A/N Much thanks goes to my tireless beta desrose, for thinking up the title and allowing me to poke at her. Also, Diane Duane is the Power That Be behind this wonderful universe, and I thank her mucho mucho for letting us play in it.
"But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
For term of life thou art assumed mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine"
Shakespeare's Sonnet 92
Tom's only been at NYU for a week or so now, but he thinks he's going to do okay here.
He enjoys the campus life. He even enjoys the food. Somewhat. But what he most enjoys is his roommate, a short whirlwind of red hair, laughter, and the word fuck named Mike.
Mike likes to describe himself as "exuberant". Tom likes to describe him as a pain in the ass. Surprisingly, they get along wonderfully. It probably helps that neither has to hide his wizardy from the other.
Mike isn't here tonight though, which means Tom can finally get some reading done on the electronic thinking patterns material his advisor back in San Francisco gave him. Hopefully it'll help with his attempts to solve a territorial dispute between his record player and the school's outlet.
And because Mike is nowhere around, there's no one to make fun of him when he takes the manual with him on his way to the bathroom, nose buried in it the entire way down the hallway as he tries to puzzle out the why and hows. Which is why, when he reaches out with a small snap of power to flip on the light switch, he doesn't notice it's already on.
The person in the shower sure does.
By the time Tom remembers that wizardy isn't supposed to be done in front of outsiders he's already instinctively flipped it back on. Luckily, his moment of panic gives the other person time to find a towel before Tom turns to offer him an apology.
The man has eyes like stormy water, more grey then blue and sort of bottomless. The face they're set in is serious and well defined, but saved by the scruffy mustache and the full, wide mouth it sits above. Tall, not quite Tom's 6'1" but close enough. Broad shoulders that turned into muscled arms that crossed a solid chest. Abs you could almost wash your clothes with, intersected by a trail of dark hair that leads down to…towel.
Because he'd just been in the shower. Until Tom turned off the lights on him.
He snaps his eyes back up to the other man's to find they've taken to looking between him and the light switch with a calculating stare. It's a full two feet out of Tom's arm reach.
"Oh fuck me." he whispers, and then feels the slow steady burn of a blush as those stormy eyes zero in on him.
Lacking a better response, he simply turns and walks out of the room. A handy transportation spell has him gone before the other man can catch up.
The next day he sits at a table in the far back corner of the cafeteria with Mike and his girlfriend Adriana, who prod him about his "long face" until he finally decides he might as well tell them.
They know the rules of wizardry around here better then he does, so they'll probably know what to do when you perform blatant wizardry in front of random handsome strangers using the communal shower.
At first Mark and Adriana seem like they're taking him seriously, but after he's finished they exchange slow, sly grins.
"He sounds," she remarks as she leans towards him, "like somebody you ought to get to know better."
Tom shakes his head. "You're missing the point."
"No," Mike replies, "I don't think she did. Carl!"
That last is directed at someone over Tom's shoulder, which has him turning around just in time to catch sight of the man who returns Mike's wave and starts towards their table.
It's interesting to know those abs are just as nice covered by a t-shirt.
Even as the man hugs Adrianna and slaps Mike on the shoulder, Tom knows there's no hope that he doesn't recognize him from the bathroom, what with the way those eyes (more blue then grey in the florescent lighting, he notes, like calm water on a sunny day) are studying him.
"Tom, meet my long time friend Carl J. Romeo. Carl, meet my roommate Tom Swale."
"Should have known," Carl mumbles, reaching out a hand.
"There are no coincidences, cousin."
Oh, Tom thinks, as he shakes hands. Well then. That solves one of my problems.
The next year and some odd months are a blur of essays, subway rides, and learning how not to get lost in the city, during which Carl ceases to be a stranger by any sort of the imagination (although familiarity does not make him any less handsome, just easier to approach and that fact easier to ignore).
He is the one who introduces Tom to Wise potato chips dipped in ranch dressing. He's also the first to discover that, to stop Tom's rambling on whatever literary topic has caught his fancy, he need only reply with a long mathematical theorem or advanced scientific theory. Most of the time though, he seems content to let Tom babble.
Tom finds himself spending less time in libraries and more time at the school track, where he masters the art of sitting comfortably in bleacher seats while Carl does lap after lap, some of which involve hurdles.
When Adriana and Mike need the room the apartment Carl shares with his father and three sisters is a refuge of warm things cooking over a stove and the Bee Gees playing softly over the radio. René, Aida, and Donna all think he's cute and tease him with imitations of his accent whenever he visits. Carl grumbles good naturedly that he's become the favorite child and continues to periodically camp out on Tom and Mike's floor and borrow their shower after workouts.
In the fall Tom, Carl, and Mike all move into an apartment together. The place is old and furnished with mismatched pieces they find at various thrift stores and way too small for three men (and occasionally Adriana) to share, but its home to Tom and he wouldn't trade it for anything.
Shortly after the New Year, errantry catches Tom and Carl far away from backup and with a long way to go before they reach friendly territory. They are pursued by an army of the overshadowed for most of the way, which they elude when they can and use traps and minor offensive blasts to deal with rest.
Tom could curse himself for being stupid enough to think he and Carl could take on a planetary dictator aligned with the Lone Power all by themselves, but it seems like Carl's cursing enough for both of them. Plus he needs all his energy for running.
Finally there is only one left, a great hulking beast who bursts through any trap or offense in it's intent to reach them. Closer it comes each time they jump worlds, until finally it's all but breathing down their necks. Just when Tom knows they have no chance in hell, Carl suddenly turns around, hands outstretched towards their pursuer as he speaks a string of speech too fast for Tom to keep up. The blue in his eyes disappears, and then the grey, until nothing is left but dark pupil. The dark thing jolts to a stop, flopping over onto the ground like the freshly caught fish sold by the vendors on the docks. Tom doesn't have to know what spell Carl just used to know it's dead, because he can hear the precise moment that its heart stops beating.
Except for his part of the final transit spell, Carl says nothing else the entire way home.
When they come through the gate at Grand Central, Mike is waiting with a phone message from Carl's father. Carl reads it, and then vanishes without a word for four days.
The entire time he's gone Tom's dreams are haunted not by the death throes of the beast, but the dark nothingness of blue grey eyes.
On the fifth day Carl calls to let them know that René has a beautiful baby boy, two months premature but doing fine.
At the hospital they find Carl chatting with his father outside of René's room. Mike and Adriana distract him with chatter, leading him back into the room and leaving Carl and Tom alone in the hall. As soon as he's gone, Carl turns to face Tom and he notices that the other man's smile has taken on a sharp edge and that it doesn't quite meet his eyes. Tom gestures towards the elevators at the end of hall, and they set off walking side by side, not saying anything because neither knows really what the other needs to hear.
As the doors close behind them Tom reaches out and gives Carl's shoulder a squeeze, and when the other man looks at him he says "I never thanked you for saving my life back there", which garners something that's not quite a smile, but worlds better then the nothingness.
They spend most the afternoon in the gift shop picking out a teddy bear gift basket for the new mother.