When Raul was a young man living on his family's ranch, all the girls had been after him. He was a nice young man from a good family, and poised to inherit a not-insubstantial fortune in land and cattle. The girls went to the parties he attended and begged aunts and mutual acquaintances to introduce them. They primped and preened and conspired to run into him in town. A few of the bolder ones approached him directly, asking coyly if he had found anyone special yet. Raul always brushed off their advances with a laugh and a tired joke about having too many sisters to even think about adding another woman to his life.
In a strange way, Raul was almost grateful the war happened when it did. Complete societal breakdown saved him from a hell of a lot of awkward, forced matchmaking attempts and desperate, overt flirtation.
In the two hundred odd years since the war, Raul had not any sort of romantic or sexual contact with anyone or anything. He told himself it was because ghoulification had dried up any prospects the bombs had overlooked. Really, it was easier to force the issue of sex from his mind than it was to confront the issue of being homosexual.
'Homosexual' was a word Raul started to hear more and more in the months leading up to the war. People were starting to talk, saying maybe there was a reason he was still single after all those years. Here was a man who had danced with practically every girl in the state and not found one to call a wife? Highly suspicious, to say the least.
Of course, the bombs had taken care of all that. Thank you, China, he thought ruefully. In two hours, and they eliminated the issue of being a sexual deviant, along with ninety percent of the world's population. There simply wasn't anyone left to deviate with.
But that wasn't true, any more than his joke about his sisters had been true. There were plenty of queers among those left. Like Arcade Gannon.
He wasn't even sure the good doctor was homosexual. There were little things about him that struck Raul as out-of-place in the Wasteland. He was well groomed, he had impeccable table manners, and he was in the habit of deflecting questions about his past relationships. But there was more to it than clean fingernails and self-deprecation. Raul had a feeling about him; one he hoped was more than projection or wishful thinking.
He knew was a stupid, irrational hope. Even if Arcade was interested in men, there was no reason for him to be interested in this man.
Raul sighed and set the pistol he'd been repairing aside. He glanced at the clock above the television. Three thirty-seven A.M. Most sane people were in bed. He was sitting up, maintaining someone else's gun and mooning over a man a fraction of his age.
There was a soft knock, and he looked up to see Arcade Gannon appeared in the door, bare-chested and rumpled, his glasses askew. "Hey. Couldn't sleep either?"
Raul rubbed his arthritic fingers, ignoring the way his mouth had suddenly gone dry. "Haven't you noticed? I don't sleep."
Arcade took the chair opposite the sofa, smiling wryly. "That's new. I didn't know ghouls didn't sleep."
"It's part of a conspiracy to keep smoothskins in the dark about our plans."
His heart was hammering in his chest, and it took him to moment to think of a response. "Uprising, dominion, enslavement. The usual." Raul realized he was staring at Arcade's naked torso. He coughed and picked up the pistol, rubbing at an imaginary spot.
Arcade chuckled. "Sounds like I'd be better off under the Legion. Then I'd at least get to have nubile slave girls and hordes of fat children."
Something heavy settled in Raul's stomach. "You interested?"
"In slave girls and fat children?" He snorted. "No, not particularly. And what about you? What will your harem consist of?"
Raul paused thoughtfully. An interesting question, one he didn't know how to answer. "Oh, I don't know," he said finally. He tried to keep his tone casual and unconcerned. "This and that."
"Excellent non-answer," said Arcade. For a long second, Raul was afraid he was going to pick at his answer, and pull the thread that made him spill his guts. The moment passed, and Arcade remained silent.
Raul felt awkwardness unfurling between them, like the petals of some bizarre exotic flower that only bloomed late at night when bachelors attempted to make conversation.
After a moment, Raul couldn't take it anymore. "Of course, now I have to kill you."
"That's a shame," he said. He stretched and yawned, and Raul tried not to fixate on the movements of his muscled chest and arms.
He nodded. "You know too much about the ghouls and our plans."
"If I promise to become your nubile slave boy after the revolution, will you spare me?"
Raul was surprised by the question, too surprised to think before he answered. "Of course."
Arcade's eyebrows shot up. Raul suddenly hated himself and everything he'd ever said and done, but then Arcade laughed, a genuine, unforced laugh. "Well, then I, for one, welcome our new ghoul overlords." He was still smiling when he stood and stretched again. "Well, I'm ready for bed again. Good night."
"If Veronica's snoring is keeping you up, pinch her nose shut for thirty seconds," Raul said. Arcade laughed again (a wonderful sound!) and he said goodnight again. The thudding in Raul's chest returned, and he picked the pistols back up, feeling lighter and more optimistic than he had in years.