’s not like it matters, he tells himself, with all that mumbling it’s not like anyone’s bound to notice.
So if he tells Peter he doesn’t want to go out when he means he’s drowning, it’s not like it makes much of a difference. Peter goes out anyway and Carl stays in, caught in a staring contest with the telly. It only occurs to him just how silent the flat is when he turns it off, exhausted and drained.
The silence is so incredibly jarring that Carl almost summons the energy to get up and break something just to confirm he hasn’t gone deaf. He considers the idea for a moment and decides it wouldn’t be so bad, if nothing else it’d give him a legitimate reason to be miserable.
That’s what he is: miserable. It’s a state that’s followed him around for years, an illness he’d caught during childhood and never really managed to shake off. There are days when Peter and the light that surrounds him break through the clouds and Carl almost feels whole again. They’re getting rarer and rarer though and he can feel them slipping through his fingers.
It’s moment like these that he wants to fall asleep and never wake up. Carl’s afraid he’s not brave enough for more drastic measures but he’s even more afraid there’ll be nothing to save him from himself, or worse, to save Peter from him.
Carl’s almost convinced himself to get up and start pacing around the flat, as if he could chase his thoughts away, when there’s a bouquet of flowers suddenly shoved in his face. Roses, he notices belatedly as he falls backwards on the mattress. Roses that look nearly as close to death as he is.
Peter is, of course, the one thrusting the bouquet at Carl with wide, expectant eyes and very, very red cheeks from the cold. He’s more bundled than Carl would have thought humanly possible, wearing both their jackets and several scarves that he must have stolen over the course of the year.
Carl accepts the flowers and resists the sudden and baffling urge to cry. They’ve actually got heat this time around, courtesy of Peter’s parents and their outrage at the conditions their son is living in, but Carl suspects the cold has already settled deep within him. As if sensing his thoughts, Peter drapes one of his many scarves around Carl and goes about making tea.
He allows himself a brief, private smile and tries not to think too much about how Peter’s very presence makes everything a bit less overwhelming, a bit less fatal.
Things go like that for a while. Carl stays in but still finds ways to drink himself to sleep while Peter leaves and comes back and leaves and always brings a bouquet of mostly dead flowers with him. It’s winter, uncomfortably close to Christmas, and even Carl, swimming through (but really drowning in) hazy memories and faded thoughts, starts wondering where Peter keeps finding these flowers.
He doesn’t spend much time thinking about that, he couldn’t even if he wanted to. Carl can’t quite tell where this fog that has slowly and comfortably settled over all his sense came from or when a sudden wave of despair is finally going to pull him under but as he stares in the mirror at blue eyes he doesn’t quite recognise, he wonders if he’s not ruining Peter too.
It’s almost too late when Peter walks in, a burst of faded yellow and all the mismatched colours he’s wearing. He can’t explain it, can’t force words past reluctant lips but maybe Peter knows already, maybe he understands it better than Carl ever could.
Carl cries that evening for the first time in weeks and he lets Peter hold him, dulled senses and numb thoughts forgotten for once. He finally asks about the flowers, glancing around the flat at all the petals scattered there. Peter laughs wetly, he’s been crying too, Carl realises, and it occurs to him that they could have saved each other all along.
It turns out there’s no explanation for the flowers, not even for the fact that they’re different ones every day, and Carl isn’t disappointed, he just laughs and laughs along with Peter because he’s never felt so warm, so real in his life.
“They’re very cheap this time of year,” Peter finally says. “I guess no one’s buying them, I don’t actually know. You can pretend it’s all leading up to some big flower-related reveal on Christmas, if you want.”
Carl moves closer, tilts his chin up and kisses Peter because he never can resist complicating things. He feels Peter smiling against his lips. It’s good, too good.
Carl opens his eyes and the world hasn’t ended. Peter is looking at him, patient, sitting still for once in his life.
“You’re still here,” Carl says.
Peter nods and pulls him closer.